Thursday, June 24, 2010

New cooking show (for dogs)!

Ian and I just posted the pilot of our new online series on YouTube, "Cooking for Canines," where we share recipes for homemade dog food and treats . If you are interested in eating/cooking dog food as well as people food (they can absolutely overlap!), then check it out. Maybe if the Food Network can introduce a second cooking channel to cable, the Dog Food Network is in our future... Ruff!

Discounts on the Strip

Both Mario Batali and Wolfgang Puck are currently offering 20% off the bill for locals. Puck's promotion is going on through the end of summer, according to an ad in Seven magazine, but Batali's is ongoing. Other Strip restaurants may be offering similar deals so be sure to ask next time you go.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

McCormick and Schmick's

McCormick and Schmick's in the Howard Hughes Center isn't the kind of place you'd normally associate with frugality, but their happy hour menu is priced for the seafood lover on a budget. At their bar from 3:30-6:30 and 9:30-11 Monday through Friday you can feast on an assortment of finger foods ranging from $1.95 to $4.95, as long as you meet their $3.50 minimum beverage purchase per person. A half pound cheeseburger is just $2.95, but if you are coming here you should probably try some of their underwater offerings. We started with Blackened Fish Tacos ($3.95) which were perfectly adequate for the price, but unfortunately not blackened as advertised. There wasn't a ton of fish either, and the tortillas took up most of the space on the plate, but that is to be expected. On the other hand the calamari tentacles with sherry aioli, or Spider Fries ($3.95), were one of the better values on the menu and were surprisingly tender and plump. We also ordered one of the two healthy items on the menu, the Grilled Artichoke with sundried tomato aioli ($4.95). The presentation was appealing, but unfortunately it didn't taste as good as it looked. It was a bit bland and under seasoned, but at least it was green and wasn't deep fried. Other offerings include Beer Battered Mushrooms ($1.95), Fried Cod Sliders ($3.95), and Chefs Choice Oysters (three for $4.95). The menu changes regularly, but at any give time there are around fifteen options. On Wednesdays you can get $1.00 oysters and a mini Shrimp Boil for $3.95, so I'd like to come back to take advantage of that.

The drink specials are pretty good, too, depending on the day. We went on Hoppy Thursdays, when domestic light beer on draft is available for $2.95 (only a real bargain if you're comparing it to the Strip), but I would recommend going on Tuesday Tini night when all martinis are only $5. On Sundays you can try their adorable martini flights from 5:00-10:00, but unfortunately you won't get to try any of their food at a discount.

There are a lot of happy hours around town, but McCormick and Schmick's is definitely one of the better ones. The bar is sophisticated and intimate, and there is an outdoor patio in case the weather is ever forgiving enough during the happy hour time of day. Basically, you won't leave hungry or broke, and you won't have to sit in a fast food restaurant to accomplish that feat.

Food Ratings:
Grilled Artichoke: 5
Spider Fries: 7.5
Blackened Fish Tacos: 5.5


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Frugal Foodie on the Road: Stockton?

Tonight I tested how far I'll go for a good meal. I happen to be in Stockton, CA on business right now, sitting in my hotel room after a dinner out alone. Earlier, when I was looking for a place to eat I came across a Vietnamese restaurant with fantastic reviews, Le Kim's, and took the five minute walk to try it out. Sadly, they were closed (who is closed on Saturday night?), so I had to make the short trek back to my hotel.

I'd been warned several times that downtown Stockton isn't a place you want to meander through after dark, so I had to find another good restaurant ASAP. I asked the concierge, and she inquired as to how I was traveling. When I said I was walking she looked at her watch and said, "You should be OK." Hmmm... I didn't like her suggestions anyway (I searched out reviews once I got back to my room), but I did find a Mexican restaurant, Xochimilco, that was approximately twelve minutes away. I hurried. I hurried even faster after a crazy lady chatted me up about the weather and my hair.

Then I found my google map wasn't accurate and had to stop to ask a security guard how to get there. I also asked when it wouldn't be safe to walk alone and he responded "Where are you from? Don't you know that Stockton sucks (he really said that). The good thing is that the police station is right down there, but I'd eat fast (he really said that, too)." Never mind, I knew I was close so I persevered, committing to my journey and forgetting about the perfectly safe restaurant in the hotel.

