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Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

9 Feb

I know I’ve been neglectful of this blog this year.  Between the shoulder injury and the really gross winter we are having here in Pittsburgh, I’m not going out to eat much and I’m not really cooking.  Today though, I decided that I would cook and I wanted soup.  I mean, this is what it looks like out there right now:

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So comfort soup just sounded well… comforting.  If you like stuffed green peppers, you should like this soup.

Before it got bad out, Jen and I went to Coca Cafe (Here is my original review).  Jen got the same thing  as last time and I ordered a special.  I was tempted to get pumpkin pancakes, but I went with a tandori chicken chorizo and mango hash with eggs over easy instead.  It was fantastic, I loved the flavor, it had that great tandori flavor without being overbearing.  It was served with some grilled naan and a cool cucumber yogurt sauce.  I really like this tiny place, but be warned, even in 20 degree weather, there was a line outside for it at 8:45 am and they open at 9 on Sundays.IMG_1069

My Tandori Chicken Chorizo with eggs (yum)

Then we had a slightly slippery drive home as the snow started to pick up when we left.  I braved the drive from Jen’s to my house – I despise driving in snow.  I go super slow so everyone on the road hates me, but I don’t trust my car.  I’ve slid in the snow too many times in that car.  I’m seriously considering a Subaru right now.

I  decided to make this soup while I was at the store earlier in the week.  My local store sells this in their fresh soup section, but it’s not cheap and I figured I could make it for less money and probably a little healthier.

What you’ll need:

1 lb Ground Turkey Breast (or lean ground beef)

1 Small Yellow Onion (or half a large)

2 Green Peppers

1-2 cloves of garlic

1 28 oz can crushed tomato

1 28 oz can diced tomato

1.5 cups chicken broth (low sodium)

Italian Seasoning

1.5-2 cups cooked brown rice

First I cooked the ground turkey.  I thought I had some frozen turkey sausage that I had planned to add, but I did not, so I’m lacking a little of the protein I thought I’d have.  I was not going out in this snow to get it though!  Next time.

Then I added the diced green pepper, onion, garlic and a little salt and pepper with some olive oil.

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I let this cook until the veggies were softened, about 6-7 minutes, stirring often.

Then I added in the can of diced tomatoes, the can of crushed tomatoes, the chicken broth and the Italian seasoning.

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I eyeballed the the broth and seasoning, so I’m making assumptions about how much I put in.  Make sure it’s as liquidy as you like.  Ha, do you like my made up word, liquidy?  I season as I go, I actually added some Italian seasoning to the meat and veggie layer and then some more when I put in all of the liquids.  Just keep tasting it and make sure it tastes good to you.

I let this mixture simmer for about 2 hours, stirring every once in a while.  If you’ve just had shoulder surgery go do your exercises (that’s what I did).  Or clean.  Or sit on the couch and watch the Olympics (that’s what I did after the exercises).  Speaking of Olympics, I just wish I was even a fraction as athletic as these people.  But I hate cold weather, so doing any of these sports isn’t really something I’d be into.

Next time I’d probably go with lean ground beef over the turkey, it just doesn’t have the same flavor as the beef in something like this.  I’ll be eating this for lunch for the next several days.  Without the rice, this comes out as about 170 calories (assuming this makes 6 servings).  With the rice it comes in at 244.  either way, not a bad lunch at all!

Here it is all done, I mixed the rice in since I was going to be the only one eating this.  You can certainly add it in later if you like.

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Legume Review

27 Nov

Last Saturday we celebrated the birthdays of two of my good friends, Julie and Sarah at one of my absolute favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh, Legume.  This amazing restaurant is on Craig Street in Oakland.  Their menu changes each day, but usually you can find some of the same things throughout a given week.  This is a family run restaurant and from what I’ve heard, they are very involved in the community and are very committed to making sure what they serve is fresh.

We started in their bar, Butterjoint.  It’s rather small and they have their own small menu.  I’d like to go back there on a night when it isn’t so busy to eat, we could barely find a spot to stand while we were waiting for our table.  Luckily, we were seated right on time.

I’ve been to Legume two or three times before but it had been a while, so I was really happy to get back there. We started by sharing some cheese.  We got the Raclette, which has a consistency similar to Brie.  We also ordered blue cheese with a pear compote.  I personally liked this best, the flavor of the blue cheese with the sweet compote was an awesome pairing.

