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travel: shamelessly in love with austin.

on my last vacation i discovered something.
i discovered that austin, texas is perhaps one of the greatest places i’ve ever visited.
and while oodles of people told me “you’ll love austin…”, i was still surprised that not only did i love austin, but i LOVED austin.
in fact, one drunken evening, i called my husband and told him “fuck vegas, all our vacations are to austin from now on!”

this city.
it’s the fucking best.
its pure rock and roll, the nicest people and the best food.
if it was in canada, i’d have moved there already.

so… the original draw to austin wasn’t the city itself, it was this festival.

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and this was incredible.  it was amazingly run, clean, efficient… just surpassed all expectations.
i’ve been to a lot of large scale events and this was hands down the best run.
i can not say enough good things about the management of ACL festival.

their food options were out of control… some of austin’s best restaurants and food trucks representing.  none with a lineup longer than 10 minutes even in the peak of dinner rush.

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the beer hall… and it’s important to note that this is a beer HALL, not a beer GARDEN.
because in the great land of america, you get to be a big kid and you can take your beer wherever you damn well please.
and they sold 20 different craft & local beers throughout the festival.
the main beer hall was over 20,000 square feet, again, with no line longer than 10 minutes even in the heat of the day.

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besides the festival, we did some shopping and eating at south congress… which was very cool and we spent a good couple of hours and some decent money in the little funky shops…

we also did the requisite tourist activity and visited the gorgeous capital building…

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and on our food tour we hit some really cool places and noticed that austin loves its infused booze.
and bar worth its salt was infusing their own liquor and some of the brews were wild.
some spicy, some insane and others complete genius…

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the craziest one we tried was the franklin’s brisket infused bourbon.  it was salty, beefy and smoky.  truly one of the most inspired and unique tastes i’ve encountered.

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but this… this is what i came for.
my beloved silversun pickups played on saturday and fucking owned it.
i had a spot right up front and took a million pictures…
the played three of my all time favourites.
they played 10 songs total, which i can’t complain about…
and they declared it to be their last performance until the new album comes out next year.
it was fucking worth every penny i spent.  i’d do it again in a heartbeat.

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in fact…
i already know i’ll be back next year.
thanks for the super awesome fun times austin!

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food & travel: austin, texas

well… it feels like its been forever since cass & i booked our trip to austin… but finally the countdown is at under 2 months and we’re starting to get VERY excited.

my right hand (wo)man found an amazing blog called Fed Man Walking that we’ve spent a few hours drooling over and dreaming up all the delights that we’re going to try while we’re there…

we’ve mapped out most of the places that we’re planning on visiting and made some guestimates as to what we can walk to and what will be bus or taxi…

and we’ve got a loose itinerary.

we arrive on wednesday and will have had a looooong day of travel with an early morning start, so we’ll probably just check in, chill out, go for a swim and wander the immediate area around the hotel.

thursday we’ll be bright eyed and bushy tailed and plan on a morning run/walk and some solid city exploring, some pool swimming, relaxing ect
then we’re very stoked to be seeing The Book of Mormon that night!

friday is when we really get going… we’ll be up early for our pre-ACL food tour with Austin Eats Food Tours.

Get your ACL festival morning started right!  Experience Franklin BBQ (no line), Torchy’s breakfast tacos, Blue Ox BBQ, Sugar Circus Bakery and Hops and Grain Brew prior to arriving to the festival!
What’s included:  breakfast taco, brisket, sausage, turkey, pork tenderloin, pulled pork, 3 local craft beers, dessert & drop off at the festival!

and then the main event… off to ACL festival!  we have poured over the schedule, highlighted our picks and have formulated a plan of attack.
on friday we’ll end the night with depeche mode.  after the festival… who know where austin will take us…

saturday will hopefully treat us with a bit of a sleep in…  maybe a morning swim… and then off to ACL fest for silversun pickups at 4pm! ❤  ❤ ❤
after the daytime shows are over at ACL fest, we’re heading down to Emo’s to check out the late night show with franz ferdinand and smith westerns which should keep us in just the right amount of trouble all night 😉

sunday is our gospel brunch date at stubb’s bbq!
then we’re off to the last day of ACL fest with the closing performance from lionel richie.  yup.  after the festival, who know?  we may have to crash from exhaustion or we might have it in us to rock austin for one last night…

monday we head home at 3pm, so we’ll still have the morning to have one last exploration and shopping endevour before we start the journey home.

ya, i’d better book that tuesday off work for sleep and recovery.  just typing all that exhausted me, lol.

