Fun Friday

Secrets from the Wynn Hotel:

Olive-Oil Urns in Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare

“Because  olive oil is the foundation of Italian cooking, honoring olive oil was  my inspiration for the design of Bartolotta. The first thing we did was collect these really huge examples of olive-oil urns; we found them all
over, from San Francisco to Florence to London and Rome and Paris, to  Athens and a couple of smaller Greek islands. It took us a little over  a year to assemble the collection, and I believe we ended up with nine  heroically scaled urns, and then several smaller ones; and they’re all anywhere from 100 to 300 years old.

The three largest are located in the stairwell; the whole restaurant was centered around  this grand staircase and it was quite the acrobatic feat to install  them there. As we were installing the largest one it had to be tilted upside down, and when that happened, much to our surprise, a two-page letter fluttered out of it. It was written during World War II, from an Italian woman to her husband. The first page explains how much she and her children love and miss him, while the second page is an account of the household expenses and a request for money. It was like a message in a bottle for us, a lovely kismet moment; we framed the letter and still have it today.”


Jean-Philippe Patisserie, Las Vegas

I was wrong; I have one more Vegas post. I forgot about these photos that I took inside the Bellagio, over at the Jean-Philippe Patisserie. This is the place with the fancy chocolate fountain. I was not able to taste any of the food (due to fullness from other meals), but they all looked fabulous. They even had a few sugar-free selections available!

Bellagio at night

Bellagio at night

Jean-Philippe Patisserie - entrance

Jean-Philippe Patisserie - entrance

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Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery, Las Vegas

When we decided to take a trip to Las Vegas, I knew immediately that I wanted to put a stop at Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s French bistro, at the top of my to-do list. I’ve been dreaming of The French Laundry for years — way before I started this blog, and before Ratatouille (which used his kitchen and food as inspiration) — and this would be my first chance to try any food by Thomas Keller.

Both Bouchon and the Bouchon Bakery are located in the Venetian hotel, but are in two totally different locations.

Just getting to the restaurant is an adventure in itself. Instead of being located in the main part of the hotel itself, the restaurant is actually in the middle of the Venezia Tower and I had to get permission from a security guard to take the hotel guest tower up to the correct floor.

The decor inside the restaurant is amazing; as soon as you step inside you forget you are in a hotel tower and are transported to a French bistro. Tall windows let in plenty of light, the patterned floor draws your eye, and the wood warms the room. Menus are printed on brown paper and wrapped around your napkin.

Bouchon - table settings

Bouchon - table settings

Daily specials are written on a couple of chalkboards – one posted near the entrance and one near the windows.

Bouchon - daily specials

Bouchon - daily specials

Service was warm and efficient, and along with our server we had water service from someone else who I think was the sommelier (but I never asked). Continue reading

What I missed in Las Vegas

This post is more of a note for me for future trip planning than a post for you. But you get to enjoy it anyway.

I was only able to eat so much food while in Las Vegas. And I only had so much money to spend. These are the places that I had on my to-do list, but was not able to visit for various reasons.

Hot N Juicy Crawfish
Aburiya Raku
Bar Charlie
Lindo Michoacan

Coming up next, my last Las Vegas report. Get ready for some Thomas Keller!

Sweet tooth in Vegas

Many years ago, someone gave me a piece of Ferrara Pan‘s Atomic FireBall candy. They’re blazing hot cinnamon jawbreakers, and they’re incredibly hard to find here (and if you do they’re not cheap).

The first full day in Vegas, we took a quick trip to a Smart & Final store, a warehouse Costco-style store that doesn’t require a membership. Along with drinks and a giant box of granola bars, I excitedly grabbed a giant 200 count countain of Atomic FireBalls for about $13 US. It took up a huge chunk of space in my suitcase, but the case is going to last me forever.

Atomic FireBalls

Atomic FireBalls

They also had jars of Lemonheads, but I didn’t want to buy quite that much of a candy that I hadn’t tried before. Instead, at a candy store in the airport, I picked up a few different candies to nibble on while waiting for my flight home.

