Bouchon at the Venetian

This place needs no introduction.


Moscow Mule, quite a departure from our usual wine.

Oysters, of course, and Pâté de Campagne.

Steak Frites (for me) and I think this was Sole Meuniere (for Maya).

Flan and Beignets.

Then we were off to watch Britney like a pair of teenagers!

At the Venetian

B&B Ristorante at the Venetian


You know you’re in Vegas when Mario Batali is more powerful than Caesar himself. Seriously, look at this! You turn a corner and there he is, waiting for you, with a pair of his orange Crocs!

Good thing that all his restaurants are pretty legit; otherwise Maya and I would be picking up an overpriced Chinese food at a food court at some sorry mall. And this place lived up to the reputation of Babbo of the West.

Appetizers: Complimentary chickpeas on toast, Warm Lamb’s Tongue, and Grilled Octopus.

Main Course: Seafood pasta and roasted Brussel sprouts

Dessert:  Spiced Almond “Tronchetto”and I forgot the name of the other one 😛

B&B Ristorante
At the Venetian

Uncorking My Culinary Curiousity: Bouchon

Bouchon restaurantThe first thing I did when I found out that I was going to Vegas for the hockey game was to make a reservation at Bouchon at the Venetian. And this was almost six months ago!

Just like many other food lovers in the country, I’ve been mesmerized by Thomas Keller’s award-winning French masterpiece for many years now, often visiting a local bookstore to just get the glimpse of his beautiful cookbook, The French Laundry, also the name of his restaurant in Younville in Napa Valley. Both the restaurant and the cookbook are out of my reach budget-wise (although I did get the cookbook from a former colleague couple years ago when she found an extra one floating around from the business meeting she held at The French Laundry – and the book was autographed by Keller himself) but when I learned that he has a more casual bistro in Vegas, I just had to pick up that phone to secure my spot in this gastronomic heaven!

And what a dining experience it was. I don’t know how to properly explain the flavors my mouth experienced that night expect to say that it was highly sophisticated and perhaps calming.  The food reminded me of French women – that they may not necessarily be mind-blowingly gorgeous, but their perfection and precise attention to detail make them simply divine and absolutely beautiful. The swirl of dressing and sweet syrup on the beet salad was like the casual but well-placed Hermes scarves on their beautiful, long neck, and the way the steak was cooked was like feeling their soft scent of the perfume in the air. Not in-your-face like the big breasted and flashy women with a bottle of cologne splashed on their plastic bodies … but like classy, svelte, intelligent ladies you would see strolling down the streets of Saint-Germain Des Pres.

bouchon bread

Bouchon beet salad
Salade de Betteraves et Poires, marinated beet and poached pear salad with tossed hazelnuts, green mache and champagne vinaigrette ($12.50)

Bouchon french onion soup
Soupe a L’Oignon, classic French onion soup ($9.75)

Bouchon mac and cheese
Macaron au Gratin ($7.50)

Bouchon steak frite
Steake Frites, pan-seared prime flatiron served with maitre’d hotel butter and French fries ($36.50)

Bouchon salmon
Saumon Poele, saute Scottish salmon with a cassoulet of pole beans and marinated tomatoes with whole grain mustard sauce.

Wonderful things do come to those who wait.

At the Venetian, Las Vegas, NV

Puck Time with Kings and Wolfgang

Frozen FuryRight after I landed in Los Angeles from Atlanta, I hopped onto my boyfriend’s truck and headed to Las Vegas to watch my boys play in the annual Frozen Fury, a pre-season game that promises the exciting new season ahead. I didn’t even bother unpacking my luggage. I just tossed clothes in a washer and dryer and put them back in, some even unfolded!

Boy, has Las Vegas changed tremendously in the past 10 to 15 years or so. I remember going to the Sin City as a kid and the only things to do there were to hang out and play cheesy arcade games at Circus Circus and eat nasty $3 buffet. Now, the city has become the international entertainment and culinary mecca with endless rows of world-class shops and restaurants – the change I most certainly welcome.

