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travel: the delights of waikiki

aloha!
once again, i must hang my head in shame and apologize for my absence. i was away for 9 days, but the rest of it has just been real life and a giant black hole of stress sucking my inspiration.  but this morning, i’ve committed myself to posting my hawaii roundup before i head off to seattle for the night.

november saw me return to waikiki for the 5th time.  but this trip wasn’t about sightseeing or anything important… it was about getting some sun and relaxing with my husband.  …and special guest appearances by my bro & his buddy and the puss & her family.  all around, it was a great time.

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we stayed at the aqua bamboo, which was new for me.  it was actually my first time not staying at a beachfront property right on waikiki beach.  for those familiar with the area, the bamboo is on kuhio, pretty much in line with the surfrider.  so it’s not far to the beach… lets say a 5 minute walk (2 blocks), but i will still stand by my preference of staying beachfront.
the hotel itself was good… cheap and cheerful as they say… nothing fancy, but absolutely fine for a week stay.  the hotel had an adorable little pool and the world’s tiniest hot tub, which was a factor in choosing the hotel, but at the end of it all we never actually made it in to either.

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i did enjoy that the bamboo had a very affordable massage place that was poolside.  my husband i both had a 50 minute massage for just under $80 including tax & tip.  a great bargain.  and boy did it ever feel good after that hike to diamond head.

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ah the diamond head hike… its turned into a must do for me.  you know… i must punish my body for so many mai tais.  somehow it makes me feel better. this trip, i literally woke my hangover up, did the 45 minute walk to diamond head, then did the hike and back and then ate a giant burger and then swam in the ocean,  then went for a massage.
overall, i’d say it was a hawaii win.  cured my hangover, thats for sure.

so, beverages will come in their own post, because in hawaii, there is no shortage of happy hour and tropical delights… but this one is all about the food.

hawaii’s food is a unique style of cuisine that defines melting pot.  it has strong influences from asia, polynesia, north america and when its mixed in with the traditional foods native to the area, you get things you can’t find anywhere else.  my husband’s favourite is loco moco.
basically loco moco is rice, a hamburger patty, 2 fried eggs done any style and smothered in gravy.  for breakfast. and its delicious.

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you know how they say; when in rome…?  well, when in hawaii, you’d best eat some loco moco.  and my husband did.  5 times.  lol.  he was on a mission to sample the local favourite at as many places as possible… and his verdict was that every place did it a little different, but at the end of the day, it was all delicious.  some places had a homemade gravy, sometimes adding mushrooms and/or onions… some places garnished with chopped green onions… some places put the gravy on top of the eggs, others eggs last.  some burger patties were clearly frozen from a box, others were hand formed and fresh.  but the base for all of them never changed… this delicious hawaiian style white rice.  i’m not too sure how they make their rice taste so good, but it sure does.  and for me, it’s one of my LOVES about hawaii, is that i can get this yummy sticky almost sushi style rice with my breakfasts.

so while my husband was eating his weight in loco moco, i was eating things like this:

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and i can’t forget the magic of this…

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ahhhh pancakes in hawaii.  another random thing to be in love with, but i never ever order pancakes at home. i just don’t care for them much. but in hawaii its a different animal.  topped with things like pineapple, coconut, macadamia nuts and other local treats… and then smothered in coconut syrup instead of maple?  oh man, put a fork in me, i am DONE.

and let us not forget the papaya that much accompany every breakfast no matter what your main of choice is:

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yup, thats the stuff.

another island favourite is “pupus” which as far as i can tell is just hawaiian for appetizer.  which makes for hilarious (warning: may only be hilarious after several mai tais) jokes about needing to “take a wicked appetizer”.  haha.
anyhoo…. we had a lot of pupus.  because happy hour is cheap!  and if you do it right, you don’t really need a proper dinner.
one of my favourite destinations for pupus in waikiki is hula grill in the outrigger waikiki on the beach.  its upstairs from duke’s and often overlooked in favour of dukes.  but here’s the thing.  the decor is just as awesome upstairs, the food is pretty much the same and the drinks are waaaaay cheaper during happy hour.  so the hula grill is where you’ll often find me at happy hour…. eating things like: kahlua pork potstickers and ceviche and crab & mac nut stuffed won tons…

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and my personal favourites: crispy pork belly bao

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and the honey chicken lollypops which were ridiculously sticky sweet goodness.

