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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Timeshare cooking and Memorial Day grilling in Las Vegas, Nevada, Day 3

I am always the first to wake up in the morning. I needed to start thinning out our groceries so we didn’t have too much to take back home with us. I had a leftover naan bread and decided to make a flatbread pizza with it for breakfast. I topped it with some butter, shredded parmesan cheese, and sprinkling of salt and pepper. I used the convection setting on the microwave and got the cheese all bubbling and gooey. It turned out pretty good.

Since it was Memorial Day, we decided to leave the grilling to someone else this year. A 10-minute leisurely walk from the Elara is Shake Shack. This is the very first Shake Shack location to open up west of the Mississippi. It made its debut on December 29, 2014, just in time for the New Year’s Eve festivities on the strip. Shake Shack started in 2001 as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park in Manhattan, NY. They won a bid to open a permanent kiosk in 2004 and the rest is history. It is very fitting that they opened their location at the New York New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The menu is so diverse, pretty much everyone in your party will be able to enjoy.

They have a buzzer system that tells you when your food items are ready. You’ll receive your food whether it is hot or cold just as it is ready. You might receive your food in stages but you’ll know that it is the freshest it can be.

Beer Float is seasonal dark beer topped with vanilla frozen custard. If you mix the frozen custard and beer together to form a creamier drink, the flavors work well together. A more subtle stout that has more roasted coffee or dark chocolate flavor forward would work a little better. Otherwise, it was really good and reminded my hubby of his college days. Rating: 4.5/5

SmokeShack is a cheeseburger topped with all-natural Applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry pepper, and ShackSauce. The seasoned beef patty was grilled to perfection. The lettuce was crisp and the tomatoes were juicy. The onions were not overpowering and had a sweetness to them. The cherry pepper was a little intense but it had a good spicy kick. The bacon, however, was a little dry making it both tough and chewy. The bacon either needs to be thinner and crispier or thicker and fried a little less for a softer texture. Rating: 4/5

Shack Stack is a cheeseburger and a ‘Shroom Burger (crisp, fried portabella mushroom filled with melted Muenster and cheddar cheeses) topped with lettuce, tomato, and ShackSauce. If you like steak and mushrooms, this is the burger for you. The fried portabella mushroom added a crispy texture, but once you bit through, the mushroom was just juicy and oozing with melted cheese like a mushroom popper. The beef patty was juicy and beefy. The bun was brioche-like and held together to the last bite. Rating: 5/5

Cheese Fries are topped with a special blend of cheddar and American cheese sauce. The fries were crispy and the crinkle cuts helped hold the cheese sauce on the fries. An addition of chili or bacon bits would be great options to add to the menu. Rating: 4.5/5

All Shook Up Concrete is vanilla frozen custard, Gimme Some Sugar banana peanut butter cheesecake, and chocolate toffee. The vanilla custard is made on premises and made with real sugar and milk from hormone-free dairy farms. You definitely feel the presence of Elvis while eating this! All it needed was some bacon. It was a great mix of flavors but the cheesecake was really heavy - maybe less of the cheesecake and more fresh banana. The vanilla custard was creamy and fantastic! Rating: 4/5

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon
With our bellies full, we took the long way back to the Elara on the west side of the Strip. Since rain took away the clouds, the sun was out, making it very bright and hot. With water in hand, we walked through The Shops at Crystals, part of the Aria Hotel. An architectural 80-foot sculptural Tree House provides dining room space for Maestro’s Ocean Club. On the ground floor, it houses the Concierge desk. The walkway connected to cross Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue back to Planet Hollywood and the Elara. Since, the pool was busy again, we spent the hot afternoon in our cool, air conditioned room.

Just south of the famous Las Vegas welcome sign, is an outdoor shopping center called Town Square. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar has a location here. Fleming’s is an upscale steakhouse with locations across the country. We are big fans of Fleming’s and eat at the Newport Beach location often. Dinner time called for steak!

  • If you are a Friend of Fleming’s member, you receive special notifications of events and dining credits. Through June 11, 2015, Friends of Fleming’s members receive a $40 dining credit when you spend a minimum of $100. Reservations must be made through the special email link.

The dinner starts off with their cheese bread with a choice of sundried tomato butter or a chardonnay infused gorgonzola butter with apple and cranberries. They are both fantastic so bounce back and forth between flavors.

