Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What Happened In Vegas, Ain't Staying In Vegas - Part I

I was given the opportunity to go to Las Vegas for a work function, and since I had never been to Vegas, I gladly accepted it. Now, don't go and start thinking that I'm something fancy. It wasn't an offer just for me, it was for me and 3 others. We would all fly up on Sunday, do our business, and then our wives would be flying up on Wednesday. So, the wifey and I started planning and noticed Tim Allen had a comedy show at The Mirage the Friday and Saturday that we'd be there. We both grew up in the 90s, so of course we watched Home Improvement. Now that we're adults, we're avid fans of his latest show, Last Man Standing (Dawn says it's like seeing into her future). We were going back and forth on whether we should buy the tickets, or wait till it was 100% confirmed. I decided to look at the seating chart one day, and stumbled upon 2 front row seats ... so we had to jump.

Like everything seems to do lately, a few days after we purchased the tickets, our involvement in the event was canceled.

We juggled the idea for a few days, do we try to get a refund for the tickets, or bite the bullet and use this as an excuse to finally visit Las Vegas. If you're too dumb to figure it out ... we bit the bullet and went to Vegas. Thanks to Dirt Mountain and the cost of our new backyard, we decided to keep to the Wednesday to Saturday plan, but fit as much into 3 days as we possibly could.

We had a $50 voucher for a hotel room, so we decided to go up to Charlotte on Tuesday night so we wouldn't have to wake up at 4 for our 7:20 flight. The next time we stepped out of a plane, we were at our connecting flight in Salt Lake City. We were actually very lucky flying in and out, because we only had an hour between landing and take off on our flights. But wait, within 5 minutes of landing we see the screen flash. Our flight has now been delayed 30 minutes. Lucky for us, it ended up changing again, and moved up 15 minutes. All in all, it was later than we were originally supposed to leave, but it wasn't a major delay so whatever.

I'm a window seat kind of guy. Although we usually load some movies onto a tablet to watch during our flights, I still like checking out the scenery and seeing the layout of the land. I got the shaft on the first flight, but did get the window seat from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas.

Since I'm a new golfer, I had to get a picture of this golf course we flew over.

As we were approaching the runway, we flew right by UNLV's football stadium.

My first glimpse of Las Vegas.

We decided to rent a car for our trip. We basically figured we'd end up spending just about the same on taxi fares as we would to rent a car per day, and there were a few places we wanted to go that were further off The Strip/Downtown. Renter-Be-Ware, if you rent a car at the Las Vegas airport be prepared to spend some time in the parking garage to be "checked out." I don't know if they do this at other airports, but it took us 25 minutes to leave the parking garage because they had to scan your car bar code, make sure it matched in the system, check your identification to make sure it matched, check the mileage, and apparently perform open heart surgery before printing out a receipt and letting you go. This wasn't a delay because there was so many people trying to leave either, we were the 7th car in line. Once we got to the front, we passed through in 2 minutes. Both lanes had the same stall, so I'm not sure what was taking everyone else so long, but yet 2 minutes for us. Like I said, I'm not sure if this is common with airport rental car check outs, but dang.

Although we try not to fall into the tourist traps, you can't go to Las Vegas and not get a picture of the welcome sign. You can, but then you'd be weird.

After leaving Charlotte at 7:20 EST, losing 3 hours, and landing at 11:20 WST, we were starving. First stop, Ceasars Palace for Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill.

As we sat down, I was looking over the drink menu and saw "Sam Adams Seasonal." I looked at the waiter and said, "Is it Winter Lager yet?" To which he says, "No, Octoberfest." Dawn shoots for that so I go for a regular Boston Lager. Hey, it might be noon, but 1 we're in Vegas and 2 it's 4 o'clock our time, so that's close enough.

For our first meal in Las Vegas, I went for the bacon cheeseburger with a side of fries. 

This was one of the best burgers I've ever eaten. It was the perfect medium (don't cook your home burgers any less than done) on the inside, the bacon was crispy, and the flavor was knockout. Not only was the burger great, the fries were addictively good.

