We’re Exploring: Las Vegas…Baby

A few weeks ago Gary and I decided to take a quick weekend escape to Las Vegas.  Just a few days….nothing too crazy, just a fun opportunity to gamble a bit, play some blackjack, play some slots, enjoy a great dinner and, since we didn’t realize when we booked the trip what weekend it was, watch the Academy Awards in the comfort of our suite.  I did book us a suite at the all suite Vdara Hotel in City Center.  Still relatively new, and completely smoke free, we loved it.  Big, beautiful and very comfortably for our big Oscar night.

We arrived around 5pm on Saturday, after a few Admirals Club cocktails and a quick flight to Sin City, just in time to check in, change and have a drink at The Cosmopolitan before heading over for our dinner reservation.

All anyone has talked about lately was The Cosmopolitan Hotel.  My sister stayed their recently and said everything was over the top and beautiful, which walking inside the contemporary hotel proved to be true with crystals and LED lights everywhere.

We find what I described as “a bar suspended in the sky” to a cocktail waitress as we wandered around looking for a drink.  I had seen a picture of it in Bon Appetite a few months ago and wanted to try it.  In actuality, it does look like a dangling chandelier covered in crystals that you sit inside of, looking out onto the casino and shops around the hotel.

Very cool and ultra chic….
We enjoy one to be best, extraordinarily dirty Belvedere martinis at the twinkling chandelier bar in the sky and head to dinner.

In honor of my upcoming trip to Spain a few weeks later we decide to dine at Julian Serrano’s tapas restaurant inside Aria.  As we approach the door we notice a familiar face waiting for his table with a party of 10 in tow.  Master Chef and restaurateur Hubert Keller is waiting for a table too… Score! If the Fluer de Lys owner, and owner of Fluer and Burger Bar in Las Vegas will wait in line for a table at Julian Serrano we figured it had to be pretty good.

An understatement…
Over glasses of crisp Albarino and a bottle of Numanthia Termes (one of the wines we will feature at our upcoming Dallas Uncorked anniversary celebration) we feasted on goat cheese and mushroom stuffed piquillo peppers with a spicy roasted tomato sauce;  citrusy cheviche of white fish with lots of peppers, onions and cilantro; Castilian soup with “pata negra” ham, a soft poached egg and chorizo (you know Gary….anything with chorizo calls his name); Pan Manchego – toasted bread with olive oil, tomato and a thin slice of aged manchego (a nice addition to the classic dish) and a pile of fresh mussels. Delicious!

With a slight buzz and a full belly we set off on our gaming spree….which  as lady luck wasn’t on our side, didn’t last long. Unfortunately.

I did find my favorite Wizard of Oz penny slot, that in the past was much kinder, but I did squeal with joy a bit when Glenda, the Good Witch visits you to give you prizes in the form of pennies, and how the Wicked Witch of the West will try to take them away.  And how Dorothy will earn her way into the Emerald City with multiple “wild” boxes. Our last trip to Vegas I did pretty good on this machine, winning a few hundred bucks.  Our friends traveling with us on that trip did even better, winning around $900! ON A PENNY SLOT!  I love it.  Silly, but entertaining.

After a work out in the sleek Vdara gym the next morning we stroll the Strip. If ever there was a place to people watch, it is Las Vegas. Wow…..
I am always so surprised by how many kids are wondering around as well. I get that the marketing campaign has made Vegas seem like a wonderland for the whole family, but really? The pamphlets that are stuffed by the dozen into every passer byes hand, advertising the latest all nude club just off the Strip fit well into the campaign. But, you  can also ride the dozen or so rollercoasters spread out throughout The Strip, which even big kids adore as Gary experienced last time we were in town.

We wander through Bellagio with their massive Chinese New Year display flanked by stunning Chihuly glass. I am such a fan of Chihuly that it is always wonderful to see this prominent display of his work.

An hour till The Oscars.  Just time enough for a little video poker and Bloody Mary’s at Paris, where Gary decides to play the silly wheel game at the casino entry.  Ever casino has one…you spin this ridiculous wheel and bet on a 1 or 2 or 5 or 10, and hope one of them hits.  Seems if you watch a few spins and it doesn’t hit a 1, you should bet on 1….9 times out of 10 Gary won…improving our odds just slightly for this trip.

5:30pm on the dot we get back to our suite, just in time for Billy Crystal’s fantastic monologue, celebrating the best and brightest of 2011.  A few quick turns of our corkscrew opened a bottle of 2009 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.  Though the Cab gets the attention these days, we love this Chard that helped but Napa on the international map at the 1976 Paris Tasting, and continues to deliver fresh apple, pear and citrus notes with just a hint of cream and spice.  By the time our room service arrives we have moved on to a simply divine 2003 Oracle from Miner Family Vineyards, also a favorite from what has long been one of our favorite wineries in Napa. Deep red fruit with layers of licorice, spice, mocha and a touch of cedar notes from 21 months of aging on the Cabernet based blend, which is truly a source of inspiration and revelation, as the name would suggest. A perfect Oscar pairing.

Our flight the next day leaves us just enough time for a run along The Strip, a few more hands of blackjack for Gary and a quick trip to the airport for our upgraded flight home. As much as we love Vegas, a good game of blackjack and a few penny slots…we’ll hold off on returning to this crazy land and take Hawaii instead.
It’s a good thing there aren’t slot machines in Kona…