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Monthly Archives: March 2012

By Proxy I Ate Some Carrots

Yesterday was my sister’s birthday so to celebrate we were going to go to Carole’s Cafe in Yorkville for some cheescake, given both my sisters have had as of late cravings for cheesecake. I was going to meet Camilla beforehand so we could squeeze in a little shopping and we decided to do lunch as well… at the Gallery Grill at Hart House because it conveniently fit into the schedule. Lucy ended up joining us as well. It was nice because now I got to try three different dishes, oh and it was a nice sisterly outing too as well.

Needless to say we did not fit in there. It was all hoity-toity uppity people in blazers and ties and there were in jeans carrying backpacks. It filled me with a rebellious giddiness to be there like that. The menu took some decoding, I got most of them right save for the fried haloumi which I thought, because it said fried and was an odd name, was a type of fish. The waitress informed us that it was in fact cheese. My bad.

I went for the rabbit meatballs which, because they were meatballs, I automatically assumed came with noodle. They came in a tomato sauce with what looked like giant fat noodles and tasted like sweet potatoes. When the waiter placed my dish down he said something about a “wascawee wabbit” and it made me giggle. And now I found out that those in fact were parsnips. I was tricked into eating parsnips. Camilla had the calamari schnitzel which was really good. But the stand-out was Lucy’s order of roasted pickerel. It was amazing, the fish just fell apart and was so tasty.

For dessert the three of us split a Hart House Farm Maple Syrup Creme Brulee and what a mouthful it was both to say and eat. We ordered it because the previous year we had been to Hart House Farm to watch them draw the sap from the trees so it only seemed fitting to indulge. Despite the fact that in a few hours we would be stuffing our faces with rich cheesecake. It was well-worth the punch to my pancreas. So far, this is the winner for best creme brulee. And it’s not one of those “best so far… but” and I add on some negative comments. The maple syrup was not overdone, just a touch of it for flavouring. The top was nicely burnt, not too much and not the cheaters way of just placing a caramel disc on top (just give up and call yourself a failure in that case, ok?).

When she gave us the dessert menu I noticed that they had a tea with organic gunpowder in it. Either that is quite the typo, something weird is going on or there is a poorly named flower/fruit out there.

I had been telling my sisters of Carole’s Cheesecake for so long now, telling them how creamy and delicious and just out-of-this-world amazing it is. I told them they had to try it, especially after they raved about cheesecake from, of all places, The Pickle Barrel (gross). They saw how right I (and everyone else for that matter, it has been voted best cheesecake in Toronto by multiple sources) was. Towards the end however I was starting to really feel it, I had to muster through the last little piece. I had decide to go all out and get the rocky road cheesecake. At the time it seemed like a good idea, and don’t get me wrong, it was delicious. It was just a lot to take in all at once. Needless to say I was feeling a mighty strong sugar-high after that. I came crashing down right around the time that class started.

And I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

 

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Tortilla Crumbs in My Purse

I found them in my purse this morning. I could’ve sworn I had gotten them all out yesterday, as well as brushing off the pineapple bits and everything else that fell on my purse. So what was this messy feast? Ooh, I don’t know, maybe, just maybe I finally managed to get in to Grand Electric? Sorry, we, we managed to get in. It was mostly Brent’s doing. I was running late thanks to the wonders of transit and he got there before me and held our place in line. He got there half an hour before open and there was no need for lurking around until someone else started the line. Brent was 8th in line. Soon after more and more people started showing up. By the time we were seated the hostess was up to telling people they could get a table at 9pm, 3 hours later!

Chorus: How hipster was it?
Reply: Water was served in IKEA glasses!

Was it worth having to stand in line with the world’s most irritating people? Was it worth getting crumbs all over my purse? Hell yeah. The crumbs were because we were seated at the bar and I had to keep it on my lap, and tacos are messy creatures. To start we had pig-tail tacos, pork belly tacos and baja fish tacos because I had read that the pig-tail tacos were amazing, Brent read good things about the pork belly and Grand Electric just go voted best fish tacos. We also ordered the tuna ceviche. The pig-tail taco was amazing. The pork-belly taco was even better. Then thirdly we tried the baja fish taco… it was otherworldly. So much so that we ordered a second one. It was that good.First I bit into just the little fish bit that stuck out (it was bigger than the taco) and it was amazing, so soft and delicious and not heavy for something battered & fried. Then biting into the taco as a whole, amazing, the sauce the onion slices, the whole thing. In our second round of ordering we also went for the guacamole and chips for I had heard amazing things about it. I have never had guacamole or avocados for that matter. I just always assumed that they were both gross, I mean come on, it is green & lumpy, blech. It was not blech, it was delicious. And the chips that went with it were also good, I was kind of worried that they would just serve us Tostitos.

