February 22, 2007

Home Away From Home

Our place in Laughlin is coming along... most of the major purchases are complete, at least for the time being. We're a bit anxious to get started on updating the bathrooms and kitchen, but that's on the back burner until we get some money saved.

Living Room:

Patio & Dining Area:

Guest Bedroom/Computer Room:
Frank's Newest Toy:
Guest Bath - shared by guest bedroom & main living area:
Master Bedroom:
New plantation blinds that I installed:
New Washer & Dryer:
Views from bedroom windows:

February 6, 2007

Review: The Producers

After dinner, we caught the 8pm performance of The Producers. Tickets were only $60/pp because I took advantage of the promotion offered to locals during preview performances. We had seats 38/39 in row G; I believe that’s on the border of the green and red section, if ordering via Ticketmaster. Our seats were good, but I would’ve preferred to be closer to the stage. If you’re debating seating selection I’d suggest narrowing down the options to Blue ($143), Green ($128) or Red ($108). I believe it would be best to forget the yellow ($75) section altogether and blue would offer optimum viewing. The theater has undergone little change since it was home to We Will Rock You; as far as I could tell, it was identical except for the sets.

As we had expected, the show was entertaining and we both enjoyed it. The performers are talented and there are lots of laughs throughout the musical. Brad Oscar plays Max Bialystock and Larry Raben stars as Leo Bloom. Leigh Zimmerman spices things up as Ulla. The trio works splendidly together. The theater erupted when David Hasselhoff appeared as Roger Debris. He depicts the flamboyant role fabulously. Overall, it was a lot of fun. The show was seamless despite it being a preview performance. The cast earned a standing ovation, the crowd seemed pleased and only positive things were overheard.

I don't feel that it makes the list of must-see shows, but if you have interest, I think it's worth the ticket price. While it wasn’t my favorite Broadway show that’s made it’s way to Las Vegas, it'll be interesting to see if The Producers has what it takes to succeed.

Review: Mon Ami Gabi

Surprisingly, we never got around to trying Mon Ami Gabi until last night. We had tickets to The Producers at 8pm so it seemed like a perfect fit; I made reservations for 6pm a week in advance. For a few years now, I’ve heard nothing but solid praises for the food, value and ambience at Mon Ami Gabi. I wish I could say our experience earned such regards. And I’m sure I’ll ruffle some feathers, but the entire meal was lackluster, the service was slow, and we witnessed the most disorganized staff I’ve encountered in recent memory.

Upon arrival we had to wait in line to give our name to the hostess. Then it took three girls tapping on the computer before they were able to locate our reservation. We, along with the group ahead of us, were herded alongside the bar and told to wait to be seated. A few moments passed and then we were led to our table in a small room with approx. eight tables. The room had two large windows: one overlooks Las Vegas Blvd with a faint view of Bellagio in the distance – and the other had views of the casino floor through the shear drapery. The atmosphere was nice, although the main dining area was bustling and a bit loud.

The wine list was quite impressive; it’s too bad we’re not wine drinkers. We flipped the menu and glanced over the food selection. I had an idea of what I wanted before we arrived so I was quick to settle on the Onion Soup and New York Strip Steak with shallot and burgundy sauce. Frank took longer to make his choice. No entrees on the menu caught his eye, so he instead ordered the Monday night special, filet mignon with truffle cream sauce. We nibbled on the fresh bread while we awaited our soup. It took some time for the waiter to return with our drink order; and when he did he gave the iced tea to me and diet Pepsi to Frank. It should’ve been reversed. This is a minor flaw, one that I’d typically pay little attention to, but in this case it set the tone for the rest of the meal.

Soup was mistakenly delivered to the two men sitting beside us to our right. A few minutes later, soup du jour and crab cakes were brought to us in error. They were intended for the couple seated to our left. After we polished off the tasty French bread our onion soup finally arrived. The soup was good, right on par with other French onion soups I’ve tried. Frank, however, felt the three onion soup at The Range (Harrah’s) is better, both, in taste and presentation. I’ve never been so I can’t compare.

When we finished our soup, the gentlemen dining to our right received their entrees, but they had to wait for flatware before they could dig in, they seemed annoyed. We received ours right after them, as did the table to our left. There was a long lull between the time we finished our soup and when our entrees were delivered. Yet again, they tried to deliver our neighbors’ (to the left) selection. We refused and were beginning to get impatient. Then finally, our entrees were delivered, but Frank was served mine and received his. After a quick swap it was finally time to dig in. We thought the frites reminded us of shoe strings… fancier than French fries, but nothing to be excited about. Both steaks were prepared to our liking. My Strip Steak was fattier and less tender than I expected and the sauce was uninspired. Frank’s filet had more fat and it was less tender than we are used to as well. But, the truffle sauce was wonderful. Frank definitely made the better choice by ordering the special.