With that said, please make all the fun you want at the fact that the first place we ended up was Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill (I know, I’ll wait until you finish laughing). In our defense, the only reason why we ended up at this gastronomic cliché was because the hotel room wasn’t ready for check-in, and we had a $50 credit going toward our meal at MGM Grand … or so we thought. We didn’t find out until we finished our appetizer, our main course, and two drinks, that this was one of the ONLY restaurants in the hotel that did not honor the discount! In one sitting, we had burn through almost half of our weekend food budget  …. and it wasn’t even dinner!

WP salad

The saving grace was that the food here was surprisingly very, very delicious. We ordered the heirloom tomato and burrata salad to start, which turned out to be (dare I say it?) mind-blowing! I love Caprese salad and order it at every opportunity I get and this one felt extra special because this was probably going to be one of the last times I get to enjoy these special tomatoes this season. Also, the balsamic reduction and tiny dollops of pesto puree that accompanied the tomatoes hit the dish out of the rink. The sprinkle of halved cherry tomatoes, sliced onions and pieces of roasted artichoke gave this salad a delicious edge.

WP linguini

Now, with the pasta dishes. My boyfriend ordered the linguini with clams and pancetta, which was, although drained in a sea of butter and oil, nicely salty and flavorful.

WP tomato

In contract, my spaghetti with tomato and basil with a basil smear was light and refreshing. I’ve never been a fan of fresh pasta because I love my pasta el dente and the homemade type gave the mushy, watery consistency. This pasta, however, was still very firm and bouncy. The consistency reminded me a little of undercooked instant ramen noodle but I mean this is a most respectable way.

The bill came out to whopping $90 but oh well, this is Vegas afterall. We need to take a gamble sometime. You walk away a winner one day and a loser the other. In our case, I think we got the long end of the stick.  (And by the way, the Kings beat the Avs in a high-scoring, outrageously entertaining game, 4-3!) 🙂

Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill
MGM Grand
3799 Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, Nevada 89109

Hitting it Out of the Ballpark

coorsI never thought this day will come but it is here – we’re done with the week long training! Hooray!  Looking back, I have no idea how I was able to survive on a diet of junk food, coffee, and only a few hours of sleep a night, but I did it … and that’s all it matters.

This week in Denver was just the beginning and there will be many more sleepless nights to be had, but I’ve decided to put that out of our mind for a night and just enjoy the relaxing game at the ballpark with my amazing teammates!

ichiroAs I cheered for Ichiro and watched the Rockies extend the winning streak to 10 games, I thought about all the things I learned this week. This week as challenging, humbling and satisfying all at the same time. It was challenging because there were so many balls I had to juggle at once … it was humbling because there were so many things I could and should have done better … and it was satisfying because, at the end of the day, the participants walked away with newfound skills and knowledge that they can take back with them.

I don’t want to sound overly cheesy here but this few months have been one of the most rewarding times of my professional career. It’s amazing how much I gained (in addition to some weight around my hip from eating all those junk food) working with intelligent, motivated, high performing ass kickers! And to top it off, I established wonderful friendships that I hope would extend beyond the week spent in Denver.

Well, as much as I want to reminiscent over the success of this week, I need to go and start packing because I’m off to Indianapolis tomorrow for another leg of my business trip! Fun, fun!

P.S. Big congratulations to the Pittsburg Penguins for winning the Stanley Cup.

Mountain of Fun at Peaceful Valley

mountainsDenver is absolutely breathtaking, and when I say “breathtaking,” I mean exactly that. The air is so thin here, I’m constantly feeling like I’ve just ran an 800-meter dash. My boyfriend warned me about this so I wasn’t overly surprised when I first felt out of breath at the airport, but it still surprises me when I start hyperventilating when I least expected it – like when I’m standing in front of a class, training. I hope nobody noticed me breathing into a brown paper bag in the corner of the room 😯

dude ranchToday was a hump day so we wrapped the training early and all 23 of us headed over to Peaceful Valley, a dude ranch 90 minutes from Downtown Denver, for some fun in the mountains. We had a choice to horseback ride, fish, hike, or shop for our activity and a group of us (all ladies, of course :lol:) decided to indulge in some shopping at the nearby Estes Park. On the way to the Park, our driver pointed out the famously-haunted Stanley Hotel (the locations for the miniseries, The Shining and oddly, Dumb and Dumber) and we decided to stop by there to check out what the fuss was all about. The place certainly was spooky and most of us stayed in the hotel lobby while a couple adventurous ones went looking for ghosts.

