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restaurants: border grill las vegas

border grill in mandalay bay has been my favourite place to dine in las vegas since my husband (then – boyfriend) stumbled across it on our very first trip to las vegas.
we were walking to the shark reef and saw the cantina and decided on a whim to stop in for a margarita.  we started noming on chips and salsa and realized we were kind of hungry, so we ordered tortilla soup.

not just any tortilla soup… the best one i’ve ever had in my life.
and an obsession was born.

this restaurant is owned by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger who i knew from their cooking show Two Hot Tamales.  (side note – remember when the food network used to have actual cooking shows? i miss that)
since then, susan feniger has made appearances on top chef all stars, doing quite well for herself.  and its no surprise, her cooking is masterful.

the restaurant itself has two lovely outdoor areas.  one upstairs that is covered and i’ve dined in a few times, and also the downstairs outdoor patio that housed my wedding reception.  outdoor areas for dining are a rarity in vegas, so i always make note of them for my lists, as i love al fresco dining.
this is where we had lunch on my latest visit… the downstairs outdoors…

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as if the regular menu choices don’t cause me enough distress with all the yummy options, their specials menu gets offered to me.
oh my… what to do…

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well, obviously the pineapple strawberry sangria needs to get in my mouth.

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my mom went with the patron silver margarita, and said she preferred the one at hussong’s because it was simple.  of course, she ordered one with blood orange and other stuff, so its obviously not comparing apples to apples.

while we were waiting for lunch, we enjoyed the chips and salsa… i love their salsa.  all 3 of them.
they haven’t changed the recipes in years and i love them for it.  its perfect. not to be messed with.

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for the meal, we both decided on tacos, since it was lunch time and we were hungry, but not starved and wanted something kind of light since we were headed back to the pool.

i went with the carnitas with no onions.  because it was supposed to have guacamole on it which contained onions, they just put avocado slices on it for me.  which worked perfectly.
you have the option of pinto beans or black beans and i went pinto.

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my tacos were delicious and the pork cooked to perfection, although they were a little greasy.  they could have been drained a little better before going on the tortillas.
but in terms of flavour, preperation, tenderness, ect, top notch.

my mom went with the shrimp creole tacos and they were WOW.
she had black beans, also good, but i still stand by my pinto bean decision.

my mom’s shrimp was cooked to perfection and the slaw on top was crunchy and provided a great contrast for the rest of the taco.
we agreed that these were the superior choice between mine and hers.

stuffed to the brim, we headed back to pool for a lay down.
thanks for yet another amazing meal border grill.  i’ll see you next time.
cheers!

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restaurants: hussong’s cantina las vegas

i am a fiend for mexican food.
and all the awesome mexican and mexican inspired food is one of my favourite parts of traveling to the usa.
hussong’s cantina is a place that we stumbled upon a few years ago and wandered into for a margarita.
it turned out to be the best margarita i’ve ever had, and thus, a love was born.

the food is also not so shabby, although it does lean toward the american penchant for fat & deep fried more than for true mexican style preparations, but hey, there’s a time and a place for everything.

lets start with the margaritas.
this place boasts being the creator of the margarita. their wikipedia says:
Hussong’s is reputedly the place where the Margarita was created—back in October, 1941 by bartender Don Carlos Orozco. He concocted the perfect mixture of equal parts tequila, Damiana (Cointreau is used now) and lime, served over ice in a salt-rimmed glass for Margarita Henkel, daughter of the German Ambassador to Mexico.

now, the las vegas location is not the original, obviously, but they still make a damn fine classic margarita.

for those poor souls that don’t know… a margarita is not a slushy sugar drink.
its a salty-sour-punch-you-in-the-face drink.
and this… will punch you in the face.

i like my margaritas with no salt and a sidecar of grand marnier to make a float on top.
and yes, this is a PINT of margaritas that was served to me.
< insert heavenly music here >

this is commonly called a cadillac margarita.  and its my favourite.

the beautiful and special thing about this place is that the bartender stands at the bar and squeezes the limes right into your glass.  there’s no bottled lime juice in this piece.  it’s fresh and simple and it makes a world of difference in the finished product.

we were served chips and 2 kinds of salsa at the table and tried not to stuff our faces too much, but it was damn fine salsa… but what i really wanted was the shrimp stuffed avocado.

ya, this definitely falls into the american style food… but wow is it ever something.
waaaaay too rich for a single human, but wonderful to share with a few people.

