March 21, 2013

Logandale: Camping

Earlier this month, we had above average temps and we were loving it! We decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather by camping in Logandale. Our friends and their son joined us. These plans came together a few days before the weekend. We didn't have a single item to camp. Yet, we managed to pull it off. Amazon helped a lot! I was able to get two day shipping on this awesome Instant Tent by Coleman. It claims it fits two queensize air mattresses but I'm skeptical. We fit one and had just enough room to walk in the door and have storage for carryon suitcase. The tent was a breeze to set up. Less than two minutes... no joke. It took a bit longer to take down just because it took time for the air inside to escape. A last minute trip to Walmart allowed me to collect the other odds and ends we'd need. Our friends were bringing their grill so I had no worries there.

We arrived before noon and feared our late start would mean the prime campsites were taken, but fortunately for us, it was pretty quiet. We were able to secure the third large site in and dunes butt up to the foothills so it was a great place to set up the tents. Perfect. We unloaded our gear and got started customizing our home for the night.

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Soon after, we were all situated and it was time to hit the trails. We cruised outside of Logandale and hit the trailsystem that is off Ute Rd (from I-15N) we did the bowl trail and worked to find a way to the town of Logandale. The train goes through both areas so we were determined to find the way. Which we did, but it wasn't THE way. I'm not sure that one really exists anymore. I think it may have been washed out.

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There was this wild watercrossing just past the railroad tracks, where someone conveniently left a trailer to use in place of a bridge. It looked sketchy but both of our RZR made it across without issue.

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We got back to camp and we got started on dinner. We had yummy appetizers! So, we snacked on spinach artichoke dip and salsa while the pork kabobs I marinated cooked on the grill. We also had grilled asparagus as a side. It was tasty, easy to prepare and healthier than your usual camp eats.

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We finished up dinner and sat around the campfire while we waited for darkness to settle in. Then, we headed out on a night run. You know how they say the difference was like night and day? Well, it was... we've been on the trails dozens of times during the day, but at night it's like a whole other world. It no longer looks like Mars, but you just might see Mars. The sky above is lit up from the brilliant stars... and the glow of Las Vegas. We returned to camp and roasted marshmallows and assembled S'mores.

We worried it might get too cool at night and we'd be freezing but it was never uncomfortable. I was only chilled when Frank stole my covers. Our secret to a happy marriage is seperate blankets. It was silly of me to think we could share for one night. We did learn that we'll also be investing in those elevated air mattresses and I want to buy two: one queen for Frank and a twin for me. It ought to make for far more restful nights.

For breakfast I scrambled Mexican eggs with sausage and turkey bacon. We had tortillas to make it into breakfast burritos so it was quite the feast. We took down camp so we wouldn't have to mess with it later. Then, we were off for another ride. We rode outside the main trailsystem to explore the outermost trails in Logandale.

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We wrapped up our day of riding in the dunes. I earned my wings by making my first jump in the RZR. It was FUN catching air!

Make a video of your own at Animoto.

Our first camping trip out west was complete. It is certainly not the last. We loved it! Camping in the midwest was always a pain because of mosquitos. It is FAR more pleasant without them.

March 18, 2013

Restaurant Week: Pasta Shop

Our fifth and final meal for Spring Restaurant Week was at Pasta Shop Ristorante in Anthem. We had friends join us, in all, we had a party of five. They had two price points for the RW menu $30.13 and $50.13. The former was the better deal. The difference between them was the entree and dessert. Seafood vs. Chicken or Sausage and Cannoli vs. Tirimisu. They willingly substituted dessert.

We started with Fresh Mozzarella and Roma Tomato and Caesar Salad. The Caprese was fantastic, simple and fresh, quality ingredients. The Caesar was too lightly dressed, this is a rare complaint from me. I enjoy lightly dressed salads, but the taste of the romaine overpowered any other flavor. Leaves on their own are pretty boring.

Frank had the Mediteranean Sausage over pasta. I had the Portofino with Fresh Shellfish in a Fra Diablo Sauce over Linguine.

The sausage was very good with excellent flavor. The linguine was also quite tasty. The shellfish varied, the shrimp and scallops were tender and properly prepared. The clams and mussels were overcooked and very chewy. I also expected the dish to be spicy, but it was not. All in all, the Portofino was fine, but it had the potential to be more enticing.

Finally, we finished with tiramusi and cannoli. Both were enjoyable.

The Pasta Shop is great neighborhood find. I'm glad we were given the excuse to give it a try. If in the area, I'd return to sample more of their housemade pastas.

Pasta Shop & Ristorante on Urbanspoon

March 15, 2013

Restaurant Week: Emeril's Fish House

On our fourth day of Restaurant Week, we dined at Emeril's Fish House. It's one of the few restaurants I've never experienced at MGM Grand. We had 6 o'clock reservations and we were seated promptly. All three of us chose the Restaurant Week menu for $50.13. We started with salads: the Heirloom Tomato Salad - Spanish Blue Cheese, Red Onion, Basil, Herb Vinaigrette and Aged Balsamic Vinegar and the Caesar Salad - Romaine Hearts, Parmesan Cheese, Roasted Garlic Grissini and Creamy House Made Dressing. The tomatoes weren't as hearty as we'd hope, but the blue cheese was high octane and really stellar. I had hoped the Caesar house dressing would be like what's offered at Delmonico. Unfortunately, it wasn't. This romaine was overdressed and the dressing was too sweet for my liking.

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Our second course was Shrimp & Andouille Pork Sausage Gumbo - Okra & Long Grain Rice and Chef Emeril's Fall River Clam Chowder - Apple Smoked Bacon & Idaho Potatoes. I was torn between the two but went with the Gumbo since we were in Emeril's house. The chowder, however, was the better choice. It was velvety and the clams were perfectly tender. The Gumbo lacked "Bam!" it was really mild. Though, not overly salty like many I tried in New Orleans.

