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Feb 04

Las Vegas: Simon at the Palms

My first night in town, I met up with some of the more party-prone folks at the conference and we hit the town. Our conference was at the Rio, off-strip, so it was natural that we'd head to the nearby Palms. If you follow any celebrity gossip, you know that the Maloofs own the Palms and they've somehow made it a celebrity haven. All I knew was that I was hungry.

We ate at Simon at Palms Place. Palms Place is the adjacent Palms tower (every casino seems to have a special second tower now) that you access via the SkyTube. I thought the SkyTube would be quite exciting, but it's more of an airport people mover. Rather boring for such a trendy hotel.

Simon is on the 6th floor of Palms Place. It's adjacent to a gorgeous pool area – closed in the winter – and surrounded by palm trees and fireplaces on the outside. Inside it boasts stark, clean, and modern lines. An interesting features was a sort of greenhouse in a far room, which was obviously growing herbs and assorted greens.

The by-the-glass wine list was okay, but not overly impressive. I ended up with a 2007 Ferrari-Carrano Sauvignon Blanc because I knew I could trust it. It ran me about $11/glass. The wine list was small but focused. I particularly liked their selection of organic and biodynamic wines. The one that stood out was the "Clor Sacres" Savennieres from Nicolas Joly, which costs $75. To give you an idea of the markups, the bottles in the Spanish section cost about $20 over the retail price. I suspect that was the sweet spot on the list, and I'm rather encouraged by that.

The menu was eclectic. I'm not a food blogger, but I'd say it was nouveau American cuisine + sushi. Chef Kerry Simon brings in fresh, locally grown products and in many cases, organically grown. I've read that since, but it was also pretty obvious to me just from the menu. As many of you know, I'm a complicated eater. I'm picky and I have food allergies. There was plenty on the menu that I would eat, which I found refreshing.

I ordered an endive salad (sans walnuts) followed by citrus-braised short ribs with corn tempura and a bed of grits. It's the first time I've ever had grits and I doubt I'll ever find them quite so soft, fluffy, and un-grit-like again. It was excellent. Several folks at the table had ahi tuna and sushi, both of which received rave reviews.

As far as service, I found the front waiter (er, waitress) to be rather condescending and rather lacking in customer service. That said, the back waiter was excellent. We chose not to have dessert but noticed a table next to us enjoying a huge serving of Cotton Candy. No kidding. We grabbed it and joked around, so the back waiter brought us a small serving of our own Cotton Candy, no charge.

Overall, I rate Simon with a , despite the fact I was so turned off by our server. After all, the rest of our service, from the bus boys to the hostess, was excellent.

Following Simon, we trekked back to the original Palms tower and visited the Playboy Club, which was surprisingly old-school and classy. Yes, both the waitresses and the dealers were wearing bunny outfits. It was a throwback to the '60s and didn't bother me in the least. We followed that up with a trip upstairs to the Moon nightclub. It wasn't my thing at all (a little too techno when I'm all about Sinatra) but I did enjoy the retractable roof and the gorgeous views of the mountains and Las Vegas.

View a complete slideshow of the Palms, including Simon and the Playboy Club here or on Flickr.

Simon Restaurant Lounge at Palms Place on Urbanspoon

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 12:30 am in Dinner and Drinks, Restaurants, Travel | Permalink | Comments (2)
Jan 19

How to Host a Party (and not do anything)

I hosted a small dinner party the other night for several couples. Had Kevin let me, I'd have invited about 8 more people, but I had to cut back. (So if you're a dear friend, don't be mad at me. I picked couples I thought would gel nicely and well, our house only holds so many people.)

Usually when we host a party, we shell out at least $500 in food and alcohol. Then we kill ourselves trying to make everything from appetizers through to dessert. Kevin often spends about half of the party in the kitchen and sometimes the food goes awry. This time we tossed that entire model out the window.

I did two things differently. First, I asked everyone to bring an appetizer or a bottle of Spanish wine. This worked beautifully, as we ended up with a gorgeous cheese plate and several dips. Kevin also prepared some mini quiches, baked cheese sticks, and mini herbed goat cheese balls. Good Spanish wine can be found for under $15 – in many cases under $10 – so we weren't asking our guests for too great of an expense.

Everyone brought a bottle or two of wine, which was fantastic. In fact, we emptied 10 bottles plus a magnum. I kept the wine out on our bar and just let everyone serve themselves.


Wine and appetizers. So far, an easy party with very little expense to us. But what about dinner? Well, for dinner we brought in Hector Esteve of Paella at Your Place. Hector arrives with his burner, a giant paella pan, all the ingredients and a great personality, and then he whips up some paella. I was worried about the small size of our kitchen, but Hector requires only a stovetop and a small countertop. Alternatively he can use a garage, or in the warmer months, your deck or patio.


