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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

My food adventures…and some other random stuff

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Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay is $18 per adult, but if you are planning on doing other tourist attractions, save money and do the 3 for $57 package. See the website for other attractions in the package. Above is the komodo dragon. Always makes me think of the movie The Freshman (whew, that just dated me huh?)

IMG_3217At the shark reef there are 2,000 animals in 1.6 million gallons of water. They have sawfish, giant rays, endangered green sea turtles, piranha, jellyfish and the rare golden crocodile, just to name a few.

IMG_3219Above is the piranha tank, and yes, there is a staff person standing next to the exhibit – you can only image how many intoxicated tourists probably try to put their hands in the tank….

IMG_3231There is a small pool where you can touch a stingray or a horseshoe crab. The reef offers the opportunity for you to dive with the sharks for an additional fee.

The exhibit seems to be on the smaller size, I wish that the tunnel here was more like the one we had seen in Atlantis. Overall good to go if you are looking for something different to do, and if you have kids, I’m sure that they would enjoy it.

Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay

3950 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV

http://www.mandalaybay.com/shark-reef/

IMG_3285Famous for their shop in New York, celebrity followers and their famous frozen hot chocolates, we just had to see what the fuss was all about. I’ve never been to the New York location, but I have to feel like the Vegas location just can’t be as charming as the original in NY. It feels more Cheesecake Factory than charming. The restaurant is small inside – the ceilings are high, but the amount of tables is far fewer than you would expect. There is outside seating on the patio, but it is still a little cold for us. We waited about 20 minutes for a table, and ended up sitting at a two top right next to the door, which proved to be a bit chilly.

IMG_3286We’re really here for the frozen hot chocolate, so we order a light lunch. We order a bowl of chili ($9), which was tasty, but I would have liked the cheese to  have been melted.

IMG_3288Mac and cheese with bacon ($15) was drenched in cheese sauce. While the potions were enormous (I had read that if going with a group you should order a few meals and share, or if you have a fridge, order and bring back leftovers) the food was just ok. Our server seemed to be overwhelmed. While our food came out promptly, she dropped the check before we had time to order dessert. Note that there are no restrooms in here, you must go outside to find one.

IMG_3289So Serendipity 3 is another place where you get preferred pricing if you are a Total Rewards member. We ordered a frozen hot chocolate ($11), minus the whipped cream since we were taking it with us. It was good, but we weren’t blown away. Frankly, we were hard pressed to figure out a reason why this place was so popular. Perhaps we will give the NY location a try and have better luck.

Serendipity 3 in Caesar’s Palace

Caesar’s Palace Drive, Las Vegas, NV

http://www.caesarspalace.com/restaurants/serendipity-3.html#.Uvvg_fYx_vA

http://www.serendipity3.com/

Serendipity 3 on Urbanspoon

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IMG_3689I was invited to a test marketing event at Itadaki on Newbury Street. Santouka ramen is the biggest ramen franchise in Japan. They are here in Boston for 3 days only, March 3-5. They will  be offering ramen from 4pm-9pm (or until they sell out).

IMG_3683They are only serving 200 bowls of ramen a night. We showed up at around 6:00 and there was a line out the door. We managed to grab a few seats at the bar.

IMG_3687They are only serving one kind of ramen, the shio ramen (salt flavored), which is their signature dish. The ramen had a wood ear mushroom, bamboo, scallions,pork pot roast, a fish cake and a pickled plum. The dish was a generous portion for the price ($10). The meat was quite flavorful, and the fish cake wasn’t too fishy. The pickled plum was a bit of a surprise. It looks a bit like a cranberry, and for some reason I thought it would be chewy, when in fact, it was crunchy with almost a tart flavor.

IMG_3690If you are planning on attending the event, get there early – as they were sold out by around 6:30pm.

Itadaki

269 Newbury Street, Boston, MA

http://www.itadakiboston.com/

Itadaki Boston on Urbanspoon

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IMG_3074From the Pink’s website, “Pink’s is the ultimate Mom and Pop hot dog stand. It’s a Hollywood love story, starting with Paul & Betty Pink selling hot dogs from a cart on a neighborhood street corner at La Brea & Melrose in 1939. Then the city fell in love with the tasty chili dogs and friendly service, and 73 years later, Pink’s has become a Hollywood landmark and internationally famous, now operated by Paul & Betty’s family — Richard, Gloria, and Beverly.”

IMG_3072Celebrities love pinks, check out their wall of fame.

IMG_3073I had seen Pink’s on a number of Food Network shows. While we were in Vegas, we thought we would see what all the fuss was about. You order inside and there is outdoor seating on the patio (great for people watching too!).

