Life List 81-90

March 24, 2015
It's time to dust off the life list. I've been adding to it as things come to me. I've finally gathered enough for an entry.

81. Kayak Lake Powell

[Photo: Antoni Murcia/Pixoto]


82. See the sunrise and set on each coast

83. Visit Belgium

84. Step foot in southern and northern hemispheres.

85. Learn Spanish

86. Attend a concert at Red Rocks

[Photo: dilbercik.seesaa.net]


87. Be the recipient of a giant cardboard check

88. Attend Beer Week in San Francisco

89. Eat corned beef and cabbage

90. Make exercise a habit

If I ever kayak it will be in Lake Powell. I think it would be the best way to experience the lake.

How neat would it be to see the sun rise on the east coast and set on the west coast; a perfect day.

Belgium has awesome beers, great chocolate and delicious food. I must go.

Stepping in both hemispheres was done in Ecuador last year.

I really really want to become fluent in Spanish. My vocabulary grew leaps and bounds in Ecuador. In Mexico, I use more spanglish. I think traveling would be even better if we didn't have language barriers.

I've always been told a concert at Red Rocks is a must! I'll get to experience it myself next month.

Who doesn't want a big pay day?

It wasn't until recently I even knew about Beer Week in San Francisco, but it sounds like a dream.

I made corned beef this St. Patrick's day. Frank and I realized we've never had corned beef and cabbage. I'm a bad Irish girl.

I haven't been able to exercise for months. I've learned it is required to manage weight and overall wellness. Soon, I'll be back at it. I want it to be part of a daily routine. I don't want to think of it as a chore.

Pizza Rock - Green Valley Ranch: Now Open

March 23, 2015


I'm typically hesitant to dine at a newly opened restaurant, but I've been waiting ages for Pizza Rock to come to GVR. I've become a huge fan of the downtown location so I was most excited to have it come to my neighborhood and be able to park with ease. We decided to give a go for a late dinner their second night.

Upon arrival, the hostess area was a nightmare. We saw open seats at the bar and opted to go that route. Service was sluggish to start and never really improved. Sitting at the bar with an empty beer and no water is hard to forgive when there are two bartenders and what appeared to be two managers present. Timing was poor, too, it's a pet peeve of mine when staff asks how everything is before you've had a chance to dig in. It feels like such a cop out and they were guilty of this. I will cut them some slack, though, they need time to work out kinks; and the other location typically delivers great service. Although, my last visit wasn't up to par... hopefully, I won't find that this is the current trend.

Anyhow, I've learned I'm not a fan of the pizzas on the happy hour menu and ordering from the menu is the way to go. I love the Margherita and Cracker Thin varieties, and the calzones and strombolis. The Diavola, and New Yorker are good too. This time we switched it up and tried the Detroit Red Top ($27). The meatballs ($8) are always a must! They are mighty delicious!!

The Detroit Red Top does not disappoint. It's a beast of a pizza, even if it is only four slices. Thick dough is layered with Wisconsin brick cheese, white cheddar and mozzarella and then topped with a robust tomato sauce. There are no toppings, but they can be added - next time, I probably will. But this is no boring cheese pizza. It's the crispy cheese edges & buttery crust that make it glorious.

The beer selection is outstanding! It wins me over every single time. I love the variety and the option of getting the best of our local brews in one spot is enticing. I have no doubt I'll become a regular. Hopefully, future service will do nothing to tarnish those plans.

Pizza Rock on Urbanspoon

Korean BBQ & Rolls

March 16, 2015
Mr. and Mrs. Lee invited us and some friends over for dinner. They prepared a fantastic spread of Korean delights. We couldn't have asked for a tastier dinner or more gracious hosts.

OK, so that's not actually true. Prior to walking into Korean BBQ & Rolls, we had never met the Lee's. They are the fantastic duo that run this quaint restaurant. We met friends for dinner; we were the only diners so we did feel like guests in their home. The dining room is a bit stark, but Mr. Lee exudes all the warmth the space needs. While Mrs. Lee works magic in the kitchen. The simplicity of it is incredibly charming.

We eagerly delved into the menu, but Mr. Lee encouraged us to begin with comforting creamy chicken soup before it got cold. He offered a second helping, but when we all refused it packed it up to send home with us. We excitedly ordered a slew of food, it all sounded so good. Mr. Lee repeatedly said, "It was too much". He was worried we'd waste our money. There was no need for concern. We were happy to stuff ourselves silly.

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Though, our eyes were a bit bigger than our stomach. Especially with additions the Lee's kindly sprung on us and the banchan. Still, we did our best, and made a heavy dent in our feast.



