Thursday, May 28, 2009

Green Caldo

I have to admit this recipe was inspired by my CSA share, but I actually bought the ingredients at the Schuylkill Farmer's Market. Sam and I had a debate over the difference between mustard greens and kale. If you could shed some light on this please do let us know.

So anyways I was thinking about what I have in my fridge and how I could incorporate it with fresh and seasonal produce. I've had soy chorizo from Trader Joes laying around because Sam swears by it, but I hadn't found a suitable use for it. When trying to determine if mustard greens and kale could be used interchangeably I thought of the potatoes I've seen at the market lately and came up with a brilliant idea: soup with potato, kale and chorizo. Well wouldn't you know the Portugese have been making this for years under the name "Caldo Verde" or as Fred dubbed it "Green Caldo." They must have stolen my idea! I found some recipes but of course made up my own as I went. Mine is more of a stew than a soup and would have been fine with more water added. It's my new favorite, easy, one pot meal.


Ingredients

Fresh kale
Soy Chorizo
Onion
Garlic
Potatoes
Canned tomatoes
Corn
Olive Oil

Start by sauteeing some chopped onions in olive oil over medium low heat until soft. Add some potatoes, peeled and diced into bite size pieces along with plenty of salt and pepper. Let cook for a few minutes being careful not to let the onion burn.

Add some water - I added enough to cover the potatoes plus about an inch but you can certainly add more - and turn the heat up to about medium high. Add some canned tomatoes (diced, crushed, whatever as long as they're plain), garlic, chorizo, corn and the kale, torn into bite size pieces. Bring to a simmer and cover so the potatoes can cook. TJ's chorizo is plenty seasoned, but add seasoning to taste. I happened to have some bay leaves so I threw those in but I'm never sure if it makes a difference.

Delicious served with bread!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's Here!

Sam and I eagerly awaited our first CSA pickup today. In true Wilma style we ended up at the old folk's home while looking for the building and Sam mistook their afternoon snack for our fresh produce.

Here's what we got:
1 bunch turnip tops
1 package cremini mushrooms
1 pt strawberries
1 bunch red radishes
1 bunch scallions
1 head red leaf lettuce
1/4 lb young mustard greens
1 head red romaine lettuce
(All organic and from local farms)

Stay tuned for mustard green casseroles, salads aplenty and something involving turnip tops. If you have any tasty turnip top recipes please let us know. And don't worry Betty, we'll be sure to save some for you.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Picture Perfect Picnic

Farmer's market potato salad. (Potatoes, radishes and peas from Schuylkill Market)

Avocado, corn and tomato salad.

Caramelized onions, mushrooms, goat cheese and olive tapenade on Metropolitan bread.

Not your mom's lemonade...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Hour Down on the Farm(icia)


After reading about Farmicia on one of my favorite blogs Veggicurious I had no problem convincing Betty to accompany me. As much as I read about local and organic, I haven't seen many local, organic and reasonably priced spots around that serve both happy hour and brunch, two of my favorite things.

Around 3rd and Market it's convenient to the El, is byo but also has a full bar, and has outside seating. Umm do you think they'd let me live there? The bartender said it basically serves as a coffee shop most mornings. With Metropolitan Bakery products, buttermilk pancakes, brioche french toast, and omelletes I'm sure it's a popular breakfast spot.

For happy hour, it can't be beat. A shared appetizer, sandwich with fruit salad, cocktail and a beer came out to under $25 including tax and tip. Everything and I mean everything at the bar is 1/2 price from 5-7. They have a great beer selection as well as specialty cocktails.

The menu is very vegitarian friendly. We started out with the trio of spreads. Make sure you ask for extra bread to scoop up the tuscan white bean spread, sundried tomato tapenade and artichoke pesto.








The best deals are found on the bar menu. I had a grilled cheese with tomato and Betty had a chicken sandwich. I will definitely be back soon!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wilma's World Famous Chili Recipe

There are surprisingly few recipes that I make more than once because I generally don't like to use recipes. I read recipes for inspiration but in the end, I'll experiment with what I have on hand. I find most recipes use too many ingredients and require tools that I probably don't have. Cooking is much simpler than most cookbooks would have you believe, and you don't have to resort to prepackaged food a la Sandra Lee.

