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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

vegas... baby... vegas...?

As I've mentioned here several times, hubs has been working crazy hours since October. So crazy, in fact, that he has been talking about needing a weekend away for several weeks now. But really, his schedule has been so insane that I was sure it was all talk. Until he called me on his way home from work on Tuesday night and asked "Hey, wanna go to Vegas this weekend?" Within an hour we had a hotel, dinner reservations made and spa appointments . What can I say, once I get the go ahead, I can plan a trip in the blink of an eye!

Friday we left work at 1pm and got on the road. Traffic was a nightmare until we reached the I-15, but then, thankfully, it opened up and was smooth sailing the rest of the way out.

In an effort to try something different, we booked a room suite at the new Palazzo hotel. While the hotel itself is just okay (nice enough, but nothing spectacular), our room was amazing! The main room had a king-sized bed with a flat screen tv and a recessed living area complete with a sectional couch, entertainment unit, desk and dining table. The entire room was done in shades of browns, taupes and whites with the ocassional splash of red or pastel blue.

The bathroom was huge and was a great space where we could easily get ready at the same time. The vanity area made doing my hair and make-up quite fun while the flat screen tv perched above the sinks allowed us to watch the latest sporting news while getting ready. It would be a great place for a bachelorette party or a girl's weekend (just book the room with 2 queens for better sleeping arrangements).

Friday night we had reservations at Aureole at Mandalay Bay. Another upscale restaurant by Charlie Palmer (who is already high on our list due to a wonderful meal we had at his other Vegas outpost CP Steak), we had heard great things about the restaurant from several people. We decided to be daring and opted for the 7-course Celebration Tasting Menu with wine pairings. Now, we figured that both the courses and wine selections would be smaller versions of the a la carte items seeing as it was a tasting menu. And for the food, that held true. There was enough of each entree so that you got a great idea of what the full dish would be, but not so much to leave you stuffed. The wine, on the other hand... let's just say that by course 5, I was sloshed. And no, this was not because I am a lightweight, as my husband was right behind me on the drunkard scale. Not only was the quantity high, the quality of each wine was right up there as well. Wheee!

Okay, back to the food. Neither of us had ever done a tasting menu so we were really excited to see what all the fuss is about. First off, the service was great. We had a variety of servers and everyone was very nice without being over the top. In particular, the girl serving the wine was a delight. The full menu was as follows:
*Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Trio
*Braised Beef Shank Ravioli with Wild Mushroom sauce
*Olive Oil Poached Petrale Sole with polenta and baby bok choy
*Pan Seared Rabbit with fois-gras rabbit links and fricasse of wild mushrooms
*Duo of Beef Tenderloin and Flat Iron with potato cake and fava beans
*Tasting of Cheese
*Meyer Lemon Parfait with lemoncello sorbet

With the exception of the cheese plate (which was truly awful), each dish that came out was better than the last. And that is saying something, as the first course set the bar very high. It is easily one of the top 3 meals I've ever had. It was so fun to try a bunch of different tastes and quite cool to see how the right wine with a dish can really enhance already wonderful flavors.

Along with the dessert course, they also brought us a small platter of petite fours. Hubs looked at them and said "Hey, look, party favors!" OMG, I almost fell out of my chair laughing.

They practically had to roll us out at the end of the night seeing as how we were completely stuffed and beyond tipsy, but the meal was really a dream. I'd highly recommend the tasting menu, but if that is not in the budget, our favorite courses were the tuna for an appetizer and the sole as the entree.

The rest of the evening was spent milling around the casion floor at The Palazzo and enjoying one last beverage at Dos Caminos, the hotel's version of a restaurant/ultra lounge. It wasn't very crowded seeing as it had just opened a week before and there wasn't a lot of buzz about the place yet, but the music was good and the sangria even better.

Saturday morning was rough, for obvious reasons. We opted for a quick breakfast at Grand Luxe Cafe in the hotel before our spa appointments. And we must have looked awful as the waiter came up to us immediately and offered us bread and water while we perused the menu. Wine hangovers are just wicked people. Wicked.

