Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Playing Tourist in Las Vegas......

We're in between storms it seems for what has become the "wettest" (is this even a word?) year in a long time for Vegas..... and unfortunately our storms move across the nation and hit all the other places where they DON'T need more rain or snow..... but for us it seems as it will also be one of the worst allergy years as well since the rain brings blooms and those bring the pollen which reeks havoc on everyone (especially Ricardo and Rene...).

Being in between storms has given us some incredibly sunny and perfect days, lots of sunshine and the temps haven't warmed up too much (as far as they do here... it's 48 degrees and dropping so far with snow expected tonight) so we've had a series of really pleasant days with rainy nights and cool weather, YAY! just right for us.... I'm sure the hot weather is around the corner and this being an "El Nino" year might promise higher than average summer days (higher than 105 degrees!) which after all it means that once you get past say, 105 degrees it's all scorching anyway; it also means wet places will be "wetter" (there's that word again) and so on, just like the winter storms that have been exaggerated so far, everything else will follow suit. (picture on left is part of City Center and yes those are the leaning condo towers with the mall out front)

Anyway, having good weather makes us want to take advantage of this and "tool around town". We hadn't really scoped out all the new construction in town (there's just too many construction sites around, some stopped but others barreling along) especially on the Strip which is all but unrecognizable to us from 4 years ago. So just wanting to play tourist for a day took us into the Strip for a "look's see".....

Headed West and once we were on Las Vegas Blvd. went South, since there's nothing to speak up North anyway... it's not the best part of town up there, traffic was pretty light since it was only the noontime hour and this allowed us to be able to notice many of the changes taking place. It's really amazing to me just how different the Strip is in comparison to the one we initially had way back in 1989.... very few of the resorts that were present then are still in operation today and those that are still there have new owners.
Our destination was the new "City Center" complex and the public art offerings they've got on this massive piece of development but the first order of business was getting free parking so we opted for the Aria / Crystals public parking and we found something close to the elevator banks easily (they have preferential parking for alternate fuel vehicles here). After going up a level and walking over the walkway to the Tram station; they are located on all the properties in this complex and connect to the Monte Carlo and Bellagio Resorts which are next to this so it's easy to go back and forth on this free monorail. Here's a a link to the complex so you can see what it looks like

We wanted to check out the new Crystals Mall so once the tram left us at their stop it was an easy walk to this environmentally committed project which has garnered plenty of LEED awards. A very cool looking "city" full of metal, glass and water features that brings modern to a new high, we really liked the "look" to this multi-level mall yet the spaces gave us a strange feeling while going from one level to another which took more than a couple of minutes to get used to but we wanted a nice walk and this really fit the bill.

The public art is all modern with materials ranging from metal, glass and water in all representations from reflecting pools to infinity pools of all sizes, everywhere. Combination of all types of sustainable materials too like woods and glass. You have no idea of how much glass is in this place! It's quite something. (on the right: whirpools inside these crystal tubes which you can create by moving your hand on top of the tube)

After quite a while of looking at nothing but "uber" luxury shops, celebrity chef restaurants and 5 star hotels (and two leaning condo towers) this "everything" spot made us yearn for more familiar turf and we decided to re-visit one of our favorites which is the Bellagio Resort and see what their Botanical Gardens had to offer since they change everything around to match the seasons but found it closed and being readied for their Spring presentation. We decided to have some coffees and treats at the Pattissiere there, take a break and decide what to do for a late lunch. Do look into their site as this particular shop has true eatable works of art to offer, here is their link (check out the chocolates waterfall too! Picture below is one of the seafood restaurants here)

Before returning home after our day of exploring, we ended up having burgers at "Kilroys" one of the best local burger joints in town. Sure, there are fancier places on the Strip serving Wagyu beef and stuff like that but all I need is a great 1/2 lb sirloin burger cooked rare, the way I like. Now you might think this is an easy thing but more and more we're finding that in this land of national chains with meat from doubtful providence that your "regular burger" is relegated into the "designer" category and is no longer "cheap eats", i.e: the dry-aged ground prime rib burger at the Minetta Tavern in NYC for $26 that's touted as THE best burger around is not here after all., lol.... but for us regular folk, an excellent all around quality sirloin burger is sheer heaven when you're in the mood.

Ricardo had the Chili Cheese Burger with homemade sirloin chili, sharp cheddar and red onions; Rene had his favorite the Western Cheddar BBQ Burger with onion rings, sharp cheddar and tasty bacon and I had my standard Mushroom, Cheddar, Bacon and Sour Cream. All very rare and all come with Cole Slaw, we shared some Beer Batter Fries (YUM!) and with Coke's and Iced Tea, burgers for under $10, it's a guilty pleasure definitely.

It was now almost dusk and we were ready to head home after a full day of sightseeing, besides Kitty had been by herself all day and no telling what mischief she'd gotten into..... she's really curious, smart and into everything! Plus, she doesn't like being by herself (especially after dark, and yes, we know that she's a cat and supposed to be independent and like the dark.... but NO!... not this kitty), so off we went back to our house for a relaxing night in......

Here's a simple recipe for "Beer Battered Fries" you might want to try. This one contains egg which I leave off (I use a whole beer and the dark or fuller flavored the better regardless of what any other recipes tell you to do), I don't use any seasoning salt either since salt affects me..... and it's just as good. You can use all other kinds of vegetables to fry this way too: cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, onion, mushrooms, etc. are wonderful this way. Kind of "tempura" so you can see the uses this could have, right?

6-8 russet potatoes, peeled, cut potato length 2 inch wide strips
1 whole cauliflower, broken into individual sections (or whatever you want instead)
1 cup flour or rice flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons mccormick all seasoning
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup beer
1 quart oil
Pam cooking spray
lemon juice (optional)

Wrap towels around the cut potatoes, pat dry. Cut thin slices of each floret, across the grain. In large mixing bowl, mix flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and all seasoning. Blend well. In medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs until frothy, then add beer and mix. Add liquid to dry mixture and beat until blended. Batter must not be runny. If it is too thick add a tbsp of beer at a time until it is batter that will hold to the vegetables. Note: The size of the eggs determine the amount of additional beer needed.

Heat oil to 375°F Dip 6 to 8 potatoes slices into batter at a time, the same with the cauliflower slices. Fry until golden brown. Place each batch in a large warmed plate with cover. Some like to squirt lemon juice on the slices, then dip in sauce of their choice or eat with just the lemon juice and seasoned batter.
NOTE: I make my "Homemade Ranch Dressing" to serve with this (recipe is on here under dressings, try it it's fabulous!) MY recipe for the beer batter only has flour, some cayenne or paprika and the beer. That's it..... (also on here) but play around until you get the one you like best.

I am starting another blog, also food related but a slightly different take on food which should be up and running pretty soon. I'll post the new blog as soon as I've got it done in case you're interested. This one will have a more professional feel and the publication will be professional.
Talk soon......

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