Chorus: How hipster was it?
Reply: There were picnic benches indoors!

I could not go to the Best Mexican restaurant and not have a margarita, and I ‘spose it was good? I surprisingly liked the salt on the rim, not quite sure as to why. Grand Electric was also known for their extensive bourbon collection so of course we also indulged in it. I had a sip of Brent’s bourbon that he ordered neat (after looking up on his phone how to order bourbon, I might add), made an awful face and went back to my margarita. For my second round I had a Grand Electric Sour, whihc is made with vanilla bourbon… and egg whites… and is sprinkled with pepper on top. Somehow, it tasted really good. I don’t know by what magic (possibly helped along by the previous margarita, who can say really) it was delicious. Although I blame it for the stomachache I had later that night, either that or the overeating, who knows?

Chorus: How hipster was it?
Reply: It was full of hipsters!

I was adamant about having dessert. I didn’t care how much we had eaten, I wanted dessert. And we had eaten a lot. The tacos were small and the tuna ceviche was rather small, so of course we figured the guacamole & chips would be too. It was not. We ate so much.

Chorus: How hipster was it?
Reply: It is located in Parkdale!

Why the demand for dessert? Really, you must really ask that? Come, on, it is dessert for cripes sake! Nah, I had an ulterior motive. I had read a disparaging review claiming that it was awful that dessert was served in a mason jar. I had to have that. I had to eat dessert out of a mason jar. We had the chocolate & pecans, not really sure what that would entail exactly given that was the name of it. It was candied pecans atop chocolate mousse with a layer of cream cheese at the bottom. In a mason jar. Weird but good.

Chorus: HOW HIPSTER WAS THIS PLACE?!
Reply: DESSERT WAS SERVED IN A MASON JAR!!! A MASON JAR!!!

 

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Observations

It has recently come to my attention that something weird took place over the past few years. Back in the day, I used to blow most of my money on clothes (and to a lesser extent accessories). I recently also read Steven Pinker’s latest book The Better Angels of Our Nature, why do I mention this? Because it was full of graphs!

So, back in the day:

I spent most of my money as we can see here. Since then things have shifted greatly, and no, I have not made any payments on my loan. First off: transit became more expensive and frequent so the yellow slice grew. Secondly, I half gave up on purchasing clothes on account of having taken up a healthier lifestyle (yes, in tandem with fooding, it somehow works). For a bit my clothing purchases did go up, as seen here:

See that mild rise, but then a sharp fall? You would think “wow, she must be saving so much money!”…. nope, obviously that money got reallocated to…. TRAVEL! AND FOOD! That second one to a lesser extent, but still.

Look at that! Somewhere around 2008 my travel expenses shot up… and have been going up since! What gives you may ask? What gives is that me and fellow roommate Molly at the time had had enough of the stupid cold winter, jumped in her car… and drove down to North Carolina for some much needed warmth, sunshine and fresh air. The food did not go up as steeply at first because let’s just say, I lived on McDonald’s on the road and $5 pizzas at home (that’s like 2 days worth of food!). Only when last year did I really start into it with the food. But it went up earlier on account of road-trips and my near pathological need to acquire “American” candy & soda such as Cherry Coke Zero and Mallow Cups.

Predictions for the future: hitchhiking in out-of-fashion clothes 😉

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Adventures of Pinka!

 

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*Stomach Grumbles*

It might not be outwardly obvious, especially given that based on the archive the real start date is later, BUT it has almost been a year of fooding! It all started on beautiful Saturday afternoon, sometime in May or June. I was over at Brent’s house and we went out for lunch. He suggested an obscurely named place called Clafouti, but I was too hungry to argue. Why this random obscure place I had never heard of? Why, because I was told that they had the best croissant in the city. I am not going to lie to you, I am not a huge fan of croissants. half the time they are stale and the flakiness gets messy. As well, sometimes there is a funny aftertaste. Thankfully Clafouti also sold paninis, to be specific, a butter chicken panini. It was good that I actually let out a string of expletives while we walked back through Trinity Bellwoods park. To put that in perspective: almost a year has passed and I have only sworn (in a good way) about two others times. And the croissant? It was so soft and buttery and utterly delicious, almost makes me want to eat croissants all the time. Given that we did not go when they opened, we did not have a chance to try the chocolate croissant which apparently is to die for, so they say.

