July 16 & 17, 2012 – 40th Anniversary! – Las Vegas, NV

We arrive in Las Vegas around 2:30 PM on July 16th having left from Bakersfield after breakfast. First mission is to pick up our show tickets at the Mirage. That done, we check into the Mandarin Oriental, a peaceful hotel amid the cacophony of Las Vegas. We have booked a suite as a special anniversary treat.

Bedroom of the city suite at the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas


Sitting area


Mini-bar and valet closet (free shoe shines!)


Bathroom

Around 4:30 PM we go up to the bar on the 23rd floor for a celebratory drink. What? The bar doesn’t open until 5 PM? Cannot believe that we have booked a hotel in Las Vegas where you can’t go to the bar until after 5 PM. Somehow we muddle through until 5 PM and return to have a glass of wine, some excellent bar snacks and a great view.

View from the Mandarin Bar

Excellent bar snacks

We are having an earlyish dinner tonight due to having tickets to a show later this evening. When we arrived we booked a table at MOzen Bistro, a pan-Asian restaurant. We start by sharing an order of hamachi sashimi.

Delicious hamachi sashimi

Now I am going to post a lot of food pictures. We each order a bento box. We get to choose six small portioned items for our box. It is hard to decide. All the descriptions sound so good. First is a picture of the bento box and then a picture of each component.

Mary’s bento box


From India, dhahi bhalla – lentil dumpling with yogurt, tamarind chutney and Indian spices. This was really yummy and probably my favorite thing.


From Korea, bulgogi – stir fried marinated beef tips with peppers and scallions. John got this as well.


From Thailand, yam nuea – grilled beef loin, cucumbers, mint, shallots and Thai sweet basil with a chili cilantro dressing


From Korea, hae-mul pa-jeon – Korean pancake with green onion, shrimp and jumbo lump crab


From Southeast Asia, hoisin BBQ baby back ribs – BBQ ribs with pickled Chinese cabbage


From Thailand, thod maan goong – Thai fish cake with lobster sauce, cilantro, chili and mint with pickled cucumber and red onion sauce

Now John’s bento box. There are only pictures of five components since he also got the bulgogi pictured above.

John’s bento box


From Thailand, tom yum goong – shrimp, lemongrass and kafir lime in broth flavored with chili and cilantro. John says this is incredible and is his favorite from the box.


From Japan, Kumamto oyster – oysters with lemongrass Ponzu jelly


From India, galout kebab – smoked minced lamb kebab patties with mint chutney


From Southeast Asia, Singapore chili crab – soft shell crab with chili, tomatoes, garlic and beaten egg


From Japan, tuna tataki – Japanese rice cake drizzled with garlic soy reduction, chili aioli and crisp salad with shitake chips and edamame


Special dessert (we didn’t order this)

I know that this looks like we are eating a ton. But the portions are small and it is so delicious. But enough eating, it is time for the show. We take a cab from the Mandarin Oriental down the street to the Mirage where LOVE by Cirque de Soleil is playing. It is a tribute to the Beatles. The show consists of fabulous costumes, lots of acrobatics and lots of Beatles music. No plot, though. It is all quite entertaining.

LOVE at the Mirage

Although we try to sleep in on the 17th, it being our anniversary, we fail and get up early, have breakfast at the hotel and head out to Hoover Dam before it gets too hot. We are planning on taking the long tour that takes you inside the dam. When we get there, we are informed that the elevators are being repaired and there are no tours. Dam! We decide to take a look at the new bridge built after 9/11 to keep the dam more secure and to keep traffic flowing through the area more smoothly. It is very high and very windy and I am very brave.

John at the bridge


Hold onto your hat, Mary!


We walk part way out on the bridge and take a picture of Hoover dam with Lake Mead behind it. (As I said I was very brave.)