This chili has a special place in my heart and is one of the very few recipes of mine that I would even call a recipe. It has its origins in Portland, OR or as I like to call it "heaven on earth," when Betty and I needed to bring something to a potluck. I brought a big pot of chili and Betty mixed up some Betty's mouthwatering mojitos. Maybe it was the atmosphere that made everything taste so good, and everytime I make this chili it reminds me of Portland. I made it for my neighborhood block party last summer, and while there were several chilis in attendance mine was clearly the best!

Ingredients
1 large can plain crushed tomatoes
1 large can kidney beans
1 medium yellow onion
1 package soy ground beef
1 packet chili or taco seasoning (or chili powder with a little cumin and garlic powder)
Garlic gloves, to taste
1 package button mushrooms
Vegetable Oil
Optional: frozen corn, sour cream, cheddar cheese, salsa, guacamole, hot sauce, tortilla chips...
Instructions
Start with a large saucepan - it's a one pot meal so use one big enough to hold a lot of chili. Slice the onions and mushrooms and sautee in some vegetable oil over medium low heat until softened and the onions start to brown.

As soon as they begin to brown add the ground beef, chopped garlic, seasoning packet, and plenty of salt and pepper. Break up the ground beef and cook for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally.

Stir in the beans (drained) and tomatoes. You can also add in some frozen corn at this point. Let simmer and stir as needed. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Easter Pie


Just like I "don't" eat sweets, I also don't bake. There has to be a compelling reason for me to find a measuring cup, buy flour and sugar, and figure out how to turn on my oven. Just ask any of colleagues about the infamous "peanut butter cookie surprise" incident, and they'll tell you never to eat anything that I bake.

Well when invited to Easter dinner where dinner would be more than taken care of, I was left with few other options other than dessert. I did some quick searches for Easter themed desserts and decided something called "Easter Pie" had to be at least somewhat appropriate for the occasion. Otherwise it's just false advertising. The inclusion of cooked rice and ricotta cheese may have helped ease my fear of dessert.

I adapted the recipe from Food Network. (Is it ok that I use them as an online resource?) I omitted the orange zest and pine nuts, instead opting for a heaping spoonful of raspberry jam and handful of slivered almonds. You can see why I dislike baking because this is how I cook. I find it impossible to stick to a recipe or use measurements.

I also wanted to experiment with phyllo dough, and experiment it was. It will probably take me a couple of tries to figure out how to keep it moist and stay somewhat in sheet form but it all tastes the same in the end right? I was also experimenting because I don't own a pie pan and my oven doesn't work. This was made in my trusty toaster oven in a disposable pie pan. I generally don't condone the use of disposables, but the point is that you don't need fancy equipment. In most cases you can improvise well enough.

After I served it (proudly even though only a few people ate it) I learned that it is apparently a sweet version of traditional Italian Easter Pie made with ham, eggs and cheese. Well next time I'm making that, but do you think I can still pass it off as dessert?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Italian Market, In Pictures

















This Ain't Red Lobster

Completely out of the blue I got an email from "Dan, the Lobster Man" informing me that I could get Free Filet Mignon. Naturally, I was intrigued. Turns out they're not just offering steak, but steak with a side of lobster! All for the low price of $77.95! That's right folks. For $79.95 you get:

One 6-7 oz. Maine Lobster Tail
One 6 oz. Filet Mignon Steak
20 oz. New England Clam Chowder
One 5 oz. Chocolate Lava Cake
One Sea Sheller and Seafood Fork
One Lobster Bib and Moist Towelette
FREE Clarified Butter
Lobster Gram Cooking Manual

Courtesy of http://www.livelob.com/default.aspx

If anyone's looking for an early Christmas present for me, look no further. But wait, that's not all! I even learned about something called "Lobster College." Unfortunately it's sold out, but maybe I can enroll next semester. For even more lobster based amusement, take the lobster quiz.

