September 29, 2011

5 Best Decisions

We fall down and get back up many times in our lives. Have you taken the time to reflect on those decisions made. You know, the good, the bad, the ugly?

Today, let's focus on the good.

If you had to name your 5 best decisions made as an adult, what would they be?

Mine are choosing Frank, following my dream of life in Las Vegas, quitting smoking, bailing on real estate by renting, and making traveling a priority.

September 27, 2011

He Gone!

The timing of the news that the White Sox released Ozzie Guillen was quite ironic. Frank and I were sitting at the Yard House enjoying dinner and Kronenbourgs, after watching Moneyball at Rave Theaters. The solid theme throughout the film is the lure of baseball isn't the money, but the romance.

Here we have a manager and team parting ways over money. The romance must be lost in Chicago.

Guillen is a colorful character. He's known to speak his mind, and he sugar coats nothing. Many hate him for this very reason. I, on the other hand, respect the guy. He led our 2005 White Sox to victory, without him I might not have gotten to experience what it feels like to be World Champs. Several seasons have come and gone since then; Ozzie and crew have not been able to replicate that charisma that we had that awesome season. I'm not opposed to change, especially when things aren't working. I wish Ozzie well in Florida (or wherever he ends up). I'm doubtful they'll be able to handle him, though.

September 26, 2011

Meeting Jose

Friday night, Frank got hung up at work and had to cancel on our plans last minute. For a brief minute, I considered not going to the "Cocktails with Jose Andres" event at China Poblano. But rather than resting my sore ankle at home, I decided to live a little and went solo. Immediately upon entering, I was welcomed with a Bombay Sapphire Gin & Tonic adorned with a ice sphere, verbena, juniper berries and elderflower. It was beautiful.

Fortunately, I found a table of familiar faces - a group I've met at previous Yelp events were already noshing on bites from the kitchen. Servers came by with a variety of dishes at rapid pace. I tasted eight in all. The carnitas taco and guacamole were my favorites. I also enjoyed the chicken jisong a very tasty version of lettuce wraps. Those I liked the least were the 'Don't be Jealous' hot and sour soup and the taco barbacoa was too salty for my liking. Other bites such as sui mai beef, lemon tree shrimp and rou jai mo street sandwich fell somewhere in between. It was fun to experience the connection between East and West through China Poblano's menu.

There were plenty of local celebrities in attendence. I caught glimpses of Norm Clarke, Al Mancini and Kerry Simon. I did have the opportunity to meet Jose Andres. As tasty as the bites were that was the real treat.

September 23, 2011

It's Friday, Friday

Gotta get down with fall day. So long summer, you will be missed. I'm thrilled Mother Nature is looking out for me by making this whole change of season thing a bit easier. It's bright and sunny, and we should reach triple digits; they're calling for a high of 101 today. I'll take it!

This crazy week is nearly over. Weekend plans are pretty calm. Tonight, we're checking out a VIP/media invite over at Cosmopolitan, "Cocktails with Jose Andres" at China Poblano. He's a highly renowned Spanish chef, we haven't yet tried any of his restaurants, but both Jaleo and China Poblano sound intriguing. I hope we'll get to sample some eats at the event. The rest of the weekend will be pretty low-key, we have a house-warming party to attend, and Sunday, I'll drive out to Pahrump to visit with mom and Mike.

I need to firm up plans for our New Orleans trip. We'll be at the airport boarding our departing flight before I know it. I'm so looking forward to it. I'm ready to get away.

San Francisco is to follow in November. If that's going to happen I'll need to secure hotel reservations.

The big news of late is Amy and Nicky are coming for a visit. They'll get in Nov 16 and stay until Nov 29. This means Thanksgiving will be our first holiday together as a family. We'll also be celebrating Nicky's 5th birthday and Christmas while they're here. Fun times are ahead. Maybe fall isn't so bad?

September 22, 2011


What a week?! I feel ragged. I swear I'm in my own version of 127 Hours I might not be stuck between a rock and a hard place, but I have contemplated cutting off a limb. Dramatic? Yeah, probably.

