Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Vegas Thanksgiving 2016

A week ago I was settling in to Vegas for our yearly Thanksgiving visit.  Although we've been doing it for years, I rarely post about it here, mostly because each trip seems so similar to the last that I feel like mentioning it would be repetitive.  Then I realized that as new places have opened, and our tastes have changed, this year actually was different enough from my original experiences out there that I wanted to pass along some of my favorite parts of it.

All of our Vegas trips start at Red Rocks, usually driving out to Desert Rock Sports to rent a crash pad (still $15 for regular size and $25 for highball), which we love since we don't have to drag pads through airports in two directions for a few hours of bouldering.  Recently we've been stopping at the Red Rock casino on the way out for a bite to eat, usually just at the food court there, but in the past couple years at Yard House because we've gotten there late enough that the main restaurants are open.  I know it's a chain, but (and teenage me never would have said this) I was craving their brussels sprouts anyway. Maybe not the best thing in my stomach before climbing, but tasty.

Although we usually just head to the Kraft boulders, this year we decided to take a drive on the scenic loop first since we'd never done that, and decided to check out some of the bouldering along the loop. We only made one climbing stop, at the Sandstone Quarry boulder, but we had it to ourselves and got a bit of fun slab movement in to stretch our bodies back out after so much sitting.

Now here's where, as a climber, I'm supposed to say that I hated leaving that perfect serene desert for the unnatural bright light of the strip and the wasteful, capitalistic, and shallow things it embodies. Except I have to admit I kind of love it.  True, I would never want to be there for more than a few days, but there's always something to see and do, no matter your preferences.  My preference is eating and drinking my way through the trip, having good conversations, and watching all of the interesting people go by.  I never get tired of the sights!

This year we stayed at Caesar's Palace, which we'd somehow never stayed at before despite hanging out there every year.  My favorite is still Paris, with painted ceilings making me feel like I'm outside, but Caesar's had a comfort when I was staying there that I'd never felt when just walking through. Not that I'd ever want to spend a whole trip in one casino, but with the good variety of bars and restaurants there, Caesar's was a place where I might be able to do that.  It didn't hurt that we got an upgraded room for my birthday, and the view was beautiful.

All of our breakfasts were at Caesar's, and I'll admit that breakfast was the one meal that surprised me with how expensive it was.  Cafe Americano has always had good food when we've gone there on the past couple trips, and although the prices do seem a bit steep, the servings are pretty big.  For me that's a downside, since I don't want to be too full to look forward to all of the other great food out there, but I think most people would feel better about it.  The veggie benedict I had this year was actually a reasonable size though, and the Brown Derby I washed it down with helped my morning off to a great start.

I actually liked our breakfast at Payard a bit better, though I'll admit I'm partial to pastries, and the pastry basket was one of the cheapest things on the menu.  All three were tasty, and way bigger than I expected considering I got to choose three of them.

Our final breakfast of the trip took a completely different direction, with Emily wanting to go to the 24 hour Beijing Noodle No. 9, since the wait had been too long for dinner the night before.  Again, not cheap, but huge portions of delicious food.  Our stomachs also felt surprisingly good for the flight, considering how much we ate.

We were never really hungry enough for lunch, but we did get some snacks at LVB Burger (Mirage) and China Poblano (Cosmopolitan), which I had been wanting to try for a while.  Everything we tried at China Poblano was decent enough, though I didn't find it as good as at the other Jose Andres restaurants I've visited.

For dinner the first night, I had toyed with requesting our standby favorite Bouchon (Venetian) for my birthday dinner, but we were pretty wiped and didn't feel like leaving our own casino.  Too bad in a way, since I loved the boudin blanc last year and those fries are always incredible.

Instead we ended up staying at Caesar's and going to the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, another place I've wanted to try for a while.  We split a bunch of small plates, and the scotch egg was one of the better ones I've had.

Harvest (Bellagio) was our choice for Thanksgiving dinner, and although we've learned that our Friday night meals are almost always better than what we get on Thanksgiving, the mushroom porridge I had was delicious.  Dressing up was fun too.

Our last dinner of the trip was at Mesa Grill, another of our standby spots, and the mushroom quesadilla was as awesome as ever.  Apparently awesome enough that I ate it before grabbing a photo.

We also went to a few good new (to us) cocktail places, on top of our usual stops.  Rhumbar (Mirage) has always been one of our favorites, both for the quality and reasonable cost of the cocktails, and for the outdoor couches with heat lamps.  A perfect compromise when the Black Friday #optoutside thing wasn't going to happen for us.

Public House (Venetian) was a place I knew I wanted to get back to, but I didn't realize exactly how long I'd want to spend there.  Well worth the stop!

Another of our favorites has always been the Chandelier (Cosmopolitan), and we did enjoy our stop there as usual.

We also got a chance to check out Vesper (Cosmopolitan), which had a fun concept of featuring several classic cocktails along with their own take on them.  I was really happy with the Mother Club, a variation on a Bobby Burns.

The one place I hadn't heard about, and certainly didn't expect to be a good cocktail spot, was the Montecristo cigar bar (Caesar's Palace).  We took a look at the cocktail menu in passing, and I wanted to at least stop to try the Rolling Smoke, made with Makers 46, Laphroaig, and a coffee-infused Carpano Antica.  Totally worth it!

A big revelation for me this time out there was how fun it is to run on the Strip.  I usually get up sometime between 5:30-6:00 and take a walk until everyone else wakes up, but on this trip decided to go for runs on two of my three mornings.  With well lit streets, lots to see, and almost flat ground, the miles flew by quickly and I still felt energized when I finished.

So that's that.  Funny how a trip I make every year can seem so different every time, but that's part of what I love about it, and why I'm always looking forward to going back.  For now though, it's good to be home!

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