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November/December 2009

Restaurant Awards We unveil the year’s best in dining


The top 20 dishes and drinks to try right now

A warm appleraisin babka by our Pastry Chef of the Year. Meet the winner on Page 42.

Dining Destinations Four trips built around epicurean experiences

ELVIS and VEGAS 40 years ago, two icons were forever united

‘The Great Circle’  The plan to reshape our valley’s livability

Welcome to the dawn of a great new age.

Today, seniors find themselves in a new prime of life. So AARP and the Harrah’s Foundation are joining forces to help them make the most of it. Through programs that make it easier to access public benefits, manage personal finances and obtain employment assistance, we’re enabling more older Americans to live independent, fulfilling lives. At the same time, we’re training their family members to be better caregivers for the future. We believe the next stage of life can be the best stage of life for millions of Americans. That’s the promise of a new age.

Still serving you after all these years.

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at th e e d ge of fashio n in the heart of vegas The art of fashion is on permanent display at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Dillard’s, Bloomingdale’s Home, Nordstrom and over 200 fine stores, restaurants and cafés. Located on The Strip across from Wynn Las Vegas.


My Savings Plan The day she was born, she became the center of your world and, well, SM

your finances. Throughout life, we all have moments that motivate us to save and her arrival is yours. At Wells Fargo, we’ve made saving easy. With a Wells  Fargo checking account, you get all sorts of free online tools to help you save. And with My Savings Plan, you can automatically transfer money to your Wells Fargo savings account and easily monitor your progress online. So no matter if it’s for the expected, or even the unexpected, saving is now the easy part. Call, click or stop by to learn about Wells Fargo checking and online tools.

© 2009 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. (125430_14514)

GM Letter

POrtrait Sampsel-preston photography

’Tis the Season for Food, Parties and Reflections To begin our end-of-year issue, I’d like to introduce Desert Companion’s new distribution partner, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. (If that’s where you found us, a special greeting!) Nevada Public Radio’s award-winning magazine is now more available than ever across Southern Nevada. No matter where you got your copy, we hope you’ll enjoy what you read on these pages. Our focus this issue is that most traditional of themes: food and dining. With our two favorite food critics leading the way, we hope it will be anything but “predict-table.” John Curtas and Max Jacobson square off over how the past decade has catapulted Las Vegas from buffet heaven to foodie paradise and how the reality of “now” will shape the next 10 years. Plus, Curtas rolls out the annual Restaurant Awards. Congratulations to all the winners! Elvis is everywhere (again) these days. Cirque du Soleil has set itself the astounding goal of capturing the essence of his appeal in a new show at CityCenter. Geoff Schumacher is working on a book about Elvis’ Las Vegas years, and he offers some reminiscences about the King’s big comeback here 40 years ago. Don’t miss the part about Tom Jones’ influence on Elvis; it’s a reminder that our entertainment history’s continuum stretches right into 2009. One of the reasons we love Las Vegas, for all its challenges, is that popular culture cannot bypass this city in any decade, and with each passing era there are more ingredients in the mix. For a satirical take on what history might record about “the aught years,” turn to our back-page essay by Andrew Kiraly. Although the economy remains stuck in neutral, we look forward to the fruition of ambitious (some might say audacious) projects that remind us of how far we’ve come in the last 10 years. Check out our stories on the potential multiplier effect of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and the deep commitments to the region’s well-being made by the Lincy Foundation, under the elegant and understated guidance of Lindy Schumacher (no relation to Geoff ). Along with an emphasis on food and family, this time of year brings the welcome sight of actual paper envelopes and beautifully crafted invitations in the mail to entice your RSVP to holiday fundraisers. To help you select the best events, writer Amy Schmidt takes a look at the happenings sure to hit the right note for the times. Whether you’ll be pulling out the ball gown and tux or   D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9

dressing down with friends for the holidays, feed your soul by giving back to our community—generously support the causes that touch your heart. Let’s tap into the anticipation and excitement that came with the end of the last decade and party like it’s 1999! Happy holidays from all of us at Desert Companion.

Florence M.E. Rogers President & General Manager, Nevada Public Radio

p.s. You can now catch gastro-raconteurs John and Max on News 88.9 KNPR during State of Nevada (last Friday of the month), on podcasts available on and via the shameless ongoing Twittering of their culinary exploits.

Time for a breath of fresh Air. Inside.

There’s nothing better than a breath of fresh air. Unless it’s a breath of fresh air in your perfectly climate-controlled home. A LennoxŽ Home Comfort System maintains constant humidity and temperature settings, and protects your family from indoor air hazards including pollen, pet dander and dust mites. Call us today to bring the freshness of outside air—in!

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*Rebate offer is valid only with the purchase of qualifying Lennox Ž products. **See dealer for details and visit for more information on the credit guidelines and list of qualifying heating and cooling equipment. Š 2009 Lennox Industries Inc. See your participating Lennox dealer for details. Lennox dealers include independently owned and operated businesses.

Some pictures are worth a thousand words. NOVE M BER - DECE M BER 2 0 0 9 publisher nevada public radio Editor Phil Hagen / Vegas Ink Designer CHRISTOPHER SMITH / Lunchbox Design corporate support manager CHRISTINE KIELY Senior Account Executive laura alcaraz Senior Account Executive Sharon Clifton Account Executive Nicole MastRAngelo proofreader anne harnagel Manufacturing and Distribution Service Provided by Greenspun Media Group


Florence M.E. Rogers President / General Manager Melanie Cannon Director of Development Cynthia M. Dobek Director of Business, Finance & Human resources Phil Burger Director of Broadcast Operations dave becker Director of programming

nevada public radio BOARD OF DIRECTORS Officers

MARK RICCARDI, Esq., Chairman Fisher & Phillips, LLP Elizabeth FRETWELL, Vice Chairman City of Las Vegas REED RADOSEVICH, Treasurer Northern Trust Bank Florence M.E. Rogers, Secretary Nevada Public Radio


shamoon ahmad, m.d., mba, facp Susan Brennan Nv ENERGY Louis Castle, Director Emeritus

Patrick N. Chapin, Esq., Director Emeritus

Chris Murray avissa Corporation

KIRK V. CLAUSEN wells fargo

Curtis L. Myles III Las Vegas Monorail

sherri gilligan mgm mirage

Jerry Nadal Cirque du Soleil

Kurtis Wade Johnson PRECISION tune autocare

peter o’neill united HEALTHcare


William J. “Bill” Noonan, Director Emeritus BOYD gaming corporation

John R. Klai II Klai Juba Architects Cynthia Levasseur, Esq. Snell & Wilmer Lamar Marchese, President Emeritus

Mickey Roemer, Director Emeritus roemer gaming TIM WONG


nevada public radio COMMUNITY ADVISORY BOARD

Ours are priceless.

David Cabral, Chairman American Commonwealth Mortgage DENNIS COBB PRESIDENT, DCC GROUP Mark Daigle BB&T

Megan Jones Friends for Harry Reid Susan K. Moore Lieutenant Governor’s Office JENNA MORTON N9NE group

Kim Russell smith center for the performing arts Gerry Sawyer CANDY SCHNEIDER SMITH CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS

kris donnelly

Steve Parker UNLV

Al Gibes Stephens Media Interactive

Richard Plaster Signature Homes

Bob Stoldal sunbelt communications co.

Carolyn G. Goodman the Meadows School

Gina Polovina Boyd Gaming corporation

kate turner whiteley kirvin doak communications

Marilyn Gubler The Las Vegas Archive

Chris Roman Entravision

Brent Wright Wright Engineers

Stephanie Smith

To submit your organization’s cultural event listings for the Desert Companion January-February edition, go to and submit the form by Nov. 15. Send feedback and story ideas to Office: (702) 258-9895 (outside Clark County 1-888-258-9895) Fax: (702) 258-5646 Advertising: Christine Kiely, (702) 258-9895; KNPR’s “State of Nevada” call-in line: (702) 258-3552 Pledge: (702) 258-0505 (toll free 1-866-895-5677) Websites:,

382-XRAY •

2020 Palomino Ln. #100 • 7200 Cathedral Rock Dr. #230 3920 S. Eastern Ave #100 • 2811 W. Horizon Ridge Pkwy.

  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n

Desert Companion is published four times a year by Nevada Public Radio, 1289 S. Torrey Pines Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89146. It is distributed free of charge to NVPR members, supporters, underwriters and the community. All photographs, artwork and ad designs printed are the sole property of Nevada Public Radio and may not be duplicated or reproduced without the express written permission of Nevada Public Radio. The views of the Desert Companion contributing writers are not necessarily the views of Nevada Public Radio.


departments 10

ON THE COVER Photograph by Christopher Smith at Spago in the Forum Shops at Caesars.

URBAN PLANNING How “The Great Circle” will reshape the Las Vegas Valley. {By Robert Fielden}





How the Center for Brain Health could impact our community in the future. {By Cate Weeks}

 Critic Max Jacobson takes us to four of his favorite regional food destinations.

features 26

The gift that keeps on giving






The Food Forecast

 ow a woman named Lindy and a H foundation named Lincy are taking our community to a new level. {By Erika Pope}





The highlights of the season, from performing arts to desert winter wonderlands.

If you like to cook, you’ll love Pamela Grogan’s secret library, which is about to be revealed. {By Amy Schmidt}







The short list of holiday fundraising fun includes black-tie galas and casual family strolls. {By Amy Schmidt}

 rowing plants indoors G are worth the challenges. Here’s why—and how. {By Angela O’Callaghan}

From Dario to the drought, it was one crazy decade— even by Vegas standards. {By Andrew Kiraly}


In honor of the King’s latest comeback, author Geoff Schumacher rewinds 40 years to the original.

J ohn Curtas and Max Jacobson review the dining decade that was, and predict what’s to come.

  D e s e rt C o m p a n i o n NO V E M B E R - DE C E M B E R 2 0 0 9

ASSO R T ED B R EADS A T S P A G O : C hr i s t o ph e r s m i th

 evada Public Radio’s food commentator, N John Curtas, unveils the year’s best in food and beverage.





Without dogs, how would we get rid of that new car smell?

Some things are just a natural fit. That’s why we’re pleased to announce that Subaru is now a proud partner of the ASPCA. Together, we’ll help protect our four-legged friends. Because after all the affection pets have shown us, they deserve some back. Love. It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.

Learn more at

The ASPCA® and Subaru recommend restraining your pet while inside a vehicle.

Subaru of Las Vegas 5385 West Sahara Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89146 (702) 495-2100

BREAST CANCER FOUGHT HERE. Nevada Cancer Institute offers a full spectrum of outpatient breast cancer services–from digital mammography and stereotactic biopsies to the latest therapies and a Survivorship Clinic–all under one roof. This ensures continuity of care by a trusted team working with you every step of the way. If you, or someone you love, are facing breast cancer, call us today. No one fights cancer alone.

(702) 822-LIFE

An Idea With a Nice Ring to It

Urban-planning expert Robert Fielden loves what he hears about a project that finally refocuses Las Vegas’ vision beyond the horizon. Normally I hate acronyms, but this is one I’m falling in love with: SNRPC. Don’t try to pronounce it. That would be like ordering an imported vodka in a Strip nightclub. “I’ll have a SNRPC on the rocks with a couple of olives, please.” Doesn’t work. But sometimes living in an urban environment with complex urban issues requires complex undertakings by an urban coalition whose name forms a complex acronym. SNRPC stands for Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition, and its board members represent municipal jurisdictions across the Las Vegas Valley, including the county, its cities and even the school district. These municipalities have 10  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9

brought their planning gurus together to address cross-jurisdictional urban sustainability issues that could affect our children’s and grandchildren’s tomorrows. The first thing I came to love about SNRPC is that it’s proving we can play in the same sandbox without fighting and taking our toys home. Not only that but, along with significant assistance from outside organizations, including the federal government, this team of innovative thinkers has conceived and developed a really big open-space idea that looks well beyond our current horizons. In my mind, it’s an idea that’s even bigger and better for our future than CityCenter. It’s so big that Las Vegas is on the brink of worldwide recognition as the global leader in offering opportunities for recreation and ecotourism within the context of a major urban setting. If you can’t remember the acronym when you’re telling your friends about this big idea, try “Vias Verde” or “The Great Circle.” Those are working titles for the key feature in SNRPC’s master plan: a half-mile-wide band of open space that will encircle the entire Las Vegas Valley. It will be 113 miles long, and when you count all the “high-priority open spaces” that will connect to this corridor (for hiking trail loops, development mitigation areas, etc.), The Great Circle will consist of more than 130,000 acres, making it the largest infrastructure project in Southern Nevada. The Great Circle will include each jurisdiction’s plans for their respective sections of the corridor, while encouraging and facilitating other fresh ideas for public recreation. So, for example, a section in Henderson may have picnic areas, while North Las Vegas may offer trails for hiking, horseback riding and biking. The land within those boundaries that is deemed environmentally sensitive (due to the presence of endangered flora and fauna or archaeological resources) will be set aside to protect it from private development while offering it for potential environmental research. After details of the plan are thoroughly investigated, Nevada’s congressional delegation will take that information to Capitol Hill in hopes of gaining support for the necessary land transfers


Urban Planning







Urban Planning

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91951 DesertCompanion Size: 1/3-page Vertical 2.875" x 10" Insertion Date: Nov.’09

One of The Great Circle’s connections: Red Rock Canyon.

and corridor development. The new opportunities for Mojave Desert research alone should be enough incentive to push the project forward as quickly as possible. Considering Nevada’s livability and unemployment issues, lawmakers should be motivated to tap into The Great Circle’s recreational potential in an effort to provide fresh social and economic opportunities. Ecotourism would not only help lure more educated workers to Las Vegas, it would also help fill rooms along the Strip. Because of Las Vegas’ proximity to more national parks, monuments and public lands than any other place in America, two years ago National Geographic Adventure named our city the “best place to live and play.” The Great Circle would make our great outdoors even better by creating more recreation and nature-appreciation opportunities closer to home. At this point it could take five years to complete one-third of the Circle (and perhaps 15 years to see the whole plan fully implemented), but now is the time to throw our support behind it. Just think: This project could give Las Vegas the chance to proudly exhibit and promote something no other urban place in the world possesses: the unique flora, fauna and ecosystems of the Mojave Desert; the magnificent, pristine landscapes of our surrounding mountains and valleys; and archaeological treasures dating back to the Anasazi, the “ancient ones” who lived here for almost a thousand years.

The Great Circle will consist of more than 130,000 acres, making it the largest infrastructure project in Southern Nevada. From a global environmental perspective, The Great Circle is proof that humankind and nature can coexist and thrive in partnerships that allow us to help our planet heal from past abuses. This plan will certainly be one of America’s first contributions to the new global sustainability movement, as well as a model for other communities to follow. So now you know why I’m so smitten by SNRPC. It may be a jumble of letters, but it adds up to a vision that looks well beyond our current horizons, giving us a chance to make our children’s and grandchildren’s futures better, while helping the Earth to survive. DC Robert Fielden, FAIA, a longtime, award-winning Las Vegas architect and urban planner, is a regular commentator on News 88.9 KNPR.



L A S V E GA S H OS P ITA L IT Y An exciting new neighborhood is taking shape here. With a luxury boutique hotel and restaurant by the acclaimed chef Charlie Palmer — and The Smith Center for the Performing Arts — Symphony Park will transform downtown Las Vegas into a community of world-class culture and ideas.

w w ©2009 Actual development may vary from developer’s vision. No guarantee can be made that development will proceed as described.


story by Cate Weeks

Photography by Christopher Smith

million treatment and research facility that now anchors a corner of downtown’s 61-acre Symphony Park project. Successful fundraising and a signature building secured strong community support, leading to what sociologist Robert Lang calls “a major coup”: convincing the venerable Cleveland Clinic to bring its resources and reputation out West. The top-notch academic medical center brought instant respectability to the Ruvo Center’s initiatives. Now, just months after the center’s opening, the Cleveland Clinic is looking to expand beyond its specialty institute and build on the lots surrounding its downtown jewel box. The details of this second act are still unknown (Cleveland Clinic officials have until January 31 to complete feasibility studies and submit a development plan to city officials), but it’s a good sign for a city that’s long struggled with developing its urban core. “You gain everything by having a wellrespected institution plop into town,” says Lang, research director for the new Brookings Mountain West think tank at UNLV. There is an immediate benefit to the Ruvo Center, of course, in that patients can access new treatment options. But what really gets city officials and Symphony Park developers excited are the potential multiplier effects. They hope the Cleveland Clinic becomes a catalyst for anchoring high-tech businesses, attracting innovators to the community and diversifying the economy, just as the Mayo Clinic has done for Phoenix. The Ruvo Center’s Dr. Charles Bernick.

Thinking Big

The Ruvo Center for Brain Health’s medical benefits kick in immediately. But the institute could also have deeper, multiple impacts on our community—from higher education to the urban core. The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health has the same plot as many a Vegas success story. There’s an audacious goal (in this case, curing neurological diseases), the naysayers (“Medical breakthroughs in Las Vegas?”) and a passionate backer inspired by his mentor (Larry Ruvo, whose father, Lou, died in 1994 after suffering from Alzheimer’s). Ruvo, senior managing director of Southern Wine & Spirits, started the Keep Memory Alive foundation to find cures for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases. To command attention, he persuaded high-profile architect Frank Gehry—who had always turned down jobs in Las Vegas—to design the $100 14  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9


When the Arizona branch of the Mayo Clinic opened in 1987, Maricopa County was the size Clark County is now—about 2 million people. Mayo, which is based in Rochester, Minnesota, went into Scottsdale for the same reasons the Cleveland Clinic has had its eye on Las Vegas: good weather, the open structure of a brash new city, and an opportunity to expand its brand. “This kind of partnership just wouldn’t happen in Fargo,” says Lang, a planning and policy expert whose focus is metropolitan areas in the intermountain West. Mayo initially focused on patient care in specialties such as cardiovascular health and cancer treatment. That clinic has since grown from 47 doctors and 225 support staff to more than 5,100 employees at two



An Evening with

Frank Gehry’s icon-in-progress, on the edge of Symphony Park.

Kevin J. Anderson:

Tales of Dune, Star Wars and Superheroes The best-selling science fiction author discusses writing for books and comics.

November 5, 7 p.m. Clark County Library

Finding Our Voice

Conversation with Native American Chris Eyre and a screening of his documentary,

A Thousand Roads. November 12, 7 p.m. Clark County Library

Berkley Hart Concert

Don’t miss the virtuoso musicianship and down-home humor of this award-winning acoustic duo.

November 13, 7 p.m. West Charleston Library

Holiday Guitar Concert An annual concert by the Guitar Society of Las Vegas.

December 1, 7 p.m. West Charleston Library

Nevada Chamber Symphony: Home for the Holidays The Chamber Symphony’s annual holiday concert. December 12, 5 p.m. Clark County Library

Free and open to the public. For more information, visit

16  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n

major campuses and two primary-care clinics in the Phoenix area. The Mayo name and its well-funded research programs helped propel the state’s development efforts, says Barry Broome, CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. And the Mayo Clinic gave Phoenix another product. “If you have to travel for specialty care, Scottsdale, being a destination city, is a nice option for your family,” he says. “Las Vegas has that going for it, too, of course.” The Ruvo Center is finding it easy to draw visitors to its facilities to exchange information, says its associate medical director, Dr. Charles Bernick. “We’ve already held think tanks of top scientists who otherwise wouldn’t be in the same room together. We don’t have their extensive labs, but we are taking advantage of Las Vegas as a conference destination.” City officials envision Symphony Park becoming its own destination within Las Vegas. Between its two anchors—the Ruvo Center medical facilities and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts— developers are planning townhomes and live/work buildings, restaurants and boutique hotels (most notably, one by superchef Charlie Palmer). In addition to creating a community downtown, they see potential for business spinoffs. There’s certainly precedent for that. In its hometown, the Cleveland Clinic’s medical campus has practically become its own village, covering 165 acres. And in the Phoenix area, the Mayo campuses are diversifying along with the city. Mayo’s master plan calls for the Scottsdale campus to focus primarily on research and the main Phoenix campus on patient services.

