Well, this post is a bit late but better late than never, I suppose.  At the beginning of November, I traveled to Las Vegas to present a poster at a medical conference.  Ben was able to take a couple of days off from work and come along with me, so we turned it into a mini vacation.  Now, let me say up front that Vegas is someplace I never thought I would visit.  Though I like to have a good time, I’m not a huge party girl and I have exactly zero interest in gambling.  I figured that this trip would be spent mostly in my conference with the remainder of the time spent sleeping in the blessed kid-free quiet of our hotel room.  However, a few of my coworkers who had been there before reminded me that though a lot of typical Vegas is not my scene, there is one thing there that I do love: food.  Yes!  I started researching, including asking for recommendations from all of you on my Facebook page, and suddenly I was overwhelmed trying to narrow down the massive number of offerings into a select few for our brief trip.  I didn’t take my real camera, but here’s a glimpse of our trip through my iPhone.

Before I get into all the food, a note about our hotel.  After a lot of research (I am a major travel over-researcher), we ended up staying at Vdara in City Center.  I chose Vdara primarily based on the fact that it is a non-gaming hotel, but is still an easy walk from pretty much everything we wanted to see and do on the strip.  I’m picky about hotels but thankfully Vdara was the perfect place for us in Vegas.  The room was very nice, the service was always friendly and attentive, and the hotel overall was extremely pleasant.  Of all the details we loved about Vdara, our absolute favorite was that everything smelled amazing.  They pipe in some sort of refreshing, spa-like fragrance that was such a welcome change every time we entered the building after walking through smoky parts of other hotels.

Our first night there, we checked in to the hotel, relaxed for a few minutes, and then headed out to meet up with some of our friends for dinner.  Based on the recommendations of so many of my readers from Facebook, we chose to dine at The Tao.  The dramatic entryway was gorgeous, and really set the tone for the elegant but hip restaurant inside.  We all enjoyed our meal and the nice atmosphere there.  I had the Tao Tini as my beverage.  Then we split a Kobe beef spring roll for an appetizer.  I went with sushi for dinner and chose the lobster roll and spicy tuna roll.  The sushi was good, but not anything ground-breaking, and I’m pretty sure it gave me a mild case of food poisoning so…kind of a mixed review overall.  I’d definitely eat there again but next time I would probably try one of the actual entrees rather than sushi.

After that, we walked back down the strip with our friends and we all decided to stop at the Carnaval Court Bar for drinks and dancing.  None of us were really interested in the more legit(?) club scene of Vegas, so this was the perfect place for us to just hang out and have fun.  They had a really fun cover band playing and we danced for hours.  They also had several insanely talented bartenders doing crazy things like juggling bottles on fire, balancing some huge number of bottles on their heads, and all sorts of other amazing feats.  It was great entertainment!

The dancing and the time difference finally got the better of me, so we headed back to our hotel.  But, since we walked through Bellagio to get to Vdara, we couldn’t resist stopping at Jean Philippe Patisserie for some gelato.  This place was pretty flippin’ fantastic and as you’ll see, we took full advantage of our numerous walks past it.  That night I tried the tiramisu gelato.  Divine.

Now let me just say that of all the places we planned to dine at in Vegas, I was most excited to eat at Bouchon.  I’m sure it is wonderful for dinner as well but since so many readers recommended it for brunch, we headed there first thing in the morning.  What followed is rather hard to describe, other than saying that everything about the meal was utterly perfect.  That day I enjoyed the crab cake omelette with a peach bellini.  Ben had biscuits and gravy benedict – insane!  Of all that wonderful food though, my favorite part was the incredible French bread and sour cherry jam.  I could eat that every day forever, really.  And so, I fell in love with Bouchon and that sealed the deal – we ended up eating there every single day for breakfast.  Why bother going anywhere else?

