Category Archives: Food

Cut Steakhouse – Beverly Hills, CA.

This is a guest post written by frequent contributor B.Positive.

Cut Steakhouse, Beverly Hills, CA.

MarZ, a second friend, and I went to celebrate two of our belated birthdays in August and September. I, having had to cancel my skydiving + paintball birthday plans after crashing my bike on my 25th birthday a couple weeks ago, have been looking forward to this dinner. If you haven’t heard about Cut, read about it here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/cut-beverly-hills
A Wolfgang Puck business, Cut is located on 9500 Wilshire blvd inside of a 4 Seasons hotel (a stone’s throw away from Rodeo Drive). Needless to say, ultra luxury cars were everywhere and I’m glad we didn’t take my car there. Overall it was a great experience from the service, decor, and food quality. Knowing that this was a “$$$$” kind of place as rated on Yelp, I was expecting a lot from the place and felt that Cut still lived up to its expectations. If you’re going, remember to dress well, check your bank statements, and brush up on your steak vernacular. Allow me to take you through a brief recap of our incredible 3 hour culinary experience.

Appetizers:

Bread and Butter

There is a server that comes around with a tray full of various breads (sourdough, wheat, pretzels, onion bread?) which comes shortly after you take your seat and order drinks. All of the waiters and waitress are well dressed, well mannered, polite, and are attuned to what you need and make sure you’re taken care of before you need to speak up.

Cuts on display

Before ordering, our server (Danny) brought us a display of all of the cuts available that evening and gave us a description into the texture and the flavors that would be experienced with each.

Kobe Steak Sashimi with Radish

This is the first time I’ve tried this dish, so I’ll describe it from the perspective of a newbie. Texture – soft. Flavor – interesting, and did not taste of blood or uncooked meat in any sense. Although I had my reluctance to tried uncooked red meat, it was delicious and so far I haven’t come down with foodborne illness or worse (that I know of). I’ve been told that I need to put a little more faith in high end restaurants that serve edgy food as this place is known to do (it makes sense that they have more to lose than I do by serving unsafe food).

Entrees & Sides:

Wagyu beef from Japan.

MarZ’s entree. 100% Wagyu beef from Japan. Apparently Cut was on of the first restaurants to get beef imported from Japan after the import ban (is there a better term for this?) was lifted.

American Wagyu beef

My entree was the American Wagyu beef ordered medium well. It was flavorful, juicy, and delicious. One thing I’d change: I’d get the steak done medium next time.

Sides: Creamed Spinach with Organic Fried Egg (left), Wild Mushrooms (right), and buttered corn (center)

We ordered these side with our entrees. The sides I suppose are not the place to be adventurous. I liked the buttered corn the best and wouldn’t order the other  two sides again. I was interested in ordering the fries to see how good they could be, but was persuaded otherwise that night.

All in all, dinner at Cut was a pleasurable, delicious, and memorable experience. If you’re celebrating a special event and don’t mind spending a bit (much) more, Cut is a fine choice.

Until next time,

B. Positive

Las Vegas – Max Brenner and Wicked Spoon

This is a guest post written by frequent contributor B.Positive.

August 2012 Las Vegas Trip Report:

In the late summer of 2012, marZ took advantage of a free Mandalay Bay room offer and we had a chance to visit Vegas on the cheap (the key to free rooms? Get a player’s card and play like you don’t need money). MarZ will have more details and pictures on the room and the hotel stay.

Friday: We drove down on Friday night, got in and waited for Saturday (we like to live life on the edge in case you’re wondering..).

Saturday: We went to Max Brenner for lunch. If you’ve been here a while ago, there’s a good chance it’s changed significantly since you’ve been here. No longer is it primarily focused on desserts and sweets, but it now carries an excellent food menu as well. If you do happen to visit again, the following were excellent:

Hazelnut Cream Chocolate Milkshake: The best milkshake I’ve ever had (not kidding).

If you go to Max Brenner, you MUST try this milkshake. MUST! Don’t try the smoothies, sodas, or anything else. Just this! Maybe the tea as well.

Went back the next day for Sunday Brunch and had blueberry tea.

The most flavorful entree I tasted was the tomato mozarella panini. It’s seasoned with bits of basil (my favorite). The dish from bottom to top was made well and is something I’d get again.

Tomato Mozarella Panini from Max Brenner.

Aside from Max Brenner, the remainder of this post is picture-less.

Max Brenner overall gets my endorsement. Located right in the Forum Shops, the ambience, decor, service, and food made it a great experience. The restaurant has a candy shop inside and is decorated like the inside of a Willy Wonka Factory.

