Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 5 in Las Vegas

A great day out needs another one, right?  So, it is Sunday and we fly out on Monday, so we take a break.  We start the day with a trip over to the Caesar's Palace Hotel and Casino for some dining and shopping.  We walked through the mall area and didn't find anything that really got our attention, so we noticed something and tried it: Mesa for brunch.  We have eaten at Mesa before, but this was the first time we have eaten brunch there.

So, what type of food does Bobby Flay like to have at brunch and what does his place serve?  Well, the usual Bobby Flay stuff.  I don't mean this in a bad way, but people don't go to Bobby Flay's restaurant to eat spaetzle or chocolate chip cookies, so you wouldn't expect them to be sold there.  So, they start us off with the basket.  Other restaurants do break or chips or something and here they gave us basket of goodies:

Like all things Bobby Flay, there was a chocolate chip muffin, a cornbread slice, some blue corn something-er-other and jalapeno stuff and things and all very tasty, a bit dry, but very Bobby Flay.  A 3 out of 5 stars.

Proper tea service is strange and unusual in American restaurants.  If you order hot tea, even at brunch, you should be presented with a kettle and everything you need.  Therefore, if you finish your glass quickly, you don't have to wait on other factors like the water from the kitchen or the server to have another cup.  It is all in your hands.

My wife had ordered a Spicy Scrambled eggs dish which had some sweet ham, spicy eggs and biscuits:

I would say it was a good 3 out of 5 stars.

There was a side of grits as well:
Fine and good also at about a 3 out of 5 stars.

Then I ordered a side of mango bacon:

I know this may sound bad and a traitor to most of everyone I know, but I didn't like this bacon.  I felt that the mango and citrus flavor on the bacon was too much and cut the fatty pork flavoring to existence so it just tasted like the Christmas ham that a relative would make with a pineapple slice on it.  I didn't think it tasted at all like bacon.  A 2 out of 5 stars from me.

The final thing was totally Bobby Flay.  It was a blue corn waffle:
This tasted good, better than a buttermilk waffle and not as dry.  It worked perfectly with the cream on top and it was just right.  I'd give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

Since it was our last night in Vegas, we decided to go some place special.  On our fifth anniversary, we went to RM Seafood and had the best dining experience ever.  Last year, in July, we went to Rx and so we decided to go back again. Rick Moonen's places are easy winners.

I will not go into extreme detail at Rx.  The server we had was perfect and even delved into 5-10 minute long conversations with my wife about nails, makeup and sewing. (She said she did cosplay and made her own clothes for her job at the restaurant.)  We got our ipad, made our drink selection and then our food came out. 

I forgot what our drink was called, but it was prepared using this cart, at our table.  The drink was a special, made for two, drink:
Now, comes the food:
Mini-chicken pot pies: the gooey creaminess of the pies enclosed in pastry.  A 4 out of 5 stars.
A pickle jar, a 3 out of 5 stars.

Mini-pastrami sandwiches, a 4 out of 5 stars.

Moonen tots: tater tots made from both potato chunks and mashed potatoes.  A 3 out of 5 stars.

A tomato and peach salad.  A 3 out of 5 stars for me.

A macaroni and cheese cooked in a little dish and covered in cheese.  I think my wife would give them a 4 out of 5 stars for this.

As I said, the food above at RX is always good and the service is excellent.  However, I think the food at Rose.Rabbit.Lie may have been a better quality and have earned more stars. Please still check them out.

Desert was at a different spot and yes, that means more pictures.  My wife and I always wanted to try the food at the Red Square, but this night's dinner meant that we couldn't get food there, right?  Well, we stopped in anyway for desert.  The dining room in the Red Square is big and open and looks Russian or Eastern European.  It has a walk-in vodka freezer room.  It has a bar made with a layer of ice and snow on top.  It has a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling.  They also had a large strawberry version of a baked Alaska:

Not only was it very big and filling, but very strawberry and very tasty.  It was perfectly sweet but not too sweet and I'd give it a good 4 out of 5 stars as a desert.  Again, this was at Red Square and go check them out:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day 4 of Las Vegas

With the okay buffet at the Bellagio and the bad service at the bar at the Wynn, we wanted a day where we knew that we would have a good time.  This started with a lunch that my wife was looking forward to for the whole trip:

Hot n Juicy has the best tasting hot and garlic sauce that we have ever had.  So my wife got a lobster and mussels and I ordered the Cajun fries and a basket of potatoes and sausage.

Cajun fries were crispy and spicy.  A 3 out of 5 stars.

I placed the potatoes and sausage on the fries, so any sauce would drip on them and make them tastier.  Again, a 4 out of 5 as being good.  The thing with this place is that the food is always good.  It is well worth a trip for people who like seafood and sausage and things like this.