IMG_3075I ordered the chili cheese dog ($6.79). I made it about half way through before it fell apart, there was so much chili on it! I had ordered it without the mustard, it was delicious! A perfect Superbowl snack!

IMG_3076We also had the bacon burrito dog ($7.99), big flour tortilla wrapped around 2 hot dogs, 2 slices of cheese, 3 slices of bacon, chili & onions. Pure gluttony!

They have some interesting flavor combinations, here are just a few:

Polish Pastrami Swiss Cheese Dog: polish sausage, pastrami, swiss cheese & mustard; Brooklyn Pastrami Swiss Cheese Dog: hot dog, pastrami, swiss cheese & mustard; Mini Corn Dogs: served with side of mustard or nacho cheese. Check out their menu for additional options.

Pink’s Hot Dogs

3667 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV

http://www.pinkshotdogslv.com/

Pink's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

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I was invited to a party hosted by The Good Ones, a chef battle at a secret location downtown. The Good Ones? Who are they? The website is a bit vague…but isn’t that the point?

“Good People: Welcome to a world where business, pleasure, and friendship seamlessly intertwine. Come dressed with style, spark scintillating dialogue, and consider yourself on holiday. Be curious. Be charismatic. Be original– surround yourself with good people.”

Carolyn Meenan, Jennifer Brooke, and Julian Sayles founded The Good Ones as a social-matchmaking company that brings people together based on shared interests. There is a lot of psychology that goes into their events: what makes the perfect location, the right lighting, the right music etc. Submit a personality snapshot so that they can invite you to events with like minded people.

The invite: (with a  hint of things to expect)

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Open Bar
Custom Cocktails by Matthew Schrage
Fresh Oysters & Hake
Cheese
Red Lipstick
Live Cook-Off
Group Caricatures
Miss Bulgaria USA 2013
Killer Custom Soundtrack
“Padma”
Bravo TV – Top Chef Contestants
Truffle. Popcorn.
A Secret Password to Join the Party

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Theme: Soho House Party

The Cause: Vitamin Angels. For 20 years, Vitamin Angels has been helping at-risk populations in need (specifically pregnant women, new mothers, and children under five), gain access to lifesaving and life changing vitamins and minerals. Tickets were $100 for this event, but their parties range in prices.

The Dress: Your most stylish interpretation of grey and white or edible red. (Just a good excuse to go shopping!)

The Sponsors: Privateer Rum, Sexy Wines, Deep Eddy Vodka, Narragansett, Hint, Motto, Taza, Snap, Mozzarella House, Island Creek Oysters, Sienna Farms, Team Sayles music and lighting, Kristen Landers hair and makeup, Jay Ryan pictures, Kinda Tourma Fashions, Milah Green Hair Stylist, Mark Penta caricatures, Infusion Diabolique, Cape Ann Fresh Catch, Corn and Co. (I was already a brand fan of many of these products!)

SwagWhere: A private loft in the leather district.

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Who: Brand managers, PR professionals, models, marketing professionals, chefs, foodies, art curators, an accidental furrier and bloggers.

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The scene: Models walking around in stunning outfits, our hostess (Jennifer) in a dress she made herself from plastic bags, Miss Bulgaria in her tiara and sash (and Miss Cambridge), a guy dressed up as the phantom gourmet,  chicks in low cut tops, killer stiletto heels I was secretly coveting on a number of different people, hipsters, Tiffani Faison (gush!),  a guy in a three piece suit and a ton of kick ass tattoos. The party was loud, but you could hear laughter and cheer over the music.

Chef Battle: Chef Juan Pedrosa trained at the New England Culinary Institute and has worked at Temple Bar, was the sous chef at Trade and now is the executive chef over at The Glenville Stops in Allston. His sous chef was Cory Seeker, sous chef at Trade. Chef Brendan Andrew Burke trained at the CA School of Culinary Arts and has worked as the sous chef at Red Lantern and was the executive chef at GEM. They plated up cheese, hake and oysters (don’t worry, not all in one dish).

IMG_3611The food was top notch. Chef Juan’s oysters won me over, but chef Brendan’s cheese dish was amazing. The cocktails were delicious, I wanted to try them all (it was a school night kids!). Some cool people at the party, disappointed that there wasn’t enough time to talk to everyone. Hopefully, they’ll invite me to another party in the near future.

For more information: http://thegoodones.co/

IMG_3237I was dying to try the hand stretched noodles here. The place was packed and we couldn’t get a reservation, so we just went and thought we would try our luck.

