First Look at Cromwell

April 23, 2014
Frank had already toured the Cromwell casino and the hotel prior to its soft opening on Monday. He told me how nice it was, and how beautiful the cocktail servers were, so I was eager to see it myself. We took a peek last night. My first impression was not the greatest. We walked up through the porte cochere and there was a couple waiting for a taxi. Cocktails inside must be stiff and frequent, because chickadee was in a wheelchair with a garbage bag strung across her like a horse's feeding bag. As soon as we walked up, the Exorcist took hold. Welcome to the Cromwell... Yack! At least, it's not called Gansevort. I might have felt like I caught a disease.

That aside, the property does look nice. It was a better renovation than the usual slapping lipstick on a pig. I suspect that is because of Drais involvement. It's funny though how it seems like such an upgrade from Bill's, but I was able to quickly visualize how it was before, I suppose it's because the footprint didn't change. The elevator to Drais looks exactly the same. The bathrooms, though, are fully made over and a HUGE improvement. Found it odd that the shelf in the stalls was placed so high, the only reasoning I came up with is to discourage the useage of coke. The casino floor is loaded with tables, slots dot the outer walls. I suspected tables will eventually be traded out for slots. Only one bar is currently open. Looks like at least one more will be opening soon. The cocktail servers are attractive, but they didn't strike me the same way Wynn's did when that opened (or M, for that matter). I didn't find their attire terribly flattering, but maybe that's just me? It feels a bit too Tina Turner.

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"Jesus Marie"

April 22, 2014
When we set out with Guayaquil in the rearview mirror, we had no idea what to expect... We were genuinely surprised by the sheer beauty of the Andes. The fog grew thick as we climbed elevation, but before long we were above the clouds. Colors have never appeared so vivid. Traffic was light, but the ride was a bit white knuckled at times with no visibility, random herds of cattle and alpacas, oncoming busses and trucks around the bends, and sudden complete stops by other drivers. Prior to approaching the Andes we saw a sign that said Jesus Marie, we weren't really clear on the context, but it reminded us of Breaking Bad so it was the catch phrase for this leg of the trip. Every close call warranted a "Jesus Marie." We'd channel Hank and laugh over "Jesus Christ, Marie, they're minerals." Despite its challenges we thoroughly enjoyed the four hour ride that took us through El Cajas National Park before arriving in Cuenca.

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Tolls varied from 40-cents to a dollar.



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El Cajas National Park

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Joel Robuchon

April 21, 2014
Frank presented me with a card when he got home from work on Thursday (in Spanish, because we're determined to become fluent) and gave me an "Oh, by the way, we have a reservation for Joel Robuchon tonight at 9:30." Huh? What?

I suggested we go prior to my birthday. Ten years of marriage seemed to warrant the excuse to go all out for an extravagent meal. One that I've been dreaming about for nearly as long as we've been married. I wanted to dine at Alex at Wynn, but never had the opportunity before it closed. I didn't want the same to happen with Joel Robuchon so I'm thrilled Frank made the reservation weeks ago, back around my birthday. It was one of the few availabilites until late May.

Upon arriving to the restaurant, the hostess asked that we wait in the lounge while they prepare our table. A gentleman came by and asked if we'd like Champagne while we wait. Why not? Ten years of marriage deserves a toast. Little did we know, those two glasses of champagne were $29 each. Sneaky.

Our table was in the garden, flowers and vines were all around. The tables had teal runners, white napkins tied with teal ribbon. This shade was nearly identical to the colors I used for my wedding. Pure coincidence, but it was a lovely nod to our memorable day. The menu was presented and we were given time to peruse it. It's overwhelming. There is the 16 course tasting menu, which is mighty tempting, an ala carte menu and several prix-fixe options. We opted for the prixe-fixe that offered two appetizers, main course and dessert ($198 per person). You choose your dishes from a varied selection. We each chose a cold and hot appetizer, entree and dessert; we felt this was the best way to sample as much of the menu as possible without gorging ourselves or breaking the bank. You're given a choice of flat or sparkling water ($10 per bottle of Evian). We also selected a half bottle Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc ($35) and then our feast was underway.

