Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Food Lover's Weekend in Las Vegas...Part 2

This is the second half of my special article about A Food Lover's Weekend in Las Vegas. We woke up Sunday morning rested, and very thankful for the extra hour of sleep because we had to “fall back” the night before. We’re such big Houston Texans football fans that we managed to fit in the game before an early-afternoon brunch. Our friend Kellee met us at our room, and we walked over to watch the game at Planet Hollywood’s sports book. We had VIP seats, including drinks and snacks. To top it off, the Texans won…which got our Sunday off to a fabulous stop. After the game was over, we jumped in a cab and headed to brunch at Simon, located just off The Strip at The Palms Place Hotel and Spa. Simon is located on the 4th floor, right next to the gorgeous pool area. Chef Kerry Simon’s restaurant is open and full of natural light…and it’s one of the most fun brunch spots in Vegas! You know you’re in for a good time when the hostess and waitstaff are all dressed in their PJs! 

Simon is located on the 4th-floor pool area
of Palms Place...it features lots of light!
We were quickly seated, and our server explained how the brunch works. For $45/person, you are able to visit an area with several food stations, enjoy the all-you-can-drink champagne bar, and order from a menu of items that come from the kitchen. The stations include an area with boiled shrimp, a huge array of bakery items, a smoothie bar, made-to-order crepes and paninis, and fresh-made sushi. You come back to your table to enjoy these items...and then you order more items from the menu. In addition to the goodies from the stations, we had the Simon French Toast, the Pulled Pork Benedict, and the Prime Rib Hash special. While we waited for these items to come out from the kitchen, Chef Simon came to the table to say hello. He was very welcoming and made us feel right at home. All of the items were well-made and very tasty, but the French toast was out of this world! A crunchy coating of Frosted Flakes gave it a nice, sweet crunch…and the vanilla-infused maple syrup was perfect! 

Brunch stations at Simon featuring made-to-order sushi, panini
sandwiches and crepes.
A bucket of spicy boiled shrimp is at the end of the brunch station area.
This is the best French toast I've ever tasted -- coated with
Frosted Flakes, it's crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside!

We both loved the Pulled Pork Benedict! It was served on a jalapeno biscuit with heirloom tomato, a poached egg, and Creole hollandaise. It was just spicy enough to be interesting without overpowering the pulled pork. The Prime Rib Hash featured juicy cubes of prime rib, diced potatoes, purple onion, bell pepper, and a poached egg with a creamy sauce. It was perfectly made and full of flavor. 
Pulled Pork Benedict on a cheese-jalpeno biscuit...spicy, but not overly so!
The Prime Rib Hash special of the day...full of rich beefy flavor!


To top off our meal, out came their signature Junk Food Plate: fresh cotton candy, a box of caramel corn, mini s’mores cupcake, and a chocolate chip cookie. It was whimsical…and the perfecting ending to a fabulously fun meal.

A sweet tooth's dream! The Junk Food Plate is the sweet ending
of every brunch at Simon.

From there, it was back to Vdara to rest for a bit before we headed out for the evening. We had early dinner reservations at SW Steakhouse at The Wynn before going to see Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles LOVE at The Mirage. We arrived at SW Steakhouse and were warmly greeted by the restaurant's General Manager. He seated us at a lovely table directly beside the Lake of Dreams so we’d have perfect views of the light and music show that happens every 30 minutes. What happened next was a meal so over-the-top excellent in every way that it earned a spotlight of its own for this month’s The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out feature. Come back tomorrow to get all the details of this fabulous meal. We sampled some fabulous items from their extensive menu -- everything from appetizers to steak and seafood entrees…to some amazing desserts. Here's a sneak peek of some of the entrees and side dishes that we sampled:
A sampler of entrees and side dishes at SW Steakhouse. From the top:
Seared Scallop with Pea Risotto, Fried Asparagus, Kobe Beef (!), Aged
New York Strip, Mashed Potatoes, Mac and Cheese, Au Gratin Potatoes,
and a bit of Creamed Spinach in the middle. What a meal!
The entry of The Wynn...a fall wonderland, complete with lights!

After this amazing dinner, we snapped a few pictures of The Wynn’s lovely entryway, then hopped in a cab to see The Beatles LOVE. We’re huge Beatles fans, so we loved every second of this show. Simply put: if you’re a Beatles fan, this show is a MUST for any trip to Las Vegas! The music soundtrack was remastered by Beatles producer Sir George Martin and his son, and the theater was built specifically for this show. The performers are fabulous, bringing to life many of the characters introduced in Beatles songs…including Sgt. Pepper, Eleanor Rigby, The Walrus, etc. To quote the Beatles, “a splendid time is guaranteed for all!” After the show, we spent some time in the gift shop. Then, Michael and I managed to act a little silly and pose for a fun picture outside the gift shop to remember our amazing evening! 

