Sunday, September 16, 2012

Three things about Vegas...



Daytime nightclubs with one added feature
  August was a hot month in LA. September has been no better. While escaping to the beach would have been smarter, I looked to Las Vegas instead. I know it makes no sense, but then again, Las Vegas has redeeming qualities all year round. What can be written about Vegas that has not already been said? Well, I have three things in mind.

First - If you can take the heat, Vegas in the summer and early fall is quite a deal and judging from the crowds, a lot of people have figured that out. This is the time of year that you can enjoy a high roller suite (1600 square feet, 3 bedroom, 3 bath at Mirage) for $350 a night. Hard to beat, right? If you a gambler, talk directly to your casino host and make your best deal. If you are not a big time gambler, contact a casino host and set yourself up with a line of credit (you have no obligation to use it) and you will immediately gain leverage when it comes to getting the best hotel deal possible. This strategy is better than using a travel service and once you are part of any “players club” at any casino, you will get e-mails all the time from hotels offering fantastic deals. I am frequently blown away by the offers the Venetian sends me and I am far from a high roller. Their rooms are spectacular.

One other thing worth mentioning about summertime in Vegas – the pool scene is quite interesting, especially at venues like Mirage and MGM, where “bare pools” have become the craze. These pricy daytime dance and swim clubs encourage topless swimming, with table service, cabanas, queen size beds and more sun tan lotion than you have ever seen in a pool. Only in Vegas and it comes at a high price. Of course, at many of the venues, ladies are admitted for free.
Automated Craps - No human contact required

Second - I was amazed by the increasing number of table games that have gone fully automated – employee free. If you think about it, Video Poker and Video Blackjack were the first to offer automated gaming. Today, Craps and Roulette are now available – fully automated, without a dealer. Instead of crowding around a dice table, putting bets on the table and watching out for the flying dice, the players sit comfortably around a dome that automatically rolls a giant pair of fuzzy dice – that is the only strange part. Each seated player has a video screen in front of them for betting and to follow the action. Statistics are available to players - like what numbers came up on the last twenty rolls. Some of the games have a single attendant, others have no attendant at all – an automated voice calls the game. For the player, lower stakes are available, there is less “public pressure” as a player and overall, it is a very comfortable way to shoot Craps. As a player, what you lose on the automated table is the hooting, hollering and camaraderie between players that happens at a hot Craps table. Considering that studies say Gen Y prefers an automated transaction instead of having to deal with people, automated gambling should be here to stay.

One pit boss at Mirage told me that automated gaming is a winning proposition for the casino as well. “It’s faster, there is more action, great for the novice player, eliminates pay out errors and fraud.”

Roulette offers the same automated set up with players watching the domed Roulette wheel or watching the results via video on their personal screens. Space is at a premium around traditional Roulette tables, so for anyone who has ever tried to muscle in to a Roulette table just to place a bet, automated Roulette makes sense.

Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak - Unreal Tomato Soup
Cave Blend
Third: Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak at the MGM Grand could be the best restaurant I have ever been to – in Las Vegas or anywhere else. Certainly, among steakhouses, Craftsteak is the best; this coming from a guy who loves Morton’s, Capitol Grill, Flemings, Monty’s, The Palm and Ruth’s Chris. The difference, as it usually is, lies in the attention to detail – the key factor that translates to spectacular flavor, presentation and service throughout the meal. Right off the bat, sweet, salty, buttery rolls - six in a pan, were a perfect compliment to our ice cold martinis and fresh Gold Creek Oysters. Two pans were required for our party of five.

The Tomato Soup with Gorgonzola was so smooth, creamy and flavorful – not even a signature dish, but incredible. The Caesar Salad was done like a steakhouse classic, with just the right hint of anchovy flavor. The 8oz Flat Iron Prime Steak was rich and literally melted in my mouth. It reminded me of the amazing prime beef that we routinely enjoyed and became accustomed to during a stint in Des Moines, Iowa. The potato puree, baby spinach, Brentwood sweet corn and sugar snap peas were superb and ample sides.

Like all fine Las Vegas restaurants, the wine cellar is deep at Craftsteak, but what really made it special – Del Dotto Vineyard’s Cave Blend – not commonly seen on wine lists anywhere. Deep red, with cherry and blueberry flavors – a fantastic red gem with a fine Tom Colicchio steak. Defining characteristic of the wine – Smooth.

Send your comments, your feedback, your Vegas dining tips and your own wine picks to winegoodjava@gmail.com  We would love to hear from you. Like us on Facebook

What I am listening to right now on the crowded LA freeways - Just finished another  classic - A Prayer for Own Meany. What a wonderful book by John Irving.

If you drive a lot, or if reading just wears you out, you have to try Audible. I am thoroughly addicted to the Audible downloads program. Check out the amazing introductory offer from our friends at Audible.com that you can access from this page. I’m personally cranking through a book each week.

High quality Keurig beverage for your office every day: Starbucks K Cups, now available from Gourmet Coffee Service – Southern California’s office refreshment leader.