The New Wedge Salad is topped with grape tomatoes, crispy onions, caramelized bacon, bleu cheese, pepitas, and bleu cheese dressing. It was nicely presented but would be easier to eat with the bacon and bleu cheese crumbled. The flavors work well together for a perfectly sized dinner salad. Rating: 4/5

Dry-aged Prime Ribeye is aged a minimum of 21 days and seasoned with kosher salt, black pepper, and finished with butter and parsley. The steak was tender, succulent, and sliced like butter. It was perfectly broiled to black and blue doneness with nice char on the outside and cool dark red interior. It could be seasoned a bit more with salt and more melted butter on top. Rating: 4.5/5

Prime Bone-In Ribeye is aged a minimum of 21 days and seasoned with kosher salt, black pepper, and finished with butter and parsley. The steak was perfectly broiled to medium-rare doneness. It was also tender and succulent with tastier meat near the bone. This was also under seasoned and could use more salt and butter. Rating: 4/5

Truffle-Parsley Mashed Potatoes tasted like homemade mashed with small lumps inside. The truffle could be more flavor forward. The texture was a little granular and could be a little creamier. Rating: 3/5

Creamed Spinach was creamy and silky and works well with steak or prime rib. The parmesan on top added an aged, tangy flavor to the mix. Rating: 4.5/5
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

As we drove back to the Elara, our Memorial Day weekend has come to an end. We got to revisit parts of the strip that we normally don’t see and try new restaurants. We will miss you, Las Vegas, but we will be back soon enough.

For more information:
80 East Harmon Ave
Las Vegas, NV 89109

3790 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Hours: Sunday through Thursday from 11am to 12am, Friday and Saturday from 11am to 2am

515 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Hours: Monday through Thursday from 5pm to 10pm, Friday and Saturday from 5pm to 11pm, and Sunday from 4pm to 10pm

Friday, May 29, 2015

Las Vegas, NV: Timeshare cooking, Fat Choy brunching, and Vegas neon – Day 2

As the morning sun peeks through the sides of the shade, I decided to fry up some turkey bacon for a lean, protein-packed light breakfast. The blue sky above Las Vegas was pretty clear with scattered billowy clouds hanging overhead.

On Sundays, Fat Choy serves their Sunday Best all day long. The restaurant is situated inside the Eureka Casino and serves up some Asian American fusion as you will see with what we ordered. Chef Sheridan Su is a masterful chef and his flavor combinations will knock your socks off.

The Fat Benedict is English muffins topped with poached eggs, crispy pork belly, and hollandaise sauce. The hollandaise along with the pork belly make this dish shine. The hollandaise sauce is thick and sticks to all of the nooks and crannies of the English muffin with a rich yolky, buttery flavor. The pork belly is tender and just to die for! I normally get the pork belly bao but I might have to get this instead if I dine here on a Sunday. The breakfast potatoes were golden brown and the hollandaise made a perfect dip for them. Rating: 5/5

The Fat Choy Burger is my hubby’s favorite burger of all time. 99% of the time, he will order it. All of the elements – beef patty, braised short rib, bacon, fried egg, cheddar, and onion jam – are a symphony of flavors that cannot be topped. It’s one of my favorite burgers as well, but I love so many items on the Fat Choy menu that I have to be selective in my choices. I can’t eat everything at one sitting! If I could, I would. Rating: 5/5

The day looked like a good day for the pool. As the crowd started to thin out at the pool, the clouds started rolling in, heavy and dark. So we spent the rest of the afternoon, watching TV in our living room.

Since we would be going out late in the evening, I decided to make dinner at the timeshare. I started by making a strawberry, peach, and Asian chili sauce to top our last couple of fillets of salmon. I also had some black-eye peas that I sautéed with butter, garlic, bell pepper, and a chiffonade of romaine for color. The sauce turned out to be tart and sweet with a little heat. It paired nicely with the buttery, succulent salmon. The black-eyed peas dish added a nice textural change to the palate and savory balance to the overall dish.

The Neon Museum Visitors' Center Courtesy of The Neon Museum
Around 8pm, we made our way to the Neon Museum which is a few minutes north of Downtown on Las Vegas Boulevard. You can’t miss it. During the evening, the Neon Museum’s sign sparkles like old Vegas. The visitors’ center is inside the historic La Concha Motel lobby. The motel was originally constructed on Las Vegas Boulevard South next to the Riviera Hotel (also recently closed). The distinctive shell-shaped building (which you can see on GoogleMaps along with the skull piece from the old Treasure Island marquee) was designed by “Architect to the Stars”, Paul Revere Williams. During 2005 and 2006, the lobby was preserved and moved piece by piece to its current location.

