March 31, 2017

Vegas Golden Knights Open House

Earlier this week, official word came that The Raiders franchise will relocate to Las Vegas. Opinions vary and much is still up in the air, but I believe having a NFL team will have a great impact for our city. Just as I'm proud of the Vegas Golden Knights. The NHL expansion paved the way for Vegas to be a professional sports city. When the Golden Knights were barely more than a dream, we believed it would happen. We put a deposit on season tickets before there was a name to call them or a home for them to play. Later, T Mobile Arena was built and most recently the official team name was announced. Together, the two, wisely put on a 24-hour Open House last month.

We had no team or coach, but we had seats! The open house allowed us to tour the arena, check out the view from our seats and gain perspective from the ice. We may have even spent time in the penalty box. It was a great introduction. I hope events like this continue, in the long run they will strengthen the bond between our community and our first professional team. I'm thrilled to be part of it from the beginning.

Fans that attended could win giveaways, took part in interactives like street hockey, corn hole and giant Jenga. Ticketing agents, and Vegas Golden Knight staff stood by to answer questions. Season tickets that were still available for purchase were identified with tags listing all the pertinent information.

Our seats are pretty far from the ice, but they offer an amazing view. T Mobile Arena was built in such a way that I truly believe there is no bad seat in the house. We'll have great vantage point for all the happenings on the ice. Our section, 217, is located right off the elevator, concessions and restrooms are nearby too. It will be super convenient! Shortly after the open house, the Vegas Golden Knights signed their first player, Duke Reid. It's really happening! We are so stoked and cannot wait until it's time to drop the puck.

March 27, 2017

A Return to CUT

Ages ago, Frank and I celebrated our anniversary at CUT inside Palazzo. We thought it was great, but failed to repeat it because there are just too many places to try and it's anything, but cheap. It is a tough one to make a habit.

Over the weekend, I celebrated my 37th birthday. When it came to choosing the celebratory meal I was torn between the new Libertine Social or a return visit to CUT. I opted for the latter, no parking fees! And what really sealed the deal was I caught wind that they have a cheese cart. I love cheese, far too few places showcase it like the star it is.

We dined Saturday evening. It was mighty busy, I don't think a table was free. We had a short wait before we were seated in the room to the left of the main dining room. It was a little more quiet, and definitely less chaotic. I didn't mind being tucked away one bit. This isn't the place for romantic evenings, the surroundings are rather cold. Ahem, sleek and modern. Photos of Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and other celebs line one wall, mirrors on the other.

Service is attentive, but also pretentious. Furthermore, I appreciate when staff anticipates your every need; however, I like it when it is less intrusive and staff simply fade into the background. This visit, you could feel them lurking and it often seemed they were tripping over themselves. Fortunately, my complaints end there. The rest of the experience was pretty flawless.

The imported butter and pretzel bread were enough to woo me and right any wrongs. Straight from the heavens, if you ask me. I showed some restraint and only had two helpings. The onion foccacia would be fantastic anywhere else, but here? Definitely the runner up.

None of the appetizers really struck my fancy, but I was certain I wanted to see the cheese cart. So, that's where we began. You can choose three selections for $17 or five for $22. I couldn't narrow it down to only a few so five it was. I'm not big on soft cheeses, and I have an aversion to goat cheese. Needless to say, we mostly stuck to cow offerings. Though, a sampling the Goat Gouda was a must. I adore Gouda, if anything could win me over on a goat cheese that would be it. But, nope! While mildly palatable, it was clear I really dislike goat cheese no matter how you slice it, har.

On to the main course, I had the Steamed Red Snapper ($38) and Frank was torn between the pork chop and the New York Strip ($51). The steak won. How could we dine in one of the top steakhouses in town and not order steak!? He didn't regret his choice. The steak was a perfect medium rare, great sear and lightly seasoned so the natural flavors weren't lost. A variety of mustards are presented on the side, but I felt none really enhanced the steak. The snapper was delicate and served in a garlic and cilantro broth, with a hint of Asian flavor. For our sides, we chose the Creamy Polenta ($13) and Asparagus ($13). The polenta was very comforting like a heaping helping of mashed potatoes, but more refined. The asparagus was simply prepared with a sprinkling of panko and parmesan. I certainly didn't miss the fuss.