Finally, I arrived at Xochimilco and was rewarded with an incredible chile verde that was not verde at all as it was braised in a light and flavorful tomato-based broth. The pork was tender and the rice soaked up the red liquid, giving it the texture of what could be called a Mexican risotto when mixed with some of the creamy, cheesy beans. An added bonus on the plate was a wedge of quesadilla, a thoughtful touch that should be replicated by all Mexican restaurants (sorry this isn't visible in my picture).

I finished quickly and headed back to the hotel, chasing the sun as it descended. I don't usually fear walking alone as I consider myself a fairly alert person amongst strangers, but I don't think I'll walk around downtown Stockton at night again. And if anyone tells my mom I ever did, you'd better be the one watching out

Putting aside my adventure, the food in Stockton is actually pretty good. I ate at a Vietnamese restaurant yesterday and had a crispy crunchy fried shrimp dish laced with loads of cilantro and garlic and served with a tart lime sauce that was pretty darn addictive (below). I especially loved how they put the extra sauce over the rice rather than serve it dry. Why not?

P.S. If you're wondering why I was headed to another Vietnamese restaurant again tonight, I would have to say it's because I'm not sure if I have a sense of what I'm in the mood for anymore. Point me in the direction of good food and I'll make myself in the mood for anything!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bachi Burger

If the off-Strip food scene of Las Vegas is destined to emulate the original neighborhood restaurants that make up the great American food cities, then Bachi Burger is one of the quirky places that will help pave the way. With Asian-inspired burgers, house-made Japanese pickles, and boba milk teas alongside delicate salads, truffle fries, and Portugese donuts, it appears the chef is a bit scatter-brained, but almost all of his creations are well-balanced and skillfully executed.

The juicy burgers are served on grilled sweet rolls - a unique approach. The more creative burgers are better than the plain versions, though I wasn't crazy about 'The Crusty Crab.' The sweet chutney was quite tasty, but there wasn't enough textural complexity so the soft crab cake and soft bun ended up tasting mushy in tandem. I really enjoyed 'Kiki's Burger' with sautéed Shiitake & Eryngi mushrooms, caramelized bacon and sweet onion marmalade, gruyere cheese, and a garlic chili aioli on the side ($8, pictured above), as well as 'The Lonely Bird,' made from ground chicken and turkey topped with herb pesto, lettuce, tomato, and onion ($7.50). I'm not sure about soy alongside pesto (soy is in all the burgers), but the patty was juicier than most beefless burgers I've had.

The salads are light and fresh, though they are a little too upscale for a burger joint and therefore fairly expensive for their size. The oriental chicken salad with organic jidori chicken breast was my favorite ($9), but maybe that's just because it went better with the theme of the restaurant. I love the Japanese pickles that change regularly, and for $3 they make the perfect amuse. The garlic butter and truffle edamame ($3) and crispy sweet potato fries with yuzu citrus aioli ($4) are worth ordering, but pass on the shrimp toasts which are more interesting on paper than on a plate.

Once Bachi Burger refines a few of their menu items and improves the vibe of the space, I believe it will become very successful. The prices are right and you won't find food like it elsewhere in Vegas, so it's on my list of recommended restaurants.

Food Ratings:
Kiki's Burger: 8.5
The Lonely Bird: 8
Crusty Crab: 6.5
Truffle Edamame: 7.5
Sweet Potato Fries: 9
Shrimp Toasts: 4
Beet Salad: 7.5
Oriental Chicken Salad: 8
Cobb Salad: 7.5

Restaurant Rating: 7


The Lonely Bird
Beet Salad
Cobb Salad
Oriental Chicken Salad
Japanese Pickles
The Crusty Crab
Sweet Potato Fries
Truffle Edamame
Shrimp Toasts

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Farmer's Market Scores

There were some real finds today at the Molto Vegas Farmer's Market. I purchased the massive truffle in the picture above for just $22 and was THRILLED to see real Porcini mushrooms (below left). The only time I've run into fresh porcini mushrooms outside of Italy is at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market in San Francisco. They were $8/quarter pound, which I was more than happy to pay, and they some bluefoot mushrooms for $6/quarter pound as well (below right). I also purchased some unique veggies, sweet as sugar strawberries, and ripe peaches. I know I've said it before but I insist you come to this farmer's market as soon and as often as possible!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