So what has come of this past year of fooding? I can safely say I have eaten my way through quite a fair share of the animal kingdom, from the semi-normal (elk, buffalo) to the just-plain-weird (kangaroo, jellyfish) as well as eating parts of animals I would have never dreamed of such as gonads (sea urchin) and tongues (beef). I have also (and if you know me, you will know who unthinkable and out of character this is) eaten my fair share of…. VEGGIES! I am nowhere near being someone who claims to like veggies however. Sometimes I ingested them simply because the sandwich/burger was so damn good I could not waste any time picking out the tomatoes (Burger Priest, The Fish Store). Other times it was a surprise that I, on several occasions, enjoyed ingesting them. I say them, I really just mean baby spinach. So far only in soup form (beef miso soup from Ravi Soups) and grilled into a steak & cheese panini (Panera Bread).

It was not all fun & games, there was some learning as well. Such as finding out at Black Hoof that brioche is not in fact a type of cheese, it is a bread. And sweet breads, are not bread at all. Why the confusing names?! I also learned that my pancreas can take quite the beating, especially in autumn when I took it upon myself (with the excuse of it being for a book project) to try and eat as many of the cupcakes on offer in the city as possible. I stopped at around 12 because it is a pain in the wallet.

Over the summer I also went deep-fried crazy. And not just because the CNE had so many (seemingly) great things on offer (NOTE: I am still mad as hell about the nanaimo bars debacle). I taste-tested deep-fried: Oreos, Pop-Tarts, and brownie batter. As if that were not enough, I also went on a deep-fried food spree in Cleveland, OH (as if there is anything else to do in that ghost-town) and indulged in deep-fried funnel fries, a Twinkie and cookie dough. The clear winners are the Oreos and the cookie dough. Is it something about cookies and there components that makes them so successful in the deep-frier? I really don’t know. I have been trying to hunt down Thunderin’ Thelma (Caplansky’s awesome food truck) because I heard rumour that they have… *drum roll*… a deep-fried Cadbury Creme Egg!! I thought those were good in McFlurries (until they took them away a few years ago, except now I heard that they are back again)… but deep-fried?! As a back-up, lest my heart be broken again, I have managed to find a bar on College St. that serves deep-fried Mars bars.

All this fooding also came in handy at the buffets while I was in Las Vegas, which brought me to my greatest realization (or one of I spose) from fooding: buffets are awesome. Where else can you try lots of different foods without going broke and being taken out of the restaurant on a stretcher whilst in a food coma? Tapas restaurants. Those two ideas are the best thing anyone has ever come up with.

In closing, I will get you Grand Electric. You have evaded me for long enough. Wednesday will be my third (!!!) attempt to stuff my face full of your delicious tacos. I had been wanting to go there ever since it was voted Best Restaurant of 2011 and then had a glowing review in The Toronto Star. But top it off with the recently added Best Fish Tacos and Best Mexican Restaurant?! Not having been able to go there yet, just makes me want to go all the more. I will be writing about piles of tacos, margaritas and a dessert served in a mason jar come Thursday… Goddammit, I mean Friday. Thursday I have actually managed to wrangle some people to go with me to eat at The Gallery Grill in Hart House. Why has it been so hard to go eat there? Because their hours are from 11:30-1:30… that is why.

I am so hungry now…

 

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Greasiest Ever…

This all started, hmm.. actually this started a while ago. I usually take the Queen streetcar home from school and one day, a few months ago, I noticed a restaurant that had a rooster painted in it’s window as part of the logo and I made a mental note and wanting to one day go eat there. A few months later BlogTO released their best new brunch of 2011 which just happened to feature The County General, that restaurant with the rooster! The other day I picked up a copy of Toronto Life from the library and wouldn’t you know it, it was the restaurant guides issue. And who happened to be voted one of the best new restaurants?  You guessed! It was settled, we were going for brunch to the County General… on a Saturday morning. Soon after all these rave reviews.

Needless to say, we arrived early. We were the first ones there, so we hid in a bus shelter pretending to wait and sneakily scoping out the place to see if anyone else would show up. Soon after two people arrived and tried the door. They looked like fools trying to open it! We laughed, and watched as they read the opening hours… and then just stood there facing the door. It was unclear if they were lining up but when we saw another guy come stand behind them we made a beeline for it, and he walked away, making us look like fools now. Good thing we did that though, soon after the people started showing up. The line was getting long and we were getting antsy, constantly checking the time. When 11am finally rolled around… nothing. We started wondering how long we would wait before giving up (we decided half an hour) and no sooner had we said that they opened up and let us in.

What to have for brunch, well the croque madame of course. It had gotten rave reviews in various places and I could not resist the idea of melted cheese and ham smooshed between two pieces of bread. The fried egg on top however, I was wary of how that would go down. We got the best seats in the house, near the edge so we were far away from enough people as well as close enough to the bar to get fast service, and it was indeed fast. Our meals arrived no more than 10 minutes after we ordered we got our food. People were still filing in from inside while we were digging into our sandwiches. Brent had ordered the fried chicken thigh. Both sandwiches came with a side of fries and I swear, there was honey in the ketchup. It was unexpected but really good.