Thanks for the laugh Dan. Maybe someday when I have enough money I'll take one of everything, but until then I'll just request a catalogue so I can drool over the pictures.

The Other Betty

This weekend was food heaven for Wilma and the gang. Farmer's markets, flea markets, and the culinary event of the year - Philadelphia's famous Italian Market Festival. More to come once I get my pictures up.

The Italian Market should be renamed the Italian Meat Market because there's no shortage of carnivorous delights to be had. From stores specializing in exotic game meat like ostrich and alligator to homemade meatballs, bbq pork sandwiches, and tacos of every variety. If I'm gonna eat meat, better to splurge when I know it's authentic, made from scratch and guaranteed to be delicious. South Philly knows how to cook more than just cheesesteaks.

So you can imagine my surprise to see a vegetarian/vegan store in the heart of the meatville. I'm not sure how they stay in business, but maybe there are more struggling meat addicts out there than I know who like their veggie burgers topped with bacon. I just had to go in and see what they were selling.

After reading about Betty's Tasty Buttons and seeing them at the farmer's market, I decided to get some of Betty's locally made organic fudge for the blog. Maybe it was out of guilt for the copious amounts of meat I had this weekend. Well I'm not much for sweets, but the one I just tried was the perfect blend of spiciness and bitter dark chocolate. Betty's buttons are indeed tasty and I support her belief in locally sourced ingredients and sustainable business practices. Apparently Betty just moved to 23rd and Bainbridge so I'll have to pay her a visit.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Semi Homemade or Completely Unnecessary?

Sorry Food Network, I'm not finished my rant yet. I came across a brilliant article on everybody's favorite not-so-anonomously alcoholic, parading as a chef, and just plain lazy Food Network star Sandra Lee. I couldn't help myself.

Sandra Lee is everything that is wrong with home cooking and one of the few reasons that I will turn off Food Network and voluntarily watch Everybody Loves Raymond. Now that's really saying something.

Betty aptly described Sandra Lee as a "skinny Paula Deen" and you know how I feel about Paula Deen. How they both get paid to melt some Velveeta cheese, stick a spoon in it and call it soup will remain a mystery to me. I think Sandra scores higher on the offense-a-meter because of the fake smile, cringe inducing pink cocktails and stupid "tablescapes." At least Paula doesn't sugarcoat everything. Oh wait, I forgot about the time that she wrapped some chicken in bacon and coated the whole thing in sugar. Well, they're both foolish. Read the article if you want a good laugh.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wilma's Words of Wisdom

I met a guy in college who told me that he was a vegetarian who eats steak. At the time, it was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard and I laughed about it to everyone I knew. (If you're out there dude, I'm sorry. I'm sure you're very intelligent, making lots of money, and laughing at me right now while eating a steak.)

I've been feeling conflicted lately about my whole occasional meat eating philosophy. It's not a question of willpower - I think I have plenty of that. Going vegan for 4 days wasn't bad at all; finding vegan food was the hard part. I do get cravings but they're not overwhelming or unbearable. So what is it that makes me give in so easily? I feel like I've been trying to wean myself off of meat for 3 years now. Will I ever be able to give it up entirely?

Two of the people I've mentioned on my blog may provide some insight into my inner struggle: Jane Goodall and Anthony Bourdain. Two unlikely role models who have inspired me in entirely different ways.

In the battle of good vs. evil, Jane Goodall represents good. She is impossibly good, fighting for world peace, animal rights, the environment... You name the cause she's probably already on it. She seems to live in a fantasy world, or at least one not attainable by mere mortals. For an idealist and an optimist like yours truly, she provides plenty of inspiration. Just reading her books makes me feel like a smarter and better person.

I guess that would make Anthony Bourdain evil then? If Jane Goodall lives in lala land, then Anthony Bourdain most certainly represents reality. At it's very worst and in all its glory. He writes about food, pure and simple. About the realities of cooking and eating that the average diner doesn't think about. It's not all bad - much of it is about the pure pleausre of food - but it's all real. He writes about drugs, sex, violence - basically the self indulgent side of human nature. It's not surprising that they seem to go hand in hand with food. He has such a clearly defined philosophy on food and cooking that I can't help but admire him. (Even though he has some very unpleasant things to say about vegetarians.)