Lastly, the peanut butter dessert with peanut butter ice cream was positively sinful. One cannot go wrong with silky peanut butter, cookie crunchies and layer of rich chocolate.

We fared on the cheaper side of things (yes, really), but the sky is the limit. In any case, CUT is no doubt a splurge. But it's easy to see why it has been pleasing diners for nearly a decade. In Vegas years' that's practically a century. That sort of longevity speaks volumes.

March 24, 2017

The Wurst Time in Texas

It's impossible to stay away from Austin for long. The BBQ and cheap fares on Frontier lure us time and time again. Last November we made a quick three day jaunt. We took the red eye and arrived bright and early. Thanks to a glitch I secured an amazing rate for an SUV on Alamo's website, it pays to keep checking rates long after you've booked. We were exhausted and in need of sleep, but first, breakfast. Yelp led me to Snooze an AM Eatery. Despite the great reviews, I honestly thought it was a bit of a dud. A snoozefest, if you will. Nothing was bad, it just lacked that something "special" that could've helped to justify the price ($34).

After filling our bellies, we checked into our Airbnb; we stayed with Alice again. Her place is just too perfect to pass up. Super comfy and superb location in Zilker.

We hit all of our favorite haunts: Cooper's, Rudy's and Torchy's - Always stellar. Plus, a trip to Oasis on Lake Travis is always a must. And a few hours at the Cigar Room has become tradition. It was Frank's choice to hole up there to watch the Sunday football games.

You might remember we made friends with Jim in Grenada, Nicaragua. He was our tour guide at Mombacho Cigar Factory. He's now living in Austin. So, we made plans to meet up at Stile Switch.

[Photo: Yelp/Rashi J.]

It was new to us, we had to try a bit of everything. The Frito Pie was amazing with big 'ole chunks of brisket! The beef rib was outstanding too. We now have a third BBQ joint to add to the list of favorites. It was a delight to catch up with Jim. We ended up chatting to the wee hours of morning over scotch and cigars at his neighborhood cigar lounge.

We took a day trip out to New Braunfels to check out Wurstfest. It's a ten day festival honoring sausage! They say, "everything is bigger in Texas!" so we felt we were in for a treat. It was the wurst. You must go, if given the opportunity. I loved it.

Not only was there sausage galore and pork chop on a stick, but we also found the BEST POTATO PANCAKES!!

The trip to New Braunfels meant a stop at Buc-ees!

I tried not to drool all over the jerky case while making our selections. I want to try them all!!

Frank picked up Topo Chico Mineral Water. I guess it's been around forever, but it was the first we've had it. It was love at first sip. We've searched all over Vegas for it and it's pretty scarce. I have ordered cases from and we bought in bulk when we went to San Felipe, MX. We are hooked.

If that wasn't enough reason to love Buc-ee's there was also this shirt with just the right amount of cheese.

We've traveled to Austin plenty, but we had never been to the capital building and we spent very little time on 6th street. It was time we changed that. The balmy weather was perfect to stroll the beautiful grounds. The gardens attracted dozens of butterflies it was a sight to see. I appreciated the architecture of the capital building; the limestone and granite, deep colored woods, the columns and scroll work - all lovely. The arched doorways & windows were positively dreamy and the rotunda was quite stately.

Over on 6th Street, we were asked to save the bees and the children. Businesses were welcoming West Virginia since many had traveled to see the Mountaineers vs. the Longhorns. We settled into the cigar shop and chatted up a local performer that popped in for a smoke. His life is music. He's happy as long as he's playing. I wish I had passion like that. I've always envied those who know what's needed to fulfill their mind, body and soul. Aside from traveling and to love and be loved, I tend to come up empty. Heck! I'm still searching for what I want to be when I grow up. Anyhow, we always enjoy Austin. This trip was no different.