Still my mom has had a worse week. She was supposed to have surgery to repair two hernias on Tuesday. Due to lack of insurance, medicare red tape and other non-sense. She's waited a year. Hernias shouldn't have birthdays, but my parents have made a habit of it. Mom's is the baby at just a year. I'm pretty sure Dad's hernia celebrates its ninth birthday this year. I wish I was kidding, but I'm not. Frank told me yesterday if a hernia is ever an issue for me, I'm having emergency surgery, even if it means he does it himself. His point is well taken, hernia's shouldn't have birthdays. Anyway, my mom was prepped for surgery and ready to be led into the OR. The Anesthesiologist and the Surgeon chatted, and based on her EKG they called off the surgery. They pulled out her IV, had her dress and sent her on her way with orders to follow up with a cardiologist. She understands and appreciates their concern, but it was mighty frustrating to make all the plans and arrangements for surgery and recovery to only gain a few bruises from the experience.

She'll see a cardiologist today. I imagine they'll do a stress test and EKG. Hopefully, all will look ok and the abnormal EKG at the hospital was a fluke caused by the anxiety of the surgery. She's been uncomfortable for a long time. I'd hate to see her stuck in limbo.

September 21, 2011


With vacation looming, I'm more anxious than ever to get my ankle back to normal. Well, what I know to be normal. I know it'll never be as good as new. I'd like to pick up pace, walk down stairs and get around without pain or swelling.

I saw my doctor on Monday. He ordered three more weeks of physical therapy, prescribed ibuprofen and determined my tendons are extremely inflammed. I asked if I could resume exercise, I was shot down. "Absolutely no treadmill," I was told. The elliptical is a possibility, if there is no pain and I use no incline or resistance. He injected me with cortisone to reduce the inflammation. I was told I should feel improvement in 48-72 hours and I was told return in three weeks.

The injection was very uncomfortable, but over quickly so I didn't squirm for long. I went home and made dinner as usual. As the night wore on, my foot swelled and felt very heavy. It became painful and extremely difficult to walk. About 9 o'clock, I took a strong dose of ibruprofen, went to bed and iced the injection site to bring down the swelling. I prayed for sleep, but it was after midnight before I was able to drift off.

Waking up yesterday morning, I felt a bit better. My foot no longer felt like there was a 55-lb weight attached to it. It was about 20 pounds lighter, but still very tender, and walking was a difficult task. Walking is an overstatement, all I could do was hobble. I elevated and iced it all morning, by afternoon I was able to get some swelling down. I went to my PT appt as scheduled. What a waste! They added new exercises, but I couldn't even do majority of the old ones. All I did was 10 minutes on the bike, heel raises, ABC's and stood on my right foot for 30 second invervals, 4x. That last one was new, I was shaky and had to grab on for balance. No ultrasound was done and they could hardly work on me for massage. They did suggest I try the treadmill. I told them no per doctors orders. Also, talking with my physical therapist he sees one success for every failed cortisone shot. I feel so discouraged. I feel like a guinea pig with no end in sight. I'm hopeful the cortisone works as it should, I hate to see it cause regression. Either way, I'm not doing another one, so I certainly hope it allows me to move on. Techinically, I should notice a difference as early as tonight, if not tomorrow. I'm skeptical. Today's only improvement is less swelling and tenderness at the injection site. The tendons themselves feel no different. Phooey.

September 20, 2011

The Big Easy

Our trip to New Orleans is less than two weeks away. Where, oh where, has time gone? This trip has snuck up on me. Really, I think I'm just in denial that fall is around the corner. In my mind, I thought New Orleans - Fall. But those thoughts are dulled by little voices screaming, "No summer! Don't go! Stay! Pretty pretty please." However, in just three short days fall will be here. There's not a thing I can do to stop it.

At least I can drown my sorrows in happy thoughts of visiting a new city. This will be our first visit to New Orleans. It'll be my first encounter with southern culture. I've only been to Florida before, Frank has driven down to Georgia from Chicago - many years ago, he visited a friend at the AFB there. Robins, maybe? - so he has more of an idea of what to expect.

Our hotel is a half block from Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. We should be convenient to the sights, nightlife and streetcars. I see us becoming pretty familiar with the streetcars. We'll need to take them to get a few restaurants on our list. We plan to stick to local cuisine. I want muffaletta (Central Grocery) and po'boy (Domilse’s) sandwiches. I want real jambalaya (I hear Coops is good) and gumbo (Commander's is supposed to be the place). I desperately want to try John Besh's Restaurant August, and since I never got to Commander's Palace while they were here in Vegas I feel I must try the original location.