I think I'm pulled in both directions. I see the world and it's problems, and I want to solve them. I want to be a good person and stick to my beliefs, but I'm also scared to take the pleasure out of food. A lot of the vegetarian and even healthy eating resources I read seem to do just that and I'm sick of reading about tofu and nutritional brewer's yeast. There's a reason Food Network doesn't have a single vegetarian show, even though there's plenty of vegetarian's out there. Nobody wants to see Paula Deen cookin' up some seitan.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel like I can't call myself a "foodie" and a vegetarian. That somehow by depriving myself of meat I'm placing myself in a category of culinary outcasts who can't fully appreciate the joys of food. All of this leads me to believe that being the "Worst Vegetarian Ever" might not be such a bad thing after all.

Wilma Loves A Challenge


As mentioned before, I can't wait for our first CSA share. After reading through my favorite local food websites, it seems like everyone is eagerly anticipating the start of the fresh produce season. Farm to Philly is hosting the second annual "One Local Summer Challenge" and it's right up my alley. Here's the description they sent me:

"Welcome to the 2009 One Local Summer challenge! As of today (May 12), there are 31 participants from all over the U.S. and one from the UK. So far, the Northeast part of the U.S. has the largest number of participants. The second half of May will likely see many more people joining the challenge - I'm really excited, and I hope you are, too! With only a few short weeks to the start of the challenge, I wanted to say thanks for participating!

The idea of supporting local farmers, the local foodshed, eating seasonally, locavore-ism, Slow Food, etc. has received a lot of press over the last year. It's not just the 'green' trend, but also an interest in being frugal and the DIY culture. It's a really exciting time for foodies, and the One Local Summer challenge helps us discover new resources, new recipes, and new ideas (well, that's what I've always gotten out of it!). Below is a brief overview of exactly how One Local Summer works:

1. Every week you post an update to your own blog about your One Local Summer meal. If you don't have a blog, that's OK - you'll just have to email your update (and photos, if you'd like) to the coordinator for your region.

2. The coordinator for your region will post a regional update on the Farm to Philly blog every Tuesday - your meal (or meals) will be included in the update with a link back to your blog. Occasionally, the coordinators use photos included in your blog entry on the regional update at Farm to Philly."

It's unclear as to whether or not it's a competition or if there are prizes, but I think we'll win.

Why You Should Join a CSA

I've made it my mission to eat well this summer. To cook using local ingredients, visit farmer's markets, explore restaurants that serve local products, and learn more so I can make better choices. Joining a CSA is a no brainer, and is sure to buy me some brownie points with the vegetarian gods.

I can't believe more people don't know about CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture). It's something that I've wanted to do for years, but never had the money or space. A CSA is a group of farmers that get together and sell directly to local consumers. You buy membership at the beginning of the growing season (usually from May-October) and pick up your weekly share. It's almost always organic, and you get whatever they happened to harvest that week. They have them all over the country and deliver to lots of different drop off points.

You do have to pay upfront for the entire season, but it ends up being incredibly cheap per week. If you're on a budget, split a share with friends or family as it is supposedly very generous portions. Betty, Sam and I are splitting a half share, which mean's we pick up every other week but it works out to about $5/person/week. Not bad, considering what you'd pay for local organic produce anywhere else. Obviously you have to love cooking and experimenting because you never know what you'll get. No problem there. I'm sure I'll have plenty of foolish things to write about like, what do I do with 5 pounds of beets? I'm thinking beet soup and maybe some mashed beets. Mmm....

All joking aside I'm so excited. I think we get our first share the week after Memorial Day. We chose Lancaster Farm Fresh and I believe they are still taking applications. You can also special order things like meat and cheese, and they sell their produce at the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal.

