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Archive for September, 2009

Dishing about Top Chef, Las Vegas and the M Resort

Thursday, September 17th, 2009
The pool complex at the M Resort in Las Vegas figured in a recent episode of Top Chef Las Vegas.

The posh pool complex at the M Resort in Las Vegas was featured in a recent episode of Top Chef Las Vegas.

We’ve always been big fans of the Bravo channel’s popular reality show, Top Chef.  We confess –watching some of the contestants’ huge egos positively wilt under head judge Tom Colicchio’s incredulous stare or sharp-as-a-Wusthof criticism is the high point of our Wednesday nights. (No doubt that particular joy comes from our experiences dealing with the many prima donna chefs we encountered during our decade-plus in the restaurant industry.)

So, take one of our favorite guilty-pleasure TV shows, combine it with our favorite guilty-pleasure city in the world then set it within the walls of a swanky new casino resort and… wait, wait, you know it’s coming… you have a recipe (there, we said it!) for a hugely entertaining waste of an hour every week.

This year, filming takes place at the stunning new Henderson-located M Resort Spa Casino. When I interviewed the M’s Anthony Marnell III back in March for Casino Player magazine, the CEO made it very clear that food and the nine dining outlets of the M were going to be the highlights of the new resort. At the time, Mr. Marnell said “We believe food is one of the most, if not the most important reason why guests will visit the property. The restaurants we have developed will introduce a new kind of dining experience that reflects my family’s reputation for great food and great value.” We think that by agreeing to let the show film at his resort, Mr. Marnell further cements the M’s reputation as a “destination-dining” spot in Las Vegas.

Now, back to the show: Last week’s episode offered viewers the chance to get a glimpse of some of the best chefs working not only in Las Vegas but in the world today. The assembled group of top toques was so impressive that even Chef Colicchio admitted to being humbled in the presence of such cooking masters as Joël Robuchon, the man awarded the title “Chef of the Century” by the venerable dining and travel guide, Gault Millau. Chef Robuchon’s Las Vegas restaurants — L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Joël Robuchon at The Mansion – are located at the MGM Grand. 5 Diamond Award Winner: Joël Robuchon Restaurant at MGM Grand.

Last night’s show found the contestants far from the neon lights of the city and cooking over open firepits in the sizzling 100+-degree stark Nevada desert. Their guests (and critics) were a group of real Southwestern cowboys. As always, some dishes stood out for their taste and originality while others were remarkable for their awfulness. Ceviche for cowboys? I don’t think so. With that, Mattin, the French chef (who reminded me of the character Remy from the movie “Ratatouille“) was told to “pack up his knives and go.”

Tips and More Info:

  • For a taste of the new M, try the resort’s highly-praised 500-seat buffet restaurant, “Studio B,” where a live-action exhibition kitchen features the restaurant’s chefs preparing signature appetizers, entrées and desserts.
  • Check out Top Chef on Bravo TV’s website and you’ll find lots of ideas for hosting viewing parties with a Vegas vibe.  You can also catch up on past shows from this season as well as those from other years.
  • Get a glimpse into the world of renowned chef, Joël Robuchon, with a visit to his website where you’ll see pics of his Las Vegas and other restaurants plus read articles on his accomplishments in the culinary field.

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A room with a view — the Bellagio Las Vegas

Monday, September 14th, 2009

A stunning view of Paris Las Vegas as seen from our 25th floor room at the Bellagio.

A stunning view of Paris Las Vegas as seen from our 25th floor room at the Bellagio.

“Where to stay in Las Vegas” — Hotel Review — The Bellagio:

After our recent three-night stay at the Bellagio, we’re happy to report that the resort remains one of the best hotels in Las Vegas. From the perfect center-Strip location to the recently-remodeled rooms; the posh selection of shops and restaurants and the sophisticated casino; the Bellagio is a worthwhile splurge for Las Vegas visitors.

We’d recently heard rumors that the Bellagio – open since 1998 — was showing its age but if so, we certainly didn’t see it in the maintenance of the hotel or the room we were given. Our room was luscious and restful: sage green, soft golds and creamy ivory tones in the bedding and upholstery were set off by the dark woods used for the furniture and bath vanity. Adding immensely to our enjoyment of the resort was the magnificent view of the Strip and the Bellagio fountains which we had from our 25th floor front-and-center perch. The biggest complaint we had about the room was the small outdated TV but since we don’t spend much time on vacation watching the tube, it wasn’t a huge issue for us.

Bellagio restaurants

We love the restaurant selection at the Bellagio: Olives by Todd English (read our review of Olives here); Palio for a quick breakfast; the decadent Jean-Philippe Maury patisserie; the Bellagio’s own buffet plus the sunny Café Bellagio overlooking the pool and the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens are a few of our favorites when in town.

The pool complex is perfect for a sunny summer day and offers lots of shady spots courtesy of the many trees and well-placed umbrellas.  Pool aficionados may want to reserve one of the large cabanas ringing the main pool.

A “Best Bet” on the Strip

With its great location, plush surroundings plus all the amenities of a AAA Five Diamond Award Las Vegas hotel we can confidently recommend the Bellagio to our readers looking for a posh Vegas getaway. Take a Virtual Tour of Bellagio here.

The new CityCenter construction provides a back-drop to the Bellagio's pool complex.

The new CityCenter construction provides a back-drop to the Bellagio's pool complex.

A comfy king-sized bed plus soft colors make for a restful stay at the luxurious Bellagio Las Vegas.

A comfy king-sized bed plus soft colors make for a restful stay at the luxurious Bellagio Las Vegas.

