Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Old Blog Entries

February 6th, 2010, 1:17pm PST:
Last night, the Princess wasn't feeling well, so I got us some takeout from the Lemongrass Cafe, a little Vietnamese place near Eastern & Pebble.

Since discovering the Lemongrass Cafe about 6 months ago, we have become avid fans, visiting about once per week to enjoy some pho.

My experience of Southeast Asian food is that, at its best, it's characterized by fresh, vibrant ingredients and strong, spicy sauces. Each component of a particular dish is recognizable in and of itself, and the success of a given recipe rests on a precise layering of these components so that individual tastes & textures add up to a pleasurable whole without losing a single ingredient's unique flavor. With pho, I'm talking about layers of noodles, broth, fresh & crispy veggies, and thin-sliced meats. Add a few drops of sriracha sauce & some crispy bean sprouts, and you have the perfect meal for those rare cold & rainy Las Vegas nights.

Lemongrass Cafe sticks to this formula of fresh ingredients and precise cooking, and, in the 20 or so visits I've made, I haven't had a single disappointment. Beware: this place can get pretty busy, and they have a small staff, so if you walk in and there's a crowd, be prepared to wait. It's worth it.

February 4th, 2010, 4:17pm PST:
The Princess won a gift card to this place at a recent office party, so today we decided to give it a try.

Now, I've had bad experiences at the California Pizza Kitchen ever since their first Las Vegas location opened in Caesars Palace years ago, but a recent visit here with a relative had softened my opinion of the place. During that visit, we'd had some decent pizza, and the service was actually competent.

Today's visit to the California Pizza Kitchen was a return to form. True, our waitress was polite and she took our order quickly. (Quibble: when we seemed unsure about a beverage, she just smiled & waited instead of offering any suggestions! This is not a big deal, but the Princess is legendarily indecisive about what to drink. Any help from the wait staff is not only appreciated, but also -- I would think -- a sign of professionalism.) But then she disappeared and our drinks were NEVER refilled. Not once. She only thought to ask about refills when she was delivering our check.

About the food: on our previous visit, we were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the pizza we ordered, but, this time, our Margherita pizza was ruined by lifeless, formless, tasteless tomatoes. The crust was only slightly more flavorful than a saltine, and the basil might as well have been slivers of green construction paper. The cheese, supposedly a base of mozzarella topped by a sprinkling of parmesan, was unidentifiable to the tongue. We also ordered an appetizer, but it arrived at the same time as our pizza. Our Thai Chicken Tortilla Spring Rolls had been cooked to the point where the filling had congealed into a glop that tasted vaguely of chicken. Nowhere were the advertised tastes of cilantro, green onions, and bean sprouts.

My suspicion is that everything in this place comes out of a can or the freezer.

February 3rd, 2010, 3:00pm PST:
So, even though I've sworn off caffeine for the foreseeable future, I get talked into visiting a local coffee place by my girlfriend and my housemate. The girlfriend just wants to go because she's seized by a sudden need for a pastry, and my housemate wants to go because he is harboring entrepreneurial aspirations and wants to scout out the local market.

So, okay, I go. Never mind that this is like asking a newly-recovering alcoholic to take a tour of a winery. I go.

Sunrise Coffee Company sits just west of Pecos on Sunset Road and looks like your run-of-the-grinder Starbucks knock-off, except that their selection of snacks is even more limited. (So the Princess had to settle for a muffin!) But there's a BIG DIFFERENCE: they really know how to serve a beverage. They focus on quality ingredients to make drinks that would put the average green-aproned barista to shame.

Because I'm on the caffeine wagon, I order a peppermint tea, which irks me, because I just can't see paying a coffee price for something that's essentially made by dunking a bag of leaves into a cup of hot water. So, while the Princess raves about her mocha and my housemate raves about his latte, I get stuck with aromatic broth.

Then I take a sip....

Wow. The tea is pungent with mint and yet somehow manages to avoid the bitterness that often is the aftertaste of such herbal strength.

Which is to say I'm happy that I went to Sunrise Coffee Company and I hope they have continued success in their uphill battle against both the economy and Big Green. I plan to keep coming back.

February 2nd, 2010, 12:36pm PST:
Last night, I rewatched Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces," which is an amazing movie. Once again, Spanish auteur Almodovar uses the elements of pulp and melodrama to create indelible & vivid characters who idiosyncratically explore the mystery of their lives.

It's an entertaining story, full of incident and hilarious dialogue, and, although not Almodovar's best, "Broken Embraces" manages to stand head-and-shoulders above what passes for serious drama in today's multiplexes. In typical Almodovarian style, it's colorful & funny, earthy & highbrow, and I really enjoyed it. And Penelope Cruz again works her magic as Almodovar's screen muse in a role that both celebrates and pokes fun at her sexiness and range.

I highly recommend it.

February 2nd, 2010, 12:13pm PST:
Yesterday, as I browsed through my local public library, I overheard an older man beseeching the reference librarian thus:

"Excuse me, I need help finding a book!"

I really couldn't help overhearing this. The man was basically yelling.

"Sure," the librarian, a cheerful young woman, replied. "What are you looking for?"

"I need help finding a book on itches! I can't stop itching! I'm old, and all I do is scratch myself! Everything I try doesn't work! Where are the books on itches?"

"Well, uh," the librarian stammered. She rose from her desk, but didn't actually back away. She just kind of shrank a little.

"It won't stop! It's not a rash or anything! I'm just old, and I can't stop scratching myself! Where can I find a book for that?"

Bravely, the librarian came around her desk and gestured for the old man to follow her. Her bright smile was now a kind of disgusted grimace, and all the color had drained from her face.

"Why don't you follow me?" she said to him, and I had to admire her professionalism.

Chuckles were rippling throughout the library as I watched her lead the afflicted man into the stacks.

January 1st, 2009, 11:28am PST:
So I was getting my girlfriend a bagel from Einstein's this morning, and, as I step out of the car, a police siren goes off behind me.

This is when I notice the naked man walking briskly down the sidewalk, with a pair of very polite cops getting out of their cruiser, saying, "Sir! Excuse me, sir!"

The naked man -- caucasian, middle-aged & overweight -- had started to pick up his pace, though he hadn't broken into an actual jog, and he surrendered as soon as one of the officers put their arm on his shoulder.

Amused, I went in to get the girlfriend's bagel.

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