Oodle Noodle

May 25, 2017

Flamingo Road just outside of Chinatown has become a noodle nirvana. Whatever your preference there's a good chance you'll find it in the mile stretch between the Palms and Jones Blvd. The newest noodle in the neighborhood can be had at Oodle Noodle. This space was formerly an Izakaya serving small plates. The concept has been revamped and the focus is now a freshly made udon noodle bar.

Truth be told, my experience is extremely limited when it comes to udon. But, that's just what led me to Oodle Noodle. One of life's greatest joys is being introduced to various cultures through food. Maybe, I speak for myself, but I really love eating my way through the world. I'm so fortunate to live in a place that is such a melting pot that something new is always just around the corner.

Back to Oodle Noodle, they have lunch specials that offer combinations at a few price points depending on your selection. Frankly, I was a little overwhelmed by the options, I wanted to try it all, but had little knowledge of what any of it was. The waitress was obliging and steered me toward a few suggestions. I was grateful.

Maybe I'm a bit sophomoric, but I didn't want to embarrass either of us if I asked for bukkake. Yes, that's right. Let's not go there. Rather, bukkake udon is simply chilled noodles in broth. I tried the chicken karaage tartar bukkake udon ($8.80). Chicken karaage is like fried chicken. It was crispy, juicy and served with creamy tartar sauce on bed of greens that topped the noodles nested in the broth. The lemony flavor was light and brightened the dish. The noodles were fresh with just the right amount of chewiness. It was a good start. I'm interested to try more of the offerings.

East Baja California Sur Peninsula

May 24, 2017
From La Paz, we were well situated to experience the small villages that spread across the eastern Baja peninsula. Calm crystal clear water stretches for miles on the shores of the Sea of Cortez in this region. We took a day trip to explore Los Barriles, Punta Pescadero and Buena Vista. Not knowing what to expect, we were quite pleased with the condition of the roads - we covered many miles in Baja Sur and I only minded the dirt road in the east cape that leads to Cabo Plumo. Roads in and out of La Paz were better than most in the states and WAY better than those in California. Open range is more common than not, so keep your eyes peeled and be mindful in the dark or when visibility is low. We saw cows, horses, and goats; they could cause traffic to halt at a moment's notice.

Buena Vista and Los Barriles are two seaside villages that have strong expat communities. Things move slowly, here, even the cows. There are no big box stores so it's full of charm and it feels rather remote. Small restaurants and bars dot the coast and line the main drag. But it's mostly private residences and roaming livestock. The area is very friendly to off-road vehicles. Paradise for ATV and RZR fanatics; it would be the best way to get around. Aside from that, there wasn't too much I found alluring. Mostly because the beaches we saw in the area had more rocks than sand.

We continued on the rugged beach road and checked out the neighboring Punta Pescadero Paradise Hotel & Villas. This area is carved into the cliffs and the view was breathtaking. We wandered a bit before locating the restaurant to survey the grounds. The resort is serene and secluded. Like the restaurant and bar, the majority of the rooms face the sea. The beach area is on the smaller side, but completely cleared of rocks and reef can easily be seen from the outdoor patio. While waiting on our lunch, we struck up conversation with a couple from California that were return guests. They said the snorkeling is spectacular. Manta rays, whales, and dolphins are often sighted. I wouldn't mind returning and staying a night or two at the hotel. I hear when the roads are washed out, it is only accessible via the onsite private airstrip with flights from San Juan del Cabo. Our lunch was tasty, but long term the menu would grow tiresome and expensive. The fish carpaccio and chicken salad suited us just fine for our brief visit.

We stopped at one last beach area at the base of the cliff before heading back to La Paz. It too was too rocky for us to enjoy. But it was easy to see why the rocks were such a popular building material in Los Barriles.

