Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Food Lover's Weekend In Las Vegas Part I...

Like the sign says, Las Vegas is fabulous in every way!!
The next delicious installment in my ongoing A Food Lover’s Weekend In… series took Michael and I to a city that’s known for its glitz, glamor, entertainment, nightlife…and food! Few cities can lay claim to that winning combination as well as Las Vegas. It’s one of our favorite cities for a weekend getaway because there’s so much to see and do…it literally has something for everyone! Like to gamble? Check. Like to dress up and see a show or dance the night away…or both? Check. Prefer to skip the casinos and focus on world-class dining? Yep…you can definitely do that too! That’s exactly what Michael and I did earlier this month. We flew into Las Vegas early on a Saturday morning and spent three days eating our way around this amazing food mecca. When we weren’t eating, we saw a couple of amazing shows and enjoyed breathtaking views from our spacious suite at Vdara Hotel and Spa.
The modern entry of Vdara Hotel and Spa features a bar
and a convenient market/cafe.
We arrived at McCarran Airport after a quick early-morning non-stop flight from San Antonio, jumped into a cab, and arrived at Vdara in no time. Our room wasn’t quite ready, but the friendly lobby staff checked in our luggage and took our phone number to call us when our room was ready. From the moment we walked in the door, we knew staying at Vdara was the right choice. It’s part of the CityCenter development that consists of several upscale hotels, as well as shopping and dining venues. What sets Vdara apart from most Strip properties is that it is smoke-free and doesn’t contain a casino. We’re not gamblers, so that was exactly what we were looking for! The modern lobby was clean and had an amazing fresh scent. After we dropped our bags, we headed to Caesar’s Palace to meet our friend Kellee and try the new Bacchanal Buffet. 

The seating area at Caesar's Palace Bacchanal Buffet is modern,
with lots of color and light!
The Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar's Palace opened in September and has quickly become one of the most popular and highly regarded buffets in Las Vegas. Since buffets are so associated with Vegas dining, we had to check it out! On weekends, they have a Champagne Buffet that includes unlimited champagne or mimosas for $41/person. The buffet is laid out very nicely and boasts a huge variety of selections and live-action stations. There's an Asian station, a meat carvery, a traditional breakfast area, a huge cheese display, and a wonderful display of fresh seafood – including cracked crab legs and boiled jumbo shrimp. There’s literally something for everyone…including those bottomless mimosas. They also have a huge dessert and gelato area that’s so sweet it would make Willy Wonka jealous! Bite-sized pastries, fresh fruit, made-to-order crepes, and gourmet gelato are offered…and some are even sugar-free. 
The Bacchanal Buffet features many live-action stations, including this station with 
sliced-to-order meat.
Bacchanal Buffet's dessert area features mini desserts, made-to-order crepes, authentic gelato...and even sugar-free items.
Servers plating a few of the many small-sized desserts offered at The Bacchanal Buffet.

By the time we finished our buffet, we received a phone call that our room was ready. Kellee dropped us back at Vdara, and we took the elevator to the 49th floor to check out our City Corner Suite. This upgraded suite is 800+ square feet -- which is essentially a 1-bedroom apartment. It had a fully stocked kitchen, a living room, a bedroom with a Queen bed, and the largest bathroom I’ve ever seen in a hotel! Our suite was plush and featured a ton of modern amenities. The best part? This view from our bedroom! 

From our City Corner Suite at Vdara Hotel and Spa, we had magnificent views of The Strip...
...including the gorgeous Bellagio Fountains!

Our City Corner Suite featured wraparound windows that spanned from the living room, into the bedroom, and on into the bathroom -- providing breathtaking panoramic views of the city!  Our view included the Strip, Bellagio Fountains, and the mountains. As gorgeous as it was during the day, it was even better at night! I can’t say enough nice things about this property. If you like modern sophistication and great views -- but don’t enjoy smoke or gambling -- this is definitely the place for you! However, if you do want to gamble? No worries! Bellagio’s casino is a short walk away via a covered walkway between the two properties. 

