January 30, 2015

Hope. Courage. Faith.

I planned to update much sooner than this, but a nasty cold stopped me in my tracks. This week has hardly existed outside of my dreams. Sunday, I came down with a killer headache, from there congestion and pure exhaustion settled in. My body ached head to toe deep into my bones. Monday thru Wednesday I didn't leave my bed and I practically slept 36 hours straight. While the rest of Las Vegas celebrated the debut of White Castle, I was dead to the world. Frank and my brother both enjoyed opening day sliders, in case you were wondering. Thursday came in a hurry, I had to get work done, but I couldn't work a full day. I was simply too tired. I retired back into bed and slept some more. Today, I finally felt some improvement. I'm probably still a couple days from a full recovery, but it's nice to feel human again.

So, that my excuse for my tardiness.

Last week, my mom had a PET Scan and Brain Scan done. It was a bit early to request, but with the slew of issues my mom has had her oncologist wanted a look to see what going on, so if anything was out of the ordinary it wouldn't be put off. Her scans were Monday, she received the report and discs on Tuesday. Her pulmonologist appointment wasn't until Wednesday. That would be the soonest we'd get official word. She couldn't bear to wait, she came right to my office. I interpreted the scans to the best of my ability and I was very pleased. I understood them to reveal no abnormalities of the brain - No mets, Woohoo! I continued onto the PET Scan. Her tumor had shrunk significantly. The smaller tumor that appeared after chemo and before radiation was no longer traceable. Areas showing suspicious uptake had all improved significantly. There was no record of inflammation that showed on the CT scan done after radiation that indicated the pneumonitis. I interpreted this all as fantastic news. It could only be better if there was no evidence of disease. I shared this with my mom, we were relieved but we were afraid to believe it until we heard it from an actual doctor.

Last Wednesday, she was scheduled for breathing tests. We've been awaiting this pulmonologist appointment for months. We had last seen him right before starting radiation. The test couldn't be completed due to mom's cough. Yeah, the pesky cough remains. It's changed over time, but the steroids have benefited her a great deal. She still has bad days and a plethora of symptoms, but she's turned a corner. She's gaining weight, strength, etc. It's been a noticeable improvement. We received confirmation that I interpreted the scans accurately. The cancer is still present, but it's shrunk significantly - YES! Her O2 saturation plummeted during another test so her oxygen dependency remains. She's actually on an increased prescription now. Her doctor seems to think that COPD is to blame. He gave her a new inhaler and some nasal spray. We'll follow up in a few weeks.

Last Friday, we met with her oncologist. She was quite pleased with the scans. She said even if my mom were younger, healthier and more active she wouldn't recommend additional treatment at this time. A weight was lifted. Life can get start to gain normalcy. In three months, she'll be due for another set of scans and hopefully we'll receive great news then too. Mom's cough changed the Saturday before these appointments, it now sounds like a barking croupy type cough. Apparently, RSV is going around and it's possible she caught the virus. It will have to runs its course. I'm somewhat suspicious because its supposed to be pretty contagious and none of show any signs of it. But who knows? She's improving, and that's what's important. It's been an incredibly rough ride since her diagnosis in July, even before that... since Mother's Day, really, that's when her shortness of breath began. However, with hope, courage and faith. We're here today, alive and well. I am most grateful.

January 23, 2015

Fukuburger at F.A.M.E.

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After riding the High Roller we strolled down the Linq corridor in search of a light meal. We settled on Fukuburger inside F.A.M.E. We were warmly welcomed and any questions we had about the menu were answered eagerly. Sandwiches are all $7.99 with 6 main selections and a few specials. We chose the Chicken Katsu sandwich with habanero kabayaki, instead of crack sauce. The spicy sauce is usually served on the Karai burger. The chicken is pounded thin and coated with panko and fried crisp. It sits atop a soft bun and it's topped with shredded cabbage and katsu sauce. We also ordered garlic fries which come with crack sauce. They give you a silly nick name for when your order's ready. Our order was up when "Frank the Tank" was called. Frank's mom was "Lady Luck" she ordered the Fuku Burger which is your traditional cheeseburger with wasabi mayo and fuku sauce.