The Kimchi fried rice ($9) was loaded with bold flavor and extremely addictive.



The Japchae ($8.50) was one of the items Mr. Lee chose for us. This Korean dish has tender stir fried noodles and fresh veggies in a sweet and savory sauce.



The Pork Bulgogi roll ($8.50) was tasty, but also my least favorite item. However, those who are squeamish about raw sushi rolls just might enjoy this twist.



Mo Deum Jeon ($10.50) was a another treat the Lee's whipped up. The shrimp is served with the collar, the variety of pancakes are scrumptious with crab, white fish and meatball patties.



And finally, the Galbi ($18.50) and Bulgogi ($15.50). Both were served sizzling hot and perfectly marinated. We all agreed the Galbi stole the show. Excellent!



To finish, we were treated to Sikhye, a sweet rice drink that is known to help with digestion.

I adore mom and pop restaurants. There are too few in Las Vegas, but those that exist are real gems. Korean BBQ & Rolls is no exception. Don't come rushed, take the time to get to know Mr. & Mrs. Lee. You might need to serve yourself and you will need to ask for the check, but you won't be disappointed.

Korean BBQ & Rolls on Urbanspoon

Mochiko Chicken

March 11, 2015
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Somehow, I failed to share that back in October, my brother and I grabbed lunch at Mochiko. I had the Bento ($7.99) with the Sriracha Sambal Aioli. He chose the larger Ohana ($9.99) with Mochiko and Honey Dijon. The Ohana was more than he could finish. The Bento was more than enough for me. The meals have good value. I know rice is pictured, but get the seasoned fries, they are super delicious. The chicken is juicy and white meat (big props). Some pieces were a bit tough - that was our only complaint. The breading is crisp, but not greasy and it has good flavor. I really enjoyed the heat from the Sriracha and Mike chose the mochiko as his favorite sauce. I loved the Asian slaw! That alone will bring me back. The lychee lemonade is unique, it's definitely on the sweet side so be forewarned. Service was warm and friendly and the space was clean.

Since, then, we've been back half a dozen times. We took a brief hiatus after they discontinued their tenders. But now, they are back and better than ever. They've added more bowls and waffles to the menu. If you want to keep it a bit more healthy, they have grilled chicken bowls. I'm fond of the Srirachi ($7.99) you can add steamed veggies and a drink for $2 more. The chicken has great flavor and a nice char. However, I must admit the fried chicken is where it's at, I recently tried the Spicy Mochiko Bowl ($7.99) and it was fantastic. If chicken and waffles are your thing they have it on special for $6.99. You won't regret trying the tenders, it's doubtful you've had them more juicy and the best part is no grease or heavy breading. With ten sauces available, you're sure to find a favorite.

Mochiko Chicken on Urbanspoon

Chada Thai & Wine

March 5, 2015
Folks have been singing the praises of Chada Thai & Wine for two years strong, it seems to be quite the hit with Chefs and gourmands alike. I was happy when friends suggested we meet there for dinner. Pulling into the strip mall, you wouldn't expect anything special beyond Chada's door, but you're in for quite a surprise. The decor is sexy with dark woods, crimson accents, dim lighting and a wall of wines. The list of Rieslings go on for days, "Chada Thai & Riesling" could very well be appropriate. You'd expected nothing less from Bank Atcharawan at the helm, who gained fame as former sommelier at Lotus of Siam.

Don't sweat it if you're not a fan of Riesling, there are whites, reds, beers, and sake to choose from. The menu specializes in Southern Thai cuisine, with a focus on seafood. It's a little overwhelming at first, but our group settled on Pad Hed, mushrooms with brussels sprouts ($8), Spicy Herb Fresh Roll ($8), Por Pia Tod, vegetable egg roll ($6), Pou Nim Ma Karm, crispy soft shell crab with tamarind ($19), Shrimp Pad See Eiw ($10), Chicken Pad Kee Mao ($8), and Chicken Pad Thai ($8).

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We thought we'd try a mix of unique dishes and standard Thai fare. The seafood dishes were better than those with chicken. The brussels sprouts were a bit soggy and I anticipated bold flavor, but it didn't deliver. The fresh roll, on the other hand was bursting with zing from the ginger. The shame of it, was that it was so potent it overshadowed the other ingredients. The vegetable roll was crispy and on point. Overall, I was disenchanted with our choices. The sum of the parts didn't tally up to a memorable meal. Perhaps, I should have been more adventurous or maybe we caught them on an off night. Service was quite sluggish too. When competition is as fierce as it is in Chinatown it's hard to forgive these shortcomings.

