30 March 2008

Wishin' and Hopin'

It's been a weird couple of weeks.

For those who know me, you may know that I have had problems with my stomach for my entire life. Literally. My mom has them, both my maternal grandmother and grandfather had them, stomach pains were just a fact of life.

I have spoken with countless doctors over my 35 years who have chalked up my stomach woes to stress, genetics, and whinging.

Since arriving in Canada, I have had the same family doctor that G has, and she's always been of the school that my stomach pains = stress. Full. Stop. Here's some anti-depressants and be gone with you.

Then I became fascinated with a UK lifestyle show called, "You Are What You Eat" with Dr. Gillian McKeith. Many of the people featured on her show had similar stomach problems to mine, and she frequently discussed the no wheat no processed sugar approach to living. I was intrigued.

I visited an acupuncturist a couple of years ago who also suggested that I give up all wheat.

Which I did for awhile, ate lots of spelt breads, but didn't feel tons better, so as often happens, I crept back into my old habits. I love bread and pasta, and I moved to whole grains feeling quite virtuous and smug in my healthiness.

Then my stomach took a turn. A major turn. For the worse.

And then there was no denying it. Something was going on.

My family doctor suggested that I had an ulcer. After all, I had had ulcers as a kid (pre-treatment with anti-biotics, if that tells you anything), so logically, these new and increased stomach problems were obviously a result of h.pylori.

So my good friend to the right, h.pylori came up a positive in blood work and I went on this massively crazy dose of antibiotics. Problem solved, my doctor smugly said and I was sent along to kill the little buggers living in my stomach.

And kill them I did. This anti-biotic was unbelievably strong, so I am sure nothing much survived in my stomach during this time. But I pushed my doctor, please oh please can't I have allergy testing and a visit to the GI doctor???

She finally agreed, and I went to the allergist who said I had no food allergies (hooray!) and an allergy to dust mites and a mild allergy to pet dander.

But it was the Gastroenterologist that I was most keen to see. I was so excited to talk to a professional about my issues.

The day of my appointment came and I vowed to tell the truth and work to come to some sort of an understanding about my stomach. It's either stress/anxiety or something's wrong and I need to fix it.

The GI doctor was fantastic. Really thorough, feeling my stomach, talking to me about my family history, the problems I have had with my stomach, what things help, etc. Then, he had me lie down and he pressed on my stomach and asked me more questions. When I sat back in the chair he turned to me and said, "Well, I am pretty positive that you have celiac."

Celiac! It was like music to my ears! On the one hand, I do not like the idea of giving up all of my favourites for the rest of my life. No sir, I don't. On the other hand, we were facing the idea of a LEGITIMATE DIAGNOSIS! And that would be a lovely thing.

So he scheduled me for a colonoscopy and GI scope down the road, a whack of blood tests, and said we'd talk in three weeks.

I have researched enough about celiac to know that you can't go gluten-free until you have the blood work done because you need the gluten in your body to show up. Fine. I had the blood work. And then I pondered. My stomach in knots, I ate my way through pizza, scones, french fries, all the while thinking "May be the last time... may be the last time" like some crazy death row inmate trying to have all the faves before the end.

But then it clicked. I am going gluten-free. I am going to try it out. It's going to be hard, but I am going to give it a go. And so I did.

Today is officially day 7 of Gluten-Free Me. No gluten. Not one kernel. And the effect? No headache in three days. THREE DAYS IN A ROW! Stomach is not nearly so gassy and other than a bit of queasiness yesterday, not a worry otherwise.

So what does this mean? I don't know. I am still at least two weeks away from talking to my doctor about the results, and I am going to a dinner Tuesday night that will have gluten but was booked long ago and is with friends, so I am going to give it a try and see what happens, a bit of a gluten trial by fire. It may be that this thing going on with me isn't celiac at all. It may be IBS, though the doctor felt that whatever it is, there is a definite food intolerance involved.

We'll see. Right now, I am rocking the gluten-free cupcakes for my nephews birthday, and trying to stay focused on the goal of feeling better and having a normal stomach. Oh yeah.

Back to food in the next post.

15 March 2008

G Cooks Duck!