$2 Lobster

After a disappointing lunch at Tinoco's (not worthy of its own review as it was neither frugal nor exciting), Ian spotted an incredibly unique food vending machine at The Vegas Club Hotel downtown. I've never stepped foot inside this deteriorating hotel in my 27 years as a native Las Vegan, and won't likely come again, but I do have to give them personality points for putting in a lobster arcade game called The Lobster Zone. It doesn't require the same set of skills generally used to catch lobster, but I'm betting it's even more difficult based on my own frustrating experiences trying to grab at cheap stuffed animals. The slogan on the front is "You catch 'em, we cook 'em," but good luck. The price of $2 per play isn't bad if you manage to grab one of the poor unsuspecting creatures within thirty seconds of depositing your cash and manipulating the claw, but unfortunately their are no consolation prizes (I was thinking a shrimp would be nice) and based on what an employee says in this local video, not many people win. If we hadn't just eaten and if the lobsters had been larger, I might have played, yet there was still something unsettling about it. If monkfish is referred to as the 'poor man's lobster,' then the crustaceans in The Lobster Zone must be the 'cheap, drunk Vegas tourist's lobster,' because I'm not sure who else would actually attempt catch one. I suppose it gets one closer to catching their own food than they otherwise would be, but when neither the animal nor hunter have much of a chance of winning, it just seems cruel for everyone involved. Anyhow, if you're really on a budget give it a whirl, and let me know how it goes. My bet, however, is that you're better of going to Red Lobster for the money, where you're also rewarded with delicious free cheddar biscuits!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill

What do you get when you combine home-made potato chips, Maytag blue cheese sauce, and truffle oil? Nothing short of a miracle. This is one of the best potato dishes in Vegas, and one could easily make it a meal (albeit an unhealthy one), so it is worth the $12 price tag. Even Ian, who doesn't like blue cheese, goes gaga for the crispy French nachos. Ingenious combinations like these have made Wolfgang Puck one of the most innovative chefs in America (did you know he invented the California roll?).

We also ordered the steamed black mussels with chorizo, white wine, garlic, grilled sourdough, fries, and smoked paprika béarnaise ($27). We thought this was pricey until it came to the table in an over sized cast iron pot with a mound of as many mussels as could possibly fit. The mussels were purged of their sand, plump, meaty, and coated with the well-balanced spicy sauce flavored by the high quality chorizo. Did we need the crusty bread and the fries? Absolutely. The fries were thin, crispy, and served in a cone, as they should be, and the paprika béarnaise was a unique and spicy version of the traditional steak accompaniment. I loved how the excess ran off the bread and into the pot, adding a new dimension to the flavors already going on in the broth. I ordered a salad, as well, which was very good, but totally unnecessary since we couldn't finish more than two thirds of the mussels between the two of us. Therefore, I classify the mussels as a frugal dish since a seafood entree for two of this quality with a couple of sides for under $30 is a good value. Splurge if you want the chips (and I highly suggest you get them unless you're on a diet) but you'll leave plenty full even if you don't.

Today's Food Ratings:
Mussels: 9
Truffled Potato Chips: 9.5

Restaurant Rating: 8.5


Friday, June 4, 2010

Free Food! (Almost)

Today's deal on is a $30 gift certificate for $10 at Ichabod's Lounge on East Flamingo. I wouldn't normally go out of my way to eat at a gaming bar but the reviews on Yelp are positive, a $10 lunch for two is hard to come by, and Milton is getting neutered right by there on Tuesday.
Poor little guy doesn't even know what's coming!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Parma 3

Yesterday Ian ordered an incredibly dissapointing dish at Parma. This was a special of the day - a soggy chicken cutlet drenched in sauce with way too much cheese on top (that wasn't the official description but should have been). Additionaly, the pasta on the side was overcooked and underseasoned. Luckily, my pasta fagiole soup was as delicious as ever and the waitress was wonderful. I thought I should report seeing as how I've raved about our other experiences there....


Today's deal at is a chocolate facial at Ondo Aesthetics for $39 (regular price is $95) . I'm not sure if it would be heavenly and yummy or kind of gross, but I bought one anyway. After all, cacoa has the highest level of antioxidants of any known food or beverage.