Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Solo Escape Trip - July 18 - 22, 2014

Another trip is in the bag.  I feel like I didn't take a lot of photos this trip that didn't involve food.  I'm also going to post a longer, separate report on Giada's new restaurant at The Cromwell, because it was a LONG meal and the place is brand-new, with a lot going on.

Friday, July 18th

I do like taking trips where I leave after work.  It makes the work day SO much more enjoyable!  It also irritates the heck out of my boss, who thinks my extra-cheerful Friday self is somewhat annoying when I'm headed to Vegas after work, and I like to annoy him as much a possible.  I left at 7:30 p.m. San Antonio time and arrived on time at 8:10 p.m. Las Vegas time, just as the sun was setting.  

Harrah's did the right thing for me.  I checked into an AWFUL room on the 5th floor that had such a weird smell I seriously thought that something - or someone - had died on the roof it overlooked.  They moved me to a new room on the 14th floor very quickly (and without any smells).
The LINQ area at night looks great.
On to The LINQ to check out the rest of the shops that have opened since my last visit.  I really do like this whole area, and now that they've finished opening everything it's a great place to spend an evening, just walking around and people-watching.  I got the Fun-Ghi hot dog at Haute Doggery, which is owned by Holsteins (another one of my favorite places to eat in Vegas).  The Fun-Ghi has mushrooms and grilled onions, and it was very tasty.  I had a hard time deciding which hot dog to get, so I'll probably have to go back and try another one just to see what else I might be missing.  The hot dogs range from plain Polish dogs to some really interesting combinations that include all kinds of spices and unusual toppings, and the prices run from $4.49 to $11.99 for the more elaborate ones with all the fixings.  Fries, onion rings, and drinks are all sold separately.  My hot dog was $7.99 and bottled water was $2.00.

Fun-Ghi - yummy!
Part of the ceiling in Haute Doggery
The Haute Doggery menu
I did take a look at the newly opened F.A.M.E., which stands for "Food. Art. Music. Entertainment."  It is supposed to resemble a Chinese street market with separate food booths inside, and it has everything from specialty teas and dim sum to Chinese pizza and roast duck in its eight "booths".  These "booths" are set up like a food court with lots of eclectic art and music all around, and there is a DJ off to one side who cheerfully talks to anyone and everyone who walks in.  I would go back to try the really affordable dim sum and pot stickers because they looked delicious, but otherwise it was a "been there, seen that" experience for me.
The entrance to F.A.M.E.
This is part of F.A.M.E.
I had $50 in Free Play from Harrah's, so I made sure I picked it up before I completely forgot about it.  I decided to blow it on The Hangover slots, which is exactly what happened.  Oh, well - I love those dang machines!  I played around Harrah's and The Quad, just checking out new machines, lurking the people on the True Blood machines at The Quad, and people-watching.  Even though I had been up since before 6 am my time, I managed to make it until almost 2 am Vegas time before I finally decided that was enough for me.
I checked out the Polaroid FotoBar, but decided not to pay the $5 for the Polaroid Museum.  I'm cheap that way.
Saturday, July 19th
Walkin' through Wynn...
Up early because I can't sleep in Vegas, I headed down to Encore for my breakfast reservation at Society Cafe'.  I enjoy this restaurant immensely.  This time I was seated near the edge of the restaurant, at the corner where I could see both the casino traffic and the interesting parade of people on their way to the pool.  Entertaining, to say the least.  I ordered Crab Cake Oscar Benedict with a side of potatoes, orange juice, and coffee.  The crab cakes were really good, very light and lemony, and they were topped with the usual asparagus, poached eggs, and b├ęchamel sauce.   I do like this version of Eggs Benedict because there's no English muffin to contend with.  I've had good and bad experiences with English muffins, and I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of this dish.  The suggested side of potatoes was also very good - nice and crispy around the edges. 
Crab Cake Oscar Benedict and Potatoes
The people at the next table were actually offended that the waiter asked about food allergies and had the chef come out to speak with them when they mentioned a nut allergy.  I would think this was a fantastic thing!  Having a chef coming to check on you personally to ensure your allergies didn't get in the way of enjoying your meal?  Awesome service, I think!  My waiter, Kevin, was very attentive and came over to visit with me throughout the meal.  As a solo diner, I'm certainly used to it and enjoy it, especially when the waiters are really nice and personable.  My meal came to $36.84 + tip.