Last weekend, G was hankering for something new and un-tested in our kitchen. She had spent the Saturday making crabcakes and the like while I floated under a sea of headache pills. But on Sunday, we were ready for some good food.

At the St. Lawrence on Saturday, we bought some duck breast. G found a recipe online for duck breast with a pinto noir sauce... excellent, no fruit in sight. Everyone wins.

The meal was AMAZING.

We had gotten some excellent little fingerling potatoes from the farmers market, and some asparagus. G made those quite simply, and served them alongside the amazing duck with mushroom pinot sauce. Honestly, every bite was amazing.

The duck came from the elk guy. Exactly.

In the north market, there is a man who raises elk and sells it. Over the course of time, he's started bringing in the 'wares' of his buddies who raise duck, ostrich, bison, and the like. He's got this great freezer full of game, and he's really keen to talk about it and to help you sort out how to fix it and how to know what's what. He helped us pick out the right amount of duck for two girls, and he showed us pictures of him tending to his elk flock. You can't not feel good about buying meat from that guy!

But maybe you are thinking, duck? Uh, no thanks. And I would absolutely know where you are coming from! I never liked the idea of duck. I didn't get it. It fell into the same rank as bunny for me. But then one day, at a party, I kept eating this appetizer of what I thought was beef. I went to G and said, 'You've GOT to try this beef, it's amazing!!!' She took some, laughed and said, 'J, it's duck!' And then you could see her waiting for me to have the dawning realization that one of my "why would anyone..." foods was quickly becoming a favourite.

And yet, it took it's time. I would say that I have only had duck maybe three times since then. (That was about three years ago.) But then, G had this urge to try to make it, I had an urge to eat something lovely, and here we are. Duck fans. So give it a try, or come over and G will make her new specialty.

Chef Techniques 2 with Chef Bill Lohman.

Last week, G and I took a Knife Skills course at the Summerhill LCBO. The course was taught by Chef Bill Lohman, who I believe runs Tasting Catering here in Toronto.

It was quite the interesting evening!

We started by a brief discussion of the lovely Wustov knives we were being given as part of the course. Very cool. Then on to the fish.

Yep. I had to start sawing that bad boy up.


Now that may not seem like such a big feat for normal folk. But I am UNBELIEVABLY squeamish about meat. I hate hate hate to eat meat on the bone, I have aversions to touching raw meat, and really, it's just a generalized sense of ick to see "meat" so close to its natural state. But as so often happens, I have been faced increasingly with a bit of a challenge. I want to only buy organic meat. And it's expensive. MUCH more expensive. The organic farmer where we often buy our chicken has a whole chicken for around $15.00, but TWO skinless, boneless breasts clock in at $15. It's absurd. So if I want to buy the more expensive, but more happily reared meat, I have to get over the childish ick factor of not realizing that it is meat.

And I think that's a big part of it. Of course, it all starts with Michael Pollan, but it goes past that after a time. I have read so much about the farming of meat and am so unbelievably put-off by factory farmed meat, that it's really a put up or hut up situation. So I am putting up. I am learning to touch the meat, to handle the bones, and to quit whinging about it.



And here's the proof that the other three women at my table did it, too:

If we worked at a restaurant, we'd be fired for wasteage. But whatever. I DID IT!

The chicken was far less traumatic...

And the remnant bowl far less interesting...

But all in all, it was a good class!

We ate our handiwork... first with Goujonette with Quick Tartar Sauce.

It was half a fillet. I could have eaten another ten of them. (Really, it was a crazily small amount of food considering the class cost a $100.)

And with the chicken he made Chichen Saute Chasseur.

In the spirit of this new fangled skill, G and I bought some lovely Cumbrae's BONE-IN chicken breasts at the Big Carrot today (on speacil for $3.99 a pound!). I will sort it out. And my conscience will be happier for it.

09 March 2008

Dinner at Byzantium.

(There are a number of posts today... keep scrolling down if you want!)

On Friday night, the winter storm was starting, and I knew we were in a for a long weekend at home. That of course made me pro-actively cabin-fevered, and I pretty much demanded that we go out for dinner. But of course, with the snow storm descending, we knew that driving anywhere was out of the question.

