Saturday, March 30, 2013

Trend: Birkenstocks and Socks?

Egads! Please don't tell me that this is the next big thing? I am definitely not on board with this trend.

What's up with shoe trends as of late? I thought we were finally leaving Uggs behind. I get that they are comfortable and all but I am a firm believer that "if it's cold enough to wear boots, it's too cold to wear shorts". Shabby, salt stained Uggs are the antithesis of fashion. Sorry Uggies, don't mean to offend but those booties need upkeep to look decent at the best of times.

I accepted the Hunter rain boot trend, complete with the specialized sock insert (read: expensive) but socks and Birkenstocks? Even GQ is debating this, and I cringe at the fact they think it's acceptable even some of the time. The Sartorialist is usually on the ball about these things, so perhaps Montreal is only a few weeks away from a Birkenstock Sock invasion - and not just at your local organic health food store!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shop: Coach Vanessa Boot (Again)

Someone liked my Instagram picture of  Coach Vanessa Boots  so much that they copied it from my blog and added it to their eBay posting. I did a double take when I saw the picture; I had to go back to my blog just to check if it was indeed mine. Funny that at first, I could not recognize my own hand.

In any case, if someone is a size 6, there boots are totally worth the price. Apart from my Frye boots they are my favourite. This is why I was searching on Vanessa Coach boots on eBay when I already had a pair; I would buy a second pair in an instant.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Watch: So freaking psyched for GoT!!

I don't know if I have ever been so excited about a television show. Okay, maybe for a time I was as infatuated with Lost but I blame it on the gimmicky cliffhangers they employed to manipulate audiences to stick around. (Stupid, stupid Lost..... worst 'payoff' ever!) GoT doesn't need such gimmicks to entice me to come back week after week. I adore everything about the show; the actors, dialogue, set design, costumes, etc. It's hard to pinpoint what aspects I like best since I really think it's strong all around.

Needless to say, Sunday evening is all about Game of Thrones. I was adamant about keeping it free for the sole purpose of watching the season premiere in real time. Not after the fact on PVR. Nope. I must watch it right away so not a single plot line will be ruined for me on Facebook before I get to see it. No joke, I was willing to skip out on Easter festivities if needed just so I could watch it. I have the Easter bunny at my house anyway; she'll be watching it with me.

Photo courtesy of HBO

Read: Good on you, N.D.G!

I was thoroughly excited when I spotted this little 'vending machine' in N.D.G recently. I've never seen it before and wasn't even aware it existed until a few weeks ago when I was walking back to my car from a doctor appointment. At first I assumed it was a highly graffiti-ed newspaper vending machine but when I got up close I was surprised to discover it was a borough sponsored initiative to allow locals to drop off/pick up free books. Now I will admit that it only had a handful of books in it and none of them were very interesting to me but I applaud the initiative! If this project is only a pilot, I hope the boxes remain until at least the end of the year because I believe that they will see more use in the spring and summer months. Not long after I saw the first one outside Second Cup on Sherbrooke, I saw another on Monkland near Old Orchard. I really love the idea, and I will definitely set aside some books to share. Has anyone used this service yet? Cool beans!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Shop: Daffodils Days

As part of Daffodil month, the Canadian Cancer Society sets up kiosks all  over Quebec to sell fresh daffodils. I've never seen any advertisement in advance of the event so never know when it will be held. For this reason I always keep an eye out, especially since the event only lasts about four days. I think it's a great opportunity to donate to the cause with the added benefit of having some lovely flowers to decorate my desk. My favourite flower, actually. Luckily for me, my company hosts the event every year. I am always pleasantly surprised when I walk into the cafeteria at lunch time and see the table set up with all the flowers in jars that have yet to bloom.

When I saw the kiosk last Wednesday, I handed over a twenty dollar bill and asked for ten dollars worth of flowers. I told the woman that they could keep the extra money as a donation; I normally take the opportunity to buy a bundle of flowers but also to donate a little extra. It's not terribly complicated logic, at least not to me... I give ten dollars for ten actual flowers and they keep the extra ten dollars for the cause. The woman thought about it for a few seconds before declaring that it was too complicated and insisted that I just take twenty dollars worth of flowers. I considered trying to correct her (they could sell it to another person to raise more money!) but in the end I didn't protest. They still got the money even if the gesture wasn't as altruistic as I intended.