I played Ruby Slippers 2 at Encore while I was there, and I can't decide if I like it or not.  Like most people, I have a love-hate relationship with ALL versions of the Wizard of Oz machines, but the jury's still out on this one.  Walked back through Wynn and played True Blood there, too.  It's my new "affordable" obsession since I can't find my beloved Lord of the Rings machines anywhere, and The Hangover slots can get really, REALLY expensive after awhile.  I totally forgot about getting a pineapple mojito there again, but I was stuffed from breakfast.  I found new Titanic machines in Palazzo that I had absolutely ZERO winning combinations on.  Won't be playing those machines again any time soon...

I picked up my ticket to LOVE at The Mirage at 3:30 p.m. with the intention of going to Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden to see the new tiger triplets after that.  That's when I noticed that the sign out front said the tiger cubs were only out from 12-4 pm daily.  Poop.  And I never made it back through there in the right time frame, either.  Double-poop.  I did redeem my free popcorn from myVegas at the Sugar Factory on my way out and took it to my room for a light snack while I got ready for dinner and the show.
Cloudy day at The Mirage.  I was using a filter, though, so it's not quite that dark.
Back to The Mirage for dinner at Japonais - delicious!  I had a new drink, since I planned on trying drinks with unusual names yet again: Coco-Ichigo.  Yummy!  I've never had a bad experience with my drink choices yet.  The Coco-Ichigo has a touch of coconut milk with fresh strawberries and vodka, but I can't remember what else, and I didn't write the ingredients down, sadly.  I decided to have the Snow Crab Avocado Roll (basically a California roll) and the Sweet and Sour Calamari for dinner, and I have to say that it was THE BEST calamari I've ever had.  They slice the calamari length-wise, and they are lightly battered and fried as usual.  Served with a wasabi sauce and a sweet and sour sauce, I could have ordered two of these and been perfectly happy with both of them.  Seriously - if you go, have the calamari, because you won't regret a single bite. Total was $47.56 + tip, so I came in a little below the "$60 per person average" they advertise on their website.  
Coco-Ichigo
Avocado Crab Roll
The delicious Sweet and Sour Calamari
While waiting for LOVE at 9:30, I played my mom's $20 on Fireball.  I played, and played, and played...and finally cashed out with $60.  I cashed her ticket and put the money aside to call her in the morning and see what she'd like for me to do with her winnings.
Here Comes the Sun, dee da dee dee...
On to LOVE for the sixth time (I think), compliments of myVegas.  Nothing really to tell there, because the show hasn't changed much over the years, but it is always fantastic and I could see it on every trip.  I think I had a perfect seat in Row O, Seat 16, Section 200 - right in the middle.  I did order a large alcoholic drink before I went in, which I regret only because it was so very, VERY LARGE and hard to finish.  $20 for a drink called "Here Comes the Sun" when I should have ordered the $12 version and been just as happy.  I did finish most of it, but that was a lot of alcohol for me.  Off to bed.
An illegal photo at LOVE.  Great seat.
Sunday, July 20th
The BEST breakfast view!
I did have my "usual" meal on this trip, and I'm certain I will have it again: breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi in Paris.  I love sitting on the patio in the early morning, watching the people walk (or run) by, and enjoying the weather before it gets too hot to sit outside. This time I got to see someone get thrown out of Paris.  Dumb ass wouldn't just leave, either; he had to keep egging the security guards on, and they ended up chasing him down the Strip, past Bally's.  This time I ordered the lemon crepe special, which is topped with fresh strawberries and dark chocolate drizzles.  I ordered a side of bacon like I always do when I order something sweet for breakfast, a mimosa and coffee.  I did use my TR points by getting a $40 voucher before I went into the restaurant, and I only ended up spending $32.30 (plus a cash tip), so they put the $7.70 back on my Total Rewards account almost immediately after my meal.  It was already there when I sat down to play a Blazing 7's machine less than 10 minutes later, which is awesome.
Lemon crepes with fresh strawberries and dark chocolate drizzle...
plus a side of bacon!
I also played Moo-La-La at Paris to see if it still liked me, but it was apparently not awake yet, so I took my longest round-trip of this vacation:  I walked to Bellagio and took the tram back to Aria in order to pick up my ticket to Zarkana (courtesy of myVegas) for the evening, then redeemed a myVegas reward for Jean Phillipe's chocolate mousse and checked out a few machines for later in the afternoon before taking the same trip in reverse.  I actually ended up taking a nap around 1 p.m. because I hadn't slept soundly the night before, and I would be at the late showing of Zarkana and have to make the whole trip all over again that night.
Inside the Aria elevator at the tram station
When I walked through Bellagio on my second trip to Aria, I noted the Bejeweled machines over near the Petrossian Bar and decided I would try them later so that I could report back to Bonnie, since Bejeweled is one of her favorite things.  As requested by my mom, I put $20 of her winnings away, kept $20 for myself and put her other $20 in Fireball at Bellagio.  Although I played for quite a while, I did not have the same result as I'd had at The Mirage, and so she only got her original $20 back.  (As a side note, when I tried to put MY $20 in the Fireball machines, they just laughed and ate them up quickly.  They apparently only enjoyed rewarding my mom's $20 bills.)