Our order was quickly prepared, it was fresh and tasty. We really enjoyed the Chicken Katsu with the extra kick. I've previously given flack to Fukuburger (truck) for not unleashing the heat on their spicy burger. I'm happy to see they've amped up the spice over time. The sandwich had great flavor. I was less impressed with the bite of the Fukuburger, because it was loaded with mayo. I'm not fond of mayo, hence the substitution of the habanero kabayaki. So it was just a matter of personal taste, Frank and his mom enjoyed it. They also liked the crack sauce. I didn't find it as addicting (again, the mayo) but I did like the garlic fries, even if they were light in garlic flavor.

Overall, Fukuburger serves up a moderately priced quick bite that is served fresh. Which can be a tough find center strip. They've come a long way since late nights in Chinatown parking lots.

F.A.M.E. Food Art Music Entertainment on Urbanspoon

January 21, 2015

High Roller

I'm late to the party, but I finally rode the High Roller. Frank's mom was visiting and it seemed like a good opportunity to check it out. There was no wait, we were able to walk right up to the loading station. The pods are always moving so jumping aboard is likely to be the most adrenaline pumping part of the ride. There is a net to catch you if you were to fall. The observation wheel is slow moving so no one should be fearful. Those afraid of heights might get nervous, but it maxes out near 500 feet so most will find it okay. It's relaxing to enjoy the lights and action beneath you in a calm environment. It's not so noticeable to the naked eye, but in photos the curvature of the pods distort the view a bit, notice the Harrah's tower; and despite my best efforts glare is unavoidable in snapshots. Still, it's an enjoyable way to take in the beautiful neon in the desert. His mom loved it! I'm curious how the view differs during the day.

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January 16, 2015

Umami Burger

Frank and I have been to the outdoor bar at SLS twice before, we were met with high beer prices and unfavorable service. I'll never understand why a beer garden has a wall of vodka, but anyhow... We finally gave Umami Burger a try. The Code sent Frank 50% off for his birthday. It seemed like a good excuse to give it a whirl.

Service was attentive. Our waitress got started on our Union Jack ($9) and Mama's Little Yella Pils ($8) while we looked over the menu. We settled on the Manly burger ($12) for him and the Umami aka Original burger ($12) for me. Both prepared medium rare. We ordered two secret menu items: Cheesy Tots ($5) and Manly Fries ($6.50).

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Prior to our food coming out, we were given house condiments: jalapeno ranch, mega spicy and garlic aioli. We were warned of the spiciness but didn't believe it would be as hot as it was. We enjoy spicy too. We didn't like the aioli at all, but the jalapeno ranch was the standout. It livened up the original burger and it was good on the tots and fries. Also, better than the housemade ketchup.

The Umami burger is topped with caramelized onions, roasted tomato and one shiitake mushroom, and parmesan frico. The burger to bun ratio is good, the bun was decent. I like the branding of buns - it's a good emphasis of their brand. The patty was of good size. All of which are good things, but why was it so bad? I wondered. It came down to the meat being overdone. It was dry and bland. There was no juiciness at all. The caramelized onions and parmesan frico were the only redeeming qualities. What's with one shiitake mushroom? You better enjoy that single bite.

The Manly burger is topped with beer cheddar, bacon lardons, onion strings and slathered with ketchup and mustard. It was not cooked medium rare, it bordered on medium to medium well. This was, however, the better burger of the two. Still, both were pretty disappointing.

The sides, though, were quite good. The tater tots were salty, potatoey, crisp on the outside and gooey in the center. I really enjoyed them. The manly fries were quickly consumed. Crisp shoestring fried topped with beer cheese, bacon and onion strings, kinda hard to go wrong there. I guess the secret menu is where it's at!?!

In the future, I'd order a beer and tots for snack, but I'd definitely skip the burgers.

