Las Vegas — you either love it or hate it. After about 11 years of traveling there, I’ve given up on arguing with anyone in the hate it category. I just enjoy the fact that we love it. We take it in small doses. I only want to be there a couple nights at a time, but I still want to be there.
Knowing that I’m not anything close to a high roller, everyone always asks — what do you do?
First, we walk.
As touristy as it is, I love the Bellagio fountains and the botanical garden. I like to see what gorgeous flower arrangements the Aria and Palazzo have on display. We’ve seen the majority of the Cirque de Soleil shows on the strip. This time we went downtown to the new Smith Center to see The Book of Mormon. We’ve also taken a drive around the area on the trips that we’ve rented a car. Then we each sit down at our favorite machines — an animated bonus slot for me — and spend barely $20 in a night while drinking a few (free) cocktails.
It’s always a nice break from my day to day reality. Yes, you have to deal with lots of tourists, but you get to do it while carrying around a beer to help ease the frustration.
This trip we booked Spirit airlines for the first time. We took the extra charges for overhead baggage as a challenge and each packed a shoulder bag for the weekend that fit snugly under the seat.
That meant no camera, but it turns out that we had some really great food and food experiences this visit. So I committed to taking the best iPhone photos I could manage to ensure I could share the highlights of our food and drink adventures.
The good thing about coming from the Bay Area is that we arrive by 7:30 am, so after checking in, we went straight to breakfast. Like most tourists, we’ve visited Serendipity 3 for the frozen hot chocolate. This time we learned that you can have a very pleasant, calm and delicious breakfast there before 9:30 am.
The menu said that the Fried Eggs Benedict was two poached eggs that had been rolled in cornmeal and fried (I know!) on top of biscuits and Canadian bacon with hollandaise AND sausage gravy. It sounds so heavy, right? But you are probably thinking of a loaded diner version, like I was, and not this.
Yeah, I had to order it and I am so glad I did. The flavors were beautifully balanced and now I have a new project – fried poached eggs.
Oh and I love their coffee, too. They add cinnamon and nutmeg!
We’re big on dropping in the ABC store or a drugstore for an inexpensive beer and we were pleased to find some craft options this trip. Namely, Oskar Blues that we just visited in Colorado a few weeks ago.
Earl of Sandwich in Planet Hollywood is our go-to place for cheap eats and they are open 24 hours. As a result, I had my favorite sandwich for breakfast on our second morning — the Holiday Turkey. Yes, everything is on there that you are thinking — turkey, cranberry, stuffing and gravy. But like my meal at Serendipity 3, it’s well done. Just a little of everything so it’s not too filling or a big mess. Okay, it looks like a big mess, but it’s so good!
We swung in Grand Lux Cafe in the Palazzo for a light lunch. This is usually a safe bet for good food and their portions are massive so we always split something. We went for the Asian Nachos and they were so much better than I was expecting! Fried wontons with chicken in a peanut sauce. I already have the wheels turning in my head for a version with homemade wontons.
We have yet to have a bad meal or bad service at Mon AmiGabi in Paris. Both are always excellent, which keeps us coming back when we want a high quality, mid-priced meal (for the Strip). I’m not a huge fan that they like to serve grain-fed beef as I prefer grass-fed, but the food is always delicious. One of my long time favorites is this warm brie with honey, black pepper, roasted garlic cloves and hazelnuts.
Now on to one of our most fun and memorable meals in Vegas. I always go on about how great blogging is for introducing me to outstanding people, and it’s happened again with Tracey of Salty Sweet Life. We met online and ended up taking Todd Porter and Diane Cu’s photography course in Orange County in May where we met in person.
She and her husband live in Las Vegas so we met up with them for drinks, dinner and dessert. They took us to the The Lady Sylvia for drinks and while I didn’t snap any photos, trust me, this is one cool bar. It has a relaxing lounge-slash-library feel and we both had delicious beer cocktails. I had the The Dapper Don with Hendricks Gin and Ballast Point IPA.
Dinner was at Lotus of Siam. This is one place off the Strip that we had actually been to before. It was five years ago and before I had such a strong interest in Thai food and before we’d traveled to Thailand. That was long before I’d heard about the Northern Thai menu from both Tracey and by watching the Vegas episode of Parts Unknown.
We ordered a selection of Northern Thai treats and every bite was delicious. My favorite was the Sai Oua (pork sausage) — nice and spicy and packed with the flavor of Kaffir Lime.
When our hosts told us they were going to take us to a new place for dessert, I thought okay, cool, we’ll grab frozen yogurt or something.
Um, not quite. Wow, were we in for an experience.
We headed to Sweets Raku. A dessert bar with the creations of Japanese dessert artist, Mio Ogasawara. We were greeted with the option of a prix fixe menu or ordering ala carte, all printed on an edible menu of rice paper and a candy ring. We were later given a raspberry sauce for dipping the menu.
Needless to say, we did the prix fixe. The first course was pre-set, a refreshing pineapple sorbet with white wine jelly.
For the second course, Tracey and I chose the Carib. A coconut panna cotta that included so much good stuff that I won’t be able to remember it all. Here’s what I do recall — cantaloupe sorbet, kiwi and a brûléed banana slice. A white chocolate disk was set on top of the glass and just before serving a warm mango sauce was poured through it to melt it. Outstanding.
My husband had the Stella (strawberry tiramisu), a mix of fresh strawberries and cream over cake. We also had a great seat for the action to watch its intricate construction before serving.
The final course was a cream puff with our choice of cream and fruit sauce. I chose vanilla with black currant. The puff was served with two gelled cube, one of which was passion fruit, my favorite.
As you would expect, it was an unforgettable experience and more proof to support my argument — visit Las Vegas. Stay on the Strip and get off the Strip. There is good stuff to be found just about everywhere.