So there will be plenty to come over the summer as Betty, Sam and I eat our way through pounds of produce each week. I think this definitely qualifies as a Betty's Bargain too!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why I'm breaking up with the Food Network

Dear Food Network,

I remember when I was young and naive. We met one summer during episodes of the original "Iron Chef," and I immediately fell in love. We bonded over such classics as Ming Tsai's "East Meets West" and Anthony Bourdain's "A Cook's Tour." I thought it was meant to be. I spent a week home sick with you, creating an Emeril classic every night. I dreamt many happy dreams of meatloaf after letting you gently lull me to sleep.

Well Food Network, I think it's time that our love affair ends. You've given me many happy memories and inspired some of my best dishes. I'm not saying we'll never see each other. We'll always be friends, but I think we should see other people. Times have changed. I'm not sure I can stick around while you insist on showing me nothing but reality competitions and Bobby Flay spewing nonsense and hot sauce everywhere. I've moved on.

And so have other people. I should have listened to Emeril and Anthony Bourdain when they discovered that there is better tv out there. When they realized that you would sell your soul for a shot of Giada De Laurentiis wearing a low cut top. I won't pretend that didn't hurt.

I'm not sure I can stomach another sight of Paula Deen wrapping some cheese in bacon, deep frying it and passing it off as food. Well maybe I'm exaggerating but how about a bacon cheeseburger with a fried egg, sandwiched between two glazed donuts? Someone gave you some bad dating advice on that one. My other personal faves: Chocolate covered potato eggs and peanut butter cheese fudge.

So it's out of concern for my health that we seperate. Public television has been showing me something good recently, I think I might give him a shot. It's nothing personal, and just like a juicy piece of meat that calls out my name, I'm sure I'll see you again.

Always and forever,
Wilma

Wilma's Winnings

Betty generously offered to cash our office piggy bank on Friday. Grand total: $8.81. After debating over what to do with these shared funds we decided to cure our Friday afternoon blues by playing some poker and the winner would get the money. Maybe I did catch the gambling bug while in Vegas, but it's probably just seasonal allergies. Whatever the case, I was feeling particularly lucky.

I don't think Betty and Sam will be playing poker with me again any time soon. Well that's too bad because I thoroughly enjoyed winning. It's nice, you should try it sometime.

So here's the deal. They should be glad I won because it was a communal piggy bank and as such I feel some obligation to share. It could make for some very interesting blog experiments. After much deliberation here's the compromise/ultimatum:

If Sam Slackheap ever gets his act together, I will donate the money to "Sam's Sips." He has until the end of this Friday to post on the blog, otherwise Betty and I will buy us something nice on Saturday at the flea market. Now as long as he posts something, I'll let him come up with his own experiment using the money. The only stipulation is that the bill can't go over $8.81 and must include tip. I think that's fair, don't you?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

My Own Reasons for Hope

The title of this post refers to "Reason for Hope," another book by Jane Goodall. As I continue to reflect on what I learned in Vegas, I'm trying to reconcile how I can live in a culture of such excess and instant gratification and still believe I'm making a positive impact. Vegas was an escape from the real world, and I hope not indicative of our culture as a whole. Now back in Philly I have a renewed determination to make informed decisions and stick to my beliefs. Everyday I seem to see changes for the better that make me feel just a little bit optimistic. People are starting to think about where food comes from, and locally and sustainably produced food is starting to become more than a passing trend.

When thinking about the problems created by food, the old saying "Think globally and act locally" couldn't be more true. I'll admit I'm addicted to Food Network (much more on that later) but I happened to catch a program on public television called "Farm to Fork." It's part of Gourmet Magazines "Diary of a Foodie" series and I am happy to see that chefs and farmers around the world still believe in food made the old fashioned way, by hand and with an understanding of how it's produced. It's a great series if you want food without all the "Bam" and reality competitions.

I was also heartened by an article that I saw in the local alternative magazine, Grid. It featured the Urban Nutrition Initiative that's involving West Philadelphia students in food production and education. I'm probably not explaning it well, but it's making a difference. It makes me feel like there is good going on everywhere if you look hard enough.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Vegas Vacation Day 3

So much I still wanted to do on our last day. We had booked appointments at the spa, and I was a little nervous. No clue what a Vichy Shower treatment was but how bad could it be? It was hours later that I realized what I would be wearing.

