Restaurant Week: Blossom

August 29, 2014
For our second Restaurant Week meal, benefitting Three Square Food Bank, we dined at Blossom inside Aria. My brother joined us. He's matured so much over the years and I'm happy to share my love of food with him. It's something he's definitely come to appreciate. He used to eat nothing but chicken fingers and BBQ cheeseburgers. Now, he can find the value in a good meal and I respect his willingness to try new things.

Blossom receives little attention, yet reviews for the restaurant are pretty solid. Prices are steep, but in line with other fine dining Chinese restaurants. The restaurant has a lovely quiet ambience tucked away near Baccarat. Service was attentive. The Restaurant Week menu offered dinner for $50.14, we were started with Wor Wonton soup, then we had the choice of Pot Stickers or Shrimp Toast for appetizers, followed by entree selections of Crisp Fried Chilean Sea Bass or Beef Tenderloin with Portabella Mushroom, served with Pork Fried Rice. Dessert was Mochi Ice Cream.

We sampled all that was available. The Wor Wonton soup had large shrimp, scallop and two wontons with broccoli and mushrooms. The broth lacked depth, flavor improved with a spoonful of garlic sriracha.

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The Potstickers were large and nicely prepared, but it was the Shrimp Toast that were memorable. Each bite was so buttery it seemed to melt in your mouth. It was a pleasant surprise.





Chilean Sea Bass is my second favorite fish, so I was very excited to dig in. The filet was deep fried and it had a nice tempura crust, but I found it unfortunate that the breading overwhelmed the natural flavor of the fish. Still, it was beautifully presented. The BBQ Pork Fried Rice was nicely done, but the flavor was a bit mild for my taste. Another spoonful of sriracha, gave it the kick it needed. The Bok Choy was fresh and tender. The Beef Tenderloin was bursting with flavor from the black pepper marinade. It was a tasty dish.





Dessert concluded our meal with Mochi Ice Cream, Green Tea and Mango were the flavors. I usually enjoy green tea ice cream, but the mango was a strong favorite. It was light with bold refreshing flavor. The Mochi was chewy without being too gummy. When asked how he enjoyed his meal, my brother replied, "It's fucking weird, but I like it." Just like that another foodie is born.



Blossom was a great choice for Restaurant Week, it's not likely a restaurant I would have chosen otherwise. However, it was a nice treat and it left me drooling over their peking duck and dungeness crab on the regular menu.

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Restaurant Week: Red Square

August 28, 2014
Summer had only felt like it lasted a week, but in reality it's nearly over. Kids are back in school, stores have Halloween displays and all things pumpkin are beginning to surface. Oh, and there's only 7 days to kickoff for those of you counting. I typically get down in the dumps this time of year, because I love summer and I never want to let it go. The return of football also means I lose my weekends with Frank. The highlight for several years has been Restaurant Week. When is a better time to try a new restaurant than when it also benefits charity? I've been a long time supporter of Three Square. We live in such a great nation it is hard to believe that people go hungry every day; right here, in our very own neighborhoods. Three Square Food Bank does a lot to see that our community is fed. The collection of restaurants participating in this Restaurant Week (August 22-28) is outstanding! I had a terrible time narrowing down my selections, typically we try to do a meal each day, but my schedule didn't allow it this time. I had to choose two meals. Tonight, we'll try Blossom at Aria and last night we dined at Red Square inside Mandalay Bay.

We've talked about dining at Red Square for a long time, but for one reason or another it has never happened. When I saw their restaurant week menu my interest was immediately piqued they were offering choices unlike anyone else. Dinner was $40.14, there were three choices of Appetizer and Entree, and two Dessert options. We started with Mini Lobster Tacos and Siberian Nachos. Entrees of Beef Stroganoff and Chicken Kiev followed, and we finished with Toffee Bread Pudding for dessert.

It was a shame the tacos were bite sized because they were mighty delicious and I was left wanting more. The delicate lobster was perfectly prepared, which too often is not the case. The nachos were intriguing, with smoked salmon piled high on potato crisps and topped with American caviar. I wish the potato slices were thicker to better support the salmon and if they were unseasoned there would still be plenty of residual saltiness from the caviar.