“Now that Mayo is doing research,” Broome says, “all types of biotech companies are starting to populate its campus.” Mayo’s Collaborative Research Building, for example, now houses the drug-testing division of the Translational Genomics Research Institute, which studies the genetic components of diseases to develop new treatments and commercialize them. And Canadian drug developer InNexus Biotechnology has since opened its U.S. offices there. But before Nevada sees biotech business spinoffs from the Cleveland Clinic, Broome says, the state will have to invest in building a better climate for research. In order for Mayo to expand its research programs, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona had to evolve their science programs. “Cleveland Clinic is a great opportunity for Las Vegas, but it can’t be an innovator by itself,” Broome says. “It needs partners, and it takes decades to build the systems.”


Dr. Maurizio Trevisan, who heads the health sciences programs under the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), called the Cleveland-Ruvo partnership “a welcome collaborator” for the University of Nevada School of Medicine and the state’s universities in a time of substantial state budget cuts. “It’s always difficult to build up programs in times where we’re questioning how we will survive the financial challenges,” Trevisan says. “On the other hand, that will force deeper conversations around the future of our health sciences programs. It’s an opportunity to put our strategic thinking cap on and

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Business look for more collaborations just like this one. It’s a stressful time, but it brings fresh thinking.” Collaborations between NSHE institutions and the Ruvo Center have already begun. This fall, UNLV’s gerontology program and its Osher Lifelong Learning Institute teamed up with the Ruvo Center to present a series of workshops for caregivers who aid family members with memory disorders. And the center’s researchers are collaborating with UNLV kinesiology experts on how to improve balance in Parkinson’s patients. Trevisan envisions more formal sharing of intellectual resources with the Ruvo Center, just as NSHE has been developing with the four-yearold Nevada Cancer Institute—faculty fellowships, practicum experiences for medical school and nursing students, and joint research grants. Such partnerships are a boon to faculty and student recruitment efforts, he says, and to growing research programs. “The creation of new knowledge raises the level of care; it elevates the discourse,” Trevisan says. “Patients get access to new treatments before the rest of the world. Students are going to be taught by someone who wrote the book.”


While Cleveland Clinic officials decide how to expand, the Ruvo Center for Brain Health is ramping up its services. It began accepting patients in July and now has a staff of 13, including two neurologists, a psychologist and three research coordinators. The center expects to hire two new physician-scientists next year and will expand service delivery to 8,000 patient visits per year thereafter. Patients have greater access to new therapies—the clinic is currently enrolling patients in four drug trials—as well as studies of nonmedical interventions such as exercise therapy. And doctors here can tap into the Cleveland Clinic’s cadre of brain-imaging specialists in Ohio. “What really excites me is that this is not just a medical enterprise,” Trevisan says. “It’s much more comprehensive, involving care providers from all different areas.” The Ruvo Center is working on a number of diseases not usually studied together, Bernick says. “Generally in an academic center your Parkinson’s and 18  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9

Alzheimer’s and ALS specialists focus on their own little worlds. Here it’s blended so there are a lot more opportunities for cross talk.” There’s cross talk too with nonmedical specialists whose services can improve the quality of life for these patients, notes Maureen Peckman, CEO of Keep Memory Alive, the center’s fundraising foundation. “This patient population needs medical care, but they also need legal advice to put their affairs in order,” she says. Or “if the primary patient is also the primary breadwinner, almost overnight it can become a food-andclothing issue.” So the center would like to partner with the experts at other nonprofits, such as Three Square food bank and legal aid agencies. Many of the services, including depression counseling, are aimed at the patient’s relatives who provide the caregiving. All of that is a smart approach to building capacity in a community filling in the gaps caused by 20 years of explosive growth, Peckman says. “In the beginning, a lot of people told us Las Vegas wasn’t a great place for medical discoveries,” she says. “But we think all the counterintuitive paths we’ve taken—i.e. Las Vegas, i.e. great architecture, i.e. partnering with an established Midwestern institution and community agencies—will lead to Las Vegas being known for its great medical care and, ultimately, to cures.” DC

Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health Location: At Bonneville and Grand Central Parkway. It’s the first building to open in Symphony Park, a 61-acre downtown redevelopment project. Building: Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the $100 million structure’s clinical facilities and offices for the center’s fundraising foundation, Keep Memory Alive, are now open. Its Wolfgang Puck café, educational facility and special events space will open next year.

DEC 19, 2009—APr 18, 2010 Cartier came to fame as the “king of jewelers” during the Belle Époque for his beautifully made diamond and platinum jewelry. Marking Cartier’s 100 years in the U.S., this spectacular array of over 200 objects concentrates on pieces owned by Americans including jewelry from celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Grace of Monaco. Lincoln Park, 34th Ave. & Clement St. Tue–Sun, 9:30am–5:15pm 415.750.3600 Hotel & VIP tIcket Package Taj Campton Place, San Francisco Includes two nights in Deluxe room, breakfast for two and a pair of VIP tickets to the exhibition. 415.781.5555, or reference: jewels and the crown package grouPs of 15 or more receIVe sPecIal PrIcIng Contact 415.750.2636 or Cartier and America is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in partnership with Cartier. Major Patron: Lonna Wais. Lead Sponsor support is provided by BNP Paribas and Dr. Alan R. Malouf. Sponsor support is provided by Mr. and Mrs. Adolphus Andrews, Jr. Generous support is also provided by the Dorothy and Thelma Carson Trust. Emirates is the official airline and Taj Campton Place is the official hotel partner of the exhibition.

Image: Cartier, New York, Pendant Brooch, 1928. Emeralds, diamonds, platinum and enamel. Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens; bequest of Marjorie Merriweather Post, 1973. Photo by Edward Owen.

N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9 D ESERT C OMPANION  1 9


s t o r y b y M A X J A C O B SON

The Turquoise Room at La Posada in Winslow, Arizona, features tasty Southwestern fare such as the Native Cassoulet with Utah lamb, duck leg and elk sausage.

Drive-to Dining One of the best things about living in Las Vegas is its proximity to great food—not just here, but in places that make ideal weekend jaunts. Though it’s a big desert out there, destinations with compelling food venues—not to mention terrific sightseeing and interesting cultural sidelights—are just a few hours away by car. Here are four of my favorites:

Winslow Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, you probably won’t be surprised to see a statue of a hitchhiker with a guitar— a bronze tribute to the Eagles’ song “Take It Easy” that 30 years ago immortalized this place along Interstate 40. 20  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n N O V EMBER - D E C EMBER 2 0 0 9

Less expected is the town’s second tourist attraction: the La Posada Hotel, a magnificently restored grande dame that’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Designed by architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, the hotel was built in 1929 (during the days when the highway was Route 66). Besides the comfortable rooms, which are nicely decorated with wrought-iron lamps and hammered-tin mirrors, there are many reasons to stay at La Posada, from the Native American art in the gift store to the Cactus Pear cocktails served in the fully restored bar. And foodies like me flock here to eat at the Turquoise Room, the hotel’s three-meal restaurant. Chef John Sharpe,

PHotoS Courtesy of the Turquoise room

A food critic shares four regional delights that are worth the trip.

Travel from England, has a reverence for Native American products such as blue corn and Churro lamb (the latter sourced from the Navajo) that no American-born chef can hope to match. One bite of his Native Cassoulet or eggs with green chiles will convince you, too. Between meals you will find that the Painted Desert, Petrified Forest and Meteor Crater are just short drives away. La Posada, 303 E. Second St.; 928-2894366. Rooms from $99.


Go Back to Get Ahead… The housing bubble has burst; the financial market is chaotic; everything you thought you knew has been turned upside down. Whether in good times or bad, there is one thing you can always count on…EDUCATION. With short, impactful, practical classes and programs, UNLV’s Educational Outreach offers the training you need to get ahead and stay there.

Look in your mailbox for your free copy of The Catalog or call 895-3394 to have one mailed to you. 22  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n N O V EMBER - D E C EMBER 2 0 0 9

Pasadena has the Rose Bowl, the Gamble House and the Norton Simon Museum to visit, but I like to come here because it is near three of the nation’s largest Chinese suburbs—Monterey Park, San Gabriel and Arcadia—and what most cognoscenti consider America’s best Chinese food. My first stop is always the Elite in Monterey Park (700 S. Atlantic Blvd.; 626282-9998), whose Cantonese name, ming lao, is better translated as “upscale.” It serves an amazing variety of creative dim sum (tea pastries) from rolling carts, and terrific dishes such as oatmeal-breaded prawns and Chinese-style foie gras. No wonder there is a line day and night. Four people can eat for less than $40 at Chung King (1000 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel; 626-286-0298), which is America’s best Szechuan restaurant. Shingle beef and chicken stewed in Fagara peppers remind me that it’s also perhaps America’s spiciest. Din Tai Fung, with branches in five Asian countries, might be the world’s most famous dumpling house. Local Chinese line up at the Arcadia branch (1108 S. Baldwin Ave.; 626-574-7068) for the juicy pork and crab dumplings. The house chicken noodle soup and sesame noodles are also exemplary.

Santa Ynez Valley Since the success of the movie Sideways, tourists have been flocking to this sleepy area just over the San Marcos Pass from beautiful Santa Barbara to visit such wineries as Gainey and Zaca Mesa, which are open to the public. The food here also happens to be outstanding. You’ll recognize winemaker Frank Ostini by his mustache and white pith

Valley Cheese & Wine 1770 Horizon Ridge Parkway #110 Henderson, NV 89012 702-341-8191


foot of the McDowell Mountains, is a reason unto itself to visit the Valley of the Sun. I’m even more of a traditionalist when it comes to pizza, and to the surprise of New Yorkers everywhere, I heartily agree with Oprah and her gal pal Gayle, who anointed downtown Phoenix’s Pizzeria Bianco (623 E. Adams St.; 602-258-8300) as the best pizza place in the country. Inside the modest building in a pedestrian mall behind the U.S. Airways Center, Chef Chris Bianco hand-tosses up to 250 pies a night before shoving them into the wood-burning brick oven. That’s where his secret unfolds, because a great pizza is all about the crust. My favorite is the Wiseguy, topped with caramelized onion, smoked mozzarella and fennel sausage. Don’t bother to ask for pepperoni here. And don’t ask for a reservation, either; you must wait your turn outside the popular 40-seat restaurant. Even the Pope couldn’t jump this line. DC

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to architecture, which I believe took a wrong turn after Frank Lloyd Wright. So, to me, a visit to Taliesin West, Wright’s sprawling home nestled at the

Max Jacobson has been a Las Vegas food critic for the past 10 years. Before that, he covered the Orange County dining scene for the Los Angeles Times for 15 years.

K i r k I r w i n P h o t o g r aph y

Frank Ostini at the grill of his restaurant, the HItching Post II, in Buellton, California.

helmet, standing by the open red-oak fire pit at his restaurant, the Hitching Post II (406 E. Highway 246, Buellton; 805-688-0676). The specialties here are grilled quail, grilled artichokes and absurdly wonderful steaks, such as a 26ounce rib chop, all cooked Santa Maria barbecue style. Great french fries and Pinot Noir from Hartley Ostini are both musts here. The Brothers’ Restaurant at Mattei’s Tavern (2350 Railroad Ave., Los Olivos; 805-688-4820) couldn’t possibly look more like an old California coach stop. Built in 1886, its Old West décor blends nicely with the contemporary cuisine cooked by Matt and Jeff Nichols— Wolfgang Puck and Rick Bayless alums. Don’t miss the tuna tartare, rainbow trout and slow-roasted prime rib.

This gourmet cheese and wine shop in Henderson supplies Las Vegas with the finest artisanal and handcrafted specialty foods, wine, and cheeses available. Hours: Monday - Saturday 10 AM until 8 Pm Sunday 11AM until 5 PM Free Wine Tastings Friday 4 PM until 7PM Sat. noon until 7 PM



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2008 Grand Award â&#x20AC;&#x201C;Wine Spectator !!!$IAMONDn 3!6/9sWWWCAESARSPALACECOMs$INNER3HOWPACKAGES   FORRESERVATIONS Š2009, Harrahâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s License Company, LLC.

Lindy Schumacher returns an old favor by using her talents to grow the Lincy Foundation’s new Nevada branch.

By Erika Pope Photography by Aaron Mayes

Lindy Schumacher was raised with an understanding that her advantages in life were not a birthright—“just a birth thing,” as she puts it. They came through no special talent or deed of her own; she was just luckier than most, and her parents did not want her to forget that. For example, while many people are grateful for parents who put them through college, Schumacher is extraordinarily appreciative of that gift. “My parents made it very clear to me that while they could afford to send me to a good university,” she says over a cup of coffee, “it was only on the condition that I figure out how I was going to give back.”

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Schumacher pauses and looks uncertain about how her next explanation will sound. “They said it would be so easy for me,” she says, raising her hands in a you-know-whatI-mean? gesture. Lindy Schumacher’s advantages are quickly apparent upon meeting her. She is attractive, with an athletic build, bright eyes and an easy smile. She is also intelligent in ways a college education could polish but not precipitate. And she is instantly warm, engaging and genuinely interested in those around her. What wouldn’t come easy to someone like that? Her parents did not want those qualities wasted. “They said I had no choice but to do something to add value to my educational experience,” she says. “It was, ‘Find your thing. Whether it’s joining a board, donating money— whatever it is, do something to give back.’” And so she has. Schumacher has been director of the Lincy Foundation’s Nevada giving program for three years, most of which have been spent quietly steering contributions to worthy nonprofits such as Three Square, the local food bank. Then, in September, she and the foundation made a big splash by donating $14 million to establish the Lincy Institute, which will help centralize UNLV research efforts that many local nonprofits rely on in their search to secure federal funding and improve their services. That partnership was also instrumental in attracting the Brookings Institution’s Mountain West Initiative to campus. This new branch of the Washington, D.C.-based public policy think tank wants to help booming metropolitan areas in Nevada and other western states by addressing critical infrastructure issues and overall urban sustainability. The Lincy Institute and Brookings West occupy the same floor in UNLV’s Greenspun Hall, and their addition to the local landscape is a bright spot in a bleak time for Nevada. “We’ll now be able to come into a room and say, ‘Let’s figure out how to make this community have the best quality of life,’” she says. “This is not the best quality-of-life community right now, so how do we turn it around?”

* * * Schumacher became a certified public accountant after getting her degree from the University of Southern California in 1994. It was a pragmatic skill to have under her belt to ensure that she’d be able to take care of herself and her family, which includes a husband and three young daughters. Her career has ranged from CFO of the Las Vegas Monorail Company (2000-’02) to owner

of a maternity clothing store in Henderson (she sold it three years ago). And true to her parents’ urging to give back, she became, at age 28, one of the youngest board members ever at United Way of Southern Nevada. That philanthropic role launched a career in serving her community, which today includes sitting on the boards of the Andre Agassi Foundation and the Council for a Better Nevada. Then a job opportunity arose that would enable Schumacher to combine career with philanthropy. The Lincy Foundation, established by MGM Mirage majority owner Kirk Kerkorian in 1989, had focused on two regions: California and Armenia. When it added Nevada as an official focus three years ago, it needed a part-time director. Schumacher was a natural for the job, with her accounting background, people skills and passion for community service. And there was this apparent advantage: Her dad was the foundation’s chairman. But this was the man who wanted his children to earn everything they received. “Let me be clear,” Schumacher says. “He would never hire any of us just because we were his children—not even to wash his car.” “It’s true, I would never just hand a job to one of my kids,” Anthony Mandekic says with a laugh. “When we created the ‘resident Nevada’ position, it was clear that Lindy was head and shoulders above anyone else we were considering. She’s a giving person, has had significant involvement in the community and—this we’ve known since she was 8 years old—has a natural talent to speak to anyone. She represents us very well. Besides, I knew it would never just be about her, but would always be about the community. I spoke with Kirk—he’s known Lindy since she was born—and we both agreed we couldn’t find a better fit.”

* * * The Lincy Foundation has quietly given about $1 billion to a variety of humanitarian causes since its inception. Although Schumacher won’t disclose the exact amount, she says “a nice percentage” of that has stayed in Nevada, where Kerkorian has made a nice percentage of his fortune. But it was all done very quietly until three years ago, when the decision was made to get the foundation’s name “out there.” “We realized it was important to show the public how much Kirk Kerkorian cares about this community,” Schumacher says. The Nevada branch is small. The staff consists of Schumacher and Dr. Jeff Wilkins, the director of health and human services who is based in Southern California but travels to Las Vegas almost weekly. And Schumacher’s cell

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“She’s more  familiar with  area nonprofits and service organizations than anyone I’ve met in the community.” — UNLV President Neal Smatresk phone is the organization’s main line. But in a short time the Nevada program has had a mighty impact on the crucial areas of education, health care and social services. In fall of 2008 alone, Lincy gave more than $1 million to fund programs at the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy (a pledge it renewed in 2009) and $3 million to rescue the partnership between the Nevada Cancer Institute and the University Medical Center so that local cancer patients, regardless of their ability to pay, will once again be able to receive treatments and services, starting in early 2010. One of Schumacher’s favorite causes emerged in late 2007, when the Community Food Bank of Clark County suddenly closed. The Lincy Foundation helped restart the vital service by giving $2 million in seed money (silently, through its Feeding America program) to launch Three Square. The result was a new breed of food bank that quickly gained praise for its roster of programs and its efforts to not only feed hungry people but to eradicate hunger. One example is its Backpack Program, which provides about 6,000 undernourished Clark County students with a backpack of food to take home each Friday. “Lindy’s a Nevada leader who wants to see us do better as a community,” says Julie Murray, president and CEO of Three Square. “It hurts her to the core to know how many

Lindy Schumacher (above) with husband Brian, their three daughters and fellow volunteer Petia Kolibova at Three Square during a Backpack Program sorting session, and (left) with William Antholis, managing director of the Brookings Institution, at the announcement of the UNLVLincy-Brookings alliance.

children are suffering with hunger. And through the Lincy Foundation she is able to put her money where her mouth is and fund programs that will benefit these kids.”

