Sunday, March 29, 2015

AAOS in Las Vegas

I spent the past five days in Las Vegas at the AAOS Annual Meeting.  It's a massive orthopaedic meeting, with nearly 15,000 US and International attendees.  In addition, there are hundreds of different vendors, ranging from electronic medical records to implants for hip and knee arthroplasty to injectables.  Each day is packed full of courses, research, and case presentations.

I stayed at the Trump International Hotel, located just off the strip.  If you're planning a trip to Las Vegas, I can't recommend this hotel enough.  It's smoke-free, casino-less, and perfect for those who want an escape from the wild and crazy of the Vegas strip.  The rooms are spacious, bathrooms are massive, and the beds are the most comfortable I've ever slept in.  

Thursday's breakfast was from Bouchon Bakery - a place I discovered in NYC when I was there in January.  In addition to a soy latte, I had my first almond croissant and it is definitely my new favorite breakfast pastry.  

The conference was held in the Sands Expo within the Venetian.  The Venetian and Palazzo Hotels are connected by an upscale shopping mall that is filled with celebrity chef restaurants as well as gondolas navigating the Grand Canal.  The murals on the ceilings appear surprisingly real.

The weather was absolutely perfect for our stay - sunny, a light breeze, cloudless skies, and highs in the 80s.  The walk from the Trump to the conference center was about 15 minutes and I soaked up every sunny moment.  I was impressed at how immaculate the sidewalks and grounds were maintained.

Thursday night we dined at Mon Ami Gabi, and it was the best meal of the trip.  The restaurant was positioned directly across the street from The Bellagio and their famous fountains.  Despite not having reservations, we scored the perfect table for eight on the patio.  The fountains were easily visible from our table and we were able to enjoy the display of water, lights, and music every fifteen minutes for nearly three hours.  My dinner of french onion soup and mustard crusted salmon with butternut puree and brussel sprouts was perfectly executed.

After a long winter and seemingly endless travel in ice and snow, the bright sunshine was a welcome sight.  Each morning's walk into the sunshine was one of my favorites of the day.

No conference is complete without a bit of time for rest and relaxation, and in Las Vegas, that meant time by the pool.  The sun felt so amazing!

The poolside restaurant, H2 Eau, was impressive both in food options as well as price.  The Farm Salad included baby kale, quinoa, sunflower seeds, and cranberries, and was served with a hearty portion of waffle fries.

Each night after dinner we found ourselves at a different casino to try our luck at gambling.  Despite previous gambling successes in the Caribbean, my attempts at the penny slots left me $30 poorer than I had arrived.  Eventually the rowdy crowds and heavy cigarette smoke became too much and we returned to the Trump.

So, what's my verdict on Vegas?  I won't be back.  It's an odd combination of sights, sounds, and entertainment that is similar to an adult Disney World on steroids.  There are essentially two groups - college kids/young couples that are sloppy drunk and running wild without any restraint and older smokers in wheelchairs on oxygen and smoking at the slots.  It's a bizarre scene!  Restaurants are ridiculously expensive and food is underwhelming.  Nightly entertainment is limited to shows (tickets $150+), gambling, or strip clubs.  Drunken fools line the streets both morning and night and people try to shove strip club advertisements in your face everywhere you walk.  Sound enticing?

After five days of Las Vegas adventures, I was never more thankful to return home to Charlotte.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An Unlucky St. Patty's

Yesterday was a bit of an epic failure.  I'm pretty sure there's not any Irish heritage in my blood, but regardless, it's always fun to dress in green and hope for a little extra luck on St. Patrick's Day.  Yesterday was especially important because it was the day that Ironman announced the 2015 Kona Lottery winners.  Despite being told that the announcement would happen at 12 noon, I was checking my email nonstop from the time I woke up.  I dressed in green, crossed my fingers, and hoped to see an email from Ironman pop up in the inbox.  Unfortunately, the luck of the Irish didn't fall on my side and I won't be in Kona in October.  I'm not sure who's more disappointed - me or my family who was planning an epic vacation to the Big Island.

I'd been craving the traditional St. Patty's meal consisting of corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes.  Growing up Mom always made that for us once a year and I remember loving each and every bite smothered with some mustard.  I picked up cabbage and potatoes at the farmers market and planned to stop by the Earth Fare hot bar on the way home to pick up some corned beef.  Unfortunately, their advertised St. Patty's hot bar special didn't include that particular item.  Not a problem I thought, Whole Foods is just across the street and will certainly have some.  Sadly, there wasn't any corned beef to be had there either.  And then I got home to discover that the bag of sweet potatoes that I planned to eat was covered in mold.  Lovely.

Frustrated, saddened about the Kona news, and tired, I came home and sat on the back deck and drank a Kombucha.  Eventually I threw some leftovers and an egg on top of lettuce and called it dinner.

Fortunately, today has been a much better day.  The morning started with 3800 meter in the pool that felt better than the previous few weeks' swims.  Lunch featured my favorite sandwich - avocado, tomato, hummus, and arugula on Great Harvest bread - paired with an apple dusted with cinnamon.  A refreshing nap in the sunshine energized some research and a late afternoon run.

The goal of tonight's dinner was to make up for the sadness of last night's meal.  Cabbage steaks were sliced, rubbed with garlic cloves and olive oil, and dusted with salt and pepper.  Sweet potatoes were cut into fries, rubbed with coconut oil, and dusted with cinnamon and cumin.  While they cooked, I seasoned some wild cod with garlic and a citrus herb seasoning and added it to the oven for the last ten minutes of cooking time.

Dinner is served!  I added some mustard to the cabbage and ketchup for the sweet potatoes, and I had a very satisfying dinner.

While I was in the kitchen prepping dinner ingredients, there were three bananas on their last days of life staring back at me.  I don't know about you, but once bananas start getting brown spots, I refuse to eat them raw.  Typically they get put in the freezer and used for smoothies.  Today, however, they were the key ingredient in browned butter banana bread.  The end result is a house that smells divine and some coworkers who will have a morning treat tomorrow.

And one last meal that's worth a picture - my Pi Day pizza.  Great Harvest just so happened to be selling pizzas on their garlic herb crust for just $3.14.  With the addition of extra tomato sauce and bell peppers, my pizza craving was satisfied.

How was your St. Patty's Day?  Did you remember to wear your green?