While I have a few minutes this morning, I thought I'd fill you all in on Vegas. I'm from New York and I know they call NYC the "City that Never Sleeps," but I truly think that moniker is more appropriate to Las Vegas. I've never seen a city where there's just as much traffic at 4:30 am as 5 pm, the bars have no closing time and are jumping at 4 am and the stores stay open until 1 or 2 in the morning... it's amazing. The lights, the people -- it's like Disney for adults and we enjoyed every minute of it. The drivers are insane (though I think that's usual with a tourist-oriented town) and the locals are a pretty cool lot. We went downtown a lot to escape the $10 minimum bet at the casinos on the strip ($3 blackjack, baby) and most of the people there are locals, so we had a blast. I thought it was pretty busy but many people told me Vegas is suffering as much as the rest of the nation right now in terms of capacity.
On the first day there we went hiking at Red Rock Canyon -- it was beautiful in this very alien sort of way. Having lived in Florida for almost 20 years I'm used to green foliage, water and tons of bugs... hiking in the desert is, essentially, the polar opposite. It was really beautiful. I did realize one thing while hiking -- while people may make fun, dry heat is SO much better than humidity. My curly hair never frizzed out, once, and 90 degrees in dry heat feels almost cool to a Floridian. When we hiked it hit 94 degrees and I barely broke a sweat... it was AWESOME. It's amazing how fast the weather can change over there, as well... It went from a high of 94 to 78 in a matter of days... and a few days after we left the high was only 59... that's a 35 degree in a matter of a week. I complain when Orlando swings twenty degrees, so maybe I shouldn't be complaining anymore (lol).
We also ate... a lot. I think I gained five pounds even though I walked a couple of miles daily. Let's talk surprises and disappointments...
Surprise: Bellagio buffet is amazingly good. It's around $27 a person but it comes with prime rib, buffalo, duck, lobster, crab legs, lamb... it seriously was worth every penny of the $27 price tag. The desserts were out of this world and the random dishes were delicious (especially the creamy pea and prosciutto pasta... yum YUM). The decor was nice and the waiters were attentive. The coffee was awesome (note: the price includes a regular-type of drink).
Disappointment: The Wynn buffet was nowhere near as good as the Bellagio buffet and cost $33 a person. They sported prime rib and crab legs but the selection wasn't anywhere near as extensive and the food nowhere near as good. I'm sure they're a good buffet, but they aren't worth anywhere near the $33 asking price (which I believe goes more to keeping the decor updated and modern than to the food). The decor was amazing, but I don't go to a buffet to look at the pretty decor... I'd put this buffet in the range of $23 - $25 (tops) as far as quality-to-value goes.
Surprise: Paris' breakfast buffet hits a grand slam. At $14 a person, this buffet might seem expensive until you look at the restaurants on the strip and realize that everywhere from Mandalay Bay to Planet Hollywood is charging around $10 for breakfast. You can still get good deals at the Dennys by Bill's Gamblin Hall, but it's Dennys for pete's sake. Anyway, amazingly good (which is a relief seeing as the line was off the hook to get in). The coffee was fantastic and they had a huge selection of food. Their eggs were even delicious (usually buffet eggs don't equal delicious). They had biscuits and gravy, carved ham, custom omeletts, pancakes, belgium waffles and custom crepes (and that is only the tip of the iceberg!). Those custom crepes were to die for! I had a problem walking out of there, I think they needed to roll me out.
Disappointment: Fleur de Lys at Mandalay Bay. Since we were celebrating my birthday in Vegas, I got to choose one ridiculously expensive place to dine as my birthday present. This was the one I chose over Alize, Aureole, Robechaun and the slew of other high-class restaurants. What a flop! We spent $240 on the meal (two appetizers, two entrees, two glasses of wine and one dessert, plus tip) and it was ok. I mean, it was good... but nothing better than can be found in Orlando for less. I think there is so much culinary competition in Las Vegas that chefs feel the need to go way, way, way outside the box to satisfy. As an appetizer, my husband got the onion soup, which was a creamier version than we're used to, and that was very good, if very heavy. I got the Ahi Tuna Tartare, which was a major flop. The tuna was uber-fresh and cooked perfectly (ie: not at all, really), but it sat on this bed of overpoweringly strong sauce. It killed the taste of the tuna instead of enhancing it and ruined the dish. The same would be said of my slow roasted salmon, which was only two pieces of ridiculously good salmon warmed slowly without cooking it (amazing!) that sat on this too-herby slaw. All I could taste was herb and it killed the salmon. The presentation was amazing but the portions small and mine came with nothing except the obnoxious slaw (which the salmon sat on). I'm not griping about the portion size, I'm griping about the inability to properly season food. My husband enjoyed his but it wasn't anything special. The desserts were truly amazing, as we got a great black cherry mousse for my birthday along with a Grand Marnier souffle. Holy gods, the souffle was good but I don't think it was worth the $18 price tag attached to it as I've gotten similar souffles at french restaurants in Orlando and St. Augustine. They also presented us with a little dessert mini platter at the end, which was delicious. The service was top-notch, attentive but not overbearing. The wine recommendations were excellent and the decor was very pretty -- classic, elegant and refined. Was it good? Sure. Was it worth the hype and the $120/person price? Not really. Please note: the menu online is not the current menu we received.
Surpise: Burger Bar was, holy cow, the best burger I've ever eaten. The Kobe beef melts in your mouth, they can actually cook the burger medium-rare and medium and the sweet potato fries were DELICIOUS. The service was fun. Yum. One of the best meals here (though don't be surprised to pay $50 for two people to eat burgers and fries with coffee and water).
Disappointment: Ghostbar was nice, but boring. There really isn't anything to separate this "ultra-lounge" from the dozens of others in Vegas. Yes, there are pretty views. Yes, there is a very small glass floor that allows you to see the full 55 floors below. Yes, it is funny to watch drunk people try to push each other on to the glass floor like it'll break... But really, what's to separate this from Mix? Nothing much. Not worth the price of admission unless you want to go to *one* ultra-lounge and this is it. NB: I am married, so I wasn't looking to mix and mingle... maybe this would be nice to mingle and hook up but keep in mind that all tables are reserved for bottle service and unless you're willing to shell out $150 for a bottle of Captain Morgan's, you won't be sitting here.
Surprise: Moon and Playboy Club were really neat. Playboy Club was a nice ultra-lounge that had a few low-minimum video poker booths overlooking the club... minimums at table games are $50, so it's nice to watch. Pretty views from the other tower in the Palms.... at least Hef hires good looking women who actually have bodies instead of sickly stick chicks. Moon actually played good dance music (!!!!!), had a sizeable dance floor and a fairly open top floor with a retractable roof. Very fun!
Anyway, those are some quick captions of our trip to Vegas! We had a blast and even got some work in while we partied... Up next: Southern Women's Show :).
Take care all!