Tea and Tranquility 250 feet Above the Strip

The strip can be sensory overload, flashing lights and neon, sounds of slot machines and crowds of people. Now imagine, literally, being above it all, like you’re floating up in the clouds. Soothing tea, peaceful music, quiet conversations, this is the tea lounge at the Mandarin Oriental. With its floor to ceiling windows and views right up the center of the strip, you are truly above it all.

Taoist believe doing a little, is better than doing a lot. This statement explains your arrival to the Mandarin Oriental hotel. You enter from an isolated driveway, hidden from the strip, and walk past huge urns into a bare, nondescript lobby.  The real lobby is on the 23rd floor, next to the tea lounge.  When you arrive on the 23rd floor, there are no erupting volcanos or giant lions to greet you, only Vegas as seen from 23 flights up.  You can even see the area from the ground, as it looks like the builders cut a slice out of the exterior walls and replaced them with glass.


The tea lounge, like the entrance to the Mandarin Oriental, is nothing elaborate, just a few couches and velvet chairs in the section separating the check-in area from the Mandarin Oriental Bar. Like most places on the strip, the tea lounge is not about stretching your dollar. I’ve been to other tea times that offer more food for less money, but I don’t think there is a more peaceful place on the Strip.
We opted for the vegetarian selection of sandwiches with our tea, which you can call ahead and request. The vegetarian option featured little cones, filled with roasted vegetables and hummus, as well as cucumber and tomato sandwiches. My tea, Peach Artisan blooming, and for dessert, a selection of pastries from Chef Phillepe Angibeau. While my taste buds usually favor the savory over the sweet, the pastries were a highlight of tea time.


The view from the Tea Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental.

The view up the Strip from the Tea Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental.

I think this is a must visit for anyone looking to escape all the commotion of the Strip and float up in the clouds above it all. I would suggest visiting the tea lounge at the Mandarin Oriental during the winter months when the sun sets earlier in the evening, giving you a chance to see the Strip “turn on” as as the sun sets.

Classic English Afternoon Tea $38/person
3752 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
23rd Floor
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Oh Netflix, You Know Me So Well

I was up late the other night, and needed something to watch, so I decided to scroll thru the suggestions Netflix makes for you, to see if there was anything that grabbed me. Most of the titles I had already seen, except for one, The Mind of a Chef. I love food, but I was in the mood to see something more action packed, something a little more blue methish. After going thru all the suggestions on Netflix, and still not finding anything that grabbed me, I decided to give in and see what The Mind of a Chef was all about.

Mind of a chefThe Mind of a Chef is narrated and executive produced by Anthony Bourdaine and airs on PBS. The combination of Anthony Bourdaine + PBS = the perfect food nerd show. It’s No Reservations, meets Alton Brown’s Good Eats. Chef David Chang, and his chef friends, take you on a culinary trip to different parts of the world. Along the ride, you’re exposed to different techniques and cultural influences. They show you exactly what goes thru the mind of a chef when creating the dishes we fall in love with that make eating such a joyous experience. Watching The Mind of a Chef, is like watching a lion while on safari instead of at the zoo; you get to see the chef in his natural habitat.

The show features meals and ingredients that push the limits of your average meal. Here are some of my favorites from the season:

On New York Episode, Chef Chang, takes a trip to Torrissi Italian Specialties. Rich Torrissi and Mario Carbone, make a pasta called Cavattelli PS46. The dish is inspired by the Jamaican beef patties served to Carbone, when he was a student at PS46. A dish with Indian and Jamaican influences, thought up by 2 Italian New Yorkers; if this isn’t the definition of melting pot, then I don’t know what is. God Bless America!

The Simple Episode, which could just as well be titled, Focus, highlights how making one thing, extremely good, is anything but simple. Watching Sawada, makes me realize that when it comes to sushi, I’ve only eaten sh!t. No soy, no slices of ginger on the side, or wasabi, simply fish, expertly handled with focus.

The Rotten Episode, will completely confuse your definition of what the word “rotten” means. Maybe things are only “rotten” if you don’t think happy thoughts when you make them, as illustrated when making kimchi. Kimchi Party!!! I never knew that making Kimchi could be so celebratory.

kimchi partyAnd in the Memory Episode, Chef Chang and I seem to share the same memory. Maybe it’s just a DMV thing (DC/Maryland/Virginia), but yes, Old Bay is the greatest seasoning America has ever produced.

