October 9 – 23, 2013
October 9 - this trip began in typical fashion with us driving Max-the-Schipperke to the VCA Cromwell Vet where he not only had reserved a suite on Alligator Alley, but added a Jungle Spa package that included a personal trainer accompanying him on a daily walk. At his advanced age, who am I to deny his simple though expensive indulgence?
We parked at Executive Valet Parking using a prepaid voucher and were soon checked-in and on the shuttle headed to Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Ct. Ann is again flying free using Rapid Rewards while I paid full freight (e.g. $397.20) which included the Early Bird Check-in fee. Our boarding passes were numbered A-20 and A-21 and there were only a few passengers in front of us so we were able to score a pair of exit row seats.
Our nonstop flight was delayed 10 minutes, but we arrived in Las Vegas as scheduled at 3:25PM. Luggage was retrieved from the carousel and we were soon shuttling off to the remote rental car facility where we had a reservation for a mid size car at EZ Car Rental with an all-in price of $311.20. The check-in process was relatively hassle free and we were soon headed east on 215 in a Hyundai Genesis coupe with approximately 27,500 miles on the odometer.
Check-in at Sam's Town, where we held a reservation for 13 nights, proved to be a breeze and we were soon settled in Room 761, a non smoking room with a king sized bed that overlooked a parking garage with a distant view of mountains. http://www.samstownlv.com/ The room was smaller than we are accustomed to having stayed at the South Point in recent years, but it was clean and functional.
After unpacking and catching our breath, we headed to Boulder Station for our first libations of the trip. Thanks to several coupon trades and the generosity of Deanna (Las Vegas Advice forum), I had a fistful of free drink coupons that we used over the course of this trip. We settled in at the Havana Lounge and ordered a pair of merlots.
Dinner this evening was at Taiga Modern Japanese and Thai. http://taigamodern.com/ This small restaurant, situated in a shopping plaza off Sunset Road, serves, drum roll, both Thai and Japanese food including sushi. We shared orders of cod delight (filets steamed with lime juice, Thai chili, garlic and sugar) and kee mao (spicy drunken ramen with salmon).
Both dishes were beautifully plated and delicious, but the cod proved to be the standout. There was only one server this evening, but the restaurant is small and she was very efficient. ($18.92, Groupon, 4 Forks)
It was about midnight EST so we returned to Sam's and crashed.
October 10 – I was settled in at the full pay deuces wild (FPDW) machines at 2:15AM (PST) this morning which was not good because I lost, and then lost some more. This was truly an ugly way to begin our trip with the only upside being I was earning 7 x points on the first 10,000 base points earned during our stay.
Breakfast this morning was at our favorite source for apple fritters, Ronald's Donuts on Spring Mountain Road. This small bakery is a true mom and pop operation with Ronald arriving by 4AM each day to begin baking and his wife arriving later to greet the first customer of the day. We shared both a fritter and an old fashioned donut. ($4.10, 4 Forks)
We then made the short drive to KSHP in order to exchange a gift certificate for a restaurant that recently closed. http://www.kshp.com/ KSHP was holding one of its periodic sales so I was able to pick up certificates for 2 different restaurants (BabyStacks and Tamale Hut) at a net, out-of-pocket expense of $1.
We planned on driving the Spring Mountains' loop today, but it had snowed in them thar hills, so we drove Downtown. Thanks to Deanna again, we each had a spin the wheel $10-$100 freeplay coupon at El Cortez. You have 3 guesses and the first 2 don't count as to how much each of us won. Ann played all of our freeplay at the single 8/5 Bonus Poker machine located at the Parlour Lounge netting a total win of $15 which she absentmindedly failed to share.
On our return to the room we discovered it had not been serviced so we called housekeeping and headed to the video poker (VP) machines where I continued my losing ways.
It was now time for Variety Toast of the Town, an every Thursday afternoon show at Sam's. Today's show was hosted by Robin Vincent and Lou De Meis who recently performed in Guys and Dolls at the Las Vegas Hotel. Other performers included musical director and pianist Bill Fayne, singers Early Clover and the Soul Drifters plus another performer whose name escaped me. ($0, 3.5 Claps)
The remainder of the afternoon was devoted to recuperation in preparation for a return engagement at Boulder Station where we ordered a pair of merlots at Kixx bar.
Dinner tonight was at Crab Corner, a Maryland crab house, located in the desert. http://www.crabcornerlv.com/ On Thursdays, medium crabs and all bottled beers are $3 each. We ordered 6, crabs, not beers, plus sides of sweet potato tots and coleslaw.