Now what to do? The dam tour was supposed to take a big chunk of our day. Racking our brains, John remembers seeing something about a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit at the Venetian Hotel. Back we go to Las Vegas, negotiating our way to the Venetian garage. We find the exhibition, but our first stop is for lunch at Brasserie Pinot. I do not take pictures of our lunch. (shock!) John has moules and frites and I have a salad Nicoise. John orders his in French, of course, and the waitstaff (who are French) are all ooh, are you French? I play the part of the deaf, mute wife.

The exhibition is interesting with lots of da Vinci’s inventions built life-size. There are also in-depth studies of the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper.

We return to the room and get dressed for our festive dinner. We are having dinner at the hotel’s premier restaurant, Twist, executive chef, Pierre Gagnaire, a Michelin starred French chef.

All dressed up with some place to go

First, though, is another visit to the Mandarin Bar. I am a girl who loves a bar. We have a lovely time having a glass of wine and looking at the view from the other side of the bar.

An early evening apertif

Now it is time for the main event! Girding our loins, or whatever part one needs to gird for a fabulous dining experience, we head to Twist. Our first encounter is a multi-part amuse bouche. Frankly, I don’t remember what this was but I am sure that once John reads this, he’ll let me know.

Amuse bouche at Twist

Hmmm…what to order? I have read on line that one must order the tasting menu. But there’s stuff I don’t want plus a giant dessert that I definitely don’t want. Could we please have a tasting menu wihtout the meat and without the dessert but with the wine pairing? Of course, we can. We are set for a culinary adventure!

First course – Hudson Valley duck foie gras with lime and herbs, boullion gelee, ratatouille, black peppered cantaloupe and watermelon.

The first course is outstanding except for the fact that I have a giant piece of connective tissue in my foie. I mention it to the serving person. This creates quite a stir and the manager comes out and tries to offer some sort of explanation. He is so sorry. It must be the provider. They will get on it right away. (No compensation for their blunder, however.)

Seweed butter cooked dorade withrouille sauce, squid rings and black potato confit

Quite delcious!

From the front – tomato soup with mozzarella ice cream, calamarata pasta, and vitello tonnato

Really, really good although I don’t really remember the vitello tonnato. The tomato soup with mozzarella ice cream is shocking with its temperature changes and the pasta is really yummy. It’s like a tasting menu within a tasting menu!

Grilled langoustine with terre de Sienne spice, olive oil, paste of honey and Meyer lemon, and cucumber with herbs

John is not so happy with this as he finds the terre de Sienne spice overwhelming gritty. He sends it back. Ever since the foie gras incident they have been bending over backward to make us happy. He gets a new plate which is much better. (this was not compensated for either)

So a pretty wonderful meal with a few flaws. We also had the wine pairing with that was spectacular. Would I go there again? Probably not. It was outrageously expensive and I do not expect any missteps in such an expensive meal.

Best meal of our anniversary adventure? Probably the bento box at MOzen. It was inventive, personal and incredibly tasty. Going to Las Vegas? Try MOzen for dinner. Best thing from the whole two days…….?

My exceptional husband of 40 years.

June 18, 2012 Sophie and Al come to visit

What can be better than to have your very best friend visit? Nothing!

I meet Sophie at the BART station in Pleasanton and we are so happy to see one another. We hop into the car and ride over to Palo Alto to have lunch with Sarah and Jonathan. They are really happy to see her. They have many happy memories of spending time at her house when they were kids.

Sarah and Sophie


Sarah and Mom


Mary and Sophie

After lunch and some more visiting time Sophie takes the BART back to the city. She and Al have a dinner date with some other friends. The best thing is that I can say to her as she leaves, “See you tomorrow!”

Sophie and Al arrive in Pleasanton in the afternoon. We have a great time catching up on our different lives and hearing about Al’s round of golf at the U.S. Open course the day before. We have a nice dinner and discuss plans for our trip to wine country on Wednesday.

It’s a beautiful day and we start our wine tour at Jacuzzi tasting wine and sipping olive oil.

Sophie and John at the olive oil bar


Sophie and Mary in front of Jacuzzi

After a picnic lunch and some wine tasting at Imagery Winery, we head to Chateau St. Jean and enjoy their lovely porch and view.

