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Friday, November 13, 2009

Ravioli and Trellis Merlot

Hadn't posted any pics for a while so here goes!
The first is a picture of an avocado taken from my Parents tree. I think these are tastiest avos I have ever had. A nice butter flavor with great texture. The Pit is a bit too big for my liking but for free how can I argue?

The mixed green salad was something the wife whipped up. I used a red wine/balsamic dressing I made with a touch of Dijon and Japanese Mayo. I thought the tuna on top was a nice touch.

And finally the Ravioli. It was a non-Costco brand with Spinach and Cheese that I bought at Costco nonetheless. The Sun-dried Tomato/Lime/Caper sauce we make with ravioli went well but not as well as when we used the Costco Cheese Ravioli. The Costco brand is a bigger ravioli with more cheese, which in my opinion pairs much nicer with the lighter olive oil based sauce. Next time we will go with a heavier creme or tomato based sauce.

The Wine was adequate by 5 dollar wine standards, It took a while to open up and breathe and was a bit of a tease in that it had a great nose, a great color, but not a great taste nor finish. It didnt stop me from drinking almost the whole thing though! Enjoy the pics and as always feel free to comment.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

TJs Wine Review-2008 Zarafa

Went on a TJ run for some cheapie wines and this is the first Ive opened so thought Id shoot a quickie review.

On the nose it smells decent enough. I will admit in this area I am a bit lacking this week due to the fact I am getting over a partial cold.

As for the taste-it starts off pleasant enough but has a finish that can best be described as "off." Maybe I got a bad bottle or something but this got a mediocre review from the wife and a below average from me....even by sub 5 dollar wine standards. And once again...maybe it could be to my sinus condition.

Upon further review, maybe this is a good example of a varietal that I'm not just too fond of? Could be. If Im not mistaken this may be the first South African wine I have ever tried. Ive got 3 others on the shelf for review so check back soon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ghost Pines Cab at Costco for 14.99!

I was as at Costco earlier today in Irvine and they had one of my favorite wines at $14.99 a bottle.

Ghost Pines Cabernet

I have reviewed it here previously but for 15 bucks this is really a bargain for a Cab at this price point. If I had the money and a place to store it-totally not unreasonable to pick up a case. Its got a very balance of fruit and oak and trust me I have paid more and gotten much less. I would say given a blind tasting most would say this was a 30-40 dollar bottle.

For the record-they also carry this at Total Wine for the same price and don't quote but maybe even give the 6 wine bottle discount so that may even be a better option but given the amount of Costcos in the US I would be remiss if I didn't mention this to my friends in blog and hockey land.

For the record-I am pleased to announce that doing a google image search for "ghost pines cab" shows results of pics from my blog! I guess I'm moving up in the wine blogging world. Now if only producers would send me free bottles to rate and review I would really be on cloud 9....or "croud" nice as my wife might say.

On that same note-if anyone knows of a sub 10 dollar home run value please share. With the economy the way it is a bottle of Ghost Pines may as well be Opus 1.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pumkin Time

Im rolling with Mickey Mouse this year and maybe Captain Crunch when I can pick up a bigger pumpkin. Any tips on how to properly photograph pumpkins would be much appreciated.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Blogging in Maui; Takamiya Markets Delicious Ribs

There is a little shop in Wailuku Maui that is listed in almost every Japanese Brochure for Maui but not so many American brochures. My wife told me they are known for their teriyaki and its hugely popular for visiting asians. Ironically, I was going to go here on my last trip to maui but when we made it to the shop it happened to be on a sunday which happened to coincide with the day the market is closed.

This time however I made it one of our musts on our list of things we absolutely had to do and I was not disappointed. Located in a part of maui that looks like its not the best, most attractive part of the island by far lies this little shop that's a dream come true for us foodies. With real cuts of meat, it could be called a butcher shop by Maui standards but not really like a butcher shop by Beef Palace Standards.