FIRST Food & Bar is the perfect spot to grab
pre-show appetizers and drinks!
After a nap, it was time to get dressed up for the evening…we had tickets to see Le Reve at The Wynn! FIRST Food & Bar invited us to stop by before the show to try some appetizers and drinks. Located at The Shoppes at The Palazzo, it was a perfect place to grab some pre-show refreshments. We sampled a couple of cocktails and were served Sammy D’s Greatest Hits, which included a trio of their signature items: Philly Cheesesteak Dumplings with Sriracha Ketchup, Lollipop Buffalo Wings, and Walnut Shrimp. Their Doritos Mac n Cheese has been voted best in Las Vegas, so we  had to try that too. The appetizers were very tasty. Michael especially liked the wings, I loved the fusion Philly Cheesesteak Dumplings…and we both went crazy for the sweet-crispy Walnut Shrimp. 
Sammy D's Greatest Hits and Doritos Mac n Cheese...the perfect way to sample
some of FIRST's signature bites!
Sammy D's Greatest Hits includes: Philly Cheesesteak Dumplings, Lollipop Buffalo Wings,
and Walnut Shrimp.
FIRST's famous Doritos Mac n Cheese: creamy mac n cheese topped with 
crushed nacho Doritos!

Michael’s cocktail was highly recommended by our server: Sammy Ds Cucumber Gimlet. It contained gin, cucumber, agave, and lime...and it was fabulous! The manager also sent out one of their signature bar items: Taste the Rainbow, which consists of shots of five different Skittles-infused vodka. They were super-potent, so I just tasted a bit of each. These aren’t the Skittles of your childhood…definitely for grown-ups only! 
Sammy D's Cucumber Gimlet, a sophisticated cocktail. A little sweet, a little tart...and a light cucumber flavor in the background. Delicious!
Drink the Rainbow...if you dare! FIRST's unique grown-up take on your favorite childhood candy: Skittles-infused vodka in a rainbow of flavors. Watch out...it's POTENT!

After our appetizers, it was time to make the short walk over to The Wynn to see Le Reve. The show is water-based and tells the story of a woman’s dreams of love. It features acrobats, dancers, and other amazing performers...all performed in a round theater with a water stage in the center. We were on the second row, in the Splash Zone, which gave us a fabulous view of the mesmerizing show...and a few minor splashes. We were in awe of the talent these creative performers displayed. It’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and a must for any trip to Las Vegas. After the show, we snapped a few pictures of the stage so you can see how colorful and beautiful it was. 

Le Reve at The Wynn is a fabulous show that takes place on a stage made of water! The
show is colorful and highly entertaining!

DOCG is an upscale casual enoteca that offers pizzas and 
other items, many cooked in a wood-fire grill.
Our night wasn’t quite over yet, though. We had late dinner reservations at DOCG and Scarpetta, located at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. DOCG and Scarpetta are Chef Scott Conant’s Las Vegas restaurants. DOCG is a casual, low-key enoteca that features wood-fired pizza and grilled specialties. It’s located adjacent to Scarpetta, which features upscale pasta-based dishes. We were invited to have appetizers and drinks at DOCG, then move next door to Scarpetta for entrees and dessert. That way, we could experience both of these fabulous restaurants. We arrived at DOCG and were welcomed by the manager, who seated us quickly and brought out cocktails…as well as a sampling of their signature appetizers. We sampled arancini; grilled octopus with chickpeas, tomato, and basil; fried artichokes with lemon and thyme; and grilled filone with duck egg and fonduta. We also shared a fabulous salad with arugula, figs, gorgonzola, and prosciutto. 
We sampled a variety of delicious appetizers at DOCG...all expertly cooked and a    
delicious start to our meal!
Grilled bread served with duck egg and fonduta...topped with a bit of rich truffle oil. Heaven.

All of the appetizers were expertly prepared and so delicious! We especially enjoyed the arancini, which was fried perfectly: not the least bit greasy: crispy on the outside and filled with creamy risotto on the inside. The surprise of the group for me was the octopus…I had never eaten octopus before, and it was fabulous: smoky from the wood-fire grill and so tender! 