For my main dish, I struggled with what to order.  There was a lamb dish that sounded great (and I got a little bite of it, it was done in a Mediterranean style and there was a hint of cinnamon, I really liked it).  But I went with a bluefish dish because I’ve heard that they are very picky about their seafood and they get it daily, so I figured it would be the thing to try that night!

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The fish was a little crispy on top and was served with lentils and a sunchoke puree.  It was fantastic and I literally ate every bite.  If it wouldn’t have been very bad form, I would have licked the plate.  Several of my friends ordered a house-made ricotta ravioli that I, of course, needed to try!

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Look at how pretty that was.  It was served with an arugula pesto which gave it a slightly different flavor than what I’m used to with pesto, but I liked it, it was kind of refreshing.  The ravioli was really good too.  There is just something about fresh ravioli, it tastes so much better than frozen.  I don’t realize the difference until I get some fresh ravioli.

Since it was a birthday celebration, we obviously ordered desert!  There were seven of us at dinner and we were debating what we should order, there were four options.  So we did the logical thing and ordered one of each to share.  I only nabbed pictures of two of them.

The gingerbread cake…  gingerbread usually isn’t my thing but I really enjoyed this.

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And the apple pie ice cream, which was so good, I think it was my favorite of the four.  I mean it was apple pie in ice cream form, what could possibly not be awesome about that.

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I know, bad picture, remember, I don’t want to be the annoying person in the restaurant so I keep the flash off!

We also ordered a chocolate cake that was very rich, but also very tasty.  There was one other desert that I can’t recall the name of.  It was fluffy and sticky and awesome and I’m really sad that I didn’t take a picture of it.  If Niki reads this I’m going to beg her to write in the comments on the blog what it was!  I hope she remembers since she ordered it.

So, as usual I had an amazing meal at Legume.  They put together a great menu each day and I always look forward to visits to this restaurant.  I’d highly recommend it if you haven’t been there yet.

Legume Bistro on Urbanspoon

Cure Review

26 Oct

Jen and I continued our mission to go to the best Pittsburgh restaurants this past week.  We decided to go to Cure in Lawrenceville.  Honestly, the only reason I hadn’t gone yet was because I really thought we’d already been there.  See, this is one of the main reasons I started this blog, so I could keep a running list of where we’ve gone and which we liked.

In this case, I wasn’t as impressed as I’d hoped to be.  Maybe it’s because I’ve gone to some truly amazing restaurants around town and when I draw comparisons these days, everything is compared to my favorite meals.

First impression was of the restaurant decor, which I really liked.  It was small and rustic looking and very cute.  When we went to order was when I had my first reservations.  There was absolutely no altering of the dish.  I get it, the chef has gone through a lot of trouble to put dishes together, but when Jen asked for something to be omitted because she doesn’t like shellfish, they said they only alter dishes for allergies.

So, we started with the brussels sprouts.  They were done with bacon, walnuts and goat cheese.  They were actually amazing.  I’ll still give credit to the brussels sprouts at Root 174 as my favorite, but these were a close second.  So the meal started out really well.

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Jen ordered the butternut squash risotto.  Here is where things got a little more off for both Jen and myself.  While the risotto itself was fantastic, it came with too much extra “stuff” in my humble opinion.  There was a basil oil, a Chianti froth, mushrooms and smoked mozzarella.  I get that each of those could compliment the dish, but were all four really needed?  I think that one or two of those things would have worked just as well.  I honestly loved how the basil oil tasted with the risotto, but the rest felt like overkill.  You can see all the stuff in the picture below (I didn’t use the flash, it would have just been embarrassing to use in a place like this).

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I ordered the hanger steak.  When I ordered I was told that it is usually prepared medium rare, but the chef would be willing to do it medium if I asked.  So basically, if you like your steak over medium, you aren’t getting it at this place.  As with this dish, I loved the steak but it came with too many little sauces.  I actually liked all of them, but it just felt like too much to me again.  There was a cheddar custard, lobster béarnaise, red eye bordelaise and caramelized onion puree.  I really did like the caramelized onion puree and I would have been happy with just two of those sauces.

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To end the night we decided to get the chocolate souffle cake. This I also really enjoyed.  It was served simply with some pistachio butter and sea salt.  I think I liked it so much because it was relatively simple.

