Archive for August, 2009

Bradstreet Crafthouse Restaurant

August 31, 2009

Kristen and I hadn’t met up in far too long, and we wanted to try a new venue, so we chose Bradstreet in the Graves 601 Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

There were three seating areas. One was a row of tables and booths in the restaurant area, one was around the kitchen, and one was at the bar. We chose the bar, because we wanted to learn more about the way the drinks were made.

I had heard that they take their mixology very seriously, and do they ever. They had a row of medicine droppers and vials along the back of the bar, and the vials contained specially blended bitters. The row of bottles was unlike any other I’d seen. I recognized a few familiar names (Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray), and many uncommon ones that I would soon come to love (hello, St. Germain liqueur).

I started with a Pimm’s Cup (Pimms #1, Lime, Tanqueray Gin, Mint, Cucumber, Strawberry), while Kristen opted for the Juliet & Romeo (Plymouth, Lime, Mint, Cucumber, Rose Water).  The drinks were fresh and aromatic. To drink at Bradstreet is an experience, from the way the bartenders mix the cocktails, to the visually pleasing presentation, to the unique smells and tastes of the cocktails. They have elevated mixology to an art form.

They are generous with the samples, too. One of the bartenders was creating a new drink for fall, and we tested it for him. It was delicious and whiskey-based — smoky and spicy with a creamy finish, even though there was no cream in the drink. Kristen said it tasted like the smell of the air when people are burning leaves.

For our next round, Kristen got the Black Walnut Old Fashioned (Bulleit Bourbon, Demerara Syrup, Nux Alpina Black Walnut Liqueur, House Orange Bitters), while I had the Son of a Preacher (a bunch of tasty stuff topped with absinthe). Both drinks were served in old fashioned glasses, with a giant sphere of ice in the middle. The large piece of ice serves two purposes: 1. For us to spin really fast while the bartenders finish making the rest of the drinks and 2. It melts more slowly, so it keeps the drink cool without watering it down.

For food, we had the Spicy Marcona Almonds with paprika, the crab cakes with honey fillo, and the spicy lamb sliders. Everything was delicately prepared and delicious. The almonds were a great starter and very flavorful. The crab cakes were seared to form the slightest crispy crust on the outside, and the honey fillo complemented the crab perfectly. The lamb sliders were incredible, and so were the fries and house-made ketchup.

We finished with dessert drinks. I was all set to order the Cooper’s Union (made with my new favorite St. Germain liqueur, which tastes like lychee), when the bartender stopped me and said he’d make me something else. The result was one of the most amazing drinks I’ve ever had in my life. He called it the Girls Can Tell (after an album by Spoon), and it contained strawberry, grapefruit, St. Germain, bitters, special bitters, and club soda. It was fresh and complex and herby and fruity and wonderful. And the cool thing is, if he were to make it again, it would turn out slightly different, so it was like lightning in a bottle (only much more tasty and less life-threatening).

We chatted briefly with a woman from Chicago. She ordered Amstel Lights because she had a presentation to give in the morning. We asked the bartenders if anyone ever came in and ordered rum and Coke. They said people did, but often they hear it’s the best rum and Coke the customer has ever had. They use small bottles of Coke, which tastes different (and better) than Coke from a can or gun.

The evening went far too quickly, even though we were there for five and a half hours. This is my new favorite bar and I can’t wait to return (especially if Ethan and Birk are working).

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Smashburger

August 23, 2009

About a month ago, I picked up a copy of Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine’s burger issue. They had several different burger categories, but Smashburger won the “Thin Burger” category and had the highest overall score.

Smashburger opened a store in Roseville in Har Mar Mall on August 19th, and because it was only a five-minute drive from our house, Tim and I thought we’d investigate. And are we ever glad we did.

We went around 4:15, and there was no line. By the time we left, the line stretched halfway through the restaurant. We ordered at the register. They gave us our beer and a number, and we found a booth to sit in. Our food was delivered a few minutes later. I took pictures to capture the moment, then we dove in and experienced meat ecstasy.

