March 27, 2007

Things get better with age, even birthdays.

I had a wonderful birthday on Sunday, in fact it was one of the best that I can remember. It was sunny and 80 degrees - absolute perfection. My day of bliss began at Harrah’s Spa. Frank booked me a 50 minute facial. He dropped me off and he walked over to Mirage to play some poker. I used the eucalyptus steam shower and then lounged near the whirlpool while I waited for my appt. I enjoyed the treatment, but I think I'll stick to massages for my b-day (I felt a bit freakish due the redness that lingered).

Afterwards, I walked over to Mirage to meet Frank at Carnegie Deli. Had to grab a couple of our favorite cookies. With cookies in hand, we headed to our nook outside of the coffee shop near the parking garage. We relaxed and nibbled on our treats. We returned to the car and I requested that we drive down the strip because I wanted to check out construction progress and see the site where Stardust used to be. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly buildings go up in this town. There’s nothing but rubble from the Frontier to Circus Circus. Weird.

It was a lovely day and we wanted to take advantage of it, so we decided to visit Ethel M's Cactus Garden. Disappointing trip, landscaping was a mess and much of the cacti looked like it suffered from the cold temps we had this winter.

Next, Frank got the idea to check out some new homes. We looked at condos with garages. We found a real nice one, everything was great except the living room was too small. After that we visited Rhodes Ranch for what we call Real Estate Porn. It's a gorgeous master planned community that surrounds a man-made lake and golf course. Homes have spectacular strip and mountain views. We looked at "The Collection" subdivision which has homes in the $500-800k price range. There was only one house we really liked, it was $770,000. There was a ton of natural light and views from the loft and master bedroom were out of this world.

Afterwards, we returned home and watched some TV to rest up before our dinner reservations at STACK at 6pm. Dinner was fantastic, as usual. We adore the place, it's like it was meant for us. It has great ambiance and music, with excellent food and service to match. This time we had the wings as a starter, unlike any buffalo wings I've ever had. They were tasty and so cute. We followed with a split Caesar. Next up, was petite filet and tater tots for me; and lamb shank and XL potato for Frank. Pure Ecstasy. When I thought I could eat no more, warm chocolate with vanilla ice cream was delivered with a lit candle and a happy birthday message. Frank had it arranged earlier in the day. It was heavenly, and I don't particularly like cake. Gluttony is, by far, my favorite sin.

My fabulous day still wasn't over. We had tickets to Spamalot at Wynn at 8pm. We walked over and enjoyed the perfect weather. We were surprised by all the changes to the theater, very different from when Ave Q played; it is now very tailored to fit the Spamalot theme. We had seats 116, 117 in the Mezzanine Row E... dead center, high-up, but we could see the entire show. I really don't think there could be a bad seat because the theater is so well designed. It was a full house. The theater erupted into laughter hundreds of times. It was silly and incredibly entertaining. Spamalot seems to be very well received. The cast was fantastic and received a standing ovation. We had a ball, my cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing for 90 minutes. Great show, definitely one of my favorites.

My birthday was drawing to a close, we saw the Bellagio fountains in the distance. Frank asked if I wanted to go there. I smiled real big and said yes. We saw "Luck be a Lady" while sitting in traffic. It was a bit of a cluster so we weren't able to get into the turning lane to enter the garage. So, we didn't make it to Bellagio, Frank offered to turn around and try again, but I declined. I suggested we go next week, instead.

March 13, 2007

So long, Stardust...

Early this morning, Mike, Amy, Jeff and Matt came by my place. We piled into my car and headed toward the strip to witness the Stardust Implosion. We parked in Deju Vu's parking lot and walked along Industrial Rd. to Stardust Rd. At 2:30 am, a spectacular 4-minute firework display kicked off the Stardust's last hurrah. By 2:34, we watched the towers crumble before our eyes. An extrodinary sight to see. KLAS-TV has the best video around, their footage includes a countdown that we were unable to see from our vantage point.

Fun Facts:

  • At 315-feet tall Stardust was tallest building imploded on the Las Vegas strip
  • Also, it makes it the fourth tallest building ever imploded
  • 428 lbs of explosives to sent the towers tumbling in 10 seconds
  • Construction of Echelon Place will begin as soon as the site it clear
  • The project is expected to open in 2010 and cost 4.4 billion dollars

Thanks for the memories!

March 12, 2007

Review: Garduno's

I escaped work today on my lunch break, Frank and I were undecided on where to go, but as we passed the Palms we saw that Garduno’s now offered patio seating. Despite us being less than impressed on our last two visits, we were swayed by the outdoor dining since it was such a gorgeous day.

However, when we got inside we were told it’d be a 15-minute wait to sit on the patio. I didn’t have time to spare so we settled on sitting indoors. We glanced over the menu and quickly decided on the Fajita’s Express option. For $10 and some change you have your choice of Beef or Chicken Fajitas made-to-order, cheese enchilada, chicken burrito, rice, beans and all the fixings. And it is all-you-can eat.

Our expectations weren’t high, but as it turned out, we were thoroughly impressed. The meal was 100 times better than our prior visits when we ordered off the menu. Everything was tasty and fresh, the beef was tender; we actually preferred it over the chicken. Fresh chips and salsa topped off the meal. All in all, it was pretty good and reasonably priced. The check was $22 before tip. Service was average. I wouldn’t hesitate to return for lunch, it’ll be nice to add another option to the rotation.