We were up a bit early because our time zones were still a little out of sync, so I had just enough time for a manicure at the Vdara Spa before I had to be at the conference.  Since it was fall, they had a special going on with a pumpkin spice manicure.  It involved a pumpkin spice mud masque and caramel milk lotion, so yes, it was awesome.  I took a brief cat nap afterward and as you can see, the luxury of a manicure + nap is not one this momma gets often.  I was just so, so happy to have a moment to rest.

That afternoon we had a small break in the conference, and a bunch of us decided to pop over to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum.  I’ve seen pictures from Madame Tussaud’s many locations for years and have always wanted to go.  It was a really fun way to spend 20-30 minutes.  Most of the wax statues were incredibly realistic, and they had a wide variety of figures – movie stars, musicians, sports stars, historical figures, and movie characters.  Daniel Craig/007 was my favorite ;)

I’ll spare you the details of the conference itself and skip right ahead to dinner that evening.  Another great reader recommendation, we tried Olives at Bellagio.  Based on their menu I figured it would be good, but it far surpassed my expectations.  In fact, this was my favorite dinner of the entire trip.  All I have to remember it is this blurry pic of my cocktail but that’s okay because I took notes.  Speaking of the cocktail, it was stellar – a passion fruit sling back.  I need to find out how to recreate it because really, I loved it!  We all shared a shrimp chorizo flatbread with garlic crema as a starter.  For my entree I had the veal fontina fazzoletti which was some sort of comfort food bliss.  I’m at a total loss for how to do it justice with words!

After dinner we went to a Cirque de Soleil show which was…just not my thing.  It started out really strong and then got kind of weird and boring.  I’m sure there are some great ones there but I just was not a fan of the one we saw.  But, afterward we made our way back to Jean Philippe for gelato – this time pistachio.  Oh, did I mention their awesome chocolate fountain?  It was kind of mesmerizing.

The next morning was Bouchon again before I had to be at the conference.  That day I tried the chicken and waffles.  Oh yeah, Thomas Keller has a version of chicken and waffles.  Even better than you could ever imagine.  It was accompanied by a mimosa and more of the incredible bread and jam.  Oh, that jam.

I spent the morning in the conference and then a group of us went to lunch with our attendings and a few other conference attendees.  The job of choosing a restaurant for lunch was sprung on me at the last moment, and lunch options were one thing I had not researched very much.  After flipping through Yelp and Urbanspoon we went to Milos, a Greek restaurant at The Cosmopolitan.  The food was really great and they had a lot of nice lighter lunch options, which was a welcome change after so much indulgence!  I had the meze platter as a starter, and the shrimp with tomato feta sauce with couscous for my lunch.  Loved it all!

That evening we dined at one of the most reader-recommended restaurants, Mon Ami Gabi at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower.  We came early in hopes of getting outside seating so we could watch the Bellagio fountains, but eventually we accumulated enough of a party that they didn’t have a table large enough to seat us outside.  No matter though, we sat inside and had a grand time.  I tried the Paris Romance cocktail and Ben and I split a cheese trio starter.  For my entree I had the lobster tartine, which I loved and was another nice, lighter meal after so many heavy ones.

Much later that night, we met up with a few former colleagues who were also attending the conference and went to a bar in Cosmopolitan.  Man, I just have to say – that hotel is a sight to behold.  These strands of crystals were draped aaaalllllllll over the ceilings, pretty much everywhere.  It was very glam and chic.  I don’t remember what cocktail I tried there.  It must have been decent but not memorable in any way.  Of course by that point, I was barely holding my eyes open after such a jam-packed trip.  I was tired and ready to see my babies.

The last morning, I attended my final session of the conference and we headed over for a last meal at Bouchon.  That day was a Monday and much to my dismay, the sour cherry jam is only a weekend offering.  The mango jam they gave instead was lovely, but still, no sour cherry jam.  This was more around lunchtime so I had the moules frites.  Awesome, as expected.

By the way, Bouchon is located in The Venetian which is a gorgeous place to behold.  So striking!

We had a final hour to kill before our shuttle picked us up for the airport so of course, it meant one last gelato.  This one was creme brûlée, and it was definitely my favorite flavor that we tried.

So overall, Vegas was way more fun than Ben and I expected it to be!  Though much of what goes on there is not our thing, we still found plenty of fun things to do and lots of great food to enjoy.  I’m not sure I’ll go back unless I have a reason, but at least if I do, now we have lots of places we know we love and more we would like to try.

Disclaimer:  This is not a sponsored post of any kind, just me sharing the details of my trip with you in case they are of use in your own future travel plans.  I have no affiliation with any of these businesses, and am writing about them just because I want to :)

  • amy

    I loved Olives too. And we have a Mon Ami where I live which is a favorite. I have wanted to go to the Cosmopolitan Hotel though not sure I will ever be back to Vegas (one time when I was 26 may have been enough!) Ha. Glad you had fun!

  • Michelle

    Glad you enjoyed Vegas!! We went in 2011 and LOVED it and we are not gamblers either. I just loved the fun atmosphere and all the shows and of course the food! I think they also have the best cocktails I’ve ever tried! I will have to definitely try Bouchon next time. I also recommend Holsteins in the Cosmospolitan for a great burger and boozy shake!

  • Ashley

    I think your review of Vegas is great! I always thought it wasn’t really my thing, as I prefer exploring quaint towns with unique shops and the like, but my husband and I have really grown to love Vegas for the people-watching, the food, etc. We have eaten at Bouchon (ahhhmazing, as you said), Milos, and Olives.. and of course have grabbed a drink at the Chandelier bar in the Cosmo. We have not tried Mon Ami Gabi but I understand that the best people watching takes place there. I think it’s funny that you mention the dreamy scents they pump in… that’s one of my favorite things about the Vegas hotels! Doesn’t it just put you in the most euphoric state?!

  • Jennifer Beeman

    We are headed to Vegas next month for the first time (also not gamblers but certainly eaters!) so your tips are great and timley. Love your suggestion for Bouchon for breakfast or brunch! Where did you find the best place to book show tickets? Any tips on research are appreciated!

  • Tblev

    My friend and I love the Slingback at Olives! After we got home, my husband called and asked one of the bartenders for the recipe. I’m happy to pass it on:
    2oz ruby red vodka
    1/2 lime
    Dash of simple syrup
    1/2 oz passion fruit purée
    Sweet and sour mix-they recommended a good lemonade
    Sugar rim
    Mix in a shaker with ice.
    It is a perfect cocktail!

  • annieseats

    You just made my day! Thank you!!!

  • I am so glad you posted this, we are going to Vegas the end of February with friends and my number one priority is getting some amazing food! I can’t wait to try brunch at Bouchon. Thanks for the great recommendations!

  • I’m so jealous of your trip, but mostly jealous that you ate at Bouchon. The gelato looks amazing also!

  • Caroline L.

    Wow, that sounds so fantastic :) This is definitely my idea of a good LV trip, ha! Tao looks really gorgeous, but Bouchon sounds AMAZING! Glad you guys had a relaxing, lovely adult-only time!

  • I live about a 3 hour drive from Vegas and the husband and I like to go every now and again for a quick weekend getaway. We’re not gamblers or partiers either, but like walking the Strip and eating. :) I definitely want to try Bouchon now. I just need to wait for this baby to be born and ready to stay with Grandma for a weekend first! :)

  • I LOVE Vegas. One of my favorite places. Tao is amazing, too. That’s where I learned to love sushi (after hating it for years).

  • saramama

    My husband and I just tried Bouchon Beverly Hills for the first time and I have to say, I left, underwhelmed. It was good, but nothing to write home about. We were there for weekend brunch and were never offered any bread or jam. None of the tables around us were either. I did buy a baguette and some pastries on the way out and they did not disappoint. I have heard amazing reviews of the original location and Vegas but BH gets mixed reviews. Boo, since we live in LA.