I ordered the Smashburger 1/3 Pound Burger and Smash Fries:

Smashburger 1/3 Pound Burger and Smash Fries

Tim ordered the Twin Cities Smashburger and Smash Fries:

Twin Cities Smashburger and Smash Fries

Things I love about Smashburger:

  • The burgers are delicious. I just tried to eat my monitor as I was uploading the photos. They are juicy, but not greasy. I’m not sure what’s in the smash sauce on the 1/3 pound burger, but I want more of it. The burger is a little messy, but not enough to be bothersome, and the bun is sturdy enough to make it through most of the meal. The vegetable toppings are fresh and crisp.
  • The fries are phenomenal. They are flavored with rosemary, olive oil, garlic, and herbs. I could not stop eating them even though I was slightly full from the burger.
  • The booths are long, so you can fit at least three people on each side.
  • The burgers come in 1/3 lb. and 1/2 lb. choices, depending on the amount of meat you want.
  • The prices are very reasonable ($4.99 for a burger, $1.79 for fries, and $2.99 for beer). I’ve paid much more for burgers that weren’t half as flavorful.
  • The service was friendly.
  • They serve beer, and I was very pleased to see that they had Summit represented.

Things I do not love about Smashburger:

I need to increase the amount of time I’m working out because I’m going to be stopping here often. While their milkshakes did not bring me to their yard, they looked extremely tempting.

Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den

August 18, 2009

Last night, Tim called out from the other room, “Have you heard of the new zombie bar?” The Star Tribune had an article about Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den, and I eagerly devoured every word like brains. A repeating theme, in addition to zombies, was the Vegasy vibe.

I had to check this place out. As luck would have it, I had planned to get together with a couple friends at another establishment, but after e-mailing them with a list of reasons, we changed the venue (and a need for the diehard Vikings fan in our group to drown her sorrows over The Favre Incident).

I got lost on the way (note: do not confuse 2nd St NE with 2nd St N), but after a minor detour, I arrived at the bar. It was dimly lit, except when the outside door would open and occasionally splash everyone with sunshine. It smelled of fresh paint and carpet, and it looked fabulous. A mirrored disco ball pattern lined the wall, and the floor was covered in a tiger carpet pattern.

Donny Dirk's Zombie Den

I ordered the Donny Dirk, which is like a Brandy Alexander with chocolate ($6).

Donny Dirk from Donny Dirk's Zombie Den

I also tried a cherry champagne cocktail ($5).

Champagne Cocktail from Donny Dirk's Zombie Den

The champagne cocktails come in other flavors, including peach, aromatic, and rhubarb (which I also got to sample, and it was quite refreshing).

Donny Dirk’s does not serve food (although they have a fine snack mix available in ashtray-sized portions), but you can use a red phone to order from the menu at Psycho Suzi’s nearby.

The drinks were reasonably priced and tasty. They had a huge selection of beer, wine, and liquor. One option is to mix your own beverage (for $9), and they’ll keep it on file for you. I was tempted to pull out some Diamond Lounge favorites, but not without a layer of food to absorb it first.

The service was outstanding. We sat in a booth, and our waitress was very attentive and pleasant. She reminded me (both in dress and in the high quality of service) of the waitresses at the Peppermill in Vegas.

One of my friends, who is a major zombie aficionado, suggested that they add more zombie items to the decor, like a Winchester over the bar. We did notice a glass-encased chainsaw on the way out (“break glass in case of zombie attack”), and the bartenders were dressed like Shaun of the Dead, and they had zombie movies (with boobs!) playing on the flat-screen TVs at each end of the bar.

A fun place, and I hope to visit again soon.

Vegas Trip – July 2009, Day 6

August 17, 2009

Sunday, July 20, 2009

We had breakfastes at the Augustus Cafe. I ordered the Augustus breakfast with eggs, ham, sausage, bacon, hash browns, and pancakes for $17. Pancakes are underrated. So is maple syrup, especially when it’s mixed with salty meats. Mmmmm.

I still had gambling urges, so I played Gold Fish slots until it was time to check out and won $10.

We took a cab to airport, and the cabbie was a really nice guy. He talked about the City Center development and how badly it’s needed for the Vegas economy. It’s so big it will have its own fire station. Speaking of emergencies, he also said that two people were checking out of Caesars yesterday and had to be carried away by ambulance. Crazy. From the heat. Or something.

At the airport, I made the mistake of playing the Wheel of Fortune slots. It teased me with the 1000 bonus on the wheel, but gave me 25. Bastards. I lost $10 on wheel and dwvp so I was even for the day.

