Saturday, January 1, 2011

Trip Report Part 2: Foie gras and the $100 Cooler #WPBT

Bloggers really are some of the best people you will ever meet. If you've never attended a blogger gathering, your soul is missing an experience like no other. These invisible Internet friends, I just don't know if I have the words other then, they rock.

I live on the city limits of the 3rd largest city in the 21st most populated state located in the frozen tundra of the Midwest. As has been pointed out many times by the east coast bloggers, I live in a fly-over state. Which is just fine with us because then we don't have to share God's country with them. What most people don't realize is that we endure the cold bitter winters because until you've sat in an Adirondack chair next to one of 11,842 lakes, you've never found perfection. No, seriously. One of my favorite comments from a blogger that has enjoyed one of our lakeside summers goes like this, "How do you guys keep jobs in this state?" He was fortunate enough to spend about a week up north. Once you are there, it's tough to pull yourself away.

So, know you have the back story. Bloggers rock and I don't get out much.

A couple of days before this year's gathering in Las Vegas, I received a direct tweet from Gracie.

@Peacecorn: When are you getting in?
@OhCaptain: looks like my plane is scheduled to land ~1PM on Thursday.
@Peacecorn: 6:40 on Thurs. EEEE! Would you like to join us for dinner at Picasso @ Bellagio that night? Reservation is at 9:30pm. (1/2)
@Peacecorn: Garth, his better half, Kat, Me, Pablo, Al, and Drizz will be dining. Garth and I owe his better half a nice dinner as she won our Fantasy Top Chef game.
@OhCaptain: sure! Never eaten there. Sounds like a lot of fun! I'll add it to TripIt and other reminder systems now. I may have had a couple by then :)
Sweet! Dinner plans!

I had eaten at the buffet at Bellagio before. Food was good. I quickly looked up the web page for this restaurant to check out what I'd signed up for, but if memory serves, their servers were having problems and the page didn't load. I didn't really think much more about this. I just simply love getting fed.

Now, go back to the previous recap to fast forward to about 8:30 PM at the Imperial Palace (IP). I'd done some drinkin, some Pai Gow and little more drinking. I wasn't really smashed, just lightly toasty.

The other dinner goers were starting to gather at the Geisha Bar. I noticed my good buddy from Minnesota, Drizz looked a little different from his usual.

Now, this photo on the left is an artist's rendition of how I normally see Drizz through several hours of drinking. He's dressed for success at the IP for the holidays.

This photo on the right, is how he actually appeared.

Kat had mentioned that she had some unexpected funds arrive that would pay for dinner and she was dressed to the nines as well.

Garth and his better half were now here. They looked fabulous.

Gracie and Pablo showed up. Crap, his shirt had a collar. A collar.

I was wearing this t-shirt and a pair of tan cargo pants.

My carry-on is usually filled with only camera equipment and changes of socks and underwear. I just can't bring myself to wearing those for too long without a change. T-shirts, pants and hoodies (my standard Vegas uniform) are worn until they, you know, can't be worn without laundry soap. I bring with me cash for the usual daily expense, aka poker. For everything else, there's Mastercard.

I have shopped the gift shop at Bellagio before. I knew they would have some golf shirts, polos and the like. This wasn't really a big deal, it was just me pulling a "not ready for primetime" gaff. The gift shop had a very nice black Nike golf shirt on clearance. Whew! A collar!

Clothing attire set, we headed down the stairs to the AAA Five Diamond restaurant. I had assumed this meant it was decent. I did a lot of assuming on this trip. We were taken to a large circular table and seated by a most gracious staff. The picture below should give you a pretty good idea of what I saw.

Removing the menu revealed this lovely plate. The cubist has done well.

Have I mentioned that I've never eaten at a place like this before? Now, mama raised me with some manners. I wasn't used to eating with the hogs outback. No, I knew approximately which fork went with which foods. I do still wonder why this first plate was used. It was pretty and all but never at one thing off of it. We just looked at it.

Our menu for the evening consisted two sides. A five course and a four course. The 5 course had a few choices to be made and seemed to make sure you had to order at least one item of the seafood persuasion. The menu on the right, the four course, for as good as my French is, seemed to be navigable without seafood. There were a few things I had no idea what they were, but when I travel with the bloggers...

Remember how I said I don't get out much. This is where the bloggers come in. I love adventure but I usually don't know where to start. Adventure starts right here, right now...just without seafood. I don't like seafood. In the vernacular of the common man, I'm really picky. I like land roaming animals. But back to the story.

I was determined to eat everything that was served to me. Regardless of what it was...avoiding the obvious picky stumbles (seafood), I was gonna do this. I needed to spread my wings.

The first dish was a squash and marshmallow soup. I was looking forward to this because, while I'm picky as hell, I LOVE SQUASH! Below is a photo of the soup. The serving staff did an excellent job of laddeling the soup from the serving dish to the dinner dish.

