Three Dinners And A Red-Eye (A Las Vegas Food Adventure)

What do you do when, with only a few days left in the calendar year, you find yourself 1,100 miles short of United Premier Gold status?

This is the first-world problem dilemma my dear husband, Peter, recently faced.

After commuting from San Diego to Chicago for six months he said (in slightly more colorful language) that he would be darned if he was going to miss out on the perks of Premier Gold.

Peter’s solution: a foodie trip to Las Vegas.

We were able to get great fares because apparently not many folks zip off to Vegas in the middle of the week before Christmas.

Las Vegas Food Adventure

We arrived just in time for dinner on night one.

Jaleo Las Vegas Food AdventureJaleo is a fabulous tapas restaurant by the incomparable José Andrés.

We have been to the original Jaleo in Washington DC many, many, many times so, naturally, we were anxious to visit the Las Vegas location.

What a great way to kick off our Las Vegas food adventure.

Although the tapas dining experience generally works better with a large group because you can order and taste more dishes, the two of us did our very best.

Of the eight small plates we selected, one was just as delicious as the next. How can you go wrong with taste treats like lamb chops in a honey aioli?!?!

Jaleo lamb in homey aioli Las Vegas Food AdventureBut my favorite dish of the night – one that never, never disappoints – was the patatas bravas.

Jaleo patatas bravas Las Vegas Food AdventurePatatas bravas by José Andrés are the patatas bravas by which all others should be judged.

After dinner we strolled back to our hotel, the lovely Aria Resort.

Aria Las Vegas

We went to sleep dreaming of chorizo bites and white asparagus and awoke refreshed, ready for day two.

This probably won’t come as a surprise to any of you but, other than visiting the casinos, there is not much to do during the day in Vegas. Especially when it is 45° outside.

What is one to do? Why not add another culinary experience to the itinerary?

Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Las Vegas Food AdventureBobby Flay’s Mesa Grill was a delightful spot to stop for lunch.

Peter enjoyed an incredible bowl of pumpkin soup (which I didn’t get a picture of because I was too busy stealing tastes) and I was very happy with my shrimp tacos.

Mesa Grill shrimp tacos Las Vegas Food AdventureAlso, my Cactus Pear Margarita.

The people watching in Las Vegas is legendary. Not only the visitors from all over the world but the wacky characters who spend their days entertaining tourists on the Strip.

We saw Storm Troopers, Ewoks, Hello Kitty, show girls, “police women” in fishnet stockings and, of course, Elvis. This particular Elvis was decked out in the full white suit, gobs of jewelry and perfectly coiffed hair; cruising the Strip on his mobility scooter.

We even saw Mickey and Minnie. Sort of. These particular characters were dressed like Mickey and Minnie but holding their heads on their hips as they took a cigarette break.

Walt Disney is rolling over in his grave.

Soon it was time to tear ourselves away from the freak show on the Strip to enjoy dinner number two.

Craftsteak Las Vegas Food AdventureAs fans of Top Chef, we looked forward to seeing what Chef Tom Colicchio’s had in store for us.

The food at Craftsteak was outstanding. Delicious salads, delicious sides and steaks cooked to perfection.

The one recommendation I would make, however, would be to order à la carte. Peter and I took advantage of the tasting menu option because it sounded like it would give us the opportunity to try lots of different dishes and we were, after all, on a Las Vegas food adventure.

Craftsteak Las Vegas Food Adventure

It was WAAAAAAAAY too much food. Lobster bisque, three different salads, three different sides and a full sized steak each. All fantastic, just too much. Dessert (actually 3 desserts) were included but we turned those down when we saw the main course.

Our last day was spent strolling around the Aria.

We discovered that the resort boasts 3 pools: one for regular schlubs like us, one for the fancy pants folks staying in “The Tower” and The Liquid Pool for The Beautiful People.

Aria Liquid poolUpscale stylish swimwear required. You can leave your Target cover-up and flip flops in your room. And your chains.

Also, the Liquid Pool and Lounge is a drug free zone. Hence:

Aria amnesty boxI have so many questions about the Amnesty Box.

Don’t you imagine that there is a security camera on the box in case of theft?

Not much amnesty if there is a security camera, right?

Whose job is it to empty the box? Does that person insist there was never anything in the box, all the while running a lucrative drug business on the side selling what was actually in the box????