So, as I tromped through the storm on my way home from work, I was working out where we should go... the only obvious choice for a nice evening out in our 'hood? Byzantium!

Actually, we have a number of nice restaurants in our vicinity, but Byzantium also makes a mean martini, has a nice club feel to it (and turns into a club right around the time I turn into a pumpkin), and is just around the corner from our home, so when we're looking for a treat, it often wins.

What a great choice it was! G started off with the Red Devil martini.

The devil horns were a nice touch. I am sad to say that I only had water, as the headache that went full force on Saturday was making it's feelings known on Friday, so I figured alcohol was not a good idea. Apparently feasting was!

I started with the Byzantium Caesar Salad. It's really cool (and gimmicky, but I love it anyway)!

The salad is so nice. It's obviously standing up in a cup, but it has several lovely cloves of roasted garlic, unique dressing, and is positively bursting with parmesan shavings. How do you eat the tower?

You knock it over!!! Look at those delicious brown creamy garlics!

G had carpaccio... one of her favorites, though she was not crazy about this version.

G said that she prefers capers, but my goodness, you could have skiied off those slopes of parm.

For my main, I ordered Beef Tenderloin Medallions with mushrooms, mashed potato, and onion rings. How bad could that be?!

Other than that gross pile of yucky uninspired broccoli, the only real issue I had with this was the jus was just a touch too strong for me. It was really overpowering. But the meat was BEAUTIFUL, tender and flavourful, and the mushrooms were cooked perfectly and really complemented the meat with their flavour, and the mashed potatoes (which are washed out on the plate, but hiding under the veg) really kicked the ass of so many mash's that may have come before it. The rings, good. The beans, good. I love beans, so am happy to have them as my obligatory vegetable.

G ordered the special which was rack of veal with spinach gnocchi and ratatouille.

It must be said. Those spinach dumplings were absolutely amazing. G was not crazy about the veg, and in fact didn't eat it, but relished the meat and gnocchi. Really nice.

There was no room for dessert, so we left and walked down to the 'This Ain't The Rosedale Bookstore" which is the BEST. I bought the Food Issue of GOOD magazine, and am looking forward to reading it in between bouts of FIFA '08 Wii play later on tonight.

Byzantium on Urbanspoon

Cooking with J and G.

We've been making an effort to actually eat the food we've been buying, and try the recipes I keep reading about. Last week was a success.

I stopped at Reither's on my way home from work and picked up some lovely little pepper steaks. The butcher asked me, quite nicely, "Have you ever made these before?" When I confessed that I hadn't, he said, "They're very tasty, but you have to cook them for only a few minutes a side. Anything more, and it will toughen right up. " I love it when you buy something new and the person selling it tells you it's tricks!

I came home, relayed the info to G, and G fashioned a lovely dinner with the steak, some roasted cherry tomatoes, mashed white beans and garlic (yum!), and my favorite, peas!

It's funny. I was reading Smitten Kitchen's blog the other day, and she was writing about how she doesn't make the same recipe twice. Now, I can say that I often don't make the same recipe twice, but we eat many of the same foods over and over. It really is that feeling of, "it's 8pm, we both just got home from work, one of us (ME!) goes to bed at the child-ish hour of 10:30, what can we make that we a) have in the house, b) is quick but not so heavy we'll die, and c) doesn't leave anyone with too many dishes? That's when the stand-by's come in. This is one of those, though the meat was a new one, and the mashed white beans are new, too. (I am trying to eat fewer heavy carbs at night.)


On another night, G made a recipe that I tore from Waitrose Food Illustrated a few months ago...Balsamic Vinegar Chicken with Cannellini Beans. This was a total hit!!! (And really really fast!)

Oh yeah. That there's a mean feast!