Stardust Signage Courtesy of The Neon Museum
Our guided tour started at 9pm to view the signs by the glow of lights from yester year. The Boneyard houses the signs that made Las Vegas famous - from Caesars Palace and Stardust on the Strip to Binion’s Horseshoe and the Golden Nugget downtown. Our guide gave us a historical journey through the signs and told the story of how Las Vegas came to be. If the signs could talk, they would tell us much more. There was a piece of the old Flamingo neon. We have a connection to it. That is where we had our wedding. Although, the Flamingo is still there, the signage has changed since we were married. Stardust has a lot of memories as well, not personal, but seen in movies. The “International Man of Mystery” Austin Powers strutted his way through the casino and became “Richie Cunningham” when he sat at a blackjack table. Many of the signs you see may bring memories back to you as well.

As the rain started to come down, we took a leisurely drive back to the Elara. The neon from Fremont Street was all aglow and refracted as the raindrops tapped the windows. Memorial Day awaits us with the new day.

For more information:
80 E Harmon Ave
Las Vegas, NV 89109

595 E Sahara Ave
Las Vegas, NV 89104
Fat Choy on Urbanspoon

770 Las Vegas Blvd N
Las Vegas, NV 89101

Las Vegas, NV: Timeshare living, outlet shopping, high roller, white castle, numbing effect – Day 1

Holiday weekends can equal a long commute to your final destination, especially if leaving from Southern California. On Fridays, travelling east can be long. Your travel time can vary between 4 to 7 hours when heading out to Las Vegas, NV on a Friday night.

  • Travel Tip: If you have a lot of data to spare, use the Waze app. It can save you time and gas money. My friend who left for Las Vegas one hour after us, arrived in Las Vegas two hours before we did. Her drive time was 4 hours, our drive time was 7 hours.

A great place to stop for gas and a meal is Lenwood Road in Barstow. They have all of the major gas stations like Chevron, Shell, etc. They also have a huge selection of restaurants to choose from. We normally stop at Del Taco so I can get my Bun Taco and Combo Cup, but we decided to eat at Original Tommy’s Hamburgers for a change of pace. All of the entrees are served with Tommy’s famous chili unless otherwise requested. Their chili is very thick and sticks to everything – burgers, hot dogs, fries, you name it.

Triple Cheeseburger (upgraded to ¼ lb. patties), topped with cheese, chopped onions, tomato, pickles, mustard, and of course, chili. The burger was served on the tray and looked like a volcanic lava flow. The thick and viscous chili slowly oozed from the burger along with the melted cheese. The hubby used his fries to scoop up the saucy deliciousness of chili before he went in to devour this marvel of food porn. The patties were juicy. The chili and cheese just made this scrumptious burger along with acidic elements from the pickles, onions, and mustard. Rating: 4/5

Chili Cheese Fries was calling my name. After 5 hours behind the wheel, I was hungry but had a comfort food craving. Just like the Triple Cheeseburger, the chili overflowed the fry basket and melted the cheese. The gooey chili cheese wrapped perfectly on each fry with no drips on the table, my shirt, or my face. I knew I could eat something else but since it was almost midnight, I saved my hunger for the morning. Rating: 4.5/5
As we pulled up to the Elara, trying to find where to park can be a challenge. It is a shared parking garage between Elara, Planet Hollywood, and the Miracle Mile Shops. This was the only timeshare in the Hilton Grand Vacations Club family that we had not stayed at and wanted to give it a try. The hotel/timeshare has 1201 rooms and soars 52 floors above the Strip.

  • Parking Tip: Park on any level near the center elevators. Take the elevators or escalators (if you don’t have too much luggage) to Level 3. There is a walkway directly into the Elara. Otherwise, you will have to walk through the mall with your luggage in tow.

The One Bedroom Suite has a full kitchen with stainless steel appliances, light cookware, and self-brew coffeemaker; Living area with 42” flat-screen TV, sleeper sofa, club chairs, coffee table and 8-foot HD Home Theatre Projector; High-speed wireless internet access; Bathroom has a 15” TV, washer/dryer combo, enclosed shower and toilet, and oversized jet stream tub. The windows are floor to ceiling with automatic shade retraction during the day and closure when it’s time to sleep. The décor is very boutiquey with red painted walls in the kitchen/living room, red L-shaped sofa bed, and zebra-print lounge in the bedroom. We had a southern vantage with views of MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Monte Carlo, and City Center. The pool looked beautiful from the room, but was too busy to try when the sun was out. The clouds starting moving in and closed our chance for sunbathing.