They had prepacked steaks but do some specialty cuts as well though I was really just content with getting some of the Kalbi style ribs prepacked/pre-marinated and ready to grill. My we also picked up some Shoyu Ahi Poke(raw fresh tuna cubes marinated), Kim Chee Tako(Octopus marinated in Kim Chee seasoning), mac salad(every meal in Hawaii comes with mac salad...when in rome!), and a thick delicious Maui onion we also bought. They also had a hot lamp filled with Bento and Spam Masubi and other stuff but time was semi-limited. One thing that they had that I truly have never seen was two types of marinated beef...grade B and grade C. I can honestly say that of the numerous butcher shops I have been to I am semi sure I have never seen any Grade B beef...much less Grade C. I couldnt help but think after eating the Ribs that one of my old sneakers marinated overnight would have been palatable.

I took the meat back to the condo's grill, poured myself a big plastic glass of Lindeman's Cawarra I bought a few days earlier at Costco and went about fulfilling my dream of drinking wine on the beach while BBQing in Hawaii.

Hawaiian Style Kalbi Ribs...this teriyaki was almost like a candy style glaze. The ribs themselves are cut thicker then the ribs we get in So Cal. Next time I get back I will request them to be cut thinner. Not that I am knocking up, I am just used to the more traditional style korean cut.

The Shoyu Ahi Poke and Kim Chee Tako.

Some other pics of the meal.

All in All the hoopla of this place is completely warranted. Much like the proverbial needle in the haystack, in a town that looks like time has passed it by and the time that has kept has treated it none too kindly, this place will forever be on my list of must things to do in Maui. Probably the best sweet Teriyaki I have ever had with some of the freshest, most authentic Hawaiian dishes I have ever had...of course I have only been in Maui twice so take it for what its worth. We also ate at the Gazebo, not bad for the pancakes and the Fried Rice so popular on Yelp but by that same token not in the same class as Egg's and Things in Honolulu.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Chicken, Fish, and the Worlds Greatest Mac N Cheese

Had some of my hockey friends over during the weekend in LGK's Homer Simpson and his beautiful wife Marge(ok her real name is Kelly but how can I not use such an obvious set up?) We enjoyed a bottle of the Ghost Pines Merlot, my wife's signature Miso Garlic Tuna, my seasoned Dorado on Cedar Plank, Lemon Pepper Chicken and Homer World Famous Mac n Cheese.

Lemon Pepper Chicken with Roasted Corn. Got the chicken from the Beef Palace in Huntington Beach. You will never find a better, plumper, juicier chicken then at this place. They're old school though-they don't take Credit Cards and don't have a website. I can't stress enough to click on the pics for a better view of the food items. The Chicken in particular looks fantastic.

Here is a picture of one of my favorite summer side dishes, sliced tomatoes topped with onion slices that my wife manages to tame down a bit by soaking in water and rice vinegar, and then tops the whole thing with a drizzle of some japanese style dressing that I have no idea what it or what the brand is as its all in japanese characters. Apparently its not available here in the states, we get it sent in the occasional care package sent from Hayama Japan.

Slices of the Miso-Garlic Tuna. One day I will try this with fresh Ahi tuna and keep the middle rare. The Miso makes a fantastic glaze.

Another shot of the two....

Here is the chicken, once again you just simply cant go wrong with Chicken from the Beef Palace.

Homer helps out with manning the BBQ and savors the wine. Truth be told I thought the Ghost Pines Cab was better then the Merlot. It was still very very good especially for the price but if the Cab was a home run we'll call the Merlot a double. I would still go with the Chateau St Michelle for Merlot.

Alex overlooks the spread. He has had Homer mac N Cheese in the past and was very very happy to get more of it on this night. His night got better as we not only had peach pie after wards-but he got to play his new favorite game...Blackjack. Homers Mac n Cheese is fantastic...I would give the recipe here but Im sworn to secrecy.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sauvignon Blanc and Nectarines

Myself and some of my culinary based hockey pals have all been raving about this years crop of Nectarines. Its literally impossible to get a bad one this season. Yellow or White Nectarines are a cant miss with a sweetness that's almost over the top.

So early Tonight, I am drinking a low grade Sauvignon Blanc along with the aforementioned Nectarines....and what a combo.