After a plate of buttery hasbrowns, toast, bacon and copious amounts of coffee and water, we felt somewhat human again. Time for a brisk walk over to Qua Baths and Spa at Ceasar's Palace for some much needed pampering. The theme for the spa is water, which isevident immediately --- lots of stonework, soft blue tiles and paintings and mini waterfalls as you enter the main spa area. Then it was a quick kiss before we went to the separate men and women only areas.

A quick guided tour of the place revealed lots of fun amenities -- 3 roman mineral baths (one warm and 2 plunge pools, hot and cold), another hot whirlpool spa, steam room, wood sauna, inhalation room (kinda like a steam room with aromatherapy), artic ice room and lots of places to sit and enjoy it all. The roman baths were relaxing whether you were in them or just enjoying them from nearby lounges. The arctic room, however, was severely overrated. I liked the cold after being in the spa, but the "snow" was nothing more than that crappy stuff they have at Disneyland that hubs and I make fun of everytime we're there during the winter season. Lame!

For treatments, I opted for the hot stone massage while hubs went for the deep tissue in an effort to work out all the kinks and stress of the past few months. While I enjoyed the hot stone massage (definitely more relaxing that a traditional swedish massage due to the heat from the stones) I may have to switch to deep tissue next time. I think I need something that will actually work out the knots and the relaxation style massages just don't do that very well. Hubs couldn't say enough wonderful things about his massage. When we finally met back up after a few hours he looked like a completely different person. Said it's the best he has felt in months. Well, in that case, mission accomplished!

We spent the rest of the afternoon bumming around the Forum Shops and while I tried several times to make a fun designer purchase, it just never panned out. Ah well, it was fun window shopping anyways.

Dinner was another late night affair, this time at DB Brassierie at the Wynn hotel. We've become huge Daniel fans after becoming addicted to his show After Hours on the Mojo network. We were thrilled when we heard he had opened a Vegas restaurant (thanks for the tip Weemo!), seeing as how getting out to Vegas is much easier for us than flying out to NY.

I started with the french onion soup while hubs opted for the ceasar salad, claiming he felt like he hadn't had anything green in a long time and his body was craving something vegetable-y. I was told the salad was good. However, I didn't hear much during the appetizer portion because I couldn't stop muttering "omg, this is the best onion soup I've ever had", while slurping it down. No really, I've had onion soup at several places in France, this blew all of those out of the water! Granted, they did add beef shank to the soup, which is a change from the traditional recipe, but even without that addition, it was still unbelievable. UNBELIEVEABLE. Have I made it clear how much I loved this soup? Even if you don't want to do dinner here, the next time you're in Vegas, save room for a snack, go right when they open at 5:30pm and just order the soup. You can thank me later ;)

But yeah, we had a whole rest of the meal to go. The special that night was beef wellington, something I've wanted to try ever since watching multiple episodes of Hell's Kitchen. Hubs went with the DB Burger - a 9oz. burger stuffed with braised short ribs, black truffle and fois gras. Mmmm hmmm, you read that right. Decadence and then some. Even though it was huge, he loved it. Sadly, it was this point in the meal that my stomach started acting up. No, it wasn't the soup. I had been feeling off all day and after taking just a few bites of the wellington, my stomach held up a big red flag. :( The couple bites I had were tasty, but just too rich to stomach that night. The waiter was very gracious about it though and while only the hubs ordered dessert (sorbet trio, very tasty), he still brought out a small chocolate square with a mini scoop of espresso ice cream for me. This was after he let me try 2 different wines so I could pick the one I enjoyed most to pair with my entree --- you know, the one I wasn't able to eat.

Even with my stomach issues, it was still had a nice dinner and I'd definitely recommend the place, if for no other reason than for the soup!

