It’s been quiet over here the last week hasn’t it? We took a bit of a holiday during February break to Las Vegas.
I’d never been. Levi has been once when he was too young to ‘appreciate’ shall we say, the finer things that Vegas has to offer.
Let me start by saying that four days in Las Vegas is a lot for the first time. Or I thought so anyway. On the flip side of that though, four days is not enough time to experience everything there is to experience in a city like Las Vegas. There is always something going on – shows, entertainment, food, shopping.
Where We Stayed
We booked a room using Hotwire. If you know me at all, this is completely out of character because I am so detail-oriented (read: OCD) that I absolutely have to know what I’m getting myself into. Booking with Hotwire meant we took a gamble on what hotel we were staying at. We ended up at Trump Hotel. It’s a beautiful 5-star hotel just off the strip on Fashion Show Drive, across the street from Fashion Show Mall. We were told it was the only hotel that’s basically ‘on strip’ that doesn’t have a casino.
Our suite was beautiful, as one would expect with a 5-star resort. My favorite room was the bathroom. A giant – like, I mean, hugely massive – jetted tub and marble everywhere. I spent a lot of time just relaxing in that tub.
The hotel doesn’t offer much in the way of on-site entertainment. There is one restaurant with limited dining options and from what I could tell a bit of live music in the lobby area in the evening. That’s about it. We tried to have lunch at the DJT restaurant one day and were told they don’t have any options for gluten-free by the hostess. But, we didn’t mind so much because the happiest place on earth is located just down the street at the Wynn.
The Food Scene
The thing about Vegas (that I gather from glancing over menus) is that people like their steak and seafood in this city. If it wasn’t a steak house it was a seafood restaurant. Over and over and over again. Which is great if you’re into that sort of thing. Obviously we aren’t. Another thing that makes me chuckle is the giant buffets in every casino resort. Nothing says holidaying like pigging out on troughs of food before going to sit down at a slot machine. Okay, that’s a bit unfair. I hear the food at some of those buffets is unbelievable. But for someone with dietary restrictions and food intolerances, dining at a buffet just seems like a disaster waiting to happen.
I didn’t think it was going to be as difficult as it was to find suitable vegetarian and gluten-free options at casino restaurants throughout the Strip. But, the options weren’t great. If a place had decent gluten-free options, chances were they weren’t dairy-free or egg-free. The lack of vegetarian/vegan options on The Strip was sort of disheartening too. When will these big-name chefs realize that vegetarian options like ‘side of steamed vegetables’ are not a suitable or enjoyable representation of the amazing dishes they are capable of crafting?!
Except of course in the happiest place on earth down the street at the Wynn.
The Happiest Place on Earth – The Wynn
Did I mention it’s the happiest place on Earth? Okay, so I guess I’m a bit smitten with The Wynn. There are so many reasons I am in love with this casino resort. Early (well, early by Vegas time) Monday morning while we were walking the Strip for the first time and there was music coming from a vine and tree concealed walled area on the edge of the Wynn property. It was my kind of music. It made me want to be behind that mysterious wall. I had to go see what it was.
Have you read The Secret Garden? It’s what I imagine my modern day Secret Garden is.
That wall was concealing The Lake of Dreams. This is the place I want to wake up at every morning and go to bed at every night.
A friend suggested having a cocktail at Parasol Down and what a great suggestion. You must do this if you are in Vegas. It is breathtaking and amazing and happifying. The cocktails are pricey – somewhere between $15-$20 but you’re not just paying for an expertly crafted cocktail, you’re paying for the experience and ambiance and bliss of sitting outside on the Lake of Dreams like a member of high society. Pretty inexpensive if you think of it that way.
It was here at Parasol Down after a few very strong drinks that we decided to photobomb a group of people getting a picture taken. Turns out, you just don’t photobomb Steve Wynn. Yes, the owner of the resort was in that group. Whoops. I guess it explains the dirty looks from those security-looking guys. Hehe.
(Please excuse the lousy cell phone pics.)
On either side of Parasol Down are restaurants, SW and Lakeside. We enjoyed a meal on our last real night in Vegas at Lakeside. More on that down below.
This brings me to another main reason why I am so in love with The Wynn. The food. In my research of Vegas I found that Steve Wynn had partnered with celebrity vegan chef Tal Ronnen (author of The Conscious Cook and the chef who catered the Portia De Rossi and Ellen DeGeneres wedding and helped Oprah during her vegan challenge) to work with the chefs of the many restaurants in the resort to come up with exciting and inspired vegan menus. Additionally, each and every restaurant in the resort (including the Buffet, apparently) has an allergen menu. The allergen menu lists off which dishes are soy-free, dairy-free, egg-free, tree nut-free, peanut-free, or gluten- and wheat-free.
Our first lunch in Vegas was quite late in the day and of all the restaurants that looked up our alley it was the only one actually open for lunch. It’s an Asian-inspired restaurant called Red 8. There’s vegan dim sum options. This was our first experience ordering from the allergen and vegan menus. It was a good lesson in communication. Levi ordered “Steamed Chicken with Ginger Oil” from the gluten-free menu. What he got was boiled chicken with the skin on and matchsticks of fresh ginger. No sauce, no seasonings, nothing. Just rubbery bland chicken and fresh ginger. When the waiter dropped the dish in front of him he said they can’t make it gluten-free normally. Levi tried to choke it down and was getting quite cranky. Finally when the waiter came back we asked why the dish was listed on the gluten-free menu if it wasn’t able to be made gluten-free as described on the menu. They didn’t really have an answer but they were quick to fix the issue and made Levi a dish from the regular menu but without gluten. The waiter suggested referencing the regular menu in any of the Wynn restaurants if nothing looks suitable on the gluten-free menu as they usually can make a regular item gluten-free. Good to know.