* * * Schumacher’s job, which quickly became full time, is as good a fit for her as she is for it. “This is our home,” she says. “My daughters are now third-generation Nevadans. It’s more important than ever for me to help foster profound improvements in our community’s quality of life. Many of us may be too close to it to see, but amazing things are possible here in Nevada.” Amazing things were accomplished here in the past because “we’re not mired in bureaucracy the way most states are,” she says, “and you just have to give a little to get back a lot. There are some incredible philanthropists in this state

that have sustained our existing social programs for 30 yearsplus with no outside assistance that other states rely on.” The floundering economy has changed that dynamic. Nevada now needs to be less self-reliant and to claim its rightful share of federal funding. Lincy is fast becoming the hub of this effort, and Schumacher is the driving force. Her inquisitive nature has revealed what makes certain nonprofits successful. And her business skills help make the most of Lincy’s gifts. “Lindy demands we operate as a highperforming and efficient organization,” Three Square’s Murray says. “She holds us accountable to being research-based, to generate significant collaboration with the community and to create an inclusive volunteer environment.” Among other nonprofits that have benefited from the Lincy Foundation’s support are the After-School All-Stars, Clark County’s Empowerment Schools and Nevada Health Centers. That last organization is one of “Nevada’s best-kept secrets,” Schumacher says. It provides under- and uninsured Nevadans with

free or low-cost medical and dental services. “Here was an agency that was completely flying under the radar,” she says. “It had never really fundraised, but had been able to carry out its mission by learning how to navigate the state and federal grant systems.” The newly launched Lincy Institute stands to be the foundation’s most significant contribution to this type of effort. “We looked at the most successful nonprofits in Nevada, and they all had used UNLV as a resource,” Schumacher says. “But there were seemingly dozens of departments involved— everything from health to food and beverage to law. It wasn’t a coordinated effort.” Under the umbrella of the Lincy Institute, it will be much easier for nonprofits to tap into credible, third-party data they can rely on when seeking grants. It’s those organizations that stand out when it comes time to distribute funds. “The institute will also get various nonprofits talking to one another,” Schumacher says. “When someone shows up at an agency to collect a particular social service, they never have just one problem. They’re never just hungry or are in need of immunizations for their kids. If different nonprofits begin to share information, they can help a much greater number of people in need.” UNLV President Neal Smatresk points to Schumacher’s ability to see connections between different organizations as one of the catalysts for getting the Lincy Institute off the ground. “She’s more familiar with area nonprofits and service organizations than anyone I’ve met in the community,” he says. “If she weren’t already employed by the Lincy Foundation, we’d hire her here. She not only cares about this community and wants to make a difference, but she is also an inspiring person. She has helped begin a real transformation at this university through her commitment.” Southern Nevada’s developing ability to take better care of its own is a considerable departure from the present perception of the community. The region is infamous for being at the bottom of all the “good” lists and at the top of all the “bad” lists. And its extraordinary number of transplants are known for never quite adopting it as home, which might explain why per capita volunteerism here is always low. But Schumacher has a special remedy for that attitude, one that’s always worked for her. “You have to put in what you want to get out,” she says. “This really is a can-do community, a more loving and connected environment than most places. If you get involved in your community, I promise you’ll fall in love with it all over again.” DC

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It’s been 40 years since the two icons changed each other forever. Historian Geoff Schumacher reflects on the unlikely connection and why it’s still powerful. • Illustration by Joe CiardIELLO

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The Elvis Presley who arrived in Las Vegas in 1969 was not the same person who put rock ’n’ roll on the map in the ’50s. For one thing, he had spent most of the ’60s making movies, not performing live. The movies generated loads of cash for Presley and his notorious manager, Colonel Tom Parker, but they elicited little or no critical praise. With just a couple of exceptions—Viva Las Vegas comes to mind—even the music Elvis recorded for the movie soundtracks was forgettable. And as tastes evolved, people gradually lost interest in Presley’s formula flicks. Alarmed by plummeting box-office receipts and soundtrack sales, Parker knew it was time for Presley to give up Hollywood and return to his original calling—live performance. Working his connections, Parker landed a $100,000per-week deal with the International (soon to be renamed the Las Vegas Hilton). But in the wake of the Beatles, Bob Dylan and the psychedelic sounds of San Francisco, Presley no longer possessed the youthful confidence that catapulted him from driving a truck in Memphis to performing on The Ed Sullivan Show. “When the Colonel made the deal with Kirk Kerkorian, Elvis was a little concerned,” says Joe Esposito, Presley’s longtime friend and road manager, now retired in Las Vegas. Presley remembered well the lackluster reception the last time he had performed in Las Vegas. Just as the nation started buzzing about this hot new “hillbilly bop” act, Presley played two weeks in April 1956 at the New Frontier. Billed below comedian Shecky Greene on

the marquee, Presley was described in print advertisements as “The Atomic Powered Singer.” But Las Vegas audiences, accustomed to more refined showroom acts such as Nat King Cole, Andy Williams and the Lennon Sisters, didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Lorraine Hunt-Bono was 14 years old when Presley first came to town. She was friends with Carol Entratter, daughter of legendary Las Vegas entertainment director Jack Entratter, so she got to see Presley perform. “We weren’t typical teenagers,” says Hunt-Bono, who later became a lounge singer and the state’s lieutenant governor. “We were enamored with Sinatra and the Rat Pack type. We liked the black tuxedoes and the stiff, white-collared shirts. So when we saw Elvis, we didn’t capture what the general public did later on.” Presley also failed to impress local critics. Las Vegas Sun columnist Bill Willard wrote: “For the teenagers, the long, tall Memphis lad is a whiz; for the average Vegas spender or show-goer, a bore. His musical sound with a combo of three is uncouth, matching to a great extent the lyrical content of his nonsensical songs.” Although the reception to Presley’s show improved over the course of his two-week run, he generally regarded the engagement as a hiccup on his way to the top. “They weren’t my kind of audience,” he told reporters. Still, Elvis loved the city itself. During the ’60s he was a frequent visitor, typically accompanied by his entourage of buddies who came to be known as the “Memphis Mafia.” For Presley and his pals, Las Vegas was an escape from the pressures of Memphis and Hollywood. In Careless Love, the second volume of his definitive Presley biography, Peter Guralnick explains: “He loved Las Vegas for one reason above all: time was meaningless here, there was no clock, there were no obligations. It was a place where you could lose yourself, a place you could indulge your every fantasy—it was, for Elvis, momentary respite from all the self-doubt, from all the questions lying in wait, lurking in the shadows, waiting to assault him.”


It wasn’t just returning to a Las Vegas showroom in 1969 that made Elvis nervous. It had been eight years since he had graced any stage. In preparation, he did some research, checking out Tom Jones’ hotblooded performances at the Flamingo to see what was working. Then he assembled an unprecedented stage extravaganza featuring the best musicians and backup singers he could find, and they rehearsed extensively.

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On opening night, July 31, Presley’s anxiety was evident backstage. “He was walking back and forth like a panther,” Esposito recalls. It might have been worse if somebody had told Elvis about the Hollywood stars in the front row, including Cary Grant, Pat Boone, Sammy Davis Jr. and Paul Anka. “He was so nervous before going on,” says Joe Moscheo, leader of the Imperials singing group, which performed with Elvis in Las Vegas from 1969 to 1971. “He was worried that people wouldn’t accept him or like him.” But when Presley walked on stage—no introduction necessary—the response from the audience of 2,000 said it all. “The crowd went absolutely crazy,” Esposito says. “Celebrities and high-rollers and everybody went nuts. He was a little nervous for the first song [“Blue Suede Shoes”], but once he got past that, forget it. It was just like the old days.” Moscheo witnessed the reaction from the stage: “When the curtain went up and Elvis strolled out and kind of prowled from one end of the stage to the other, the people

M emor a b i l i a C O U R T E S Y U N L V S P E C IAL C O LL E C T I O N S

orty years ago, Elvis Presley decided to stop making movies and return to his musical roots. He chose Las Vegas for his comeback. It was a gamble—for Elvis and for Las Vegas. This city was not known as a hotbed of rock ’n’ roll, so Presley’s repertoire represented a departure. Would the rusty rocker be able to deliver a high-intensity show? And how would Vegas audiences respond? If he were to bomb, it would send a message to the burgeoning rock music industry to steer clear of here. It also would deal a sharp blow to the city’s newest and largest resort, Kirk Kerkorian’s International Hotel, the King’s new home. But this precarious relationship would ignite a new era for performer and city. It also would change the long-term fates of both. Even today, despite changing times and tastes, Elvis and Las Vegas continue to feed off each other’s boundless energy.

Elvis + Vegas Trivia Elvis memorabilia from the International days (clockwise, from far left): a dinner show menu, a postcard (back and front) and an advertisement.

just went berserk. None of us had ever seen anything like it—the applause and the admiration. They were in awe of him as a person. Flashbulbs were popping all over the place. It was probably five minutes. He sucked it up and loved it all. It really settled his nerves.” Presley’s wife, Priscilla, who had never seen him perform live, was mesmerized, telling Guralnick: “It was the energy, the energy that surrounded the stage, and the charisma that he [conveyed]—I don’t think I’ve ever felt that in any entertainer since. I mean, yes, other entertainers have a charisma, but Elvis exuded a maleness about him, a proudness that you only see in an animal.” Elvis powered through his greatest hits. Besides “Blue Suede Shoes,” he performed “Jailhouse Rock,” “Love Me Tender,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog” and “Heartbreak Hotel.” (In the ’70s, his set list changed significantly to introduce more ballads and gospel numbers.) After the show, Esposito recalls, “Elvis was just overwhelmed. He was so excited, he was

three feet off the ground. The Colonel had tears in his eyes. He couldn’t believe how well the show went.” Although Parker’s tears were, by all accounts, genuine, for him a show’s true success was associated with dollar signs. Just days after the wildly successful opening, Parker negotiated a new contract with the International that would pay Elvis $125,000 per week and extend his relationship with the hotel for five years. The contract also guaranteed that Elvis would be the highestpaid performer in Las Vegas; if any other entertainer landed a better deal, the International would have to match it. As that first month progressed, Elvis became more comfortable and the shows became looser, punctuated by his humorous and sometimes off-the-wall monologues. And as Elvis loosened up, so did the audience. Women tossed bras and panties on stage, while Elvis gave out kisses. “When we opened in Vegas, this guy was an Adonis,” Moscheo says. “He worked out. He had a tan. He was beautiful. For those two or three years, he was at his very best, his peak.” Pat Clary, who was a security guard at the International when Presley played there, has vivid memories of those times. “The whole town would be filled up when he came to town. They would start lining up somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 or 3:30 in the afternoon [for the 9 p.m. show]. They would wait four or five hours every single night. And as soon as the first show started, the line would start forming for the midnight show. We had to turn people away from every single show.”

•M  any people assume that Elvis lived in Las Vegas between 1969 and 1976. In fact, he performed here just eight weeks per year (often split between January and August). • Elvis helped design the Imperial Suite, on the 30th floor of the Hilton, where he stayed during his engagements. The suite no longer exists. • In 1964’s Viva Las Vegas, Elvis marries Ann-Margret at Little Church of the West. The church, in operation for almost 70 years, is the oldest structure still standing on the Strip. •E  lvis married Priscilla Beaulieu in a suite at the Aladdin Hotel on May 1, 1967. (Lisa Marie was born exactly nine months later.) •C  olonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, lost more than $1 million per year gambling at the Las Vegas Hilton. •E  lvis and his entourage would often take in other shows while in Las Vegas, but he was not allowed to sing with them on stage due to his exclusive contract with the Hilton. •O  n February 18, 1973, during Elvis’ midnight show at the Hilton, four men rushed the stage, apparently intending to do harm. Elvis, employing his long-practiced karate skills, helped fend off the attack. • In the months when Elvis was performing, one in two Las Vegas visitors saw his show. • A life-size bronze of Elvis was placed in the foyer of the Hilton a year after his death. In 2006, the statue was moved to the hotel’s garden area. It is the only significant monument to Elvis in Vegas. Sources: Geoff Schumacher and Cory Cooper

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Who were all these people paying $15 to see Elvis Presley? “Primarily it was women,” Clary says. “The women would come and they would bring their husbands or boyfriends along. I wouldn’t call them groupies, but groups of women would come from all over the world.” Before 1969 there was no doubt that Frank Sinatra was the greatest performer in Las Vegas history. After 1969, many consider Ol’ Blue Eyes a distant second to the King. “Frank Sinatra attracted a certain segment of the population, but Elvis Presley attracted the whole world,” Clary says. “I’m not diminishing what Frank did, but Elvis transcended all that. You would see 70-year-old ladies with Elvis buttons on saying, ‘I can hardly wait! I can hardly wait!’ And 13-year-old girls, too. You didn’t have that with Sinatra or Dean Martin or Sammy Davis Jr.” Elvis clicked with Las Vegas because, like the city itself, he was not part of the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Middle America, perhaps intimidated or turned off by music’s contemporary critical darlings, found in Elvis a comfortable medium through which to enjoy rock music. Elvis was never part of a fad or a movement; he was timeless, universal. And his appeal has endured in Las Vegas precisely because of this transcendent nature.


Las Vegas was kind to the King, too. Those Hilton shows put him back on top. He once again had hits on the radio, such as “Suspicious Minds” and “In the Ghetto,” and he consistently packed the showroom. He also received the critical raves that had eluded him in his movie career. But Elvis’ heavy use of prescription drugs, a habit dating back to his Army service, started to take its toll. He gained a lot of weight, and for some of his performances he seemed to be just going through the motions. After a frightening hospital stint

the previous fall, Presley’s planned fourweek engagement in January 1974 was shortened to two weeks. The following August, a few shows were abruptly canceled when he wasn’t healthy enough to go on. With Elvis hitting the drugs hard and in a deep depression, his January 1975 shows were postponed for two months. For his August engagement, Elvis was clearly fat, tired and in poor vocal shape. After three nights, the remaining shows were canceled “due to illness.” Elvis made up for the canceled shows in December 1975, but his doctors limited him to one performance per night except on Saturdays. Although he fared better than during his summer engagement, Elvis still was subpar compared with the man who had electrified Las Vegas in 1969 and ’70. His final Las Vegas performances, in December 1976, were erratic. Elvis would talk incessantly between songs one night, then say nothing the next. He complained about the microphone, and at one point muttered, “I hate Las Vegas.” The final show at the Hilton—his 837th performance there—was an embarrassment. Guralnick summed up the show, through the eyes of one distraught fan: “Elvis clearly couldn’t focus. He was unable to concentrate. At times it seemed as if he could barely wake up.” Despite his dire condition, Elvis managed three more short tours. Most of his performances were disastrous, with few glimpses of the King’s old magic. And then it was over. On August 16, 1977, at his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Presley was found dead. An autopsy later revealed that he had 14 different drugs in his system. He was 42.


Although the King was gone, a fascinating cultural phenomenon began to unfold. Elvis did not fade into history like so many of his contemporaries. Rather, in death he became an even bigger icon. The bulging waistline

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and lackluster performances of his final years were set aside by fans, who chose to remember and revere the other Elvis. In death, his record sales jumped, his mansion was turned into a tourist attraction and his legacy spawned a new novelty act: the Elvis impersonator. “He’s been dead 32 years now and he’s bigger than ever,” Esposito says. “Name somebody who can compare to Elvis.” Although there were a few working impersonators before Presley died, the pastime turned into an industry afterward. In 1978, Rolling Stone magazine reported that more than 100 Elvis impersonators were making a living across the country. The two highest-paid impersonators were Alan Meyer, who earned more than $1 million a year performing at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas and elsewhere, and Johnny Harra (see sidebar), who landed a $6 million, threeyear deal to perform at the Silverbird Hotel on the Strip. Elvis impersonators can be found everywhere, but in Las Vegas they’re as plentiful as plumbers. This, after all, is where the demand for their services remains strong. Some specialize in Presley’s early years as a rising rock idol, and some squeeze into a white jumpsuit and revel in the Vegas era. They perform in showrooms, lounges and banquet halls, and they officiate at weddings. It’s not unheard of to encounter an off-duty King of Rock ’n’ Roll in the supermarket. John Lennon famously said, “Before Elvis, there was nothing.” But it doesn’t work the same way in reverse. After Elvis, there is … more Elvis. Besides the impersonator phenomenon and the wacky rumors that he’s still alive, Presley has had a lasting influence on Las Vegas entertainment. It didn’t happen right away, perhaps because bad memories of the bloated, drug-addled Elvis lingered well into the 1980s. But if it hadn’t been for his early triumphs at the Hilton, major pop stars

C O U R T E S Y J o h nny H a rr a

such as Elton John, Cher and Carlos Santana may never have agreed to do extended engagements here. Celine Dion’s residency at Caesars Palace, which ran from 2003 to 2007, eclipsed Elvis’ stat sheet. She sold nearly 3 million tickets and grossed more than $400 million, while Elvis sold 2.5 million tickets and grossed $43.7 million (more than 250 million in today’s dollars). The comparison is a little unfair, though, because Dion’s showroom was twice as big and her ticket prices reflected the inflationary nature of Las Vegas in recent times. In any case, she couldn’t have done it without the King’s trailblazing achievement. “Elvis made Vegas legitimate,” says Jeff Taylor, a longtime local photography director and die-hard Elvis fan. “When he came to town, Vegas was for blue-haired old ladies. A rock star wouldn’t play Las Vegas. It was looked down upon in the rock ’n’ roll community. Even Elvis questioned it. But he legitimized Las Vegas.” To be sure, during the 1980s an influential segment of the music industry continued to dismiss Las Vegas as a tacky purgatory for has-been musicians. Elvis’ unflattering final years played a role in that. But since the early ’90s, there has been a longoverdue reappraisal of Presley’s Vegas-era achievements. In the studio, he produced some of the best music of his career. And on stage, with a few noted exceptions, he delivered some of the greatest performances of his life. Bono, singer for the Irish rock band U2, marvels that Presley’s popularity did not fade as his waistline expanded. “The more he fell to Earth, the more godlike he became to his fans,” Bono wrote in Rolling Stone in 2004. And Bono does not attribute this to blind love. “His last performances showcase a voice even bigger than his gut, where you cry real tears as the music messiah sings his tired heart out, turning casino into temple.” In the afterlife, Elvis will get another shot. Cirque du Soleil is set to unveil an acrobatic homage to the icon in December at the Aria hotel-casino, part of the MGM Mirage’s $8 billion CityCenter project on the Strip. Although the Montreal-based circus troupe is not releasing many details, it does say the production will “pay tribute to Elvis’ music and life, fusing dance and acrobatics, live music and iconic tracks, nostalgia and modernity, high technology and raw emotion.” And thus, 40 years after Elvis conquered Las Vegas, he is returning to do it again. Long live the King. DC

The King of Elvis Impersonators? As soon as Elvis Presley erupted into a national phenomenon in the mid-1950s, young singers everywhere started impersonating his distinctive style. Johnny Harra, a preacher’s son from Missouri, was among the first. But Harra stood out from the emerging tribute artist crowd: He had an uncanny resemblance to the King in both voice and appearance. In the early ’60s, Harra went on the road, from Minnesota to Texas, drawing enthusiastic audiences. When Elvis died in 1977, Harra performed for 20,000 people at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. His profile exploded, and Las Vegas took notice. Harra signed with downtown’s Mint Hotel, but the Strip soon beckoned. Silverbird casino owner Major Riddle bought out Harra’s Mint contract and signed him to a three-year, $6 million deal. It was the biggest payday ever for an Elvis impersonator. “I was there with Redd Foxx,” Harra recalls from his home outside Dallas. “I did two shows per night, and Redd came on at midnight.” Harra at the Silverbird Harra’s “Profiles of Presley” show was a hit. “The maitre d’s loved me because they were making hundreds from the women who wanted to sit down in front,” he says. Bobby Morris, Harra’s agent and musical director at the Silverbird, recalls taking Harra, dressed in an Elvis-style jumpsuit, to see Riddle’s wife, Marion. “She just went berserk,” he says. “She thought he was Elvis.” Morris had a good vantage point for judging Harra’s impersonation ability: He was once the orchestra leader for Elvis at the International. “He was the best Elvis impersonator ever,” he says. “He was just freaky.” Harra’s success in Las Vegas led to a key role in the 1981 documentary This Is Elvis. Harra played the overweight, drug-addled Elvis, a role for which he gained more than 40 pounds. Ironically, Harra has been plagued ever since by weight troubles. They eventually sunk his career. For Morris, the brevity of Harra’s stint in the spotlight is regrettable. “If he hadn’t screwed himself up with overeating and all that, he could have been the next Elvis,” he says. Today, at age 63, Harra is working on a comeback. He suffers from diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, but he has lost 96 pounds and plans to lose 40 more. “I’m taking good care of myself,” he says. “I’m toning up. I want to come back to Las Vegas.” Harra may not be able to execute the King’s karate kicks anymore, but there’s still no mistaking the voice. — Geoff Schumacher

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Restaurant Charlieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lobster tart with chorizo.

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Christopher Smith

To celebrate this, my fifth year of handing out awards for the top tables in town, I’ve been invited to present them in print for the first time. If you haven’t caught the awards on KNPR News 88.9 in the past, I recognize the people and places who have added to or accelerated the excellence in our food and beverage industry. In 2009, with the down economy, there was less of each, as few dared to open restaurants or attempted anything too bold. That said, it’s been a pretty good year. Some of our veteran chefs on and off the Strip continued to up the ante in their kitchens. We finally landed a Chinese restaurant worth bragging about. And one of the Strip’s original star chefs expanded his realm in spectacular fashion.

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Ethnic Restaurant of the Year

China Mama Soup dumplings—those pillows of steamed dough containing pork or shrimp forcemeat— have long been standard issue in other big-city Chinatowns. But 2009 was the year they arrived here, thanks to China Mama. The new restaurant not only does the Shanghai delicacy proud, it also sets forth a vast array of noodles, breads, potstickers and savory “pastries” that highlight the strengths of eastern Chinese cooking. More conventional fare, such crispy beef and Szechuan steamed fish, is also done to a turn. Equally impressive is that a feast for two will run you about the price of two drinks on the Strip. For raising the level of Chinese food in Las Vegas and with major props for recycling an abandoned dry-cleaning store, China Mama is now the place to expand your epicurean education. Kung pao shrimp.

3420 S. Jones Blvd., 873-1977. 38  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n N o v e m b e r - D e c e m b e r 2 0 0 9

Managers of excellence (from left): Carnevino’s Chris Crocetti, Enoteca San Marco’s Destyn Stevenson, Batali Group Executive Chef/Culinary Director Zach Allen and B&B’s Lori Lucena.

Excellence in Management and Service

The Batali Group Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Enoteca San Marco “Molto Mario” Batali runs one of the tightest ships in the upscale eating business, and whether he’s in town or flying to his many venues, his Las Vegas service team rarely misses a beat. We’re partial to the tableside carving and flourishes that come with the super-dry-aged beef at Carnevino, but even if you’re just grabbing a pizza at Enoteca San Marco or some ingenious, rib-sticking pasta at B&B, Batali’s three Las Vegas restaurants make you feel as if you’re a regular the moment you step through the door. Visiting any of them means you are worshipping at the altar of the orange-Croc’d one, but there’s never a stuffy or condescending word to be heard, even if the waiter is trying to talk you into the lamb’s tongue. Wine Director Henry Davar also runs one of America’s great Italian wine programs, and his sommeliers are all about getting you to try an offbeat Aglianico instead of that same old boring $6,000 bottle of Gaja. Carnevino: In the Palazzo, 789-4141, B&B Ristorante: In the Venetian, 266-9977, Enoteca San Marco: In the Venetian, 677-3390,

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The Red Onion Club.

Cocktail Bar of the Year

Downtown Cocktail Room No matter how hard it tries, Las Vegas is about as hip as a dickey. But in the midst of our highly derivative drinking and dining scene, one bar embodies the sophisticated urban cocktail revolution that’s swept the nation the past few years. Owner Michael Cornthwaite and his chief bartender, George Sproule, have turned this small space—in downtown Vegas no less—into one of the tastiest and most original cocktail bars anywhere. Your father’s watering hole this is not, and one sip of his Downtown Dill (details on Page 53) will have you forswearing canned juices and bar mixes forever. Sproule’s other mad-scientist concoctions include a fabulous build-your-own-martini menu. Whatever you order, nothing costs more than nine bucks, which makes DCR the go-to bar for serious imbibing—and the only place in town that makes me wish I drank more. 111 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 880-3696,

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Sommelier of the Year

Frederic Montandon of Le Cirque In a profession in which staying put is a rarity, Montandon has been the sommelier of this jewel box for more than a decade. Although he is very French, he is also very friendly. He’ll maintain that twinkle in his eye even if you don’t know the difference between a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Franc. In a town filled with knowledgeable wine folks, his insouciant charm and good humor—not to mention his stewardship of Le Cirque’s interesting and accessible wine list—are overdue for recognition. Amid the overblown hype and creeping California casualness that infect many Strip restaurants, Le Cirque remains our city’s most civilized dining spot, and the consistency of its wine service is a big reason why. In Bellagio, 693-7223,

Pastry Chef of the Year

Kenny Magana of Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Magana concocts desserts and pastries for Puck’s five restaurants here, and whether he’s composing a textbook panna cotta or classic strawberry shortcake, or tweaking your expectations with a halo-halo (a cool, tall blend of sweet beans, shaved ice and fruit), the chef always has delicious surprises in store. I most admire the way he incorporates the new with the familiar, such as the carrot cake with cream cheese gelato at Postrio, and how he moves so smoothly from Lupo’s hazelnut meringue with ricotta pear walnut mousse to the sinfully delicious cookies at Spago. Supervising this many quality restaurants is an achievement; making sure each dessert is drop-yourfork-memorable is a marvel. Spago, in the Forum Shops at Caesars, 369-6300; Trattoria del Lupo, in Mandalay Bay, 740-5522; Cut, in the Palazzo, 607-6300; Postrio, in the Venetian, 796-1110; Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill, in the MGM Grand, 891-3000; Chef Magana at Spago.

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Todd Clore’s ahi tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes and goat cheese wontons with raspberry basil sauce.

Ahi tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes and soy butter, goat cheese wontons with rasberry basil sauce

Todd’s Unique Dining Todd Clore’s place is everything a local restaurant should be: intimate, welcoming, wine-and-walletfriendly, and woven into the fabric of its neighborhood. This is why, in fewer than five years, Clore has developed a loyal following among those who crave his goat cheese wontons, short ribs and Malaysian barbecued shrimp. Clore calls his cuisine a blend of French technique with pronounced Latin and Asian accents, which pretty much hits it right on the tête de veau. We also like his aggressive wine program and wine dinners, which are instant sellouts among the growing cognoscenti of Henderson.

Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year (East Side)

4350 E. Sunset Rd., Henderson, 259-8633, N o v e m b e r - D e c e m b e r 2 0 0 9 D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n   43

Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year (West Side)

Marché Bacchus Until someone comes along with better food (which is possible) and more interesting wines (doubtful), this bistro-cum-wine shop perched beside a fake lake in Desert Shores has a lock on this award. This is MB’s second win in a row, and this year’s reasons may sound similar: great ambience, on-premises owners who care about their customers, an ever-improving chef (Jean Paul Labadie), killer wine prices and people-watching par excellence. Nora’s Wine Bar is MB’s only serious competition, and if its menu ever becomes a bit more inspired, the torch might get passed. As it is, west-side diners and oenophiles are lucky to have two such wine-and-fromage-friendly venues from which to choose. 2620 Regatta Dr., 804-8008,

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Chef of the Year

Alessandro Stratta of Alex and Stratta This was his first full year running two restaurants in the Wynn. With the newer one, Stratta, he brings the crowd-pleasing Italian food of his homeland to the masses while maintaining the twoMichelin-star excellence of Alex, the city’s most dramatic fine dining room. The chef ’s commitment to blending the best of French technique and Mediterranean ingredients has dazzled us since he opened Renoir in the Mirage a decade ago. His secret starts with his being in the kitchen every night and taking as much pride in what his sous chefs turn out as he does in a media appearance—a rarity for a “name” chef. Stratta invariably nails the flavor of each and every dish, whether it’s wood-fired pizza or herb risotto with fricassee of frog legs meunière, maitake mushrooms and roasted chicken jus. This continued dedication to great food of all kinds, as well as to the Las Vegas culinary scene, earns Stratta his second Chef of the Year award. 770-3463, Chef Stratta at Alex.

Restaurant of the Year

Restaurant Charlie Of our five favorite meals of 2009, three of them were here. This underappreciated gem, hidden behind a bank of escalators on the Palazzo’s main floor, has had an uphill climb since opening its doors in March 2008. Charlie Trotter’s first restaurant in Las Vegas (as part of the brand-new MGM Grand in 1995) was wonderful, too, but it eventually failed. Having the bottom drop out of the economy this time around hasn’t helped Trotter’s fortunes, but through it all, his troops have continued to cook some of the most sublime seafood Las Vegas has ever tasted. Whether you opt for the kaiseki-style tasting menu of handmade, mostly raw concoctions at Bar Charlie, or stick to the more traditional menu in the main room, the offerings will knock you over with their creative intensity. Simple items, such as the hand-harvested scallops and the square of Casco Bay cod, taste as if some guy in a Nantucket rain slicker just hauled them off his boat. The

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Clockwise from far left: the Casco Bay cod, Charlieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s main dining room, hand-harvested scallops, and Bar Charlie.

unique items, such as tempura-style langoustine and lobster tart with chorizo, will have you marveling over the many flavors of the sea. It also doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t hurt that Vannessa Garcia (our Pastry Chef of the Year in 2008) puts out some of the most interesting deconstructed sweets in town. (Her semolina pudding with blueberry semifreddo and a basil-lime sorbet looks like an abstract painting and tastes like sweet and savory heaven.) In spite of its trials, including constant rumors that it may close, Charlie hit the mark more than any other restaurant this past year by putting forth extraordinary flavors, mind-blowing creativity and superb service. Whether or not it survives, excellence of this magnitude must be recognized. In the Palazzo, 607-6336, November-December 2009

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Two critics chew on the meaning of Las Vegas’ climb up the food chain and predict where its dining scene is headed. Illustration by Lynne Adamson

How quickly a reputation can change. It seems as if it was just yesterday that Las Vegas reigned as the discount dining capital of the world. Then, with the arrival of the new millennium, the Strip whipped up an era in which it was considered among the best—and most expensive—places to eat. Nevada Public Radio food commentator John Curtas and local critic-at-large Max Jacobson sat down with Desert Companion in the KNPR studio recently to weigh the aught years in Las Vegas and to count the many blessings—and occasional curses—of what we now know as “the good times.” They also bring us up to date on the present (a.k.a. “the bad times”) and then lead us into the future, offering a forecast of what’s in store on and off the Strip. Along the way, you’ll relish their insights into the city’s best restaurants and, yes, bargains. And, of course, you’ll enjoy a few foodie fights along the way. N o v e m b e r - D e c e m b e r 2 0 0 9 D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n   49

First, a little history lesson. When did the decade really begin for fine dining in Las Vegas? John: The decade started in October 1998 with the opening of Bellagio. That first big wave begat Mandalay Bay, which begat the Venetian, which then made the mgm and Caesars Palace raise their games. And between 1998 and 2001 you had this tidal wave of attention that came to Las Vegas. So, really, you have to give credit to Steve Wynn and Bellagio for starting that. Max: I came here at the confluence of the millennia—on December 31, 1999—but for the previous eight months I had been flying in from L.A. to do some work for the Greenspun Media Group. What I discovered was that our decade of dining really did start around January 2000, so I disagree with you there. Even though Steve Wynn did get the ball rolling with Bellagio, it took about a year for the real influx to start. What happened away from the lights and glitter of the Strip that made the dining scene brighter? Max: What you have to look to in any major city is ethnic dining. We’ve made tremendous strides, especially in Asian dining, because of all the spillover from L.A. A lot of Asians love to gamble, and they need a place to eat when not at the tables. So that’s fueled an influx. Now, we have everything except Burmese and Indonesian. John: We have some Indonesian. Max: Well, we have some Malaysian. John: I’ve been a cheerleader for our Chinatown since it opened in 1994, and it is slowly getting recognition. Foodies in national magazines and blogs are talking about our Spring Mountain Road strip, which is really not part of the Las Vegas food revolution but a revolution unto itself. I know lifelong residents who say, “Oh, you like to go down there?” I say, “Yeah, because it’s some of the most authentic, interesting food in town for the least amount of money.” Max: I have a lot of friends in L.A. who are Chinese. They come here now—a lot of them have bought second homes here—and according to them, there are a lot of restaurants, like Noodle Palace, where they go for wonton soup, which for a Cantonese is the Holy Grail, and they say it’s just as good as in L.A. And John and I are both now fans of China Mama, where they have these incredibly juicy pork dumplings. John: How ’bout Bosa 1 for Vietnamese food? Max: That’s easily the best Vietnamese place in the city. John: And the one that’s really put our Spring Mountain Road on the map is Raku,

“I’m looking forward to more boutique and artisanal products in restaurants. As Americans become more foodconscious and more discriminating, I think the product quality is going to improve over the next decade.” — Max Jacobson which has gotten mentions in Esquire, GQ, Bon Appétit … Max: As good as it is—and I think it’s the best Japanese food in town by far—I don’t think it would have gotten the same recognition if the chef was not from New York. I always feel the specter of New York on my back. John: It constantly amazes me that we have more of a Las Vegas-New York connection than we do a Las Vegas-Los Angeles connection. But all the media comes out from New York. When you talk about some of the names, whom would you pick as the most influential chef or restaurant on and off the Las Vegas Strip over the past 10 years? Max: Off the Strip, it’s clearly been the Jordans—Michael and Wendy of Rosemary’s Restaurant. John: I agree. Their influence on our local dining scene is proving that we can have one. They’ve given aspirational and upscale Las Vegans something to be proud of in our local food scene—no small feat when you consider the competition they have. Max: They’ve had the most enduring client base. I love Emeril Lagasse [under whom Michael Jordan trained in New Orleans]. He’s a great guy, but his restaurants are a little commercial, and I’d rather eat Michael Jordan’s food than Emeril’s any day. John: On the Strip, in terms of influential restaurants, someone who gets forgotten, even though they run superlative restaurants, are the Maccionis. They opened two restaurants here right at the beginning, Circo and Le Cirque, and they did some very smart things. They kept

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them very small, and they have someone on the ground [Mario Maccioni] who’s committed to them. And they’ve been wildly successful. They’ve set the template, and I kind of think that some of these other people we talk about, like Michael Mina and Mario Batali, may have made a phone call to Mario or Sirio Maccioni before they signed on to come here. Max: Let’s not forget Piero Selvaggio. He and his chef, Luciano Pellegrini [of Valentino at the Venetian], made a big contribution. They went off in a different direction than Circo. I always thought of Circo as a power restaurant, and they’ve had good chefs, but they’ve changed their chefs many times. Luciano has been there since day one. Piero has struggled with Giorgio Ristorante [his other restaurant, at Mandalay Place], where he has a very talented chef, Nico Chessa— perhaps too talented for the cafeteria food they’re serving there. John: I just did a blog spot on how they’ve dumbed-down the food. I know they didn’t want to do it, but they’re speaking to their audience, and their audience wants pizza and bad pasta. Max: John, it’s a business. I used to ride Andrew Cherng, who owns Panda Express. They’ve got about a thousand restaurants. He used to have one restaurant in Pasadena when I lived there in the ’80s, the Panda Inn. I used to tell him that he had the four major food groups—sugar, cornstarch, salt and grease. And now he’s a billionaire. I see him at my Chinese friend’s house in San Marino and he says to me rather grandly, “It’s not what you want or what I want; it’s what the customer wants.” And how can you argue with that logic? John: That’s right, but if you’re going to use money as a yardstick, then McDonald’s would be the best restaurant in the world. Max: I’m not using it as a yardstick, but you can’t blame a businessman for going down that road. It’s too seductive. John: But are you in the business to make money or because you have a passion for food? You can’t have it both ways. Max: We still have made tremendous strides here. I’m not one of these knee-jerk advocates who say we have the best dining city in America. The late [New York Times writer] Johnny Apple once asked me, “What’s it really like here?” I said, “We’re on our way to becoming Phoenix.” And I added, “If you publish that, they’re going to hide-strap me to a rail and send me out to Bakersfield.” He didn’t put it in his story. Are there any other chefs leading us to better eating and making that food a little more accessible to regular folks? John: Well, his prices are outrageous, but I think Mario Batali [at Carnevino at the

Palazzo] is doing some really interesting stuff. Max: What about Moonen? John: Rick Moonen, too. And Mitsuo Endo at Raku. Here’s a little tiny restaurant off the Strip that makes money—it’s always packed so I’m sure it’s operating in the black—and you get a lot of love and some real creativity coming out on those small plates. And you don’t pay an arm and a leg for a meal at Raku or at Rick Moonen’s place [RM Seafood at Mandalay Place]. Max: It’s a steal. At Raku the prices are great. You couldn’t eat a meal like that in New York for double what you are paying here. John: Batali does some nice stuff in trying to source local ingredients, and he ages his beef and does some really fine food in his three restaurants here, but his price points are radically higher. Just like Restaurant Charlie and Wolfgang Puck’s Cut at the Palazzo. You know when you’re eating at those places that you’re eating the best food money can buy, but you’re also paying through the nose for it. Max: Last night I had a steak at Okada [at the Wynn] called ohmi. John: Why would you order a steak at a Japanese restaurant? Max: Because it was the best thing to eat there. It’s $35 an ounce, but it’s better than kobe beef. But is anything worth $35 an ounce? I don’t think so. Take a look back now. What were you right about when you looked at the crystal ball? What did you nail? And what did you miss? John: I’ll tell you what I nailed, and I’m still proud of it. I sat in this very room several years ago with some other restaurant critics and I said that Las Vegas had become the most expensive restaurant city in America. I had people tell me, “Oh, that’s not true!” Well, it’s been proven true. Between ’03 and ’08, we were gouging the tourists like nobody’s business. Meanwhile I was going to New York and San Francisco and Chicago to eat fabulous food and it seemed like a bargain to me. So I think then and now it was kind of shameful. But I also think the economy has caused the food-and-beverage people to give customers a break. Max: I probably nailed the whole Asian food explosion. I knew it was coming. I knew there’d be three or four Malaysian restaurants. Who’d have thought that? I knew that the Japanese food would improve here because it was so terrible for many years. A lot of the sushi places are run by Koreans and Taiwanese, and they don’t get it about the freshness of the products. Now you have really high-end Japanese chefs who worked at Nobu and other places like Sen of Japan and Raku and little Japanese pubs like Ichiza. And you like Ichiza, John.

House-made tofu at Raku (5030 W. Spring Mountain Rd.). Chef Mitsuo Endo   has many worthy offerings, but the creamy and intense agedashi dofu— served with a dollop of ikura, salmon roe and a stain of fiery red sauce on the side—is a must-order. Spreadable Danish at First Food & Bar (The Palazzo). The best breakfast item at Sam DeMarco’s 23hour restaurant might be this pastry, ferried in from Bouchon’s bakery upstairs. With sauces that include lemon and cheesecake, it’s a glorious match with Peet’s coffee. Eggplant Marino at Anthony’s Coal-Fired Pizza (Town Square, 6569 Las Vegas Blvd. South). You’ll be hooked on these ultrathin slices of eggplant, which are lightly breaded, stacked halfway to the ceiling and drizzled with marinara. Great on pizza or as a side. Chipotle jalapeño sausage at Branded Meats & Deli (1550 Horizon Ridge Pkwy., Henderson). Gary Gonzalez’s shop carries some of the best cuts in town, including this mouthwatering sausage, which also comes in pork,

An assortment of Whole Foods raw milk cheeses.

smoked and hot-chile flavors. Try it grilled with some boutique mustard.

Daudet’s bacon-studded tarte flambées. No one does it better.

Portuguese wine (available at Marché Bacchus, 2620 Regatta Dr.; Valley Cheese & Wine, 1770 W. Horizon Ridge Pkwy.; and Lee’s Discount Liquor locations). This country is the latest to grab a seat at the world wine table. Try the Quinta do Crasto, Quinta do Aleve and tawny ports such as Warre’s and Dow’s.

Cara Cara oranges (available at Costco and Sam’s Club). December and January are the prime months for these low-acid, pink-fleshed oranges, which have a sweet, complex flavor.

A pomegranate martini at upscale bars along the Strip. The fruit’s antioxidant properties and penetrating flavor (with gin or vodka) have made this drink all the rage. The Lemon Drop and Cosmo are sooo over. French white pizza at Garfield’s (2620 Regatta Dr.). Sit on the outdoor patio fronting a lake while dining on one of Jean-David Groff-

Juicy pork dumplings   at China Mama (3420 S. Jones Blvd.). Bursting with juice and redolent of porky flavor, these are the city’s best dumplings. Try them with a drop of red rice vinegar. Raw milk cheese (available at Whole Foods Markets and Valley Cheese & Wine). Thanks to relaxed FDA import restrictions and increased American production, there’s a growing selection of cow, sheep and goat cheeses, which are as far from Velveeta as you can imagine.