With mallets in hand we took to hammering away at the blue crabs while washing everything down with a pair of Stella Artois'. The crabs were delicious as were the sweet potato tots. Our personable server also brought us samples of 3 house-made soups: lobster bisque, Maryland crab, and clam chowder.
The lobster bisque was excellent though the other 2 were not far behind. ($20, LivingSocial, 4 Forks)
On our return to Sam's, Ann played a little VP while I headed to Roxy's lounge where I listened to Jukebox Junkies for all of 5 minutes before calling it a night.
October 11 – I hit my #1 quad deuces this morning and netted a small profit.
Feeling a need to reconnect with her Irish heritage, Ann suggested we have breakfast at the lovely Emerald Island Casino. http://www.emeraldislandcasino.com/restaurant.html At the entrance to the creatively named Emerald Island Grille, I saw a sign publicizing a breakfast special of 2 eggs, 2 strips of bacon and 2 pancakes for $2.22 which we ordered knowing neither of us would be able to clean our plates.
Considering the locale and clientele, our meals turned out to be better than expected and, at that price, a definite steal, but when I received our check it was priced at $3.99 each. I brought the mistake to the cashier's attention and after much back and forth followed by my re-checking the sign, I realized the name of the special was 2-2-2, not the price.
Oh my, sometimes it ain't easy being a senior. ($12.24, 2.5 Forks)
We then visited the Paseo Verde library to check our email. On Fridays, the Henderson Farmers market is held in an adjacent parking lot so we stopped by and I purchased a large bunch of red grapes. I handed the sales person $3 thinking the cost was $2.50 so when she extended her hand out to me, I was expecting to find a pair of quarters. Instead she asked for 50 cents since the cost was $3.50. It was at this point that I realized I was under the influence of aliens from Area 51 and for the remainder of the trip I wore a beanie fashioned from aluminum foil.
In the meantime, Ann stopped in at one booth and received a mini massage and a maxi sales pitch from a pair of Scientologists.
Our next stop was Boulder Station for the Las Vegas Rocks afternoon show hosted by Tony Sacca. This show, broadcast on a local TV station on a delayed basis, lacked continuity. Sacca's guest list included John Weiss (host of Circus Vargas) who performed a few juggling acts, Rudy Ruettiger (inspiration for the movie Rudy) who gave a motivational speech and Donnie Ray Evins (Nat King Cole impersonator). The latter was very good, the rest not so much.
($0, 2 Claps)
In the early, early evening we departed Sam's for Ellis Island Casino and Brewery where we enjoyed a pair of merlots plus bottles of water courtesy of a Las Vegas Advisor (LVA) coupon. The next stop was dinner at Stephano's Greek and Mediterranean Grill on Maryland Parkway across from UNLV.
The restaurant is very casual as befits an establishment catering to a college crowd though none were in attendance this evening. We each ordered the lamb and beef gyro platter at the counter. Our plates included an abundance of gyro meat, (2) enormous whole wheat pitas, hummus, an Israeli salad and tzatziki sauce. Also available was a tray of pickled carrots. All the food was fresh tasting and very filling. ($16.03, Groupon, 3.5 Forks)
We then made the short, though traffic congested, drive to Bally's where we had tickets to Veronic Voices starring Veronic DiCaire. As advertised, one star, 50 voices. She did more than credible impressions of a wide range of stars including Celine, Lady Gaga, Barbra Streisand, Rihanna, Tina Turner, Katy Perry, Reba McEntire and Taylor Swift. The only portion of the show that dragged was one featuring the country performers. We took advantage of an ongoing Ticketmaster offer and paid only $2.50 each for this wonderful show. (4 Claps)
October 12 – I hit my #2 quad deuces early in this morning's session when I was dealt a single deuce and drew 3 more. An hour later, I was dealt quad deuces (#3) that brought me within a whisker of being even for this trip.
After reading the Review Journal this morning, we headed off to Los Antojos for breakfast. This mom and pop Mexican restaurant serves authentic fare. We each ordered huevos rancheros which came with chips & salsa, rice, refried beans and warm tortillas.
The owner also served us complimentary cups of their delicious consomme loco which is a fat free chicken rice soup spiked with cilantro.
Neither of us could do this bountiful meal justice. Our bill fell short of the minimum purchase requirement on our restaurant.com (R.com) certificate so we ordered a slice of flan to go. ($6.19, R.com, 2.5 Forks)
Later in the day we shared the flan which we found to be tasty, but a bit too heavy.
Our next stop was the annual Summerlin Art Festival.http://www.summerlin.com/art-festival/
This high quality arts and craft show was limited to 200 vendors with many applicants being turned away. Our first stop was to watch Chef Chanh Boupha from the nearby Cordon Bleu of Culinary Arts carve fruit into the shape of flowers.
