Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review

Well, 2014 was an amazing year, and the best of my life so far ...

We did some traveling to Denver, Mexico, Montreal (yum), Denver again, and then Vegas ... in addition to about 12 road trips.  We went to many concerts, seeing Black Sabbath, Jack White, Arctic Monkeys, Death Cab, Canned Heat, Bonobo, The Black Keys, Jake Bugg, Arch Enemy, etc., etc..

We developed many new, fun recipes, including a favourite of ours, Thai Yum Yum Bowl.

We celebrated so many times, and so many things, and had many themed weekends of eating.  We spent more time in our backyard than ever before.  My blog grew with my first four paid writing gigs, being a featured blogger on Gourmandize, and Food Bloggers of Canada, my TV debut on Pizza Wars: Regina, and a five year blog birthday.

We had one really sad time at the start of this year, when my grandma passed away.  She was an amazing woman, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.  We all miss her so much.

Some exciting moments of the year included milestone birthdays ... Christopher turned 30, his mom turned 60, and his dad turned 70.

We went and played Laser Quest for our nephew's seventh birthday (I don't know how he's seven already), and had some bonding time when Christopher taught him to make sushi.  His mom, my sister, celebrates her birthday today - Happy birthday Leah!  

We got to meet and snuggle the cutest kitten I've ever seen, Finn.

The Screaming Daisies played a lot of gigs, recorded, and released their second full-length album!  It is really, really impressive!

We had our first family dinner out in Indian Head at the church that Victoria and William are converting into a house.  Some friends got married, and a couple are expecting ...

But, the happiest time of the year was when our niece, and goddaughter Charlotte was born.  She has brought so much joy into our lives in these first few months. 

We feel pretty lucky to have both a niece and a nephew now - one of each is great!  We're not planning on having kids, so we hope to have a lifetime of bonding with the two most important little people in our lives.

In one surprisingly popular post, I wrote about Happiness ... what I think it is, and how I have reached in 2014, at 32 years old, the happiest I've ever been.

2014 has been an amazing year.

What are your highlights of 2014?

Boxing Day: Vegas Style

On boxing day (for those of my American friends who don't know, boxing day is what we call the day after Christmas, and it's a holiday) we went for an early breakfast to Wicked Spoon.

We then did a lot of wandering around different hotels.  Our favourite hotel is still the Palazzo (and connected Venetian).

The oxygen bar is great, and helped us to feel refreshed.

As did our coffees and treat from Bouchon Bakery.

Later in the day we enjoyed fries and fried pickles to hold us over until dinner.

We got dressed up real nice and went to Nobu for dinner.  This restaurant is one of the most, if not the most, critically acclaimed Japanese restaurant in the United States.  I had been to the one in New York a few years ago, but never to this one.

I'll warn you now though - it's not cheap.

We started with soup & a cucumber salad:

Next we had the crispy rice with tuna:

It is my favourite!

Then we ordered two dinners, but they brought them out on one plate.  This restaurant highly encourages sharing, and puts everything in the middle of the table.  They want you to try as many of the dishes as possible.

We ordered the sashimi dinner, and the sushi dinner:

Something the people beside us did, and what we'll do next time, is tell the server a price point you're wanting to spend on food, and the types of things you like, and they'll create a surprise tasting menu specifically for your party for the evening.

We had another full day, and another morning in Vegas, that were both good, but lacking in pictures.  We went to Battista's Hole in the Wall, for some pasta.  It was really good, but the lighting was not good for photography.  The all-you-can-drink wine was free though!

We're sad to be home, but happy that our next vacation is just around the corner.

What did you do on Boxing Day?
If you aren't from Canada, have you heard of Boxing Day?  Do you call it that where you live?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Our Christmas Day: Vegas Style

Christmas day in Vegas, although fantastic, didn't feel like Christmas at all.  We were up surprisingly early for our first morning in Vegas, at about 7:00 a.m..  We showered and went down to breakfast.  Because we were up so early, it felt like we had the hotel to ourselves.

We went to Wicked Spoon buffet for breakfast.  This buffet, which comes to about $90 for two, was included with our room stay each day; pretty good deal! 

The selection was amazing.  In addition to everything you could ever want for breakfast food, there was also carving stations with roast beef and ham, etc., a wide selection of Asian food, Italian food, fried chicken, mac and cheese, amazing mashed and au gratin potatoes, desserts, etc. etc.. 