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and at the end of a several hour long happy hour… we weren’t much worse for the wear financially.

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then there’s downstairs.  duke’s.  what can you say? if you’ve gone to waikiki, you’ve gone to dukes.  you just… have to.  yes, its loud and crazy and filled to the brim with pasty tourists and there’s children… but it’s dead centre in waikiki beach and makes a wicked mai tai and has good food and live music and, well, it’s just fun.

i am particularly in love with their salad bar.  there’s not a lot of good salad in waikiki, and dukes scratches my itch for fresh crispy lettuce and tons of good toppings so that i can construct my picky girl salad of choice.
but the fish entrees should never be overlooked.  you get the list from the server of whats in season and fresh right now and you choose from one of 4 preparations that they offer and chow down.  the fish entrees are always well cooked, perfectly seasoned and just fucking delicious.

we had the following: mine is the opah with mac nut crust and butter caper sauce (i just drooled typing that)
SAUTÉED MAC NUT AND HERB CRUSTED – Lightly dusted in parmesan cheese & bread crumbs, topped with lemon and caper butter

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and my husband dinned on the ono done duke’s style…
BAKED “DUKE’S STYLE” – Baked in a garlic, lemon and sweet basil glaze

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both were giant portions of fish so fresh, it may have been swimming yesterday… and at a fair market price.  plus it includes salad bar. did i mention the salad bar?

my last category for hawaiian eats is pop ups, food carts & beach shacks.  yes, food is everywhere in waikiki.  on two occasions this last trip, my husband and i grabbed some fish tacos & pork tacos from the food hut right on waikiki beach beside the surfrider and deemed it one of the best deals around.  $19 got us 4 giant tacos and a house brewed iced tea with pineapple juice in it to share.  not too shabby.

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a few days into our trip, on the way back from the beach to the hotel, we were surprised by a pop up market of sorts… except it was all food stands.  it wasn’t selling groceries, like our markets here, but selling fresh baked delights and pad thai and poke and even empanadas and dim sum treats.  so we stocked up and went back to our balcony with some local beers and made our own happy hour.

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last, but certainly not least… once can not forget that hawaii knows its food trucks.  possibly the best one i’ve ever seen… the malasadas truck.  leonards is famous for its malasadas which are basically like a big round dounut rolled in sugar and sometimes stuffed with creme or fruit filling.  they’re DELICIOUS.  and leonards is the king.  buuuuut we didn’t quite make it to leonards proper, so we were thrilled to stumble across their food truck on the way to sandy beach one day.

so while we did this:

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we also go to eat this:

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a clear win win situation.

and off course, on our quest to enjoy this beach:

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we also got to enjoy this shrimp shack on the north shore.

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there’s a lot of shrimp options, and generally we go to giovanni’s, but this one lured us in with their option to have local shrimp, while a lot of stands have switched to the cheaper and inferior thailand shrimp.  the difference slapped you in the face.  these were almost like my beloved spot prawns.  sooooo worth the half hour wait.  (this place was BUSY – also a good sign)

and of course, i had to have my coconut… and this time i also may have had a corn on the cob at the roadside pit stop…

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mmmhmmm.  and thats how i do hawaii.
oh, but before i wrap up, i’d like to give a surprising honorable mention to buba gump’s shrimp.  yes, it is a chain theme restaurant and generally that goes against my better instincts, but my husband loves it and he actually sold me on it with this:

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thats a pound and a half of hot fresh cooked peel & eats with half caijun spice and half butter and garlic.  ya, we slayed those in a few minutes flat.  they were messy and buttery and so fucking delicious.

but then we followed it up with some shrimp tacos…

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and the calamari that they swore was the best ever and you know, it actually was like top 5 in my life and i’ve eaten a LOT of fried squid in my day.

