Tuesday, December 27, 2011

las vegas (xmas) - red rock canyon

sunday morning we headed downtown to the california hotel & casino for some grub at aloha specialties, the OG hawaiian joint that seemingly hasn't changed for 20 years. nowhere else in sin city can you get a heaping plate of kalua pig & cabbage for under 8 bucks. sufficiently fueled, we exited las vegas and drove 17 miles west to red rock canyon to get away from all the hullabaloo. it was a gorgeous and crisp day... perfect for hiking!

spam musubi!
start of trailhead

turtlehead peak is rated the most difficult of the hiking trails (rating is "strenuous") along red rock canyon scenic drive, so naturally it's the one we took on. it's only 5 miles round trip, but it's a 2,000 feet ascent highlighted by a lot of bouldering and loose rock. after about a mile, the trail is hardly discernible; it's a jumbled mess where you basically create your own path. the easy thing is, there's no right or wrong way - it's just straight up.

there's the peak
making our way up
ice/snow on the backside
made it!
journal at the peak
obligatory pose
view of the canyon
view of the vegas strip

after reaching the saddle, it's another half mile up thru patchy ice/snow to the top of turtlehead peak. we reached the summit around 2:30pm, read some journal entries from previous hikers, paused to scarf down some toblerone & clif bars, then began the slippery slope down.

sunset at red rock canyon
got back to our car at 4:30pm with just enough sunlight left, to temps in the low 40s. it was a challenging and rewarding hike, which did wonders for the soul in leaving the nicotine-charged sensory overload behind...

one last look

las vegas (xmas) - mesa grill + jaleo

we slept in on saturday before heading to caesars palace for lunch at mesa grill - my 2nd time - and to check out the forum shops. quite possibly the greatest sneaker of all time, the air jordan XI, was released by nike to a mad frenzy at midnight on the 23rd, but at $180 i just couldn't pull the trigger.

concord colorway

 undaunted, our meal at bobby flay's southwestern eatery consisted of:

cactus pear margarita
tiger shrimp + garlic corn tamale
blue corn buttermilk waffle
spicy chicken + sweet potato hash
we headed back to luxor to get ready for dinner as well as to see mystère, my first foray into the world of cirque du soleil.

dinner was at 6:45pm at jaleo, the spanish tapas joint by josé andrés, at the newish cosmopolitan hotel. i actually tried to get reservations at his exclusive joint é - reservations are only via e-mail - but they had a special holiday menu thru the 31st which came in at a hefty $350 PER PERSON.

nevertheless, i was excited for jaleo, as they spent a reported $1 million for their paella pit - individual wood-burning grills to make the catalanan specialty. plus, i've been itchin to try their spherical olives, where by science they are able to extract the essence in liquid form and create this unique explosion of taste in your mouth.

whimsical menu
spherical olives
warm brussels sprout salad
croquetas de jamon iberico
lobster paella
their famed "paella pit"

their warm brussels sprout salad was unlike any preparation i've had of the finicky vegetable. each leaf/bud is separated and prepared in such a delicate manner it's like a new version of the same ingredient.

christmas eve was topped off by the 9:30pm performance of mystère at treasure island. though i can't say there's much of a storyline, the incredible display of acrobatics, humor, set design and theatrical production were a visual feast. i'm quite curious to see how 'o' stacks up in comparison...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


went for a run last night for the first time since the trail race and whew, was it rough sledding. day after day of food overload have definitely slowed down this train, but it was good to get out there for a brisk run. didn't bring my nike + sportband... just a stress-free return to get the juices flowing.

we're eyeing the 15k xterra mission gorge in san diego (the one with the "thousand steps") on february 5, since the 1/2 marathon on january 8 seems a bit ambitious given the holidays. the good news is, i now know i can complete a 1/2...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

eats - piccolo venice

last night, our company as a whole celebrated the onset of the holidays with a six-course feast at piccolo venice. reserving the back room, the intimate affair was highlighted by free flowing drinks (the nero d'avola was exceptionally terrific) and our secret santa gift exchange ($10 limit, so one had to be creative).

our specially-chosen menu consisted of six courses, where for four of the courses we had a choice between a selection of three. it was quite difficult strategizing on what to order, but thankfully erica and i agreed beforehand to section off parts of our plates as an even exchange. thus, my meal broke down as follows:

* cantaloupe, port wine, black caviar (free amuse bouche!)
* homemade duck prosciutto, fresh watercress drizzle
* seared yellowtail, thyme-sicilian oil, mozzarella di bufala, italian ponzu
* acquerello rice, black winter truffle, parmesan
* roasted japanese pumpkin ravioli, delicate anchovies fondue, sage pesto
* natural australian kobe NY steak, lemon-thyme pesto, maldon salt
* profiterole, pineapple, panna cotta (chef's selection dessert)

duck prosciutto
seared yellowtail
black truffle risotto
pumpkin ravioli
kobe steak
dessert selection

and... after dessert the secret santa was in full effect. i was picked by marie and scored a set of beer glasses plus a cupcake lollipop.