First stop was the pool, welcome after months of cold Philly weather. Armed with new bathing suits, we took full advantage of some sunny poolside relaxation before heading to the spa. It doesn't take much to make me happy, and the big fluffy robe did the trick. I think the showers were the size of my apartment with enough water pressure to clean an elephant.

So the shower treatment was "interesting." First I was massaged all over with a delicious salt scrub which was the best part. Wasn't sure what to do when she left me alone with some scrub to get the parts she "didn't get to." Yikes. Then came 7 rotating shower heads swung over me as I relaxed and thought happy thoughts of winning at blackjack later.


While not exactly gourmet or vegetarian friendly, a ridiculous buffet was on my list of must do activities. I have to say I was morbidly curious and it just seemed like the epitome of excess and self indulgence that defines Vegas. The buffet at the Rio was highly recommended and apparently the largest buffet in town. The coupon provided by our hotel sealed the deal, so we hopped a shuttle over to the Rio. Like everything in Vegas, it thankfully lived up to my expectations. I don't think I've ever seen so much food in my life.

Now I know what you're thinking. It's our last day and I've made very little mentioning of gambling. Me and gambling is a funny story- just ask Betty and Sam. All I can tell you is that yes I played some blackjack before I left. I'll spare you the details, but Bamm-Bamm did quite well.

Hard to believe I fit it all in, and on a budget no less. I survived unscathed, came back with some great stories, and learned some important lessons. (Lesson #1: I think I need to get out more.)

Guest Blogger Betty Presents:

Betty’s Bargains!!! (Finally…)

I am sure that we are all glad that Wilma is back. Her adventures in Vegas with Bamm-Bamm have been exciting and entertaining. Given the title of this blog, I am sure that none of us were surprised a burger made it into the blog. But I am surprised there is little mention of gambling…..

But back to the blog business at hand: bargains.
In this segment, I hope you will learn how to shop on a budget, looks for deals, limit wasting food. In this first installment, I wanted to talk about what to do with produce that has been in your fridge for awhile.

One of the first things I do before I go to the grocery store (or "Market" as it is referred to in Philadelphia), farmer’s market, Reading Terminal, or etc, I make a list of what I need. This way I have a point of reference in which I can return when I get excited by the yummy foods in the aisle. With that being said, I always make sure to look at the weekly circulars if I am shopping at the grocery store. This helps you achieve two goals: one, you will get used to buying the majority of your food products on sale; two, you will learn price ranges and in turn you will know what is a good deal or not.

The next tip I would share with you is that make sure you have flexibility in your list. Whether you make a food list as time goes by or before a trip, make sure you save room for “fun” or something you forgot to write down. This way going grocery shopping does not become monotonous. Now don’t get too excited. This tip needs be used within reason. Remember, you do have a focus!

Lastly, create a weekly budget. It may take a couple of trips to the grocery to figure out what is reasonable. But your budget should include eating out and cooking at home. This should not include things like happy hours or eating at a nice restaurant. However, if you like to buy your lunch during the week, that would be a part of your budget. If you are single, you should be able to budget $200-250 a month for food. That breaks down to $50-62.50 a month.

Next time on Betty’s Bargains: Will Betty Break the Bank or Bank Some Bargains at a grocery store?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Vegas Vacation Day 2


Slept in on Saturday and decided to get burgers in the hotel next door. Last time I had a burger: a year ago on my birthday. Guess it's a tradition! It was possibly more delicious than it looks. (I did, for the record, ask about the veggie burger. The answer was "haven't had any complaints.")

We explored the side of the strip we hadn't done the night before. After walking through the Venetian, Bamm-Bamm wanted to go back to do something I would never consider doing: audition for.... Wheel of Fortune? When in Vegas I suppose. It was amusing, and there's a chance Bamm-Bamm could make it to the final auditions. If she makes it, I'm definitely going back.

