Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas continued

Christmas dinner was excellent.
The next morning, we walked to the City Center to check out Aria. First, though, we went to the MGM so that I could get my coffee fix. The Bellagio has a few coffeeshops that are typically inundated with people. I felt Starbuck's calling and so we went to the MGM. I showed Casey around the MGM, mentioning my favorite spots--Nob Hill, the West Wing Bar, Sea Blue. The casino is dark/smoky compared to the Bellagio. I still enjoy staying there, though. My absolute favorite bartender used to work at Nob Hill. Truly, Mark was a mixology god. I miss him!
Next, we walked to the City Center and it was beautiful. How could it not be--it's new and smells heavenly. Seriously, we entered the Aria, the casino that opened and it smelled like marshmellows. No smoke, clean carpets and the beauty of possibility. We checked out a few of the restaurant menus and wandered around the casino. I understood why people were flocking to the building to check it out. It is massive and currently, Aria, is the only casino in the structure that is open. They have a Mandarin Hotel, and a completely separate hotel, the Harmon, that was slated to be Condominiums. Since it had problems selling the condos, it is now an all suite hotel, non-smoking, no casino. The Center is lovely.
At this point, we were hungry. We walked to Caesar's. I wanted to check out Mesa Grill, a Bobby Flay place. I am not a fan of Bobby Flay. I think he is an arrongant chef. I mean, he jumped on his cutting board after winning Iron Chef, one time. Who does that? He's a chef. He should respect the kitchen, not act like a jackass. And, I have seen him on other Food Network Shows and he exudes arrongance. No, I am not naive about chefs. Many of them are cocky, but he seems to take the cake on this factor.
Nevertheless, we went to Mesa because Paul's wife, my sommelier friend from Bouchon, works there. It wasn't busy when we entered. Two other people were dining at the bar and we decided to share a few items. I like to dine this way. It enables me a richer experience in one setting as opposed to getting one entree, each. I like trying as many dishes as possible.
Immediately, I noticed the cheese dip and chilequiles. I really wanted those. I had eaten them while living abroad in Mexico. Basically, it's tortillas cooked in egg, chile and cheese. It's a delight that I hadn't had since 98.
Casey was interested, too, but there were other options. We settled on the cheese dip-mostly since it was served with chips--and I asked for tomatillo salsa, which the bartender brought with the main course. We shared a chicken and pepper hash, with a poached egg on top. It was great and filling and yes, Flay knows what he is doing.
Unfortunately, I could not remember Paul's wife's name and so that trip was in vain. I did like the food and the bartender was pleasant and entertaining. Brunch was available when we dined there. I looked over the regular menu and would have been happy with some of selections.
That night, we returned to the Venetian to check out Mario Batali's restaurant, B&B. My friends, Tim and Joyce, recommended it to me. I respect their palettes and so I wanted to check it out for them. We compare restaurants, in Denver, Napa, San Franciso and other places we have both been. Three weeks ago, they were in Las Vegas and so I foisted Olives and Bouchon on them. They loved each of those and didn't make it to B&B.
Regardless, we dined at Batali's place. The bartender was Brazilian and quite knowledgeable of the menu. I wasn't wowed by the wine list. They offered 5-6 by the glass selections of red and white, respectively. I felt it could be expanded and more user friendly.
We chose the grilled octopus, root vegetable carpaccio and brussel sprout hash. I had to have it. I still was in awe of that side dish at Bouchon.
The octopus was amazing, perfectly grilled and flavorful. I enjoyed the carapaccio with house made ricotta cheese, too. I let Casey devour most of that, though. I liked the brussel sprouts, but were not in love with them. They were more acidic and had pancetta mixed in. I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't Bouchon.
We asked the bartender, for another suggestion, for dining. He hands me a business card to Carnevino, also in the Venetian, and another Batali place. I wasn't going for that dine only at Batali type of night.
I realized that I wasn't hungry, anymore, either.
Instead, we walked back to the Bellagio, and quickly realized that we had a slight case of food poisioning. I blame it on the pancetta. I had bad pork in Honduras and that is another story in itself. Let's just say...Honduras was much worse.
I still applaud the experience, minus the setback. The octopus was fantastic! I would go back. Plus, they started us with an amuse bouche, and concluded with a small dessert. It was cute.
So, maybe, I should steer clear of pork products. We'll see. I know they have brussel sprout hash at Elway's. Oh, Rapture wine and Elway's, always seems to be a priority in my life.
I finished my Vegas food adventure where it began--at Olives. This time, I met a couple from L.A. and a lady from San Francisco. My bartender, Ernie, was working and so I was treated well from start to finish. I ate a side of cauliflower and a small caesar salad. I met the other diners because both of the women saw my caesar salad and were inspired by it. It is a great caesar salad. I think they charged $9 for the salmon that topped one of the caesar salads which seemed much. I mean, it was a 5 oz. salmon. But, then again, it is Vegas.
Until next time, I will remain hopeful of my dining options and people that I meet. Bouchon and Olives will continue to be my must do food list. I might go to the Elvis Show next time in town. Who doesn't love the King???

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