Monday, March 31, 2008

Chicken & Black Bean Tostadas

For a "lazy" meal, this actually requires quite a bit of prep! :) But once you're through prep and on to the main meal, it really dirties no dishes. Esp. if you put foil on the cookie sheet before everything goes into the oven!

I usually will buy a roasted chicken breast to satisfy the meat requirement of this recipe. Otherwise, we're happy with just beans if there's no chicken around. The salsa on this really satisfies the senses-- I've doubled and even tripled it for a party to serve with chips!:)

Soft Black Bean Tostadas
This hearty Mexican meal has countless variations. Fix the salsa and bean spread separately for snacks, roll the tortillas burrito-style, or make this dish vegetarian-friendly by omitting the chicken.

1/2 cup chopped peeled avocado
1/2 cup chopped seeded tomato
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Remaining ingredients:
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
1 cup shredded roasted skinless, boneless chicken breast
3/4 cup (3 ounces) preshredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

Preheat broiler.

To prepare salsa, combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Toss gently, and set aside.
Combine 2 tablespoons water, lime juice, cumin, salt, ground red pepper, and black beans in a blender; process until smooth.

Place tortillas on a baking sheet, and spread about 1/4 cup black bean mixture evenly over each tortilla. Top each evenly with 1/4 cup chicken and 3 tablespoons cheese. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts and tortilla edges are just beginning to brown.

Top each tortilla with 1/4 cup lettuce, 1/4 cup salsa, and 2 tablespoons sour cream. Cut each tortilla into 4 wedges.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 tostada)CALORIES 410 (32% from fat); FAT 14.4g (sat 5.9g,mono 5.9g,poly 1.4g); PROTEIN 25.3g; CHOLESTEROL 49mg; CALCIUM 264mg; SODIUM 858mg; FIBER 7.2g; IRON 3.7mg; CARBOHYDRATE 47.7g Cooking Light, JANUARY 2006

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


2526 Floyd Ave.
Richmond, VA
For lack of an actual picture of this Richmond restaurant, I've subbed a pic of the lovely Verbena plant.

Hubs and I decided to finally venture over to Verbena. Which has most recently been the home of Carlton's and before that Konsta's. Neither of which stand out in my mind as noteworthy.

The folks at Verbena have come in and revamped the place and I will say, a fresh coat of paint does wonders! The main dining room on the first floor is sophisticated and spare with it's dark wood paneling, white table cloths and "copper" ceiling. It's a refined yet relaxed room. The waitstaff- patient, informative and quick on their toes.

As for the food-- hubs ordered the saffron potato cakes to start. Alas, there seemed to be no seasoning, not even saffron! Even so, they were tasty after salt & pepper shakers were requested.

I started w/the microgreen salad served with a ginger vinaigrette (again, needed a little salt or maybe I'm a reincarnated deer that just can't get enough salt in her diet! LOL) Hubs ordered the NY strip w/baby seasonal veggies and au gratin potatos. I ordered the salmon in phyllo served over sauteed baby spinach.

Hubs thought the steak was salty, I thought it tasty! The potatos were excellent! What the menu doesn't tell you is that the chef hits them with a generous portion of white truffle oil. My salmon hid goat cheese and mushroom in it's perfectly crisp phyllo pocket. I can't for the life of me undedrstand why the menu would not underline such wonderful attributes to each dish!! Other than, perhaps the chef doesn't want to seem too trendy, showy or pretentious. The salmon was tender, the cheese and mushrooms a perfect compliment. Although, I must confess, it did taste a bit "fishy" which I know salmon is wont to do, no matter how fresh it is.

For dessert, hubs had the chocolate cake (takes a few minutes, they whip it up when you order it) and I had the creme brulee. The CB was a blast of vanilla! Served in a gratin, it was equal parts creamy and crunchy deliciousness. Hubs chocolate cake was topped with an ice cream that had an overpowering almond flavour.

The wine I chose-- the only gewurztraminer on the wine list at $6 a glass, was truly a marvel to the tastebuds as well as the nose. Light, fruity floral notes. Not too sweet. The florals hit your nose right away and I was afraid it was going to be too much. But, one sip expressed crispness and offered instant refreshment.

We hit the bar upstairs after our meal out of curiousity. Again, the space feels airy and light. The service, helpful & attentive. I was informed they did start serving "small plates" when Verbena first opened, but there has been such a demand on the weekends for seating, they just broke down and now serve full menu.