Vegas candy

Vegas candy

(Sorry about the dry hands! )

The Lemonhead was definitely sour, but I think I prefer the Japanese Nobel Super Lemon candy as that one is much more mouth puckering. Atkinson’s Peanut Butter Bar was like sucking on a piece of peanut butter if it came in a hard form. The Bit-O-Honey is a honey flavoured taffy that has teeny tiny bits of almond embedded in it. It was okay but not as good as the other two candies.

It was interesting to try some new candy (well, new to me at any rate), but I’m more than satisfied with my giant jar of Atomic FireBalls and do not regret refraining from buying large quantities of any other candy.

Bellagio Buffet and Wynn Buffet, Las Vegas

Love them or hate them, Las Vegas just isn’t the same without the buffets. On this trip I went to two – the Bellagio, which I ate at many years ago, and the Wynn, which was still being built when I was last in Vegas.

If you want to maximize your buffet dollars, the key is to show up about 30-45 minutes before the meal changes over and the prices go up. For instance, we arrived at the Bellagio at 10:20 a.m., waited 20 minutes in line, paid the breakfast price, and got to enjoy the tail end of breakfast as well as the beginning of the lunch service which started at 11 a.m. without having to pay the higher lunch fee. We used a similar strategy at the Wynn.

Also, I find that if you balance the amount you want to eat with the size of your stomach, you can comfortably eat enough to fill you up for the whole day and maybe add a snack later in the evening. Just be careful not to over do it.

I highly recommend you be careful of which buffet you choose, however. One couple missed a tour we were on because of food poisoning at a buffet. Just because there’s a deal, doesn’t mean the food is worth it. Generally, the higher quality buffets (which are also the more expensive ones) include the ones at the Bellagio, the Wynn, Planet Hollywood and Paris.

At buffets I tend to grab a tiny bit of items that catch my attention, and go back for seconds if I like them enough.

The Bellagio Buffet

The decor hasn’t changed and, while everything looks like it is in good shape, could probably use a bit of redecorating to freshen up the look. Service is still relatively consistent. Had some orange juice with this meal.

Plate 1:
Scottish smoked salmon, cocktail shrimp, African bluenose (a thick fish similar in texture to sea bass, tasted ok, covered with some sort of sweet sauce and slightly overcooked), curried duck with bamboo shoots, scrambled eggs, cheese blintz (soggy probably because it has sat out for a while), bok choy, cheese and walnuts, and miso mushroom soup (too salty, had this dish years ago and it was fantastic then).

Bellagio Buffet, plate 1

Bellagio Buffet, plate 1

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Studio Café, Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a 24-hours kind of place, especially when you are on the Strip. And to meet those needs, it seems like every major hotel has at least one restaurant that is open 24-hours a day. For the MGM Grand, that place is the Studio Café.

We went here for breakfast one day and came away quite impressed. I was expecting the food to be more of the greasy spoon variety, but what we got was huge portions, tasty food and an interesting menu with a mix of basics and gourmet items.

The toast was admittedly nothing special, but I decided to take a photo of it because of the paper.

Studio Café, MGM Grand

Studio Café, MGM Grand

I was tempted to order one of the day’s specials – a lobster omelette – but instead chose one off their regular menu, the Ragin’ Cajun Omelette ($14.00 US). Filled with andouille sausage, green peppers, beans and a spicy shrimp gumbo, it started off my morning with a bit of a kick. On the side was a giant hash brown –  just thick enough to give a good balance between the crispy outside and the soft potato inside.

Ragin Cajun Omelette

Ragin' Cajun Omelette

Our other order was one of the day’s specials – a Greek Omelette ($13.00) served with tzatziki, feta cheese, pitted olives, tomatoes and a very mild amount of jalapeños. I hadn’t expected to like this omelette as much as I did because I was unsure about how the Greek flavours would taste with the eggs, but it was a rather refreshing dish with lots of vegetables. This dish also came with the same delicious hash browns. (Apologies for the crappy lighting of the photo.)

Greek Omelette

Greek Omelette

*Disclaimer: My meal here was discounted because of a comp. Saying that, the prices were relatively reasonable for a place on the Strip and I would have been happy to pay full price for this meal.

Studio Café
MGM Grand, Las Vegas

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