Francis Lam shares what it was like to dine with Holly Madison.
The entire time I was in Vegas, I couldn’t avoid seeing the banner outside my hotel window: a million feet tall, it read: " PEEPSHOW: Las Vegas’ only striptease spectacular!” Next to it was a silhouette of a sexy shepherdess (because she herds sheep in lingerie, see?), and I thought, “Gee, I wish that sexy shepherdess would come over and have a pool party and we can eat sheeps’ milk panna cotta and turkey burgers. Also, maybe some watermelon skewers with pepper-crusted smoked tuna that tastes kind of like bacon.” AND THEN IT HAPPENED. Vegas: where dreams really do come true.
So Holly Madison, ex-Playmate, current PEEPSHOW star, is the party’s host and our guest judge for the week. She’s super sweet and thoughtful—off camera, we talked about the kind of mental preparation it takes to play the adult version of a kid’s fairytale character—but the immediate reaction when you look at her might be, “Dude, someone that thin doesn’t eat food. How can she be a judge?” And then when she said she doesn’t eat garlic or onions, you could hear Foodie America groan. But hey: she’s got a show in a couple of hours, where she’ll be shaking it out, extra-close to a dozen of her dancers. She’s trying to keep her breath pleasant for them. There’s no “I” in Peepshow Cast and Crew!
But it was great to eat with her—she tasted carefully and with focus, though it may have helped that she didn’t have to get used to the distraction of so many glistening bodies walking around. I mean, did you see the dancer in the yellow bikini? Good God. (Oh, and by the way, James’s new push-up workout buddies were named Cash and Amen. Yes, like giving money at church.)Anyway, so let’s get to the food. The chefs had to combine two of every chef’s least favorite services: brunch and canapés. Brunches are tough because, for some reason, everyone gets super emotional about the exact way their breakfast is made, and especially so if they’re still hung over. (I mean the guests, but I guess that applies to the cooks too.) And canapés are hard because you have no control over how much they have to travel around until they get picked up and eaten, which means you don’t know if they’ll be eaten hot, lukewarm, or cold, or if things will get to the guest before they wilt, congeal, or do whatever kind of thing time unkindly does to them.
It was that, unfortunately, that did Thierry’s croque madame in—the béchamel had gotten cold by the time it got to us, turning it more glue than sauce. It’s a bummer, since things might have been different had we gotten them while still warm, but, as he even said, he could have accounted for that when he was deciding what to make.
Lorena may have had a stroke of luck, since her buñuelos did get to us warm, but whoo-wee, they were awesome. One crisp, melting second of pure pleasure, they did what all fried foods aspire to. They were so well-made, they could have cooled and stayed fantastic, but in either case, that condensed milk sauce was there to finish off whatever resistance you might have had. Smart move.
And speaking of smart, how cool was Chris’s watermelon and tuna “bacon” skewer? I loved that, knowing he was cooking for people who, er, make their living with their bodies, he skipped the bacon but tried to give them its flavor with a meaty fish, smoke, and pepper. Unfortunately, some folks got tripped up on the amount of pepper. And for me, the watermelon seemed out of balance -- I wanted either the tuna to be the star, washed down with the freshness of watermelon… or I wanted watermelon just accented by the salty, peppery tuna. But in equal proportions, I thought they just kind of got in each other’s way. But still, you gotta love seeing chefs take risks, smart ones, even if they don’t pan out.