Thursday, July 28, 2011

eats - mesa grill caesars palace

we chose to descend upon bobby flay's mesa grill for lunch on monday for two reasons: 1. the menu is much more affordable, and 2. saturday and sunday have separate brunch menus. now i've been a pretty big fan of flay's food since his time on the food network as well as his stints on the original 'iron chef' (who can forget about his taunting of morimoto by jumping atop the cutting board), but i haven't always been a big fan of his personality.

early on he came off as kind of a smug, smart-alecky know-it-all, but over time i've relaxed my views and came to appreciate where he's coming from. it takes a bigger man to take on a show like "throwdown with bobby flay," where basically he's stepping out of his comfort zone and into a boxing ring where he's the overwhelming underdog.

part of my attraction to his food is his bold take on southwestern cuisine, using a bevy of spices, chilies and peppers to go along with a colorful palette of greens, oranges and yellows in his food. which brings us to mesa grill, where i flubbed my opportunity to try in NYC a few years back. redemption came calling at its caesars palace location...

our lunch order consisted of the following:

* blue corn pancake w/barbecued duck, habanero chile & star anise sauce (out of this world)
* tuna nachos w/mango habanero hot sauce & avocado crema (could have eaten for days)
* new mexican spiced pork tenderloin sandwich w/grilled red onion, arugula, ancho chile mayo & southwestern fries (both cold & hot)
* grilled swordfish club w/bacon, avocado, tomato, arugula, chipotle aioli & southwestern fries (never seen swordfish so thin & delicate)

turns out we saved the best meal of the trip for last, so we all left as happy campers...

mesa grill las vegas
caesars palace
3570 las vegas blvd.
las vegas, NV 89109

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

eats - todd english p.u.b.

friday night had us dining at todd english P.U.B., located on the first floor of city center and a stone's throw from aria. english is a renowned chef and four-time james beard award winner - not to mention 'top chef' guest - so we were eager to try his contemporary take on the traditional pub.

with over 36 beers on tap (including two on cask), a lively bar and dining room area, and a menu deriving from the grill, carvery and raw bar, there is plenty to keep one entertained. i opted for the squatters hop rising (9% abv) and the west coast burger - a moist yet meaty turkey burger w/turkey bacon, sunflower sprouts, honey mustard, slaw, avocado & scrumptious fatty fries to go with it.

todd english P.U.B.
3720 las vegas blvd. S
las vegas, NV 89158

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

vegas trip - part ii

some snaps/notes from city center:

* it's home to aria resort & casino, mandarin oriental (bottom right above), vdara hotel & spa, veer towers and crystals retail & entertainment center (top two above)

some snaps/notes from luxor:

* despite temps in the 100s, we somehow never made it to the pool
* no frig in the room, so we resorted to cheap leaky coolers to store drinks (#failure)
* hit the cable TV jackpot with 'the shawshank redemption' and 'hoop dreams' on at the same time

some snaps/notes from the MGM grand:

* home to joel robuchon, dubbed 'the chef of the century'
* also home to the lion habitat (here's to leos everywhere!)

Monday, July 25, 2011

vegas trip - part i

kyle, nestor and i chose to descend upon las vegas, NV as a sort of mini-UCLA reunion, so we were all able to sneak away from our better halves and enjoy a trip down memory lane in the stifling desert heat. since temps hovered between 102-106, we spent a bulk of our time perusing the different hotel/casinos during our trip:

some snaps/notes from caesars palace:

* bears great LB dick butkus happened to be signing autographs
* finally tried the frozen hot chocolate at serendipity, as i missed out in NYC
* nike town was under construction and re-opens this wednesday

some snaps/notes from bellagio:

* jean philippe patisserie boasts the largest chocolate fountain in the world (above right)
* the glass flower structure in the lobby might be my favorite thing to see in vegas

southwest airlines - update

it's been a while since i've flown southwest, as virgin america has since replaced the former standout low cost airline as my preferred carrier of choice. i somehow forgot about their open seating policy, so checking in as close to 24 hours in advance of your flight is not only recommended, it's the only option.

otherwise, you'll be left boarding in group C (A is first), sitting in a middle seat and aisles away from your carry-on. here's how exciting my flight was:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

las vegas - adidas super 64

while in sin city, we dropped in on the adidas 64 - one of the few elite high school basketball tournaments taking place during the NCAA open evaluation period.

because of this, we saw many hoop luminaries during the five day event, some of which included bill self (kansas), bob huggins (west virginia) and steve robinson (asst coach at UNC), alongside former dukies and now NBA pros nolan smith (supporting his squad DC assault) and kyrie irving (#1 overall pick of the 2011 draft).

most of the focus were on players SF shabazz muhammad and C andre drummond, but i actually came away quite impressed with PG kris dunn on drummond's CBC squad. good size, very athletic, sees the floor extremely well and is always looking for his teammates. keep an eye out for dunn...