She got the Pistachio Pesto Chicken Sandwich.

She ended up leaving a few bites of her sandwich behind, that she later said she regretted since it was so good.

One thing we did notice about Ramsay Pub & Grill, there were no salt and pepper shakers. Apparently when you season your food properly, you don't need to give your customers salt and pepper to add flavor to their meals.

After lunch, we walked down to MGM for CSI: The Experience. They have a little souvenir shop, but the attraction is 3 crime scenes that you have to solve the murder of. You're given a clipboard with questions, and you have to answer those questions from the crime scene, the lab, and other techniques. Once you've answered all the questions you take your answers and fill out a report to turn into Grissom. If you're right, and pick the correct killer, you graduate CSI school. Not to brag, but this guy was 100%. His wife ... 

Of course I'm not going to give you the details for the crime. That would jeopardize the case.

From MGM we walked back up to the Harley Davidson Cafe so I could get my Las Vegas shot glass. As we walked through, I had to get a picture of the back wall. It's chains that are painted like the flag with bikes on a track that takes them to the heavens.

After a little more site seeing we headed to our hotel to check in and change for dinner. We stayed at the Downtown Grand, and as I was planning the trip I figured we'd be pretty tired and not really want to go "out", so I found Pizza Rock directly across the street. Lucky for us, Pizza Rock was voted Best Pizza in Las Vegas 2015.

We ordered the 12" "The Butcher" which is their all meat pizza, and split it.

As pointed out to us by some apparent pizza snobs from "up yonder", it was a little greasy, but when you load it down with meats what do you expect? This pizza was absolutely amazing, and the combination of that and my Bad Beat Ace in the Hole Basil Pale Ale was killer.

During my planning of the trip, every place I looked for breakfast ideas ranked The Buffet at The Wynn very high on their list. We're not big buffet eaters (1 the food usually dries out, 2 people are disgusting, but 3 they always make the sneeze guards to block oompa loompas so I have to perform a ballerina move to get more bacon), but after seeing all the rave reviews we decided to give it a shot.

I turn on my GoPro, and we bebop through The Wynn and follow the signs to "Buffet". We turn by the Cashiers area, and head down the hall. I'm looking around, but mostly kind of watching the camera to make sure I'm not filming my feet, and then I hear a chuckle. I turn around and Dawn says, "Did you not see the sign?" I said no, and I just get a point towards this lovely beauty.

Great, so breakfast idea #1 is thrown out the window, now what do we do?

The Peppermill is pretty close to The Wynn, so we bumped it up a day on the agenda. The Peppermill actually has a lesson to learn as well. When you walk in and there's a wait, if the hostess says 10 minutes, it'll be 20. If she says 20, like was our case, it'll be 45. Now, you could say it was just a bad day, but a couple walked in and asked the wait, she told them 20-30 minutes and the husband turned around and said to his wife, "It'll be an hour." Clearly they've been here and understand the timing lingo.

We finally sit down, and the food was worth every minute of the wait. She went with the Chirizo and Eggs, and I had the walnut pancakes.

With the pancakes they give you syrup and butter ... all of it. All of the syrup and all of the butter.

These pancakes are so big, I couldn't even eat the entire first one, and they give you 3. To my defense, pancakes and waffles feel me up really fast even at home.

Now, the wait was irritating, and the service to get drinks was a little meh (I'll actually give them the benefit of the doubt on that one), but the food is absolutely amazing ... and a crap ton more than you could ever eat.

After enjoying my 4,000 calorie breakfast, I needed to do some walking so we went across the street to The Fashion Show. We didn't realize it until we walked out, but we ended up parking right in front of Trump.
(you know, the guy that has a pretty good shot right now of being the next President).

From there we went to The Linq's shops so we could go to Goorin Bros hat shop. We're hat people, and I don't mean "I'm wearing jeans, flip flops, and a t shirt so I want to wear a fedora with a skull stamped on it." I mean, a suit with a handmade wool fedora, or she'll wear a dress or something else nice with a woman's hat. Those other people are the ones that ruin it for the rest of us. If you're one of them, STOP IT!