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John: I love Ichiza. Max: And it’s cheap, too. I knew these places would spring up, and there’s still a lot of room for expansion. The Chinese food here, except for maybe five places, is still pretty average. Then again, between here and Madison, Wisconsin, there isn’t a Chinese restaurant even close to what you can get in Vegas. And then the Korean food here … John likes Mother’s, and I think it’s completely boring. It’s like they fax one Korean menu from restaurant to restaurant. John: Well, that’s true. And the Indian restaurants do the same thing. Max: You need Koreans to have Korean food. John: Let me tell you something that I missed. Five years ago, I was convinced that this influx of all these great chefs and all these great restaurants would have a spinoff effect, with young chefs going into the neighborhoods and opening up all these small places, à la Todd Clore [of Todd’s Unique Dining] and Michael Jordan. Max: And what happened? Philippe Rispoli [former chef of Daniel Boulud Brasserie at the Wynn] just opened a place in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. John: Exactly. My personal theory is that these young chefs get cold feet. They work for these big companies, they make good incomes, and they all give lip service to, I just want to get my own little place here in the neighborhood. The people who don’t chicken out are the Asian chefs. I think the various Asian restaurateurs and cooks aren’t embarrassed and put in the time and sweat equity to actually rent a place and to— figuratively—live above the store and make a go of it. The American cooks, these young, hotshot chefs, at the end of the day they like the big paychecks and being treated like a star in the kitchen. Max: Well, I missed on a lot of stuff. For example, I thought the quality of our Mexican restaurants would improve. It has not. I thought there would be a couple of showy Greek restaurants where they smash plates and set fire to people’s hair, but they haven’t materialized. I thought there would be Asian taco trucks, like in L.A., that you can follow on Twitter. People line up for days to eat this food. They’re fantastic. John: Portland, Oregon, has quite a scene with the taco trucks, too. Max: I thought all that stuff would happen. I thought there’d be more artisanal products in town, but there are damn few. John: Valley Cheese & Wine is one of the few places. Max: It’s a great store, but it’s struggling. John: It’s a fabulous store, and I thought

it would spawn others, but one little cheese store putting out a superlative selection way out in Henderson is all we’ve got. That and Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Max: Whole Foods has been a tremendous influence on the community. They’re expensive, but they’ve definitely raised the bar. Does the recession have a silver lining as far as the dining scene is concerned? John: I’m still hoping for lower wine prices. Talk about gouging the tourist. We have become infamous internationally for our wine prices on the Strip. Max: Well, Joel Stein just did that Time cover story on “Less Vegas,” and he talked about the mgm now having $100 bottles of wine on its lists [replacing the $400 bottles], so it’s already happening. John: Guy Savoy has an accessible wine list, and it’s one of the best restaurants in the world. This doesn’t mean much if you’re not a highfalutin foodie, but still it’s symbolic of how we lost our way in Las Vegas. Max: The good thing that’s coming out of this is that the fine dining restaurants are becoming more casual and accessible because they’re doing prix fixe menus and they’re having deals so regular people can eat in these places. I mean, you’re not going to go every week, but you can take your wife for her birthday and eat the $89 menu and it’s not going to kill you. And that certainly was not happening a year or two ago. So that’s definitely a silver lining. What kinds of trends are you going to keep an eye on in the next decade, and along with that, what do you think is going to be the next reinvention of Las Vegas dining? John: People keep saying we have too many celebrity chefs, and my comeback is that I’m kind of like Winston Smith [in George Orwell’s book 1984]; I now love big brother. We don’t have too many—we don’t have enough! We need the next big thing. It’s almost like the Food Network and Top Chef are both feeder operations into this town, whether we like it or not. Vegas is all about celebrity and it’s all about star power, and the next big thing is going to be the next big Food Network star who comes to town. So, I don’t think it’s going to be downsizing; it’s going to be upsizing. Max: I think we’re going to see more interesting food courts. One thing I saw in Seattle that impressed me was a Japanese market called Uwajimaya, and I happened to walk in, and they have this incredible Asian food court. It was packed. We don’t have anything like that. I think people want to eat fast when they come here, and a food court’s

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“People keep saying we have too many celebrity chefs, and my comeback is that ... We don’t have too many–we don’t have enough! We need the next big thing.” — John Curtas a good venue for that. Also I read in New York magazine that the next big cuisine was going to be Peruvian. John: Well, they’ve been saying that for the last several years. Max: I happen to like Peruvian. John: It’s just Asian food with potatoes. That’s what it is. Max: Well, Nobu came from Peru, after all. John: Remember that, 10 years ago, Spanish food was going to be the next big thing in America? It’s never taken off, and I don’t think it ever will. Max: Because it’s so product-driven. Nobody’s going to pay $90 for a platter of Jamón Ibérico, come on. John: It is spectacular if you have it, though. Max: It’s the best ham in the world. My rabbi turned me on to it. What do you think is never going to happen if we’ve arrived at the “new normal,” where the economic conditions are just going to be different from where they were at the zenith. What’s not going to happen now? Max: In Seattle I ate in a 20-seat restaurant there called Sitka & Spruce. It was just incredible. There was a blackboard menu with nothin’ more than $24. They seat people at 5:30, and at 5:45 there’s a line. And these restaurants you find in cities like Berkeley or Madison—college communities that are food-oriented. I don’t think you’re going to see a restaurant like that in Vegas, not even in the neighborhoods, because they’re super product-driven and they require a team of really dedicated, almost Moonie-like staff members who are willing to bust their gut to make the restaurant go. John: I agree. I’ve just given up on the

idea that we’d have some influx of creative chefs renting small places and building restaurants in our neighborhoods. It’s not going to happen here. We are not a foodie community. We have foodies here, but we don’t have a food culture here. Max: At the same time I think you have to give Steve Wynn a lot of credit for bringing these chefs in, and I think he’s had a positive influence, and it may trickle down to the neighborhoods to some extent. John: I’ve given up on that. There is a handful of places, like Settebello, which is great. There should be a Settebello downtown. And the other thing I’ve given up on: downtown dining. I’ve been griping about it for 25 years. But downtown dining is awful. There is a little bit of a revolution going on now that Paymon’s is open, and Tinoco’s and Firefly have opened at the Las Vegas Club, but … Max: And Food Express, too, in Palace Station. That’s not downtown, but this is a trend—local restaurants going into casinos. And this is a good trend. What are you guys most looking forward to? Max: I am looking forward to more stringent import restrictions and labeling laws from the FDA, which will translate into better products and block a lot of the low-quality stuff you get in restaurants. I’m looking forward to more boutique and artisanal products in restaurants. As Americans become more food-conscious and more discriminating, I think the product quality is going to improve over the next decade. And then I’m looking forward to some ethnic restaurants that we don’t have now but they have in L.A. We don’t have a Romanian restaurant and we don’t have a great Greek restaurant. I like the Fat Greek, but it’s good, not great. And we don’t have a Burmese restaurant or anything from Brazil except for barbecue. John: I’m looking forward to restaurants being smaller. I think the era of the 200-seat, monolithic, Food Network-star restaurant is over because they don’t want to do the investment. I mean, Laurent Tourondel’s BLT restaurant cost $7.5 million to build. Max: For a burger place. John: I think that era’s over. We may still have food of that quality, but the hotels will get smarter and there’s going to be more variety, smaller restaurants, maybe some more ethnic places like David Chang’s may come here, or something along those lines— something a little more interesting than the same old Italian and steakhouse. To keep pace with the foodie revolution that we’ve undergone in 10 years, you really need to bring in variety. DC

The Downtown Dill at the Downtown Cocktail Room (111 Las Vegas Blvd. South). With tomato water, dill and premium vodka, bartender George Sproule deconstructs the Bloody Mary, then improves on it. Cinnamon roll at Whole Foods Market (The District, 100 S. Green Valley Pkwy.; 8855 W. Charleston Blvd.). “No artificial anything” is the in-house bakery’s claim, and one bite will have you coming back for more. Crispy Intestines at J&J Szechuan (5700 Spring Mountain Rd.). Come on, live a little! Enjoy your offal the way the Chinese have for centuries. (P.S. Bring a fire hose for your palate.) Gorditas de chicharrón at Los Antojos (2520 S. Eastern Ave.). Crispy pork rind on a tortilla never tasted so good. Penn Cove mussels at Spago (The Forum Shops at Caesars). Everyone has the PEI (Prince Edward Island) kind, but true aficionados know these smaller ones from Northern California, Oregon and Washington are the sweetest expressions of this bivalve.

The Downtown Dill.

The Florentine porterhouse at Carnevino (The Palazzo). Sure it costs $140, but one will serve two. Each slab of beef has been dry-aged to perfection in a warehouse on Blue Diamond Road. A chirashi sushi bowl at Sen of Japan (8480 W. Desert Inn Rd.). Hiro Nakano used to helm Nobu at the Hard Rock, but now his neighborhood restaurant has some of the best Japanese eats in town. Chirashi (“scattered”) sushi is a good introduction to the pristine quality of the chef’s fish. Pizza Carbonara at Settebello (The District, 140 S. Green Valley Pkwy.). The best dough, the best crust, the best cheese and a Neapolitan

pizza oven make Settebello the only place in town for serious pie lovers. This particular one, with a fried egg on top, may be the best of the tasty bunch. Broken rice platters at Bosa 1 (3400 S. Jones Blvd.). The com tam dac biet platter has everything on it (Korean barbecued pork, skewered shrimp, shrimp cakes, pork skins), and it’s all done to a turn at our best Vietnamese restaurant. Sweet potato cake with sheep’s milk yogurt, butternut squash hash and caramel curry ice cream at Michael Mina (Bellagio). No one in town does seasonal desserts better, and this one is destined to become a fall classic.

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Calendar Winter 2009 Elemental Landscapes

The Nutcracker

Mariano Gonzalez Ramirez

ART FIRST FRIDAY Nov. 6 and Dec. 4, 6-10 p.m. The Arts District’s monthly festival features more than 100 artists displaying their works downtown, plus a variety of entertainment. $2. 384-0092, Winchester Cultural Center Gallery Through Nov. 21: Day of the Dead, a tribute to the annual Mexican tradition by Clark County artists and curated by Miguel Rodriguez. Dec. 8-Feb. 5: Michael Baker creates fully-designed boxes for imaginary video games that viewers will wish really exist. Artist reception 5-7 p.m. Dec. 11. Free. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Tues.-Fri. and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat. and Sun. The Art of Daniel Pearson See the 56  D e s e rt C o m p a n i o n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9

Holiday Cactus Garden

latest works by the local artist by appointment, or stop by from 6-10 p.m. on “First Fridays” (Nov. 6 and Dec. 4). Free. Circadian Galleries, 1551 S. Commerce St., 525-2850. Rotunda GalleryThrough Nov. 19: Inscribed/Messages, an exhibition of art inspired by books and language. Artists include John Banks, John Bissonette, Diane Bush, Robert E. Cranley Jr., Andreana Donahue, Justin Favela, Stephen Hendee, Merilee Hort, Noelle Garcia, Danielle Kelly, Leslie Rowland, Markus Tracy and Linda Trenholm. From 6-8 p.m. Nov. 6, a special Vegas Valley Book Festival event includes traveling spoken-word artists and a onenight-only display of artist sketchbooks. Free. Clark County Government Center. Gallery hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays.

REED WHiPPLE GALLERY Through Jan. 2: Altered States: Artists Re-Imagine the Book. This exhibit, curated by Los Angeles-based artist and designer Joseph Shuldiner includes a variety of books that have been altered and hand-made into art objects. Free. Gallery hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. CHARLESTON HEIGHTS GALLERY Through Nov. 19: Measure Twice, Cut Once, aprons and garments created by Brenda Jones from manipulated and stitched papers and found materials. Nov. 28Feb. 11: Undressed, images by Aimee Koch that call attention to how clothing and fashion sway female attitudes and understandings. Free. Gallery hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. BELLAGIO GALLERY OF FINE ARTThrough

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Calendar April 4: 12 + 7: Artists and Architects of CityCenter. $12; $10 for military, teachers and students; children 12 and under are free. 693-7871. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun.-Thu.; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Trifecta GalleryNov. 5-27: Transitions, an exhibit of new works by Eric Joyner and Joseph Fiedler. Dec. 3-24: Minumental Invitational, featuring small works by selected artists. Free. Inside the Arts Factory, Gallery hours: noon-4 p.m. Wed.-Fri.; noon-2 p.m. Sat.; and noon-10 p.m. on “First Fridays.” Michele C. Quinn Fine Art Advisory Through Dec. 18: Ellsworth Peanuts, an art exhibition by Ripper Jordan. Free. 366-9339; Gallery hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. Brett Wesley GalleryAn exhibit by a new featured artist is unveiled the first Thursday of each month. Free. 1112 Casino Center Blvd., 433-4433, Gallery hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wed.-Sun. The Gallery at Liberty pointE Through Nov. 13: Photography by Susanne Reese. Free. Henderson Multigenerational Center, 267-2171. Free. Gallery hours: 5 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat., and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sun.

“We’re proud of our work and the ‘supporting role’ our company and its people play in our community . . . including Nevada Public Radio!” 58  D e s e rt C o m p a n i o n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9

Contemporary Arts CenterThrough Nov. 26: Danielle Kelly and Noelle Stiles offer a performance-based exhibition of sculpture and dance, culminating in an experience through the intersection of time, space, physical potential and physical limits. Dec. 3-Jan. 28: Jim Stanford will show past and present board members’ artwork and narratives to offer an artistic perspective on the organization’s 20-year history. (Opening receptions Dec. 3, 6-8 p.m., and Dec. 4, 6-10 p.m.) Free. Inside the Arts Factory, 382-3886, UNLV’s Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery Nov. 13-Dec. 13. Extreme


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In Tuscany the food is everything. Tuscan Culinary Creations are mastered at Brio using the finest and freshest ingredients. Brio brings the pleasures of the Tuscan country villa to the American City.

Rosemary’s combines great food, drink and service with uncommon value and dining diversity. The Jordan’s draw from a variety of culinary influences to create a unique American cuisine with regional twists from New Orleans, the Deep South and the Midwest.

Giovanni and Marcello Mauro (the sons of Nora Mauro) have expanded on a tradition of culinary achievements to bring a non-traditional approach to wine tasting and the dining experience. They create delectable Italian dishes to indulge all of your senses and they feature the first Enomatic Wine Dispensers in Las Vegas.

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Welcome to Kabuki Japanese Restaurant. Never tried sushi or Japanese cuisine? Try us and we guarantee you’ll walk out hooked on our food. Look for the Red Mask. “Eat Sushi. Drink Sake.”

You’re invited to embark on a culinary excursion that will excite your taste buds with authentic northern Indian cuisine. Samosa Factory, located at Sahara and Decatur, offers a unique and modern rendition of the traditional Indian restaurant.

This once seven-table pizza eatery has transformed over the last 17 years to a three- room local favorite restaurant. Exquisite southern Italian dishes from Nora Mauro’s family recipes are served and their award-winning cocktails are made by Nora’s team of mixologists.

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6020 W. Flamingo Rd. #10, Las Vegas, NV (702) 873-8990

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Sensibility: Taiwanese Contemporary Video Arts. Free. 895-3893. Gallery hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Bridge GalleryThrough Nov. 25: In Danger, paintings by Linda Vaughn and Delores Nast of Nevada plants and animals in danger of extinction. Dec. 4Feb. 5: City Employee Juried Art Exhibit. Free. Gallery hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

DANCE INFORMAL DANCE CONCERTNov. 4, 1 p.m. An informal demonstration of what transpires in the wide array of College of Southern Nevada dance classes, including ballet, modern, jazz, tap, ballroom, yoga and Middle Eastern. Special presentations of student works from the Dance Club and improvisation class will be included. Free. Nicholas Horn Theatre, 651-4201, Fall Dance Concert Dec. 4, 7:30 p.m., Dec. 5, 2 p.m. The Concert Dance Company and the College of Southern Nevada Dance Ensemble join forces in a multimedia examination of the life, times and imagery associated with Joan of Arc. Choreographer Kelly Roth’s “Archetype: Images of St. Joan” probes the French cultural icon’s inner voices, outer struggles and the various layers of meaning attached to them. $10 adults; $8 students/seniors. Nicholas Horn Theatre, 651-5483.

Thanks to you, our community used 20 billion gallons less water last year than in 2002. You’ve removed 125 million square feet of grass and followed watering schedules and restrictions to do your part in surviving the worst drought in our region’s history. For our part, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has banked more than 500 billion gallons of water in reserve for our not-so-rainy days. SNWA is also working to access a portion of Nevada’s unused groundwater to supplement our supplies from the drought-stricken Colorado River.

XyachimalNov. 14, 7 p.m. The 30member costumed folkloric dance troupe presents traditional dances from all over Mexico. $7, Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340.

Our job is to protect the reliability of your water supply. We couldn’t do it without you. For more information about water conservation and the SNWA’s efforts to ensure our community’s sustainability, visit

Starcatchers recital Dec. 5, 6 p.m. Winchester’s hip-hop dance team presents its annual holiday recital. $5. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340. The Nutcracker Dec. 18, 7 p.m.; Dec. 19, 2 and 7 p.m.; Dec. 20, 1 and 5 p.m.; Dec. 24, 1 p.m. Nevada Ballet Theater presents

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Experience Experience Experience History & History & History & Science Science Science by the by the by the Megaton! Megaton! Megaton! At the At At the the

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Batman and the Mad Monk

Comic Book Festival All heroes aren’t in comic books. Sometimes they’re the guys who create them. Such is the case with Matt Wagner, whose fan base is built on his unique drawing, storytelling and versatility. He invented the mastermind assassin Grendel 25 years ago, and has followed up with several other popular characters such as Mage. More recently, Wagner worked on Trinity, a three-issue series for DC starring Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, and he produced a miniseries that chronicled the early Batman, called Dark Moon Rising. Wagner will be one of the star attractions at the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival on November 7 at the Clark County Library. He will be part of the “Goshdarn Batman Panel” at 11 a.m., joining Steve Englehart and Michael Uslan for a discussion about Batman’s evolution. That will be followed by his own Q&A session at 2 p.m., called “Spotlight on Matt Wagner.” The festival, which runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., features workshops and book signings featuring the top names in the industry, plus film screenings throughout the day. All events are free. For a complete schedule, visit

755 East Flamingo Rd. 755 East Flamingo Rd. Las NV 89119 755 Vegas, East Flamingo Rd. Las Vegas, NV 89119 (A mile east of the Strip) Lasmile Vegas, 89119 (A east NV of the Strip) (A mile east of the Strip) Mon.-Sat. 9am-5pm Mon.-Sat. 9am-5pm Sun. 1pm-5pm Mon.-Sat. 9am-5pm Sun. 1pm-5pm Admission booth closes at 4:30pm. Sun. 1pm-5pm Admission booth closes 4:30pm. Closed Thanksgiving Day,at Admission booth closes 4:30pm. Closed Thanksgiving Day,at Christmas Day, and New Year’s Closed Thanksgiving Day,Year’s Day Christmas Day, and New Day Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day


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The Atomic Testing Museum is a Program of the Nevada Test Site The Atomic Foundation Testing Museum is a Program of the Nevada Test Site Historical an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution The Atomic Foundation Testing Museum is a Program of the Nevada Test Site Historical an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution Historical Foundation an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution

D e s e r T C o m p a n i o n   61

Calendar an all-new production of the classic featuring choreography by Ballet Idaho Artistic Director Peter Anastos. $30, $45, $60, $85. Paris Las Vegas’ Les Theatre de Arts, 946-4567,

MUSIC The Desert Skye Pipes & Drums Nov. 21, 2 p.m. The Winchester Cultural Center’s “World Vibrations” series presents the sounds of Scotland. This local pipe band will present every skirl and flourish of the authentic music. $10; $7 seniors and students. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340. Liberace and Me Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, 1 p.m. Philip Fortenberry, pianist and associate conductor for Jersey Boys, puts on a concert honoring Liberace. $17.50. The Cabaret at the Liberace Museum, 1775 E. Tropicana Ave., 798-5595, Ext. 14,


U.S. Marine Band Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m. Free. See the “President’s own band”— America’s oldest continuously active professional musical organization. UNLV’s Artemus Ham Concert Hall, 895-2787.

Here I Am Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Ali Spuck, an Ovation-nominated singer and actress, takes audiences on a musical journey. $15. The Cabaret at the Liberace Museum, 1775 E. Tropicana Ave., 7985595, Ext. 14,

Community Band ConcertNov. 4, 7:30 p.m. Free. UNLV’s Artemus Ham Concert Hall, 895-2787.

76 Trombones + 4 Nov. 1, 2 p.m. Trombonists from across the United States gather at UNLV for this annual concert of light classics and jazz standards. $12. All proceeds support the Abe Nole music scholarship fund at UNLV. Artemus Ham Concert Hall, 895-2787.

UNLV Madrigal FestivalNov. 5, 2:30-10 p.m. Call 895-2787 for ticket information. Doc Rando Recital Hall. Folk Songs, chanteys, Spirituals and Broadway SELECTIONS Nov. 8, 2 p.m. The Southern Nevada Musical Arts Singers perform a wide range of works under the direction of Douglas Peterson. $10; $7 seniors, students, military and disabled. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340.

A Tribute to Judy GarlandNov. 1, 2 p.m. David de Alba, entertainer and legendary performer from the Finocchio Club in San Francisco, is dedicated to preserving the art of female impersonation. His tribute brings the essence of Judy Garland to the stage with songs and anecdotes. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459,

UNLV Percussion concert Nov. 8, 6 p.m. The performance features

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Nebojsa Zivkovic. Free. UNLV’s Doc Rando Recital Hall. UNLV Jazz Concert SeriesNov. 11, 7 p.m. Each month an ensemble performs a different style of jazz, from contemporary to Latin. The UNLV Jazz Studies Program has been active for more than 20 years, with many ensembles taking part in international festivals. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459, Die Fledermaus Nov. 13-14, 7 p.m. The UNLV Opera Theatre presents the Johann Strauss classic. $10; $8 seniors and military; students free. Doc Rando Recital Hall, 895-2787. UNLV Jazz concerts Nov. 17 and 23, 7:30 p.m. $10. Judy Bayley Theatre, 895-2787. William Kanengiser Nov. 18, 8 p.m. The guitarist, praised for his “exceeding vitality and warmth” and “dizzying

execution” by the Los Angeles Times, has developed a repertoire that includes unique arrangements of Mozart, Handel and Bartók. $35. UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall, 895-2787. UNLV Wind Orchestra Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m. $10, UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall, 895-2787. David Fenimore portRays Woody GuthrieNov. 20, noon. The City of Las Vegas’ “Downtown Cultural Series” presents a Chautauqua-style performance that weaves Guthrie’s words and music into a 30-minute monologue, after which Fenimore takes questions as Guthrie, then drops his character for a discussion of the legendary folk singer in our own time. Free. Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse, 229-3515. Las Vegas Philharmonic Masterwork CONCERT Nov. 21, 8 p.m.

The spotlight is on two 20th-century masters, Bartók and Gershwin, with guest pianist Joel Fan. The orchestra is under the direction of David Itkin. $35, $50 and $75. UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall, 895-2787, UNLV Symphony OrchestraNov. 24, 7:30 p.m. $10. UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall, 895-2787. UNLV Jazz Ensemble II Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m. A performance with guest drum artist Joe LaBarbera, $10. UNLV’s Black Box Theater, 895-2787. UNLV Jazz Guitar Ensemble and The UNLV Contemporary Jazz Ensemble Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m. The concert includes special guests. $10. UNLV’s Black Box Theater, 895-2787. Mariano Gonzalez Ramirez Dec. 5, 2 p.m. This master harpist plays Paraguayan

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Calendar music and, thanks to modifications he made to his instrument, American jazz. He has been celebrated in Japan and Europe and has performed in Carnegie Hall. $10; $7 students and seniors. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340. Jazz Combos Dec. 6, 2 p.m. The College of Southern Nevada’s student jazz combos, led by Matt Taylor, offer a relaxing afternoon of jazz standards and contemporary works. Free. Nicholas Horn Theatre, 651-5483. Orchestra Concert Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m. The College of Southern Nevada showcases its 50-piece orchestra in a performance of popular symphonic works. $8 adults; $5 students/seniors. Nicholas Horn Theatre, 651-5483. A Christmas Celebration Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m. Nevada Pops joins the Desert Chorale for this holiday concert. Free. UNLV’s Artemus Ham Concert Hall. Concert Band Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m. Conductor Richard McGee and the College of Southern Nevada Concert Band play holiday and standard tunes. $8 adults; $5 students/seniors. Nicholas Horn Theatre, 651-5483. Big Bands Concert Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m. The College of Southern Nevada’s two big bands, directed by Walter Blanton and Bob Scann, join forces to present the best in contemporary jazz band literature. $8 adults; $5 students/seniors. Nicholas Horn Theatre, 651-5483. Winter Choral Concert Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m. The College of Southern Nevada music program features its choral groups, under the direction of Mark Wherry, in a semester-ending concert. $8 adults; $5 students/seniors. Nicholas Horn Theatre, 651-5483. Sounds of the Season Dec. 10, 7 p.m. The Henderson Symphony Orchestra puts on this concert for Henderson’s WinterFest. Free. Henderson Convention Center, 267-4849, 64  D e s e rt C o m p a n i o n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9

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Calendar Christmas with the Musical Arts Society Dec. 13, 3 p.m. The Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society Christmas concert features its chorus and singers. College of Southern Nevada’s Nicholas Horn Theatre, 651-5483, North Pole Idol Dec. 17, 7 p.m. The City of Lights Chorus spoofs American Idol with a Christmas song competition at the North Pole before three familiar judges, providing an opportunity for the chorus and barbershop quartets to sing Christmas favorites. $12. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340.

THEATER Cannibal! The Musical! Wednesdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m. The Insurgo Theater Movement, a nonprofit organization dedicated to unrestrained exploration of the theatrical form, presents this musical by SouthPark creator Trey Parker, which is based on actual historic events and laced with comedy and improv. $20; $15 students and seniors. Shear Madness Theater at Town Square, 949-6123, New Play FestivalNov. 4-22. Nevada Conservatory Theatre will perform High Five the A-5 by Elizabeth Leavitt, The Way It Has to Be by Jeremiah Munsey and Sugar Daddy by Neil Haven. Times and tickets to be announced. UNLV’s Black Box Theatre, 895-2787, THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT Nov. 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21, 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 8, 15 and 22, 2 p.m. The College of Southern Nevada presents Jean Giraudoux’s story of the inhabitants of a Parisian neighborhood who are threatened by the greed and power of the world closing around them. $12; $10 students and seniors. CSN BackStage Theatre, 651-5483, Is He Dead? Nov. 6-22, 8 p.m. (Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.) Las Vegas Little Theatre performs Mark Twain’s

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Water works Elizabeth Herridge’s choice for the first major Springs Preserve gallery exhibit under her leadership was a natural. Robert Beckmann: Elemental Landscape has a water theme that befits the eco-spirit of the park and its steward, the Las Vegas Valley Water District. What’s more is the artist’s ability to draw from the depths of that theme. “I wanted to show an artist whose work evidences a deep connection to the landscape in and around Las Vegas and to the Great Basin in general,” says Herridge, the preserve’s new managing director. Beckmann, whose works of nature grace public walls near (McCarran Airport) and far (the U.S. Botanic Gardens in Washington, D.C.), also got points for style. “We have had a lot of photography in this gallery,” Herridge says, “and I wanted to show painting, especially images made in the classical format of oil on canvas.” One slight problem was that Beckmann had left his longtime Henderson home for Oregon five years ago. But there were still several landscapes scattered around Las Vegas—including a few inside Strip hotels—some of which were rounded up for the exhibit. Tucked away in his Oregon studio, he had a seven-painting study of the Las Vegas Wash that he’d started many years ago and suddenly had reason to finish. And he was inspired to create several fresh pieces based on the wild contrast between his old home and the new. “They are basically paintings about the significance of desert water and my experience with water up here,” Beckmann says. “It’s been a transformation.” The exhibit’s two-dozen works range from a horse running wild in the desert (a painting he’d made for MGM Mirage exec Bobby Baldwin) to a waterfall in a lush forest. And somewhere in between are a few bursts of serendipity, such as “Event” (pictured), in which Beckmann, inspired

play about an impoverished artist in 1860s France who stages his death in order to increase the value of his paintings. $22; $19 for students and seniors. Las Vegas Little Theatre, 362-7996, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS Nov. 17, 18, 24 and 25, 7 p.m. In the British National Theatre of America version of the story, Snow White finds herself stuck in Las Vegas as stage manager to her famous but jealous step-ma, who hires a Mafia hit man to rid herself of the fair singing lass. $15; $10 for children. College of Southern Nevada’s Nicholas Horn Theatre, 4970159,

by an Edward Steichen photograph, plays with “the notion of fire and ice.” In the end, as a bonus for the exhibit’s host, all paintings somehow “relate back to the situation in Las Vegas,” Beckmann says. Elemental Landscape will hang in the Big Springs Gallery through January 7. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Entry is included with general admission to the Springs Preserve ($9.95 for Nevada residents). Call 822-7705 for details. — Phil Hagen

A Christmas Carol: Scrooge & Marley Nov. 26-Dec. 13. Nevada Conservatory Theatre presents Israel Horovitz’s adaptation of the Dickens classic. Times and tickets to be announced. UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theatre, 895-2787, Peter Pan Dec. 3-13, 7 p.m. Thu.-Sun., plus 2 p.m. matinees on weekends. The Gaels Theatre Guild present Bishop Gorman High’s musical adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s classic story. $15 ($12 for matinees). Bishop Gorman High School’s Jim3 House of Performing Arts, 5959 S. Hualapai Way, 476-4175,

JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT Dec. 4, 5 and 10-12, 7 p.m.; Dec. 6, 12 and 13, 2 p.m. Rainbow Company Youth Theatre presents the classic musical using a pastiche of styles, from country to calypso. $7; $5 teens and seniors; $3 children 12 and under. Charleston Heights Arts Center, 229-6383, Las Tres Fiestas Dec. 19, 7 p.m., and Dec. 20, 2 p.m. The Colombia Association of Las Vegas presents a Spanish-language play re-creating Christmas celebrations in Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela. $7; $5 seniors and children under 13. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340. N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9   D e s e r T C o m p a n i o n   67

Calendar Wonder of the World Dec. 4-13, 8 p.m. (Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.) Las Vegas Little Theatre performs David Lindsay-Abaire’s play, a wild ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel of laughs as a woman embarks on a journey of self-discovery that has her crossing paths with a blithely suicidal alcoholic, a lonely tour-boat captain, a pair of bickering private detectives and a strange caper involving a gargantuan jar of peanut butter, all of which pushes her perilously close to the water’s edge. $12; $11 students and senior citizens. Fischer Black Box, 3920 Schiff Dr., 362-7996,

variety Senior Holiday Show Dec. 16, 1 p.m. Retired professional performers share their talents in a special holiday show for Nevada seniors. Free. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340. Winchester Players’ Holiday Show Dec. 23, 7 p.m. Young performers put on a musical featuring dancing and holiday songs, including Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” $5. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340.

FILM NOTBAD Film SeriesTuesdays in November, 7 p.m. Nov. 3: Lisbon Story. Nov. 10: Festival in Cannes. Nov. 17: Paris, Je t’Aime. Nov. 24: In Bruges. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459, CineVegas From the Vault Nov. 5, 7 p.m. Goliath. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459, Vegas Valley Book Festival’s Screening of Ragtime Nov. 8, 2 p.m. Director Milos Foreman assembled an all-star cast, including James Cagney, to bring the best-selling E.L. Doctorow novel to life. The true story of the murder of architect Stanford White, Ragtime tells of four families at the turn of the 20th century. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, it’s a vivid, high-energy tableau that interweaves the lives and passions of a middle-class, small-town family with

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Calendar Forbidden Broadway, holidaY style! Need a laugh this holiday season? Attending the performance of A Forbidden Broadway Christmas on December 5 should do the trick. The musical extravaganza, featuring the UNLV Jazz Symphony, is by the mischievous creators of the hilarious Forbidden Broadway, New York’s longestrunning musical comedy revue. Selections include “Barbra Jingle Bells,” “Fiddler on an Xmas Tree” and a little Pavarotti spoof called “O Holy Note.” The 8 p.m. performance is at UNLV’s Artemus Ham Concert Hall. Tickets are $40, $55 and $85. Call 895-2787. the scandals and events of America in 1906. Presented in conjunction with the City of Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs. Free. Clark County Library, 5073459, Native Voices: We Shall Remain— America Through Native Eyes Mondays in November, 7 p.m. Nov. 2: After the Mayflower. Nov. 9: Tecumseh’s Vision. Nov. 16: Trail of Tears. Nov. 23: Geronimo. Nov. 30: Wounded Knee. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459, Tuesday Afternoon at the Bijou Tuesdays in November, 1 p.m. Nov. 3: Night After Night. Nov. 10: The Wedding Night. Nov. 17: Night and the City. Nov. 24: Night Passage. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459, Finding our Voice: A Community Conversation with Native American Filmmaker Chris Eyre Nov. 12, 7 p.m. A conversation with the filmmaker and a screening of his documentary A Thousand Roads, created for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Topics include how Native Americans are seen and heard today, particularly in popular literature and film, and how Native Americans are finding their voice and culture in the filmmaking industry. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459, native american Dance and Music Nov. 16-18. Four-time world champion hoop dancer Derrick Suwaima Davis 70  D e s e rt C o m p a n i o n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9

(Hopi/Choctaw) and singer Ryon Polequaptewa (Hopi) present a 30minute family program of dance, music and storytelling. Highlights include the Hoop Dance, in which Davis uses his hoops to create the shapes of animals that play a role in the circle of life. The duo discusses the importance of the drum and the playing of shakers, rattles and flutes in Native American culture. Performances will be at the Rainbow Library, Nov. 16, 4 p.m.; West Charleston Library, Nov. 16, 7 p.m.; West Las Vegas Library, Nov. 17, 7 p.m.; Clark County Library, Nov. 18, 10 a.m.; and Sunrise Library, Nov. 18, 1 p.m. Free. Saturday Movie MatineeNov. 14, 2 p.m. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Free. Clark County Library, 507-3459,

YOUTH ACTIVITIES A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Nov. 14, 10 a.m. In this event, for ages 5-10, the City of Henderson re-creates Charlie’s pretzels, popcorn and jellybean dinner, then the kids make pilgrim hats and watch the movie. $8. Whitney Ranch Recreation Center. Register online at or at any City of Henderson recreation center. Santa’s Workshop Dec. 12, noon to 4 p.m. Children ages 6-12 make a takehome present and design their own wrapping paper. The event includes games, treats and holiday cartoons. Whitney Ranch Recreation Center. Register by Dec. 6 online at cityofhender- or at any City of Henderson recreation center.

FESTIVALS/SPECIAL EVENTS Life in Death FestivalNov. 1 and 2, 4-9 p.m. Honoring El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). In Mexican culture, the celebration features a display of altars—complete with witty epitaphs—erected by friends and family in honor of those who have died. There will be contests, an art exhibit, food and performances. Free. Winchester Cultural Center, 455-7340, el Dia De Los Muertos Nov. 1, 3-9 p.m. This Day of the Dead celebration features a variety of activities, food vendors and a display of altars. Live entertainment will include mariachis, dance performances, dramatic plays and more. Explore the Springs Preserve with guided tours and storytelling (the scary kind) through the trails. Visit for updates. $5; $3 children 5-12; ages 4 and under free. Pomegranate Art FestivalNov. 6-7, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The Moapa Valley Art Guild, in partnership with Clark County Parks and Recreation, celebrates local arts and crafts, and the pomegranate harvest. Free. Clark Country Fairgrounds, 1301 W. Whipple, Logandale, 397-6444, Holiday Cactus Garden at ethel’s Chocolate Factory Nov. 18-Jan. 1, sundown-10 p.m. The 16th annual transformation of Ethel’s three-acre

Coming 2012

Calendar from Mt. Charleston in the first half of 2009, the cleanup effort is ongoing. Whether it’s just you or a large group, join the Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Boy Scouts of America to further the mission. Contact Patty Conant at the U.S. Forest Service, 468-8929. Christmas Tree Recycling Dec. 26Jan. 15, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Bring your cut Christmas tree to the Springs Preserve to be recycled. Each tree is chipped into mulch and used in landscaping projects at the park and throughout the valley. Visit for drop-off locations. Call 822-7705 for details.

Insights on Beauty and Freedom Er Tai Gao, a former City of Asylum Las Vegas writer, reads from his memoir, In Search of My Homeland, at 7 p.m. December 2 in UNLV’s Barrick Museum Auditorium. An artist and writer, Gao first ran afoul of the Communist regime in China for writing an essay in which he stated that freedom was essential to the creation of beauty, and that beauty was an expression of freedom. Gao’s enormous skill as a writer and observer places him in a unique position to provide an insider’s look at a hidden side of Chinese history and political persecution in the second half of the 20th century. Gao’s reading is part of the Black Mountain Institute’s “Panels & Reading” symposia, which is presented in partnership with the UNLV Department of English and the College of Liberal Arts. In Search of My Homeland will be published by HarperCollins in November.

Botanical Cactus Garden into a chocolate wonderland features more than half a million lights and a variety of festival attractions. At various times during the holiday season, local choirs will perform holiday tunes, and Santa will make appearances in the garden every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening, plus Dec. 21-23. Free. Ethel’s Chocolate Factory, 2 Cactus Garden Dr., Henderson, 800680-0150, WinterFest Dec. 11, 6-9 p.m.; Dec. 12, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. The City of Henderson’s holiday celebration includes a tree-lighting ceremony, children’s activities and a Santa visit. Free. Henderson Events Plaza, 267-2171, 72  D e s e rt C o m p a n i o n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9

Winter Lights Festival Dec. 11-13 and 18-24, 5-9 p.m. Surrounded by a halfmillion eco-friendly LED lights, a Victorianstyle holiday celebration will envelop the Springs Preserve. Commencing with a traditional tree lighting, the festival includes live performances of holiday music and dance on three stages each evening, plus strolling carolers, roasting chestnuts, horsedrawn carriages and visits with Santa. Wolfgang Puck’s Springs Café provides the hot cocoa. Visit for updates. Non-members: $8 adults, $4 children 5-12. Members: $4 adults, $2 children 5-12. Age 4 and under free.

COMMUNITY Sweep the Peak initiativeAlthough 11,000 pounds of trash were removed

FUNDRAISERS Philharmonic Pizza Day Nov. 12, noon-9 p.m. Eat at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza (7345 Arroyo Crossing Parkway, 263-7171) and you’ll help a musical cause. On this day, Sammy’s will donate 20 percent of its proceeds to the Las Vegas Philharmonic. Call 408-4260 for details. Martini Monday Musicale Dec. 7, 5-7 p.m. Meet and mingle with fellow classical music enthusiasts for an evening of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at a luxurious private home in Summerlin. $35 in advance; $45 at the door. 408-4260, Kwanzaa Gala & Dinner Dec. 26, 6 p.m. Clark County Black Caucus presents its annual fundraiser, “An Evening of AfricanAmerican Culture,” featuring a traditional Kwanzaa ceremony, entertainment, soul food, a guest speaker and dancing to a live band. $75; $50 for active members. Nevada Partners Event Center, 710 W. Lake Mead Blvd., 596-2559.

HEALTH Free Eye ScreeningS for Diabetic PatientsNov. 9-14. Las Vegas Vision Source offers this free service as part of American Diabetes Month. Screenings are available for diabetics who have not had an eye exam in the past year. To make an appointment, go to or call 800-911-EYES.


