I travel a lot, in case you hadn't noticed. I travel enough that, were someone at work to tell me I was grounded for the rest of 2014, I would be totally down with that. Enough that, were all Miss NY activities arranged in such a perimeter of my house that I need not spend another night in a hotel this pageant season, I would rejoice. But sometimes, even the travel-weary, airport-jaded among us need to partake of a particular brand of travel that's much more palatable: VACATION!
Big Hungry Melinda and I have mused about a girls vacation in Vegas for years. As in, in our twenties, we thought we'd bachelorette there, and then when Bette Midler did her residency, we said we should go...sooner or later, you have to stop musing and you just have to start livin', man. (I may have watched too many Matthew McConaughey vehicles lately. I apologize.)
But we needed an impetus, which came in the unlikely form of Ms. Britney Jean Spears, now in residency at Planet Hollywood with her Piece of Me show. Britney is a weak singer and a bit of a train wreck of a young woman, but dang, can sister entertain. We've maintained a sort of a tongue-in-cheek fondness for Britney for a long time now, extolling the virtues we could both bestow upon Brit Brit if only we could bring her to Upstate New York, teach her to do a bit of laundry and maybe cook dinner. She just needs a dose of reality, y'all!
And of course, with a trip to Vegas, come eats. I wanted to find a balance of celebrity chef spots, which accounts for this really decadent, buttery, rich mini lobster roll trio, with ok chips and surprisingly clean, sweet, refreshing slaw, from Todd English's P.U.B. at Aria, where we stayed. The butter was literally dripping off those toasted buns, folks. Now THAT is what Sin City is all about.
On the other side from the celebrity restaurants, I researched somewhat lesser-known spots with lots of cred, and found BarMASA, also in Aria, for a big blowout sushi feast our first night in town. We had the best service of the trip there, from perky and knowledgeable Bonnie, and I (finally) tasted toro, in the form of the Masa toro toro roll. I was so excited for the fatty tuna belly, and this dish, while pricey, delivered. The fish was impeccable, silky, utterly luscious, and most extravagantly buttery. It dissolved in the mouth and made me make faces funny enough for Melinda to photograph, and me to forbid her from using.
Another BarMASA highlight was the kanpachi jalapeño sotomaki roll with julienned, fried potatoes. We loved the chile-forward punch and the satisfying crunch of potato threads as you bit down into each roll. The fresh, clean fish juxtaposed with the considerable heat of the jalapeños and the earthy salt of the fried spuds made for perfection on the palate. This dish was all about balance and was one of the more exciting sushi rolls I've ever tasted.
Ok, indulge me for one more: Peking duck and foie gras in moo shu skins. Basically, funky, livery, sweet duck tacos. The moo shu of your dreams, lacquered in syrupy hoisin sauce countered by salty, unctuous foie. The chunks of duck breast were chewy, but tender, and the shards of green onion provided much-needed sharpness to this rich affair.
Dinner at BarMASA was NOT one of those affordable Las Vegas meals you read about. This is probably the most I'll spend on a meal this year. Hell, the splits of sparkling sake, Ho Ho Shu, we were sharing were $60 a pop. But none of the fish at Masa has been out of the water in which it swam for more than 24 hours - this is your favorite weekend indulgence elevated. It's vacation! It's worth it.
Another don't miss experience in this new section of The Strip is The Chandelier Bar at The Cosmopolitan. Get this, you can have a fancy cocktail inside a massive crystal chandelier. And they're terrific drinks, at that! My favorite was the kafir the reaper - a tasty, tart and sweet mix of kafir lime leaf, ginger ale, vodka, and some of that Vegas sparkle.
I'll have more treats and pics from Vegas next week for you, Big Hungries. For now, I'm going to watch the season finale of The Mindy Project, and reflect on how much fun I was having one week ago tonight, knowing Britney Spears and a pool day lay ahead of us. Vacation is the best thing ever, and I miss it already! Kisses! My personality is big, my hunger is bigger!