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I've grown up eating Beef Stroganoff, it's one of my favorite comfort foods. This version was more rich and better composed with braised short rib, wild mushrooms, perfect Strozzapretti and dollops of ricotta. It was tasty and a hearty portion. The chicken kiev was served with brussel sprouts, it was unfortunate that the pan sauce was so overwhelmingly over seasoned that any other flavor beside salt was completely lost.





Our waiter strongly recommended the bread pudding. I typically do not enjoy bread pudding so I was hesitant but agreed. Honestly, I'm glad I didn't have to share. Croissant pieces were piled high and served with salted caramel ice cream and toffee sauce to drizzle and it was topped off with vanilla Captain Crunch. It definitely had a breakfast taste, reminiscent of warm cinnamon rolls without being too sweet. Truly, it was a pleasant surprise.



Our dinner was deeply discounted, it was a great opportunity to try Red Square. We had an enjoyable meal even if two of the dishes were over seasoned.

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Dancing the Cha-Cha

August 27, 2014
“Optimist: Someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it's a cha-cha.” ― Robert Brault

It's funny, my mom's horse is named Cha-Cha. Since her diagnoses in July, she's worked to find her a new forever home. As much as my mom loves Cha she knew it wasn't fair to keep her at home without any friends. My mom's ailing health prevents her from riding, and most recently, providing the proper care and attention she deserves has become a burden.

The universe works in mysterious ways and I believe people come into your life just as you need them. For example, my sister was surprised when she learned she was pregnant, and now, Addison is what gives my mom strength when she is at her weakest. She also formed a bond with a neighbor, over mutual disgust with a rowdy neighbor, and they have been a blessing, they water her plants, care for her dogs and maintain odds and ends when my mom is with me in Las Vegas. After her mediastinoscopy, she needed her wound packed and home health was arranged to help her out while she was home in Pahrump. It was her nurses' friend that ended up taking Cha-Cha, at first it was only temporary until my mom could find her a home, but she was such a good fit, she decided to buy Cha-Cha. She lives in horsey paradise. She's adjusted wonderfully and my mom can visit as much as she'd like. She's only been able to get over there once so far, but Cha, didn't skip a beat and ran straight toward her. My mom's heart overflowed with joy.

It's been a rough couple weeks since. Last I shared, my mom was waiting for a brain MRI. We didn't make the appointment because she was in the hospital. After feeling sick from Chemo, it seems she caught a bug, and then an infection. The infection caused a fever. Saturday, August 16, I picked her up to bring her to Vegas. She felt like utter crap and her fever was low grade but it increased from the night before. This was an incredibly taxing day, because it was also the day Amy went into labor. We were so overjoyed for Addison's arrival, but our hearts ached that we were so far away. This same day is when my mom lost her hair from chemotherapy. I first cut it short, but it didn't stop the gobs of hair from falling loose. Later than night, we shaved her head. My brother shaved his too in solidarity. Skyping with Amy and seeing Addy for the first time was the highlight of our day. My mom couldn't believe her granddaughter had more hair that she did.

The next day, my mom's fever increased and it was coupled with flank pain. We called her oncologist's office, the doctor on call was the first oncologist we met with that we didn't like. She suggested we go to Quick Care, an infection was suspected. I know that germs are a concern and I didn't feel quick care was appropriate but we called anyhow to see if they can access her port. My instincts were right, they said "don't come here!" I decided to bring her to the emergency room, we returned to the hospital where she had her chemo. They didn't find any signs of infection, but they decided to admit her. They started her on antibiotics, treated her pain and nausea.

They put us in isolation until they could determine that C Diff was not the cause. It was silly, because my mom had not had diarrhea since Saturday afternoon. Yet, we were in isolation until Tuesday afternoon. If she had C Diff, she wouldn't be able to leave the toilet and I'm sure I'd be sick as well, I argued numerous times, but they have to follow protocol. Meanwhile, my mom's fever spiked to 102 degrees. Apparently, cultures from her urine sample finally indicated that a UTI was present. An infectious disease doctor was brought in, she was concerned about infection in her port, but ruled it out. They gave her additional antibiotics to prevent sepsis.

