Archive | wine

Aureole Wine Lounge

The Aureole Wine Tower

Photo: Arlene Wszalek

When signing onto the in-room wifi at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, as we did when we stayed there in June, we were automatically redirected to the hotel’s website. We found that quite fortuitous, as one of the website’s promotions was for the Happy Hour at Aureole Wine Lounge. We had dinner reservations elsewhere in the complex that evening, and agreed that a lovely glass of wine beforehand at Aureole would be perfect. We’ve been there before for both drinks and dinner. We love the wine and food, not to mention the audacious four-story “wine tower” that dominates the room. The 2-for-1 Happy Hour promotion sealed the deal.

He ordered a Philipps-Eckstein Riesling, I a Vincent Girardin white Burgundy. As our server placed the glasses before us, I mentioned how pleased we were with the Happy Hour pricing. A cloud passed over his face, but he didn’t respond. A few minutes later, he was back to inform us that while the Happy Hour promotion was no longer in effect, they would honor it “since you mentioned it.”

Mandalay Bay website displaying the Aureole Wine Lounge’s Happy Hour promotion. Click to enlarge.

I turned to my husband. “Was I imagining that promotion, or did we not just see it online?” “You were reading to me from a web page,” he assured me. I dove for my phone, and sure enough: there it was on the Mandalay Bay website. (As we discovered later, it was also printed on the in-room “Resortist” promotional piece, as well as on the Charlie Palmer website). I called the server over and showed it to him. He shrugged apologetically and mumbled something about how the hotel never tells them anything.

We also ordered some appetizers from the terrific small plates menu. The lettuce-wrapped fried tofu with peanut dressing managed to be crunchy, spicy, sweet and savory all at once, and the cilantro and lime hummus with grilled pita was delicious without being filling.

When it came time to pay the bill, we signed it to our room in THEhotel. Our server thanked us, took the folio away, and we relaxed to finish our wines (both of which were lovely). But he returned with a furrowed brow and a slightly accusatory tone to inform me that I must have “missed a digit or gotten the room number wrong.” No, I responded, I did not. That is most definitely our room number. Feel free to call the front desk and confirm.

After a few more back-and-forths he sorted out whatever the issue was, and we took our leave. But not before asking to speak with Rebecca, the restaurant’s manager on duty, and venting our concerns. To her credit she listened, and apologized (the room number problem was an issue with their computers, as it turned out), and invited us to return the next evening for a complimentary drink.

Our schedule precluded doing so, and we weren’t complaining to get freebies. We were just astonished, and disappointed, and felt she should know. True that this was just one visit, but had it been our first we would surely never be returning. Aureole is a Charlie Palmer fine dining restaurant, a AAA four-diamond restaurant. Whether the issue is communications between the hotel and its restaurants, staff training, or both, something clearly needs improving here if Aureole is to maintain its rating and its reputation.

Mandalay Bay
3950 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89119
(702) 632-7401

Wining and Dining at Picasso

One of our favorite restaurants in the world is Julian Serrano’s Picasso, located in Las Vegas’ Bellagio hotel. Over the last few years we’ve become friendly with its sommelier, Robert Smith MS, who makes sure that the wines accompanying our meal are its equal in beauty and quality.

Another reason we love this restaurant is the availability, upon request (and not widely promoted) of a completely vegetarian tasting menu. Having a multi-course vegetarian feast at a AAA Five-Diamond restaurant is a true joy.

Yes, the room is gorgeous and filled with a dozen Picassos and a field’s worth of blossoms. But the food, wine and service manage to outshine the ambiance. The words dont do justice to the beauty and flavor of the meal, but heres what we ate and drank last night:

Vegetarian Menu

Heirloom Tomato Salad
Gazpacho Sauce
2007 Riesling, die Leidenschaft, Weinhof Andorfer, Kamptal, Austria


Sautéed Artichokes, Zucchini Sofrito, Pepper and Sautéed Onions
2007 Cuvée Roucaillat, Hautes Terres De Comberousse, Coteaux Du Languedoc, France


Butternut Squash Ravioli
Brown Butter and Wild Sage
2005 Vouvray, Moelleux, Cuvée Château Gaillard, Vigneau-Chevreau, Loire Valley, France


Vegetable Ragout
Symphony of Vegetables with Court-Bouillon Sauce
2009 Enamore, Allegrini + Renacer, Bodegas Y Viñedos Renacer, Mendoza, Argentina


2009 Chambolle-Musigny, Vieilles Vignes, Frédéric Magnien, Burgundy, France


Disclosure: Absolutely none. We paid for all our food and drink, with pleasure.

Super-Tuscan Extravaganza

Last night I was priviliged to be among the guests invited to a spectacular wine tasting dinner. The meal, prepared by Chef Craig Strong (Executive Chef, Studio, Montage Laguna Beach), was paired with three decades of each of the four Super-Tuscan wines: Ornellaia, Sassicaia, Solaia, and Tignanello.

The dinner was donated by philanthropists Hal and Sharon Lampert as a live auction item at the Vintage Hollywood event, with the proceeds going to OPCC. The winning bidders were kind enough to include my husband and me on their guest list, and that’s how I came to be part of such an extraordinary evening.

To my surprise, I conistently favored the Ornellaia, even in a blind test (we weren’t told which wines were which for the pasta and lamb courses until after we’d tried them). Having said that, all the wines were absolutely spectacular, and the food was delectable from start to finish.

Here’s the menu:

Hors d’oeuvres
Mini Caprese
Saffron Arrancini
Country pate on crostini
Mini onion and carraway tart
Brandade croquette with basil aioli
Paired with: Krug Grand Cruvee NV

Tableside presentation of Japanese Hamachi
Himalayan pink salt with caviar lime dressing
Didier Dagueneau Silex 2004

Farm-raised rabbit in prosciutto
Tuscan white beans, tomato, fine herbs
Antinori Solaia 1988
Antinori Tignanello 1988
Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 1988
Teunta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 1988

Hand Rolled Pasta with Wild Mushrooms
Fresh Australian black truffles, foie gras butter sauce
Antinori Solaia 1998
Antinori Tignanello 1998
Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 1998
Teunta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 1998

Superior Farms Grilled Lamb
Fava beans, baby fennel, artichoke ragout, lamb jus
Antinori Solaia 2004
Antinori Tignanello 2004
Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2004
Teunta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 2004

White Chocolate Amaretto Mousse
Apricot and lemon verbena ice cream

Links of the Day 4.4.11 and 4.5.11

Catching up on two days worth of notable links:

April 4

April 5

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