The sweetness of the nectarines is not only bringing out the lighter citrus notes of the wine but also bringing out hints of honey. Honest to god this is like drinking honey nectar. Then after drinking the wine and getting the semi tartness it brings-the sweetness of the nectarines is totally enhanced to the 10th degree. Almost tastes like a mango. Making all the better is I am by no means drinking some high end wine. This is literally something I picked up on a whim from World Market....Sea Cliff 2006 to be exact. I think it cost 5 bucks or something close to it. This probably reflects on my inexperience with white wine more then anything else but as far as whites go this is the best pairing I have ever experienced.

For you white wine fans- this is a fantastic pairing. I am not a big enough connoisseur to recommend a cheese with this but I would think a soft brie or maybe a mild white cheddar would pair incredibly.

Would love for someone to put this to the test. Please feel free to comment.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bernardus Chard, Ghost Pines Cab

Had 2 fantastic wines sunday in Bernardus Chardonnay and Ghost Pines Cabernet. Picked up both bottles at Total Wine in Tustin under 15 bucks a bottle. The Bernardus was recomended by a former co-worker while the Ghost Pines was the 2006 vintage. I reviewed the 2005 vintage previously with good results and was interested in seeing the consistency.

Both of these wines are fantastic values for the price. The Bernardus is one of the smoothest Chardonnays I have ever had with a finish that was very very clean and uber-smooth. Buoyed by apple and grapefruit overtones with just a touch of wood. I much prefer reds to whites but this was a fantastic wine.

The Ghost Pines Cab is a great example of the varietal with a deep dark color and an unmistakable essence of dark berries and deep wood. Usually the Ghost Pines will run around 20 bucks so to get this at 15 is a great deal. If you are accustomed to sub 10 dollar wines by all means spend the extra 5 to pick up a bottle of this. I think you would be hard pressed to find a better bottle for that price.

As for the some of the culinary accompaniment, I picked up some meats and cheeses from Claro's in Tustin. In particular the Garlic Salami was a textural masterpiece as was the Baby Swiss. We also had some Brie but must admit this was a Trader Joes offering. I also must admit that I have become accustomed to eating the rind. In this case with the TJs brie you really dont have much choice as its a smaller casing that makes cherry picking the brie a bit more difficult then when eating the wedge style brie.

All in all a wonderful evening with 2 great wines.

My Wife examining the color and doing the swirl test on the Bernardus.

The Spread...the blueberries look very big here but the fact is the grapes were just very small. I should mention as well the Parmigian Focacia Toast Points and balsamic/olive oil dipping sauce. A perfect pairing!

Sliced Meats-The Garlic Salami is in the middle with the Sopressata on the far right.

A couple of looks at the bottles.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Zenko Sushi Mission Viejo

For 22.95 it may be the best bargain in town. The servers are very very helpful and friendly and unlike some other AYCE sushi bars, their selection is very very good. Someone mentioned the huge ice cold waters, I should also mention they keep the place well chilled as the AC seemed to be going full bore. Hey, with sushi this good they gotta find a few creative ways to get people full and out the door.

The portion sizes are very nice, really-exactly what you would see at your normal sushi place which is nice because for an AYCE you tend to expect much less.

Th Green Dragon roll was very good, the stuffed Jalapeno was amazing...spicy but not overwhelming. Im a sucker for spicy tuna handrolls and these did not disappoint nor did the spicy scallop roll which I simply ordered because I could. And the Baked Mussels were incredible...I am sure I could have eaten 20 given the chance.

Their selection of Gourmet/Fancy/Americanized rolls was very very impressive. Me and the wife always have an ongoing joke that there are some items at Sushi Bars that if you dare order in Japan, the chef and the dishwasher pull you into the back alley and administer a beating simply for the having the nerve to order. If you have ever been to any MakiYaki you probably know what Im talking about. I have the ongoing joke that if you order something in Japan where the chef and the dishwasher come from the back and start to beat you have most likely ordered some bastardized california type sushi. Hell my ongoing follow up joke is in Japan if you order rice with your sushi you are a pussy.

