Friday, December 04, 2015

Las Vegas - Thanksgiving, Bachelor Party and Wedding

While Tori and I went to Vegas earlier this year for Wayne and Lisa's elopement, we returned for the official wedding last weekend. Since the Bride's birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day this year, Lisa rented a mansion and planned a big Thanksgiving, Birthday, Bachelor/Bachelorette Party, Wedding Celebration for the long holiday weekend. Kenny and Jill were borrowing a friend's condo in the Mandarin Oriental so we booked a room next door at the Monte Carlo. Except for a stretch of bad traffic in North County that we bypassed on the backstreets of Fallbrook, the drive to Vegas was smooth and we arrived just before 10pm on Wednesday night. I had never stayed at the Monte Carlo before but I really liked the layout of the remodeled resort. Our room had a view of the New York, New York Casino and the new Las Vegas Arena under construction. (Since it was the holiday weekend, the building site was quiet, but it was very noisy on Monday morning as we were checking out.)

The Bride had tasked me with the responsibility of cooking the Thanksgiving Turkey so I was lucky that Kenny and Jill's place had a full kitchen. On Thursday morning, Tori and I walked over to the Mandarin Oriental at 10am to prep and bag my Herb Roasted Turkey. After popping the 26lb. bird into the oven above Kenny's prime rib, we were able to relax and check out the views from the corner residence on the 40th floor. The expansive windows had amazing views of the CityCenter complex and the rest of the Strip. Since we had over three hours to kill, we went down to scout out the pool area for Wayne's Bachelor Party on Friday and explore the rest of the luxury hotel, including the Tea Lounge off of the Sky Lobby on the 23rd floor. At 3pm, we pulled out the golden-brown turkey and I carved it down into sections for easier transport to the mansion.

At 4pm, the four of us drove over to the Parisian Palace for the Thanksgiving meal. After dropping off our food in the huge kitchen and catching up with our friends, we explored the two-story brick mansion built in the 1980s. After the home was sold by its original owners, it was transformed into a gaudy rock-star style getaway with eight bedrooms and nine baths, including a giant master bath designed like a marbled Roman bathhouse. Fountains, statues, chandeliers, and antique furniture filled the maze of mural-covered walls that led to a private nightclub and bowling alley in the back. The place was photogenic but it was also a little beat-up, most likely from the countless parties held between its walls.

With over forty guests in the dining room, the Thanksgiving Dinner was grand affair. The turkey turned out moist and delicious and I stuffed myself with all the different dishes. After most of the food had been eaten, Wayne and Lisa asked everyone to describe something they were thankful for. With all the people sitting at the long tables, it took quite awhile. After eating we explored more of the mansion, sliding down the banister of the grand staircase and messing around with the player piano in the atrium. Driving back to the Mandarin Oriental at 10pm, we hung out for awhile as Kenny tried on the drag outfits we brought for Wayne at his Bachelor Party.

For Friday, Kenny had a full day of activities planned for Wayne's Bachelor Party. After meeting up for coffee at Sambalatte, we all headed over to the Mandarin at 11am. It was a cold fall day, but the pool area was shielded from the wind and directly in the sun so it was quite pleasant. I was the only one who braved the icy waters of the lap pool though. Since it was before the Bachelorette Party, the ladies joined us in the Jacuzzi as we drank alcohol and ate bacon, the bachelor's favorite food. (While Kenny was grilling bacon up on the 40th floor, he tossed a corn-nut from the tiny window in the kitchen and was able to hit me in the shoulder.) Before we left for paintball, Jenn applied Wayne's makeup and we dressed him up in drag. He was a good sport, wearing the blonde wig all day and squeezing into a separate cocktail dress for dinner.

While Tori and the other ladies left to join Lisa at Caesar's Palace, Jenn and Maryanna stayed with the guys for the rest of the day as we drove over to Combat Zone Paintball. We split up into two groups of four. (Wayne, his brother Ryan, Kenny and Jenn vs. Dave, Marc, Mayanna and myself) It turned into a bloodbath as we beat them four times in a row. At the end, there was a free-for-all as everybody ganged up on Wayne, peppering him with paintballs. After crawling on dirt and gravel for over an hour, we headed over to the Imperial Health Spa to clean up before dinner. I had never been to a Korean spa before so it was interesting to hang out in their version of steam rooms and saunas before our massages. Lying on the bed of hot clay marbles in the Red Clay Ball Sauna Room was very relaxing.