Calendar LECTURES, PRESENTATIONS and PANELS Centennial Stories: Examining Our Past Clark County’s series of lectures and roundtable discussions in honor of its 100th birthday continues with “Military History in Clark County” on Nov. 6, and “Marketing in Las Vegas” on Dec. 4. Free. Both events start at 6 p.m. Clark County Government Center’s commission chambers, 455-8242, Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada Forums Nov. 1, 7 p.m.: “Interfaith Etiquette in a Pluralistic World: How to Be a Perfect Stranger,” at the Religious Science Center for Spiritual Living, 1420 E. Harmon Ave. Nov. 8, 7 p.m.: “Mysticism in My Faith,” at Saint Andrew’s Catholic Church, 1399 San Felipe Dr., Boulder City. Nov. 15, 7 p.m.: “The Open Forum,” at the Islamic Society of Nevada, 4730 E. Desert Inn Rd. Nov. 22, 6 p.m.: “The Interfaith Thanksgiving Service Sunday,” at Congregation Ner Tamid, 55 N. Valle Verde Dr., Henderson. Each forum is free. 895-9303, UNIVERSITY FORUM The public lecture series is sponsored and funded by the UNLV College of Liberal Arts. Upcoming talks includes: “Green Our Vaccines! Mercury Moms, Autism, and the Immunization Wars” (Nov. 4), by UNLV women’s studies professor Danielle RothJohnson; “Galileo’s Telescopic Discoveries, 1609-2009: Repercussions and Lessons” (Nov. 12), by UNLV professor emeritus of philosophy Maurice Finocchiaro; “No Dreaming, No Story: Baz Luhrmann’s Australia” (Nov. 19), by Louisiana State University English professor Patrick McGee; “The Millennium Villages Project Museum Auditorium” (Dec. 3), by Boston University School of Public Health professor Yesim Tozan. Each lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. Free. UNLV’s Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History. Financial Series Nov. 4, 2 p.m.: “Settling Landlord vs. Tenant Issues.” Nov. 9, 2 p.m.: “Solving Problems Concerning Job-Related Medical &

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Winchester Center

VENUE GUIDE THE ARTS FACTORY 101-107 E. Charleston Blvd., 676-1111, Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art 693-7871, Boulder City Art Guild Gallery Boulder Dam Hotel, 1305 Arizona St., 293-2138, html. Brett Wesley Gallery Inside the Newport Lofts, 1112 Casino Center Blvd., 433-4433. Bridge Gallery City Hall, second floor, 400 Stewart Ave., 229-1012, CHARLESTON HEIGHTS ARTS CENTER 800 S. Brush St., 229-6383. Clark County Library 1401 E. Flamingo Rd., 507-3400. Clark County Government Center 500 Grand Central Pkwy., 455-8239. Clark County Museum 1830 S. Boulder Hwy., Henderson, 455-7955, College of southern nevada (Performing Arts Center, BackStage Theatre, Fine Arts Gallery and Nicholas Horn Theatre), 3200 E. Cheyenne Ave., North Las Vegas, 651-5483, Contemporary Arts CENTER 107 E. Charleston Blvd., Suite 120, 382-3886, DESERT BREEZE PARK Spring Mountain Road and Durango Rd.

DOG FANCIER’S PARK 5800 E. Flamingo Rd. FIFTH STREET SCHOOL 401 S. Fourth St. GREEN VALLEY LIBRARY 2797 N. Green Valley Pkwy., 507-3790,

Nevada State Museum & Historical Society 700 Twin Lakes Dr., Lorenzi Park, 486-5205. Reed Whipple Cultural Center 821 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 229-6211.

Henderson Convention Center and Events Plaza Amphitheatre 200 S. Water St., 267-4055.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park West Charleston Blvd. at Blue Diamond Rd., 875-4141,

Henderson Multigenerational Center 250 S. Green Valley Pkwy., 267-4055 or 267-5800.

Springs Preserve 333 S. Valley View Blvd. (near U.S. 95 and Alta Drive), 8227700,

Henderson Pavilion at Liberty Pointe 200 S. Green Valley Pkwy. at Paseo Verde, 267-4055 or 267-4849.

Summerlin Library and performing Arts Center 1771 Inner Circle Dr., 507-3860,

Las Vegas little theatre 3920 Schiff Dr., 362-7996, Las Vegas Natural History Museum 900 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 384-3466, Lied Discovery Children’s Museum 833 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 382-3445. Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse 333 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 229-3515. lost city museum 721 S. Moapa Valley Blvd., Overton, 397-2193.

SUNSET PARK Sunset Rd. and Eastern Ave. UNLV (Artemus Ham Concert Hall, Black Box Theatre, Beam Music Center, Doc Rando Hall, Donna Beam Gallery, Barrick Museum, Fine Art Gallery, Judy Bayley Theatre, White Hall) 4505 S. Maryland Pkwy., 895-2787, West Charleston Library 6301 W. Charleston Blvd., 507-3964, Whitney Ranch Recreation Center 1575 Galleria Dr., Henderson.

lorenzi park Washington Avenue and Twin Lakes Drive.

Winchester Cultural Center 3130 S. McLeod Dr., 455-7340, Theater_and_Gallery.htm.

MICHELE C. QUINN FINE ART ADVISORY 620 S. Seventh St., 366-9339.

WORLD MARKET CENTER 495 S. Grand Central Parkway, 599-3093,

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reading: reading: Maile Maile Chapman Chapman and and VuVu Tran Tran

unlv unlv student student union union theatre theatre UNLV UNLV Schaeffer Schaeffer Fellows Fellows Chapman Chapman and and Tran, Tran, both both reading: reading: Maile Maile Chapman Chapman and and Vu Vu Tran Tran of whom of whom have have first first novels novels appearing appearing soon, soon, read read UNLV UNLV Schaeffer Schaeffer Fellows Fellows Chapman Chapman and and Tran, Tran, both both reading: reading: Maile Maile Chapman Chapman and and Vu Vu Tran Tran from from their their work. work. of whom of whom have have first first novels novels appearing appearing soon, soon, read read UNLV UNLV Schaeffer Schaeffer Fellows Fellows Chapman Chapman and and Tran, Tran, both both thursday, thursday, april april 15, 15, 2010 2010 at 7:00 at 7:00 p.m. p.m. from from their their work. work. of whom of whom have have firstfirst novels novels appearing appearing soon, soon, read read unlv unlv barrick barrick museum museum auditorium auditorium from from their their work. work. thursday, thursday, april april 15, 15, 2010 2010 at 7:00 at 7:00 p.m.p.m. in partnership in partnership with with the the department department of english of english unlv unlv barrick barrick museum museum auditorium auditorium thursday, thursday, april april 15, 15, 2010 2010 at 7:00 at 7:00 p.m.p.m. in partnership in partnership with with the the department department of english of english unlv unlv barrick barrick museum museum auditorium auditorium panel: panel: BMI BMI Fellows Fellows in Conversation in Conversation in partnership in partnership with with thethe department department of english of Nies, english featuring featuring Lavonne Lavonne Mueller, Mueller, Judith Judith Nies, panel: panel: BMI BMI Fellows Fellows in Conversation in Conversation and and Timothy Timothy O’Grady O’Grady featuring featuring Lavonne Lavonne Mueller, Judith Judith Nies, Nies, panel: panel: BMI BMI Fellows Fellows inMueller, Conversation in Conversation BMI’s BMI’s 2009-10 2009-10 fellows fellows discuss discuss thethe literary literary projects projects and and Timothy Timothy O’Grady O’Grady featuring featuring Lavonne Lavonne Mueller, Mueller, Judith Judith Nies, Nies, they’ve they’ve undertaken undertaken while while in residence inthe residence at UNLV. at UNLV. BMI’s BMI’s 2009-10 2009-10 fellows fellows discuss discuss the literary literary projects projects and and Timothy Timothy O’Grady O’Grady thursday, thursday, april april 29, 29, 2010 2010 atresidence 7:00 atthe 7:00 p.m. p.m. they’ve they’ve undertaken undertaken while while in in residence at UNLV. at UNLV. BMI’s BMI’s 2009-10 2009-10 fellows fellows discuss discuss the literary literary projects projects unlv unlv barrick barrick museum museum auditorium auditorium they’ve they’ve undertaken undertaken while while in in at UNLV. at UNLV. thursday, thursday, april april 29,29, 2010 2010 atresidence 7:00 atresidence 7:00 p.m.p.m. unlv unlv barrick barrick museum museum auditorium auditorium Generous Generous support support for29, BMI’s for29, BMI’s public public is provided is provided by by thursday, thursday, april april 2010 2010 atprogramming 7:00 atprogramming 7:00 p.m.p.m. Nevada Nevada Public Public Radio, Radio, TheThe Harrah’s Harrah’s Foundation, Foundation, Las Las Vegas Vegas CityLife, CityLife, unlv unlv barrick barrick museum museum auditorium auditorium Generous Generous support support for BMI’s for BMI’s public public programming programming is provided is provided by by andand the the Las Las Vegas Vegas Review-Journal. Review-Journal. Nevada Nevada Public Public Radio, Radio, TheThe Harrah’s Harrah’s Foundation, Foundation, Las Las Vegas Vegas CityLife, CityLife, Generous Generous support support for BMI’s for BMI’s public public programming programming is provided is provided by by andand the the Las Las Vegas Vegas Review-Journal. Review-Journal. Nevada Nevada Public Public Radio, Radio, TheThe Harrah’s Harrah’s Foundation, Foundation, Las Las Vegas Vegas CityLife, CityLife, andand the the Las Las Vegas Vegas Review-Journal. Review-Journal.

Calendar Insurance Claims.” Nov. 16, 6 p.m.: “Peace of Mind for Life.” Clark County Library, 507-3459,

Book EVENTS Vegas Valley Book Festival Nov. 4-8. The eighth annual fest features nearly 100 writers and several new events. Hosted by the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, the Library District, Nevada Humanities and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, this celebration of books of all genres includes readings, panel discussions, book signings, a used-book fair, a Children’s Book Festival, poetry and spoken-word performances. All events are free, with most taking place at the Fifth Street School. For details and the complete schedule, visit\vvbf. Vegas valley Comic book Festival Nov. 7, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. As part of the Vegas Valley Book Festival, the Clark County Library hosts panel discussions, workshops and book signings featuring the

76  D e s e rt C o m p a n i o n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9

top names in the industry (see sidebar on Page 61). There are also film screenings: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, 11 a.m.; Thor at the Bus Stop, noon; X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2 p.m. All events are free. An Evening with Kevin J. Anderson: Tales of Dune, Star Wars and Superheroes Nov. 5, 7 p.m. In this pre-event for the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival, the best-selling science-fiction author stops by to discuss writing for comics and books. Free. Clark County Library. A Reading with E.L. Doctorow Nov. 10, 7 p.m. The award-winning author and UNLV Elias Ghanem chair of creative writing will read from his works and take questions from the audience. Free. UNLV Student Union Ballroom,

sporting events Nevada Silverman Triathlon Nov. 8, 2 p.m. The fifth annual compe-

tition includes a 2.4-mile swim in Lake Mead, a 112-mile bike ride through the desert and a 26.2-mile run through the streets of Henderson to the finish line at the Henderson Pavilion. Free admission for spectators. 267-2171, Henderson Fabtech Desert Classic Dec. 5. This annual off-road desert race is the season finale for the Best in the Desert racing series. Free admission for spectators. 267-2171,

SPECIAL INTERESTS Strut Your MuttNov. 7, 10 a.m.5 p.m. This annual event features demonstrations of canine feats, pet adoptions, contests, information on pet-rescue groups and vendors serving dog and people treats. Admission free with a donation of dry dog food. See for details. Dog Fancier’s Park.

Calendar Candlelight Wedding Chapel Gala Opening Nov. 14, 6-9 p.m. For 40 years the freestanding chapel held weddings just north of the Riviera. Now, after a big move, it’s opening at a new location: the Clark County Museum. The celebration includes live music, food and a block party on historic Heritage Street. Free. 455-7955, las vegas square n round dancers Weekly square and ballroom dancing sessions at various locations. Call 220-4995 for details or visit Birding Basics Workshop Nov. 9 and Dec. 13, 8 a.m. In this City of Henderson workshop, ages 16 and up learn the basics of birding, including how to use binoculars and spotting scopes, identification techniques, and bird-watching ethics and etiquette. Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, 2400 B. Moser Dr. Register online at or at any City of Henderson recreation center. Sunset Walk on Anthem East Trail Nov. 14, 4 p.m. The annual walk is two miles. Free. Registration starts at 3:45 p.m.. Meet at Anthem Hills Park, 2256 N. Reunion Dr., Henderson. Tuesdays on the Trail: Cactus Wren Trail Nov. 17, 8:30 a.m. This one-hour walk is led by a City of Henderson staff member. For all ages. Free. Meet at Cactus Wren Park, 2900 Ivanpah Dr., Henderson. Italian Cooking Basics Nov. 24, 5:30 p.m. This workshop, for ages 12 and up, focuses on the flavors and techniques of Italian cooking. Learn to make (and sample) bean soup, homemade pasta, marinara sauce and creamy mushroom sauce. $33 (plus $7 for supplies). Henderson Multigenerational Center. Register at or any City of Henderson recreation center. Mexican Cooking Demonstration Dec. 1, 5:30 p.m. This spicy workshop, for ages 12 and up, focuses on the flavors and methods of this popular cui78  D e s e rt C o m p a n i o n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9

Artbeat goes on The City of Henderson’s new cultural arts series, ArtBeat, continues in November with three free concerts: Cy Curnin, lead singer of the Fixx, on November 6; award-winning singer/songwriter Karla Bonoff on November 13; and rising country music starlet Whitney Duncan (pictured) on November 20. Each installment of the series takes place outdoors at the Henderson Events Plaza on Water Street and, before, during and after the 7 p.m. concerts, features activities for adults and children, such as art shows and craft workshops. All activities are free, thanks to sponsorship by Target. For more information, call 267-2171.

sine. Learn how to make (and sample) albondigas soup, Mexican rice, chili Colorado and chicken mole. $33 (plus $10 for supplies due to the instructor). Henderson Multigenerational Center. Register at or any City of Henderson recreation center. Horsemanship Clinic Dec. 6 and 13, 1 p.m. The first clinic is for ages 6-17, and the second is for 18 and up. Horsemanship basics are taught, including catching, grooming, shoeing, tacking, mounting and walking the horse, plus there is a riding

demonstration. Free. Valley View Recreation Center. Register at least one week in advance at or any City of Henderson recreation center. “Everything You Wanted To Know About Coins” Dec. 16, 6-7:30 p.m. Free, ages 16 and up. This seminar teaches what makes coins valuable. There is no charge for admission or appraisals of coins and collections. Henderson Multigenerational Center. Register at or any City of Henderson recreation center. DC


story by Amy schmidt

Photography by Christopher Smith

The Queen of Cookbooks

Pamela Grogan’s hobby has grown into an obsession—she’s even writing a book about it. It can’t simply be a coincidence that a popular Las Vegas chef (Joe Pignatello) and one of the true trailblazers in Las Vegas dining (Steve Wynn) both lived in the same Scotch 80s house now inhabited by Pamela Grogan and her husband, Stephen, can it? It’s serendipity at the very least, perhaps even fate. That’s what I concluded during a tour of the culinarily blessed residence, which now houses her more than 3,000 cookbooks. Pignatello, who built the house in 1961, was known for cooking Italian cuisine enjoyed by celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the McGuire Sisters at the old Villa D’Este restaurant. In 1973, budding gaming magnate and gastronome Steve Wynn bought the house and lived there during his early days as boss of the Golden Nugget. When Stephen and Pamela moved in, their main culinary connection was her managing the Williams-Sonoma and Sur la Table stores. Then came the cookbooks. Over the past 10 years they have grown into a collection worthy of being featured in the Vegas Valley Book Festival. For two days in November (see sidebar), Pamela will share her hobby in an exhibit called “A Passion for Cookbooks: A Culinary and Cultural 80  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9

Tour from the Private Collection of Pamela Grogan, 1930s-1960s.” My personal preview begins well before we reach the mother lode, thanks to Stephen, who is not only a gaming executive but a published mystery writer. In his office are rows of first-edition mystery novels by legendary authors such as Elmore Leonard, Michael Connelly and Sue Grafton. There are also copies of his own book, Vegas Die (2008), and a manuscript for his next tome, Captain Cooked & The Poison Poi, a culinary mystery that combines the passions of husband and wife. In the nearby bar are such gems as a first edition of The Savoy Cocktail Book by legendary barman Harry Craddock (1930) and Bartender’s Guide by Trader Vic (1947). “There are mixologists in town that would kill to get their hands on these,” Pamela gushes. Past shelves of general-interest books in the living room and an overflow library of cookbooks in the exercise room, Pamela points out a smallish collection of culinary mysteries on the way upstairs (Sticks & Scones, Peach Cobbler Murder), which no doubt inspired Stephen’s current undertaking. There is also overflow from his collection on the second floor, including signed first editions of The Da Vinci Code and In Cold Blood.

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Once upstairs, we finally arrive at the door of her cookbook sanctuary. A 14-by18-foot bedroom has been transformed into a handsomely decorated library, and its fabled contents do not disappoint. I estimate that there are some 80 shelves filled with books about food and food history, all meticulously organized and categorized. Most are from her favorite period—the 1930s to the ’60s. “When I was growing up, the whole family—all eight of us—sat down together for dinner every evening,” Pamela recalls. “I think it’s that nostalgia for the good old times—the recalling of traditions that included all of us gathering in the kitchen for conversation and home-style cooking—that first drew me to cookbooks from this particular era.” It all started with a collection of old Gourmet magazines given to her by a friend who had found them while moving into a historic home in Chicago. They were from the 1940s and ’50s, when Gourmet covers featured elaborate food illustrations rather than photographs. Pamela was hooked, and she proceeded to purchase every copy of the magazine, from the premiere issue in January 1941 through December 1959. Then Pamela met Williams-Sonoma founder Chuck Williams, who reminisced with her about his experiences with James Beard and Julia Child. Knowing her passion for cookbooks, he urged her to buy Clementine in the Kitchen (1943), a memoir and collection 82  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R

A few of Pamela Grogan’s favorites among the 3,000 cookbooks in her home library.

of traditional French recipes. That was followed by the purchase of Katish: Our Russian Cook, published in 1947 following a series of articles in Gourmet. (Katish’s cheesecake is one of the magazine’s most requested recipes.) But it was Crosby Gaige’s Macaroni Manual (1947), an Italian cookbook, that really caused her dough to rise. She began researching cookbooks she had read about in the pages of Gourmet, tracking down their publishers and authors on eBay and The results range from cookbooks by famous restaurants and chefs to cookbooks for men and kids. Perhaps the most amusing category is movie-star cookbooks. There’s Celebrated Actor Folks’ Cookeries (1916), featuring silent-film stars’ recipes; What Actors Eat—When They Eat (1939), starring recipes by Lucille Ball and Gene Autry; and Candy Hits by ZaSu Pitts (1963), a book of the actress’s confections that was published posthumously. However, the Holy Grail of this category is the one Stephen snagged for Pamela at an auction one Christmas: a signed copy of Cooking for You Alone by Johnny Mathis (1982). The impossible-to-find, spiralbound, stand-up book features such hits as Shrimp-Stuffed Celery and Macaroni Chicken.

But mostly itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Pamela who does the purchasing. In one year alone she hauled home 500 books. And, yes, Pamela has cooked a recipe or two from many of them. To her, thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s half of the fun of collecting the books. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not a chef,â&#x20AC;? she says, â&#x20AC;&#x153;but I love to cook, and I love to read about cooking. I think the most interesting thing about going through all of these books is that the food basically stays the same.â&#x20AC;? Soon the cook and collector will add â&#x20AC;&#x153;authorâ&#x20AC;? to her list of accomplishments. With help from her husband, sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s working on two books: My Passion for Cookbooks, a personal journey about her relationship with food, cookbooks and cooking, and Las Vegas Kitchens, a culinary tour of the chefs and restaurants that fuel the dining scene off of the Strip. Both will be published by Gibbs Smith in the next two to three years. Meantime, sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s busy preparing for the Book Festival, which will be her first big showing. In fact, after my visit, sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s expecting Book Festival organizer Richard Hooker, of the Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs, to drop by to inspect her collection. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think he has any idea what heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in for,â&#x20AC;? Pamela says, beaming. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Oh, that reminds me, Rick Moonen [of RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay] borrowed a couple of books last time he was here. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m going to have to get those back from him. And not surprisingly, of the 3,000 books in the room, she knows exactly which two he has. DC

â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;A Passion for Cookbooksâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; WHAT: â&#x20AC;&#x153;A Culinary and Cultural Tour from the Private Collection of Pamela Grogran, 1930s-1960s.â&#x20AC;? This one-person exhibition, part of the Vegas Valley Book Festival, features American cookbooks that celebrate culinary achievement, book design, popular lifestyles and changing tastes. WHERE: Fifth Street School auditorium.