Coffee and juice were also included, and were brought to the table by one of the excellent servers.

I thought the mini deep fryer basket with the fried chicken in it was super cute (Christopher may or may not have had about 4 pieces of fried chicken per day.  Okay, he did.  At least that much).  A lot of the foods were put in little portion containers or dishes, which was cute.  The risotto was served in it's own miniature pot.

After breakfast we went up to the room to open our stockings that Christopher's parents sent with us, and the gift that we each brought for each other.

Vegas was not too busy on Christmas eve or Christmas day, however we did notice A LOT of kids - too many kids.  We don't think that Vegas is a child-friendly destination, and we found it a little horrifying that so many parents were carrying their kids and babies around in smoky casinos that are clearly catering to adults.  Why anyone would take their child to Vegas (and for Christmas especially), I don't understand.  Christopher enjoyed wearing this shirt throughout the day:

For lunch we stopped at Emeril's Table 10 for some lobster rolls.

This was my first time having lobster rolls, but I don't really think they are my thing.  Lobster is best in an unadulterated form, in my opinion.  The addition of creamy sauce, etc., does not add to the lobster, but lessens it.

We got dressed up and went for a later dinner to Ramsay's restaurant Steak.  We visited this restaurant last year, and both ordered steak, so this time we decided to try something different.

The waiter brought out breads:

And we had a couple appetizers, including soup and beef tartare:

The presentation of the beef tartare was very interesting.  There was a glass lid over it, with cold smoke swirling in it.  When the server lifted the lid, an incredible smoke aroma escaped and danced around - beautiful!  It was served with house made potato chips.

For the main, I had king crab legs, and Christopher had a chicken dish.  We got mushrooms as a side, but we weren't big fans of them.  The crab and chicken were delicious.

How did you spend Christmas day?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Our Christmas Eve: Vegas Style

Late afternoon on Christmas eve we headed to the airport.  We made sure to upgrade our seats to first class, because we were feeling sassy.

We arrived in Vegas around 6:00 p.m., and headed to our hotel, The Cosmopolitan.  This hotel is ridiculously beautiful, and super modern. 

It's right between The Bellagio and Aria.

I loved the chandeliers by the elevators  ...

Our room was a one-bedroom suite, with a balcony looking out onto the strip.  It was a beautiful view, especially at night.

The bathroom was fantastic.  You could look at the strip from the tub ...

Or you had a view to the bedroom from the tub or shower ...

Or you could close the blinds and have no views at all, or more privacy.

We got dressed up a bit ...

And then headed to our favourite restaurant ever - Lotus of Siam.

We've been to this restaurant twice before, and I've raved about it both times.  It is the restaurant that the celebrities and celebrity chefs eat at when they are in town.  Proof of that is all over the walls, with pictures of the celebs with the chef, and words of praise for her incredible cooking.  This restaurant is a hidden gem.  It's off the strip (about a $15 taxi ride), and you definitely need reservations.  It's huge, yet always packed.

We started with one of our all-time favourite dishes, nam kao tod.  It is crispy rice with sour minced pork sausages, green onions, chilies, peanuts, ginger, lime and cilantro.

We also shared a wonton soup.

What might surprise people is that Lotus of Siam has probably the most extensive wine list I've ever seen.  This entire book is the wine list:

For main courses we ordered crispy duck on drunken noodles & khao soi braised short rib (northern Thai egg noodle served in curry sauce, coconut cream and braised short rib).

They were both painfully good.  I think most of our conversation over this dinner consisted of, "I can't even ...", "I just can't even ...", and "I literally can't even ...".  We had no other words.

Christopher told the server he wanted to go back to the kitchen to applaud the owner, and head chef Saipin.  The server just laughed (he probably knew Christopher would try to kidnap her).

Compared to other restaurants in Vegas, this one is very reasonably priced.  For two appetizers, two of the pricier entrees, a bottle of sake, a glass of sake, and a glass of wine, the bill came to $110

The only thing about eating at this restaurant is that we always leave sad ... sad that our food is all gone, sad that we can't eat there every week, and sad that Saipin is not our mom*.

* Don't worry real moms, we'll keep you too!  Saipin just might be our other, more Asian mom ;-)

After dinner we did what most people do on Christmas eve ... lost some money in roulette.

This was definitely the most different Christmas eve we've ever had, but it was pretty great!

How did you spend Christmas eve?