Where was I? Oh yes, that's right. Vegas. Sorry, can't resist the smugness. If it gets overbearing just remember how much you earned while I was abroad galavanting. As fun as it was, I'm about to make myself a "will work for food" sign and wander around the meeja bits of London...
So, we're up to Friday, if memory serves and that meant Caesar's Palace. After a walk around the Venus Pool Club - where I was plied with surprisingly good Pineapple Mojitos at 10:30am - a thorough deep-tissue pounding by Jesse at the Qua Baths and Spa, a spell in a ludicrously hot steam room and a thoroughly giggly cool down in the Arctic Snow Room (and yes, it does actually snow on you), the group hit Serendipity 3 for a Vegas take on classic American comfort eating.
Yep, we're talking onion rings
frozen chocolate drinks
foot long hot dogs
loaded skins, burgers, colossal sundaes and, in my (failed) bid to be healthy a Caesar's Salad with shrimp
a pile of lettuce that stood about eight inches high and came with three croutons each the size of a Rubik's cube. Seriously, if I'd asked for the dressing on the side, it would have come in a pint glass.
On the plus side, the lettuce was fresh and crisp and delicious, the shrimp were fat and meaty and the dressing was punchy. On the downside, we're not exactly talking Neal's Yard parmesan, I ate it for 10 minutes without making a dent in it and the crouton, while visually impressive, was a bit of a failure. The crouton is there to provide some crunch and texture. The size of these, while photogenic, meant that only the outside had the requisite bite, while the inner mass was spongey and unsatisfying. It was another Mon Ami Gabi fries moment, to be honest, a bit of messing around for the sake of it, rather than with any real thought to the culinary process.
It was though the only false note as everything else hit the relevant buttons and piled on the calories. The strawberry milkshake alone, with its scoop of whipped cream, could have fed a small African village for a week. And yes, it probably should have done, but you could do the same guilt trippy thing with most of Las Vegas. Or you could choose to just enjoy it in the spirit with which the city has been instilled, of course. After all, where do you draw the line? And is it wrong to consider that moral point over yet another dinner?
Speaking of dinner - in a link that even local radio would turn down for reasons of clunkiness - that saw us heading out of Vegas to the amazing Red Rock Resort, via a couple of hours at the Hard Rock Beach Club Pool. Red Rock was a glorious experience, Hard Rock less so; well, to this old flabby git, anyway. The young folk seemed to be loving it - well, it's like every teen movie you've ever seen with added chlorine - while I spent the time working out which circle of hell it was. But different strokes and all that, and Friday evening more than made up for being made to feel very, very old.
Red Rock is a vast expanse of casino resort aimed at a very particular group of people: the locals. That means the payouts at the casino are more generous as they're looking for repeat business. However, they've also developed a fantastic hotel for those coming from further afield and some of the best amenities we found during our time there. It's certainly hard to resist the Cherry Suite, which is 4400 feet of pure opulence. If they ever set a webcam up in the six-person shower, I foresee an internet hit of Google-like proportions.
Anyway, dinner took us to Terra Rosa, and more Italian food. Ultimately, I'd say LAVO has the overall edge but some of the dishes here, particularly my beef and mascarpone panzerotti with osso bucco cream sauce and a companion's shrimp and lemon risotto, were exemplary. Best of all though was the Ferrari Carano Cabernet Sauvignon, from Alexander Valley, which was the single greatest glass of wine all trip. Or would have been if I hadn't had two of them.
That was all then followed by Counting Crows playing their Travelling Circus & Medicine Show at the poolside, one of the finest live music experiences of the last 10-15 years. Even only knowing two of their songs didn't detract from the enjoyment as they, and their musician friends Augustana, performed their little socks off. Sometimes you see these sort of hybrid gigs where the people on stage are clearly having a blast while simultaneously boring the audience. In this instance, the fun was contagious, and what a voice Adam Duritz possesses. Get at 'em on Twitter and try and persuade them to bring this moveable musical feast to London.
Tomorrow I'll tell you the story of smoked salmon pizza (a simple idea but what a good one) and of being served cakes for breakfast by people in pyjamas...