Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bad Ending to a Great Week

Tuna Tartar - Tosacano's

This is my first blog entry since April 2014, I'll get to that later.  After three months of rehab and recovery from spinal surgery, I returned to work for one week.  I already had a scheduled vacation to go to Las Vegas, again.  I had a truly spectacular week seeing my entertainer friends and was welcomed by all at their venues.  Good entertainment, good food and good "beverages" and all of this OFF the Strip.
First on my dinner list was the Italian American Club on East Sahara.  As soon as you walk in the door to this place, you're back in 1957 Vegas but without the cigarettes!  Business casual, no. People actually get dressed up to come here, which I found pretty unbelievable in this day and age.
The Club, originally private, was built to serve the growing Italian population.  Years later it was opened to the public, but still offers a membership if one chooses for restaurant discounts and functions.  This night, a friend, Carmine Mandia was performing.  When I walked in, the place was busy.  I nodded and gave him a small wave.  He stopped in the middle of his Bobby Darin song and blared out; "Ricky Sachs is in the house!"  I was completely floored by this and was thinking that the patrons were thinking "Who the hell is this guy?"  That made me feel welcomed Las Vegas style. By the way, I do tell jokes but definitely cannot sing!   Dinner was veal milanase, a couple of handcrafted cocktails and lot's of schmoozing.  This Jew became Italian for the evening.
My second dinner of the week was at Toscano Italian Steak House on Paradise Road.  Previously a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse this is a very large restaurant and bar although from the road you can't see it.  That's probably why it it was "formerly" a Ruth's Chris.  Michael DeLano was singing here tonight and I had a dinner reservation, for what else, a superb filet mignon but with an appetizer of outstanding tuna tartar.  Again, I walked into the bar area where Michael was singing and he stopped singing and yelled out; "Ladies and gentlemen, it's Ricky Sachs!"   I thought to myself, "Again??"  Unreal.  Michael and I shared more than a couple of glasses of wine and it was just great.  As with Carmine at the Italian American Club, everyone is welcome to sing by the headliner and it's an impromptu free show.  Professional singers and entertainers, it's great AND you never know who will show up.
Craig Canter was at The Barrymore with his special guests Neil Diamond and Englebert Humperdink who, by the way, sing as good as Craig!  During the music I shared a drink with Frank Sinatra (Gary Anthony) and his manager Pam.  Craig is a character...but of course, he's from New Jersey like me! 

 Also playing at the Barrymore is Mr. Joe Vento.  Joe is 96 years old (still drives!) and is a encyclopedia of music.  He has played with everyone who is anyone from the beginning of time and has his own band in Los Angeles with many of the musicians from the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  When you see Joe coming down the road GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY!!  Kidding Joe.  Joe is a WW2 Vet who was at Normandy on D Day and proudly wears his hat that sits on the piano.

Other restaurants visited this time around were "as seen on tv";  Bacon, formerly Kelly's, in North Las Vegas was on Bar Rescue and Four Kegs from Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.  Four Kegs was actually good.  I say that because many restaurants that I have visited from DDD were not.
Bacon Bar, North Las Vegas
Mary's Garden Bloody Mary @ Bacon Bar

SPICY Chilaquiles with pork @ Los Antojos for breakfast

Four Kegs Restaurant and Bar

Stromboli at Four Kegs.  You can't tell from the picture, but it's big.
Excellent sauce and nice people here from the neighborhood.

As I stated earlier, this vacation to Las Vegas was the best one yet.  My friends welcomed me, I had very good time, treated to excellent entertainment and everything is first class all around.  
After returning home and returning to work for one week I had a burning in my chest...a heart attack.  The pain subsided enough for me to take a shower and drive myself five minutes to Hackensack University Medical Center.  If you get sick in New Jersey, this is the place you want to go.  I had one stent put in and was told that I had 100% blockage in one artery.  After the initial shock of "this is the end of my life" and several days of slight depression, I'm happy to report I'm normal again.  It took me since April to finally write this. So much for the theory of red wine is good for heart! 


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fish Tacos, Fresh Bread, Surf and Turf

Watching the Travel Channel and actually being there are different things;  you cannot experience the actual taste of the food you are looking at or feel the Pacific surf on your feet from a Lazy-boy recliner. Case in point would be Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico. 
An hour plus north of Puerto Vallarta, lies a very bohemian town of surfers, artists and many ex-pats who basically just hang around all day.  A lot of white people with dreads, (something I have never been able to figure out!) who eat seafood and drink beer. There is also the faint smell of weed wafting through the air, the most I’ve experienced in my many trips to Mexico…
IMG_0004   Fishing boat off of the beach at Sayulita     
IMG_0011Sayulita Beach
IMG_0025Fish and Shrimp Tacos at El Itacate..the best in Sayulita…their opinion!  Yes, they were very good!
IMG_0022VERY fresh fish tacos..
IMG_0023Four large shrimp (at least 10/12 size) on each taco..excellent!

South to El Tuito
One hour and twenty minutes south of Puerto Vallarta lies the tiny town of El Tuito, the place you go to buy the unregulated “beverage” Raicilla.
The clear, handcrafted liquid is essentially Mexican Moonshine that packs a punch.  Don’t drink more than two shots!  Enough said on that!
There is one small supermarket in El Tuito, but if you really want the good stuff, just ask anyone and they will direct you; the cheese lady, the baker, the tortilla guy and of course the Racilla lady.  Oh and don’t forget the local dentist….IMG_0092
A few blocks away was the bakery

After the sweets from the bakery, you can follow the sign to the dentists office!IMG_0094

Now for the Turf

Without question, the finest steakhouse in Puerto Vallarta is Sonora Grill Prime.  USDA Prime beef is offered for the discerning carnivore (ME) in a very upscale environment with waiters and management that know the menu inside and out and will take care of any needs.  Not to be missed.  IMG_0121
Ribeye, grilled onions, baked potato, creamed spinach and assortment of salsas
If you’re on a budget, Pepe’s Tacos has recently opened in The Marina, behind Sonora Grill, for probably what are consistently the best tacos in Vallarta.  The original downtown location remains.  The Marina location has added items on the menu and the restaurant looks fancier than downtown, but the prices are the same.  Don’t forget: corn tortillas, not flour!!


Catching Up From The Holidays….

It’s a treat to dine at “old school” restaurants in any city, but New York City just has that something special thing you don’t find in a lot of cities.  Old School means just that; a place that has been in existence since 1908!  One of those places is John’s of 12th Street.  DSCN0199
I decided to order two items that were featured on TV;  Veal Meatballs and Tuscan Ragu served over homemade Pappardelle, both of which were exquisite to say the least.  Hearty veal meatballs in a red sauce and the perfectly cooked Pappardelle with the very rich Ragu!DSCN0179 - Copy
DSCN0185 - Copy
Served with bread and good red wine, you can’t go wrong….and top it all off with real New York Cheescake.  Excellent waiters, bartender and owners made for a great meal.  I’m happy!