Monday, December 12, 2011

2011 xterra crystal cove - results

sunday marked the second xterra trail run that vim and i have entered - this was a 17k turned 15k (due to the introduction of a new course) at crystal cove state park. heidi & tara decided to do the 5k turned 6k as well, so we shoved off at 8am while their start time was an hour later.

since i packed most of my gear the night before, i woke up at 5am on sunday to take a shower and make a smoothie for breakfast. we were on the 405 south just before 6am and arrived at the closer of the two parking lots at 6:45am. the weather was actually chilly (it had been clear & sunny the entire week), so we picked up our bibs and timing chips bundled up in our jackets and long pants.

gearin up
freezing at 6:45am
since there were patches of blue sky trying to peek out, i opted to go with a singlet and shorts and prayed that i would stay warm enough. looking back, it was the right decision because there was a lot of uphill on the course and the sun eventually showed up.

at the gun, the first mile was only slightly uphill, so the pace was quick, as the serious contenders tried to get a jump on the rest of the pack before hitting the single track. miles 2-4 were a tough slog uphill 1,000 feet in elevation; i never stopped running but it was definitely slow in spots. i realized then that i forgot to bring my water bottle, so i had to keep extra careful tabs on the water/gel stations sprinkled throughout.

at the 4-mile mark, the elevation drops and we go careening downhill, which was a welcome sight. it was short-lived, however, as a sharp hairpin turn at around mile 5 introduced us to the "elevator" - a gnarly, hellish ascent that almost required one to get on their hands and knees just to keep moving forward. i didn't see a single soul attempt to run this portion, so i took comfort in the fact that i was doing good by fast-walking past a small group of people.

miles 6-10 were the most forgiving, as the trail gave way to plenty of rolling hills. there wasn't as much downhill as i had been hoping or expecting, so this was the unfortunate downside of not knowing the course. at point mugu, i literally passed close to 100 people on the steep single-track final descent, but i wasn't able to do the same damage here. boo.

i crossed the tape in 1:35:56 - in the front half of finishers and good enough for a 10:16 pace - almost a minute faster than my 11:12 average at the shorter 11k point mugu. before the race, i was hoping to go a sub-10min pace, so i fell just short there. vim came in at 1:54:42, so we shared a celebratory hug at the finish line and a much-needed post-recovery drink.

all in all, i had a blast and the results were encouraging, but i know i left a few minutes on the board. but i have to remind myself that not only was it just our second trail race ever, it was the longest distance either of us have ever run... period. so improvement is to come in increments...

the four of us grabbed brunch at the crow bar and kitchen in nearby corona del mar, then toasted to our achievement with a cold, refreshing glass (or in this case, dixie cup) of prosecco at santa monica beach. 'til our next adventure!

must. open. bottle.
cheers to finishing!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

off to crystal cove...

for the xterra crystal cove! more later...

update - finished in a total time of 1:35:56, which is faster than i thought i would finish, but not as fast as i could have finished. without having run the trails in advance, it was difficult to strategize, so i feel like i left a few minutes up there on the board. nevertheless, i'm proud of the fact that i finished and finished strong.

photos to follow...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

epic fail

i've been preparing for sunday's 17k xterra trail race, mentally going back to my training run at crystal cove a few weeks back, when lo and behold i get an e-mail from the event organizer notifying that they've approved a new course for the upcoming race! WTF.

not only does the new course not traverse the same roads (based on the last 4 years) we ran, but it doesn't even go in the same direction! oh well, so much for advance planning. now it will be tough to figure out when to attack, not knowing the trails and the degree of the inclines as such.

but we will have fun regardless!

eats - milo and olive

from the husband/wife team of josh loeb & zoe nathan - owners of rustic canyon, huckleberry and sweet rose creamery - comes their latest creation: milo & olive. dubbed a neighborhood bakery and pizzeria, this intimate (seats 24 max) and bustling spot serves up fresh baked bread, pastries, wood-fired pizzas, salads and small plates and is highlighted by the mugnaini wood burning oven in a beautiful turquoise.

since i had tix to an advance screening of "tinker tailor soldier spy" at 7pm, we dipped in to milo and olive at 5pm for an early dinner. here's what we ordered:

* roasted pumpkin (mcgrath farms) - brown butter, sage, buckwheat honey, black pepper
* acqua pazza - PEI mussels, manila clams, sweet shrimp, white wine, garlic, fresh herbs
* pizza - homemade pork belly sausage, braised greens, tomato, fresh mozzarelly
* sweet cream brioche - took this bad boy home!

the pumpkin was out of this world - warm and sweet goodness that had me recommending the dish to people sitting on both sides of us. the acqua pazza was chock full of delectable seafood with a broth that had me practically bathing in it. and the pizza was pipin' hot perfection; this disappeared in literally minutes.

remnants of the pumpkin

milo and olive
2723 wilshire blvd.
santa monica, CA 90403

Monday, December 5, 2011

eats - jin patisserie

sunday afternoon brought about another pit stop at jin for their tea and oh-so-delicate macarons. this time we went with a five-pack of chocolate mint, rose, espresso, pistachio and sea salt caramel. i've had macarons everywhere a place has them for sale and jin - for my money - is still at the top of the list.

cherry tree in the patio
cherry tree in the spoon
leisurely sunday read