Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: April 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Las Vegas Trip

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Just a few weeks back I was in Las Vegas. Many of you likely remember from my never ending tweets and facebook updates. This is part one of my Las Vegas posts. Look for my review of Sake Fever in a post later this week.

This post will go over some of my highlights of the trip but you can find more detailed reviews of my the hotels I visited on this trip on my travel blog under the category Las Vegas. None of these posts have been subsidized by the properties in any way so you can be certain that you're getting an accurate depiction.

I arrived on a Thursday afternoon and checked into The Venetian. The Venetian was the last of the hotels in the middle of the strip I had not yet stayed. I like staying mid-strip for the obvious reason, easy access to other areas if you want to move about town. I had visited The Venetian in the past, walked about and shopped but I don't think you get a true sense for a property until you stay at the property. In fact, I don't think you get a true sense unless you stay for a minimum of two nights.

You may already be well aware that The Venetian is a monstrosity of a hotel/casino. It has an absurd amount of retail space, especially if you include The Palazzo. My favorite spots at The Palazzo was the 85,000 square foot Barney's and the Illy Cafe. I walked out of my way most days to grab myself a proper espresso.

My elevator bank was just off a frozen yogurt stand, which was nice, and in close proximity to Tintoretto Bakery. One morning the bakery was out of heard me, there was no sugar for my coffee. Unacceptable.

My room at The Venetian was great, spacious and comfortable. My room was plush, decorated in a modern baroque fashion with two flat screen television sets, I believe I may have had a suite. Large living space, large bathroom, full sized tub with a separate shower. The room had to be about 550 square feet.

The Venetian

I cannot say I enjoyed the pools at The Venetian. Poor design or just poor space planning. We walked outside and there was one small pool, then we had to walk through tiny corridors to get to a second pool which was not large and it was full. Then we walked behind buildings to a third pool, which was a kiddie pool and then a fourth pool that had no exposure to sunshine. Finally, we went back to the kiddie pool and settled in on the only two remaining lawn chairs. The waitress took forever, we ended up going to the bar. We were never even certain whether or not food was served poolside because we never had the opportunity to ask anyone, no one to ask!

Eventually, we ended up at Tao Beach - where the magic happened. Though I am a seasoned Vegas traveler (This trip was likely my 30th trip to Las Vegas), I rarely do the nightclub thing. I live in Chicago and worked in nightclubs in my early 20s, I most certainly do not need to go to Las Vegas and watch 10 bachelorettes from Michigan do the Humpty Dance in their bad shoes and discount clothing. But, I did love Tao Beach.

Picture this... It is noon on Friday and you're outside in the sweltering sun. You're in a smaller, contained space where the crowd is not out of hand (unlike The Hard Rock). The pool area has just the right amount of people to watch, but there is plenty of room for dancing and general acts of debauchery. There is loud (but not too loud) music being piped in from speakers surrounding a pool. The DJ is quite good. The crowd is young, their bodies are tight, heavily tattooed and tan. Every which direction you turn, you see a model-esque, cocktail waitress (not one over 115 lbs, allot 5 lbs for each boob) offering you a free frozen shot of something or a frozen melon ball. People in the cabanas are ordering bottle service, the people at the bar are ordering Jagerbombs while girls are dancing in bikinis. You ask yourself, have I arrived at the gates of Sodom, a city of violent promiscuity? No, you have not, you've arrived at Tao Beach.

Bikini Waitress

Tattoo galore

Perhaps it was because I arrived early and only stayed for about 45 minutes but I had a great time at Tao Beach. We ordered a frozen Red Bull & Vodka, they had many frozen drinks, found a great table and watched the revelers of all ages do their thing. In my opinion, the kids in their 20s were pretty mellow, the 35+ crowd were the ones getting down with the beats, throwing back the shots and looking for trouble. Probably because trouble doesn't find them much these days.

On Sunday, I checked out of The Venetian and headed over to Aria at CityCenter. My first impression, I did not like Aria. In fact, had I not ended up staying at Aria for four nights, I probably would have departed with that impression. Lucky for Aria, I was there for a conference and had to stay for a while. I will go through the basics of what I liked and did not like - you can find my detailed post here.