We managed to tour the entire show over the course of two hours stopping at a number of booths to enjoy the diversity of art and crafts on display.
Ann added a hand crafted gold bracelet by MerriJane Morrison to her jewelry collection and I purchased a mass produced diet cola by Pepsi.
We had seen a number of young men milling around Sam's the past 2 days wearing Hawaii T-shirts and learned they were members of the Hawaii Warriors football team who later that evening were beaten by UNLV on a field goal as time was set to expire. I am glad we ran into them before the game rather than after the game.
We both napped on our return to the room though Ann managed to squeeze in a short VP session before it was time to head for Ellis Island. As we entered the front parking lot a car pulled up next to a scantily clad woman and after an abbreviated conversation she hopped in the car which headed to the rear of Ellis. I assume their destination was not the restaurant for the off the menu steak special this evening.
We sat at the main bar with Ann ordering a glass of merlot while I tried the seasonal Octoberfest beer which was pretty good and priced (free) right thanks to a Las Vegas Advisor (LVA) coupon.
Dinner was at the intimate Island Malaysian Cuisine located on the second floor of the Asian Pacific shopping plaza on Spring Mountain Road. http://islandmalaysiancuisine.weebly.com/ We started off with an appetizer of curry puffs, pastry shells filled with a mixture of curry chicken and potatoes. These proved to be delicious but a little too heavy.
We also shared entrees of beef rendang (slow cooked beef in a paste of ground spices and coconut milk) and hokkien char mee (fried noodles in a fragrant gravy). Both dishes titillated our taste buds.
($23.50, Groupon, 4 Forks)
We closed out the evening by watching the updated Mystic Falls laser-light show at Sam's followed by one circuit of the casino floor.
October 13 – I held one deuce and caught 3 more for my #4 quad deuces, but ended up losing this morning.
For breakfast we stopped at Madhouse Coffee on Eastern Avenue in Henderson this morning. http://www.madhousecoffeelasvegas.com/ I was expecting more of a bakery, but it is primarily a coffee shop that serves a small selection of baked goods and sandwiches.
We ordered a pair of blueberry muffins, a coffee and a chocolate chip cookie. The muffins were nothing special, the coffee was good and they initially forgot to serve me the cookie.
I ended up with both my original cookie plus a second one as an apology. Overall, it was an okay experience but not one I expect to experience again. ($3.70, R.com, 2.5 Forks)
We then drove to the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve. http://www.cityofhenderson.com/parks...d_preserve.php After registering at the desk and signing a waiver, we borrowed binoculars and walked around several of the ponds. The bird count was less than expected, but we managed to see a harrier, western grebe, several Gambel's quails plus a variety of ducks and wading birds.
After resting for much of the afternoon, we made the short drive to Boulder Station and once again enjoyed glasses of merlot in the Havana lounge.
Thai Food To Go was our dining destination this evening. There are only 5 tables in this casual restaurant, but we only required one. We shared orders of pad Thai and a special of pumpkin curry with chicken.
Prices are very reasonable and both dishes were very good. ($19.95, 4 Forks)
Next stop was the Excalibur to see the Australian Bee Gees where we valet parked. http://www.excalibur.com/entertainme...n_beegees.aspx
These guys did the Bee Gees proud and the audience, led by a table of Canadian women, really got into it. The showroom is small so every seat has a good view. A big thanks to Steve Kieva of Everything Las Vegas for providing the complimentary tickets. (4 Claps)
October 14 – I managed to breakeven without hitting deuces which is a rarity.
Breakfast was at the Omelet House on Charleston in a sketchy section of town. http://www.omelethouse.net/Locations/Charleston.htm We both ordered 3-egg omelets which came with a choice of bread, muffin or bagel. We both chose pumpkin nut bread, a house specialty, which proved to be very dense and was largely left behind.
Ann ordered the Green Hornet which featured avocado, tomato and cheddar cheese while mine was the Popeye prepared with spinach, mushrooms and Jack cheese. Each was served with housemade potato chips that varied from limp to crispy.
Both omelets turned out to be a little too heavy for us. ($12.45, R.com, 2.5 Forks)
Next stop was the Las Vegas Premium Outlets - North where we parted company. http://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlets/outlet.asp?id=58 Ann made a beeline to Chico's where she purchased a pair of T-s. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, the check out clerk recognized her from prior visits.
In the meantime I remained under the radar during stops at Izod (purchased a fleece pullover), Nike, Nautica and Ralph Lauren. We headed to Osh Gosh My Gosh after rendezvousing where we purchased a Christmas present for one of our nieces' children.
I napped for the remainder of the afternoon while Ann put in a 2-hour VP session.
