Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Time in Vegas (or That Time I Got Married) Part I

I finally did it. Em and I got hitched last weekend (on Pi Day!) in Las Vegas. I highly recommend it. We even took our parents with us and they had a great time. And of course, as with all of my travels, there was a lot of emphasis placed on food. This is my second trip to Vegas in about 4 years, and I am very happy to say I fared much better this time around. Word of advice, next time you travel, take some time and do a little bit of research. I plowed through a lot of sites, including Frommers and TripAdvisor, and I found a lot of useful information, not to mention ways to save money.

But before I get to talking about food, a wedding picture :)

Yes, we had a lot of fun. It's so easy to get married in Vegas. Now on to the food!

Wynn Buffet
This is my third trip to Vegas, and it's not complete without a trip to a buffet. We splurged a bit this time, deciding to try the Wynn Buffet (also, this was the hotel we were staying at). Let me just say this was a great decision. Of all the buffets I have been to on the strip, this one easily took the cake. Carving stations of turkey, beef, chicken, pork, and lamb that were surprisingly well cooked. Pasta, ceviche, lots of fish dishes, and scrumptious dumplings were also very welcome. And the staple of any Vegas buffet is of course, the cold bar seafood, where I was not disappointed. The fact that they made an effort to decrease the amount of work for me really made me happy. The shrimp were peeled and the crab legs were already split. And everything tasted really good. For dessert, they were a bit all over the map. However, they always have a fresh station where they make Belgian waffles and crepes. The waffles were traditional yeasty waffles, with fruit and homemade whip cream and a whole lot of tastiness piled on top. They were probably the best thing on the entire buffet.

Donna Maria's Tamales
I'm sure I have made it clear already, but just to recap, I LOVE Mexican food. I will search it out wherever I go. Donna Maria's, well, it’s a really special place. Located off the strip (that's a theme here for really good restaurants), we stopped here for breakfast. First of all, how awesome is it to have chips and salsa with your morning coffee? Pretty sweet, I think. And the food was equally as good. I had carne machaca with eggs, a shredded beef and egg dish served with rice, beans, and tortillas to make nice little breakfast burritos. They were so tasty. However, I defer to my new wife's dish, the chilequiles, which were out of this world good. A spicy tomatillos sauce on top of fresh tortilla chips with cheese? They were great. We even got some tamales, and while the cheese one was just ok, the chicken and green chile tamale reminded me of green corn tamales, a fresher, more moist tamale. Overall, I give this place an A+.

The Egg and I
In my dream world I open a breakfast restaurant. It's small, quaint, and serves really good food. It's pretty much what I walked into with the Egg and I. An off-the-strip joint that serves awesome breakfast, so good there's pretty much always a wait. They had great service, good coffee (which is so hard to find these days in a restaurant), and the food was both great and enormous. I went with my family and we left stuffed for the rest of the day. Good thing too, since we missed lunch due to the wedding =) My mom had blueberry pancakes which could be mounted as tires on a car, my brother had a huge omelet with I believe a whole avocado, and I once again found myself sucked into green chiles by ordering a chile relleño omelet. Four eggs stuffed with chiles and cheese, covered in salsa, cheese, sour cream, and cilantro, and baked. Yes please. Between this and Donna Maria's, I say don’t choose, go to both.

Mesa GrillAs much as I love Bobby Flay, this meal did not quite live up to my expectations. Maybe it's because we went for brunch, where the menu was a bit limited, but I just was not totally thrilled by the meal. The place feels a bit cavernous thanks to sharing the same ceiling as the casino, and the service was meh. The drinks were really good, and I strongly recommend a margarita. The food was just ok though. I had a fish dish with green chile rice. The rice I could have eaten for days, and the fish was well cooked, but the flavors did not mesh with me. I was also a bit peeved that I got a pretty small portion for $23. C'mon Bobby, if you like big flavors, give me a big plate. Everyone else at the table had somewhat of the same opinion, the food was pretty good, but not "oh my gosh" great.

Jodi Maroni's Sausage Kingdom
My second weakness next to Mexican food? Hot dogs. I love hot dogs, and I get one wherever I travel. I read about this place in Frommer's, and tracked it down in a small corner of the New York New York food court. One quick side note here. I think the NYNY has the best ala-carte food in Vegas. They really stick to tradition with pizza, delis, and seafood, and it's all really tasty. Ok, end tangent, back to hot dogs. They sell Italian sausages and really good beef franks, the latter of which we all got, mine Chicago style and the others with just mustard. They were so good, nice and plump and juicy, with a little bit of crisp on the skin. And the fries were great. They double fry! Good for them, and even more so, their cheese fries have actual cheddar baked onto them. If you need a quick lunch or a snack, check this place out.

We ate here our last night in Vegas. If I'm being honest, I would have rather spent the $40 and gone back to the Wynn Buffet and eaten. This restaurant was all about the theme. The décor "switched" every 15 minutes by moving the walls, the wall hangings, and the ceiling to create a new environment, which was pretty neat. We opted to go with the "Taste of the Wynn" menu, something the Wynn has been promoting as a cheaper alternative to fine dining. $60 for a three course meal is a pretty good deal considering that you could easily triple that in other restaurants. However, I was a bit disappointed at not only the limitation of this menu (3 oysters with a cucumber-water "dipping sauce"), but also somewhat with the portions. I feel that by ordering this menu they were purposefully trying to give us the least amount of simple food possible. My main course was a scallop and lobster pastry dish, mildly pleasant if lacking in a robust flavor profile. Em's steak was much better, cooked nicely and satisfying. The dessert was pleasant as well, and kudos for them for the personalized writing on our dishes. However, I still was bit under whelmed by the food, especially compared to the theatrics the restaurant was based on.

I will post the rest (Rosemary's and cake) later this week.


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