Towards the end of our meal, Frank was in need of a refill, the waiter returned with a diet Pepsi. He even noted the mistake, but he never returned with an iced tea. In the meantime, both parties seated beside us had left. We were slightly annoyed because the table to our left was seated after us. When the waiter asked us if we’d like dessert we passed and requested that the check be brought promptly since we had a show to catch. He returned several minutes later to deliver the bill, $88 before tip. Overall, we felt Mon Ami Gabi was overrated and we failed to see the value. Maybe our expectations were too high? Perhaps we caught them on an off night? Could be that we’re jaded… Either way, they didn't earn praises from us.

February 1, 2007

Lounging in Luxury

Last May we splurged and stayed in a salon suite at Wynn, our experience was pleasant, but we encountered several flaws throughout our stay. I wrote a letter sharing my thoughts; in return, we were invited back for one comped night.

The past couple months have been chaotic and stressful; therefore we felt that a night of romance and relaxation was in order. About a month ago, I redeemed the comped offer and booked tickets to Phantom of the Opera. Originally, I wanted to try a new place for dinner, and we settled on Daniel Boulud. But last week, Frank decided he wanted to stick with something reliable and we hadn’t had STACK since Oct. so he wanted to eat there instead. [Thinking we’ll try DB next month when we see Spamalot]. Plans were set; in the meantime we anxiously awaited our local getaway… Then, finally January 28 came and it was time to unwind.

We began our 24 hours of indulgence by having a late breakfast at Hash House a Go Go. It’s been a couple months since our last visit; it’s always nice to re-visit an old friend. I wanted something simple so I selected the vanilla waffle. Frank stuck with his favorite, the pork tenderloin benedict. As usual, service and food were excellent.

We returned home, packed and waited until check-in time at Wynn grew near. We arrived at the Tower Suites valet at 3pm. We proceeded to check-in; no waiting, everything was in order… we were given a choice of a complimentary morning paper, I asked for the USA Today. We were informed that pastries and coffee would be served between 6-8am at Tableau. Then, we were on our way. We were issued keys for Salon Suite 2507, even though I requested a suite on the highest floor possible. The suite was identical to the rooms we had last year except that this one had a different color scheme -- bright, with oodles of yellow tones. I ran around the room snapping pictures while Frank scoped things out.

He decided he wanted a suite on a higher floor. He called down to the desk to have it arranged, we were told that we could move to room 5201. Also, he noted that the side table in the foyedhad cigarette burns [this was supposedly a non-smoking floor]. The d├ęcor of the suite was identical to the dark colored schemed suite we had last time.

We settled into the room and then headed straight for the tub. Our favorite aspects of the Salon Suite are the tub and the views out the floor to ceiling windows. After a delightful soak and shower we lounged in bed and enjoyed the lovely view. Well, except for Trump’s gaudy creation… could someone please tell the man that gold can be done tastefully?

We prepared for dinner at STACK and walked over via FSM and the TI tram. When I made the reservation I requested a corner booth, and fortunately our request was honored. After glancing over the tempting offerings we decided to work our way thru the menu and stray from our usual steak selections… we did rely on few favorites, though. We started with the mini kobe chili cheese dogs, they were little bites of heaven. Chili dogs have been forever ruined from this point on. Next, we split a Caesar salad – we enjoy their version, light dressing achieves a lovely balance with the crisp romaine. Entrees followed, Frank had the Lamb Shank served with lentils and watercress and I had Kurabota Pork Chop. We also ordered adult tater tots and XL potatoes to accompany the main course. However, our waiter had forgotten to put the order in; despite the delay the sides arrived in ample time. The presentation of the lamb is lovely and the dish is fantastic to boot. The pork chop was one fine piece of meat – full flavored and juicy. Again, our side dishes did not disappoint. We thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the meal. We were much too full for dessert so we passed when it was offered to us, however our waiter had arranged a complimentary treat for us to make up for his error. Although, we were stuffed beyond belief and practically comatose we managed to sample the raspberry munchkins and vanilla dipping sauce - delightfully sweet and tasty. The bill was the cheapest we’ve had at STACK, total came to $108 before tip, a reasonable price to pay for a wonderful dining experience.

From Mirage we sauntered over to Venetian. We had tickets for the 8pm performance of Phantom of the Opera. Our seats 33/34 in row AA were excellent (purchased locals discounted tickets for $82/pp), they were located in the Orchestra Section. We were able to see the stage and chandelier, and we had a little extra leg room since there is only a rail in front of you. The show started a few minutes late. And didn’t end soon enough… As it turns out Phantom isn’t our cup of tea. The music overpowered the performers. You could hardly understand most of the lyrics, so it was a challenge to follow along. Despite hearing wonderful things about the chandelier and it truly didn’t impress us. In all honesty we felt it was a bit cheesy. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by special effects KA and other production shows. The theater was a packed house, the cast received a standing ovation, and the only negative feedback overheard was that the music was too loud. Consequently, it led us to believe that it must have been well-done production, just not a show that appealed to our tastes.