We spent the rest of the night again at Dos Caminos, although Saturday night it was definitely more crowded than the previous night. Again, great music, tasty sangria and eager, sweet waitresses. The best part of the night though, was a mother in her 50's (dressed like a teenager) with her 20-something daughter and their husbands just rocking out like crazy folks to the music. This was entertainment for hours. We were very sad when they left.

Sunday morning we slept in, then it was back down to Grand Luxe for brunch. Afterwards, we tooled around the Palazzo and Venetian shops for a bit before heading back up to the room to take a nap before dinner. The original plan was to have dinner at Jay Z's 40/40 Club while watching the UCLA-USC basketball game. However, the place was packed with folks watching the NBA All-Star game so we went to Plan B. [Side Note: The club is quite cool and would be a great place for a bachelor party or for a co-ed group to watch a game. And it must be popular, as we tried to check it out on Saturday morning around 2:30am and the line was still ridiculous!]

So, instead of the club, we settled for Carnevino, the new steakhouse from Mario Batali at The Palazzo. [Yes, it wound up being a celebrity chef restaurant tour this weekend. :)] Service was great and the food was delicious. The brought out rosemary bread with regular butter and "bacon butter" (pork lard flavored with salt and fresh pepper) to start. Yes, you read that right - bacon butter. I was expecting it to blow me away, but it was a much more mellow flavor than I was expecting. Pretty good though. We split the black fettucine (made fresh daily) with crab, jalepeno and shallots for an appetizer. For dinner, I had the tenderloin while hubs had the NY strip steak and we split the spinach with garlic and hot peppers. My steak was fine, but hubs said it was the best NY steak he has ever had and we both agreed that the hot peppers took the spinach dish to a whole other level. The desserts were equally yummy; chocolate and carmel panna cotta for him and orange creme frittas with earl grey infused chocolate for me. Another great dinner with 2 happy and stuffed folks waddling out afterwards.

The night ended pretty early after that, seeing as how neither one of us could keep our eyes open. So, back to the room to watch a bit of tv and then lights out. The next morning we got on the road at a somewhat decent hour and thankfully the traffic was much better than it had been on the drive out.

It was a great, relaxing weekend, one that both of us really needed. Even though I miss him when he works crazy hours for months at a time, the upside to the hard work is that he also plays hard when he finally gets a break, which leads to whirlwind weekends like this one. For now though, it's back to the grind... for both of us.

* I had fully planned on taking many more pics, but the combination of alcohol, being tired and just wanting to enjoy the meals and some quality time with Jim led to the camera spending more time in my purse than on the table taking pictures.


  1. Awesome! Sounds like the perfect weekend away!

  2. We haven't been to Vegas in ages - we have to go soon.

  3. So sad you weren't able to savor your Wellington, but glad you enjoyed the DB French onion soup!

    Now make your pictures bigger!

  4. Sounds like the perfect whirlwind trip! I'm totally starving now.

  5. am i on crack, or did you originally plan to stay at mandalay?

    and, the 10-year-old boy in me is still giggling like mad at the name of the friday night restaurant ;)

    such a lovely weekend! glad you had fun - you both deserved it.

  6. what a great weekend! Vegas is one of my favorite places to go.

  7. What a great time! I'm so glad the two of you were able to get away. I know you both needed it!

  8. so sad the cheese plate was awful, but everything sounds delish! so glad you were able to get away.

  9. Sounds like a great weekend! The food sounds deeelish.

  10. cackling over the party favors :)

    sounds like a lovely time.

    no dvf?????

  11. Sounds so fun! I never made it to Vegas despite being relatively close at UCLA, so it´s definitely on the agenda for the future. Glad you guys can work hard AND play hard.

  12. Just stumbled across your blog - love it!

    I LOOOVE Vegas - I am so jealous you just got back! Those rooms look a-mazing!

  13. What a nice trip! I'm glad you guys got to steal away for a nice weekend alone together. The food sounds delish. Sad to say, but I don't know any of those people/chefs you mentioned. Apparently I'm missing out on some good stuff in Vegas. ;)