Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas shopping in NYC

Image courtesy of USA Today

USA Today wrote a story about holiday shopping in the Big Apple that includes two of my favorite holiday shopping spots from past visits: The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park and the MOMA Design Store. This is the first year in a couple years that I haven't been able to visit NYC between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I'm bummed. But, Cleveland has had some amazing holiday markets including, Made in the 216 Holiday Shoppe (now open until 12.24), Bizarre Bazaar (already over) and the Last Minute Market and Open Studio. Check them out!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bet my breakfast was better than yours...

Mmm...bacon waffle.

Phil and I trekked off the strip to Hash House a Go Go, a restaurant we saw featured by Adam Richman on Man v Food earlier this season. (Adam, pleeeease come to Cleveland for The Melt Grilled & Bar Challenge...12 grilled cheeses that are more than four pounds!)

Phil and I are huge fans of the show, and since we watched the Vegas episode, I could not get the ginormous bacon waffles off my mind! Thank goodness we went today instead of yesterday because the place was still packed at 11 a.m.

Sunday happiness trifecta

Delightful food + shopping + winning money=happy Christina

Today was fun! Phil finally dragged himself away from the tables around 3:30 a.m. this morning (which meant he was up 24 hours straight), but we were back down in the casino before 10 a.m. We were addicted to the Wheel of Fortune type slot machines (ala Bill Simmons) where you get a chance to do a spin, and we played until my belly started grumbling around noon.

We had originally planned to venture off the strip this morning to grab brunch, but the marathon down the strip derailed our plans since roads were closed until 11 a.m. (P.S. I ran the half-marathon here in 2003 and the course never came close to the strip…wtf?! All I got was a sandstorm in the desert, which made the race a bitch.)

I had heard good things about Noodles in Bellagio (lots of Asian noodle options for a reasonable price), so we walked over. They have dim sum (11 a.m. - 3 p.m.), so Phil tried his first pork buns. Yum! We really enjoyed it and will definitely go back.

After lunch, we parted ways so Phil could head to the sports book and I could get my shopping on. There are so many options here! My best find was the Vosges boutique in the Forum Shoppes at Caesar’s Palace. Vosges makes the delightful bacon chocolate bar I crave that I discovered in San Diego a year ago (they sell them at our Whole Foods, too). The boutique had an awesome chocolate bar, and I tried the Aztec couture cocoa, a thick, dreamy drink with chipotle chillies, cinnamon and Mexican vanilla bean. Heaven! I also sampled some bacon caramel toffee and bought some for home (just try to pry it from my fingers). If anyone would like to get me the Chocolates of the Month Club for Christmas, I will love you forever.

I found Phil back at the tables at our hotel/casino around 4 p.m. and doubled my money at Pai Gow Poker by 8 p.m. Whoopee!

Tomorrow, I’m meeting up with a couple friends from high school…totally random and fun!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Breaking in City Center

We booked this trip a few months ago via Southwest vacations (it was a steal!), and so far, everything’s been going well. I was excited to learn that City Center was scheduled to open during our trip, so we headed over to explore as soon as we checked into our hotel.

City Center is located in between Bellagio and Monte Carlo and there’s a tram that takes you through the 67-acre complex. I thought it stopped at each site, but it’s pretty much a straight line between Bellagio and Monte Carlo with a stop at Crystals, one of the six new buildings.

I wanted to see Aria, but it wasn’t open yet. It’s the only hotel in the complex with a casino, and I wanted to break it in. It’s gold LEED certified and looked beautiful inside. And, apparently, there are no floors 40-49 because the hotel doesn’t want to spook potential Chinese gamblers (the number four in Chinese sounds like the word for death).

Crystals is filled with lux boutiques, including the nation’s largest Louis Vuitton and Prada stores. It’s funky, contemporary shape reminds me of Case’s Peter B. Lewis building.

The buildings were beautiful, but I guess I was expecting more after all of the hype. Maybe once everything’s fully open it will wow, but we were a little underwhelmed.

Back at the tables

Ah, Vegas! It’s not much warmer here in Cleveland, but we’re not complaining. We’re enjoying staying in the center of the strip as opposed to the Wynn or The Venetian – where we usually stay – since everything feels so much closer.

So far, we’re doing pretty good via Pai Gow Poker and this fun spin-the-wheel slots game, but I made a bonehead error before dinner. We always play the bonus on Pai Gow hands because you have the opportunity to win a lot if you get good hands even if you don’t bet a lot. I got distracted and forgot to play the bonus for a hand, and wouldn’t you know it, but I got four Jacks and lost out on an extra $40. I’m still smacking myself.

We had an amazing dinner at craftsteak in the MGM Grand, a steakhouse Phil heard about a few months ago and made a reservation (this is a first!). I had yummy shortribs and Phil had the surf ‘n turf: filet mignon with scallops. Mmm!

I’ve ridden the Monorail only once before, but it came in handy tonight since we stayed at the tables too long and had to rush to dinner from our hotel. The sidewalks and streets were packed, but we zipped over in about 10 minutes and made our reservation on the dot.

I’m ready to turn in, but Phil is still out and about at the tables…Wild Man!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Waking up in Vegas

By week's end, I'll be waking up in Vegas and soaking up the strip. We'll get to preview the new City Center during its opening week (not sure that we'll get to all 67 acres though), make a splash at the Pai Gow Poker tables and gorge on eats we found out about from Man v. Food.

Counting down the days!