I got around having to eat the yolk by handing the sandwich to Brent so he could eat it instead. In my defense, as I leaned in for that first bite, I caught a whiff of the egg yolk and it was not appealing, in fact it made me think the sandwich was going to be awful. It was awful greasy however. That has to have been the greasiest thing I have ever eaten. My hands were so slick afterwards. The guy from the couple next to us leaned over and asked if I had ordered the croque monsieur and I replied that yes,  had ordered the croque madame. When their order came they ate their sandwiches… with a knife and fork. Come on people, it’s a sandwich for crying out loud!

For dessert we headed to Lit Espresso Bar which was voted best new cafe 2008. The coffee was amazing. I know this because Brent had a sip and even HE enjoyed it! That is how you know it is good, because he hates coffee. It was a nice mild blend which I was happy to find out is bought from Intelligentsia in Chicago (one of my favourite coffee places there). Coffee in the best cafe of 2008 cannot be had alone so we indulged in cookies. We split the Canadian Rockies cookie (not quite sure why it is called that) and the Chocolate Chip and Sea Salt cookie. The second one was better. The Canadian Rockies cookie had oats in it, but also some weird little seeds (or seed-like things).

 

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Anniversary Dinner

Monday was our 5 year anniversary (I feel old just typing that) so we decided to go out for dinner. We were going to meet outside of Grand Electric about 25 minutes before open to ensure that we would get in. I got there at about 5:30 and noticed that there was no line. I was mildly suspicious, for in my mind I was convinced (even though the internet apparently said otherwise) that it was closed on Mondays and it was one of those things were they don’t say that they are, it is just assumed. I have encountered that too many times. So I walked by to see what was up. My suspicions were semi-correct. They were indeed closed, but not because it was Monday, they were on vacation until Friday. I called Brent to tell him to not bother leaving the house.

Having failed to go to Grand Electric yet again, I sadly made my way to his house. Hungry and out of luck. Brent suggested going to Guu Izakaya for a Japanese twist on tapas, also voted best Japanese food in the city. We went with the hope that the after-work crowd would not have filled the place. We got lucky, soon after we were promptly seated, the place filled up real quick. We were  seated at the bar, only behind the bar it was actually the kitchen not a bar. Every time someone entered or left or placed an order all the people working there would yell. At first it was a little bit jarring but you get used to it real fast. Also fast is the service. We placed our order so that we covered the spread. We had what was recommended: the salmon tataki, gyu tongue, and yakiudon. On my insistence we also had the marinated jellyfish. So we had cold and warm dishes, fish and meat, and noodles. Some were pan-fried, some grilled and some just marinated. Like I said, we covered the spread.

(marinated jellyfish)

So how did the tapas stack up? First off, it was enough food for a nice dinner. The smaller portions (owing to it being tapas of course) was nice because then you got to try more dishes. The hands-down winner was the salmon tataki, any dish that makes me swear after I have a bite (the good kind of swear) is fine by me. Second place goes to the jellyfish. Somehow there is enough edible parts to a jellyfish, it wouldn’t seem so looking at them just floating and bobbing about like that. Third place was a tie between the gyu tongue and the yakiudon (beef and noodles). Also eating beef tongue again, proves that it was not just Black Hoof’s artful mastery of rendering it palatable. Beef tongue actually tastes good. I have had it twice, two different ways and both delicious.

(salmon tataki)

 

 

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Oh Dear…

What is better than pulled pork? Oh, I don’t know, how about wrapping it in prosciutto? Think that’s awesome? How about then stuffing that inside of a pork belly and marinating it for 24 hours and slow cooked. Why, I believe you would be eating one of the city’s best sandwiches, and I am not just saying that because it was a heavenly delight. BlogTO and Toronto Life (and probably copious others) back me up on this. The sandwich is found at Porchetta & Co. on Dundas West and it is simply divine. All there is to is piles of meat stacked high between two buns, no veggie fillers or anything. So unbelievably mouth-wateringly satisfying, it seems like more than just a sandwich.

