So long, 2013!

December 30, 2013
Another year is winding down. Each year flies even faster than the one before I swear. This year was all about simplifying. I think we've achieved that. I cannot wait until 2014 to begin reaping the benefits. I can tell you I don't regret downsizing from the house for even a second. I really like our apartment. Six months in, and my only real complaint is a homeowner behind our complex allows their dog to bark for hours on end.

Like most years, we've tried to travel as much as possible and enjoy yummy eats and drinks along the way. We've had great new experiences and revisited old favorites. Overall, it's been a great chapter in this journey called life.

LOCAL EATS

Best new eats - Taco y Taco

I began stalking Taco y Taco when I heard they would be serving tacos al pastor. I tried them for the first time shortly after opening and I've been hooked since. I have not had a better taco in Las Vegas. Their burritos are damn tasty too. Prices are very reasonable. Next year a second location is coming to Eastern/215.

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Late to the party - Settebello

I didn't discover Settebello's greatness until this year. It's just like pizza in Italy, but it's in my backyard.

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Reliable - Windy City Beefs-N-Pizza

A taste of Chi-Town minutes from home.

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Favorite - Sage

Sage is stellar. It's as simple as that.

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Greatest find - I Love Sushi

Even if I didn't like Sushi, I think this place would convince me otherwise. It's so damn good!

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Most welcomed - Rollin' Smoke

Las Vegas has never been known for BBQ, but these Arkansas boys put us on the map.

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Room for improvement - Fat Choy

The kitchen creates really great bites, but the service is so bad. It keeps me from returning.

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Biggest surprise - BurGR

I wanted to hate anything tied to Gordon Ramsey, but BurGR blew me way. Poppers will never be the same.

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Clock is running out - Circo

Circo is a delight. I will certainly miss it when it closes it doors for good early next year.

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TRAVELS

Life changing - Texas BBQ

Lockhart, Texas changed the way I view BBQ. I never knew it could be so good!

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Most disappointing - Vdara

I expected so much more. Yet, I didn't expect to be awakened to the nightmare that is "bed bugs".

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Most relaxing - Al Cielo

This small but growing hotel is my personal paradise. There is no better way to recharge batteries.

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Biggest regret - Only getting to San Diego once this year.

Yes, it's true. Devastating.

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Hope to do more - Off-roading

There is never enough time to play in the desert.

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ENTERTAINMENT

Best Album - The Heist, Macklemore

Best TV Show - Breaking Bad

Best Concert - Pink's Truth About Love Tour

Best Movie - Wolf of Wall Street


Wherever you are and wherever you go, I hope the new year brings you the greatest joys. See ya next year!

Belated Holiday Wishes!

December 27, 2013
I cannot believe Christmas has come and gone. In my mind, it feels more like Halloween. Yet, the New Year is only days away. I'm looking forward to saying good-bye to 2013. It hasn't been a particularly good year, nor a cruel one - thankfully. But like most we've had our share of joy and heartache. While I expect the same for 2014, I know we already have fun adventures planned, and there will be much cause for celebration in the new year.

I hope your holidays have been merry and bright! This Christmas Frank and I shared the day with loved ones and Christmas Eve we stayed at the Signature at MGM. It's long been our favorite place to staycation. This visit was nice, but our room was showing its age and it wasn't as plush as previous stays. This might be because I booked via luxury suites international. Although, I've booked thru them before without issue. Who knows?

We relaxed and lazed about, soaked in the tub and had snowball fights with bubbles, and read old love letters I wrote to Frank when we were in high school. It was a fun trip down memory lane.

We had dinner reservations at Crush. It's the restaurant that took over the space where Nobhill used to be. It had big shoes to fill, but we were hopeful since it's owned by Michael Morton who is also the co-founder N9NE at the Palms. The restaurant has a rustic chic garden feel. It wasn't too busy on Christmas eve, despite other restaurants being quite crowded. We had a booth in back after asking not to be seated at the high-top bar tables near the entry.

They offered a nice blend of cocktails, wines and beers. We had Kronenbourg Blanc ($9) and Oro di Milano Riserva ($14), on the pricey side, but I appreciated the rare selections. The menu follows the current trend of small plates and specialty pizzas with a few large plate selections for those who prefer the old school way of dining. We started with the ricotta gnocchi with braised short rib ($16). It's offered as a small plate, but we shared as an appetizer. It's hardly enough for two, but quite enjoyable. The shortrib was rich and decadent. The gnocchi was tender and light, though it had less ricotta flavor than anticipated.