Basically, what goes on in the mind of a “good” chef, is the notion that to do things well, you must have passion and focus. If you are a nerd (check) and you really really enjoy food (check). Then you’ll love this show. Wow, Netflix, you really do know me well.

Now off to watch Season 2.

The Mind of a Chef: Season 1Mind of a chef2

Available on Netflix and Google Play


Downtown Container Park, Building Community Downtown One Container At A Time

Disclaimer: This post is not about food, but something I still think you’ll enjoy.

Today marks the grand opening of Downtown Container Park, a new addition to the downtown Las Vegas landscape. While today is the official opening, many of the stores and restaurants opened to the public last week.


On Saturday, I headed downtown to check it out. What I found at Downtown Container Park, was more than just new shopping and dinning options in the city, but something more special to downtown, a place to just “be.”

When I first moved to Las Vegas, downtown was not a place to “be.” In fact, many people turned their noses up at downtown. For locals, hanging out at Boca Park, or Town Square, were much more acceptable and respectable options. I grudgingly accepted them, but they just never felt right. I guess, once a city girl, always a city girl. I wasn’t the only one who must have felt this way, because slowly, things started to change downtown.

First, there was Beauty Bar, then the Griffin and the Downtown Cocktail Room, then the economy took a nose dive, and people wondered if that was it for Fremont East and downtown. But downtown was just taking a break, and the ball began rolling again, slowly picking up steam. That steam would soon include Insert Coins, The Smith Center, Le Thai, Drink and Drag, the Neon Museum and the Discovery Children’s Museum, to name a few, and now Downtown Container Park.

While Downtown Container Park could be described as a mall, a typical mall it is not. The developers of Downtown Container Park, took a more innovative approach. The shops, galleries, and restaurants, that make up Downtown Container Park, are each housed in a container or cube, stacked up and arranged like legos, around the center piece park. All the shops are run by small, local designers and business owners, you’ll find everything from handbags, to a shop dedicated to crazy and colorful leggings, called no other than “Crazy Legs.” Each shop is only the size of a New York studio apartment (a descriptor for my east coasters) or about 250 sq. ft. Yes, only 250 sq. ft. While I know people who have closets bigger than this, my New Yorkers know, you can do a lot with just 250 sq. ft.

While I enjoyed walking through the shops, and love the innovative use of the containers, my favorite thing about Downtown Container Park is the park, because what better place to just “be,” than a park. Las Vegas was built on adult entertainment and even as kid friendly as it has become over the years, its main driver is still adult entertainment. With the exception of the Discovery Children’s Museum, downtown was no different. Downtown Container Park changes that. On Saturday, I saw something that I don’t always see in downtown, families, from the littlest baby, to grandparents, all together, enjoying the park.

While I usually write about food, I didn’t get a chance to check any of the dining options at Downtown Container Park, of which there are 4 (Big Ern’s BBQ, Bin 702, Pinches Tacos, Pork ‘n Beans). But I will be back, so look forward to future posts on what the food scenes is all about, at Downtown Container Park.

While there is still more development and projects in the works downtown, to date, I have to say Downtown Container Park is my favorite. I encourage all to pay a visit, even if only to check out the giant praying mantis, that shoots flames out its antennae, because what would Las Vegas be without a giant, fire spewing praying mantis.

The giant preying mantis minus the fire

The giant praying mantis overlooking Fremont street – minus the fire

Downtown Container Park
7th and Fremont Street
Las Vegas, NV
Open Sun-Thurs 9a-11p
Fri+Sat 9a-1a

Turkeys for Durm, It’s More Than Just Turkeys


Just one week left to donate to #TurkeysForDURM, where 100% of the proceeds collected will go towards buying turkeys to be delivered to and distributed by the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

20131112-061414.jpgWhy am I supporting something all the way in North Carolina, when I live in Las Vegas? Good question. This campaign was started by a good friend, Johnny Jones. Some time ago, Johnny, posted a message on Instagram, a call to action to buy 100 turkeys to donate to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, a pay-it-forward campaign. Without asking any questions, I put some cash in an envelope and sent it to Johnny. Shortly after, I saw the website, logo and facebook page that eventually developed from that instagram/tweet and decided I wanted to know more about what inspired such an endeavor, from what seemed like out of nowhere. So I gave Johnny a ring, and got a story that makes me so glad I didn’t hesitate to support his cause.

Johnny told me that on a couple of occasions, people had helped him and his family out, but the time he remembers the most clearly was the Thanksgiving of 1996. That year, a church organization had been helping his family out at different times throughout the year and that Thanksgiving, they gave his family a turkey.