Friday, July 22, 2011

las vegas

headed to las vegas bright and early friday morning. will update as i go...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

hollywood bowl - sarah mclachlan

went to the sarah mclachlan concert at the hollywood bowl on saturday - her first time at the venue - and joined the rest of the audience in swooning to the tune of her gorgeous, soothing vocals. despite taking place during LA's "carmageddon," the streets were welcomingly empty as we got there in no time to picnic early on white wine, food from lemonade and lette macarons.

mclachlan sang quite a few tracks off her recent "laws of illusion" album, including: "u want me 2," "loving you is easy," "rivers of love," "forgiveness" and "love come," along with a few choice selections from her previous records. encores were "angel" (sans sad pet commercial) and "ice cream."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

lette - macarons!

i can't get enough of macarons. something about this delectable parisian specialty - whether the crunch of biting into the domed sides, the melt-in-your-mouth ganache, or the kaleidoscope of flavors/colors never ceases to bring a smile to my face. sadly, heidi is also a fan, so it always halves my enjoyment. sometimes one has to take matters into their own hands - today is that day.

two of my faves in socal belong to jin patisserie in venice and lette (formerly paulette) in beverly hills, so i made a visit to the latter. it's a small but vibrant shop, with all of their daily flavors - i counted 14 - laid out in front of you. and notice the cute macaron notches on their bench outside.

i picked up a sixer of their sicilian pistachio, colombian coffee, lychee (seasonal), sweet wedding almond, violet cassis and earl grey tea to accompany me to the hollywood bowl tonight. that is, if they can make it these last few hours without somehow disappearing...

lette macarons
9466 charleville blvd.
beverly hills, CA 90212

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

2011 zenshuji obon carnival

this past weekend, the zenshuji temple held their 53rd annual obon carnival in little tokyo, replete with cultural activities, good eats and entertainment for all. and authentic tea ceremony - which heidi took part in - was available both days from 12:30 - 5pm for just $5...

since we still had the capacity to eat, we sashayed down a few blocks to wurstkuche, where i indulged in some kolsch to go along with my rattlesnake/jalapeno and smoked apple sage sausages. also happened to be there for a big birthday party, so we lucked out with some free cake too!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

yosemite - half dome hike

woke at 4:15am on tuesday to take a quick shower, finalize packing our hiking gear (for ease of convenience, i took my digital camera instead) and clean out the cabin for departure. even at 5am it's light out in yosemite, so we made the drive to the valley floor and parked just outside curry village at 6:15am. from there, it's about a 3/4 mile walk (past happy isles) to the trailhead:

we opted to take the shorter but slightly steeper mist trail - the other option is the john muir trail - and began our 8.2 mile ascent to the top of half dome. it's called the mist trail, but in reality it's "full-blown downpour assault trail," as you snake your way thru and ultimately over vernal falls. luckily i had packed a waterproof jacket, which more than a few peeps offered me good money for. the last pic (bottom right) is humorous in that the water was roaring at speeds close to 60mph...

we pass nevada falls about halfway up, which thus far isn't too bad. in contrast to mt. baldy and mt. whitney, there are some level sections on the way up, so one doesn't need to be in incredible shape to do this hike. that being said, we take a few more breaks than usual so tara can get a breather for her aching knees and feet.

we finally make it to the base of sub dome, where one displays their cable permits to the ranger in order to advance. tara opts to sit out the rest of the way, so vim, heidi and i surge forward... we ascend a terrifyingly steep set of 529 steps that lead to the base of the cables.

we arrive at the cables for one last breather, where we take out our gloves (rubberized palms are the bee's knees here) and i refuel with a clif gel shot. and away we go!

grip and traction are the two most important factors making your way up, since you're not attached to anything. i'd put the angle of the rock face at close to 60 degrees, so there's a certain leap of faith that you have to take in order to advance. there's a thin wooden slab maybe every 10 feet, so it's best to rest at each plank. i prefer using both cables to hoist yourself upwards, but that's not always possible as there are peeps using the other side to come down. one thing i don't anticipate is your arms getting tired, because you're putting so much stress on them just to hang on.

about halfway up, the mouthpiece on my camelbak gets caught on the cable and decides to detach, so it helplessly falls nearly 8,800 feet to its death. i make a half-hearted attempt to catch it in mid-air, but quickly realize that my life was more important that a few sips of water at this stage. about a half hour later, the steep grade finally flattens out and we make it to the top!

we bust out our ham & cheese sandwiches, pop open some gatorade for a quick cheers, then pose for some last minute photos on the half dome "diving board."

at about 1pm, we make our way down, almost rappelling down the cables - BTW much more fun than going up...

after another pass thru the mist trail, we drudgingly arrive back at our car at 6pm, putting our hike at 11:45 in length - not great, but not bad considering we took our time to take in every sight and sound for our successful inaugural trip. here's one last look at the other side of half dome from the POV of glacier point: