Desert Companion - November/December 2010

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14th Annual

Restaurant Best Awards ThE YEAR’s

in Dining

Plus what’s on the menu for 2011 Page 42

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The Restaurant of the Year’s American Kobe skirt steak (Who won? See Page 50)

Gift ideas for everyone (yes, even that person) Page 16

An innovative health care co-op gets the president’s attention Page 18

Developers who reload rather than implode Page 24


CoMing soon


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Listen, Laugh, Think.

For 30 years, Nevada Public Radio has enriched the civic and cultural life of Nevada communities with programming that educates, informs and entertains. It’s a tradition of broadcasting and media excellence that we at the Harrah’s Foundation are proud to support year after year.

Publisher’s Note


The taste of things to come As we close out the two thousand “ands” — the decade that was the “ohs,” “aughts” and “naughts” — there’s no argument it was an extraordinary one for Las Vegas. And not just for us. It was a decade that prompted the regular scrutiny of commentators nationwide — on our rollercoaster economy (yes, we’re a microcosm for the nation), our advertising slogan (it’s marketing, not a mission statement), our architecture (yes, we’ve quit imploding things for now) and our supposedly feeble culture (you know that’s flat-out wrong, because you’re reading Desert Companion). In the fall of 2010, The New Yorker, Smithsonian Magazine and the New York Times all published elegantly argued versions of those predictable assumptions — and predictably inflamed the locals. It’s not surprising that those snapshots, typically penned by visiting journalists, are recognizable but unfamiliar versions of the place we live. As we evolve Desert Companion into a monthly magazine in 2011, we’ll continue to navigate the emerging cultural trends, people and issues that embody the place you recognize as home. We’re planning more news-driven journalism and a continuing design evolution that’s been one of the hallmarks of our award-winning publication. Meanwhile, our online edition, www.desertcompanion. com, will develop in tandem with the resources of Nevada Public Radio and occasionally collaborate with “KNPR’s State of Nevada” on News 88.9 KNPR. And it will happen under the direction of Editor Andrew Kiraly, who will offer commentary, insight and perspective in this very space. And, no doubt, a dose of humor. In 1997, when food critic John Curtas first compiled a best-of list for Nevada Public Radio (a broadcast tradition we translated into a Desert Companion feature starting last year), we were still a year away from the “wow” of Bellagio’s dining. The Palace Court at Caesars won that year’s top honors. Fast forward to this, our 14th annual appraisal of Las Vegas’ dining scene, and it takes an entire team of gustatory expertise to rank and honor the best — and those honors begin on page 42. Elsewhere on the menu, Brock Radke puts three diverse culinary innovators in the same room for conversation: Jet Tila of Wazuzu, Kari Haskell of Retro Bakery and Ricardo Guerrero of Slidin’ Thru — eavesdrop on page 54. Also check out Al Mancini’s briefing on what The Cosmopolitan will add to the dining scene (page 58). We’re not entirely focused on our plates in this edition. T.R. Witcher explores an innovation in health care that began in rural Nevada and is now coming to Clark County — a solution for the uninsured that’s 2

Desert Companion


turning heads in Washington D.C. (page 18). As we come to terms with a very changed construction industry, we also take a look at projects easily labeled “fixer-uppers,” but on a scale that makes implosion of historic properties seem a quaint solution of yesteryear (page 24). Architect Eric Strain (featured on the cover of Desert Companion March 2010) offers his insights on the new Colorado River Bridge at Hoover Dam, 75 years after that engineering marvel was completed. It’s hard not to imbue the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge with symbolism. In part, it’s a monument to the reversal of fortune our region has endured. And if we can take that as inspiration to make our community a stronger one than in the last decade, it won’t really matter if we ever agree on the name we give the past 10 years.

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


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contents desert companion magazine //



Read how MEET revived a classic downtown building on page 24.


Restaurant Awards

features on the cover Our Restaurant of the Year’s American Kobe skirt steak

Photography Sabin Orr

The envelope (and the check), please. It’s time for our annual Desert Companion Restaurant Awards


Conversation with Innovation

Three up-and-coming Vegas food phenoms talk about getting right, taking it big and keeping it real By Brock Radke


What Meals May Come

The Cosmopolitan’s food blitz By Al Mancini 4

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09 All Things to All People

A feast for the eyes; guilty pleasures of food critics

18 Issues

A new program brings affordable health care to the uninsured of Las Vegas

By T.R. Witcher

24 History

People and companies upgrading the historic gems in our midst

By Al Mancini and David McKee

35 Style

Whatever the occasion, sharp looks are in for the holidays

63 Guide

Concerts, art, theater, dance and more

80 Essay

Great meals with good friends truly create moments to savor

By Brock Radke

C H E F : C H R I S t o p her S M I T H

Our Chef of the Year is renowned for his daring technique. Read about him and other winners on page 42.


Prepare to Compete In 18 months, Every other Friday and Saturday

November//december 2010

p u b l i s h e D B y n e va d a p u b l i c r a d i o

Mission statement

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

STAFF Andrew Kiraly Editor CHRISTOPHER SMITH Art Director CHRISTINE KIELY Corporate Support Manager laura alcaraz National Account Manager Sharon Clifton Senior Account Executive rebecca smietana Senior Account Executive allen grant Senior Account Executive Jessica Connors Account Executive

SENIOR STAFF Florence M.E. Rogers President / General Manager

for top management positions by acquiring the integrated understanding of business and strategic perspective necessary to lead.

For more information on the Executive MBA program and how to join this group of accomplished professionals, please contact the UNLV MBA Programs

(702) 895-1367


Desert Companion

David Cabral, Chairman American Commonwealth Mortgage

Elizabeth FRETWELL, Chair City of Las Vegas Susan Brennan, vice chair NV Energy REED RADOSEVICH, Treasurer Northern Trust Bank

Cynthia M. Dobek Director of Business, Finance & Human Resources



who want to prepare to compete


Florence M.E. Rogers, Secretary Nevada Public Radio

dave becker Director of Programming

designed for experienced managers

nevada public radio COMMUNITY ADVISORY BOARD

Melanie Cannon Director of Development

Phil Burger Director of Broadcast Operations

Our Executive MBA program is

nevada public radio BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Cybele, Scott Dickensheets, Maureen Gregory, John Hardin, Jarret Keene, Heidi Kyser, Al Mancini, Juan Martinez, Aaron Mayes, David McKee, Al Mancini, Christie Moeller, Chris Morris, Sara Nunn, Sabin Orr, Brock Radke, Demetrius Robles, Eric Strain To submit your organization’s cultural event listings for the Desert Companion January edition, send complete information to by Dec. 5. Feeback and story ideas are always welcome, too. 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:,, www. Desert Companion is published six times a year by Nevada Public Radio, 1289 S. Torrey Pines Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89146. It is available by subscription at, or as part of Nevada Public Radio membership. It is also distributed free of charge at select locations in the Las Vegas Valley. All photographs, artwork and ad designs printed are the sole property of 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.

DENNIS COBB President, DCC Group Al Gibes Stephens Media Interactive Carolyn G. Goodman The Meadows School Marilyn Gubler The Las Vegas Archive Kurtis Wade Johnson Precision Tune Autocare

shamoon ahmad, m.d., mba, facp

Megan Jones Friends for Harry Reid

Louis Castle, Director Emeritus

Susan K. Moore Lieutenant Governor’s Office

Patrick N. Chapin, Esq., Director Emeritus



Steve Parker UNLV

sherri gilligan MGM Mirage

Richard Plaster Signature Homes

jan L. jones Harrah’s Entertainment Inc.

Chris Roman Entravision

John R. Klai II Klai Juba Architects

Kim Russell Smith Center for the Performing Arts

Cynthia Alexander, Esq. Snell & Wilmer Lamar Marchese, President Emeritus Chris Murray Director Emeritus Avissa Corporation

CANDY SCHNEIDER Smith Center for the Performing Arts Stephanie Smith Bob Stoldal Sunbelt Communications Co.

Curtis L. Myles III Las Vegas Monorail

kate turner whiteley Kirvin Doak Communications

Jerry Nadal Cirque du Soleil

Brent Wright Wright Engineers

Peter O’Neill R&R Partners

bob gerst Boyd Gaming Corporation

William J. “Bill” Noonan, Director Emeritus Boyd Gaming Corporation MARK RICCiARDI, Esq., director emeritus Fisher & Phillips, LLP Mickey Roemer, Director Emeritus Roemer Gaming TIM WONG ARCATA Associates

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What’s coming in culture, lifestyle, politics and more [ ART ]

[ D I V ER S ITY ]

A feast for the eyes

The other natives

Menus courtesy of unlv libraries; peanut butter photo istock

When you’re eating out, the dining experience begins long before that first forkful hits the flavor zone (i.e., your mouth). It starts with the menu — you know, the anticipation, the giddy indecision, the fatal, dignity-crushing mispronunciation of bruschetta. And UNLV Libraries has turned Vegas’ rich culinary history into a visual feast with its recently launched online collection of historical menus, “Menus: The Art of Dining.” At the library’s website, you can browse menus from hundreds of restaurants of yesteryear, from the 101 Ranch House (fronted by an appetite-jarring bucking bronco, no less) to the Aladdin (its room service menu presented by a curvy genie, natch) to Circus Circus’ Pink Pony, whose menu is both whimsical and iconic. “This collection provides a great opportunity for us to be able to examine culinary trends and how they’ve changed over the years,” says Pat Moreo, chair of UNLV’s Department of Food and Beverage. Oh, and if you thought Claim Jumper pioneered the idea of caloric overload by the shovelful, think again. Back in the day, Moreo notes, when people went out to eat, they ate. “One striking thing is the quantity of food people would eat,” he says. “The number of courses they served were pretty huge.” And inexpensive. A Southern-style half spring chicken, with hot buttermilk biscuits and honey for $1.90 at downtown’s storied Blue Onion restaurant? Sure! Aside from long-gone bargains, the menus also offer a glimpse into the design aesthetics of yesteryear — sometimes stylish, often corny. For example, the Union Plaza’s Easter menu looks like more like a religious tract than a guide to good eats, and old El Rancho’s wine list features — what else? — a cowgirl working a wine press. We say yee-haw to that. Check out “Menus: The Art of Dining” at menus. — Andrew Kiraly


You like to eat what?!

If you’re still hungry for more after digesting our Restaurant Awards (page 42), dig into our panel of critics’ other picks for Sin City foodies to swallow. A new book by John Curtas, Max Jacobson and Al Mancini, Eating Las Vegas: The 50 Essential Restaurants, is available Nov. 15. It’s the result of a lot of eating — and a little bit of fighting — among our city’s most prominent critics. But, after reading their best restaurant picks, you might get the impression these guys have never, say, crunched through an entire bag of Late Night All Nighter Cheeseburger Doritos while catching up on “Cougar Town” (there’s a confession in there somewhere). However, a little goading reveals that these culinary connoisseurs do indulge the occasional guilty pleasure. John Curtas loves Oreos. So great is their gravitational pull on

To most of us, November means a big turkey, loud relatives and tryptophaninduced slumbers in the easy chair. However, it’s also Native American Heritage Month. And to the local Native American community, its future is just as important as its heritage. That’s where programs such as UNLV’s federally funded TRIO (it’s the name, not an acronym) come in, helping Native Americans enter college. Native American graduation rates from UNLV lag behind those of other minorities at 26.9 percent. College enrollment isn’t much better. “Enrollment in secondary education continued on page 10

his sweet tooth that, he reports, “I purposely refrain (and sometimes have to be restrained) from ever traversing the cookie aisle in any grocery store.” Max Jacobson’s kryptonite is Cheez-Its. “I used to live a few stations away from the Sunshine Biscuit Co. in Boston, and I’ve been eating them for 50 years,” he says. Original Cheez-Its, mind you. “I hate the various flavored Cheez-Its the way a Brazilian probably hates Irish Creme flavored Mini-Moos in his office coffee.” Al Mancini likes peanut butter — straight off the spoon, the way nature intended. And, he says, “any mac and cheese that comes with the packet cheese (not the powder).” Call it discriminating bad taste. — A.K.

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continued from page 9

is the lowest compared with other minorities,” says Kyle Ethelbah, adult educational services director with UNLV’s Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach. “We need to focus on higher education enrollment, graduation and retention. Once students get here, they need to stay.” Ethelbah should know. He’s a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, as well as a product of the TRIO program, which helps firstgeneration students, adults and minorities apply for college. “Without TRIO, I would not have had the skills to apply for financial aid,” he says. Last year, TRIO joined with another federally funded program to help more than 24,000 underprivileged Clark County high school students graduate and apply to college. And college is about more than just landing a good job. For Native Americans, success also means higher visibility and a way of promoting and preserving their unique culture. “In K-12, many cultures are reduced to one paragraph in history class,” says Christopher Kypuros, faculty advisor to UNLV’s Native American Student Association. “Higher education provides a new universe for students seeking to preserve their culture. … Native students are serious about their education. The majority are educated and proud of their heritage. Native people are still here and are moving forward.” — Maureen Gregory 10

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The Colorado River Bridge relies on its slender form to make a statement.

Grace under pressure

The new Colorado River Bridge balances power with poise Few structures still stand tall in Southern Nevada after 75 years — and fewer that do still leave you in awe. But standing on the Hoover Dam, it’s still inspiring to peer over the edge into the river far below your feet. (Even more impressive is the fact this structure was conceived in four years with a total of 76 drawings — and without computers.) Now the newly opened Colorado River Bridge complements the dam’s sense of power with a touch of grace. That’s complement, not compete. It’s hard for anything to compete with the enormity of the dam — besides the sheer canyon walls it spans. But where Hoover Dam relies on force of mass to inspire, the new Colorado River Bridge spans the canyon walls with a slenderness of form. Its arch frames the distant mountains while also recalling the dam’s massive concrete backside. The bridge stands in sharp contrast to the bulk of the dam, enabling a dialogue between them. However, outside that dialogue, the Colorado River Bridge (also called the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge) is also a feat in itself. Slender upright columns supported by a graceful arch appear to suspend the bridge in air. The form should not just be seen as a means to speed travel to Arizona, but seen from the dam as you envision humanity’s pure desire to overcome obstacles and dream. But with the concrete structure’s simplicity of form, have we lost the intricate detailing of a steel bridge, with girders and beams that would have added both delicacy and drama? If it had been a cable suspension bridge, would its form be overshadowed by the dam’s weight? These questions aren’t intended to detract from this engineering marvel, but rather to raise the question of the impact design has on our everyday lives. From objects we take for granted to our city roads, have we accepted just getting things done over potential aesthetic delight and function? For instance, what if the bridge had included a pedestrian bypass to a visitor’s center or a restaurant hung from the apex of the arch? Can you imagine your astonishment overlooking the gorge or looking back onto the dam at night, lit in all its beauty? No more would we just have pictures of the dam taken from helicopters, but we ourselves could stand witness to its power and beauty. In solving everyday transportation issues, we cannot continue to ignore their inherent ability to inspire and celebrate life and travel. On my recent trip to view the bridge, there was another admirer there who joked about the frightening prospect of bungee jumping off it. I much prefer my feet on the stability of the dam to appreciate this new engineering marvel — one that is mere feet from another Southern Nevada original we’ve called our own for 75 years. Architect Eric Strain is principal of Assemblage Studio. Among his current projects is College Villas, a community-focused senior housing project in Henderson.