 

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Spring Break- Day 5

Fri. Feb. 24, 2012- Flying home:

I woke up hungry, shocker. But also sore, my stomach muscles felt sore from all that eating.  Before breakfast I had to madly write in my notebook, filling in everything I could remember from the previous night and trying not to omit anything. As if all that food the previous day had not been enough, what did we do for breakfast? Why we went to the Carnival buffet at our hotel, the Rio, for breakfast! The pancakes were hands-down my favourite. Pancakes with strawberry goop have quickly become my go-to breakfast food. The walnut muffin was also pretty good. For dessert they had gelato, which I could not resist. They also had a wide assortment of toppings for it and what goes better with cappuccino than Oreo crumbs? I also piled my plate with M&M minis just to munch on. Who says they have to go on your gelato? That you cannot eat them alone? My poor sun burnt face was so tight and itchy; it was awful and really uncomfortable. I was mad at the Las Vegas airport; it did not sell any good American sodas. I was desperate to get my last fix and they did not have anything I could not get in Canada. While Mike looked at shirts in the Tap Out shop, I played the slots that were right next to it. I played a dollar bill that I had found on the Strip the previous night.  In total I ended up winning $10, which is pretty darn awesome. I was still looking for that perfect souvenir to remember my trip by, so far everything I had found was far too expensive, $30 for a shirt is insane. I found one shirt but it was too large. Right before boarding the plane, I ran across to the Welcome To Las Vegas store, the first thing I saw when we had landed. I also ended up buying Las Vegas casino chips for my family.

On the first flight I had peanuts for a snack. The package said: Produced in a facility that processes peanuts and other nuts. She had given me a few packs of the peanuts, and Mike had ordered alcohol so she gave him the whole can of soda, from which he poured a tiny bit and then gave it to me. I looked like a pig. Little packets of peanuts everywhere, a glass of soda and an entire can as well, so messy. I had a double-rainbow moment on the plane, sans drugs of course.  Below us in the clouds I could see a rainbow, then it was a double rainbow, then it was a whole rainbow (a circle, not an arc) then it was a double bull’s eye rainbow! Every time I noticed one I said “I am not sure, I might be seeing things”, I don’t think the other people on the flight enjoyed me very much. Because our layover was so short (30minutes) it was a mad dash to the other gate to catch our connection. The other gate was at the other end of the airport. We had to take the tram, but we had just missed it so I popped into the shop to see what their soda selection was like. They had Cherry Coke Zero so I grabbed two and ran to the register, with paranoid glances across the way to see if the tram was coming. We got on it, but Mike was sure it was the wrong one, so as the doors closed we bolted off it, only to realize that we had been on the right one, oops. At this point we had about 15 minutes left. We ran to the food court in a desperate search for nourishment. The pizza place looked disgusting (it was Godfather’s Pizza, I was later informed that it was a good thing we had avoided it) so we went to A&W. Waiting for the food was sheer agony. Our flight was leaving soon; we still had to get to the departure gate, of which I had forgotten which one it was. Plus the people working at A&W were weird; the girl kept asking people if they liked French fries. We ran to what I thought was our gate only to realize that was a flight to Wisconsin, so we backtracked a few gates  to ask which one was ours… it turned out that one was. We had run right past it. And they were about to leave. I was so hungry on the plane, I wanted to eat but couldn’t because I was chewing gum so my ears would not pop. But then our plane was being put through a deicing process which I took to mean dinnertime! Minneapolis was grey and dark.

The rest of the flight home we just watched television shows on Mike’s tablet. Watching the tense scenes in The Walking Dead while your plane is going through a rough patch of turbulence after you speed ate a cheeseburger is not a great experience.

 

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Spring Break- Day 4

Thurs. Feb. 23, 2012- Lake Havasu City, Desert Driving, Las Vegas:

I woke early yet again, but this time it is because the living room was simply awash in bright Arizona sunshine, no complaints. At 8 in the morning it was still rather cold however, but the air was so fresh it was unbelievable, it was just gorgeous outside. For breakfast we went in to town to the Golden Corral, for a buffet. It was so cheap! It was only $7, but I had to pay for coffee. That was probably the only downside because this place had an amazing spread of food. They even had small cartons of milk and chocolate milk! Any place where I can eat chicken-fried steak for breakfast is ok in my books. And the dessert spread? Let’s just say, they had a chocolate fountain. And food on sticks, for sticking in the fountain, but I just found it made for a less messy eating experience. And best of all: chocolate cupcakes for breakfast! I ate so much food and was stuffed, I borderline had to be carried out. Ok, fine a bit of an exaggeration, but still. Before heading back to the house we stopped at a dollar store so that Mike could get some travel size bottles to transfer a bottle of hot sauce into (it was more than 100ml and thus did not meet carry-on travel requirements). This dollar store sold just about everything except for the kitchen sink. Among other things they had medications and marijuana home-testing kits.

