Monday, May 26, 2014

Thai Food To Go

I wouldn’t generally dine at a place called ‘Thai Food To Go’ as the menu sounds like it would be about as creative as the name, but this E. Desert Inn hole in the wall had shining reviews on Yelp so we decided to check it out. Not surprisingly, the restaurant’s main business is of the ‘take-out’ nature, but surprisingly, they offered much more than standard ‘take-out’ fare, including Roasted Duck Curry and Spicy Fried Catfish. The charming, five table dining area meant we didn’t have to wait to get home to enjoy our dinner, and the place was so popular that the seats had completely filled up by the time we left.

We ended up starting with a few light favorites that we tend to try at every Thai restaurant - Larb ($6.95) and Papaya Salad ($5.95). Larb consists of ground meat (either pork or chicken), mint, toasted rice powder, and lime dressing accompanied by slices of crunchy cabbage and Papaya salad is made by laboriously pounding young green papaya with palm sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce then tossing with tomatoes, raw green beans, and peanuts. I have always loved Papaya salad but have only recently started eating it again (I burned myself out after my quest to find the best version when we traveled to Thailand in 2008). Thai Food To Go’s is a better rendition than most I’ve had in recent history.

While refreshing, the cool salads ignited our mouths, which was a good indication of the restaurant’s authenticity. Since that trip to Thailand we have a great appreciation for restaurants stateside that use actual Thai chilies. Most settle for red pepper flakes, which really don’t capture the essence of authentic Thai flavors. That being said, be mindful of the heat level you choose (we chose 8 and 5, respectively, but both were like 10’s).

We followed the salads with the pumpkin curry, which is listed on their board but not on the menu. We ordered beef and they gave us chicken, but we didn’t care because it tasted great and we loved the pumpkin. It was tender enough to eat the skin, and the flavor really complemented the sauce. For $8.95, you can’t go wrong.

Fortunately, my dear friends live near there so we brought them take-out and got to sample a few more items (this place isn’t close to me, so I wanted to maximize the experience). They requested the Chicken Fried Rice ($6.95) and Thai Beef Jerky $7.95), and both were well-received and deemed worthy of ordering again. The jerky was especially addictive with the accompanying spicy sauce. I also brought them Salmon Panang Curry ($9.95), which was equally tasty and another great value.

Thai Food To Go really is a perfect Frugal Foodie spot, as the food quality exceeds the price. It’s probably not worth traveling across town for unless you are really cheap, but if you love Thai food it is certainly worth a fifteen minute drive. They also deliver, so if you live close be sure to grab their menu for your junk drawer.

 Papaya Salad

 Pumpkin Curry

 Salmon Panang

Beef Jerky

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Bronze Cafe

I’ve read Mad Cowboy and have seen Food Inc. a few times so I try to eat a lot of vegan meals, but completely eliminating animal products from my diet is a step in life I can’t commit to at this point. I do believe in filling my body with good nutrition, however, and for that I turn to my favorite place for a healthy meal, the Bronze Cafe. located in The Center off Charleston and Maryland Pkwy.

Though the Bronze Cafe has a wide variety of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, the focus is really more on health than pushing a way of eating. Everything is made from scratch, and for the most part it’s all pretty great.

My favorite items on the menu happen to be vegan, The Good Earth pita and The Bizness salad (both $9.95). The Good Earth is made with roasted vegetables, mixed greens, housemade romesco, hummus, alfalfa sprouts, lemon vinaigrette, and cayenne-spiced caramelized sunflower seeds, all snuggled nicely together in a soft warm pita. It’s completely satisfying and comes with a tasty but unnecessary side salad. The Bizness can take on any personality you like, as you get to top chopped kale massaged in a lemon vinaigrette with three toppings of your choice. I recommend the agrodolce brussels sprouts, curried chickpeas, and mini beet salad with quinoa, but I sometimes sub with the roasted broccoli with hemp hearts or curried quinoa salad. You can’t get much tastier for something as healthy as this.

