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To all a good night

Holiday events for a spirited season

16th Annual

Stay hungry HOT noSH spots in 2013 where do you get off your city, bus by bus

awards What the shell? There's a new NUTCRACKER In Town

Our yearly feast of culinary excellence praising great chefs, amazing food and incredible restaurants


Named after the Holiday star, Stella Artois was first brewed as a holiday beer as a gift to the people of Leuven, Belgium. A golden lager in contrast to the popular dark ales of the time, its brilliant amber color illuminated holiday celebrations for generations thereafter. “Artois” acknowledges Sebastian Artois, t he master brewer and owner of t he brewer y. Always Enjoy Responsibly. © 2012 Anheuser-Busch InBev S.A., Stella Artois® Beer, Imported by Import Brands Alliance, St. Louis, MO


Educating • Enriching • EmpowEring lEarn morE at Ethical




shop dine unwind

OVER 100 STORES | 15 RESTAURANTS | 18-SCREEN THEATER | INTERACTIVE CHILDREN’S PARK Located on Las Vegas Blvd south of Mandalay Bay | 702.269.5000

editor’s note


Funeral for a Twinkie I’m witnessing the near-death

Next Month in Desert Companion

We just had to ask: Interviews with the people who make Vegas tick

6 | Desert

experience of the iconic Twinkie with a mix of sadness, satisfaction and schadenfreude. In case you’re living under a bed of kale: In January, Hostess filed for bankruptcy and announced plans to shutter its factories after years of plunging revenue; now management is huddled in mediation with employees in a final attempt to avoid liquidation. Company chiefs blamed runaway labor costs thanks to an entrenched, stubborn union, but a more likely reason: It’s a Sisyphean task peddling Ding Dongs in a Clif Bar age. To be sure, I’m not saying we Americans have grown up and gotten wise to the fact that Hostess sells stuff that can make Paula Deen look like a paragon of temperance; we’re faaaar from any velvet revolution in which Americans swap their Big Macs for Boca Burgers en masse. But — totally baseless cultural observation incoming — it seems we’ve started asking that our junk food flatter us with at least a gesture to being derived from an identifiable food source. Go-Gurt has yogurt; even Fruit by the Foot has a nominal nod to stuff that grows on trees (first ingredient: “pears from concentrate”). But Hostess products have always been eerily ex nilio creations that seemed spawned from an inscrutable alien intelligence right out of a Stanislaw Lem novel. Consider the streamlined Zinger, the brute, pucky Ding Dong, dense and loglike Ho Hos (“so sweet we had to name them twice”): like nothing from nature or human ingenuity, born not of soil or oven, which adds an extra, phantasmal sweetness: There’s a bit of oblivion in every bite. I’m not judging. I’ve got plenty of chocolate on my own hands. As I was growing up, Hostess was the spongy, cream-filled base of my food pyramid. (Before you go all Child Protective

Companion | DECEMBER 2012

Services on my wonderful parents: Showering their brood with sugary treats was a misfired, protective reaction to their own Pennsylvanian poverty, in which chicken-foot soup was a luxury to swoon over.) And I scattered that sugar beam through my own social prism. In the cafeteria at John C. Fremont Middle School, I was a cartel kingpin when it came to lunch trades, leveraging my collateral of Suzy Qs, Twinkies, Shasta sodas and Fritos for maximum French fries, Styrofoamframed slabs of gooey pizza and a hamburger dubbed the Big Virginian (which we predictably renamed the Big Virgin). Of course, I housed more than my fair share of Hostess, too, and have the fillings to prove it. But aside from the snack cake empire’s two-pronged assault on my teeth and pancreas, the other, more abstruse problem was that I developed a palate that was about refined as sandpaper. That took years to remedy, and it wasn’t just a matter of developing an appetite for something other than sugar bombs filled with sugar blobs. The real battle was learning to eat slowly, mindfully and attentively. I have Las Vegas restaurants to thank for aiding me in that, whether it was the freshman tingle of curry on my tongue, an obsessive sushi phase that lasted for years, or even my first foray into sea urchin or osso bucco. This year’s Restaurant Awards (p. 54) reflect, as always, the continued excellence of Las Vegas’ culinary artists, whether they’re on the Strip or in a strip mall. But it’s about more than great food. It’s about something almost subversive: Amid the attractors and distractors of this frenzied city, our best restaurants demand from us moments of exclusive, total and sustained sensory focus, thoughtful and engaged consumption. By

no means am I saying I’ve since developed anything near a foodie’s palate; there’s plenty of sandpaper left to scrape away. But, at a Strip restaurant, I recently had a bowl of chilled almond soup with chunks of crab and plump green grapes, and I’m grateful to have been able to recognize it as something wholly unusual, subtly riotous and freakily sublime. I could have easily been piggy and gone for seconds, but I wanted to leave room for what surprises came next. Restraint for the sake of adventure: Talk about a zinger. *****

If you’re an early riser, be sure to

watch for my talking-face appearances on “Wake Up with the Wagners” on KSNV Channel 3, which airs weekday mornings at 4:30 a.m. Four days a month, I riff with the impossibly charismatic Dana Wagner, spotlighting cool stuff in the current issue of Desert Companion. Slept in? Find archived clips at Andrew Kiraly Editor

A BriGhtEr FuturE Securing a Brighter Future for Nevada’s Children by Helping their Parents Get Back to Work. Caesars Foundation in collaboration with Vegas PBS is proud to offer parents of Walter V. Long Elementary students the opportunity to participate in the Backto-Work job and educational training program. Funded by the Foundation, the program provides GED and language courses as well as access to more than 300 work certificate programs. As parents obtain the educational tools to succeed in the workplace, families and communities will move toward a brighter future. Find out more about how these organizations are helping Nevadans back to work. 4 color process

Visit us at and

® The will to do wonders®

contents desert companion magazine //



All Things to All People

Party arty By Elisabeth Daniels



Joy rides By Megan Edwards



Come get the stuff By Rich Copeland



Ho-ho-ho down: a holiday guide for everyone

Shell shocked By Lynnette Curtis


History When to curve, when to flow By Dorothy Wright



Concerts, art shows, lectures, dance events and more


History lesson

FEATURES 54 Restaurant Awards

Our 16th annual salute to culinary excellence in the valley

8 | Desert

Companion | DECEMBER 2012

Get to the point By Andrew Kiraly

69 Food forecast

on the cover

We whet your appetite for a very tasty 2013

Classic spaghetti and meatballs from our Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year Photography Sabin Orr

F o o d : S A B I N O R R ; PA I N T I N G : C H R I S TO P H E R S M I T H ; L I G H T S C o u R tes y o f the springs preser v e ; B all E T: B ill H u ghes



VOCALESE featuring The Manhattan Transfer, New York Voices and special guest Jon Hendricks – 1/17

Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour 2012 – 12/18

Drumline Live – 1/18 & 1/19

The Joffrey Ballet co-presented by Nevada Ballet Theatre and The Smith Center – 1/22 & 1/23

Natalie Merchant - In Concert with Orchestra – 1/29

A TRIBUTE TO ELLA, JOE AND BASIE featuring Janis Siegel, Kevin Mahogany and the Count Basie Orchestra with special guests Nikki Yanofsky and Nicole Henry – 2/3

Circus Oz – 2/21 - 2/23

Itzhak Perlman – 2/13

KODO – 2/1

BBC Concert Orchestra – 2/11


The more you see, the more you save. Now when you purchase five or more shows together, you’ll save 10% on each ticket price and you won’t have to pay any single ticket fees. It’s like getting a show for free. | 702.749.2000 | TTY: 800.326.6868 or dial 711 | 361 Symphony Park Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89106 Certain restrictions apply.

Ray Kurzweil – 1/27

Paddy Moloney and The Chieftains – 2/18

Fruitful Living

p u blishe D B y nevada p u blic radio

Mission Statement

Photo by Marissa Wilmot

Desert Companion is the premier city magazine that celebrates the pursuits, passions and aspirations of Southern Nevadans. With award-winning lifestyle journalism and design, Desert Companion does more than inform and entertain. We spark dialogue, engage people and define the spirit of the Las Vegas Valley.


outhern Nevada can be a wonderful environment for growing edible fruit, veggies and herbs. Well built garden space filled with rich, organic soils can achieve superb veggie production. Dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees in small orchards, or incorporated into the ornamental landscape can bring beauty as well as bounty! We love eating from our gardens, and would love to help you do the same! Norm’s Garden Tip: When growing fruit trees, use organic (wood-chip) mulch to a depth of about 2” to the drip-line and beyond. It is the best, long-term, holistic health care practice for them!

Publisher Melanie Cannon Editor Andrew Kiraly Art Director Christopher Smith Graphic Designer Brent Holmes Sales and marketing manager Christine Kiely National account manager Laura Alcaraz Account executives Sharon Clifton, Robyn Mathis, Carol Skerlich, Markus Van’t Hul Marketing Associate Lisa Kelly Subscription manager Chris Bitonti

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Web administrator Danielle Branton

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Contributing writers Jim Begley, Rich Copeland, Lynnette Curtis, Chantal Corcoran, Cybele, Elisabeth Daniels, MeganEdwards, Alan Gegax, Mélanie Hope, Debbie Lee, Robyn Lew, Christie Moeller, Christie Olds, Nelson Queja, Brock Radke, Ricardo Romo, Kathryn Bailey Rose, Lisa Rubin, Mark Sedenquist, Christopher Shen, Jade Webber, Dorothy Wright Contributing artists Bill Hughes, Aaron McKinney, Sabin Orr Editorial: Andrew Kiraly, (702) 259-7856;

Fax: (702) 258-5646 Advertising: Christine Kiely, (702) 259-7813;

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Companion | December 2012

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Subscriptions: Chris Bitonti, (702) 259-7810;

Website: Desert Companion is published 12 times a year by Nevada Public Radio, 1289 S. Torrey Pines Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89146. It is available by subscription at, or as part of Nevada Public Radio membership. It is also distributed free of charge at select locations in the Las Vegas Valley. All photographs, artwork and ad designs printed are the sole property of Desert Companion and may not be duplicated or reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. The views of Desert Companion contributing writers are not necessarily the views of Desert Companion or Nevada Public Radio. Contact Chris Bitonti for back issues, which are available for purchase for $7.95.

ISSN 2157-8389 (print) ISSN 2157-8397 (online)

You Can Live Greener Than You Think! You can make a difference on the environment and on your wallet when you think Smarter Greener BetterŽ! Water heating is the third largest energy expense in your home but with high-efficiency appliances you can lower your energy use, making a big difference on your energy costs and the environment. You’ll save money and help protect our natural resources. Think Smarter Greener Better. Want to learn more about energy-efficient appliance rebates? Visit us at or call our Energy Specialists at 1-800-654-2765.

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Companion | December 2012

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to all people



S o c i a l Pa i n t b r u s h : c h r i s to p h e r s m i t h

Party like an artist (oh, and BYOB) Raucous laughter, a good wine buzz and decadent treats. This is the life of an artist? Bring it on. It’s a far cry from that timeworn image of the artist as a solitary soul, slaving away in the studio on a masterpiece. But that’s exactly the point of social painting classes, a new trend that’s turning valley storefronts and restaurants into lively studios flowing with wine, conversation and lots of paint. The classes are put on by creative people who want to fortify a typical cocktailfueled gathering with a bit of artistic inspiration. “My sister took me to my first social-style painting class. To look around and see everyone interacting with one another, and the pride and amazement on their faces as they created their own masterpiece, I knew we had to have something like this in Vegas,” says Sue Gaughan, owner of Social Paintbrush (7501 W. Lake Mead Blvd. #118, “Leaving that night with my very own painting, I felt like I was an artist. I had to give that opportunity and experience to someone else.” Here’s how it works: Local painters design eye-catching artwork for all skill levels. From an online calendar displaying an array of paintings, social painters choose a piece that tickles their fancy, from landscapes to still lifes to inspirational icons. Then, with the help of step-by-step instructions, the social painting artists recreate the piece themselves — think of it as collective color-by-number fueled by a cocktail or two. Though some follow the instructor’s guidance to the letter, taking artistic liberties is encouraged for the brave of brush. And no need to buy gobs of supplies that may languish in your craft room.

Hear more

Sale away

A brush with festivity: Social painting is the new party trend.

It all started when Dylan Bathurst had to clean out the garage when moving out of his old place. “The usual thing to do is to have a garage sale, but I was too lazy to do that. I was thinking: How cool would it be just to take some photos of my stuff, post it and be done with it?” Out of this laziness, the idea for Rumgr was born. With his fellow founders Ray Morgan and Alex Coleman, he developed an app that does just that. The free iPhone app is a buy-andsell app that’s like a mashup of eBay, Twitter and Tumblr. In short, you can quickly sell stuff, buy stuff and even follow sellers

Everything is provided at these events: canvases, easels, pigments, brushes and aprons. Classes are two to three hours long and cost $30 to $35, which includes taking your finished, ready-to-hang piece with you. Other social art studios that have recently started include Paint and Party (8826 S. Eastern Ave. #114, paintandpartylasvegas. com), which hosts catered events, and Wine and Canvas (various locations,, which pops up at eateries in the valley. Best of all: no tortured artistic soul. “It’s low-commitment. You can try your hand at it without having all the materials or the Keep up with Desert clean-up,” says Kate Hicks, who reguCompanion events, news larly gets her paint on with friends. “The and bonus features at set-up encourages different groups to mingle. Also, there’s wine. What evening isn’t improved with wine?” Or a bit of paint, for that matter. — Elisabeth Daniels

continued on pg. 16

Body painter Suzanne Lugano discusses her “bodies” of work on “KNPR’s State of Nevada” at | 15

whose cool stuff you want to keep tabs on. “We were doing it to have fun,” Bathurst says. But the fun drew some serious attention: Soon they had $500,000 in venture capital to go big. Since Rumgr’s launch in February, they’ve seen 18,000 downloads, and today have more than 5,000 avid users in Las Vegas. In future upgrades: an Android version, a ratings feature and an in-app payment system. But Bathurst says he wants Rumgr to be more than a virtual garage sale. “We’re also trying to help build a sense of community and encourage people to meet their neighbors.” In one episode Bathurst blogged about on, the owner of a sneaker boutique donated new kicks to the kids of Las Vegas Boys Town. Where’d they originally meet? On Rumgr. Now that’s customer satisfaction. — Andrew Kiraly

ON THE TOWN Good ideas become great ideas when you’ve got someone to bounce them off of. That’s what happens at “casual co-working” event Vegas Jelly 7 p.m.midnight every Thursday at The Beat, 520 Fremont St. Info:

Pundit in flight: Jon Ralston is taking his brand solo.


Q: What’s it like being an executive sous chef at a high-end Strip restaurant?


A: It’s intense, sometimes crazy, but always rewarding. My day starts at around 9 a.m. — with my phone. The first thing I do is look at my email, do a quick scroll for any red flags — to make sure there’s no product getting shorted for that evening. Once I get into the restaurant at around 11 a.m., I’m there all night — cutting fish, meat and, if need be, doing some cooking. But I also make a lot of phone calls and do a lot of paperwork. As executive sous chef, I handle the food costs, the labor costs, I make sure we’re ordering the proper things, I meet with purveyors and do all the pricing. (Our sous chefs also help doing a lot of that footwork.) When two parties make dinner reservations and they all want lobster, my sous chefs and I are the ones who make sure we have the lobsters that evening. If there’s time during the day, I’ll collaborate with the executive chef on any new dishes we’re working on. What do I love most about my job? The adrenaline. The fast pace. It’s certainly not a cubicle job, and I’m thankfully not a punch-a-time-card kind of guy. Plus, I get to eat out pretty much every day. It’s called research — it’s a write-off as well (business development and education)! There are other perks. Like when I walk into a restaurant and happen to

know the chef, it could turn into a great time. What chef doesn’t want to show another chef a good time? They know how much their food will be appreciated on a chef-to-chef level. It might turn into a threehour dinner with lots of food and great wine. (The discounted check never hurts, either! Ha ha.) But this job is tough on you. Chefs tend to have unhealthy diets and lifestyles. Why? Because we work so hard and don’t eat the right stuff. If you took a look in my fridge at home, you’d see cereal, milk and some vitamins. The job can also be hard on the body; I’m on my feet all day. It can be hard on the family, too. One of the first things my daughter said to me was, “Daddy works, daddy works.” It’s no surprise that chefs have a high divorce rate but, luckily, I’m with a wonderful woman whose father was a chef and she “gets it.” But you do give up a lot in life. You give up Christmases, most holidays, special occasions, family functions. When I get two days off — and thank God for that, some chefs don’t even get that — the first day is always spent sleeping in. Ricardo Romo is executive sous chef at STK in The Cosmopolitan.