I want to conclude by saying this was my first and only visit thus far. No restaurant can be judged by just one visit. Ever. Or even two. Or three. Or five! But, I feel Verbena holds great promise if they capitalize on their strengths and market them better in their menus. It seems the neighborhood has taken hold of this little gem. I hope it holds fast.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Best Cocoa Powder Brownies

I really can not express to you how delicious these brownies are!
Sometimes when I want a "Quick Fix", I will make 1/2 this recipe in the bottom of a loaf pan. I also use my *Vanilla Sugar for the sugar in this recipe. I have found that using regular and not dutch-process cocoa works best in this recipe. And, like it makes a difference, I sub in some Smart Balance for the butter ;) Enjoy!

Best Cocoa Brownies
Artisan by Alice Medrich\ November 2003

Cocoa brownies have the softest center and chewiest candylike top "crust" of all because all of the fat in the recipe (except for a small amount of cocoa butter in the cocoa) is butter, and all of the sugar is granulated sugar rather than the finely milled sugar used in chocolate. Use the best cocoa you know for these fabulous brownies.

Makes 16 large or 25 smaller brownies.

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Special equipment: An 8-inch square baking pan

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water.Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon.Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board.Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Chocolate note: Any unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder works well here.Natural cocoa produces brownies with more flavor complexity and lots of tart, fruity notes. I think it's more exciting. Dutch-process cocoa results in a darker brownie with a mellower, old-fashioned chocolate pudding flavor, pleasantly reminiscent of childhood.

*Vanilla Sugar, for me, is made every year during the month of December. Any vanilla bean pods I have scraped for Christmas baking go into a special canister into which I pour white sugar. Throughout the year, I replenish the sugar and the beans continue to flavor it. They start to lose their potency after a while, so I replace every December. Thanks to Ina Garten for this great idea!

Bella's Rigatoni Bolognese

I think it's pretty obvious from my recent posts, I've been on an Italian kick :) So, I thought, why stop now? I was craving some serious red sauce today. So, I threw together my basic weeknight bolognese. I don't think it's very original, but I certainly don't follow any recipe from a book. Always satisfies!

1 lb rigatoni, cooked to al dente
Olive Oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb sweet turkey italian sausage
1/2 lb hot turkey italian sausage
1 28 oz can crushed good plum tomatos
1 tbsp good tomato paste
1/2 c. fresh chopped basil
1/4 c. fresh chopped italian parsley
Large pinch dried oregano
1/2 - 1 tspn of crushed fennel seeds
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat olive oil(2 tbsp) in large pan/dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook/sweat until translucent(approx 5 minutes).

Add and cook turkey until done. Add dried spices(oregano/fennel) and let simmer with the meat/onion mixture for a minute or two.

Then, add tomatos, tomato paste, basil, parsley. Then, salt and pepper to taste. Top with a lid and let simmer for 1/2 hour or more on lowest burner setting. Always best if it's an hour or more! :)

Top w/fresh grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Calzone Nite!!

For me, nothing is better than having a group of friends over for Calzone night! Throw in lots of wine and it's a messy, delicious time.

I basically set up an "assembly line" of goodies and lined my counter with parchment paper. This is handy for about 6 people to be working at a time.
(Sasha sez: "This is my kitchen bitches, and don't you forget it!)

For fillings, we had:
fresh basil
fresh tomato (seeds taken out)
sweet & hot turkey italian sausage
canadian bacon
pizza cheese mix (has smoked provolone, parm etc. in it)
fresh grated parmesan
dried herbs
garlic powder
red pepper flakes
homemade pizza sauce

Calzone or Pizza Dough
-makes enough for 4 large calzone
Bon Appetit, March 1999

1 1/2 cups warm water (105°F to 115°F.)
1 envelope dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups (about) all purpose flour

Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water into large bowl. Stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes. Mix in oil and salt. Add 3 3/4 cups flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until blended. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, sprinkling with more flour if sticky, about 10 minutes.

Place dough in oiled large bowl; turn to coat.Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled, about 1 hour 15 minutes(to about 90 minutes).

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 400°F.Dust 2 baking sheets with flour. Punch dough down.Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth, about 1 minute. Divide into 4 equal portions; shape each into ball.

