Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vindaloo does Vegas

So, if you'll remember, I wrote about an upcoming trip to Las Vegas several weeks ago, and, turns out, I had a blast.  My husband goes there to gamble, but I went strictly for the food.  There is no place--NO PLACE--on earth like Vegas.  I have eaten in great cities, fabulous restaurants and hob-nobbed with a few famous chefs, but where can you get pampered with such a stellar, eye-popping, jaw-dropping array of the best food and wine?  Vegas.  Where do people bend over backward to help and please you, no matter what time of day or night, no matter how simple or complicated the request?  Vegas.  Where is the best people-watching for social scientists and laymen alike in the Northern Hemisphere?  Vegas.  And where can you eat Thomas Keller's outstanding pastries without a two-year wait on the reservation list at The French Laundry?  Vegas.  I last had a pistachio macaron from Bouchon Bakery 26 days, 14 hours and 37 minutes ago and I am white-knuckling it until my next fix.

Hello, my name is Vindaloo and I am a Macaronaholic.

We left ABIA at the ungodly hour of Dark-Thirty the Friday before Labor Day and arrived in LV before 10 a.m. PST.  We had reservations at The Venetian for two nights (which was a good thing financially, but a very sad thing emotionally and gustatorially) and the concierge very graciously allowed us an early check-in.  This was merciful, since I had just suffered a very complicated back injury several weeks prior and was in quite a bit of discomfort.  And, as most of you know, planes and airports are not very conducive to comfort.  So I had a bit of a lie-down in our gorgeous, big-enough-for-a-family-reunion suite while my husband hit the slot machines.

It was a Sealy Posturpedic--I checked.

After a restorative nap on the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in in all my life, I freshened up in our palatial bathroom.  The entire bathroom was the size of our bedroom in our home in Texas.

A girl could get used to this.  Oh, yeah...
After getting presentable (because Vindaloo doesn't do Vegas in an "I ELVIS" t-shirt and yoga pants), I wandered downstairs and found my husband at a slot machine, holding his own.  We were both hungry, and luckily The Venetian has plenty of great restaurants to choose from, so we didn't have to wander very far.  I was terribly thrilled that Bouchon was on the 10th floor.  We were just 3 minutes away from great food and wine.  I would later find out that because the Bouchon Bakery is on the ground floor of The Venetian and oh-so-conveniently open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., I was just 3 seconds away from a serious sugar rush that came in about seven different flavors.  I began to calculate how many macarons I could eat before it was time to leave while maintaining an even blood sugar level over the next 48 hours.  As you can see here the flavors of the macarons vary with the seasons.  Clearly, the possibilities and prognoses would stump most quantum physics experts as well as stun the majority of specialists in metabolic disorders.

But if you'll excuse me, I'll need to return to Bouchon Bakery now--it's officially Fall.

At Bouchon, we were seated immediately at a lovely banqette facing tall, French doors with arched windows, which let in a lot of natural light.  This restaurant is very much like a French bistro, except for the high ceilings, and it glimmers enchantingly with lots of glass and mirrors.  There is a massive pewter and mahogany bar that, despite its scale, makes you feel you could have a very intimate conversation while draped over the rails.  The lighting is deliberately dim and a bit filmy, rather like the kind of light emitted from gas wall sconces.  There is mahogany millwork throughout.  The stunning blue Copenhagen floor tiles from Grenada Tile completed the interior; I immediately thought and felt like I was in Paris when I walked through the door.

After being totally charmed by the menu, this is what I decided on:

The salmon rillettes (paired with a glass of Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace).

The house-cured gravlax (paired with a glass of Pastou La Côte de Sury Sancerre, V.V. 2011).