  • We are Vegas fanatics. We always book either via Ticketmaster or check out vegas.com. If you wait until you are out there, there are Half Price Tickets places everywhere and you can get some good deals. the best Cirque show that I’ve seen is Ka at MGM. AMAZING!! Terry Fador(sp?) is REALLY good also.

  • SillyTwilley

    Have I told you that my bestie worked at Bouchon patisserie in Yountville? Her pic is in the back of the cookbook! It’s pretty cool! She is going to open her own shoppe in Dallas later his year.

  • I live in Las Vegas and whenever I go to the Cosmopolitan I can’t help but wonder how they dust all of those crystals!! They go so high!

  • Connie Zhou

    vegas has never appealed to me either, but after your photos of bouchon, i just might fly down there right now to make it in time for breakfast tmr!

  • Patti T.

    My son went to Vegas not too long ago, from the great pictures and the food he enjoyed I may have changed my mind about visiting. Your post makes it like a great place also.

  • Shanna @ pineapple and coconut

    I live in Vegas and I love seeing posts like yours on the restaurants here because we rarely eat out because we hear such mixed reviews on places from locals. So its awesome to read reviews from other food bloggers that visit and eat for 3 days straight ha ha and say what is good and what isn’t as good. And now I have a window open with Bouchon’s menu and am wanting to go there ASAP!! And isn’t that gelato amazing?? Best I have ever had!!

  • FUN! we live just 35 mins from Napa Valley and have only eaten at Bouchon ONCE for our anniversary. I’ve been dying to try the chicken and waffles. Sinful!

  • Lindy

    Sounds like a great trip!! Loved your recap. I’ve never been to Vegas, but we have eaten at Bouchon in Yountville and it’s still one of my faves.

  • I literally just got back from Vegas this morning and it was just as beautiful as all your pictures made it seem! we watched an old-school big-band play at that bar at the cosmopolitan and it was beautiful! I only wish you had posted this earlier because we spent FOREVER looking for a good asian/sushi place and finally ended somewhere that I wouldn’t go again but everyone else loved…

  • Emily

    If you ever do happen to go back, I highly recommend renting a car and getting OFF the strip for the day. (hard to do when you are attending conference though :(. I lived there for 2 years, and I would highly recommend leaving the city for a day hike at Red Rock Canyon – amazing, beautiful, and so totally different from anything you will see or do on the strip. To top it off with an off the strip dinner, try our favorite restaurant in Vegas, Todd’s Unique Dining. http://www.toddsunique.com/ It’s this intimate and modest little place in a Green Valley strip mall with the best food I have ever eaten!

  • Angie_R

    You may have a great reason to go back if Britney gets a show there, which sounds pretty certain! :)

  • Kayla W

    This is totally Vegas my style as well. Who needs to gamble when there’s gelato? Nice to see a Vegas post about food and not the typical Vegas fodder. And the pic of you with the manicure is gorgeous.

  • I am getting married in Vegas in March and enjoyed your tips on food. I am usually an over-researcher myself, but I haven’t actually done much for this trip – we have a hotel and I have one thing planned for each day (get the license, get married, go to a show, go on a tour) but my fiancé gets overwhelmed by activities so I hadn’t planned out much else (we did get gift cards to use at a steak house in Vegas). I will be writing down Bouchon and the Patisserie, I don’t really need anything besides breakfast and gelato any way, right??

  • Glad you enjoyed Vegas! I think we’d get along nicely on a trip. :) I live up in Reno, which is the mini Vegas wannabe town. We love it here, though. Just an hour from Tahoe! Loved the recap of your trip!

  • Megan Byrne

    Hi Annie! I was doing my regular shopping at the Kroger in Nora and found some sour cherry preserves which made me think of this post. I’m sure they aren’t as dreamy as the jam you had at Bouchon, but may be enjoyable! I’ve been enjoying them on a toasted English muffin. I found them by the “fancy” cheese… Made by a company called “Harvest Song”.

    Tanks for the fabulous blogging!

  • annieseats

    Good to know, thanks!