When in Vegas... Day 1

Vegas.  Yep, I have to go to Vegas.  And “have” is the correct word.  I would never choose Vegas as a destination voluntarily.  It’s just not my thing.  It’s too crowded, noisy, expensive, like I said just not my thing.  Kind of like mushrooms and cilantro, I recognize some people love it, just not me.

Not only do I have to go to Vegas, I have to go for a full week, flying out Sunday, not getting home until Friday night.  And this time, lucky me I fly on the day we just lost an hour of sleep.  Crabby?  Yes.  I had a headache before I hit the airport.

Not to be a total negative Nancy, there is one redeeming thing in Vegas, the restaurants!  I love food so after spending 10 hours in a windowless conference room watching PowerPoint after PowerPoint presentation I’m ready for a nice glass of wine and a good dinner.  I have three favorites that I like to visit every time I come here, Mesa Grill, Giada and Otto.  There is no particular order to these, I think I love them all equally.  The food is fantastic, the service is impeccable and the prices aren’t outrageous.  Would I like to try CraftSteak?  Sure!  But $60 or more just for the steak?  Well, I don’t think my expense report would be approved.

I have two nights “free” to try new places for dinner (already have my reservations at Otto, Mesa Grill and Giada) so my plan is to try two burger joints and doing a comparison.  I’ve heard that the burgers at Hubert Keller’s burger place are great and a friend told me that she heard Anthony Bourdain said the fries there were the best he’s ever eaten.  I don’t know which of the many types of fries they serve he meant, but I guess I’ll try the fries.  The other is Gordon Ramsey’s Burgr.

It’s Sunday.  I got to the airport two and a half hours early because of the nightmare lines I’ve been hearing about on the news.  Apparently the TSA at MSP Airport are claiming they just don’t have enough people to staff appropriately during this busy spring break time.  Whatever.  I’m TSA Precheck but that rarely means anything these days.  If it’s busy they will shove anyone down that line.  And usually the people who have absolutely no idea how to follow directions end up right in front of me.  Not today though, I whizzed right through and had a fun filled 2+ hours to sit and wait.  Got myself a Caribou latte, put the headphones on and read a book (and people watched, people watching is always interesting at the airport).

I did upgrade myself to first class. By the end of this long week I’m going to need a big fat chair and a free drink!  It’s not a bad thing on the way out either. For lunch I had the choice of a turkey and cheese sandwich or a grilled chicken and quinoa salad.  I chose the salad.  Looks pretty doesn’t it?  Came with a side of tomato soup, some crackers and a cookie.

Normally I love quinoa.  Normally. Not this time… they laced the salad with CILANTRO!  I can’t do cilantro.  Apparently I am allergic to it because it tastes like a chemical or soap or something so unappetizing to me that I can taste even the smallest bit of it.  So I ate the chicken, some of the avocado (those pieces for which I could remove the cilantro) and the soup.  The crackers were quite yummy too, not too salty, good texture and flavor.

The cookie was ok.  I love molasses cookies.  They are one of my favorites.  I like ginger too.  I like a little ginger in my molasses cookies even, but not as much as in these.  They should have called them ginger cookies because that was the predominant flavor.  It was nice and chewy with the crunch of sugar on top so it was a good cookie, don’t get me wrong, but not the molasses cookie I was expecting. Guess I’ll have lots of room for that burger!

So with the exception of the cilantro, the flight was just fine.  The trip from the airport to the hotel was just fine… sort of, lots of construction and worse than normal traffic when I arrived.

The line to get checked in was the worst of any of the hotels at which I have stayed before (Venetian, Mandalay Bay, Wynn) but it moved pretty well.  I requested an airport-facing room so I could watch the planes come and go from Area 51.  They accommodated that request. I have a view of the airport and of a giant picture of David Copperfield's head!

It was a long walk to my room and after getting settled I thought I’d make my way to the conference center so I knew where it was, then head to dinner.  This is where my day went awry.

I stopped at the concierge to pick up tickets to a tour of Hoover Dam I had scheduled. This is when I realized I didn’t have my driver’s license or corporate credit card!  The woman assured me it was no problem, they could find my reservation anyway.  Umm… 1.  I didn’t make the reservation with my corporate card, I’m quite sure that expense report would get denied and 2. It’s not ok that I didn’t have either my DL or my credit card!

So after she printed off my ticket and showed me the map of where I had to go for the tour, I raced back to my room and scoured it for the ID and credit card.  When I didn’t find them right away, I called lost and found, and was put on hold.  While on hold I found them.  WHEW!

OK, let’s try this again, let’s head to dinner!  I walked to the conference center which was a good 15 minute walk and I walk fast!  I asked the security person standing there if there was a “short cut” and she said no.  Bummer!  So I asked her the best way to get to Mandalay Bay.  She gave me directions and off I went.  I was wearing my favorite hat. One I had bought years ago at Cuvaison winery.  It blew off my head.  It blew to a spot I couldn’t get it without scaling a fence.  I sadly left my favorite hat there and headed to Mandalay Bay.  

I don’t think I took the best route.  A lot of it was off the beaten path which was fine in daylight but I was already planning a cab ride home!  According to Google Maps it is 0.8 miles from the MGM to Mandalay Bay, a 17 minute walk.  It took me at least that long and I walk fast.

Once in the casino I had to find Burger Bar.  I asked at the Concierge and they said “it’s in the shops.”  With those helpful directions I headed off to “the shops.”  I found it.  It’s a tiny place.  I sat at the bar where the very cute bar tender kept calling me “love.”  Yes, he got a good tip but not just for that.  My water glass was kept full and he kept the wine and dinner on separate checks for me.

So how  was the burger?  I chose the American Classic, burger, American cheese, crispy bacon (that was how it was advertised on the menu!) tomato and lettuce on a sesame bun.  It was good. Not “oh my god the best burger I’ve ever had” but good.  The bacon was not crispy. I'm a crispy bacon person and it was not crispy, I left most of it on the plate. As for the burger, I think the ones I make are just as good, maybe better. It was juicy, not dry and perfectly cooked. It had good beef flavor, you didn’t just taste the toppings, but like I said, not over the top fantastic.

And the fries?  No offence to Anthony Bourdain but I’ve had better fries.  They were good, nothing wrong with them, crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside and perfectly salted.  But they were fried in canola oil so they were just fries.  Maybe Mr. Bourdain had one of the other varieties.

After dinner I walked back to Mandalay Bay and caught a cab back to the MGM.  It wasn’t quite dark yet and the loss of my favorite hat was still bugging me so I decided I was going to scale the wall!  And I did! And I got my hat and I’m not in jail, at least not yet.  I’m sure I was caught on a number of cameras.

And now I’m pooped.  My day will start with a conference call with work at 7AM tomorrow.  Let’s hope tomorrow goes a bit better than today did.

Tomorrow’s dinner is Mesa Grill!

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