What could have been done as another day trip, we made an overnighter by staying in La Ventana. It's location served as a prime spot to see the sunrise. We were wanting to cross off a bucket list item of seeing the sunrise on an east coast and watch it set on the west coast on the same day. This was an easy feat, since it is only 1.5 hours drive between La Ventana and El Pescadero. I chose an Airbnb that offered a roof top deck that was perfect for enjoying the sunrise. Peak season is from November to April when conditions are ideal of kite boarding. In fact, it is known as one of the top locations in the world for this sport. The season has just ended so it was rather sleepy during our stay. We had the place to ourselves despite having several rooms for rent. Fine by us, we enjoyed the solitude.

Lunch, this day, was at Marlin Azul. Everything is made fresh to order, the enchiladas I ordered were the best Mexican food I had during the trip. We pondered on returning for dinner, but opted to check out Central Playa, a dive bar that caters to kite boarders. They make everything in house and avoid any Mexican dishes so they don't infringe on local businesses in the area. We played shuffleboard on the longest table I've ever seen while we waited on our pizza.

La Ventana and El Sargento are popular destinations to purchase retirement homes, second homes, land, and investment properties on the cheap. The two towns span about five miles. The primary industry is fishing, there are a few restaurants & an OXXO, but only a handful of businesses in all. So, it's very low key. We took a self tour to view raw land we've seen online in El Sargento. It wasn't for us, but it's easy to see why others are enticed by it. The area beaches are pristine, but if I'm being picky I'd say the sand is too gritty. However, the view from punta arena de la ventana with island Cerralvo in the background is simply stunning.

The days are lazy in these parts and the nightlife is even more quiet. We spent a great deal of time soaking in the view from the rooftop deck. We were mystified by these dark patches in the water. Were they whales, schools of fish or manta rays? I'm still not sure. The patches were pronounced at dusk and dawn. I wished I had binoculars for a closer look.

After pondering those patches, a vibrant amber spread across the sky as the sun peeked over the horizon. Needless to say, the sunrise did not disappoint.

Shortly after we hit the road for adventures on the Pacific Coast.

Frijoles & Frescas

May 17, 2017

Frijoles & Frescas at the corner of Rainbow & Tropicana has been one of my top lunch spots for about a year now. Whether you like street tacos, burritos or nachos their offerings are pretty solid. My go to is #2 Two mini tacos with rice and beans, includes fountain drink ($7.99). You choose from carne asada, carnitas, al pastor, chicken, fish or shrimp. If you're adventurous there is also tongue and head. My favorites are the carnitas and al pastor. I opt for only rice since I'm not a fan of beans. Blasphemous, right? Especially since it's in the name. If you'd prefer to try their frescas which are made fresh daily you can swap out the fountain drink for a small upcharge - fifty cents, I think. Help yourself to the red and green salsas on the table tops. I like the red on the rice and green on the carnitas. Good reasonably priced eats seemed to be harder & harder to come by, but that's just what you'll find here.

El Tamalucas

May 11, 2017

Unwrap happiness by having tamales delivered to you. Yes, that's right. El Tamalucas is no joke, they do all the work and deliver fresh hot tamales to your door. I cannot get enough. I found El Tamalucas on Instagram (Eltamalucas702). I was skeptical at first. I kept my eye on them about a month before I direct messaged the account to learn how it works. Basically, there's a menu with current week's offerings and a delivery date is established (usually, WTF). You place your order with your preferred delivery day by direct messaging or texting, pricing starts at $15/dozen. Within a few hours, or so, your order is confirmed and details are sorted. This next part is hard... you wait. You're given an ETA and you never wait long, but it's still agony. Especially, once you learn how tasty these tamales are. I've never had one better.

I love a good tamal, either con rajas or pork are my favorite. Trouble is so many are loaded with masa, too dry or no flavor. These, though, have the perfect ratio. They are moist, but they hold together. I have my family and co-workers hooked. They have salsas too. I've tried the rojo, verde and habanero. All are great, but if I had to choose a favorite it would be red. I typically order two dozens and swap between the selections each time so I can try them all. I eat them for lunch and dinner. They're great with eggs for breakfast too.