stanley hotelWhen we returned to the Dude Ranch, we were awaited by an awfully embarrasing line dancing lesson (although a couple drinks beforehand eased the pain a bit), a hayride around the ranch and a BBQ in the barn. We were afraid that the rain will pour on us and while it did rain a little, the Mother Nature was very kind to us. We even went up to the top of the mountains for campfire and some s’mores! This was definitely an experience I will remember for a long, long time!

(Here’s us girls posing at the Stanley Hotel.)

Living Like Rock Stars in the Penthouse!

viewIt is Day 3 in Denver and we’re still going strong (translation:  we’re still alive and breathing)! The training is going well and the participants, who traveled from all over the country, are absolutely wonderful. We couldn’t have asked for a better group of people, with such energy and a positive attitude. We trainers are still working hard and burning the midnight oil to prepare for the following day, but all of our efforts are definitely paying off.

I wish I can say the same about my eating, however. With every kind of junk food imaginable only a short reach away (cookies, candies, ice cream, you name it, we have it), my eating has been out of whack since my arrival to Denver. I’ve been eating tons of processed food during the day and super high-fat dishes for dinner (I even ate Fettuccini Alfredo last night at Dave and Buster’s … eek!) and can’t seem to control myself. I even stopped counting Weight Watcher Points after the first day because it’s too freighting to find out how much I’m consuming daily.

Happy news: P and I moved into the Burnsley Penthouse last night! The management team was kind enough to reward our hard work by giving us the pimped out rooms that overlook the beautiful Denver skyscraper! The Penthouse has a living room, kitchen and a dining room downstairs, and P and I are staying in the upstairs bedrooms.

living room

The beautiful living room area


The spiral staircase that leads to the upstairs bedrooms


I wish I can spend more time sleeping!

The only downside is that there is only one bathroom upstairs but who’s complaining when you have a big, beautiful, rockstar bathtub like this one?


Tonight was one of the few nights that we have free for dinner so P and I decided to stay in and order room service while we put finishing touches to tomorrow’s presentation (and cheering for the Penguins!  Go Pens!). 

crab cake
Crab cakes for me

Salmon and Mango salad for P


Game 6 and keeping my fingers crossed that history does not repeat itself!

Greetings from the Mile High City!

Hello from Denver, Colorado 🙂

Denver 016My colleague P and I landed in Denver safely on Saturday morning after surviving a very scary shuttle ride to LAX, where the driver from Super Shuttle was nearly falling asleep behind the wheel 👿 Granted it was 3:30 a.m. when we got picked up, but he has no excuse to put anyone in harms way (you have one angry, strongly-worded letter coming your way, mister!). The plane ride, on the other hand, was peaceful as I was able to fall asleep soon after takeoff. P, however, wasn’t as lucky and she had to deal with a little kid kicking her seat for the duration of the flight (you know how annoying that can be!). It was a bit of a rocky start to the Mile High City but we’re just happy that we are finally here!

We, along with five other trainers from the team, will make Denver our home away from home for the next seven days. We are here to launch an onboarding program that we worked so hard to create. When I first accept this job back in March, I promised management that I will give up sleep for the next three months and I think they took it quite literally. But there’s nothing to complain here because what I learned in the mere few months is more valuable and meaningful than what I learned in years.

Denver breakfastWith a vegetarian breakfast burrito and a glass of cranberry juice from The Burnsley Hotel in my stomach (eggs, spinach, tomato, onion and herb cream cheese), I am ready to go! The breakfast tastes even better with the picturesque Downtown Denver in the backdrop.