Chada Thai & Wine on Urbanspoon

A Quickie in San Francisco

March 3, 2015
A week ago, I remembered Frank and I have Southwest credits from an Austin flight we cancelled last fall. It was a good thing I checked on it, because my credit was due to expire on March 4. I purchased the tickets with my credit card in June, but because I also used $20 travel fund my credits expired the date of travel funds not the day of my purchase. That was a detail I never realized before. I'll be more cautious in the future. I didn't want to risk losing the full credit so I searched for airfare for the weekend. Much to my surprise, I found $98 round trip airfare to San Francisco. I booked it. Then, sent a text to Frank: Can you take off Saturday? "If you need me to." I booked airfare to SFO, lol. Hotwire came through for me again, we secured a good rate at the Sheraton, which is our preferred hotel in the Wharf. I also reserved a car for Sunday, picking up at the Sheraton returning at SFO so we could go to Napa Valley for the day.

The next few days went in a hurry and we were on a plane to San Francisco in no time. Leaving McCarran at 9:50pm flight was a breeze; though, we did have a short delay. Frank and I were the only ones at the C-Gates security check point. I think there was only 25 people on our flight. Rather than taking Bart to the city we opted to rideshare on Uber. It was cheaper and faster than Bart, why weren't we doing this before? Check in was easy, we dropped our bags in the room and then used Uber to take us to Golden Boy Pizza. We hoped to make last call, but we missed it by ten minutes. They shut down their taps at one o'clock. No worries, we came for the slices. They did not disappoint. We walked back to the Sheraton eager to get an early start in the morning.

Saturday morning we used Uber to and from the Ferry Building, which is where we collected our usual goodies for a picnic lunch. We snacked on treats from Acme, Cowgirl Creamery and Boccolone. Afterwards, we walked to North Beach to visit Young at Petite Deli. One of her sandwiches and a side of pasta salad is a must. Truffles next door for dessert is always routine. Then, we strolled down to our favorite spot near the Maritime Museum. We soaked up the sun on this lovely day while Frank enjoyed a cigar.

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Right before our trip, a friend introduced us to Pliny the Elder. He had went to SF Beer Fest, while we were in Mexico, and he brought us a bottle back. It's a superb Double IPA, smooth and well balanced. It's brewed by Russian River Brewing and it is not distributed in Nevada. We made it a point to check out Toronado, a dive bar in Lower Haight. It's rough around the edges, a bit smelly, but they have a stellar draft selection, and Pliny to go (limit 4 per person). We used Lyft there and back.

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After a siesta, we walked over to Pier 39 for an early dinner at the Crabhouse. Lotsa Crab later, we were full and happy as clams. We relaxed by the hotel's firepit with beers and cigar while we contemplated what to do next. We took Lyft to Hopwater Distribution, with the intent to barhop to other bars in the neighborhood. Hopwater was a cool place that's been open about a year. The have 31 taps reserved for California Breweries, which offer a bit of everything. From there, we walked over to the White Horse Tavern. For a bar in Union Square, I was shocked how laid back this place was... I almost wrote it off, figuring it would be way too crowded, but I was pleasantly surprised. The bar area is small, but there's a large dining room in back with shuffleboard. My favorite! I beat Frank at a game, then we were off to the next place, but we realized the time and thought it was better to return to Golden Boy Pizza before alcohol sales were done for the night. We used Lyft line, which is a reduced fare with the possibility of sharing the ride (each party is limited to two riders) The car that pulled up had three riders - they misused the line and had to exit the vehicle. Their fare was cancelled and we continued on our way without delay. Round two at Golden Boy hit the spot, just like the night before we walked back to the hotel.

Sunday, we packed up and headed out in the rental car. I reserved an economy vehicle, we received a Nissan Versa. It was a terribly uncomfortable ride. I'll upgrade in the future if need be. Our first stop was Saigon Sandwich. The Banh Mi was great as always. The characters in the Tenderloin were more colorful than ever. A man stumbled over to the car, realized I was inside and took a couple paces backward and whipped out his johnson. I looked once and saw penis and avoided a second glance. Frank, however, kept and eye on him and it seems he never peed, just displayed his boner. We may have been victim to a sex crime?! What a way to start the day! Next, we headed out of the city via the Golden Gate bridge to embark on our adventures in Santa Rosa and Napa Valley.

