Las Vegas

Travel Bug (US edition)

Three years ago, I had this temp job that hired a lot of co-op students from a local university.  One such student sat behind me and we’d chat on occasion.  She was from Ireland, studying abroad in the US.  While my summer weekends were spent escaping to the beaches of Rhode Island, she travelled the United States.  I quickly realized she’d seen more of my home country than I had!

So, I’ve had this running list of US cities I wanted to visit.  It’s evolved a bit over time, but I decided to post this now, since the travel bug has hit me hard and I’m making real progress!

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Bye, July!

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Goodness, the summer is flying by!  July to me has been full of vacation– family fourth of July weekend [here and here], and Evo in Las Vegas [here, here, and here]!

Home life has been readjusting testing new make-up products [more soon!], enjoying our home city [here], and lots and lots of poké-walks to catch ’em all in Pokémon Go [here, everywhere, and more to come]!

We’ve got lots planned for August too, so stay tuned!  What’s up next for you this summer?!

Vegas Vlog

Okay, okay, I’ve been back for a couple days and catching up with work, life, and the blog has been a process… but content is returning!

I’ve started pulling together my Vegas vlogs and it’s looking like there will be quite a few of them!  Part one is here for you now!

How is everyone else’s summer going?  Any trips planned?

 

Top Chef: Magic Hour

Wasn’t this technically the finale part 1?  Anyway, it’s hard to believe we’ve gone from 17 chefs to just three: Marjorie, Jeremy, and Isaac.  I kind of feel like I love them all at this point.  Let’s not forget our Last Chance Kitchen winner: Amar!  These four are ready to fight it out for the title of Top Chef in Las Vegas.

They meet Padma and Tom in the MGM arena for a culinary battle.  Instead of an elimination, the winner of this challenge is going straight through to the finale.  Padma deals them some cards.  So, I learned something new: each suit represented a class of people– spades were royalty, hearts were clergy, diamonds were merchants, and clubs were peasants.  They’ll have to cook with a pantry of ingredients selected for the class they were dealt.  The higher classes can pick from the lowers, so royalty can go to any pantry, clergy can use any but royalty, merchants have their own plus peasants, but peasants just have their own to work with.  Marjorie gets the spade, Isaac gets the heart, Jeremy gets the diamond, and Amar gets the club.  They also get some help in the forms of Karen, Carl, Kwame, and Phillip (respectively).  Here’s what they make:

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Tom is really impressed overall with the food.  Everyone rose to the challenge,  but Jeremy is declared the winner and secures himself a spot in the finale.

Then it’s time for the magic of David Copperfield.  They chefs all go see his show in Vegas for inspiration.  Jeremy gets to sit this one out, but Marjorie, Isaac, and Amar need to put some magic on plates for the judges.

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Marjorie puts on a show and tells a story.  Her liquid nitrogen trick almost bit her, as she burnt her tongue with it, inhibiting her from truly tasting her food.  Her performance is well-received, and her food is too!

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Isaac actually preforms a magic trick!  He pretends to chuck an egg at Padma, then throws nothing to Gail having made it “disappear.”  His play on chicken-fried steak is very well-received, though his nerves don’t keep him talking as much as Marjorie had.

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Amar doesn’t put on a show at all.  He doesn’t preform to the table of judges, but rather, let’s his food be a surprise.  When the cloche comes off and the smoke clears, they judges have a plate full of surprises!

When it comes down to it, Amar met the challenge best.  He wins and will face Jeremy in the finale!  When Jeremy finds out who his competitor will be, he says Amar is about as well-rounded as they come.  Truly, both Jeremy and Amar have been consistent in this competition.  Yes, neither without their bad moments, but they deserve to be here now.  I can’t wait to see who wins!

Any predictions?

MasterChef: The Steaks are High in Vegas

Get it?  Steaks and stakes.  Heh.  I’m actually surprised the episode title didn’t take this horrible pun before I did.  Well, we were randomly in Vegas this week on MasterChef!  And randomly, Dan had to leave suddenly and without explanation.  Moving swiftly on, as the episode did.

Steven and Shelly are team captains.  Since Steven had the best dish, he can either pick his entire team, or pick proteins for both teams.  The protein choices are lobster or chicken tenders.  Steven decides to pick his team, so Shelly will pick the protein.  Of course, Steven is playing mind games and knows Shelly will go with chicken… which she does!

Steven chooses Amanda, Charlie, Jesse, Sarah, Olivia, Tommy, Kerry, and Nick for his Red team.  Too bad for Shelly, her top picks all get snatched up by Steven.  Her Blue team consists of Claudia, Christopher, Hetal, Veronica, Ailsa, Katrina, and Derrick.  Steven is a decisive, slightly scary leader.  His team is properly inspired and behind him.  Shelley has a chicken idea and won’t hear any of the feedback from her team.  I’m a little embarrassed for Shelly who called her roulade a remoulade… which is a sauce.  The chicken roulade idea is too time consuming and nothing is ready at the start of service.