Got a question? We’ve got the answer. Email it to 16 | Desert

Companion | DECEMBER 2012


continued from pg. 15


The trademarks Zarkana and Cirque du Soleil are owned by Cirque du Soleil and used under license.


Call 855.ZARKANA 855.927.5262



18 | Desert

Companion | december 2012

An attitude to adopt Dan & Joyce Kowal “If you can adopt a highway, why can’t you

the school. “They sent truckloads!” he says. They eventu-

adopt a teacher?” Good question. It’s the question re-

ally found an official channel for their instinct to adopt:

tired carpenter Dan Kowal put to his wife Joyce one eve-

The Clark County School District’s School-Community

ning. They were watching a TV news story on how much

Partnership Program. The program ( includes the

teachers pay out of their own pockets to equip students

Support a School project, which publishes online lists of

in their classrooms. The answer to that question inspired

supplies and equipment particular schools need. The Kow-

a desire to adopt — not teachers, but entire schools. The

als have since adopted two schools with their Shadow Hills

Kowals are no strangers to adoption. Forty years ago, as

neighbors: Doris French Elementary and Helen C. Cannon

young newlyweds in Crown Point, Ind., they took the state

Middle School. What does adoption mean? Helping out

to court to win the right to adopt their 1-year-old foster

schools with much-needed supplies, from paper and pen-

son, Joseph. (At the time, Indiana prohibited foster parents

cils to glue and scissors, sure. But it also means a bit of

from adopting foster children.) Later, the Kowals moved

hands-on help as well. For instance, in addition to solicit-

to Las Vegas, where they continued the tradition as their

ing donations, Dan builds step stools for kindergartners;

home became a safe haven for troubled teens. “We would

Joyce is planning a garage sale to raise money toward field

bring in these kids that didn’t have a place to stay or food

trips. But ultimately, they hope to inspire. They’re hoping

to eat,” says Dan. Adds Joyce: “Friends. Then friends of

to convince other subdivisions to adopt schools in their

friends. Then friends of friends of friends.” From kids to …

neighborhoods. “What goes around comes around,” says

schools? Dan first began helping in schools decades ago,

Joyce, pointing to the ripple effect good schools have on

when their daughter Julie Anne was working in the kitchen

the community, the economy and more. As for the time,

at Las Vegas Academy. Dan was a cabinet-maker for The

effort, and even money this is costing them in their twilight

Mirage when he convinced the hotel-casino to donate their

years, Dan shrugs. “You gotta do it.” — Chantal Corcoran

old kitchenware — dishes, pots, pans, and silverware — to



L a s V e g a n s i n s t yl e

Wearing it

Local style icons on why they wear what they wear so well By Christie Moeller Photography Christopher Smith

Joele Corrigan

Full-time mother, board member of Nevada Ballet Theatre, co-owner of the Michael Corrigan restaurant group

Personal style: I always like to be comfortable, yet feel a little sexy and stylish. Favorite designer: Balmain. I think everything he does is so original and cool. Go-to look for a holiday party: A great dress with some sparkly shoes. Color trend pick for winter 2012-2013: I really like the greens this season. Can’t live without: My iPhone. I wouldn’t be caught dead in: Something that is out of fashion. I splurge on: Great shoes. I think shoes really say a lot about a person. They can also make a simple outfit fabulous. I skimp on: Tank tops. I wear them so often, I want to be able to get rid of them without feeling guilty. Fashion icon I’m most inspired by: Jane Birkin and Jackie Kennedy. Everything they wore would be just as stylish today. Their style was timeless. My idea of the perfect holiday: Being surrounded by friends and family. I also like to feel that I’ve helped a less-fortunate family enjoy their holiday as well.



An unlikely holiday duet



1. Oscar de la Renta pet collar and leash, $39.99 2. Diane von Furstenberg yoga mat, $49.99 3. Band of Outsiders hats (set of 2), $29.99

20 | Desert

Companion | DECEMBER 2012

J OELE CORRI G AN : c h r i s to p h e r s m i t h

Salt and caramel, Elton John and Eminem, ranch dressing and pizza: unlikely duos that just seem to work. Here’s another: Neiman Marcus and Target. The two are joining together to launch a groundbreaking holiday collection. The collection features 24 of America’s pre-eminent designers, including Band of Outsiders, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Diane Von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs, Rodarte and Tory Burch, and boasts everything from suitcases to slippers to sweaters. The collection is now available at Target and Neiman Marcus stores, as well as online at target. com and No holiday hoarding allowed: To accommodate anticipated demand, Target and Neiman Marcus are capping purchase quantities of the limited-edition collection at five of the same item per customer. Take advantage of this combo early; doors open at 8 a.m. — CM

perfect for get



for GIFT CARD purchases beginning

for GIFT CARD purchases beginning

for GIFT CARD purchases beginning

for GIFT CARD purchases beginning

for GIFT CARD purchases beginning

1 1 .1 6 a t 1 2 P M



1 2 . 07

1 2 .1 4

OFFER VALID WHILE SUPPLIES LAST. *Each weekly promotion begins on the date(s) listed above at 8am PST with the exception of November 16 which will begin at 12pm PST and continues the following six consecutive days or while supplies last. One (1) voucher for two (2) show tickets will be provided for each District Gift Card sale in increments of $350.00. A $2.00 purchase fee, per card applies. Individual card value must be a minimum of $20. Gift Cards must be purchased from The District Property Management & Guest Services, with cash or credit only. Maximum of two (2) promotional voucher purchases per sale. Blackout dates and other restrictions apply. Not valid with any other offer, discount or promotion. Management reserves all rights and makes no representations or warranties regarding show schedules or seat locations.


A sweet look Chasing Fireflies hot pink confection dress She’ll be sweeter than sugar in this dress; luxurious velvet and tulle form cascades of ruffles down the skirt. $88,

Vested interest Chasing Fireflies black and red argyle vest Nothing says seasonal style like a festive vest for your elf. $64,

the browser

Big style for the little ones

Looks good, feels warm KI6 gray waistcoat with leather belt No more little chattering teeth. This combo is warm, cozy and chic. $184, Barneys New York in the Shoppes at the Palazzo and Nordstrom in the Fashion Show Mall It’s in the bag Chloe mini handbag She’ll carry all those stocking stuffers in high style. $1,195, available at Saks Fifth Avenue The tyke wants to ride Dexton Kids Lamborghini Murcielago Your kids will ride in style with this sweet miniroadster, complete with LEDs and a functional horn. $390, Saks Fifth Avenue in the Fashion Show Mall Shine on John Hardy Baby’s Batu Asmara gold and silver bracelet with pink tourmaline The way to a girl’s heart? Sugar and spice are nice, but jewelry is the real ticket. $325,

Having a haute holiday isn’t just a grown-up affair. Let the kids play too

By Christie Moeller

Let her sparkle John Hardy Baby’s Batu Kali gold and silver earrings with pink chalcedony Give your little girl a touch of sparkle with these gorgeous earrings. $275,

22 | Desert

Companion | DECEMBER 2012

Haute in the cold Marni wool coat When it’s cold outside, she’ll be haute in this comfy, stylish coat with four pockets and rounded collar. $525, Barneys New York in the Shoppes at the Palazzo and Nordstrom in the Fashion Show Mall

Perfectly suited Chasing Fireflies mod suit Hip with the perfect fit, this lined jacket has notched lapels, a back vent and pockets inside and out, plus an adjustable back-elastic waistband on the trousers — perfect for growing boys. $118,

Land Rover Las Vegas

5255 West Sahara Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89146 702.579.0400 •


road food

I’ll have the ostrich burrito, please

A spring! A mine! A slot canyon! At mile marker 16 of Lake Mead’s Northshore Road is a rough dirt detour ending at Lovell Wash. Hikers head upstream past a tiny spring with just enough water to get their shoes wet, stroll through an old mining area, and finish in the 500-yard-long Anniversary Narrows. Carved by floods and reshaped with every rain, the twisting gorge is only arms’width in places. Level: Easy. — Alan Gegax

The mystery of the “Mystery Sandwich” died with Chiodo’s.

in the Mrs. Nevada beauty pageant — while she was also working at the Mustang Ranch. Ask locals. Sometimes you’ll discover a gastronomic wonder where you least expect one. Such a place was the Manzanita Restaurant in the tiny hamlet of Cornville, Ariz., when I was directed there by a Verde Valley native a decade and a half ago. My companions and I were greeted by the chef and treated to a world-class dinner. Seize the opportunity. Eateries and taverns come and go, so resist thinking “next time.” If I hadn’t paused near the Homestead Bridge in Pittsburgh when I had the chance, I would have missed enjoying a “mystery sandwich” at Chiodo’s, a bar festooned with mementos of its 56-year history of serving beer and grub to steel workers. What’s in a “mystery sandwich?” Now that Chiodo’s is closed, a mystery it will remain. Stay flexible. You never know when an unusual dining experience might present itself. I was overnighting in Gila Bend, Ariz. when I struck up a conversation with a local. Somehow, our conversation resulted in an invitation to an ostrich ranch the next morning. If I’d been too rigid in my views about what constitutes a good breakfast, I never would have tasted an ostrich egg breakfast burrito. I got to meet a few ostriches, too. — Mark Sedenquist

All downhill from here Come out to Las Vegas and hit the … slopes? You bet. Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort celebrates its 50th year this season, and is finally poised to become a bona fide, year-round destination for locals and tourists alike. Purchased in 2003 by Powdr Corp., which also owns Park City, the resort has benefited from major new investment. Most notably, the resort recently quadrupled its snowmaking capacity, earning it one of the nation’s longest ski seasons in 2011-12. For novice skiers, LVSSR will have a brand-new quad chairlift this season on Rabbit Peak, the resort’s bunny slope. Future plans include expansion to 10 lifts and 50 runs. And the improvements don’t stop on the slopes. Parched skiers can grab a drink in the Bristlecone Lounge or refuel at the newlyremodeled Bighorn Grill (try the chili). Expanded indoor/outdoor seating offers a great view of “The Strip” terrain park. But the real treasure of Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort is what’s unimproved: The backcountry skiing remains some of the best in the region. Experts can blast through piles of powder in The Bowl, or tear through the trees in Slot Alley. (Info: — AG

24 | Desert

Companion | DECEMBER 2012

C h i o d o s Tav e r n : G e r a l d T h u r m a n , a r i z o n a h ot sp r i n gs : ALAN G E G A X

Anniversary Narrows

Many road-trippers enjoy the reliability of chain restaurants or brand-name burger bars. But when you let your spirit of adventure win out, you rarely regret it. I’ve never regretted choosing a “mystery sandwich” or an ostrich burrito over a Big Mac or a Grand Slam. Here are a few tips for enjoying local grub on the road. Go local for breakfast. Scrambled eggs and bacon are rarely cooked badly, and you’re likely to share a hometown restaurant with local Kiwanians or friendly regulars. Grab a local paper, do some innocent eavesdropping or chat with your waitress, and you’ll find out far more about the place than any guidebook will tell you. I once stopped for breakfast at the Countryside Family Restaurant in Carlock, Ill. Before I’d finished my toast, I learned that the town had two cemeteries — one for Democrats and one for Republicans. In addition, the diner itself was run by a community nonprofit founded to save it when its owners decided to shut it down. Brave a sketchy-looking bar. When it’s time for a cold brew, don’t be too put off by a tavern that looks a little rough around the edges. That dive is somebody’s “local,” and chances are you’ll be treated well as a visitor. In Virginia City, I discovered Fly’s, a subterranean tavern at the end of a narrow stairway in a building that had probably been serving booze since the glory days of the Comstock. It was at Fly’s that I learned about a “local’s pour” (think “three fingers”) and the colorful history of Jessi Winchester, who gained notoriety as Virginia City’s representative

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Are our bus stops safe enough? Listen to a discussion on “KNPR’s State of Nevada” at www.desertcompanion/hearmore


Transportation inspiration: Many valley bus routes offer great sightseeing.

Joy rides


No particular place to go? You’re in luck: Our bus system is great for some fine sightseeing By MEGAN EDWARDS | Photography Christopher Smith “I’m riding to the end of the line.” Those are my words to a CAT bus driver who has just asked me where I’m going. Everyone else has left the bus. “Well, this is the layover,” he says. The bus I’m on has just made a loop around The Lakes, and will now head all the way across town and north toward Nellis Air Force Base. Fortunately, I’m allowed to stay on the bus and wait 20 minutes. That’s good, because air conditioning is a definite plus on this warm afternoon. I climb back up the stairs to the best seat on this double-decker Deuce: the front row right over the driver’s seat. A big glass window gives me a clear view toward the Strip while the driver takes his break. “Why are you riding?” The bus driver, sandwich in hand, has climbed the stairs behind me. “To see what there is to see,” I say. “I’ve been taking different routes for three days now, all over the valley.” He eyes my camera and notebook. I can tell he’s curious, but riders are boarding the bus below us. “I think the Strip might be more interesting,” he says as his head disappears down the stairwell.

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Companion | DECEMBER 2012

He’s right. The Strip by public transportation is fascinating. The view from a bus is like a combination of walking and driving — with the added advantages of extra height and no obligation to navigate. The slow pace enforced by heavy traffic and frequent stops allows plenty of time to take in details along a route that easily deserves its designation as a scenic byway. A bonus: You can catch up on the latest trends in fingernail art and earlobe-stretching without even looking out a window. While there are fewer tourists and no huge Ferris wheels under construction on the other routes I rode, each provided fresh glimpses into a city I thought I knew. I might never have learned about the slick new bicycle repair and rental facility at the Bonneville Transit Center. And Yelp might do a good job of listing the amazing variety of Asian restaurants along Spring Mountain, but riding by them made me far more eager to ring the bell and hop off for some pho. Walls protect most Las Vegas backyards from view — but not from passengers riding upstairs on a Deuce. Even Google satellite maps can’t reveal a big black lab enjoying a dip in a slightly murky pool.

community Whatever the appeal — an anthropological field trip, a look at new development, a trip down memory lane, world-class peoplewatching or a great meal — consider taking a bus and get far more than your fare’s worth. Here are four routes around the valley to get you started.

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Companion | DECEMBER 2012

“ Tour i st f o r a day” Route: Strip & Downtown Express Catch this bus at the Las Vegas Premium Outlets North or the South Strip Transfer Terminal and ride it not only the length of the Strip, but also past the new landmarks of downtown, including the Lou Ruvo Center, City Hall and Symphony Park. (The “Deuce on the Strip” route covers most of the same territory, but stops at the Mob Museum downtown.) Bar none, this is the best route for chatting with (or eavesdropping on) visiting tourists and finding out what they love, hate or love to hate about our town. It’s also a quick ride through time, offering views of the newest properties and shopping venues as well as some of the oldest. You can even get a glimpse of what the future holds as you pass by new development projects under way downtown and around the Smith Center. This route is very popular, so board the bus at a terminus to help make sure you get a seat. Sit on the right (street) side of the coach for the best views. “Chow mein to chimichangas” Route 203 (Deuce) This amazingly long local route runs east along Desert Inn and Spring Mountain before turning north on Lamb Boulevard to Lone Mountain. An upstairs seat on the double-decker Deuce bus offers nice views of local mountains, but the constantly changing pageant inside the coach is arguably even more engaging. As the bus travels through neighborhoods on the east and west sides of town, the students, professionals and retirees getting on and off the coach reflect the remarkable ethnic and cultural diversity of the Las Vegas Valley. Hungry? Stop for a meal, but good luck deciding. Choose from Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Malaysian, Filipino and Korean eateries along Spring Mountain, or dine at an authentic eastside Mexican restaurant. Views of the Sheep Range and Frenchman Mountain are especially nice at dusk.