I'm interested to see the city's architecture, the historic homes and mansions. I suspect we might see a plantation, as well. We anticipate sights such as the cemeteries, St. Louis Cathedral and the French Market. And to make the experience complete we plan to take an airboat swamp tour. I imagine we'll find ourselves in a live music bar at some point, too.

Do you have a favorite restaurant or must see? Let's have it.

September 19, 2011

What the hell?

When did boxing become a love fest with kisses and hugs?

Did you see the Mayweather vs. Ortiz fight? Did it stun you, too? I know we were all gathered around the tv and "wtf" was yelled out in unison. What just happened?

I've been geared up for the fight thanks to HBO's 24/7. They do such a great job with that series. I know Mayweather has his haters, sure he's cocky, he's been accused of questionable things, but truthfully I only care what he does in camp and in the ring. I think he's a great boxer, definitely, the best I've seen in my life time. With an undefeated record (now 42-0), you can't name a better performing athlete. His ability is as remarkable as his cockiness. He's a showman. He talks the talk, but also walks the walk. I can't fault him. Beneath that swagger, he does have heart. He's my fighter of choice.

I had no doubt Ortiz would lose, but I really thought the fight would be a minimum of ten rounds and Mayweather by decision would be most likely. I figured Ortiz could throw a good punch, and I believe he can. I just felt he'd fall short on speed and accuracy against Mayweather. That he did. What I never counted on was Ortiz's headbutt, followed by a kiss or his deer in headlights "hug it out" approach in round 4. This isn't a make out session, you're in the ring. Just like there's no crying in baseball, there's no room for hugs or kisses in the ring. It's him or you, you always protect yourself. Period. Ortiz ignored the number one rule, he got knocked out. What could've been a great fight is a controversial one in the end. Although, I see it as poor representation of Ortiz. Still he was happier than a pig in shit. He got his payday, Mayweather walked in with 50 Cent and walked out with 50 million. And we're one fight closer to the one that really matters. C'mon Pacquio... Mayweather, let's do this!

September 15, 2011


For the past two weeks I've my rehabbing my ankle in Physical Therapy three times a week. It's my first time experiencing this song and dance. It's unfun, but it seems to be beneficial and I wished it had been suggested to me six years ago after breaking my ankle. I really don't think I ever recovered from that injury, sure it healed and I eventually learned to move it, but it's never been the same. Its instability has proven itself with the multiple sprains I've had over the last few years.

After three weeks in the boot, I healed well enough to earn some freedom. Wearing my robo boot in triple digits was very toasty to say the least. So I was thrilled when I retired it, and it better be for the last time, too, dammit! I've gotten far more use out of it that I had ever intended.

Those three weeks allowed enough time for the medial ankle bruising and swelling to vanish. I was left with swelling on the lateral ankle. My Achilles ached and just beside that, up to ankle was tender and swollen. I was told I was suffering from Achilles tendinitis and one ligament from the sprain was slow to heal. That's when I was told to start Physical Therapy.

My initial exam showed very little range of motion. Very little is an understatement. I was shocked how stiff and limited it was. That's when I was released from the boot. My physical therapist wanted me mobile to gain strength. I was shaky at first, but I quickly gained stability. I was just slower than molasses. I'm a bit faster now, but I'm still moving at turtles pace.

I've been treated with ultrasounds, stim and ice therapy. I have a laundry list of exercises, I pedal on the recumbent bike and I fight the BAPS board and elastic bands. It's beyond frustrating being told to complete a simple straight forward task and think "it's a piece of cake" only to learn what a nightmare it truly is. Each day I give it my all. Some days are better than others. Apparently, sitting on my ass at work is causing fluids to pool so I have to keep my foot elevated to keep the swelling down. My ankle still gets really puffy but it does keep it from feeling like my toes are grapes ready to explode at any given minute. Every time I'm given a new exercise it really pisses my ankle off and I deal with an angry ankle for at least 24 hours. Inversion exercises with the bands got me last night. I'm still waiting for the soreness and swelling to subside. I hate feeling like this before even beginning the day's PT session.