The recipe (courtesy of WFI):


2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp Olive oil
5 tbsp Aged balsamic vinegar
4 Skinless chicken breasts
400g tin Cannellini beans
1 Garlic clove, crushed
400g tin Chopped plum tomatoes
2 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Clear honey
2 tbsp Flat-leaf parsley
25g Wild rocket

  1. Mix the mustard, olive oil and 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, and toss the chicken breasts in the mixture until well coated.
  2. Preheat the grill. Grill the chicken breasts, turning once, for 12–15 minutes, till cooked through.
  3. Meanwhile, drain the beans and put them, the garlic, the tomatoes and their juices and the paprika in a pan and season. Heat, then add the clear honey and 50ml water.
  4. Simmer for 10 minutes until thickened (you can mash a few of the beans to thicken it more). Divide the beans between warm plates and scatter with the parsley. Slice each chicken breast and arrange on top. Drizzle with the remaining balsamic vinegar and scatter over the rocket.
Really good. I highly recommend this one, it's so fast for a week night dinner that tastes like a weekend!

And yesterday. Toronto was hit with a completely bonkers snowstorm, and I was hit with a completely bonkers headache, so I went to bed with the new Stephen King book, and G went into the kitchen.

Feeling inspired by Orangette's article in the new Bon Appetit, G made mayonnaise, garlic mayo to be exact, from the Joy of Cooking. She also tried her hand at beef carpaccio (not such a hit) and crab cakes, which were delightful! See for yourself....

So all in all, good times. (Except for the migraine.)

Tonight, G is trying her hand at duck breast, with asparagus and roasted miniature potatoes. Looking forward to it!

(Notice the name of this post is Cooking with J and G? A bit of a misnomer. It's all G in this one... and it's not even like Shake-n-Bake, I didn't help!)


I had a hankering for lasagna. I really wanted cheese-y lovely lasagna. And I wanted to make it, but I haven't had the best luck lately with my attempts at pasta -- you can scroll back for my less than successful spaghetti carbonara!

But, I decided to just give it a go... and it was good.

Look at that!

This is how I made it...

I browned one pound of extra lean ground beef with an onion and some minced garlic. I added a bunch of quartered mini mushrooms, and let that cook for a few minutes. I then added in some dry spices: oregano, basil, parsley and a bay leaf. I let that all brown for a minute. Then came in the can of crushed roma tomatoes, a little dash of Belazu balsamic vinegar, and a prayer that it all comes together.

I then took the fresh President's Choice Whole-Wheat lasagna sheets out of the package and cut them down to fit the pan I was using. I grated a bunch o' mozarella and mixed that with parmesan cheese.

After letting the sauce cook for a bout 40 minutes, uncovered on the stove, I started my assembly. Meat, noodle, meat, cheese, noodle, and so on until the whole pan was filled to the brim. In the oven at 375 for 40 minutes, covered, then an additional 15 or so uncovered.


A 50th Celebration!

G's Mom and Dad celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last week... We wanted to do something nice, but the big party isn't going to be held until the summer when their friends get back from Florida. So, we decided to have brunch at the King Eddy hotel with just us grown-ups in attendance.

It was really really lovely. G's sister-in-law T contacted the Prime Minister's office and ordered 50th Anniversary celebratory letters from a number of government folk. (You don't get the Queen's letter until your 60th!) It was such a lovely gesture, and we all appreciated T's thoughtfulness. G's parent's seemed very touched, and her father gave a lovely speech that had us all in tears.

The King Edward hotel is old and feels very grand. The room where the brunch is held is quite nice, with ornate walls and a harpist in the corner going about the harp. It's all very civilized.

The brunch was tasty.

There were basically three main stations. The first was a huge cold salad, seafood, meats, cheese and bread buffet. The food was delightful!!!

This was my first course. Some lovely asparagus, marinated mushrooms, meats, cheeses, humus, baba ganoush, and pita. Oh yeah. Lovely lovely lovely.

I have been on a marinated mushrooms kick, really enjoying them. I have always loved mushrooms, and as a kid, I used to eat them straight from the Del Monte jar. Then I moved onto raw mushrooms with cherry tomatoes and Kraft blue cheese salad dressing. The love affair kept growing. But I digress....

The next round was the "mains" course... Really nice. They had a GORGEOUS beef wellington, amazing ham, amazing cheesey pasta (I really should write these things down AT THE TIME), and other goodies...