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We were so close to Graton Resort & Casino, we made a pit stop to see what the latest & greatest casino in California had to offer. It is an Indian casino operated by Station Casinos. It feels very much like Red Rock only more feminine with a flower motif. It treated us just the same as Station Casinos in LV, we parted with our money in seconds and we were out in no time.

A stop in Santa Rosa was a must to check out Russian River Brewing Co. Not only is it home to Pliny the Elder, but they also brew a vast collection of award-winning beers. When we arrived at 10:30 a line had already begun to form. This place is no joke.

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We started with the sampler which provides 2 ounces of 19 beers. We had clear favorites, but we both agreed that the Dribble Belt was a new found favorite. It had all the flavor of a great IPA with the ABV of a regular beer.

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We snacked on the Pliny Bites and shared a meatball sandwich. Both were quite good. We stopped in the store, we were after the Dribble Belt to go, but they don't bottle it. We took home a 6 pack of Pliny the Elder and Damnation instead.

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Leaving Santa Rosa, I called Vincent Arroyo Winery to schedule a tasting. I secured a spot 1.5 hours later. We had plenty of time to get to Calistoga. We ended up checking out the Old Faithful Geyser, CA. We learned there are three in the world. Yellowstone, of course, being most famous and the third is in New Zealand. This geyser erupts every ten minutes or so. In between displays you can feed the goats. Goats & Geyser, why? I have no idea. It is a total tourist trap at $14pp, plus the cost of goat food. I've never seen a geyser before so it was a good time waster, a pricey one at about $1 per minute (you are welcome to stay all day). No flushing toilets, either which is odd, but at least they rigged a sink.

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Vincent Arroyo Winery is small and family run. We've never been to a winery before, Yelp and Tripadvisor sing it's praises so it seemed like a nice way to begin. They do not charge for tastings, but offer generous pours. They started us with their Chardonnay which we enjoyed and then we moved on to reds, lots and lots of reds. I'm not fond of reds and going straight to the source didn't change things. I simply have not acquired the taste for red wine, it gives me cotton mouth. There have been very few I've tried and liked. At Arroyo, I did find the Zin and the Tamparinllo more enjoyable than others. Frank was even less enthused than I. We still had a port to try, but we opted to buy a bottle of Chardonnay and carry on our way.

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We intended to check out additional wineries in Rutherford and Napa, but we were done. The interest was lost. We drove up to see Hennessey Lake, which was scenic.

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We figure wine & cheese are well matched, we weren't enjoying the wine, so maybe seeking out cheese would be time better spent. Yelp didn't turn up any stand alone cheese shops but I did find great reviews for Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. I made a reservation and we stopped for a bite. The grounds are lovely and the restaurant is inside a large farmhouse. I had a nice Savignon Blanc by Long Meadow Ranch. We started with cheddar biscuits which were quickly devoured. We also enjoyed the cheese plate and "surryano" ham. The ham was outstanding. We should have left it at that, but we also tried the grassfed burger with white cheddar and arugula. The first burger was well done, and we had requested medium rare. It was terrible. We mentioned it to our waitress and she had the kitchen prepare another. In the meantime, we snacked on the crispy potatoes and mustard potato salad. The next burger was the proper temperature, it was better, but we were still underwhelmed.









We drove through Rutherford, Yountville and Napa during golden hour. It should have been an opportune time for photos, but the road was lined with cars and buildings named with various wineries. In the distance you could see the rows of vineyards, but they appeared dry and dead. I anticipated lush vines on rolling hills with mountains as a back drop more like Tuscany. However, Napa Valley is very much a valley, flat as can be, flanked by mountains on either side. I did not spot the beauty I expected to find. It was rather disappointing. At least, we only wasted an afternoon and not a full weekend. We drove back to the city, and straight to the airport. The return of the rental could not have been easier. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed and didn't depart until long after we were due to arrive at home. Inclement weather in Vegas was cause for the delay. We must have a hundred McCarran flights under our belt without issue, I suppose we were due. Thankfully, we were reunited with our bags and I'm happy to report all 14 beer bottles and the wine arrived safe and sound. It was after 2am when I crawled into bed. I knew morning would come much too soon. And it most definitely did.

Playa del Carmen

February 27, 2015
We began and ended our trip in Playa del Carmen. We flew non-stop on Volaris Airlines to Cancun. I cannot express how great it was not to have a layover. The downside was their schedules were a bit limited so we arrived late and departed early, it didn't make sense to stay at Al Cielo the entire time. So, I sought out other options. Settling on an apartment rented on AirBnB. There are many great rentals in PDC. This place was outside the tourist zone, but close enough to walk to 5th Street, and it was near El Fogon. Yes, we chose accommodations based on the proximity to our favorite restaurant. I reserved two nights and saved a bunch compared to staying in Xpu-ha.