My wife wanted to check out a tea store and we went to this place on the same road called Tea Station.

It was a simple place inside, seats for maybe 20 people, and a bar where the guy behind it would make all of the tea and tea drinks.  My wife ordered a honeydew milk tea and the cup smelled like fresh cut honeydew, a 3 out of 5 stars. 

She ordered a desert for the two of us to share, I did not know it would be huge:

What this is: is a giant shaved ice desert.  It has a huge mound of shaved ice in the middle.  It had red beans on top, grass jelly to the left, some boba to the right and the foreground has some agar balls made with rice, purple potato and sweet potato.  There was a small shot glass of warmed up sweetened condensed milk that was poured on top of everything.  Everything turned into something very sweet and yet most of it was very low calories.  It was delicious and an easy 3 out of 5 stars.

That night, we had reservations for the Foundation Room: (

The food here is not expensive, but not cheap either.  The service was as good as Rose.Rabbit.Lie and they were very interesting and knowledgeable.  We ordered some pork belly:
An easy 4 out of 5 stars.

We ordered a side of grilled asparagus, which was a 3 out of 5 stars:

My wife had ordered two appetizer dishes as her main course: The yellow tail tartar bruschetta and the Stefano Farms burrata:
She loved both and would give a 4 out of 5 stars.

I ordered an 8 oz steak with a horseradish crust:

This very good, but not super.  I do eat some horseradish and spicy foods, but this crust was very spicy and had my scraping it off of the top of the steak to cut it.  It was tender, perfectly cooked to medium rare and completely seasoned.  I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

The Foundation Room is a special members only or paid access club at the top of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.  The bar area has music and some dancing space for the DJ, there is a balcony overlooking the strip and on the other side is the restaurant, which was good enough for us to return.  Check it out if you go there and please wear something nice, no chubbies and flip-flops.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Day 3 of Las Vegas

Day 3 was the 11th of July.  This was a Friday and the Strip was full of tourists, taxis and people who don't know to press the gas when the light is green.

So we wander through the Venetian and the Canal Shops, we find a quick little spot to get lunch called something Torretta or something like that.  My phone took some blurry photos and I forget what it was now.  What a horrible restaurant writer I am, right?

They had a real simple lunch special and so I get a simple pizza Neapolitan and am happy with how it comes out to me.

The pizza crust was perfectly tasting and crisp and crunchy and not too much and not burnt.  It was perfect.  There was just the right amount of cheese, the sauce had flavors and spices so that it tasted of something other than tomatoes and the shreds of basil on top added that bit of herbyness required to keep everything balanced in this dish.  I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

We were going to a show that evening, so we needed to go somewhere and try something new.  On our honeymoon, also in Las Vegas, we ate at the buffet at the Paris Paris.  This night, we went for dinner at the Grand Buffet at the Bellagio. (   What follows is a large assortment of almost every dish I ate at the Buffet:
Starting at the 12 o'clock position and going around, we have herbed potatoes, some cilantro rice under that, chicken curry, a dinner roll, some pork belly, a whole wheat dinner roll, some pesto mashed potatoes and some curried cauliflower.

Same as above, starting at 12 o'clock and moving around: panchetta, salami, pasta with vegetable sauce, a sesame dinner roll, some wagyu beef, some regular mashed potatoes with gravy and a slice of beef wellington with sauce.

I understand that it is not a great picture, but this was one of my wife's plates.  She got some tuna salad, some sushi pieces, a spicy tuna hand roll, some caviar and other things.

I didn't eat much because I knew there was a huge bar of deserts.  We have a pecan pie tart, a chocolate tart, a chocolate truffle tart, a strawberry thing, a lemon thing, a tiny key lime pie, a coconut macaroon and a strawberry cake cookie thing in the middle.

   I forget what these were, some lemon tart a tiramisu thing and something else.

There is a fruit tart, a chocolate brownie, a chocolate mousse thing, a flan, and a creme brule'.

All of the food was okay, much better quality that Old Country Buffet and much tastier and better looking.  I didn't leave hungry, but we both felt that the combined cost of the two of us, almost $90 was a bit much for any buffet.  I'd give the entire buffet, as a whole, a 3 out of 5 stars.

When we had finished and later that evening as we waited for our show, we went to this great little lakeside bar they had called Parasol Down, at the Wynn. (   They only served cocktails and it was outside this huge wall of glass windows, facing a waterfall and a pool with color changing lights around and dancing it in.  We thought we had a perfect spot, with view of the waterfall, and a server that came quickly over to us.