Oh yeah. It's a little washed out, but it tasted JUST FINE! The pasta was amazing. More mushrooms, and this lovely, rich alfredo-y sauce. (I did go back for seconds, okay?!) Everyone else seemed to enjoy what was on offer, and I didn't walk around snapping photos of everyone's plates (there were 8 of us seated in the very middle of this rather large room), but we all raved about the food endlessly.

From there, we took a bit of a breather and then headed to the dessert table.

On this plate you have chocolate mousse, creme brulee and rice pudding. On the other side of this picture, you have a girl smiling like a loon!

I really enjoyed it... it's slightly pricey ($50/per person) but there is an enormous selection of food, you get drinks (including fresh squeezed orange juice), and a harpist. You usually have to pay extra for that!

05 March 2008

Las Vegas -- Day 5.

(Sorry for the delay in continuing on with Vegas. We had a few Torchwood's to catch up on and I got lured into MasterChef!)

Day 5 took a turn away from what we had planned. On the plan was a little road trip to the Grand Canyon. We nixed that idea because G hadn't gotten to go to the Atomic Testing Museum. She really wanted to go, and we sort of didn't get to it when we were supposed to because I was buying too many clothes, so change of plans. I didn't want to go, but it was actually remarkably interesting. I am glad we went. Worth the money and the time, get yerself in a cab and get there next time you are in Las Vegas!

After that, we were ready for some lunch, and well, there are a lot of places to eat in Las Vegas. I was really drawn by the Border Grill. It is the Vegas outpost for the Too Hot Tamales. Back in the early days of the Food Network when I was a young girl in school, I was hooked on their show. I watched it religiously in the afternoons, and I really always wanted to eat at their restaurant.

Fortunately, G is all about the Mexican food, so convincing her to take a detour to the Mandalay Bay hotel for lunch was not a hard sell.

We had a 9 foot tall waitress. Okay, she wasn't 9 feet tall really, but she was tall.

I ordered a beer, G ordered a margarita, we asked for some guac, and we kicked up our heels and relaxed our way through the menu. The tall waitress suggested that if we were meat eaters, which we are, that we order something with the carne asada. GOOD CALL!

Yum yum yum. I ordered the tacos because a) they came with two kinds of rice; b) beans with cheese; and c) TACOS WITH MEAT, GUAC, AND SALSA! BRING IT ON!

It was really good. G ordered the carne asada quesadilla, which was also very good but decidedly NOT photogenic. Oh no.

For dinner, at midnight, we had a cheeseburger in paradise at Jimmy Buffet's restaurant. No pics, just nice grub. Viva Las Vegas!!!

04 March 2008

(we interrupt this recap of Vegas to bring you...)

Bello looks so wise. You'd never know he's just plotting how to trip you as you walk into the kitchen.

01 March 2008

Vegas, Day 4 (or how Mario Batali let me down, but Serrano saved me)


Oh Vegas. You and your Michelin stars. You and your celebrity chef restaurants.

And YOU all you American food bloggers and American magazines with your love of Batali. While I could blame you, I truly only blame myself.

I have been a huge fan of UK food magazines for the past few years. But I have only recently started reading the US magazines, and I was interested by how famous Mario Batali had become. I became more and more interested in visiting one of his restaurants. And Vegas has a few. So off we went to Enoteca on Day 4.

Enoteca is in the Venetian. And there are no links to the restaurant because I don't recommend you go there. I was really really irritated by the entire experience.

Let me actually back up a bit.

I have been reading Ruth Reichl's 'Garlic and Sapphires'. I love it. But it has really made me think about eating at nice restaurants and how you are seated and treated...

And it all came to the fore when the bimbotic hostess at Enoteca led us to our table in the far corner of the mostly empty "patio". Like the sight of us would repel the average Vegas tourist from the restaurant.

Honestly, we could have been in the bathroom. But, head high, I nodded hello to the two middle aged women in velour tracksuits next to us, and started in on the menu.

The specials sounded great. I can't remember now what they are because we weren't allowed to order them. "They aren't available. There was some problem in the kitchen." For TWO specials? No worries. Bring us some prosecco, some water, and some bread.

