Friday, February 25, 2011

100 Dollar Lessons and Bland Duck


"Cheap Vacation" over.

3 days, 4 nights at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

No frills West Jet flight, very fancy hotel.

800 ish per person for Hotel and flight package. 4 days of fantasy, pretending we don't have to go back to dirty cat boxes and "What's on at the AMC" entertainment options, oh, and snow, snow, still some snow for another month or so.

We spent about 1400 in incidental charges... not including gambling...which is called 'gaming' because you are gambling nothing. You are going to lose money. Period. Even if you win a bit.

But that's OK. Because Vegas isn't doing so well these days. We heard many a tale of woe. Highest unemployment in the US at 20 percent. Most foreclosures in the country. Half finished hotels destined to remain that way for a few more years or perhaps forever.

The British born man who gave me an expert massage at the luxurious Bellagio Spa (the word luxurious is over used, but not in this case) said that the hotels were full, but people were not spending at the hotels. Only using the pool and eating off strip at Macdonalds or whatever. They must tip poorly too, which is sad, as this is how the workers make money.

The Bellagio is lovely, though. The WHOLE THING and full of delightful little surprises. Most of its restaurants are 'higher end'...There's an original look to each and every 'finer' restaurant, but the food, well...I've had as good in Montreal, many times over. For much less money.

I guess because these restaurants don't count on repeat eaters, so decor becomes the major "impulse" draw.

We ate at a the Prime Steakhouse, with a view of the fountains and faux Renaissance paintings (nice ones!). and I should have ordered beef, as that's their speciality, but I ordered the duck because I tend not to eat beef. And then I forgot to put the gravy on, so I found the duck beautifully prepared and presented but bland. Alas. I was tired or something. But the waiter put three gravies in front of my husband, who was having a perfectly grilled medium rare 8 oz filet, so I didn't know they were for me too. Until the next morning, when I told my hubby. "You know what I should have done? I should have taken one of YOUR three sauces for the duck." And then realized the sauces were PROBABLY for me too.(I'm assuming, as the dish was so tasteless.)

I did have two glasses of a berry nuanced cabernet sauvignon from the Hill Family Estate Napa Valley at 29 a glass, in large part beause it was the most expensive by the glass choice and I was feeling adventurous. (Retails for 42 a bottle in US. If we can get it probably costs 140 a bottle in La Belle Province.) A butternut squash soup we started with also lacked seasoning in my opinion. (I had a much nicer one in October in the restaurant in the Chatwal in New York.)The Prime Restaurant meal cost 300 for two.

Our meal at the other restaurant, Sensi, was mediocre, but, thankfully, not that expensive. Four of us ate for 300 ish. Great sleek modern decor with waterfalls and chrome and glass and the kitchen business on view through a window. My appetizer of vegan risotto was totally tasteless, (I won't eat a Risotto without cheese, said my son) and said son's gnocchi had a split sauce and he was upset (he works in a resto himself and says he'd get shit for making such a meal.) He mentioned to the waitress after eating it anyway, and we were awarded a free dessert sampler which was in my son's 'expert' opinion, exceptional. Do you realize how much prep a taster like that takes? my son said. This Resto is known for its wine list apparently.. but if you have great wine, you should have great food.

(And my son had been spoiled: the first night he had taken his girlfriend to the Alize (Michelin Star)for a 10 course tasting menu which he found 'amazing.' His girlfriend, a burger and fries afficionado, liked it too, although she got bombed on all the wine.. she had her own and a lot of my son's. They got all dolled up and looked like a "poster image' of a beautiful young couple at Las Vegas.

But the rest of the food we tasted at the Bellagio was fine, sometimes very fine. and good value for money, which is what really matters. The Cafe Bellagio had the best grilled veggie sandwich I've ever eaten outside of New York City (and they made it for at six in the morning, the first time) and the in room breakfast was elegant and tasty. (The woman who delivered the meal to our room reminded me of Natalie Portman stripper character in Closer. Whatever I said, she answered "Thank you" in a neutral way. (Maybe she was an ex stripper.)

And the fast food place is small, but had good burgers and crispy delicious fries. My husband had beef and I had salmon. 30 dollars total.

We had one meal at New York New York, in an Italian Place. My ravioli was simply awful, as it tasted like 'store bought' that was over cooked and soggy with a can of peppery stewed tomatoes thrown over it.

But then again, this wasn't New York. It was a fake New York. And it wasn't Montreal either, where you can get a delicious pasta dish - never fail - at Pasta Tutti Giorni for 10.00.

But the service in that New York New York resto, as elsewhere, was polished and friendly. And that's nice as in Montreal this is not always the case.

So next time, I'll stay at the Bellagio but try other restos. (It's a long walk to other casinos, for "Old Folk" like us. God, my feet were simply aching. And parts north of the feet too. (You don't realize how LITTLE we moderns walk in 'real life' until you go to Vegas.)

The last meal we had, the noon hour of the day we left. was in some bistro at Paris Las Vegas, and I had a 'subtle' (sic) salad nicoise, with sushi grade tuna and just a suggestion of dressing on the peppery greens, potato, olives, hard boiled egg grains, for an ordinary Montreal price. ( I will try to make this dish myself.) So there you go. The 40/50ish waitress was at least my height, 5 foot 11, but, perfectly proportioned with beautiful broad shoulders and slim hips: Without a doubt an ex show girl.

The windows cover 3 floors each..

So, we lost all our money. I played blackjack with the hubby and son and his girlfriend one evening and the dealer was a hoot and a half. Well, both male dealers were entertaining, as a funny older Chinese dealer took over at break and threatened to cut off my fingers if I touched the cards again.

Both dealers seemed to want us to win and basically told us what to do. We all won that night. The next day we all lost...much more than we won. I think this is how they want it to happen, somehow.

And my son's girlfriend and I won a lot and lost even more on the Sex in the City Machines, which, at least, is a fun girly game. Samantha was good to us, but Charlotte was not. And we didn't meet Carrie or Mr. Big once.

And my husband and I had 'a hundred dollar lesson' at the craps table. In other words, we were hanging around the table and the attendant said she'd tell us what to do, but only if we bet. She is the one who called it 'a hundred dollar lesson' which was honest of her, because you clearly cannot win betting 5.00 a shot.

But if people won at the casino, there would be no Bellagio, I imagine. Especially in this economy. You are getting a lot of hotel for bargain basement prices and they even subsidize the West Jet flight and throw in a free show. (We saw Zumanity, which was interesting in an unintimidating to the intellect Brechtian-style way. Gosh, I haven't used the term "Brechtian" since university.

Oh, and my son was very pleased, as on the way home, we flew with this young man, Josh or Jonathan Duhamel, who is the poker champion of the world. My son, who loves to play poker, and is good at it (but not on this trip) went up to him as he waited for his suitcase and asked for his autograph.