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Ya know, I'd like to say Happy New Year, but I can't. I can't because there's just too much about our food scene that I'm not happy about.

For one, there are too many Starbucks---And forget the pretense that these are upscale coffee wanna know what they are? They're MILK SHAKE SHOPS!!;....just stand outside anyone of the 400 we have in town and watch nurse Susie taking back a bunch of Ginger Spice Lattes or Mocha Al Pacinos to her office. With all the fat and sugar they're loaded with, she might as well be stocking up on Krispy Kremes.

Another thing that consistently cheeses me off is all the fast food polluting our highways and our veins. On the bright side, Restaurant and Institutions Magazine reports that 24 of the 40 top fast food companies reported a loss for 2003.... proving that maybe there is a god---- . Or maybe its because we boomers are getting older and those Big and Tastys and a nine dollar pizzas just don't float our boats anymore...

But at least fast food is cheap. The sticker shock at Strip restaurants continues to astound me, even during a recession. I mean come on, $30 entrees for Chinese food at Pearl, $50 Steaks at Bradley Ogden, and a wine list at Spago that makes you hunt for a bottle under a hundey??? I went to New York a month ago, ate at Daniel and MIX-two of the most famous and expensive places in the Big Apple, and the prices seemed reasonable by comparison.....

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Off the strip. ...service continues it's downward slide. After a number of numbingly slow meals in neighborhoods all over town, I've concluded that local management needs to kick butt and take names. None of this applies however, at Asian restaurants, where they always get the food out fast.... even when you're being served by a couple of underage cousins and a toothless octogenarian....

And finally, it still galls me that parking access is so lousy at so many hotels. And don't even get me started on how worthless valeting has become....I mean can you even think of the MGM without a shudder going down your spine. When I mention this to casino execs, they always pay lip service to courting local customers. But let's face it, the hotels don't give a fried frijoles about anyone but the whales and the conventioneers. Now whenever some manager at some overpriced eatery starts droning on about catering to locals, I believe them as much as I did the last stripper who kept telling me how cute I was. On second thought, at least with her....the more I paid, the cuter I got...

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