The bread was cute. But some swanky people who didn't take their sunglasses off the brightly lit INSIDE patio were given some assortment of jams or something we didn't get. Whatever. We ordered starters. Lentils with salami, olives, roasted beets with horseradish, and bresaola (sorry about the spelling, if only I had a dictionary handy... ha ha). Really lovely.

Nicely plated. Delicious tasting. I stand by the proposition that it was only good because it was the only thing that no one had to do much to.

So, despite the seating, despite the no specials, despite it all, the starters were amazing. And I was happy.

For my main, I had ordered "Bucatini all'Amatriciana" which was described as "tomato, cured pork, onion". What it should have been described as? "Salt, raw pasta, and grease."

G ordered lamb pasta. Blech. When she mentioned to the waitress that our food was very very salty (eye-wateringly so), the waitress said, "Oh yes, we aggressively season our food." This was said to us in a tone meant to imply that our palettes were so inept as to appreciate the delicate seasoning. My tongue was merely bleeding from the acrid salt, but who am I to complain?

When the waitress came back, she astutely noticed that we weren't really eating the food. I was a bit embarrassed about saying something about the not cooked pasta for fear that she would say, "We serve our pasta al dente, which might be foreign to some palettes", but really, it was raw. The pasta that was cooked, and there was some, was lovely and salty, but the undercooked bits ruined the texture. The waitress asked us if we wanted it sent back, laughingly saying, "A lot of people complain about the salt. I just don't notice it anymore." Well, deadened taste buds are not a good sign.

Anyway, as I moved the pasta around looking for the soft bits, the amount of grease from the pork was disgusting. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.

People eat out for all sorts of reasons, and I love the feeling of trying something different, and I will admit that I like the idea of eating in tv chef's restaurants, because it's like going to a friends house for dinner. But I don't like feeling like a total sucker and being spoken down to like I didn't deserve to be sitting in the craptastic faux patio in faux Venice. Give me a break.

Our plans for dinner that night were a whopper. We had made reservations to eat at Picasso, a Michelin 2 starred restaurant located in the Bellagio. I was feeling a little low after the Enoteca disaster and suggested we cancel. G told me to buck up little camper and get ready for dinner.

I am so glad we did.

First, we stopped in the conservatory of the Bellagio to see the flower arrangements. Wow. They had an entire display for Chinese New Year, and as this is my year (the year of the Rat), I made G take a picture...

It was so amazing. (Though I thought he kind of looked like a squirrel.)

We made our way down to the restaurant. We picked Picasso over some of the others because we had read that it is one of the few Vegas restaurants where the "celebrity" chef actually cooks there. And I was really excited to be trying Julian Serrano's food! Heels clicking and me rocking my new little clutch that I bought at Coach, we headed down the stairs focused on having a good night and great food. When we walked into the restaurant, the very friendly staff immediately took our coats, and seated us in the lounge to wait for our table. There are many of Picasso's paintings on the wall, and it was amazing to just see them all in this beautiful restaurant setting.

Let me stop right here and let you know that I didn't take any photos. I was feeling really self-conscious after the whole Enoteca disaster, but I honestly shouldn't have. The staff at Picasso were absolutely brilliant. As we were being led to our seats, we realized that the only empty table in the restaurant was one that faced out two beautiful doors onto the Bellagio fountain. We were both trying to appear nonchalant as we did cartwheels inside about the splendid table.

Then the waiter came over with the wine book and talked us through the selections. G wanted to order a whiskey sour (made with JD and fresh sour) and I just asked for water, knowing that I was going to do the wine selections that came with the set dinner.

We made our orders. I didn't write them down, so bear with me. The amuse bouche was delightful. Foie gras on toast with a leek and potato soup with toasted almonds. The soup came in a dainty teacup and went down a treat. Really really elegant, and the foie gras was rich with the slight metallic taste at the end.

The first course for me was a butternut squash soup with marshmallows. The 'mallows were glorious. The presentation was spectacular. I was given a bowl of soup with the two marshmallows in the bowl and a center of mushrooms. One of the waiters brought over a terrine of soup and ladled it gently into my bowl. The waiter brought me the wine and gave me a description of the region where the wine was made, and information on why it was chosen. I couldn't believe it.

