This year’s Girls Weekend was a little more subdued. My playmate had only returned from vacation 2 days before our weekend and I had only been home 3 days. We both we suffering from jet lag so we were not at our perkiest. Even though we were low energy, we had a great time. Let’s get down to what we did.
Our big dinner out was at Giada. We had been watching the press on her first restaurant for several months and had hoped that it would be finished by our trip. When they announced they were beginning to accept reservations, we jumped on it. I am glad we did because they have really become a hot item.
We had a short wait for our table but the wait went fast since there was a photo booth for us to play in. Our table was the third row from the windows. At first I was disappointed but as the night wore on, I was glad we were not seated by the windows. You see, the windows open and you have all the street noise to contend with. At times it was loud at our table but it was worse at the tables by the windows. I felt bad for the couples next to the windows. So much for a romantic evening when you have to shout across the table.
The decor was light but had an elegance to it. The booths are orientated to provide a view of the strip and the Bellagio fountains.
Service started out slow with first getting the drink menu and then the regular menu but it improved as we got into the food. The drink menu was on an Ipad. We really didn’t look at the wine section since we had both decided on having a cocktail. The manager can around twice to check on us during our dinner.
I ordered the Destroyer which is a version of a Moscow Mule. My playmate had the Hannibal. We were also given an aperitif. While I don’t know exactly what it was, it was light and tasted very good.
We were offered two menus. The first was a tasting menu that comes with recipes and a signed photo of Giada. The second was the ala carte menu. We chose selecting the ala carte menu since we wanted to taste as many dishes as we could. We chose two antipasti, one salad, two pastas, one vegetable and one dessert. I wish we had more room in our stomachs so we could have tasted more.
We were severed a board with three types of bread along with a board full of items to use on the bread. The bread types were a fresh-out-of-the-over focaccia, lavash and bread sticks. The focaccia was the hands down favorite and then the lavash. Neither of us liked the bread sticks. The items to put on the bread was lemon butter, fried capers, dried pepper, pink salt and verde sauce. Our favorite bit was focaccia with lemon butter and capers.
The two antipasti we selected where Orzo Meatballs with parmesan pomodoro and Mascarpone & Tarragon Shrimp Scampi with crispy polenta. I can recommend both of them. The meatballs were very tender as was the scampi. The only improvement I would make is more sauce on the scampi. The salad we ordered was the Arugula with candied lemon, crispy pancetta & parmigiano-reggiano. I loved this salad. It was my most favorite dish of the evening.
The two pastas we selected were lemon spaghetti with shrimp, lemon & basil and the lobster ravioli with asparagus tips & tarragon. The ravioli was great with the only improvement was more sauce. The spaghetti was another story. The pasta was excellent but the two huge scrimp were tough. I don’t know if it was an element of being so large or over cooked. I much preferred the shrimp in the scampi dish. The do have regular main courses also but we did not try any of them. We tried the sweet corn & spicy sausage dish. I loved the concept and when I could get spoonful with a lot of corn it was very tasty. But the sausage was very spicy and overwhelmed the corn. I am going to try to make it with sweet Italian sausage and see how it tastes.
I think the dessert menu was the weakest part of the meal. We decided to try the cookie plate. The cookie types were triple chocolate chip, PB&J cookie, mini palmiers, and lemon cookies.
If you remember, last year we were able to get photos with two chefs. Our luck held and we got photos with Giada. She is just the nicest person you can imagine. On top of that, she is really the cutest person. I swear she must wear a 00. I definitely felt like an elephant next to her.
We went down and checked out the Linq project. There were lots of new restaurants just waiting for us to try. We chose Flour & Barley for dinner. Flour & Barley is a casual eatery serving brick oven pizzas along with paninis, pasta dishes and Italian-inspired appetizers. Being Vegas, it also has an extensive beer selection and tasty cocktails. There is an indoor and an outdoor eating patio. We chose the indoor venue for the air conditioning and it was quieter. There is very loud music all through the linq area. We appeared to be the only ones eating inside. Most people were eating outside.
We started with a Chunky Watermelon cocktail and some type of hard cider. The cocktail had fresh watermelon in it and went down too fast. The only problem was that it was only about a half a glass full. For that price, I really thought it should have been a full size drink. The cider came in a huge bottle and was kind of sparkly. Very refreshing. I wish I had gotten the name of it.
Of course we had pizza. I had the Calabrese had meatball, sausage, prosciutto, mozzarella, chili and salsa verde. My playmate had a white pizza called Biance which had fontina cheese, pancetta, broccolini and artichoke. I think they did a better job on the white pizza. My meat was few and far between. The salsa verde had to be spread instead of a concentrated flavor. Pizza is really a personal opinion and I like my crust a little thinner. Not that it was a thick crust. It is just I prefer Neapolitan style of pizza. The service was good and attentive.
Each trip we like to try something new and this year we thought we would try a food tour. It wasn’t exactly like I thought it would be. It turned out to be a Caesars infomercial with food. It disturbed me in the beginning but then I got to thinking that Caesars probably wouldn’t let them in without the infomercial . It was also probably why it was one of the cheaper food tours in Vegas. The tour has a maximum of 16 people so it was a nice group to tour with. The group meets in the heat outside of Caesars.
