I guess it stands to reason that if someone is going to add flash and dazzle to the very simple, sublime creation called Caffe Affogato (or Gelato Affogato al Caffe), it’s probably going to happen in Las Vegas.
Italians usually play this luscious creation straight: a scoop of vanilla gelato and a shot of espresso straight from the machine. (This tantalizing pic is from EarleRecipes.com.)
But at Fleur, the Vegas offshoot of chef Hubert Keller’s San Francisco prix-fixe paradise, Fleur de Lys, the heavy cream dessert base is spiked with Bailey’s liqueur, for starters. Then, it’s turned into ice cream in a dramatic, LN2-fueled, table-side show. (That’s liquid nitrogen to those of us who barely squeaked through high school chemistry, and it is capable of turning cream into ice cream in a Las Vegas minute.)
Our server, a young woman who didn’t look real comfortable with the task, poured the Bailey’s cream mixture into a metal bowl, and added the LN2, creating a theatrical vapor cloud. She then worked furiously with a whisk to add some volume to the mixture as it solidified. After piling the resultant "chunks" of ice cream into a dessert dish, she poured on the espresso which was, by then, no longer hot.
Like most things in Vegas, this affogato was more about style than substance. Fun to watch the production, and tasty enough, too (how bad can ice cream swimming in espresso be?) But the presto-change gelato was significantly icier and less creamy than the real thing. And the pricetag – 15 bucks – was totally Vegas.
Fleur, which is in the Mandalay Bay Hotel, has an appealing menu of small and large plates, and plenty of “fun” food, such as onion soup “shooters,” black angus sliders, and Parmesan Paprika Popcorn. I liked the Gallic version of Caesar salad with brioche croutons, gruyere cheese and truffles; and the tarte flambee, Alsace’s answer to the pizza, with onion, bacon, truffle and crème fraiche.