Julian Serrano, Las Vegas

Julian Serrano, Las Vegas

After spending a week in Las Vegas, I'm pretty sure that this city has the highest concentration of fine dining restaurants in the US. No matter where you are on the strip, there is likely a highly rated (or Michelin starred) restaurant right around the corner.

I ate mostly in the Aria hotel. After a long day of walking, I usually head back to my room to freshen up before dinner. By that time, the last thing I want to do is go out and walk some more. On my first night in Vegas, I ate at the closest restaurant I could find, which happened to be Julian Serrano. It is right beside the hotel lobby, and is also a 15 second walk from the guest room elevators.
Chef Julian Serrano is best known for his creative French/Spanish fusion dishes at Picasso (a 2 star Michelin restaurant) in the Bellagio hotel.

At the newly opened Julian Serrano restaurant, the Chef goes back to his roots and focuses on simple Spanish tapas dishes.

Julian Serrano, Las Vegas
Julian Serrano Restaurant

The interior of the restaurant is colorful and festive, upscale yet casual at the same time.

Julian Serrano, Las Vegas
Bar at Julian Serrano

After a long day of travelling with hours of flight delays, my friend JL and I decided to have a small dinner.

First was the golden and red beet salad with a citrus sherry vinaigrette. I adore beets, and anyone who knows me well will know that this dish was my choice. This was honestly a piece of art...simply beautiful. The beets were served with green leafs, citrus slices, and mild jelly cubes.

Golden and Red Beet Salad
Golden and Red Beet Salad

Next was the mixed baby romaine salad served with Cabrales cheese, walnuts, and piquillo peppers. The cheese was absolutely divine: smoky with a hint of spiciness. The dish didn't look like much, but it was a great blend of tastes.

Mixed Baby Romaine Salad

The pan manchengo was a nice simple dish: toasted bread, fresh tomato sauce, slices of 1 year old manchego cheese, and LOTS of garlic.

Pan Manchengo
Pan Manchengo

The tuna tiradito was beautifully presented. Tiradito is a Peruvian ceviche. It is mild in taste and the fish is thinly sliced, like sashimi. This dish consisted of ahi tuna, ponzu sauce, seaweed, and rocoto pepper sauce. The seaweed added nice texture and the pepper sauce (surrounding the fish) gave it a nice spicy kick.

Tuna Tiradito
Tuna Tiradito

My chicken loving friend, JL, ordered the marinated garlic chicken and mushroom skewer. This was served with chilindron sauce, a basic Spanish tomato sauce. JL loved this dish.

Chicken and Mushroom Skewer
Marinated Garlic Chicken and Mushroom Skewer

Dessert was Santiago's cake, an almond cake with caramelized nuts, and turrón ice cream. Turrón is a Spanish nougat that is traditionally served at Christmas time. This dish, like all the rest, was simple and fresh.

Almond Cake

Julian Serrano
Casino Level of Aria Hotel
3730 Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Telephone: 702-590-7757

Julian Serrano (Aria) on Urbanspoon



As I was cleaning my mess of a desk, I found a hummus recipe that my cousin had given me at our family Christmas party 2 years ago!

Yes, you heard right...2 years ago. That is how long I have left things to accumulate on my desk until I couldn't use it anymore. You see, I am so used to using my laptop in bed that my desk has become somewhat obsolete.
Unfortunately, using my laptop in bed has given me bad back aches, and I no longer sleep well anymore. Egad, I feel like I'm getting old. I'm using the word egad, I must be getting old ;-)

I decided to clean up my desk and set up a proper office so that I could separate my computer life from my sleep time. In the process, I found this recipe.

I'm so glad I found this recipe because it is as good as I remembered it. The cumin is the secret ingredient. Shhhhh.

- 2 cans (540 mL, 19 fl oz. each) of chickpeas, drained
- 1/4 cup of cold water
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 lemons, juice
- 4 tsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup of tahini
- 1/4 tsp of ground cumin
- dash of ground pepper
- 1 large pinch of cayenne pepper

1. Combine all of the ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth.

There is no need to add salt as the canned chickpeas are already salty. I like my hummus really lemony, so if you don't, I would start with the juice of 1 lemon and go from there. If you like your hummus even creamier, simply add more oil.

Postcard from Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Hello from Las Vegas!!!

I'm having a great time in Sin City but you know what? I hated Vegas the first time I ever visited. The only explanation I can come up with was that I was overwhelmed by the tackiness and grandness of it all.

Vegas has definitely grown on me. It is still tacky, but it is also a lively and fun city. Plus, the food is GREAT here. Can't wait to show you what I ate.