Overall this place was great, I will certainly be back. When you think of your run of the mill Chinese AYCE that goes for roughly 12-13 bucks a pop and consider you can go to this place for 10 bucks more....its a complete no brainer.

Oh Yeah, did I mention they actually have a lobster roll as well?

We order 3 big beers(1 Sapporo 2 Kirin )and with 2 adults the tab with tip came to roughly 80 bucks. Not too shabby and the thrill of being able to order whatever the hell you want makes it worth it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I rove my baby back libs...Uncut, Uncensored & (temporarily) Raw

Knew I had to BBQ at least once this weekend and after seeing some delicious looking Chinese Style Salt and Pepper Wings was fully prepared to do grilled hot wings but once at the Market noticed Pork Short Ribs were only 99 cents per pound. Hadn't planned on taking on the low and slow method needed to make the best ribs but it is a holiday weekend and with just me and the family and I didnt need to buy a wheelbarrow full. Looking at the selection though I noticed Baby Backs weren't really all that much more. "Hmmmm, short ribs are so much work trimming and cutting and etc etc, wouldn't some semi low maintenance baby backs be better?"

With that I was in full blown rib mode.

I didn't have a handy rub ready as the 5lb bag I used to use for ribs was given to my brother during one of his Texas Smoker Frenzies he does every so often. In Lieu, I took some Chef Paul's Pork Magic and mixed it with Chef Paul's BBQ Magic with some additional Brown Sugar courtesy of Trader Joes and some Lemon Pepper.

Rubbed and Ready!

Next step is to balance the temperature (275-300 degrees) and get the smoke chips smoking without catching fire. Now on your standard Weber this can be pretty easy but with Propane its kind of balancing act using one burner to get the chips smoking, turning it off in time to prevent flare up, and cranking up another burner to keep the temp consistent. It is a bit daunting, but with red wine in hand on a holiday weekend-how could I complain?

Low and Slow with plenty of smoke.

After Roughly 3 hours its time to pull those puppies off but not before doing the BBQ glaze for 15-30 minutes. I cant stress enough to use the Olive Oil Trick when doing BBQ sauce on the grill. It's easy-basically cut up a bunch of garlic, and whip olive oil into any store bought BBQ sauce using a wire whip. This lessens the sugar concentration in the sauce to prevent burning as well as adding garlic flavor. Wont kid you-I used the Hickory BBQ Sauce from Walmart. Very good in that the garlic give an extra dimension in flavor and the Hickory BBQ Sauce has a tangy nuance that works perfectly with the sweet spicyness of the Dry Rub. Should mention as well that while I am not a big fan of White Corn-this year must be a good year for it as I have had it from a couple of different store and its been incredible every time. I recomend Henry's Market who had it 4 for a Buck. I laughed at the people checking the corn a the store making a mess in the aisle- at 25 cents an ear do we really need to check for quality and spend 30 minutes looking for the perfect ear?

Red Five Standing By-Almost There!

Finally, the ribs are ready to go! I was drinking a bottle of Avalon Cabernet that's constantly pimped by the people at Wine Pavilion in Lake Forest but I have to say its not that good....not even for the price. Maybe I should buy a Wine Aerator and try it again but overall not a good example of the varietal by any stretch. At this point I cant recommend enough the Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Merlot at Costco but now I just may be outright babbling. Ribs are a hell of a lot of work-but when done right are worth the wait.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Vegas....with Children

“Are you Crazy?”

That was my initial reaction when my brother first proposed that our two families along with our parents, plan a weekend trip to Las Vegas.