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Fall is the perfect season for Las Vegas visitors

Thursday, September 10th, 2009
Take a tour of Hoover Dam and you'll also get to see the new bypass bridge currently under construction.

Take a tour of Hoover Dam and you'll also get to see the new bypass bridge currently under construction.

We love Las Vegas ANY time of year but particularly in the fall.  There just seems to be something special about the warm sunny days and temperate evenings.  Visit in October and you can expect daytime temps ranging from the 80’s to high-70’s with evenings in the 50’s and 60’s — that’s sweater weather for desert dewellers like us. With weather like that, it’s a perfect time to put down the dice, back away from the buffet and visit some of the top things to do in Vegas that don’t involve the Strip or the gaming tables.

Hoover Dam — This marvel of engineering is located just thirty minutes from the Strip and offers visitors an amazing example of engineering wizardry.  In an article entitled “The Grand Dam” by Julian Rhinehart, the author says “Few structures in America display the diversity of design and craftsmanship that you see at Hoover Dam. It is a showcase of seldom-seen skills of artists and artisans–beautifully presented terrazzo tiles, sculpture, metalwork, and even military emplacements.”

A visit to this “don’t-miss” Las Vegas attraction is  further enhanced  by the opportunity to view the construction of the massive new Hoover Dam Bypass bridge that will route traffic over and away from the dam.  A mind-boggling assortment of pulleys, tracks, winches and cranes is in place and in use for workers building this newest engineering masterpiece.  When completed next year, this signature bridge will span the Black Canyon (about 1,600 feet south of the Hoover Dam), connecting the Arizona and Nevada Approach highways nearly 900-feet above the Colorado River.

Lake Mead/Hoover Dam Cruise — Living in Phoenix, we drive to Las Vegas almost every trip and we still marvel passing by at how beautifully blue the waters are at Lake Mead!  You can cruise Lake Mead, the largest man-made lake in the United States, aboard the “Desert Princess” paddle wheeler.  While on the lake, you’ll pass by such sights as the colorful Arizona Paint Pots, Fortification Hill, and Boulder Island. Take this all-day trip and you’ll also visit Hoover Dam, make a stop at Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Gardens.

Red Rock Canyon — The stunningly beautiful Red Rock Canyon park, located just 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159, was designated as Nevada’s first National Conservation Area.  The area is 195,819 acres and is visited by more than one million people each year and offers visitors access to a 13-mile scenic drive, more than 30 miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, plus a visitor center with exhibit rooms and book store.  One of the favorite ways to take in Red Rock’s beauty is through a “Pink Jeep” tour of the area.  (Take your camera for some memorable shots of the colorful Calico Hills that surround the park.)

Take advantage of these fall deals from and save on activities, hotel rooms and airfare packages for your visit to Vegas.

+ Book Las Vegas Activities and save on! Expires 9/30/09

+ Book Early & Save on October Trips: Air + 3 Night Vacations from $187! Expires 10/15/09

+ Fall “Free Nights” Hotel Sale: Stay 3, 4 or 5 nights & Get your last night FREE! Expires 10/15/09

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Friday Finds — news on Las Vegas events, deals and more

Friday, September 4th, 2009
Take in a show this fall then head to the new Pink's at Planet Hollywood for one of their legendary dogs.

Take in a show this fall then head to the new Pink's at Planet Hollywood for one of their legendary dogs.

We’re starting a new feature this week — Friday Finds — featuring news about Las Vegas that we find interesting plus lots of great deals on Las Vegas hotel discounts, travel packages, shows, concerts, restaurants and more.  Take a look at what we’ve seen and heard this week:

We’re really digging some of the shows planned for this fall at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s “The Joint.”  Tickets are on sale now for Van Morrison (September 25,) Creed in concert on September 27, actor/comedian Dane Cook on both October 9th and 10th at 8:30pm plus one of our all-time favorites, Bob Dylan, on Sunday, October 18th at 8 pm.

At Mandalay Bay, Britney Spears is back with her “Circus” tour; this time featuring special guests Jordin Sparks and Kristinia DeBarge.  Special room + ticket deals are available at these properties:

Luxor “Britney Spears” Concert and Room Package. *Package Price of $154.00 plus tax and resort fee on Sunday September 27th includes: One night stay in a Tower Deluxe Room and Two tickets to Britney Spears in concert at the Mandalay Bay Event Center on Sunday, September 27 at 8pm (*See site for additional details and restrictions). Sep 24 – 30, 2009. Promo Code: PBRIT (Exp 9/24/09)

Mandalay Bay “Britney Spears” Rates from $194/nt. *The Final Act of the Circus Tour Starring Britney Spears at Mandalay Bay Sunday, September 27 –Book Mandalay Bay and receive 2 tickets to see Britney Spears Live in Concert on Sunday, September 27 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center (*See site for additional details and restrictions). Sep 22 – 30, 2009. Promo Code: PBRITH (Exp 10/1/09).

Also at the Mandalay Bay Events Center this fall, look for Grammy® -winning superstar Justin Timberlake who’s bringing his “Justin Timberlake and Friends, a Special Evening Benefiting Shriners Hospitals for Children” event to the stage at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 8 PM.  Ticket prices for this charity concert range from $100 – $250. Check out tickets here: Justin Timberlake Las Vegas

On the restaurant front, don’t forget that Pink’s in now open at Planet Hollywood. The hot dog haven (which has been in business since 1939)  has a loyal following — and a sometimes hour-long wait — at its original location in the city of Hollywood.

This week’s deal: Take 50% off w/every $25 Gift Certificate order! Use code MENU and pay $5 thru 9/8/09 at And just a hint, when you do use these certificates toward your meal, be sure to give it to the server early on so they have time to validate the certificate number before you get your final bill.

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