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We each ordered large plates for our entrees. Frank chose the Lamb Sirloin with Brussels Sprouts ($38) and I had the Seabass with Kale ($34). Large plate portions are not for hearty appetites but definitely an upgrade from the small plates. Frank really enjoyed the Brussels sprouts, and the lamb was tender and cooked medium rare as requested, but there was a flavor that was off putting. He barely touched it. The waiter took notice and offered something else from the menu. After some urging, Frank chose the wild mushroom pizza ($16).

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The pizza was pretty darn good. The crust was nice and crisp, the fontina was creamy and paired well with the earthiness of the mushrooms.

My seabass and kale was prepared and served in parchment paper. It was topped with a tomato chutney. The flavors were good, but the texture overall was one note; mushy. It would've been better with some crunch. I tend to prefer fish with a nice sear.

While dinner might not have been top notch the staff was very accomodating. They went out of their way to be sure we were satisfied. I give them props. They sent out a complimentarty Nutella Crunch dessert for the trouble. Hazelnuts and nutella are a match made in heaven. The dessert did not disappoint.



Crush has only been open a few weeks so they may hit their stride, but at this point, I'm missing Michael Mina's Nobhill terribly.

Crush on Urbanspoon

Best Intentions!

December 26, 2013
So, I had every intent to keep a regular posting schedule to share details that have slipped through the cracks throughout the year. But like most things, life gets in the way. Tuesday, the 17th, I took Frank to the airport bright and early, he had a whirlwind overnight trip planned in San Francisco with a friend. I worked and then went to the dentist for a cleaning (I just barely made the appt because I had forgotten all about it until they called to see where I was). The dentist visit was routine and then I was headed home. My plans were to make Mexican eggs for dinner and bake cookies. Life had other plans...

Traffic on I-15 was heavier than my normal commute because I was an hour later than usual. Just as I had worked my way past Russell from the Flamingo ramp, I made it into the left lane, a few moments later I spotted a vehicle approaching my lane. He wasn't backing off so I swerved to the left to avoid being hit. I looked in the rearview mirror and I had two vehicles in the express lane coming up on me quick and the cement barrier dead ahead. So, I swerved to the right. Then, everything is a blur. Worst day behind the wheel ever. It happened in the blink of eye, but felt like slow motion and the radio has never blared so loud. Fun's Carry On was playing.

The good news is that the other driver and I had no apparent injuries. And there is still good in world; three drivers stopped to see if we were ok and two stayed to give voluntary statements. However, the driver that caused me to swerve left the scene so the third vehicle is a phantom driver. Given the circumstances of sliding across three lanes on I-15 during rush hour, it was fortunate that only mine and another car (there's was fairly minor; definitely repairable) were damaged and no immediate injuries were suffered.

I drove my beat up Impala home. Made all the appropriate calls. My knees were tender from being smashed against the steering column, I was shaken up and wished Frank would've been home. I would've taken great comfort from his warm embrace. Yet, I was relieved to be safe and sound in my own bed that night. Even if sleep was non-existent.

The next day I was overwhelmed by the burden of being involved in an accident. It occurred to me that my car was likely going to be totaled. I've taken a liking to no car payment and living nearly debt free. As the day went on my neck tensed and radiated pain into my shoulders, my range of motion ceased to exist and the headache I hoped would go away only intensified. I heeded everyone's advice and went to quick care for xrays just to get checked out. It was the most horrendous experience. Turns out the co-owner is a personal injury attorney. The whole ordeal felt more like I was seeking legal counsel rather than medical treatment. I left utterly disgusted with the world we live in, and refused pain-killers to dull the pain and a referral to a chiropractor. The xrays only revealed degenerative disc disease. No exam was ever done. I've decided to follow up with the orthopedic surgeon that diagnosed Frank with his herniated discs and performed the surgery that made his pain go away in an instant, versus the months of agony and "pain management" he encountered prior to seeing this doctor; he actually took the time for diagnoses rather than simply treating the symptoms. I'll see him on Monday.

Since then I've had the appraiser by to look at my car and it is indeed a total loss. I still need to work out those details with my adjuster, but I'm hopeful the process will go quickly. That means today after work Frank and I are going car shopping. Hopefully, it won't be too much of a hassle.

Yeah, so who drives a totaled car home? This girl.

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Be careful out there! Dry roads in the best conditions can feel like ice when something goes wrong. Even with the best intentions, accidents can and do happen.

Let's Talk Pizza!

December 17, 2013
Like thin crust? Here are some suggestions... Allegro at Wynn had great pizza, it was very similar to what I enjoyed in Italy.

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I tried Pop Up, but I didnt get the super crisp crust everyone talks about. I prefer Secret pizza.

Pop Up

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Secret

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Off-strip, I like Custom Built. It's better than Due Forni and a heck of a lot cheaper. Novecento is along the same lines. But Settebello? That's hard to beat.