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My overall take on Cure was that I was very glad I tried it, but it isn’t someplace that I’m likely to visit again.  Everything just was a bit too complicated for me, and I don’t normally shy away from different dishes.  Also the fact that there was little to no flexibility didn’t make me especially happy.  If you are a bit of a picky eater, you aren’t likely to be happy at this restaurant.  I’d say it is more for those with rather adventurous pallets.

 

Cure on Urbanspoon

Dinner at Arlecchino

13 Oct

Last week I went out to dinner with some folks to this amazing restaurant in McMurray (Peter’s Township), Arlecchino.  My cousin had invited me here over a year ago but then we ended up cancelling our plans and I’d wanted to go ever since she mentioned it.  This place is in an old, converted school house.  It’s not very big and even on a weeknight I’d probably recommend reservations.

The staff is very courteous and seemed to know when to pay attention and when to leave us alone.  The menu was amazing and the portions are very large.  They get in their meat and produce daily so know everything is fresh.  They also modify the menu each day depending on what they get in I think!

So to start, they bring out a salad for the table to share.  It had roasted beets and many other good things in it and was lightly dressed, it was perfect.  They also bring out their bread and some “holy oil” (which is infused oil for dipping).  After the salad, out came some pasta with a vodka sauce.  They also brought out a hot pepper oil if you want to add that to the pasta.  A little went a long way, but it did add a little kick to the pasta and was really good!

After all of that food, out came our meals.  I really only remember what I got, but I know there was a pork dish, a veal chop and a fish dish around the table, here are some pics of their meals…

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I did get to taste each of these and they were all fantastic.  Everything was very fresh and cooked perfectly.  As for me, I ordered the Cottoletta del Monzu.

IMG_0889This was three pieces of thin veal scallopini finished with fresh mozzarella, colossal lump crab, arugula, and toasted pine nuts.  It was so good, but there were two leftover pieces when I was done.  After the salad and the pasta who could blame me, this was huge!  The flavors in this blended perfectly and there was just enough cheese, not too much as sometimes happens when you go out for Italian.  I loved the addition of the arugula, it added something to the dish that I can’t quite explain, but I think it really brought the crab and the veal together.

And since it was still my birthday week, we got dessert.  We ordered a raspberry Tiramisu.

IMG_0893It was light and fluffy and awesome.  The topping reminded me of a burnt almond torte, it was nice and crunchy.  The filling was so fluffy it was a little like what I assume biting into a cloud would be like 🙂

Overall, I was super impressed with my meal.  This isn’t a place I’d go to all the time, it was pricey, but was also worth the money.  This may be one of my favorite places that I’ve been to since I’ve been back in Pittsburgh though, and I’ve been to some pretty amazing restaurants around town!

Arlecchino Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Park Bruges Restaurant Review

2 Oct

I went to Park Bruges in Highland Park for dinner tonight.  First of all, I love going to the Highland Park area.  There are so many pretty old homes there.  They are all in different states, some have been restored and others are still in a state of neglect, but overall, it’s a very pretty area.  And there are lots of really good restaurants there.  There is a Thai place that I like and E2 is there, which is really one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh and it’s super tiny and cute and run by hipsters.  I love it.

Anyway, on the Park Bruges, which is a french bistro style restaurant.  It  has a sister restaurant called Point Brugge Cafe in Point Breeze also.  My friend Jen and I had been trying to get here for a few months.  We tried one night, but the wait was horribly long for some reason so we ended up eating at E2 that night.  So I was really excited to try it.

I started with a beer, and being October I ordered a pumpkin beer.  I got the Dogfish Head Pumpkin Ale.  It wasn’t too heavy on the pumpkin with a very subtle cinnamon and nutmeg flavor and a bit of a hoppy taste to it.  I’m rather sensitive to hops though, so for some of you, it may not seem very hoppy.  I really did enjoy it.

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We’d talked about their frites so many times that I couldn’t wait to try them.  We ordered the Poutine in the Montreal style, which came with Amish cheese curds and gravy.  Seriously, yum.  The fries were thin and crispy and they weren’t too heavy handed with the gravy.  Which was perfect.  Sometimes you get fries with gravy and you can barely taste the fries.  These were done very well and Jen and I enjoyed every last bite.