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Halfway through service, Blue hasn’t served a single plate.  Derrick steps up as pinch-hitter team captain.  Graham notes that Christopher is the only one cooking and Derrick is the only one plating; you could get rid of the rest of the team.  Once the chicken gets to the diners, a lot of them say it’s worth the wait.  Tommy is a mess on the line when it comes to plating.  He later burns potatoes and is sent to wash dishes.  Red finishes early.  Blue doesn’t get to serve 8 plates.  Each of the 101 performers casts a vote.  The winner only wins by 3 votes.  That team is Red!

Only four members of the Blue team have to face the pressure test.  Shelly, as team captain, is one of those four and tasked to chose the other 3.  She picks Hetal, Veronica, and Katrina.  WOW.

The pressure test will be at Gordon Ramsay Steak judged by Gordon Ramsay himself.  Oh, and it’s actually two pressure tests.  In the first part, Gordon will request a steak: NY Strip medium rare.  He will pick the two best without knowing who cooked them.  The worst two face part 2 of the pressure test.  Derrick’s is perfect.  Christopher’s tastes better than it looks, but it’s rare and hasn’t been seared right… he knew that though.  Ailsa’s looks really bad and is raw.  I can’t believe Gordon ate it.  Claudia’s is slightly under, but the sear is good.  Derrick & Claudia’s clear them from the next test.  Gordon then requests a rare filet mignon.  That sounds so intimidating to cook!  Christopher obviously thinks so too because he gets way too in his head.  Gordon tastes Ailsa’s first– it’s slightly under and cold in a spot, but looks nice.  Christopher’s, which looked disastrous going from pan to over, back to pan and then on fire, looks perfect inside.  He ends up having the slight edge, sending Ailsa home.

After watching him work so hard during the team challenge, I was on the edge of my seat for Christopher to pull this one out!  I can’t wait for next week’s Mystery Box Challenge!

Amazing Race Recap: Do You Believe in Magic?

Teams left London for Las Vegas, Nevada.  I was cheering on the Brenchels, (I want them to have a Brenchel baby too!) and was psyched to learn Rachel lived in Vegas!

bidding a fond farewell to season 24 at the Las Vegas Speedway

bidding a fond farewell to season 24 at the Las Vegas Speedway

Upon landing in the US, a car picked up the teams and sent them to a desert to dig up a box reading “Property of David Copperfield.”  The Brenchels were the only ones to break the box open and reveal the keys before arriving at the clue.  (More good news!)  The first clue asks the teams, do you believe in magic?  David Copperfield himself put them to the test in the Roadblock.

In the illusion Roadblock, one teammate is locked in a box with the keys– they had to unlock the shackles, retrieve lockpicks from the top of the box, which was raised, and set on fire.  Once they were done, the other teammate presses a series of switches that dropped the boxes into a burning piling of wood in an explosion.  David Copperfield would then act concerned, and say they should call the fire department.  The previously boxed teammate would then come out dresses as a firefighter.  Cute!

Then it was off to the neon boneyard for the next clue.  The had to grab a lightbulb from a giant question mark, then head over to The Mirage.  At The Mirage, the next challenge came in the form of hoisting a teammate to the top and having them replace and count the light bulbs in the sign’s letter “I.”

One final Roadblock had Dave, Caroline, and Brendan skydiving to the finish line while their partners waited below with the eliminated racers.  So great to see my cowboys, Youtubers, Globetrotters, and Miss Mallory again!  This was such a great season.

As the winner came into view, no one could tell it was Dave until he landed.  Poor Rachel cried as Brendan came done, third overall; no Brenchel babies until Brendan graduates.

I’ve got to say, guys, all I wanted out of this season was for Dave and Connor not to win.  I guess the fact that Dave only said achilles twice this episode lessens the blow a little bit.  I’m all for firsts, so congratulations to him for being the oldest winner of the Race, and to both for being the first parent-child team to win.  I cry every single time a team crosses the finish line and this season was no exception.  I cannot wait for another season of the Race.  The All Star season was such a treat; let’s hope for some new, memorable faces next time around!

Some of my favorite moments of the season have to be Flight Time & Big Easy riding donkeys in Italy, and the Afghanimals rolling around in those inflatable bull balls.  Please share yours in the comments!

Hell’s Kitchen Recap: 13 Chefs Compete

Last week’s episode was in classic Hell’s Kitchen format.  Girls of the Phi Mu sorority come out for the challenge.  Hell’s Kitchen is hosting a dinner to celebrate the 160th anniversary of their sorority.  The party planning committee came forward to vote on the dishes they wanted for their menu.  Since Phi Mu was founded in Georgia, the ladies requested Southern cooking.  Chef Ramsay had each team prepare a chicken dish, a seafood dish, and a beef dish.  The winning dishes make it to the next night’s menu.

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Phi Mu sister Kayla picks her favorite dishes

Chicken:

  • Red presents fried chicken with mac and cheese and collard greens
  • Blue presents twice-battered fried chicken with a mushroom sauce

Blue wins the point.

Seafood:

  • Red presents shrimp with grits
  • Blue presents blackened catfish with green beans and grits

Red wins the point.

