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Posted by on Jul 28, 2012 in Blog, Las Vegas, Restaurant Reviews | 1 comment

Restaurant Review: The Flame Steakhouse (El Cortez Las Vegas)

 

Photos of Flame Steakhouse, Las Vegas

Writer’s Note:  The Flame Steakhouse closed its doors for the final time in 2014.  The replacement restaurant at the El Cortez is not recommended.

 

Finding a delicious “trout almondine” is next to impossible outside of New Orleans.

Or — so I thought.

Then, I dined at The Flame Steakhouse which is the gourmet restaurant inside the time-warped El Cortez Casino in downtown Las Vegas.  I ordered and then devoured a Creole delicacy that was every bit as tasty as the world-class fare served at Antione’s, Galatoire’s, or Arnaud’s in the famous French Quarter.

In a city that has become dominated by flash-in-the-pan “celebrity” chefs and ridiculously-overpriced Haute cuisine, it’s refreshing to a experience throwback to a time and place when all that really mattered was great tasting food served at a reasonable cost in a comfortable atmosphere with reliable service.  Sadly, those fundamentals are lost in what has become a sea of snooty waiters and obscene South Strip prices, which so often meet their well deserved demise.

Perhaps that’s what makes The Flame Steakhouse so enduring and consistent.  Very little changes.  It’s good – all the time.  And since that first visit many years ago, I’ve dined here perhaps 50 to 60 times – always leaving both satisfied and with the feeling I got a bargain.

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Posted by on Jul 26, 2012 in Blog, Las Vegas | 2 comments

Betting on the Smog Test

No Gambling Allowed Sign

 

Just when I was convinced Las Vegas had pretty much become like everywhere else, I was reminded once again that this city is a very unique place.

Yesterday, I renewed my car registration.  In Nevada, all vehicles must be smog checked once per year.  This means, you drive your car to local station where they run a series of diagnostic tests.  Sort of like Medicare, only it’s your car that gets a government-mandated check up, instead of you.

The cars are hooked up to a machine with a bunch of wires and switches and tested for emissions.  What this really means is — the state and the auto merchants get to shake you down for $20 a pop, per car, each and every year.

On the west side of Las Vegas, I pulled into what’s called a “smog station.”  Inside a small kiosk was a man who looked pretty much like you would imagine when I say the words “auto mechanic.”

“Need a smog check, today?” the man barked out as rolled down my window.

“Absolutely,” I replied.

As I passed my car keys over to the auto technician (that’s what they’re called now – “auto technicians”) I couldn’t help but notice a white sign plastered above the entrance.

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Posted by on Jul 25, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Travel | 1 comment

Three Dogs and a Mexican (Part 2)

 

It was a Sunday.

Boulevards normally jammed with traffic were less so and moved more freely.  It was a day of leisure.  People were out and about.

The park was busier than the day before.  Children ran in circles.  There was laughter.  Music played.

And, my eighth run began alongside the concrete aqueduct.

Just as the day before, I ran about a mile, and then veered off the right.  I scaled the first wall effortlessly and ran a considerable distance before coming upon the same cinder block barricade I remembered from the previous day.

I had arrived at the blue tent.

But this time, the tent had an occupant.  A small-framed man, perhaps 30 or so, sat upright on what appeared to be a sleeping bag.  I did not want to startle or disturb the man.  So, I quietly made my way over the wall and began to proceed down the path to continue my run.

Suddenly, one of the dogs started barking.  And the other dogs too, joined in unison.  The canine alarm bells had gone off.

I could not see the man’s face clearly.  But, he must have been fearful.  After all, few passersby run along the aqueduct and certainly no one scales over two barricades – on a weekend, no less – to invade the solitude this man had etched for himself in what was a gigantic foreign metropolis.

Alerted by the barking mutts, the man quickly rose to his feet when he saw me.  He appeared startled, and it was easy to understand why this was so.

Seeing a invader passing along the aqueduct, in a place off-limits to pedestrian traffic, had to be a terrifying prospect for this frightened man resting in solace, who was clearly Hispanic, probably Mexican — and almost certainly an illegal alien.

That’s right — an illegal alien.  Chew on those words for a moment.

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Posted by on Jul 24, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Travel | 2 comments

Three Dogs and a Mexican (Part 1)

 

This is the story of a man you will never know.

This is the story of a man you will never see.

Yet, it’s the story of so many who live amongst us – hidden away within the crevices of all towns and cities, invisible to the contemporary consciousness.