In the early evening we drove to Ellis Island where we found a pair of prime seats at the main bar. The bartender caught my eye and called out “2 merlots?”. I guess we are not flying under the radar at Ellis.
Dinner this evening was at 9 On The Plate, a new Korean restaurant that offers a menu of appetizers. http://9ontheplate.com/ Part of the menu is designated as being modern and the remainder features traditional Korean dishes. Like the menu, there are 2 dining rooms – a large plain room typical of Korean/Asian restaurants plus a smaller, more upscale and modern room where we were seated.
We started off with a sampler plate of modern dishes that included bimimbop salad (4.5 Forks), spicy pork taco (5), crispy grilled bulbogi (3.5) and sweet potato delight (3).
Our second order included Japachae noodles (3) and tofu kimchi (4.5) from the traditional side.
I am looking forward to further exploring the traditional section of the menu on a future trip. ($24.08, R.com)
It was one lap around Sam's before Ann headed to the VP machines and me to bed.
October 15 - I hit multiple fours of a kind (4OAKS) this AM, but none were deuces so I took a beating but kept on ticking.
I am (almost) embarrassed to admit this, but I purchased an apple fritter and coffee for Ann at the in-house Dunkin Donuts. As expected, the coffee was very good and the fritter sucked. Forgive me Ronald for I have sinned. ($3.87, 2 Crumbs)
We again made the trek to the Paseo Verde library to use the computers.
Next stop was the recently opened Tamale Hut in Henderson. http://www.tamalehutlv.com/home/ This small restaurant specializes in tamales with several varieties available from both the written menu and hand written specials board. It is primarily a takeout restaurant though there are a few seats available at a counter and a couple of tables outside on the patio.
We ordered a Mexican Coca Cola and 4 tamales: (2) green chili with chicken, (1) green chili with cheese and (1) chicken.
These were all pretty good though we felt the masa harina dough was a little heavier than we have experienced on trips to Texas.
($3, KSHP, 3 Forks)
I watched the Red Sox versus the Tigers game this afternoon while Ann played a little VP.
Ellis Island's karaoke lounge was once again our destination for free drinks. On entering tonight's bartender said “oh, you are the merlots”. Geez, it is getting impossible to go incognito at Ellis.
On departing we made our way to the Rio with our first stop being the box office to pick-up tickets for the MJ Live show. http://www.lasvegas.com/event/mj-liv...jackson/20774/
We then proceeded to Buzio's Seafood Restaurant for dinner. Neither the restaurant nor its menu has undergone much change in the seven years since our last visit. Ann ordered the pecan crusted halibut which came with green beans and Yukon gold mashed potatoes. My nourishment came in the form of miso glazed Chilean sea bass, sweet potato fries and green beans. Both pieces of fish were desirably moist and delicious. ($58.27, Groupon, 4 Forks)
The MJ Live show starring Michael Firestone plays in the 900 seat Crown Theater. We had general admission tickets so we were seated a bit toward the back and left of center, but both the sound and view were very good. Most of Michael Jackson's biggest hits and signature dance moves were covered during this 60 minute performance. We thought the accompanying band and eight dancers were all very good. ($45, KSHP, 3 Claps)
October 16 – Sam's was running an earn points for a free buffet promotion today so I played enough on both cards to qualify though I ended up losing far more than the value of the buffets. I read in this morning's Review Journal that Congress still has not been able to pass an increase in the debt limit which mirrors my frustration in attempting to negotiate an increase in my personal debt limit with Ann.
We have been to the Firelight buffet a few times in the past so my expectations were very low. I started out with watered down OJ. I initially did not see any fresh fruit so I opted for a spoonful of canned.
On my second pass I ordered a feta cheese and spinach omelet which ended up being very dry due to overcooking. I also sampled a small slice of kielbasa and corned beef hash which were both fatty.
On my final pass I discovered some unripe honeydew melon and canned pineapple which I topped with blueberry and strawberry yogurt. The yogurt was the highlight of an otherwise disappointing meal.
($3, Comp, 2 Forks)
Our first stop this morning was Val U Laundriana on Tropicana where we dropped off our clothes to be washed and fluffed. Although ownership of this laundromat changed a few years back, the low prices (99 cents per pound) and overall high quality have been maintained. ($11, 4.5 Folds)
I then dropped Ann off at Episage Wellness Center where Teri provided a much 'kneaded' massage. http://episage-wellness.com/ We left our Groupon back in the room, but, in recognition of Ann's status as an irregular regular, the owner agreed to accept it on a future visit. ($67, 5 Hands)
In the mean time, I received an old fashioned, think straight raiser, haircut by Jan at Hair Today on Tropicana. This was probably the best haircut I have had in several years. ($17, 4.5 Snips)
After retrieving Ann we headed off to the Green Turtle Salon in Henderson where Melissa washed, blow dried and styled Ann's hair. http://www.gtsalon.com/ ($36, 4 Curls)
I killed the intervening 45 minutes at the nearby Paseo Verde Library.
On our return to Sam's, I retreated to the room for a much needed nap while Ann put in another VP session.
It was merlots at Ellis Island before setting our compass for Juan's Flaming Fajitas & Cantina. http://juansflamingfajitasandcantina.com/ We started off with the traditional salsa and chips plus a bean dip. We ordered the signature flaming fajitas with chicken that also included a cup of tomato soup. The flame was a nice touch but the fajitas proved to be nothing out of the ordinary.
($19.89, KSHP, 2.5 Forks)
October 17 – I was dealt my #5 quad deuces of the trip.
In another invasion of my brain waves by the aliens, I decided to have breakfast at BabyStacks Cafe on N. Buffalo Drive. I have made this same mistake in the past when we stayed at the South Point, but I thought the restaurant would be reasonably close to Sam's. It wasn't so don't do it.
This location and its S. Buffalo counterpart are always busy for breakfast, but we lucked out and did not have to wait for a table though a waiting line formed shortly thereafter. Ann ordered the banana cream pie pancakes, I ordered crepe-like lemon ricotta.
Ann's was delicious, mine was not. Ann finished hers, I did not. Ann was very happy, I was not. ($13.51, KSHP, A=5 Forks, F=2)
We then made an incredibly long drive to the Paseo Verde Library to use the computers before returning to Sam's where we both napped though Ann managed a short VP session.
Our free merlots were again served at the Havana Lounge before we set off for the Samosa Factory on W. Sahara Avenue. http://www.samosafactory.net/
This casual, 9-table restaurant was busy on this Thursday evening, but again we lucked out by securing a table. The owner provided menus with us choosing to share orders of lamb spinach, butter chicken and Kashmiri naan. The lamb was tender, but the chicken was on the tough side.
Overall our meal was good to very good, but a notch below the best so our search for a great Indian restaurant in Las Vegas continues. ($20, Groupon, 3 Forks)
We next drove to the Mirage to see The Beatles LOVE show. http://www.mirage.com/entertainment/love.aspx
This was our third time seeing LOVE and our complimentary seats in section 209 provided us with an excellent view. Cirque du Soleil's creativity and the acrobatic agility of the performers set to the music of the Beatles made for an entertaining experience. ($0, MyVegas, 4.5 Claps)
We concluded the evening at the recently opened Art of Flavors on Las Vegas Boulevard. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Art-o...9630341?ref=bf
We were provided samples of several flavors of the house made gelato which were all delicious, finally settling on a 2-scoop cup of tiramisu and ciccolate y peperoncino (chocolate and pepperoncini).
The latter was slightly spicy, but it did not overwhelm the chocolate flavor. I am certain future trips will include a return visit or two to field test a few more flavors. ($7.43, 4 Spoons)
October 18 - I managed to breakeven today after hitting many 5OAKS and wild royals.
While on this trip, I read a review of Bakery King which is a commercial bakery that recently was relocated and, in the process, opened a small retail outlet. The long established commercial side of the bakery supplies Mandalay Bay, Luxor and Hilton Grand Vacations with baked goods, but it seems the retail end was an after thought as it is poorly set up with no tables and only a few upholstered chairs.
A special of a coffee and choice of any baked good was being offered for $1.50. I don't drink coffee or tea so I was planning on ordering just a donut, but the clerk said she could substitute milk.
We ended up sharing a cheese Danish and old fashioned donut with both being pretty ordinary. ($4.50, 2.5 Crumbs)
In order to work off a few calories we walked along the jogging track in Sunset Park that circumvents a large pond. There have been many improvements to the park since our last visit including new roads, shelters and trail extensions. Interestingly, we saw a white pelican resting on a small island along with a number of cormorants.
Next we visited the Las Vegas Premium Outlets - South where we purchased a gift for a neighbor’s child who is tending (we hope) to our house plants.