After we enjoyed our appetizers, we headed next door to Scarpetta to continue our meal. We were seated at a lovely table for two, complete with a Bellagio Fountain view. Our server was amazing and so helpful. We decided to try two pasta dishes: the signature house Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil and the Short Rib Agnolotti with Brown Butter Horseradish and Toasted Breadcrumbs. Our server helped us pick a fabulous glass of Italian red wine to pair with our meal. We enjoyed the fountains as we drank our wine. Before we knew it, our entrees arrived…along with a special surprise from the chef: Ricotta and Truffle Aglonotti with a generous helping of shaved black truffle on top! 
Scarpetta's signature Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil. Simple? Yes.      
Expertly prepared and sublime!
Short Rib Agnolotti with Browned Butter Horseradish and Toasted Breadcrumbs. Rich and beefy...with a kick from the horseradish.
The sublime Ricotta and Truffle Agnolotti...pillows of pasta filled with fluffy ricotta. Topped with a creamy sauce and a generous helping of shaved black truffle. 
Decadent, but not overly rich.

We both sampled all of three of the pasta dishes and were blown away. The house-made pasta was cooked perfectly al dente. The spaghetti was very simple, but it proves the old adage: use the best-quality ingredients, and even simple dishes are sublime. This spaghetti is indeed sublime! The short rib aglonotti was hearty and rich, and the black truffle aglonotti was decadent and rich. We were in pasta heaven…and then? It was time for dessert! 

The perfect ending to a fabulous meal: Nutella and Vanilla Cream Bomboloni with Nutella Ganache, Caramelized Bananas, and Nutella Powder. The only thing better than  
little doughnuts? Ones with Nutella inside! 

We had the Nutella and Vanilla Cream Bomboloni with Nutella Ganache, Caramelized Bananas, and Nutella Powder. Bomboloni are basically little doughnut holes…some filled with Nutella and some filled with creamy vanilla custard. Paired with a bit of the powdered Nutella and a bite of the banana? Heaven. The powdered Nutella was really fun…when you put it into your mouth, it became creamy again. The dessert was the perfect sweet ending to a fabulous meal!

Stuffed and happy, we made the 10-minute walk back to Vdara and took the elevator back to our suite. When we got to our bedroom, this was the view that greeted us…talk about the perfect way to end a spectacular day of food and fun! 

With a view like this, you know you must be living right!

I ran myself a hot bubble bath, kicked back, and enjoyed the Strip view from my bathtub vantage point. I smiled from ear to ear and soaked it all in…literally! It had been a long day, so we collapsed into bed to get some much-needed sleep. We had another full day of eating and entertainment on the agenda for Sunday, so we needed to recharge our batteries. To hear more about the continuing adventures during our Food Lover’s Weekend in Las Vegas, come back on Thursday. 

Disclosure: The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority assisted us with planning this trip. Except for the Bacchanal Buffet, all meals were provided to us by the restaurants featured in this article. The opinions expressed are my own. All photographs are copyrighted by Michael K. Garcia, my husband and The Weekend Gourmet's official travel and dining out photographer.


  1. Woman, how do you manage to walk and even stay AWAKE after such foods and all the wonder-filled amenities!! Wow! You are blessed with all this talent and I am blessed to know you! :)
    Love ya, Kay

    1. Why do you think we fell into bed and slept like rocks that night? We refer to it as a food hangover when we sample that much good food in one day! Thanks for your sweet comments, Kay! xoxox

  2. Beautiful photos. What a fantastic trip you guys had!! That mac-n-cheese is over the top, am I right? Wow! We did Vegas a few years ago and loved it, but I think once in a life time is plenty!

    1. I'm married to a very talented photographer, so I am thankful for his services when we dine out and travel. I take all of the pics for my regular cooking posts, though. That mac n cheese was cheesy decadence! I love Vegas, so we try to go every couple of years. It had been 5 years between trips this time, though!

  3. Oh, I am so jealous! It all looks amazing!


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