Las Vegas South Premium Outlets is a huge outlet mall where you can find exactly what you’re looking for and save some money too. We have been shopping here for years and have saved a sizable chunk of change on clothing, kitchenware, linens, handbags, and more. Here’s a sample of what you might save:

  • Vanity Fair Outlet: 3 pairs of short for $39.98 each. On sale for $15.99 each. Savings of $71.97!
  • The Jockey Store: Multi-pack of underwear for $22.50 each and Silver Line Night Shirt for $30. On sale for $19.98. If you are a Jockey Rewards member, you receive store certificates in the mail for your purchases. With $20 in rewards, these were for FREE – savings of $52.50!
  • Quiksilver: Shorts for $34.99 each. On sale for $25 each. Savings of $20!
  • Van Heusen: Double pleated twill pants for $56 each. On sale for $16.80 each. Savings of $78.40!
  • Total savings of $222.87!

Silver Sevens Hotel & Casino (formerly Terrible’s Hotel & Casino) has a lot of slot and video poker specials. On Saturdays, you get 10x points on reels and video reels, and 4x points on video poker. A-Play Club is my favorite club. As long as you use your card once a year, your points do not expire. They also have great food specials in the Sterling Spoon Café. Just check the billboard out front for the latest special.

Having a full kitchen in your room has its advantages. We have a standard box that we bring that contains a non-stick frying pan, Brita water pitcher, and other kitchen necessities that the timeshares don’t usually have. Plus, we bring a food staple of powdered drinks like iced tea and lemonade; refrigerated items that wouldn’t last in our home refrigerator while we were gone, and select frozen items like salmon fillets, pizza, etc. to make during the trip. For lunch, I made a sesame chili marinated salmon fillet atop salad and inside whole wheat naan as a sandwich with some lettuce and cucumber.

An hour before sunset, we starting walking to The Linq to ride The High Roller. It was a 15-20 minute relaxed walk from Elara to The Linq. A promenade of outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment leads you to the focal point, The High Roller. There is a bar in the queue where you can order up your favorite drink to take with you on the ride. It is 550 feet tall and each cabin can hold up to 40 people. The 30-minute ride will show you views of the Las Vegas Strip and vicinity – Red Rock to the west and Henderson to the east. Due to the heavy cloud coverage, sunset was not seen, but it could be great on a nice clear day. The colors on The High Roller were red, white, and blue for Memorial Day Weekend.

A short walk north of The Linq is the brand new White Castle location. It opened on January 27, 2015 next to Casino Royale has been busy ever since. The only time I could get a White Castle was when I was in Chicago for a tradeshow. I simply had to hit the Vegas location up for these tasty little sliders.

Loaded Fries are topped with cheese sauce, ranch, and bacon. I love the crinkle cut fries which holds the sauce and toppings really well. Nothing better than cheesy fries, unless they are topped with chili too. Rating: 5/5

Double Original Slider is two beef patties with an extra piece of bread in the middle and topped with onions and pickle. Patties are steam grilled with the onions which adds more flavor to the patty. The buns are put on top to steam as well. The whole slider is just juicy and soft. There are imitators but this is the original! Rating: 3/5

Double Cheese Slider is two beef patties with an extra piece of bread in the middle and topped with cheese, onions, and pickle. When I bit into the first one, I was in foodie heaven. There is nothing like the juicy beef flavor with the grilled onions and gooey cheese. I was being good, but I could have easily eaten a couple more of these. Rating: 5/5
White Castle on Urbanspoon
On the way back to the Elara, we stopped by NUMB at Harrah’s Casino for a Mango Kush made with mango, Cruzan rum, Skyy passion fruit floater. It was a frozen drink with the perfect balance of sweet fruit flavor and rum. Not overly alcoholic with a smooth flavor.

  • Savings Tip: If you keep your cup, you receive $2 off your future refills. We keep this cup in our timeshare box so we always have it when we go to Vegas.

As we took in the sights of The Strip, the neon a glow lead us back to the Elara. A restful night’s sleep was anxiously awaited to build up stamina for Day 2. Good night, Las Vegas!

To view more photos, please visit OC Food Diva's Facebook page.

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
2610 Fisher Blvd
Barstow, CA 92311-9446
Hours: Monday through Wednesday from 8am to 11pm, Thursday through Sunday from 8am to 12am

80 E Harmon Ave
Las Vegas, NV 89109

7400 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89123
Hours: Monday through Saturday from 9am to 9pm, Sunday from 9am to 8pm

4100 Paradise Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89169

The High Roller at The Linq
3535 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

3411 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Hours: 24 hours

NUMB at Harrah’s Casino
3475 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109