After her first night in the hospital, she began to have excruciating pain in her lower ribs and then it moved into her left lung and radiated from shoulder into her arm. Morphine didn't ease the pain. Dilaudid was all that would help. Every four hours she was treated for pain. We also tried a few anti-nausea medications before finding Reglan. She still had no appetite, but the nausea was bearable. They brought in a GI doctor for the pain after ruling out her hernia that she's had for years. The GI doctor wanted to do an endoscopy. We refused to put her under, general anesthesia caused her too much grief after the mediastinoscopy. I feared her lungs couldn't handle it, she's completely against being intubated. So, we felt it wasn't worth the risk. Her attending doctor seemed to think the pain was related to her cancer and her oncologist doesn't agree because cancer pains are generally localized. After five days in the hospital we learned nothing new of the pain or what was causing it.

While she was hospitalized I had them run a bone scan and brain MRI. I requested the bone scan because she's complained of pain in her tail bone for months. When googling I found that this could be a sign of metastasis. Thankfully, the scan revealed no abnormalities. The brain MRI only showed normal changes due to age. Having these tests come back negative for cancer gave me the confidence that my mom is likely Stage IIIB. This definitely provides a greater amount of hope. When she was released from the hospital we met with her radiation oncologist and he agreed. He'd like to get started on radiation, but first he has ordered a PET Scan. It is scheduled for September 2. Her last scan was in May. Before radiation begins he wants a better grasp on the current size of the mass and enlarged lymph node that was positive for Lung Cancer. This will also allow us to see if there is any indication of metastasis to the left lung or fluid. Which was my concern when the pain traveled to the left lung. Once the results of the PET scan are ready we will meet with a radiation team to go over the planning for her radiation treatment. She is willing to try, since it is our last hope. She will not be continuing chemotherapy. 28 days is far too long to deal with nausea and other effects. Hopefully, radiation will suit her better.

To help treat the pain they started her on a fentanyl patch in the hospital. It didn't seem to help much because she still needed dilaudid to control the pain. It did weaken her respiratory system. After a few hours on the patch she was dependant on oxygen. The patch lasted for three days. It is an expensive prescription and it seemed to do more harm than good so we discontinued it.

She was released from the hospital late afternoon Thursday, she ate that night and Friday, but then the nausea returned. The Reglen pills did nothing to ease the nausea. She lost her appetite and fought another bout of diarrhea. This continued through Monday. She was so weak and defeated she asked to go to the ER. I had planned to take her to her cardiologist to rule out congestive heart failure because she had developed too many systems to ignore. I figured the ER would be best to help all that ailed her. They ran a CT scan of her chest, abdomen and pelvis. It found no blockages, and nothing new to be concerned by. It was a relief, but also a frustration for my mom because she feels like complete shit and has no clue why. They boosted her potassium with pills. I requested her urine be cultured to confirm the infection is no longer present, and they sent us home with medicine to encourage appetite.

I read up on anxiety and saw that it can cause nausea and diarrhea so I decided to have her try a dose of Xanax. It was previously prescribed to help her sudden occurrences of shortness of breath. She was able to get some much needed rest and symptoms improved a bit. The other medicine seems to be working, she actually felt hungry last night. Let's hope, it's a step forward.

Her pain had subsided, she had no medicine for pain since Saturday, that is until the dull pain returned in her lung last night. She had been away from home for ten days, I knew seeing her dogs and resting in her own bed will do her good. Her boyfriend is home for a week so I felt comfortable taking her home last night.

If I've learned anything over the past two months it is that I need to accept that her lung cancer, COPD, diabetes, lupus and MCTD are going to cause bad days. I can only hope the good out number the bad. I must remember to dance.