Aria Las Vegas

What I liked about Aria at CityCenter
  • My ultra contemporary, urban-feeling sleeping room
  • Blossom the Chinese Restaurant
  • The sommelier from Blossom, the Chinese restaurant at Aria
  • The pool

The things about Aria that I eventually grew to like
  • The location
  • The decor (I will contradict myself below)
  • The common areas
  • The casino

The things I did not like about Aria
  • They are struggling with the staff, service is just not up to par yet
  • It looks like a giant convention center or an airport
  • Why is everything so brown?
  • It is an older hotel, lots of seniors, I am 38 and I felt like a spring chicken
  • It felt weird...I know this is an odd statement but there is something about the whole development that just doesn't feel right and I cannot put it into words

The biggest problem with Aria is their obvious struggle with occupancy. It was oddly apparent, just by looking at the bodies in the casino and common areas, that Aria was offering severely discounted rooms for Players Card members. My father had four nights of hotel comped as an incentive to come out to Aria. My father is not a big gambler by Vegas standards, he plays the quarter slots and has never lost more than a couple thousand dollars on one trip. I felt like a lot of the bodies floating around the casino at Aria should have been floating around Circus Circus instead.

One night I was speaking with a sales & marketing person from the property (I will not say how or whom in order to protect their position) but I asked this person what the general perspective was regarding the hotel. At first, they said, "People love it!" After some poking and prodding they revealed that the reviews were quite mixed. I think "mixed" is code word for "not too good".

Who do I think will like Aria at CityCenter? Probably people over 30, or even over 35. People who like to dine out. People who don't care about being dead center of the Strip. People who appreciate luxury. People who like to gamble but are not serious gamblers. The casino is on the small side and none of the other hotels in CityCenter have casinos. People who like to shop. The mall next door, Crystal Gardens will be a nice addition when it is full (Only about 40% occupancy right now). You can find stores like: Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Kitson, Carolina Herrera and Kiki Montparnesse.

The upside for Aria is, the economy is on an upswing. The staff can only improve (and that they need to do) and soon enough fall will be here bringing convention season with it. They really need to think of a better way to promote their property than the methods they are currently using - it simply is not working. The clientele they're drawing is likely substandard. Perhaps a new marketing and PR team is in order.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ask Sunday Personal Assistant Service

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If you think I sit around and look for things to write about with the word "Sunday" incorporated in some way, you're kinda right. As I've mentioned in the past, I use Google Analytics to get the most out of my blog posts. That can mean various things, but in this particular case, I am talking about keywords.

I check my keywords to see what is searched and often times, many key phrases with the word "Sunday" pop up. Therefore, when I saw I thought it would make for a perfect blog post. Very befitting.

So what is Basically, it is a personal assistant service. An online service where one can outsource work on a monthly fee basis.

Want to use Social Networking but don't have the time? You can use an affordable AskSunday Assistant to manage your social networks! Now, I can't promise that they'll get it right, but with their affordable pricing, it may be worth giving it a shot.

Maybe you need a personal assistant for something a bit more simple? You can use for the following:
  • Database entry (Excel)
  • Internet research
  • Client & Vendor calls
  • Setting up repeat tasks

Learn more about our award-winning services!

Additionally, you can set up more traditional personal assistant tasks with
  • Speak to customer service reps
  • Set up appointments - make doctors & hair appointments
  • Coordinate and book travel plans with your travel agent
  • Order corporate gifts, flowers, etc. is located in Mid Town Manhattan but your personal assistant call center will reside in India. This helps you save money but we all know what this can mean - let's not jump to any conclusions until you give it a try. has received some very positive & mainstream press like on MSNBC. Time Magazine gave the 2nd Best Website of the Year. Hmmmm.

The pricing for also seems quite reasonable. Pricing starts at $97 and their most popular plan is just under $300 a month. Pricing is based on both the number of tasks and/or a monthly fee.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I Feel Quite Fortunate Today

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The title of this post is somewhat misleading...Because I feel quite fortunate not only today but most everyday.

I will reveal something to you at this very moment. I am the girl who goes through all of your Facebook photos peering into the most intimate details of your life. I examine your life comparing it to my own. I wonder what it would be like to wake up in your bed. I wonder what it would be like to feed your children their cereal each morning. I wonder what it would be like to sit through your office party. I wonder what it would be like at your neighbor's house on a Saturday afternoon mid-July. I wonder and wonder. I sometimes lose myself for HOURS in your photos - and then, I am grateful. I am grateful that your life is yours and my life is mine.