My husband, ever the "breakfast anytime" guy, ordered a sky-high plate of toast, pommes frites and beautifully fried eggs with the most enormous portion of bacon I've ever seen.  It must have been a full quarter-pound, cooked.  The service was lovely and as attentive as we needed it to be.  I lingered over my second glass of wine, soaking up the ambiance and watching all the fabulous, beautiful food that whisked efficiently by my table while my husband, anxious to continue his break-even streak, returned to the casino.  I then proceeded to have the most expensive (but most enjoyable) pedicure I've ever had in my life.  Thank you, Canyon Ranch Spa (also conveniently located in The Venetian).

That night, we ate at Delmonico Steakhouse, an Emeril Lagasse restaurant.  Located on the ground floor of The Palazzo, the adjoining hotel to The Venetian, we walked there in less than 5 minutes and were seated on time.  It took approximately 60 seconds for the staff to begin delivering The Bliss.  I am not a steakhouse fan (my husband is), but this restaurant is an Emeril restaurant, and having had wonderful experiences at his other establishments in New Orleans, I thought we would be in for a treat.  The service was extraordinary even though the restaurant was hustling at by 8 p.m., we had the full attention of our waiter as well as the sommelier and other ancillary staff, which made the evening a lot of fun.  We enjoyed an amuse bouche of heirloom tomatoes, basil, burrata cheese and EVOO.  My husband ended up with an enormous piece of meat on his plate (no surprise there) that he stated emphatically was the best steak he'd ever had, accompanied by a terrine-sized dish of the New Orleans Creamed Spinach, easily the best creamed spinach I've ever put in my mouth.  I only wish I had been able to enjoy the leftovers in an omelette the next day for breakfast.

I ordered one of the specials, which was a $42 plate of pasta.  Yes, you read right: a $42 plate of pasta.  It was heaven: just the right amount of papparadelle with six very large shrimp, and a generous amount of andouille sausage and artichoke hearts.  I enjoyed a complementary glass of red wine that was a blend of several varietals; complex and nicely balanced, it was a wine that Emeril endorsed and labeled, and it had been bottled by Au Bon Climat Winery in Santa Barbara, CA.  I vaguely remember having a salad before the pasta (but only because the pasta eclipsed everything else that night).  The salad was perfectly dressed with just the right amount of acid.  Checking the online menu, I note that it was the mixed greens salad with a sherry vinaigrette and shaved Manchego cheese.  It was perfectly balanced and just the right flavor profile for my mood that night.  We were too full for dessert, but had there been room, my money would have been on Emeril's Banana Cream Pie, served with caramel sauce, chocolate shavings and whipped cream. I didn't take pictures at Delmonico, but we enjoyed our food immensely and I would return in a heartbeat.  The staff is well-trained and extremely attentive, and the food is unpretentious, well-prepared and top-drawer.

One of the amazing things about Las Vegas is that it is constantly on stage, 24/7.  There are shows you pay to see and shows that unfold right before your very eyes, just because you are in Las Vegas.  Take, for instance, my husband's experience in The Venetian casino late on Friday night (while his wife is upstairs asleep in their suite--because, you know, he's a SERIOUS gambler).  Picture this: he's sitting at his favorite slot machine, feeding $20 bills into it and hoping for The Big One when an attractive, nicely-dressed woman approaches him.  He makes special note of the fact that there's lots of cleavage hanging around.  She says to him, "Are you having any luck over here?"  He answers, "Well, not really."  She replies, "Oh, well...Who did you come here with?"  My husband recalls first looking at her cleavage, then at her face (he admits he's not sure whether he actually made eye-contact), and replied, "I came with my wife."  The woman is quiet, standing there.  A disappointed look comes over her face.  And then my husband asks (to be polite, he says), "So, who did you come here with?"  She says, "Nobody.  I was just looking for a little fun."  And then she and her cleavage wander off to find her fortune elsewhere. 

Now, that's entertainment.

The following day, we discovered the second floor of The Venetian, with its charming canal, shoppes and singing gondoliers, along with many other lovely food and wine experiences...and that will entail another post because there's lots to tell and this is a cliffhanger...

Be right back.

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