Los Angeles’ arteries are not highways — but rather its aqueducts. They are a meandering maze of concrete vessels bringing life to millions. Mostly unseen and largely ignored, they lie burrowed amid a gigantic quilt of industrial parks and busy freeways choked with traffic and frustration, channeling clear water from the snow-packed High Sierras down to valleys, and ultimately to our sinks, bathtubs, toilets, garden hoses, swimming pools, and restaurants.

There is one man  the who calls the aqueduct his “home.”

This is the story of how I came to stumble upon that man and how I became aware of the numerous challenges he faces each day.  It is the story of an unintended series of personal events which reminds us that compassion and generosity are not measured by volume of deeds but rather by the simplest acts of human kindness.

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Posted by on Jul 4, 2010 in Blog, Essays | 1 comment

A Long Way from the Oscars, But We Already Have Favorites

 

We’re not officially into the Oscar movie season, but there’s already chatter in the ether who will win – for Best Animated Film and the brings the odds on who is the favorite but before making a wager make sure to study and read a betonline review.

It makes sense this particular race would take center stage in the summer when a majority of animated films hit the big screen to satisfy kids young and old alike.

Leading the charge is “Toy Story 4,” which has critics and its audience on its side. The fourth and likely last installment in the Pixar franchise opened to a record global weekend with $238 million and great praise from those pesky movie reviewers.

Come on guys, it’s Woody and Buzz. How could they not like it?

If nominated in January, “Toy Story 4” is likely to see tough competition from Dreamworks “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” the possibly final look at Hiccup’s coming-of-age. In November, Disney’s “Frozen 2” also will enter the fray.

The outlier in this category is Disney’s “The Lion King,” opening mid-July, which straddles the line of live action and animation using virtual production skills to create a computer-generated movie. It definitely checks all the boxes to make it an animated film but it looks nothing like one.

There’s also the chance it won’t even be submitted as a contender in the category. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the movie isn’t being touted by the studio as “animation” and a similarly made movie, “The Jungle Book,” wasn’t submitted for consideration in the category in 2016. It did, however, win the Best Visual Effects Oscar, beating “Doctor Strange,” “Deepwater Horizon,” “Kubo and the Two Strings,” and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

Other potential nominees: “Klaus” from Netflix, “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” from Wallace & Gromit creators, and “The Addams Family.”

The major  Oscar categories are expected to be as competitive.

For Best Picture it’s a smorgasbord of drama including such contenders as (in no particular order):

Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt set in LaLa Land about the time Charles Manson and his family were wreaking havoc

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers, everyone’s favorite guy next door.

“The Aeronauts,” from Amazon has Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones reteaming in a survivalist adventure story in a hot air balloon.

“The Laundromat,” a Steven Soderbergh political thriller from Netflix starring Meryl Steep and Gary Oldman about journalists linking political figures to tax-shelter bank accounts.

“The Farewell” has “Crazy Rich Asians” breakout Awkwafina gets attention in this story of a family keeping its matriarch in the dark about her cancer diagnosis.

“The Irishman” gets together director Martin Scorsese and a few of his besties (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci) in a film about a mob hitman who alleges to have killed Jimmy Hoffa.

“Fair and Balanced Roger Ailes gets big screen treatment after Showtime’s take down. This one stars John Lithgow as Ailes feeling the wrath of the women of Fox News (Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron).

“Ad Astra” stars Brad Pitt heading to space in search of his dad who went missing looking for extra-terrestrial life.

“Little Women” brings a strong possibility director/writer Greta Gerwig will receive her second nomination as best director in this classic favorite starring Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Meryl Streep and Laura Dern

The acting categories likely will see many nominees from the above-mentioned movies with several having deafening buzz:

Best Actor – Antonio Bandaras, “Pain and Glory”; Robert De Niro, “The Irishman”; Leonardo DiCaprio and/or Brad Pitt, “Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood”; Taron Edgerton, “Rocketman”; Jonathan Pryce, “The Pope”; Pitt (again), “Ad Astra” Eddie Redmayne, “The Aeronauts”

Best Actress: Amy Adams, “The Women in the Window”; Awkwafina, “The Farewell”; Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”; Alfre Woodard, “Clemency”; Saorise Ronan, “Little Women”; Kristen Stewart, “Against All Enemies”; Natalie Portman, “Lucy in the Sky”; Julianne Moore, “Gloria Bell”; Elisabeth Moss, “Her Smell”

__________

 

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