We began with a Split Pea Amuse Bouche, it has marshmallows (savory, not sweet) pistachios and another tasty bite I cannot recall.

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I've heard tales of the bread cart, but I hadn't imagined this glorious nirvana with more than a dozen options. These were our round one selections. We had about five rounds of bread. Yes, seriously. It was complete carbicide. We loved every minute. My final meal will include their bread cart. No question. They also hand churn butter; there's a lovely presentation, and the olive oil is divine. Don't miss the croissants! They were so fabulous, I now want to visit France.



Next, were the cold appetizers: asparagus with orange vinaigrette and sea urchin, and king crab salad.

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Then, the warm appetizers: Crispy soft boiled egg in light comte cheese sauce with Iberico de Bellota ham, our favorite dish. Stellar. And truffled langoustine ravioli with chopped cabbage ($35 supplement), it was tasty, but not worth the upcharge.



Our entree selections included, suckling pig prepared three ways: braised shoulder, chop and chorizo cannelloni ($30 supplement) and braised beef cheeks in eggplant and the most delicious mashed potatoes in existence.



We also tacked on a cheese course from the trolley ($30), there were plenty of soft and hard cheese to choose from. We favor hard cheeses, but did try one soft cheese that was described as warm fondue, rings of Spruce tree are wrapped around the young cheese to impart flavor and vessel for transport. We agreed it was awful, thankfully the hard cheeses and the Roquefort did not disappoint.



And finally, dessert! Frank had the chocolate soufflé ($15 supplement), it was outstanding. I had a raspberry mascarpone something or another. It had the most concentrated raspberry flavor imaginable.



In addition to dessert, you're given the opportunity to select treats from the Mignardises trolley. I refer to this as the Willy Wonka experience. There must have been a hundred different items to choose from, we only chose a handful because we were beyond stuffed. The tirimisu was delicious and I've never liked creme brulee until now.



With the check, we were given a parting gift: a citrus pound cake, and photo book.



It was a huge splurge, but a fantastic experience. My expectations were incredibly high for a restaurant of this caliber. It is the first and only 3 Star Michelin Guide Winner in Las Vegas. We have some prime choices, but Joel Robuchon (MGM Grand) is definitely the upper echelon of dining.

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Celebrating Ten Years!

April 17, 2014
A decade ago, I was exhausted. I had only a couple hours of sleep because my sister and I were up all night finishing up the final details. I didn't want to leave the comfort of the bed in our suite at Mandalay Bay, but it was time to be made beautiful. My bridal party all met in my suite and a few hours later, the room smelled of cigarettes (why, oh why, did I ever smoke?) and hairspray. Our hair was just right and our faces had fresh make up. My sleepiness faded and I was filled with joy. It was time to lace up my dress.

It was like eating a bowl full of butterflies. I was so excited to marry Frank, but nervous to be the center of attention. Eighty of our friends and family came to Las Vegas to see us wed. We were the main event. Eeee!

Other than giggling like a school girl. through the entire ceremony it went flawlessly. I walked into the Chapel by the Bay as a Miss, and came out a Mrs. After seven years together, I was so happy to finally become Frank's wife. The day was perfect. The weather was not. It started with beautiful sunny skies only to turn dark and cloudy, and brought cold and rain. Rain in the desert?! Only on my wedding day. To make matters worse, I thought the wind would carry me away. We made the most of it, we still had a nice lunch buffet at Luxor, before running off for our photo tour. Later, we met up with friends and family for fun on Fremont Street.

I was never meant to have a traditional wedding. We did it our way. It was very much Kellee & Frank. It was perfect.

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Happy 10th Wedding Anniversary, Frank! I love you.

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