Aren't they pretty? They smelled wonderful too.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Shop: Spring Splurge at LOFT

While in Vegas I had the opportunity to shop at some of my favourite clothing stores that have not yet made their way to Montreal. Perhaps it is simply not having these stores in Montreal which makes me want to shop there but I long for the day they open up a few locations here locally. I'm sure some of the cachet of J. Crew has a lot to do with it's inaccessibility. Unfortunately I did not find a J. Crew in Vegas but I did get to visit LOFT.

LOFT is to Anne Taylor what the Gap is to Banana Republic. A lower price point and lower quality but similar cut/colour/style based on the season. For example, both Gap and BR will have a henley or camp shirt in their collection but the quality of the seaming/buttons/material would be noticeably better in the Banana Republic version. Same rules apply to Ann Taylor/LOFT.

In any case, LOFT has a really cute collection this season. I love the mix of bright bold patterns and colour contrasted with black and white combinations. If you like wearing colour then this season is for you; every store seems to have oodles of clothing in turquoise, teal, coral, fuchsia, and orange. So pretty!

These are items that I ended up buying, on sale no less. It's a bit early here in Montreal to be wearing spring clothes but I've just combining the sleeveless tops with cardigans for now. I'm hoping we see some spring weather soon but the first day of spring brought 15cm of snow...sigh...spring in Montreal. Soon...

Dot Print Pleated Knit Shell by LOFT

Falling Dots Print Fluid Henley Blouse by LOFT

Parrot Print Colorblock Hem Shell by LOFT

Parrot Print Colorblock Hem Shell by LOFT

Parrot Print Wedge Dress by Loft

Parrot Print Wedge Dress by LOFT

Floral Variety Drapey Crepe Blazer by LOFT

Floral Variety Drapey Crepe Blazer by LOFT

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bunny: New Discovery

Ellie is perpetually on the move. There may be a period of days where she gravitates to certain areas and toys over and over again but then out of nowhere she decides to go on a discovery mission to see what else she can chew, scratch, climb or jump on. Last night, she discovered our second couch. It's odd, its one of the largest pieces of furniture in the room and yet she never expressed an interest in it until now. Perhaps it is because Marc and I never really use it, we prefer the softer, more comfortable couch that faces the television; despite the fact that she likes to stay just our of arms reach, she still likes to be close to us. It's a good thing I don't like that couch very much because it's about to be mauled at the hands (paws, actually) of Ellie the destroyer.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Eat: Steel Cut Oats

I will shamelessly admit that I enjoy the contents of those little brown packets of Quaker Oats instant oatmeal. It's what I ate nearly every morning for breakfast while growing up, so I'm a tad nostalgic. Does anyone else remember the different drawings of animals and the description of their local habitat on each packet? I loved it; I would read and re-read theme over and over again while I ate. I wasn't a very adventurous eater so I pretty much stuck to maple and brown sugar. At times, my parents tried to convince me to try the others (cinnamon & spice, peaches & cream) but with enough grimacing and miming like a person poisoned, they left me to my favourite.

I've heard a lot of hype about steel cut oats over the last couple of years so I decided I would give it a try and I have to say that it trumps those little packets. The end result is really worth the extra effort, which is really not much more than washing a dirty pot. Be warned .....I've made it twice and both times I accidentally let it boil over. Do not let this happen to you! Babysit the pot a little more than I did because it is a real pain in the arse to clean gluey oatmeal of the elements. You really just need to stir it and take the lid off every now and then so it doesn't boil over. The resulting oatmeal has the most wonderful texture, both firm and creamy/soft at the same time. I like the bite to it. It's worth making a big batch so that I can portion out breakfast for the week. I usually add a few tablespoons of water and microwave it for a minute or so. It ends up with a texture which is just as good as the first day it was made.

You can tell I'm still self indulgent with my topping choices; brown sugar and a few dark chocolate chips. Nom nom....