March 10, 2007

Review: KA, Revisted

More than a year ago we saw KA at MGM. We thought it was spectacular and we’ve been anxious to see again since, but we wanted to wait until discounted tickets were offered to locals. It took sometime, but 50% off tickets finally became available. Initially, I planned to get tickets for April, but when I realized that wouldn’t be possible. I called and reserved tickets 3 days in advance. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to select seats; I was told that the discounted tickets are automatically chosen. Best available seats for Friday’s 7pm performance were in section 103, Row P, seats 20-21. I questioned whether or not the seats were toward the center of the theater or on the outer edge. I was assured by the ticket agent that they were toward the center so I purchased the tickets at $68.75 each.

When we arrived to the theater I was disappointed to learn that I was misled. The seats were the last two in the outer aisle. Luckily, there were no obstructions. We were able to view the entire performance and from that perspective we also saw the moving parts of the stage. Nonetheless, I would’ve preferred and I recommend centrally located seats.

The show got started a couple minutes late. Then, ten-minutes into it, it appeared that something was wrong… sure enough, an announcement was made that they were experiencing technical difficulty and a short pause was in order. About five-minutes later, another announcement was made inviting us to the lobby for a brief intermission. People were confused, we overheard a few ask staff whether or not this was part of the show. After a twenty-minute lull the show resumed. The cast picked up where they left off, but the flow was interrupted and it really hurt the performance. The crowd was very disconnected. It became awkward at the end; the cast appeared for applause, but the theater was quiet. After the show we felt like we had witnessed both the best and worst performances of KA. Also, we were a little surprised to see that no changes had been made to show since we last seen it. Overall, we didn’t enjoy it nearly as much the second time around and I feel for the folks who paid full price because we did not receive a top-notch performance.

Flashback: KA Review

From 12-05-05:

Finally, I bit the bullet and forked over the cash to see KA at MGM. Figured the tickets would be a great birthday present for Frank. We attended the 10:30pm performance on Saturday, December 3rd. I purchased tickets 2 weeks in advance and requested seats in section 202 row EE. (Section 202 AA-DD are $150; EE-NN are $125) EE wasn’t available so I agreed to row FF and we were assigned seats 29 and 30 – just a few seats to the right from the center of the room. Our seats were great, no complaints whatsoever.

From the moment you walk into the theatre you feel, as though, you’ve been whisked away to a far-off village. Moreover, the pre-show entertainers help to pull off the feel of a working village. The lights dim and the epic journey begins…After the fall of the empire, twin brother and sister, are forced to follow their own destinies on separate paths. The tale of the twins takes you from sea, to the mountains and thru the rainforest. Along their journeys, each of the siblings learns to overcome fear as they learn to survive the elements, as well as, their enemies. Ultimately, the twins reunite, the battle is won, and the reconstruction of the village can begin -- Good conquers evil.

Throughout the show we were in awe. The stage is a technological modern marvel, and the cast of performers are full of tremendous strength and grace. Their talents are absolutely astonishing! KA is, of course, a Cirque du Soleil show, but it’s taken a step further and to an entirely new place unlike any show I’ve seen before.

My favorite scenes took place after the shipwreck. First, the feeling of being underwater felt so real I was completely taken back, the simplistic movements were of great beauty – it gave me goose bumps head-to-toe. Next, I adored the seashore scene. The sea creatures were comedic; I especially enjoyed the crabs and turtle. And later, the shadow puppets were amazing, I never thought I’d find shadow puppets so captivating, but I did. Without a doubt, the most interesting aspect of the show is the way the acrobatics are disguised within the story. You have to really think about what is really happening before your eyes. All the work that goes into making this show possible is extremely extraordinary.

The ticket price is high, but don’t let that deter you, its money well spent and I highly recommend the show. Frank thought it was a great gift and he thoroughly enjoyed the show, as well.

Review: Morton's The Steakhouse

We’ve been talking about trying Morton's Steakhouse for a couple years now, but for one reason or another we never made it happen. Last year, I cashed in credit card reward points for $100 gift certificate so we’d have an excuse to finally cross it off the ever-growing “places to dine” list. We needed a place to grab a bite before seeing KA, it seemed like a perfect fit. I made reservations a day in advance for 5pm Friday.

We were among the first of a few tables to arrive. As our meal continued on, the dining room began to fill. Nice old-school atmosphere with Sinatra playing in the background. We were on limited time so we got perturbed waiting for menus. We didn’t realize the menus don’t come until the end of the presentation. Which adds some kitsch, we know what meat and veggies look like so we would’ve rather got straight to the point, but I digress.

We ordered a Caesar salad and jumbo shrimp cocktail to start. The Caesar was ordinary; heavy on dressing and the lettuce was limp. The shrimp cocktail was excellent. Additionally, the bread served is warm, flaky, buttery, with a hint of onion and poppy seed – delicious. Next, for the main course Frank selected the Chicago-style bone-in ribeye, I choose the double-cut filet mignon and we opted to share the baked potato and garlic green beans. The seasoning used on the steaks was saltier than we like. Frank was unimpressed by his bone-in, he claimed it was among the worst he’s had, considerable amount fat to work around and it wasn’t nearly as tender or juicy as similar steaks he’s had at Delmonico, STACK, SW. etc. I was pleased with my filet as it was tender and full flavored. The baked potato was just that and the garlic green beans were a standout.

Overall, the menu offers traditional steakhouse fare, service was excellent throughout the meal, and our total for dinner was $150 before tip. Although, I enjoyed the experience more than Frank, I felt that the meal was overpriced. In the future, I’d rather visit comparatively priced steakhouses in town that offer better quality steaks and/or more creative menus.