Back at Aria, I had a reservation at Lemongrass.  Tonight's drink was called the Pink Leopard.  It was my favorite drink of the trip.  Made with Ketel One, pama juice, yuzu puree and fresh sour with ground pomegranate seeds.  Yummy!  I could have had a second one, but decided that was probably not a good idea, after all.  Dinner was an order of the vegetable spring rolls (tasty, but I probably could have done without them, because I was extremely full before the show) and the Black Pepper Prawns, which were delicious and very spicy.  Total was $48.65 + tip.  Lemongrass is a nice, quiet restaurant, tucked away in a back corner of the casino, and even though most of the tables were full at 6:30 p.m., it was very low-key and not noisy at all.  I'd love to go back.
The Pink Leopard - delicious!
Vegetable Spring Rolls - too much food...
Black Pepper Prawns
While waiting for my late show, I tried the new Bridesmaids slot machines in Aria.  A lady sat down at the one next to me and proceeded to go through her $20 really quickly, but I got lucky and had lots of little bonuses and had a great time.  Really an entertaining machine if you get the bonuses, but aren't they all?  I also tried the Jurassic Park community slot machines, which were also a lot of fun, and all of us were hitting multiple bonuses and really having a good time.  I did not see either machine anywhere else I went during this trip, but I wasn't looking really hard for them, either.
Thank you, myVegas!
Zarkana was a really good show.  As a myVegas reward, I chose the 78,000 coin seat and was not disappointed.  Plus I found out that I had my friend Sandy's EXACT SEAT: Section 105, Row A, Seat 1.  Great seat, just to the right of center.  Unlike LOVE, where you are admonished for even THINKING of taking a photo, you are actually encouraged to take photos as long as you don't use a flash.  The pre-performance actors (who are also part of the show) posed for all kinds of photos with the audience members, and in hindsight I should have gotten one myself.  The emcee gave me a little French greeting and kissed my hand, so it's not like I didn't have a chance to talk to any of them.  The whole show is based on a defunct circus that's come back to life, and it's very entertaining.  Had I seen it before I'd seen LOVE I might have liked it even more, but it was really worth it and I'd see it again if I took someone else to share the experience.  I would recommend it to anyone.
Theater entrance for Zarkana

The view from my seat at Zarkana
Back on the tram and over to Bellagio, where I took some late night photos of the Conservatory.  I did this because I wasn't too keen on the overall display, so I thought maybe the photos would look better after dark.  Maybe...somewhat.  Unfortunately, there were two large groups of Japanese tourists in the Conservatory at the same time, so trying to see anything without being in someone's way was almost impossible.  I tried the Bejeweled slots and didn't hit any bonuses, and also played $20 through The Walking Dead slots without cringing (I don't know why I want to play them when I'm not fond of zombies at all).

Bellagio Conservatory photos at night:







A bit of gambling at Caesars, where my other Moo-La-La slots are located back near the Bacchanal Buffet, but nothing to report there.  Caesars had the most crowded casino on the Strip during this trip, but even so there weren't a ton of people around at any given time.  I didn't spend a lot of time there, which is unusual, because I really enjoy the atmosphere at Caesars and find myself going back a few times each trip.  Late night gambling at The Quad, where I found a True Blood machine open and managed to hit Sookie's Progressive for $563.12 before bed.  Yay!  That makes me up for the trip, which is always a good thing.
My photo timing was off, LOL!

