By Guest Blogger, Susan, “Sam” Shockley, owner of 4 More Travel in Nevada. Anticipation grows as you enter the pavilion where your journey through the lifetime of a great Las Vegas entertainer begins. The essence of Mr. Wayne Newton seems to be GRATITUDE. His move from Virginia to Arizona resulted in his mom selling precious items to make sure Wayne who had asthma could thrive. From that time forward, Mr. Newton did everything he could to preserve the blessings that were bestowed upon him throughout his magnificent career. Those blessings are on display at the incredible 52acre property called Casa de Shenandoah. It sits on the corner of Pecos & E. Sunset (3310 E.Sunset Rd). There are many tours to choose from depending on how much time you want to devote or your physical stamina. Prices range from $40 to $99.00. Of course, I suggest the 3 ½ hour guided tour; it is amazing. But all the tours start with a welcome from the man himself, in the movie that begins your journey in the grand theater. As he says, “I’m Wayne Newton” like he has to introduce himself. Wayne Newton, on film draws you into the experience, telling you a little about himself and the people and things that inform his life. His brother, Jackie Gleason, Jack Benny, Bobby Darrin, Tom Chancy and many others are highlighted in this film. Next you hop on the air conditioned luxury bus to cross the street and enter the gates to a true experience. There are large buildings housing his collections & memorabilia. First you see Wayne’s private jet. Jet, you ask. Yes, the jet is decked out in marble and gold. He would fly his band members and instruments to performances, always nabbing one, unlucky soul, to play gin rummy with him.
At the age of 59 (late 1999), I declared I would live to 100+. As a result, I would spend the next 41 years traveling the world while enjoying various cultures via their sights, sounds & foods. How I could afford this was not part of my basic Declaration. I am a firm believer of the theory, “Set the vision & the means will follow”. For the first 14 years, my wife & I did just that. We traveled to over 15 countries & enjoyed many cities.On 3/10/16, I experienced my body’s first major travel delay—I had a STROKE! For the next 48 hours I had no control over my life. All I knew was that due to some equipment failure I was stranded in a stranger’s bed. Why did the equipment fail? How did it happen? And how long will it take to repair it? This blanket of unanswered questions covered my motionless left leg & arm for the first 2 days. Of course, I feared they would never move again. They would never again be cramped in the middle seat. Nor would they ever again slide under a table of pasta in Tuscany. It seemed even a stroll in Times Square may become a distant memory.
Vegas is known for their “best of…” list. Everyone is claiming to be the best steakhouse, the best pizza or the best buffet. Some are really the best, but most are very good and only individual taste made it the best. My wife, being from Chicago, feels she can determine the best deep dish pizza the Valley. Yet other Chicagoans will dispute her claim. As for me, I am from New York and all deep dish pizza is a sin.
Hence the old Latin maxim: De gustibus non disputandum est (or as I learned, “ De gustibus non est disputandum”). “In matters of taste, there can be no disputes” (literally “about tastes, it should not be disputed/discussed”).The implication is that everyone’s personal preferences are merely subjective opinions that cannot be right or wrong, so they should never be argued about as if they were. In English we simply say “There is no accounting for taste”. However, that never stopped a Food Critic or an everyday foodie from sharing their opinion.
So, here is mine. By accident, I found the “worst” buffet in Vegas. It is called Le Villages and it is located in that food corridor connecting the Paris with Bally’s. I found myself eating there via a series of mistakes which makes me say “shame on you” to both Bally’s & the Paris.Wanting to see a classic & vintage Vegas show before it closed forever, my wife and I booked dinner and a seat at the “Jubilee”, Donn Arden’s tribute to the glitz and glamour of Vegas’ glory days and the last remaining classic showgirl production on the Strip. Million dollar costumes, bare breasts and recorded music. You know the old line “Stand there and look pretty”. A few months ago, we saw a similar show in Havana, Cuba with live music. They said they were the first Vegas & best showgirl show and they were right.
I recently took a cruise out of Galveston TX and experienced the great Glen Campbell song Galveston(minus the dark eyed girl). However, I felt the “sea wind blowing” and saw the “sea waves crashin”.Galveston is one of the cruise ports in America and like many of them, worth spending your time there before or after your cruise. This town of only 4,000 people swells to 50,000 in a summer weekend as people escape the heat & humility of Houston. But before it was a summer getaway, Galveston was by some, was the original “Sin City”. It had everything Las Vegas in known for plus the Gulf of Mexico. From 1890 to about 1915, it was a wild & crazy town.
Our recent trip to Havana, Cuba introduced us to authentic Cuban food. It is not as spicy as some believe. It is more a reflection of all the cultures that have found their way to this island nation. You will see traces of Spanish settlers, African Slaves, their Caribbean neighbors and even some Chinese favors. Since Havana was a major port city in the 1700s & 1800s spices from all over the world make their way to its docks. Even today many of the centuries old dishes are still available. A staple at every Cuban dinner would be yellow rice & black beans, fried plantains and ham or pork or chicken.