Flashing back to my 20’s and previous Vegas trips I recall there were absolutely no redeeming values that I could apply, nor want, to subject my family to. I remembered the annual pilgrimage to the MGM in September for the Frozen Fury Ice Hockey Game and the many antics and hi-jinks that were pulled with a stunning regularity with me and 20,000 other rabid hockey fans. I remember the weekend I vowed to only eat at Buffets and if no Buffet available would only eat fried Jalapeno Poppers. I remember doing the math and finding out that 2 hours worth of Vegas Bingo at 15 bucks meant I could actually consume at least 30 bucks worth of free drinks. I remember the time me and 3 of my “larger scaled” friends visited one of the cheaper Vegas Buffets and the look of horror on the managers face seeing me and 750 plus pounds of friend walk through the door. Somehow all of my memories of Vegas never quite meshed with the idea of bring my wife, and 2 boys ages 6 and 2, my mother and father, and brother’s family; another 3 boys ranging from 3-7. The whole idea sounded preposterous.

But having only been to the city twice in the last 8 years and figuring that Grandpa and Grandma could maybe watch the kids for a couple of evening hours and the idea of getting conjoined rooms….I rolled the dice on the idea and set forward. Hitting Sin City with 5 boys almost seemed like a bigger challenge then my quest to eat 100 Jalapeno Poppers. I couldn’t back down.

The drive up went well with me not hearing the first “Are we there yet?” until we were ½ way up the 91 freeway in Corona. We brought along a CD of “50 Favorite Children’s Songs” that while not exactly my idea of compelling driving music, at least kept their interest enough for us to hit Barstow.

Parking at the Barstow Outlet Center for the obligatory potty break, we also popped into the Old Navy Outlet. I have always felt the premise of the “outlet” nothing but a scam and in this case I was proved correct as the prices in Barstow were no better the foothill ranch location I had visited not one day before. A row of Vending Machines had the Kids asking me for quarters and I couldn’t help shake the feeling that quite possibly on our last day in Vegas it could very well be me asking them for quarters.

Knowing we still had a couple of hours drive….we picked up Burger King Happy Meals…something I would never approve of or do with any amount of regularity at home but anything that could possibly aid and abet a quiet and peaceful 2 hours plus remaining ride in this case made more the perfect sense.


Walking through the Flamingo to check in we noticed a large queue of people waiting in line with a semi large security presence. Walking closer to the action discovered that Marie Osmond was appearing in one of the Flamingo’s Shops on some type of promotional jaunt and signing autographs and pictures. Walking with my luggage a mere 5 yards away from her I bit my lip at the opportunity to ask her if she was still “a little bit country” or maybe try and launch some type of zinger claiming Jimmy was the most talented Osmond. I also couldn’t help but judge by the people waiting in line that several people must have made the commute from Utah and how Vegas is most certainly the polar opposite of Salt Lake. I am sure there were more then a handful of properly dressed down women in line who promptly planned on burning their shoes and clothing once back in Utah.

The Check-in line was non existent which was a welcome site, and being it still 2 o’clock was happy the front desk staff went ahead and gave us our room keys thus sparing us the extra 2 hour wait for the official check in time (We noticed in the same area 2 hours later that same check-in line was very long.) We were able to get 2 conjoined rooms and one additional room a bit further down the hall. Making our way up to the rooms and getting the luggage unpacked we heard a knock at the door and were roundly given a hearty greeting by my brothers two oldest boy ages 7 and 5 which was a welcome sight for my oldest who now had company his own age.

Getting into our swimsuits we had an hour plus of time left at the pool before it became Adults only. We headed down and found a nice shady spot and the water looked inviting with the weather being a perfect 95 degrees. I launched into the water only to be met with what can only be described as a slightly unsettling briskness. It wasn’t cold to the point where you wanted to jump out immediately but it was certainly cold enough where “refreshing” soon became “uncomfortable.”

We went down the waterslide a handful on times and while the kids weren’t complaining about the water temperature, grandma noticed my oldest sons lips were starting to turn blue and he was started to shiver a bit. Late June in Vegas with shivering and blue lips? We decided to return to the room to rest up a bit.

Later that night walking the strip it felt good to be in the night air but a bit weird keeping the perpetual head count making sure we had 5 kids with us at all times. It helped we brought 2 strollers but what I would have given to have a 5 seat model.