Next stop was Prommares Thai Food on W. Sahara for lunch. http://prommaresthai.eat24hour.com/menu The restaurant was filled to its 28-person capacity on our arrival so we had to wait for approximately 15 minutes to be seated. We ordered a couple of soft drinks and shared an order of Tom Kha Kai soup (a spicy coconut based chicken soup with lemon grass and galanga) that was perfectly balanced and delicious. ($8, KSHP, 4 Spoons)
Our last stop was Suzuya Pastries and Crepes on Durango. http://www.suzuyapastriesandcrepes.com/ On a prior visit we enjoyed a pair of crepes, but we decided to get pastries for takeout as neither of us was hungry. We chose a Mont Blanc (a meringue with pureed hazelnuts topped with whipped cream) (4.5 Forks), an anko cream puff (red bean and custard cream) (3 Forks) and a piece of chocolate cake layered with ganache (4 Forks). We did not have access to a refrigerator so we were forced to eat all 3 desserts later that same day. ($4, KSHP)
In the late afternoon we stopped at the Las Vegas Hotel (LVH) to redeem a coupon for tickets to Raiding the Rock Vault and then made the short drive to the Clarion for complimentary merlots courtesy of the American Casino Guide. The Clarion bar has switched to plastic glasses reputedly because people were walking off with their fine stemware.
Dinner was at the Florida Cafe in the beautiful Howard Johnson's on the LV Boulevard. http://www.floridacafecuban.com/ I questioned the bartender whether we could use our gift certificate for adult drinks and, if so, did she know how to make a great mojito like we had on our last trip?
After receiving an affirmative response to both questions, we ordered a pair of world-class mojitos. For entrees we both chose arroz con pollo a la Chorrea, a classic chicken and Valencia rice dish with bell and roasted red peppers, peas and fried sweet plantains.
These dishes included a choice of beans with Ann choosing red beans and me, Cuban black beans. There was enough food to feed a lumberjack so neither of us finished our meals. ($28.23, R.com, 3 Forks and 5 Sips)
This weekend's Raiding the Rock Vault performances featured Lou Gramm, the original lead singer of Foreigner, who performed 3 of the group's hits. This show was truly a rock concert with music of 60's-80's bands such as Bon Jovi, Journey, Van Halen, Free, and the Who. The sole weakness was during the closing credits when every participant and their next of kin were introduced. It was dragged on for so long we ended up departing before the end. ($29, KSHP, 3.5 claps)
October 19 - I broke even again during this morning's protracted VP session.
In today's newspaper I learned scientists have proven that the brain cleanses itself during sleep. Now I know why I have a dirty mind in Las Vegas – it's lack of sleep!
We stopped at the library before continuing on for brunch at the Border Grill in Mandalay Bay. http://www.bordergrill.com/PDF/bglv_...unch_flyer.pdf I was the designated 'drinker' today so Ann ordered a coffee while I chose a cucumber mimosa (2.5 Sips). We were served the usual fresh melon with citrus sauce (3.5 Forks) and guava empanadas (4 Forks) while we reviewed the menu that I now have memorized.
On our first round we ordered a plantain empanada (3), crispy rajas taco (3.5), fig and blue cheese quesadilla (4) and a waffle and pork belly with maple syrup (4). The second round began with a mango mimosa (2.5 Sips) followed by orders of chorizo and egg taco (4.5), short rib hash (4.5), breakfast enchilada (4) and green egg and ham (2).
My glass was empty so I ordered a pineapple mimosa (3 Sips) while we again reviewed the menu to see what dishes would close out this feast.
Our order included another pineapple mimosa, a brisket omelet (4) and a double order of bread pudding French toast (5-Ann's rating). As I was finishing the last morsel I realized an alien had finished my mimosa so another pineapple mimosa was required.
For those counting, and I surely couldn't at this point, I achieved a personal record this afternoon by consuming 5 mimosas. I recently signed up for Border Grill's VIP club and received a free entree coupon which I was allowed to apply against our bill. ($58.47, 4 Forks)
Ann drove us back to Sam's where I hibernated for the remainder of the afternoon while she took a short nap before playing another session of VP.
In the early afternoon we watched the first 6 innings of the Red Sox playoff game at the Havana Lounge before returning to the room for their late inning, come from behind victory.
October 20 – The only highlight during this morning's session was when I held a solitary deuce and caught 3 more for my #6 quad deuces of the trip.
Fat Choy, in the petite and smokey Eureka Casino, offers a Sunday only brunch menu. http://fatchoylv.com/food
There were no other diners during our entire visit so finding a table did not present a major problem. Ann ordered a traditional eggs Benedict while I sought gold by choosing the Fat Benedict. The latter is served with pork belly rather than the traditional Canadian bacon. Each was as close to perfection as possible – toasted English muffins, easy over eggs and a delicious Hollandaise sauce.
Both came with freshly prepared home fries. Our server was very friendly and took care of all our needs. Prior to departing we had the opportunity to talk to and compliment the chef. ($14.81, LVA, 4.5 Forks)
We drove to Dog Fancier's Park located approximately a mile past Sam's on Flamingo Road. This park covers 20 acres and is segmented into numerous fields by chain link fences. We took the opportunity to meet, greet and pet a number of canines including a trio of miniature pinchers.