March 20, 2017

Up in Smoke

It occurred to me that I never shared about Frank's latest hobby, smoking meat. He's a natural when it comes to grilling. So, I no doubt he'd jell with smoking meat too. After our last trip to Austin - in November, seems I never mentioned that either - he was eager to test his skills as pitmaster. He and my dad, dusted off the one my brother bought over a year ago that was still sitting in the box. It got the job done, but it was not the right tool for the job. Still, he managed great results with a brisket. You'd never guess it came from Albertson's.

Sometime between his birthday and Christmas he chose to buy his own on Amazon with an offset vertical charcoal smoker. It is this one, but the price has gone up a bit since we purchased it. It was delivered in two days, you gotta love Prime. And his smoking game was immediately upped. He has since toyed with various wood chips, injections and perfected his technique.

He's had success with brisket, meatloaf, ribs, lamb and pork belly. The star, though, is the pork shoulder. More often than not his have been better than what's offered at the best places around Vegas.

March 17, 2017

Bring the Heat!

I loathe winter. The only thing that's worse is day light savings time. I hate that I get robbed an hour of daylight. So much so that I refuse to change my alarm clock. And, I may have written Nevada legislature urging to forgo it like Arizona (and Hawaii) has done. We haven't opted out yet, therefore I curse the days I commute in darkness in the morning and evening. I have a vitamin D deficiency as it is. I could really benefit from that extra hour of sun.

I have been soaking it up since the time change. Not only has that beautiful ball of light been shining bright, it's also brought warmth. Well, at least, to my neck of the woods. It's been near 90 since Sunday. It's been glorious! I wish it would stay like this forever. Last year, the kids didn't get into the pool until St. Patrick's Day. We beat that this year. Solar panels are wonderful, by the way. We hosted a pool party on Sunday. Friends and the family swam and soaked up the rays.

Frank put his pit master skills to use and smoked a couple pork shoulders for us all to enjoy. It was the perfect way to kick off the first of many sunday fundays.

March 13, 2017


Living in Chicago, you have dozens of great pizza options to choose from. Ever since I was a teen my favorite pizza place was Giordano's. We had a location in Oak Forest where I grew up, Frank and I would often go on date nights. I couldn't resist the buttery flaky crust of their deep dish pizza. Yum. Eventually that location closed, and we moved to Las Vegas. In the early years before we found Amore Taste of Chicago, we craved Giordano's madly. Family would send us their pizza by mail as gifts. Plus, every time my mom would visit she'd bring us a large pizza. Whenever I'd visit home a trip to Giordano's was in order. We'd go to the Orland Park location or the one right by Midway for bite before my flight.

My last couple trips home, I was underwhelmed by the offerings. The quality seemed to go down or maybe I tired of it since I had found Windy City Beefs N Pizza. They make a killer deep dish. When I got word that Giordano's was coming to Vegas, I was excited but a little concerned it wouldn't measure up.

Shortly after it opened Frank had brought home a sausage pizza. It was good, but not great. I wanted to be fair and try it fresh in the restaurant before making judgement. Frank and I finally got over to Bally's to check it out. It's located in the Grand Bazaar Shopping Area. There is a bar on the first floor and the main restaurant & bar is on the second level. There was a wait for a table so we opted to sit at the bar. Our server was friendly. We got started with cheesy garlic bread ($8.50), and a small Special (Sausage, mushrooms, green peppers and onions) stuffed deep dish ($23.75) followed. I was thrilled they had 312 Green Line on draft too.

I'm happy to report it was very good. Buttery crust, gooey cheese and everything one would expect. Far better than the past few times in Chicago. I gotta say it is pretty awesome that you can get a taste of Chicago right in the heart of the Las Vegas strip. It definitely takes me back!