LAS VEGAS: February 2006, part 1

Las Vegas Welcome Sign at Night

From Saturday, February 18 through Friday, February 24, 2006, Wendy & I were in fabulous Las Vegas Nevada. Wendy went to attend the Western Veterinary Conference, the largest veterinarian convention in the United States, and I tagged along with her. Our friends Doug & Kelly generously offered to put us up at their house, so we saved the expense of a hotel room.

Wendy was in conference all day most days, so this article is mostly about Drew’s experiences in and around the Strip. Because I did so many different things most days, this won’t be a chronological recollection, but rather a bunch of impressions and thoughts. Please read on for the whole story…


After arriving late on Saturday evening, we started Sunday by touring around the Strip with Doug & Kelly. We ate lunch at Le Provencal in the Paris Hotel & Casino (the Pasta Putanesca was very good, as were the variety of crepes we had for dessert) and enjoyed catching up with Doug & Kelly and learning about their recent trip to Russia (read about it at their website).

Entertainer Jay Leno provided the kick-off for the Western Veterinary Conference on Sunday evening. We joined almost 4000 people in one of the ballrooms of the beautiful Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, the home-base of the conference, to listen Mr. Leno share funny stories and jokes. For dinner this evening, please see this article.

On Monday, February 20, I dropped Wendy off at Mandalay Bay early — we left the house at 6:45am and made it to the Strip before 7:30am. After I dropped her off, I drove down the deserted streets to the Venetian Hotel & Casino to try my luck at walking in for breakfast at Bouchon, the Las Vegas outpost of a Thomas Keller restaurant.

I was worried because I’d attempted to make breakfast reservations at Bouchon online for every morning hour of every day we were going to be there, but I was told that no times were available at all. When I walked in, I was pleasantly surprised that there were a total of two tables seated. I was quickly ushered into a comforable booth. I told my server of the online experience and she indicated that she’d talk to the manager about it. (The lesson being, even if you’re told that a place is full, show up anyway!) I enjoyed an amazing breakfast at Bouchon. I ordered the Breakfast Americaine which is “two eggs any style (over medium for me, please) served with bacon, country sausage, pommes frites, and toasted brioche, along with your choice of a breakfast pastry, fresh juice, and Bouchon blend coffee”. The coffee was wicked strong but very tasty as was the amazing fresh orange juice. The thickly-sliced toasted brioche was perfectly crisp outside and tender inside. The sausage was firm and meaty and perfectly spiced. When I asked my server if it was made in-house, she told me it’s from Hobbs Farms in California. The pommes were creamy inside and perfectly fried outside without a trace of greasiness. They were spectacular, and I was grateful that the restuarant served them for breakfast. I asked for and received a tour of the kitchen, led by Danny, one of the cooks who was very informative about the large facility. I was so impressed with the restaurant that I made reservations for Thursday night, our ‘thank you’ meal for our hosts.

Trattoria del LupoAfter breakfast, I made my way leisurely up to Mandalay Bay to spend some time in the kitchens of Wolfgang Puck‘s Trattoria del Lupo. During the several hours that I was there, I stretched dough and made a variety of wood-fired pizzas and learned how they make sauces and antipasti in the restaurant. I was impressed with the focus on quality, even considering the giant numbers that the restaurant dones. It was a lot of fun, though I had to bow out before lunch because the class ran long and headlong into our afternoon plans — Wendy decided to skip afternoon classes to go to Hoover Dam with Scott, Emily, and Sarah. Scott and I went to college together and have kept in touch over the years since. Everyone met outside of the restaurant (which became our meeting place for the week) and we piled into Scott’s vehicle for the trip out to the Dam. Photos from Hoover Dam will be posted soon. After walking around the Dam (we decided not to do the full tour due to our limited time), we drove through the Lakes of Las Vegas (spectacular) before heading down to the Strip for dinner at 9 Fine Irishmen in the New York New York Hotel & Casino. We had a nice meal — my roast pork was very good — and we enjoyed the time with Scott, Emily, and (tuckered out) Sarah.

Tuesday, February 21 dawned bright and early. After dropping Wendy off at her convention, I hung around Mandalay Bay and did a bit of gambling (I lost $80) before heading to Caesar’s Palace to have a solo lunch at Bobby Flay‘s MESA GRILL. It was a solo lunch because Wendy hates Bobby Flay (I do too, really — I think he’s a pretentious pompus guy) and refused to eat there. I decided to go because I think it’s important to know your ‘enemy’, and I must say that the meal I had there wasn’t anything special at all. It was good, but not ‘this guy is so talented that he must be an Iron Chef‘ good. I had Blue Corn Pancake with Barbecued Duck + Habañero Chile Sauce and Yucatan Chicken Skewers with Yogurt-Cilantro Dipping Sauce + Grilled Tortillas. Overall, the sauces were very good, but the rest of the items fell flat — the duck was dry and tough, the chicken was very overcooked. The breads served along with the meal were very good. This experience validated my feeling that Bobby Flay isn’t anything special — he’s certainly not Iron Chef-quality, based on my meals with Morimoto-san, another Iron Chef.

For information on our dinner tonight at Bradley Ogden, please see this article.

JubileeAfter dinner, the four of us walked over to Bally’s, where I lost $20 at the roulette table (bringing my total gambling losses to $100, where it stayed), to see JUBILEE, the old-Vegas-style spectacular ‘boobie’ show. When we entered the theater, our seats were upgraded from ‘third quarter’ of the house to ‘front quarter’ because the show wasn’t sold out. As a result, we had great seats — only one table in front of us — from which to see the spectacular show. There were ‘millions of rhinestones, covering practically nothing’ and the ‘million dollar’ sets were amazing, everything from the sinking of the Titanic, to Sampson destroying the temple, to an American patriotic number. And boobs (well, boob-ettes, they were pretty slight) were everywhere — at least two on each of the 100+ female cast members. The singing and dancing were enjoyable as well. We’re glad we got to see the show with Scott & Emily! We got home around 1:30am and went right to bed to get ready for the next day

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