Umami Burger, Beer Garden & Sports Book on Urbanspoon

January 7, 2015

Date Night: Nobu & Absinthe

Before 2014 was in the books, Frank and I were treated to a fantastic date night. Our evening began with dinner at Nobu inside Caesars Palace, and after, we saw Absinthe. What a duo!?! I highly recommend both.

I've been wanting to see Absinthe for ages, but they never offered a local's special to entice me. I'm glad it has had great success, though; I'd hate to think I could have missed it. It's really well done! I love the intimate theater. I don't love the uncomfortable seating, but the off color jokes and superb entertainment more than make up for it. We saw Absinthe shortly after Penny Pibbets left to perform her own show at the Arts Square Theater. Joy Jenkins now fills the role of the Gazillionaire's assistant, she was awkward and hysterical. I hear the show isn't as quick paced, but I didn't notice. Her and Gaz played off each other well. The audience participation is a load of laughs. The acts felt more spectacular than, dare I say it? Cirque du Soleil. Don't get me wrong the talent that goes into Cirque shows is mesmerizing, and visually, those shows are stunning. Absinthe, however, is raw, sexy, funny and in your face. You can look the performers in the eye, see their muscles flex and veins bulge when demonstrating their amazing strength. The roller skating bit had me so tense and nervous for the female performer - I was in awe. The connection is incredible. If you haven't see it yet. Don't hesitate, go check it out.

Before the show, we had a feast at Nobu. We never even peeked at the menu, since this was our first time Omakase ($125) was the best way to experience the varied menu. We told our server that we are adventurous diners, we love spicy and we preferred not to have uni since Frank isn't a fan - we left the rest to him. I had a fantastic sauvignon blanc with dinner and Frank really enjoyed the Sake selection. He sampled two excellent chilled varieties: black label and aged.

Our tasting included many of Nobu's signature dishes. We started with Yellowtail with Jalapeno. This is a favorite of ours, it's a must whenever we go for sushi. This certainly did not disappoint.

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The next dish was Tasmanian Ocean Trout, it was rich and creamy. Very different from the delicate and refreshing yellowtail.

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The next course was Live Scallop with rocoto paste. It was beautifully presented and it tasted even better than it looked. The scallops melted like butter and the heat from the rocoto pepper awakened our taste buds. We enjoyed the chili so much, we were ready to book a trip to Peru.

Next, we sampled some hot dishes, beginning with the Black Cod Miso. This was delicious. The fish was buttery and the miso gave it the ideal amount of sweetness. I understand why it is one of their most popular dishes.

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Rock Shrimp with jalapeno followed. Now these were tasty morsels. Shrimp is so often overcooked, but not these. Perfection. And highly addictive.

For the next course, the focus was on land rather than sea with the Tenderloin of Beef Toban Yaki. The scent of this dish was intoxicating. The beef was prepared very well and it was tasty. However, it was our least favorite.

We wrapped up dinner with a sample of Tuna and Salmon Sushi. Both rolls were simplistic, but incredibly yummy. The rice was beautifully seasoned, key for great sushi.

Finally, we finished with a vanilla dessert and a variety of mochi. A lovely end to an exceptional meal.

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If you can swing it, the Omakase is an awesome experience. Keeping it simple by choosing a few small plates will be totally worthwhile, too.

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January 5, 2015

Welcome, 2015!

We spent new year's eve at the Rio, it was an unforgettable way to welcome the new year. We have spent new year's on the strip, in the mountains and up in the northwest valley and the most impressive view was at the Rio. The command center for launching the fireworks is there and I understand why, you have a full panorama of the strip. I had never been up to Voodoo Lounge before so the view was really breathtaking. It was a chilly night, but we really enjoyed the fireworks.

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Five days into the new year and I can honestly say I do not know what this year holds for us. Beyond our trip to Mexico next month, there are no plans. We'll have to wait to see what unfolds. Thank you for joining me on this journey. Happy new year!