SLS Opening

August 23, 2014
SLS opened to the public at midnight, August 23, 2014. Frank and I have attended nearly all the casino openings since we've been living in Vegas. Wynn's opening was tricky because I had a broken ankle, but still we made it. We rented a wheel chair and Frank pushed me all around the property for a first glimpse. Unfortunately, my mom hasn't been well and we had another stint in the hospital. So, I thought I might miss this one. But she was released on Thursday, and she is currently staying with me, I had my brother come look after her so Frank and I could continue our tradition. It was the first new casino opening since the Cosmopolitan in 2010. Yes, I know Cromwell just opened a short bit ago after closure of Bill's, but there was no ownership change. We knew to expect the same product with a new look.

I've been very impressed with the exterior of SLS. And projects I personally work on, grow dear to me and I'm always extra excited to see them debut. SLS was no exception. Usually, I'm on top of construction news and updates, but my attention has been else where for the past few months so I really knew very little about the final touches of the property. I heard some rumblings that is was Cosmo jr or Cosmo North. I was eager to see for myself.

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We arrived just shy of eleven o'clock, the line to enter was already building and it quickly grew once we took our spot in line. Employees signed up those interested in joining the Code player's club while we waited. Camera crews came by and took interviews. A few minutes before midnight fireworks forming S L S exploded over the porte cochere. A large display followed but we could only see the reflection in the high rise across the street from our vantage point. That was a bit disappointing, but we figured we'd be among the first inside (besides invited guests). It was nearly ten minutes passed twelve before the line started to move. And as soon as we approached the doors. We were halted. Random people walked right in from valet. I guess we were the dumb ones for waiting in line. Soon after, we finally entered the glass doors.

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The main entrance has a bright light up floor, mirrored walls and ceiling that seemed to be a favorite place for selfies.

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The bar is the focal point of the casino with a eye catching screen overhead.

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The uniforms for the bar staff came off as slobbish to me. Who knew, I was a stickler for neat appearance?

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And I couldn't help but notice the floors. It looks like they were already significantly worn, but maybe that was intended? It does fit with the industrial feel (unfinished ceilings, etc).

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We made our way into the casino floor and tried our luck on video poker. The first bank of machines weren't accepting bills. The second accepted our cash and promptly burned it away. A cocktail waitress did take our drink order, and in all honestly, we didn't expect her to return. But she did. I was happy to have Stella as an option, I'm not a fan of domestics but so often you're not given a choice of an import.

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We liked the feel of the Umami Burger and Beer Garden. Home to the Sportsbook operated by William Hill. The beer garden offers a patio open to Las Vegas Blvd. I felt this was a highlight of the property. From the casino floor you can view the keg storage. Got beer?

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The restaurants line the walls. I was surprised how much smaller the casino floor felt compared to the Sahara. All restaurants are easily accessible, but the layout kind of had a food court feel.

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The table games offered limits from $10, what was particularly striking were the dealer's uniforms. They had monkeys or baboons on their back. Not sure of the intent, there, but it seemed odd. In the casino biz it's been said that execs don't value employees enough and think that monkeys could do their job. This seemed to portray that in the most literal sense. That was my take away, anyway. That or that they have a monkey on their back, not necessarily the best depiction for a business that provides habit forming services (like gambling and drinking). I'm sure it is meant to be playful in nature; there is a heavy monkey theme throughout the property. Someone will have to explain that to me...

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The artwork around the casino is peculiar and graffiti has a strong presence. Casino carpet is a weird blend of colors, shapes, graffiti and photographs. Walls are adorned with strange choices, more monkeys and odd details like random eyes and angel wings.

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The back hall that leads to the hotel rooms and monorail is very dark. The oddities continue. Near the jewelry store, I was completely caught of guard when I was recognized from my blog. I don't know if I were too sleep deprived or too stunned to properly grasp the notion; I apologize for the lack of proper introduction. However, I want to thank you for saying hello and for your well wishes for my mom. It was very sweet!

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The player's club looked a bit cheesy and generic.

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Near all exits were booths to leave your drink, reminding you to sip your liquor slowly.

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We spent an hour on property. Valet remained closed and there was still a lengthy line of those eager to gain access.

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Overall, I think SLS is unique. It will be like the Cosmo because the clubs and restaurants will be the draw. I do not envision anyone making the trip to SLS simply to gamble. I'm clearly not hip or cool enough to get the concept, I might even be too old. But I will give SLS props, the final product was unexpected.

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