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Coming 2012

PORTRAIT BY Chr i s t opher S m i t h


‘We want to get families back to the dinner table’ Ask your kids where carrots come from, and we bet you ten bucks they say a carrot factory. Consider it a symptom of an era when agribusiness and grocery megachains have turned sustenance into a global cash machine — one that contributes to childhood obesity. The solution, according to Candace Maddin and daughter Tiffany Twohig? Get the kids back to the land — literally. Their nonprofit, Create a Change Now, works with local schools and star chefs to teach kids to grow, harvest and cook their own food. “We want to empower and educate children to make healthier food choices,” says Executive Director Twohig, who’s been volunteering for a veritable alphabet soup of kid-oriented nonprofits since she was toting a Trapper Keeper herself. Meanwhile, Maddin’s got the celebrity chef connection. Her husband, Jimmy Maddin, is CEO of Chef Live Media. “There are lots of nutrition programs for kids out there,” says Create’s co-founder and President Maddin. “What makes ours different is the award-winning chefs.” It’s pretty elementary: kids x (healthy food + cooking lessons) = better eating habits for life. For the healthy food part, Twohig and Maddin turned where all the big-name chefs are turning lately: edible gardens. Kids in the program learn to make dinner — really make it, from planting the seeds to pulling the veggies from the ground to plating up the meal. Alexander Dawson School, Elaine Wynn Elementary, Gene Ward Elementary and Keller Elementary schools have joined the program. And at Rose Warren Empowerment Elementary, students will grow ingredients for dishes like pizza or salsa, which they’ll whip up under a chef’s guidance. The Warren project also includes a sensory garden for autistic children and an ABC flower garden. Look out! Little Tommy’s rocking a Cuisinart! Kitchen appliance manufacturers and landscape architects have donated to the cause as well, and volunteers include top chefs (Luciano Pellegrini, John McDermott, Thomas Trevathan, John Simmons) and master gardeners (University of Nevada Reno’s Angela O’Callahan and Karen Johnson). Twohig’s been hitting up everyone from the FDA to the Southern Nevada Health District for grants, too. But you can plant a seed as well. Visit to get involved. “We want to get families back to the dinner table,” Twohig says. “We want to make a difference in communities.” — Heidi Kyser 12

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Tiffany Twohig wants kids to get back to the land — literally.

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ST o r i e S BY S a r a N u nn

Reed Krakoff


The new reins behind Coach Wondering about that brand-new name recently opened near the Trevi Fountain at the Forum Shops? Reed Krakoff is best known as the current president of Coach, Inc. — and the man who brought said label back from designer handbag purgatory and onto the arms of many a well-heeled suburbanite and citydweller. His first eponymous collection showed for Fall/Winter 2010, and he’s wasted no time opening up stores in New York, Tokyo and Las Vegas.

At Reed Krakoff, you’ll find urban warrior shapes in a fall-friendly palette, focusing on cozy oversized sweaters, structured dresses and shearling-trimmed jackets. All in all, an edgier look than you might expect from the fellow who launched that familiar Coach monogram back into the stratosphere. But isn’t it fun when kids and executive creative directors rebel? Reed Krakoff at the Forum Shops, 644-4153

New to the racks



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It may well reinvent the term, “It sure doesn’t look like much,” but don’t judge this shop by its exceedingly humble façade. Designer Fashion Clearance, next to Off 5th at the Las Vegas Outlet Center, has a selection rivaling any highend boutique on the Strip — because that’s where much of their product comes from. The difference: seriously discounted prices on labels like Lanvin, Robert Rodriguez, Sophia Kokosalaki, Matthew Williamson, Nicholas Kirkwood, and a headspinning array of others. Recent finds include a Viktor & Rolf runway dress marked down more than 90 percent off just because it was missing a few sequins, and a whole shelf of half-price hats by legendary milliner Philip Treacy. Designer Fashion Clearance, 7680 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Suite 207, 699-9964.

Local department store buyers are either responding to a feistier vision of Vegas or they’re just in an apocalyptic mood lately, judging by the latest labels to make it to our hometown shops. This fall Barneys at the Palazzo Shops added Altuzarra, a name familiar to anyone who stalks the blogs for news of what the Paris Voguettes are wearing. As often as not, Carine Roitfeld’s black-clad army are decked out in the wares of this Parisborn designer, known for the kind of grown-up sexy looks that Bebe aspires to while remaining, tragically, Bebe. Think black leather packages tied up with strings, and skip breakfast — these sizes run small. Elsewhere, Neiman Marcus has added Balmain and Thomas Wylde, two labels known for dressing bad girls with a lot of money (which is the best kind of bad girl: She buys all the drinks). Seek out the Balmain rack for expensively distressed jeans and T-shirts, and keep an eye out for the gorgeous brocade jackets from the fall collection. Wylde, meanwhile, is a steady go-to for tasteful chain embellishments and feather and skull prints. Barneys at the Palazzo Shops, 629-4200. Neiman Marcus at the Fashion Show Mall, 731-3636 N o v e m b e r / / D e c e m b ER 2 0 1 0

R e e d KRAKOFF COURTESY o f TKTK ; A l t u z a r r a c o u r t e s y o f A l t u z a r r a

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ST o r Y BY S a r a N u nn a n d J u a n M a r t i ne z

Skull cardholder wallet, $35 For: Your husband, whose wallet bulge you can spot even from where you’re sitting, even though he’s in the kitchen making himself a BLT Why: A cardholder will force your husband to streamline, since it only gives you room for four cards and a few bills. He doesn’t need to take his Blockbuster card anywhere. And when’s the last time you went to a Blockbuster anyway? 2003? Where:

Oh, you shouldn’t have The secret to the perfect gift? Know your audience. Here’s our rundown of quick gifts for special people

Moleskine Kindle DX Cover with Reporter Style Notebook, $59.99 For: Your half-Luddite, halftech-geek werebeast Why: We’re assuming he owns a Kindle because apparently everyone is now contractually obligated to own one, and we’re assuming he’s vaguely embarrassed by it. So why not let him pretend it’s a notebook that was used by Matisse, Hemingway and Picasso? Where: Local Borders

Jonathan Adler Salvador Vase, $98 For: Your quirky hipster friend who likes bands you’ve never heard of, and whose job you’re still not really sure you understand Why: You don’t have to get their modernist taste in interior decorating to know that a vase with a mustache on it is pretty awesome. Where: Barneys at the Shoppes at the Palazzo, 629-4200


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Lamy Safari Fountain Pen, $22-$40 For: Your aspiring writer who keeps losing other, more expensive fountain pens Why: The Lamy Safari, designed by Germans, boasts a practically indestructible nib and a cheap, cheerful plastic body. Where: Paradise Pen Company in the Fashion Show Mall, 696-1088

Peas & Carrots Vegan Delivery Service, entrees start at $8 For: Health-conscious locavores with busy schedules Why: You can have delicious, animal product-free entrees, soups, breads and cookies delivered right to your favorite vegan’s door — handmade by Las Vegans and ready to heat and eat. (Pictured: pumpkin walnut loaf.) Where: http://pcveganfood.

Take Ivy, photographed by Teruyoshi Hayashida, $14.47 For: The Harvard man for whom J. Crew just isn’t quite preppy enough Why: This rare and coveted bible of Ivy League fashion set the sartorial tone for decades of old money men (and those who aspire to look like them), and is finally being re-released for this generation. Where: Local Borders

Everything is Terrible! The Movie / 2Everything2Terrible II: Tokyo Drift DVDs, $32.02 For: Your buddy wearing all the Day-Glo and the vintage Alf T-shirt even though he’s too young to remember “Saved by the Bell” Why: The found-footage clips assembled by the fine folks at Everything is Terrible! have been passed around the Internet for years, but nothing you’ve seen matches the insanity of these extended mash-ups — ’80s infomercials, early ’90s action movies, misguided instructional videos and Angela Lansbury in a bathtub. Where:

Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir Collection, $75 For: Your recent college-grad younger sibling currently battling it out in a bad roommate situation Why: Create a calming bedroom space (and disguise the creeping scents of mac ’n’ cheese) with a luxe Jo Malone candle, body creme and cologne. Where: Jo Malone at the Wynn Esplanade, 770-3485

Yellow and Blue Astaire Seven-Fold Flower Woven Men’s Tie, $185 For: Your lawyer friend whom you had to call when some illegal substance fell out of your purse and it wasn’t like it was your actual purse anyway Why: A seven-fold tie is a sartorial labor of love. It’s made out of a single, uncut piece of silk folded seven times. It’s substantial, hefty, beautiful, a marvel of human engineering and ingenuity — just like your legal defense. Where: Thomas Pink at the Forum Shops, 696-1713; the Shoppes at the Palazzo, 369-2469

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story by T.R. Witcher

Spread the health around

A new program brings affordable health care to the uninsured of Las Vegas — and it’s creating a stir across the nation In 2007, Reno security guard Ron Watson lost his job — and his health insurance. At his doctor’s recommendation, he applied for membership with Access to Healthcare Network, a then brand-new discount health care provider for the uninsured poor. Two years later, he was fighting prostate cancer, which meant 10 biopsies, a battery of tests and 45 sessions of radiation, five a week. But his connection with Access, which operated only in the Reno area, proved invaluable. During his radiation treatment, he met with his doctor weekly. The regular fee for office visits was $751; he paid only $70. (These savings multiplied over the nine weeks of treatment.) An arm implant to lower his testosterone levels ordinarily cost $5,000; he paid $250. The network also helped connect Watson with other sources of financial aid, courtesy of the American Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Watson even had his own care coordinator who scheduled his appointments. The treatments saved his life; the innovative health care network saved him thousands of dollars. 18

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It all started in … Reno? The need has never been greater. More than 600,000 Nevadans don’t have health insurance, according to the Great Basin Primary Care Association, a statewide group of primary care clinics. Two-thirds of those uninsured are in Southern Nevada. Nationally, 58 million lack adequate health care. And to think the epicenter of an experiment that might solve this problem is … Reno? Sherri Rice, the charismatic director of the non-profit network, is quick to remind us that we’re in Nevada, a state where, like the Titanic, we’re “arranging the deck chairs every day in this state.” In other words: Sometimes the best medicine comes from the sickest places. Access traces its roots to a handful of stakeholders in Reno — Renown and St. Mary’s hospitals, Washoe County officials, a smattering of health care and business professionals — who were trying to provide primary health care to the uninsured poor. Rice, who’s lived in Washoe County for 33 years, has a background in consulting nonprofits. She calls herself a “systems expert. I come in and really overhaul the systems.” When she was brought in to run the network, her mandate was

© i S to c k p h oto . c o m / m m at h i s 7 8

Now his cancer is in remission and he’s feeling fine. “They came through with flying colors,” he says of Access to Healthcare Network. On the other hand, most Americans came through this year’s debate over health care reform with a giant question mark. What got reformed exactly? Who were the winners and losers? Health care may have galvanized Tea Partiers, but it’s unclear whether they have any more idea about the state of our system than anyone else. By contrast, Access to Healthcare Network represents an almost embarrassingly straightforward idea: Connecting Americans with no insurance and limited means to pay for care with a comprehensive network of health care providers willing to provide medical services at a steep discount. Since its 2006 debut in Washoe County, the network has engaged more than 700 health care providers to serve more than 7,000 county residents. Now Access is headed south. In December, the network begins accepting clients in Southern Nevada.


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Issues to design a comprehensive health care model from the ground up. That meant developing a shared responsibility model — in which patients became active stakeholders — and greatly expanding the scope of services the program required. Primary care alone wouldn’t cut it. “In the beginning, everyone was a skeptic,” says Rice. “Even me. I wondered if anyone was going to pay. It’s like opening a restaurant and hoping people come in to eat.” Access to Healthcare Network is not an insurance plan. Here’s how it works: If you’re poor and uninsured, and if you make between 100 percent and 250 percent of the federal poverty level, you can join its network of discounted health care providers. In three short years, Rice has brought together 700 providers in Northern Nevada. Insurance broker Valery Clark had a friend whose daughter was involved in an accident and required surgery. Her friend had no insurance for his daughter; paying for her bills would have put him in bankruptcy. “They got her enrolled on the plan, and everything was totally by the book,” says Clark. “His daughter’s entire topto-bottom cost was probably around $1,000.” The network is about much more than a simple co-op model, however. For instance, it launched a special fund to help patients with particularly challenging diseases such as HIV or cancer, and has taken in $500,000 in donations over the last three years. On top of that, Access has also begun an individual development account pilot program in partnership with Wells Fargo and Charles Schwab. Members (40 so far) who open an account with the bank and receive financial literacy training can put in a minimum of $25 a month into a special account to help pay for medical services. The plan will match it in donated dollars, up to $500 a year. Unlike fly-by-night discount plans that aren’t regulated by the state, the state’s Division of Insurance oversees the network. “Her program is very unique,” says Kim Everett, acting chief of the Nevada Health and Life Section of the Division of Insurance. “I think you’d be hard-

pressed to find anything similar to it.” The Division of Insurance has received no complaints about the network. “I don’t think there’s any type of similar entity in the United States. I don’t think of any health care program that’s not insurance,” says Donald van Dyken, a family practice physician in Reno. “If you didn’t see them at your office, you’d see them at the emergency room.” But then again, Reno is a small, tightly knit community. There are only a few hospitals. Getting stakeholders together in one room is a manageable proposition. But how would Access to Healthcare

“Her [Access to Healthcare Network] program is very unique. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anything similar to it,” says the state Insurance Division’s Kim Everett.