Huddled between the lights & glitter of the Strip & the glare & noise of Fremont Street sits the darken area of south Las Vegas blvd. While it struggles to reinvent itself, it tries to pull off the biggest illusion in the Valley. The trick is to preserve the “charm” of Old Vegas (wedding chapels, pawnshops & bail bondman), while offering a brighter yet quieter, culinary & entertainment venue to those seeking a break from all a hullabaloo at both ends of the Blvd. Here are 4 of my favorites:
It is a humid summer afternoon and despite the heat, a 10 year old boy stands only 2 feet from the oven. He ignores the heat as his nostrils fill with the smells of dough raising and chocolate melting. It is only minutes away from that moment that will fill him with pleasure & provide the energy for the 5 pm little league game. Chocolate chip cookies must be eaten warm. The heat of the stove & the sweat on his face can and must be endured. The hard part is when his mother takes the tray out and says “You have to let them cool for 2-3 minutes!” His mind knows the dough needs to firm up, so he can hold the cookies in his hand and the chocolate chips need to harden so they don’t melt all over his fingers. Yet, those 3 minutes seem like half his short lifetime. Finally they warm his hand & bust with flavor in his mouth, a smile broadens across his face & a lifelong memory is imbedded in his mind forever. For decades the warm CC cookie event has been repeated over & over again in my life. Recently, three such events awaken the spirit of that 10 year old boy. Warm cookies at a Doubletree hotel & a modern version of my mother’s oven at the Kitchen 24 in Hollywood, CA. Why does a person join a hotel rewards program? I joined the Hilton Honors program because 1).the hotels are great. 2).They have good free upgrades & express check in and excellent service. But most of all, their Doubletree brand has free warm chocolate chip cookies! Two great moments in my travels: Pittsburgh 2013: The convention center next to my Doubletree hotel hosted a loud hard rock concert till 5 am.
First off, I apologize for not posting in some time. Things have been busy with the fall semester starting back (I am working on a Ph.D.) and work at the office picking up. A few weeks ago, I paid a visit to Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane. Though I’ve seen the building many times driving down I-66, I never stopped by. Unfortunately for me, on the day we visited it was pouring rain which didn’t make for very good pictures (all photos are courtesy of Barrel Oak’s website). Four of us visited, my parents came along with Katie and I, and the place was packed. This was probably more due to the weather and outdoor seating not being an option. The first thing I noticed was they have a lot going on; more than the usual northern Virginia winery has on any given Saturday. This was not a wine club day, so my impression was that there is usually this much activity. They had music, multiple tasting stations, a mobile brick oven pizza booth, and more. If you are more into wineries that are strictly about the wine, then this is probably not going to be your thing. But, for families or the casual wine drinker, I would say it is a go-to. Barrel Oak was ranked #1 family-friendly winery in 2012 by Wine Enthusiast so they are clearly trying to stick with that theme. One other note about the atmosphere: DOGS, and lots of them. They pride themselves on being dog friendly. My dad, who is the more traditional wine drinker, did not like it, but he was clearly in the minority!
How did you celebrate National Waffle Day? On August 24 in 1869, a man named Cornelius Swartwout received the first U.S. patent for a waffle iron. Waffles are a delightful breakfast food and can be paired with almost any topping. Butter and maple syrup, fruit and whipped cream, a big scoop of ice cream, or even a helping of fried chicken—the choice is yours! Missed National Waffle Day? Don’t despair. National Waffle Week begins Sunday! The first waffles originated in Ancient Greece. The Greeks would cook flat cakes called obelios between two metal pans held over a fire. The Europeans (especially Belgium) perfected their recipes in the 1700s. Waffles in America. It is said the Pilgrims brought the waffle to America around 1620 when they founded New Amsterdam (later called New York). It seems they picked them up in Holland where they made a brief stop before turning west. Some stories say Thomas Jefferson started a mini-American waffle movement in the 1790s when he returned from France with a goose-handled waffle iron. In the late 1940s, when the electric waffle iron replaced those inconvenient metal plates, waffles officially became an American favorite. Things improved even more at the 1964 World’s Fair, when Americans were introduced to the Belgian waffle, made fluffy with the help of yeast and egg whites. Now the focus is on how to make the best-tasting waffle, not just how to cook it. Today the American waffle varies in size, shape, and toppings.
I love movies and I love food and this summer gave us three delightfully funny films involving chefs & their passion for food. Why? Because we are all Foodies at heart. 1. Chef Remember my blog & video dealing with Cuban food? This is a great film where a father reunites with his son while imparting his passion for cooking. Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favearu) suddenly quits his job at a prominent Los Angeles restaurant after refusing to compromise his creative integrity for its controlling owner. His love of cooking takes him back to his roots in Miami, where he is free to express himself with true Cuban cooking in a Food Truck. Most foodies have that same zest for life and love to enjoy their favorite foods even if it means traveling across country.
Join Patrick Barney as he explores his love of travel & food around the world & in his home town of Las Vegas.