The first problem we had here is that there was one server.  My wife ordered a drink and I decided to not order one.  The server then tells us that there is a one drink minimum per customer.  This seemed like a big thing as most people won't go someplace if they are required to get a drink, and water didn't count.  So, I fall back and order a sugar free red bull.  So, it is 8:00 when we get a seat and we have a show, also at the Wynn at 9:00.  So, we think that there should be no problem getting our drink, relaxing and then going upstairs to our show, right?  Well, there was a problem.  The only way I can think of as an explanation, is that a black hole had suddenly manifested itself next to the bar and sucked in all of the bartenders for about 30 minutes.  We waited out there, for 30 minutes before our server came back to us and told us that are drinks were on the way and their bar got backed up.  Well, as we saw later as we left, there were 4 bartenders.  So, somehow, in an empty bar, 4 bartenders got backed up...

We finally get our drinks at 8:40.  We complain at the server telling her that we have a show in 20 minutes and we have to leave.  She suggests taking our drinks back and placing them into to-go cups.  So, my wife ordered a $16 cocktail only to have it for her to enjoy in a plastic cup, thanks to some slow people.  We get the bill then:

Her drink was $16, my red bull now also in a plastic cup, was $6.  We spent as much money as we could have at a restaurant eating food brought to our table on time, on two late drinks from a server blaming her problems on the 4 (four) bartenders.  We paid and left and this was the worst.  We are chugging down our drinks as we walk to our show.  Had we not been in a rush, we would have asked for a manager and wanted our money back.  Worst bar ever.  Don't go there.

With the show and things, this turned out to be a great night.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 2 in Las Vegas

So, the 10th of July was our first real day this year in Las Vegas and our real anniversary.  Ten years ago from that day, we were married at 2pm on a hot summer day.  The wedding was at St. Raymond's, downtown in St. Louis, but then our photos with the wedding party, were at the Botanical Garden, in the heat and sun.  I think it got to 100 degrees or so that day and while my wife was in multiple layers with her dress, myself and my groomsmen were also in multiple layers of shirts, vests and jackets.  Now, just like 10 years ago, we are spending the time in Las Vegas, also in 100 degree plus weather.

For the day, we went over to the Planet Hollywood Casino and mall.  We had to drop off a refill inventory or my jewelry to be sold at Club Tattoo in the Miracle Mile shops and while in there, we stopped for lunch at a place called the Earl of Sandwich.  I've never eaten there, but the food seemed very familiar.

My sandwich was a toasted BLT with avocado.  It was nice, silky, fatty and salty.  It was warm and crunchy and herby.  It had all of the good parts of the pieces like the crispy and saltiness of the bacon, the fatty and creamy-ness of the avocado and the juiciness.  I'd give the place and their sandwich a 3 out of 5 stars.  It was good, almost very good, but not awesome good.

For our night out to celebrate, we happened upon the best kept secret in Las Vegas.  Hidden inside of the Cosmopolitan is an experience called Rose.Rabbit.Lie.  RRL, is a complete experience.  Upon entry, you are brought past the host station to a room with 4 doors.  The room is void of design or interest and these 4 large doors look imposing.  The host picks a door and opens it and you enter a themed room.  We sat in The Music Room, and it was a room with a large piano, bar and few booths lining the wall.  The walls are made of frosted glass windows and helped divide the room and keep it separate but when there is a small show, in each of these four rooms, the windows retract all of the way down into a half wall and allow the patrons in each room to see through and access the others.

So, we sat down at a booth/table and were greeted by our server, Patrick.  We had no complaints with our server at all.  Patrick was nice, just the right amount of talkative (not too much and not too little).  He was very knowledgeable about everything on the menu, everything about the venue and even the drinks.  It was like getting a dining room manager as a server.  Everything that had to deal with Patrick and our service there was perfect.  He is why I would give him a 5 out of 5 stars for his service and friendly demeanor just made us so happy.

So, with Patrick's help and recommendations we ordered our dishes and it started with the first one: "Heavenly Eggs".  This was a single egg dish, so we ordered two.  This had an egg custard in the bottom and then the truffles and sauce on top.  A single scoop of this dish, was filled with this warm feeling of the truffles, with a creaminess of the smoothest ice cream and the sweetness of the best dessert, while still being savory.  Each bite felt like a warm hug with a loved one.  They were awesome and they made me want to make a whole night of eating these and only these.  I'd give a 5 out of 5 on these.

So, our next dish was a Curry spiced carrot dish.  These perfectly cooked carrots and tomatoes were just perfectly spiced, like a curry or Middle eastern flavored spiced sauce, with perfectly cooked vegetables.  The sauce was the real star and this was an easy 4 out of 5 stars.