Ok, back to the good stuff. We're Food Network-aholics, and one of our shows was Cupcake Wars. The main judge is Candace Nelson who's credited for her Sprinkles Cupcakes being the first cupcake only bakery.

Sprinkles has the hands down, coolest plates and utensils ever. They're all made of wood. If you remember eating ice cream in elementary school and having that little wooden "spoon" to eat it with. That's what this was like, except with a fork, and no tongue splinters. 

She sprung for the Carrot Cupcake ...

while I did the Chocolate with coconut.

A quick check for the hardness/denseness like other Cupcake Wars judge, Florian Bellanger, and it was time to chow down on some amazing cupcakes.

We have a few cupcake shops around Greenville, and every now and again we'll pick some up. Every single time I end up having to scrap off 5lbs of icing, because I'm already sweet enough. I don't need an equal amount of icing to cupcake. These cupcakes were perfect in every way imaginable.

Don't worry, we couldn't go out of town and forget about our little guy. Sprinkles also offers doggiecakes, so we picked one up for him (see his reaction in Part II).

After a little mid-morning snack, we hopped back in the rental and drive over to Rolling Smoke Barbecue. One of my favorite shows to watch is BBQ Crawl that's hosted by fellow BBQ-Brethern, Diva Q. If you're not familiar, she's a competition BBQ cook, and during her travels tries all the good BBQ joints around ... the greatest job ever.

I did the Pulled Pork Plate with Mac and Cheese ...

she did her new vice of Loaded Potato, this version with chopped brisket.

I had to take the green onions off, because, well ... green onions on a pulled pork sandwich? That's just weird. Anyway, the food for both of us was amazing. I can understand why they're one of the best BBQ restaurants in Vegas.

In Thomas Rhett's new song "Die A Happy Man" he mentions that even if he never gets to see the Eiffel Tower at night, as long as he has his wife's hand in his hand, he'll be able to die a happy man. Well, we haven't seen the Eiffel Tower at night in Paris, but we have seen the Eiffel Tower at night at Paris casino, so that's kind of close.

The picture makes it hard to see, but Ramsay is on a big banner hanging from the Arc De Triomphe replica monument.

Our splurge dinner for this trip was to Gordon Ramsay Steak. While planning the trip, she said we didn't need to go and spend that much money, but I booked us a table anyway. I did confirm that it was ok before we actually went, and it was welcomed with very open arms.

For weeks all I heard about was, "I can't believe I'm going to get a real Gordon Ramsay Beef Wellington."

There was never a question what I was getting, the New York Strip. This even came with the bone in (which is technically referred to as the St Louis Strip in a lot of steakhouses) which just made the flavor boom even more.

I'm not going even try to count the number of "mmmmmms" and "oh my gah this is amazings." Part of the reason I can't count all of those, is because I was doing the same exact thing. Of course she said our beef wellingtons (the only ones she's ever had) couldn't hold a snowballs chance in hell against these. As far as mine, I'll say it's the best bone-in New York Strip I've ever had. I don't know if it beats my Omaha Steak New York Strip from Charlotte, but it doesn't lose to it either. I despise ties, so we'll just put it in another category so I don't have to pick.

I hate that I wasn't able to get a picture, but they bring out a cart with a sample of each of their steaks for you to choose from. It's like 10 of the most amazing cuts in a circle with a massive double ribeye with a foot long bone handle sticking out. I'm 99% sure I heard angels sing when the cart rolled out.

After dinner we went across the street to enjoy the Bellagio Fountains. It really ticks me off, but I forgot to charge the GoPro so we don't have any cool videos of it. If you go to Vegas, you have to stick around for a show. These things are amazing. We saw 3 or 4 songs throughout our trip and every single one was, wow.

Downtown Grand

Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill

Pizza Rock

The Peppermill

Sprinkles Cupcakes

Rolling Smoke Barbecue

Gordon Ramsay Steak

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