I was a little cranky on the way home, as usual. The airplane had really small aisles, so I kept getting bumped by beverage carts, flight attendants, and people en route to bathroom. Luckily, there were no delays and it was a smooth flight, so we arrived exhausted but safe.

Vegas Trip – July 2009, Day 5

August 17, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

While I played bonus poker at Caesars, a woman near us on the Wizard of Oz machines was freaking out. She was yelling something about going over the rainbow. I did a stealthy walk-by, and she won about $170 on a bonus round, which was exciting, but not enough to scream over. By the way she was acting, we thought she had won the whole thing.

We had breakfast at the walk-up counter at Payard. We each had a salmon, cream cheese, and chive sandwich on pretzel bread. I ordered orange juice. which was ridiculously priced at $6, but I was thirsty. Water was $5, so for an extra $1 I got additional flavor and pulp and vitamin C with my beverage.

Salmon Sandwich on Pretzel Bread

I played a little more bonus poker. I didn’t win, but I played for a long time. If I can’t win, at least let me lose slowly.

We had coupons for two free frozen hot chocolates at Serendipity 3. They are full of win (really, see below). And chocolate. They are normally $8 each for 16 oz, but I would definitely pay for them again. The restaurant was busy, so we stopped by the window to pick them up, then we sat under the canopy outside Caesars.

It had been a few minutes since we’d gambled, so we walked back down to Planet Hollywood. I lost $20 on dwvp, then switched to bonus poker and hit the royal. Awesome.

My slot card decided to stop working, so I went to the booth to get a new one. I was rewarded with $10 in free play and two free buffets. I played Elvis slots with the free play and cashed out $15.

We had the P Ho buffet for dinner. They close down the food between 3:30 and 4 to set up for dinner. We got there at 3 and were able to finish. There was quite a run on the dessert bar. We passed on sweets, opting for liquid dessert  (chocolate martinis) at the bar upstairs and even more at the Paris Diamond Lounge.

We finally tried the infamous Merlot Martini. This has been an ongoing joke between us and Frank the server for ages, but we were pleasantly surprised at how good it was (then again, it was one of Sal’s concoctions, so we shouldn’t have been).

Merlot Martini

After bidding the Diamond Lounge a fond farewell, we went down to O’Sheas, where Tim programmed “She Bangs” to play 14 times in a row. Unfortunately the beer pong players thwarted our Ricky-roll and programmed a bunch of pseudo rap and paid more for priority status, so we only heard the song once. We have a strategy for next time, though.

We were craving meat, so we went to BLT Burger in Mirage. Tim got a burger and an adult milkshake, while I got the classic angus burger and skinny fries. Tasty.

Burger and Fries at BLT Burger

I went to bed, but Tim stayed up to gamble more, because he had consumed several energy drinks from the minibar in the room earlier. The next morning, I caught the gambling bug and I wished I had done the same.

Vegas Trip – July 2009, Day 4

August 17, 2009

Saturday, July 18, 2009

We decided to try the breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi, and we were not disappointed. We sat outside on the patio. The keys to the MAG patio are sitting in the shade and not getting waffle prints on your legs from the chairs. Then it’s very pleasant.

I had a delicious crepe with bacon, eggs, and cheese, along with freshly squeezed orange juice.

Crepes at Mon Ami Gabi

The weather was perfect, and we enjoyed looking at Bellagio (even though the fountains weren’t going that early) and the City Center construction.

After breakfast, we headed over to P Ho for some gambling. It was a great idea, because I hit a royal on a nickel dwvp machine by the poker nook. When the machine started slowing down, I cashed out with a tidy profit and went up to the room to check out and take 50 room pictures. Video poker called again, so I played some more and cashed out even.

We rewarded ourselves for our gambling efforts by visiting the Paris Diamond lounge again.

We needed some food to break up the beverages, so we walked over to Ellis Island for their steak dinner special for $7.77. It came with beer (we chose the Hefe Weiss, which was delicious), salad, baked potato, green beans, and steak. It was a great value and well worth the walk.

Salad and Hefe Weiss Beer at Ellis Island

Steak Special at Ellis Island

We were in the mood to see another show, so we visited the Harrah’s box office. We were going to see Legends, but they were sold out. We got tickets for Human Nature at Imperial Palace, and were glad we did.