The soup was outstanding in flavor. I don't remember exactly what was the lump of stuff in the middle and I'm pretty sure I would normally had avoided it because I don't normally eat the lumps in the middle of things I don't know what they are but on this day, I at it. Those three marshmallows you see there, added a sweetness to the soups fresh squash flavor. The soup seemed a little on the cool side for me, which very well could be how it's supposed to be served but definitely didn't diminish the flavors. If I had one complaint, the marshmallows had a slight crispness too them that associate with things that have sat uncovered too long. Again, maybe that's how it's supposed to be, but I did notices a roughness to their texture.

It was at this point that a blogger saved the day for me, yet again. Kat leans over to me and said "You gonna stop recording and start experiencing?" What was I doing? I kept taking pictures when I should have been letting the atmosphere and the good food take over. Thank you, Kat.

The other courses tried my senses and my pickiness. I actually don't remember everything I was served. I ate everything on my plates. When I was done with the foie gras, I leaned into cat and asked what it was. The told me it was foie gras, but you might as well have told me it was [fill in the blank]. I had no idea. I'm guessing the way it was prepared for everyone else was way better then the way I had mine. Mine was a chilled meat pate served with browned pineapple and green things and a red sauce. I'll be honest, it was tough for me to get that one down, but I'll remind you, I'm REALLY picky and I ate ALL of it.

The roasted veal chop was another story. This was amazing. Holy baby cow! Al did a write up of this dinner and I think he had the same thing. My goodness. Cooked to absolute perfection and served with a rosemary flavored mashed potato. Just spectacular. As Al said, "...more step along the path until we sat back with those silly "fat and happy" grins." Those of us eating the veal chop had a dilema, there were tasty bits of meat still stuck to the bone that our forks just weren't getting. Is it appropriate to nibble on the bone? We weren't sure, so we did it anyways. Nomnomnom.

I know I'm missing a course. Wish I could remember it, but I stopped recording and just started experiencing. This experience must have left me. So sad.

Somewhere along the way, we noticed that the latest WPT winner was also dining there. Antonio Esfandiari he was celebrating his victory that day in the Bellagio Five Diamonds Championship. Not my first brush with poker fame, but a pretty cool one. (Meeting Dario Minieri wasn't really all that cool, he was kind of an ass)

Just when we were being reminded that it was inappropriate to quote from Monty Python's Meaning of Life that we were full and couldn't eat another bite, they served dessert. This I had to record.

I know there's a better name for this, but it was a chocolate lava cake with a walnut(?) ice cream? It was easily the most amazing thing I've ever eaten. The green in the picture is a reflection of a light. Please ignore that. The chocolate star. Tasty. Wow.

We were really enjoying the great company and the outstanding food. Truly one of the best experiences of my life. Thank you.

The patio doors and all the windows look over Lake Bellagio. These next two shots were taken from the veranda outside of the dining area.

Well, we finished up. Fat and happy for sure. The maitre d' was kind enough to take a group photo for us.

We headed back to the IP to catch up with those unlucky enough not to join us. Hopefully, no one had to endure the Burger Palace.

So, why did I mention the $100 cooler? I had sobered up while dining at Picasso and figured I could join the bloggers now playing $1/$2 NLHE. I haven't played live NLHE cash in a long time. I was determined this trip to not miss too many chances to play live poker with the bloggers. Although, past experiences with live poker usually mean losses by a cooler...this should be different. Blogger money is usually so easy and sweet.

I held my own playing most likely overly tight and aggressive. Not really getting into too many hands and never seeing a river. Maybe 30 - 45 minutes into the session, I was dealt K 10. Almost everyone had limped into the pot, including Miami Don. The flop comes 10 10 6. GIN!

I check in the LB. Someone in late position does a smallish raise, it comes back to me I raise it again to like $35 and then Miami Don raises again to cover my entire stack. Now, there are 2 hands and 2 hands only that beat me. A 10 and pocket 6's, while those hands are possible, he might have an overpair (not likely), he could very easily have Q ten, J ten, 10 9 or some other flavor of ten. And I could have been less pot committed as well. I make the call and sure enough, he had sixes. DAMN! My first session of poker and I'm fading the turn and the river hoping for something bigger then sixes to make a pair. I miss and Don takes all of my chips.

Not a great start to the trip, but hey, I was up $35 playing Pai Gow so this leaves me only stuck $65. I can do better.

Up next - The Neon Musuem, the sound of more cash getting flushed and the blogger tournament.

Stay tuned!


Memphis MOJO said...

Good report, goot photos. HNY

lightning36 said...

Great photos, as always. And the touch of Astin was nice!

DrChako said...

It's funny. Most of my memories from this trip surround great food with great friends, as opposed to poker.


The Wife said...

Glad you lost some more of your food virginity!

Shrike said...

I have to echo lightning's remarks.


Drizztdj said...

The lesson here is: watch more, eat more, play more pai gow.

SirFWALGMan said...

Donk's always defend their terrible plays. :P. Nice writeup!