We sampled each of the options for the third course: Horseradish Grilled Blue Shrimp - Patty pan Squash, Zucchini & Pearl Couscous and Preserved Meyer Lemon, Chef Emeril's Sweet Barbecued Atlantic Salmon - Spicy Andouille Pork Sausage Hash, Crystal Fried Onion Crust and Emeril's House made Worcestershire and Grilled Double Cut Pork Chop - Chive Blossom & Yukon Gold Potato Puree, and Wilted Spinach.

The shrimp was the winning dish. It was well seasoned and not a bit overcooked. I wish I had ordered it, instead I had the BBQ Salmon. I ordered it since "fish house" is in the name and I've never had salmon barbequed. In short, I was very underwhelmed. It was underseasoned and lacked pizazz. The sweetness hid the natural salmon flavor. The hash was so overly salty I couldn't eat it. The double cut pork chop was prepared medium. It was cooked to order, but it was tough! And also terribly bland. Yet, the spinach was so salty it was inedible.

I welcomed dessert and when it was delivered our server said "and now, for the best part!" Sadly, it was the best part. The didn't have the Lemon & Angel Food Cake Trifle that was posted online. So, I decided to give Emeril's Banana Cream Pie another chance. I had it before at Delmonico and it was served frozen. Thankfully, this was one was ice crystal free. It seemed to have more cream than banana; it was nothing I'd rave about or even order again, but it was pretty good. The guys chose the butter and bread pudding. This was the highlight of the night. Tender, gooey bread, and slightly sweet.

Service was attentive. However, I found dinner service a bit odd. Each course was brought out on an enormous tray with each dish covered and then placed on a stand. The covers were removed and then the food would sit until a few servers could gather to serve all dishes at the same time. It looked like a parade of room service, then you see the food sitting there and you're left thinking "serve it to me or I'll serve it to myself." I don't know if it was amplified because we sat at the table next to their prepping area - we saw this process for every diner in our back corner of the room. I can't recall ever paying such attention to the manner in which food was served. I was annoyed with the distraction.

We were on such a roll with our Restaurant Week meals I knew it was too good to last. At least, we helped out Three Square. Emeril's Fish House is a one and done experience. Frankly, it is sad that this place remains but Seablue was replaced. They had stellar seafood. I miss it.

Emeril's New Orleans Fish House on Urbanspoon

March 14, 2013

Restaurant Week: Table 34

Last night, Frank and I dined at Table 34. I've heard good things and Restaurant Week was the perfect excuse. It's tucked away in the corporate center near 215/Warm Springs. I made a reservation last week, but they didn't have it. Fortunately, they had seating available and we were seated right away. We both chose the Restaurant Week menu; three courses for $40.13.

We started with Duck Confit Quesadilla with Spicy-Blackberry Syrah Coulis, this was delicious and it came with a small salad and scrumptious grapes. I'd return for this alone (but everything was really good)! It bursts with flavor.

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Entrees were brought over a short bit later, I had Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage-Brown Butter and Toasted Walnuts and Frank had the Grilled Pork Chop with Chipotle Potato Puree, Mixed Veggies and Hard Cider Glaze. Both were well executed and very good, but Frank chose the better dish. The chipotle mashed were hearty and smokey. And the chop was tender, juicy, and had a nice char.

And then for dessert, Frank chose the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pie with Honeycomb Clusters and Lemon Cheesecake with Candied Lemon Zest. The peanuts with the honeycomb reminded me of Crunch-N-Munch, the chocolate peanut butter pie was creamy and decadent. The cheesecake tasted like summer, it was light and comforting with a nice blend of sweet and tart.

Service was quick and friendly. The restaurant had a nice atmosphere; even when full it wasn't too noisy. Table 34 is a real gem. It was nice to see them openly promote Restaurant Week. All too often restaurants hide the specials and they're only offered when asked.

Table 34 on Urbanspoon

March 13, 2013

Restaurant Week: Joe's Seafood, Steaks & Stone Crab

Our second Restaurant Week meal was at Joe's Seafood, Prime Steaks and Stone Crab. We went for Frank's birthday and we couldn't wait to go back. We had six o'clock reservations and we were seated right away. Service was attentive throughout the meal. Frank ordered off the menu, and our friend and I went with the restaurant week menu for $50.13 and we chose the same items: Bowl of Stone Crab Bisque, Chilean Sea Bass with Jennie's Mashed Potatoes and Sauteed Broccolini and Joe's Signature Key Lime Pie.

We started with bisque and calamari ($14.95). Both were excellent! The bisque was smooth as silk and the veggies had a nice bite. It'd only be better with more crab. Because everything is better with MORE crab. The calamari was tender and lightly breaded, and the cocktail sauce had a satisfying kick from the horseradish.

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After we gobbled that up, the real feast began. We dug into large crab claws ($59.95), seabass with bok choy, mushroom mac n cheese ($9.95), mashed potatoes and sauteed broccolini. It was all delicious! The claws are always out of this world. I generally prefer a hard sear on fish but this miso glaze was wonderful - a pleasant blend of sweet and salty.

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We were already stuffed, but we still had dessert to come. Frank looked over the menu and chose the Peanut Butter Pie with hot fudge ($7.95). That thing was a monster! It was rich, decadent and positively sinful. He could not finish it. We tried to help, but the PB pie won. The key lime pie was light and refreshing. It hit the spot!

I think I can safely say that Joe's is my favorite chain. They do it right! The Restaurant Week menu provided an opportunity to try something other than crab and the fish was indeed was stellar. The RW three courses were offered at considerable savings too. You save about $25, and $5 goes to Three Square for each meal ordered.