46 days to go…

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food: fun with the juicer

so… on the weekend, i decided to buy a juicer.
this wasn’t an impulse buy per-say… my pal moonbeam fell back in love with her juicer at the beginning of the month and has been extolling the virtues to me for weeks now…

but i’ve honestly never been much of a juice gal. i’m not even a smoothie gal.
i have often cycled through buying oodles of frozen fruit in a misguided effort to start my day with smoothies, only to throw it all out a couple months later as a solid freezer burned mess.

actually overall, i’ve never been a fruit lover.
but i do love my veggies. and veggies make friends with a juicer too.

the other thing holding me back is that i have limited condo space and therefore i shy away from things that aren’t kitchen multi-taskers. and the juicer is very much a one trick pony.
buuuuuut… it was $99 and really isn’t *that* big, so i’m gonna give it a go.

so step one… obviously buying the machine.
step two… stocking up on fruit & veg.
step three… juice!

i started with a really husband friendly option in an effort to inaugurate him, as he often turns his nose up at my happy planet green juices. so i figured as long as it wasn’t super green i had a fighting chance.

so i went apple, orange & celery.

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they suggest you peel your oranges, so i did and there’s some debate about apple seeds, so i split mine in half and tunneled out the seeds and removed the stems. just to be safe.
celery just needed a wash and it was ready to rock.

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the results were delicious. the husband eagerly downed his glass and all were happy.

so i decided to take the leftover orange, apple celery base and green it up a little.
enter the addition of a couple handfuls of spinach, parsley, 2 carrots and a meyer lemon (skin and all)
to make…. this!

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definitely super yum.
the meyer lemon was definitely the most dominant flavour, but it smelled like parsley and celery. very interesting.
and i know you’re not supposed to “save” the juices because they lose vitamins or whatever, but i poured the rest into a mason jar and put it in the fridge for the next day’s breakfast.

last night, my two besties came over for hockey and one of them was sporting a bit of a hangover, so i whipped up a curing juice.

i decided on a couple apples, a cucumber, a few kiwis and a knob of ginger.
the kiwis were peeled, the apples de-seeded and the cucumber stem removed, but then everything was juiced together to produce this:

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i’m not entirely sure why it separated, but it sure was tasty.  the ginger made it spicier than i anticipated.  i used about a 1 1/2 inch piece and this batch yielded a little over a litre of juice total, but the ginger was the dominant flavour.
delicious, but a pretty strong after burn.  i imagine this would be awesome for if you were sick.

the kiwi maybe wasn’t the best plan ever.  the little seeds got caught in my blade and were harder to clean than i anticipated as they needed to be picked out of the teeth individually with my fingernail.

this morning, we went classic.  simple delicious orange juice.

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man, this is the best stuff.  just so good.

only downside is that i kept my box of oranges on the counter and i think i should move them to patio because my juice (obviously) is coming out at room temperature.

the next challenge is to find a good use for all the pulp i’m getting.
veggie pulp is easy… it can be added to soups, stocks, meatloaf/meatballs/burgers ect.
but the fruit pulp is something that will require some googling.

most of what i’ve read does say that the bulk of the vitamins & nutrients are coming out in the juice… but the pulp is pure fibre.  so while it might not have much in the way of flavour or vitamins, it’s definitely still worth eating.

also, wasting food really bugs me.  and since i don’t have a garden or compost, its making me feel guilty to pitch it.
the internet tells me that saving the pulp in freezer bags works too, and its good to separate it when blending juice… so like if i’m making a carrot whatever juice, do the carrots then stop and collect the pulp in a bag and then do the rest of the veg and store that separate ect.  makes sense.
i foresee carrot cakes in my future.

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

love letters to hawaii: a liquid post

in less than 3 weeks, i will be in hawaii.  a place, to me, of pure bliss.

i am set to spend my longest ever vacation there… 15 nights.  to be split 3 in honolulu and 12 in maui.  i’m so excited.  it’s been just over a year since i was in hawaii last, but before that it had been about 12 years.  and i’ve never been to maui.  it’s funny, because at work i sell a LOT of maui, and i’ve basically just been faking my way through it based on my knowledge from other islands.  but no more.  when i return from this trip, i will be WELL versed.

i get asked a lot about my favourite destinations and hawaii is always high up on the list.  to me, it’s perfection.  it’s easy to get to – direct flights to 3 islands from YVR, it’s safe and easy to visit on account of being in the usa, it’s cheap comparatively – sure there’s no all inclusive packages, but the booze is dirt cheap in america and almost every hotel room has a kitchenette and lastly, it’s just so fucking stunning.  the beach and the ocean are incredible, the people & culture rich and intriguing. there’s volcanoes, rainforest, beaches, hikes, waterfalls… everything you could ever want.

