October 25, 2014 – Jim Kendall’s 70th birthday party

It’s hard to believe that our friends are turning 70. It is not too far down the road for John and me as well. Luckily 70 is the new 50 and we are all eager to continue with our lives at a high level.

Ali and Van have planned a lovely party for Jim’s birthday. Sara and Wouter have flown over from Europe and many friends new and old are in attendance. We all have a nice walk down to the overlook of the Golden Gate bridge, have a delicious dinner and listen to Jim rock out some of his hits accompanied by his ubiquitous guitar.

Eli and his new sister, Vea, are up for the party and are as cute as ever!

Jim grabs a beer and it's party time!

Jim grabs a beer and it’s party time!


Wouter and Kelly deep in discussion

Wouter and Kelly deep in discussion


Eli has a snack with his friend, Jones

Eli has a snack with his friend, Jones

The view from the nearby overlook

The view from the nearby overlook


Vea and Eileen enjoying the outdoors

Vea and Eileen enjoying the outdoors


Jim with Ali and Sara

Jim with Ali and Sara


Jim rockin' it out

Jim rockin’ it out

October 22, 2014 – Mustaches!

Since John and I have been away and are going away again, we want to get over to see Nathan and Sam. I accomplish this by inviting ourselves over to dinner at Jon and Ryan’s. John is working today so I spend the day doing some shopping, having lunch with Sarah, and chilling in her apartment before it is time to go over for dinner.

Jon is home when we arrive. It is apparent that he has gone to some trouble with our dinner. He has made red beans and rice as the main course and his delicious chicken liver pate for before-sies. Wine is chilling in the refrigerator and the table is set. What a sweetie! We’ve brought along a salad and some Halloween goody bags for the kids.

When the rest of the family arrives home, we are greeted with hugs. John and Sam have a long discussion about our upcoming trip, looking at maps and even playing a map game. Nathan is still very excited about characters in his video games and talks about them as if they are real.

We have a nice dinner. Sam even eats some of the superfood salad. Then after dinner they open their goody bags. There is Dove candy which they zero in on right away but also some squirt string, glow-in-the-dark fingernails and a selection of mustaches.

We all enjoy the mustaches and take pictures of ourselves with them on.

Ryan, Jonathan and Leigh sporting mustaches

Ryan, Jonathan and Leigh sporting mustaches


Sam joins in the mustache fun although it looks like he is going for a mono-brow

Sam joins in the mustache fun although it looks like he is going for a mono-brow

John and I in our silly mustaches

John and I in our silly mustaches

October 10-17, 2014 The rest of our visit to St. George

The rest of our visit to St. George entailed traveling back from Las Vegas via the route around Lake Mead, more tennis playing, a trip to Springdale for shopping, lunch, and Zion views, packing up, cleaning the house, and the trip home which we made over two days. Here are some pictures…

The water in Lake Mead is very low. The drought is impacting water for drinking, agriculture and recreation.

The water in Lake Mead is very low. The drought is impacting water for drinking, agriculture and recreation.


Where the white rock stops is the old high water mark.

Where the white rock stops is the old high water mark.


We take a trip into Springdale where we always have lunch at Oscar's.

We take a trip into Springdale where we always have lunch at Oscar’s.


I order a chicken sandwich which I have to take apart since there is no way to fit this into my mouth!

I order a chicken sandwich which I have to take apart since there is no way to fit this into my mouth!


The views of Zion N.P. are beautiful.

The views of Zion N.P. are beautiful.


Another view

Another view


We leave for home on October 16. We are catching our first view of Las Vegas as we head south down I-15. The air in Las Vegas is hazy as usual.

We leave for home on October 16. We are catching our first view of Las Vegas as we head south down I-15. The air in Las Vegas is hazy as usual.


We change drivers in Baker, CA but do not stop at the Mad Greek for lunch.

We change drivers in Baker, CA but do not stop at the Mad Greek for lunch.


It's a good chance to take a picture of Baker's claim to fame, the world's largest thermometer. It is finally working again after being out of commission for at least five years.

It’s a good chance to take a picture of Baker’s claim to fame, the world’s largest thermometer. It is finally working again after being out of commission for at least five years.


What's not in commission is Rock-a-hula, a defunct waterpark. The faded coke can and a few derelict buildings are all that's left.

What’s not in commission is Rock-a-hula, a defunct waterpark. The faded coke can and a few derelict buildings are all that’s left.


The CA ag station waves us through. I still don't know if groceries bought in Utah count as contraband. After all, the produce probably was grown in California.

The CA ag station waves us through. I still don’t know if groceries bought in Utah count as contraband. After all, the produce probably was grown in California.

Nothing much ever changes along the ride home but here's something new. Bravo Farms is a fairly large complex at the Kettleman City exit. Wonder how long it will last.

Nothing much ever changes along the ride home but here’s something new. Bravo Farms is a fairly large complex at the Kettleman City exit. Wonder how long it will last.

We make it home around noon on Friday and get ready for visiting with family and friends in the two weeks before we are on our way to Europe!

October 9, 2014 – Dinner at Sage, Aria, City Center, Las Vegas

Jon, John, and I make a reservation at Sage, a restaurant at Aria in City Center, Las Vegas. We do this by a complex series of eliminations. Sage has made the short list once before and we decide to indulge ourselves with the shorter of the two tasting menus. Really, it’s a bargain at $89. Before I get into the dishes we eat, I’d like to say that this is one of the best dinners ever from a savory food viewpoint. The parts that are disappointing are the service which is very off-hand and not gracious for a fine dining restaurant and the desserts which are not good. My dessert is basically inedible but I don’t really care because I am not a dessert person. The rest of the dinner is really, really good and more than makes up for the bad desserts.