On our return we stopped by the slot card booth and each redeemed LVA coupons good for $10 in free play after playing $10.
It was now time for us to attend the NF Hope Concert which was held in the Sand's showroom at the Venetian. http://nfhope.org/ This benefit concert was being held for the 3rd year in order to raise awareness of neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that disturbs cell growth in one's nervous system, causing tumors to form on nerve tissue.
Human Nature on the red carpet being interviewed prior to the show
As we attempted to enter the theater, our tickets would not scan, but we were allowed to take our seats after a short conference with a manager. Our seats were in a prime location and immediately in front of Chris Phillips, aka Zowie Bowie, and his violinist/girl friend. http://www.zowiebowie.com/ When we asked why he wasn't performing, he replied that they wanted better talent this year. LOL
The concert proved to be successful by both providing entertainment as well as raising our awareness of this dreadful disorder. The Jersey Boys hosted the show that included performances by Human Nature, Clint Holmes, Kelly Clinton-Holmes, Mark Shunock (Rock of Ages), Melody Sweets (Absinthe), Mossaic and too many other local entertainers to list here. Kristen Hertzenberg's (formerly starring in Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular) performance of 'Light a Candle' was both the closing number and the concert's highlight. https://www.facebook.com/KristenHertzenberg ($120, 4.5 Claps)
We returned to Ellis Island and upon settling down at a stool in the karaoke lounge bar yet another bartender addressed us with “oh, you're the merlots”. Geez!
Dinner was at Sakina Thai on W. Sahara. This is another low rent, mom and pop type restaurant that we frequented on this trip. Shortly after settling in I managed to spill an entire glass of water all over both the table and Ann. After being relocated to another table, Ann cuffed my right hand to the side of my chair. We then shared orders of rad nah (flat noodles with chicken) and pad ka pow (spicy chicken with basil), Both dishes were pretty authentic, fresh and very satisfying. ($20.19, 3.5 Forks and 1 Sponge)
Our last stop this evening was Forte European Tapas Bar and Bistro on Rainbow Boulevard. http://www.barforte.com/ We have dined here in the past, but this evening's visit was for the purpose of satisfying Ann's itch for a biscuit cake. She refused to share so I ordered my own. These are honey biscuits with mascarpone cheese, chocolate, espresso and spiced rum. ($14.81, 4 Forks)
October 21 – losing is starting to become an emotional and financial drag. Breakfast was at Einstein Brothers Bagels on Eastern where we shared a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with a smear of cream cheese. The morning was beautiful so we dined al fresco and met a distant relative of Max's who was lounging on a chair nearby. ($4.31, 3 Forks)
Next we returned to Sunset Park and walked along the jogging trail.
I then dropped Ann off at Gold Spa Foot Reflexology on Eastern. Ann discovered that prices have been slashed by 50% since I purchased the Groupon so we did not save anything. The treatment itself was not as relaxing as on a prior trip, but still satisfactory. ($36, Groupon, 2.5 Hands)
For lunch we went to Taco Tijuana on Eastern where we ordered 4 adobada (pork marinated in red chili sauce with vinegar and various spices) street tacos and a soda. Each taco included a generous quantity of lean meat, crema and cilantro.
This time we tried our tacos with and without the spicy salsa and ended up enjoying both. The restaurant seems to be struggling for business, but we find the tacos comparable to the city's best. ($5.59, R.com, 4 Tortillas)
We again joined the crowd at Ellis Island where we were enjoying our merlots when Terry, a drunk as drunk could be, appeared before our table inquiring of Ann why she was sitting with an old guy and was I her father? He was harmless and after a half an hour or so I ordered a beer for him and we headed out the door.
Our dining destination this evening was Top Notch Barbeque in Henderson. http://www.topnotchbarbeque.com/ This restaurant adjoins Doc Hollidays, but thankfully has its own entrance. We each ordered the rib platter, a large portion of St. Louis ribs with 2 sides. These are dry rubbed and slow smoked until they are tender.
For sides we chose (2) sweet potato casseroles that were on the dry side, mac and cheese for Ann that she thought was excellent and Cincinnati chili fries for silly me. The fries were sloppy and disgustingly good, but I don't think my cardiologist would allow me to ever order them again.
Since I was taking pictures and carrying on about the ribs, our waitress introduced us to owner, Jimmy Cole, a Cincinnati transplant. ($29.89, Groupon, 4.5 Forks)
On our return to Sam's we walked around the casino floor a few times before finally calling it a night.
