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Desert Companion

The taste of things to come

As we close out the two thousand "ands" -- the decade that was the "ohs," "aughts" and "naughts" -- there's no argument it was an extraordinary one for Las Vegas. And not just for us. It was a decade that prompted the regular scrutiny of commentators nationwide -- on our rollercoaster economy (yes, we're a microcosm for the nation), our advertising slogan (it's marketing, not a mission statement), our architecture (yes, we've quit imploding things for now) and our supposedly feeble culture (you know that's flat-out wrong, because you're reading Desert Companion).

In the fall of 2010, The New Yorker, Smithsonian Magazine and the New York Times all published elegantly argued versions of those predictable assumptions -- and predictably inflamed the locals.

It's not surprising that those snapshots, typically penned by visiting journalists, are recognizable but unfamiliar versions of the place we live. As we evolve Desert Companion into a monthly magazine in 2011, we'll continue to navigate the emerging cultural trends, people and issues that embody the place you recognize as home. We're planning more news-driven journalism and a continuing design evolution that's been one of the hallmarks of our award-winning publication. Meanwhile, our online edition,, will develop in tandem with the resources of Nevada Public Radio and occasionally collaborate with "KNPR's State of Nevada" on News 88.9 KNPR. And it will happen under the direction of Editor Andrew Kiraly, who will offer commentary, insight and perspective in this very space. And, no doubt, a dose of humor.

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In 1997, when food critic John Curtas first compiled a best-of list for Nevada Public Radio (a broadcast tradition we translated into a Desert Companion feature starting last year), we were still a year away from the "wow" of Bellagio's dining. The Palace Court at Caesars won that year's top honors. Fast forward to this, our 14th annual appraisal of Las Vegas' dining scene, and it takes an entire team of gustatory expertise to rank and honor the best - and those honors begin on page 42. Elsewhere on the menu, Brock Radke puts three diverse culinary innovators in the same room for conversation: Jet Tila of Wazuzu, Kari Haskell of Retro Bakery and Ricardo Guerrero of Slidin' Thru -- eavesdrop on page 54. Also check out Al Mancini's briefing on what The Cosmopolitan will add to the dining scene (page 58).

We're not entirely focused on our plates in this edition. T.R. Witcher explores an innovation in health care that began in rural Nevada and is now coming to Clark County -- a solution for the uninsured that's turning heads in Washington D.C. (page 18). As we come to terms with a very changed construction industry, we also take a look at projects easily labeled "fixer-uppers," but on a scale that makes implosion of historic properties seem a quaint solution of yesteryear (page 24).

Architect Eric Strain (featured on the cover of Desert Companion March 2010) offers his insights on the new Colorado River Bridge at Hoover Dam, 75 years after that engineering marvel was completed. It's hard not to imbue the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge with symbolism. In part, it's a monument to the reversal of fortune our region has endured. And if we can take that as inspiration to make our community a stronger one than in the last decade, it won't really matter if we ever agree on the name we give the past 10 years.

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