Roll out dough balls on lightly floured surface to 9-inch rounds. Fill with items of your choice.Fold plain dough halves over filling, forming half circles. Pinch edges of dough firmly together to seal. (you can also seal the deal with a fork). Brush with olive oil (optional).

Using spatula, transfer 2 calzones to each prepared sheet.Pierce tops in several places with small knife. Bake calzones 15-20 minutes. Reverse baking sheets and bake until tops of calzones are golden brown, about 15-20 minutes longer.

Cooks Notes:
I used 2 pizza stones, preheated. I then place 2 calzone on a piece of parchment and slid them into the oven (I used a long sheet so I could grab the sides as 'handles'). This also made switching top to bottom easy. Altogether, it was 2 calzones per pizza stone, with 4 calzone baking at the same time (see rack adjustment in recipe above).

For last nite's get together, I prepared the dough and let it rise in the fridge overnite. I oiled the dough after kneading and I also oiled a gallon sized ziptop baggie. I pressed the air out of the baggie . You can keep dough like this in the fridge for 3 days without it losing any of its integrity. You will need to let your dough come to room temp before trying to use(1 hour or so). Alot of folks seem to think this is the best way to make the tastiest dough- for some reason it's crisper and the flavor a bit more "yeasty" or developed.

So, I also had dough left over, which I formed into little disks, oiled, wrapped in cling film and froze. Calzones for another day! You just have to let the dough thaw overnite in the fridge. Then come to room temp before using.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Grilled Lemon Chicken

I'd been holding on to this recipe for a couple of years now, always knowing I would eventually try it. It's the only recipe unused to last this long in my stack of "To Try" recipes :) And boy am I glad I kept it!

This recipe is really delicious and gives my favorite store bought marinade a run for it's money. I'm not keen on overpowering citrus though and would knock back the lemon zest and juice to half of what is asked for here. But, overall a keeper recipe!

Grilled Lemon Chicken
Gourmet June 2005

Food Editor: Melissa Roberts-Matar Father: Richard Roberts, Monsey, NYSummer and my father's grilled lemon chicken are synonymous for me. Like the alphabet-shaped pancakes he cooked on weekend mornings, this is a signature creation, and one he perfected over time.
The chicken picks up a bright citrus flavor in an unusual marinade made with lemon, oil, and egg. Dad likes to serve it with homemade potato salad and iced tea spiked with mint leaves.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil(I used canola)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 (3 1/2-lb) chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces (I used chicken breast filets)

Make marinade:
Combine all ingredients except chicken in a blender and blend until emulsified.
Prepare chicken:Put chicken pieces in a nonreactive bowl or dish or a large sealable plastic bag.Add marinade and turn chicken once or twice to coat. Marinate, covered and chilled, at least 8 hours(I did overnite). Bring chicken to room temperature 30 minutes before grilling and discard marinade.

To cook chicken using a gas grill:
Preheat all burners on high, covered, 10 minutes, then adjust heat to moderately high.Sear chicken on lightly oiled grill rack, uncovered, turning over once, until well browned, 4 to 8 minutes total. Turn off 1 burner (middle burner if there are 3) and arrange chicken on rack above shut-off burner. Cook, covered with lid and turning over occasionally, until just cooked through, about 12 minutes for wings, 18 to 20 minutes for breasts, and 20 to 28 minutes for dark meat. Transfer chicken as cooked to a platter.

Cooks' notes:• Chicken can be marinated up to 24 hours.• If you aren't able to grill outdoors, chicken can be seared in batches in a hot well-seasoned ridged grill pan over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer chicken as seared to a large baking pan and bake, skin sides up, in middle of a preheated 375°F oven until just cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chicken Provencal

This is a nice, quick weeknight dinner. Great for company-- impressive, yet, simple.

Chicken with Provencal Sauce
A heady combination of dried basil, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, lavender, and sage, herbes de Provence is a classic French seasoning. Try it in other Mediterranean dishes, such as pasta sauce or baked black olives. Serve with roasted potato wedges.

4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons dried herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Fresh thyme sprigs (optional)

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

Add garlic to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add broth and herbes de Provence; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until broth mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat; add butter and lemon juice, stirring until butter melts. Serve sauce over chicken. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 chicken breast half and about 2 tablespoons sauce)CALORIES 248 (30% from fat); FAT 8.2g (sat 1.8g,mono 4.5g,poly 1g); PROTEIN 40.2g; CHOLESTEROL 101mg; CALCIUM 32mg; SODIUM 376mg; FIBER 0.3g; IRON 1.5mg; CARBOHYDRATE 1g Cooking Light, JANUARY 2005

Orzo, how can I fix thee......

