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We did a major Trader Joe’s shopping trip yesterday, and I got quite a lot of frozen items to try. I haven’t been into cooking for months now, and I don’t see the muse hitting me any time soon. So frozen food it is.  I thought I’d share my opinions of what I’ve gotten.  I’ll be adding them here as they go.

tjtrufflebread

Mushroom & Black Truffle Flatbread with Mozarella Cheese

This had a real truffle flavor.  If you like truffles, this is the flatbread for you.  I do, so I’ll be buying more. I think it was $3.

tjpadthai

Vegetable Pad Thai

Mika complained that it was spicy and didn’t taste like pad-thai, but she did eat it.

Love with Food, $12/$20 a month snack subscription ($29 for gluten-free box)
Promo: 50% off first box by using my link, GFLS = 50% off gluten free box, Groupon for deluxe box ($10 for 1 month/$26 for 3 months)
I paid: $2 with expired promo

As part of my general addiction to subscription boxes, I’ve ventured into the realm of subscription snack boxes with its most heavily promoted box: Love with Food. This box features a variety of not-too-bad-for-you snacks, both from niche and heavily distributed brands. The monthly subscription is $12, though you can get your first box for a discount by using my referral link (or any other referral link you find).

The snacks were all good, and I definitely enjoyed them at the $2. However, the total cost of the snacks included in the box came up to $7 – so I’d have been bummed if I’d paid full price for the box. Needless to say, I unsubscribed, which was a very quick and easy process, though it involved filling out a survey but that was actually a plus, as it gave me the opportunity to tell them why I was cancelling.

This is what I got in my box:

maccheesebitesSnikiddy Snacks Mac N’ Cheese Puffs, 1 .75 oz package (65 cents)

My 12-year old really liked these mac n’ cheese puffs. To me they tasted somewhat citric and not at all cheesy. She felt they tasted like mac & cheese (which I, personally, avoid). Other pluses, non-GMO and gluten free. The main ingredients are corn, rice flower, oil, whey, cheddar cheese and buttermilk. The package had 90 calories. Not a bad snack.

Made in USA

kettlechipsBoulder Canyon Olive Oil Totally Natural Kettle Chips, 1.5 oz ($1.50)

These are pretty good, run-of-the-mill kettle chips. I like that they contain only three ingredients: potatoes, olive oil and salt. And I like that they are not too greasy and not too hard. I think they need more salt, however. They mostly taste like plain chips, with the olive oil only giving them a hint of bitterness. I did quickly finish the whole package (220 calories), but I was pretty much full afterwards. I’d buy them. They are made in the USA and they are available at some supermarkets.

energybar-peanutbuttanhoney-webHoney Stinger Peanut Butter’n Honey Energy Bar, 1.75 oz bar, ($2)

This was a pretty tasty bar.  I can’t say that it was particularly delicious, and I did find it too sweet, but I enjoyed it.

Made in USA

lemonwaferDolcetto Petites Lemon Wafer Bites, .7 oz (85 cents)

These lemon wafers are delicious. They are crispy wafers, filled with a sweet, lemon-flavored creamy filling, not too unlike those in lemon cookies. They are full of flavor, and much lighter than a cookie. The packages are tiny, but at 100-calories they should satisfy your need for a bit of sugar. They seem to be made in Indonesia, and they have sugar rather than corn syrup.

Dilettante Toffee Crunch Truffle Cremes No. 39, 2 candies (70 cents)

These are nicely sized (perhaps even a little too big for a bite), and quite tasty – but I found them to be too smooth for my taste – I prefer more crunch. Definitely a nice treat, though. Each candy has 55 calories and they are made in the USA

mombanaMombana Traditional Hot Chocolate, 1 envelope (70 cents)

I still haven’t used it.

Enough for 1 8-oz cup. Made in the USA.

divinechocDivine Milk Chocolate Mini Pieces, 2 5 gram pieces (50 cents)

Nice, tasty chocolate.  Not exceptional, but a nice little treat.  They sell this occasionally at Grocery Outlet.

Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, 2 sample envelopes (no value)

Available at Walmart for less than $3 for a 1 lb jar.  The samples are tiny and I can’t imagine I can really try them, but maybe I’ll sprinkle them on something.

We stayed at the Golden Nugget our last night in Vegas in August 2014, and we were too tired to leave the hotel to go have dinner.  Of the several restaurants at the hotel, Grotto seemed to be the best choice in terms of cost and reviews.  Indeed, we had a fairly good meal. It’s overpriced, but it could have been worse.

Grotto is divided into two sections.  The main section occupies a large, semi-open space near the front desk.  The second section is across the pathway that leads to the casino, by the pool and has views of the pool area.  We ate in the main dining room, which is kept somewhat dark. It’s nice, but too open to pool-attired passerbys to feel anything other than casual.

I had the chicken marsala ($20), which comes with fettuccine alfredo.  I enjoyed this dish very much, I hadn’t had that combination before but it worked very well.

One of the kids had the Margherita pizza, which I also remember enjoying.  I don’t remember what Mike and the other kid had.

Service, I recall, was fine.

Grotto
Golden Nugget
129 Fremont Street Experience
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 386-8341
http://www.goldennugget.com/LasVegas/eat_grotto.asp

Marga’s Las Vegas

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

Lotus of Siam, Las Vegas

Lotus of Siam is described as being the best Thai restaurant in Las Vegas, if not the country – so, of course, we had to try it.  After a failed attempt in 2012, we finally managed to get in in 2013.  It was very good, but not extraordinary.  Then again, Thai food is so good in general, that finding extraordinary Thai food seems like a Herculean task.

Lotus of Siam has a huge menu, offering both traditional Thai foods, Issam and northern specialties.  With so much choice, it’s easy to get lost so I asked for my waiters’ recommendation and ended up getting the duck on drunken noodle ($26).  That was a mistake.  The duck was OK, but the noodles lacked flavor.  I liked them, but I didn’t love them.  I would have been better off going with one of my favorites.

One of the kids had the chow mein ($9).  This was a lovely dish.  It tasted like a combination of Chinese and Thai flavors, which were perfectly melded.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a large portion.

My other daughter had the Pad Thai and this was phenomenal. The noodles had a welcomed smokeyness I’d never experienced before.  Unfortunately, the portion was not large enough for me to get more than a taste.

Mike had one of the special panangs. I don’t remember what meat he had, but the sauce was described as a panang with cognac.  It was good, but it didn’t taste any different from a regular panang sauce.  Still, he was happy with the dish, if not the price.

The place was very crowded, it took a long time to get seated and service was competent but busy.  In all, I think it’s a restaurant worth trying, but which cannot possibly live up to its hype.

Lotus of Siam
53 East Sahara Avenue Suite A5
Las Vegas, NV
Phone:(702) 735-3033
http://www.saipinchutima.com/

Marga’s Las Vegas

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

It’s definitely not fair to review a restaurant a year and a half after you had dinner there, when your memory of the experience is dimmer than the lights at dinner, but I’m creating a travel page on Las Vegas, and I want to include Capo’s.  Though the restaurant is definitely overpriced, it offers such a cool Las Vegas experience, that I can fully recommend it.

Capo’s is a prohibition era Mafia theme restaurant. It plays the part of a speakeasy, and the coolness starts from the moment you make your way inside. I won’t spoil the surprise, but it works best if you get yourself in the mood: it’s prohibition era and you are trying to gain admission to a speakeasy, where they may be a bit weary of you.

The restaurant itself is both sumptuous and very dark – it plays very well with the Mafia scene and it’s easy to believe you are in another era.  The food, as I remembered it, was good, though not outstanding.  I remember service being very, very slow – which I didn’t mind as much, because I loved the atmosphere, but it can be hard with hungry kids.  They have live music later in the evening, and I wished I’d been there for more than a song or two – but my kids were tired.