Lately, El Tamalucas has been setting up at local businesses for pop up events. This Saturday, May 13, they are taking over Tsp. Baking Company in North Las Vegas beginning at 5pm until they sell out. You can't get them by the dozen at these events, but it's a great way to get a sample of what they offer. Cupcakes & Tamales?! Does it get any better?

Peace of my Heart

May 3, 2017
Have you ever heard the saying you must take adventures to know where you belong? I have art hung on the wall near my front door that reminds me of that everyday. For me, traveling is very intentional. It is something I must do. Some just know they were suited for parenthood. I, on the other hand, have deep desire to log miles near and far. I fall in love with places I've never been. I want to see the world. Taste it. Live it. Breathe it.

In my travels, I have found that there are places that fit like a smock; awkward, ugly and uncomfortable. Only a few are perfectly tailored; suited to your needs and interests. Most fall somewhere in between, but when you discover those rare gems, everything aligns like a properly placed puzzle piece. That's how it felt after arriving in La Paz. This capital city rests on the Sea of Cortez two hours north of Cabo San Lucas. It has a desert climate and averages 300 days of sun. The desert sun and the tranquil sea?! Needless to say, I quickly fell head over heels.

The Sea of Cortez separates the Baja California Peninsula from Mexico's mainland. It garners little attention, but it's thought to be one of the most diverse bodies of water on the planet. It has a rich ecosystem and it's home to the Vaquita, a desert porpoise, other marine mammals and migratory species like the Humpback, Gray, Killer and the largest, Blue Whale. Water temperatures range from 60 degrees in winter to 86 degrees in La Paz at the peak of summer.

La Paz, like other Coastal communities rely on commercial and sport fishing, but it's also an industrial hub servicing the Baja Peninsula via ferries from the mainland. The primary tourist attraction is Isla Espíritu Santo. This island is known as the crown jewel offering diving, snorkeling, and kayaking. It was the beaches north of La Paz that roped me in, but what won me over was its friendly locals and small town charm despite it being the largest city in Southern Baja. I was captivated by this city of peace.

Playa Balandra is the most popular of the beaches. It was bustling when we arrived so we continued on to Tecolote, which was more my speed.

There, we waded in the aquamarine waters and we were grateful for the soft white sand beneath our feet. Speaking of, nearby, at Tecolote Beach Club, you can dine with your toes in the sand. We recharged with cervezas, guacamole and enjoyed lunching on local crab.

We stayed at Hotel Blue just a few blocks from the recently completed Malecón. The pulse of the city revolves around this waterfront promenade where you can enjoy the tranquil waters bayside, special events or the festive nightlife at the bars and restaurants just across the street.

Hotel Blue is clean, modern and reasonably priced.

Additionally, it offers an amazing rooftop terrace.

Breakfast is served there each morning and happy hour is offered just before sunset. We spent hours taking in the scenic view, enjoying cocktails and cigars at each day's end. The perfect way to unwind. And those sunsets? Amazing doesn't begin to describe how marvelous the colors were. Wow. Just wow.

Only a short walk away is Il Rustico Trattoria Pizzeria where a taste of central Italy is served six nights a week. This small restaurant is surrounded by tropical gardens, but after one bite of our starter I was whisked away to the hills of Tuscany. The fresh arugula, salty prosciutto and creamy burrata conjured up memories of Siena. It was there I had the best Italian meal of my life. I must say il Rustico's Pappardelle al Ragu rivaled it. The simplicity of this dish is a thing of beauty and it was flawlessly executed. These ribbons of al dente noodles were graced with meaty ragu and sharp parmesan. That's it, perfection.

I could have eaten there every night. I wish I had, truth be told; even if we did have a nice dinner at Rancho Viejo. We couldn't resist the variety of street tacos with meats grilled streetside. Just look for the smoke and follow the scent wafting through the air.

Our first day, before checking into the hotel we grabbed a bite at the popular breakfast spot, Maria California. We enjoyed our omelet and chilaquiles.

I regret not exploring more of La Paz, but we had so much ground to cover in such a short time since this was a scouting trip more than anything. But we will return. However, soon it is, it is still much too far away.

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