Good news is it's all not for nothing. Yesterday, I had a progress report done. We reevaluated my pain and ability to complete tasks, and measured my range of motion. My most impressive improvement is my ability to stretch outward (think pressing on the gas pedal), I gained 14%. Last Tuesday was when I noticed my breakthrough in that regard. It was then I realized I could reach both the gas and brake with my right foot. I'm still driving two footed, but I'm using the left to brake less and less. I improved 2-5% in other areas. Counter and clockwise circles are tough and inversion and eversion exercises are my nemesis. But I'm determined to conquer them, I can't trade this ankle in for a better model so I gotta do what I can to get this one in better shape.

September 14, 2011

Dona Maria Tamales

I love love love tamals. Love them! Being that Dona Maria has Tamale in the name I thought they'd be a sure bet. A discounted $10 dining certificate from gave me the push I needed to give the restaurant a try.

Frank and I dined in the Tenaya location earlier this week. We were one of three tables dining in. It was awfully quiet for such a large space. Our server was friendly and attentive.

We asked for a hotter salsa than the one given and they came back with a delicious smoky spicy option, Chipotle, if I had to guess. It was excellent. We loved the heat. Albondigas soup followed, it was pretty good, I enjoyed the flavorful meatballs.

Both entrees were combos: tamal enchilada style and beef & bean burrito, and chile relleno and cheese and chili tamal. It was fine, but highly Americanized. This gringa likes the real deal so it was a disappointment. My tamal was pretty bland and dry, it needed more zest. I covered mine in the yummy hot salsa and it did the trick. Needless to say the enchilada style went over better.

I really need an abuelita in my life. I wish I could make authentic Mexican eats at home. It would save so much time, effort and belly space that is now spent on so so bites made to please gringos.

Dona Maria Tamales on Urbanspoon

September 13, 2011

Waking Up in the Dark

It seems like I am the only one not jumping for joy for fall's arrival. I never want summer to end, and my dread for fall grows each year. "EH! EH! EH!" My alarm sounds each morning at 6:30 to encourage me to get my ass out of bed and start the day. I'm one of those people who sets the clock 10 minutes fast to build in a buffer, but I snooze it away more times than not and I'm fully aware the clock is fast so it doesn't make a whole helluva lot of sense. Still, I do it. This week it's been dark. I'm not much of a morning person and to start my day in darkness makes it's so much harder to drag myself from the coziness of my bed. The sun rises as I brush my teeth. Soon, I won't see the sun peer from the window until I shower. It won't be long before we're changing the clocks back, which does help the morning routine, but I hate driving home in darkness. I sit in a windowless office all day, rarely getting out for lunch, the hour of sun (while I prep and drive to work) I see in the morning hardly gives me the dose of Vitamin D I need. I'm definitely one affected by SAD. As soon as I know winter is near the depression settles in.

It's rained off and on for three days and it's not helping my mood any. I'd really like to resume our regularly scheduled warmth and sunshine. I'm not ready for clouds and 80-degree highs. Most Las Vegans are in heaven. They welcome the break of triple digit heat and rain is a treat in the desert. Just this morning, co-workers bounced down the halls giddy that more rain would fall. They all love this weather. "Good for them," I say. I hate this shit. It looks like we'll be plagued by storms all week. I can already hear everyone's cheers.

Speaking of storms, they put a damper on our concert Saturday night. We went to Mandalay Bay Beach to see Slighty Stoopid with Fishbone. Mike joined us. We brought beer to pre-party before the show. The Selena Gomez show was at the event center, kidlets and their parents paraded around while we polished off a 6 pack of Dos Equis. I'm sure we made the most interesting man in the world proud. We also had PBR to bring into the show since last year we were welcomed with tall boys, aluminum was A-OK. This year, we learned they limited it to plastic. Anything and everything had to be poured into the cups at the gate. Still, better than no outside beverages. We obliged their request and each of us entered double fisting our PBR in plastic. We're so high class.

