The blog was on hiatus for a bit because I went to Vegas. So I’m going to take #4 as an opportunity to ramble on about my trip. If you are here solely for the fish dish, you’re gonna have to scroll down a bit.
I have always wanted to go to Las Vegas. I mean like really, really, really wanted to go to Las Vegas. The reason is most likely some combo of the glamorization of the Rat Pack and that my Gramsy and Pap Pap would go on a somewhat regular basis. I remember, sometime in the early 80s, Gramsy and Pap Pap brought me back a blue sweatshirt silk-screened with the logos from a lot of the big Las Vegas casinos: Sands, Dunes, Stardust, Sahara, Desert Inn, Riviera, Flamingo, Tropicana, Circus-Circus, Golden Nugget etc. That blue sweatshirt was the cat’s pajamas. A lot of those places don’t exist anymore but I wanted to go to Las Vegas anyway and visit as many as possible and look at the bright lights and watch showgirls and drink Manhattans–just as I am sure my grandparents did.
Cleve and I arrived in Vegas without incident (well, except for my obligatory in-flight freak outs). But in retrospect, I must have thought Vegas was a lot smaller than it is. I assumed it would be like Atlantic City and everything would be accessible by little rickshaws or trams. Yeah, no. Vegas is a huge city, just one comprised of nothing but hotels and casinos. I don’t know why this surprised me.
We stayed Downtown in “The Fremont Experience” part of town. I never made it farther down the Strip than Circus Circus and the Riviera. So that means I never saw the mega-casinos like the MGM Grand, Luxor, Excalibur, Caesars Palace, New York New York, or Bellagio. So my trip was strictly old- school in a lot of ways. I never saw any of the Oceans’ Eleven George Clooney/Brad Pitt brand-spankin’ new shiny stuff.
Here is the Reader’s Digest version of my trip: I lost a small amount of money on video blackjack, discovered that not a single casino bar serves a white wine other than Chardonnay (where are we–Kansas? I am like Ramona Singer: I want Pinot Grigio as soon as I walk through the door!), I interacted with middle-aged strippers at the Glitter Gulch, had 2 drags of a cigarette that were divine, then a third which reminded me why I quit smoking, dined at the Paradise Buffet in the Fremont Casino, had bad pad thai at a faux Asian-fusion spot in the Nugget, watched Cleve eat a 24 oz prime rib at a steak house in a strip mall, attended Gordie Brown Live!, sped down a water slide through a shark tank, drank frozen margaritas, did a lot of rooftop swimming and hot tubbing (at night, of course), went to Circus Circus and it made me want to puke, and then I ultimately did puke in the plane on the way home. Like I said before, I do not fly well. I don’t know if they would be considered panic attacks but they suck just the same.
There were highlights, however.
1. The Peppermill Lounge
The Peppermill Lounge was listed as an “Old Las Vegas” joint. So I had to go.
I think that all bars should be open 24/7 and have the exact same decor. And all bartenders should be able to talk about how they played blackjack with The King during his last week of playing at the Las Vegas Hilton.
Cleve and I sat there for hours just drinking light beer, staring into each others’ eyes and whispering sweet nothings about the NFL, specifically the AFC North. Ah, good times.
2. Gordie Brown, Live!
Words cannot describe the Gordie Brown show. Oh, scratch that. The Golden Nugget did it for me: Hollywood, Vegas-style! Experience the thrilling pandemonium and captivating comedy of Gordie Brown!
Thrilling pandemonium? Captivating comedy? Um. If you say so…?