Back at the house I had a quick shower and my hunger came back. I have no idea how that was possible. I had eaten so much, less than an hour ago! Afterwards we went driving south to see the desert landscape. We drove over the Parker Dam, which was built to create Lake Havasu. One of the main reasons we were driving around was because I had mentioned wanting to see some cacti. And man did I see a lot of them. Mostly it was little round red ones high atop the hills, but as we headed back there were some with the funky arms that take 75 years before they can grow an arm. Before we had left I had washed my hair. It turns out that driving around for 2 hours with the top down in a convertible car will do wonders for your hair. It dried my hair and gave it lots of body. At some point I made the incredibly dumb mistake to let my hair down in an attempt to re-tie it. The next few minutes were spent desperately grabbing tufts of hair as the rest whipped across my face and sometimes into my mouth; it was awful, and quite funny.

By the time we got back I was voraciously hungry, so I made myself a grilled cheese. Grilled is not the right word. I made toast, then I placed cheese on it and placed the whole thing on the toaster in hopes that it would melt. When it did not melt I put it in the microwave, less than 15 seconds later it was bubbling and growing and I ran to panickedly hit the stop button. The cheese kept sticking to my teeth; it was an interesting lunch to say the least. For the first time I was actually going to have some nice relaxing vacation time. The temperature at this point was somewhere around 23 Celsius? The pool was just calling out to us. Mike’s mom drove us there in her golf cart, which was a lot of fun as we held on for dear life. We spent no more than 3 minutes in the pool when Mike deemed it too cold, so we tried the other pool, which lasted another 2 minutes maybe? In the hot “summer” sun we ended up sitting in a hot tub. Eventually it became too warm so we resorted to just sunbathing on the deck in lounge chairs. There was music playing, the sun was warm… finally I had some relaxing vacation time! At one point the CSI: Miami theme song came on and I had to, simply had to, whip off my sunglasses and make a joke.

We got back to the house and I freaked out. My face was red as a tomato, I was so sun burnt, my skin was so tight and itchy and it was just awful. Turns out driving with the top down in the Arizona desert at high noon will fry your face. I was yet again hungry, as was Mike. We decided to hedge our bets, look up the In N Out secret menu and get burgers for the road. Why were we hedging our bets? Well because we had plans to go to the Bellagio for a dinner buffet that night.  I had to write my order down in my notebook so as not to forget it. Mike had a burger with chili peppers, protein style which basically meant that instead of buns the burger was wrapped in lettuce. I decided to go the opposite route and order the Flying Dutchman: two burger patties with cheese melted between them, nothing else. It was a messy ordeal to say the least. But man alive was it good. That is how you can tell if a burger is good, the meat itself is tasty. I was too sheepish to ask, but Mike did for me, and I got some In N Out stickers. Thankfully I had saved some wet-naps from the PB&J place in Detroit, they came in handy post-burger.

Boston’s song More Than A Feeling came on the radio during the drive to Las Vegas and I got all sappy, drawing some hearts in my book. That quickly faded when we crossed over into California and the time changed. It seems that Arizona does not follow daylight savings time. So not only was I 3 hours behind from home, but in Arizona it had only been 2 hours behind. I gave up trying to figure out the time and took to staring out the window at the changing landscape. The desert in California is rockier and less scenic; I took to looking across the Colorado River at the Arizona/Nevada landscape. This was ruined by a smelly truck transporting sheep. We turned off onto a smaller highway back to Nevada, a super fun bumpy highway that sort of felt like a roller coaster every time we flew over a bump. At one point or another Mike and I turned to each other… this looked familiar: driving through the desert, a train far off running parallel to us on the right. We got all excited but there was one key factor missing: the train tracks would have to cross the road. The excitement died down as we drove, leaving the train behind. As some banjo music played on the radio we saw a wondrous sight up ahead, could it be? Could it really possibly be? The train tracks crossed the highway! We were driving on the Cruis’n USA Route!! Mike and I were beside ourselves with giddiness.

At this point I had surpassed a new record, over a 1000 photographs taken. As I watched the sun set, I cannot tell for sure, but I think I could actually see rays of sun poking out from behind the clouds. It was beautiful; there was just the smallest sliver of the moon way above it. You could also faintly see the rest of the moon and down to the left a bright spot that was Venus. I could tell we were getting close because far off in the distance I could see the Stratosphere tower. It was really weird to see the city lights in the valleys with dark mountains towering over top. We stopped at a gas station and I ran inside in a desperate attempt to get my Cherry Coke Zero fix, for I had yet to find any during the trip! Alas, they only had the regular Cherry Coke; again I would have to settle for ingesting high-fructose corn syrup. Getting closer to Las Vegas, there was a billboard advertising diamonds, and it actually had glitter on it, it was a sparkly diamond billboard!

