Saturday, April 19, 2008

Las Vegas, USA - ARDA

The ARDA (American Resort Development Association) Conference Week is upon us again and the conference which all shared ownership players congregate at the industry's largest global conference is back at the Venetian on Las Vegas Blvd. And this is one hectic week of meetings, seminars, and of course, meal after meal after meal with my great colleagues from the global team.

In the US, I realise that old ways still withstand the test of time and after many years, the cold seafood platter is still a popular starter... so much so that I had it every single night I was there (or rather, it was ordered for us every night). Living in Asia, I don't realise how spoilt I am that I don't have to eat frozen seafood. In the US, unfortunately, even the most succulent lobster or crab claw has to be thawed before being poached. I guess that's where the cocktail sauce and tabasco come in handy.

I ate at some pretty good places this time and wanted to capture them here so I don't forget. I got in only 4 hours late on the first night despite a bad experience with US Air, thanks to some nice fellow passengers who got me on a pleasant Virgin flight, without whom I would have been waiting at the San Francisco airport for 10 hours! Again, living in Singapore and Hong Kong, these things are not commonplace and when they do happen, you are in a great state of the art facility with enough shops and restaurants to keep you distracted from the frustration at hand. Anyhow, I did make it to dinner at the Grand Luxe Cafe (which I will end up again) inside the Venetian for a humongous chicken pot pie, which was a fluffy crust over a large bowl of creamy chicken. Hearty food which hit the spot after approximately 19 hours of travel time.

The first day was an enjoyable great weather day at the Angel Creek golf course hanging out with my colleagues rather than really golfing. Just the bonding time and laughter made lugging my golf set 10,000 miles worth it. While we never made it for a massage, we did have a great dinner at Aqua Knox (also inside the Venetian) where the attractions are not the size of the portions! An extensive menu of predominantly interesting seafood dishes, I had the lobster bisque and fillet mignon. The bisque was creamy yet light and flavoured with a touch of cognac, taking any heaviness from the cream totally away. The fillet mignon was perfectly executed pink and oh-so-tender. I would have finished it all if not for my brain getting the better of me to stop me from suffering the consequences of overeating.

Lunch at the Enoteca San Marco (St Marks' Square at the Venetian) was a nice change from the usual cold cut sandwiches we have to suffer for the usual work-through lunch meetings. With an authentic southern Italian menu, boasting of a guhzillion cheeses, it was disappointing that we could not indulge. I settled for the pasta with rape and sausage, a Sicilian specialty. Healthy for the rape (lacking in real greens - salads not in the count) and tasty for the home-made sausage, and accompanied by very al dente pasta, it was an excellent lunch dish for its lightness.

To watch Cirque de Soleil's Ka at the MGM Grand, we made reservations to dine at Emeril's at the MGM to save any travel time, especially with the horrendous traffic on the Boulevard. Emeril's is Cajun in style with a menu heavy on seafoods. It was here I decided to try Gumbo for the first time. I also reaffirmed my dislike for the sliminess of okra which made the dish too gunky for me. While I was told that it wasn't all too authentic, I don't really care to try gumbo again for the okra factor. My meal was made all the better by the crab cakes and the mac and cheese with bits of smokey ham. The Ka adventure took us about 2 hours and taking the monorail back to the Venetian (cleverly beating the post show taxi crowd), we rewarded ourselves with a huge piece of choc fudge cake and bananas foster back at the Grand Luxe Cafe.

No trip to the US is complete without a burger and I had my fix back at the Grand Luxe. Getting over some hiccups with service and delayed food arrivals, I happily tucked into it and completely neutralised the hour-long workout prior. oh well, back to the drawing board...

My last night - and we booked into Postrio's - Wolfgang Puck's cafe at the Venetian. By this time, it's been too much eating and I decided to skip the main course and just wait for dessert. I was not disappointed. The chocolate souffle was well worth the wait and is probably one of the best I've ever had with a vanilla sauce when poured straight into the souffle, made heaven seem that much closer...

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