1. Marcia and I spent a week out in Las Vegas to celebrate the New Year. It was 60 to 70 degrees and sunny everyday, and we were able to balance the evening debauchery with occasional forays outside for brisk walks and (relatively) smoke free air. So returning home to Iowa just in time for the Polar Vortex Express was a bit of a downer, needless to say, although for the record: we’ve dealt with much, much worse during our years in Idaho and Upper Albania. Highlights of the trip for me included: our hotel (Vdara, a new one with no casino and no smoking, but connected by tunnels and trams to the rest of the strip via The Bellagio and Monte Carlo); seeing Fleetwood Mac play a three-plus hour set to close out their current tour (the boys in the band played hard, and Stevie Nicks sounded orders of magnitude better than she did when we saw them in ’97); and a day trip out to Death Valley, where we filmed the following little video. An (Acapulco) Gold Literary Star if you know what inspired it:
2. Des Moines has a lot of very good restaurants, since sitting at the heart of one of America’s richest agricultural states, the quality of local meat, produce and food preparation can be of exceptional breadth and quality. But there’s one thing that we’ve learned after two-plus years in this market: if you want a decent table at a decent restaurant at a decent hour and a decent price on Friday and Saturday nights, then you either have to be prepared to wait longer for it than we like, or you have to plan in advance and make reservations — though some of the city’s most popular restaurants refuse to even take reservations at peak hours on Friday and Saturday, since they’d rather have you sitting in the bar drinking for an hour while waiting for a table. We have had numerous bad experiences during our time here when we’ve ended up either sitting at crappy tables at marginal restaurants, or having to go to the most expensive restaurants in town, or otherwise settling for an inferior experience just because the Friday and Saturday night supply and demand curves seem all out of whack here, given the number of good restaurants and the population of the market. Personally, I think one of the most significant contributors to this phenomena is the anachronistic policy hereabouts where virtually all restaurants are closed on Sunday, with the exception of places that specialize in brunch. Weekend dinner demand gets smashed down from three nights into two nights of supply as a result, and I think this at least partially creates the bottlenecks that we experience Friday and Saturday evenings. (Of course, it could also just be that Iowans are naturally more patient than we are after nineteen years in New York, so nobody feels inconvenienced by this phenomenon but us). I know that Marcia, Katelin and I would certainly eat out a lot on Sunday nights if given more options, and I seriously doubt that we are alone. How about it, Des Moines restauranteurs? Do we really need to function like a culinary theocracy in the 21st Century?