Tonight, I did not even have to psychologically visit another person's life in order to appreciate my own. Tonight, I celebrated my 38th birthday with my father and my brothers. This year for my birthday I asked my father if we could skip the gifts and all enjoy a fantastic dinner together. He agreed. We had dinner at L2O on Friday night.

The Arsan Family
L2O dinner with my family

My father, my brothers, and I, we all love to dine. I remember being very small, maybe 7 years old, and my father would buy escargot from a market and make it for his dinner guests. I was eating duck liver pate when I was about 10 years old. But as much as my father loves to dine, he is not much of a "fine diner". I realize that most people consider a good steak to be "fine dining" but I am not talking about that. I am thinking more along the lines of Haute Cuisine.

I must admit, I was a bit nervous that my brothers and father would not enjoy the meal. In fact, I was nervous that I would not like the restaurant or perhaps not enjoy the meal as I was not that familiar with L2O prior to dining. But that was not at all the case, the restaurant was beautiful, just my style, and the meal was excellent. The highlight was the service. Young, fresh and extremely knowledgeable staff.

The restaurant is decorated in a minimalist style. There are light wood paneled walls with dark cherry tabletops. The seating is mostly leather, brown and cream colored chairs and some tables have larger banquettes. When we were seated at our table, teaspoons and a fork were resting on white alabaster settings.

We started with a glass of champagne, I had a glass of the Duval Leroy Rose, while we looked over the menu. We decided that the four course would be sufficient but you have the option of selecting 6, 10 or 12 courses.

I Loved The Shape of The Champagne Glasses
What's left of my rose champagne

I started with the madai as my "cold" dish. The fish was cut into one centimeter cubes and it was served in a yuzu (citrus-y) sauce. My brother had the tuna with tomato with foie gras "snow" (basically freeze dried foie gras). My father had peeky toe crab with keffir lime oil. We all enjoyed our dishes so much, we did not even offer one another a taste of our dish! In fact, I warned them to back off my madai.

Lamb Tartare
Gold leaf decorated sashimi style

Next up, our warm appetizers paired with fantastic wines. I had a glass of the Francoise Chidaine Chenin Blanc, it was my favorite wine of the night. My dish was the seared foie gras with raspberry and flakey, filo dough. One brother had the scallops, my other brother had the lamb tartare with pickled mango (yes, you read it right, raw lamb) and my father had the lobster bisque.

Here is how they made my raspberry sauce for my foie gras - with liquid nitrogen
The Making Of My Raspberry Sauce with Nitrogen

Our main courses were on their way and my father was ready for his glass of red wine. Our sommelier had paired his dish with a fantastic glass of rose - Rose Charles Audoin, a Pinot Noir rose, but my dad decided to go with a "real red." Make no mistake, I ensured that glass of rose did not go to waste.

For my main course, I had the Wagyu Beef (those fancy, massaged, Japanese cows that are raised to become the most delicious steaks) with Lobster, mushrooms, potatoes and truffle emulsion. I thought the potatoes and mushrooms were a great addition to this dish. My dad had the Striped Bass, my one brother had the Steelhead Salmon and my other brother ordered my second choice, the Shabu Shabu. Shabu Shabu was raw fish on a long plate that my brother dipped into a broth to lightly cook the fish.

Wagyu Beef with Lobster
Wagyu Steak & Lobster

Shabu Shabu
Raw fish & broth

Dessert was nice but did not compare to the first three dishes. I had something with a berry-like sorbet-ish thing. My father's dessert was much better, he had a souffle. My two brothers opted for the cheese course -- most certainly the winning choice!

Dinner took about three hours in total but we all agreed that we had an incredibly fantastic time. I was so pleased to be able to enjoy such a "civilized" night with my brother and my dad without boyfriends, girlfriends or interruptions of any sort. My family birthday dinner was a huge treat for me, not only because the food was incredible but because the entire experience was fantastic.

Given the opportunity, I would most certainly head back to L2O. My father put it most simply, "This is not food, this is art!"