Gordie wasn’t bad. He can sing and his impersonations were solid, but his material bit the big one–for example he did a Creed tune “for the young people in the audience” (!!!!). But good ‘ol Gordie was the perfect show for our trip (especially because the tix were part of our vacation package). What’s more Vegas than a cheesy lounge act? Nothing! So A+ for the kitsch factor. But I tell ya, the crowd WENT WILD for this guy. Absolutely WILD–standing ovation wild. His whole show was comprised of celebrity impressions and the ends of songs. Yes, the ends of songs. It was all crescendos and drum rolls and high notes and jazz hands. So hokey. And he did an entire sequence as both Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda from “On Golden Pond.” WHAT? When did that movie even come out? Why is that even entertaining? I suspect I might be a little younger than his target demographic.
Anyway, I kept thinking who does this guy look like? Gob from Arrested Development? A cross between Rob Lowe and David Cassidy? Martin Short crossed with Adam Lambert? It was when we watched the finale of Season Eight of The X-Files that Cleve figured out who it is.
In the official Golden Nugget promotion head shot Gordie looks a bit like Alex Krycek–if Krycek wasn’t busy being a dick, assassinating Mulder’s dad, getting trapped in silos and being knee-deep in other assorted shady dealings. I know it’s hard, but just imagine if Krycek impersonated George W. Bush and smiled.
Cleve also realized that Deputy Director Kersh looks like Carl Stokes, the current Baltimore City Councilperson for District 12. Spooky.
3. The Golden Steer
There ain’t a damn thing wrong with a steak house in a strip mall. Especially if said steak house is one of the few remaining restaurants from back in the day and, furthermore, if said restaurant has a Sammy Davis Jr. booth. Yes, we sat in the Sammy Davis Jr. booth.
To be honest, I’ve had better meals at better steakhouses, but The Golden Steer was great for its ambiance. It was really a hoot sitting in a circular banquette under a photo of Frank, Dean & Sammy, drinking a martini, and nibbling on clams casino. I loved every minute of it.
My main course was grilled Alaskan King Crab legs and Cleve took down a 24 oz. Prime Rib. For realsies. It was quite the feat. I am so proud to call him my guy. Sadly, we were so stuffed that we didn’t get the table side Bananas Foster.
But the pinnacle of our visit to the Golden Steer was the music. They piped in the Rat Pack standards, but as I was enjoying a twice-baked potato this happened:
I implore you to click on it.
It may have been one of the single best moments of my life. And if you choose not to experience the above video you are missing something that may irrevocably change your life for the better.
One thing I learned on this trip is that both Gordie Brown and Mr. Cleveland do quite a Sammy Davis Jr. impression.
4. The Tank at the Golden Nugget
I like to swim and I like the water although I do not like swimsuits and the sun. But The Tank at the Golden Nugget was absolutely delightful. Our last full day in Vegas we spent a lot of time at the pool. In the morning we sat in the shade of bamboo trees next to a shamrock shaped hot tub. I also went down the water slide that tunnels through the massive shark tank. And now there is photographic evidence of me in the sun and in a swimsuit (needless to say, there was a good deal of sunscreen involved).
At night, although the big pool was closed, the hot tub and the adults-only 3rd story roof pool were still open. So after our big din-din at the Golden Steer we spent the remainder of the evening drinking frozen margaritas and going from the hot tub to the pool and the pool to the hot tub. It was still 95 degrees at 1 am, but there was a dreamy breeze and it was the best pool experience ever. Long story short: I loved, loved, loved, loved the pools.
In spite of the Great Freezer Meltdown of 2011, and the fact that I didn’t see anywhere as near as much in Vegas as I would’ve liked to (I think that the time change really kicked my ass), my only regret is that I didn’t take any photos. Honestly. All of my photos look like they could be stock photos or they could have been taken anywhere. There are no good trip photos.
I guess that there was only one exception:
Now, onto 4. Fish Steaks With Herbs…
I am not a big fish fan, but this dinner looked relatively simple and I needed to do something simple after coming home to the house of rotten meat (Honestly, it took me three days to get the smell out of the house. Well, at least I don’t smell it anymore. Cleve doesn’t smell it anymore. I cannot speak for Brian. I might have to have an unbiased third party come in and smell. Any volunteers?).