Biggest Surprise Award 2008: Mesa Grill, Las Vegas

mesa-barMy family and I took a mini-vacation to Las Vegas a few weekends ago, something we’ve always talked about but haven’t been able to do until now. It was the weekend of the De La Hoya fight, as well as the Las Vegas Marathon, so needless to say, we wanted to avoid MGM and other high-traffic areas as much as possible.

My idea of the Vegas trip is a little different from everyone else’s. I typically spend my time shopping or relaxing by the pool, instead of going crazy with gambling and partying the night away. Luckily, my sister and I shared the same philosophy and we ended up spending most of our time in the hotel gym and spa, sweating a little on a treadmill and relaxing a little with the decadent massage. I even sat in my hotel room with my knitting project while enjoying a delicious piece of pastry from downstairs patisserie. I love this side of Vegas, where I can actually take the memories back home 🙂

I was in charge of arranging the dinner for the family, and since we didn’t want to drive or go anywhere far, I decided to give Bobby Flay’s Southwestern restaurant, Mesa Grill, in Caesar’s Palace a shot.

I must admit that although I know that he’s a wonderful and extremely talented chef, I think of Flay as a bit of a prick. He comes across a bit cocky and over-confident on television … but we were in Vegas afterall and what better place than this to take a gamble!

I was able to secure the 9:00 p.m. reservation at the restaurant on a Saturday night. We got there a little early so we killed time by playing some slots and I lost $40 in about 30 seconds (this is why I don’t gamble)! Even at this hour, the place was packed with patrons grabbing something to eat after a day of gambling, and others getting ready to begin the night. I was a bit surprised to see the vibrant color that surrounded the place because I think of Flay’s taste as a little bit more subtle and mature, but the primary colors somehow worked and gave the restaurant a very playful vibe.

Our waiter, Richard, was, as expected, a “professional” waiter. In the culinary world, there are the regular waiters and there are “professional” waiters. The former are those who’s waiting table just to make extra money. The latter are the gastronomic advocate, with expertise in wine and food, and serves to make each guest’s dining experience one to remember.  I wasn’t surprised to see this breed of service staff in this upscale restaurant and Richard was great at helping us decide what to order.  It was him who convinced my sister, who usually stays away from anything pork, to order the pork tenderloin, one of Mesa Grill’s most popular dishes.  To everyone’s surprise, she ended LOVING the dish!

My parents weren’t familiar with Flay’s work on television but they immediately figured out who he was when I told him that he was the one who got on top of the kitchen counter with his shoes in the original Iron Chef series.  We Japanese people are still bothered by his disrespecting action … haha.

If I was lukewarm about Bobby Flay before this, I was red hot for him after tasting his mouth-watering Southwestern cuisines! Forget the shoes and the counter — he walked right into my heart with his masterful cooking!  I knew the food would be delicious but I certainly didn’t except them to be THIS good. I hate to say this, but this was one of the best tasting food I’ve had, ever. Take a look at what we ordered and imagine how good they are – and multiply that by 50! This restaurant definitely deserves the “The Biggest Surprise” Award, and possibly the “Best Restaurant of 2008″ nomination (to be announced later)!


We shared the TIGER SHRIMP + ROASTED GARLIC CORN TAMALE with Corn-Cilantro Sauce ($16).


We also shared the SPICY TUNA + SALMON TARTARES with Red + Green Hot Sauces, Crispy Plantains+ Blue Corn Flatbread ($16).


I ordered the 22 OZ BONE IN CHIPOTLE GLAZED RIB-EYE with Red + Green Chile Sauce ($46). OMG, it was juicy and absolutely delicious.


My father ordered the BLACK ANGUS NEW YORK STRIP STEAK with House-Made MESA Steak Sauce ($48).


My mother’s COFFEE RUBBED FILET MIGNON with Mushroom-Ancho Chile Sauce ($44).


My sister, who usually don’t eat pork, loved the NEW MEXICAN SPICE RUBBED PORK TENDERLOIN in Bourbon-Ancho Chile Sauce Sweet Potato Tamale + Crushed Pecan Butter ($36).

We definitely got the jackpot with Mesa Grill!  The experience was worth the million bucks!

Mesa Grill
In Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas