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June, 2013 - DineDelish

June 2013

Las Vegas is changing all the time. It’s always out with the old, in with the new. It is always best to be the newest and the hottest in Vegas. You always need to reinvent yourself. Caesar’s Palace is one place where thought it is an old property compared to the rest, it keeps it fresh and interesting on the inside. This change also happens to the buffets as well. You can’t have endless roast beef and a mound of crab legs and say you are the best. These days, we want gourmet stuff, and a lot of it. That is why small plates of different dishes are popular at Vegas buffets. Bacchanal Buffet in Caesar’s Palace is just the place. Taking Cosmopolitan’s Wicked Spoon off its short lived rein as top dog, Bacchanal is the newest Buffet in town.

Coming here on a Sunday as a last hurray meal, the line was packed. Payard across the way was looking mighty tempting. No line, no wait. It is safe to say, I waited in line for everyone who reads my blog — This is for you! The wait was nearly an hour, but it was the newest buffet in Vegas. I had to.

I was glad to see a lot of variety at this buffet. They had small dishes of different things. Instead of ladling on the food from a pile of food, you just pick up the plates that look My favorites included the authentic tacos, cured meats, and crab legs. Bacchanal buffet featured many items that aren’t available at a normal buffet. For this reason, the buffet was a good experience.

Going to a buffet is all about having everything you want, even dessert. You can have your cake, and eat it too. Their dessert selection was quite impressive. From cookies in a jar to macarons, and ice cream, you can have anything you want. My favorite were the crepes. I just saw the jar of Nutella and I was set. The crepes were wonderfully prepared and were a great finish to my buffet.

Bacchanal at Caesar’s Palace is awesome. Their new approach to the buffet in Vegas is refreshing. Pretty soon, all of the top tier Vegas buffets will have to do this. One thing I did not like about the buffet is the inconsistency of the design. I prefer open spaces when eating at buffets, but theirs was a bit broken up. It was tough to navigate through the different sections. Also, the seating areas are not all the same. The outside area was wide open and bright, but there were seating areas in the corners and different rooms. Not all of the furniture (tables are chairs) was the same. This made for an uneven feeling and everything felt clustered. Other than that though, the food was great. Still though, my all time favorite buffet is still Wicked Spoon.

Bacchanal on Urbanspoon


Osteria Mamma – Food and Family

by Franklin on June 21, 2013

What better way to bring family together than with food? More specifically, what’s better than Italian food to bring the family together? It was my cousin’s birthday and my other cousins were back in town for a little visit. Perfect time for a family gathering over food! Growing up, all I had were my cousins. All of my aunts and uncles congregated within less than a mile away from each other. This meant that I grew up hanging out with my cousins almost daily. Some of my fondest memories as a child included my cousins. Now, we are all grown up. Double gulps from 7-11 turned into conversations over coffee, and ordering pizza for birthdays turned into dining out as a family, namely Osteria Mamma.

To start, we had bread, butter and Frittura Mista. The frittuta mista had fried calamari, shrimp, zucchini, and carrots. The calamari was cooked nicely and not rubbery. The zucchini and carrots were good in this dish, but the moisture made the whole plate kind of soggy — not good for something that is fried. The shrimp though was nice and flavorful. It was a perfect starter for a large group like ours.

The girlfriend and I shared the Pappardelle al Fumo. The thick Tagliatelle did a grreat job soaking up all that gorgeous pink sauce. The bits of pancetta added a nice smoky and salty element to the dish. Scamorza cheese and oregano topped this dish off to make it quite delicious. I might regret saying this, but the pancetta was too overpowering in this dish. A little more green herbs or less smoky bacon would have been a better fit.

I had a taste of their lasagne and wasn’t really impressed. I know here in America, “Lasagna” ends with an “a”, but everyone else spells it lasagna. Anyways, the noodles were a bit soggy and I felt the dish needed to be seasoned a lot more. It may be that lasagne to me is a boring dish, but I really did not enjoy this one. To me, it needed to be more robust with meat sauce or herbs. Theirs was kind of plain with noodles, marinara, and cheese — simple and dull.

The Tri Colori pasta dish was interesting to see. So colorful with red and green, it looked so festive. I had a taste — it was creamy and the noodles were so al dente. The texture, color and flavor was so pleasing. I also snagged a bite of the Gnocchi ai Porcini. Tossed in a light cream sauce, the porcini mushrooms in this was so full of earthy flavor. The pillowy gnocchi balls were so smooth and delicious. Not really a fan of gnocchi, I was hesitant about this dish. Osteria Mamma really knows how to make this dish delicious.

My favorite dish of the night was the Reginette della Mamma. Reginette, basically a ripple edged tagliatelle, was a perfect pasta for any sauce. The way the cream sauce clung onto the ripples, the pasta had great flavor and mouth feel. With pieces of guanciale and sausage, this was a meaty dish without being too pronounced. The Treviso radicchio helped round out all the rich flavors in this pasta dish. Each bite was creamy and unctuous in flavor. This is what a good pasta dish should be, and is.

Being a food blogger, my friends and family look to me for restaurants suggestions. I figured, Osteria La Buca is a trendy spot, Osteria Mamma will be more of a down at home kind of experience — perfect for a family gathering. The night was filled with amazing pastas with great company. I always see massive gatherings of Italian families around the table. There, the grandmother makes her signature pasta dish and everyone eats together. That to me is the happiest moment in our lives. Though we didn’t have our grandmother in the kitchen, “Mamma” was our grandma for the night. We gathered, we talked, and ate. This will forever be in my memory as our family.

Osteria Mamma on Urbanspoon


Snyder Diamond Sweepstakes

by Franklin on June 20, 2013

Snyder Diamond and WOLF are celebrating the summer with this awesome sweepstakes. Like the page and enter to win a WOLF BBQ grill http://bit.ly/14hpERm. Visit them at http://snyderdiamond.com/.

The complete outdoor kitchen delivers everything you’d expect from WOLF – except the walls. Gas grills, charcoal smokers, and electric smokers raise the sacred art of barbecue to new heights – while outdoor warming drawers, refrigeration, and ventilation redefine “cooking out.”

Snyder Diamond is a 60 year old family owned appliance store with locations in Santa Monica, North Hollywood and Pasadena. This is perfect for Angelinos! What a perfect way to start off summer. I have almost weekly BBQs in the backyard and this is right up my alley. Enter today to win!


The LA Wine Fest on June 8 & 9 was a pleasure to attend. Taking place at Hollywood’s Historic Raleigh Studios, the event venue was expansive and fun. Dr. Joel M. Fisher founded the LA Wine Fest in 2005. This marks the 8th Annual LA Wine Fest, serving over 500 wines and spirits. If unlimited wine wasn’t enough, the array of small food bites and vendors from anything you can think of made it worth while. A lot of vineyards and wine companies were pouring that day. Click here for an extensive list of what they were pouring. My favorite, and the star of the LA Wine Fest was the Venetian’s Carnavale exhibit. They had people in elaborate costumes and masks celebrating and promoting Carnevale in the Summer at the Venetian. They were giving out tasty macarons too! After a trip to the Lobsta Truck and having burgers and fries from Hot’s Kitchen, we were tipsy and stuffed.

My favorite part was watching Chang Sivilay of Asia de Cuba do a cooking demonstration. He cooked some amazing octopus, sea bass, and some of the largest shrimp I have ever seen. All of the dishes, of those that I could get my hands on were delicious and fresh from the kitchen. I was sad that I missed celebrity chef Eric Greenspan from The Foundary do a cooking demonstration. The cooking demonstration was a nice shade from the sun and a break from drinking. What’s a better break from drinking than eating?

It was a fun time in the sun. We went home with our wine glasses and Stella chalice. We opened up our goody bags and found awesome chocolates, snacks, cook books, and coupons galore. The whole event was awesome and I can’t wait to attend the Malibu event later this year.


Founded in 1937, Carnegie Deli is a New York landmark. Fortunately, I don’t have to travel to the east coast to enjoy one other their sandwiches. Lucky for me, there is one located right in Las Vegas at the Mirage Resort. Melding with the casino floor, and not being very big, there was a small wait. Once I looked at the menu though, I knew what I was going to order. It was going to be the biggest thing they had. Famous for their large sandwiches with stacks of meat so high, it almost seems ridiculous, I wanted to go big — Vegas Big! First made famous by the delis in New York, Carnegie Deli is a near replica of the Manhattan deli.

It was great to have a piece of the great NYC in Vegas. Surprisingly, I would think New York New York would be more fitting. I guess it’s all under the MGM giant, so it doesn’t matter. I was just happy to have this gigantic sandwich. The Woody Allen, which is a pastrami and corned beef sandwich, was named after him because he was patron at the original location. Woody Allen shot scenes in his film Broadway Danny Rose at the NY location, so the item was named after him. The sandwich though, was huge. It was almost too large. Not only was it too large for my mouth, the amount of meat was insane. It was probably enough pastrami and corned beef for about 10 to maybe 20 sandwiches. The meat had quite the nice flavor profile. It wasn’t too salty or too dry. I prefer the fattier and peppery pastrami over the somewhat dull corned beef. Sandwiched between two measly slices of rye, this was basically a pile of deli meat.

The excess of meat was complimented by their coleslaw and fries on the side. Every sandwich needs a side of fries. I think the coleslaw was quite needed for this. With all that meat, it was bound to get dry and tiring. The coleslaw helped with getting the extra food through to my stomach. Their pickles were salty and gave this sandwich a very nice flavor. The crunchy and sour pickles were a perfect condiment to this gargantuan sandwich.

You come here because it’s a part of New York in the Mirage Resort. Who would have thought? Not only do they bring the menu to Las Vegas, the atmosphere is quite similar. Though I have never stepped foot in Carnegie Deli in New York, or New York for that matter, I can only wonder. Carnegie Deli is a fun, with an old school atmosphere. Where can you get the largest deli sandwich in Vegas?

Carnegie Deli on Urbanspoon


The Playground, a small gastropub in Santa Ana is in it with the rest of them. It seems like Santa Ana’s Art District is attracting a lot of new chefs and restaurants, but The Playground is a bit different. Jason Quinn, the head chef and owner started with The Lime Truck. Winning in The Great Food Truck Race in Spring of 2011, the chef and his team had great foundation of good food and the business. To me, The Playground is exactly what it sounds like. It is a playground for Jason and his team, as well as other aspiring chefs to come and “play” in the kitchen. With their new and inventive menu and as well as 2.0, The Playground is one of the most unique restaurants in Orange County. It was a pleasure having a late night dinner here. The menu items were interesting and delicious — something a late night eater is always looking for. It was an adventure.

We started off with the sea urchin & lump crab rice porridge. This to me was such a comforting dish. The warm soup broth with the lump crab meat was fulfilling and hearty. The sea salty broth with a seafood essence from the crab made this worthwhile. Although the uni was lacking, the warm uni was creamy and delicious. I would never have thought I would come here to have a lump crab uni rice porridge, but I did.

For 5 bucks, you can get a huge bowl of fries. These fries were addicting, and oh so familiar. Hand cut, just like In-n-Out, with a side of secret sauce just like In-n-Out. This ode to the west coast favorite was classically and tastefully done. I mean, the fries tasted on point from taste and texture. It was just like In-n-Out’s but cleaner. Their secret sauce was a perfect match — better if anything. These were fun to munch on, especially with their burger as the main attraction.

The playground burger is Chef Quinn’s quintessential item at Playground. The patty is the star of this burger. The Kobe beef, more specifically, a wagyu brisket and wagyu tri tip blend are first dry aged in house. The beef is grinded in a specific way in which the beef strands out into a tourshon. This basically creates a meat cylinder where all the strands of meat go the same way. When cooked, and eaten, the texture and flavor is like no other. It kind of breaks off as you bite into the burger. It is more of a rubbery, jerky like kind of texture and mouth feel. This also made the beef overcooked — no medium rare. I won’t say that it is a pleasant texture, but interesting. The toppings on this burger are perfect though. This burger has a maple bourbon onion compote, shredded iceberg lettuce, scratch made mayo, and scratch made mustard. The cheese selection of gruyere and Fontana was nice, and the horseradish potato bun was perfect. This burger definitely isn’t a typical burger, but the flavors are all intense and work perfectly. It would be interesting to try this exact burger, but with a traditional patty cooked medium rare.

From all the burgers and fries, I had to wash it down with something. Harney & Sons Lemonade and Tea was the perfect remedy. This bottle of Arnold Palmer was amazing. It might be my favorite bottled tea and lemonade mix of all time!

Aside from the burgers and fries, I wanted to see what Chef Quinn had as far as other dishes go. The grilled duck breast was calling my name. A fan of everything duck, namely duck fat, I was excited to have this dish. With perfectly cooked duck breast and a chile vin frisee salad on top, this was a treat. The fatty duck cut with the bitter frisee and sweet yet peppery dressing, the flavors melded perfectly.

For dessert, Rum Budino was on deck. Amazing in texture and with the perfect amount of sweetness, this dessert surprised me. Budino, a custard like pudding was a perfect end to our meal. The velvety smoothness married with the even smoother crème fraiche was utter bliss. With a sweet caramel on top, I was spooning every little morsel. This was indeed a jar of pure joy.

The Playground in Downtown Santa Ana is a treat. The menu is fresh and diverse. Jason and his team of professionals have a passion and zeal for good food and service. This is something that is refreshing and new for a restaurant. Often times, restaurant owners along with the chef lose their vision and passion for the food business. It seems that they have their ducks in order and know what they are doing. It is exciting to wait and see what they will have in store for the following years to come.

Playground on Urbanspoon


Salo Salo – Lechon is All I Need

by Franklin on June 4, 2013

Most people don’t appreciate Filipino food enough. Of all the Asian cuisine, Filipino food is the most underrated, and for me, is one of my favorites and my least favorites. I know that makes little sense, but bear with it. As Korean, Thai, Chinese, and Japanese food all have their signature items, so does Filipino food. Often grease laden, soy sauce and fish sauce and pastes of some kind are nearly in every dish. Sometimes though, Filipino food is comfort food for me. Visiting my soon to be in-laws during celebrations and holidays, Filipino food is always there. A once foreign genre of food is now something I look forward to all the time. Salo Salo in Walnut is my place to go for some tasty Filipino food.

My favorite thing of all time is lechon. Something about fried pork with skin is amazing. The meat becomes super tender and crispy, and the skin turns into candy. Salo Salo’s lechon sa kawali was just what I was looking for. The wok fried pork with crackling rind was a perfect thing. Definitely not the healthiest thing in the world, but it is a treat. Eating with adobo rice, a stir fried rice with pork and chicken adobo bits, I was completely satisfied. Served with Mang Tomas, a peppery lechon sauce, I was satisfied.

Pinakbet, on paper sounds like an off mix — A mix of vegetables in shrimp paste with pork and shrimp. Honestly though, this stuff with some rice is like comfort food. With bitter melon, string beans, squash, and eggplant, it is more of a vegetable stew than anything else. What makes this dish for me is the fishy shrimp paste mixed in with the eggplant. The squash is nice, but the eggplant to me is the main part of this dish. One word of advice is to not eat the bitter melon. It is called bitter melon for a reason, and I can tell you first hand that it is not meant to be eaten. My curiosity got the best of me — that thing stung my taste buds. I can see though how that hint of bitter melon in the broth helps round out the flavors well. Homemade is always best, but theirs was quite close to it.

Salo Salo is your every day Filipino food restaurant. It reminded me a lot of what Thai Original BBQ is for Thai food. It isn’t your hole in the wall kind of joint, but good food with nice portions is what you get. Whenever I feel like dining out Asian, Filipino food rarely comes to mind. It’s always sushi, Korean BBQ, or Thai food. When I do crave Filipino food though, I always have to have it — I can’t go on without it. Sometimes, it’s the most comforting food of all.

Salo Salo Grill on Urbanspoon

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