“ O l d, new and zo o ” Route 106 Catch a ride at either the Centennial Hills Park & Ride or the Bonneville Transit Center. Starting at Bonneville, the route rolls through downtown, cuts over Bonanza and then follows old Highway 95 out to the new suburbs of the northwest. Along this route, you’ll get a brief look at some of Las Vegas’ grittiest neighborhoods, where you’ll see fierce “pride of ownership” next to razor wire and homeless encampments. At the other end of the route, catch some great views of the Sheep Range and discover some of the valley’s newest neighborhoods as the bus loops through Centennial Hills near Gilcrease Orchard. In between, along Rancho Drive, stop off at Texas Station or another one of the locals casinos on both sides of the road. Several longtime watering holes, including Big Dog’s Brewing Company, are also mere steps (or stumbles) away from bus stops. This route also makes it easy to visit The Southern Nevada Zoological-Botanical Park (the Las Vegas Zoo), where you can check out the last family of Barbary apes in the United States. “J o u rne y to a swee t dam town ” Route 402 Another long route, this trip takes the slow path to Boulder City starting from the South Strip Transfer Terminal. As the bus rolls along Sunset Road, enjoy excellent views of the new terminal and control tower at McCarran Airport. Past the airport, look north for a good view of the rugged bluffs just west of Whitney Ranch. They’re nothing new, but it’s always rewarding to see this bit of “wild west” scenery that has remained unconsumed by urban development. On your way down Boulder Highway, consider stopping off at the Clark County Museum. You might be lucky enough to catch sight of Museum Administrator and “Pawn Stars” consultant Mark Hall-Patton as you enjoy peeking inside the restored historic houses and businesses along “Heritage Street.” As the bus travels further south, you can hop off at the Railroad Pass Casino or stay on board, enjoy expansive vistas over Eldorado Valley, and ride all the way to the end of the line. Use the one-hour (or make it two) layover for a walk around charming downtown Boulder City. Check out the historic Boulder Dam Hotel, or have a bite to eat at the Coffee Cup, Mel’s Diner, or the Boulder Dam Brewing Company before heading back.

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Whether it’s the Charleston Antique Mall, left, the Toy Shack, top right, or Broadacres, bottom right, Vegas has plenty of, well, you know, stuff.

Go get the stuff

You want stuff? Vegas has stuff. Let me show you where the stuff is


By Rich Copeland | Photography brent holmes

I love stuff. Not the Las Vegas concept of stuff — I don’t have a drawer full of Breitlings or a closet full of Kenneth Coles and Bruno Malles (the only two makers of expensive shoes I could think of ). I love stuff. Old, dusty, used stuff. Background: I grew up in Southeast Pennsylvania on Route 222, the famous antiques corridor nestled between Berks and Lancaster counties that attracts weekend migrations of New Yorkers and New Englanders looking for mid-19th century farm crafts and anything Amish. To me, ideal shopping conditions mean flea markets with extra flea and antique malls that smell like my grandmother’s apartment. The air tastes old. That’s my shopping spree. After moving to Las Vegas in 1998, I assumed that since everything old is blown up on Channel 8 at 3 a.m., there wouldn’t be any cool old stuff. It took me some time to sniff it out, but I found it. And more than

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a Pop’s Cheesesteak or TastyKakes from Glazier’s, it’s the old stuff that makes me feel like I’m home. Here is where I found the stuff. Broadacres Marketplace and Event Center. Located on North Las Vegas Boulevard, this swap meet consists of hundreds of outdoor stalls — half of which sell clothing to a largely Latino clientele — lots of jeans, cowboy boots and hats. Leather belt stands that look like they could account for the extinction of the buffalo. The other half — old crapola layered in dust. Need a remote to a 27-inch Sony Trinitron, circa 1987? They got it. Old Nintendo NES controllers? Check. Used baby gear. Car parts and power tools. The kind of stuff that pawn shops reject. Toys that look like they’re on their fourth or fifth tour of duty. Religious (read: Catholic) iconography. The kind of stuff that makes for great eye candy. You’ll leave with something. My last outing yielded a lovely silver lazy susan with minimal tarnish. But the real treasure at Broadacres is the food. Fresh coconuts, cold Tecates and a barbecue pit that is second to none make Broadacres an ideal afternoon stop. (2930 N. Las Vegas Blvd., The Charleston Antique Mall. This place features some of the coolest junkola in Vegas. True collectibles, from early 20th century Americana to postwar kitsch to the toys of your youth. It’s the only place in Las Vegas where you can find a cookie jar from the ’20s sitting on a shelf next to a 20-inch talking Pee-Wee Herman doll. What really makes the Charles-

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Toy Shack. You’ve seen the Toy Shack’s owner, Johnny Jimenez, on “Pawn Stars.” His store is a wall-to-wall flashback facilitator. Walls covered floor to ceiling with original blister packs of GI Joes, Jedis, My Little Ponies, Matchbox cars, Transformers, Barbies — everything you ever wanted and never got from Santa (or Hanukkah Harry) is available here. The real challenge is convincing your kids that the Millennium Falcon you just brought home is not for them. (450 Fremont St. #117, Gameworld. This video game store stands out from a sea of gaming retailers for one simple reason: Their stuff is OLD. Everybody can name-drop an Atari or ColecoVision, but if you’re looking for Scramble for the Vectrex or a working Sega Game Gear — this is where you go. Row after row of dusty game cartridges (what we used before discs) beckon to be jammed into the shiny Ataris, Intellivisions, Odysseys, 3DOs, Dreamcasts and every other console the rich kid down the street had in 1981. Look for the original Pong consoles if you want to revisit the Neanderthal days of video gaming. This is where Mario, Zelda and Pitfall Harry go to retire. (5620 W. Charleston Blvd. #B, 307-1440)




ton Antique Mall special is the Las Vegasabilia available. Forget chips and matchbooks — this is where you will find those snazzy satin casino jackets that were bequeathed to locals through the ’70s and ’80s. Less gaming and more lifestyle, the Charleston Antiques Mall is the closest thing Las Vegas has to a historical resort museum. While tiki lounges are so pre-recession, this is where you will go to outfit your “Mad Men”-inspired man cave. (560 S. Decatur Blvd.,

The Fantastik Indoor Swapmeet. You’ve seen it from the street on South Decatur Boulevard, but if you’ve never ventured in, you’ve never seen Vegas. Seriously — if I were a 14-yearold boy, I would move in. Butterfly knives and throwing stars, exotic snakes and lizards, off-duty dancers shopping for cheap stripper clothes — this place has it all. Until a couple years ago, there was a porn stall manned by a prehistoric old codger who would ask you if you want the men or the women on tape as you walked by. Bongs and incense to cover up the smells made by bongs. Rare coins and faux jewelry. Beef jerky. A blowgun with darts — I always wanted one of those. Wigs, artificial plants and all the stuff used to decorate Chinese restaurants. Y’know — stuff. (1717 S. Decatur Blvd.,


Hear about funny and crazy family holiday traditions on “KNPR’s State of Nevada” at www.desertcompanion/hearmore


Sing the season: Holiday Spectacular at the Springs Preserve


Ho-ho-ho down A holiday guide for a spirited season

Fam ily c l ass i c s NEVADA BALLET THEATRE’S THE NUTCRACKER Dec. 15 & 21, 7:30p; Dec. 16, 1p; Dec. 22, 2p & 7:30p; Dec. 23, 1p & 5p. Choreographed by Artistic Director James Canfield, this highly anticipated rendition features live music and is a brand-new, original production featuring new sets, costumes and surprises, yet to be revealed! $45-$158. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center THE NATIVITY Dec. 5, 6p; Dec. 6, 6p & 7p; Dec. 7 & 8, 6p, 7p & 8p; Spanish version Dec. 5, 7p. This 25-minute production of the Biblical ac-

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Companion | DECEMBER 2012

Sure bet: The Gamble-Aires

count of Jesus Christ’s birth features 100-plus cast members and more than a dozen animals depicting various scenes. Live music precedes each show and dozens of nativities from around the world will be displayed. Presented by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Free. Opportunity Village, 6050 S. Buffalo Drive. MADRIGAL DINNER Dec. 7-8, 7p. Celebrate the Holidays with Kings, Queens, Knights & Jesters as the regal pageantry and ceremonial pomp of Merrie Olde England is brought to life at medieval “Castle Horn,” complete with a three-course meal, dancing,

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'We're proud of our work . . . and grateful for friendships, relationships and every opportunity Klai Juba has been afforded in this community!' Winter wonderland: A revamped “Nutcracker”

serenading, carols and more by the CSN College Singers and Chamber Chorale. $30, with advance reservations are required and Renaissance costumes are encouraged. Nicholas J. Horn Theatre at CSN.

HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR AT SPRINGS PRESERVE Dec. 8-9 & 15-23, 5-9p. A family-friendly winter wonderland bathed in thousands of eco-friendly LEDs, with carolers and madrigal singers, snow flurries, cookie decorating, face painting, holiday bingo, reindeer (pony) rides, a Santa photo station, snow maze and more! A Posada (Mexican Christmas celebration) of music, dance, piñatas, unique decorations, authentic food and hot drinks concluding with the tradition of Three Wise Men Day (Día de Reyes) will be presented on Dec. 16. $5-$8, free for children 4 and under, with half-off for members. Springs Preserve NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: POLAR EXPRESS Dec. 14, 5- 9p. Drop off the kids at the Springs Preserve for a safe night of entertainment, with holiday craft-making, Origen Museum exploring, pizza eating and movie watching (the holiday film “The Polar Express”). $26 for ages 5-12, with $5 off for members. Reservations must be made by Dec. 12 and only 125 spots are available! Springs Preserve | 35


S o u nds of the season DANNY WRIGHT: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS Dec. 2, 2p. Ring in the holiday season with favorites from this pianist’s broad repertoire of traditional Christmas songs, classical works, and music from Broadway and film combined with inspirational stories of life and love in a heartwarming show for all ages. With special guest ventriloquist Terry Fator, Strip headliner and winner of America’s Got Talent. $18-$78. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center AMERICAN GUILD OF ORGANISTS’ ADVENT-CHRISTMAS RECITAL Dec. 2, 4p. This year’s traditional recital will again be performed by members of the Southern Nevada Chapter. The program will include music by J.S. Bach, Josef Rheinberger, Johannes Brahms, J. Wayne Kerr, Robert Manookin, Edward Broughten and more. The recital will show-

Piano man: Danny Wright

case the church’s 4-manual and pedal, 54-rank Schantz pipe organ. Free. Christ Church Episcopal, 2000 S. Maryland Parkway, 898-5455

from the Sweet Adelines and Cheyenne High School. Fun for the whole family! $24. Troesh Studio Theater at The Smith Center

CITY OF LIGHTS BARBERSHOP CHORUS: CHRISTMAS IS A-COMIN’ Dec. 7, 7p. A delightful collection of traditional Christmas songs performed in the unique four-part acapella harmony style by the City of Lights Chorus and its quartets, with special guests

THE GAMBLE-AIRES CHRISTMAS SHOW Dec. 8, 2p. The original Las Vegas barbershop harmony group, with its large chorus and quartets, celebrates the season with traditional favorites and the hysterical quiz show, “Are You Smarter

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Queen of cool: Deana Martin

Than an Elf?” $10 in advance, $12 day of show. Winchester Cultural Center Theater THE DEANA MARTIN CHRISTMAS SHOW Dec. 14-15, 7p; Dec. 16, 2p. Dean Martin’s daughter combines the coolness of The Rat Pack with vocal sophistication, intertwining classic Yuletide tunes and songs honoring her legendary father, Uncle Frank (Sinatra), Uncle Sammy (Davis Jr.) and more with personal recollections, anecdotes and never-before-seen home movie footage of her family’s Christmas celebrations. $37-$59. Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center DAVE KOZ AND FRIENDS CHRISTMAS TOUR 2012 Dec. 18, 7:30p. Get into the holiday spirit as David Benoit, NBC’s “The Voice” winner Javier Colon, Sheila E. and Margo Rey jam on fresh, lively arrangements of seasonal favorites led by multi-Grammy nominee and saxophonist extraordinaire Dave Koz. $29-$89. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center LAS VEGAS PHILHARMONIC - POPS II - A VERY VEGAS HOLIDAY Dec. 8, 2p & 8p. A perfect outing for the entire family, this holiday program is filled with musical joys of the season. Special guests Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman and Former Mayor Oscar B. Goodman will narrate “A Night Before Christmas,” percussionists from Foothill High School will put a unique twist on “Little Drummer Boy” and the North Pole’s most famous resident might even make a special appearance. $46$94. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center | 37


DAN HICKS AND THE HOT LICKS PRESENT HOLIDAZE IN HICKSVILLE Dec. 22, 7p. This show will feature a live performance of songs from the acclaimed album “Crazy for Christmas,” as well as several Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks classics. $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Historic Fifth Street School, T h e s eason u nwrap p ed: u n i q ue ev ents CLINT HOLMES FOR THE HOLIDAYS Dec. 7-8, 8:30p; Dec. 9, 2p. This legendary performer brings a warm holiday celebration to ignite the holiday spirit, along with his wife Kelly Clinton and granddaughter Asia. $35-$45. Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center KWANZAA 2012 Dec. 22, 3p. Share the meaning of Kwanzaa by embracing

and celebrating the accomplishments of youth graduate participants of the annual Rites of Passage mentoring workshops in a “Crossing Over” ceremony. Free (with required tickets that may be picked up in advance at the W. Las Vegas Arts Center, 947 W. Lake Mead Blvd.). West Las Vegas Library Theatre, 951 W. Lake Mead Blvd., 229-4800 CHRISTMAS CONCERT BY ARMENCHIK Dec. 22, 8p. Armenian singing sensation Armen Gondrachyan has been performing since he was seven years old, releasing his first album at 15. Inheriting his talent from his father Harpet, Armen would sing whenever and wherever he could. Now internationally known, he performs around the world to enthusiastic, soldout audiences. $65-$175. Pearl Concert Theater at Palms

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Spiked punch: Ethel M’s Holiday Cactus Garden

ETHEL M CHOCOLATES’ 19th ANNUAL HOLIDAY CACTUS GARDEN Through Jan. 1, 5-10p nightly. An illuminated winter wonderland featuring more than 600,000 sparkling lights displayed throughout the 3-acre Botanical Cactus Garden. The holiday hot spot also boasts live entertainment Fri.-Sat., photos with Santa Fri.-Sun. and a display of “meteor lights” that look like falling snowflakes when seen through 3D glasses (available for $3). Free. Ethel M Chocolates, 2 Cactus Garden Drive in Henderson,

.com F 702 492 3440

7770 Dean Martin Dr. Suite 301 Las Vegas, NV 89139 38 | Desert

Companion | DECEMBER 2012


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Nevada Ballet Theatre’s James Canfield talks about the company’s 40th anniversary on “KNPR’s State of Nevada” at


Shell shocked

“The Nutcracker” ballet is a beloved and timeless holiday classic. Wait ’til you see what NBT’s James Canfield did to it By Lynnette Curtis Photography Bill Hughes

40 | Desert

Companion | December 2012


Going nuts: A glimpse behind the scenes of Nevada Ballet Theatre’s revamped “The Nutcracker.”

