Friday, February 3, 2012

Las Vegas and Super Bowl Super Food

McKenzie and I spent this past week in Las Vegas at the furniture market. 

What does NourishRDs have to do with the furniture market?  Nothing. Except my mom and step-dad are in the industry, and I’ve been tagging along to markets with them for over a decade. I’ve made a lot of good friends over the years, and attending market is a good excuse to spend time with people I care about, eat great food and dance the nights away.  Now McKenzie is part of the family too.

We started the week, like always, with a trip to Whole Foods, stocking the fridge with some of our go-to snacks like eggs, cheese, almond butter, Fage yogurt, fresh fruit, nuts, whole wheat bread, water and GT’s Synergy Kombucha We’re addicted.

Hey, if you’re going to be addicted to something, kombucha’s probably not a bad choice.  All it hurts is our bank accounts.

Since Las Vegas lives in a vast desert and all of the food must be trucked or flown in daily, finding a truly sustainable restaurant is a tall order.  But with each hotel and casino housing a treasure trove of restaurants created by world-class chefs, we’ve been checking off our list of chefs committed to real food and those supporting local farmers and humanely-raised meats.

During this trip, China Poblano won our vote hands-down.  The creation of José Andrés, the 2011 James Beard award winner for Outstanding Chef, China Poblano’s east meets west menu highlights upscale Chinese and Mexican street food.

The restaurant features authentic, handmade rustic food at its best.  It was so good, we ate there twice—something we never do.

We’d be lying if we said the salt air margarita didn’t call our name, drawing us back the second time.  Ask for a ‘skinny,’ without simple syrup.  Tart and clean, but balanced.  Best margarita.  Ever.

Our dinner selections favored the Mexican side of the menu, but the one Chinese dish we sampled—the Rainbow Congee—a rice porridge with Chinese sausage, was deeply satisfying and comforting, like a loose eastern risotto.

On the west side of the menu, the tuna ceviche is a must—bright with lime and soy and crunchy with amaranth seeds. 

Needless to say, we also loved the guacamole, served with fresh handmade tortillas.  And then there are the tacos.  Rich roasted meats paired with crispy or tangy toppings—think fried pork rinds, pickled cactus paddle or fresh lychee—come one-at-a-time.  Perfect for sampling a variety—which you’ll want to do.      

Leaving Las Vegas yesterday, all the restaurants were advertising their Super Bowl Sunday menus, inspiring me to come home and make a big pot of chili in preparation for game day.  This one is a Mexican Chili Mole, with the addition of a dark beer and bitter cocoa powder to balance the sweetness of tomatoes and the heat of the chilies.

Even better, this is Super Bowl food that is good and good for you.  Filled with protein, fiber and antioxidants, it’s game day food you can feel good about feeding your family and friends.  If you don’t have time to soak and cook the beans, canned beans are a great substitute.  And this chili is so full of flavor, you can easily leave out the meat for a vegetarian-friendly version. 

Serve Chili Mole with a variety of toppings, like shredded cheese, chopped avocado, Greek yogurt, green onions, cilantro and lime wedges so each person can customize a bowl to their liking.  Enjoy, cheering on your favorite team with those you love. 

Mexican Chili Mole

Serves 8 - 10

Make the beans

8 ounces dried black beans
8 ounces dried white kidney beans
2 bay leaves
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced in half vertically and seeded
1 tablespoon salt

Rinse beans.  Place beans in a pot and cover with cold water by 2 inches.  Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for 2 hours.  Drain the beans, return to the pot with the bay leaves, jalapeño and salt.  Cover with cold water by 2 inches and simmer for about 2 hours, or until beans are tender.  If not using right away, refrigerate for up to 5 days.  Extra beans can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Roast the Peppers

4 poblano peppers

Preheat broiler or grill pan to high.

If broiling, place poblano peppers on baking sheet and place under broiler about 5 minutes, turning once, until charred but not burnt.  If using grill pan, grill peppers, turning occasionally, until done. 

Place peppers in a plastic Ziploc bag and allow to cool.  Once cooled, peel and seed the peppers.  Coarsely chop and reserve. 

Make the Chili

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound grass-fed ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder (or to taste)
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 red onion, diced
2 red peppers, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bottle dark beer of choice*
2 cups reserved cooked beans
Reserved poblano peppers
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, pureed or crushed by hand
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup water
2 small corn tortillas, cut into strips
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup chopped cilantro

Optional Garnishes

Shredded cheddar cheese (or cheese of choice)
Sliced green onions
Plain Greek yogurt
Chopped cilantro
Diced Avocado
Lime wedges

*Don’t use an IPA or other bitter beers.  It will make the chili bitter.

Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat and add extra virgin olive oil.  Add ground beef, salt, red pepper flakes, cumin powder, cumin seeds, ancho and chipotle chili powders, cinnamon and bay leaf.  Cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until beef is browned. 

Lower heat to medium.  Add onion, red pepper and garlic and cook until onions are translucent,a bout 6 – 8 minutes.  

Add beer, stir, and bring to a simmer for a few minutes.  Stir in beans, poblano peppers, tomatoes, molasses, cocoa powder, water and tortilla strips. 

Let simmer for at least an hour, until chili is thickened and tortilla strips are completely absorbed into the chili.  Taste for seasoning and adjust, if necessary.

Right before serving, stir in cilantro and garnish each bowl with condiments of choice. 


  1. You're so amazing! Can't wait to eat, drink and be merry with you at Highpoint furniture show. What is the best favour of GT’s Synergy Kombucha. Sounds like something that I would like :)

    XO Have a great weekend

  2. SO happy you're going to High Point! Can't wait to see you! Gingerberry & Cranberry are my favorites. In Vancouver, you can get them at Whole Foods. :-)