January 14, 2013

Viva Las Vegas Part 2

The following morning we added to our routine. We got some large coffees from the café on the main floor, The Honey got a huge breakfast bagel, and I ate my delicious gf scones. It was nice and relaxing sitting in our room with our treats and watching the local news. Then we went down to the pool, enjoyed the early sun, cooled off in the pool, then ventured off on our day. It was a great way to start off our mornings.

We took the monorail north to the Venetian. We wandered around for quite a while (Seriously, it may be the closest we get to Italy) and settled on lunch at Tintoretto. We sat on their ‘outdoor’ patio and watched people going by. It was nice just to sit back and relax. I had a tasty salad with chicken, olives, and the usual fixings. Everything tasted so good (and The Honey was happy with his pizza). After lunch we walked around some more and once I had a bit more room in my stomach we returned so I could get some peanut butter and chocolate gelato. Needless to say, dinner would be a bit later.

We had dinner reservations at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant (at the Paris Resort), our planned posh dinner. When I made reservations I was told they could accommodate gluten issues and it would also be noted with our reservations. We’re always hesitant when dining at ‘nice’ places because we are often disappointed and find we’re better off at the ‘average-Joe- kinda place’. Well, we weren’t disappointed in the least. The quick elevator ride to the 6th floor gave us a preview of the view we would have from the restaurant. When the doors opened we stepped out into the kitchen area and were greeted by a hostess who took us around the corner to the restaurant. We were given the option of being seated right away or waiting 15 minutes for a table with a view of the Bellagio fountains. We were more than happy to wait and got a drink at the bar. The wait paid off. Imagine this view over dinner:

Our waiter was fabulous, asked which of us had the gluten allergy and helped narrow down the menu. From a delicious little bowl of soup to our dessert at the end, and our attentive waiter throughout, our experience was perfect. The rest of our evening would be just as enjoyable. Earlier in the day we found a duelling piano bar and thought it would be a great place for relatively affordable entertainment. We first experienced duelling pianos in New Orleans many years ago and we have been hooked since (Fat Tuesday’s in the Byward Market, sadly, is a major disappointment). It was a blast.

From what I’ve heard Vegas used to be all huge mediocre buffets, but that has changed. Big name chefs have opened restaurants, some chains have moved in, and restaurants in general seem to go for quality instead of quantity. There are still buffets, and I’m sure some doggy ones are still around, but they are not what I imagined. For breakfast one morning, The Honey talked me into going into the Aria next door for their buffet. I find breakfast buffets to be pretty safe places. Unlike dinners where customers move spoons around and contaminate dishes (even as a vegetarian I was leary), breakfast has omelet stations, and the bread products aren’t relegated anywhere near the ‘safe food’. I did my customary walkabout and got an omelet and some fruit. The Honey returned to the table a short time later and asked me about the gluten-free items. I had no idea what he was talking about so he enlightened me. He pointed out an employee in full kitchen gear with a coloured marker in his hand and guess what he was doing?! He was writing ‘gluten-free’ on the glass. Like a crazy person acting normal I got up and asked him what he was doing (like it wasn’t obvious). Apparently I wasn’t the first to ask him this. All the gluten-free items would be labelled as such because THE CHEF WAS A CELIAC. Apparently I was beaming as I walked back to our table and I finished my omelet. It was hard controlling my excitement, especially as I grabbed another plate and trolled the huge buffet. The only downside was the naturally gluten-free items were not labelled and while I would scoff at doing something so silly, I’ve heard that some American companies do funny stuff like put gluten in their yogurt and cheese. Was the roasted chicken gluten-free? Where was an employee when you needed one?! Obviously I survived with no ill-effects (and I didn’t get glutened either). I had a few more items for breakfast and crème brûlée (how could I resist?). We enjoyed it immensely and so we returned for dinner (our last one) Friday evening before leaving. It was just as great. No, it was awesome!

The following day was just like the others: hanging out by the pool, going for a walk, popping into casinos to play the slots, getting some drinks here and there, and of course, having a siesta in the afternoon. We tried our luck once again with the restaurants at Planet Hollywood, and that place has got to be a maze. There we were looking for a restaurant and we couldn’t find one. We finally found PF Chang’s and went inside. We weren’t taking any more chances. I had heard that PF Chang’s has gluten-free options and although we had a few issues (our table buzzer didn’t work and our waitress was a little slow moving), there were a variety of options on the gluten-free menu and the food was good.

Yes, there are hundreds of carnations in that pumpkin
A plant version of Monet's 'Grainstack'
Friday was our last day and while it began the same as all the others (breakie and time by the pool) we had to pack up and finish our stay. I had gotten up a bit earlier and went to Bellagio to take pictures of the gardens. Yes, they are flowers and some may not think anything of it, I thought it was pretty amazing. A late checkout wasn’t possible so we left our luggage with the lobby attendant and went downtown. We had meant to go and see the evening show and experience another part of Vegas (and still touristy), but on another trip. The weather had finally broke and it was a normal October day in the desert. We walked from one end of Fremont St to the other. There were zipliners zipping by us overhead and bands doing their soundchecks. We popped in and out of casinos, noticing quite a difference between those on the Strip with those on Fremont. We picked up some souvenirs and postcards to send off when we got back home (The best prices for souvenirs was at the Walgreen stores and on Fremont). We stopped for lunch at Grotto in the Golden Nugget. The Honey had his usual pizza and I had a great salad with vegetables, nuts, and feta (yes, we love pizza and salad). We people watched over lunch. Their pool area was quite busy and we realized how lucky we were that our hotel wasn’t packed like this one. It was just too noisy.

After dinner at the Aria buffet we returned to the Vdara and got our luggage and took a shuttle to the airport. We were ready to go home.

Would I return to Vegas? For sure!! Vegas is no longer about gambling and other illicit stuff. There are fabulous shows, national parks, shopping. Next time I was to go whitewater rafting! We were there longer than the average 3-day trip, but we took our sweet time and relaxed. Vegas had been on my bucket list for years, so who knew when we’d be able to return. Also, while this travel post is a little different than others I’ve written and mostly about the food and restaurants, our days were pretty routine – Get up, eat breakfast, hangout by the pool, go out (walk, casinos, eat, drink, gamble, repeat), have a siesta, go out, see a show, and on the way back to the hotel… watch the Bellagio fountains. Man, life is rough.

My kind of Wine Cellar (at the Mandalay)


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