Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Las Vegas, Nevada ~ July, 2016

Several months ago Steve learned that he would be attending NBA league meetings and the Sports & Entertainment Alliance in Technology (SEAT) conference in Las Vegas. With the Republican National Convention coming to Cleveland and Quicken Loans Arena, nearly all employees would be required to work from home. That seemed too good to be true, so in lieu of working from home, the Cavs decided to send Steve to Vegas.

 Tagging along was always in the back of my mind, but the price had to be right. A free room at the Aria is nice, but I still needed to get there! Well, my patience paid off and I found a non-stop flight for $120. The price was finally right.

We departed Cleveland after work on Friday and made our way to Sin City. I have only been to Vegas once and it wasn’t very fun…Steve has been a handful of times, but we've never been together. We were excited for another adventure; after all, our 10-year wedding anniversary was fast approaching!

We arrived at the airport at 9:00 pm local time and quickly jumped into a taxi. We arrived at the Aria and stepped into one of the most beautiful hotels I've ever seen. Incredible. Swanky, fresh and very cool. The rooms were comfortable and modern.

 My favorite room features were the alarm clock (no sound, just the lights slowly turning on and the curtains opening slightly) and the goodnight button (we could power down the room with the touch of a button).

I’d love to tell you we spent a lot of time outside roaming the strip, but we did exactly the opposite. The Aria is in an ideal location, but it also offers everything we could possibly imagine. Incredible food, three pools and a casino. What more could we ask for?


Let me first talk about the food. OMG. The food. I have never enjoyed food as much as I did on this trip!

After arriving at the hotel just after 10 (1 am EST) we needed a quick snack. We found Five50 on the main casino level and knew it was right up our alley. Wood-fired pizza and beer. I (we) visited Five50 three times. I do love my pizza and their pizza is delicious!
I ordered a slice of the Gotham (pepperoni, sausage, salami, mozzarella, grana padano) while Steve had a slice of the Forager (white sauce, mushrooms, bacon, spinach and ricotta).

On my second visit for lunch (no Steve) I ordered a slice of cheese and a glass of Rose.

 On our next visit (yes, my third visit in three days!) we split an entire Gotham pie with added ricotta. For dessert, we ordered the Elvis milkshake (banana and chocolate ice cream, peanut butter and candied bacon) and added a shot of rum.

  On Saturday night, we had dinner at Sage, also located in the Aria. Five50 and Sage are both run by the same chef/owner - James Beard award winning chef Sean McClain. Another partner and executive chef is Richard Camarota, also the husband of my HS friend and college roommate (small world!) Anyway, ironically she was in Cleveland visiting her parents while we were in Vegas, but regardless, she set us up at Sage and it was a culinary dream come true.

 We started with two cocktails, a little bread with salted butter and an amuse-bouch.

 We opted for the four-course tasting menu. I started with the artichoke fennel salad with bacon lavender and tangerine while Steve chose the ahi tuna crudo with sunchoke puree, grapefruit and endive. Both were light and a perfect balance of refreshing and sour citrus. A nice start to what would be a decadent meal.

For our second course, I opted for the foie gras brulee with strawberry compote, toasted cocoa nib with toasted brioche. Wow. It was one of the creamiest, delicate and ridiculous things I’ve ever tasted.

 Steve chose the wagyu beef tartare with crushed caper aioli, slow poached egg and crispy chocolate. The meat was perfect and the caper aioli added a nice salty finish.

Next we both ordered the black bass with baby artichoke, bacon vinaigrette and barigoule sauce. The skin was nice and crispy and the fish perfectly flaky.
  For our fourth and final course, I chose the wagyu beef filet with porcini mushrooms, bacon and béarnaise sauce. If I thought the foie gras was the best thing I had ever eaten, well this wagyu beef took the cake. I had never had wagyu beef before now and it was magical. Not only was the beef prepared perfectly, but the beef itself was rich and tasty and just so incredible.

 Steve ordered with veal cheeks with pickled vegetables, herb spätzle and paprika jus. Although he thoroughly enjoyed the tender meat and the overall flavor profile of the veal cheeks, he was also excited that I was getting a little full and had to offer him a few bites of my steak.
We thought we were done, but we still had one final dish to finish the meal. This light lemon sorbet was a nice palate refresher and the perfect ending to a perfect meal.
 Bardot Brasserie is the third place we visited during our stay. Also located in the Aria (I told you we didn’t venture far!)

 Steve was able to join me for brunch on Sunday. We enjoyed the everlasting Rose in addition to the French omelette with fine herbs, gruyere cheese, hash browns and salad. The French omelette was perfectly prepared. Light and fluffy.

We also enjoyed the seasonal fruit plate with buckwheat beignets and a frozen yogurt pistachio parfait. We had a great Cavs/LeBron conversation with the bartender as we watched Believeland in the background. It was a picture perfect set-up.
  We enjoyed dinner at Bardot on Monday night. Once again, the everlasting Rose is what caught our attention and the menu was intriguing.

  We started with Escargots Bardot. Wild burgundy snails were wrapped in puff pastry with toasted hazelnuts and a chartreuse garlic butter. They were divine. The combination of the rich snails, soft pastry with garlic were quite memorable and like nothing we'd ever had.

 For our entrees, Steve ordered the oak-smoked Duroc pork chop with bacon lardons, baby carrots, horseradish potato puree and a grain mustard beurre blanc. The smoky flavor of the meat paired very nicely with the salty bacon and grain mustard.

  I ordered the Parisian gnocchi au Pistou with goat cheese, summer vegetables, cherry tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. I love gnocchi…when it’s prepared like this! The best gnocchi I had previously was at La Madia in Chicago. I have tried to make it myself and have tried it several times elsewhere, but no one has ever come close, until Bardot. Each piece of potato had a perfect sear that added texture to the light potato dumpling.
 I can honestly say that I have never had such an incredible culinary experience in such a short amount of time. The foie gras brulee and Wagyu beef filet at Sage and the gnocchi at Bardot are arguably the three best dishes I've ever had. Thank you Vegas.

 While Steve attended his conference during the day, I spent a little time at the pool. Despite the 110 degree temperatures, it wasn't totally unbearable. I was actually able to lay outside for a while with an occasional plunge to cool off. Honestly, 90 degrees in Mexico is much hotter than this!

  Well, there you have it! SMS Trips and Travels goes to Vegas. We leave for our home away from home in just three days and cannot wait...Ocean Maya Royale here we come!


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