As I mentioned, prices are high but they have groupons and other discounts, worth hunting for (e.g. they currently have a Travelzoo deal of lunch for 2 for $19).

Capo’s Restaurant & Speakeasy
5675 W Sahara Ave.
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 436-2276
http://www.caposrestaurant.com/

Marga’s Las Vegas

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

I am putting together a Las Vegas with Kids webpage, containing all my reviews for Las Vegas.  Some of those reviews never made it to my blog, so I’m adding them now. 

You can get great food on the Las Vegas strip, and you can get cheap food at the myriad of food courts, but finding tasty, affordable food is very hard.  That’s probably why the Cheesecake Factory has actually become one of our favorite places to eat in Las Vegas.  The food is tasty, the portions are generous and the prices are reasonable.  Plus they have cheesecake! We now make it a point of shopping at the forum shops, watching the Fall of Atlantis show and then having dinner at the Cheesecake Factory every year.

I’ve been quite happy with pretty much everything I’ve eaten there.  Last visit I had their Pasta Da Vinci ($17), penne in a Madeira sauce with chicken, mushrooms and onions.  It was as good as it sounds.  Another year I had their spaghetti & meatballs ($15) and it was as good as you can expect.  They no longer seem to carry the Monterey burger ($12) I had another year. It came with cheese, onions, arugula and avocado. It was cooked to order medium rare, but it was drier than I would have liked it.  Still, the accompanying sweet potato fries were phenomenal.

The Cheesecake Factory has a well-priced children’s menu. Last time, my youngest daughter enjoyed the pasta with marinara sauce.  In a previous visit, my oldest had the pasta alfredo ($7) but was disappointed by the lack of flavor.  My youngest had the kids cheese pizza ($6), which was the size of a regular dinner plate – basically, adult size. The pizza tasted like an Italian pizza margherita rather than your typical American cheese pizza, so she didn’t like it. I, however, did.

Portions at the Cheesecake Factory are usually large, so we get to enjoy leftovers when we stay at hotels with kitchenettes.

Of course, one of the main reasons to go to the Cheesecake Factory is the cheesecake.  Slices are large enough to share and $8-$9.   I prefer the plain cheesecake, but the Dulde de Leche cheesecake we had once was pretty good.  The Adam’s Peanut Butter fudge cheesecake, however, was too sweet.  My youngest had the kids hot fudge sundae once ($2!). It was a large enough portion that she couldn’t finish it.

There is usually a long wait when we go to have dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, but you can pass the time shopping or watching the show.  Service has been mixed.  The first time we went, we barely saw our waiter.  The second, service was great, even though we were in the second floor.

The Cheesecake Factory
Caesars Palace Forum Shops
3500 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV
702-792-6888
http://www.thecheesecakefactory.com/

Marga’s Las Vegas

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

Marga’s Chain Restaurant Reviews

I am putting together a Las Vegas with Kids webpage, containing all my reviews for Las Vegas.  Some of those reviews never made it to my blog, so I’m adding them now.  This one is rather old, from July 2012.

We stopped for dinner at Magnolia’s Veranda after checking out the Fremont Street Experience and we were pretty happy with the food. Both of my girls ordered pancakes for dinner and they were pretty good, in particular the blueberry pancakes. They are huge, the size of a regular dinner plate, so of course none of them could finish their portion (I had anticipated this, so I dined on their leftovers).

My husband had the ribeye dinner ($14, I think) and he enjoyed the soup (a liquidy jambalaya) that came with it. The ribeye wasn’t as thick I’d like it, but it was perfectly cooked medium rare and it had a great flavor. The mashed potatoes were also good. Service was very friendly and efficient.

In all, it was a great dining experience – made better by the fact that we got a coupon for $10 of bonus play when signing up for a players’ card and we won $24 on the poker machines – which paid for most of the dinner.

The only minus was the fact that the restaurant is open to the casino floor below and therefore the smoke flows right in. Still, I’d go again. Make sure to get a players’ card first, as there are many specials for cardholders.