IMG_3239We waited 20 minutes for a table – while hostesses walked around aimlessly and while tables sat dirty and empty. You just get the feeling that this place needs to be managed better. A girl comes in drunk and angry from the bar and creates a scene and the hostess doesn’t know how to handle her, so she seats her ahead of the people who have been waiting.

IMG_3241The decor is bright and visually appealing.

IMG_3242I love the goldfish tanks in the front of the restaurant. Our waiter arrives and doesn’t seem to be familiar with the menu. It takes some time to order what we want, and then there is some confusion because certain items that we ordered weren’t available and people told us twice…it was a mess.

IMG_3243Chicken mushroom noodle ($14.99). The noodles came out first. The chef was hand stretching them in the window of the restaurant. The sauce was a little thick and gooey for me, but the dish overall was good.

IMG_3245Beijing No. 9 Soup Dumpling ($11.99), I love soup dumplings, and these were no exception – delish!

IMG_3246Beef pancake ($10.99), these were a little weird – they were hard to eat, the wrapper was hard to cut, it was a mess.

IMG_3247Pan fried beef dumplings ($11.99) just what you would expect for Peking raviolis. I think that we could have done with one less dumpling dish. This restaurant also offers a discounted price to Total Rewards members, and even though I gave the waiter our card, we did not get the discount :(

The food was good, but maybe we should have gotten take out. They really need to work on their service and running things a bit smoother – right now it feels like a mess.

Beijing Noodle No. 9 in Caesar’s Palace

3570 Las Vegas Boulevard S, Las Vegas, NV

Beijing Noodle No. 9 on Urbanspoon

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IMG_3439Located in the financial district, Siam Bistro offers authentic Thai cuisine. We grabbed takeout – ordered through GrubHub, and it was ready by the time we got there.

IMG_3440Bulgoki: A very famous Korean beef dish with sliced onions, mushrooms, sesame seed and scallion in sweet soy bulgoki sauce. The meat didn’t look like beef, it looked almost like pork, and it didn’t have that great deep marinated flavor that bulgoki usually has. I would have liked a little less sauce on this dish, it was almost like soup.

IMG_3441The Siam Roll: Crispy spring roll with chicken and vegetable filling served with a delicious sweet and sour sauce. I’m still on the search of the perfect spring roll after my favorite restaurant, Zenna, closed…these looked similar to my favorites, but they lacked the flavor that I was hoping for.  To end on a positive note, we also ordered the Tom Yum soup: Spicy! The famous Thai hot and sour soup seasoned with lemon grass, chili, lemon leaves, lime juice, mushroom, cilantro, scallion and choice of meat or vegetables. It was very spicy and super delicious,  best Tom Yum soup that we have tried around here.

Siam Bistro

151 Pearl Street, Boston, MA

http://siambistrothaicuisine.com/

Siam Bistro on Urbanspoon

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IMG_0760Day 3 we drive out to Zion National Park, it’s about a 3 hour drive (mostly highway). They charge you $25 at the gate, but it is good for 1 week. There are certain trails that we can’t go on as we do not have an SUV, but that doesn’t bother us. We go up the main road and there is plenty to see. They give you a map with trail recommendations – it is pretty breathtaking here. You know when you are in the National Park because the roads are red!

IMG_0789More scenery.

IMG_0804As we are on our way out we see two deer off to the side of the road.

IMG_2962Every so often, there are moments of spring! There is snow on the tops of the rocks, but it isn’t until you take the road to Bryce Canyon that you really start to see snow.

IMG_0812Another deer on the side of the road.

IMG_2984We were going to attempt to go to Bryce Canyon as well, but it was another two hours away – so we decided to pass. We drove out the other side of the park and ran into Thunderbird Cafe – we decided we just HAD to try the “Ho-made” pie.

IMG_2985There’s no one else inside – and the place is just as we thought it would be. The food is nothing fancy – neither is the decor, but the food is edible, and affordable.

IMG_2987The egg salad with fries.

IMG_2989The grilled cheese (I got American even though I asked for Swiss) with onion rings. Pretty par for the course, how can you really screw up a grilled cheese?

IMG_2990Now for the pie. I had high hopes. I happen to prefer my crust sweet, and this was more of a savory pie crust. It certainly wasn’t the diamond in the rough that we were hoping for, but it was perfect for what we needed. History of the Thunderbird.

Thunderbird Restaurant

Highway 89, Mt. Carmel, UT

Thunderbird Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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IMG_2888Talk about glitzy! The Cosmopolitan hotel is easily accessible from the Hilton by a bridge. Jaleo is located on the 3rd floor of the East Tower. Note, if you are coming in through the bridge, you will enter on the 2nd floor. Here is a view of the Chandelier Bar.

