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Executive Chef Shawn McClain

    Heirloom Beet Salad

Dining with Chefs: Executive Chef Shawn McClain
Sage (Part 2 of 2)

Known for his innovative flair with vegetables -- as evidenced by the overwhelmingly positive reviews of Green Zebra in Chicago -- we were anxious to try the Heirloom Beet Salad, which includes duck prosciutto, Point Reyes blue cheese and roasted walnuts tossed with a celery vinaigrette. Why beets, we asked. "Beets are one of those things that people either love or they hate," he answered. "I love them. They find their way onto my menu all the time. The one nice thing about beets is, depending on where they are grown, they can be good many times of the year. It's not just a winter vegetable, and it's not just a summer vegetable. It's very consistent, and we get some amazingly sweet, more heirloom-style varietals of beets. Then it's just trying to complement it with some traditional things like nuts, cheese and greens. Like all things, I want the beets to be the feature on the dish. When you order beet salad, I want that to be the primary focus. I want everything around it to add some different flavors and textures, but not take away too much from the real natural, delicious flavor of the beets."

Alaskan Halibut

We segued into the main courses with a Roasted Alaskan Halibut with grilled summer squash, parmesan foam and Iberico ham, an interesting yet delicious combination. "[The halibut is] a seasonal dish," Chef McClain said. "Sometimes I wish the season was shorter, because I think people get tired of halibut all through the summer, when it drags on too long. It’s a beautiful fish, and it would be nice if it only came around like soft shells or something for only two months or three months. Because then I think it would be extra special. But you can't fault a fish that is so naturally light, with huge flakes. We get some beautiful fish from the West Coast, which is really nice to be close to for us because it's really only one day or a half day to get that fish in here. Summer squash is one of the things that gets underutilized. They are so abundant and sometimes it's so hard to really come up with lots of ideas to do a squash, but they have a really nice flavor in the summer when they are at their peak. We took that simple idea and wanted to have a little bit of a rich texture to it, so we did the parmesan and potato foam, which is fairly neutral but is a nice way to look at doing a puree on the plate. It could be a potato puree -- and that's great -- but why not cook the potatoes down with a lot of parmesan and parmesan cream, put them in an isi charger and then foam them warm so they have a little more airiness to them? I'm a sucker for adding little salty elements to dishes, so that's where the Iberico ham came from. It's one of those products that's just outstanding on its own, but it's also just a nice little touch to add a little salty treat. We have so much fun with it. Obviously, in today's seafood world there is a lot of emphasis on trying to source properly, and it gets harder and harder and harder. It is nice being in Las Vegas and being so close to the L.A. markets. We really feel like we're on almost the West Coast. We're much closer to some things. The scallops, unfortunately, are just not as good on the West Coast. They have some nice looking scallops, but I ship them in from the East Coast because they are just too good and perfect. That's my one long-haul item on the menu."

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