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theirs had half squid, half rock shrimp and also deep fried red peppers and pepperoncini peppers.  well played bubba gumps, well played.

and so, i leave you with my last view of hawaii for this trip… diamondhead from my brothers suite on the 33rd floor of the sheraton.  yes, it was a grand time had in hawaii, and yes, i’ll be back as soon as i can.

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drinks: summer of fruit beers

despite summer’s lackluster performance this year… i declared summer of 2012 the summer of fruit beers.
previously i mentioned this in my canada cup of beer post
but i’ve since done a little more homework.  you know… in case i wasn’t sure.

definitely a reigning champ of fruit beer awesomeness is the granville island raspberry.

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i mean… it’s kinda obvious.
granville island makes a damn fine beer on any day of the week, but you throw some raspberries up in there and you have a winner.
it’s a great “intro to fruit beers” in that its the familiar distinct flavour of granville island that we all know and love, but with a nice raspberry edge.  so it’s not reinventing the wheel… it’s just greasing it up with something extra.

there’s a couple raspberry offerings this year… and phillips made a solid contribution to the genre.

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disclaimer: i am a total whore for phillips beer.  i LOVE their stuff.  with the exception of their mad hopps creations, i am pretty much down with everything they’ve ever touched.
their blueberry pail ale is one of my all time favourites.  but alas, i did not get one this year… so i had to settle for the raspberry wheat.
its yummy.  and very berry.
while the GI rasp is more “raspberry flavoured”, this one is like drinking mashed up berries.
its a very authentic berry flavour.

this year’s “fruit beer game changer” is totally the parallel 49 seedspitter watermelon wit.
never has a single beer divided a friendship circle so sharply.

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you want to talk a about a LOVE it or HATE it beer?
this is it.

i, am absolutely on board 100% on the love wagon.  the capital LOVE wagon.
as is my husband, moonbeam and loads of our other friends.
some, however, think this is the most foul thing they’ve ever tasted.

i have had clerks at the liquor store try to talk me out of buying it.
my brother told me he took one sip of the one i left him and dumped the rest.

there is no middle ground with the watermelon beer.

for me, i could happily drink this one non stop all summer… and i pretty much have for the last month.
i have a few 6-packs squirreled away because i’ve heard they’re about done for the season.
there’s 4 in my fridge.
i’m thinking of opening one right now, lol.

i. love. this. beer.
but i understand how others can hate.
it’s a strong, no holds barred watermelon assault that rides a mellow very drinkable wheat beer.
its different, its refreshing and i just flat out like the way it tastes.

the last one i want to mention on my fruit roundup is the whistler pineapple express wheat ale.

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i’ve really come around to love whistler’s beers.
or maybe their beers are just getting better.
either way, i like what they’re into right now.

their other fruit offering, the grapefruit beer is in high rotation in our house.  my husband is a huge fan.
and this pineapple one was good… but didn’t make me forget the grapefruit.
i liked that it was a very subtle pineapple flavour.  not too aggressive at all.
good patio change-up beer.

lastly… this is about as far from fruit as one can get… but i realize i never featured it on the blog and it definitely warrants a mention.
if for no other reason than for sheer WTF-ness.

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ya, thats right… a beer based on a maple bacon doughnut.
and not just any one… the famous voodoo doughnuts maple bacon doughnut that was years ahead of the trend.

i’m not sure what to entirely say about this beer except that it legitimately tasted like a bacon maple doughnut.
like smoky bacon and real maple syrup and yeasty doughnut.
it was… weird.
one of those flavours where you sipped, stopped, looked at it and said, that was weird.
crazy times.
not a beer you’d drink all night… but one i was glad i can say i’d at least tried.

drinks: canada cup of beer 2012

ah summer saturday.
the perfect day for some outdoor beer drinking.
and what better place to partake in said outdoor beer drinking than at an event called the canada cup of beer?