We made it to our show (The Ultimate Variety Show) just in time, and as promised had seats pretty much on the stage. Definitely a bang for your buck- I think there were like 7 different acts. While I would like to see Cirque du Soleil or Blue Man Group at some point in my life, this show was definitely a good choice. It's something so quintessentially Vegas and a little bit of everything- comedians, acrobats, aerial artists, jugglers etc. We even got a free autographed photo. I would highly recommend this show if it's your first time and you're on a budget!

Afterwards we weren't looking for anything in particular, just enjoying our last night. We had to see the Mirage volcano and even waited an hour to get a good spot. Not as good as the Bellagio (I think I watched that about 5 times) but definitely awesome and exciting.

Ceaser's Palace was next, and my favorite casino that we went to. Beautiful and classy, this was a place for high rollers. (Or a casual observer who has never gambled before in her life?) $1000+ tables, guys from Texas with cowboy hats and cigars... I was hoping some of the glamour, excitement and maybe luck would rub off.

Unfortunately it didn't, as I limped around in my fabulous but impossible to walk in boots in search of some cheap blackjack. I guess Saturday night isn't the best time to find those elusive $5 tables.

Well you win some you lose some, especially in Vegas!

Vegas Vacation Day 1

So arrived Friday afternoon and Bamm-Bamm was already there. Everything worked out smoothly (thanks again Travelocity) and we got to our hotel. Couldn't believe what a great location it was, right near all the things I wanted to see. Luckily, they gave us 2 beds and our room was huge.


The only bad meal of our trip was the first one. Starving, we sat down at the Tequila Bar in the lobby. The only upside is that I immediately knew it wasn't the place to splurge on a steak or a burger so I ended up with the veggie sandwich. Anwyays, anxious to see the sights we got dolled up and headed out.

Vegas was everything that I imagined it to be. Colorful, exciting, energetic, almost surreal. One part tacky and neon pink (the Flamingo) and one part class and sophistication (Ceaser's Palace), it was almost overwhelming trying to take it all in. We walked down the strip stopping at the big hotels which all seemed pretty similar to me. Seeing the Bellagio fountains that night was definitely the highlight of my trip.


We ended up at an outdoor bar overlooking the strip at Planet Hollywood. Perfect for people watching and just soaking up the atmosphere. We met some friendly locals, as well as a very enthusiastic group of Ricky Hatton fans from England. So mission accomplished for Day 1.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ballys, Buffet, Burgers, and Blackjack

Just started to come out of my jetlagged funk so I want to write while it's still fresh in my mind, although I'm not sure where to start. I can't believe we managed to do everything that I wanted to do in a weekend. The highlights:

1. See the Bellagio fountains at night.
2. Eat a burger.
3. Eat at a fantastically over the top buffet.
4. Get a spa treatment.
5. Play some blackjack.
6. See a show.

In true Wilma style there were plenty of foolish stories and misadventures galore. Logistically, I still can't believe how well it worked out. If you're going to Vegas 1. Stay at Bally's and 2. Use travelocity.

We could not have been in a better location. Smack dab in the middle of all the action so we walked everywhere and it wasn't as pricey as nearby Bellagio, Ceaser's Palace or the Mirage. The room was nice and big and the pool/spa was awesome.

Travelocity is a "G" as Betty would say. They hooked me up with a free round trip shuttle from the airport, a $30 hotel credit, and a discount/VIP seating at the show we picked.

I have to say, this was one of the best birthdays I've ever had. Seeing the fountain show at the Bellagio made me feel like a kid at Disney World for the first time. But with hookers.




Monday, May 4, 2009

Guest Blogger Betty Presents:

While the cat's away, this mice will play...
While Wilma is on her trip, I thought I might take this time to do something she may or may not agree with....review a steakhouse (lol).

Barney and I made the trek out to KoP to enjoy a romantic steak dinner. Morton's had come highly recommended from a colleague and I always wanted to try it out. We made reservations (which I suggest) and made sure our attire was dressy causual.

For those of you who are not familar with Morton's I want to let you know that it is NOT vegan or vegetarian friendly. Even though the name should suggest that you already know that, I want to make clear that my entry does not review vegetarian options (Although I will note that if you are a flexitarian, the seafood options are DELICIOUS).