Beef:

  • Red presents a ribeye with sautéed string beans
  • Blue presents a ribeye with candied yams and collard greens

Red wins the final point!

As a reward, the ladies head off to Las Vegas!  Their reward includes a $500 shopping spree at the Caesar’s Palace shops, dinner cooked by Chef Ramsay’s mentor Guy Savoy, and a pep talk from past Hell’s Kitchen winner Christina Wilson.  Blue gets the pleasure of setting up the dining room for Phi Mu, including glittering their letters for the event.

The next night’s dinner service is a bit rocky… both teams struggle with chicken!   Kashia keeps saying “flustrated,” an accidental portmanteau of “flustered” and “frustrated.”  She said this in a past episode and I let it go, but she says it so many times in last week’s episode that it’s entirely clear that she does not know what the word is.

The night’s dinner service was all about team work, but the kitchens lacked the sisterhood and brotherhood that Chef Ramsay was hoping to achieve.  He declares Blue the winners and has Red make nominations.  When Kashia mentions that she wants to put Jessica up for elimination, Jessica throws a hissy fit.  How old is this chick?  It’s a show on which people get eliminated… did you not see this coming?  Now, I do think Jessica is a strong chef, but she did not keep it together with the chicken!

Red nominates: Bev, who couldn’t keep it together on garnish & Jessica, who starts pouting again immediately

Rightfully, Chef Ramsay eliminates Bev.  She complains about the red team being a bunch of cry babies as she exits.  She’s right, to an extent, but at least they can cook.  Bev’s been lagging for weeks.

Do you think Chef Ramsay made the right choice?

With the teams now even, who do you think will be the next to go?

Top Chef BOSTON, baby!

The best judges: Emeril, Padma, Gail, Tom, (with the best dance moves,) and Hugh!

The best judges: Emeril, Padma, Gail, Tom, (with the best dance moves,) and Hugh!

When I first heard the rumor that Top Chef season 12 would be set in Boston, I was excited.  However, you have to take that as what it is: a rumor.  This week, though, my wildest dreams came through when it was confirmed!

To have one of my favorite shows in my favorite city, the city I live in, is news I can’t even begin to comprehend.  When the confirmations were coming out left and right on Wednesday, it was literally all I could think about all day.

Now I’m working on how I can eat the cheftestants’ food this spring/summer…

In light of the good news of what I’m hoping will be my new favorite season, I wanted to revisit my other favorite Top Chef locations, in a top 3 list.

 

3. Season 11 – New Orleans

American Horror Story and Top Chef were both on at the same time, and both were set in New Orleans, so I was all about New Orleans!  I had a couple of favorite contestants this time around including my hometown hero, the wonderful and kind Stephanie Cmar.  Humble brag: I’ve had the pleasure of having coffee with her, and she personally introduced me to season 10 winner Kristen Kish.  Stephanie is awesome in real life and on screen.  My other favorite was the adorable Janine Booth, who I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting but I have tweeted back and forth with her, and that’s nice too.  The great thing about the New Orleans location was the utilization of new-ish judge Emeril Lagasse.  New Orleans is where he made a name for himself.  Emeril, who I used to watch on TV with my parents when I was growing up, gives me a nostalgic feeling that’s nice.  Also, he kind of looks like my uncles.

2. Season 8 – New York City

The second time Top Chef made New York its home was for the All-Stars season.  That it itself is enough to make this one of the best seasons.  Most of my favorites are all thrown together in one season including the  fierce Jen Carroll, hilarious Carla Hall, the joyous Tiffany Derry, and a man whose quotes liter my twitter feed endlessly, Fabio Viviani.  These are literally some of my favorite cheftestants period, so seeing them all in one episode is pure magic.  Fabio is always pure magic and watching his budding bromance with Richard Blais is fantastic.  I laugh every time I rewatch this season.  Actually, all of the contestants on this season were people I liked, so it can sometimes be a bit hard to watch your favorites pack their knives again.  But with so many fan favorites on one season, what’s not to love?

1. Season 6 – Las Vegas

Love those Voltaggios!  Forever my favorite season, Vegas is tied to my memories more so than any other season.  I can tell you what year of college I was in without looking up the year; I can tell you exactly where I was living.  This is the first season of Top Chef (and maybe the first show ever) I live tweeted.  Twitter has been instrumental in my Top Chef experience, and I tweeted through that finale like a fiend!  This is the first time my chosen contestant won the title of Top Chef.  Yes, I cheered for Michael Voltaggio.  The man is unstoppable!  Really, so was Bryan.  The two brothers both had such consistent success throughout the season, and it was amazing to watch.  Vegas, like New Orleans, opened my eyes to a culinary city I never would have expected.  Now whenever someone mentions Las Vegas, I say, “I want to go there!  But to eat!”

 

Here’s hoping Boston is the best season ever!  We have three cheftestants here– Tiffani Faison, Kristen Kish, and Stephanie Cmar.  I’d love to see them pop up on the new season.  I’d also love to see another Boston chef vying for the title.  Mostly, I hope to see Padma or Tom in my city soon!

 

photo via Bravo