It worked out for the best, especially because our flight got in even later than anticipated because Quintana Roo observed daylight savings effective Feb 1. They were now on Eastern time. Thankfully, collecting the rental car was smooth. I reserved a manual economy car for $3/day. The cheapest quote, yet. A couple years ago, laws changed and you can no longer waive all insurances (with a credit card that provides coverage) so you are responsible for insurance that covers others in case of an accident. We were charged an additional $20 per day for coverage. We were shocked when we learned our car was a new Chevy Aveo with automatic transmission and only 3000 km. We were riding in style.

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The apartment was easy to find, and we made arrangements for our late arrival so we were settled in no time. Our first stop was Walmart for cash, beer and water. However, liquor sales end early on Sundays and we were denied our cerveza. Thankfully, our host left us Indio to enjoy. We were most grateful. The second stop? El Fogon. Apparently, all it takes to feel like we arrived is a margarita, al pastor tacos... and a few cervezas.

El Fogon - Our Favorite! Tacos al Pastor

The apartment was tidy and comfortable. There is a living room with futon, small kitchen with fridge and hotplates, bedroom and bath. The A/C worked great and there was plenty of hot water. The only thing that would prevent us from a longer stay is the double bed. It was a bit snug for Frank and I. Parking was right out front of the unit. It was about a 10-15 minute walk to the beach. It was just what we needed.



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In the morning, we grabbed breakfast at La Cueva del Chango. The restaurant is just as charming as it was ten years ago. The neighborhood sure has filled in, though! I couldn't resist the chilaquiles and Frank chose molletes, which is wheat toast topped with beans and cheese. They are known for their fresh squeezed juices so we also had papaya and orange juice. It was a great start to the day. They never disappoint.

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After checking out of Al Cielo, we returned to Playa del Carmen we cruised around to see how much the city has grown. Construction is booming! I cannot believe how many new hotels and residences have been built. There is so much more currently under way. Then, we were completely distracted by a giant Chicago Beef sign. We had to try it.

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The menu offered all of Chicago's favorites. We split an order of saganaki and a beef sandwich. Both had the right idea, but they failed to produce an authentic product.

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Nearby was Mr. Pollo Kentucky. We didn't stop, but we probably should have.

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We retired the car and set off for 5th street. Frank wanted to check out the Sportsbook at the Tequila Barrel. The bar was busy as always, but the book was pretty slow. I suspect it fills up when there are more sporting events.

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From there, we wandered to the beach. We first stopped at El Pirata, they seated us promptly, provided menus, but never returned to take our order. We were near Playa Maya and we were curious how it has changed over the years, so we left to check it out. It was where we stayed our first trip in 2005. Back then, it was too crowded for our tastes and today, it is even busier. We sat near the bar, drank Dos Equis and watched people move about like ants. Service is still attentive. It looks like the hotel has expanded a bit and the bar is completely different. I'm glad to see them doing so well. I was surprised to see Alhambra next door completely gutted. I bet it will be a swanky resort next time we visit.

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Afterwards, we relocated to Fusion. Their bar and restaurant is right on the beach. It's has a great vibe and it's well run. We camped out there until the sun began to set. They had a live band and at night I understand they have fire dancers.

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We planned for an early dinner so we could fit in a late night snack at El Fogon. We heard about a place doing authentic Chicago Style deep dish pizza. We had to see for ourselves. When we arrived at Don Chendo, we took the last available table. It's a quaint space, but it turns over tables all night. The owner makes it a point to greet every table, I couldn't help but chat him up. He's originally from New York, but makes deep dish? How can that be? Well, he does a mighty fine job. The pizza was excellent. We had the Chendo: Italian sausage, peppers and onions. It might not look it, but it was better than majority of places in Chicago. No joke. I wish we didn't wait until our final night to try it. We'll definitely seek it out next visit.

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Another El Fogon location is around the block, it was hard to resist, but we had full bellies and intended to get one last fix a bit later at the location near the apartment.

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But we never did. We walked over, but the line was down the street. It was near midnight. We had to be up before the sun so we grabbed snacks at the neighborhood OXXO and called it a night. We'd have to wait until next trip for another dose of El Fogon goodness.

Just like that, our week in paradise was over. The weather was perfection. Humidity was so low, I never thought it was possible. It made it extremely hard to leave. All it did was encourage my desire to one day make it a permanent vacation.

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