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

811 Days of Adult Braces

Sometimes I actually forget about my braces. For the most part they don't hurt or affect me much anymore (apart from the labour intensive cleaning regiment) so it's easy to forget they are there for a few hours at a time. A quick reflection in an elevator mirror or storefront window however, and I am instantly reminded of how desperately I want to have them removed from my teeth and my life.

It's been 2 years, 2 months and 20 days since I had braces affixed to my upper teeth and a mere 1 year, 9 months and 26 days for the bottom teeth. I was told during the initial assessment that it would take approximately 2 to 2 1/2 years for treatment. I took that statement very literal, hoping that the two year mark would automatically trigger a conversation with the orthodontist about plans for removal. That never happened. In fact, when I asked about removal I was met with chiding for even asking the question, not to mention mild mockery for questioning the orthodontic process. Why is it so bad to ask these questions? As it is, I already feel a little duped because I was told that I would have clear (i.e. ceramic) braces. They were indeed ceramic but far from invisible; they never mentioned that the wire being used would be very thick and dark. To make matters worse the c-chain I have worn for almost the full 2 years covers over the entire top row of brackets; it may start out clear or light grey but always ends up greenish brown by the end of a 8-9 week cycle. It's as attractive as it sounds, trust me.

Another aspect that took me by surprise was the condition of my teeth once they were finally moved into the correct position. I imagine that when young children have braces and all their teeth rotate and align, their relatively evenly worn teeth form a nice horizontal line. In my case (having braces at the ripe old age of 35), when my teeth finally rotated I was shocked to discover that the edges of my teeth wore down unevenly based on how they were angled all this time. Makes sense of course, but it didn't dawn on me and I wasn't exactly warned. So....I do not have a nice horizontal line of teeth, more of a jagged fang-like appearance. The orthodontist told me after I already had braces that I will need filing and ceramic refinishing to refine the edges of my teeth. Again, something I wish I knew beforehand.

When people ask me when I am getting the braces off, I often feel dejected. When I explain that I don't know and that it should be within the 2-21/2 year window, I am often met with "that's a really long time, it wasn't as long for so and so..." and "How can you not know when?". It seems the only people that get it are former brace-faces. They all seem quite familiar with the evasive techniques of orthodontists, not to mention how quickly 2 years starts to look more like 3 or 4. I have another adjustment appointment next week and I am bracing myself (har har) for disappointment. They are obviously fed up with me asking for a status update and I am fed up with finding out they need to make yet another bracket adjustment. I hope that this next appointment will contain more positive developments but if not, I'm going to passive aggressively punish my orthodontist by eating tuna before my next appointment.

Check out the jagged edge of my upper front tooth.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bunny: The Dreaded Vet Visit

This coming Friday I will be corralling Ellie into a carrier for her first visit to the veterinarian. It will be the first time she leaves the house since we brought her home and the first time we put her in the carrier that we bought. I'm pretty nervous about the whole endeavour because I have some time constraints with getting home from work, coaxing her into the carrier, driving to the vet and then finding parking within a one hour window. I'm scared that she will refuse to get into the cage or that she will flip out when I lock her the box. I considered doing trial runs but I swear this rabbit can hold a grudge.... when I don't let her do something or when I try to pick her up, she looks at me with those cold glassy eyes and shuns my touch. Rabbit rejection...sigh. I'm afraid if I try a dry run she will know to avoid the box altogether on the big day. I have the carrier open on the living room floor, stuffed with her favourite scarf and a few lettuce leaves for good measure. She hasn't gone into it as much as I hoped but at least she doesn't seem entirely afraid of it.

On the flip side, I'm excited to take her to the vet because I have so many questions. It's an exotic animal vet where they specialize in birds, reptiles, rabbits, etc. so I know I will be getting good advice. I'm hoping they can give me some practical advice on how to pick her up without getting mauled. Ellie will also be getting her nails trimmed (yay!) during the visit which may help me avoid additional scar tissue going forward. Huzzah! During our call, the vet said she would show me how to clip nails but I'm not 100% sure I'm comfortable doing it myself. Ellie looses her shit if I so much as touch her paws, I can't imagine going at them with clippers. I'm guessing that the vet will have her hands full with Ellie because she truly does not like to be handled. I'm also curious because I have no idea is she is the right weight for her age, or if we can start adding new veggies to her diet. So much of what I read online is contradictory (and downright scary!) that I'd rather find out directly from the vet.