We still had plenty of time before the show, so we played the new Jaws slots at Venetian. I was confused by them, but I’m not sure if it was the slot design or my inebriated state. Venetian had some tacky holes on the outside walls where they had removed banners but didn’t replace them with anything else. I also noticed that I used to love the Venetian smell, but it was too potent for me this time.

We stopped at the Harrah’s Diamond Lounge on our way to Imperial, and had a mudslide and an interesting drink called the “Back to the future north to alaska frozen tundra purple passion mother trucker.” It contains Jack Daniels, amaretto, chambord, Southern Comfort, sweet and sour, vodka, seven, and champagne. Really potent, as expected.

Drinks at Harrah's Diamond Lounge

We were really impressed by Human Nature in the Imperial Palace showroom. One person described it as “four white guys from Australia singing Motown,” which is accurate, but they have tremendous respect and passion for the Motown catalogue. They had a solid backing band and did great a capella work too, and they had a ton of energy. I would highly recommend the show to anyone who likes Motown. They had the whole crowd singing and dancing along.

After the show, we went to the Seahorse bar at Caesars Palace. We sipped vodka/sodas while watching chicks work the poles in the Pussycat Dolls pit.

We wanted to go somewhere secluded, because Saturday night on The Strip can be crazy town, so we decided to check out the Sin City Brewery at Flamingo. It was tucked away in the back on the way to the monorail station, so it had a few people stopping but it wasn’t crowded at all. We tried the Amber beer, the Weisse beer, and the light beer. The Weisse beer was definitely the best, but the Amber beer was very pretty.

Amber Beer at Sin City Brewing Co.

I vaguely remember helping Tim with his new stand-up act, which mostly involved insulting me, so that wasn’t cool. Some guys from the Air Force stopped by with a falcon head from their mascot, and we all took turns posing with them.

We desperately needed some food before bedtime, so we went to the Augustus Cafe. A chicken quesadilla did the trick. We stumbled back to our room at Caesars and slept.

Vegas Trip – July 2009, Day 3

August 17, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

I felt a little better about our room. It had nice Gilchrist and Soames bath products, which were nicer than the normal Harrah’s soaps and shampoos. And the room was a decent size, and it was clean, and it was larger than any other Caesars room we’d had. Not saying that anything that happened during our check-in process was right, but I won’t feel salty about the room because of it.

For breakfastes, we ate at Payard in their restaurant section, just around the corner from their counter. I ordered a broccoli, tomato, and cheese quiche. It was very good, but a little on the expensive side for breakfast (around $25 per person).

Payard Patisserie Quiche

We went over to Planet Hollywood to gamble. I lost a little, but I was able to play for a long time, so I felt sufficiently entertained.

We had reservations for noon at the Diamond Lounge, and we were a little thirsty, so off we went. When I was in the bathroom, the guy next to Tim said “your wife sure can drink.” They had seen us on a previous trip and had a similar thought. I told Tim he should have replied that this was our equivalent of the drinking olympics. We don’t do this at home, really. At least not every weekend.

We took a break from the beverages and played some more at Planet Ho. I found a decent video poker machine by the live poker area.

We were both fading, so we went up to our P Ho room for a brief nap before our show at 8:00. After we woke up, we watched the Luck Be a Lady fountain show as the sun was setting.

We had tickets for Peepshow on the main floor in Row W seats 126 & 127. The theatre was sparse. The section on the main floor with tables was about half full, while the theatre seats farther back was less than 1/3 full. The middle section was the only one with people, and there were still several empty rows.

If you haven’t seen Peepshow, it contains a lot of boobs. A lot. Picture as many boobs as you can, then picture some more. When I walked out, I felt a little too clothed. And then I thought every woman I saw was going to take her top off in the next five minutes, and I was wondering if I was supposed to do the same. It took a while for my brain to return to normal.

Holly Madison was a good performer as the main Bo Peep character, although it was hard to believe the beginning of the story that she was spending a Saturday night alone without a date. She didn’t have a lot to do in the show, but she basically had to stand there and look good and she did that well.

Shoshana Bean was excellent as the Peep Diva. She was a strong singer and had a great, sassy stage presence. She was the glue that held the show together, and I wish she had been on stage more often.