Magnolia’s Veranda
Four Queens Hotel & Casino
202 Fremont Street
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 385-4011

Marga’s Las Vegas

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

I am putting together a Las Vegas with Kids webpage, containing all my reviews for Las Vegas.  Some of those reviews never made it to my blog, so I’m adding them now.  This one is rather old, from July 2012.

If you are looking for a cheap buffet and/or want an introduction to classic American home cooking, then the Garden Court Buffet at the Main Street Station casino is for you.  The buffet is only $11 for dinner ($10 if you join their player’s club) and offers a whole array of American classics, from fried chicken to roast beef and manicotti, to pork shoulder and make-your-own-tacos.  There are also pasta salads, mashed and baked potatoes, green beans, steamed carrots, etc.  The only thing really missing are ribs.  The casino seems attract Filipino/Hawaiians, so there were a few Chinese/Filipino/Hawaiian offerings as well.

We weren’t too hungry so we didn’t taste that many dishes, but the manapua (Hawaiian steamed pork buns) were the best I’ve tasted.  The pork had the perfect combination of acid and sweetness and they kept very well in the steam table.  I wholeheartedly recommend this.  The other winner are the mashed potatoes.  They are perfectly seasoned and taste just of what they are.  The kalua pork was also pretty good, but as the main flavor in this dish is liquid smoke, it’s hard to get it wrong.

Other dishes weren’t as great.  My daughters enjoyed the “make your own tacos” station and I liked the tortilla chips, but the guacamole needed more avocado.  The fried chicken was crispy, but it tasted like the microwavable kind.  The lumpia and chow mein both needed more seasoning.  My husband liked the pasta salad (or was it potato salad?), but it wasn’t cold enough.

The biggest loser of the day was the mac & cheese  I didn’t taste it, but my daughter could barely stomach one bite – and this is not a picky child.  The other loser was the melon, which was unripe and not sweet.

Desserts were the best part.  Their banana cream pie was particularly tasty, but their key lime pie wasn’t bad – though too sour.  The cheesecake was great, if a bit sweet.  Everyone’s favorite, of course, was the soft-serve station.  There are many other choices, however: from pies to pastries to puddings.

Service was great, our waiter refilled our glasses often.

In all, it was a very pleasant experience.

Garden Court Buffet
Main Street Station Casino
200 N Main St
Las Vegas, NV
website

Marga’s Las Vegas

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

The Buffet of Buffets is a deal offered by Ceasar’s line of hotels which allows you to make as many visits of the participating buffets as you’d like, within 24 hours.  If you want to spend a day doing nothing but eating – and what is Las Vegas about, if not excess – then it’s not a bad deal.  We’ve done it twice and might consider doing it again, but given our last experiences with the quality of the participating buffets (see below), we probably won’t do it again.

How Much Does it Cost?

The Buffet of Buffets is $60 for weekdays and $75 for weekends.  You get $5 off that price with a Total Rewards card.  Children’s prices are the same as adults, but you can get the discounted Total Rewards price if a parent buys it for them.

Weekend prices apply 11 AM Friday to 11 AM Sunday.

Caesar properties often offer deals that include 2 Buffet of Buffet passes with a 2-day reservation.

Buffet of Buffets prices are for food only. They don’t include drinks (unless already included in the buffet price), nor VIP access to the buffet, which allows you to cut in line.

How Much Do you Save?

The Buffet of Buffet can save you money, but with some caveats. The pass costs about as much as a lunch and dinner buffet combined – so to get more than the pass value, you should use it for at least 3 meals – but don’t count on using it for more than that, it’s pretty much impossible to consume more than 3 buffet meals in 24 hours. There are no discount passes for children, so if you have children in your party, you may not save much money at all by using the pass.   To get the best value out of your pass, consider buying it for a late dinner, and using it again for an earlier dinner the following day.  The weekday pass is a better deal than the weekend pass – and the buffet offerings are not that different on weekends.