The most important question to be answered during our visit is whether or not Ms. Eleanor Binky Wigglebottom is in fact, female. The vet said stores often claim a rabbit is a specific sex when they sell them but that it's difficult to sex a rabbit before it reaches about 4 months old. We set the appointment for just after she turned 4 months so that we could verify this during the visit. It's not such a big deal for us as we only have one rabbit (no accidental breeding). But, after 6 months or so I will have to book an appointment to have her/him spayed/neutered and the cost varies significantly depending on whether it is a male or female.

Eleanor and The Carrier of Doom

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bunny: Hanging out on the Couch

I have no idea if all bunnies have trust issues or if Ellie is particular. It's not to say that she is unfriendly, but if she decides she wants to stretch out and relax she always makes sure she's just out of arms reach when she does it. Sometimes I tippy-toe over to her ninja-style so that I can pet her exposed belly but most of the time my ninja-style is more akin to elephant-style and she jolts up before I can reach her.

But lately, Ellie has taken a liking to hanging out with us on the couch. She still remains just out of reach, stretching out on the arm of the couch like a gargoyle but it's nice to feel like she wants to be closer to us now. One magical evening while I was stretched out on the couch with my arm draped out over a pillow, she actually placed herself on the pillow along my underarm and torso so that I was spooning her as she lied down. I'm glad Marc was there to see it because he would have never believed me otherwise. It felt like the ultimate acceptance. It only lasted 10 minutes but it was awesome!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Shop: The Perfect Apron

While strolling on St. Denis this past weekend, Marc and I stopped in at Arthur Quentin, one of our  favourite kitchen/houseware stores in Montreal. They carry wonderful kitchen goodies from Quebec and all over the world. It's hard to keep my impulse control in check when we shop here because I have fantasies about buying everything There's nothing I don't want; dish towels, copper cookware, laguioles knives, opinel knives, Émile Henry and le Crueset dutch ovens, etc. dreamy. It's a candy store for adults who like to cook. Some items sport big ticket price tags but what I like about the place is that they also carry fun kitchen gadgets and tools that are quite reasonably priced as well.

As of late, I have been searching high and low for the perfect apron. I scoured Etsy but I found the retro girlie aprons to be just that - girlie frou frou with much too much in the way of ruffles and lace. I've seen a few aprons at Williams & Sonoma that nearly made the cut but with such hefty price tags  (between 40-80 dollars) I was hesitant to buy something I didn't absolutely love. That is, until I saw this cute little number at Arthur Quentin. I knew I had to have it, despite the cost. I love the old illustration-style of the image; even the brown colour seems to add an antique feel to it. Like most unisex aprons the non-adjustable neck loop is a bit too big which causes the apron to droop a bit, but this apron is so wonderful it's worth having it adjusted. As per my OCD tendency, I am loathe to get it stained or dirty, even though I am well aware that it's primary purpose is to take the brunt of food splatter and splash so that my clothes stay clean. I know I will get over it after the first few stains happen but for now I am enjoying it's pristine state.

I hope Eleanor doesn't think I'm trying to say anything about the connection between rabbits and dinner preparation, I have no intention of mixing the two.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Watch/Eat: Bacon Pancakes!