John, Al, Mary and Sophie on the porch at Chateau St. Jean

We have dinner that night at La Toque in Napa. The visit has been so nice and so much fun that I am doubly sad to see them leave. Hopefully we will see each other before too long.

Out of order – Memorial Day, May 28, 2012

We have the whole family over for a Memorial Day cookout. Nathan and Sam spend part of the time enjoying the toys that we keep at our house.

Jon and Ryan watch Sam play


Nathan playing on the stairs with a Lego car he made

Meanwhile John, Sarah and Leigh discuss plans for the day.

John, Sarah and Leigh

Before we start our festive dinner, the boys, Ryan, Leigh and I work on a star project. I figure I can sneak in some patriotic info during this time. Both Nathan and Sam work hard decorating the stars.

Stand up stars that we made for decorating the table

Then it is time to prepare the food. John is trying out cedar planked salmon for the first time. It comes out really tasting good.

Salmon ready to hit the grill


I make a fennel salad with orange slices and roasted beets.

Fennel, orange and roasted beet salad

Along with grilled asparagus, a pasta salad that Ryan and Jon brought, and a yogurt dill sauce for the salmon, we have a great dinner.

Memorial Day cookout dinner

All too soon it is time for hugs and goodbyes.

Nathan hugs John goodbye

Out of order – May 13, 2012 – Mother’s Day

I was looking over my recent blog entries and it occurred to me that I had never posted about Mother’s Day or Memorial Day.

I have a really nice Mother’s Day. Sarah sleeps over and bakes two of my favorite things. For breakfast, Sarah makes pretzel rolls. Whenever I am in Germany, they are my most favorite bread to eat. She has posted the recipe here. Even though this is the first time she had made them, they come out really delicious and very authentic.

Pretzel rolls made by Sarah

Here is a perfect Mother’s Day morning for me – a cup of tea, yellow roses from John, a pretzel roll and a puzzle.

Perfect!

Sarah also makes her fabulous snickerdoodle cookies. The secret to the recipe? Be sure to include plenty of salt!

Sarah’s snickerdoodle cookies

Ryan, Jonathan, Nathan and Sam come over as well. Nathan made me a beautiful Mother’s Day crown and there are cards and hugs and all the things I like best. Thank you to the family for a super day.

Queen for the day with Ryan, Nathan and Sam


Jon and John with cards waiting to be opened on the mantle


Ryan and Sam


Opening cards


The whole family except for John who was taking the picture

June 13-16, 2012 The rest of the visit

I have been very remiss in updating my blog. We had such a great visit with Nathan, Sam and Jonathan. Here’s what else we did –

We took a hike at the Little Black Mountain Petroglyph Site.

Slow down, Zayde!


Sam posing along the trail


A rock with petroglyphs


Nathan rocks!


Sam enjoys a snack in the shade after our hike

In the afternoon we all headed over to the Sand Hollow Aquatic Center.

Sam loved the slide in the kiddie pool area


Nathan enjoyed going down the big slide as long as Jon was there to catch him


Here’s Nathan running up the stairs to slide again!

After such a big day, everyone needed a little quiet time.

Sam plays with my iPad

The next day it was a unanimous vote to go to the pool again!

Zayde and Nathan get ready to go down the slide


Nathan makes a little splash


Zayde makes a much bigger one


Jonathan and his boys in the pool

On Friday we all went to the somewhat lame Rosenbruch Wildlife Center. I am not sure how posing taxidermied animals in fake scenarios helps with wildlife conservation. The boys had fun, though.

Nathan and Sam with their binos


Jon, Sam and a polar bear


Sam and Nathan in the African desert


John appropriately by the giraffe


Grizzly Beeba

The last big thing we did was to go out to brunch at Mesa Grill in Las Vegas before it was time to catch the flight home. The food was great and Jonathan, Nathan and Sam had a good time.

Sam at Mesa Grill


Nathan and Jon are looking forward to their brunch

I am really looking forward to the next time they can visit in St. George!