Since the cafe is located in the Center, you will find a bit of gay humor in the menu, such as the Blueberry Boy Bait bar and The What What (if you haven’t seen the video this is named after, check it out here). The L BGTQ sandwich is quite popular, probably due the the addition of very un-vegan bacon jam, maple-glazed bacon, and basil aioli.

There are a lot of drink options to choose from, including smoothies, coffee drinks (available ‘creamers’ include soy milk or house-made almond milk), and fresh juices like Cantaloupe Turmeric and Pineapple Mint Chia ($3.75). The daily soup can be bland at times, but they always offer samples so you can see if it’s a full flavor day or not. Bakery goods are always fresh but hit or miss (mostly miss), and I actually kind of like that. I’d feel guilty about not being Vegan if butter wasn’t necessary to make desserts taste really good.

When I want to feel extra great about what I’m eating while doing my part for the Earth and its creatures, I make my way to The Bronze Cafe. I hope you, do too. Together we may save at least one cow (or perhaps something smaller like a chicken).

His Bizzness (curried quinoa, chicken, beet and quinoa salad)

Her Bizzness (Asian slaw - a new menu addition, spiced chickpeas, broccoli with hemp hearts)

The Good Earth Pita

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Rollin' Smoke

This is an article I wrote for BLVDS magazine:

No cuisine is more American than barbecue, and no barbecue restaurant in Las Vegas embodies the American dream more than Rollin’ Smoke. Chef John Holland’s story begins in his birthplace of Magnolia, Arkansas where he worked in wholesale construction for the better part of his life. His passion for cooking, as well as his desire to be near his dad, fueled his decision to ditch his hometown gig as Pitmaster of the company picnics and head to Sin City.

John immediately funneled his friendly Arkansas spirit into block parties, where he and his father invited the whole neighborhood to come out and enjoy their barbecue specialties. He decided to further his culinary education by enrolling at Le Cordon Bleu, and shortly after graduating one of his block party guests invited John to sell his soulful creations outside the man’s hardware store on Valley View and Russell. On the first day John sold three sandwiches in four hours, but within two weeks he was selling seventy five sandwiches in two hours.

John continued cooking on the side of the street six days a week for three years with help from his pop, who would tend to the barbecue while John was working swing shift in the kitchens of Station Casinos. He soon ran out of cooking space to expand any further, so he decided to move the operation from his garage to small strip mall tucked beneath the 15 at Highland and Desert Inn. Rollin’ Smoke now had a place to call home.

John’s affable brother Dusty moved out to help John and his dad open the restaurant, and for the first four months it was just the three of them. John cautiously kept his casino job for the first year, knowing that most restaurants fail during this crucial time. His fears dissipated as the accolades started flowing in, and the restaurant quickly earned national recognition as one of’s top twenty barbecue restaurants of 2013.

John attributes his success to following his passion to cook the food he loves and strong desire to put smiles on the faces of all who eat it. Arkansas isn’t part of the four main regional styles of barbecue, but John calls what he creates his own version of Arkansas BBQ, or simply a combination of all the kinds of barbecue he likes. The ever-praising Dusty considers his brother to be a pioneer in the kitchen, modernizing soul food with twists like the Outlaw Burger, the BBQ Parfait, and the family’s personal favorite, Smoked Meatloaf. The meatloaf is made by combining his mom’s recipe for the retro dish with pulled pork that has been smoked for fifteen hours, brisket that has been smoked for eighteen hours, and then smoking that concoction for another six. It is doubtful this much time and thought has gone into any other meatloaf ever prepared.

For the purists, Rollin’ Smoke’s baby back ribs are tender as can be without disintegrating off the bone, and the sauce is something special to say the least. It’s light and tangy with the optimal mix of heat and sweet, and so delicious you’ll want to order an extra side or two if taking food to go. Don’t miss out on a side of Kicken’ Beans, which are spicy and slow-baked with hot links and pulled pork.