Whenever I go to my parents place for dinner, I find myself sitting with my nephew in front of the boob tube. It's cool because I get a glimpse into what the latest trends/shows are for a typical seven year old. Some have been mind numbing, others were interesting based on the sheer marketing genius behind them (i.e. Skylanders). A few months ago I was introduced to the show Adventure Time on Teletoon and it didn't take long before I was hooked. The humour is layered and the character design is so darn cute. I simply adore the characters of Jake, Finn, Gunter and even the Ice King. It appeals to both children and adults alike but I think as time passed I was actually starting to enjoy it more than my nephew. What does that say about my maturity level? Since then, I started recording it myself so that I could watch it on my own. So when a friend posted this video clip on Facebook, I had to check it out. Go on, try it, you'll like it:

Wasn't that awesome? Watch it again, I swear it gets better with every repeat. Hooked yet? I must have watched this mash up about 50 times by now and it never gets old. I think this little clip has broke my brain. It has the Pavlovian effect of making me giggle dumbly each and every time I watch's likely I drool at the same time, I can't say for sure.Whenever I am not focused on something specific, the song creeps into my head and I feel compelled to sing it. After having this song in my head for close to a week straight (from the minute I get up to trying to fall asleep at night) I decided the only thing I could do was prepare bacon pancakes in it's honour and hope I would be released from it's spell. As you may suspect, it didn't work but what the hell, it was delicious....and yes, I sang bacon pancakes to myself while I flipped my pancakes. Even did the little arm gestures that Jake does...but that's probably too much information.

Good luck trying to get this little earworm out of your head. There's a ten hour loop of it on Youtube for the truely hardcore. I gave it a shot but even I gave up after about five repeats of the chorus.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Eat: Bouchon Bakery & Holsteins in Las Vegas

This is the last installment of my Las Vegas food posts. The best for last, as they say. Well, the best food anyway, not necessarily the best post. I make no promises about this post.

So, let's see. Our Saturday in Vegas started with a second helping of Wicked Spoon yumminess. As you already know I give it two thumbs up; any breakfast that ends in macarons is A-OKAY in my book. Thanks to the occasional nibble (Krispy Kreme!) and nosh (Cupcakery!) here and there throughout the day we didn't end up having lunch, which seemed like a good idea at the time. We already had a reservation at  Sirio for dinner so we were trying to eat light so as not to jeopardize yet another dinner reservation. But as luck would have it (sigh...) I developed a migraine aura somewhere between Harrahs and the Venetian casino. A flicker of light just so in my eye and the damage was done. I realize now that the conditions for a migraine were pretty optimal; time zone change, sleep disruption, travel stress, meal time & quantity change, alcohol & caffeine levels, etc. With great disappointment I took my migraine medication within a couple minutes of recognizing the symptoms, knowing full well that the meds have some yucky symptoms of their own. Marc sat with me in the Venetian shopping area (along the canal, a pretty romantic place for a migraine!) until the aura and vision problems mostly subsided. Knowing how sick I was going to be over the next few hours, we decided to cancel dinner and head back to the hotel. But know this...despite my debilitating migraine aura, I spotted a sign for Bouchon Bakery as we were leaving. Even with a migraine aura in force and a headache coming on, I made us pit stop (with Marc leading me by my elbow as I could barely see) to pick up a box of macarons to go. That's how much I love them!

Hello Lover

Cancelling the reservation was disappointing, to be sure. It was touch and go as to whether or not I would throw up in the cab on the ride back to our hotel, so I guess it was the right decision. I'm glad to say I managed to keep it together. When we arrived at the hotel I stripped down to my underwear mid stride en route to the bed and burrowed myself into the massive hotel pillows for the next three hours. The lights were out and the pillows were placed just 'so' on my face to minimize pressure and yet I still felt every sound, smell and bright light that occurred over the next few hours. That's the way it is with migraines; every sense in your body is amplified to painful proportions. I felt a bit better knowing that Marc could take the opportunity to hang out in the casino, so at least he wasn't completely put out. At 8pm or so he came to check in on me but I was still feeling queasy and weak so he went back to the casino and I continued to drift in and out of sleep. About an hour or so later I made a decision to get up otherwise I would never sleep though the night. I started to nurse my way through a cold bottle of water while watching Extra Virgin on the Cooking Channel and by the time Marc came back after 10pm I was actually doing a lot better. Which is remarkable when you know what having a migraine can be like! I was starved and nauseous all at once (a bad combination) so Marc offered to go down to a restaurant in our hotel called Holsteins and pick up something for us to eat rather than paying the exorbitant price for room service.