Saturday was also filled with the dinner buffet at Wicked Spoon (located in The Cosmopolitan) which had long lines, small servings, and slightly bland dishes and desserts (perhaps it taste better… not-sober). The Cosmopolitan itself seems to be contained within a relatively small footprint (everything is centered around a huge chandelier and lots of escalators) but I didn’t spend a lot of time there before we rushed off to see KA by Circque de Soleil at the MGM.

Personally, I enjoyed KA much more the second time around after having a friend explain to me what was going on (critical thinking isn’t my strongest character trait). KA and O, both by Cirque de Soleil, were very enjoyable. For those of you with an appreciation for raunchy theater, check out Zumanity ;).

Overall, Vegas was fun. I aimed to have a less touristy experience, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. I still very much enjoy the hotels, the restaurants, and the glamour, so  the authentic local Vegas experience will have to wait for another time.

Until next time.

– B.Positive.

Music video of the week.

P.S. I played at my first open mic in my life! I played this song (but probably didn’t sound as good):

Sky Tea at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai

Not long ago I had the opportunity to have afternoon tea at the Skyview Bar on the top floor of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. It was quite an experience, even for a non-tea-drinker like myself.

But unfortunately, it wasn’t a cheap experience. The hotel regularly sees room rates from $1,000 USD per night up to $27,000 USD per night (!), so I wasn’t exactly expecting a cheap few hours. There are actually several afternoon tea options at the hotel. The one I chose was the most expensive option, at the top of the hotel with what promised to be some of the best panoramic views of the city. The total was AED 425, or just about $115 USD. Yeah, it’s a ton of cash, but how often am I in Dubai, right?

Note: I tried getting a reservation for lunch at one of the restaurants but it was booked solid my entire stay in Dubai. Plan WELL in advance, and note the food is ridiculously expensive.

The front of the Burj Al Arab

Walking up to the Burj Al Arab is pretty cool. It’s the 4th tallest hotel in the world, and it definitely looks like it’s that big. Note the round helicopter pad/tennis court sticking out at the top of the building. There’s some awesome pictures of Roger Federer and Andrei Agassi at the top. Gives me the willies just seeing how high up they are. Google it!

Upon entry, you immediately see why this hotel is so expensive.

I was in Dubai in the Summer. The hot part of the Summer. It was 105 degrees Fahrenheit and extremely humid, so I couldn’t wait to get inside. As soon as I did, I was greeted by some dancing fountains, golden pillars, royal blue ceilings, and white walls (couldn’t come up with an expensive-sounding description for white). Honestly, this hotel looked gorgeous. It was one of those buildings where you kind of just stand and look around for 10 minutes in order to appreciate everything before you move on.

Looking at the ceiling was impressive as well.

Looking directly upwards, you see the ceiling of the building about 600 feet up. I’m not sure, but this has got to be the largest atrium of any hotel in the world. And again, the colors are just amazing to look at.

A look from the top of the fountains down to the entry doors.

Going up the escalator to the second main floor wasn’t much different. There were more fountains and artwork and all kinds of things that catch your eye and make you wonder how much it all costs (about $650 million when it was built, btw).  The view downward gives you a better idea of the other colors used in the carpet and even the fountains themselves.

But now, on to the tea. After some sight-seeing around the hotel and a not-so-quick elevator ride to the top of the hotel, I arrived at the check-in area of the Skyview Bar. The place was mostly empty, though it definitely started to fill up as we finished up.

TIP: Be sure to book your tea reservation well in advance of your trip. Space has been known to fill up well ahead of time.

The Skyview Bar, which was pretty empty when I got there.

Again, I love the colors. The entire room was colored and accented with blue/green/aqua colors, which fit really well considering how great the view of the water was. It’s worth noting that the Skyview Bar is not a full 360 degree room. The room takes up half, or less, of the entire floor, but it’s still plenty to provide views of the city and the water.

The floor-to-ceiling glass windows provided some great views.

As I mentioned, the views were pretty great. They would have been even better if it weren’t for a bit of haze, but we still had some good visibility. In the picture above you can see the Palm Jumeirah island, which is a man-made island in the shape of a palm tree, in the distance.

A close up of the Palm Jumeirah island.

I know the picture above doesn’t really add much value here, but I wanted to show it for two reasons. First to show that the haze does affect the view if you’re looking into the distance. Second, in the center of this picture, on the far end of the island, you can see a shadowy figure of what looks to be a castle. No, it’s not Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Walt Disney World in Orlando (too hazy to see that far). It’s actually the “Atlantis, The Palm” hotel, which is modeled after the “Atlantis, Paradise Island” hotel in the Bahamas.