We took our spots, front row in the water just below the stage, we were there for the Dirty Head show too. I was unfamiliar with Fishbone, but they were high energy and quite entertaining. They made my night when they played Sublime's "Date Rape". Stoopid had the longest sound check ever. When they finally got the show underway they invited Fishbone to join them on stage. It was cool, and I wouldn't have minded had we seen them move on and play our favorites. But they never got the chance. Mother Nature had other plans, after "Closer to the Sun" lightning appeared in the distance. The show went on, I kept one eye on the storm the other on the stage since we were standing in water. They did belt out "Til it Gets Wet" before we got wet. We knew the storm was getting close so we left the pool and found a place front row on the beach. Just as we got settled security and life guards made everyone exit the pool. Fishbone and Stoopid encouraged the crowd to return, they asked if someone pissed the pool. It didn't take long before the caught on (or were told) why we were all huddled on the beach. They finished out the song with a "we love you, Las Vegas" and people cheered for the encore, but the house lights came on and show was over. It's no one's fault, this is the risk you take with an outdoor show, but still we felt robbed. No "Collieman".. nuthin'. Such a bummer. This was the second show shut down by weather. The other was Steve Miller last year at M Resort. They never even had a chance, winds shut that show down before it even started. This shouldn't be such a problem in the desert, but that's my luck.

September 12, 2011


We closed out Restaurant Week 2011 with one last meal at Alize. We had 6 o'clock reservations. Getting up to Alizé was disjointed, very odd encounters with employees near the elevators. Finally, we arrived to the restaurant and we were greeted by the hostess. We had a table overlooking the north valley, a glance over my shoulder revealed the south strip.

The views are stunning, clouds had gathered and I hoped we'd see a storm but none developed, but we did enjoy sunset. As for the $50.11 Restaurant Week menu they pulled the short ribs advertised and replaced it with Hanger Steak. Frank opted to order off the regular menu, I went ahead with the three courses offered by Restaurant Week.

We started with an Amuse of Tuna Ceviche

First Course
Angus Beef Carpaccio with Watercress and Parmesan Cheese; Basil Pesto and Toasted Baguette.

Second Course
Hanger steak with Gruyere Potato Mousseline Sautéed Spinach, Braised Shallots, and Pinot Noir Sauce

Third Course
Andres Apple Tarte Tatin with a Pignoli Florentine and Calvados Ice Cream

Frank had the French Onion soup and Duo of Lamb with potato napoleon.

The carpaccio was delicious and prepared very similarly to the bison carpaccio at Andres, which is my ultimate favorite version. The French onion soup was enjoyable. My entree was tasty, hanger steak is my least favorite cut of beef but it was nicely executed. The duo of lamb was the better dish, but that was expected. The rack had a rich mustard crust and the braised shoulder layered with the potatoes was especially good when ran through the sauce and feta cheese. Dessert was adequate, but no part was particularily noteworthy. Honestly, it left me craving the apple cobbler from Buzz BBQ.

Alizé was enjoyable, but not nearly as memorable as I hoped. I definitely prefer Andres at Monte Carlo. However, for all the places I've dined with stellar views of the city, Alizé does offer the highest caliber of eats.

Alizé (at Palms) on Urbanspoon

September 9, 2011


Last night, I met Frank at Bellagio for our fifth Restaurant Week meal. We had ($50.11) dinner at Prime. It was less stuffy than I imagined. It's odd, though, jackets are preferred for men but they have no coat check. Anyhow, it's a nice dining room with fountain views. We noshed on the bread basket filled with a variety of sour dough, pretzel and raisin walnut.

First Course
Tomato Gazpacho; Summer Flavors, Marcona Almonds & Olive Oil and Bacon Wrapped Shrimp; Passion Mustard & Cumin Scented Honey

Second Course
Filet Medallions; Sweet Corn, Crispy Spaetzle & Fiore Sardo Cheese

Third Course
Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake; Vanilla Ice Cream and Summer Berries; Strawberry Gelée & Marsala Cream

The gazpacho must have been a blend of tomatoes and watermelon. It would make the perfect smoothie. Still, it was a refreshing treat with fun surprises of raspberries, strawberries, peppers, and marcona almonds. The shrimp were properly cooked and the bacon was nice and crisp. The flavor was a unique blend of sweet and smokey.

The filet was cooked to perfect and it sliced like butter. It was fantastic on its own, but coupled with the shallot sauce? Wow. We agreed the Bearnaise and au pouvoir hindered the already fabulous flavor of the steak. The spaetzle was light and tasty with the sweetness from the corn.