We are staying at the newly opened Aria Hotel, a contemporary development that also happens to be the largest LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Ceritified development in the world. Aria Hotel is the first hotel on the strip to generate its own electricity, and all of their limousines are clean fuel vehicles.

Aria Hotel, Las Vegas
Aria Hotel

What's really cool is that all the rooms are controlled by touch screen tablets. The lights, temperature, TV, curtains, and music are all controlled by a touch screen remote right beside your bed. I've been hooked on their soul shack music station. Lovin the tunes by Barry White, Marvin Gaye, Ben E. King, Donna Summer, etc. etc.

Check out my awesome view overlooking the strip and surrounding mountains.

Aria Hotel Las Vegas
View From Aria Hotel

Upon my arrival, I was greeted with chocolate dipped strawberries, fresh Fiji water, and a thank you card. How nice!!

Strawberries and Chocolate
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

I never left the strip on my last trip to Vegas, so this time, I made sure to check out the surrounding area.

On the first day, I went to El Dorado Canyon to Techatticup Mine, the most famous and most successful gold mine in Southern Nevada. It is now a ghost town that mainly caters to tourists.

Techatticup Mining Camp
Techatticup Mine

The Techatticup Mine was also the set of the movies 3000 Miles to Graceland, and Breakdown.

El Dorado Canyon
Techatticup Mine

Look how old and charming everything is!

Techatticup Mining Camp
Barn at Techatticup Mine

Techatticup Mining Camp
Techatticup Mine Museum

An old milkshake maker. How neat.

Techatticup Mining Camp
Old Milk Shake Maker at Techatticup Mine Museum

They also offer really cool mine tours where you get to experience first hand what it was like being a miner in the 1800's.

El Dorado Canyon Mine
Techatticup Mine Tour Entrance

Other activities included ATV'ing and horse back riding. Techatticup Mine is a really fun and interesting place to visit. So glad we stumbled upon this charming little area.

El Dorado Canyon
ATV and Horse Back Riding at Techatticup Mine

Aria Hotel
3730 Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Telephone: 702-590-7757

Top 5 New Zealand Road Trip Food Products

Kaikoura, New Zealand

If you ever travel to New Zealand, chances are you will be doing a lot of driving. The country is much larger than most people realize, and getting from point A to point B is normally a few hours drive.

The country is very spread out. A trip to NZ always ends up being a big long road trip for CK and I, which means we are living out of a car for the majority of the trip. As a result, we have seeked out the best food products that not only keep well, but are also a good source of energy.

Here is a top 5 list of our favorite New Zealand road trip products. These goodies are now the first things we grab when we walk into a NZ grocery store.

Number 5: Seafood in a can. Although I have mussels pictured below (only picture I had), they are actually my least favorite. The best seafood in a can is the sardines in tomato sauce. They are great for sandwiches, and a great source of protein.

Smoked Mussels
Seafood in a Can

Number 4: Mother Earth Baked Oaty Slices. These are full of fibre. Each bar is made with wholegrains, rolled oats, and wholegrain meal flour. Our favorite flavor is Anzac: a nice blend of butter and coconut.

Anzan Oaty Slices
Mother Earth Baked Oaty Slices

Number 3: Tasti Raw Snacking Scroggin. If you're not familiar with the term scroggin, it is equivalent to the North American term, trail mix. This particular brand comes in little individually wrapped snack size scroggin bags, and this flavor combination has proven to be the best of the best: almonds, dried apricots, banana chips, cashews, peanuts, and dark chocolate.

Raw Scroggin
Tasti Scroggin

Number 2: Mainland processed cheese. They have different flavors so you can switch it up to avoid boredom. CK and I usually rotate between the regular, black pepper, and smoked flavors. Although the real deal is always better, processed cheese keeps much longer.

Mainland Processed Cheese
Mainland Processed Cheese

And, drum roll pleaseeeeeeeeee..............
Number 1: MacKenzie High Country Bread. This is probably the one product that we cannot go without. This bread ROCKS, and nothing compares. Each loaf comes in a brown paper bag, and there are five flavors to choose from. Our favorite is the Southern Grain.

MacKenzie High Country Bread
MacKenzie High Country Bread

If you are ever stuck looking for some good tunes to drive with, check out dDub. They are an awesome Kiwi band whose music style is a combination of reggae and instrumental mixes. Their music is upbeat and catchy, which is great for long drives.

Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

Emirates Airline Meal - Christchurch to Sydney

Emirates Airline Menu

As you are reading this, I am on a plane on my way to Vegas. Soon after, I will be in hot and humid Singapore. Yes, way too much fast paced travelling. I have scheduled some posts while I am away so that you don't miss me too much ;-)

Flying with Emirates rocks. I'm not on an Emirates flight this time, but I was a few months back when I flew from Australia to New Zealand. I specifically chose to fly with Emirates solely because of the food they offer. Their airline meals are always exotic and excellent in quality. For my 2.5 hour flight in Economy class from Christchurch to Sydney, I was served an awesome meal that was just as good as some of the business class meals I have had on other airlines.

