Las Vegas 2008

From Saturday, Februrary 16 through Saturday, February 23, 2008, Wendy & I were in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. We stayed once again with our friends Doug & Kelly in their lovely condo about 20 miles off the strip. Wendy was attending a veterinary conference, which left me free to explore the strip after dropping her off at Mandalay Bay each morning.

Since this was our second trip to Las Vegas, I approached things a bit differently this time. Last trip, my goal was to do a “survey” of all the hotels on the strip, spending just a few minutes in as many of them as possible. I largely met that goal last time, so I wanted to delve a bit deeper into Las Vegas this trip.

I explored several hotels more completely, including Mandalay Bay, the Excalibur, Imperial Palace, Rio, Stratosphere, Treasure Island, and Luxor. While in the Luxor, I visited the production offices of Criss Angel’s Mindfreak television show, which was very cool. I also drove into downtown Las Vegas (scary) and visited the Freemont Street Experience (also scary), plus a few downtown casinos (very scary).

We had several good meals while in Las Vegas… L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, La Provincal (with Doug & Kelly), Bouchon, Marrakech (with Scott, Emily, and Sarah), Andre’s (downtown), and a couple different buffets (hey, it IS Vegas!). The meal at L’Atelier, which was the most anticipated meal, was very good but not excellent (and certainly not worth the price). Expect a full report soon.

The conference opener for Wendy’s conference was Howie Mandel. I wasn’t a huge fan of him before, but his 75-minute set was very funny and very tailored to veterinarians (unlike Jay Leno’s set a couple years ago which was a standard monologue). Our friend Emily hooked us up with free tickets to see Billy Joel in concert. They were great seats and we all had a great time.

Doug & I went “wheeling” in his Toyota FJ and all was swell — it was big fun climbing over non-navigable terrain — until Doug decided to take me “dune jumping” and wrecked his vehicle. :(  Still, we got great pictures!

A giant highlight of the trip was a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. It was a 45-minute flight out, with 30 minutes IN the Canyon (amazing), and a 45-minute flight back to the strip. More info and pictures soon.

New Addition to the Brood

We’ve added another animal to the brood.

Chuck

His name is “Chuck” (they were calling him “Claude” at the shelter, but Wendy kept mis-saying it as “Chuck”, so that’s what stuck) and he was a stray with some medical problems. He’s an adult neutered male, and at least part greyhound, so he’s very thin, lean, and fast. The fact that he is part greyhound most certainly worked in his favor in getting to come live with us… You see, one of Wendy’s dear departed pets was a sweet greyhound called Midnight and Chuck resembles Midnight enough that Wendy gave him a second glance, which was enough for Chuck to work his considerable charms on Wendy and convince her to bring him home. Wendy has worked Chuck through his medical problems and we’re nursing him back to full health.

Wendy was worried about how the other dogs (Dolly, Bean, and Buster) would react to the new packmate, but she needent have — within an hour of his arrival, Chuck was laying in the pile of dogs like he’d been with them since he was a pup. He’s a very sweet and gentle guy and a great addition to our family.

CULINARY: Teaching Update

We’re heading toward the end of our BASIC COOKING 1 class at Cincinnati State Technical & Community College’s Midwest Culinary Institute… We just finished the 1st night of the 8th week (out of 9 weeks), which means we’ve got three more class meetings ahead of us before the end of the term.

Last night I lectured on Sandwiches (Chapter 22 in Gisslen’s PROFESSIONAL COOKING 6th Ed, for those of you following along at home) and we executed our labwork for that chapter as well. My students made Club, Hot Ham & Cheese, and Submarine sandwiches, and all of these sandwiches rated between “good” and “awesome”. The students continued their focus on presentation of their food with some nice presentations arriving at the chef’s table.

This Thursday, we’ll be performing a “dry run” of our practical final exam to get the students ready for that exam (which occurs a week from Thursday). During their “dry run”, I will also quiz them with questions to help them prepare for their written final (which happens next Tuesday).

This has been a good class because of the good people in it. Last night, they presented me with an engraved silver fork. There is a story behind this — in culinary school, we mandate the “two spoon tasting method” for tasting products. The explaination of the “two spoon” method is pretty simple… Imagine two spoons, one in your left hand and one in your right hand. The spoon in your right hand goes into the food being tasted and then carefully transfers the food to the spoon in your left hand, which goes in your mouth. This preserves the sanitation of the food items and minimizes use of tasting spoons.

Well, I understand the “two spoon” concept completely, but for some reason am unable to reliably coordinate my left & right hands, so I tend to (loudly) mess up and use the wrong spoon fairly often — grabbing food with the right spoon and putting it into my mouth, for example, much to the delight of my students. I jokingly said, “someone needs to get me a nice fork or spoon for tasting to help me remember”, and my students thoughtfully gave me the fork (which is engraved, “Yes Chef”) to help me remember them (and to properly execute the “two spoon method”). A very nice, thoughtful gift.

I will be teaching BASIC COOKING 1 again in the Spring term, and look forward to teaching BASIC COOKING 2 in the Summer term.

RIP: Herb Peterson

A Southern California McDonald’s restaurants official says Egg McMuffin inventor Herb Peterson has died in Santa Barbara at age 89.

art.peterson.ap.jpg 
Egg McMuffin creator Herb Peterson with his breakfast idea in 1997.

From CNNMoney:
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Herb Peterson, who invented the ubiquitous Egg McMuffin as a way to introduce breakfast to McDonald’s restaurants, has died, a Southern California McDonald’s official said Wednesday. He was 89.
Peterson died peacefully Tuesday at his Santa Barbara home, said Monte Fraker, vice president of operations for McDonald’s restaurants in that city.

He began his career with McDonald’s Corp (MCD, Fortune 500). as vice president of the company’s advertising firm, D’Arcy Advertising, in Chicago. He wrote McDonald’s first national advertising slogan, “Where Quality Starts Fresh Every Day.”

Peterson eventually became a franchisee and was currently co-owner and operator of six McDonald’s restaurants in Santa Barbara and Goleta, Fraker said.

Peterson came up with idea for the signature McDonald’s breakfast item in 1972. He “was very partial to eggs Benedict,” Fraker said, and worked on creating something similar.

The egg sandwich consisted of an egg that had been formed in a Teflon circle with the yolk broken, topped with a slice of cheese and grilled Canadian bacon. It was served open-faced on a toasted and buttered English muffin.

The Egg McMuffin made its debut at a restaurant in Santa Barbara that Peterson co-owned with his son, David Peterson.

Fraker said that, although semiretired, Peterson still visited all six of his stores in the Santa Barbara area until last year when his health began to deteriorate.

“He would talk to the customers, visit with the employees. He loved McDonald’s,” Fraker said.

Fraker, who said he worked with Peterson for 30 years, said “he was amazing as far as giving back to the community.”

“He embraced the community and the community embraced him,” Fraker said. “We loved the man.”

Peterson is survived by his wife, son and three daughters.

A public memorial service will be held April 23 at All Saints by the Sea church in Montecito.

HAPPY MOUTH — March, 2008

This month’s selection for the HAPPY MOUTH SUPPER CLUB was the modestly-priced-but-expensive (more on that in a moment) Cleves Drive-In Restaurant, which was selected by Tracy. The fare was really good, and the desserts were especially delicious.

The reason this moderately-priced place was expensive (at least for Jay, Ron, and myself) was that we three got pulled over for blowing through a stop sign by Cleves’ finest. The officer was very nice and couldn’t have been more patient (and funny) as he hit all three of us with a $100 fine. Each. YOUCH!

Still, a great Happy Mouth!