We were also able to barely see The World islands in the distance. Too far and too much haze to get a decent picture, but it was cool knowing it was there. For those that don’t know, they’ve built a series of man-made islands in the shape of the countries and continents of the Earth, and each island was sold individually. It’s really quite impressive what this country has managed to build.

The view of the city.

Looking the other direction you see the city itself. Besides the hotel in the foreground, there’s really not much to see. Even within several miles of visibility there are no trademark, monster-sized Dubai buildings in sight. This wasn’t a big deal at all to me, but be wary of this if you were hoping/expecting to see a spectacular city view.

Oh yeah…I came here for tea! On to that…

Our tower of tea snacks.

We were given a very small drink menu that included a few different teas, cappuccinos, and a few other random options. I mentioned I’m not much of a tea drinker, so I opted for the “sparkling juice” which really wasn’t that great. Along with the drink came a very cool looking tower of snacks for the tea. As you’ll notice, the tower is shaped like the hotel, which was a pretty nice touch.

There were various pastries, biscuits, cookies, and cakes on the several layers. None of them were that great, at least not to my taste. Perhaps my palate isn’t as refined as a tea-drinker’s would be, but I know a good pastry when I have one, and these weren’t it. There were a lot of them, though…way more than even two guys who just dropped $115 each to eat pastries could finish. I’m not sure if groups of 3+ get a single tower or not, so definitely inquire if you plan to bring a large group.

The service was not what I expected it to be, especially for a room that was only at about 20% capacity. It seemed like there were only a couple of servers, and besides taking our drink order and bringing the food tower to our table, they didn’t really even ask us how things were. We didn’t have any issues with our food, but I could see how it might become difficult to get a hold of your server if the room were full (which I hear is usually the case).

After spending a couple of hours having tea and enjoying the view (and really, just milking the time to get my money’s worth), I decided it was time to finish up. We paid and headed back down the elevator to the main lobby for a few last looks around before leaving the hotel.

Your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not the floor is real gold.

And, of course, what kind of report would this be without a couple of quick pics of the parking lot out front.

When I walk out and look left I see…

Whoever drove that BMW sure must have been embarrassed!

And when I turn to the right I see…

Speechless…

So I asked the valet to pull up my black Audi R8 and then headed back to my hotel…kidding! Who am I trying to fool…I actually WALKED up to the hotel and had to walk back since they restrict entry to drive up to the hotel. A taxi dropped us off at the gate, which seemed like a quarter mile walk to the hotel, and we made the same walk back to catch a taxi on the main road. And yes, it was hot.

One other note regarding the tea. It was “suggested” that we wear semi-formal attire to attend the afternoon tea in the Skyview Bar. I did, but noticed several others that were much more casual. Dress casually at your own risk, however. I know I’d hate to get turned away for my appointment after coming from so far away to see this place.

All in all, it was a good experience and I got some great pics and cool views out of it. If you don’t care for the views at the top or the tea and crumpets, then by all means skip the afternoon tea up top. There’s still plenty to explore at the hotel and it’s worth a visit just to look around the lobby and pool area. The people watching isn’t too bad either (it’s fun to figure out how a person is so insanely wealthy (or just insane?) that they can afford this hotel).

Important Note: They don’t just let anyone walk up to the hotel. You have to have “business” to be there, meaning either you have to be staying there or you have to have an appointment at a restaurant or for tea. They verify your appointment at the front gate (a quarter mile away from the hotel itself), so bring a confirmation of some sort just in case.

And no, there are no hotel loyalty points that could get you any free nights at this hotel. Cash is king in this oil rich country, and staying at this hotel will require you to drop a few G’s in order to say you’re one of the few who stayed there overnight.

What was your experience like at the Burj Al Arab? Are you one of the few that stayed here overnight?

San Diego: Things to do and eat

Thanks to marZ’s detailed post on the logistics, lodgings, and points, I’ll do my best not to cover the same points. Let’s cover this weekend in a chronological fashion starting with Sunday. The trip covers our activities from Sunday morning through Tuesday afternoon (our return).

Sunday: (Hungry Bear Sub Shop, SD Safari Park, Julian County)

10 a.m. take-off. I get a range of about 360 miles to the tank and did not have to refuel for the entire trip, making the traveling much more wallet friendly than flying. Before getting to the zoo (about 1.5 hours SE of the O.C. when driving like a fugitive), we stopped by Hungry Bear Sub Shop (4.5 stars out of 227 reviews on Yelp as of 7/14/12) and got this:

Hungry Bear Sub Shop - BBQ Steak Sandwich

BBQ Steak Sandwich. It’s like a Subway Steak and Cheese on steroids.