Monday, July 21st
I do love Caesars Palace!
I finally made it to Serendipity 3 at Caesars, and I was not impressed at all.  I had a spinach, avocado, mozzarella and egg white omelet with a coffee.  While the coffee was okay (it wasn't very hot), the spinach in my omelet was all bunched together, with the pieces not cut up at all, and it really didn't have any real flavor.  I know, I know: it's spinach and egg whites.  But still, no flavor at all.  I left more than half of it.  Total for this meal was $22.70 + tip.  Not going back.
No flavor at Serendipity 3 :(
On to Cosmopolitan, where my goal for the morning was to find Claire's favorite bartender at The Henry and get a good photo of him.  I did find him, briefly...before he apparently went on break or left, I'm not sure.  I lurked around for a bit and he didn't come back, so I gave up and went to find something to play.  (Note to Claire: he wasn't there an hour later, and not 3 hours after that, when I came back through to check.  Next time...)  I found a Beetlejuice slot which was very rude to me, but like the Bridesmaids machine at Aria the day before, the guy who sat down next to me got bonus after bonus, which allowed him to play on and on.  I spent my $20 and watched his bonuses before wishing him luck and moving on.  Oh, look - more True Blood machines!  I sat down and played  and played and played, and cashed out $100 about an hour later.  Thanks, Cosmo! 
Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!
Didn't work for me...
I'd found an old school Lobstermania machine at Planet Hollywood in March that let me play for a looooong time, so I found it again, over near YOLO.  It let me play for a bit, but no great wins, so I went to find something else.  Ruby Slippers 2 here had some bonuses, but nothing that let me play for too long there, either, because I apparently can't pick things in this bonus round that give me more than 50 coins.  No seats at the regular Wizard of Oz machines OR The Hangover slots, so I finally gave up and went over to Paris because nothing else looked interesting to me.  More Moo-La-La slots with some really good bonuses, and some high limit slots that I put aside $100 to run through.  I played a Five Times Pay $1 slot, but couldn't get back above $50, so I tried a $1 Blazing Sevens machine that took the rest of my high limit cash and gave up.  Boo.

Over at Flamingo I found Grease Pink Ladies slots.  Haven't seen those before.  Once again, I had a good seat and the poor girl next to me had crap.  She went through her money quickly, while I played my $20 through several of Frenchy's bonuses.  Cute, but I didn't hit any of the other bonuses, so I have no idea what they are like.  Back to Harrah's to play some Lobstermania2 progressives, The Hangover and Triple 7's before dinner.  Up and down, but nothing really to note.  I got dressed for dinner at Giada's at The Cromwell.
The elevator area in The Cromwell -
this leads to Giada's if you can't take the escalator.
I like the changes to Bill's old casino, but it was very dead inside at 5 p.m.  They have at least 4 separate bar and lounge areas now, which is a lot for a small casino like that.  Some old machines, some new machines, but I played just a bit on some older reel slots before I went up the escalator for my dinner reservation.  
The restaurant view from my table by the window.
I plan on doing a more complete report on Giada's, but it was the overall highlight meal of the trip.  From the moment I walked in until I left a full TWO HOURS LATER, I had great, personal service, wonderful conversations with employees, a beautiful view, and fantastic food.  A bread basket with accompaniments start your meal, and I ordered a drink called the Barbarella: Tanqueray, orange spice, ginger beer, lemon, and basil foam.  Very good.  After I talked it over with my waiter, Frederick, I decided I would have three appetizers instead of one plate, and he helped me choose the Marscapone and Tarragon Shrimp Scampi (delicious) and the Wild Mushrooms (very good and garlicky), and my own choice of the Orzo Meatballs, which were served in a red sauce and were so light and delicious that I ate all five of them all first.  When I'd placed my order, Frederick brought me a glass of prosecco "to welcome you to Giada's home".  I think I'm in love with prosecco, too!  Another gentleman brings the dessert cart to every table - that's his only job: to peddle desserts.  So many choices!  There were more than 12 desserts that he walked me through, and I ended up with two selections: cookies (one risotto cookie - a Giada signature - and one blackberry cookie with peanut butter-unusual but tasty), plus two Capezzoli de Venere, or "Nipples of Venus", which are filled with a chocolate ganache, chestnuts and truffles.  I'd only heard about them from the movie Amadeus, so I wanted to try them just because of that.  He really wanted me to try one of the cakes, but I was so full by that time that I thought I might explode.  Total bill was $76.75 + tip, and worth every penny.  I will be taking my mother and daughter back in December.  
Barbarella!
The bread selection and accompaniments. 
My breads, a glass of prosecco, the meatballs, scampi (top right) and wild mushrooms (bottom)
Top: risotto cookie
Bottom: blackberry peanut butter cookie
Right: Nipples of Venus
I took a long, slow walk back to Harrah's to change into more comfy (read: stretchy) pants, and played all around The Quad and Harrah's again.  As usual, The Hangover slots tried to take all of my money, but Lobstermania2 let me hit a couple of the smaller progressives to keep me playing for a while.  I finally gave up around 1 a.m., since I had to leave for the airport at 7:30 a.m., and went to pack up.
Gratuitous shot of Paris
Oh, how I love Vegas at night!
Last thoughts:

The weather was perfect - right at 100 degrees every day, so not very bad for the latter part of July.  I came back only $150 down, so that's definitely a win for me!  Next trip will be in December with mom and Hayley to see all the Christmas decorations, eat and possibly see more shows (if they're not dark).  This was a nice, quiet solo trip that I needed for my own mental health and well-being...nothing wrong with that.

Viva Las Vegas!