When he came back with this huge bag of food it was like manna from heaven. It's a weird feeling to be starved and queasy at the same time. I ended up shovelling food into my mouth in bursts and then sitting back for extended periods of time to wait out the queasiness. Marc brought us back a veritable feast of tasty nom noms from Holsteins. We ended up with the Korean hot dogs (pork belly wrapped dog, kimchee, kalbi glaze & chili mayo), fried pickles & herb caper mayo, southern fried chicken fingers with a buttermilk dip, the Hen House burger with a fried egg on top and french fries. It was a food orgy. Everything was delicious! The pickles were astounding; I have no idea how they get that batter to adhere to the pickle but it was perfectly coated. It was fatty/tangy perfection. The chicken was also battered perfectly, and the meat was moist. It went really well with the buttermilk dressing. The fries were to my level of saltiness, can't complain. I didn't really want to try the Korean hot dog because Kimchee is not my thing but I'm glad Marc convinced me to give it a shot. The chewy pop of the hot dog exterior, the steamy pillowiness of the bun and the different sauces combined to create a textural delight. Seriously, it was Barry White voiceover kind of good. I didn't try the burger because I just physically couldn't ingest any more but suffice to say, I flipped out over the food.

Dill Pickle POWER!!!

The macarons made it through the trip home the next day. They were a tad stale but that was most likely due to being stored at room temperature and such for over 48 hours. Despite that, they were quite tasty. I think I still prefer Point G Macaron and La Maison du Macaron in Montreal but that probably has more to do with freshness than flavour.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Eat: Enoteca Otto Pizzeria in Las Vegas

In our continuing effort to eat all Italian food, all of the time, we decided to try Enoteca Otto for lunch on our first day in Vegas. I missed out on the chance to try Otto in New York during my last visit so I was keen on this second chance.Otto Pizzeria is located in the mall known as the shoppes at the Venetian. The Venetian Hotel is truly a sight to behold; if you have limited time to visit Vegas, be sure to make time for this hotel. Yes, it's kitschy, but it's also downright opulent. Not to mention, really well executed. I can't even begin to explain how much detail has gone into it's design, with the shops located around the canal under the 'bluy sky' ceiling. It really does have the vibe of an Italian Piazza. I've never been to Venice but I can say that it made me reminisce of lunch at Piazza Navona in Rome.

But back to Otto. When we sat down for lunch at Otto we knew we had to eat lighter than normal (i.e. only one course) because we also had dinner reservations later than evening. We started with some really nice cocktails. I had one which was called Sicilian Iced Tea, which contained (to my recollection) some kind of Sicilian digestif-style liqueur, lime juice, soda and bitters. It was a bit rough on the first sip but the herbaceous taste really grew on me, by the end I was wanting a second glass. I definitely want to replicate this one at home.

For my plate, I selected the Rigatoni with Ragu Napolitana (veal, pork, tomato) for $21. The pasta was delicious and the sauce had great flavour, all meaty, fatty salty, and tangy. You know, all that good stuff. It was served a bit too cold but I could get past that. The only issue was that the meat in the sauce was braised chunks of meat which had ample sinew and fat. This is not normally a problem but we had just come from the Bodies exhibit at the Luxor and let's just say that I am extremely susceptible to imagery....muscle, fat, bone... ughhh. I let my imagination turn me off of my meal. Trust me, I know it's not fair to review a plate based on this fact; it had nothing to do with the plate and a lot more to do with my crazy. But alas, I gobbled up all the pasta and much of the sauce while leaving a sizable amount of meat behind. Marc took the Piatti del giorno menu of Linguine and Clams with garlic & chili. He said it was seasoned differently than the ones he tried in Amalfi, but was very good.

A small lunch like that probably didn't give us a good enough sample of the menu to base our opinion on. It was much better than D.O.C.G., but I'm not sure if it was second visit worthy. That's the thing about places like Vegas and NYC, with so many options it's a real negotiation to decide if a restaurant is worth a second visit. If Otto was in Montreal I would probably go a couple times a year but with such fierce competition in both Las Vegas and NYC, it would be hard for me to choose it over other options.