So the food –

First we get the fancy butter plate

First we get the fancy butter plate


This followed by the roll guy who comes around offering different breads

This followed by the roll guy who comes around offering different breads


Then there's the amuse bouche which is pork pate with citrus and caviar (it is merely okay since the pork has an offputting texture

Then there’s the amuse bouche which is pork pate with citrus and caviar (it is merely okay since the pork has an offputting texture

I think I order best. This dish is the star of the show it is a Foie Gras Custard Brulee, with Apricot Chutney/Toasted Cocoa Nibs/Salted Brioche. It is fabulous.

I think I order best. This dish is the star of the show it is a Foie Gras Custard Brulee, with Apricot Chutney/Toasted Cocoa Nibs/Salted Brioche. It is fabulous.

John has Vancouver Island Kushi Oysters with piquillo pepper and tabasco sorbet and aged tequila mignonette

John has Vancouver Island Kushi Oysters with piquillo pepper and tabasco sorbet and aged tequila mignonette

Jonathan rounds out our first courses with Wagyu beef tartare with crushed caper aioli, slow poached eggs and crispy chocolate

Jonathan rounds out our first courses with Wagyu beef tartare with crushed caper aioli, slow poached eggs and crispy chocolate


Of all the starters mine is best by far it is all I can do to let anyone even have a taste.
For the second course Jonathan and I have scallops with braised oxtail, wild mushrooms and salted caramel reduction

For the second course Jonathan and I have scallops with braised oxtail, wild mushrooms and salted caramel reduction


John has grilled octopus with garlic puree and beech mushrooms, chorizo and bell peppers. He thinks it is cosmic.

John has grilled octopus with garlic puree and beech mushrooms, chorizo and bell peppers. He thinks it is cosmic.


John and I both have the 48 hour beef belly with root vegetable puree, pickled sweet onions and buckwheat polenta. It is melt-in-your-mouth-delicious.

John and I both have the 48 hour beef belly with root vegetable puree, pickled sweet onions and buckwheat polenta. It is melt-in-your-mouth-delicious.


For his third course Jonathan has a flat iron steak with foie gras roasted chanterelles, creamy potatoes and a red wine bernaise sauce. It is good but not as good as the 48 hour beef belly.

For his third course Jonathan has a flat iron steak with foie gras roasted chanterelles, creamy potatoes and a red wine bernaise sauce. It is good but not as good as the 48 hour beef belly.


Now dinner comes to a grinding halt. We wait and wait but dessert does not appear. They offer us more wine. Still we wait. Finally a course that is definitely not worth the wait.
Milk chocolate and earl grey panna cotta with madeleines  and blackberry scalded milk gelato. Both John and Jon say this is meh.

Milk chocolate and earl grey panna cotta with madeleines and blackberry scalded milk gelato. Both John and Jon say this is meh.

My dessert is a ricotta cheesecake with smoke graham crumbs, white chocolate pearls and blueberry basil gel.  This is a really odd dessert. It is salty and not sweet. The texture is off. I cannot eat it.

My dessert is a ricotta cheesecake with smoke graham crumbs, white chocolate pearls and blueberry basil gel. This is a really odd dessert. It is salty and not sweet. The texture is off. I cannot eat it.


Would I recommend this restaurant? Yes, yes, yes. The savory courses are great and if you don’t really care about dessert it is well worth the tasting menu price. If I were to go back, I would probably just order the foie gras brulee and the 48 hour beef belly and call it a night.

It is really a great night for the three of us. In the morning we take Jonathan to the airport and he flies off to North Carolina for SoJam. John and I make our way back to St. George for another week before we leave for home.

October 2-9, 2014 – Jonathan visits St. George

Jonathan loves to visit with us in St. George and we love to have him. He is a non-stop dynamo when he is vacationing here. He plays tennis. He plays golf. He plays pingpong. He writes music. He cooks. He eats. John and I play tennis with him and then when he leaves for golf in the afternoon, we nap. Here are some pictures from his visit. Our fancy dinner at Sage is a separate post.

While John moves slowly towards the ball...

While John moves slowly towards the ball…


Jonathan reaches new heights in trying to retrieve a shot.

Jonathan reaches new heights in trying to retrieve a shot.


Jonathan is at the stove making his special dinner for us.

Jonathan is at the stove making his special dinner for us.


John is happy to have a night off from cooking and so am I!

John is happy to have a night off from cooking and so am I!


The finished dish scallops with braised leeks and mashed potatoes garnished with asparagus and mushrooms in a beurre blanc sauce. Yum!

The finished dish scallops with braised leeks and mashed potatoes garnished with asparagus and mushrooms in a beurre blanc sauce. Yum!


Jon outside one of our favorite lunch spots, Mad Pita Express.

Jon outside one of our favorite lunch spots, Mad Pita Express.


Jon inside Mad Pita!

Jon inside Mad Pita!


We always take a trip to the Zion Shops when Jon visits. Here he is wearing a new shirt and pants.

We always take a trip to the Zion Shops when Jon visits. Here he is wearing a new shirt and pants.


Jon's trip ends with a trip to Las Vegas. Here the guys peruse the bar menu before dinner.

Jon’s trip ends with a trip to Las Vegas. Here the guys peruse the bar menu before dinner.