We found a restaurant at one of the casinos that was offering 15 dollar prime rib dinners. We inquired about the wait time and upon finding out it was an hour plus wait for a table, we knew it was not going to be possible for 5 hungry kids, thus we had to schlep the kids through the casino floor before finding settling on a food court with Subway and yet another Burger King. Making matters worse was the inconvenient location which found us situated smack dab in the middle of an area that was packed with people playing Beer Pong and the restrooms and what seemed like a myriad of 20-somethings staggering to and fro between the two stations. I did my best to keep the pace of the meal upbeat through the dinner in fear of some beer pong victim tripping on one of the kids strollers or at worst stumbling onto on of the kids. It certainly wasn’t the best place to be feeding the kids but in our situation we really didn’t have any other option. A far cry from the previous Vegas days of yore that saw me frequenting the Bellagio’s Seafood Buffet and ordering fine wine by the glass.

The next day we decided to take the kids to Circus Circus for the breakfast Buffet and the Kids area. The buffet was much better than I remembered circa 1994. Back in the day it had all of the charm and elegance of a high school cafeteria. This time the food appeared to be a notch or two above that labeled “for institutional use only”, and the kids loved the Sponge Bob 4D ride as well as the Air Hockey games. The table was not working right with very little air coming from the table and a puck that didn’t want to glide. Though they didn’t seem to mind the slower pace of the game I finally had to stand in the middle of the table and help the puck along to get to the other side. Good Times.

That Night saw us make our reservation at an Italian place my brother recommended called Batista’s Hole in the Wall. It was sharing an unimpressive strip mall with a liquor store/beer bar and from the outside really looked like a dump. My brother promised it was surprisingly good and how it was an old school style with the menus posted on the wall. Oddly enough, I have never had a bad meal at a place that had the Menu written on the wall and this was no different. All you can drink bottomless wine carafes wasn’t going to hurt my scoring scale either. As mentioned previously, it’s old school Vegas in its purist form complete with autographed pictures a plenty on the wall with various celebrities and the owner whom I presumed to be Mr. Batista smiling and striking the same pose in almost all of the pictures. The Wall we were seated by I spotted the Smother Brothers, Shirley MacLean and Mike Tyson and one picture of Al Pacino that bore no signature. Either it’s a law that all Italian places must have a picture of Al Pacino or he ate there and was unhappy with his meal. Either way, the garlic bread came and I enjoyed that the bread had clumps of real minced garlic and parsley atop a large jumbo sized style Italian roll sliced into large portions. The soup and salad were passable….nothing horrible but not exactly the freshness offered up by the Spaghetti Bender or even Olive Garden for that matter though I have to trust that to memory since I haven’t stepped foot in an olive garden in over 5 years. The Chicken Parmigiana was good but the breading came off of the chicken not the worst thing that could happen but also not a sign of top notch parm in my book. Did I mention that all meals came with free wine? Somehow I still couldn’t help but wonder if I should have brought a bottle from home and asked about the corking fee.

And there was entertainment as well when an 80 something year old man who probably weighed 1 lb for every year of his age, came by the table and asked in a thick Italian accent where we were from. When we said OC he immediately busted out his best accordion version of “It’s a Small World” much to the chagrin of the large party seated next to us. The grimace on their faces was very recognizable and I can only assume they must be Annual Pass Holders for Disneyland; for it was the same grimace I get on my face every time I’m at the Park and faced with the very real prospect of having to go on the ride and hear the song played ad nauseum for a time span seemingly longer then the drum solo on Ina Gadda Da Vida.

After the dinner we took a leisurely stroll down Las Vegas blvd just in time to see the water show at the Bellagio. It was a beautifully done, exquisitely choreographed fountain show that was timed perfectly with some classical piano musical piece that got more then its fair hare of its shares of oohs and aahs as burst of water were being shot 100 feet in the air. After it ended and a meek round of applause came from the crowd with my 2 ½ year old looking at me with a big smile and the comment “that was great fireworks.”