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Network fare in rural Nevada, with its sparse and spread-out population? And how will it fare in Southern Nevada? By the end of the year, we should start to find out, because the network is expanding across rural Nevada and straight into the Las Vegas Valley. Friends with (health) benefits On a day in early September, the staff at Access to Healthcare Network is moving into new offices near McCarran Airport. Kara Jenkins, who runs the network’s operations in Southern Nevada, is as busy making sure the office furniture is in place as she is hiring staff. She likens patient care to finding a good hairdresser — quality service leads to quality word of mouth. “It’s a pretty straightforward model and program,” says Jenkins, “but it takes a lot of courage to do this.” Right now, Jenkins, Rice and their staff are recruiting providers in the Las Vegas Valley. Given that there are some 400,000 uninsured in Las Vegas (that’s more people than in all of Reno), it’s not an easy task. Still, Rice says the Reno model “barely had to be tweaked” to come into Vegas. “Helping the uninsured poor is helping the uninsured poor.” Eighty percent of Rice’s members are working; 65 percent work full-time.


Access to Healthcare Network’s Sherri Rice, left, and Kara Jenkins have created a program that’s drawn the president’s attention.

What’s in it for the providers? For doctors, “If it works for them to have a lot of cash-pay patients who may pay less than some other patients but there are more of them, they see it as a balance,” says Lise Mousel-Martini, the network’s provider recruitment manager. “For some of the specialists who charge very high dollars to begin with or their practice is full, they either don’t have the room or really don’t see a reason to add another level of patient care that is at a lower rate.” As for hospitals, non-profit facilities are bound by statute to do charitable care. For-profit hospitals have their altruistic side, too, but they still have to worry about the bottom line. With Access, for-profit hospitals may help direct the uninsured poor out of emergency rooms — venues where hospitals have to treat whoever comes in. “The most expensive care you can get is an emergency room setting,” Rice says. Emergency rooms are expensive, in part, because you need staffing for everything: a cold or sore throat, a heart

attack or head trauma. The value proposition the network offers hospitals is this: Can they cut costs by seeing more uninsured patients, and seeing them at a discount, or by waiting for those patients to turn up in an emergency room, where expenses are high? “Nobody in Las Vegas wants to take care of any more than they have now,” says Rice. “Nobody. So, also it’s an issue of [needing] to get almost all the hospitals to come on so there’s a shared responsibility. We can’t ask one hospital to do this.” One brick at a time Access is negotiating with the Clark County Social Service Department for a pilot project, which will include University Medical Center, and Rice is in negotiations with the other hospital systems in the valley. She thinks they will be “generous of spirit and come on.” But for Access to work, it has to be more than doctors, patients and hospitals. The rest of the elephantine medical-industrial complex has to be involved as well. This includes labs and manufacturers. WheelDesert Companion


Issues chairs and crutches. Podiatrists and dentists. Discounts need to be negotiated in advance; otherwise, they need to be negotiated on the spot. Three lab and diagnostic centers — Nevada Imaging Center, LMC Pathology and Primex Lab — have signed on, along with 60 physicians, though Mousel says they need many more. Still, she is upbeat. “We’re doing pretty well getting the pieces in place we need so we can offer our members a full complement of care,” she adds. “We’re building a wall a brick at a time and so far we’re finding most of the bricks that we need.” The program with the county is still being finalized, but Nancy McLane, the director of Clark County Social Service, expects it to be finalized by year’s end. She says the contract with the network will allow the county to offer patients who don’t qualify for county-run programs a viable health care alternative. Some patients who are already in the county’s system will be able to access the network for specialist care that UMC can’t meet, such as dermatology, orthopedics and some radiology. Third, Access to Healthcare Network will treat undocumented workers, which should lower medical costs for the county. “If there’s another way for them to get care before they get sick, it benefits us financially,” McLane says, “and it also keeps the emergency rooms from being backlogged [with patients] who could be treated elsewhere.” Still, Rice has been careful about rolling out the program too quickly. When asked how she plans to get the word out, she cautions that, in a strange way, she doesn’t want the word to get out. For her, quality control is everything, and it’s why, in order to keep the program humming, she and her staff are keeping tight reins on it. In Northern Nevada, Access receives no more than 200 new patients a month; the network won’t take any more than 100 to 150 people for the first year in Southern Nevada. “If we were to be inundated with thousands of people at a time,” says Rice, “which we could be, our quality would go down and then people would say, ‘Access to Healthcare Network sucks.’” The program is stingy, too. There’s no online application; patients must come in person to fill out an application 22

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The health care co-op and meet with a care coordinator. No-shows? Try again in three months. And members who don’t bring cash to their appointments don’t get seen. It’s as simple as that. This means that the program self-selects those most likely to be successful. The plus side is that of 7,000 members in Washoe County, Rice has only had to ask 40 people to leave for non-payment. “We made getting into Access a form of responsibility. That’s why we’ve been so successful.” On the other hand, there are 130,000 uninsured in Northern Nevada, 80,000 in Washoe County.

How it works: In the Access to Healthcare Network, patients bring cash up front (or are sponsored by friends or family who can) to doctors and specialists, and receive standardized, steep discounts on everything from routine checkups to MRIs to surgery. More expensive services, such as hospital stays, have caps on them, so patients always know the maximum fee they’re facing. Members also pay a monthly fee of $24; unlimited family member plans run $35 a month, bringing the true average cost per person to $15. Members of the program must agree to pay up front for any services they receive. Sample discounts: Primary care followup visits, average: $95 Access: $40 Specialty care, urologist, follow-up visit, average: $180 Access: $65

Outpatient hernia repair average: $12,500 Access: $1,200 Dental exam, X-ray, and cleaning: $285 Access: $85

Access goes to Ten-day inpatient Washington hospital stay, average: Rice is a hell of a sales$50,000 woman. She says she Access: $3,000 max “could sell a book with no paper if I believe in the Source: Access to Healthcare Network program.” But this may be her biggest sales job yet. whether funds to roll out a version of the For the last couple years, she has been program elsewhere will come through. traveling to Washington, D.C., meeting Rice says she’s broached the idea of franwith Obama administration officials like chising the model — and she’s talking Health and Human Services Secretary with a patent attorney about copyrightKathleen Sebelius and Nancy-Ann Deing aspects of the program — but she’s Parle, director of the White House Office uneasy with being responsible for the of Health Reform. quality of, say, an Access to Healthcare Peggy Tighe, a partner with Strategic Network franchise in Ohio. Health Care, a Washington, D.C.-based “We’re not sure we want little Mchospital lobby, met Rice in 2008 and Donald’s all over the place.” Consulting, found herself a quick convert to Access’s she adds, might prove to be a better model. model. Either way, Rice’s work may help “This was jaw-dropping to me. We us reclaim a piece of our health care have spent years talking about all the system. It’s a model that’s rooted in different pieces and parts of what health values that the left and the right should care reform should contain, and AHN be able to get behind: It requires that contains all of these things.” everyone, especially patients, have skin Rice’s Washington trips led to a small in the game, but it also shows what hapsection in the health care bill that seeks pens when public and private partners to replicate the network and “provide can join forces and consider something access to comprehensive heath care sergreater than the bottom line. vices to the uninsured at reduced fees.” “You don’t need a planning grant,” The plan calls for a three-year pilot projsays Rice. “You don’t have to wait until ect in 10 states. the cows come home. We’ve got the The problem? The health care bill model. You could start in six months and was not entirely funded; so Access will get people the care they need.” DC have to wait until next year to determine

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POrtrait BY Christopher Smith

Steven Siegel and Michael Crandall of the Siegel Group have quickly made a name for themselves rehabbing historic properties from downtown to Mount Charleston.

You make me feel brand new In an implosion-crazed town, meet the people polishing historic gems in our midst Build it up. Blow it up. Build it better. That might have been the de facto motto of can’t-stop won’t-stop Las Vegas — until the housing bubble popped and brought with it the end of an era. But even the global economic crisis has a silver lining. In Southern Nevada, that’s arguably translated into a willingness to revisit the past with something more than a wrecking ball. Some business and individuals are now considering history an asset instead of a liability, something to embrace rather than erase. Here are a handful of the folks and firms who are thriving in the past. The Siegel Group: Boutique and improved After dropping out of junior high, Siegel Group founder Steven Siegel earned money by buying old cars, restoring them and selling 24

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them for a profit. He later moved on to buying down-and-out apartment buildings and fixing them up, eventually creating Siegel Suites extended-stay hotels. And over the past few years, he’s been rescuing classic Las Vegas properties. The company bought downtown’s well-past-its-prime 112-room Gold Spike casino in 2008. Viewing the fleabag 50-room motor lodge next door as a blight on the neighborhood, the Siegel Group bought that as well and rechristened it Oasis at Gold Spike. Today, both offer completely renovated modern rooms. The $3-a-hand “sexy blackjack” tables, open only at night, draw both local residents and tourists. And the casual, affordable Golden Grill has become a popular downtown lunch spot for government workers. With basic rooms costing between $35 and $65, the prices aren’t

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drastically less than some options on The Strip. But Siegel Group’s Director of Business Affairs Michael Crandall feels they still hold a unique appeal for budget-conscious tourists. “You can absolutely get a room at The Hard Rock or the Luxor or any of these places that are offering $39 or $49 room nights,” he says. “But after you stay there, it’s $39 a person for breakfast or lunch. Or it’s a minimum on Friday or Saturday of $25 at a blackjack table. So you can’t really afford to stay on the Strip. The amenities cost more than the room.” The Gold Spike was just the beginning for The Siegel Group. Later in 2008, it bought The Mount Charleston Hotel, and commenced giving the mountain resort a full makeover. And when one-time hipster hangout The Artisan Hotel was closed down following repeated health code violations, the company swooped in and bought that as well. Its once-filthy hotel rooms have been cleaned. The bar has reopened. And the restaurant has been approved to once again open for business. Crandall believes all of those properties were “hidden gems” just waiting to be rediscovered. 26

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Above: A room at the rehabbed Rumor. Right: This isn’t your (drunk) father’s Gold Spike casino.

But the purchase that excited him the most is the dilapidated 150-room St. Tropez, directly across Harmon Avenue from The Hard Rock. Others viewing the abandoned resort may have only seen the green water in the pool and the trashed rooms. But Steve Siegel and his team envisioned hammocks hanging from trees, guests doing yoga poolside, suites by famed designer Marc Tracy and private candlelight dinners on guests’ balconies. So they brought in former Hard Rock Casino president Yale Rowe to create their most ambitious project yet, Rumor, which Crandall views as “The Roosevelt in Hollywood meets The Viceroy in Palms Springs.” The four boutique hotels clearly serve very different markets. But Crandall says one philosophy underlies them all. “The most important thing is you know your customer,” he says. “If you know your customer, you can cater your business around your customer.” — Al Mancini

Others might have only seen green water in the pool and trashed rooms at the dilapidated St. Tropez, but Steve Siegel and his team saw hammocks, poolside yoga and candlelight dinners. The result: Rumor resort. Tropicana Las Vegas: Restoring excitement Although the new mantra at the Tropicana Las Vegas is “We’re changing everything,” they’re really not. After two solid decades of scrapping old hotel-casinos outright and replacing them with high-cost megaresorts,

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History the Tropicana is a “new” casino for the Great Recession: fresh skin and innards woven into the skeletal structure of an existing casino-resort. “When are they gonna redo the Trop?” is a question that’s hung over the Strip since the late ’90s. A series of owners were either too indecisive or too penurious to pull the trigger on a makeover, allowing it to deteriorate. Canadian investment firm Onex Corp. bought the Trop out of bankruptcy in June 2009 and installed casino veteran Alex Yemenidjian as CEO. His challenge: restore excitement without spending a fortune. The first set of upgrades, which included a complete redo of the casino floor and the Paradise Tower, was budgeted at $165 million — chump change A penthouse at the renovated Tropicana. “We really benefited from the timing of the economy,” says the Trop’s Arik Knowles. “Everybody’s looking to unload materials.”


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in the era of $8.5 billion CityCenter. “We really benefited from the timing of the economy,” says Vice President of Hotel Operations Arik Knowles. With so many contractors suddenly idled, “everybody’s looking to unload materials,” he says, which enables Knowles to obtain furniture, accessories and maintenance equipment at deep discounts. “Forty-two-inch plasmas, in our class, is unheard of,” he says of the high-definition TVs that are now standard in Paradise Tower rooms. The new chairs in the convention center “were meant for another property but we were able to piggyback” off the rival’s misfortune. (Knowles is a former Fontainebleau executive.) Aside from being greeted by two footmen at each door, another sign of a new Trop attitude is the white marble flooring and white-painted brickwork in the casino. According to Knowles, the new “South Beach” theme translates as a lightening and brightening

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of guests’ perceptions, with a casual, approachable feeling — reflected in the “residential” look of the refurbished rooms — a paramount consideration. Since the Trop evolved — then devolved — over a half-century, “original” is a relative term. The initial V-shaped motel wings remain and will get repainted, along with being stripped of some trellis-like frippery. In the Paradise Tower, the first-generation chair rails, plaster ceiling medallions and bathroom tiling will be ongoing vestiges of the old days. However, the dark wood-paneled front-desk area and its “old school experience” are slated for removal, as is the signature barrel-vaulted, Tiffany-glass ceiling over the table games. Knowles concedes this “is the one controversial element. Everybody wants us to keep it.” Even in a recession, progress in Vegas extracts a high cost in nostalgia. — David McKee MEET Las Vegas: Reintroducing style Except for a cryptic, all-caps “MEET” along its parapet, there’s nothing that outwardly denotes the three-story, windowless structure at 30

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MEET’s Dan Maddux transformed an old downtown office building into a boutique convention space.

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233 S. Fourth St. as Las Vegas’ newest convention facility. MEET Las Vegas, which opened March 16, is a caterpillar-to-butterly transformation that owes its metamorphosis to Mayor Oscar Goodman. When CEO Dan Maddux was opening his previous executive-training facility, the White House behind the Convention Center, Goodman told him, “Downtown would be a better place for you.” (Hizzoner is nothing if not direct.) Maddux soon found himself scouting downtown for C2-zoned buildings that were conducive to hosting events and exhibits, and to which he could transfer White House’s training facilities. (The latter now operates from the top floor of MEET Las Vegas.) He needed a high-ceilinged building with few or no columns interdicting its floors. “In exhibitions, a column-free floor is desirable … Bank buildings tend to meet those requirements,” Maddux says, and he lucked into a 1974 structure. “That was the one building that had the ceiling heights I needed on the first floor,” he says, in addition to all continued on pg. 78

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Calling All Shoppers: Holiday Hours Extended Fashion Show, Meadows Mall and The Boulevard Mall are making holiday shopping even easier with extended holiday hours for shoppers throughout the month of December. Opening at 6 a.m. on Black Friday, November 26, shoppers will have even more time to make their lists, check them twice, and start shopping!

‘Believe in the Magic’ Holiday Show Returns to the Fashion Show

“Believe in the Magic” features a 35-foot Christmas tree, Fashion Show dancers, artificial snow that falls from the ceiling, and, of course, Santa. The show is free and unfolds on the runway in the Great Hall (near Nordstrom) at Fashion Show. For dates and show times please visit

Pet Nights at Area Shopping Centers Pet Night with Santa is back by popular demand! Whether they’ve been naughty or nice this year, cats and dogs are invited to make a special trip to the mall of their choice to pose for a keepsake photograph with Old St. Nick. Choose from one of three Pet Nights at Fashion Show, Meadows Mall and The Boulevard Mall; November 29, December 6, or December 13 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.


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Sharp is the season Whether it’s cooked goose or crafted cocktails, you’ll shine in style this holiday season Photography:  Christopher Smith Styling:  Christie Moeller Hair & MakeUp:  natasha chamberlin ModelS: Harmony & Jamie Location: Capo’s Italian steakhouse

NOVeMBER//DECEMBER 2010  Desert Companion



Blue alert

The tuxedo originated as a deviation in formal wear, a deviation that at the time was considered scandalous, gauche and daring. These days, however, black tie constitutes a uniform — one whose elements are not to be messed with unless you want to be mistaken for an NBA star or a daytime Emmy winner. Stick with the classic combination: peak lapels or a shawl collar, in midnight blue. Black is fine, but keep in mind that even expensive black wool tends to look cheap and shiny under most lighting. Wear a self-tying black bow tie, an evening shirt with a modest cutaway collar (avoid the wing collar, unless you’re a butler), onyx studs, a dark solid cummerbund and velvet slippers or patent leather pumps. Consider black tie an exercise in formal limits: Success hinges on the right fit and on following good taste. — Juan Martinez

Tom Ford navy tuxedo jacket, $4,260 Tom Ford Black Tuxedo Pant $1,195 Tom Ford Black Velvet bow tie, $220 Armani white shirt, $295 All available at Neiman Marcus

Black-tie bombshell

How many times a year can you justify a full-length gown? If black tie is on the invitation, skip the cocktail look and go for full-on glamour with an ankle-grazing number that will catch eyes while keeping your calves warm in the December chill. Alberta Ferretti offered a series of silk stunners for fall/winter 2010, and Marchesa can always be counted on for red carpet-worthy gowns. If you find your budget somewhat below runway levels, be comforted by formal offerings from more wallet-friendly labels like Nicole Miller, Badgley Mischka and David Meister. When accessorizing, avoid standbys like shawls or clutches; it’s best to have your hands free for the necessities, like a fine cocktail and a finer date. Essentials can be carried in your date’s pocket, and you should leave your phone at home — anyone important enough to need your attention at a black-tie event will be there in person. Towering heels and elbow-length gloves add drama, but if that’s insufficient, pin some sparkling jewels into your hair or start some sort of fight. — Sara Nunn Phoebe Couture black gown, $390 Barrera earrings, $275 Barrera ring, $275 All available at Neiman Marcus

NOVeMBER//DECEMBER 2010  Desert Companion


ETRO green cotton trousers, $395 ETRO cashmere jacket, $2,252 ETRO collared shirt, $285 Available at Lanvin brown wool tie, $150 Available at Neiman Marcus John Varvatos gator-style boot, $698 Available at Neiman Marcus Nice Collective olive sweater, $265 Available at Neiman Marcus

Land and sea

Cargo pants, long relegated to frat houses, have made a brief return. Wear them slouchy, with military boots. Pair them with a sharp dress shirt and a tailored navy blazer. Nothing about the look makes much sense, not the least of which is the pairing of land gear with a jacket whose tradition is naval. Blazers have a long-standing association with boats and — apocryphally and erroneously — with one boat in particular: the H.M.S. Blazer. The pairing shouldn’t work, but it does. Just be sure you go for trim and fitted on top and loose and slouchy on the bottom. — J.M. 38

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Sue Wong sparkle dress, $395.00 Barrera chandelier earrings, $415 Casadei nude satin heel, $590.00 All available at Neiman Marcus

Cocktail chic

The first step: Know your party. Gone are the days of knee-length satin looks suiting every cocktail-party situation, so ascertain whether or not cocktails will in fact be mixed or if the invitation is merely upselling orange juice and bottomshelf vodka. Once you know the scene, you’ll know where to shop. Black Halo offers dresses in silhouettes that can quite easily go from work to wow simply by removing an office-appropriate blazer. At the other end, Altuzarra and DSquared provide LBDs form-fitting enough to ensure that you don’t overindulge in hors d’oeuvres. If you’re the one throwing the cocktail party, now is your time to portray yourself in the most flattering light. Literally: If you’re wearing gold, cluster candles in your favorite corner so you can hold court in the flickering, made-to-order twilight. Sequins are best offset with judicious use of the dimmer switch, while bright colors benefit from bright lighting. Look for something by Sue Wong, maker of sparkly, swishy cocktail dresses guaranteed to catch the spotlight. — S.N. NOVEMBER//DECEMBER 2010  Desert Companion


The people struggling with hunger aren’t strangers. They’re neighbors.

This year, 1 in 8 families in Southern Nevada may not be able to afford a holiday meal. You can make a difference. To make a donation, go to Every dollar you give provides three meals for local families.

Presented by

702-644-FOOD (3663)

The envelope (and the check), please. It’s time for our annual Desert Companion Restaurant Awards. This marks the 14th year since John Curtas began picking the valley’s best restaurants on Nevada Public Radio in 1997, a broadcast tradition we brought to print last year. The year 2010 might be the one that clinched Las Vegas’ status as a true culinary destination, attracting a critical mass of top talent and putting the spotlight on the Strip’s high-end eateries. That definitely made our selection of the year’s best restaurants a tough (and sometimes combative) process. However, we’re pleased to report that none of the esteemed food writers and critics on our informal panel sustained any fork wounds. And they certainly agree on one thing: It was a very good year in dining. (So good that it inspired one of our judges to coin the word “hyper-delicious.”) However you describe it, we’re confident that the restaurants we celebrate on the following pages will bring the valley great flavors in years to come. Dig in.

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Food and Interiors by Sabin Orr; Portraits by Christopher Smith

Our Restaurant of the Year’s grilled American Kobe skirt steak with toasted Marcona almonds

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Cocktail bar OF THE YEAR

American Fish By Michael Mina

Their painstakingly hand-crafted drinks are delivering major buzz

Forget the martinis and the cosmos. Serious drinkers these days are looking for the type of classic cocktails their grandparents turned to when they wanted to imbibe. Of course, any hack bartender can buy a copy of The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book and try to make a “gloom lifter” or a “peach blow.” But doing it right is a different story. Michael Mina’s American Fish takes this year’s prize not only because of its extensive cocktail list, which emphasizes drinks from before the 1940s, but also because of the barstaff’s dedication to fresh, quality ingredients and painstaking precision. All of the drinks are made with small-batch, premium gins, rums, bourbons, ryes and brandies, exactly measured on every pour. The fruit syrups and bar syrups that flavor the drinks are all made inhouse, while mixers and sodas come out of glass bottles, not squirt guns. (They even use Coca-Cola from Mexico, made with cane sugar rather than corn syrup.) All citrus juices are squeezed fresh when you order your drink, and they use fresh egg whites rather than that mysterious packaged stuff. You may wait a few minutes longer for your drink, but the results are certainly worth a toast in themselves. — Al Mancini Inside the Aria at CityCenter, 3730 Las Vegas Blvd. S., (877) 230-2742.

at American Fish made withGuechida small-batch, It’sThe all drinks about the ingredients forare chef Kamel — premium liquors, painstakingly measured and poured. and a little bit of magic.


William Sherer Aureole

With his sly grin and joyful approach, he brings a sense of serious fun to wine

Running the wine program (and working the floor) at a world-famous restaurant is an exacting, exhausting job under the best of circumstances. When that particular restaurant is famous precisely because of its wine program, those jobs are not for the timid or the easily intimidated. Aureole Las Vegas, with its striking, sunken design by Adam Tihany, wine tower and 2,400-label list is a magnet for oenophiles worldwide, and they pour in nightly to pore over the list for treasures, bargains and obscure gems that might only be found in a handful of restaurants worldwide. Keeping, knowing and selling this inventory has been Master Sommelier William Sherer’s task since 2005. He tackles his job with relish and a sly grin, whether he’s crossing swords with a wine snob or educating a curious neophyte. The word “sommelier” comes from the French word for pack animal — and denotes the very real heavy lifting and schlepping of wooden cases of glass bottles that is the unglamorous side of the job. By training, Sherer knows the historical, physical and intellectual demands of the job. By his personality, he’s been able to infuse the wine program at Aureole with joie de vivre that’s maintained and enhanced its pre-eminent place on the world wine scene. He also makes fine Spanish-style wines from California grapes called Iberian Remix, which has been a hit in restaurants all over Vegas. Wine maker, wine schlepper, wine maven — William Sherer, our Sommelier of the Year. — John Curtas Inside Mandalay Bay. 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S, 632-7401.

Master sommelier William Sherer is notoriously wine-savvy — but neophyte-friendly.

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Bosa 1’s bún riêu, a soup with rice noodles, chopped shrimp and crab, tofu, tomatoes and chicken broth

“dealicious” Meal OF THE YEAR

Bosa 1

chicken or beef or Korean-style short ribs. Everything is amplified with liberal use of the homemade fish sauce and chicken broth: two sparkling, savory elixirs that bring new dimensions of flavor. Consider now that all of this is yours for $11, the priciest meal on the menu at Bosa 1. There is an entire world of great dining deals in Las Vegas, especially in this sprawling stretch we call our Chinatown. But the tastes and value at Bosa 1 are truly from beyond. — Brock Radke

Generous portions, exceptional prices — and astounding flavors that border on outrageous It’s hard to decide what is

most impressive about the Com Tam Dac Biet combo special at Bosa 1, our city’s best Vietnamese restaurant. Each of the many components on this megadish is powerfully delicious: a sweet and spicy skewer of barbecued shrimp resting on a mountain of flavor-absorbing broken rice; a flaky, peppery shrimp cake; a tender egg-and-pork quiche; a pile of shredded pork skin with some lightly pickled vegetables. Wait: You have one more meat to select, from Chinese sausage, grilled pork chop, barbecued

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3400 S. Jones Blvd., Suite 2A, 418-1931.


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Half his secret? The best ingredients. The other half? Pure invention To

hear Kamel Guechida describe his incredible desserts, they’re all about the ingredients — particularly his carefully sourced fruit. “Fifty percent of the product should stand by itself, with good flavor and a texture that’s interesting.,” he explains. But it’s in the other 50 percent that this master chef works his magic. He’ll infuse delicious tart raspberries with Lillet and rose sabayon, and then set them atop a rich pistachio cream. Or he’ll accompany blueberry compote with lemon brulée, and then finish the mouthwatering dish with a light violet milkshake. At the more formal of his two restaurants, the entire menu and the restaurant’s décor is reinvented every three months. And Guechida usually begins working on new creations a full month before deciding they’re up to the Robuchon standards. At L’Atelier, on the other hand, his offerings change with a bit more frequency. While Joël Robuchon is best known for its pricey, multi-course feasts, one of The MGM Grand’s best kept secrets is that diners who call in advance can actually book a seat in either the breathtaking formal dining room or the lounge to enjoy an a la carte dessert, which costs a mere $25. Or you can simply drop by the more casual L’Atelier on the spur of the moment to enjoy the chef’s painstaking, precise and wonderful-tasting work. — A.M.

Pastry Chef OF THE YEAR

Kamel Guechida

JoËl Robuchon/L’Atelier de JoËl Robuchon

Inside the MGM Grand. 3799 It’s all about the ingredients

Las Vegas Blvd. S. 891-7358.

for chef Kamel Guechida —

and a little bit of magic.

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Ethnic Restaurant of the year

Raku As Vegas grows up, Raku continues to educate — and stimulate — our palates A city really comes into its own as a dining destination when ethnic and

neighborhood restaurants begin to shine, which is exactly what’s happening at Raku. Owner Mitsuo Endo, a Tokyo native, refers to his restaurant as an aburiya, which is Japanese for, if you will, gastropub. It’s been a chef’s hangout from the jump, but Endo’s food — meticulously prepared robata-yaki, or finger foods cooked in a back kitchen on a wood-fired grill — has quickly become popular with the masses. It proves that our tastes are becoming more eclectic, and that people are beginning to understand that there is more to Japanese cuisine than sushi. Little wonder Raku recently expanded. Once a tiny place with a small counter, it is now a labyrinth of small rooms paneled in wood stained the color of dark cherry. Rounding out the robata-yaki menu are specials written in English on a small blackboard. You might start with skewered chicken or, for the more adventurous, fish guts. By all means, though, save room for the homemade tofu, which is unlike any you’ve ever eaten, and soboro gohan, also known as a chicken and rice bowl — ground chicken and pickles on steamed rice. A long list of beers and sakes will help you figure it all out. Our city has never been stronger in the ethnic restaurant category, and Raku takes this award not just for excellent food, but for expanding our tastes. — Max Jacobson

Raku’s poached egg with sea urchin

5030 Spring Mountain Road, 367-3511.

and salmon roe

Excellence in management And servicE


The team behind the service orchestrates fine dining moments to remember Carlos Perez and Michael Schwarz

have as much to do with the day-to-day success of Spago as any impeccable recipe Chef Eric Klein is whipping up. Food may have put Spago on everyone’s restaurant map, but crackerjack service is what helps it stay there, and these front-of-the-house pros make certain the service is as carefully orchestrated as one of Klein’s tasting menus. Maitre d’ extraordinaire Perez and Schwarz, the general manager, run one of the tightest (and busiest) ships in the business — averaging 600-800 covers a day — giving each table the sort of intensive-care service that’s usually just for the reservations-only crowd. Perez, who has been with the Wolfgang Puck empire since, he says, “Wolfgang was personally bringing food to the table in West Hollywood,” reserves preferential seating treatment for locals, and makes everyone from naïve Midwesterners to big-city sophisticates feel like old friends. For a volume restaurant, the extraordinary quality of Spago’s food has always been something of a miracle of nature, and the world-class service that seats, explains and brings it to you is every bit its equal. — J.C. Inside the Forum Shops at Caesars. 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. 369-6300.

From left: Spago’s Maitre d’ Carlos Perez, Executive Chef Eric Klein and General Manager Michael Schwarz

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Neighborhood restaurant of the year

Rosemary’s Living — and delicious — proof that great neighborhood restaurants can thrive in the valley Rosemary’s

Rosemary’s prosciutto-wrapped veal tenderloin, with fingerling potatoes and green peppercorn sauce.


Pascal Sanchez Twist by Pierre Gagnaire

This daring chef cooks without a net — and never flinches What Pascal Sanchez

does six nights a week at Twist by Pierre Gagnaire is nothing short of remarkable. This veteran of the Gagnaire empire must execute some of the most high-flying techniques in all of food, combining the strange, brilliant and sometimes

befuddling ideas of the master without a net — all to an audience of visitors and locals who’ve never seen artistry such as venison-flavored ice cream or Dabob Bay oysters over beef gelee. That he does so flawlessly, to accolades from veteran foodies to neophytes alike, is a testament to the passion and training he brings to the kitchen. Before coming to Las Vegas, Sanchez spent five years running the kitchen at Gagnaire’s Sketch in London, where, he tells us, the English were much more difficult to please. “[Customers here] are so much more sophisticated now [because of the Internet].

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remains the gold standard for Las Vegas neighborhood restaurants. It’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years since Emeril Lagasse protégés Michael and Wendy Jordan opened their doors, naming what would become a Vegas institution after Michael’s mom. At the time, it was seen as a huge risk. But Rosemary’s soon proved that great Las Vegas restaurants don’t have to be confined to the Strip. And the place just keeps getting better. It doesn’t matter if you’re enjoying a prix fixe meal in the main dining room, snacking on small plates in the lounge or watching the line cooks prepare your meal at the unique food bar, Rosemary’s consistent excellence is amazing. Better yet, they boast an incredible wine selection, as well as one of the best collections of craft beer you’re likely to find in any serious restaurant in the valley. You can also pick up a copy of the Jordans’ cookbook, Food of Love, on the way out to try to recreate some of their masterpieces at home. But good luck trying to replicate this amazing food. — A.M. 8125 West Sahara Ave., 869-2251.

They come to our restaurant expecting to be surprised.” And he delivers surprises, with dishes as simple as a succulent cote de boeuf with an escargot/Burgundy wine sauce, to a flawless langoustine five ways that is the apotheosis of shellfish. A great chef takes as much pride in the small details of his operation as he does in the signature dishes, and one bite of a seemingly innocuous bowl of capellini with green pepper, celeriac and cauliflower veloute makes you appreciate how much flavor a superb kitchen can pack into what is basically a side dish. Whether it’s seasonal sea scallops

and foie gras or a simple filet of John Dory poached in Malabar black pepper butter, everything this kitchen turns out is an intense evocation of its ingredients. Maintaining standards this high with food this complex can only be done by a seriously talented chef who demands — and gets — the best out of his kitchen brigade. Night after night, that’s exactly what Pascal Sanchez does and who he is. — J.C. Inside Mandarin Oriental at CityCenter. 3752 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 590-8888. dining/twist

Chef Pascal Sanchez of Twist Chef Pascal Sanchez dares — dares — and and delivers. delivers. D e s e r t C o m pa n i o n


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Restaurant OF THE YEAR


Wildly creative but still accessible, Sage impresses every palate Shawn McClain’s Sage may be the most significant restaurant to open in Las Vegas in the past three years. Certainly, Sage serves up cuisine that’s every bit as hyper-delicious and innovative as that of Twist (the other candidate for this honor). What gives Sage the edge, however, is an almost Midwestern sensibility that makes it more approachable for non-foodies — without sacrificing appeal to scrupulous gourmands. What makes a meal at Sage so compelling? The ability to serve up everything from dropyour-fork-delicious vegetarian dishes to exotica such as escargot and pork belly agnolotti to its signature foie gras crème brulée to small bites of sweet and sour sweetbreads (in the spacious, well-appointed bar) — all conceived to fit any appetite or culinary expectation. Exotic cocktails and an intriguing craft beer list are also part of the mix, as is a seasonal menu that’s equally at home serving yellowtail crudo with pine nut foam as it is sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi that practically disappear in your mouth before you bite into them. Thus has McClain brought a restaurant to Las Vegas that made its mark with locals almost immediately, very difficult to do with high-end Strip restaurants. Manager Tobias Peach has managed to make it a fun, accessible spot for a quick bite, a couple of au courant cocktails or a fullblown, big-deal meal, without any one of these detracting from the other. Sage is a foodie’s dream that impresses without intimidation, and that’s why it’s our Restaurant of the Year. — J.C. Inside the Aria at CityCenter, 3730 Las Vegas Blvd. S., (877) 230-2742.

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Clockwise from left: inside Sage; Executive Chef Richard Camarota in the kitchen; Sage’s foie gras custard brulée; Sage’s Maine dayboat scallops with braised oxtail and wild mushrooms

Taste a decade-plus of our Restaurant Awards featuring John Curtas at

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More Culture. More often. NOW GeT DeSerT COmPaNiON eVerY mONTh. Can’t get enough Desert Companion? Join the club. Our readers have consistently told us they want to see more of the engaging journalism, cultural coverage and gorgeous visual appeal from Southern Nevada’s premier city magazine. That’s why we’re becoming a monthly magazine beginning in January. But we’ll be giving you so much more than just “more.” Certainly, we’ll continue bringing you our

award-winning lifestyle journalism and design. But we’ll also become a more prominent presence in the media landscape, sparking dialogue, setting agendas and addressing the issues facing our community — in print and online. (Be sure to follow us on Twitter [ com] and friend on us Facebook.) What won’t change is how you can get your Desert Companion. Pick up your copy of Desert Companion at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Jamba Juice or subscribe online at


Osaka Japanese Cuisine


Porchlight Grille

In 1969, Sam and Aiko Nakanishi opened the first Japanese restaurant in Las Vegas and named it after their hometown, Osaka. Thirty years later, their daughter Joy opened the Summerlin location, spreading Las Vegas’ favorite flavors of Japan to the newest part of town.

Rosemary’s combines great food, drink and service with uncommon value and dining diversity. The Jordans 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.

Rave reviews from the day they opened. The best in steaks, burgers, pastas, salads and killer appetizers. Comfort food in an upscale setting and some original artwork or enjoy the bar with its 10 HD plasmas and 10’ HD projection screen

7511 West Lake Mead Blvd., Las Vegas, NV (702) 869-9494

8125 W. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas, NV (702) 869-2251

8416 W Desert Inn Road, Las Vegas, NV (702) 562-3990


Forte European Tapas Bar & Bistro With a flair for the unconventional, Forte Tapas Bar, Bakery, and Deli brings you a delicious selection of Tapas and Home cooked dishes from all over Europe! Don’t forget your appetite. Forte European Tapas Bar & Bistro 4180 S. Rainbow Suite 806 702.220.3876

Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza

Todd’s Unique Dining

A locals’ favorite for casual chic dining, Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza’s Zagat awardwinning menu includes gourmet woodfired pizzas made from scratch daily, heaping salads, entrees, pastas and the famous giant Messy Sundae®. We also offer happy hour daily from 4-6pm at all locations.

The critics and the dining public agree. KNPR food critic John Curtas named Todd’s Unique Dining “Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year” (East Side) in his 2009 restaurant awards. Also voted Best Gourmet Restaurant by Las Vegas Review Journal editors and readers.

6500 W. Sahara 4300 E. Sunset Rd. 7160 N. Durango Dr. 7345 Arroyo Crossing Pkwy. 9516 W. Flamingo Rd.

4350 East Sunset Road Henderson, NV (702) 259-8633

227-6000 450-6664 365-7777 263-7171 638-9500

A conversation with innovation Three up-and-coming Vegas food phenoms talk about getting it right, taking it big and keeping it real

Jet Tila is the chef at Wazuzu, the buzzworthy pan-Asian restaurant at Encore Las Vegas. He is from L.A. Kari Haskell is the baker behind northwest Las Vegas’ Retro Bakery, known all over the valley for creative cupcakes with a little attitude and a lot of buttercream. She is from Oregon. Ricardo Guerrero is the creator of Slidin’ Thru, a mini-burger slinging lunch truck local foodies are chasing from Henderson to Summerlin. He is a Vegas native. They’re young, hip, passionate about their food — and savvy beyond their years when it comes to building their businesses and images. They sat down with me recently over dim sum, sushi and megachip cookies for a casual conversation about what they do, where they’re going — and why we’re following.

How to stand out — and stand tall Brock: Cupcakes, the truck and the sliders, and the cuisine here at Wazuzu, pan-Asian, are all pretty hot trends in food right now. How do you distinguish yourselves? Kari: I’m trying to do it by diversifying our menu. It’s cupcakes, all day, every day, but we have, for example, the megachip cookie, a Saturday special. I’ve been baking that cookie since I was 15. That’s what I’ve always done — bake. Cake came because that’s what I could build my business on, and custom cakes because that’s what my husband is very good at.

Jet: So what makes the slider truck different? Ricardo: The food we serve. The Ya-Ya burger is Greek, named after my grandmother. It’s homemade tzatziki sauce, a little feta cheese and red wine vinaigrette. It’s something unique. You’re not going to find it anywhere else. The Captain’s Order is balsamic reduction, feta cheese, sautéed onions and bacon. There’s a Caprese with fresh mozzarella and basil. And who doesn’t like a slider? You get three different ones in one tray. Kari: You don’t feel fat eating it. Just like a cupcake! Jet: Wazuzu is a different animal, being on the Strip. I’m not good at a lot of things, but I think I’m good at understanding what people want. I went right to New York right when I got my job, ate everywhere, ate everywhere in L.A., and thought, what’s missing? To me, panAsian here was like Tao, basically a Chinese joint with a pad Thai and sushi. Brock: They have food there? Jet: Exactly. In Vegas, who else is pan-Asian? At that time, Social House, and now they’re back. And that’s a sushi joint with a pad Thai. They’ll weave in one other Asian dish and call it pan-Asian. But it makes great sense businesswise, because you’re going to get higher perceived value from sushi than Chinese food. Kari: So did you choose Encore or did Encore choose you? Jet: Encore chose me. Kari: That’s amazing. Jet: I was working 30 hours a week cooking for billionaires in L.A., moonlighting. I had the best life. And then they were like, “Mr. Wynn

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would like to open a restaurant.” Kari: Oh my God! I can’t even imagine that. Ricardo: That’s a crazy phone call. Jet: I was like, “How did you find me?” I live off the radar. I’m not Ming Tsai. There’s maybe four or five dudes that can knock this kind of restaurant out, competently give you great dim sum and great sushi and great Thai. So I cooked the tasting, I left it all here, thought, I’m never gonna get this job. And then: “Do you want the job?” “Are you serious? Do you know me?” So I figure this was the next step for me. I’m 35 now. The 30s are the best ever. Kari: You feel confident, like, I can do this. Jet: You’ve amassed enough skill at what you do. Kari: Yes! Jet: You’re mature enough to plan what you want to do with it. Kari: Yes! Jet: We hope. You’ve shed most of your vices. Kari: Well, no … Ricardo: She works at a cupcake shop! Kari: I do eat a lot of sugar. I have a total lovehate with what I do. Jet: Don’t we all? Kari: Sometimes I think maybe I should come up with a cupcake that people will feel better about eating. You at least have some healthy stuff on the menu here. Jet: But I’m further in my 30s. I have to eat better. How old are you? Ricardo: 23. Jet: What’s it like at your age, building this business? Ricardo: Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming,

P h oto g r pa h y b y C h r i s to p h e r S m i t h

By Brock Radke

and it’s only been four months. I had big dreams, but I had no idea it would take on what it has in such a short amount of time. I’m just trying to buckle down and get super focused. I don’t want it to blow by me and think, if only I had done things a little different. I’m trying to calculate every move right. I want this to turn into my legacy. I don’t want to ever have to fill out another application ever again! (laughs) It’s all so new to me. I didn’t work for like a year before this, I was just going to school. I would have friends over and cook a big dinner and bring leftovers home to my mom and she would say, “You should start a catering company or something.” But then it was like, check out this cool trend that’s going on in L.A. with all these lunch trucks. This is probably realistic for us. We started looking into trucks and then it just happened. Three months later, I’m setting my grand opening. We went for it. Jet: How many days are you in service? Ricardo: Five days a week. Kari: So lucky. I see your schedule and I’m like, “That son of a bitch!” Ricardo: Yeah, but I wake up at six in the morning and go to bed at one o’clock. Kari: Exactly. And your days off are not days off. Ricardo: There’s a lot of planning. But it’s all worth it in the end. That’s the American dream — build something out of nothing.

Jet: So are you making plans for the next step or just trying to maintain? Ricardo: I’m trying to take it now and really perfect it so there will be a strong foundation for adding future trucks. We’re doing really well but there are things that can be perfected. I feel like we’re in our little brother’s t-shirt right now, busting at the seams. Jet: My family came here in the ’60s and opened the first little Thai market in the country — it was 800 square feet — and some of the first Thai restaurants in the history of America. So I was the kid bagging groceries and wiping the floor, cutting meat, working at the restaurant. So this is what it’s about for me. Do I want to grow? My whole life has been about taking my parents’ foundation and finding out how really big people made it. That’s why I love your story.

“I’m not good at a lot of things, but I think I’m good at understanding what people want. I went right to New York when I got my job, ate everywhere, ate everywhere in L.A. and thought, what’s missing?” — Jet Tila, Wazuzu

“Everyone should have to work in a restaurant before they say a word. Butter is expensive. I could use shortening, but I won’t. This megachip cookie is a dollar and I should charge more, but … this is like my heart on a plate.” — Kari Haskell, Retro Bakery

Food culture + wheels Jet: So you’re the first food truck, right? Ricardo: That’s a weird thing. Honestly, we’re not the first. Jet: In Vegas, though? Gourmet, the new breed of trucks, you know? Ricardo: Right, like hip lunch truck, upscale lunch truck. It’s funny because I see people write the first food truck in Vegas, and really …

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Kari: King Taco was here first! Ricardo: Right! Go to our truck lot and there’s like 15 Mexican taco trucks. But I guess we were the first to take it outside that realm of going to construction sites. I actually went on a ride-along with them. They cook some really good food on there but people don’t know about it because there’s that negative stigma of the lunch truck in Vegas, the roach coach. “Don’t eat there, my cousin got sick off that.” But I was on that truck and they’re making homemade tortillas in there, folding empanadas and putting them in the oven, blending the salsa right there. They’re doing all this good stuff, fresh stuff. Jet: They need a PR agent and a story about them. Put a face on it. Brock: Jet, are you in tune with lunch truck culture in L.A.? Jet: Absolutely. Brock: Do you think it can catch on here? Vegas is not L.A. Jet: The thing I know about L.A., I don’t know about Vegas. I don’t know the culture here. Kari: There is no culture here. Jet: I’m glad you said it so I don’t have to. Kari: It’s coming. I can feel it. Jet: In L.A. we have always respected the others, the roach coaches. I know four I can hit in a certain part of town any day. One might be Oaxacan food, and one is straight up Mexico

“I had big dreams, but I had no idea it would take on what it has in such a short amount of time. ... I’m trying to calculate every move right. I want this to turn into my legacy.” — Ricardo Guerrero, Slidin’ Thru

City, tacos and stuff. I know a gang of people I can call up and say, “Let’s go hit this truck at one in the morning.” So who does that here? I don’t know. Ricardo: It’s crazy. They seem to come out of nowhere. Kari: And they’re very loyal. Ricardo: A lot of people are transplants from other big cities and they know street food. Me growing up in Vegas, I’ve never eaten off a hot dog stand, you know? Street food is nonexistent in Vegas, partly because you don’t have any main places where you walk down the streets and there’s a lot of shops. It’s pretty separated. You don’t even know your neighbors. Kari: In Centennial Hills you do. It’s our own little town out there. Ricardo: You have really kinda primed that area, because that’s one of our best stops. Jet: I don’t think I’ve been out there. Kari: You should check it out. They’ve got great cupcakes! Jet: It seems like you really have to cherry pick in Vegas to find food. Ricardo: Yes. Kari: I think the mom and pop culture is finally coming back. For a while there it was all franchises, and that’s how the strip mall mentality grew. I think people are tired of it. I am.

Word of mouth, viral style Jet: So it’s all about Twitter now. That’s how you get the word out. If you’re the face of the bakery, they know you on Facebook and then they come and see you … Kari: I get that all the time. Jet: That’s the secret to our businesses. People do what we do, but we utilize social media to advertise and do marketing. Kari: And it’s free, and fun. You get to read people’s stuff and connect with them. Ricardo: You can let them in on your whole story. I think that’s why we get a lot of families and mothers. I think they take a motherly role a little, because I’m younger and they want to see this guy do well. Jet: You’re working that angle. We all are working something. Ricardo: It’s funny because I just fell into it, just being myself. Kari: Personality has a lot to do with it. I’m very loud anyway, and Twitter lets me be extra loud. Ricardo: I guess we are working an angle but we didn’t go into it with that intention. Jet: I’m not saying you’re playing a character,

but you could. Kari: A lot of people do, and it pisses me off. Because if you follow someone and then find out it’s not them, it’s disappointing. Brock: It’s just word of mouth, right? Ricardo: It’s the new word of mouth. Brock: It’s massive volumes of it, at hyperspeed. A neighborhood place, like Kari’s and Ric’s, it doesn’t apply the same way as it does to a Strip restaurant. So what do you do? Jet: I came here with the aspirations of running something in between a local spot and the Strip. I love my guests and I depend on them for survival, but I wanted to establish things like Wednesday night dinners. But things are different. We’re at a five star property. So I’m also at this place in life where these are my dreams, this is the menu I wrote for the restaurant, and this is the menu I’m going to use at the restaurant. Call it selling out, call it what you will, but the guests are the guests and they’re always right. And it’s not dudes from L.A. and New York and Chicago always here, it’s the dudes from middle America now, in this economy. So let’s make them happy. Social media might be one out of every hundred persons that knows me online and is coming through. But I still need to connect with the community, so that’s why I started blogging and Twitter here. Kari: You’re in a totally different ballgame. Jet: But I was a neighborhood dude in L.A., and now I’m here. Kari: That’s why I love Vegas! That’s what Vegas can do. You can be yourself but also be huge, locally, in town and then in the world. It’s great. Jet: It’s a great platform, as long as you don’t lose yourself in it.

Everyone’s a critic Kari: We get a lot of bloggers, a lot of comments, and honestly, when people write about you, you just kind of cross your fingers. But it’s nice when there’s some personality, when it’s something I would actually read if I wasn’t in it. Brock: There’s a difference between somebody who does it because they enjoy it and then, the career Yelper. Jet: Right. “Let me get my rating as high as possible. I need that elite status.” Kari: I got someone who came in saying, “What’s not so sweet here?” You’re in the wrong place. I’m the master of buttercream. He gave me like, one star, and it’s on Urban Spoon. It pops up every time.

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Jet: That stuff lives forever. They don’t understand that. We live this every day. One fell swoop with the keyboard and that’s it. Ricardo: Blogging is a little more personal, a no-namer just doing what they love. If you’re doing something worthwhile, you’re always going to have those people, negative comments. Brock: Your businesses have an interactive quality that lends itself well to bloggers and all the online stuff, and Kari has been blogging since before she got close to opening. Kari: It started with me saying, there’s a building open, I should probably put a shop in there because if I don’t, I’m going to watch someone else do it. My sister would always ask me what’s going on, so I thought, I’ll just blog and she can check it. Then people all over the country started reading it and asking me questions. I was like, people are reading this? This was in 2007. Now it has a really cool chronicle of what happened. I still do it but not as much as I’d like, which disappoints me. I want to use my blog to be real. The customers see that and I think it makes us stand out a lot. I just want to tell people how it is. Jet: So you’ll bend to Yelp? Kari: I don’t bend. I can’t give them what they want. They want everything. Jet: I could care less what Yelpers think. With you, it’s totally different. I have the luxury of a captive audience. And I’m always gonna lose, because this is not a model that Yelpers love. You can go to Spring Mountain and get an Asian meal for a quarter of the cost, although it won’t be the same. Kari: Everyone should have to work in a restaurant before they say a word. Butter is expensive. I could use shortening, but I won’t. This megachip cookie is a dollar and I should charge more, but … this is like my heart on a plate. Jet: That’s an amazing cookie. Kari: That’s a serious cookie. Ricardo: It is. It’s all chips. Jet: That’s no joke. It’s like elven bread. You could eat that s--- for a week, and just break off a little bit at every meal. Brock: It will last you all the way to Mordor. Jet: I’m going to take the rest and wrap it in a leaf and carry it around … oh yeah, sustenance. What was the name of the elven bread? Kari: We can Google it. (pulls out phone) Brock: One piece of bread for four Hobbits. Jet: Remember? For like a month. (laughs) I am a nerd. Kari: Lambas? Lembas? Jet: Lembas Bread! That’s right. DC

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What meals may come The Cosmopolitan will unleash Vegas’ next big culinary blitz — and bring a renewed focus on local palates By AL Mancini

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We got our first taste of the upscale food phenom on the Strip with the opening of the Bellagio in 1998. We got another taste when Steve Wynn tried to up his culinary cred with Wynn Las Vegas in 2005, and again when his rival Sheldon Adelson opened the Palazzo. And just last year, Aria gave local foodies so many brilliant choices, a lot of them are still racing to catch up. They’d better hurry, because The Cosmopolitan, scheduled to open Dec. 15, will be the dining story of the next year. Diners are already buzzing about the resort’s impressive lineup of eateries — and not just because of the talent in the kitchen. Unlike the town’s last few dining blitzkriegs, this one relies almost entirely on chefs who are new to Las Vegas.

Pa e l l a C o u r t e s y O F T h e C o s m o p o l i ta n ; B l u e R i bb o n S u s h i B a r & G r i l l : S t e v e H i l l ; C HE F S : M e l a n i e D u n e a ; Oc to p u s C o u r t e s y O F t h e c o s m o p o l i ta n

Jaleo’s arroz mediterraneo paella, with porcini mushrooms, mixed vegetables, olives and thyme

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill’s honoo platter, with assorted spicy sushi rolls

The culinary minds (and mouths) behind the restaurants at The Cosmpolitan, clockwise from left: Eric Bromberg, Jose Andres, Scott Conant, Costas Spiliadis, George Spiliadis, John Unwin, Bruce Bromberg, David Myers

Small plates and speakeasies José Andrés, who trained at Spain’s infamous El Bulli under Ferran Adria and runs numerous restaurants in the Washington D.C. area as well as L.A.’s Bazaar, is widely credited with popularizing the concept of small plates in the U.S. At the Cosmopolitan, he’ll be at the helm of two restaurants. Jaleo will be the fourth incarnation of his tapas restaurants in Washington D.C., Bethesda, Md. and Arlington, Va. And at China Poblano, he’ll be mixing noodles and tacos in a fusion of Chinese and Mexican cuisines. Another chef with L.A. experience making his first Vegas venture is David Myers, who operates Sona, Comme Ca and Pizzeria Ortica in the City of Angels. For Vegas, he’s opted to replicate Comme Ca, a French brasserie that will offer classic casual bistro food as well as a

unique speakeasy-style bar program inspired by the chef’s travels in London, Tokyo and New York. In keeping with the French theme, the Adam Tihany-designed dining room will feature a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Las Vegas. Meyers believes the concept is a perfect fit for the unpredictable Las Vegas economy because “it’s affordable, it’s accessible [and] it’s a restaurant that is warm and welcoming that people will want to come back to, whether it’s for a drink or whether it’s for a burger or whether it’s for a bouillabaisse.”

It came from New York

The Big Apple will be well-represented in The Cosmopolitan’s restaurant repertoire. Eric and Bruce Bromberg, who run New York’s infamous chain of Blue Ribbon restaurants and bars as well as a bakery and market, will be taking their first plunge into

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Estiatorios Milos’ octopus with chickpeas from the island of Cerigo

our local market. They’re recreating their Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill in the new resort, where they’ll offer more than 100 hot and cold dishes, from sushi and sashimi to chops and filets, just like they do in the original restaurant in midtown Manhattan. “People, when they spoke to us about Las Vegas previously, said, ‘We love what you do, but we want you to understand you’re coming to a place [where] you need to be something different.’” But he says at The Cosmopolitan, “We were just asked to be exactly who we are.” Another New Yorker bringing his successful concept to The Cosmopolitan is Scott Conant. His Italian eatery Scarpetta, which lends a sophisticated touch to rustic Italian comfort food, already operates in Manhattan (where The New York Times and New York magazine

named it one of the top 10 new restaurants of 2008), in Miami’s Fontainebleau resort (where Travel and Leisure named it one of the 50 best new restaurants of 2009) and in Toronto. In order to retain the same intimate space Scarpetta customers are used to, he’s carved off a piece of his large chunk of Vegas real estate and dedicated it to a separate concept – a wine bar called D.O.C.G.

Perhaps the most exciting news for a city with far too few good Greek restaurants is the Cosmopolitan’s importation of Estiatorios Milos. Currently operating in Montreal, New York and Athens, chef Costas Spiliadis’ restaurant is widely praised for offering the most authentic Hellenic cooking in North America. That’s due in part to his insistence on using the finest ingredients, including Greek red mullet, Tunisian octopus and Agadir anchovies he flies in from the Mediterranean. But Spiliadis says operating in Las Vegas will also allow him easier access to the high-quality products California has to offer. The meat-and-potatoes crowd won’t feel left out, either. For steaks, the New York, Miami and L.A. chain STK promises “a flirty, feminine take on the classic American steakhouse,” featuring a live D.J. and a busy center bar. And the only Las Vegas veterans on the roster, Billy Richardson, Kyle Madden and Chef Anthony Meidenbauer, will be supplying the gourmet hamburger restaurant that seems to have become mandatory in most Strip casinos. Meidenbauer promises their new place, Holstein’s, will separate itself from the crowd with “a huge menu of burgers and street food snacks” from around the world, including a line of house-made sausages.

Hello, neighbor With such a massive influx of new blood into a town already considered one of the world’s dining capitals, The Cosmopolitan has understandably been drawing the attention of food lovers across the country. But all of the chefs and restaurateurs involved acknowledge that in the current economy, they can’t simply rely on tourist business. Each believes the support of locals will be vital to his survival. Eric Bromberg, whose brother will be moving to Las Vegas to oversee their restaurant, says, “One of the things that




Around the world Signature dishes from Cosmo’s upcoming restaurants 1

Lil Big Macs at STK These slider-sized burgers are made with wagyu beef and the restaurant’s special sauce, and served on a black sesame bun. Guests can also add gourmet toppings such as truffles or foie gras. Or, if you’re in the mood for seafood, try the Shrimp Rice Krispies. The tiger prawns are served tableside in a shrimp bisque and garnished with cilantro.


Spaghetti with tomato and basil at Scarpetta Scott Conant calls it “a very simple, straightforward dish.” But that’s just humility talking. The Food Network’s Alton Brown has named it one of the top 10 comfort foods in the country, and New York Times food critic Frank Bruni singled it out in his review. “My daughter is going to go to college because of that spaghetti,” says Conant.


The Milos Special at Estiatorios Milos The Milos Special appetizer is fried zucchini and eggplant with tzatziki and fried saganaki. Introduced in Montreal in 1979, it was a reaction to the fried zucchini and eggplant Costas Spiliadis was encountering in North America, which he found too oily. So he called his mother and “spent endless hours” having her talk him through her recipe, which produced crispy, ungreasy results. “The standard is that any customer, whether it’s in Athens, in New York or Montreal, will start their dinner with [The Milos Special],” he says. Still hungry? Check out for more signature dishes from The Cosmopolitan’s restaurants.

attracted us to the Cosmo project was that kind of different sensibility in the culinary world out here, where there was this direction and desire to be part of the local scene.” Spiliadis echoes his sentiment, saying he has always based his business model on some words of wisdom from his father: “Take care of your neighborhood first, and then things are going to unfold.”

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And Conant insists, “For me it’s about the long dollar, not the short dollar. I always say I’m in the relationship business. So I really want to create a relationship with a lot of the locals.” It’s that attitude, as much as The Cosmopolitan’s food, that may be the secret to the resort’s success in a tough tourist market — and a locals market that’s already been spoiled with culinary riches. DC

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Hellenic kitchen


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Las Vegas’ discovery of books is second only in significance to our successful invention of the showgirl in 1889, when miners accidentally spilled a bucket of gold dust into a vat of Activia. Today, we celebrate our discovery of tomes with the Vegas Valley Book Festival Nov. 3-7. Highlighted by keynote speakers T.C. Boyle and Dennis Lehane, the festival also features workshops, seminars and a “Feasting on Words” event that’ll delight your mind as well as your mouth. It all happens at downtown’s historic Fifth Street School. Info:


Buildings can’t take photos — having those big ol’ concrete chunkhands and all — so they rely on photographers to tell the world how awesome they are. Julius Shulman is one such photographer — one of the world’s foremost architectural photographers, in fact. The documentary film Visual Acoustics explores his life and accomplishments 6 p.m. Nov. 18 at CENTERpiece Gallery. Free. Info:

Roger Waters


Jamey Stillings is a diehard. The Santa Fe, N.M.-based photographer began his 35-picture project The Bridge at Hoover Dam when overpass construction started in March of 2009. The result: Richly detailed daytime and nighttime photos of an epic engineering feat in progress. His work is on display at the patio gallery at the Springs Preserve through Jan. 23. Info: www.


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Pink Floyd’s The Wall changed the way we think about pudding, sausage and, of course, walls. As a friendly reminder, Roger Waters is marking the 30th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s era-defining album with his The Wall North American Tour, which hits the MGM Grand Garden Arena 8 p.m. Nov. 26. All in all, you’re just another ticketholder in the … well, you know. Tickets: $75-$250. Info:


Cecilia Siqueira and Fernando Lima make beautiful music together, but once upon a time, they were musical rivals whose mutual hatred threatened to boil their very bones. Okay, not exactly. The two virtuoso guitarists competed at a 2001 solo strum-off in Brazil — and tied for first place. Since then, they’ve become Duo Siqueira Lima, a twosome that weaves a history-spanning repertoire embracing everything from Baroque to modern Brazilian. Frenemyship never sounded so good. Duo Siqueira Lima performs 8 p.m. Nov. 6 at UNLV’s Beam Music Center Recital Hall. Tickets: $37.50. Info: N O V E M B E R / / D ECE M B E R 2 0 1 0

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Guide ART First Friday Nov. 5 and Dec. 3, 6-10 p.m. The Arts District’s monthly festival features more than 100 artists displaying their works downtown, plus live entertainment. $2 suggested donation. 384-0092, Life in Death Festival Nov. 1-2, 5 p.m. Ofrendas, or altars, made in honor of the dead are on display in this Day of the Dead celebration. Judging of the ofrendas, authentic Mexican dishes, and dance and music performances are also a part of this festival. Winchester Cultural Center Melody Hope Stein: Crushed, Baked and Stroked Through Nov. 6. Melody Hope Stein of the Las Vegas Polymer Clay Guild incorporates polymer clay into her mixed-media exhibit. Summerlin Library Size and Scale: 3D Objects Nov. 11-Jan. 14. Modern artists explore space and line in this exhibit that blends sculpture and multimedia. CENTERpiece Gallery, What You Left Me: Creating Dad Through Artifact Nov. 12-Jan. 7. Artist Noelle Garcia uses artifacts to explore memories of her Native American father’s troubled life. Winchester Cultural Center Gallery Galeria de Chavez Through Nov. 16. Ernesto Chavez’ pictures of Zion National Park, the Eastern and Western Sierra Nevada Mountains and other Southwest landscapes are reminiscent of a simpler past. Whitney Library Visual Acoustics Nov. 18, 6 p.m. Julius Shulman is considered one of the world’s greatest architectural photographers, often credited with bringing modern architecture to the American forefront. This film highlights his life and accomplishments. CENTERpiece Gallery,

The Planet Earth Awards, Beyond Superstition Through Nov. 27. Carlos De Las Heras exhibits his portraits of well-known figures from history and mythology. Sunrise Library Near and Far Through Dec. 4. Clayton Rippey’s acrylic and watercolor paintings focus on the beauty of the landscape. Rainbow Library Automotive Reflections Through Dec. 11. Vincent Yuzon creates watercolor paintings to reflect organic shapes and patterns. Enterprise Library Polymer Clay Expressions Through Dec. 14. The Polymer Clay Guild proves that clay is not just for vases in this innovative art show. Centennial Hills Library Figuratively Speaking: A Survey of the Human Form Through Jan. 9. Featuring more than 40 works from the masters such as Picasso, Renoir, Lichtenstein and Hockney. Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art Nevada Camera Club Members Show Through Jan. 11. The Nevada Camera Club displays selected photographs from its members. Spring Valley Library Periphery (36 12’N x 115 19’W) Through Jan. 16. Emily Silver employs paint and mixed media to explore the connection between the physical, spiritual and atmospheric aspects of the desert. Big Springs Gallery at the Springs Preserve Artists of Guatemala Through Jan. 25. The Honorary Vice Consul Guatemala hosts this varied cultural exhibit. West Las Vegas Library

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Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m. The UNLV Music Department presents these two bands, which feature young students and seniors performing a variety of music. $8-$10. UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Hall Alexander and Friends Nov. 5, 7 p.m. Las Vegas Philharmonic principal flautist Alexander Viazovtzev, along with pianist Jae Ahn, harpist Kim Delibero-Glennie, and others will perform works from Bach, Mozart, Barboteu and more. $7-$10. Winchester Cultural Center The Broadway Tenors Nov. 5, 8 p.m. Three of Broadway’s leading men, including Las Vegas’ Brent Barrett from Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular, perform musical selections from Annie Get Your Gun, West Side Story and Brigadoon. $40-$85. UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Hall

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Jazz, Ragtime and Blues Festival Nov. 6, noon. The Las Vegas Music Teachers Association joins the Department of Music at UNLV for this recital. Beam Music Center Recital Hall

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76 Trombones Plus 4 Nov. 7, 2 p.m. Trombonists from around the world converge on Las Vegas to perform jazz classics in a fundraiser for the UNLV Music Department’s Abe Nole Scholarship Fund. $8-$12, Artemus W. Ham Hall Chamber Music Concert Nov. 7, 2 p.m. The CSN Orchestra and music faculty perform to raise money for the strings program at CSN. $5. Recital Hall, CSN Cheyenne Campus Vocal Jazz Solo Night Nov. 12-13, 7:30 p.m. CSN’s jazz singers perform jazz standards and Broadway classics as well as solo pieces. $5-$8. Recital Hall, CSN Cheyenne Campus



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A Salute to American Opera Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m. UNLV Opera Theatre presents a sampler program of opera classics. $8-$10. UNLV’s Beam Music Center Yoko Fitzpatrick Farewell Concert Nov. 14, 2 p.m. Yoko Fitzpatrick, a virtuoso on the 13-string, 17-string and 20-string koto and sangen, performs classical Japanese pieces with her students, including selections from “Rokudan,” “Seven Grasses of Autumn,” “Beautiful Ball and Lord,” along with Vivaldi’s “Largo.” $7-$10. Winchester Cultural Center Moksha Nov. 19, 8 p.m. Sam Lemos leads his funk rock band as part of Clark County’s Young Originals Series, featuring saxophonist Marc Solis. $10. Winchester Cultural Center Masterworks II: The Passion of Tchaikovsky Nov. 20, 8 p.m. The Las Vegas Philharmonic Series performs selections from Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, featuring violinist and soloist Laura Liu. $35-$75. UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Hall Roger Waters: The Wall North American Tour Nov. 26, 8 p.m. Roger Waters marks the 30th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s landmark album. $75-$250. MGM Grand Garden Arena Andre Rieu Nov. 30, 7:30 p.m. World-renowned violinist Andre Rieu and his orchestra perform their popular waltzes. $41-$141. Orleans Arena, Encore Recital Dec. 2, 6 p.m. Jessica Kincaid directs the Winchester’s Encore Show Choir as they perform their specialty pop songs. $5. Winchester Cultural Center

Andre Watts Dec. 3, 8 p.m. Pianist Andre Watts performs a selection of works by Franz Liszt, including his Sonata in B minor and Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13. $30-$65. UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Hall Las Vegas Youth Orchestras Winter Concert Dec. 4, 7 p.m. The Las Vegas Youth Orchestras perform their annual winter concert. $7.75-$14.75. UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall Jazz Combos + Jazz Singers Dec. 5, 2 p.m. Matt Taylor leads the CSN student jazz combo, and Dr. Mark Wherry directs the CSN jazz singers as they perform contemporary pieces and jazz standards. $5-$8. BackStage Theatre, CSN Cheyenne Campus CSN Orchestra Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m. Christopher Davis conducts CSN’s 50-piece orchestra as it performs classical pieces and holiday favorites. $5-$8. Nicholas J. Horn Theater, CSN Cheyenne Campus Concert Band Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m. Dr. Richard McGee conducts the 55-piece ensemble. $5-$8. Nicholas J. Horn Theater, CSN Cheyenne Campus Big Band Contemporary Jazz Concert Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m. Walter Blanton and Matt Taylor lead CSN’s two largest bands from the Department of Fine Arts. $5-$8. Nicholas J. Horn Theater, CSN Cheyenne Campus The Black Crowes Dec. 10, 8 p.m. Before taking an indefinite hiatus, the Black Crowes will perform two sets, one electric and one acoustic, in support of their latest album, Croweology. With guests Truth & Salvage Co. $35-$61. The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel


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Must purchase by December 10, 2010 *Discount available with valid Nevada ID on select locations and is subject to availability. Offer is not valid on previously purchased tickets or in conjunction with any other offer. All sales are final, no refunds or exchanges. Management reserves all rights. Other restrictions apply.

Original Cast Recording On

Guide Madrigal Dinner Dec. 10-11, 7 p.m. “Merrie Olde England” is celebrated in this three-course meal gala that also features period music by CSN’s College Singers and Chamber Chorale. $25. Nicholas J. Horn Theater, CSN Cheyenne Campus Pops II Dec. 11, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. This Christmas performance features Bruce Ewing, Kristen Hertzenberg and other fresh talent. The Las Vegas Master Singers and the University Children’s Chorale also accompany the Las Vegas Philharmonic. $35-$75. UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Hall Andrea Bocelli Dec. 11, 8 p.m. The renowned megatenor performs the classics. $85.60-$423. MGM Grand Garden Arena

Jim Brickman 15th Anniversary Tour Dec. 18. The popular pianist performs his easy listening music. $32-$75. UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” Dec. 18, 2 p.m. Valentine Vox is backed by the Appleton Quartet in this Christmas tale. $7-$10, Winchester Cultural Center Andy Williams Christmas Show Dec. 23-24, 8 p.m. Iconic singer Andy Williams performs his Oscar-winning rendition of “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s in this concert, along with other holiday favorites. $59$89, Las Vegas Hilton Theater,

THEATER The Sound of Music Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m. Signature Productions presents this classic Rodgers and Hammerstein play set in pre-World War II Austria. Price TBA. Summerlin Library Theatre Count Dracula Oct. 29-30, Nov. 4-6, 8 p.m.; Oct. 31, Nov. 7, 2 p.m. This version of the undead bloodsucker by Ted Tiller leaves fear on the back burner, and opts for a wittier version of Bram Stoker’s original Count. $20-$30. UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theatre Fall One-Acts Nov. 10-13, 8 p.m.; Nov. 14, 2 p.m. A series of humorous, provocative and poignant one-act plays. $7.50. UNLV’s Paul Harris Theatre Spring’s Awakening Nov. 19-

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Take a peek at what we can do for your event:

Expect the best.

Andre Watts’ playing style? Fast and furious.

Masterworks II Concert SAT | NoVeMber 20, 2010, 8 PM

Presenting Tchaikovsky, Bruch & Adler

Laura Liu, VioLin Guest Artist

Pops II Concert A HoLidAy CeLeBrATion SAT | deceMber 11, 2010, 2PM & 8 PM

Bruce ewing BroAdwAy VoCALisT

Tickling the ivories to death Performing on national TV with the New York Philharmonic at age 16? Snagging an honorary doctorate from Yale at 26? To say pianist Andre Watts had a fast rise is an understatement. By the time he was in his thirties, his resume was so thick it came with CliffsNotes. But Watts is known for another kind of speed as well — his harried proficiency at the piano that sees him not so much playing pieces as tearing through them with passion and precision. In this concert, he’ll perform selections by Franz Liszt. Just don’t blink or you’ll miss it, the only evidence you had just attended a Watts concert being your wind-whipped hair. Andre Watts performs 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall. Tickets $30$65.

Kristen Hertzenberg BroAdwAy VoCALisT

The Las Vegas Master singers & the University Children’s Chorale Tickets on sale now. Visit or call the box office at 702.895.2787 Performances at Artemus W. Ham Hall on UNLV campus. 4505 Maryland Pkwy., Las Vegas, NV 89154

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Guide Nov. 20, Dec. 1-4, 8 p.m.; Dec. 5, 2 p.m. Frank Wedekind’s play moved from censorship in Germany in 1906 to outrage and cancellation after its premiere in New York in 1917. The play follows four teenagers as they grow from young innocents into adults. UNLV’s Black Box Theatre

Volpone Nov. 19-20, 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 21, 2 p.m. The themes of greed and lust are highlighted in this satirical play following the antics of an aging man attempting to trick his friends out of his inheritance. $8-10, BackStage Theatre, CSN Cheyenne Campus What the Dickens Dec. 11, 2 p.m.

The City of Lights Chorus presents a humorous musical version of the holiday classic “A Christmas Carol.” $6-$12. Winchester Cultural Center Holiday Hilarity Dec. 15, 2 p.m. The Backstage Revue puts a comical spin on song and dance for the holiday season. $3. Winchester Cultural Center


Glamo, 2009, 72 x 96 inches

Opening September 16th On View Through Nov 7th


CENTERpiece Gallery is a 2,500-square-foot fine art and design venue that focuses not only on the traditional mediums of contemporary art such as photography and works on paper, but also presents unique and functional design objects and furniture. The gallery showcases works by many of the contemporary artists and architects featured throughout CityCenter, including artists Claes Oldenburg, Richard Misrach, Jenny Holzer and David Rockwell. CENTERpiece Gallery is located along the lower level of Crystals Place, situated inside Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas porte cochère. 3720 Las Vegas Blvd., Suite 181 | Las Vegas, NV 89158 | 702.739.3314 |


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A Pastorela Dec. 17, 7 p.m. Vicente Diaz directs this traditional Latino play about the first Christmas. In Spanish. $5-$7, Winchester Cultural Center

LOCALs ONLy: Featuring sush Machida



Winchester Players Winter Show Dec. 16, 7 p.m. The Winchester Players put on their annual holiday variety show. $5. Winchester Cultural Center

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DANCE Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater Fall Series Nov. 5-7. The LVCDT’s fall event features new work by Bernard H. Gaddis, Milton Myers Greg Sample and others. Ticket prices TBA. West Las Vegas Library Informal Dance Concert Nov. 10, 1 p.m. CSN showcases its talent with a broad palette of dance, from Middle Eastern to jazz to tap. Price TBA. Nicholas J. Horn Theater, CSN Cheyenne Campus Full Gospel Korean School Nov. 13, 2 p.m. In this World Steps Concert, the Las Vegas School Dancers perform authentic Korean dances and a play. $5. Winchester Cultural Center Kinetic Progressions Nov. 18-19, 21, 8 p.m.; Nov. 20, 2 p.m. UNLV’s Dance Department presents a collage of dances choreographed by students in the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance program. $10-$18. UNLV’s Dance Studio One

Jonah Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m., Dec. 4 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. This dance production tells the classic biblical story of Jonah and the whale. $8-$10. CSN Cheyenne Campus

“We’re proud of our work and the ‘supporting role’ our company and its people play in our community . . . including Nevada Public Radio!”

Star Catchers Holiday Show Dec. 4, 2 p.m. This hip-hop group performs a slate of dances choreographed by the dancers. $5. Winchester Cultural Center The Nutcracker Dec. 17-26. Choreographer Peter Anastos brings a touch of humor to this classic holiday ballet. $30-$85. Paris Theatre inside Paris Las Vegas.

FESTIVALS & HOLIDAY EVENTS Valley Book Festival Nov. 3-7. This annual literary event features workshops, seminars, readings and keynotes from renowned authors Dennis Lehane and T.C. Boyle. Free. Fifth Street School,


Holiday Spectacular Dec. 4-5, 11-12, 18-23, 5 p.m. This familyfriendly event features reindeer (pony) rides, holiday-inspired treats and green gifts. $4-$8. Springs Preserve

Library Tree Lane Showcase

LECTURES, READINGS AND PANELS The Other Sex Work: The Stigma of Sexuality Research in American Culture, Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m. Professor Janice M. Irvine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst discusses the lives of those who research sex. Free. UNLV’s Barrick Museum Auditorium Portraiture and Fear of Death Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m. Cynthia Freeland discusses preserving the memories of those who have died

Displays of trees, wreaths and prizes. Open to the public daily during library hours

November 16–December 3, 2010 All Events in Paseo Verde Library, Henderson, Nevada

Holiday Carr Chat

Children’s Programs

Gala Reception and Auction

November 19, 2010 12 p.m. Talk and Tea with Bestsellling Authors Robyn Carr and Robin Burcell Free - to reserve space, call 492-6584

December 2, 2010 Santa More activities to be announced Free - for details, call 492-6581

December 3, 2010 7-10 p.m. Silent Auction to benefit Henderson Libraries Tickets are $25 To Purchase, call 492-6584

Library Tree Lane Honorary C0-Chairs: Bob and Alison Kasner

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“Profiterole,” a sculpture by Claes Oldenburg, Coosje van BruGgen and Gemini G.E.L., is part of CENTERpiece gallery’s “Size and Scale: 3D Objects” exhibit through Jan. 14.

VENUE GUIDE CENTERpiece Gallery In CityCenter 3720 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 736-8790, Charleston Heights Arts Center 800 S. Brush St., 229-6383 Clark County Government Center 500 Grand Central Parkway, 455-8239 College of Southern Nevada BackStage Theater, Nicholas J. Horn Theater, Recital Hall, 3200 E. Cheyenne Ave., North Las Vegas, 651-5483,

Find a certified energy auditor who will make sure your home or workplace becomes energy efficient, healthy and comfortable. Information on rebates, incentives and tax credits to make it more affordable are available at


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Las Vegas-Clark County Library District Centennial Hills, Clark County, Enterprise, Rainbow, Sahara West, Summerlin, Sunrise, West Charleston and Whitney libraries, 734-READ, Las Vegas Hilton Theatre 3000 Paradise Road, MGM Grand Garden Arena In the MGM Grand 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S.,

Orleans Arena 500 W. Tropicana Ave., Reed Whipple Cultural Center 821 Las Vegas Blvd. North, 229-1012 The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel 4455 Paradise Road, The Springs Preserve 333 S. Valley View Blvd., 822-7700, UNLV Artemus Ham Hall, Judy Bayley Theater, Beam Music Center Recital Hall, Barrick Museum Auditorium, Black Box Theater, Greenspun Hall Auditorium, Paul Harris Theater, Student Union Theatre 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, 895-2787, West Charleston Library 6301 W. Charleston Blvd., 507-3964, Winchester Cultural Center 3130 S. McLeod Drive. 455-7340

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and the fear of our own death. UNLV’s Barrick Museum Auditorium How to Play Your Hand: Lessons from Poker for Negotiators Nov. 5, 7 p.m. Experts including veteran gaming executive Jack Binion and professional poker player Annie Duke discuss how to apply poker-inspired strategies to business deals, legal negotiations and life in general. Free. Cox Pavilion Africa’s Failed States and the Next Generation of Terrorists Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m. Tiffany Howard talks about how the lack of stable states in Africa will lead to more international support of terror. UNLV’s Barrick Museum Auditorium The Role of Women in Religion Nov. 7, 7 p.m. Experts address the role of women in their religions, and the role of women within society according to the teachings of their faiths. The Islamic Society, 4730 E. Desert Inn Road

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Toughing It Out in Afghanistan Nov. 10, 5:30 p.m. Michael O’Hanlon, former advisor to Gen. David Petraeus, discusses U.S. policy in Afghanistan and security strategy in the Middle East. UNLV’s Greenspun Hall Auditorium The Top Five Misconceptions about My Faith Nov. 14, 7 p.m. Panelists from a range of religious backgrounds, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, Christian Science and Islam, discusses prejudices and stereotypes about their faiths. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3400 W. Charleston Blvd. Rivers Last Longer Nov. 17, 7:30 p.m. Richard Burgin, editor of

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Guide Boulevard magazine and St. Louis University professor, reads from his new novel and answers questions about publishing and editing. UNLV’s Barrick Museum Auditorium “Do Students Have Too Much Homework?” Nov. 18, 5:30 p.m. Thomas Loveless examines the seemingly heavy workload placed on American students. UNLV’s Greenspun Hall Auditorium Predicting Earthquakes and Volcanic Eruptions: What Can and Can’t We Do? Nov. 18, 8:30 p.m. Earth and Space Sciences professor and seismologist Stephen D. Malone discusses the paradox of predicting volcanoes from earthquake data,

but having little data to determine when an earthquake might occur. UNLV’s Barrick Museum Auditorium

p.m. A celebration of the traditional Mexican holiday with food, music, and dance. $4-$7. Springs Preserve

Alissa Nutting Nov. 30, 7 p.m. Nutting will read from her new book of short fiction, Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls. UNLV’s Greenspun Hall Auditorium

Mexican Revolution Day Nov. 20, 2 p.m. Join the Mexican Patriotic Committee as they celebrate the 100th year of victory from the dictator Porfirio Diaz. $5. Winchester Cultural Center

The Challenge of Creating a National Museum Nov. 30, 7:30 p.m. Dr. Lonnie Bunch, Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, delivers a speech on the difficulties of creating the museum. UNLV’s Student Union Theatre

ETHNIC EVENTS Dia de los Muertos Nov. 6, 3-9

FUNDRAISERS An Evening at the Springs: Preserving Wellness in Las Vegas Nov. 7, 3 p.m. This fundraising dinner, featuring organic wine and live music, benefits the Southern California-based GrowingGreat, a nonprofit school garden nutrition education group.

I am proud to be involved with bringing together individuals and organizations from our diverse community to discuss end-of-life issues. Our annual Multi-Cultural luncheon, workshops and fundraisers join representatives from all sectors—educational, spiritual, clinical, legislative and business. It’s a labor of love. —Jeanne Jones, Nathan Adelson Hospice board member for 18 years and Las Vegas resident for 33 years

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Jump Fixers-Uppers from pg. 31 the other prerequisites. Nearby, pre-existing parking garages would absorb traffic, enabling Maddux to cannibalize the bank’s parking lot to create an outdoor pavilion. “There are not a lot of outdoor spaces in Vegas,” he says, “unless you have a pool that you have to work around. “While the city was wonderful to work with, they did say this was a building they wanted to maintain” for its architectural character, Maddux says. In the end, “the only thing we reused was the outside.” Inside, “it was, for all intents and purposes a decaying office building … a freestanding steel structure, perfectly intact, with another building in the middle that was sagging.” Since natural light isn’t desirable in exhibitions, the window glazing was blacked out and clad in aluminum for “a much more updated look.” At night, LED lighting recessed in MEET Las Vegas’s myriad archways “completely washes down the building. I wanted to create an events experience that, when they’re driving down Fourth Street, the event begins the minute you see our building in the distance.” A zealous downtown convert (he even has kind words for Neonopolis), Maddux sees MEET’s boutique exhibition space as part of the area’s evolution into “a walkable city where people live, they work, they can be entertained. … While we may not have

a lot of interesting architecture from the early 20th century,” he says, there’s considerable mid-century architecture “and it’s going to be part of our flavor going forward.” —D.M. Paradise Palms: In with the old “We saw the train wreck coming in new-house construction,” recalls Building Media CEO Craig Savage, who wanted to demonstrate to his peers that retrofitting of existing homes could be done tastefully and “somewhat affordably.” His target audience: the 2010 International Builders Show. He needed a demonstration house near the Convention Center. Savage’s eye fell upon 3546 Pueblo Way, a 1963 domicile that was part of Las Vegas’ first master-planned community Paradise Palms, alongside the Stardust Golf Course. It had seen better days. “The house had good bones and a good feel, although it had been a crack house,” Savage recalls. “It had been invaded by the SWAT team. They had blown a big whole in the door.” Behind the damage lay a single-story home in the Midcentury Modern style, with an open floor plan, low-pitched roofs, vaulted ceilings and wall-sized windows. One thing missing: insulation. Savage is more blunt: “Midcentury houses are incredible energy pigs. We wanted to maintain Midcentury vernacular and at the same time create a net-zero

Of course, refurbishing classic properties does have its share of hurdles. Many older homes don’t even have insulation. “Midcentury houses are incredible energy pigs,” says Building Media CEO Craig Savage. energy home,” one that puts as much back into the power grid in a year as it extracts. “Essentially, we created a thermos bottle.” Having bought the house out of foreclosure, Savage began work in November 2009. Aluminum siding and decaying wood were stripped away and replaced with artificial stucco. Cavities in the walls and ceiling were filled with high-density construction foam. Clerestory windows and French doors, and their wood or aluminum frames, were replaced with triple-paned windows and fiberglass framing. Floor-to-ceiling windows were downsized. Countertops and carpeting made from recyclable materials (including plastic bottles and corn oil) were installed. The original roof was crowned with a second, slightly elevated, metal roof to relieve the pressure created by Las Vegas’ fierce sunlight. Amid the modernization was a lot of restoration. Mirroring installed on the hearth in the 1980s was removed, as were extensions to the master bath and closet. Savage also “un-remodeled” the garage to recreate the original carport, upgrading it with a permeable driveway of crushed glass and resin. Theoretically, you could wash your car and the water would go through the glass and back into the soil, not the storm drain. The end result, says Savage, is a house that’s “three times as energy-efficient in the walls and over four times [as much] in the roof.” As for the synthetic, waterpermeable new lawn out back, Savage says there’s only one way to tell it’s not real: “You’ve gotta eat it.” Thanks, we’ll take your word for it. — D.M. DC Read about more historic properties getting a loving upgrade at


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story by Brock Radke

I L L U S TR A T I O N b y C H R I S T O P H ER S M I T H

Speak, foodie memory

Star chefs and fancy menus are fine, but good friends truly create meals to savor Last November, I was plotting a path through CityCenter and all its scrumptious treasures. My first visit to the Strip’s latest restaurant wonderland found me at Julian Serrano, and the food was so good, I got stuck. The acclaimed Sage is a few feet away, the neighboring Mandarin Oriental houses twin jewels Twist and MOzen Bistro, and yet I couldn’t seem to pull myself away from this Spanish stronghold. Certainly, the food was excellent, but the secret ingredient was friends. The driving force behind this big boom in foodie culture isn’t eating. It’s sharing, discussing and occasionally raving about the best you ever had — and for that you need other people. A summer dinner with friends — a couple just back in Vegas after two years in Korea — was the most memorable of many trips to Serrano. We listened to stories of a hectic, compromised life in a foreign land, where it’s almost impossible to keep up with the all-important NFL season. We passed plates of béchamel-laced chicken croquetas, goat cheesestuffed piquillo peppers and sharp ceviches, beaming with Vegas pride as our guests enjoyed every recommended bite. Then we walked CityCenter, showing off the architecture and the visuals by artists Tim Bavington and Jenny Holzer. It was a quintessential Vegas night, if unapologetically touristy. While our food was flawless, the experience was no more memorable than the dinner one of those friends cooked in our home, weeks later. After a quick trip to the Greenland market, the westernmost point of Chinatown, she prepared a feast of tofu and potato soup, glass noodles with black mushrooms and crisp vegetable pancakes. It was punctuated by truly terrible, headache-inducing Korean beer (she nicknamed the popular brand Hite as “Shite”) but we had to drink it, because she had to drink it for two years. Fair is fair. 80

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I spent the better part of the year scouring the valley for tremendous Mexican food and barbecue, two cuisines frequently maligned by locals, and found some great fare: panuchos at Frank & Fina’s Cocina, tender brisket at Buzz BBQ. But the search yielded nothing as rewarding as my mother-in-law’s impromptu salsa fest during a weekend visit, when she took her time filling my house with the smells of roasting tomatoes, garlic and jalapenos; or my brother admitting during a phone call that my baby backs are the best, begging for my recipe. (And they are wonderful ribs, tender meat with a sticky, almost crispy hickory-hoisin sauce coating.) But I know the truth, extracted from emotional attachment. It takes years, not to perfect a recipe, but to construct the sentiments that come with each bite. My patio-dwellers are quick with the compliments about my barbecue, but in my mind I have to pay it back to the old friend who taught me his rib technique, perfect every time. We all love to eat, to try something new or lovingly return to something reliably delicious. Isn’t it all comfort food? And yet it’s never just the food that stamps the experience unforgettable. It might be the company, or your mood, your surroundings, or the way crunching a guacamole-covered corn chip can transport you to that Mexican beach you’ve been missing. Smell and taste, you may run this brain, but once the gestalt of that warm chocolate chip cookie hits the hippocampus, watch out. These are powerful thoughts, but they are not food memories. It’s just that when you think of the best times, food just happens to be involved. Always. Food critic Brock Radke writes for the Las Vegas Weekly and blogs at

Pablo Picasso, Woman with Beret (Femme au Beret), 1938, oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 15 inches, MGM MIRAGE Fine Art Collection. © 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.



On View Through January 9, 2011

Tickets and info at 702.693.7871 or

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, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Dillard’s, Bloomingdale’s Home, Forever 21 and over 200 fine stores, restaurants and cafés. Located on The Strip across from Wynn Las Vegas, The Palazzo and Treasure Island.