Johnny: It was the best turkey I remember [mom] cooking. It was juicy. We ate off of it from Thursday to Monday. We made it stretch. We didn’t have anything but that meal. It left such an impression on me. We didn’t have to worry about what we were going to eat tomorrow. My Mom also had so much pride about the way it came out. I could never thank them, but I can pay it forward, and hopefully give someone that same type of feeling. It was years ago, but I remember like it was yesterday.

When I asked Johnny about why now? why 100 turkeys?

Johnny: I was talking with a guy who owns a non-profit and decided I wanted to be more philanthropic and make more change in my community. We were talking about doing something in the future, 10 people get 10 turkeys. I was feeling blessed and wanted to donate now, not the future. I was familiar with By Any Meals, a campaign started by Aristotle Torres, a music video director from NY and Hood Chef, to feed people in all 5 Burroughs [of New York]. They were young and decided to do something on their own. So I figured, why not do it this year. Even if I fall on my face, at least I had the courage to try.

Johnny did indeed try and has received a tremendous amount of unsolicited support.

Johnny: What’s been exciting, is the way people have made selfless donations, to make a memorable Thanksgiving for a lot of people.

A turkey might seem like a small thing to many of us, but it might just make someone’s Thanksgiving. Salute to Johnny, and his efforts, as well as everyone who contributed to his turkey drive or any other drive going on this holiday season. While I hope you support Johnny, what I hope even more is that you pay-it-forward to someone. You never know when a simple act of kindness can influence the life of another, let alone 100 families.

Turkeys For DURM


If you’re in North Carolina you can also donate at your local Wells Fargo Branch

Donations will be accepted between now and November 19th

I’m Back.


It’s been quite a while since my last post (almost a year to be exact). During that time, I’ve update the look of my blog, hope you like it, and I’ve partnered with Foodio54 and FoodSpotting. I’ve also changed my eating habits slightly, there will be a future post about that coming soon.

In the year I’ve been away, I’ve missed a lot:
The Restaurant vs. Food Trucks War was settled. The City Council instituted a 150 foot buffer zone, between restaurants and food trucks on public streets, and is in the process of implementing a pilot program, establishing designated parking areas for food trucks downtown. To make sure there was no lingering tension between food trucks and downtown restaurants, Fukuburger and Bar + Bistro “Burried the Hatchet” during a cook-off between chefs; Robert “Mags” Magsalin (from Fukuburger) vs. Beni Velazquez (from Bar + Bistro). Bar + Bistro owner, Wes Isbutt, was pretty vocal about instituting a buffer zone for food trucks downtown, so it was good to see the two representatives of each side, in a friendly competition.

In other downtown food news, there are several new restaurants that opened, while others closed. Downtown said hello to a Las Vegas favorite, Rachel’s Kitchen, as well as newbies, Eat and Pizza Rock, and it said goodbye to a late night hangout, Mamita’s Mexican and Cuban Restaurant. The owners of Mamita’s, helped to start the petition that initially began the Restaurant vs. Food Truck war, because they were concerned that food trucks were stealing their customers. In an interview on KSNV, Maria Corvino, the owner of Mamita’s, mentions that “people are not afraid to come to Fremont Street anymore.” They might not be afraid to come to Fremont anymore, but they might have been afraid to eat at her restaurant, since it was closed on several occasions by the Southern Nevada Health District. It looks like instead of being so concerned about the competition from food trucks, Corvino should have been more focused on keeping her restaurant open and demerit free. Like I said, cream always rises to the top. But on the bright side, an upscale grocery store is in the works for the former Mamita’s location, something that has been on the wish list of downtown residents for some time.

And if those weren’t enough happenings, I also missed all the spectacular food events that took place in Las Vegas just last month alone. There was the Las Vegas Food and Wine Festival, the Foodie Fest, the Food and Wine All-Star Weekend, Lucky Rice, the Aki Matsuri Festival, Grapes and Hops, Pure Aloha, the Lebanese Festival, Taste of the Nation, and the brand new, Life is Beautiful Festival. I get full just thinking about all the good food served at each of these events. We might as well dub October, Foodie Month in Las Vegas.

Well, I’m back now with new ramblings, reviews and recipes coming soon. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving with Family

During our Thanksgiving luncheon at work, we each acknowledged the things we were thankful for. When it was my turn, I answered family. I live over 2,000 miles away from mine, so I’m thankful for the time that I get to spend with them.