Custom

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Due Forni

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Novecento

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Settebello

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For Chicago style thin crust check out Windy City Beefs N Pizza on Eastern near 215

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Prefer thick? Try their deep dish.

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Or Rosati's Stuffed (not on the menu but several locations will make it upon request).

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Maybe you're loyal to New York style? Grimaldi's is classic and my choice. But Biaggio's or Cugino's Pizzeria will do.

Grimaldi's

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Biaggio's

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Cugino's

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Want all kinds under one roof, try Pizza Rock.

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Then, there's those to Skip.

Radio City

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Streets of New York

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Slice of Vegas

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And if you're your broke or trying to feed a crowd; there's always Pizza! Pizza! $5 Hot and Ready.

Parsley Mediterranean Grill

December 16, 2013
We were in the area, Parsley caught our interest so we stopped in. They kindly gave us samples when they heard it was our first time. We each ordered a wrap, I had the regular with steak and Frank chose the chicken on wheat, with tasty fries. We also got an order of falafel.

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Both varieties of shwarma are good, the wheat wrap is way too dry, I don't recommend it. Get the regular. Other fillings are fresh and tasty. The falafel tasted way overcooked; based on my experience I can't recommend that either.

Parsley Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon

Market Grill Cafe

December 13, 2013
I've gone through my album of food porn and noticed that there are several places we tried that I failed to mention, so I'll be working on sharing these details. I began yesterday with the Original Sunrise Cafe and today is Market Grill Cafe. When the weather was nice and the weekends were ours we cruised up to Indian Springs for a trip through Cold Creek and up and over Wheeler's Pass to Pahrump. We stopped for lunch first at Market Grill Café. The staff was super friendly and the restaurant has a nice ambience, but the sagnaki and gyros were not very good. I prefer a pillowy pita, these were thin and dry. The rice was also dry and the salad was bitter. The sagnaki cheese was overwhelmed by the taste of liquor. It was pretty disappointing.

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Market Grille Cafe on Urbanspoon

Original Sunrise Cafe

December 12, 2013
I'm way late with this review. We dined on a Sunday over the summer. It was pretty toasty outside and their A/C went out. We figured we'd be in & out so we didn't mind waiting and decided to stay. They kindly handed out water for those that were waiting.

Finally, we were seated. Our order was quickly taken, but the wait for our food was lengthy. It gave us time to notice the booth beside us had some misbehaved children that were bouncing all over. The boy bounced about so much that he heaved up breakfast. They left the mess and what appeared to be a very small tip. The table sat empty waiting to be cleaned, they got a bus boy over with a stomach that could handle it. He cleaned the table like it was any other mess. And the next couple was immediately seated. I really expected the area to be disinfected with care. I cringed when the unknowing couple sat down. I'm sure this sort of thing happens all the time, but it's the first I've witnessed it. So that was a turn off.

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We were starved and sweaty by the time our breakfast arrived. The garden of eden for me and a build your own for him. We prefer omelets with the cheese on the inside, a personal preference, I know so I try not to let it sway my judgement. However, these were underseasoned. Just very bland (and mine wet). They might be eggwhites, but that doesn't mean that shouldn't be flavorful. Breakfast came to $30 plus tip. We failed to find the value.

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The Mister's Birthday Celebration

December 11, 2013
Each year for three months, Frank gets to be an old man. Then, my birthday comes and we're just old together. Ha!

His birthday fell on Sunday and I suspect his birthday wish was to win his fantasy leagues. Once he got off work, I surprised him with cupcakes from Mad Hatter. It's become tradition. We don't exchange gifts but I've ordered him a new humidor, we just received the barrel box set of Breaking Bad and I picked up a nice display case for a Louisville Slugger Bat his brother had engraved for him; I got it mounted on the wall as one last surprise.

He chose Joe's Stone Crab for dinner. Who could argue? We received a warm welcome back and ordering was quick and painless. We started with oysters Rockefeller, I haven't had them elsewhere for comparison, but these are delicious. Even if you're not that fond of oysters I'm certain you'll enjoy these. What doesn't cheese and butter make better? Needless to say, they're so rich and delicious.

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It's been a terrible season for Stone Crab, they weren't offering any the night of our visit. However, they have the Pacific crab which is nearly identical. Frank had it before and swears it was just as good. It's slightly less expensive, and I found it not to be as sweet as Stone Crab. It was still mighty tasty, though.

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We also shared an order of Brussels sprouts with pork belly and apple cider. They were good, but not our favorite. I've enjoyed other sides quite a bit more.



Before they brought the check, they brought out a brownie sundae with a candle. Frank got one last birthday wish.

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