The show weaves a story of Bo Peep falling asleep and having really weird dreams about nursery rhymes, interspersed with scenes of the Peep Diva trying to find her a man. After a while, I found myself thinking, “Okay, we haven’t seen boobs in the last three minutes. There’s no way this song is ending without boobs.” And sure enough, someone (or several someones) would find her top too constricting and whip it off.

The most vivid scene was the Milkshake song, with ladies writhing in a vat of fake milk and pressing various parts against the glass. Ending, of course, with boobs.

There were a couple mildly disturbing scenes, when Bo Peep’s dog comes alive as a male dancer, and when a girl sang about her teddy bear (again, ending with boobs). The show culminated with Holly Madison taking center stage, and you’ll never guess what she did. (Hint: It involves her upper half.)

Me: “I close my eyes and I see boobs.”
Tim: “Now you know how I feel every day.”

After the show, we had dinner at Planet Dailies I had mac and cheese, which was incredible, even though the portion was about five times more than what I could eat.

There were tons of people in the casino waiting to get into Prive (which closed a few weeks later due to illegal activity). The foot traffic was badly set up, with people blocking the aisles with their posing. It might have made more sense to have the line upstairs because there was plenty of room up there, but I’m sure the casino hoped that a few people would be lured from the lines to gamble.

Vegas Trip – July 2009, Day 2

August 17, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We had breakfastes at Wynn buffet. The cheesy hash brown balls are little pieces of heaven. I also had an omelet with spinach, tomatoes, peppers, cheese, and egg whites. For meat, I grabbed a surprisingly tasty piece of chicken sausage with apples, and some surprisingly not tasty pieces of bacon. That was OK because I needed room for other things. Muesli and strawberries w/ granola were a fantastic end to the meal.

Breakfastes at Wynn Buffet

Tim had a $25 credit for his room stay, so I watched him play bonus poker. I was very content, and it was like meditation. My brain unwound a little, and it felt really good.

We went back to the room to pack. The only service glitch at Wynn occurred when we called down to have them take our bags, and nobody came. We waited for about a half hour, then brought our bags down ourselves and headed for Caesars.

We checked in at Caesars Diamond registration, and immediately the level of service took a dive. Let’s just say the lady working there wasn’t too happy with her life and was unnecessarily snippy. Our conversation went something like this:

Tim: “Hi, we’d like to check in. Originally we had an Emperor’s Suite but got a confirmation that it had been changed to an Augustus Tower room, and we were wondering if anything else was available.”

Clerk: “We’re completely sold out, and this room is all we have.”

[This was on a Thursday, in July. Typically a very slow time. And there were no major conventions or concerts or fights in town. Just had to be said.]

Me: “Well, would you be able to give us a Strip view?”

Clerk: “This room doesn’t have a view.”

Me: “What?”

Clerk: “This room doesn’t have a view. I don’t have that information. You’d be better off taking this room because we’re sold out and it might be gone in the next 30 seconds.”

So we begrudgingly took the room. It was a nice room, but my initial perception of it was soured by our check-in experience. We checked into room 2877 in the Augustus Tower. I opened the drapes and peered through the dirty window. I could see the Palace Tower and the Forum Tower. So instead of giving us an upgrade to the Emperor’s Suites, she gave us a room with a view of those suites, through a dirty window, no less. What a nice touch.

We walked over to O’Sheas to console ourselves with beverages.  I had a cape cod and rum/diet. Tim looked at the jukebox and got a crazy idea to put lots of money in the jukebox and Ricky Martin roll the beer pong playas later.

As we walked past the former Barbary Coast, we noticed a $9.99 all you can eat Chinese food special. We wanted to get more details but never did.

Bally’s had a Miller Lite kiosk set up outside the main entrance. The prices changed every time we walked by, although we never considered buying any.

We played some video poker at Planet Ho. Their playlist ranged from “You Better You Bet” by The Who (very appropriate) to “Let’s Go All the Way” by Sly Foxx (not so much). There were no  cocktail waitresses in my vicinity for an hour. I had a screwdriver and a bottled water at the Extra Lounge, where Tim had relocated.

We also had a room at Planet Hollywood through a player’s club promotion. We checked into room 3087, which had a nice view of the Bellagio fountains, Paris, and City Center.

However, the room and the window were really small, and there was no door on the toilet (just the main bathroom), which could be awkward.