IMG_2877Jaleo is by Jose Andres, who you may recognize from his wildly popular restaurant in Washington, DC. The restaurant it bright and fun – and has 8 seats at a chef’s table if you want that truly memorable experience. The restaurant can get a  bit noisy at times and is certainly buzzing by the time we get there.

IMG_2878We grab a nice seat in the back, perfect for people watching.

IMG_2879Love the bold colors here. All the dishes were creatively plated (one even comes out in a shoe!) fresh and flavorful. The menu is well thought out and extensive, so there is something for everyone. Note, if you are ordering paella, it does take 45 minutes – so be prepared to wait.

IMG_2881Three queso ($26) Top: San Simón con garapiñado de frutos secos (Galicia) A smoked cow’s milk cheese paired with homemade nut brittle, Middle: Rey Silo Blanco Con Albaricoques Y Almendras(asturias) intensely flavored cow’s milk cheese with pimentón, paired with apricots and Marcona almonds; Bottom: Rey Silo Blanco Con Polvorón De Piñones (asturias) intensely flavored cow’s milk cheese with a pine nut crumble cookie. I loved the top cheese the best – the other two were a bit too “stinky” for me. All the pairings were delicious, I especially loved the cookie!

IMG_2883Tortilla patatas ($12) Spanish omelet with potatoes and onions – classic and delicious.

IMG_2884Chistorra Patata ($11) Slightly spicy chorizo wrapped in crispy potato – basically sausage wrapped in a potato chip – YUM!

IMG_2885Gambas al Ajillo ($16) shrimp sauteed with garlic, another classic, loved this dish and the presentation was beautiful.

IMG_2886Bruselas de jamo ($10) Brussels sprout leaves with grapes and apples – so bright and fresh – another great dish!

IMG_2887Torrejas ($15) our waitress likened this to French toast. There was a hint of orange zest inside and it came topped with apples. Not one of my favorite desserts, but it was still good. The service was good – our waitress was attentive and food came out promptly. Dress here was stylish and trendy although there were certainly people here who were much more dressed up.

Jaleo by Joe Andres at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

3708 Las Vegas Blvd S , Las Vegas, NV

http://www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com/taste/restaurant-collection/jaleo.aspx

Jaleo by José Andrés on Urbanspoon

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IMG_0715Day 2 we decided to go to the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon West. First stop Hoover Dam – and to get there you drive through Lake Mead National Recreation Area. They charge you $10, but it is good for 7 days. There are a number of scenic turnoffs along the way.

IMG_2819The Hoover Dam is about 45 minutes from Vegas. Because we knew we were going to be doing a lot of day trips, we opted to rent a car – a little compact car that got great gas mileage – which was much cheaper than doing a guided tour. You can opt for guided tours with companies like Pink Jeep or Viator. Tours at the dam are offered from 9am-5pm, walking by I overheard the tour guide talking about how many people have tried to commit suicide by jumping off the dam – um…morbid much? Parking at the dam is $10.

IMG_2821The day was cool but not cold – all you needed was a light jacket. We spent about 30 minutes or so here.

IMG_2820A look down.

IMG_0714Pretty amazing when you think about it. Then it was off to Grand Canyon West. It’s about a 2 1/2 to 3 hour drive from Las Vegas, and when you get closer, make sure that you have enough gas, as stations are sparse along the way.

IMG_2838When you get closer to the entrance, the road turns to a dirt road – makes for a slow ride (about 20-25mph). You arrive at a visitors center and buy your tickets, then you board buses that run in a loop between 3 stops. See the packages here. So for two people, to ride the bus and to go on the Skywalk, it was $152.

IMG_2839We didn’t buy a food package, but you could buy food at the Skywalk a la carte (chicken fingers were $7).

IMG_0722The Skywalk. There are 3 viewpoints, Eagle Point, where the Skywalk is, Guano Point and the Hualapi Ranch. Before you walk on the Skywalk, you are asked to leave all personal belongings in the lockers provided. They make you go through a metal detector as well, so leave all your cell phones, cameras, etc in the locker. You are then asked to put on little disposable booties as your step out onto the glass. While you are not allowed to bring camera or cell phones, there are photographers there that can take your photo that you can purchase when you exit through the gift shop. The Skywalk is suspended 4,000 feet over the Colorado river.

IMG_0731The views here are pretty amazing. Note that if you are bringing small children here, you should keep eyes on them at all times. There are no railings here and it would be easy enough to slip off the top of the canyon.

IMG_2849Beautiful.

For more information, see the Grand Canyon West website.

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