Also note that you can get 25% off passes for some of these buffets at Tix 4 Dinner (at $3 a head) and occasional discounts at Groupon.

Individual Buffet Prices & Comments (Adult/children & under, substract $1 for Total Rewards members)

Flamingo’s Paradise Garden Buffet: Open for Brunch, 7 AM – 2 PM. Weekday: $22/11 Weekend: $25/11, and weekend dinner, $30
Small buffet with mostly inedible food, but great view of flamingos. Groupon deal often available.  Children price = 4 – 9  yo

Harrah’s Flavors: Weekday Breakfast $21/12, Weekend Breakfast $23/12, Weekday Lunch $23/16, Weekend Brunch $28/16, Weekday Dinner $28/16, Weekend dinner $30/16. Groupon deal often available. Children price = 4 – 10  yo
The dinner buffet has gone downhill and it has mostly overpriced generic food.

Paris’ Le Village Buffet: Weekday Breakfast $22/13, Weekend Breakfast $24/15, Weekday Lunch $25/15, Weekend Brunch $31/16, Weekday Dinner $31/16, Weekend Dinner $31/20. Groupon deal often available. Children price = 4 – 10 yo
Quality has gone down as have flavors. Crepes are still great but long line!

Planet Hollywood’s Spice Market: Breakfast $20/13, Weekday lunch $23/$15, Sa/Su Brunch $28/$20, Dinner $31/$20 – $5 off coupon often available, Groupon deal often available. Children price = 4 – 10 yo
NOTE: the Spice Market had a flood and it’s now only partially open. Prices have also been halved from those above.  It wasn’t great before, I doubt it’s good now.

Rio’s Carnival World Buffet: Weekday breakfast $21/13, Weekend breakfast $24/15, Weekday lunch $23/15, Weekend Brunch $24/15, Weekday Dinner $31/18, Weekend dinner $36/20.  Groupon deal often available. Children price = 4 – 8 yo
Extensive array of mediocre food. Not worth the price.

Available for a supplement:

Caesar’s Palace Bacchanal: Breakfast $26/11, Weekday Lunch $36/14, Weekend Brunch $45/20, Weekday Dinner $51/22, Weekend Dinner $54/22, Buffet of Buffet Supplement: $15/Breakfast, $25/Lunch/Brunch, $30/Dinner. Groupon deal very occasionally available. Children price = 2 – 10 yo

Rio’s Village Seafood Buffet: Dinner only $45/25, Total Rewards members: $36. Buffet of Buffet Supplement: $15. Children price 4-10 yo.

 

I am putting together a Las Vegas with Kids webpage, containing all my reviews for Las Vegas.  Some of those reviews never made it to my blog, so I’m adding them now.  This one is rather old, from July 2012, but as I’m not planning to return to the Carnival buffet, it will have to do.

We were not impressed with the Carnival World dinner buffet at the Rio.  The buffet offered tons of choices, I don’t think we tried even a fourth of what was available, but none were dishes worth going for a second helping.  The only exception to that was the steak with mushroom sauce.  It was thin, but tender and had a great beef flavor.

My daughters were not impressed with any of the child friendly items and ended up eating a lot of shrimp.  Hey, they have protein, but not worth the price of admission.  The crab legs, which they’ve enjoyed in the past, were very small and not worth the trouble of eating.

I can’t quite remember what I tried (which tells you something).  I know the prime rib was OK while the chicken parmigiana tasted like chicken nuggets (yuck!).  The pork ribs were tough, the beef ribs were better and had a nice BBQ sauce.    I can’t remember anything else.

The desserts we tried, OTOH, were uniformly good.  The kids loved the gelato, and I enjoyed the cheesecake and flan (though dig in for the caramel as otherwise it’s not sweet enough).  The one disappointment were the eclairs, as tends to be the case in most buffets.

In all, I wouldn’t go back to this buffet.  In particular given the wait – 45 minutes on a Tuesday night in July.   People who are paying full price (not using coupons or the Buffet of Buffets deal) do get in much faster as they have an express line for them.

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