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For entree’s Jen opted for the Gemelli Pasta with peas, artichokes, asparagus, arugula and lemon herb ricotta.  She also got tofu with it.  It was very fresh and they put nutmeg in it.  Which was surprising and really tasty at the same time.  I had a bite and really liked it.  Jen’s only complaint was that the tofu was an afterthought and wasn’t really tossed with the dish but rather just placed on it.  I get that it’s an option, but I think it would have been better if it had been incorporated differently.  And the bread was so good.  I love a good, crusty piece of french bread.  Especially since I’ve been eating sprouted wheat bread at home lately.

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I really debated about what I should order.  I really wanted the PEI mussels when I arrived, but there was also this scallop dish that sounded good.  I asked our server what she’d suggest and she said that they’d always have the mussels but the scallops wouldn’t be there forever.  So, I went with the scallops with an Israeli couscous salad with roasted eggplant & tomatoes, harissa, tahini-yogurt and roasted cauliflower.  I cleared my plate, it was really good.  The scallops were cooked perfectly, just seared.  The harissa was interesting.  It was very spicy to me and I have a decent tolerance for heat.  I only needed the tiniest bit with each bite.  I was laughing though, my friend Bhavini would have mixed all of it into the dish and probably asked for more!  I liked the balance of it though with the cool yogurt sauce.  It was an interesting little dance in my mouth.  That sounds dirtier than intended.  Get your minds out of the gutter.

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Lastly, and forgive me, I forgot to take a photo, we ordered dessert.  You know, I kept forgetting to take pictures all night.  Jen had to keep reminding me and I still forgot to take a picture of dessert.  They don’t post desert options on the website or the menu for that matter.  I assume this means that they change often.  We ordered a chocolate soufle with a salted caramel cream filling.  WOW.  It was so good.  I mean, salted caramel anything really.  The soufle part was very light as was the filling.  It was the perfect end to a great meal.

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal and the atmosphere.  The staff was friendly and attentive without being overbearing.  The location is very cute and the inside is simple and understated.  I said French Bistro style earlier, right?  This is definitely someplace that I would visit again!

Park Bruges on Urbanspoon

Ft. Lauderdale Vacation

8 Sep

I went to Ft. Lauderdale for the first time this past weekend to celebrate my friend Jen’s birthday!  I flew in and Jen and another friend Tracy drove down from Orlando.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ft. Lauderdale, I was expecting a little more pretentiousness than I got (and I was happily surprised).  Either way, I knew that I’d have a great time with these two ladies.

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We got there on Thursday afternoon and after checking into our beautiful hotel (the Westin Beach Resort) we headed out the door in search of a very late lunch.  Just out the door to the left, we kind of went in the first place that we found.  It was called the Deck Restaurant and Lounge.  Knowing nothing, we just went there because they had outdoor seating looking at the beach and there were more than 4 people eating there.  It was basically beach bar food.  Fish sandwiches and such.  I got a lobster burger that was really good and Tracy and Jen shared a grilled fish sandwich and a salad.  It was fine, nothing to write home about but someplace that provided what I needed at the time, food and a frosty drink!

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We decided to go to a movie on Thursday night since neither Jen or Tracy had been to see one in a while.  We saw Blue Jasmine.  I’ll do a separate post on it later this week.

On Friday it was beautiful so we got up and after a very nice buffet breakfast at Shula’s (in our hotel) we headed for the beach.  Around 1 or so we decided to head up to the pool for a drink and a snack to tide us over until dinner.  The pool bar/restaurant, Waves, had fun drinks and a bar menu.  We opted to share a quesadilla and I got myself a Miami Vice (part Pina Colada and part strawberry daquiri).

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After the sun hid behind the building, we went upstairs to get ready for our night out.  After an adventure with a new taxi driver and trying to go to a place that our breakfast server had told us about that turned out to be less than great, we found Los Olas Blvd and lots of restaurants.  We really wanted sushi and after the recommended place was a bust we had to search one out.  Luckily, Tracy stopped some locals to ask where to go and they pointed us to Wildeast Asian Bistro.

We had their tempura fried dragon, Korean Tuna, Pineapple Tropic, Volcano and Salmon Cali rolls.  They were all amazing.  I wasn’t sure I’d be all that into the Pineapple one, it had grilled pineapple chunks on top.  It was fantastic.  Of course I forgot to take a picture until we’d already dug in!