James Canfield needs just five words to sum up his quirky new take on an old ballet: Tim Burton meets Dr. Seuss. “I’m a big fan of them both,” the artistic director for Nevada Ballet Theatre says. He’s sitting behind his desk at the company’s northwest Las Vegas headquarters, where rehearsals for his revamped version of “The Nutcracker” are under way. “Not only as a kid, but my entire life.” You can sort of guess this just by looking at Canfield. Today he’s sporting a pencil-thin mustache, tatted-up arms and — beneath a plaid baseball cap — a shaved head. Also, he doesn’t just talk. He frames words with his

hands and arms and torso, like he’s having a hard time staying in his chair. At one point, he halts mid-sentence to ask: “Would you like a Starburst?” He strikes you as exactly the right person to update a classic yuletide ballet as bizarre as it is bewitching. But “update” might be too tame a word for it. The Nevada Ballet Theatre has presented the much-beloved story each year for the past three decades. But this year, starting Dec. 15, an all-new, overhauled version debuts downtown at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, where the local ballet company recently began a residency that symbolizes artistic big-boy

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Companion | DECEMBER 2012

James Canfield strikes you as just the right person to give a classic yuletide ballet a bit of an edge. pants. Canfield choreographed the grander, more elaborate production — his first fulllength work for the company — to complement its new, world-class home. Diehard fans needn’t wring their hands. The storyline, adapted from the 1816 E.T.A. Hoffman story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” will remain intact. A young girl named Clara dreams about a nutcracker and other toys coming to life. The title character does battle with a seven-headed rodent and his minions before joining Clara on a journey to the trippy Land of Sweets. A creepy magician/godfather lurks around, watching — or

Box of tricks: Canfield is approaching the production with a sense of playfulness.

orchestrating? — the action. But this time, the difference is in the details. Everything, from set to costumes to a webby new logo, reflects Canfield’s vision for a revitalized “The Nutcracker.” The fact that he’s been doing this ballet “in one capacity or another” since 1970 hasn’t

dampened his enthusiasm. In fact, seeing it as a youngster started Canfield down the crooked path to where he is today. “The only reason I entered ballet is because of ‘The Nutcracker,’” he says. And ballet is what brought Canfield to Las Vegas — in roundabout fashion. He was born in Corning, N.Y., and started dancing at 5 years old. He got his early dance training at the Washington School of Ballet, later joining the Joffrey Ballet, where he danced an extensive repertoire of works by noted choreographers. In 1989, Canfield became founding artistic director of the Oregon Ballet Theatre, where he choreographed more than thirty ballets and established the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre. The Smith Center residency, which was in the works for years and puts Nevada Ballet Theatre on the national cultural map, had a lot to do with why Canfield came to Las Vegas. He stepped in as interim artistic director in 2008 and got the position permanently the following year. Meanwhile, he’s put a lot of himself into the group; several of Canfield’s works have joined Nevada Ballet Theatre’s repertoire. His first original work for the company, “Cyclical Night,” premiered in 2010.

“He’s so imaginative and creative,” says Woodall. “You feel comfortable showing him your ideas and knowing he’s going to be honest.” A full orchestra, made up of players from the Las Vegas Philharmonic and theater productions all over town, will perform the ballet’s famous score by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The cast comprises 109 children and about 40 professional dancers, including

three different young women who play Clara. But the biggest upgrade isn’t tangible: This is the first complete redo of the local production in more than a decade, adding fuel to the skyrocket trajectory of the company’s profile, which launched when Canfield came aboard. The entire company is looking forward to watching his vision spring to life like, well, an anthropomorphic nutcracker.

P e r p etua lly cracking His makeover of the company’s annual holiday production was probably inevitable. Every world-class city has a great ballet company, and every ballet company has “The Nutcracker,” he says. In that way, Las Vegas is no different. “It’s a way of life.” That’s not only because of tradition. It’s also because the ubiquitous seasonal ballet generates so much income. Nevada Ballet Theatre makes about 75 percent of its annual revenue from the production, which Canfield calls the company’s “cash cow.” The day the show wraps, preparations for the next year “start right back up again,” he says. “We’re always doing ‘The Nutcracker.’” The custom-made set for the new production includes a life-sized Victorian dollhouse on casters, a 30-foot-high Christmas tree, and slanty doors and clocks (Dr. Seuss!) that stand more than 15 feet high. Patricia Ruel, who created props for Cirque du Soleil’s “KÀ,” “The Beatles LOVE” and “Viva Elvis,” is overseeing scenery and prop designs for the production. Sandra Woodall, contributor of costumes to ballet and dance companies all over the world, created fresh and lovely designs. She, Ruel and Canfield were often in different cities; they held creative meetings via Skype. | 43


A tou ch o f darkn ess “I’ve seen a million ‘Nutcrackers’ in my day, and I’m really excited about this one,” says Cynthia Gregory, the company’s renowned artistic coach. “It’s going to be so imaginative, so ethereal and yet so realistic at the same time.” The artistic risk goes in tandem with the ballet company graduating to bigger and better venues. The company’s productions of “The Nutcracker” gestated for many years in a 550-seat theater at UNLV before moving three years ago to the Paris Theatre, which has more than 1,500 seats. Its new home in the Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall includes 2,050 seats. Nevada Ballet Theatre is growing up in more ways than one. “The Nutcracker” is often thought of as a ballet for kids, but it includes some not-sochild-friendly elements. The battle scene can be a little scary. Canfield chose to embrace this. “A lot of times the battle scene is just really cute,” he says. “We take all the darkness out of the fairy tale. But it’s meant to be a frightening part of the story. We forget that we will never know good if we don’t know bad. Even the scary parts of our dreams come out OK. And then you go into the most beautiful, quiet, peaceful moment.” That’s one of Canfield’s favorite scenes: Right after the battle, when Clara and the prince travel to a snow-filled forest. “When I was living in New York City, the only time it got quiet was when it snowed,” he says. “You could hear a pin drop. Snow is peaceful.” In Canfield’s version, a winter fairy meets Clara and the prince. In fact, he’s got five fairies in his production: one for each season, plus the obligatory Sugar Plum Fairy. It’s a way to underscore the passage of time, another grown-up theme Canfield wants to emphasize. “The time comes for you to go through thresholds in your life,” he says. “You go through doors, say goodbye to childhood.”

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Get a move on: Dancers rehearse for “The Nutcracker.”

Every generation should relate to that, he says. But “The Nutcracker” still holds special appeal for the youngsters among us. Canfield’s admonition to the dancers: “(You) have to create magic because every little child wants to be you. They have to live this ballet through you and it’s going to determine whether they’re going to be patrons for the rest of their lives. So you better be magical.” His production includes a sumptuous surprise ending. He won’t reveal it, but he does offer a hint. “There are two places I always wanted to be,” he says. “Inside a snow globe and Jeannie’s bottle.” Nevada Ballet Theatre performs “The Nutcracker” at The Smith Center 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15, 21, 22; 1 p.m. Dec. 16, 23; 2 p.m. Dec. 22; and 5 p.m. Dec. 23 Tickets $45-$158. Info:

We’re proud to give back We’re proud to give back We’re proud back We’re proud to to give give back to the community we call home. to the community we call home. to to the the community community we we call call home. home.

At Bank of America, we’re committed to giving back to the neighborhoods where we live and work. That’s we contribute time, energy and support to these area organizations: At Bankwhy of America, we’reour committed to giving back to the neighborhoods where we live and work. That’s we contribute time, energy and support to these area organizations: At Bankwhy of America, we’reour committed to giving back to the neighborhoods where we live and work. At Bank of America, we’re committed to giving back to the neighborhoods where we live and work. That’s whyRed we contribute our time, energy and support to Discovery these area organizations: American Lied Museum That’s why we Cross contribute our time, energy and support to these areaChildren’s organizations: Big Brothers Sisters Lutheran SocialChildren’s Services of Nevada American RedBig Cross Lied Discovery Museum Boys & Girls Clubs Make-A-Wish Foundation Brothers Big Sisters Social Services of Nevada Big Lutheran American Red Cross Lied Discovery Children’s Museum American Red Cross Lied Discovery Children’s Museum Candlelighters for Childhood Cancer Nathan Adelson Hospice Foundation BoysBrothers & Girls Clubs Make-A-Wish Foundation Big Big Sisters Lutheran Social Services of Nevada Big Brothers BigforSisters Lutheran SocialRadio Services of Nevada Catholic Charities Nevada Public Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Nathan Adelson Hospice Foundation Boys & Girls Clubs Make-A-Wish Foundation Boys & Girls Clubs Make-A-Wish Foundation Communities Infor Schools Opportunity Village Catholic Charities Nevada Public Radio Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Nathan Adelson Hospice Foundation Candlelighters for Childhood Cancer Nathan Adelson Hospice Foundation Community Services of Nevada Rebuilding Together Communities In Schools Opportunity Village Catholic Charities Nevada Public Radio Catholic Charities Nevada Public Radio The Financial Guidance Center Special Olympics Community Services of Nevada Rebuilding Together Communities In Schools Opportunity Village Communities In Schools Opportunity Village FIT Spread the Word Nevada The Financial Guidance Center Special Olympics Community Services of Nevada Rebuilding Together Community Services of Nevada Rebuilding Together Gay and Lesbian Community Center Teach for America FIT Financial Guidance Center Spread the Word Nevada The Special Olympics The Financial Guidance Center Special Olympics Goodwill Industries The First Tee of Southern Gay and Lesbian Community Center Teach for America FIT Spread the Word Nevada Nevada FIT Spread the Word Nevada Habitat for Humanity Las Vegas The Hundtridge Teen Goodwill Industries First Tee of Southern Gay and Lesbian Community Center Teach for America ClinicNevada Gay and Lesbian Community Center Teach for America HELP of for Southern Nevada The Education Foundation Habitat Humanity Las Vegas Hundtridge Clinic Goodwill Industries The Public First Tee of Teen Southern Nevada Goodwill Industries The First Tee of Southern Nevada Arts Housing for Nevada The Smith Center for the Performing HELP of for Southern Nevada Public Education Foundation Habitat Humanity Las Vegas The Hundtridge Teen Clinic Habitat for Humanity Las Vegas The Hundtridge Teen Clinic Junior Achievement Three Square Housing for Nevada Smith Center for the Performing Arts HELP of Southern Nevada The Public Education Foundation HELP of Southern Nevada The Public Education Foundation Las Vegas Natural History Museum United Way of Southern Nevada Junior Achievement Three Square Housing for Nevada The Smith Center for the Performing Arts Housing forRescue NevadaHistory The Smith Center for theNevada Performing Arts Las Vegas MissionMuseum University Vegas Foundation Natural United Wayof ofNevada-Las Southern Junior Achievement Three Square Junior Achievement Three Square Legal Aid Center Southern Nevada Vegas Las Vegas Rescue Mission University Vegas Foundation NaturalofHistory Museum United PBS WayofofNevada-Las Southern Nevada Las Vegas Natural History Museum United Way of Southern Nevada Lied Discovery Children’s Museum Women’s Development Center LegalVegas Aid Center ofMission Southern Nevada Vegas PBSof Nevada-Las Vegas Foundation Las Rescue University Las Rescue Mission University of Nevada-Las Vegas Foundation Lutheran Services of Nevada YMCA of Southern Nevada Lied Vegas Discovery Children’s Museum Women’s Development Center Legal Aid Social Center of Southern Nevada Vegas PBS Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada Vegas PBS Lutheran SocialChildren’s Services of Nevada YMCA of Southern Nevada Lied Discovery Museum Women’s Development Center Lied Discovery Children’s Museum Women’s Development Center Lutheran Social Services of Nevada YMCA of Southern Nevada For more information, stopofby any of our convenient banking or Nevada visit us at Lutheran Social Services Nevada YMCA ofcenters Southern For more information, stop by any of our convenient banking centers or visit us at For more information, stop by any of our convenient banking centers or visit us at For more information, stop by any of our convenient banking centers or visit us at

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Design experts discuss the cultural impact of the neon sign on “KNPR’s State of Nevada” at www.desertcompanion/hearmore


When to curve, when to flow


In Las Vegas, pioneering black architect Paul Revere Williams challenged established thinking — and challenged himself By Dorothy Wright

African-American architect Paul Revere Williams achieved international success in a profession that had very few black practitioners. Known for his restraint and elegance, he made a name for himself designing Colonial and Tudor-revival Hollywood mansions for well-known celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Desi Arnaz. He also collaborated on a wide range of public and private projects ranging from hotels, restaurants, housing tracts and municipal buildings. But it was in Las Vegas that he was able to let loose, relatively speaking. Indeed, what’s less known about Paul Revere Williams is that he designed a number of Las Vegas buildings, housing tracts — and even a futuristic monorail that was never built. Williams was born in Los Angeles’ garment district in 1894. His parents died when he was four, and he and his older brother were raised by separate foster families. His childhood was a relatively happy one. Williams has stated that he doesn’t recall experiencing racism until high school, when he expressed a wish to become an architect. He was soundly discouraged by his teachers. In 1912, Williams graduated from the famed Polytechnic High School in L.A. He then began methodically making the rounds of architectural firms seeking work. He promptly found it, and advanced quickly. He secured a position with a landscape architect, Wilbur D. Cook, Jr. After that, he worked at a number of important Los Angeles architectural firms. At the same time, he enrolled in engineering courses at the University of Southern California. Williams went to work for architect John C. Austin in 1921 and ended up heading the drafting department with a staff of 20. In 1921 Williams passed the Architecture Licensing Exam and opened his own office, while still working for Austin until 1924. They were later to collaborate on a number of important buildings. Early on, Williams set the credo that would direct his life. In his July, 1937 essay in American Magazine, “I Am a Negro,” Williams stated, “If I allow the fact that I am a Negro to checkmate my will to do, now, I will inevitably form the habit of being defeated.” Williams’ talent was fueled by an extraordinary capacity for work. One of his own anecdotes, frequently related in essays and articles, describes how he prepared a design for automobile magnate E.L. Cord in 24 hours, where other architects had asked for three weeks. He got

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Curves ahead: The La Concha under construction.

the job. Williams forged ahead of his competition, even with the challenge of being a black man in a nearly all-white profession, by taking on an enormous number of projects and by doing them faster, better and with more value for the dollar. Williams’ handful of Las Vegas projects, spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s, provides a telling window into his long international career as an award-winning architect. His completed Las Vegas projects included two housing tracts, a horse race park, a hotel, two motels and the Guardian Angel Cathedral on the Las Vegas Strip. Williams’ first project in Las Vegas began in what later became the

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City of Henderson, just south of Las Vegas, when he designed a housing tract for AfricanAmerican workers at the Basic Magnesium Incorporated (BMI) defense plant. Called Carver Park, the tract provided simple and affordable homes for hundreds of AfricanAmerican families who had been recruited from the Deep South to work in the factory making lightweight airplane parts. The selection of Williams for the Carver Park project was probably based partly on his having designed one of the first public housing projects in the country, Pueblo del Rio in Los Angeles. He also served from 1933 to 1941 on the Los Angeles Housing Commission, and was appointed in 1933 to the National Board of Municipal Housing. These experiences served him well when he designed Carver Park, which opened in October 1943. Williams made good on his concerns for working-class blacks when he signed on as the architect for Berkley Square in West Las Vegas. This project addressed the deplorable living conditions on Las Vegas’ West Side. After the war, hundreds of blacks stayed on and found other work. Lack of housing, however, was a problem. The 1955 Berkley Square subdivision, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, provided a turning point in providing decent housing in West Las Vegas. By that time, Williams was also involved in designing a small hotel on the Strip, the Royal Nevada, with California architect John Replogle. (He was also the architect, with Arthur Froehlich, for the short-lived Las Vegas Race Track in the early ’50s.) The year the Royal Nevada opened, 1955, was not a good one for new hotels, with the Moulin Rouge opening and closing within several months and the Stardust construction delayed due to the untimely demise of its owner, gambler Tony Cornero, who died at a Desert Inn craps table. In 1958, the Stardust construction was completed and the hotel opened, in the process swallowing up the ill-fated Royal Nevada Hotel for use as the Stardust’s convention center. B u s i ness as u nusual Williams’ next Las Vegas project would prove to be memorable. In 1959, Los Angeles real estate developer M.K. Doumani purchased a parcel just south of the Riviera with 960 feet of Strip frontage. Doumani and his two sons, Edward and Fred, decided to develop the property themselves. It took two years to secure the financing, hire an architect

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Feeling just shell: The La Concha in its original environs on the south Strip.