Most of our food places are found on Yelp on the way and this was our Sunday’ lucky winner. The place lives up to it’s Yelp hype and the only complaint I have is that the place smells like burnt steak and toilets. Needless to say, we ate outside.  A short drive later and we were at the SD Safari Park.

Here’s a few interesting things I got to do at the park:

SD Safari Park - Cheetah Sign

SD Safari Park - Marble Earth Globe

We watched 5 year old take control of the world.

Visiting the San Diego Safari Park (which is in ESCONDIDO, not San Diego) was fun and a different experience from going to the San Diego Zoo. As imagined, the part is much more open and the layout of the park is designed to give priority to the animal’s living requirements rather than maximizing the animal-per-space ratio to give visitors’ the most bang for their buck. This picture below should show how spacious the park really is (kidding. kind of.)

SD Safari Park

Look how spacious the park was!

Although the San Diego Zoo is bigger with a wider selection of animals, I’d definitely check out their Cheetah runs (5:30 p.m.) and take a tram tour of most of the park. The tram is the big attraction and you see things like…

SD Safari Park - Giraffes

Giraffes!

…and you’ll see other stuff. If you shell out a little more, you can go on the truck tour that takes you right next to these giraffes and probably let’s you call it names. And feed it. SD Safari Park overall is worth going to at least once. It’s kind of out of the way, but it makes a great opportunity for you to go try apple pie from Julian county. It was good, but not something to go back for (since they sell these at albertson’s in SD).

Julian County - Apple Pie.

They also sell this at some alberton’s grocery stores in SD.

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That was it for Sunday. Went to the hotel, paid for parking ($15/day at the parking structure literally across from the SD Westin on 400 Broadway) and then watched a TON of TV. No pictures of the hotel room unfortunately. I’ll remember that for next time.

Monday: (Kayaking in La Jolla, Hash House, Neighborhood)

Ate this for brunch:

marZ's brunch - Hash House Agogo

marZ’s brunch. French toast, Eggs, Potato wedges, and stuff.
Note: Hash House serving size for 1 person feeds 2 – 2.5 people..

Every time I go to hash house, I always get too much food. After this, we went up to La Jolla to catch the OEX Dive & Kayak tour for the 7 caves kayak tour. Note that I’ve done the 7 caves tour with the competing La Jolla Bike and Kayak Tour which is located right down the same street the previous month. This time, the waves were calm and we were actually allowed to go into the caves which was cool, but underwhelming. If you do this tour and don’ t get to go in, La Jolla Bike and Kayak will give you a voucher for a free walk in tour to the 7 caves which is as good. Funny story – after we got out of the water, we noticed a couple news vans going to the beach and later discovered that there was a 14-foot great white shark near this beach AT THE TIME WE WERE KAYAKING. Omg, if I knew this was coming to find some lunch (me), I would’ve pooped my pants. (link: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57465511/great-white-shark-sighting-closes-popular-la-jolla-shores-beach/)

After this, we found Neighborhood on Yelp and went for a test drive..of food. The meal consisted of a mission viejo hefeweizen, spicy mac and cheese, and STEAK FRITES. Let me recount the details in order. Hefeweizen – good, Mac n’ cheese – overrated (save your $ and don’t get this), and STEAK FRITES! The steak frites are like carne asada fries with guacamole, except the fries are sweet potatoe fries. I’d go back to SD just for this dish (and maybe to say hi to the great white).  It was that good. The lighting was horrible so I didn’t end up getting any worthy pictures of this amazing dish. AMAZING! After that, ralph’s,  hotel, sleep, rinse and repeat.

Tuesday (Phil’s BBQ, Balboa Park):

I learned from my last SD trip that Phil’s is closed on Mondays. this is what we ordered:

Phil's BBQ

Turkey Burger – bland, dry, and gross.

Phil's BBQ - Beef Ribs
Beef ribs and veggies.

A tip for the imaginary readers: If you go to a place known for its ribs, don’t get the burger. (So much for being adventurous). For those who’ve had Lucille’s in long beach and haven’t had Phil’s BBQ – you aren’t missing a whole bunch.

To wrap the trip up, a short stop at Balboa Park where everything worth seeing (and those not worth seeing) costs money. I did touristy things like:

Balboa Park - Lily

Took a picture of a water lily.

Balboa Park - botany guest sheet
saw an interesting entry from a Dublin tourist. Look at the writing – it looks medieval.

and last but not least…

Balboa Park - jump shot (me)

Acted like a tourist.

All in all, a fun weekend using minimum $$ and maximum points (refer to marZ’s article for the points). Let’s hope for more entries, imaginary readers. Yay!

B.Postive

p.s. Wanted to leave you with a bit of inspiration. Be positive.