The ombiance did not render it appropiate to take pictures (low lights and upscale dining), hence there are none of our dishes but I will do my best to describe the experience.

When you first walk in, you are seated by a Matre Dee and no menus. This is because your server will perform a tableside demonstration including your choices of appietizers, entrees, and side dishes. After the thorough yet concise explaination, you are great with a menu that come on a long sheet of paper. Be prepared to spend at least $75-100 per person if you want a full 3 course meal (this is excluding your drink choices). But it is worth the money.

We ordered a Petit Syrah from Napa Valley that was priced at $60. As you can imagine there wine list is a book of wines with prices ranging from $50 up to $500. Make sure to factor this into your budget if you are a wine drinker. If not, they have their own signature drinks and cocktails from which you can choose. Barney had a crabcake appietizer while I enjoyed the lobster bisque. I highly recommend both. The crabcake has only a slight amount of breading and a ton of jumbo lump crabmeat. It is served with a lemon wedge and a tangy tartar sauce. My lobster bisque tasted like I was drink a lobster and the hunk of lobster tail garnished the dish.

From the 7-8 cuts of steak we had to choose from our presentation, I decided to go with the double-cut filet mignon and Barney got the NY strip. While disappointed there were no potatoes au gratin, we opted to share a massive baked potato and sauteed green beans. The food came out and smelled heavenly. However, there was a problem. I cut into my filet and could see that it was not cooked how I requested. Barney cut into his and it looked like the cow was still moving. It seems someone switch our cooking preferences. We flagged down our server and showed her the problem as we ate our sides. We were hungry! She assured us that the kitchen would cook us new steaks to our preferences. She also noted she would bring out hot, new side dishes and all would be done in a timely fashion.

She was absolutely right. Our food was out in a matter of minutes. I hardly got to finish a sip of wine. The manager had us cut into our steaks and mine was perfect. Barney's was not. And at this point we were not happy. Barney was willing to eat what was brought out but our server, the manager, and I were not going to let that happen. Although Barney's steak was delivered in the upscaled manner Morton's is known for, the staff took care of it quickly and graticiously. Barney did not let this one fluke affect his opnion. He wants to go again so that he can have the real Morton's experience.
Here are my ratings:

Atmostsphere: excellent
Service: fabulous
Food: normally exqusite (this time average, if that)
Will visit again: ABSOLUTELY

Visit their website for more information http://www.mortons.com/



Best,

Betty

Friday, May 1, 2009

Guest Blogger Betty Presents:

Anyone for a movie?

Well it has been a “fun” four days of eating vegan for Wilma and I, but now it is time to get cheese, milk, and meat back into my system. I hope you all have enjoyed the experiment; and, I hope that you will try your own vegan experiments with the recipes provided. Knowing Wilma, this will not be the last food experiment we will be hearing about.

I was flipping channels the other day when I stopped on a movie review segment. Anyone who watches cooking shows on public television (guilty!) knows who the legends are: Jacques Peppin, Jacques Torrez, Lidia Bastianich. But the one who stands out among the rest is Julia Child. And now, they have made a movie based on her true story starring one of my favorite actresses, Meryl Streep.

Although it is not due out until August 2009, I figure I could provide you with my thoughts to create some hype around the movie. Julie & Julia is based on two true stories of women who are trying to find their purpose and passions in life. Julie Powell is your typical working professional who decides to create her own blog about cooking. Similar to Julia Child, she has no professional cooking experience. She only has a passion for eating. She decides to cook from Julia Child’s classic “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” over the course of the year in the hopes of gaining some recognition and purpose.

Concurrently, we travel to France and follow Julia Child as she transforms into your everyday food lover into the food personality we have grown to love over the years. Julie & Julia is a movie to inspire us to once again work hard and be determined to get what you want out of life. Check out IMDb.com for more information. Mark your calendars for this showing. While it may be cheesy, I am really looking forward to Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child. That will make it worth my while.

*Note: synopsis paraphrased from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1135503/plotsummary .