and build what would become one of the most recognizable and unusual structures on the Strip, the La Concha Motel. After hiring Paul Revere Williams, Ed Doumani met with him in his Los Angeles office. Doumani described Paul Williams as very well-dressed, wearing a three-piece suit. The Doumanis explained that they wanted something unusual and eye-catching, but left it up to the architect to decide on the direction and the theme. “I sat across his desk from him while he drew a sketch—backwards and upside down,” Doumani has said. The three flowing arches of the conch shell took shape. The La Concha has been referred to as Googie architecture, a sub-category of MidCentury Modern that celebrates pop culture and Space-age design with swooping, exuberant lines. Williams was not known for his Googie-style designs; however, his later work included several more subdued Mid-Century Modern buildings. The La Concha — something of an anomaly for Williams — still shows his characteristic love of curves and graceful, flowing lines. The La Concha’s engineering is one-of-akind, not easily replicable today. The lobby’s exterior structure is a web of reinforced steel in the shape of the shell, covered with concrete. The motel section was a more conven-

Throwing a curve: Paul Revere Williams

tional two-story rectangle of 100 rooms but, with its dramatic façade, the whole complex made a memorable impact on tourists driving from Los Angeles. The La Concha blended high design and hands-on construction, with the two Doumani sons helping to build the interior block walls. The Doumani family described how, to save

Monomania: A rendering of Williams’ Skylift

Train that could

P hoto cr e dit: la co n cha co n str u ctio n , la co n cha , pa u l r e v e r e williams a n d skylift r e n d e ri n g co u rt e sy n e vada stat e m u s e u m

Williams’ would-be monorail

One of Williams’ last Las Vegas projects did not come to fruition, but it illustrates the characteristic beauty and grace of his designs in a futuristic setting. In 1966, Williams was hired as designer and consultant for a Las Vegas monorail project to be built by Guerdon Industries, in collaboration with Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Publicity material said: “Car styling, station design, and track architectural conformity for the Las Vegas SKYLIFT will be at the direction of Mr. Paul R. Williams, FAIA, noted architect and consultant. His reputation is such as to assure that all aspects of this installation will be aesthetically pleasing.” The elevated monorail, called the Skylift Magi-Cab, was to carry passengers in “noiseless, four-passenger gondolas.” The route began at McCarran Airport, continuing along the Strip to a downtown transit hub, with 15 stops along the way. The $17,000,000 cost was a pittance compared to today’s billion-plus budgets for Strip hotels. Six Strip hotels endorsed the project, as well as the Downtown Association. Why wasn’t the Skylift built? Although the monorail was touted as providing as much flexibility as the automobile, this imaginative mass transit project may have been doomed by Americans’ devotion to their singlefamily cars. — D.W. | 49

history money, they shopped at a local hardware store for off-the-shelf dropped light fixtures for the nine bays in the lobby. Yet they spared no expense in other areas. They built a huge, towering neon sign whose base was the distinctive stylized La Concha logo. That sign has been restored and is on display in the Neon Museum Boneyard, where the restored La Concha now serves as the lobby. S h e l l ga me By the year 2000, with the building boom exploding, the Doumani family planned to build a non-gaming luxury residential hotel on the property. At the same time, they were reluctant to demolish their legacy, the La Concha. They looked for an appropriate steward for their treasured building. (The hotel was never built; ultimately, the family sold the property to another developer.) The Neon Museum was just then embarking on a major long-term fundraising campaign to build a permanent visitors’ center that would lead into its outdoor display of

Melvyn Green determined that the building could, in fact, be successfully … cut apart and put back together? Yes. unrestored signs, known as the Neon Boneyard. The Museum had been operating from a borrowed office, with visitation by appointment only. It needed an on-site visitors’ center to make the signs available to visitors on a full-time basis. The project was an ideal marriage of history, architecture and artifact. Historic preservationists, especially fans of Mid-Century Modern — locally and from around the country — lent their support for saving the La Concha. Fans of historic Las Vegas neon signs voiced their support from around the world. In 2005, the Doumani family agreed to donate the building to the Neon Museum. After

determining there was no route to transport the 28-foot tall lobby without hitting the freeway overpass, a feasibility study conducted by structural engineer Melvyn Green determined that the building could be successfully … cut apart and put back together? Yes. Although the project was risky, it was given the go-ahead. Over the next two years the needed funds were raised, primarily from federal, state and local grants. The City of Las Vegas provided land under a long-term lease for the La Concha. The City had previously received federal funding to build an adjacent “Neon Park,” which would provide an attractive and secure block wall fence to encircle the


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entire Neon Museum campus of park, Boneyard and Visitors’ Center. In December 2006, while onlookers from the Neon Museum held their breath, the first cut was made into the concrete-covered spider-web of rebar. Fortunately, the building didn’t crumble and the contractor proceeded to slice it into eight pieces. The La Concha Lobby was then moved on flatbed trucks to the site next to the Neon Boneyard. When the Museum, working with the City of Las Vegas, finally obtained enough grant funding, the shell was reassembled in 2008. The final phase of the project broke ground in fall 2011. L egacy by desig n Williams, who died in 1980, completed two more Las Vegas projects, the El Morocco Motel, also for the Doumani family, and the Guardian Angel Cathedral, which still stands on the Strip, before he retired from practice in 1973. Over the course of his 50-year career, he designed thousands of important buildings and contributed to many more. His career had great value, and even more when considering his struggles in that era as a black man in a mostly white field. Williams’ work is now celebrated at the University of Memphis in Tennessee, which has set up a permanent online archive called the Paul R. Williams Project, in partnership with the American Institute for Architects. (www. Ironically, Williams may end up being known for a building that wasn’t the most representative of his lifetime of work. The La Concha Motel was a project that Paul R. Williams must have had some fun with, although he may not have thought of it as one of his more significant. But when millions of people get a chance to see the building restored and functioning as the Neon Museum’s Visitors’ Center, Paul Williams’ name will live on as the man who designed it. Dorothy Wright has been active in historic preservation in Las Vegas since the late 1970s. During her 22 years with Clark County’s Cultural Division, she worked on a number of preservation projects, including writing the successful National Register nomination for the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. She is currently the Chair of the City of Las Vegas Historic Preservation Commission, and has been a Neon Museum board member since 2003. She co-authored a recent book published by the Neon Museum, “Spectacular: The History of Las Vegas Neon.”

It’s easiest to prevent the devastating effects of bullying when you can stop it at the source. So we have to rewrite the story from the beginning. Each of us is responsible for intervening in a bad situation. Sometimes it’s telling an adult and sometimes it’s acting like an adult. But it’s never to look the other way. Take the pledge today at | 51

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T h e 1 6 th A n n u a l


Downtown upstarts with fresh moves and fine-dining citadels on the Strip upending their own traditions — 2012 was a year of surprises, mashups and fertile chaos. The gastropub dished up a remix of the artisanal and casual; desserts refused their status as sweet epilogues and rushed the stage; and Vegas culinary institutions strove anew not to just meet a standard, but to forge a new one. Our 16th Annual Restaurant Awards reflect a year of renewed energy and bright-eyed enterprise. This year in culinary excellence moves even us to forget our manners: Would it be rude to ask for seconds? | 55

Bartender of the Year

Roger Gross

Vesper Bar In The Cosmopolitan, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

What makes a great bartender? It helps if he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke, maybe the cheerful sense there’s no place he’d rather be. How about an awardwinning mixologist at the Strip’s hottest bar with a killer Christopher Walken impression? Yeah, that ought to do it. But those are only some of the reasons Vesper Bar’s Roger Gross is the drink slinger you should be seeking out. You’ll find Gross plying his skills for locals and tourists alike at The Cosmopolitan’s fanciful take on the standard hotel lobby bar. Whether you’re ordering on- or off-menu, he’s bound to find something meeting your tastes — just provide him some general parameters and let him run with it. Tell him your liquor of choice and taste preferences — spicy? sweet? fruity? frozen? — and you’re on your way. You may end up with a cocktail with habañero syrup, cherry bark bitters or an absinthe ice sphere — whatever it is, rest assured it’ll be memorable. (Just don’t ask him to make you an RBV — Red Bull and vodka. That’s like asking Picasso to do paint-by-numbers.) Do come with an open mind, some time to kill and realize that not only is he your favorite bartender, he’s also everyone else’s. You’re bound to find a new favorite cocktail — and maybe be treated to a ridiculously good Walken. — Jim Begley Cocktail Bar of the Year

Herbs & Rye 3713 W. Sahara Ave. 982-8036,

Every bar has a Prohibition-era cocktail menu these days. Every joint wants to be a speakeasy. This seems strange — isn’t trying to stop people from drinking fundamentally unVegasy? But it’s our way of celebrating the madness of the past, especially since those old drinks are delicious and mostly simple. The best place to consume them, then, would have to be a bar where simplicity and appreciation of cocktail history is embedded in the house philosophy, and Herbs & Rye is that place. It’s an after-hours industry fave 56 | Desert

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and a purist’s vision of perfection, and with our big fancy hotels upgrading their beverage programs to produce tremendous cocktail bars in casinos and restaurants, there’s something incredibly charming about spending your time in this seemingly modest west-central haunt. Owner and booze historian Nectaly Mendoza makes sure everything is made in-house, every ancient recipe — from Blood and Sand to Moscow Mule — is followed faithfully, and every customer finds his drink of choice. It won’t take long to find a favorite, but you could spend a lifetime exploring and educating yourself from the cocktail menu, which can be just as contemporary as classic. Just about three years old, Herbs & Rye has truly hit its boozy stride and is an integral part of our cocktail community. — Brock Radke

Trend of the Year

Elite Yelp reviewers pick their faves of 2012

R o g e r G r o ss , HERB S & RYE a n d C u l i n a r y D r o p o u t: C h r isto p h e r S m it h ; Ta c o A d o b a d a : S a b i n ORR

Dish of the Year Seared ahi tuna at The Barrymore The boyfriend and I were celebrating our anniversary, and this melt-in-your-mouth seared ahi tuna had my guy exclaiming, “I’m having a foodie moment!” No predictable Asian fusion preparation here. This pesce is paired with comforting accompaniments. It’s served atop a decadent polenta and given a touch of earthiness from a porcini ragout. Braised greens lend texture and add a pungent flavor, while the pinot noir reduction is the lightly sweet, umami ribbon that wraps up this piquant package. My only regret: sharing. Love makes you do irrational things. (99 Convention Center Drive, 407-5303, barrymorelv. com) — Jade Webber Cocktail of the year The Hummingbird at The Martini Served in a generous carafe that pours plenty for two, The Hummingbird is a light and zingy mix of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, soda and brut champagne served on the rocks with a twist. Its divine floral and lychee flavors will send it through your straw and down your throat a little quicker than necessary — making you glad your carafe is still half full. Sipping this fizzy treat in one of the cozy chairs by the fireplace makes for a truly delightful libation. (1205 S. Fort Apache Road, 2278464, — Robyn Lew


Unless you happen to have a taste for smoked kippers and fruitcake, there are few culinary traditions for which we can thank the British. Co-opting the gastropub was our only smart steal. What started with Todd English’s P.U.B. in 2009 has finally become its own independent dining category over the past year. Las Vegans are now free to choose from a number of restaurants for upscale pub grub: roasted bone marrow and brown ale from Public House at the Venetian; fish and chips with a Fat Tire at the Hard Rock’s new Culinary Dropout; or poutine with a Prohibition punch at Comme Ça’s “Gastropub Mondays.” Chef Gordon Ramsay is also getting in the mix with a namesake pub and grill that’s expected to open by the end of the year. At this rate, we can soon eradicate our own less-thanstellar traditions of pre-frozen shrimp cocktails and cheap, chewy steak dinners. — Debbie Lee

Public offering: Culinary Dropout is a new entry in the gastropub craze.

DEAL i c i o u s M e a l of the Year

Taco adobada Tacos El Gordo 1724 E. Charleston Blvd. | 251-8226; 3049 Las Vegas Blvd. S. | 641-8228

What would you pay for the most joyously delicious taco in your city? I have no problem paying almost six bucks for one tiny duck tongue taco at Cosmopolitan’s China Poblano, or even a ten spot for the lobster taco. But that’s on the Strip, where there’s no such thing as cheap, fantastic street food — wrong! Cooks at the finest restaurants of the Wynn and Encore resorts routinely sneak out on the job to run next door and feast on Tijuana’s own Tacos El Gordo, where the sublimely spicy and succulent taco adobada (pork, pineapple, avocado crema, cilantro and onions) is two freaking dollars. Wrapped in two griddlecrisped, chewy corn tortillas and exploding with full-range flavor, this is the best taco in Vegas, at any price. I’ll take four with an icy can of Coca-Cola, feast on the patio in the shadows of Echelon’s steel skeleton and marvel at how amazing an $11 meal can be. — Brock Radke | 57

Surprise of the Year

In Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. | 731-7110,

It’s not surprising Caesars’ $17 million Bacchanal Buffet renovation would result in a meal worth experiencing. What’s surprising is exactly how good it is. The early accolades have been numerous, the mind-numbing lines indicate people have taken notice — but the attention to detail makes the Bacchanal Buffet even better than it’s been made out to be. Note: This praise is coming from a non-buffet guy. Consider the fried chicken — boasting delicate, crunchy buttermilk batter with just the right amount of spice. Its secret recipe might make this chicken the best in the valley, at least according to my Southernborn wife who’s quite the expert on such things. The broccoli and cheese certainly is the best in valley (even if they are cheating a little bit on this one by frying the broccoli to retain its firmness). Even the tonkatsu ramen is being served up by a former Monta chef. That’s dedication. And then there’s dry-aged lollipop ribeye — one of a multitude of rotating meats available at the carving station, including thick slab bacon. This is the same cut they’re serving at Old Homestead. But here, it’s a fraction of the price and is worth the cost of admission alone. With more than 500 items continually being rotated onto the lines, you’re bound to find something that amazes. Just don’t be surprised at the wait — and don’t be surprised when you find it more than worth the wait. — Jim Begley

Clockwise from upper left: With sophisticated desserts, fresh seafood, dim sum and a mind-boggling pasta station, the Bacchanal Buffet has what most buffets lack: attention to detail.

