Quote of the Day

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Your letter has been submitted

From the Tampa Bay Times: Although space limitations don't allow us to print all the letters we receive, we give them all careful consideration. Below is the letter you sent us. 
The Tampa Bay Times had an advertisement in the Sunday 8/6/2017 edition for Esbriet, a drug used to treat an incurable lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or I.P.F. Thankfully neither my wife nor I need this medication that was approved by the U.S. in 2014, but I was curious about the cost. Not surprising was the $94,000 to $96,000 cost of a years supply of this drug if purchased here in the U.S. The same drug and dosage if purchased in Japan, Canada, India or Europe will cost approximately $2,000. Is this not a pharmaceutical obscenity?

From a personal perspective, we recently had to fill a ten dose prescription in preparation for a relatively minor medical procedure. The prescription was filled at a local Walgreens. We were billed $10 per dose for a reasonable $100 total. On the bright side, we have insurance. If we did not have insurance those ten doses would have cost us $1260 or $126 per dose.

What contributes to this obscenity is that we can get the exact same medication from a Canadian pharmacy for $253.40 or $25.34 per dose. We actually came out ahead by using our insurance, $100 instead of $253.40. But what of those in this once great country who have no insurance? Does anyone care? It certainly isn't Big Pharm. With them it's about money and profit. And our Republican controlled Congress? It's the same thing, money.

Of course Big Pharm is doing their best to make it illegal to buy prescription drugs from Canada and other parts of the world because folks in need who are seeking lower cost options are cutting into Big Pharm's profits and the monies they use to buy politicians. I think our only hope is a big Democratic turnout in 2018. We need to terminate, with extreme prejudice, this Republican controlled Congress with our votes.

Understand this: I am not advocating a single party system. A wholly Democratic administration would probably be almost as bad as what we have now. There just needs to be a balance in this country with politicians who understand for whom they work and they do not work for Big Pharm.
It remains to be seen if my letter gets printed, but this is an important issue that we can't allow to go unanswered.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Another Pharmaceutical Obscenity

We recently had to fill a ten dose prescription in preparation for a relatively minor medical procedure. The prescription was filled at a local Walgreens. We were billed $10 per dose for a reasonable $100 total. On the bright side, we have insurance. If we did not have insurance these ten doses would have cost us $1260 or $126 per dose.

What constitutes the obscenity is that we can get the exact same medication from a Canadian pharmacy for $253.40 or $25.34 per dose. We actually came out ahead by using our insurance, $100 instead of $253.40. But what of those in this once great country who have no insurance? Does anyone care? It certainly isn't Big Pharm. With them it's about money and profit. And our Republican controlled Congress? It's the same thing, money; and to quote a line from the movie History of the World, Part I, "Fuck the poor!"

Of course Big Pharm is doing their best to make it illegal to buy prescription drugs from Canada and even Mexico because folks in need who are seeking lower cost options are cutting into Big Pharm's profits and the monies they use to buy politicians. I think our only hope is a big Democratic turnout in 2018. We need to terminate, with extreme prejudice, this Republican controlled Congress with our votes.

Understand this: I am not advocating a single party system. A wholly Democratic administration would probably be almost as bad as what we have now. There just needs to be a balance in this country with politicians who understand for whom they work.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Homecoming Dinner At Edison

While in Tampa last week enjoying our mini-vacation my trophy bride and I decided on a return dine at one of that city's finest restaurants, Jeannie Pierola's Edison: Food + Drink Lab. We had reservations for 6 o'clock that evening but we wandered in about 15 minutes early. That's not a problem we were told and immediately the hostess guided us to our table looking out on Kennedy Boulevard.

Marysol, our gregarious server, brought us menus and ice water while we took a peek at the mixology menu. After a few moments of deliberation the Belle of Gulf Boulevard opted for the Smoking Gun: duck fat-infused Bulleit Rye ‘Frontier’ whiskey, TeBella Lapsang Souchong-infused simple syrup, Crude ‘Sycophant’ orange + fig bitters, Jack Rudy aromatic bitters. This was a tasty concoction that washed away the cares of the day ... not that we had any cares that day.

Certainly our photographer had no cares since he didn't care enough to snap a shot of the Belle's Smoking Gun. The photog got his stuff together enough to record his adult beverage, the Oaxaca This Way: The 86 & Co. ‘Cabeza’ tequila, Barrow’s ‘Intense’ ginger liqueur, Alipus ‘San Juan’ mezcal, lime, agave, Bittermens ‘Hellfire’ habañero shrub.

This beverage was so yummy I had to have two. The goblet was coated with a Hawaiian black sea salt that perfectly accentuated this delightful cocktail. I tried not being too obvious while licking the glass, but that salt was so good. Look closely and you can see the Smoking Gun in the background.

For our comestibles the Belle and I decided to stay with small plates so that we might enjoy a myriad of flavors. When we placed our orders Marysol said that she would bring them to the table one after the other as opposed to all at once with only a small wait between dishes. A nice touch!

Strap yourselves in for the show is about to begin..

WOOD-ROASTED BEETS + SARAH’S FLORIDA CHEVRE - curry pistachio butter, lime jam, micro caliente. Muy delicioso!

WOOD-ROASTED OYSTERS - miso butter, sherry mignonette. One of the better roasted oyster dishes this side of Felix's place in NOLA.

BUFFALO CAULIFLOWER - carrot celery date salad, Roquefort dressing. I am not a cauliflower kind of guy, but the Belle seemed bigly pleased.

This is a dish that gets my taste receptors quivering in anticipation: CHAR-GRILLED OCTOPUS - purple potato escalivada, sour orange aguachile, squid ink olive oil, micro Latin latitude. I swoon at the memory!

I really wanted to be blown away with this plate of SMOKED BONE MARROW - avocado, radishes, mole salsa, micro cilantro, grilled bread but the marrow was cooked beyond the point of being spreadable. The marrow came out in crumbles.

Veggie girl sitting across from me just had to have FRIED GREEN TOMATO SALAD - garden arugula, shaved fennel, cherry tomato confit, preserved lemon goat cheese, black olive emulsion and she seemed very pleased with herself.

By this time I was quite porky and except for one last adult beverage I felt like I was D-U-N done.

This was the El Molino - Xoriguer ‘Gin de Mahón,’ mango, lemon, basil, edison habañero tincture, Saracco ‘Moscato d’Asti’ with a cute-as-can-be tiny clothespin securing a leaf.

Did I mention that I was done? Well, Marysol was having none of that, so my bride and I shared this beautiful and decadent creation: DARK CHOCOLATE CRUNCH - chocolate mousse, hazelnut feuilletine, raspberry pomegranate paint, smoked chocolate ice cream. This crunch transcended merely good. It achieved immortality in the taste buds of our minds.

Dinner with cocktails, wine, and food came in at $195.81. Maybe a bit pricey for everyday dining, but we don't get to Tampa much anymore, so this was a real homecoming celebration for us.

Buen provecho, y'all.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dining Downtown Tampa: Anise

"Anise Global Gastrobar centers around internationally inspired bites." My bride and I were inspired to have a few of those bites at Anise while visiting our former home, Tampa, this past week. We wandered in around six-ish on Thursday and were promptly greeted and seated. Anise does not accept reservations for less than parties of six.

Anise has a clean, modern decor with picture windows looking out toward Ashley and the river beyond. Darrell was our very charming and efficient server who quickly plied us with refreshing adult beverages as we settled in to explore the bill of fare.

The Belle of Gulf Boulevard and I decided to stay with small plates. We started with one of the Savory Plates, the spectacular Spicy Beef Tartare.

With raw tenderloin, apple, chives, lime, kimchi sauce, this tartare was probably the best rendition that we have ever had. This dish demanded to be consumed immediately and with gusto.

Our friends back on the island said our lives would forever be incomplete if we didn't dive into an order of Deviled Eggs. Hmm, thought I, I have had deviled eggs before ... at most any pot-luck or picnic I've ever attended. Oh posh and piffle, bring them on Darrell.

I can tell you one or two things right now: I have never had deviled eggs as good as these. We requested two of each, bleu & bacon and pesto & sun dried tomato. The two tastes were uniquely different yet creamy and delicious.

My bride has never met a tater tot that she could eschew, so we got an order of Truffled Tater Tots with a ramekin of lemon creme fraiche.

After a gazillion years dining in military mess halls with the ever present potato something or other, I can't get worked up over taters. I am sure these were heavenly, but I left them for the Belle to enjoy ... and, she did.

Next on our gastronomic horizon were the buns, Stinky Bunz, that is. We requested three and while they were tasty, they weren't particularly stinky, and after a gazillion years in military barracks and tents I can recognize stinky - but, I digress.

The Belle was more than just pleased with her choice of fried zucchini with crispy garlic and shallots. As I mentioned, while she can not refuse a tater tot, I can not refuse pork belly. I am also fond of kimchi, so the obvious choice for me were the bunz with braised pork belly and kimchi. C'est magnifique!

I really didn't need a dessert but my bride insisted on the powdery sugared Beignets, three diet-busting treats to end our meal at Anise.

Anise: the food was excellent, the service was friendly and professional, and the prices were reasonable. All food and adult beverages a pocket pleasing $85.04.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Two Days In Tampa

In need of a break from the monotony of island living adjacent to the beach, my bride and I decided to visit our former home city, Tampa.

We booked a room at the old Holiday Inn, the Barrymore, a tad up river from downtown. The hotel was cheaper than those closer to the heart of downtown Tampa. The room was adequate and we had our usual roof-top view. The hotel dining venue, the Waterworks Bar and Grill, offered food and adult beverages. The Belle and I enjoyed breakfast both mornings of our visit primarily because of our server, Linda. She is a joy!

Though both my bride and I had worked in downtown Tampa for 25 or so years, we had never experienced the Riverwalk. The Riverwalk was therefore a priority ... after food and adult beverages. Food and drink will be discussed later, as in: when I get around to it. (Anise and Edison)

Here is our walk along the river.

Update 8/3/2017: I forgot about this photo ... a black and white painting on the Riverwalk.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Burger And A bowl Of Gravy

My bride, the Belle of Gulf Boulevard, has been feeling the urge ... the urge for a burg, hamburger that is. I suggested that since we were going to MD Oriental Market on 49th in Pinellas Park that we should give Pete and Shorty's a try since this pub is in the same shopping complex as the MD. So we did and we love it.

On our first visit my bride requested the Pete Burger Classic with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion with a 60 cent upgrade with cheese. For an additional $1.95 she added the Tater Tots. This meal seemed to satisfy her desire for a burger ... cooked her way.

I could not resist the Over Easy with Avocado prepared my way - medium rare. The Over Easy was a delightful, juicy mess with avocado, bacon, cheddar cheese and an over-easy egg that spilled its golden gravy over the perfectly cooked patty.

For my side I chose French fries ... ho-hum. But wait! For an additional 40 cents I received a bowl of savory and delicious brown gravy for the fires.

Since Pete and Shorty claim to be an Iowa bistro and I didn't spend a lot of time in Iowa a few years ago, I asked the server how to proceed with the gravy and fries. She suggested dipping the fries one at a time since pouring this gravy on the fries would make them soggy. I did as directed and the gravy and fries were heavenly.

As I consumed my burger it occurred to me to dip the burger in the gravy and take a bite, then dip again with subsequent bites - holymoly was that ever good.

We have visited Pete and Shorty's several times and the burgers are consistently perfect. This is now one of our premier burger palaces. And, spend that additional 40 cents and get that bowl of gravy. I think a shoe would taste pretty good dipped in that stuff, but you should probably stick with the burger and fries.

Good service and reasonable prices.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Dandy Dining On The Island

In our morning paper the other day my bride and I read a Reiley review of Island Grille & Raw Bar at 210 Madonna Boulevard in Tierra Verde. Laura Reiley is the Tampa Bay Times' restaurant critic ... one of the best food writers in the business of writing about food.

Intrigued by her article, I took a look at the Island Grille website. The Grille outgrew their previous location, so the owners built a new, grander structure back in August of 2016. This new place is spacious with indoor and outdoor seating. Island Grille is definitely not a rustic fish shack and one of the first things that caught my eye as we walked in was ... be still my thumping gizzard ... an oyster bar. And I mean a real oyster bar, with real oyster shuckers. I quivered with excitement.

I seriously considered dining at that bar but the hostess had already guided my bride to an awaiting table in one of the indoor dining areas and both my Belle and Jamie, our server, were waiting for me to show up ... with arms folded and impatient foot tapping.

Once seated, I couldn't help but be impressed with a series of panels with glass etchings adorned with images of snook, mullet, hog fish, a turtle and various other critters from the sea.

After ordering a Stella draft for me and a William Hill Chardonnay for my dining partner, I contemplated the oyster menu. Two boutique oysters varieties from up north and Louisiana mollusks were on this day's menu.

On the way to our table I had stopped to chat with one of the shuckers. He described the northerners as being a bit on the small side. He and I discussed the Gulf oysters for a moment, and then I was offered one as a taste test.

I watched as Ricky expertly shucked my oyster: top shell removed, the meat severed from the bottom shell, not a drop of the salty liquor was lost and the oyster wasn't dipped in a nasty bowl of water to wash away the flavor. The oyster on a half shell was handed to me and with great delight I consumed this sweet treat from Louisiana.

It is also a treat to discover a venue that serves oysters on the half shell shucked by people who have a clue as to the proper way to shuck and serve. I have only found one other restaurant along the Pinellas County Gulf coast that really knows what they are doing: our neighbors on Gulf Boulevard, the Salt Rock Grill. Back at the table, I requested a half dozen on the half shell.

Oops! What's this I muttered to myself? The oysters looked good but they were swimming in a big puddle of melted ice water. A lady, who turned out to be the owner, asked if there was a problem and she agreed that this oyster swimming pool was a problem and it was immediately corrected ... sort of.

My replacement tray came back rather quickly so I imagine the oysters were drained of water and liquor, placed on fresh ice and served. I ate them but they were not as sweet and flavorful as my gratis oyster at the bar.

Enough about oysters already! The next order of business was our entrees. The Belle requested the Chicken Cordon Bleu off the Early Bird menu. The breaded chicken was topped with sliced tomato, ham and Swiss cheese.

Said she, "The chicken with panko was crunchy on the outside, just the way I like it, and tender and juicy on the inside." Her side was fluffy mashed potatoes.

I was still in a seafood frame of mind so I chose a half dozen Chargrilled Oysters with chipotle lime sauce.

These oysters were prepared on the Island's chargrill and served hot with fresh French bread. I could detect the smokiness from the grill that had my mouth watering even before these mollusks were served. The sauce was tangy from the lime with a subtle piquancy from the chipotle peppers.

I finished with the Steamed Platter: 6 oysters, 6 clams, 6 mussels and 4 steamed shrimp.

All seafood was steamed just right, but I discovered that I really needed to eat fast before everything got cold. The shrimp keep cooking after leaving the steamer so I should have consumed them first. Next time I think I must try the Chilled Platter with 6 raw oysters, 4 shrimp cocktail and smoked salmon fish spread.

When Jamie came by to see how we were doing I told her that we were D-U-N, done. Apparently I was mistaken because the next thing I knew, this appeared on our table:

Jamie said that we really shouldn't leave without an order of this Drunken Bread Pudding. She was right! We did need to experience this decadent delight.

Almost as sweet as the bread pudding was our final bill: all food and four adult beverages came to a very reasonable $91.49.

Service at Island Grille & Raw Bar was exceptional, The owners were not only present, but worked hard to ensure a smooth running operation; from supervising to serving, to picking up dropped debris. These are very "hands-on" people. We were impressed.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Watching The Weather Show

Nope, not watching the Weather Channel; this is the show from the fifth floor of our apartment at Golden Shores. A beautiful July afternoon with fireworks in the distance and storm clouds moving in to the beach at Indian Shores.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Taro On Our Table

My bride and I have been doing a good bit of grocery shopping lately at the MD Oriental Market at 49th and Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park. Not only have we experienced some tasty and exotic treats but we have greatly expanded our culinary knowledge base.

Every time we shop at MD we find new food items that pique our interest. Some we buy on the spot, other times we go home and Google before we buy. Banana flowers looked intriguing but I had no idea what to do with them. Google answered all of my banana flower questions. I decided to eschew banana flowers. The preparation appeared to be more trouble than it was worth.

Tara root, on the other hand, appeared doable; just cut into cubes, boil like white potatoes and then mash like ... well, mashed potatoes. The mashed taro that I prepared to accompany my Chinese inspired pot roast was absolutely delicious. MD sells taro either peeled or unpeeled.

Like many of the foods we have purchased from MD, taro is really good for you ... probably way more than white potatoes. The health benefits of taro include its ability to improve digestion, lower your blood sugar levels, prevent certain types of cancers, protect the skin, boost vision health, increase circulation, decrease blood pressure, aid the immune system, and prevent heart disease, while also supporting muscle and nerve health.

Additionally, one cup of taro has zero cholesterol, 117 calories, 11 mg of sodium and a mere 28 grams of carbs as opposed to 2 mg of cholesterol, 210 calories, 485 mg of sodium and 33.1 grams of carbs for white mashed potatoes Taro is loaded with valuable nutrients and it tastes great ... especially with a ladle of beef gravy.

We will still buy and cook white potatoes but taro offers a nutritious alternative.

Buen provecho, y'all.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Your Piglet Parade Daily Fruiting

All sorts of nutritional sources say that we Americanos need to be eating more fruits. The Piglet Parade heartily agrees. With that thought in mind the Belle of the Boulevard and myself have been trying to keep ourselves well fruited. A lot of our fruit buying has been occurring at the MD Oriental Market on 49th in Pinellas Park.

We have fruited ourselves with jackfruit and dragon fruit over the last several weeks. Both of these fruits are loaded with nutrients that are good for every part of our bodies. The first try with dragon fruit netted the white pulp variety which was good and very refreshing. On our last trip to the MD we picked up some more of the white, but we discovered there is a red variety. We brought home some of both.

This morning I cut into the red. Let me say right up front that red is a key color here. The skin or peel was the same as the white as were the cute little seeds, but the pulp was very red and maybe a little less sweet than the white. The red nutrients were compounded. If my bride and I were any healthier from these fruits we would probably just poop with joy.

Speaking about pooping: what no other web site dealing with these red dragon fruits have addressed (for obvious reasons, I suppose) is the after-consumption effects. I am not suggesting anything painful or unpleasant ... maybe a little surprising. With the addition of  many shots of creme de menthe your after consumption BM would probably be real Christmassie colorful.

That's as far as I am going with this. From here forward, let your imagination fill in any blanks ... or, give it a try. The fruit is really good, though.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Our Beach Kitchen: Cooking Chinese

My trophy bride, the Belle of Gulf Boulevard, and I have been expanding our gastronomic buds of taste lately by breaking out of our culinary comfort zone. Instead of relying on Winn Dixie or any of the local Publix stores to provide sustenance, we have made several trips into Pinellas Park to shop at the mind-boggling MD Oriental Market on 49th off of Park Boulevard.

Each time we go to the MD it seems that we find some amazing food stuffs that calls out, "Try me!" We have brought home exotic fruits, canned products, fresh meats and poultry, and veggies not found in main-stream groceries. So far, most everything we have tried required a visit to The Googles to figure out what to do with it and how to eat it.

Among other things, we have discovered Asian fruits that are extremely nutritious and have restorative properties not often found in more common varieties. For instance: jackfruit. I have seen this monster fruit featured on food and travel channels. MD has whole jackfruits and fruits cut into smaller sizes and wrapped in plastic.

The yellow pulp can be scooped out with a spoon or fingers and the large seed removed. Not only is the fruit a tasty treat, it is really good for you. A cup of raw fruit has about 155 calories and almost 40 grams of carbs, but most importantly it is packed with a boat load of necessary vitamins and minerals.

Once the seeds are boiled and the husk removed they are not only good for you, but roasted in a frying pan with a little oil and soy sauce, they are a delicious crunchy delight. Also, the unripe fruit can serve as a pulled pork meat substitute.

Speaking of meat: while exploring the meat market, I discovered a most exotic chicken. It was a whole bantam black chicken. I had no idea such a thing existed and while knowing nothing about this kind of bird I knew I had to have it.

Back home I did a Google search and turned up the Ayam Cemani, an uncommon and relatively modern breed of chicken from Indonesia. They have a dominant gene that makes the chicken entirely black; including feathers, beak, and internal organs. Here in the U.S. these birds sell as high as $2500. I had obviously looked up the wrong bird. After a little more 'net surfing I came across the Silkie.

Silkie chickens are a highly-prized breed of chicken that has beautiful silky white plumage, and startlingly black skin. They are frequently found in China, India, and Southeast Asia, or in our case at the MD Market. The Chinese have used the Silkie as food and as medicine for over a thousand years.

In the nutrition aspect, black chicken has less calories than regular chicken, mostly due to less fat. For example, a 100 gram piece of regular chicken has around 8 grams fat, while black chicken has only 2 grams. Studies have also shown a higher level of an antioxidant called carnosine. Antioxidants in general are a great thing, and black chicken has double the amount of carnosine than regular chicken.

That is just peachy information, but now I had to ask myself, "What the hell are you going to do with this black bird?" Well, it was back to the Googles for me, and I found a recipe on New York Times Cooking. Except for the addition of four baby bok choy (because I had them and could add them) I followed the recipe to the letter.

 The bird: ready to be cleaned, rinsed and quartered.
 Step 1: simmering the bird and aromatics for an hour or so.
 Step 2: ingredients for coconut sauce.
 Step 2 (cont): straying from the recipe, I removed the bones since many are small.
Step 3: the prepared dish after a gentle simmer.

The sauce was unbelievably rich and luxurious. The meat really doesn't taste much different than white chickens ... maybe a little gamier ... but, this slow cooked black chicken stew was simply bursting with flavor. Would I do it again? Maybe ... if I can find another Silkie at the store and if the black chicken spirits move me. This was a labor intensive dish. I'd really have to be in the mood.

Hmmm ... maybe try it with a regular chicken or several game hens? We'll have to see.

Bien provecho, y'all.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pickin' Peppers On The Balcony

While the summer growing season in our part of the world is coming to a scorching close, my pot of shishito peppers is pooping out a bunch of these tasty treats on a regular basis.

I mixed this crop with some coarse sea salt and peanut oil and roasted them for about 6 minutes. They make for a savory snack with the addition of soy sauce and some sesame seeds. Yum-a-mundo!

We have harvested about three pounds of tomatoes so far and I have been able to add something from the balcony garden to almost every dish for the last several weeks. The patio corn did not do well. Between the high winds blowing the stalks over and the pigeons pecking out newly planted seeds before sprouting, we did not get a corn crop. I'll try again in the fall.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Travel Edition: Las Vegas

Our hectic life on the beach was really starting to get us down. There is just so much rum, surf, sand and sun that a body can take before a change must be made. After careful thought and consideration my trophy bride and I decided that a nice peaceful and quiet week in Las Vegas would do wonders to rejuvenate our mental and physical well-being. To add frosting to the cake we would be celebrating my bride's birthday and welcoming her to the magic world of Medicare.

Southwest Airlines had a package deal with non-stop round trip air and hotel accommodations at MGM Grand. We looked at each other and said, "What the hell; let's go!"
After a blissful five hour ride in a flying sardine can we were deposited in Sin City and whisked away to our new home in the sky. Actually, the 15th floor of the MGM Grand with a spectacular room upgrade. For a mere $40 extra per night we got a room with clean air and a guarantee that the room would be relatively germ free. We couldn't say no.

I had done my diligent search for a proper dining venue for our first night in Vegas that would treat my Baby to a dandy birthday dinner. I chose Andiron Steak and Sea in Summerlin (about 17 miles from the Strip). Andiron features a must have 9 ounce prime rib cap: the tastiest beef muscle of all – the Spinalis Dorsi ... cooked to a perfect medium temperature that benefits any rib eye to melt the delicious ribbons of flavorful fat.

While awaiting the arrival of this heavenly cut of beef we washed away the desert dust with a couple of adult beverages.
The Exhibitionist for her ... 
The Amaro Manhattan for moi.
Our starter of Steak Tartare with a quail egg on top was another dish to write home about - one of the best we have ever been served.

The quality of the food, beverages (including a bottle of Rhone Valley wine), service and $192 final bill was worth the drive away from the tourist traps on the Strip.

If you have never been to Las Vegas you have got to do the Strip at least once. We had been and I can only paraphrase the late, great Ambrose Bierce: "Once is enough!" We planned this trip with the least amount of time on this boulevard of teaming masses wandering aimlessly from one plastic palace to another. Las Vegas has so much to offer to those in search of new and exciting adventures. As an added perk, prices are lower and the crowds are thinner away from the glitz.

I seem to remember Anthony Bourdain visiting Las Vegas several years ago and having a beverage at the Mermaid Lounge. My bride Googled the Mermaid and an Uber and off we went. The Mermaid is located in the Silverton Casino - about six miles out of town. You really should try the Pineapple Upside Down - a dandy vodka beverage, a bit on the sweet side - but, so good!

Back in town we decided to give the Monorail a ride ($12 per person for 24 hours). This is a pleasant way to see some sights without the crowds and out of the heat.

We rode from MGM to the other end and back again just for fun. A note of caution: The end of the line recording mentions that this is the stop for Fremont Street, the second most famous street in the Las Vegas Valley after the Las Vegas Strip.

What the recording doesn't mention is the walk down to the street where a machine can be found that, for a fee ($8) you can acquire a bus ticket that can transport you to Fremont. Or, you can walk four long bus stops distance.

