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Diary of a Travel Guide Junkie: Vegas, Yeah Baby. September 6, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in General.

NOTE: I apologize for taking so long to get this post together and for being so slack with posts lately. Between vacation and traveling for work, I’ve been a little short on time.

Las Vegas is always a good reminder of how much I truly despise cigarette smoke…and EVERYBODY smokes EVERYWHERE! If you subtract that and the unattractive, scantily clad ladies and the skanky men that they attract, Vegas is quite a nice place to visit.

Vegas has a ridiculous number of designer shops and boutiques, but they also have fantastic outlets. Would I love to purchase that Balenciaga bag or those Tory Burch knee high boots? Sure, but unless I win the jackpot, it ain’t happening. Outlets are a girl’s best friend…especially when there is a LeSportsac Factory Store involved. I’ve talked about my obession with LeSportsac and how infuriating it is that there is not a store in the DC area. To be able to go to one of their factory stores (with prices marked down 60%) almost sent me into convulsions, like a kid in a candy store. There were so many bags, so many prints, making it so hard to choose just a few…bet you thought I would say just one, GOTCHA!! I also hit up the LeSportsac store and walked away from Vegas with three new bags and a wallet…score!!

We saw three shows during our trip: Jersey Boys, Danny Gans, and Ka.

Ka is a Cirque du Soleil show with a martial arts theme. It was a good show, but probably my least favorite of all the Cirque du Soleil shows we’ve seen. That isn’t saying it wasn’t good, it’s like saying out of the three flawless diamonds you’re showing me, the half carat is my least favorite (ie. a diamond is a diamond, they’re all beautiful). The set was phenomenal and my favorite performances at this show were The Deep, The Wash-up on Shore, The Forest People, and the Slave Cage.

Danny Gans has had a long running show (12 years) in Vegas with 8 of those years spent at The Mirage. His show will be closing at the Mirage at the end of November and moving to Wynn’s Encore, so we thought we’d give it a shot because we had heard so many good reviews.  I should mention that he is an impersonator. He entered the stage and did a whole montage of songs from different singers/groups: Chicago, John Mayer, Tony Bennett.  It was a little much leaving my first impression of the show as average. By the time we reached the halfway point, I was dying…with laughter. The show was great. He was hilarious and had me at Johnny Carson’s ‘Carnac the Magnificent’. He did so many great impressions from Carnac, to a tipsy Dean Martin, to a Columbo that even made him chuckle as he tried to do that crazy eye thing.

Jersey Boys takes the cake as the best show that I have ever seen E-V-E-R!! Rent used to hold that position until Frankie Valli gave them the old one-two punch to second place. I bought the soundtrack to Jersey Boys the same day that we bought tickets (months ago) and immediately fell in love. The show just sealed the deal. FANTASTIC! I felt like one of those Beatlemania chicks, crying because I didn’t want it to end! There are not enough positive adjectives in the English language to describe this show…it was just that great. Now, I’m dying to hop on the train and head to NYC to see them on Broadway.

We visited Hoover Dam for a second time and it never fails to impress. To think that they built that structure in four years, and DOT can barely pave a highway in that amount of time! We mainly went so Casey could see the new bypass that is being built. Currently, it’s scheduled to be complete by mid 2010. You can also see that I got to be in two states at once!

Red Rock Canyon is a place that I keep putting on my to-do list for our visits to Vegas, but then it always falls to the wayside. This year was different. We decided to brave the 105° temps and drive to Red Rock Canyon and do their scenic 13-mile loop. The views are amazing and the colors are striking. It’s hard to believe that the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas Blvd. is only a few miles away.

Of course, I saved the best for last: FOOD! Carnegie Deli is situated inside the Mirage and is always a good pitstop for breakfast…or dessert…or if you’re craving a sandwich that contains about five pounds of meat. It reminds me of when my friend Sarah and I ate at the original Carnegie Deli in NYC while in college.

For a change of pace, we went to Cafe Ba Ba Reeba to have a little tapas. If you go here, you have to get paella and be prepared to wait for at least 30 minutes. We usually go for the lobster paella which is excellent with two split lobster tails served on top. In addition, we tried the marinated house olives, the skewered chicken and chorizo, and the mushrooms stuffed with spinach and manchego. This left us with room for dessert at which point we walked across to the Palazzo and hit up the Espressamente Illy for a little gelato. If we had one of these cafes in DC, I would look like an oompa-loompa.