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Elite Yelp reviewers pick their faves of 2012 Breakfast of the Year Bread & Butter Stepping into this unassuming neighborhood joint, your eyes are immediately drawn to the dizzying array of red velvet bagels, Nutella banana muffins, PB&J brioche and other creations that could only be dreamt up by Chef Chris Herrin. Beyond the countertop of sweets, the open kitchen perfumes the air with savory options made to order, from country ham and egg waffle sandwiches smothered with a rosemary béchamel to breakfast pizzas topped with eggs, caramelized onions, mozzarella and potato. Like its namesake, Bread & Butter brilliantly combines sustenance with indulgence when it comes to the first meal of the day. (10940 S. Eastern Ave. #107, 675-3300, — Christopher Shen Drink of the Year (Non-Alcoholic) Yuzu soda at Café de Japon This is the only place in town for true yuzu soda, just like street vendors sell in Japan. It has a pungent and citrus-y zing, but also a touch of sweetness — that’s the complex yuzu fruit for you. The soda also has yuzu rind at the bottom, giving it an extra fresh pop. At the café, the soda is served in a Mason jar. In a hurry? Hop in and take it to go. (5300 Spring Mountain Road #101, 4318038, — Lisa Rubin

BACCHANAL BU F F E T a n d Pa o l o B a r b i e r i : CHR I S TOPHER S M I T; U n i a n d to m ato c r e a m s a u c e s pa g h e tti : S a b i n ORR

Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace

S o mm e l i e r o f t h e Y e a r

Paolo Barbieri

Scarpetta In The Cosmopolitan, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S. 877-893-2003,

If you’re eating at celebrity chef Scott Conant’s quietly brilliant Italian room Scarpetta, you really need to do the signature tasting menu. That way, you’ll get to experience two of Las Vegas’ best pastas, the classic spaghetti with tomato and basil and the rich short rib agnolotti. And if you’re tasting this menu, you really must go with the wine pairing, because it’s pretty amazing how the hefty red berry notes from a glass of Il Poggione Rosso Di Montalcino, a 2008 Tuscany, hold their own against both dishes. Master sommelier Paolo Barbieri will happily pour whatever you like, but it might be best to let him pick. He’s worked all over the world, helped build the dining dynasties at Bellagio and Wynn, snagged a Wine Spectator Grand Award for Alex Stratta’s restaurant right before it closed, and now he’s having a great time giving you Italy’s best stuff at Scarpetta (and some shockingly great bargains at D.O.C.G.) next door. Barbieri’s seemingly unlimited knowledge and casual, charming manner add a new dimension to both restaurants. And if he wants to share his own wine — smooth and sultry syrahs from Santa Barbara County — by all means, let the guy do his thing. — Brock Radke

Ethnic Restaurant of the Year

Trattoria Nakamura-Ya 5040 W. Spring Mountain Road #5 | 251-0022

Over the last few years, the valley has witnessed a Japanese restaurant onslaught. Sushi joints have long been an fixture throughout town, but recently we’ve been introduced to other, less-heralded aspects of Japanese cuisine. Ramen joints and izakayas are becoming more plentiful, and we even have our own kissaten and an edomae sushi joint. But probably the most interesting of the group is Trattoria Nakamura-Ya, serving Tokyo-style pasta from the burgeoning Tokyo Plaza at Decatur and Spring Mountain. Nakamura Ya’s Tokyo-style pastas are pretty straightforward — Italian pasta dishes you’re familiar

with, using Asian ingredients you may not be, with a heavy emphasis on seafood. This means combinations such as a surprisingly light and amazingly addictive miso carbonara pasta and an otherworldly uni and tomato cream sauce spaghetti — the latter is one of the best dishes in town and worth the nomination alone. A little more challenging is the squid ink pasta, whose eponymous ingredient will leave you with lips like a goth but is worth seeking out. While the menu is pasta-centric, there are options for those avoiding carbs. The free-range fried jidori chicken is a menu staple, while salads combining seasonal fish and greens rotate and are always worth a taste. Be sure to check both chalkboards and the menu before ordering, as specials change daily. And do be sure to save room for the soy milk panna cotta with Okinawan black sugar sauce, an example of how surprisingly good Japanese desserts can be. — Jim Begley

Ocean-size flavor: Trattoria Nakamura-Ya's uni and tomato cream sauce spaghetti | 59

Pastry Chef of the Year

Steve Yi Gordon Ramsay Steak In Paris Las Vegas, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S. | 946-4663,

Ultra-famous chef Gordon Ramsay’s first Las Vegas restaurant opened this year with lofty expectations; that anticipation was only amplified by the fact that his debut would be a steakhouse. We couldn’t wait to see what it would feel and taste like. Gordon Ramsay Steak doesn’t disappoint, but it doesn’t surprise anyone, either — until you arrive at dessert. That’s where Steve Yi comes in. His varied Vegas experience — he’s been at MGM Grand, Wynn, Venetian, Hard Rock and The Cosmopolitan — manifests in scintillating translations of creamy classics like cheesecake with graham cracker crust, blueberry compote and strawberry granita, and heavenly panna cotta with honeydew consommé and watermelon sorbet. Delicate banana-toffee tarts are graced with cocoa nibs and coffee ice cream, an overload of indulgence. If the only treat on Yi’s list was the sticky toffee pudding, he’d still be my pick for this award. Instantly my favorite dessert in the city, this megamoist, dense yet fluffy pudding cake melts with notes of caramel, toffee and brown sugar; you’ll have to force yourself to slow down and cherish each spoonful (and you might not even make it to the whimsical brown butter ice cream on the other side of the plate). On a famed street where so many magnificent pastry pros ply their trade nightly, it’s difficult to discover a standout. That this chef complements — and crowns — a terrific and complete experience at this superb new restaurant proves Yi is a star. — Brock Radke

Pouring it on: Steve Yi's signature sticky toffee pudding

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App e t i z e r o f t h e Y e a r

Elite Yelp reviewers pick their faves of 2012 Service of the Year Parma by Chef Marc Parma chef/owner Marc Sgrizzi works the room like Sinatra, gladly creating offmenu items the Chairman would approve. Server Krisztian Odor’s charm and memory for your favorite wine and dishes (even my dad’s beloved caponata) demonstrate exceptional service. Spectacular — and unsolicited — desserts arrive on special occasions, and Jedi action includes running a wayward to-go box to the parking lot. The Chef’s Table is presented with forethought, passion and delight, featuring spoton wine pairings. The whole team is tops, but Krisztian’s contagious smile always leads me to request him when making reservations. (7591 W. Washington Ave. # 110, 233-6272, — Christie Olds

King Crab Taro Taco Mizumi In Wynn Las Vegas, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S. 770-3463,

The transformation of Wynn’s Okada restaurant into the fresh, innovative Mizumi was a highlight of the dining year. It also marked a big step into the limelight for rising star chef Devin Hashimoto, another veteran of the former Alex restaurant. But after a few lovely meals at Mizumi, all I can think about is how I wish Hashimoto would quit the Wynn life to start a minitaco truck and patrol our neighborhoods with unlimited crunchy, tiny goodness. His taro tacos, using a lightly fried disc of this slightly sweet tuber as shell, may be the perfect beginning bite — filled with moist king crab leg meat, cucumber relish, citrus-tinged crème fraîche and tomburi seeds — but I’d rather eat a whole plate of them. Only a true talent can pack that much flavor into a single mouthful. — Brock Radke

P h oto g r a p h y S a b i n ORR

Ambiance of the Year La Cave at Wynn Las Vegas La Cave has three distinct spaces, each with its own sultry vibe. The first boasts a cozy bar that feels like a wine cellar. The second, separated by an arched portcullis, is reminiscent of a scene from “Casablanca,” with torchères and low ceilings creating a more intimate atmosphere. Finally, the patio. When we rounded the corner to be seated here, I literally gasped. Cathedral ceilings, tied-back drapes, candlelit tables with wicker chairs and lush lagoon views transported me right out of Vegas and into a Tahitian dream. I’ll return for the ambiance alone. (3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 770-7375, — Kathryn Bailey Rose

Signature Dish of the Year

Beef Wellington

Gordon Ramsay Steak In Paris Las Vegas, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S. 946-4663,

When the culinary star of “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Kitchen Nightmares,” “MasterChef” and other shows announced he’d be opening a Vegas steakhouse with a British twist, skepticism flared in my hungry brain. Two things, though: I wasn’t thinking about how Gordon Ramsay has a dozen Michelin stars to go with what seems like dozens

of TV shows, and I didn’t know people still eat Beef Wellington. Ramsay’s version of the seemingly simple, nearly impossible-to-perfect traditional dish is more than a new standardbearer; it’s a meaty maturation. Leading off the “signatures” section of Ramsay’s menu and available as an order for two — the holiday dinner of our dreams — this Wellington is a dry-aged tenderloin hand-selected by legendary beef baron Pat LaFrieda, enclosed in a shell of flaky pastry, magically baked to optimal deliciousness and served with roasted root vegetables and potato puree by chef de cuisine Kevin Hee. One beautiful plate is all it took to change this eater’s impression of what British food can be. — Brock Radke | 61

Barbecue of the Year Road Kill Grill The catering arm of popular longtime butcher John Mull’s Meats transformed into Road Kill Grill this year to get some TV time on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” That’d be sketchy if this wasn’t some of the best barbecue in Vegas, with well-spiced, crispy-skinned chicken quarters and juicy, sauce-saturated pulled pork. The clincher: The sides are awesome, too, especially the gooeyrich mac and cheese. 3730 Thom Blvd., 645-1200, BR

Slice of the Year Secret Pizza at The Cosmopolitan This once-clandestine destination is hardly a secret anymore, but it’s still the best place on the Strip for a New York slice. Authenticity is not judged by the crust, but by the napkin test: a quick dab over the cheese absorbs an even film of orange grease — just like home. 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S.,

698-7860, DL

Noodles of the Year Beijing Noodle Café One cardinal rule of dining: If a restaurant has a dish in its name, it’s bound to be good — even if it’s as ubiquitous as noodles. Beijing Noodle Café does not disappoint, serving three cuts of daily handmade noodles: machine (think spaghetti), hand (like fettuccini), and knife (you’ll have to check it out yourself). The sauces and soups are solely a backdrop for the majestic pasta, but beware: These will ruin you for dried noodles forever.

4130 S. Sandhill Road, 641-0666 JB

Neighborhood Treat of the Year Freddy’s Frozen Custard Okay, it’s a chain. But it’s new to Henderson, and bonus points for having pretty decent burgers and outstanding thin-and-crispy French fries. The real treasure, though, is the Coney Island-style frozen custard, thicker and creamier than ice cream, and available in sundae form (get The Turtle, with caramel, hot fudge and pecans!) or a Concrete, which is kind of like a Dairy Queen Blizzard. Either way, it’s cool and indulgent. 9809

S. Eastern Ave., 434-3733, BR

This Year’s Dish I Always Ordered Even Though I Kept Telling Myself to Branch Out Pork Tenderloin at Mundo Variety may be the spice of life, but when it comes to Mundo’s spicy pork tenderloin, who

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270-4400, Julie Hession

Guilty Pleasure of the Year The Western at Luv-It Custard Luv-It Custard’s Western is a classic guilty pleasure — a quintessential hot fudge, caramel and pecan sundae that’s too rich to finish with a clear conscience, but too good to share. Somehow, though, I suspect you’ll work your way through the guilt. Better yet, you’ll be supporting a business that earned its 15 minutes thanks to a skittish comedian scared of a little urban grit. Google “Mindy Kaling Luv-It” to see what I mean — and then go get that Western. 505 E. Oakey,

384-6452, JB

Obsession of the Year KoMex Fusion Express My obsession should also be yours. I can’t think of a more addictive dish in the valley than KoMex’s bulgogi-fried rice, aka Jim’s Fried Rice. Are there other great dishes on the menu? Sure, but I’m all about the amalgam of smoky/sweet in this marinated Korean beef fusion dish. I liked it so much they named it after me, so I believe at this point I’m legally obligated to order the stuff. You should be, too. 633 N. Decatur Blvd. #H, 646-

1612, JB

Dinner Series of the Year Farm-to-Strip, First Food and Bar If Chef Sam DeMarco gained notoriety by adding barbecue pork to egg rolls and Doritos to mac and cheese, imagine what he can do with pristine ingredients from local farmers and meat purveyors. His monthly dinners — a celebration of sustainability — prove that you don’t have to look far to eat well. 3327 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 607-

3478, DL

Sleeper Hit of the Year Café de Japon The concept behind Café de Japon — a Japanese coffeehouse, or kissaten — is somewhat surprising; even more so is the fact that the food actually isn’t all that Japanese. Kissatens arose after WWII in Japan while American GIs were plentiful, serving American comfort food using readily available Asian ingredients. So while the suspiciously familiar spaghetti and multiple Hamburg steak variants make sense, nothing explains the ridiculously good ribeye with black bean sauce. It’s probably the valley’s best restaurant you’ve never actually been to. 5300 Spring Mountain

Road #101, 431-8038 JB

Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year

Parma by Chef Marc 7591 W. Washington #110 233-6272,

As is the case with most off-Strip gems, Parma by Marc is tucked away in a nondescript strip mall. The restaurant signage exclaims a decidedly longer run-on restaurant name, Parma Pastavino & Deli by Chef Marc, and inside you’ll find a hybrid space that’s equal parts deli, wine lounge, retail space and restaurant. Such schizophrenia is forgivable, because Chef Marcus Sgrizzi is dishing out the valley’s best Italian cuisine this side of Rao’s in a manner unparalleled off-Strip. Housemade pastas, a hallmark of any good Italian kitchen, are only the beginning on the continually changing dinner menu. Both the pappardelle Bolognese and the butternut squash agnolotti in brown butter are normally available and highly recommended. Rarer are specials such as an unforgettable ahi tuna Bolognese — commonly served on Fridays during Lent — and an immaculate and wonderfully layered veal saltimbocca. But the best way to experience Parma is to order the Chef’s Table and let Sgrizzi pick your dishes while you enjoy a leisurely dinner. Composed of only the night’s freshest offerings, the selections will give you the best opportunity to experience the restaurant through his eyes (and is even better with the reasonably priced wine-pairing option). In between courses, he’ll visit your table to affably discuss the what, why and how of the wonderful dishes. Tableside chef visits during a tasting menu in a strip mall? Only one of many reasons why Parma by Chef Marc is a rarity and a must-visit. — Jim Begley

Pa r m a : S a b i n o r r ; D e ss e r t: C h r isto p h e r S m it h

Highlights, delights and notable bites from the year in dining

needs variety? Chef Robert Solano’s “Latin chic” entrée features four thick, spice-crusted slices that sit atop a glossy pool of tamarind ancho chile glaze. Garnished with a refreshingly sweet mango relish and served with your choice of a side, the portion is generous enough to share (not that you’ll want to) or take home for tomorrow’s lunch. 495 S. Grand Central Parkway,

Pasta perfect: Left, Parma's pappardelle Bolognese; top right, butternut squash agnolotti in brown butter; below, Chef Marc Sgrizzi

Dessert of the Year

Salted Caramel Budino at D.O.C.G. In The Cosmopolitan, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S. | 698-7000,

Normally languishing at the end of a meal, dessert can be the unintended casualty of a fulfilling dining experience. Without proper planning, you may find yourself chock-full from appetizers and entrées before even perusing dessert selections. Do not fear, as with a little preparation you’ll prevent this unfortunate predicament from occurring at The Cosmopolitan’s D.O.C.G. Enoteca, home to a dessert worth planning your day around: the salted caramel budino. This Italian dessert is a simple vanilla pudding topped with an oh-so-wonderfully balanced salted caramel sauce — an ethereal, addictive amalgam of salty and sweet. Served alongside a pretzel brittle mimicking the dish’s own flavor combination, it’s a perfect conclusion to a meal (one that should always include the grilled filone, smoky yeast bread served alongside a duck egg fondue for dipping). With some good planning, you’ll have yourself quite a memorable meal. – Jim Begley | 63

Elite Yelp reviewers pick their faves of 2012

New Restaurant of the Year

Le Thai

523 Fremont St. | 778-0888,

This was supposed to be the “Year of Downtown,” and maybe it was, considering the arrival of The Smith Center, the Mob Museum and the renovated Neon Museum. But precious few exciting restaurants have popped up in our original city center, which makes the impact of Le Thai, opened in late 2011, seem even greater. When was the last time a downtown dining venue amassed the power to attract suburban eaters from Summerlin, Green Valley and even Southern Highlands? Chef/owner Daniel Coughlin’s hip, tiny palace of spiciness has done the impossible, shifting foodie buzz from the Strip and Chinatown to little old Fremont East, boosted by daily (sometimes twice daily) visits from the small crowd of urban adventurers who are attempting to remake downtown. Never lost in the hype is how consistently good Coughlin’s cuisine is, soulful street food versions of favorites like pad Thai, spicy meatball soup and waterfall beef with sweet, sticky rice. Spring brought the opening of Le Thai’s comfy back patio space, and it filled up as quickly as it arrived. I never thought I’d stand and wait 15 minutes for a table in a small downtown restaurant, and perhaps that’s the best compliment I can give to the addictive nature of the Awesome Noodles, the spicy and sweet combination of flat rice noodles, chicken, eggs, bean sprouts, green onions and a tangy fish sauce with a heavy chili kick. If a true downtown dining revolution ensues, Le Thai was the spark. — Brock Radke

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Use your noodle: Top, Le Thai's popular pad Thai; below, Awesome Noodles featuring rice noodles, chicken, eggs and a chili kick

Date Spot of the Year Twin Creeks at The Silverton hotel-casino Twin Creeks’ low-lit, cushy setting is quiet enough to carry on a conversation, while lounge music sets a sexy mood. First-date jitters? Sip them away with my favorite: the orange-vanilla-infused bourbon TC Manhattan. Tapas are great icebreaker fare, too, when you’re experiencing the same tastes together. And you’ll seal the deal at a steal: Twin Creeks’ half-off tapas and cocktails happy hour (8 p.m. to close, daily) at the lounge makes for a deal-ightful date option. To really impress your date, ask about the off-menu specials. You can thank me at your wedding. (3333 Blue Diamond Road, 263-7777, — Jade Webber

L e T HA I : S AB I N ORR ; D av e Mi d d l e to n , D u c k a n d S a l m o n : C h r isto h p e r S m it h

