What Happens in Vegas...

Please note that a batch of my Butterscotch Blondies + Salted Chocolate Glaze are now up for auction over on Keep it Sweet! Please check out all of the delectable goodies that Lauren has up for auction - it's for a great cause!! You have until midnight tonight, 6.29.11!

Though it already feels like a lifetime ago, just a couple of weeks ago I was in Las Vegas for 5 days. I was there for work. The days were grueling and the nights were filled with food and drink. By the time I arrived home, I could barely keep my eyes open.

A typical day went something like this: Wake up early. Eat breakfast with the team. Head over to the Mandalay Bay for 9 hours, taking meetings and working the front of the booth (in heels). Go back to MGM Grand to change for the evening. Spend evening @ cocktail parties and restaurants, eating/drinking...and sometimes gambling in the casinos. Sleep when possible.

Vegas has some of the best restaurants in the world and I was fortunate enough to sample a whole lotta them.

Monday: Border Grill @ Mandalay Bay

Clockwise: Plantain empanadas & Kobe sopas; Chicken enchiladas; Banana cream pie/cake duo; Chicken moleI was so excited to have dinner with my cousin Mona and her friend Kathy when I first arrived in Vegas! Mona is my mom's first cousin and she actually lives out in Las Vegas. I hadn't spent any time with her before this, and it was SO fun to spend some time together talking food and hearing lots about my mom's side of the family. Oh and the food was absolutely fantastic. Mary Sue Milliken, the Exec Chef, was just in the finale of Top Chef Masters. And now I know why. I dined on rich chicken enchiladas, sweet plantain empanadas, Kobe beef sopas (that melted in my mouth) and since I couldn't decide on dessert, we got a banana cream pie/cake duo. Oh. my. God. That's all.

 

Tuesday: Wolfgang Puck's Lupo @ Mandalay Bay

Left to right: Antipasta, fried calamari, pizza; cheese ravioli

When I think of Wolfgang Puck, Italian food doesn't necessarily jump out at me. But the food at Lupo was totally unstoppable. We started with a whole lotta appetizers - a 4 cheese pizza to share, fried calamari, meatballs (Mom, I'm happy to report that they were nowhere as good as yours), and an antipasto platter. I topped it off with a dish of ravioli. Is it a wonder that I had trouble moving afterwards?

 

Wednesday: Lotus of Siam @ A Sketchy Strip Mall

Clockwise: Grilled squid, Red curry w/pork; Pad see ew (chicken); Crispy duck & drunken noodleLotus of Siam is the one off-the-beaten path place we went. In fact, if I didn't know better, I would have thought our cab driver was kidnapping the lot of us. Located in a sorta-kinda sketchy strip mall off the strip, Lotus is quite possibly the most delicious Thai food I've ever had. In fact, you can also find it on Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Las Vegas. And it was. I wouldn't make the trip solo, but with a group, I say go for it. The restaurant is totally unsketchy inside, so if you can get past the exterior, you will dine on crispy duck on drunken noodles (which is quite possibly the best thing I ever ate), red curry, grilled squid, pad see ew...and lots more. Oh, and it's probably the only reasonably priced place in Las Vegas.

 

Thursday: Late lunch @ In & Out Burger

I had heard stories, but never experienced it for myself. Totally lived up to the hype. The burger is freshly cooked, topped with special sauce and grilled onions. One of the best burgers of all time, I'd say. As soon as I finished it, I was sad that it was over. Now that's saying something.

 

Thursday: Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill @ The Cosmopolitan

I adored every single thing about this dinner. It was our last night in Vegas, so work was done (hoorah!). The few of us who were left went to one of the best meals of my life at Blue Ribbon Sushi. Since there were 5 of us, we decided to order a whole bunch of dishes to share and sample, followed by sushi. This was such a fantastic culinary experience for a number of reasons. All of the food uses the absolute top quality ingredients, and you can tell. Even the raw fish went down like butta. The company was tops. And the restaurant was a fun, but not too intense, atmosphere.

We dined on himachi tataki with a quail egg on top; fishy but fantastic. The miso marinated cod was flaky and full of flavor. The pork shumai were juicy and quite possibly the best shumai ever. The amberjack with pepper had just a small kick but I couldn't get enough of the velvety texture of the fish. And the sushi rolls? I could've eaten that entire board on my own. We shared a mix of soft shell crab, tuna, spicy lobster and more. I was so sad that Shaun wasn't here to enjoy this meal with me. He would have been in heaven! Sigh.

We also received a complimentary dessert of flourless chocolate cake and green tea ice cream. Though I'm far from a chocolate lover, this dessert was light, fluffy and overall amazing.

At the end of dinner, we all took guesses on what the bill would come to, since Blue Ribbon isn't exactly known for being inexpensive. I guessed the correct amount to the dollar, winning the showcase showdown! Shaun, my Price is Right-loving man, would have been so proud!

We topped off the night (and our trip) with a vist to The Chandelier Bar, a fancy schmancy bar in The Cosmopolitan. The entire bar area is encased in glass beading, making it feel like you are in a chandelier! Oh Vegas, you never cease to amaze me. Following this, we hit the craps tables until we lost our money.

And that is how I got down in Vegas. Is it any wonder that I could barely stay awake/eat when I arrived home? Luckily, there was no time for eating during the day, so big meals at night weren't completely terrible for the waistline.

So what do you think? Have you ever been on a culinary-centric trip? And while we're on the subject, what's one of the best meals you've ever eaten?