Dessert were tasty, but they were the weakest links of the meal. Properly executed but both just lacked pizazz. Service was attentive throughout the meal. Prior to Restaurant Week, we had never dined in a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant. We've been missing out. Both Prime and Jean-Georges were highly enjoyable.

Jean-Georges Prime (Bellagio) on Urbanspoon

September 8, 2011

Labor Day Weekend

This weekend was my last one with Frank. With football here he returns to Monday/Tuesday off and we'll have no common day off until February. This time of year is always tough on me. I hate saying good-bye to summer and seeing less of Frank is always an adjustment. There will be less off-roading the next five months which will also be a bummer, but we still hope to get out for night runs.

We had a visitor Friday and Saturday night, and my brother joined us all weekend, too. Our friend Kate was in from Texas, she had been in town all week for a convention and was pretty over the strip by the time Frank picked her up on Friday. We mainly hung by the house, went off-roading and shooting. We did some shopping at the Las Vegas Outlet, saw the pawn shop made famous by the show Pawn Stars (the showroom closed as we walked up), gambled with coins at Skyline, visited the Hoover Dam, walked the new bridge and enjoyed eats at Amore and Fat Greek.

You'd find me on my butt a lot while we were off-roading since I couldn't do any hiking.

Monday, Frank and I got together with Lauren and Darren. We took advantage of the cooler weather - only 95, felt downright cool after the hottest August on record - and spent the day off-roading in Logandale. It was 10 degrees warmer and there was full sun last we were there, we couldn't believe the difference it made. Storms were all around us so it was a bit humid, we did get drizzled on, but the skies never opened up, thank goodness. We had a good day riding trails, the three of them were able to do some hiking. I'd go as far as I could before getting too tired and stuck to fairly solid ground so I didn't aggravate my bum ankle. Near the end of our ride, we had a little scare when the RZR wouldn't start. We knew a cable must have come loose, but it took us a bit to locate it. Darren was the one who finally came across it. He saved the day. After tightening the connection we were on our way.

September 7, 2011


When Cosmo opened with two Scott Conant restaurants I was thrilled. Food Network's Chopped introduced me to him and his aversion of raw red onion. Around the same time, I began to hear tales of his extraordinary pasta. I knew Scarpetta was a place I had to try. It was going to be my birthday meal, but I put it off and ended up dining at wd50 in NYC instead. Six months have nearly passed since my birthday and we had not yet tried either of Conant's restaurants. Restaurant Week changed that, however, last night we went to D.O.C.G. to try out the $30.11 dinner menu.

First Course
Caprese; Bufala Mozzarella & Heirloom Tomatoes and Fried Calamari; Spicy Tomato Sauce

Second Course
Pizza Margherita and Ravioli; Veal Spinach, Parmigiano Sauce

Third Course
Vanilla Panna Cotta

Scumptious focaccia and Italian bread with vinegar and oil got us started, and appetizers followed. The calamari was a bit tough, but it was well seasoned and lightly breaded. Had it been cooked just a bit less I think it could have been very good. The caprese was nice, the mozzarella was creamy and delicious. It was also the highlight of the pizza, which otherwise fell flat for me. I actually prefer the hidden pizza joint's slices. My fault for ordering the pizza from the pasta guy. The ravioli was fantastic. Fortunately, Frank was a dear and shared a few with me. They were rich and luscious. The panna cotta to finish was light and tasty. It was beautifully set and full of vanilla flavor. Had we skipped the pizza and calamari it would've been a perfect meal. Still, I was quite pleased and I really look forward to trying Scarpetta.

D.O.C.G. (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

September 6, 2011

Carnegie Deli

We grabbed lunch at Carnegie Deli inside Mirage for our third Restaurant Week meal. My brother joined us, it was his first visit, but Frank and I've been many times. Our usual is the Corned Beef Reuben. It's plenty for two and it is delicious. We think it is the best we've had in Las Vegas (Langer's in LA and Katz's in NYC are better, though).

We never got around to trying Carnegie's pastrami so Restaurant Week's $20.11 lunch provided us with the perfect opportunity.

First Course
Choice of half-sandwich: “The Woody Allen”

Second Course
My Fair Latke; Potato Pancake

Third Course
Carnegie Deli's Famous Cheese Cake

The pastrami wasn't as lean or tender as we'd prefer, but I thought it had a nice flavor and it was still a good sandwich. I'd probably be thrilled with it had I never tasted the gloriousness of Langer's in Los Angeles. The latke was good, but not great (overly greasy). The cheesecake was delicious. It was half of the usual sized portion, but this worked out well because it left me with a satisfied but not too full belly.