Best-Kept Secret of the Year Yummy Grill & Sushi Forget the rolls and bento boxes. Feasting on an omakase dinner here is a great opportunity for Chef Eric and his team to showcase some of the freshest seafood from around the world. Live seafood includes abalone, sweet-spot prawns, some of the freshest sea urchins from Santa Barbara, plump sea scallops from Boston and fatty o-toro from Spain. Die-hard sushitarians will appreciate Japanese specialties such as kohada, mirugai, shimaaji, and ji-kinmedai direct from Kyushu and the Tsukiji Market in Japan. (7331 W. Lake Mead Blvd. #105, 562-8668) — Nelson Queja

French connections: Top, David Middleton's crispy maple leaf duck breast; below, Alaskan Skuna Bay salmon with olive-bell pepper tapenade

Chef of the Year

David Middleton Marché Bacchus 2620 Regatta Drive #106 804-8008,

Marché Bacchus has always been a treasure, from the day Gregoire and Agathe Verge opened the unexpectedly quaint local wine shop 12 years ago. When neighbors and regulars Jeff and Rhonda Wyatt bought what had become a quietly popular French bistro in 2007, they had a vision to transform it into something more than a great neighborhood spot. A handful of talented chefs have taken a turn at this reimagining, but only now has the kitchen exerted such immense force, pushing its menu to new heights and pulling its Desert Shores audience of eaters into that greater being. David Middleton, veteran of Strip dining rooms Fleur de Lys, Alex, David Burke and

Scarpetta, took over as executive chef late last year, hand-picked by consulting chef Alex Stratta. Encouraged by the ambitious Wyatts, Middleton made his changes slowly and slyly to keep from shocking the fickle lakeside regulars. Favorite dishes still linger: obligatory onion soup, cheese and charcuterie platters, and brunch’s sweetly decadent lobster salad croissant. But after a year of tinkering and teasing, Middleton has evolved Marché Bacchus into comfy bistro by day and brilliant brasserie by night. His precise style is deftly demonstrated at dinner with artful, memorable dishes. Tartare of hand-cut hanger steak. Maple leaf duck breast with orange-braised fennel and black pepper jus. Braised beef short rib, just as tender and rich as it always was at Alex. A traditional torchon of foie gras with strawberry-jalapeño gelée and luxurious duck fat-grilled bread. Middleton is the first chef at Marché Bacchus to acknowledge that perhaps the culinary intelligence and curiosity of the local dining populace is on the rise, and his risks are our rewards. — Brock Radke | 65

Restaurant of the Year

Restaurant Guy Savoy The truth is that Las Vegas’ finest French dining rooms — all of which nod to genre-defining classic cuisine while dramatically reaching for a more contemporary edge — could all be the Restaurant of the Year, every year. There is no lack of consistency, or thrills, nor is there any boring eating happening at Robuchon, L’Atelier, Le Cirque, Twist or Picasso. The question is: How do you advance what is already universally recognized as a once-in-a-lifetime gastronomic experience? How do you improve on perfection? The answer: Since this is Vegas, you double down. For the first time since he arrived at Caesars Palace in the spring of 2006, the world-renowned master Guy Savoy completely changed the menu at his only U.S. restaurant. But he didn’t just refresh and reload with brilliant new dishes like Australian Wagyu beef with saffron sponge cake and decadent foie gras with horseradish and savory bouillon that tastes startlingly like potato chips. In an era when the Strip finds itself cutting rates and casualizing every part of its experience, Savoy and his gifted, 25-year-old Vegas lieutenant Mathieu Chartron unleashed Innovation-Inspiration, a 13-course, $348 menu featuring never-beforeseen dishes. It feels like a defiant, brilliant strike against those who claim fine dining is dead, or at least recognition that in Las Vegas, there will always be strong demand for ultimate over-the-topness. From the salmon “cooked” tableside on dry ice, to the whimsical mango-and-yogurt dessert that visually impersonates a sunny-side up egg, there’s no other meal like it. Big, bold moves haven’t made Restaurant Guy Savoy unapproachable. Beloved bites like artichoke and truffle soup, crispy sea bass and butter-roasted veal sweetbreads remain; try the $258 Signature menu for the greatest hits. The as-you-like-it options and warm service that set such a high standard six years ago are as welcoming as ever. And now, with this exhilarating new energy, choosing from among the Strip’s top tier of restaurants just became an easy move. — Brock Radke 66 | Desert

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P h oto g r a p h y S a b i n ORR

In Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. | 877-346-4642,

Savoy fare: Opposite page, oysters three ways; this page, salmon iceberg "cooked" on dry ice; chilled chocolate | 67


a second helping

2013 promises a delicious dining comeback — all over the valley | by Brock Radke It’s too easy to look back at 2012 at brush it off as an uneventful year across the Las

Vegas restaurant landscape. Lots of tasty things happened, and if you disagree, maybe you’ve been spoiled. Consider the December Casino Theory: The Cosmopolitan opened in December 2010, chock full of fresh, alluring dining experiences — more than enough to keep tourists and locals alike busy for the duration of 2011. Prior to that, CityCenter opened in December ’09, Encore in December ’08, and Palazzo in December ’07. Get it? And what was that giant, delicious resort that sparked our appetites for 2012? Oh yeah: nothing. | 69


the Strip, including a trifecta of highpowered steakhouses at Caesars properties: Old Homestead where Nero’s used to be at Caesars Palace, Center Cut at the Flamingo, and Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris. Wynn twisted its quiet Japanese room into the stunning new Mizumi, which emerged as a much better restaurant than anyone thought it would be. Gourmet gastropubbery continued to build momentum with the arrival of Public House at the Venetian and Culinary Dropout at the Hard Rock, but ultracasual party spots, in all their economically friendly glory, made super-strong moves, manifesting in the form of Señor Frog’s at TI and Carlos ’n Charlie’s at Flamingo. Clearly, the Strip is not where all the food excitement was this year. Things got hot in the neighborhood in the fourth quarter. Just as we were toasting the news that Rosemary’s would return (in 2014) with a new downtown café, awesome local eats were popping up all over. Pastry chef supreme Megan Romano’s Chocolate & Spice landed on West Sahara Avenue. Another tremendous baker, Chris Herrin, followed up last year’s Bread & Butter with Meat & Three, a homey southern-style cafeteria in Henderson with game-changing fried chicken. And then, the ultimate neighborhood score: Dynasty-builder Elizabeth Blau and hubby chef Kim Canteenwalla planted Honey Salt in Summerlin, a farm-to-table fantasy come true. These three openings proved Strip restaurant talent was getting comfy in the ’burbs, a trend that should continue in 2013. The big question: Where in our burgeoning food city will the next great neighborhood restaurant bloom? Soft, chewy center

Downtown Vegas was big on buzz but weak on eats this year, but those days are over. The joyous new breakfast/lunch spot Eat set a new standard in our original ’hood. On deck is Mingo Kitchen & Lounge, a colorful small plates-andbooze concept from the guys behind Mundo, opening any day now in the Arts District. Back on Fremont East, along 70 | Desert

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Fresh catch: Honey Salt's Scottish salmon with quinoa pilaf

with upcoming watering holes Commonwealth and Park on Fremont, a yet-unnamed rock-and-rollish Mexican eatery and bar is being prepped by none other than N9NE Group mastermind Michael Morton. Across the street, Radio City Pizzeria is ready to take another swing after striking out at Tivoli Village. The Ogden, aka the House of Hsieh, is slated to add healthy local lunchery Rachel’s Kitchen and innovative pizzeria Slice from New York City. The Downtown 3rd area, home to stalwarts like Triple George Grill and Hogs & Heifers, got a boost this year from the arrival of the Mob Museum and the exceedingly fresh Downtown 3rd Farmers’ Market. But the big boost is coming — the rebirth of the Lady Luck as the Downtown Grand, slated to open in late 2013. There’s no overstating how big a deal this will be for downtown’s continued resurgence, a 30,000 square-foot casino coming back to life with who knows how many bars, restaurants and stores attached. We do know that Pizza Rock will be taking over the Third Street spot for-

merly known as Celebrity Theater. Man, that’s a lot of downtown pizza coming. Works for me. Nibbling at the edges

It’s much harder to guess what’ll appear in the suburbs in the coming months, as smaller business is utterly unpredictable. Bachi Burger, which doubled down with a second location in Summerlin this year and a planned third in Southern California, is set to open Henderson ramen joint Shoku. Rumor has it that the beloved barbecue truck Top Notch Barbeque will be settling into a bar-and-grill type space along Eastern Avenue. In the northwest, where Metro Pizza recently expanded with its fifth store on Sky Pointe Drive, its companion Lulu’s Bread & Breakfast should lure the neighbors with sweet smells soon. Considering how long this place has been in the works and the fact that its consulting chef is “Top Chef Desserts” champ Chris Hanmer, luckierthan-lucky Centennial Hills residents must be salivating in wait. Over in Summerlin, the six-and-a-

h o n e y sa lt : b i l l m i l n e , R ac h e l ' s k I TC H E N : A n drea T u n b r i d g e P h oto g rap h y, M i n g os : Kr y sta l R a m i re z , Meat & T h ree : C h r i stop h er S m i t h


We did get a few new stars on

Green machines: Brussels sprouts and a bowl of padron peppers, Thai chiles and edamame at Mingo

Salad days: Spinach salad at Rachel's Kitchen

Home cookin': Meat & Three's fried chicken with sides, including sautĂŠed green beans and bacon-dill potato salad

Tasteful design: Nobu at Caesars Palace | 71


Four upcoming spots that have us drooling

Dog days: Pink's at the Red Rock Resort


half-year-old Red Rock Resort is still beautiful, aging well, but ready for a restaurant refreshing. So it’s sprucing up its Lucky Bar, completely renovating Cherry nightclub, turning that tiny sports book deli into a savory new outlet of Pink’s famous hot dogs from L.A., and installing Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ where the Cabo Mexican restaurant was. And what about Tivoli Village? This year’s dining additions Bottles & Burgers, Kabuki sushi and View Wine Bar & Kitchen are about to be joined by Cantina Laredo, a modern Mexican joint, and Poppy Den, a panAsian gastropub. And now cooking a mere dough-toss away is Marc Sgrizzi's stone-oven pizza palace, Novecento. Strip reinvention

We locals will be lucky in the new year, but the Strip is coming back, too. Granted, a single big casino isn’t coming to save the day. The name of the game now is reinvention. SLS Las Vegas — you know it as the Sahara — isn’t gonna open until 2014, but late next year is when the LINQ should arrive. That’s Caesars Entertainment’s $550 million indoor-outdoor retail complex connecting Harrah’s, the Flamingo and Imperial Palace, er, The Quad. There’ll be a big-ass Ferris wheel, too, but we know a project like this doesn’t work without plenty of stops to eat and drink. The LINQ’s announced tenants include trend-starting Sprinkles Cupcakes, the Tilted Kilt Irish bar, another Yard House beer emporium, a second location for locals’ favorite Off the Strip, party-ready Chayo Mexicano, and brick oven pizzeria Flour and Barley, 72 | Desert

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which comes from the boys at Block 16 Hospitality (Holsteins, Barrymore, LBS Burger). The project also brings the first Western states location of Brooklyn Bowl, a nightclub, bar, bowling alley and restaurant from the Brombergs (Blue Ribbon) that will take up a quarter of the LINQ’s space, and FAME (for food, art, music, entertainment), an expansive Asian market with all kinds of grub (noodles, dim sum, sushi) and, evidently, all kinds of cultural fun. This will be something very different from what Vegas has come to expect. But we don’t have to wait that long. This month, celeb chef extraordinaire Gordon Ramsay busts out his second and third restaurants here, Gordon Ramsay Pub at Caesars and Flame Burger at Planet Hollywood. The new Strip trend is the supper club, combining dinner and nightlife, kicked off with Bagatelle at Tropicana. Next is Andrea’s at Encore, primed for a New Year’s Eve opening, and then even bigger is Hakkasan, the five-story, 75,000-square-foot restaurant and club venue at MGM Grand that picks up where Studio 54 left off. Nobu will do chapter two at Caesars, except this time, the standard-bearing Japanese restaurant will live in its very own boutique hotel. The Light Group is taking over Mandalay Bay, allowing chef Brian Massie (Fix at Bellagio, Stack at Mirage) to open Citizens Kitchen & Bar and chef Akira Back (Yellowtail at Bellagio) to open an Asian restaurant where China Grill once stood. And in the summer, Mirage will debut its new steakhouse from the man himself, Tom Colicchio. That’s pretty big time, huh? Be ready, Vegas.

Gordon Ramsay Pub. Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris is a total winner, but it turned out this beer-happy British gastropub — all set to take over the Caesars Palace spot formerly kept by Bradley Ogden — was supposed to be the beginning of the celeb chef’s Strip empire all along. Expect this friendly eatery to serve the best bangers and mash and fish and chips you’ve ever tasted.

Mingo Kitchen & Lounge. The success of Mundo at World Market Center — our go-to pre-show restaurant across from The Smith Center — will spark this casual, hip Arts Square hangout any day now, a place for luscious libations and comfort food in small-plate form: Think chipotle mac and cheese, veggie sliders and more.

Lulu’s Bread & Breakfast. It may be a little-known fact that the Metro Pizza family actually started out in New York as breadmakers decades ago. Things are coming full circle when their bakery-cafe opens soon in Centennial Hills. Get ready for sourdough waffles, melty-good panini sandwiches and an unlimited selection of pastries.

Tom Colicchio’s Mirage restaurant. We don’t know what it’ll be called, but we do know the “Top Chef” commander’s second Vegas steakhouse will take over the Kokomo space at the Mirage next summer, and it will differ from the simplicity at Craftsteak. Everything will be cooked over wood and charcoal, and each meat will have its own special marinade. Drool away. — B.R.

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Art Music T h e at e r Da n c e FA M I LY

a r t s + e n t e r ta i n m e n t



What’s the new Cirque du Soleil show “Zarkana” about? As far as we can tell, it’s about a Cirque show called “Zarkana” whose relentlessly highenergy acrobatics and sumptuous costumes crawl inside your mind and scour out the last shred of any memory of “Viva Elvis.” “Zarkana” is 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Friday-Tuesday at the Aria resort in CityCenter. Tickets $69$180. Info:

How did Las Vegans dress in the ’60s and ’70s? Flared collars, beaded gowns, blingy showgirl outfits. And that was just the kids. Get a glimpse of fashion from days past at “Vegas Style,” a sartorial retrospective curated by UNLV public history students. “Vegas Style” is on exhibit at the Nevada State Museum through June. General museum admission: $9.95. Info:

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Companion | DECEMBER 2012

Immigration used to be about hope, but now it’s about survival. Artist Jevijoe Vitug captures this new reality in a series of bleakly humorous paintings. His show “How To’s” is on exhibit through Jan. 4 at the Winchester Cultural Center Gallery. Free. Info: 455-7340

Vladimir Putin may wrestle bears while wearing underwear made of dynamite, but Russia does have a softer side. Case in point: their acclaimed ballet dancers. The Stars of the Russian Ballet perform 8 p.m. Feb. 2 at UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall. Tickets $35-$75. Info:

Want your event in our calendar? Submit your event with a brief description to

zar k ana : O S A I mages ; tragically hip : G ordon H aw k ins

Frankly, we’re still waiting to see if Justin Bieber is a highly advanced Canadian bioweapon whose head is going to robotically partition to fire an earth-exploding neutron laser. But The Tragically Hip? Pretty sure they’re an actual pretty damn good Canadian band. The Tragically Hip perform 9 p.m. Dec. 15 at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay. Tickets $33-$43. Info:

a r t s + e n t e r ta i n m e n t

Art GLORIOUS IN FULL BLOOM BY MOHAMMAD DAREHBAGHI Through Dec. 8, Tue.-Fri. 12p-5p; Sat. 10a-3p.