On a side note, thanks to our gluttonous behaviour at breakfast (Wicked Spoon) and lunch (Otto), we were forced to cancel our dinner reservation at Rick Moonen's RM Seafood because we were too full to eat dinner. We actually skipped dinner entirely that night, opting instead for a half a bottle of wine (Hess, yum yum, don't see that in Montreal often) and some big @ss bottles of water. Yep...I'm such an old lady I can't even over-indulge with food when I go to Vegas, forget about booze.

Sadly, I did not think to take any food photos at Otto for this post.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bunny: Kiss, Kiss

Don't let this sweet image fool you, Ellie is trying to bite Peter's face off. But I like to pretend I have a loving pet, so I stage cutesy photos. Awww!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Read: Addicted to GoT

I finished the first Game of Thrones book on the flight back from Vegas. I couldn't have asked for a better flight companion (oh, you too Marc!) It was pitch perfect. So much like the show, I can't get over how well the story was adapted. I immediately wanted to dig into the second book but I was torn; can I manage to read book two and also finish 419 by Will Ferguson in time for my next book club meeting in a months time?

Surely one month is enough time for two books. I mean, it use to be. But I rarely get a chance to settle in with a book these days, apart from bedtime. Every now and then I have a Friday afternoon free (yay flex time!) and if I'm luck enough, I tuck in on the couch with a cup of tea or coffee, a blanket and my book. The last time I did this I made the mistake of letting Eleanor out of her cage, which I now know is an exercise in frustration as she would rather gnaw on my book than let me get a few pages in. Oh well, the rabbit of Carebanog stays imprisoned during reading time.

In the end, I could not resist the siren song of another GoT tome. For some reason I'm not very excited to read 419, so I tucked away my impulse control (yet again) and went for the book I really wanted to read. I am a few chapters into A Clash of Kings: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Two  and I am interested to see how the story will diverge from the show, since I was told more than once that it varies greatly.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Eat: Breakfast, Las Vegas Buffet Style at Wicked Spoon

Prior to our trip to Vegas, we did some research on breakfast joints. Like everything else in Vegas, there is an abundance of options; I did not want to squander a breakfast opportunity on a crappy restaurant. Breakfast is kind of a big deal for me. You do not want to be the person in the way of me having my breakie on time; I will cut you.

It seemed like most restaurants on the strip were 20$ minimum per person and that buffets were still very popular. I am apprehensive of buffets in general so I was not too keen on going that route, but we passed by the breakfast buffet within our hotel (The Cosmopolitan) on our way out of the building and we thought it looked nice enough to try. As a result, I have to say that Wicked Spoon completely changed my mind about buffets. The decor was attractive and not at all tacky, as buffets can be. The table service was fast and convivial, and the orange juice and coffee flowed freely. Not a bad cup of coffee either, if I do say so myself. As for the buffet, here is how I remember the layout:

Buffet 1: Salads, Breads, Spreads, Charcuterie, Cheeses, Oatmeal, Yogurt
Buffet 2: Pancakes, French toast, Eggs (scrambled, etc)
Buffet 3: Omelet Station
Buffet 4: Potatoes, hash, beans, fried chicken
Buffet 5: Duck ravioli, gnocchi, braised short rib
Buffet 6: Bacon, Sausage, Italian sausage, pork belly, Roast beef
Buffet 7: Chow mein, sushi, teriyaki beef
Buffet 8: Pizza, sandwiches (egg & cheese, cold cuts, etc.)
Buffet 9: Gelato, croissants, desserts, macarons, marshmallows, smoothies

Those are just the ones I remember, trust me when I say there were a lot more choices. The selection was amazing and the quality of the food was really impressive. All the food was served at the correct temperature and none exhibited signs of sitting around for too long. The scrambled eggs were fluffy and moist. the pancakes fluffy and soft. The charcuterie area had a spicy capicolo that was actually good quality and sliced well. The duck ravioli, although not a traditional breakfast item, was redonkculously tasty in a sage pumpkin type sauce. As for desserts & sweets, the peach cobbler was served in an adorable individual steel pot (with lid) and it was nice and warm, with the perfect crumble. Homemade marshmallows were worth trying, as the texture was so different from the bagged variety. And macarons..... at a buffet?? Ohhhh man, was that a nice surprise.