We had a sausage and chicken paella, but he made a portion of it meat
free for our two vegetarian diners. He offers other paella combinations
of various meats and seafoods as well. Hector also arrives with a great salad and bread that starts off your meal. Once the paella is ready, he brings it to the table and sprinkles it with sherry. Alcohol makes everything better, yes?  Then he serves the paella to your guests.

Hector left our kitchen even cleaner than it was when we arrived. Outside of the appetizers, Kevin and I had no need to even be in the kitchen. It was the easiest party I've ever put together and because of that, one of the most fun. I could actually enjoy my guests instead of worrying about feeding them. In fact, we wouldn't have been in the kitchen at all except that everyone was fascinated with the paella process. Hector will tell you about it, step by step, if you wish, with all the patience in the world.

Hector requires a minimum of 10 people (those pans are big you see) and starts at $10 per person. We fed 15 people, although he can feed a party of up to 150. At those prices, feeding 15 people paella is a cheaper option for us than what we would normally shell out to host a dinner party. Kevin just mentioned that by using Hector, we saved about $200 in party
hosting and more than that in time and stress, therefore this is a
Recession Tip! Host a party with your own chef and save money – who

I know I'll be bringing Hector back for future parties at this house and once we move in about a year. I recommend Hector and his paella (and apparently his tailgating options as well). In fact, I'm trying to figure out how to get him to the pre-Jimmy Buffett parties out at Riverbend. How perfect would that be?

Not sure how you feel about paella? That's okay. Hector will be dishing up his excellent paella at several local stores in the next few months. You can find him at The Party Source on Jan 31 and March 26. I think, although I'm not positive on this one, that he'll also be grilling up some paella at each Liquor Direct for a Jorge Ordonez tasting on February 27 and 28.

I'm embedding a slideshow or you can view our photos on Flickr.

Contact Hector at PaellaAtYourPlace.com or via email (hfesteve [at] fuse [dot] net) or phone: 513.528.5241.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Jan 15

Happy Birthday Chalk food + wine

Happy Birthday Chalk food + wine

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 8:08 pm in Cincinnati, Dinner and Drinks, Local, Photos, Restaurants | Permalink | Comments ()
Jan 10

Chalk’s Birthday (and mine)!

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Chalk food + wine in Covington. I celebrated my birthday there last year, the day after they opened, and I'll be continuing that tradition this year.

Chalk is throwing itself a birthday party on January 15. They'll be hosting a dinner by the bite event, featuring favorite items from their menu over the last year. There will be special cocktail features from Mixologist Molly Wellman, as well as beer specials. Cost is $40 per person and includes dinner bites, select wines, and door prizes.

Ann party front of card

Additionally, there will be a raffle for a private dinner prepared by Chef Jared Whalen and for a private wine event with sommelier Bryant Phillips, as well as artwork from the restaurant.

There won't be a sit-down dinner per se. I understand that it's more of a cocktail party atmosphere. You'll need to call (859.643.1234) ahead. They'll guarantee your reservation with a credit card. This gets you onto the VIP list. For those of you who want to wing it, you can just show up. Just know that those folks on the VIP list are going to get in before you. (If you do reserve a spot with your credit card, you can cancel up until 24 hours before hand.)

Doors open at 7 pm and the party lasts until 12:30 am. I'll be celebrating my birthday there and I'd love to have you all join me!  You see, Summer Genetti's mini red velvet cupcakes are like some sort of addiction for me. I can't think of a better birthday cake for myself. If you decide to go, leave a comment below or shoot me an email.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Dec 15

Planning New Year’s Eve in Cincinnati

**We'll keep this post featured at the top of the blog until New Year's Day. Don't forget to add any events you hear about in the comments!**

It's about time that everyone started making plans for New Year's Eve. Last year, after a not-that-great year, we opted to host our own New Year's Eve party, which was fun and happily low-key. This year, we're also sticking with low-key, but we're headed out on the town.

We're headed to Bouquet Wine Bar in Covington. From 10 pm- 1 am they will be hosting a sparkling wine tasting, with appetizers. The cost is $40. We'll be there with Tim, his lovely wife, and Jessica from Liquor Direct and her boyfriend.  Interested? I'm not sure if there are seats left, but you can contact Danny Gold for more information.


Other events that I've been told about include the following:

Recently added events are denoted by a New symbol.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by Michelle at 1:25 pm in Cincinnati, Cocktails, Dinner and Drinks, Special Events | Permalink | Comments (4)

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