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April 24, 2014

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Strip Scribbles: Christmas at Bellagio; L.V. chef Shirley Chung on ‘Top Chef’


Yasmina Chavez

The 42-foot-tall Christmas tree at Bellagio Conservatory & Gardens is lit up during the tree lighting ceremony Friday, Dec. 6, 2013.

Tree Lighting at Bellagio

The 42-foot-tall Christmas tree at Bellagio Conservatory & Gardens is lit up during the tree lighting ceremony Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. Launch slideshow »

The magic of the holiday season has taken over Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, transforming it into a glistening winter wonderland with the Strip’s largest indoor holiday tree. The dazzling display of a holiday dream of moss-embellished reindeers, a life-size chocolate house, live seasonal music and a family of topiary polar bears runs 24/7 through Jan. 5.

The centerpiece is the 42-foot-tall, 18-foot-wide, 6,800-pound majestic white fir handpicked from California’s Mount Shasta. It sparkles with 7,000 white LED lights and 2,500 richly colored ornaments. New this year is a walk-through snow globe guarded by four grand toy soldiers, plus, six life-size chocolate-colored reindeer hauling an antique sleigh bursting with gifts.

The full-scale chocolate house created by Bellagio’s pastry team was created from 1,600 pounds of chocolate. It took 24,000 snow-white carnations to model the polar bear family. Next door at Jean Philippe Patisserie is an impressive 5-foot-6 Mr. Grinch hand-carved from 112 pounds of sugar-rolling fondant and 50 pounds of chocolate that took three months to craft.

Special performances of classic holiday tunes also have been added to the Bellagio Fountains, recently voted as the nation’s top landmark.

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Lea Michele guest stars on Bravo's "Top Chef Masters" on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. Las Vegas chef Shirley Chung is second from right.

‘TOP CHEF’ SHIRLEY: It was 10 years ago this week that Shirley Chung moved to Las Vegas to follow her mentor Mark Hopper, who was opening Bouchon at the Venetian for star chef Thomas Keller. Tonight, she continues her run on Episode 10 of “Top Chef” Season 11 in New Orleans after being on a disastrous team effort challenged by a pop-up restaurant contest.

Shirley, who went on to Guy Savoy and Jose Andres restaurants here, said: “ ‘Restaurant War’ was a rough one! But I survived, and this will only make me stronger.” She made an olive oil-poached cobia with blanched ong choy and salsa verde.

In tonight’s Quickfire Challenge, the chefs are asked to smell the coffee — and it’s nowhere near as easy as it sounds. For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs must make dishes that remind them of home. New Orleans actor Anthony Mackie (“The Hurt Locker,” “Captain America”) joins the judges, including our Mandalay Bay star chef Hubert Keller, and Leah Chase for the heartfelt meal.

U.N. UFOs: Fascinated or intrigued by what could be hidden away at our top-secret Area 51? UFO researcher Lee Spiegel could spill the beans at his Saturday night lecture at National Atomic Testing Museum steps from the Strip on East Flamingo. Lee has researched and reported on unexplained phenomena and paranormal events for decades and is the only person in history to produce a milestone UFO presentation at the U.N.

Currently with the Huffington Post and AOL News, he has hosted 1,500 programs on unexplained phenomena for NBC Radio. I’ve known him for 30 years, and he says that he will reveal how he used his 1975 documentary “UFOs: The Credibility Factor” to open doors at the U.N., the Smithsonian Institute and other pathways to international UFO disclosure.

ANIMAL HELP: Comedy magician Jeff Hobson hosted and performed at the annual Heaven Can Wait animal society luncheon at the M Resort, raising $30,000 to help expand spay and neuter efforts in Las Vegas to combat the staggering total of 27,000 euthanized each year.

To date, Heaven Can Wait volunteers have sterilized more than 90,000 cats and dogs and have adopted out some 8,000 animals into loving new homes.

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Derek Stevens, Kim Coates, Nicole Stevens and Theo Rossi at the “Sons of Anarchy” season-finale screening at the D Las Vegas on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013.


Three hundred lucky fans turned up Tuesday night at the downtown D Las Vegas to watch an exclusive West Coast season-finale screening of “Sons of Anarchy.” Actors Kim Coates (“Tig”) and Theo Rossi (“Juice”) joined fans, and D owner Derek Stevens and his wife Nicole wore their “SOA” vests.

Congratulations to Kevin Lepine on his first anniversary of “Hypnosis Unleashed” at Hooters casino hotel. Marc Savard, Anthony Cools, The Amazing Jonathan, Penny Levin, The Phat Pack, Ricardo Laguna and Tony Delgado attended Tuesday night’s celebration.

Justin McBride at Lagasse's Stadium

Justin McBride at Lagasse's Stadium in the Palazzo on Oct. 20, 2010. Launch slideshow »


Former UNLV student turned rodeo champion turned country singer Justin McBride performs at the Mirage.

Aaron Lewis is at Vinyl in the Hard Rock Hotel for four shows over two nights after rodeo riders Wesley Silcox and Tilden Hooper’s meet-and-greets sponsored by Crown Royal.

Baauer spins at Light in Mandalay Bay.

Deniz Koyu is at Surrender in Steve Wynn’s Encore.


We’ll preview a new national network talent show headed to Las Vegas to rival “America’s Got Talent” and report it chef Shirley survives on “Top Chef” as Season 11 nears the finale. Plus, 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Round 7 coverage.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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