Saturday, July 28, 2012

Traveling Through Food: Cuba

Guantalamera, guajira Guantalamera♪ 

I like Cuban food and Havana Grill is one of my favorite places for Cuban food in Las Vegas. 

The geographical proximity between Cuba and Puerto Rico makes our culture, cuisine and music very similar.  Notice that I said similar.  Not quite the same as many think.  Not only the food is similar, but puertoricans are very familiar with Cuban cuisine because of the abundance of Cuban restaurants in San Juan. 

Last year I went to Havana Grill for the first time.  It was for happy hour and I had a blast.  Today I went for dinner.  Last year, I ordered a sample platter of different Cuban food.  I loved it.  So this evening I ordered the same.  Yum! 

Salsa music is a common denominator between Puerto Rico and Cuba.  The restaurant had background salsa music and my feet were already going.  I was looking forward to dancing salsa, but the DJ music didn't start until 10 pm, so it was too much time to wait.

In spite of not being able to dance, I had a great time just by being with my friends in a Caribbean environment with food and background music that I love.

Ironically, I’ve never been to Cuba.  Shame, shame, Delma.  Cuba is so close to Puerto Rico.  Well, I shouldn’t bang my head on the wall because for many years, when I was living in Puerto Rico, no one could go to Cuba and years later you could, but it was a difficult process.  As years passed, it was more a procrastination act, which now I regret. 

The food was absolutamente d e l i c i o s o! 

This has been a week of excessive food.  All great food, but now I’m afraid to get on the scale.  Next week, I don’t want to go out.  I’m tired of having so much fun and eating so much.  I want to stay home eating salads, soup and sandwiches combined with daily workouts at the gym.  I also need some rest and I need to put my life back in order.  

Below are some pictures from my visit to Havana Grill last year and some from this evening.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Opus Too for Lunch

As if I hadn’t had enough food with my girlfriend from California these past days, today I had a lunch pre-scheduled engagement that I wish I didn’t have. This morning when I woke up, my immediate thought was “and I have to go out and EAT again?” It’s been way too much food this week!!!
But today’s lunch plans were a little special. I had plans to go to Opus Too, which had been on my “To Go” list for quite a while. Opus Too is a student-run restaurant at The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Las Vegas in Henderson. It’s supposed to be upscale international cuisine. I had read and heard excellent reviews about this place.  
This is the final passage of senior students prior to graduation. The restaurant is very small, cozy and elegant . Meals include choice of appetizer, entrée and dessert for just $10.95, plus tax and gratuity, $15. Excellent deal.
Me and my lunch buddies had a great time. Everybody was satisfied with what they ordered and "picky eater" (moi) enjoyed everything. Small portions, quality food, the way I like to eat and should eat, but normally don’t. As an appetizer, I ordered grilled salmon with “something,” sea bass with “something” main entrée and banana éclair with “something” for dessert. Sorry, but I don’t remember what the “somethings” were. The sea bass and banana eclair were so good that I ate them without taking a picture first.
My observation about this place is that, the students, whom are supposed to be close to graduation, are not well prepared. The cooks did great, but the waiters and waitresses seemed very insecure and made many mistakes. Perhaps they are trained to cook and not to service the tables. I really don’t know how that works, but in their defense, I will say, that they really tried and were very cute and friendly. The supervising chef was very nice with us too.
Good camaraderie, good laughs and good food. A very lovely lunch. Too bad it’s in Henderson, which is kind of far for me.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My New Profession: Tour Guide

Since I became a Las Vegas citizen, I frequently find myself giving tours to my friends that come to visit.  It’s such a great joy to see my friends and show them my new adopted city.  I like to show them that Las Vegas is more than the Strip, which is all they know.  The main stop is always my home because everyone wants to know where I live.  Like I live in the Taj Majal.  Ha, ha!  So, when I plan my excursion, I know my home is a main attraction and I make it my first stop.  

I remember that when I decided to move to Las Vegas, someone told me:  “Delma, when you live in Las Vegas, you never say ‘mi casa, tu casa’ because people will come to Vegas and use your home as a hotel.”