While we were a small group for most of the day, several others including Wayne's father joined us at the Echo & Rig Steakhouse in Tivoli Village for dinner. Since this restaurant is also a butcher shop, they had a wide selection of meats including gigantic off-menu cuts to be shared. Dave ended up ordering one of the huge tomahawks cuts all for himself. I was starving so I ordered the Chicken Dumpling Soup (Yum!) and the Filet with Horseradish Cream Sauce (Perfect!). Their Kale salad was amazing as well. After dinner, the ladies who ate dinner at Searsucker met us for drinks at the Chandelier Bar in the Cosmopolitan. It was a full day!

On Saturday, we headed back over to the Parisian Palace for the rehearsal and to help set up for the wedding which had an Alice in Wonderland theme. After Tori helped the eighth month pregnant Bride prepare for the sunset photo shoot at the Neon Boneyard, we raced back to our hotel to change. We made it back to the mansion with fifteen minutes to spare for Tori to take her place as a bridesmaid in the wedding party.

The ceremony took place under mansion's porte-cochère. since the sun had already set by the time the ceremony began, everybody waited inside for as long as possible before going out to our seats in the front yard. I had never been to a Jewish wedding before so it was cool to see all the traditional ceremony rituals. We got to warm up a little near the beginning as everybody grabbed hands and circled into a gigantic Cinnamon Roll Hug but we spent the rest of the hour-long ceremony with chattering teeth. I was impressed with Tori and the other bridesmaids who stood with their shoulders and arms exposed to the cold the entire time.

After the ceremony, everyone rushed inside to warm up but I was soon back out in the cold ordering appetizers from the Sauced food truck for Tori and myself. She requested the Chicken Tsunami Taco and Crispy Seasoned Fries while I tried the Great Balls of Fire and the Chicken Bacon Balls. (I thought the food truck was a great idea.) With a few drinks from the open bar, we all moved to the mansion's night club for the wedding party to be formally introduced. After the First Dance, the supper buffet was opened. It had a lot of delicious Southern foods from Wayne's home state of Louisiana.

After the cutting of the wedding cake, Kenny attempted to make one of his custom mixed drinks with a huge bottle of vodka that Tommy found on the kitchen's window sill. It turned out to be a decorative prop filled with water, but the look of realization on Kenny's face as he took the first sip of his concoction was priceless. After the failed mixed drink experiment, we all headed back into the night club to party for the rest of the night. Why is dancing always so much more fun at a wedding?

After sleeping in on Sunday morning, we met up with friends at Bobby's Burger Palace for an early lunch. I ordered the Bobby's Blue and I don't think I have ever eaten a better hamburger. Crunchified with potato chips, it was perfect. I was skeptical about trying one of their alcoholic shakes, but the Mocha Kahlua Vodka was so smooth that I wanted another one right away.

After lunch, we started working our way down the Strip on the trams and monorails to meet up with Dave and Lindsay at Circus Circus to watch the Flying Angels. It turned out that several of our group knew Izzy and Tad, two of the performers in the flying trapeze troupe. It was a good show and Izzy told us that they made sure to perform their best tricks, including the Triple, for us. I ended up chatting with the catcher, Tad, for twenty minutes after the show. He had interesting stories about how it was like to live as a trapeze artist in Vegas.

For dinner, Tori and I went out for a romantic dinner at China Poblano in The Cosmopolitan. I had seen this Chinese-Mexican fusion restaurant created by Chef Jose Andres several times in the past and I had always wanted to check it out. It was worth the wait. Tori and I shared the Twenty Vegetable Fried Rice (awesome) and the Chiliquilas (a heavenly mix of cheese, chips and salsa). I also ordered the Gold Pigs, fried pork buns served with sweet condensed milk and Tori ordered the Setas, a wild mushrooms taco with guacamole which she said tasted delicious. It was a great finish to our Thanksgiving weekend. Christmas trees and decorations were already going up around the Strip on our walk back to the hotel. On Monday morning, we had breakfast at The Pub in the Monte Carlo before driving home.