October 22 – when I hit #7 quad deuces this morning the phrase too little, too late came to mind.
Breakfast was at the Feast buffet at Sunset Station. It was unusually busy for a Tuesday morning, but we only had a short wait before being seated in the remotest section of the room. There was not much in the way of fresh fruit other than unripe watermelon and honeydew which I topped with strawberry yogurt.
In the past I have assembled huevos rancheros at this buffet, but I was informed that the required rancheros sauce is no longer available, After much whining and gnashing of the teeth, I ended up with easy over eggs, corned beef hash and bacon. The hash and bacon are among my Las Vegas guilty pleasures since we almost never have either at home. The overall quality of our meal was more than acceptable and step up from the Firelight buffet at Sam's. ($5.39, LVA, 2.5 Forks)
Our next stop was the Paseo Verde Library to check our emails and then it was off to the Monte Carlo to check-in for the final night of this trip. Shocked? I hardly believe it myself that for the first time 10-15 years we are staying on the Strip.
The reason being we have an early flight tomorrow and the Strip is more convenient than the Boulder Highway to the rental car facility. Booking the room for free using MyVegas points was a secondary consideration though I was under the misconception that we would be incurring a $20 resort fee at checkout.
I used Frank Sinatra Drive to access the parking garage without having to drive on the Strip and found a space on the 2nd level that provided easy access to hotel check-in. We were assigned a nonsmoking room on the 31st floor. The room itself was no larger than at Sam's but considerably nicer. The Monte Carlo provided easy access to both Aria and Bellagio without us having to walk on the Strip.
After check-in and unpacking a few toiletries, we grabbed the tram to Bellagio where we visited the
Warhol - Way Out West exhibit in the Fine Arts Gallery. Neither of us are fans of Warhol's pop art, but we enjoyed learning a bit more about him and his work. ($0, MyVegas, 2.5 Claps)
We then visited the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Garden for the Fall exhibit which included 2,500 pumpkins, 8,500 chrysanthemums, a talking tree, cider mill, covered bridge, and fantasy trees. ($0, 3.5 Claps)
At around 5PM we hopped on the tram and made our way to Aria's MyLife desk where I redeemed an award for a 7-item antipasta plate at Sirio Ristorante. We were told the award was being electronically sent to the restaurant so all I needed to do was produce my slot card.
We found seats at the bar and told the bartender we would be using an award, but ordering off the happy hour menu. No problem as he took our orders for a pair of house wines and 3 appetizers – 1) braised veal stuffed crispy ravioli with an asparagus coulis, 2) chicken meatballs with tomato-gorgonzola fonduta and 3) spinach and ricotta cheese ravioli in sage butter sauce. Portion size was small, but the flavors were big with our favorite being the ravioli in sage butter sauce.
I asked for the check and handed over my slot card, but after checking the bartender said I did not have any available credit. I explained that we had redeemed an award at the MyLife desk shortly before arriving so he had a manager call the MyLife desk to confirm. When I asked how much more I owed he said it was covered by the comp. I thought the value was $21, but the comp was for $50 and our bill $33, so we did not realize full value. ($6, MyVegas, 3.5 Forks)
View of the latest addition to the Strip
We then drove to the Orleans for dinner. Though we have stayed several times at the Orleans this would be our first dining experience at Big Al's Oyster Bar. After reviewing the menu, we each ordered the shrimp pan roast with rice pilaf. Though the quantity of shrimp was generous, the amount of rice, served in the same bowl as the roasted lobster and tomato cream based sauce, was excessive. The sauce itself was a little too thick and the flavor muted in comparison to its counterparts at Sunset and Palace Stations. ($6, Points, 2.5 Forks)
October 23 – I put in an abbreviated VP session at Sam's that did nothing to improve our financial situation.
I was on my way to Ronald's for apple fritters for our return flight when a sign for Master Donuts on Desert Inn Road caught my eye. These fritters turned out to be very good though a tad crispier than Ronald's. ($2.70, 3 Forks)
We checked out baggage outside and received our boarding passes, A-28 for Ann and B-20 for me. I am not sure why there was this disparity since our flights were booked within a minute of each other. Our 8:45AM return flight departed on time and we arrived in CT about 15 minutes early.
Team Westie suffered a gambling loss on this trip, our 9th in the past 25 visits since I began tracking our results. More importantly, 2013 represented our first and only calendar year loss in those same 9 years – an achievement of dubious distinction.
Thanks are extended to everyone who hung in there and read this long and detailed trip report. Please feel free to comment or ask questions.
“When a man's stomach is full it makes no difference whether he is rich or poor.”
- Eurepides -
“Once, during prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.”
- W. C. Fields -