Well, that hasn’t been my situation.  When my friends tell me they will be in Las Vegas, they have already made a reservation at a hotel or timeshare.  So, my job is more like a tour guide.  And I still feel like a tourist myself!  I still haven’t seen it all and I want it that way for a while.  I guess, once you’ve seen it all, it will become less exciting.  Hmm, I don’t think that will ever happen in Las Vegas.

So, this past week, I had one of my best girlfriends from CA staying in LV for 4 days.  It was her mini-vacation, she stayed at her timeshare, which was a cute one bedroom apartment.  We had some fun days catching up and having a little entertainment.  We hadn’t seen each other since I moved to LV.  During that time, she lost weight and I gained weight.  It’s all the buffets fault!  

I just had one concern.  I was broke since my tenant had not paid the rent.  So I was going to be at the mercy of a credit card.  I also  used my local discounts and free venues to entertain my friend.  She is very easy to please, not like me.  She also came to get some much needed rest, so she didn’t want anything too hectic.

On Monday, I gave her the traditional tour of my home, my neighborhood, showed her the places I go to, the things I do, etc.  Then I treated her for lunch at one of the Station Casinos.

On Tuesday, I used my House Seats membership to take my amiga to see the Divas, Frank Marino show, which I had heard so much about, but hadn’t seen yet.  For those who don’t know, this is a show of impersonators. 

First of all, the show was at the Imperial Palace, a hotel that I had never seen nor knew of its existence.  Now I know why.  It’s an old hotel on the Strip and it’s towards the back with bigger hotels on each side, so it’s hard to see.  They are renovating the hotel (it’s about time!), so there was a lot of construction going on and detours to get to the main entrance.  The hotel is old and smells old.  However, this hotel was packed!  I wonder why there were so many people in that hotel.  Maybe it’s cheap, I don’t know. 

We wanted to have dinner, but didn’t have too much time before the show, so we decided to stay in the hotel and find a place to eat there.  None of the restaurant choices were appealing to me, so I suggested Hash House a Go Go.  Well, you know this place, one order is good for two.  The food was excellent, as usual, and we both had good portions of food to take home in spite of having ordered just one entry.  

Then the show.  I had heard so much about this show that I had high expectations.  I didn’t like it.  The hotel is old, the show is old.  After seeing so many hi tech shows in Las Vegas, this one was totally non-hi tech.  Until this show, I always got front seat when I went to see a show through House Seats, but this time that I was with my girlfriend, we got a table towards the back of the showroom. 

You must see the face of the impersonators, otherwise it’s not much fun.  We couldn’t see their faces close enough from the table we were assigned.  This is easily resolved by having a couple of big screens on each side of the showroom.  They badly need a couple of big screens, if nothing else.  I didn’t like the dancers either.  I found them mediocre.  Except for one.  A blond guy with a punkie hairstyle stood out from the other dancers throughout the whole show.  For me, he was the only professional dancer.  The rest, they just learned a choreography.   He caught my attention to the point that at times I looked more at his dancing than at the impersonator.

My girlfriend said she liked the show.  I don’t know if she really did or if she was just being polite.  For me, it was “ok” only because I didn’t pay any money for it. 

On Wednesday we went to Freemont Street because, although she had been to LV many times, she never went to Freemont Street.  Oh yes, she wanted to have the Freemont experience.

We had dinner at the Golden Nugget and went to the buffet.  Good buffet and we stuffed ourselves.  Then we went to explore the F experience.  She loved it, so I was happy. 

Then I took her to the Venetian to see Il Carnevale.  To my disappointment, il carnevale I saw with her was half of the show I saw last month. Fewer performers, shorter show, lacked energy, nothing like my experience in June. 

After that, I drove back to her timeshare ready to say the sad goodbye.  She was leaving the next day and I was unable to take her to the airport due to a previous engagement. 

I had a good time with my girlfriend.  Except for our lunch the first day, she insisted in paying for all our meals.  When I got home and took my purse from the back seat of my car, I saw an envelope on the floor with my name on it.  I stepped into my kitchen, sat on my small dining table and opened up the envelope.  It was a thank you card from my girlfriend with a beautiful message and $100 dollars!  Then I started to cry.    