Right before the meal, a hot refreshing towel, and the menu for the flight was brought to us. The menu was a nice gesture because it helps you get excited for the food to come. For the short flight, we were served an appetizer, main, and dessert.

Our appetizer was the char siew duck served over a bed of Asian style vegetable salad. This was the first time I had ever seen duck being served on a plane! CK found the meat a bit too fatty, but I didn't mind at all. Duck is supposed to be a fatty meat.

Duck Char Siu
Char Siew Duck with Asian Style Vegetable Salad

There were two choices for the main: lamb or salmon.

I ordered the pan fried salmon topped with coconut & lemongrass curry sauce. This was served with pulao rice and stir fried vegetables. The salmon was cooked very nicely, and was surprisingly not overdone. Oh! And the curry sauce. It was delicious! I wanted to lick my plate clean, but I didn't to save my husband the embarassment.

Salmon with Vegetables and Curry Sauce
Pan Fried Salmon with a Coconut and Lemongrass Curry Sauce

CK ordered the Moroccan lamb tagine accompanied with a vegetable mash, buttered peas, and roasted potatoes. The lamb was also very nice. I had a bit of food envy at first, but my salmon was too good to share. Both dinners were extremely flavorful, and spiced very nicely.

Lamb Tagine with Vegetables
Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Dessert was a white chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis.

Emirates Airline Meal

Other items served with our meal included a bread roll, cheese & biscuits, chocolate, water, and beverage of choice.

Compared to other airlines for the same flight, this was about $40 more expensive at the time. However, the great meal + free magazines + great inflight entertainment make it all worth the extra money paid.

Tête Fromagée Anyone?

My co-worker showed me this picture, and I just had to post it.

Pig Head

My co-worker's son, who is a chef, bought this pig head to make tête fromagée, aka head cheese. He ended up scaring the crap out of his girlfriend when she opened the fridge and unexpectedly discovered his recent purchase. Of course, he found it somewhat amusing, and sent this picture to his dad.

If you are unfamiliar with the term tête fromagée (like I was), I'd first like to clarify that it is not a cheese of any sort! It is actually a meat jelly made of pig head pieces, gelatinous meat broth, and spices. The meat jelly is traditionally molded into a loaf, and served thinly sliced.

When I saw this picture, I thought it was a joke. It didn't look real to me. I even thought it was a cake shaped into a pig's head. I had no clue pig ears were so big.

If you were curious, the pig head was purchased from Marché Jean-Talon (Jean-Talon market) in Montreal.

Cafe Orient, Ottawa

Cafe Orient, Ottawa

I went to lunch at Cafe Orient with my mom and a few of her friends, and we all spent the afternoon chatting while pigging out on noodles, rice, and congee. Cafe Orient is a bustling little place located on Somerset in Chinatown. They specialize in Hong Kong dishes, and offer over 300 dishes on the menu, including dim sum. My friend Wals is a big fan of their dim sum, especially their xiao long baos.

We ordered a bunch of dishes to share, communal style.

First was the preserved egg and sliced pork congee. Preserved egg, also called century egg is made by preserving duck or chicken eggs in ash and clay for several weeks to several months, until the egg turns a dark green/black color. There is no doubt that this is an acquired taste, but once you catch on, preserved eggs are really good.

Preserved Egg and Pork Congee
Preserved Egg and Sliced Pork Congee

Next was the fried Chinese donut. This is basically sweet dough that is deep fried...not as sweet as a North American donut though.

Chinese Donut
Fried Chinese Donut

I'm an offal fan, so the beef tendon and tripe egg noodle dish was right up my alley. The tendon and tripe is stewed until tender, and then served over a bed of noodles.

Beef Tendon and Brisket Noodle
Beef Tendon and Tripe with Egg Noodle

It is also served with a bowl of broth, where you eat the two together.

Beef Tendon and Brisket Noodle
Beef Tendon and Trip with Egg Noodle

Next was the fried spaghetti with beef and black pepper. If you love black pepper, this dish is for you.

Fried Spaghetti with Black Pepper Beef
Fried Spaghetti with Beef and Black Pepper

Next was the Indonesian style fried vermicelli: thin rice noodles stir fried with shrimp, beef, scallion, and bean sprouts. It was garnished with a generous amount of coriander.

Indonesian Fried Noodle
Indonesian Style Fried Vermicelli

Salted fish and chicken fried rice is one of my favorite dishes. A small warning, this is a very fishy smelling and tasting dish. Again, it is an acquired taste. Day old rice is stir fried with chicken, cured fish, scallion, egg, and lettuce, producing an awesome combination of tastes.

Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice
Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice

Next was the chow mein with chicken, squid, and veggies. This is a pretty standard Chinese dish. The chow mein noodles are deep fried until crispy, and the noodles soften up when the stir fried veggies and meat is thrown on top.

Lo Mein with Chicken and Squid
Chow Mein with Chicken and Squid

Last was the fried flat rice noodles with beef, onion, and bean sprouts. This is one of my sister's favorite dishes. The noodles and beef are stir fried in both a dark and light soy sauce.

Fried Rice Noodles with Beef
Fried Flat Rice Noodles with Beef

It was a lot of food, but it was good! All of the dishes were nicely made, but we did find some to be a bit too oily. Next time, we will ask the chef to use less oil.

Cafe Orient
808 Somerset Street West
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Telephone: 613-563-2422

Cafe Orient on Urbanspoon

The Arcade Restaurant, Memphis

Arcade Restaurant, Memphis

The Arcade Restaurant is a historic landmark in Memphis. Credited as Memphis' oldest restaurant, Arcade Restaurant was founded in 1919 by Greek immigrant, Speros Zepatos. In the 1950's, it was renovated into the retro diner that it is today by his son, Harry Zepatos. Although the food is not spectacular, Arcade Restaurant is famous for many reasons:
  • Elvis ate here often during his lifetime
  • Arcade was placed on the National Register of Historic Places (means it is worthy of preservation)
  • Arcade has been featured on TV Networks such as The Food Network, and The Travel Channel.
  • Arcade has been featured in publications such as Travel, Esquire, Southern Living, and Sports Illustrated
  • Scenes from Hollywood movies such as Great Balls of Fire, 21 Grams, and Walk the Line have been filmed at this restaurant.
And, the most important reason:
  • The service is impeccable!
I didn't know the true meaning of Southern hospitality until I dined here. The waitresses are constantly ensuring their customers are happy, and they go the extra mile whenever possible.

Arcade restaurant sticks to what they know, and serves four things: breakfast, sandwiches, salads, and pizza.

Arcade Restaurant, Memphis
Old Memphis Photo at Arcade Restaurant

I ordered the sweet potato pancake breakfast. It came with hash brown, sausages, and 2 eggs of choice. I wanted my eggs poached but they were pretty much hard boiled. Luckily, I didn't mind. The menu pointed out that these pancakes were voted as a Food Network favorite. The pancakes were really good: fluffy yet dense at the same time. The sweet potato gave it a really nice flavor.

Sweet Potato Pancakes
Sweet Potato Pancake Breakfast

I had never tried grits before, so I ordered it to see what it was like. I was pretty indifferent. I didn't love it, and I didn't hate it.


CK and his cousin ordered the famous arcade cheeseburger. It was a 100% Angus beef patty served with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion. The burger also came with fries.

Beef Burger
Famous Arcade Cheeseburger

S ordered the regular pancake breakfast with 2 eggs, bacon, and hash brown. Her pancakes were very burnt on the backside, but she didn't bother complaining.

Pancakes and Bacon
Pancake Breakfast

A ordered the 21 grams sandwich: roasted eggplant, roasted red peppers, feta, and pesto aioli on the side. This came with a side salad and dressing of choice. He enjoyed his sandwich.

Eggplant and Feta Sandwich
21 Grams Sandwich

His cousin, TK, ordered a personally designed 12" pizza. We named it "The Heart Attack Delight". It contained every cheese and every meat available except for pepperoni. On his pizza was mozzarella, brie, feta, ground beef, bacon, and sausage. We all made fun of him for ordering such a health destructive pizza, but a few of us tried it, and enjoyed it way more than we wanted to.

Meat and Cheese Lover Pizza
'The Heart Attack Delight' Pizza

TK's pizza took longer than expected to cook, so the waitress apologized, and brought him a salad on the house. His pizza also ended up being free of charge. Gotta love Southern hospitality.


We also discovered the talented George Hunt on this trip. He is a local artist whose art is deeply influenced by blues music and culture, the Civil Rights movement, and the Southern African-American experience. In 2005, one of his paintings was printed on a US postage stamp as part of the the United Postal Services series, "To Form A More Perfect Nation." To read more about George Hunt, click here. Just a few doors down from Arcade Restaurant is D'Edge Art, a cool art gallery that features Hunt's vibrant work.

If you like burgers, walk across the street from Arcade to Ernestine & Hazel's, and order one of their famous mouth-watering soul burgers. I hear it is the best burger in town.

The Arcade Restaurant
540 South Main Street
Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Telephone: 901-526-5757
Arcade on Urbanspoon