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Vegas offers plenty of fine wines to accompany great meals

The welcome to Las Vegas sign on the Las Vegas Strip.


The welcome to Las Vegas sign on the Las Vegas Strip.

Many people go to Las Vegas to gamble.

Not me. I hate losing even one nickel of my hard-earned cash.

Others go for the stellar range of big-name and impressive shows that are everywhere. I enjoy those a lot, but for A-list stars and high-class production values, the ticket prices are, understandably, the antithesis of cheap. And while I do indulge in one or two shows per trip because they really are terrific, that’s not my main reason for travelling to Sin City.

Some of the nightclubs are movie-set fancy — perhaps that should read ‘fantasy,’ because they are truly over-the-top and indulgent. But while they’re ultra-cool to see, that’s not really my scene anymore. In fact, it never was.

But when I’m not going to conferences or to watch my brother, Grant, play in the Valley National Eight-ball Association World Pool Championship (which I did just a few weeks ago, at the end of May), I go to Vegas for one thing and one thing only. Well, make that two things.

Food. And wine.

As most folks who’ve been to Vegas over the years know, the days of cheap buffets and prime rib for $4.99 are long, long gone. But in their stead have risen some amazing restaurants, many fronted by some of the biggest names in the food biz.

Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, and Wolfgang Puck, just to name a few, have establishments scattered throughout the big hotels on the Strip. And while those are great, there are other equally impressive ones all over the place, complete with really wonderful wine options to complement the fab food.

A go-to place for me is always Mon Ami Gabi, a French steakhouse just inside the door of the Paris hotel. Their seafood crepe — three giant prawns and two huge scallops served with fresh peas in cream sauce — is divine for $15.95.

I had this for lunch two days during my nine-day stay (the supper menu is also fantastic, and especially reasonably priced for Vegas), and I chose the Maison Simonnet Febvre 2012 Chablis to accompany this yummy dish. With its creamy minerality, it matched the crepe perfectly, and was a not-surprising $14 a glass. It’s available at Manitoba Liquor Marts for a much-more-reasonable, comparatively speaking, $24.99 a bottle.

As someone who finds something she likes and keeps going back and back and back to the same thing, I was both annoyed and yet delighted that circumstances placed me in the position of having to try some new restaurants.

Because I had to pick up my ticket for the Ron White comedy show at The Mirage before 9 p.m., and the show was at 10, and I was a bit behind time because I’d taken advantage of the perfect weather and enjoyed a few hours around The Flamingo’s swimming pool, I arrived at one of the Mirage restaurants called Portofino just about 8:55.

I hate rushing through meals, so I thought the items on the posted menu (and you can easily find it online) of this restaurant featuring Italian coastal cuisine looked good and mightn’t take too long to prepare, so I decided to give it a try.

I ended up having the best lasagne I’ve ever had in my life — they prepare it with braised short rib ragu (as opposed to hamburger) and layer it with herbed ricotta and lots of mozzarella. The portion was huge — I could only eat half of it — and the Sangiovese (I neglected to make note of the winery) the very attentive waiter suggested as an accompaniment was a crowning touch. Delish!

During the week, I was also wowed by a Barbecued Lamb Cobb Salad at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill at Caesar’s Palace — rare lamb slices atop bitter greens with eggs, bacon, blue cheese, avocado, and tomato, topped with a buttermilk dressing with just a bit of heat. I chose a glass of the 2011 Dashe Dry Creek Zinfandel from California ($16 a glass), and it was absolutely superb.

I’m so going back to those places for both of those dishes — and those wines — next year. The Dashe Dry Creek Zin is not available here, but local Liquor Marts offer the Perseverance 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel for $16.69 a bottle. I haven’t had it for years, but I just bought four bottles of it a couple of days ago.

I was delighted to discover a wonderful place on The Linq, a newly opened pedestrian mall, the crowning glory of which is the 550-foot-tall High Roller observation wheel — the world’s highest. Each transparent, air-conditioned pod has a capacity of 40 people, and the 31-minute ride allows an incredible view of the city and surrounding mountains.

Anyway, on The Linq there are plenty of pubs and shops and eateries, my favourite of which (at least this trip) was The Yard House, which features 160 taps of imported, craft and specialty ales and lagers, as well as an impressive wine list.

It has three main areas — a rooftop outdoor patio right next to the High Roller, as well as a closed dining room downstairs, and a lounge that’s roofed and walled but has open-air windows. The lounge was my favourite of the three options — I could be inside and outside at the same time.

I had fabulous crab cakes for lunch along with a glass of the Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay from California, which sells here for $19.49 a bottle, and I enjoyed the space and the food and wine so much I went back for supper after seeing "Jersey Boys," which was a wonderful, inspiring and engaging musical.

Anyway, for supper, I was delighted to be able to have the usually sesame-crusted ahi tuna without any sesame on it. Since I have a deathly allergy to sesame and nuts, I’m usually deprived of all foods Asian, but to enjoy the ahi, which is seared on the outside but raw in the middle, without any fear of dying was fantastic!

So to celebrate, I had two glasses of the delightful Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir (which sells for $25.99 a bottle here at home). Since that was my last night, the meal and the wine provided a great capper to a fantastic week. And there’ll be more wine-related Vegas stories next week.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 21, 2014

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Many people go to Las Vegas to gamble.

Not me. I hate losing even one nickel of my hard-earned cash.

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Many people go to Las Vegas to gamble.

Not me. I hate losing even one nickel of my hard-earned cash.

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