A kindly gentleman standing nearby, recognizing that we weren't locals, suggested that catching a bus at this stop during the day was safe. He went on, "At night this is a dangerous place. You don't want to be here at night." Thank you, kind sir. We got back on the monorail. Never did make it to Fremont.

Didja Know: Each of those round balls on the Ferris wheel holds 40 people? Me neither, and no way Jose (Juan just doesn't rhyme).

After a day and a half of city life my birthday bride and I decide to get out of town. Seriously out! Here in Las Vegas if you are planning on an adventure, there is only one way to travel to that adventure.

A caveat: The limo does not have alcohol and you will be sharing the ride (Grand Canyon Tour Co.).

Our pilot, Tom Cruise (he claimed his name was John but we knew better), loaded us in to the 'copter with three other adventurer seekers. We lifted off and banked over McCarran on our way to the Grand Canyon. We hoovered over the Hover (or whatever) Dam! and then landed on the canyon floor. Champagne and a light lunch was served ... and John did not allow me to pilot his chopper even though I was sporting my Top Gun shades.


On our last full day in Las Vegas we had planned on renting a car and driving two hours to Death Valley. At breakfast that morning we realized that we were too pooped to party. There is a lot of walking in the huge MGM Grand complex and we decided that we had seen enough desert while flying out to the canyon. So we had a couple breakfast Bloody Marys instead and spent the rest of the day exploring a few nearby resort properties.

We saw a shoe ... a really, really big shoe at the Cosmopolitan (one of the more impressive resorts on the Strip).

We wandered through the casinos and when asked how we fared, we replied, "We came out ahead." It helped that we laid no money on the table or dropped in the machines. I did have a couple of quarters in my pocket that I was anxious to throw away, but these modern machines only take paper money or casino cards.

I miss the old one-armed bandits, but the lights, bells, whistles and sirens are still impressive.

In our younger years we traveled for adventure first and food second. As we have matured that trend has reversed and now food is more of a priority. We enjoy seeking out new and innovative venues at which to dine. In Vegas we found that food tends to be better and costs less away from the celebrity chef joints on the Strip.

We walked past Morimoto's. Nothing on the menu appeared to be much different than what we can find at home. We visited Emeril's and decided that Emeril should be ashamed to have his name associated with Emeril's. They do not have a clue as to oyster shuckin' and servin'. They poured off the liquor and washed my oysters in a bowl of water. I sent them back. The tuna poke was mushy and unpleasant ($17).

This is not to say that all of the name-brand restaurants are bad. More than a few menus we looked at on-line and around the Strip in Las Vegas were way over-priced for what you get (the name) or seemed rather homologous. One notable exception to on-the-Strip dining is China Poblano at the Cosmo. Inspired by José Andrés’ travels through China and Mexico, China Poblano brings authentic ingredients and techniques from both cultures to the table.

My bride and I started with the must-have Salt Air Margarita, a foamy, salty delight that enlivened our buds of taste. From there we moved to tacos: the Silencio (duck tongue with lychee) and Carnitas (braised baby pig). Next was the Swallow a Cloud (wonton soup with fluffy house-made wontons, egg noodles and bok choy), and Twenty-Vegetable Fried Rice (fried rice, pea shoot salad and twenty seasonal vegetables). We ended this feast with the superb dim sum Xiaolongbao (dungeness crab, pork, veal consommé).

All of that food and four margaritas came to a pleasing $135 - a real bargain on the Strip, especially at a José Andrés venue.

Instead of Emeril's place you might want to venture out to the Orleans Hotel and Casino. We had been to the Orleans years ago and went back this trip to Big Al's Oyster Bar. They seemed to have a clue. A band greeted us at the door and the shucker shucked some big'uns. Unfortunately, those farm raised mollusks had no flavor. They were properly shucked, though, probably better steamed or grilled (Oysters, garden salad, several adult beverages $47).


We enjoyed a most pleasant week in Las Vegas, but after three full days and two travel days (about five hours coming and going) my bride and I decided that we needed another vacation. This time it was back to our palace of pleasure on Indian Shores Beach.

Before you even ask - No we didn't! As Ambrose Bierce said, "Once is enough." Our daughter and son-in-law got married here about 14 years ago.

What I have presented here are the highlights of our trip. Some things are better left unsaid because,

"What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!"