Our next and presumably last day before driving back was spent packing and hitting up one final buffet at the Excaliber. By this time the grandparents and my brother’s family went their own way back to OC and being we didn’t have a chance to take the kids to the Fun Court at the Excalibur we stopped by. Truth be told, the fun court was badly dilapidated with none of the change dispensers working and most of the games in sorry shape. I found an attendant to break a roll of quarters and mentally noted how this was the first quarter roll I saw since entering town. The Coin-less Vegas is certainly cleaner and easier with no constant need for handy wipes….although looking at the condition of the games certainly made me want to wash my hands ASAP after leaving the area. Hitting the Buffet we started discussing things we didn’t do and things we should have done. The M&Ms Store in particular was something we thought we would have all enjoyed. Discussing what we should have done over prime rib, shrimp cocktails, and arguably the best Mac and Cheese I’d ever had, I thought about staying the extra day.

Debating with the wife what would be a fair room price to stay the extra day we decided any sub $50 rate would be worth staying and really worth not getting back just in time to hit the 4 O’clock freeway rush hour traffic. I could almost see us sitting in traffic in front of Ontario Mills. Using one of the in-house courtesy phones I called the front desk and after a bit of negotiating in the form of asking about a AAA discount-I landed a 40 Buck room….we stayed.

We enjoyed the pool, it wasn’t as tropical as the Flamingo and didn’t have as many water slides but the water temp was much more enjoyable. I took my 2 year old down the waterslide once or twice, which warmed my heart in the form of a true Vegas style father/son moment. We lounged a bit on one of the chairs and even sat in the Jacuzzi for a couple of minutes. It was nice to see the wide open Vegas sky

We washed up and headed downtown hitting the M&M and Coke shops as well as some of the other kitsch shops on the strip at a much more leisurely pace then the rate we moved with 5 kids the previous day. The M&M shop had over 20 colors of regular M&Ms and a nice selection of Almond, Peanut Butter, and some other Gourmet flavors. They charged by the pound and after the family went about filling various bags of M&M ended up paying over 20 bucks. Any other time that might have seemed like a waste of money and badly overpriced; but being the last day of our Vegas vacation I was willing to roll with it.



Winding down the night the wife and I took turns with the kids in the room while the other enjoyed the few remaining Casino hours. I agreed to let her go first and was happy when she brought back a cash voucher for 40 dollars she had won on a nickel slot. Now keep in mind back in the day a penny or nickel slot meant you would play anywhere from 3 to 25 cents per pull but no one ever accused the powers that be who are calling the shots in Vegas weren’t money savvy. Today’s Penny Slots have some Machines that have at least 50 different play lines per pull with a 10 cent per pull maximum, in other words if you wanted to play the max on some of the penny slots you were looking at 5 bucks a pull.

“You can come back when you double our money” she jokingly said handing me the $40 dollar slip. I am pretty sure she expected me to lose it all and quite frankly so was I. I was actually preparing ways to use her half joking remark into an excuse to come back to the room at 3am.

After sauntering out the to casino on my own I also managed to parlay a couple of pulls on a nickel slot including a couple of back to back spins that landed me on the bonus screen. It kept paying and paying some more and my only qualm being I had to use the restroom and the fact that the one time I had a lot of credits in the machine also coincided with the one time the Cocktail Server managed to go MIA. I couldn’t have been to upset overall however as it was my last night; I had money in my wallet, and could back to the room having doubled the Wife’s winnings. My rule of Vegas has always been if you come back with a twenty dollar bill in your wallet-you were a winner. I went back to the room and slept a long satisfying sleep…after all, I brought the whole family to Vegas and not only had a great time, but they had a great time, and I didn’t lose all of my money. That’s always an accomplishment.

Waking up the next day, grabbing a quick shower, and checking out via the TV’s self checkout, we grabbed a cup of coffee from the nearest snack bar for the quick wake up boost needed to load the luggage to Van and then one more final stop to hit up a McDonalds near the 15 freeway for some breakfast and to top off the fuel tank. The drive back was surprisingly smooth; I was very glad not to face the Sunday or Monday traffic I’ve heard has become a problem and especially glad to know that I would most likely beat the rush hour traffic as well.