So I was tired post-trip. But I needed to forge ahead and serve up some dinner. I am fast approaching the half-way point, by the way. I am so close! YAY! So I chose #4 because it was pretty straight forward: fish, rice, veggie, pie.
First things first–I did not make or buy a cherry pie. What I did do was make a cherry crisp. But I did it sans recipe. I just made shit up. This was not necessarily a fatal mistake, but one I now know not to make again. My ratio of butter to sugar to flour to oats was off and it resulted in what can only be described as a crunchy oat granola bar floating on not sweet-enough cherry pie filling. I thought it best to not even subject you to the aesthetic unpleasantness of this dish. It was ugly.
What exactly is Medium Cream Sauce? How much does it differ from Heavy Cream Sauce or Light Cream Sauce? All I know is that I wish that they still sold it canned like they did in 1972 because for me, any and all cream sauces are just a bitch to make. I have tried different methods and recipes and have had varying levels of success. I consulted The Bible (Joy of Cooking) and went with yet another variation in the hopes of finding one that works.
This recipe starts out like all of the others: a roux and the slow and steady addition of milk. But then there is a change up–a clove-studded onion (just like the excellent broth from the chicken pot pie) and bay leaf. And yes there was some of the whisking and whisking and whisking and whisking, but once it’s thickened, it goes into the oven.
Oh. My. God. It worked. It came out of the oven thick and creamy, not separated or stringy. Success! It was truly a stellar sauce. And then this happened as I was straining it:
I tried to salvage as much as I could (I admit I did scoop sauce out of the sink), but still ended up with less than the 2 cups noted in the recipe. Yeah, I didn’t care at this point.
I did everything else as directed by DiS! And the baked rice was edible, but bland and unremarkable. I wonder if having the full amount of cream sauce would have made a big difference.
For the glazed carrots I utilized the same recipe that I have used a number of times on canned potatoes. I perhaps heated the sugar too quickly. Instead of a nice, glossy, sugary glaze, I had chunks of hard tack candy. Not necessarily bad, just not what I (and DiS!) wanted.
I opted for cod because I dislike salmon and the Safeway didn’t carry halibut or haddock. I completed that recipe as directed, without any big deviations or difficulties.
Obligatory side by side:
My photographic effort wasn’t half-bad, although I am having real color balance issues. But my Goodwill-purchased, daisy-patterned 1970s plate is all kinds of badass, right?
I made too much herb crumb stuff. The cod is hiding under a shroud of Shake n’ Bake. My fillets were encrusted, not lightly topped. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it was just more herb crumb than I prefer. So I scraped off a lot of the topping. But I liked the cod. I guess that’s not surprising since cod is what’s traditionally used in a fried fish sammich and I love me a good fried fish sammich. The cod was big and meaty and not terribly unlike my favorite fish, Chilean Sea Bass (aka the unsustainable Patagonian Toothfish) and much, much, much cheaper. I think it might turn out to be a very versatile addition to my arsenal of ingredients. I like it so much more than Tilapia.
So I made it through my first post-Vegas meal. And it wasn’t toooooo bad. Damn. This post was epic in a War & Peace kind of way. Could this have been any longer?
With that in mind I am going to reward myself and all of you who have read the entire beast.
So here it is. Let’s call a spade a spade. This is the real reason why I have dreamed of going to Las Vegas for the past 20 years: Viva Las Vegas. Is it wrong that I still want to grow up and be Ann-Margret? I just want to spend my days whipping my hair in front of a wind machine while making karate chop noises, giving good face, shimmying to ridiculous choreography, and not wearing pants (for real, the woman had an aversion to pants in this movie). But honestly, if for just one day I could live in this movie, I would die the happiest girl on the planet.
If you haven’t seen this movie you need to fix that real quick. Or just youtube it and check out all the musical numbers. You will not regret it.
Recipe from Dinner is Served 1972 Marjon Promotions, Inc.