...let me count the ways. Love orzo, it's a nice blank slate to fill up with your palate's desires.
Here's my typical recipe with a twist-- I had some marscapone leftover and thought "what the hell?" and threw it in. Perfect comfort food as a meal by itself!

B's Parm & Marscapone Orzo

1 c. orzo (delallo)
1 can low-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp butter
1 large clove of garlic, pressed
1/4 c. marscapone
1/4- 1/2 c. finely grated parmesan
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
S&P to taste
1/4 c. fresh chopped parsley (optional)

Melt butter in small-ish sauce pan over medium heat, add garlic. Saute until fragrant. Add orzo and toast until lightly brown. Add can of broth, bring to a boil. Cover, reduct heat and cook until liquid is mostly absorbed (will depend on your orzo, mine all take 10 minutes or less). Add cheeses, lemon juice and S&P to taste.

Cheesy Baked Tortellini

I participate in an online cooking board (when I have time ;) ) and for the first time, I'm participating in a Recipe Exchange for March/April. This round’s theme was ‘foods from your region.’ Mine was for New Jersey and the dish, Baked Tortellini--- YUM!

Cheesy Baked Tortellini
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis
Source: WC Recipe Exchange Mar/Apr ‘08 - ‘New Jersey'

Olive oil
2 cups marinara sauce
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 pound purchased cheese tortellini
2 ounces thinly sliced smoked mozzarella (I used regular mozz, couldn't find smoked)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly oil an 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish.
Whisk the sauce, mascarpone cheese, parsley and thyme in a large bowl to blend. Cook the tortellini in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain. Add the tortellini to the sauce and toss to coat. Transfer the tortellini mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top the mixture with the smoked mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover and bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheeses on top melt, about 30 minutes.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Asian Grilled Salmon

It's a gorgeous day here and I'm ready to grill! This also means a turn to healthier eats. Which is a welcome reprieve after stuffing ourselves silly in Vegas! This is also a crowd pleaser for BBQ's or hosted dinners (provided your guests like fish). This is tied for first place as far as our favorite recipe for Salmon. (I should add that DH hates salmon, but knows he should eat it for the Omega 3's. He doesn't even gripe when eating this dish!) Asian Grilled Salmon
Copyright, 2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties!, All Rights Reserved

1 side fresh salmon, boned but skin on (about 3 pounds)
(Most of the time, I use 2 filets and halve the marinade for the 2 of us)

For the marinade:
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons good soy sauce(I use Tamari, low sodium)
6 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Light charcoal briquettes in a grill and brush the grilling rack with oil to keep the salmon from sticking. While the grill is heating, lay the salmon skin side down on a cutting board and cut it crosswise into 4 equal pieces.

Whisk together the mustard, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle half of the marinade onto the salmon and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Place the salmon skin side down on the hot grill; discard the marinade the fish was sitting in.

Grill for 4 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Turn carefully with a wide spatula and grill for another 4 to 5 minutes. The salmon will be slightly raw in the center, but don't worry; it will keep cooking as it sits. Transfer the fish to a flat plate, skin side down, and spoon the reserved marinade on top. Allow the fish to rest for 10 minutes. Remove the skin and serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Straight Vodka: Not just for Russians anymore...

.....I couldn't go without mentioning my favorite discovery on our recent Vegas Vacation--- Zyr Vodka! We stopped into the Red Square in Mandalay one evening and our friend greeted us with this over ice, insisting we try it. I am SO glad we did! I can not even express to you how smooth and wonderful this vodka is! It would truly be a crime to mix it with anything!

Hopefully you can get your hands on some, they currently only sell it in 5 states. If you're lucky, you live in a state where you can order and have alcohol shipped. I unfortunately do not and will have to savor the memory.......