as a beer hound, i enjoy a solid beer festival.
but honestly, i actually wasn’t going to attend this one this year.
i’ve been to the canada cup of beer before and while i had always found it to be fun times, the locations always put me off.
they always seemed to be in pretty unfriendly transit locations like UBC.
this year was at swangard, which was a little better – walking distance from patterson station… but still, not ideal.
no one lives in burnaby.  all my friends are either downtown or coquitlam.  so its one of those “everyone has to travel to get there” locations.

but, our minds changed when both myself and moonbeam won tickets from the shore 104 radio station.
and then we came upon some other ticket comps as well.
so all in, we had tickets for all our friends and some to spare.  and how can you say no to that?

so we assembled a mighty team and headed out on probably the most picture perfect day weather-wise that we’ve had this summer to drink a lot of beer out of tiny cups.

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the event itself is pretty well run, but really suffers from low attendance.
which is good news for patrons, because line ups at the booths are short or non existent… but i can’t imagine it does much for the sustainability of the event itself.

in all, i knew 22 people that attended.  and none of them paid for their tickets, as they came from some sort of media related comps.  but i think with an event like this, for a lot of the breweries, they’re not necessarily looking to make money per-say, its more a marketing opportunity to get their product out to their exact target demo.

in terms of marketing, this sort of event is a must-do for any craft brewer.
right now the market is absolutely flooded with craft breweries.  you can stand in the beer section for ages trying to decide, but at the end of the day, because most are big UNKNOWNS, they usually get passed over in favour for a more reliable option.
with the disappearance of single beer sales at bc liquor stores, most people are pretty unwilling to take a chance on a whole 6 pack if they know nothing about the brewery.  so sampling is really the best way to get your product out.

i would say this holds true 10-fold for fruit beers.
the fruit beer is so hot for this summer from the bc breweries.
without a doubt, this is the beer trend of 2012 summer.
howe sound’s 4-way fruit ale, granville island’s raspberry, dead frog’s mandarin, phillips’ blueberry, tin whistle’s peach, fernie’s huckleberry… and the list goes on.

but the thing is… fruit beers are either great or they’re fucking terrible.
and while you may get me to take a chance on a single big bottle of beer… its unlikely i’m going to buy a whole 6 pack of one i’ve never tried.
case in point; dead frog’s mandarin beer.  dead frog is hit or miss for me.  i’ve enjoyed some of their products and been really disappointed with others.  so while i was intrigued, i wasn’t willing to make a $13 gamble on it.
but on saturday, i tried it for free, liked it, and would probably buy a 6-pack of it now.

another example comes from unibroue.  i have had some really bad experiences with their beers.  i find them totally offensive to my palate and when people leave them at my house, they go straight down the sink.
about a month ago, i started to soften my stance, based on my friend’s strong endorsement of their Blanche de Chambly.
i tried it in a bar (again – didn’t have to commit to the 6-pack) and actually quite enjoyed it.
but the rest of their product line is still getting the stink eye from me.
on saturday, i decided to try their Éphémère Apple.  (see – fruit beers – told you!) and found it to be quite a delight.
so purely through the powers of sampling, i was sold back on a product i’d vehemently avoided and often trash talked.

the world of sampling also is a business maker for the up and coming breweries.
all of us agreed that the favourite beers of the day came courtesy of Parallel 49 brewery.
a company that not a single one of us had ever heard of before.  and we all left with business cards and promises to visit and drink much of their product.

their fruit offering is the seed spitter watermelon ale.  and i can admit, it left our group divided.
myself and the other ladies absolutely loved it.  the men were about 60/40 on it.  some really liked it and others thought it was gross.

their booth was also by far the most popular at the festival.  their secret; a great product, friendly staff and not charging.
they freely admitted they didn’t care about getting tokens for the beer, they just wanted people to try it.
and i don’t think there was a single person in attendance that didn’t try at least one of their beers.
this, is a marketing success, so kudos to them.

