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)!

mesa-tamale

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

mesa-tuna-tartare

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

mesa-rib-eye

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

mesa-new-york

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

mesa-filet

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

mesa-pork

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
★★★★★