While waiting for Mike’s mom, who was checking us in to the Rio hotel we sat and played a 1 cent game, in hopes that it would kill some time. Mike lost his dollar to it. I managed to win 20 cents and decided to bail with that. I cashed out my dollar and decided to save it for later. We left our stuff in the hotel and headed out with a map and a general idea of what the evening’s plans were. Mike’s mom stayed behind. It was just us two. We sauntered down the hall, filled with excitement, imagining up tales of returning to the hotel riding on burros, married and being chased by a bounty hunter with only 10 minutes left to get ready to go to the airport… and we were quickly snapped back in to reality when we were staring at a dead end. We had somehow managed to miss the turn towards the elevators. What a great start to the night! We got in the elevator and a cross-dressing man joined us. Then at the next floor about 8 high school teenagers joined us. Only in Vegas. Later on I said that to Mike and he was like “Oh! That was a cross-dressing man? I wasn’t sure, was not going to say anything but…” and we just laughed. I took my $1 voucher from earlier and played in a giant (though not as big as at the Golden Nugget) slot machine. I lost. But you cannot tell, because in the pictures I have the hugest grin on my face.

Lucky for us, our hotel featured a free shuttle bus to the other hotels owned by the same company, one of which was Bally’s which was right across the street from the Bellagio, the first stop for the night. The driver was nice enough to mention that you can drink on the strip. We started out the night by watching the fountain show at the Bellagio, which was by far, my favourite show of the whole night. We had to walk through the super confusing Bellagio in a sad attempt to find the buffet. At one point I stopped and asked an employee who started to move in close and hit on me… until Mike appeared. He gave us the most confusing directions that involved so many turns, and yet we somehow made it without getting lost. The line was long, but about 5 minutes after a whole hoarde of people showed up, so that made it feel like less of a wait. We waited maybe 40 minutes, anxiously peering towards the front every few minutes or so. Once we rounded the corner it was great watching people leave the buffet. They walked so slowly and the looks on their faces were somewhere between having eaten too much and happiness. Waiting that long and having to pay $30, so worth it, the selection was amazing. They had kobe beef steak, king crab legs, snow crab legs, various sushi, steak tartar (ok, that one was awful, the bread it was on was stale) and so much dessert. They had mini crème brulees! Alas, the thing with crème brulee is that you have to have it when it is freshly bruleed, but it was still good. My only complaint is about their soft-serve “ice cream” it should not melt that fast or into a watery puddle like that. It was clearly not made with milk. And it tasted bad. I would say we each ate more than our fair share of $30 worth of food. We met a guy at the crab legs station saying that king crab legs run about $30/pound as he piled his plate. He claimed that they were better than the snow crabs legs because they were expensive and from Alaska. So, we tasted-tested them both. The guy was an idiot. Snow crab legs won hands down.

(two types of crab legs, kobe beef, pork bun, pepperoni pizza, mashed potatoes, baby mushrooms, mussels)

(steak tartar on stale toast, California roll, ahi sushi, spicy cucumbers, salmon quiche, seafood ceviche, calamari salad)

(Mike’s second plate: sweet potatoes, ahi sushi, spicy cucumbers, spicy tuna hand roll, California roll, seafood ceviche)

(dessert: disgusting soft serve “ice cream”, tiramisiu, chocolate raspberry “scone”, walnut brownie, creme brulee)

(Mike’s dessert: walnut brownie, creme brulee, sugar-free cheesecake, soft serve ice cream, sugar-free apple crumble cake).

Stuffed with food we slowly made our way out of the Bellagio and back to the Strip. We were headed to Treasure Island to see a pirate show. It would’ve been nice if it was a straight line to there, alas, we had to go around and over stuff because of the way the Strip is designed. We did quite a bit of backtracking and shuffling behind slow people. Eventually we made it to The Mirage, where a giant volcano was exploding. This caused a mild bit of confusion, I thought there was a pirate show at 10pm, I did not remember anything about a volcano at 10pm. We watched for a few minutes, but the allure of pirates was simply too strong. I was photographing the volcano and suddenly it was really hot, turns out the volcano had real fire shooting out the top of it.

On our way to Treasure Island Mike dared me to ask one of the guys’s handing out flyers advertising ladies of the night where we could find some men. The guy was genuinely confused and he turned away from me, shrugging that he had no idea. Mike had been jokingly grabbing tons of these fliers, at one point I turned to him while we waited at a streetlight and said “what must people think of this?” (guy & girl, seeming like a couple, walking down the street while the guy grabs handfuls of fliers with almost completely naked chicks on them), this elicited quite a few laughs from the small crowd around us, also waiting to cross the street. We saw the pirate show up at ahead and picked up the pace, which was truly an effort given how awful we were starting to feel at this point. I had overeaten, Mike’s cold was starting to kick in. We got there only to find that it was packed, you could barely see anything save for some fireworks at the end. Also, there was a giant lack of pirate content. It was mostly girls singing and dancing, taunting the other “ship”, no actual battles or yelling of “aaargh”, not even a real parrot anywhere. Afterwards we went in to Treasure Island for a bathroom break and to explore a bit. While waiting for Mike I saw some drunken chicks chugging cans of Corona and posing for awkward photos, it was awful. There was a bar next door to the bathrooms, Gilley’s,  that was loud and intriguing, so we approached and found out that there was no cover, so we had our hands stamped and went in. The main event was people riding a mechanical bull. We arrived just in time to watch a young bachelorette get whipped around by and drunkenly stumble out of the ring. A country band came on stage and started playing so we left, not exactly in the mood to dance.

We went across the street to The Venetian because one of the things I had wanted to see whilst in Las Vegas were the canals, unfortunately before we got to the canals I saw a little too much of some club-going gals. I did get to see some beautiful views of the Las Vegas Strip from the balcony. We had missed the show (the sky changes) and the gondoliers were off for the night, but it was still cool. The fake sky and lighting was really confusing, we kept falling for thinking it was the middle of the day. A security guard came over to yell at me because people could “trip” over my tripod. This would be understandable in the daytime, when there are more people around. But it was 10pm, there was hardly anyone around and all the shops were closing. As we tried to find some bathrooms in there, we got very lost. Eventually after wandering through the casino we found some. But then we got lost again trying to find the exit. And who did we run into to ask for help? Why my old friend, the grumpy security guard. When we exited we realized that we had somehow managed to backtrack, we had been heading south along the Strip, slowly back towards the shuttle bus. But after wandering the Venetian, we had ended up at the north end of it, north of where we had started! It was awful looking south and seeing Treasure Island. Back on the street there were drunken people and people with flyers everywhere. It was as if while we had been in the Venetian a whole horde of people was let loose on the Strip, drunk and pushy. We very, very slowly made our way south to Bally’s, desperate to just get on the shuttle bus and go to the hotel. We were stuffed full of food and exhausted. Quite frankly, we both felt like crap. But not so awful that we could not stop and play a free slot machine. The machine then printed out a voucher for more free plays inside, only when we went in we could not find the desk where we would redeem it, so we decided it was a scam and continued on south. We randomly ended up asking about going into a dance club, The Rock House and she told us that the cover was $10 for Mike and $5 for me, so we turned to leave and got vouchers from another girl just outside. It turned out those would get us in for free if we stood in line, which we did for 5 minutes. As I was going in, the security guard saw my tripod bag and freaked, it looked like I was going in with a concealed shotgun, he patted it down and asked me to open it. We got inside and it was a small hole-in-the-wall where no one was dancing. We almost turned to leave when I saw an old man (old, he had white hair) approach some 20-something year old girls. At first they were trying to ignore him, but right after that they were posing for pictures with him. It was just awkward and weird, we left because apparently this was a “stand around and sip your drink” club.

In a fit of exhaustion we went across the street to Caesar’s Palace in hopes of catching the shuttle bus as I was informed by a flyer we could. Unfortunately the guy told us that it no longer runs from there. Having gone this far out of our way, we went inside looking for Roman soldiers, and lo and behold: more lies. There were no Roman soldiers to be seen. We wandered through the casino and out the front lobby without encountering a single one. As we crossed over the street one escalator after another, I seriously considered hailing a cab. The idea of walking 2 more blocks was unbearable. As we neared the shuttle bus pick-up we saw a bus up ahead. I was a zombie at this point, so Mike mustered up the energy and ran ahead to see if it was our bus and if so to ask them to wait for me. Success! It was our bus! I had never been so happy to see a small bus in my life. My minor happiness faded rather quickly. There was easily one of the most irritating women of all time on the bus. Her monologue went something like this:

We never go out and buy cats, we just find them. One day at work someone brought to the junkyard a car that had a box of kittens in the trunk so he [her boyfriend] brought one home. Right away I knew there was something weird about it; it jumped this high [height of a door handle]. Then one day I was having a shower and the cat walked into the bathroom and right into the shower! I knew there was something wrong with this cat so I took it to the vet. He ran a genetic test on it and said that its ancestry line was a mix of wild cats. My cat was part wild cat! (All of this was in a southern drawl with over enthusiasm and drunken slurring). I was half asleep as this went on and on, the whole bus ride. I nearly ran off the bus just to get away from her. I collapsed in bed with a stomachache the size of an elephant (so says my notebook).

 

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