We left Venetian and walked over to Wynn, when passing through the Esplanade an awful stench of rancid fish filled the air. Perhaps the catch of the day at Bartolotta had past its prime by ten o’clock? Who knows what the cause actually was, but it was ghastly. We meandered around the casino and commented how much we’ve learned to appreciate the property as a whole. After a several visits and a couple stays we see the big picture and get Wynn’s design. The style is far more whimsical than my personal taste, but that’s just one characteristic that sets it apart from the competition. Although, the property demonstrates many strengths it’s still far from flawless… We returned to our suite to find that we didn’t receive turn down service, yet again. We added that to the list of items we felt were insufficient for a property that received 5 diamond awards from both AAA and Mobil. Other items on the list: hand held tub spray was out of order, table under bathroom vanity was dusty and dust bunnies were all along the wall near the climate control unit, there was an ashtray in our non-smoking room and maids carts lined the halls when we had checked in. Admittedly, none of the above spoiled our stay, but I do expect more for the level of service that Wynn Resort claims to provide.

I digressed a bit there, now back to the evening... We got comfortable, turned on some classical music, broke open a nice bottle of Champagne, and lounged in luxury while admiring the spectacular view. I had forgotten to bring along some chocolates, and neither of us were about to leave so we selected Desage Chocolate from the mini-bar. The hazelnut chocolates were delicious, and for convenience sake, it was worth every penny of the $12 we were charged for a box of four pieces. Needless to say we had a splendidly romantic evening.

I woke at sunrise, but the thought of free pastries weren’t enough to lure me from bed. So, I returned to sleep instead. A couple hours later, I was awake and refreshed and drew myself a bath. After a relaxing soak, I showered and then grabbed the paper for Frank. I grabbed magazines from the coffee table and nestled into the chair in front of the window and flipped thru them while I periodically watched construction over at Palazzo.

Frank awoke when I got settled; he showered and then sat beside me to enjoy the sights while reading the paper. He was disappointed to find that it was the WSJ instead of the USA Today as requested. He called and had the proper paper delivered. We read and lounged around until it was time check out.

Tower suites valet promptly delivered our car, the attendant even offered to give directions if needed, nice touch. From Wynn we headed over to Paris for lunch at the Le Village Buffet. The line was short and it moved quickly, Frank teased the cashier saying the $38 total for two was a bargain, but she didn’t find the humor in his sarcasm. We paced our way through all the choices. Most was as good as previous visits, but I was let down to see that the lyonnaise potatoes weren’t the same or as tasty as in the past, also you had to peel your own shrimp. There were a few new items like grilled veggies, dried fruits and surprisingly we enjoyed the sweet potato turkey sausage. It’s the crepes and peanut butter cookies that really make the buffet special and those did not disappoint. It was nice lunch and a pleasant end to our indulgent 24 hours.

Time Flies

I really need a central place to keep tidbits straight... it's a new year, so let's give this another whirl.

We had a chaotic end to 2006 and so far it's been a hectic 2007, but busy is good and we have much to be thankful for:

My mom, Mike, Amy, and her boyfriend, Jeff have all made the move to Nevada. They live in Pahrump (60 miles from me). Having them an hour drive away is quite nice. Still, distance and busy day-to-day life keeps me from seeing them as often as I'd like.

In November, Amy & Jeff welcomed their first son, Nicolas into the world. My mom and I were fortunate enough to be there for his birth. Nicky is growing quickly and he learns to do new things each day. It is a joy to be an aunt.

In December, we had a lovely relaxing vacation in Xpu-ha, Mexico. Then, when we returned home, Frank started his new position as Director of Specialty Games in Laughlin. He lived out of hotel rooms during the work week, and we began our new routine of commuting between Laughlin and Las Vegas on our off days. Luckily, it didn't take too long to find a suitable condo in Laughlin for us to purchase and we were able to close escrow in one months time.

January 17th, 2007 rolled around and we finally had keys to our new home (plus, we were now proud owners of 2 condos). Frank no longer had to hotel hop and there was no need to haul laundry back-n-forth each week. We're still getting settled into the new place and I'm learning how to best manage my time to juggle up-keep of two homes, but we're adjusting. The time away from each other each week can be rough at times, but we have the weekends to look forward to and I think we have more appreciation for the time we do have together.

Frank's getting a handle of his new position and he's getting into the swing of the laid-back Laughlin life. Meanwhile, everything continues to be going well for me at my job, too.