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So that is truly, the aftermath.  We really liked everything, it was all super fresh and the service was really good.

After dinner, we went searching for a place to have a drink or two.  The first place we tried had good music, but was so crowded we couldn’t even find a place to stand at the bar (what I refer to as too hot).  The next place had a blues singer and was in this cute little hotel, but we were the youngest people in the bar by about 30 years and there weren’t many people at all.  So after one glass of wine, we left that place (what I’ll refer to as too cold).  We didn’t want to walk too far, and happened upon this lounge/restaurant Voodka.

I’ll call this place just right (after too hot and too cold).  It wasn’t very busy yet (it was still kinda early, before 10 pm).  The decor was very nice, they had candelabra’s at the dinner tables and comfy huge leather couches around tables in the bar area in addition to high tops and bar seats.  We opted for the comfy leather couches!  Our server ended up being one of the bartenders.  He was really fun and recommended some awesome drinks.  We each choose drinks from the cocktail menu for the first round.  They were all really good, I got an Acai berry cocktail (that isn’t on their new menu, they literally changed it today I think).  It was fruity but not too sweet and very refreshing.  Since our server was kinda looking at us funny when I took this picture:

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Tracy told him that I had a food blog.  So he told us that for our next round he’d make us something from the new menu!

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So for the second round he gave me what I think is the Cucumber Ginger Chill.  It was very well done and again was very refreshing.  The cucumber flavor is subtle and goes really well with the lemon and ginger flavors.  I’m not sure which one he gave to Tracy, but it had some great fall flavors.  It just had some warmer flavors in it and was also excellent.

Saturday was our last full day there and it was overcast (boooo).  After another great breakfast at Shula’s, we went shopping then headed home to get ready for dinner at YOLO.  Yet another great meal in a very nice restaurant.  We started with their szechual calamari, which our server said was a house specialty.  It was sweet and spicy and cooked perfectly.  I often find calamari way too chewy, but this was done perfectly.  I remembered to take a picture before we killed the whole plate this time.

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Tracy ordered the salmon and it had this shallot fennel mixture on top that was just amazing with the salmon.  I think it was basically caramelized fennel and shallot.

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Jen ordered the nightly fish special, swordfish with a great tomato sauce and orzo.  It was very light and flavorful.

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I opted for Coriander-Seaweed crusted Tuna.  It was cooked perfectly and served with noodles, kimchi, bok choy in a shitake miso broth.  It was really well done and I loved the presentation.

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The whole meal was just fabulous.  Since this was Jen’s birthday dinner, we debated getting desert there, but we remembered seeing an Italian bakery/gelato place down the road so went in search of that instead.

I unfortunately can’t remember the name of it, but it was about 3-4 blocks down the street (toward the ocean) from YOLO.  I got a caramel gelato to eat there and got this yummy goodness to take back to the room to share.

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It’s tiramisu and a mini canoli.  It’s hard to tell in the picture, but that canoli is about 3 bites, just enough for one bite each.  The tiramisu was really good.  The cake was very light.  As Tracy and Jen pointed out, often tiramisu can feel heavy if the lady fingers have absorbed too much espresso.  I loved the canoli.  I’m not usually a huge canoli fan, but the filling in this was very light, I really enjoyed my one bite!

We had to say goodbye Sunday morning unfortunately.  I saw about 20 other places that I really wanted to try while I was there.  Ft. Lauderdale is definitely a place I’d like to visit again!

Viva Las Vegas

18 Jul

This past weekend I went to Vegas with two of my very good girlfriends to celebrate some birthdays (Kirra and Maura).

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There was a lot of very good food, lots of drinks, some awesome shows and a little gambling.  And no freaking sleep.  I swear to you, they pump oxygen into the hotels there to keep people up and at it.  Between that, the lights and the noise, I pretty much operated on the tiniest bit of sleep the whole time, but it was Vegas 🙂

We got there on Wednesday evening and after checking into our gorgeous hotel, Aria, we got ready for the night!  We went to a restaurant in Aria called Julian Serrano which featured small plates with a Spanish influence.  We decided to all get salads and then share some other small plates.  I got a pretty standard salad that was very good.  Maura ordered this interesting number though, it was so pretty she was almost afraid to dig in.

