Thursday, May 8, 2008

I've Been Vegasized

Make that "Vegas-sized." Yes, I just got back from a 3 day trip to Vegas for work and am at least 3 pounds heavier than I was when I left. Granted, I am pregnant but even for a pregnant woman that's a bit much! But things are bigger and better in Vegas... so why shouldn't I join in on the fun?

I have to admit that when I first heard I had to go to L.V. during my 5th month of pregnancy I was not especially looking forward to it. Also known as "Sin City," I would certainly not be partaking in all that the oasis in the desert had to offer... But then I remembered that Vegas has changed quite a bit in the 15 years since I visited. Luxury hotels and fine dining dominate the scene now - you'd be hard pressed to find a steak and lobster dinner for $8.99 like the one I remember having on my first visit. Nearly every restaurant features one of the world's top chefs. With a little planning, Las Vegas has the potential to be an epicureans dream.

With that in mind, I set off to plan my culinary tour of the city. First, I booked my stay at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay and scheduled an early flight so that I would have time to dip my toes in one of America's best pools before having to work. THEhotel has plush accomodations, with very dark and contemporary decor - it was often hard to tell if the lights were on but perfect if you're planning to have a hangover the whole time you're in Vegas. And so after checking in and doing a quick change into my bathing suit, my culinary adventure began with Thai spring rolls by the pool that satisfied my hunger after waiting at the airport cab stand for 2 hours. Maybe it was the cross-country flight and the long wait for a cab, but those were the best spring rolls I'd ever eaten.

Two of my favorite hot spots during my visit:

  • Bouchon - I'm usually very skeptical of french food (I often think it's overrated) but this is a Thomas Keller restaurant and arguably one of the best eats in the country. I expected it to be very stuffy but the atmosphere very lively. My table of four and I shared the pate de champagne and rillettes aux deux saumons (fresh smoked salmon on toast points). Though not generally a pate lover, I had to make a conscious effort to share this with my colleagues and restrain my hand from stealing the whole plate. The salmon was also delicious with a smoky but clean finish. For dinner I selected the Boudin Blanc - a white sausage with potato puree and prunes - knowing that I would never make fresh sausage myself and if I did, it probably wouldn't be this good. I was correct. The rest of my table ordered the Truite aux Amandes (pan-roasted trout) and all of them raved. Though I was completely sated from my meal, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share dessert - profiteroles, or puff pastries filled with vanilla bean ice cream and covered with chocolate, and a selection of sorbets. Overall, Bouchon lived up to its reputation and left me with fond memories.
  • Zefferino - It seems unthinkable to me not to eat Italian while in Las Vegas, so that's what I did. Every hotel had at least one restaurant to choose from, but after reading reviews I settled on Zefferino's in the Venetian Hotel. I immediately took to the history of the place really enjoyed it's authenticity - I'm convinced that there were actual Italians working there in all capacities, which is unusual for any Italian eatery in DC. The service was excellent and the food was wonderful, too. My seafood pasta offered rich scallops and shrimp that were cooked perfectly (much appreciated after one too many meals with tough, fishy-tasting seafood).

Although it will be a while, I'm already excited about my next trip to Vegas and where I will eat - any recommendations?

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