Showing hospitality to our friends doesn’t need to be paid.  That’s what friends are for.  I do it out from my heart.  What can I say:  I’m honored to have a good ‘amiga’ like Esther.  

Ribs on top of garlic mash potatoes with greens and carrots
Attacking the ribs at a retro Hash House a Go Go

This is Frank Marino.  Isn't he, I mean she, beautiful?

Me and "Tina Turner"

The best dancer

And he was so sweet and down to earth.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pearls of Wisdom

Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.

"Creativity is intelligence having fun."  Albert Einstein

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."

It takes only one person to change your

"Act as if you were already happy and that will tend to make you happy." - Dale Carnegie

A person can succeed at almost anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm.

I have found that if you love life, life will love you back.

"Don't wish it were easier.  Wish you were better."  Jim Rohn

"A man with no imaginations has no wings."  Muhammad Ali

"Don't let someone else's opinion of you become your reality." - Les Brown

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Little Humor: Thank God I am a Woman

Lord, we thank you for…!!!

We are perfect. We don't go bald, we celebrate one international day and one national, we can sit cross-legged without pain, we use both pink and blue, always know that our son is ours. We have priority on a shipwreck, a sex strike gets us anything, we do not pay the bill. We are the first hostage to be released. The age does not diminish our sexual performance, we can be aroused without anyone noticing, we can make love as many times a day we want, if men cheat on us, we are victims bretrayed, if we cheat on men, they are #*@#. We can sleep with a friend without being called lesbians, we can pay attention to several things at once. A woman ambassador is the Ambassador. Ambassador’s husband, what the heck is he? President’s wife is the First Lady: husband of the President, what the heck is he? If we decide to do men work, we are pioneers. If a man decides to do women work, he is gay. AND FINALLY: regardless of how much it hurts, we can do EVERYTHING that men can do. **Ah! AND WITH HIGH HEELS!

Contributor:  Maria Camiletti

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lunch at Mt. Charleston

F i n a l l y, today I went to Mt. Charleston. The “must see” place in Las Vegas that never appealed to me. The reason being is because I hate cold weather and snow. Mt. Charleston is the place to go skiing during the winter or people just go to see the beautiful snow scenery. It’s about a 45 minute drive from LV and the temperature is usually 20 degrees cooler.

But Mother Nature played a trick on me. This past week in Las Vegas we had temperatures ranging between 110 and 114 degrees. However, the last two days it was raining and I read that there were possibilities of rain and thunderstorms in Mt. Charleston. If it had been up to me I would’ve canceled, but this was something planned weeks ago and I didn’t want to let my people down.

I could not believe my bad luck. I had envisioned this visit today having a nice lunch seating at a table outdoors. It was all the opposite.

We were going to have lunch at The Resort on Mt. Charleston. About 15 minutes before getting to the resort, it started to rain. By the time we arrived to the resort, it was hailing. I don’t mind the rain, in fact, I love the rain in the summer, but this weather was something else. But, at least, it was not cold. That would’ve totally ruined my day.

Lunch was a disaster. Because of the rain, obviously we had to have lunch indoors. That was a great turn off for me because that was exactly what I didn’t want. I didn’t go all the way to Mt. Charleston to have lunch indoors. But we have no control over weather, so I knew I had to deal with it. A band was playing very LOUD. It was very hard to hear each other at the table. I was not impressed with anything on the menu, so I ordered something simple: pizza. Precious heavens - the worst pizza ever!

I have a problem. When I am unhappy, it shows. It’s very hard for me to put a happy face if that doesn’t come from within. The people at my table knew that I was not happy, from my part, I was doing my best to be civil.

We were there for hours and the rain was non-stop. But when we were leaving, rain stopped and sun was coming out.

This was not my day. Some days are good, some days not so good. Some outings are fun, some not.

Ok, so now I’ve been to Mt. Charleston. I have no plans of going back. First and last visit.