i love hawaii.  give me hawaii over mexico any day of the week.

if you’ve ever wanted to see my face when i’m truly happy… this is it:

beachfront in hawaii, local beer in hand, sunkissed and utterly relaxed.

i’m normally not much for the sugary drinks, but when in hawaii, well, it just seems wrong if you’re not enjoying the occasional mai tai.

pretty much every single place will make one, some places are (obviously) vastly better than others.  our hotel (outrigger reef on the beach) had a great place called the shorebird that we frequented.  the mai tais weren’t the best ever, but they were cheap (especially during happy hour) and definitely went down smooth.


now that one is a little heavy on the grenadine… but it was still tasty.  also the pic is a little coloured, but you get the idea.

i had a few other delicious beverages while i was there…

ooh look!  another mai tai!  shocking!  i actually believe this is my first one upon landing.  i’m not even sure we brought our bags to our room first, lol.

and of course, every trip starts with plane vodka
hey, don’t judge… it’s a LONG flight!  …and i get thirsty…

…and sometimes you have to have a local beer on your hotel patio while overlooking the ocean.  because life is rough, yo.

these next ones were my favourite drinks of the trip.  on the lanai at the royal hawaiian, overlooking waikiki beach.

mine is the blendy basil drink – the chi, and my mom’s is the royal mai tai, made properly.  i snapped a pic of the menu because every drink sounded like heaven.

 

…and of course there’s a beer at the airport at the kona brewing company brewpub.

*sigh*

alright hawaii, i’ll see your sexy self in 19 days.

vegas in food & drink part 2

 

 

first stop on this food tour…
BB Kings in the mirage.  we went here because we had a coupon but also, we love our southern fare.

here’s my husband eating catfish bites.  they were amazing.  and it was his first time eatting catfish, so he was impressed.  it was flaky and buttery and the coating was very light, i believe cornmeal based.

we also had a mac & cheese.  damn fine.  would definitely go back AND they have live music every night.  which goes far for me.

 

these next series are from our “splurge” dinner at ONDA in the mirage.
my husband picked this place based solely on the menu.  and it was a fine choice.
the meal itself wasn’t ridiculously pricey, but we had a bottle of champagne and a bottle of wine, so about $150 in booze on the bill.  i think it was about $320 once we were done.

first up is our appies.  i had the aged prosciutto & parmigiano.   it was outstanding.  my only complaint is that my salad was over-dressed.  it was literally drowning in dressing which was very unnecessary.  everything else was perfection.

husband went with the classic caprese salad with house made mozzarella & heirloom tomatoes.

for mains, i was powerless to resist this pasta.  it was basically just fresh egg noodles, butter & olive oil, garlic and truffles.  shit loads of truffles.  and cheese.  for me, utter perfection.  this is exactly how i like my pasta, and it was my first time having fresh truffles.  decadent and wonderful.

husband went with the server’s suggestion of lasagna.  it was also excellent.  there’s nothing like a REALLY GOOD lasagna to make you realize how much mediocre lasagna you’ve had.

bottle of Chianti.  also on the server’s suggestion.

dessert.  tiramisu semifreddo.  really good but WAY too rich for me after my meal.  so i had a cappuccino and left it to my husband.

 

next up i’ve got a few pics from the wicked spoon at cosmopolitan.
wow, what a place.  this may be fighting the wynn for my new favourite buffet.
it was really excellent and well priced for the quality.  and i love buffets because i’m indecisive, but hate feeling like i’m eating out of a trough.  this solves that problem.  individual portions for everything.  wonderful.

below is the short rib eggs benny.

and a berry macaron.

vegas – a trip in food & drink pictures

it’s a real shame i didn’t carry my camera around for the first day.  because i missed out on some choice pictures.  these first two are from BLT Burger in the mirage.  now, this is a place i’ve eaten once before, so i knew it was magic, but i was not prepared for this burger pictured right below.

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that was the “gameday” burger (football, i think) and was a delicious BLT Burger patty on a pretzel bun, topped with a bratwurst, bacon & cheddar cheese.  if that doesn’t sounds delicious to you, then you’re dead to me.

 

this next magical burger is my buffalo chicken burger.  nothing insane, but it was what i was craving and it did me right.

 

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now, on to some beverages…
this little delight was the suggestion of the server at the magical place we know as RHUMBAR.  it’s the sensual berri.  and i drank 3 just to be sure i loved it.

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our bar neighbours were super friendly and fun.  but you would be too after a 42oz scorpion bowl.

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…and a mention for my husband’s 2 faves at RHUMBAR – the mai tai and the old cuban.

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last but not least, i had a sparkling cosmo.  and it was yummy.

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…to be continued.