I ordered a vegan (and not gluten-free) Gardein Chik’n, Celery, and Cashew Stir Fry. It was very tasty. I’m not a huge fan of faux meats but the sauce and the freshness of the vegetables made this a win.
We enjoyed a late dinner at La Cave – a tapas and wine bar. The atmosphere of this place was intoxicating. We were seated at a small table near the bar. Levi ordered a dish from the gluten-free menu of salmon and red wine reduction. He didn’t stop oohing and ahhing over it the entire meal. I ordered a (not gluten-free) vegan pasta dish with creamy mushrooms, tomatoes with garlic, and handmade mushroom tortellini. It was probably my favorite meal of the entire trip. We ordered a regional wine sampling for Spain which included 2 whites and 2 reds in 2 oz. pours. I loved them all.
Tower Suite Cafe
We met some friends for lunch one day and I gave them a choice between Tower Suite Cafe and The Country Club. We ended up at Tower Suite Cafe and the scenery was stunning. We sat outdoor on the patio area overlooking one of the pool areas. It felt like the middle of summer and I was in a happy place. The cocktails were fun and refreshing. I ordered another pasta dish the Orecchiette pasta dish from the vegan menu. It had handmade (not gluten-free) orecchiette pasta with fresh artichokes, asparagus and mushrooms. Levi had the Bay Scallops from the gluten-free menu.
Our final dinner in Vegas was at Lakeside Grill, one of the restaurants overlooking the Lake of Dreams. Our table unfortunately was not near the patio but we still had a view of the giant water wall. This is an American seafood restaurant – which seems like it’s not a good fit for me, but their vegan menu actually captured my eye most of all. They had vegan clam chowder – which I ordered – using smoked oyster mushrooms and a cashew cream base. I also ordered the vegan ‘crab’ cakes served with toasted pasta and a perfectly spicy Romesco sauce. I enjoyed all of my meal incredibly except that the crab cakes tasted so real that it started to scare me that they weren’t actually vegan. The server assured me they were. As it was, I couldn’t finish my meal … I was just too full. Levi had ordered a swordfish dish from the gluten-free menu and he liked it a lot.
I hate that this picture is so crappy – it really doesn’t do the dish justice.
I am jealous of everyone who has access to a Whole Foods Market. We ran into some friends of ours while we were shopping at the outlet mall one afternoon and they offered to take us to the Whole Foods afterward. We loaded up on so much tasty deli food that we stayed in for dinner that night. The vegan dolmades tasted so good and pleasantly a lot like my own recipe. I had a roasted beet salad with fresh ginger. We picked out a hummus with garlic and parsley, an Indian chickpea curry, rice, and Levi picked out some candied salmon for himself. We also loaded up on some fresh fruit and kale chips. Levi was so excited to find a much larger selection of gluten free beers in the liquor section and he bought a variety pack of 6 bottles to try them all out. Some were tasty, others not so much.
So obviously with the food, you’ll notice that Levi ate meat, and I didn’t eat gluten-free the entire time. At home when I’m cooking for us I cook gluten-free and vegan all the time. On holiday it was nice to have food prepared expertly for me that was suitable for the lifestyle I chose – that of following a plant-based diet. It was also a treat for Levi to have fish and chicken prepared for him by world-class chefs. So, it makes it kind of hard to talk about gluten-free veganism in Vegas because of the way we did it. That being said … I am 100% confident that if you chose to eat perfectly vegan and gluten-free that you would be able to find options in any of the Wynn restaurants.
Fun Fun Fun
We did a lot of walking. I thought I packed sensible shoes but after a few hours of walking I realized how badly I’d chosen. Pack real running shoes and socks people, just do it. We toured around some of the casinos but we didn’t go through all of them in our time there. My favorites are the Wynn (obviously), the Venetian, and the Bellagio. Caesar’s Palace was pretty great too.
We saw the Sirens of TI show at Treasure Island where they sink the pirate ship. It was pretty neat, and I’m sure the guys will enjoy the Sirens. It’s a bit cheesy, but I think that’s kind of the kitsch that Vegas oozes.
The Fountains of Bellagio were beautiful. We saw the show a couple times from different angles and it was amazing each time.
The highlight of our trip as far as entertainment is concerned was our evening at Cirque du Soleil’s O. This is a show I will go back to in a heartbeat and highly recommend. We sat in the second row and that is in the splash zone. We didn’t get soaked but there was definitely mist and drops of water and splashing. Like any Cirque show, you can expect to be wowed. But, with O it’s even more than just a regular Cirque show. The water adds a whole new element and excitement to the program. You should go.
Oh and there was one afternoon that I actually got to spend by the pool. Otherwise the weather this time of year was a bit cool. I’d go back to Vegas when it’s a bit hotter … like summer!
We spent an afternoon shopping at Premium Outlets and got some great deals – hello shoes!
And I have to mention this only because we did it and were quite disappointed. I didn’t even want to go but Levi really did … we went to Gold & Silver Pawn. It’s the pawn shop from the show Pawn Stars. I’m sorry to say, but what a dump. It stunk. It was nothing like how the show looks and none of the cool things that are shown in the show are on display. I suppose that’s because it’s really just a regular pawn shop and not a museum. Oh, and no Chumlee or any of the other guys on site. Poor Levi was so disappointed. But at least now he can say he’s been to that spot.
All in all, Vegas was great. We definitely need to go back and explore more. Next time I want to go with friends … I’m a fan of ‘the more the merrier’.