We had a late lunch/early dinner at the Spice Market buffet so we could have a good base in our stomachs before our trip downtown. We arrived at about 3:45 but weren’t seated until after 4:00. They were changing over the food from lunch to dinner.

We took a cab to the Golden Nugget and walked to The Griffin just past the end of the Fremont Street canopy. I have a new favorite bar. Tim has a new favorite bartender. Her name was Laura, and she made fantastic beverages. We had a Hard Palmer, which was sweet tea vodka and lemonade, and it went down quite smoothly. She also made a honeydew martini, which was like a cosmopolitan but made with honeydew vodka. The Griffin had a great jukebox with songs ranging from classic rock (The Who) to modern rock (The Fratellis, The Hold Steady). The bar was dimly lit, and there were leather couches surrounding a fire pit. The bar was empty when we walked in around 5:00, but the bartender said that it picked up later and was packed around 10:00. We didn’t make it back to confirm this. She also said that a lot of the Cirque du Soleil performers hang out there, and when they start getting tipsy it gets a little crazy in there when they decide to do acrobatics.

Drinks at The Griffin

We needed to not drink for a while, so we stumbled over to the Four Queens. I lost $20, but Tim hit four deuces on Deuces Wild. He took his winnings over to the Vegas Club, where he played the Piggy Bankin’ slots and actually won.

We noticed a new trend of dancers in the gambling pits at two unlikely places: Vegas Club and Golden Gate. Vegas Club has a “naughty” theme. Just take your basic Halloween costume (cop, nurse, whatever) and attach “naughty” to it, and there are your pit dancers.

Golden Gate failed us in our quest for nachos, so we walked down to the Main Street Station brew pub, who met that need and provided us with a tasty Belgian beer called Summer Saison.

We mutually agreed that we were not to set foot in La Bayou this evening, because that would only result in disaster.

We ended our evening downtown at Sidebar. They had a swanky cocktail menu with lots of unfmiliar ingredients. I had a cantaloupe martini, which was refreshing and delicious.

Vegas Trip – July 2009, Day 1

August 17, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Some of us might have had a very tasty, yet very strong margarita at Ike’s in the airport before the flight. During the pre-flight spiel, every time they said “flight to Las Vegas,” I wanted to say “Woooooo!!!”

I sat in an aisle seat. Next to me in the middle seat was a guy in his 20s who had never been to Vegas before. Next to him in the aisle seat was a guy in his 50s who had been to Vegas many times, and from what I could hear, those trips were mostly in his dreams. He also seemed very concerned with levels of activity at various casinos. Here are a few words of wisdom I captured before they told us to shut down our electronic devices:

  • “I’ve seen Michael Flaherty group and Stomp.”
  • “I love the Rio, because there’s always something going on. Upstairs at the Rio is party town.”
  • “Oh yeah, Paris is connected to the Venetian. You should walk over there if you have some free time.”
  • “People your age would love the Hard Rock . There’s a lot of activity going on.”
  • “I spent a lot of time at the Palms. That’s a happening place.”
  • “You should take the tram that runs from Mandalay to Bellagio.”

I spent the rest of the flight trying not to laugh or mock him openly. I succeeded.

I took a cab to Wynn. He was about to take the tunnel, but at the last minute I said, “no tunnel” and he took me to Tropicana instead, where traffic was crawling because of the construction. I believe he took this route on purpose and was going to take Tropicana all the way to the Strip, had I not told him to take Koval, which was smooth sailing. The longhaul made me slightly crabby, but my bad mood evaporated once I was at Wynn.

I got my room key at the reservations desk (Tim had already been there for a few days for a convention). As I walked to my room, several staff people said hello and asked how I was doing. A few minutes after I was room 2455, someone knocked on the door. It was another Wynn staffer, asking if everything was okay and if I needed anything. I was a little stunned at the high level of service.

Tim told me later about his service experiences on something as simple as a wake-up call. He would call down to the desk to request a wake-up call. They would ask if he preferred a recording or a live voice. Then they would ask if he wanted a second wake-up call a few minutes later. Then they would ask if there was anything else they could do.

Tim had some more convention duties, so I walked through the Wynn Esplanade in search of some shoes and to see if the Manolo Blahnik sale was indeed for real, and to my joy and amazement, it was!

It really does exist!