The tour begins with the guide telling you about the other Caesars properties on the strip. Since I have been in all of them, I didn’t find it too relevant for me. The one thing I did find interesting was when talking about the new Cornwell, the emphasis was on the night club, Drais instead of even mentioning Giada’s. None of us were really in the right demographics for Drais so I was at a lose as to why push the nightclub to us. I would think on a food tour it would be more appropriate to discuss Giada. Into the hotel and out of the heat. Joel, our tour guide, was good at pointing out various things along the way.
First Stop was at Beijing #9. The manager took over the presentation at this point. It really felt like he was glad we came by. First he handed out water which we all accepted with gratitude after being in the sun. Next come a very tasty dumpling. Now it was time for the main event, the noodles. The manager explained the noodles and how they made the noodles by hand. This discussion was followed up with a demonstration of noodle making by the chief noodle maker. Of course we got to taste them. We each got a little pot of noodles with chicken in mushroom sauce. I don’t like mushrooms so it wasn’t my favorite but had enough flavor that made me interested in having dinner there.
The second stop was Payard Patisserie. This part of our tour sounded different than some of the other reviews I read. I also think it is a hard place for a tour because of the size. It started with a piece of chocolate, which is always a good way to start. Joel discussed Payard a little and we moved into the restaurant. The restaurant was closed so there wasn’t much to see. Back out for a sample of macaroons and another chocolate. LOVED the macaroons. We had about 20 minutes here of free time to browse, buy or what ever.
The third stop was my favorite. Yes, the food was yummy but the manager and a waiter actually was doing a stand up routine while telling us about how the steaks came into being. They could have taken their routine on the road. We were served some wonderful tater tots fried in duck fat and 3 strips of New York steak along with their home-made steak sauce. Delish! The tater tots were wonderful pillows of goodness while the steak was full of that good steak flavor.
Fourth stop was Gordon Ramsay Pub. I have to confess and tell you that I wasn’t looking forward to this stop. I had eaten here before and had the worse service I have ever had in Vegas along with mediocre food. They have a new manager which is a good thing. Because of the noise in the pub, it was hard to hear the manager. We sat in the bar area and a tasting of sine beer and two appetizers. The deviled egg was pretty tasty but the chicken appetizer was a bad choice. It looked bad and several of the people would not even taste it. Those who did were not enthusiastic about it. They did not change my mind about them.
The fifth and last stop was pizza in the food court. The food court is undergoing a renovation. so there wasn’t must to see. A couple of places were open but a lot were boarded up. There was no discuss about the other places in the food court. The food court manager and the pizza manager came and talked to us. They emphasized that they would not be leasing out the spaces in the food court but all would be Caesars run. A bottle of water was on the table when we arrived and we each were given a half piece of cheese and half piece of pepperoni pizza. The pizza was New York style. It wasn’t bad pizza but wasn’t good either. It would be great for sopping up alcohol. I found the cheese pizza lacked flavor.
One of the things they emphasized was that Caesars doesn’t lease out any of their space to the famous chefs who names are on them. Caesars really runs the restaurants with input from the contracted chiefs. I don’t know why they think it would be a good thing. I would prefer that the chief have more skin in the game than just their name.
Crashing a Convention
One of our spur of the moment activities was going to the American Library Association convention. Did you know that some of the conventions don’t require you to be member of the association to view the conference floor? For $35 we were given a 3 day pass for the exhibits. The great thing was the exhibits included book signing be authors and other free books. My playmate accumulated two full bags of books but I limited myself to just one. I picked up an advance reading copy of Red Madness – How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat by Gail Jarrow and I have to tell you just how interesting I am finding it. It is a young adult book and the format is geared for short attention spans but the information in it is fascinating. The subject is pellagra which is a horrible way to die.
There was also cooking demonstrations relating to cookbooks. I was excited because we got to see two of the 6 sisters. Have you ever heard of them? If you haven’t, you should check out their blog. They have great easy to make recipes. I have been reading them for a couple of years now and they made me wished I had grown up with a bunch of sister. An older brother is good but lets face it. He wasn’t very good about hair styles, clothes and makeup. I don’t know if the two sisters that did the demo where chosen because of their personality or if they drew the short straw, but they we very entertaining. We were given a line number to get a free, personalized copy of their current cookbook but it our time slot was 4 hours away and was in conflict with our food tour so no cookbook for us. I have to be honest and say their current cookbook wasn’t on my list so the only disappointment was not getting to meet them. I will say I am VERY excited about the new book that is coming out this October. I think the name was 12 days of Christmas. They do different holiday things in 12s. Like 12 brunch ideas, 12 cook recipes and 12 family traditions. Look for it this fall. It is going on my Christmas list.
The library furniture really caught my eye. There are so many amazing things if only my library had money. I loved the little reading cocoons that help block noise out to provide a quiet place to read in the middle of chaos. They were showing lots of 3D printers at the show. I am still trying to understand why a library needs them. All I can think of is it would be an extension of offering computers for use. Have you see all the things that are being done with 3D printers?
All in all, we had another great Girls weekend in Vegas. Of course there was also spa and shopping activities. I did notice a couple of small cut backs at Qua Spa. They no longer had the tea girls there to make you tea. Now there is a vacuum canister with one type of tea. Haven’t started thinking about next year yet but the big question is “can we continue our chef siting streak?”