John and his family have embraced Vegas as home, and love that people from nearly every continent have come to try their ‘cue. You can feel the love and Southern hospitality from the moment you smell the smokers outside, an experience that sticks with you as you leave with a fully belly and happy heart. The whole crew down to John’s four and eight year old daughters help create this for you, so get your dose of family and phenomenal barbecue at Rollin‘ Smoke, and follow Dusty’s order to “put a little South in your mouth”.

Rollin' Smoke
3185 Highland Dr
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 836-3621
 That's the meatloaf buried under a mound of crispy onion rings.

Here was the fish tank recently created for the TV show "Tanked". It has a bunch of fake meat and little fish in it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Every once in awhile I eat at a restaurant in Vegas that makes me feel guilty for not having been active with my blog. The guilt stems a bit from my dad's nagging (he did send me to culinary school), but mainly it is because I feel I am doing a disservice to a restauranteur who is doing an excellent job in a tough business by not sharing their efforts with the community. Tonight we dined at Argana, a new Moraccan restaurant on Sahara and Durango, which my husband expects will close within a year. This is due only to its hidden location, however, and style of cuisine. I can't remember ever hearing anyone say "Let's go out for Moroccan" prior to this evening, and I eat with adventurous people, so his point is valid. I hope, however, this isn't the case. 

If you’ve ever eaten at Marrakech (which I believe is the only other Moroccan restaurant in town and a landmark on Paradise), then you will have an idea about what Moroccan food is - sort of Greek with a spiced up flare, heavy on mint and preserved lemon. Though Marrakech has the added benefits of belly dancing every night and eating on the floor with only your hands, Argana’s food feels more authentic and special. It is certainly less tourist trap-y and less expensive as well. We got out for less than $70 (including tip) for a filling meal with dessert and little extras.

We started with the Calamari Steak appetizer, served with preserved lemon, spicy tomatoes, and chick pea relish. I’m kind of over calamari because preparations tend to bore me and quality is all over the place, but this was recommended by the waiter and I tend to be a sucker for servers. Surprisingly, this dish proved to be a revelation in calamari. True to the description it was as thick as a small steak, and was uber tender with the texture of a firm and meaty scallop. The lemony relish was balanced and addictive, with a definite kick to waken the taste buds. It was the best dish of the night, but not by far.

We continued with the Fresh Fava Bean Salad with garlic, chermoula sauce, and spicy radishes. Chermoula is a mixture made with herbs, oil, lemon juice, pickled lemons, garlic, cumin, and salt - a lovely combination. This dish was equally delightful, and our only regret was not asking for pita bread with which to sop up the remainder of the sauce. 

Our entree was the Chicken Tagine, which unfortunately did not come in the customary ceramic dish with a conical lid, but did come with the aforementioned pita bread for the delicious sauce. The chicken was tender and juicy, having the consistency of perfectly cooked breast meat but with the richer flavor of the dark parts of the bird. I was accompanied by velvety potatoes, olives, and thick slices of their house made preserved lemon. 

Dessert was a Mint Tea Almond Panna Cotta that jiggled appropriately and came with a delicious lemon sauce on top (I'm pretty sure there's lemon in every dish here). The mint on top was a bit overpowering, but that was truly the only criticism of the meal. Another highlight of the meal included the hot Moroccan tea, a slightly sweet and minty concoction served in a pretty cup that stayed full throughout the meal. 

I would be remiss if I left out some information regarding the atmosphere. One thing that we always look for in a new restaurant is if it would be a place we can take my parents. I wouldn’t go so far as to call my mom a prima donna, however, decor, service and a full bar are things she sure appreciates. Considering Argana had all three down pat, I’m excited to bring her here. 

Do yourself and the restauranteur a tremendous favor by checking out Argana. I would love for my husband to be wrong about his one year prediction - I don't think that will give me enough time to check out the entire menu (twice).


8615 W. Sahara Ave.
Las Vegas, NV

Note: Sadly the picture of the calamari seems to have disappeared from my phone :-(

Fava Bean Salad

Chicken Tagine

Mint Tea Almond Panna Cotta