Prior to seeing the Jersey Boys, we had dinner at Mainland. The decor is über modern and reminds me of the Asian cafeterias that we saw in Honolulu. I started off with a little melon bubble tea which was a nice palate cleanser for the spicy pork fluff wraps. These are a unique take on lettuce wraps. The pork mixture which contained lime and mint (and made me think of a pork mojito) was placed in a collard leaf and rolled up. For an entree, I tried their Roast Duck noodle bowl which was served with rice noodles and bok choy. The duck was a little fatty, but the flavor was fantastic. Casey tried the Shrimp and Spicy Pork Sausage noodle bowl. He devoured every bite, so I assume it was delish. I didn’t try it. Typically, when the smell is so spicy it burns my eyes, I just pass on the taste test.

The day we visited Hoover Dam, we enjoyed lunch at a little restaurant in Boulder City called Milo’s Cellar. It’s this cute little wine bar that also happens to have a sidewalk cafe and B&B. The soup of the day was a Roasted Tomato & Garlic. It was so comfy and delicious even considering the blazing heat outside. It came with a little round of sourdough bread and just enough olive oil and balsamic for dipping. I tried the Le Parisian with turkey and brie because I have a hard time passing up on brie. Casey had the Beef, Blue, and Dews sandwich which beat mine by a landslide. The combination of thin cut steak, blue cheese, and peppadews was only enhanced by garlic mayo. I also tried a glass of their house red…you can’t pass up on vino in a wine bar. It was excellent, so I asked what it was and it turned out to be Two Brothers Big Tattoo Red which is quite inexpensive.

BLT Burger opened this year as a new addition to the lineup of restaurants at the Mirage. It’s basically a luxury burger joint with crazy milkshakes like the Twinkie Boy (vanilla ice cream, twinkies, and caramel syrup) or spiked milkshakes that contain various spirits like Maker’s Mark, Malibu Rum, or Peach Schnapp’s.

Last, but certainly not least, is Mesa Grill. One of my top five favorite restaurants. Owned by Bobby Flay, the menu consists of a variety of unique grilled items served with a southwestern twist. We always start out with the Goat Cheese Queso Fundido because, honestly, you can’t go wrong with cheese…especially goat cheese. Casey chose the Filet Mignon served with Mushroom-Ancho Chile sauce as his entree and I opted for the Sixteen Spice Duck Breast with a Habanero Sauce and a Chorizo-Goat Cheese Tamale. Zero complaints from either of us. Both entrees were cooked to perfection and the sauces offered intense flavor that complimented each of the meats. Casey liked my sauce more because of the spiciness and I liked his sauce more because of the mushrooms. Mesa Grill has some of the best collards that I have ever put in my mouth. Unfortunately, Bobby had changed the menu to offer more seasonal sides and collards were no longer on there. We typically save room for dessert. This time we tried the Lemon Meringue Crème Brûlée and the Peach-Mango & Cream Cheese Empanada. Both desserts were great, but I could have stopped at the White Peach-Tequila Sorbet that was served with the Empanada. The flavor was so dead-on that it was like biting into the freshest peach grown in the Upstate of SC.

While we were there, I also got to enjoy a paparazzi moment. We went over to the Bellagio and noticed a lot of press surrounding Yellowtail. Turns out it was the Grand Opening of Yellowtail and there were a few celebrities there including Charlie Sheen (see picture), Miss Nevada 2008 (Veronica Grabowski), Paris Hilton, Michelle Rodriquez, Wilmer Valderrama, and Marlon Wayans to name a few. You can see the press photos here.


1. Tiffany - September 7, 2008

Wow, that sounds like quite a trip. I am drooling over all the food you talked about- sounds great!

2. smooregasbord - September 7, 2008

It was crazy! I felt like we didn’t do very much until I started typing everything out and I was like, “Holy Cow, I need a vacation from vacation!!”

3. Tiffany - September 8, 2008

I always feel that way after a vacation! My coworker just took a staycation. . . doesn’t that sound so great?

4. smooregasbord - September 8, 2008

I love it! I’m dying for a staycation!!

5. SoccerGirl - September 9, 2008

I feel like I was there with you, I’m still waiting on those slot machine winnings… Nice picture of Charlie Sheen, it’s like those celeb pictures we took in NYC, except I’m sure no one was telling you to leave, you probably looked another member of the paparazzi!

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