it is a half avocado, stuffed with a shrimp and cheese mixture, breaded and deep fried.  its served on a lovely salad with tomatoes, bacon and hominy around the outside.
and friends, it is GOOD.
we only made it about 2/3 of the way through it, but ate up all the salad.  the dressing is really nice on it, i wish i knew how they made it.

we shared this and also got an order of the chicken tacos to split.  mine, without onions, of course.

the chicken was nicely seasoned and i love fresh cilantro, but i must say that these lacked a sauce.  i used the dish of salsa on the table and it rounded it out nicely.
the beans and rice, while nothing special, were tasty.  and i totally dipped my chips into them.

hussong’s also has a restaurant.com gift certificate for them, so we saved $25 on our meal and walked out for about $20.  bargain!  this place is rad because the gift certificate is also good on the liquor.  so you could just come here with a GC and get margaritas.  hooray!

travel: las vegas – trip number 8

on saturday i returned from my 8th trip to fabulous las vegas.
and dare i say, i think it was my most successful one yet.

we flew with westjet… for a few reasons.

flight time was the main one.  we left at 10:15am which really makes the most of your first day there.  and coming home, there’s a 1:45pm flight which meshes nicely with hotel check out time.

second, westjet includes a checked bag, which i appreciate because it equals saving at least $50 in bag fees.
and lastly, the overall price of the flight to begin with was the best.
so westjet won for this one.

the flight itself was pretty uneventful… which is how i like my flights.
my mom and i had a spare seat in our row, so i sat in the window and enjoyed the view and she sat aisle and we had the middle seat free.  wonderful.

the one place where westjet really falls down is their in-flight entertainment.  air canada definitely wins for that.  but, its a short flight and i amused myself with my ipad and vodka.

we arrived and grabbed our bags and hopped into a taxi to mandalay bay.
upon arriving, there was a line up to check in of about 25-30 minutes, but it was well organized and there was a guy passing out bottles of water, which was nice.
the front desk lady gave us a high floor with a great view of the pool and we were off to the 30th floor.

one thing that i really liked about our view was that it was easy to keep tabs on how full the pool was and if it was worth trying to get chairs in which location.

this trip was largely focused on checking some chef’s restaurants off my to-do list.
and i’m pleased to say that i accomplished 3 that have long been residents of said list.  i’m doing a blog post for each restaurant, so more to come on that.  and if you’re on facebook, i did save most of my food pictures for the blog, so there will be new content.

the big success on this trip was the gambling.
not only did we ACTUALLY WIN on the slots… but we won a LOT.  well, considering we were playing penny slots – its all relative.   when your spins are $0.80 each and you hit $300, it’s a big payoff.
for the first 2 days we were in vegas, we could not lose.  we were literally sitting down at machines, playing for 30 seconds and hitting $200 wins.  we won at the luxor, tropicana, new york new york and a little at mandalay bay.
total, we won about $1300.  but once you factor in the losses, we figure we were up about $1000.
this is amazing to me.  in all my years going to vegas, i have NEVER won more than about $70 on a machine.  we were so excited at all this, it was hard to absorb.  we just could not lose.  man, gambling is fun when you’re winning.

so because of this, we decided to up the ante on the trip.
we spent a day at Qua Spa at Caesars Palace which was absolutely out of this world.  The baths were incredible and i had a 50 minute body polish and a 50 minute sweedish massage that were delightful.  we spent a total of 5 hours there and we were hard pressed to leave.  i’ll be back there for sure.

we also check out a show – Zumanity at NYNY.
ummm… so not what i was expecting.  i knew it was “sensual”, but i didn’t expect it to be so overtly sexual.  it was great and i definitely recommend it, but it maybe wasn’t the best pick to see with my mother, haha.  don’t get me wrong, she enjoyed it too, but when the “mistress of the evening” is suggesting that you take your date home to the hotel and fuck their brains out, its possible you didn’t bring the right date if you’re there with your mom.
but yes, excellent show and wow, does cirque ever do an incredible job of making the most insane feats look effortless.  absolutely stunning.

besides that, it was food, gambling and pool time…
i did a lot of this:

…and this…

…and definitely a lot of this…

ah drinking in vegas… free in the right places, and totally effed when you pay for it.
that irony never gets old for me.

so there you have it kids!
my totally awesome 4 nights in fabulous las vegas!

upcoming posts include:
– Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger’s Border Grill
– Charlie Palmer’s  Aureole
– Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill
– Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood
– Hussong’s Cantina in Mandalay Place