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That was basically the crouton wrapped around the salad.

Kirra and I shared sea bass with a donostiarra sauce. I’ve never had that sauce before and I can’t even find out exactly what it is online, but it was phenomenal.  We also ordered wild mushroom risotto that was to die for and short ribs.

We then headed next door for some drinks at the Cosmopolitan.  I decided to stick with wine, so nothing fancy there, but one of the girls we met up with got a cosmo that she said was one of the best she’s had.

Around 2 we figured we should try to get some sleep… fail.  You’ll see a pattern soon.

I’m pretty sure we were all up by 8 am even though I laid there trying to will myself back to sleep.  We were meeting 3 other girls there along with some of Kirra’s family.  While Kirra went to have breakfast with her family and gamble a bit, three of us headed down for an early lunch.  Even simple Vegas food I found to be excellent.  I got a panini for lunch with chicken, caramllized onions, pesto, some other stuff I can’t remember and it was awesome.

We then spent the day sitting poolside while I avoided getting burned while sitting on the sun.  Actually, it wasn’t too hot the days I was there.  Don’t get me wrong, the pool felt great, but I once lived in Florida, so I was okay.

After getting my fill of the sun, I went in to try to learn blackjack a little better.  I lost $80 in like 10 minutes.  So very sad.  After that it was time to go and get ready for our big night out.  Chippendale night!

The show was at the Rio so we decided to eat there.  We weren’t sure where we’d end up going to eat but decided that an Italian place named Martorano’s right next to the theater would be good.  It was an interesting experience to say the least.  Part club, part restaurant.  The music was so loud, you couldn’t really hear the people across the table.  They also had a movie playing, Casino, and occasionally they would play the sound from a particular scene.  It was just weird.  The food was really good, but that’s just not my style of dining, it was very distracting. This was the chicken dish that I got, it had a lot of cheese on it as you can see!

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However, once that was over, we got to see some really good looking guys dance and take their clothes off.  Now I’ll be the first to tell you that male strippers are usually super creepy.  These guys were not.  Maybe it’s because Ian Ziering of 90210 fame was in the show.  Maybe it’s because they were all superbly built and hot.  Maybe it’s because there were over 200 screaming women in the room having a good time.  Either way, it was seriously a blast.  And we got to talk to Ian after the show and get a picture with him.  And I got my picture with these two 🙂

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We then went back to our hotel and had some drinks at a lounge.  It was a nice relaxing end to a rather exciting evening.  Maura and I decided we were starving around 2 and went to the 24 hour cafe for some pizza, also very good, especially given the time of day it was.  Then we went to attempt to sleep.  Fail again.

Around 10 on Saturday we just headed straight to the pool to get a good spot.  We just ate pool side and I got an oriental salad that was very refreshing and light, which is what I really wanted.  I also got a ridiculously large and fruity drink.  It was part strawberry daiquiri part pina colada.  It was sweet and silly and awesome.

I was super excited for dinner and the show we were seeing that night.  We went to Jean Georges Steakhouse.  It was fantastic.  I started by sharing a tomato and mozzarella salad that was simple and fantastic at the same time.

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I ordered the 8 oz fillet and had it cooked medium rare.  Jen is cringing right now.  It was like cutting through butter.  I also ordered a side of mashed potatoes with black truffles that I couldn’t finish and felt super sad about.  One of the other people at dinner ordered macaroni and cheese with truffles that was also phenomenal.

After that we went to see a relatively new Cirque du Soleil show, Zarkana.  I pretty much sat through the whole show with my mouth hanging open and my eyes super wide on the edge of my seat.  It was fantastic and we had awesome seats.

We went and had a few drinks and gambled a bit then I decided to play a little electronic roulette.  I turned $20 into $78 and then turned that back into $25.  It’s a talent.  We were all so exhausted that we tried to get to sleep at a decent time and I did manage to sleep from about 2 until 8.

Alas, Sunday was our last day in Vegas and we headed to the airport in a limo courtesy of one of the girls we were there with.

I have to thank Kirra for planning such a great vacation.  I met some awesome people (Amy, Danielle and Missy), saw two great shows, ate some really amazing food and just in general had a great relaxing time away.  This is definitely a trip I’d like to make again.

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