Michael and I goofing around after The Beatles LOVE show at The Mirage. 


It was after midnight by the time we visited the LOVE gift shop and snapped a few pictures, so we headed back to our gorgeous suite at Vdara to relax and enjoy the views before we called it a night. We still one more day of food adventures ahead of us before it was time to head back to Texas. We woke up Monday and started the day with a fabulous breakfast at the very popular Hash House a Go Go, which has several locations in the Las Vegas area. The Strip location is located on the second floor of the Imperial Palace Hotel. They’re famous for their big portions…and they are indeed gargantuan! Michael and I ordered a Blueberry-Pecan Waffle and a Sage Chicken Benedict to share. While we waited for our food to arrive, we enjoyed glasses of fresh-squeezed sweet-tart tangerine juice. I’m not exaggerating when I say the pancake was the size of a manhole cover…and the benedict was easily enough for three people. Or two hungry Texans! The food at Hash House isn’t just plentiful – it's also delicious…it was easy to see why this place is so popular. 

The largest pancake I've ever seen...bursting with blueberries and pecans.
The Sage Fried Chicken Benedict: layers of mashed potatoes, a biscuit,
bacon, cheese, tomatoes, scrambled eggs, a fried chicken breast, and
chipotle hollandaise. This is big enough to feed three people --
or two hungry Texans!
Max Brenner: a chocoholic's fantasy!

From there, we walked over to Caesar’s Palace and wandered around their adjacent shopping area The Forum Shops for a bit. Before we knew it, it was time for our final meal of the trip: a late lunch at Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man.  We sampled several tasty appetizers, a perfectly prepared waffle sandwich, and a shared decadent fondue for two. The appetizer portions were generous, and the food was very tasty. We sampled The Mediterranean Dip Trio of dips with Crispy Spice Dusted Pita Chips, triangles, Molly's White Corn Croquettes, and a Turkey Club Waffle Sandwich. The dip trio included creamy hummus, babaganoush, and roasted eggplant dip...with perfectly cooked pita triangles that were crispy on the outside and pillow soft inside. The corn croquettes were flavored with manchego cheese and coated in panko before being flash fried; they were creamy and positively addictive. The Turkey Club Waffle Sandwich was also excellent: a crispy savory rosemary waffle filled with smoked turkey, bacon, and perfectly ripe sliced avocado. 

A trio of Mediterranean dips with amazing crispy pita bread...
...along with crispy, creamy corn and manchego bites!
A fabulous turkey sandwich served inside a savory rosemary-infused
Belgian waffle...so good!

Of course, we had to sample some of their signature chocolate offerings as well! We tried both hot and cold drinks: a creamy milkshake served in their Alice Glass...and the most decadent hot cocoa I've ever tasted, served in a special "hug mug" that conforms perfectly to your hand. We also shared the ultimate chocolate dessert: a Shared Fondue Trio. The warm fondues consisted of milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and hot caramel. The dippers were strawberries and banana chunks; pieces of cookies and brownies; and marshmallows to roast over an open flame. Confession: I’m essentially a big kid when it comes to playing with my food, so this fondue was a real treat for me. My favorite combo was roasted marshmallow dipped in caramel, then dark chocolate. 

What's better than a chocolate shake in a fun glass? One
that's topped with a hard shell of chocolate!
The hug mug is a unique way to enjoy cocoa! It fits ergonomically
into your hand and warms them as you drink the rich hot chocolate!
I may have heard a choir of angels singing as this  Shared Fondue Trio
was brought to our table! In this case, it's ok to play with your food!
The beautiful Fall-themed decor on display
at The Bellagio Conservatory.

By then, it was time to head back to Vdara to enjoy our amazing view one last time before we checked out. We really appreciated the fact that they let us have late checkout at 400 p.m. That was a very nice touch since we weren’t leaving for the airport until 600. We left our bags with the valet and walked over to Bellagio to take a few pictures of the gorgeous fall d├ęcor in their gorgeous observatory. We also spent a few minutes enjoying an exhibit of Monet paintings at The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. 

This was our view every time we
walked outside of Vdara...
sleek and modern!
Before we knew it, it was time to claim our bags and jump in a waiting taxi to head to the airport. But not before we snapped one last picture of the outside entrance of Vdara, complete with a statue made from canoes and a view of Aria across the way. Our long weekend getaway to Las Vegas was filled with so many great memories! Between all the fabulous meals, the wonderful entertainment, and our amazing City Corner Suite at Vdara? We felt like rock stars from the time we landed until the time we left! I can't wait to return next Fall for A Food Lover's Weekend in Las Vegas...Round 2!

Disclosure: The restaurants featured in this article provided us with complimentary meals to facilitate their inclusion in this feature. All opinions stated are mine, and all photographs are copyright of Michael K. Garcia -- my husband and chief travel and dining photographer for The Weekend Gourmet.

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