We made one final stop at the Bob Big Boy in Barstow. I promised the kids we would share a hot fudge cake if they behaved. The Big Boy Combo was just like I remembered and much to my pleased surprise they were running a Strawberry Ice Cream Hot Fudge Cake that was a very nice treat and great way to end the prolonged weekend. We missed traffic all the way home arriving back in South OC well before rush hour and gave me a couple of hours to rest and do my best to ignore the fact that within hours I would find myself back in the office and once again, facing reality.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I have found a new home! Albatros Mexican Food

I have been in Lake Forest now for almost 4 years and always lamented there was no real good Mexican places like Huntington or Long Beach. Tried this place last night and loved it! Its what you'd expect for a hole in the wall but the portions or good, the meat flavored nicely, as ordering a couple of extra flour tortillas was surprised to see they gave me some of the super sized tortillas. I'm a believer...may not be the best in OC but certainly the best is Lake Forest and this area. I'm almost tempted to give 5 stars. The green and red salsas were spicy without being over the top, the tortillas are grilled and stuffed until they get that slightly translucent appearance to them that I love with patches of semi burnt areas. The carnitas was seasoned perfectly and flakey and tender. Its open 24 hours which means nothing to me these days but its a nice option.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Copper Salmon; the noblest of all pink fleshed fish

Had quite a weekend that featured some high quality steaks at Costco, A nice slab of Copper River Salmon, and a fine wine in the Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells 2005 Merlot. Everything was so amazing its hard for me to pick a place to start. I may as well go straight to the Salmon. We had so much food that we elected to simply outright smoke one slab and the other I got to take home for the Sunday BBQ. Using the biggest, heartiest slab of Salmon I used a simple brine and a Ziploc in the fridge for roughly 4 or 5 hours. I would have liked to done it overnight but alas being short notice the 4-5 hours sufficed. My brine was nothing fancy, Sea Salt, Brown Sugar, Cracked Black Pepper no more no less. After that it was straight onto the smoker where it sat for roughly 3 hours at a low heat using pecan chunks for the smoke. This was the first time we smoked a salmon of this quality as well as being the first time using the brine technique. I couldn't help but think that smoking a high quality Copper River Salmon may have been like using Filet Mignon for Hamburger Helper but at the same time-why not go for broke? I also smoked some Olive Oil Saffron Lamb Chops as well as some Sharp Cheddar and Jack Cheese for appetizers.

The next night we had leftover steaks and a leftover slab of Salmon...I was so dissapointed that I had to spend Sunday Night BBQing. Add Sarcasm Smiley right here.
The Steaks were over the top but delicious enough, and the salmon-lets just say you cant go wrong with Copper River Salmon and Chef Pauls Magic Salmon Seasoning. You simply cant-you cant put on enough of the seasoning and barring one drastically overcooking the salmon its a perfect meal. Notice the garlic clove sauteeing in steak fat in the middle of the grill. Nutritious and Delicious!

And finally since I know I havent done a wine review in a while I picked up a bottle of the Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells 2005 Merlot. Amazing wine. A nice oak flavored nuanced by a gentle, chewy but slight cherryish overtone. Some reviews had it as very good but just short of excellent. I can agree with that whole heartidly but for 15 bucks a bottle I think it an excellent buy. Maybe the best sub 20 bottle Ive had since the Ghost Pines.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Thats The Way Ahi Ahi I like it......

The Local Gourmet Market...aka Sprouts had a pretty good deal on Ahi Tuna that I couldn't pass up. I marinated my steak in Worcestershire, Garlic Powder, and Olive Oil while the Wife went with the Japanese Miso Green Onion style. Truth be told I'll let her do them both next time as I preferred the Asian infused flavor of hers as opposed to mine. Not saying the Worcestershire was bad-but hers was 10 times better bar none. The nutty flavor of the Sesame Oil in conjunction with the Miso is just a cant miss.

Some other pics I from a couple of weeks ago was the first Cedar Plank Salmon of the summer. Sadly, it wasnt the Copper River variety and making matters worse, the fact it was actually Farm Raised Salmon which I generally shy away from. It was from Canada though so I can fool myself into think that Canadian Farm Raised Salmon must be better quality then that of the US brethren.