When I was home this past May, I had fun eating my way thru Annapolis (you can read all about my culinary trip here, here, here, and here). I also enjoyed some family time, hanging out with my mom and my nieces. We took them out for the day, exploring at the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown.

When I lived in DC, we always had somewhere to be, and rarely got to enjoy jewels in the city like Dumbarton Oaks. I was thankful to have the opportunity to pluck my nieces away from their daily routine to enjoy a day in the garden.

While taking a break from running thru the gardens, my mom captured this beautiful candid moment of the three of them enjoying each other’s company. I’m thankful for the time that I get to spend with these three girls.

The next day, my mom and I returned to Georgetown. This time, her dog Dharma got to tag along. We did a little shopping and walked along the canal, finding a quiet spot to enjoy some cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake. Oh so yummy.


In no time, my trip was over and it was time to head back to Las Vegas. While my trips home always seem too short, I’m always thankful for them.


Tea Time, My Favorite Time in Annapolis

I have to say, the highlight of my gastronomic adventure in Annapolis was my trip to Reynolds Tavern. Before I’d even arrived in Annapolis, out of the blue my mom mentions that she has the taste for tea sandwiches. Fast forward a couple of weeks, and as we’re walking down West street we stumble upon Reynolds Tavern. I think it must have been the little yellow tea pots filled with flowers on the table settings outside that tipped us off to their tea service. Regardless, we had found not just tea sandwiches, but a tea experience.

As soon as you step foot into Reynolds Tavern, you are catapulted back in time. The furniture, the candles encased in hurricanes, even the jazz playing in the background, takes you to another era. The atmosphere is definitely fitting for afternoon tea.

The view of St. Anne’s Church from the tea room at Reynolds Tavern

Reynolds Tavern serves afternoon tea a couple of different ways. You can go for the more basic option, like the Cream Tea, a teapot of your choice served with 2 scones, whipped cream and preserves, or try something more elaborate like the Jubilee Tea, with your choice of a first course selection. My Mom and I decided to go the more traditional route, and we both ordered the Colonial High Tea with your choice of “Soup, Salad or Quiche”.

No matter which Afternoon Tea services you order, the real fun comes in selecting your tea. The tea selection at Reynolds Tavern ranges from the basic and more common choices like Camomile and Peppermint, to the more exotic like Yin Zhen Silver Needle or the artful and beautiful Blooming teas. After much deliberation, I decided to go with the Sencha Kyoto Cherry Rose Festival, a green tea. The Secha Kyoto had that sweet nutty flavor, characteristic of green tea, but then it leaves your taste buds with the sweet fruity undertone of cherry. My mom went with the Blueberry Infusion. This tea was a tropical medley of flavors, ranging from hibiscus to blueberries.

My mom and I both decided on the cream of crab soup for our first course. While our teas were being prepared, we relished our soup. The slivers of crab meat dissolved seamlessly into the cream, and the tarragon gave the soup a nice peppery yet tart flavor. So far, our afternoon tea time was off to a good start.

Cream of Crab Soup

Next, our waiter brought out a three tiered tea tray with an assortment of goodies, all of which are made in house. The bottom tier, had orange and cranberry scones, with a perfect combination of tart and sweet, served with whipped cream and strawberry preserves. The next tier, had tea sandwiches and bite size shepherds pie. The cucumber and egg salad sandwiches were so light and refreshing. Then, the top tier, had a selection of various sweets. The island girl in me enjoyed the banana bread with cream cheese icing. The lavender short bread cookies were also a nice savory addition to the selection of sweets.

(clockwise from left) Orange Cranberry Scone with Whipped Cream and Strawberry Preserves, Lavender Short Bread Cookie, Cucumber and Egg Salad Sandwiches and Shepherds Pie

While I savored every bit of my tea meal, what I enjoyed even more was the experience. A chance to sit back and enjoy the afternoon, to take things slow, to sip on tea and nibble on little sandwiches, to savor the moment and to remember the excitement of being a little girl and having a tea party. I can’t wait to return to Reynolds Tavern.

Gift options for the tea lover

While in Annapolis, my mom and I also enjoyed Lemongrass and Annapolis Ice Cream Company, two other places we visited, on our gastronomic adventure in Annapolis. Click the links to read about our time there.


Reynolds Tavern

Afternoon Tea $10-$25/person

7 Church Circle

Annapolis, MD 21401

Reynolds Tavern on Urbanspoon
Reynolds Tavern on Foodio54