Our final dinner before hopping on the red-eye flight home was at Scarpetta by Scott Conant (as seen on Chopped).

Scarpetta Las Vegas Food AdventureBy this point in our adventure we were looking for something simple yet satisfying and we both found it here.

Peter chose the roasted chicken which he loved. I was drawn to the spaghetti but wondered if I was playing it too safe.

Literally it was listed on the menu as “Spaghetti.tomato.basil”. Let me tell you it was the best plate of spaghetti I have ever tasted.

Home run, Mr. Conant.

Before heading to the airport, we killed a little bit of time playing the penny slot machines. I wasted wagered about $25 having the best luck with my leprechaun friends.

Las Vegas slot machineBut, alas, the little green men giveth and the little green men taketh away.

Las Vegas cash out voucherWe left with a penny in our pocket, full tummies and enough miles for Gold status.

The Las Vegas food adventure was a success.

Do you have any favorite Las Vegas restaurants? Or people-watching stories? Where would you have gone to tally the 1,100 miles needed?

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  1. Sounds like such a fun weekend, Mo. My two favorite pass times are people watching and eating – Vegas sounds like my kind of place! Love the visual of Mickey and Minnie. Very curious about that amnesty box too. Hope you have a wonderful week.

  2. I absolutely LOVE this post!! You capture Vegas perfectly. And the restaurants you went to….ahhh, such great choices! If I was forced to fly somewhere to achieve Premier status (and, I definitely would!) I have a lengthy list of places to choose from – New Orleans and Seattle are tops for this year (or back to Napa). Have a beautiful week, Mo! xoxo

    PS…emailing you on other things when I am at my desk. 🙂

  3. My parents live near Las Vegas so every time I visit them I stay at their house. Which means I day trip it to the Strip. People watching galore! I’ve been to Mesa and loved it. Now I feel like I’ve been to these other must-eat restaurants as well. Good on you for the super elite airline status. It’s totally worth it!
    Katy recently posted…A Christmas Update and A New Year’s Memory JarMy Profile

  4. This was so much fun on so many levels, Mo. Don’t you love how those serendipitous trips often end up being the best? Thanks so much for the restaurant recommendations and the food pics – I always love that. The forbidden chains for beautiful people, the amnesty box and your single penny cash out? Priceless. Those are the moments we remember and can never predict. Now if you can just wipe the picture of smoking, headless Disney mice from your psyche…..
    Barbara recently posted…Macaron or Macaroon?My Profile

  5. What a fun break in the middle of Holiday prep! You always make the food sound delicious. Happy New Year Mo 🙂

  6. The Liquid Pool Lounge sounds amusing. I say you should have gone with your Target cover-up. I want to know how they check for appropriate attire. Is Kelly Osborne on standby to verify that you’re wearing couture?

  7. My mouth is watering!
    Amnesty box?? They don’t call this place Sin City for nothing.
    My son and his girlfriend flew into Las Vegas on Wednesday. I am anxious to find out where they ate, as they enjoy good food too.
    Happy New Year! Looking forward to your 2016 posts.

  8. Vegas does have some fabulous restaurants, although it’s been about five years since we’ve been there. Our more recent love is New Orleans, which is where I would go if I needed more miles.

    The pool sign and amnesty box – seriously? That is hilarious. I want to be a bouncer for the Liquid Pool – deciding whether people are stylish enough to enter. Can you imagine how snooty those people must be?

    Happy New Year, Mo!
    Dana recently posted…Let’s get this year startedMy Profile

  9. Offensive prints? Hmmm. Perhaps it’s a misprint? Offensive Prince? Wasn’t dear Harry there when he engaged in a little bit of strip poker?
    And thank you for including the cashout voucher pic – one cent. Absolutely priceless.
    Sadly our Canadian dollar is in the doldrums – sitting now at about 72 cents to your dollar – and if I had to bump up my mileage points I’d be a bit hesitant to go to the US. BUT if it wasn’t, I think I’d zip down to either LA to visit with my niece and her hubs or San Fran which is one of my most favourite spots on the west coast.
    BTW – have you decided what to do with that penny? Save it or spend it? Love to know.
    Kelly L McKenzie recently posted…An Ass Over Tea Kettle ChristmasMy Profile

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