The soup was a triumph! It was crazy sweet and totally opposite to the type of soup that G makes. It was absolutely delicious. G's first course was a quail dish with salad and pine nuts, and she said that it was outstanding.

Our next course was inventive. I was given a roasted vegetable in broth with fried foie gras pieces. G had a boudin of seafood with tomato coulis. My second course was amazing, and strange all at the same time. The vegetables were outstanding. Just cooked and floating in this lovely rich fragrant broth. The foie gras was fried beautifully, and I ate the outsides of each piece. The pieces were slightly too thick for me, and the sheer amount of foie was striking.

I then had to take a quick trip to the bathroom. Embarrassingly, I went into the men's room, which was a room with a sink and a door to the actual facility. I tried it, it was locked, so I just looked in the mirror and fixed my hair and talked to myself while I waited. Then the door opened and this very nice man stepped out and, after his initial surprise, informed me that I was in the men's room. I very quickly hightailed it to the ladies room and vowed to NEVER AGAIN attempt a trip to the bathroom in a dark restaurant without my glasses. Bad move.

As I walked out of the bathroom, I kept my head high and hoped that the bathroom guy was near the bathroom and I would avoid any sort of humiliating eye contact. I didn't see him (though without my glasses, he could have been right beside me) and I headed back to the table. As I told G what happened, she started laughing and said, "It was the guy next to us! He just came back from the bathroom!" So smooth.

But our main had arrived and all was forgotten. Milk-fed veal chop with the most glorious roasted potato ever and delicious sauce and beets and out of the park good mushrooms. Wow. The chop was amazing. So tender, so flavourful, and the accompanying sides just elevated the dish. I was given a very oak-y red wine that was too strong for me to drink (light-weight!) but the taste of it was very lovely with the meat. I loved it. Really amazing.

There was of course a delicious dessert course. Chocolate fondant. Now, let me say that the chocolate fondant has a particular love for us right now, as we have been engrossed in watching Master Chef, where the road is paved with bad chocolate fondants. So to have this complicated dessert that we had seen made in so many bad ways on MasterChef was really quite amusing. (Speaking of which, does anyone else watch MasterChef? It rules the absolute world.)

The waiter brought us two coffees, and after a few minutes, he brought us an amazing little tiered plate of goodies. Really a nice touch, and honestly, I was moved to tears.

(G is sitting next to me wondering why I wept so profusely in Vegas, but that's for me to know and her to find out.)

We heard these swishy elderly women next to us ask the waiter if they could have our table on their next visit. We felt very far removed from the velour tracksuit folk of meals past.

As we finished our meal, we headed towards the door only to be greeted by the extremely nice front desk staff. We were handed a little box, given our coats, and thanked for our visit. The little box? Full of cookies!!!!!!

Wow. Wow. I mean, the dinner blew the budget, it was frighteningly expensive, but the experience was so wonderful. When I was younger, I used to think that people ate at fancy restaurants for no reason other than a desire to want to feel fancier than everyone else and eat food that no one really liked (and I suppose I still hold this opinion about the mass hysteria that has accompanied the sushi craze). But what I have realized as I have eaten at some nicer places is that you go there because it's food you really can't make, it's a level of service that means that you don't have to be concerned with anything other than the taste of the food on your plate, and it's a sense of caring about food that you don't get everywhere. Two stars indeed. I was really thrilled and would go there again in a second.

Then more Bellagio fountains. Wow. The fountains. Just wow. What a great day!

Vegas Day Three!

After Better Midler, we did quite a bit of walking around. My headache had abated, and I was ready to go out and see the town. But then my old ladyness kicked in, and I had to go to bed!

After we woke up the next morning, we got ready and headed down to the Casino to watch some folks playing craps. G really wanted to play craps, but we had no idea how to play. So we took the advice of one of our travel guides that said to go in the morning and observe. The people who run the tables are really nice, and really let us ask questions, even though we weren't betting.

We headed off to breakfast at La Salsa Cantina. It was cheap, right on the strip, and had a breakfast burrito.

As you can see, this mammoth burrito came with beans and potatoes. Both were tasty. The burrito was stuffed with a fresh salsa and scrambled eggs. No innard shots, as the restaurant was filling up at that point!