all in all, the day was pretty solid.
great weather & great people.  no lines, pretty much free beer… and real washrooms – no porta potties!
the only real downer on the organization was that you couldn’t smoke inside and they didn’t allow ins and outs.  so all along the outskirts, people were forced to power smoke in hopes of finishing before security came by.  which is just silly.  i don’t know why they wouldn’t have just made a little fenced smoking pen or allowed the smokers to leave and come back.  so stupid.
its the same as venues not allowing in and outs for concerts.  all you’ve done is pushed the smokers into the bathrooms.  which is kinda gross, as anyone that frequents the commodore ballroom knows.
because i can tell you that at an outdoor beer festival, people are going to smoke whether you allow them to or not.

anyways… fun times were had by all, i discovered some rad new beers and i got to work on my tan.
so i give the canada cup of beer a hells yes!

restaurants: mesa grill las vegas

i have long wanted to try one of bobby flay’s restaurants.
he’s not my favourite chef… his food looks amazing, but there’s just something about his cocky attitude that kinda rubs me the wrong way… but i can’t deny that the man has skills.

mesa grill in caesar’s palace has been at the top of my “i should eat there one time” list for years now.
i’ve had many plans to dine there that have somehow always been shuffled aside… i think its the location. i just never go into caesar’s palace.  i’m not sure why, but it just isn’t a place that i hang out.

anyways.  because we had a spa appointment booked in caesars for this trip, i thought this would be a perfect opportunity to try out mesa grill at long last.
and eating here for lunch works perfectly because you get the same great quality and cheaper prices.  win win.

the first tough decision… the drinks.
i’ve been on a bit of a manhattan kick lately and bobby’s certainly sounded enticing… but in that moment of sobriety, i just couldn’t justify a $22 manhattan.
that being said, i definitely regret not doing it now.
jeremy – if you go there, i’ll give you $22 to drink this for me and report back.

tough decision number two (not really) was when the bread basket hit the table…
since i’ve been off wheat, i have been avoiding the bread basket quite easily… but hot damn, i couldn’t avoid it this time, so i dove right into this little beauty…

its a cornbread muffin with two kinds of cornmeal.
mmmmhmmmm.
it was the first time in the meal that i shook my first with a *damn you bobby flay*

there was also a jalapeno cheese bread that was out of this world and was swiftly consumed by me.
so swiftly, there is no photo.
ohmygodwhitebreadisdelicious

for the real food… we started with a signature bobby flay item, the roasted duck in a blue corn pancake.

oh sweet baby jesus… there are no words.
this little mother fucker is one of the tastiest things i’ve ever eaten.
the duck is smothered in a hoisin kinda sauce and sweet and a little spicy and the pancake is just… ya.
and the sauces are so bobby flay.  pureed and seasoned to perfection and yum yum yum.
enter the second *damn you bobby flay*

next up, we had the chopped salad.
i enjoy a good chopped salad and this one fit the bill.
nothing crazy unusual about it, it was just a well done salad full of tasty morsels.

the other thing that we ordered was the ancho glazed salmon.
this wasn’t our first pick, but the waiter told us it was a signature item and very good, so we decided to take his advice.
and boy, we were glad we did.

besides being perfectly seasoned and delicious, it was also cooked to medium perfection.
really, the only way to eat salmon.

*damn you bobby flay* that was some delicious salmon!

after this, we were very full and very happy…
but, then the waiter came with a dessert menu…

okay, seriously.  *damn you bobby flay*

we were at a loss… even making a short list of what we wanted was hard.
so we asked for advice.
without a hesitation, the server said “sticky toffee pudding”
done.

seriously?  bobby flay, go eff yourself.
this one is not even fair.
the dulce de leche like substance around the plate was made with goat milk and salted, for a sweet, salty tangy sauce.
the cake, like some fucking ridiculous substance that shouldn’t exist in nature.
vanilla bean ice cream.  perfect.

in short, a ridiculous end to a ridiculous meal.
okay bobby flay.  you win.

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

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