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Foodbuzz 24X24: A (Surprise) Day in Vegas

Posted May 27 2012 1:53pm

My original plan for this weekend was to clean the house, do some laundry, and grill meat. When Matt proposed last weekend, everything changed – not only had he planned the proposal, but he had planned a surprise weekend in Vegas to celebrate!

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Something else I had planned for Memorial Day Weekend was the Foodbuzz 24X24 dinner – 24 featured publishers have 24 exciting meals on one day, then post about them the next. I had planned a scrumptious farmer’s market dinner so when my plans changed, Foodbuzz allowed me to change my dinner as well!

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**Disclaimer I don’t feel qualified to review each restaurant, so please consider this just a description of food from my point of view.**

We started our day with a walk down the strip. When we checked the weather forecast, we were pleasantly surprised that it would be hotter in St. Louis this weekend than Vegas! The high for Vegas on Saturday? Mid-70’s, and it felt like it. I was chilly!

We entered the Venetian and people-watched (oh, the people-watching!) as we strolled through the beautiful scenery. I was shocked when we stumped upon a brewery smack in the middle of all those frozen margarita yards and $5 t-shirt shops!

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Sin City Brewing Co. brews off-site but has three small beer bars, one in Venetian, one in the Flamingo, and one in Planet Hollywood (where we’re staying!). Kelly, the manager of the Venetian location, served us their seasonal IPA, which was delicious and totally drinkable at 11 a.m.

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Kelly was great – in between dealing with the drunk bachelor parties (yes, still 11 a.m.!) and barely-dressed harems of women, she had a sense of humor and was incredibly welcoming. Just goes to show that if you find craft beer, you find good people (even in Vegas!).

We chatted with Kelly and a few other craft beer fans until close to 1 p.m., when we had to hit up Caesar’s for our reservation at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill .

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Mesa Grill is an upscale Southwestern-inspired restaurant. It serves “brunch” every weekend until 3 p.m., but for us this meal was lunch. We arrived early but were seated promptly at 1 p.m. and immediately ordered the house margarita (excellent!). They also served a variety of breads, including jalapeno cornbread and blueberry and apple pastries. The cornbread was great!

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I had been eyeing the goat cheese “queso fundido” for days so we started with that. This dip was a bit on the greasy side, but the fact that this was goat cheese actually gave it a lighter feeling, not your typical “ugh, no more cheese!” queso feeling. We enjoyed it!

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Though the queso was prompt, there was a mistake in the kitchen and our main dishes took well over 30 minutes to arrive (after we finished the queso). Mesa staff took a while to let us know what was going on, but apologized more than once and comped our drinks to make up for it. Kitchen mistakes happen and we had nowhere to be and all the time in the world, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

I had the Sixteen Spice Chicken Salad (goat cheese, green onion vinaigrette) and enjoyed it.

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Matt had the New Mexican Spiced Pork Tenderloin Sandwich (grilled red onion, arugula, ancho chile mayo, Southwestern fries) and enjoyed it as well.

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While the food was tasty and the servers were gracious enough in making up for the kitchen mishap, my final thought was that the beloved Milagro Modern Mexican in St. Louis was comparable, if not better.

After lunch, we walked more of the strip, played some slots (I’m sorry but Wheel of Fortune is the most fun slot in the city), and ended up back at our room for a nap and a change of clothes. We had to refresh and recharge because we had dinner reservations at Craftsteak !

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Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak is a steak house that attempts to use meat and produce from local family farms, and changes their menu with the season. Colicchio is a James Beard winner that cooks simple food with extreme flavor.

Normally, I would not whip out my camera at a restaurant of this quality, but I was committed to this Foodbuzz event. That said, I used my iPhone camera and the photos are rather dark, as expected.

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We started with Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA’s (yay!) and the above rolls, topped with sea salt. I was afraid to eat more than a half of a roll, as we had a ton of food coming our way.

The menu itself is simple, just like Colicchio’s cooking style. Craftsteak offer a special chef menu, where three courses are served family style and angus beef is served sliced at the table. Our server stated that each course would give us a variety of offerings (three types of salad, soup, two cuts of beef, sides, etc) and for the price, this was obviously the best way to experience the menu and all Colicchio had to offer.

(The server said that this was a Memorial Day Weekend special. I believe they offer the chef menu all the time, so I’m not sure if he meant that the variety of foods was the special, or something else)

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After the bread, we received a small bowl of lobster bisque, which was a complex oxymoron of creamy and light-as-air broth with pieces of lobster and scallops, topped with tarragon. Excellent.

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Three salad offerings followed. From left – warm frisee salad with farm egg and smoked bacon, Caesar salad with white wine croutons and pickled anchovies, and a spinach salad with cherries and walnuts. All three were blissful but I especially enjoyed the Caesar! Those croutons hold a special place in my heart.

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As if I wasn’t already full, the main course arrived: full-sized ribeye and t-bone steaks served in cast-iron skillets, sliced and cooked medium-rare and medium, respectively. Sides included asparagus with lemon zest, potato gratin with a roasted garlic cream, and a variety of mushrooms with which to top our steak.

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Again, the amount of food for the price we paid was astounding. I don’t know how any couple could have finished this, but we tried! Every bite was fresh and tasted like Colicchio himself had purchased each ingredient from the farmer’s market that very morning.

After we ate all we could manage, I unlocked that secret compartment I have in my stomach just for dessert. I had to – look at what we received!

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From left: a scoop each of lemon and apricot sorbet (the lemon was heaven in a bowl), vanilla bean cheesecake (!) with a graham cracker crust, candied kumquats, and sweet whipped cream, cinnamon monkey bread (!!) with brown sugar sour cream ice cream (!!!), and a plate of sliced farmer’s market fruit.

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My favorite was a tie between the cheesecake and the brown sugar sour cream ice cream, but the lemon sorbet was a close second. And to our surprise, they served us a small piece of raspberry chocolate cake with that same sweet whipped cream in celebration of our engagement!

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We were stuffed in the best way possible as we left Craftsteak. The service was impeccable from start to finish and the food lived up to everything I had built it up to be before going. I would recommend this restaurant (and go back again) in a heartbeat.

We stayed up until 2 a.m. playing slots and blackjack and are ready to do it all over again today!

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Thanks again to Foodbuzz for allowing me to change my 24X24 idea at the last minute and sponsoring this post.

Have a great Memorial Day!

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