Good chow.

Off we went, down the deceptively long strip. We wanted to go to the 'Star Trek Experience' and were really looking forward to see what that was all about. But we also knew that we could get half price tickets at one of the ticket booths. But alas, it was too early. So what are two girls to do but shop?! Another suit, and a fantastic white sweater at Ann Taylor. What can I say? I love their clothes!

As we shopped and walked and just basically hung out, we saw the sights...

And then we went into the Venetian. It's very odd how some of the hotel's have this outside inside feel...

But pretty!

And the Venetian has it's own canal.

But G wasn't down with the lines for rides. So boo. Actually, it seemed kind of silly, so we just kept heading towards the far more grown-up and serious Star Trek Experience.

I have never professed to being anything but a total geek. Ever. I am not cool. I have no illusions. I watch Doctor Who and Torchwood religiously. I own all the Star Wars movies. I have actual action figures on my desk. Geek. So when I SQUEALED WITH GLEE during the first Star Trek "experience" I was in no way embarrassed with myself. G might have been, but me? I was just having too much of a good time to care. My only sadness was that I didn't get to wear the costume.

BUT. I did pay the extra fee to have my picture taken in Picard's chair. And that, my friends, was an experience of a lifetime. Honestly. A better time had never been had by a girl. Ever.

Quark's Bar, rules. G had her picture with a Klingon (a real Klingon! hee hee) and honestly. I could have wept with the cheeseball joy of the whole event.

From there, it was off to dinner at the Bellagio Buffet. Now I am not so hoity-toity as to be all, "oh buffets are so beneath me". Oh no, not at all. And this one was more like it. Sushi bar, pasta bar, carvery, cold salads, hot salads, kids section, pizza, and a million crab legs. I ate a good few plates of food...

Here are G's legs. Wait. Her CRAB legs.

And here's my, um, um, sigh, (look away), second plate of food.

So there are some sauteed shrooms, some very bright cannelloni, some cheese and bacon tortellini, green leek spaetzel, buffalo strip loin, pasta with meet sauce...

It was all good. It didn't change my life. And I had read a review on Tripadvisor that it was kind of like a Denny's, and it was. But the food was good, G had her craving for crab legs met, and all was good.

And the Bellagio fountains. Wow. WOW. WOW. Go see them. No, seriously, go now.

So all in all, a good day three!!!

Vegas Day 2.

We woke up in our nicely suited hotel room in the MGM Grand. It was very comfortable. Really big. And you could waltz through the bathroom. Nice.

We started the day by having breakfast at the Paris Hotel Buffet. I am embarrassed to say that I didn't take any pictures of any of the food. Not a one. (Hey! Isn't this a food blog?!) I woke up ready for our shopping extravaganza that was planned, but with a killer migraine. I could really barely stand to eat, let alone feel up to photographing the whole thing.

And I have to say, it wasn't that good. We went on a weekday, not the fabled weekend brunch with many delicacies and specialties. No. We had the regular weekday breakfast, and it wasn't all that. There were okay eggs, lots of icky meat (and I eat meat, but the meat was poorly cooked and looked like it had been out for awhile), and lots of specialties. G had a crepe made for her that she raved about. I just wanted to drown my sorrows in Excederin.

The Paris Hotel was really quite brilliant. I thought it would be really cheese-y based on what I had heard, but I really enjoyed the feel of it. But every hotel in Vegas is crazy dark. I don't get it.

Off to the outlet mall. And whoa. We really managed to get some gooood deals. I bought a few suits at Ann Taylor, shoes at Bass, sweaters at Banana Republic, and some nice shirts at Calvin Klein. All good. The headache was still going strong, and G and I hightailed it back to the hotel so I could take a nap before we were off for the opening night of Bette Midler!!!!!!!!

Yes, that's right. G and I managed to get our hands on tickets for Bette. And after a bit of a nap and a piece of pizza, a good time was had by all. If you are in Vegas, I highly recommend a trip there.

But since I haven't had a single pic posted yet... here's me...

This is actually day three, but what you don't know won't hurt you!!!


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