These beautiful paintings are a mirror reflection of the artist, who began as a Tazhib and Persian rug design painter. His impressionist style interprets reality, capturing a particular object or landscape not only for its own beauty, but with many faceted moods and expressions. Left of Center Art Gallery and Studio, 2207 W. Gowan Road in North Las Vegas,

wood, paint, vinyl and clear acrylic to create pieces using only the fundamental elements of commercial signage: simple color scheme, visual conspicuity and distinct text. Using line, curve and color in their simplest forms, he gestures to man’s most primitive instinct: attraction. Kleven Contemporary inside Emergency Arts,

by the installation team behind MCQ Fine Art. Erik Beehn, Mark Brandvik, JW Caldwell, Shawn Hummel and RC Wonderly have all been asked to do something site-specific to the gallery something that works together with the architecture of the space. MCQ Fine Art, 620 S. Seventh St., HOW TO’S BY JEVIJOE VITUG

INSTALL ART HERE Through Dec. 31. T  he infamous “Art Handler”

Through Jan. 4. T  his Filipino artist presents

new paintings that document the immi-

MOUNTAINS AND VALLEYS WITHOUT END BY DANIEL GOTTSEGEN Through Dec. 8, Wed.-Fri. 12:30p-9p & Sat. 9a-6p. 

Working in and studying the environment from both a scientific/naturalist and personal orientation shapes the way this artist considers and constructs his world and his work, expressing tension and duality between our romantic conceptions of nature and the reality of the potential environmental calamities we are facing. Charleston Heights Art Center, 800 S Brush St., ART AS A VEHICLE: FOR EXPRESSION, EMPOWERMENT, AND EXPLORATION BY MARI LOPEZ Through Dec. 15, Tue.-Fri. 12p-5p; Sat. 10a-3p. A

solo exhibit explaining how this artist’s self-taught style has evolved from pen and ink illustration, to infused aqua media, to abstract and finally to vehicles and other subjects, expressed in flowing acrylics and watercolors. Left of Center Art Gallery and Studio, 2207 W. Gowan Road in North Las Vegas,

Eri King’s “American Dream”

THIS IS NOT TOO MUCH FOR ME TO HANDLE BY HEATHER YOUNGER Through Dec. 15, 9a-5p Mon.-Fri. & 10a-2p Sat. 

This Masters of Fine Arts Candidate presents her solo Thesis Exhibition, named for its conceptual content, use of interdisciplinary mediums, and the format of the gallery presentation itself. Her cohesive body of work consists of photo, sculpture, video performance and time-based drawing. Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery at UNLV ACRYLIC SATANIC BY T.G. MILLER

exhibition returns with works created

grant experience and everyday struggle

Snuggle with smarts

Oh, sure, it looks like a soft, inviting quilt just begging you with its puppy-dog quilt eyes to snuggle up into its quilty bosom. Don’t be fooled. It’s called “American Dream,” and it’s a commentary on our consumer culture constructed from hundreds of pieces of donated clothing. That’s the angle of artist Eri King: creating beautiful objects from discards, leftovers and throwaways, making us both marvel and reflect. And, okay, maybe snuggle a little bit. “Buy Kingdom” is on exhibit Jan. 15-March 8 at the Winchester Cultural Center Gallery. Info: 455-7340.

Through Dec. 15.  Working in commercial

print and sign shops for a decade, this artist uses standard sign mediums like | 75

a r t s + e n t e r ta i n m e n t

to seek a better life in the city of neon. His works serve as instruction manuals of sorts, illustrating how to survive potential future Las Vegas disasters (both natural and man-made). Winchester Cultural Center Gallery

is nine feet long. No sitting or standing on the sculptures, please! Las Vegas City Hall, 495 S. Main St., second-floor outside patio, 229-4631 SECOND WIND BY ROBIN STARK


Through Feb. 14, Mon.-Thu. 7a-5:30p; Artist Gal-



lery Talk Dec. 5, 11a. Influenced by the work

Through Jan. 6. In partnership with the Muse-

of David Smith, these ceramic sculptural forms have a reference to the traditional ceramic vessel, but at the same time, they manage to deviate from functionality and focus on expressive formal elements to suggest visual movement and momentum, treating the surface as a twodimensional format implying established motion. Las Vegas City Hall Grand Gallery, 495 S. Main St., first floor, 229-1012

um of Fine Arts, Boston, the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art showcases artworks that reflect the height of Monet’s work with painting and light. The exhibit features 20 pieces by Monet and eight paintings by his predecessors and contemporaries. $8-$15. Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art GNOT THE PROPER GNOMENCLATURE BY JESSE SMIGEL Through Jan. 17, Mon.-Thu. 7a-5:30p. E  njoy two

whimsical garden gnome sculptures by this Las Vegas artist, on display for viewing, photos and videos. Carved from dense foam, the standing gnome is nine feet tall and the reclining gnome

76 | Desert

Companion | DECEMBER 2012

December will have a shopping theme with pop-up shops and fashion! Free. Arts District and Fremont East in the Get Back Alley,

Through Dec. 13, Mon.-Thu. 7a-5:30p.  Docu-

mentary photos of the Arlee Fourth of July Celebration in Missoula, Mont. that capture the culture, landscape and dancing at the annual powwow, as well as candid shots of individuals preparing for their big moment, seeing old friends and sharing stories. Las Vegas City Hall Chamber Gallery, 495 S. Main St., second floor, 229-1012 CELEBRATIONS


Dec. 20-Jan. 31, Mon.-Thu. 7a-5:30p; Artists’

Dec. 7 & Jan. 4, 5p-10p.  Downtown’s monthly

reception Dec. 20, 3:30-5p.  This invitational

arts and culture event continues to grow bigger and better, featuring art exhibits, open galleries, live music and DJs, food trucks, performances and more.

features images that reflect cultural holidays, with works by Linda Alterwitz, Michael Stillman Clark, Nathan Coté, Matthew Couper, Carlos de las Heras,

a r t s + e n t e r ta i n m e n t

Marylou Evans, Justin Favela, Bobbie Ann Howell, Darren Johnson, KD Matheson, Emily Phelan and Jevijoe Vitug. Las Vegas City Hall Chamber Gallery, 495 S. Main St., second floor,

Dance NÁ PUA O HAWAI’I (THE FLOWERS OF HAWAI’I) Dec. 1, 5p.  Hálau Hula ‘O Kaleimomi, the

great slack-key guitarist, falsetto singer and Hoku Award winner Gary Haleamau and graceful hula maidens sing, dance and play a tribute to the children and the beauty of Hawai’i. $10 in advance, $12 day of show. Winchester Cultural Center Theater

STAR CATCHERS WINTER RECITAL Dec. 14, 6p.  This group has performed all

over the Las Vegas valley and in California, too. They began as a hip-hop dance crew and now include contemporary dance and ballet in their repertoire. $7.


Winchester Cultural Center Theater

Music BOBBY JONZ Wednesdays, 7p.  International recording

artist Bobby Jonz and his band, led by musical director Millard Jackson, with celebrity guests Leon Blue, Lou Ragland (of The Inkspots), Mary Williams, Robbie Robinson, plus an impersonator and tribute artist variety show with a $25 cash prize to the best entertainer. Free. Mad Greek Dinner Show Restaurant, 8565 W. Sahara Ave., 242-7669 CSN JAZZ COMBOS & JAZZ SINGERS Dec. 2, 2p.  An afternoon of jazz standards,

classics and contemporary works presented by the College of Southern Nevada’s Department of Fine Arts’ Jazz Combos and Jazz Singers. $5-$8. BackStage Theatre at CSN, CSN ORCHESTRA Dec. 3, 7:30p. C  onducted by Christopher

Davis, the College of Southern Nevada’s Department of Fine Arts’ Orchestra showcases its near 50-piece orchestra performing traditional works and lighthearted holiday selections. $5-$8. Nicholas J. Horn Theatre at CSN, CSN CONCERT BAND AND MARIACHI BAND Dec. 4, 7:30p. C  onducted by Dr. Rich-

ard McGee, the College of Southern Nevada’s Department of Fine Arts’ Concert Band salutes the holidays with some spice. A special treat is the premiere performance of the newly formed CSN Mariachi Band, directed by Aldaberto Garcia. $5-$8. Nicholas J. Horn Theatre at CSN, CSN BIG BAND Dec. 5, 7:30p. T  he College of Southern

Nevada’s Department of Fine Arts’ dynamic Big Band entertains audiences with classic, standards and a few surprises. $5-$8. Nicholas J. Horn Theatre at CSN,

Brio Tuscan Grille

Table 34

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Featuring Chef Wes Kendricks’ contemporary American cuisine including safe harbor certified fresh fish, wild game, duck, lamb, angus beef, and comfort food classics. Conveniently located off the 215 near the Airport. Dinner Tuesday - Saturday 5pm until closing (around 10pm)

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a r t s + e n t e r ta i n m e n t

of exquisite guarania folk music by this professional harpist, composer, and harp maker who has played Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, Suntory Hall in Tokyo and tours with Tony Orlando. Free. Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse, Jury Assembly Room, 333 Las Vegas Blvd. S.,

Theater ARCADIA BY TOM STOPPARD Dec. 1 & 6-8, 8p; Dec. 2 & 8, 2p. S  et on the ele-

First lady of laughs: Rita Rudner

gant Coverly family estate, Arcadia moves back and forth between 1809 and the present day. This brilliant play examines the nature of truth and time, the differences between the classical and romantic ideals, as well as the disruptive influence of sex on our lives. $10-$30. Judy Bayley Theatre at UNLV, RITA RUDNER LIVE Dec. 1, 24, 26, 28 & 30, 8:30p T  his multi-award-

winning comedienne is known for her clever observations, sharp timing and soft-spoken humor. An internationally renowned entertainer and best-selling author, she has starred in seven HBO comedy specials, her own PBS special, and has had the longest-running, most successful one-person comedy show in the history of Las Vegas. $59-$79; $109 VIP Package includes a pre-show photo and exclusive Rita ring. The Venetian Showroom,

Babe of barbs


Shopping. Men. Death. Dating. War. Aging. What do they have in common? Nothing. Except when they’re topics launched from the unique mind of Rita Rudner. Then they become hilarious points of observation about life — delivered by a funny woman whose sharp wit is always deployed with a deceptively soft touch. Rita Rudner performs Dec. 1, 24, 26, 28 & 30, 8:30p at the showroom in the Venetian hotel-casino. Tickets $59-$79; $109 VIP Package includes a pre-show photo and Rita ring. Info:

Jan. 5, 2p. P  aul Draper, Jason Andrews

and two more magicians team up to present four different styles of amazing magic for the whole family. $8 in advance, $10 on concert day. Winchester Cultural Center Theater

Lectures, Speakers and PANELS THE POETS’ CORNER HOSTED BY KEITH BRANTLEY Dec. 21, 7p. A  monthly forum for established

MESHUGGINAH KLEZMORIM Dec. 16, 2p. T  he band’s name means “crazy

musicians” in Yiddish. The wild, exuberant music they play is klezmer, which has been called “Jewish jazz.” The remarkable musicians are: Dr. D. Gause (clarinet), D. J. Sinai (voice and piano), Irv Weinberger (guitar), Brett Barnes (drums) and Lee Schreiber (violin). The group previously

78 | Desert

Companion | DECEMBER 2012

sold out Winchester Theater, so fans are advised to buy tickets early. $10 in advance, $12 day of show. Winchester Cultural Center Theater DOWNTOWN CULTURAL SERIES - MARIANO

poets and open-mic participants, featuring the best local poetry talent. Free. W. Las Vegas Arts Center Community Gallery, 947 W. Lake Mead Blvd., 229-4800




Dec. 21, noon. B  ring your lunch and enjoy


an hour-long Paraguayan harp concert

Through Jan. 13, 10a-6p. F  reakish, bewilder-

a r t s + e n t e r ta i n m e n t

ing marvels of the insect world are on display in this exhibit resembling an old-fashioned circus sideshow. Explore the truth, myths and mysteries surrounding some of nature’s most curious creatures from Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches to the Giant Sonoran Centipede. Free for members or included with paid general admission. Springs Preserve RAINBOW COMPANY YOUTH THEATRE PRESENTS HONK! Dec. 7-8 & 14-15, 7p; Dec. 9 & 15-16, 2p. T  he

musical story of Ugly, whose odd looks incite prejudice among his family and neighbors — that is, until our hero discovers his true and glorious destiny. $3-$7. Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St., WINTERFEST: AN OLD-FASHIONED CHRISTMAS DELIGHT

Dec. 13-15 Henderson presents three

night of holiday fun, including horsedrawn carriage rides, carolers and a light parade. At 7 p.m. Dec. 13, the Henderson Symphony Orchestra performs. At 6 p.m. Dec. 14, Santa arrives to mark the lighting of of the Henderson Christmas Tree. From 12p-8p Dec. 15, the event features pony rides, music recitals and the grand finale: the evening light parade at 5p. The procession is set to illuminate the Water Street District with entries decked out in lights and reflecting the theme, “An OldFashioned Christmas Delight.” Free. Henderson Events Plaza, 200 S. Water St. LOOK TO THE RAINBOW Dec. 20-21, 7p. T  he Winchester Play-

ers, aged 6 to 17, present an original musical set in Ireland concerning leprechauns, a crock of gold and other magical, mystical and amusing creatures and events. $7. Winchester Cultural Center Theater

FUNDRAISERS ST. JUDE’S RANCH FOR CHILDREN’S NIGHT OF LIGHTS Dec. 8, 5p-9p.  Carolers, cuisine and lots of

family-friendly holiday cheer at a beautifully lit and decorated holiday campus. This 6th annual event benefits the ranch’s mission of helping abused, abandoned and neglected children. $25, free for children 3 and under. 100 St. Jude’s Road in Boulder City, SUITE TOUR Dec. 15, 2p-10p.  Six Las Vegas properties

(Caesars Palace, The Cosmopolitan, Hard Rock, Palms, Paris and Rio) open their doors to suites typically unavailable to the general public. Guests will relax amid the comfortable environs while enjoying appetizers, cocktails and raffles. Proceeds benefit Junior Achievement, dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. $100.

The SMA Lifestyle Centers Now that’s powerful medicine.

There’s just no denying it. Active seniors are healthier seniors. That’s why The SMA Lifestyle Centers are so important. Finally, there’s a place you can laugh, learn and stay healthy. The SMA Lifestyle Centers, the newest way Southwest Medical is caring for seniors.

The SMA Lifestyle CenterSM –West 8670 W. Cheyenne Ave. Suite 105 (800) 638-4113 The SMA Lifestyle Center–East 5820 S. Eastern Ave. Suite 100 (866) 249-7674


history lesson


In this Las Vegas News Bureau photo from 1951, burlesque dancer Sunny Knight vamps beside a decidedly Southern Nevada-style Christmas tree — that would be one of our tough desert staple, the cholla. Okay, she’s not vamping. There’s definitely no vamping going on in this photo. In fact, is it just me, or does Knight look just a little uncomfortable in this cheesecake shot? The slight rictus to her smile, a tension to the tummy that belies the caution in a pose that, instead of exuding sexy

80 | Desert

Companion | december 2012

insouciance, hums with a certain … well, anxiety. Even the squint could, perhaps, be ascribed to something else besides the sun in her eyes. What is she thinking behind that apparent fraughtness? Got to ... hold this ... uncomfortable kneeling position ... in this ... hot sand ... and avoid getting poked ... by this crazy spiky cholla. The ornaments draped on the cactus only add a droll aspect to the photo. The point: some of our hardy desert species just don’t do sexy insouciance. — Andrew Kiraly

p h oto : L a s V e g a s n e w s b u r e a u

Get to the point

Galleria’s Beary Merry Christmas! re • Fo ver 2 1•


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Train Rides through Santa’s Village m • A erica nE ag

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FREE 16th Anniversary Teddy Bear with a $100 Gift Card Purchase+

Va n

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*Saturdays through 12/22 at 1pm. Receive a FREE train ride ticket with the donation of a new Teddy Bear or Children’s Book. One per person, while supplies last.

Br id


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Photos with Santa through Dec. 24


+Minimum single gift card purchase of $100 or more, while supplies last.

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Saturday Story Time with Santa*

Holiday Wishes

Macy’s • JCPenney • Dillard’s • Kohl’s • Dick’s Sporting Goods And over 140 shops, restaurants and services 1300 West Sunset Road, Henderson, NV 89014 702-434-0202 Stay connected:

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