By andrea Bennett | February 9, 2015 | People
A perfect morning for jeweler Rick Moore and his client and friend Leora Blau starts with a little jewelry shopping and ends with their favorites at Spago.
Rick Moore and Leora Blau at the entrance of what’s still one of the best see-and-be-seen institutions in Vegas.
It is not often a restaurant becomes an institution in one city and replicates its cachet in a second (and third and fourth). Spago is a notable exception. Wolfgang Puck’s first Spago opened in 1982 in West Hollywood, moved to Beverly Hills, and 33 years later the Puck name has retained its integrity all the way from Dubai to your frozen food aisle. Given Spago’s iconic status, it might have been considered risky to open a location in a mall years before the inf lux of celebrity chefs to Las Vegas, but the Forum Shops location has attracted a powerful following since it debuted in 1992. If these walls could talk, they’d tell of massive deals brokered, philanthropic endeavors founded, and, of course, many preludes and postludes to satisfying shopping adventures.
Like the original, the Vegas outpost of Spago has a bit of a private club feel: Regulars exchange greetings on the way to their tables to enjoy Executive Chef Eric Klein’s seasonal creations and deft execution of bright Puck classics. For the full treatment, we followed Rick Moore, director of Palazzo’s Bellusso Jewelers (operated by LV Luxury Holdings, whose boutiques also include Van Cleef & Arpels, Ca’d’Oro, and Horologio), and his longtime client and friend Leora Blau on a lunchtime catch-up.
I just caught you both doing some shopping at Van Cleef & Arpels. is that a routine?
Leora Blau: Every weekend! [Both laugh]
Rick Moore: That’s a jeweler’s dream.
LB: But really, this place is so conducive to making a day of it. And my family thinks of Spago as our place. Do you know that they have a drink here that they make just for me? At Cut in Venetian, Gianni [Toffanello, the GM] made this elderflower, grapefruit, and vodka martini for me, and Carlos [Perez, Spago’s manager] called over to find out how to make it.
Chef Klein brings out a plate of hummus, muhammara, and chickpea falafel, along with Spago’s house-smoked salmon pizza with caviar.
LB: We always order the smoked salmon pizza. There are six pieces—we’re a family of five. We each get one and we fight over the last one. My daughter always wins because it’s her favorite.
English pea soup topped with cappuccino foam is as simple as it is delicious.
A spring English pea soup with cappuccino foam and farmers market pea agnolotti arrive.
LB: Look how unbelievably green it is! It is so completely different and beautiful.
RM: This really was the beginning of the celebrity restaurant phenomenon in Las Vegas. I’ve been here for 34 years, and now I can’t imagine the community without it.
LB: We come here for Thanksgiving; my parents had their 50th wedding anniversary in the private room; Justin [her son, Drai’s headliner DJ 3LAU] brings his girlfriend. My husband always orders the Bolognese. When it went off the menus, they said, “No problem. We’ll make it for you.”
RM: But isn’t that why a restaurant like this becomes so embedded in the community? You become not just regulars but friends, and they want to accommodate you.
Similarly, you had a client/jeweler relationship and became friends….
LB: Yes! We met when Rick was the director of Van Cleef & Arpels in its original Palazzo location, and we worked together on a Jewish Federation event [LV Luxury Holdings’ Van Cleef & Arpels boutique has been donating to the organization for seven years, since it opened in Las Vegas.] We became friends instantly. Not long into it, my husband got converted to the value of investing in jewelry pieces. RM: The investment is in buying branded, signed, serial-numbered pieces that retain their value. Van Cleef & Arpels, Kwiat—these are brands whose value escalated even through the recession.
Rick, do you have a favorite story from your years in the jewelry business?
RM: As long as I’ve been doing this, I still have a handful of favorites. One day Rob [Blau, Leora’s husband] called me. When someone says, “I love my wife more today than ever before…,” well, I felt I got to know him at that moment. There were two special necklaces that she liked. He bought them both.
LB: He gets me this one thing that he knew I liked. But then there was a surprise second box!
RM: Leora has been collecting the Vintage Alhambra collection, and a diamond necklace—the mac daddy of that collection—was the first piece. Then he topped it by buying this necklace from the Magic Alhambra collection.
LB: The first box was enough! We should have filmed it. I was hysterical crying.
Mixologist Jason Nichols behind the bar at Spago.
Chef Klein brings out a pan-roasted French sea bass with cauliflower purée, cipollini onions, French radishes, and a rhubarb saba.
LB: This is so delicious. And there’s always a little bit of a surprise.
RM: In this town, you have to have a beautiful, surprising experience. When I first moved here, people said it will be a novelty for you. But that never wore off. It’s a thrill. I get to interact with people from all over—and they’re usually celebrating something. Spago is definitely a celebratory place, but it’s also a real power-lunch place.
RM: Did you know that Keep Memory Alive started here? Larry Ruvo came up with the idea to honor his father here, and look at it now.
LB: And Make-A-Wish, which has their incredible luncheon here every year, could technically make a little more if they moved to a bigger venue. But everyone is so loyal to this place!
Red velvet cake with cream cheese ice cream plus doughnuts with toasted coconut ice cream arrive.
LB: Oh, my gosh—you have to try this. So incredible.
RM: We really have to do this more often. How’s next week for you? Do you always run into people you know here?
LB: Always. Every time I’m here.
RM: And she drips with jewels like this every time she does. [Both laugh]
PHOTOGRAPHY BY HEATHER GILL