This was the "Orange Fennel salad".  This salad, resembled a cole slaw recipe, or at least reminded me of one.  It was shown with shaved fennel and had orange slices on top. My wife loved this and I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars.  It was just the right amount of strong and subtle flavors to work well with each other.

Next we had ordered these "Herb Brioche rolls", which as you can see, came heavily herbed with rosemary and thyme and a sweet butter.  These were hot, almost flaky and moist at the same time and very delicious.  As a "carbs" person, these were a great addition to our meal.  I'd give them a 3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Next came the pork dish, which was perfectly rich and fat on fat pork.  The dish had a simple sauce, and some vegetables around it and was not a really salty dish, yet I felt that there was too much fat and needed some acid to break it up.  I'd still give it a 3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Rabbit is a funny thing because as a chef, you don't want to lose the game flavor and you don't want to elevate it to make it inedible.  This rabbit dish called "Rabbit Fricassee", had just the right amount of everything.  It was a perfect balance.  You knew you were eating rabbit, but it didn't taste to strong like rabbit.  It was very mild and tender.  There were rose petals, greens, carrots and it reminded me of a dish I had seen elsewhere.  It looks like the thing to do with animals, when cooked and prepared and plated, is to present them with things that they belong with.  Not suggesting a natural environment or surroundings, but in the case of the rabbit here, presenting and cooking it with rose petals or carrots, which it could have eaten when alive, seems like a good idea.  This was very good and I give it a 4 out of 5 stars.   

Now for desert, we did something different.  By the end of all of these dishes, I was getting full and didn't really want to get a dessert at all.  But, when you are in Vegas, celebrating your anniversary and you are there to do it right and do it big, then go big.  We picked the largest item on the desert menu, something so large that it normally would be ideal for many people to share, but the idea was so interesting that we couldn't back down.  It was the "chocolate Terrarium".  

This is what our server Patrick brought to our table.  This was huge, with this glass dome probably standing at least 18 inches high.  The plate or dish was at least 14 inches in diameter.  As you can see from the picture, there was some branches of  lavender, a single edible rose and some smaller plant fronds.  A single candle sat inside the dome as well.  Now, when the dome was lifted, this is how we had it in front of us:

So, where do I begin?  We removed the plant material and took a closer look at the 'dirt'.  Those solid looking parts were giant pieces of chocolate cookie.  There was large chunks of chocolate brownie underneath a crumbled chocolate cake, as dirt.  The white parts were actually ice cream and marshmallow creme.  It was just crazy, the amount of chocolate and hidden things we found as we dug deeper in this dish.  This is the ultimate desert experience and I recommend this to everyone.  This received a 5 out of 5 stars as well.

Now, over the course of eating, there are small shows that take place in each room, as I had mentioned.  We sat a juggler doing a balance act as well, an aerialist, a singer and many other acts, in the dining area.  When we had finished, we watched a show in the 4th room, which has a larger stage and then after the show, it turns into a nightclub with perhaps the best MC I have seen and heard anywhere and a great DJ.

It is called Rose.Rabbit.Lie. and if you are looking for something romantic or to impress or just have an awesome time in Las Vegas, check them out. 


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Day 1 of Las Vegas

My wife is correct in that it seems like this was all a dream.  For our tenth wedding anniversary, my in-laws had not only bought us round trip tickets in first class to fly out to Las Vegas, not only allow us to use their extra condo, just minutes from the Strip, but also take our two little boys on their own vacation for fun.  So, for five days going over our anniversary date, we had an incredible Las Vegas vacation, worry free and child free.

We got in Wednesday evening and that meant that we had a late flight, with First Class seating meaning that we were fed a glorious dinner menu on American Airlines.

Well, this isn't what the normal person gets, considering we had First Class tickets, but this looks pretty good for a dinner of airline food.  This was a baked lemon and pepper chicken, with a rice dish, some vegetables, and a salad with a dinner roll.  My roll didn't arrive yet.  For airplane food, again, it was okay.  I'd give it a 2 and 1/2 out of 5, maybe.  The rice mix was okay, it was a bit al dente, it was salty, it has some spice flavors, it was nice.  The chicken was cooked, it wasn't like rubber and it wasn't solid and there was a lot of lemon pepper on it so it had some flavoring.  There was a lemon and butter sauce, which tasted like the fake and imitation butter we used to cook with at Old Country Buffet.  The vegetables, like the snap peas and carrots were mush.  The salad was made almost entirely of the core of the lettuce and the other inedible parts and the ranch sauce was like pure fatty thick ranch dressing.  The roll was hard on the outside and crumbly on the inside, all a result of heating frozen food. It was better than a pack of nuts or pretzels.  A 2 and 1/2 out of me.