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Friday, January 8, 2010


Happy New Year, friends!

Where do I even begin?! My holidays were filled with travels in Vegas, San Diego and Temecula—a nice string of movement and fun-filled activities, delicious food and, of course, family. My 7-year old niece, Hana, had received a Wii for Hannukah and quickly became an avid champion who beat all other kids and adults alike. I did, however, play a remarkable game of bowling, in which I got six strikes in a row to finish off at 223 points. S-I-X. Apparently, it's called a "six-pack" (and three in a row is called a "wild turkey"). That never would have happened in real life bowling.

As for Vegas...I don’t believe that there is a good way to “recap” Vegas. I shocked even myself by staying up until 3 am or 4am every single night I was there. Aside from eating many meals at very odd hours, I also squeezed in some dinners at Hubert Keller’s Fleur de Lys and Burger Bar (there is now one in SF) and Michael Mina’s Stripsteak. And since no vegas trip is complete without an excessive buffet, we stopped in at the Paris buffet.

Of all the foodie delights, Stripsteak was the highlight. It helps that they give you a complimentary order of perfectly cooked french fries with a trio of homemade sauces. And then, they also bring you a personal cast iron pan of sizzling hot rosemary potato focaccia. Nothin like free food to make you feel special. The focaccia was the best bread item i have ever eaten. The potatoes are milled through a ricer to help create a light and fluffy texture to the bread, it was perfectly seasoned and the cast iron created a nice crispy crust for each bite. I understand it's a steakhouse, but they literally had no vegetarian entree item on the menu. None. I had to get "chef's selection," which was a pitiful round up of every side dish and garnish that is generally used for the meat dishes. A platter came out with some olives, a dollop of celery root puree, a little pile of brussel sprout hash, a few sprigs of arugula with a sliced tomato and then the "main" centerpiece was a huge scoop of truffled mashed potatoes. It was exceptionally disappointing. Luckily, I did also order a fantastic spinach souffle, over which the waitress poured some parmesan cream. Yum.

But mainly what I wanted to tell you about is the gambling. Naturally. It was my first trip to Vegas as an adult--I had been many times as a kid and teenager, but had not really remembered the layout or what it is like to gamble. When I was little, my dad would let me pick out numbers for an occasional game of Keno, but that's about it. While sitting very quietly trying to observe the black jack table and mind my own non-gambling business, someone gave me a $25 chip to play on account of my “good luck presence” that raked in several hundreds of dollars since I had first sat down. Somehow, I magically turned that $25 chip into over $700 in chips within two hours. Hellooooooo, Vegas.

We did get to see Vegas' newest shining beauty, the City Center anchored by the gorgeous Aria Hotel & Casino. The Aria's new casino is about to change the face of Vegas forever--it is as though the W hotel became a casino. Dark cherry wood, nice lighting, contemporary furniture and modern decor everywhere you turn. I loved it (and yes, I checked out the buffet and it looked great).

Sometimes when you have a nice long vacation, you come back only to realize you need a little vacation from your vacation. It took me a few days to unpack, put away holiday decorations and get my head in gear for the work ahead. But, I am ready.

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