You can check out a pretty engaging Wall Street Journal blog post about Wicked Spoon here. I wholeheartedly agree, it was one of my favourite dining experiences in Vegas. The one thing I would point out is that the price is incremented significantly on the weekend. We paid 24$ a person for our breakfast on Friday, which we already considered to be steep but we rationalized that it would be comparable to most other restaurants on the strip. It was worth the splurge. But when we went for breakfast on Saturday however, it was hiked to 33$ dollars a head. I was hungry (i.e. cranky) and I already had it in my head that I was going to eat all the goodies that I was too full to enjoy the last time around, so I suggested we pay the hefty price tag. The flaw is that Wicked Spoon does not advertise their pricing on the website, so we had no way of knowing until we got there (you pay before you eat). At any rate, I don't regret it. It was worth going twice. I would have gone again the next day too if not for the exorbitant price tag. Deliciously wicked.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Eat: D.O.C.G. in Las Vegas

With all of the trials and tribulations we had in Vegas, we didn't have the opportunity to try as many restaurants as we had originally planned. There were some ups and downs with the places we did get to try but on the bright side, if we ever do go back, we will know what places are a sure bet and which ones to avoid.

Courtesy of D.O.C.G.

Our first meal in Vegas was on a Thursday night at  D.O.C.G. in the Cosmopolitan Hotel, which was where we stayed. We were psyched to try this place because we were intrigued by Scott Conant (from all his appearances on the Food Network) and our inclination towards Italian food, especially Roman. To start our meal, we ordered a board of cheese and salumi. The ingredients were good quality but we found that both the cheese and meat were served at too cold a temperature, which muted/dulled some of the flavour. The wine menu was very extensive, as well as exPensive. We opted for a bottle of Mazzei Badiola, a bottle we normally get for 18$ at home. I was loath to pay 70$ US for the bottle, but it was one of the most affordable bottles on the menu and we knew it would be a sure bet. It was indeed a delicious bottle of wine.

For my main, I ordered the margherita pizza with bufala mozzarella & tomatoes, a plate that had many rave reviews & photos online. I was expecting great things, which is why I was so extremely disappointed to find the pizza was both burnt (bitter tasting) and soggy at the same time. The sauce was lacklustre, the cheese flavorless. I don't get looks so pretty, so deceiving! I ate 1/4 of the pizza but I couldn't bring myself to eat much more, which is unheard for me (I love me some pizza). Marc didn't even touch my leftovers, which is very telling.

For his main, Marc chose the maccheroni with polpettine & home style sugo as a primi, and the 13 oz. berkshire pork chop with glazed balsamic reduction and a side of polenta as his secondi. All of these plates came at the same time, so I guess the service staff wasn't familiar with the concept of primi/secondi, which is surprising considering they are emulating Roman style dining. The maccheroni was by far the best thing on the table as the pasta was fresh and homemade; it had the al dente bite that was promised by the waiter. The sauce was nothing special, creamy, flat tasting tomato sauce (almost like a rose, not sure if there was dairy added) and the polpettine were a bit rubbery. As for his secondi, Marc was served puree potatoes instead of polenta. Not a big deal, but when we asked the waiter about this he didn't seem too sure himself if it was polenta or potato. He did eventually return with an identical bowl filled with a mush so loose, bland and white that we weren't sure if we had received a second helping of potatoes until Marc tasted it and confirmed a corn-like flavour. It resembled grits more than Italian polenta. Needless to say, most of the polenta went to waste. Marc seemed to enjoy the pork chop; I had a bite and thought it was a bit dry but it was better than my meal.

I sound harsh. I'm not trying to be mean about it, but I'm just really disappointed by the food quality. I was excited to try this restaurant, and I felt gyped that we used up one of three dinner opportunites in Vegas on a pizza so bland and poorly executed that it left me wondering how so many people could give it such a solid review. Are my standards too high or did I get quality control issue in the kitchen? Regardless, I won't be going back to find out.