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A trio of favorite holiday fundraisers (clockwise from left): the Festival of Trees & Lights at the Paris hotel-casino; the Magical Forest at Opportunity Village; and the Winter Lights Festival at the Springs Preserve.

Santa Causes

Support local nonprofits this holiday season—while having a good time! ’Tis the season to get out, have a good time and help your favorite nonprofit group. Whether you hobnob with other philanthropic-minded Nevadans at a black-tie gala or sing carols with your family while strolling through a sparkling light display, there are plenty of options. You can even shop, for goodness’ sake. Here’s a roundup of holiday festivities that enable you to give as much as you get.

Swanky Soirees Chestnuts roasting on an open fire; Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Those lyrics could be the inspiration for Camelot at the Magical Forest on November 7. This holiday gala is the traditional fancy opening for the winter wonderland set up outside 84  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n NOVEMBER - DE C EMBER 2 0 0 9

Opportunity Village. Picture ladies in evening gowns riding the carousel, tuxedoed gentlemen sipping holiday-style cocktails, and yes, chestnuts roasting in the crisp outdoor air. No wonder longtime Las Vegas society reporter Elizabeth Foyt says this ticket always offers “the most bang for your buck.” This year’s Camelot will honor former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones and feature a silent auction and gourmet dinner. There will also be a special performance by the Rhythmic Arts Project, a new program that teaches Opportunity Village clients the art of percussion. Since 1954, the organization has been Nevada’s largest provider of vocational training, community job placement and social recreation programs for those with intellectual disabilities. ($500 per person; 880-4005;

Festival of Trees and Lights Courtesy The Down Syndrome Organization of Southern Nevada; M a g i c a l F O r e s t C o u r t e s y O p p o r t u n i t y v i l l a g e / B r i a n j a n i s ; WINTER LIGHTS C OURTESY o f t h e SPRINGS PRES e r v e

s t o r y b y A m y S C H MI D T




702.693.7871 or for tickets

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Philanthropy The Down Syndrome Organization of Southern Nevada follows Camelot with its 21st annual Festival of Trees & Lights on November 19 at the Paris hotel-casino. This year’s black-tie gala, whose theme is “Heart of the Holiday,” features a gourmet dinner, live music and auctions, which are always the big draw. With each festival comes a more impressive display of designer-decorated trees (complete with gifts under them), not to mention wreaths and holiday baskets, which are all put on the block. Some auction trees are considered so special that they’re hidden away until the live auction begins. This is the organization’s largest fundraising event of the year, and it helps support those with Down syndrome and their families by offering music therapy, medical and life-skills programs. ($250 per person; 648-1990;  The Sunrise Children’s Foundation’s annual Christmas Box Festival, on November 21 at the MGM Grand Conference Center, offers a good meal and a great auction for the more down-to-earth Las Vegas crowd. This year’s silent-auction items up for bid are wrapped around the gala’s Yuletide Gallery theme, and each “package” contains various gifts and comes with a fully decorated Christmas tree. After the gourmet dinner is a live art auction that includes works by this year’s featured artist, Leslie Rankin of Glassic Art. The Sunrise Children’s Foundation raises funds for its 12 pediatric health and education programs, including nutritious food, school-readiness and anti-smoking programs. ($185 per person; 731-8373)

Good Old-Fashioned Family Fun


The Contest is back!

The Strip’s neon glow has nothing on the millions of twinkling bulbs you can enjoy at Sunset Park’s Gift of Lights. And the most memorable way to take in this annual drive-through extravaganza is on foot two days before it opens. Tickets to the Children’s Heart Foundation’s second annual Light Up the Heart of a Child fundraiser on November 11 let you stroll through the displays with family, friends and carolers, with a hot cup of cocoa in hand rather than a steering wheel. It’s the only night that the two miles of more than 400 holiday displays are pedestrian-friendly. ($10 in advance, $15 day of event; 967-3522; NOVEMBER - DE C EMBER 2 0 0 9 D E S ER T C OMPANION  8 7

Philanthropy The aforementioned Magical Forest at Opportunity Village invites all ages to stroll through its winter wonderland starting November 21. What began with three trees and a wishing well in 1992 (raising $3,000) has grown into the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most elaborate display of holiday cheer with nearly two acres of festive attractions (more than $1.4 million was raised last year). Perennial highlights include the Forest Express train ride, enchanted carousel and alpine slide. This year the little ones will revel in new hands-on games and activities, including a pedal-car drag strip (complete with Christmas-tree starting lights) and a gingerbread house exhibit thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s twice the size of those in Magical Forestsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; past. (5:30-9 p.m. Sun.-Thu., and until 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat., through Jan. 2; $9.50 ages 12 and up, and $7.50 ages 3-11; 259-3741; At the third annual Winter Lights Festival, opening December 11 at the Springs Preserve, 19th-century tradition meets 21st-century innovation. The 80acre parkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s native desert gardens and â&#x20AC;&#x153;greenâ&#x20AC;? buildings will be decorated with a half-million eco-friendly LED lights to create a Victorian holiday-style celebration featuring traditional tree lightings, strolling carolers, horse-drawn carriages and visits with Kris Kringle. Buy sustainable presents for everyone on your list at the Springs Preserve Gift Shop, and be sure to drop by Wolfgang Puckâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Springs CafĂŠ to purchase a sweet treat or cup of hot cocoa. All proceeds benefit the programs and activities at the nonprofit Springs Preserve. (5-9 p.m. Dec. 11-13 and Dec. 18-24; $8 adults, $4 children 5-12 and ages 4 and under free; 822-7700;

Touro University Nevada

Celebrating Our 5th Anniversary December 2009


Shows of Arts Support Performing arts groups across the country traditionally rely on swift tickets sales to holiday performances to help boost their bottom lines. And this season, community support for Nevada Ballet Theatre and the Las Vegas Philharmonic is more important than ever. More than half of NBTâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ticket-revenue comes from its performances of The Nutcracker, which entertain some 7,000 people each year. With a new venue (the theater at the Paris hotel-casino) and a new production (choreographed by Peter Anastos of Ballet Idaho), the company hopes to increase that num-


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ber to 9,000. Company dancers will be joined by more than 90 children from its affiliated academy and the Las Vegas area for a traditional performance of the ballet classic, which opens December 18 (see Calendar for details). As part of its Pops Series, the Las Vegas Philharmonicâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Christmas Celebration will feature holiday favorites during its afternoon and evening performances on December 12 (see Calendar for details). But part of the fun is that you wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know which songs youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll hear till each one begins, as Music Director David Itkin has opted to keep his set list a surprise. He did mention that it will include everything from traditional Christmas music to contemporary holiday carols, with a few songs from popular movies mixed in.

Courtesy Opportunity village/Brian janis

Extra Good Reasons to Shop Fashion Show mallâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Holiday Mingle Jingle, on December 2, is a shopping party complete with cocktails, hors dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;oeuvres, a runway show and special incentives offered throughout the mall. Not only is it the perfect opportunity to cross a few more names off of your holiday gift list, proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Three Square food bank, Aid for AIDS of Nevada, the local branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Society and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Southern Nevada. (6-8 p.m., $20 advance and $30 day of event; 369-8382)

 Tory Burch at the Palazzo (December 2, 6-8 p.m.), the Shoppes at the Palazzo (December 10, 6-8 p.m.) and Saks Fifth Avenue at Fashion Show mall (Saturdays after Thanksgiving through December 19) also have holiday shopping events for good causes. Hosted by Vegas socialite Noey Richardson, Tory Burch will donate a percentage of sales from its evening of holiday shopping to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children facing life-threatening illnesses (212-9474). As of press time, details were being finalized for the other two events (for updates, call Saks, 733-8300, and the Shoppes at the Palazzo, 414-4525). The Las Vegas Great Santa Run needs 12,966 red-suited participants to show up at Town Square on December 5 for Las Vegas to reclaim the world record for most Santas gathered in one place (the current holder is Derry, Ireland). Even if you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t dress up or run, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a festive people-watching day. NASCAR star Kurt Busch, this yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s grand marshal, will join Mayor Oscar Goodman, Siegfried & Roy and Robin Leach at the finish line. There also will be music by Zowie Bowie, kidsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; activities, and food and drink vendors. Proceeds from runner/walker registration fees ($35 adults and $25 kids 12 and under; $45 day of run) benefit Opportunity Villageâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s programs for the intellectually disabled. (Registration fee includes a five-piece Santa suit. For details, call 8804055 or visit DC

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P h o t o g r a p h y b y C h r is t o p h e r S m i t h

The rubber plant looks elegant and purifies the air around it.

The Inner Beauty of Plants

‘Desert Bloom’ host Angela O’Callaghan tells how to get the most out of your home’s most attractive air fresheners. Growing plants indoors is a way for us to stay in contact with nature even when circumstances—whether limited garden space or extreme temperatures—conspire to separate us. Houseplants can reflect our personal taste, style and the amount of time we spend on them—similar to choices for our garden. Our selections not only shape the aesthetics of our living spaces, but also fulfill our need for fresh air by helping to purify the air we breathe in homes and offices. Research in India has demonstrated that having three good-size houseplants per person can be effective in absorbing household pollutants and either using them for their own growth or sequestering them in soil or tissue. Obviously, the bigger the plant, the more air it can clean. Some of the most common plants, such as areca palm (Dypsis lutescens), pothos (Epipremnum aureum) and snake plant (Sanseveria trifasciata), are particularly beneficial. American research has added several other ordinary houseplants to the air-cleaning roster: weeping fig (Ficus benjamina), peace lily 90  D e s e r t C o m p a n io n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9

(Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”) and corn plant (Dracaena fragrans). There are others, equally familiar, that will work well, including a few of my favorites (see sidebar).

Origin of the Indoor Species Although people started growing plants as food crops around 12,000 years ago, using them as ornamentation didn’t catch on until the 19th century, when the English brought home plants from their tropical colonies. Their long, cold, gray winters desperately needed brightening, and merchant ships brought vibrant color in the form of horticultural specimens from faraway lands. Some well-to-do Victorian homes maintained their exotic-plant treasures in elaborate structures, such as small, ornate houses reminiscent of glass birdcages. Indoor plants are rarely treated so extravagantly in modern dwellings, but it is common to find at least some plants hanging in a window or sitting on a sill. A wide variety of plants grow well indoors, with the biggest limitations being the amount of space

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Home and time we have to devote to them. But, rest assured, as long as they have enough light, water and protection from pests, they can succeed.

Let There Be Light— But How Much? Because many favorite houseplants evolved in the tropics where light is filtered, they do not require direct sun. The intense desert light can actually burn leaves, so to prevent this, try to keep plants away from west-facing windows. This is not to say that they can survive if it is too dim. Look at the plant. If it is pale, has fewer, smaller leaves or its stems appear longer and thinner than normal, it might be stretching out in search of light. In this case, it should be moved to a brighter area. (Bright northern light is close to ideal for most foliage.) And by the way, these same symptoms can occur if a plant is allowed to get too dusty, so occasionally wipe off the leaves with a damp cloth to let in the light. Interior plants are not terribly fussy about the kind of light they receive. For leaf production, the blue-white fluorescent type is as good as any, as long as it is bright enough and on for at least eight hours. Although people rarely look good under those long tubes, plants appreciate that fluorescents are “cool” and will not burn leaves. Houseplants grown for their flowers require more brilliant conditions, but again, not scorching western glare. There are many types of “grow lights” available. Some produce light in the redorange range, which are the wavelengths that best promote flowering. I have yet to see these in a compact fluorescent form, but no doubt that will happen. Note that these plants do not need light 24 hours per day; in fact, some require periods of darkness for certain processes, such as flowering.

Containers Make a Difference Where plants are placed is important, but so is what they are put in. Terra cotta (i.e. red clay) pots are popular, but not necessarily the best choice for our environment. Desert homes are very dry, which makes these standard flowerpots more brittle. Plants tend to dry out more quickly in them, too. They are also heavy and can be costly. But if you believe that the plants will look best in terra cotta, buy the attractive glazed kind, as they hold water better. Plastic and compressed foam can be 92  D e s e r t C o m p a n io n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9



  Experience the nearness of God by serving your Experience the nearness of God by serving your neighbors and the world: in shelters, schools, neighbors and the world: in shelters, schools, disaster recovery sites, soup kitchens and more. disaster recovery sites, soup kitchens and more. Join us in entertaining angels unaware. Join us in entertaining angels unaware. African violets.

Angelaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Top Three Any of this trio is a good choice because each is attractive and (even more important) easy to grow: African violet (Saintpaulia spp.). These are small, compact plants whose downy leaves surround clusters of purple, pink or white flowers. They do best when their soil is kept moist. Putting them on a table in a bright room will provide them with enough light to bloom 11 months of the year. Snake plant (Sanseveria spp.). Yes, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not too showy, but it is so forgiving! Place this native of West Africa anywhere in the house that gets some light, and it will grow. It tolerates sporadic watering and will recover if neglected. It will even occasionally send up a flower stalk from the midst of its sword-like leaves.

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Rubber plant (Ficus elastica). Although it probably will not flower in dry desert conditions, it has several other interesting features. The big, dark, glossy leaves are dramatic and serve as an elegant backdrop for other plants. Its leaves have the unusual habit of unfurling from a sheath. Trimming it produces a white fluid, which is the source of latex. This plant is a â&#x20AC;&#x153;rubber tree,â&#x20AC;? after all.


Note: Sanseveria and Ficus elastica are both air-purifying plants, which makes them even more attractive.

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made to look like highly decorative clay pots and are lighter and less expensive. There is no need to be confined to these traditional options; any container that holds soil and permits excess water to drain will work. My first houseplant, a coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides), lived in an old teapot with a hole in the bottomâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and it lasted for years. Although plants can be attached to an upright stake or trellis, some look best when they are flowing over the sides of a hanging pot. Philodendrons, spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum), spiderworts (Tradescantia) and others appear most graceful when draped. Just make sure the rim of the pot is smooth, because leaf stems can be abraded by rough edges.

Watering Secrets Hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the easiest rule of thumb for houseplant watering: keep the soil evenly moist. Even if the surface might seem dry, the plant may not need irrigation. To determine whether it is time to water, probe the soil about a half-inch deep. If it feels moist, hold off. If it is dry, bring out the watering can. The soil is the plantâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s true home: the primary source of its nutrients, the cool area where roots develop, and the reservoir from which it drinks. While very few plants will survive in a muddy, airless situation, neither will they survive without enough water. Because the members of our interior-scapes are from the tropics, they need regular moisture and relatively high humidity. The size and position of plants affects water needs, too. Smaller plants, with smaller root balls, dry out faster than larger plants, and hanging plants dry out faster than those sitting on a surface. And one last tip for successful plants in a dry desert home: You can slow the evaporation rate by double-potting, or placing a pot inside a slightly bigger one. This creates a somewhat higher air moisture level. Just make sure the inner pot can drain excess water. With a little attention, indoor plants can make a home attractive with purer air. Who would not want to get growing? DC Angela Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Callaghan, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Nevada Cooperative Extension, specializing in social horticulture. Along with Norm Schilling, she hosts â&#x20AC;&#x153;Desert Bloom,â&#x20AC;? which airs at 5:33 and 7:33 a.m. Tuesdays during â&#x20AC;&#x153;Morning Edition.â&#x20AC;? Archive editions are online at

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STORY by Andrew Kiraly

ILLUSTRATION by Christopher Smith

The Aught Years Looking back on Las Vegas’ 10-year wild ride. Ouch. Some decade that was. What the heck happened? Where did we go wrong? Remember how Las Vegas practically swaggered into 2000, how we stripped off the “family-friendly” fanny pack, smooshed up our cleavage and got back to the business of manufacturing sin? By late 2001, the upscale Wynn was rising on the rubble of the Desert Inn, the Palms was getting naughty on reality TV, and Las Vegas was reclaiming its rep as the place to party hard and wake up in a vodka-soaked limo with a kidney missing and a stripper crying to be let out of the trunk. The comeback was threatened by 9/11. But after a mere hiccup in tourism, we made a swift recovery, as though America said to the Taliban, “Vegas may be the Great Satan, but it’s OUR Great Satan!” In fact, “Las Vegas: The Great Satan” was a close second to what became our maddeningly inescapable catchphrase of the aughts, “What happens in Vegas ...” (Sorry, I’ll owe R&R Partners a $7 royalty if I write the whole thing.) But who needs fun-hating terrorists plotting our destruction? We proved we could hurt Las Vegas just fine from the inside. In 2003, pretty much half the County Commission—from grandmotherly Mary Kincaid-Chauncey to the precociously slick Dario Herrera—was swept up in the “G-Sting” scandal, in which they pulled favors for strip club mogul Mike Galardi in exchange for cash and gifts. The commission has since been freshly restocked with boring nerds, but hey, that’s better than a bunch of policymakers drinking champagne out of a Lucite pump at the Badda Bing. In 2003, then-Governor Guinn triumphed in a showdown with the Legislature over an unprecedented tax increase. He had a crazy idea about properly funding education and social services; the Legislature preferred the quaint, Hobbesian Nevada of kill-or-be-eaten-by-a-libertarian. Could this mean Nevada might be on its way to grown-up statehood? Don’t hold your breath. Later, Governor Gibbons, facing a similar budget crisis, would address it by repeatedly moaning “No taxes” in a creepy monotone. (The notorious charmer also earned a rep for playing footsie with cocktail waitresses and texting women who are not his wife.) Meantime, the housing market in Las Vegas was swelling like some stucco tumor, fueled by SoCal speculators and burger-flip96  D e s e r t C o m p a n i o n N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9

pers hungry for a piece of the American Dream, which had been outsourced to an unregulated arm of the banking industry. In their blind ardor, some were even persuaded to live in mid-rise concrete shoeboxes fancifully marketed as “lofts.” When Southern Nevada’s booming construction industry was reminded by Mother Nature that, ahem, we live in a drought-prone desert valley fed by a quickly vanishing artificial lake in an era of global warming, it tapped water honcho Pat Mulroy, who proposed building a giant straw to suck extra water from unimportant parts of Nevada filled with boring endangered species and national parks and historic ranches and stuff. Alas, Mother Nature didn’t need to lift a finger; once again, we proved to be our own worst enemy. When the greed-fueled housing bubble burst, it was revealed that the global banking system was pretty much a financial version of Dungeons & Dragons. The resulting tourism slowdown and credit woes stretched to the Strip and beyond, raining project cancellations, scale-backs and bankruptcy on everyone. Except for Steve Wynn, who, overnight, became Las Vegas’ most sane, responsible person. Of course, the local downside of a global recession is that slot machines don’t accept gnawed sourdough crusts from the bread line. As we approach the end of the decade, tourism continues its slow choke, and we’re facing a sobering realization: We’re the city people go to when they have a little extra money. Remember extra money, the stuff that went the way of other boom-era indulgences, like goldplated Hummers? But never fear! The historic election of an African-American president and a filibuster-proof Democratic majority sparked a sweeping stimulus program that’s beginning to show some promise. And with Harry Reid enthroned as the most powerful man in the Senate, surely Southern Nevada will see a particularly speedy recove— What’s that Obama just said? No bailout junkets to Vegas? Aw, come on, man! Maybe a revamped slogan will win his sympathy. How about, “Vegas: Cut us some slack”? DC Andrew Kiraly is a longtime Las Vegas journalist and frequent commentator on News 88.9 KNPR.

Desert Companion November/December 2009