My one consolation, however, is Van Gogh's Espresso Vodka. They have double espresso too (the brown one), but it tastes a bit bitter to me, I like the single/clear espresso better. If you haven't tried either yet, I'm going to insist that you must! Chill it first and serve it up as a shot. Tastes like coffee with cream and sugar. All of a sudden the world is a lot brighter, colors a lot crisper and your mood......a lot better! Salut! (Thanks Emily & Bryan!)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Book Rec: Alice Waters & Chez Panisse

I've been travelling a bit lately and that always translates to more reading for me. I'm in the middle of this book, but just wanted to put it out there for my foodies looking for a good read. This book and Alice in general are tremendously inspiring. It's such a wonderful example of what happens in life when you follow your passion and don't get caught up in the stupid, meaningless details :)

I also had to laugh at the part in the book where Julia Child corresponds with Alice about locally grown food-- she recommends Alice just talk with her grocer and he/she will bring in the food she wanted. She was so stern and brusque! Just goes to show that even heroes are human- LOL!

I would also recommend catching the Alice Waters & Mikhail Baryshnikov Iconoclasts show on the Sundance channel if you can. Fascinating!


Ahhhhh........Rosemary's. It's the first dinner DH and I can remember having together. This was 5 years ago when Rosemary's was still paying an exorbitant rent in the RIO and we were there hosted by a vendor from our tradeshow.

They have since moved 6 miles out away from the strip on Sahara/Cimmaron in a strip mall between Steinmart and the Dollar Tree. But, don't let this unassuming location fool you-- Rosemary's is the real deal and was voted Best Restaurant in NEVADA 2007 for a reason.

So, of course sentimental us, we had to go back for a visit.
I can tell you I came back for the goat cheese cheesecake (of course!), but left loving the twice baked parmesan souffle in a garlic cream sauce the best. My husband and I opted for the $55 prix fix menu which included 3 courses of your choice.

Hubs ordered:
* Hugo’s Texas BBQ Shrimp w/Maytag Blue Cheese Slaw
* Grilled Pork Chop w/Hoppin’ John & Creole Mustard Reduction Sauce
* A side of cheese grits
* Carrot Cake (deconstructed and delicious)

I ordered:
* Twice Baked Parmesan Souffle w/Golden Chanterelles & Roasted Garlic Cream
* Brick Chicken w/Haricots Vert, Shoestring Potatoes & Dijonaisse Sauce
* Goat Cheese Cheesecake

The 2 things I loved the most were the cheese grits and the parmesan souffle. Maybe that says something about my love for comfort food, I'm not sure. But both of these dishes simply melt in your mouth and are the best in their class.

I should also mention the service-- a little stiff, but overall excellent. When dining out, I don't want stuffy-- I want an experience, I want to hear stories, I want to know WHY the food got on the menu. I really hope Rosemary's doesn't lose it's charm that they've been known for in trying to defend themselves against arrogant, snobbish foodies who tend to miss the point.
Fair warning- this is a $30 cab ride one way from the strip (+tip). And it was worth every penny.

Vegas, baby.......

..........just back from the bright lights and money sucking tourist mecca that is Vegas. Somehow I have managed to be allergic to the one plant/tree that blooms there in spring! How does that happen? In the desert? Anyway, trip was fab, we kept busy over our five days, we:

* Visited Rosemary's- Nevada's Best Restaurant 2007
* Saw Mamma Mia
* Toured some casinos (NY/NY, Venetian, Caesar's, MGM, Hard Rock) and shopped
* Ate REALLY well in general
* Lost our ass at slots/black jack-- but again, fun!

This time we stayed at the Luxor due to it's cheapness and close proximity to my husband's trade show in Mandalay (Mandalay was booked in DECEMBER when we tried to book for this show-- lesson learned, book early!!) Tip about the Luxor-- if you have to stay here (it's usually a good deal and a good location)--- stay in the towers, try not to be in the pyramid if you can help it.

Other tips for Vegas if you've never been:

* Guaranteed, you will change clothes 3X a day, so pack plenty!
* Bring cute shoes that also will not kill your feet, you will not believe how much walking you will do
* There are convenience stores and cheaper restaurants outside of your hotel, make sure to check them out (esp. for water and snacks)
* Bring plenty of lotion, bandaids, visine and advil/excedrine migraine
* As long as you're gambling, drinks are free-- but, don't forget to tip your server!

I will review Rosemary's separately, but wanted to mention we ate at the Strip Steak & Giorgio Caffe in Mandalay. Strip Steak has THE most amazing truffled macaroni and cheese. I don't think I need to mention that the steaks are ridiculously huge, expensive and delicious. Giorgio's Italian menu is simple, but the ingredients fresh and satisfying. Love the Burger Bar, ran out of time to visit it this year, but wanted to mention it to those that might be interested.