My brother had the corned beef sandwich and he was in love. He thought it was easily the best corned beef he has ever had.

There was a wait to be seated, but the tables turned over fairly quickly so it didn't take too long to be seated. Service was attentive.

Carnegie Deli (Mirage) on Urbanspoon

September 2, 2011

Plaza Grand (Re)Opening

The Plaza was home to Frank and I for two weeks while we waited on our condo to close back in 2003. Friendly employees and cheap options all around won us over. We loved the property under Jackie's reign. I have such fond memories eating Klondike bars at our favorite machines, creating a stir while celebrating my final hours bachelorettedom (surveillance felt the the 3ft phallus I was carrying was a major distraction), and on our wedding night the staff celebrated our newly wedded bliss just as if they were included on the guestlist. It was that level of personal connection that made us feel special. When Jackie sold we saw a friends vanish and as the property was never quite the same. We still enjoyed it on drunken nights with friends, but the luster was lost when they replaced the carpeting. A complete remodel was planned back then, but financing fell through and they weren't able to get it together until last year when it closed.

We anxiously awaited its transformation hoping it'd become a place we'd learn to love once again.

We didn't check out any of the soft opening hubbub, I wanted to wait until the grand opening for first impressions. Last night was the night. My mom is usually comped at Plaza/LVC, the best they'd offer her was $25/night post-remodel. She took it to see the new rooms. In short, they are definitely still working out kinks. My first impression is lipstick on a pig. It looks great on the surface, but as you look more closely things aren't quite what they appear.

Hotel lobby

Apparently, hotel rooms in the north tower are not ready for their debut. Rooms are only available in the south tower. Check in was slow, like they haven't quite gotten their bearings yet. Even bellboys commented how the check in process was lengthy.

HHAGG is open for business as is the new sushi/hawaiian restaurant. Island Sushi is directly across from the three craps tables.

Swinger's Club was open for business. Dueling pianos were singing tunes. I was much too sober to find it enjoyable.

The casino floor has a far better layout with new slots, gaming tables (a couple $5 BJ, remainder $10/$25) and majority chairs have been reupholstered (those on the back wall are old with cigarette burns). The casino cage is considerably smaller which makes the floor far more spacious. The smell is more fresh, the carpet is cushy, but smoke still lingers. Air filtration is the same old. The cleanliness was terrible. Empty glasses were strewn about, ashtrays were overflowing, saw garbage around the floor, chairs knocked over. Service was unfriendly it's like they've all been beaten down with complaints, but they are quick to offer unsympathetic apologies. New waitress uniforms are very unflattering on the mature ladies that dominated the floor... Great for those perky twenty somethings, not so great for sagging sixty somethings. The sportsbook is untouched, it looks like it will run as is until Cantor comes in and handles the remodel under their operation which is set to commence in 2012.

South Tower rooms have a guard out front checking room keys. Elevators appear to be refurbished. My mom's room was on the 7th floor. There are no directional arrows coming off the elevator to notify you which way your room might be. New carpet and paint throughout the original doors remain.

The room my mom was assigned was only partially made. Cigarettes were in the ashtray, garbage was also laying around. The bedding and towels were clean but left disorderly. When she called the front desk she was told she could only be moved to a non-smoking room, which she did not want. Instead, they would send housekeeping up to finish cleaning the room. I haven't yet heard how that turned out. I had heard reports of no soap or bed skirts during the soft opening and this was still the case. I even asked other hotel guests and they did not have them either. The new tvs are nice and they do have HD programming. The beds are worlds better than those they had before, and I liked the vintage Plaza print that decorated the wall. Views were of the Performing Arts, New City Hall, etc. but they were hard to enjoy through the filthy windows.

These issues would be more forgivable with a soft opening, but on the official opening night? I'd expect better. The potential is there. I'm just not confident that they can deliver.

Also, it's worth a mention work has hardly begun on the second floor. New escalators and fresh Bingo boards are the highlight. The rest is desperately awaiting its overhaul.

I'm not in love. Maybe once they actually reach completion they will woo me?