I fondled the hell out of some shoes, but didn’t see any cute enough to justify the price. However, I did see a couple pair in their fall collection that I might have to visit in October. We shall see.

I had some amazing fish tacos at sugar and spice. There were three dipping sauces for the chips– two salsa and one guac. One of the salsas had a secret ingredient: crack. I couldn’t stop eating it, and I might have even licked the container.

Fish Tacos at Sugar and Ice

For the first time, I walked to Encore, which was absolutely beautiful and worth the hype. It just felt good to be in there.

I discovered that more restaurants were doing the tasting menus than what had been listed online, including Sinatra and Botero. I suddenly had new options for dinner.

I went back to the room and hung out with Tim for a little while, then I took a short pre-dinner nap.

I decided to go to Botero for dinner, and it did not disappoint. Everything was delicious, and like the other parts of Wynncore, had great service. There were about five people in the restaurant when I arrived, and it was about 1/4 full when I left. It was midweek in July, but still surprising how empty it was. No wonder they had a tasting menu to lure people inside.

The tasting menu was $48 and included three courses. Beverages, tax, and tip were additional.

I ordered a margarita on the rocks for $16. It was delicious.

Bread Basket and Margarita at Botero

They brought out an amuse bouche (pre-appetizer) of a crab cake on a spoon. It was freshly made and very good.

Appetizer at Botero

For my first course, I had the Heirloom Tomato and Melon Salad with Buffalo Cheese. It was so incredible I almost cried. The melons were cut into flowers, and the salad tasted as wonderful as the presentation. It had layers of flavor, enhanced by the tomatoes, cheese, melons, and herbs.

Heirloom Tomato and Melon Salad

My second course was the Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Au Poivre Sauce. It also came with a side of greens, an onion tart, fries, and corn pudding. The steak was cooked to perfection. The corn was the only underwhelming part of the evening, but then I had more room for the other sides. The fries were also perfectly cooked and served with a tangy ketchup, and the tart and greens were a pleasant surprise.

Grilled Flat Iron Steak at Botero

For dessert, I chose the Banana Bread Pudding with Homemade Banana Ice Cream. I had debated getting the vanilla bean milkshake with warm cookies, but the server recommended the bread pudding and I was not disappointed. I love banana bread, and the bread pudding was spectacular.

Banana Bread Pudding at Botero

After my wonderful meal, I wandered around Encore taking photos. I’d heard that the Osbourne family was filming a reality show on the premises, and as I was walking back towards Wynn, I saw Ozzy Osbourne wandering the hallway near Wazuzu. He had someone with him, in case he wandered off, and he looked slightly confused, but he didn’t seem to mind that various people were calling out “Ozzy! You’re awesome!” He looked in their direction, raised his hand slightly, and continued walking in the direction of Society Cafe, which is where I assume he was headed. He was dressed conservatively in a long-sleeved t-shirt, jeans, and his trademark round sunglasses.

Even though he was unassuming, I was so awestruck by him that I almost walked into the men’s room instead of the ladies’. Again, a kind Encore employee pointed me in the right direction.

I walked over to Venetian to check out Sephora and made a couple purchases. I stopped in Barneys and tried on some shoes from their designer clearance rack. That way, I wouldn’t have to bother a salesperson for something I wasn’t likely to buy anyway. The Manolos were surprisingly comfortable for a high heel. The same cannot be said of Christian Louboutin. Ow.

(Note to self for future purchases: I wear a size 40 in Manolos.)

I went back to the room for a bit and waited for Tim to finish work.

We walked through Encore again, stopping at the Southside Bar for a Captain Morgan/Diet Coke. On the way out to the Strip, Tim saw Jack Osbourne, although I missed him because I was looking the other way.

We walked down to Peppermill. I had an oatmeal cookie (my favorite there), and Tim had a chocolate chip cookie, then we each had a cherry vodka/Diet Coke. Wonderful old-school Vegas ambience and great service, as always. The music videos? Not so great. But who cares when the drinks are that good?

We stopped by Stripburger for their late night happy hour. We each had a Pyramid Hefeweizen. Tim ordered sliders, and I had a bite. They were super tasty, as were the fries. We had 2 drinks, 2 sliders, and fries for $12.

It was beautiful outside. There were fans blowing to provide a breeze, and good tunes playing on the sound system. A great way to start the trip.