December 17, 2006

My fabulous Vegas birthday

"I'm living on things that excite me, be they pastry, or lobster, or love..."
- Jimmy Buffet

I started my birthday the way I always start my birthday, with a prayer of thanks. This year, I had something extra special to be thankful for: this trip and the gift of spending my birthday with my sister. I truly could not ask for more.

My phone had about 11 unread messages at that point, sweet greetings from friends and family back home. I always feel extra loved on my birthday. :) I was the last one to wake. I was assaulted with kisses and hugs when I walked out of the room. They quickly led me to the breakfast table where they had arranged my presents. Oohh la la! I love presents!

I picked up the big envelope which embraced the prettiest card ever! My niece and my nephew had hand crafted it themselves. I choked back tears as I read their touching messages inside. Janine & Holly got me stuff from the Cinnamon Bun Heaven line of Bath & Body Works which smells as heavenly as it sounds! It's a delicious blend of spicy cinnamon, creamy vanilla icing and warm brown sugar. They also gave me the Wickedly Hot Chocolate tinted lip gloss, also from B&BW, that smells so good you want to squeeze it directly on your tongue.

My pressies!! :)

Then came my sister's presentS, with a capital S! Oh my goodness, the gift bag was HUGE! Like Santa Claus' loot bag. I loved everything! She gave me 2 Baker's Secret cooling racks (not in picture), Baker's Secret 2-pack baking sheet, Trudeau 5 pc. measuring cup set, Trudeau 5 pc. measuring spoon set, 3 pc. Oxo Good Grips mixing bowls, a tub of The Body Shop coconut body butter, Belle de Provence lavender soap, 3 silicone spatulas, a nutmeg grater, a bookmarker and some books. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning, but really I was a squealing and gushing kid on her birthday morning! My sister is really one of the most generous and thoughtful people in the world. :)

Sandra, a friend of mine who lives in Vegas, arrived at the hotel around 10:00. It was her day off so she dedicated her entire day to celebrating with me. Yay! So the first order of the day was brunch at the Round Table Buffet of Excalibur. An all-you-can-eat feast fit for a King for only $12.00! There was a hot food section, cold food section, carving station, Chinese station, dessert station and a self-serve beverage station. While the quality of the food was nothing to write home about, the quantity of it was. The sheer volume of food was crazy!

Round Table Buffet lay-out

If I had eaten a bite more, I would have had to be lifted off with a crane. That was pure gluttony. We walked, some of us waddled, to the Bellagio hotel eager to see their autumn masterpiece. Each season and holiday is celebrated at the Bellagio's Conservatory & Botanical Gardens with a unique and elaborate creation. The garden was a festive autumn tableau of pumpkins, gourds, topiary ducks, scarecrows, a water mill and a massive banyan tree. My favorite scene was the 3D 'painting' which had ducks flying out of it.

Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden's Autumn masterpiece

As if we hadn't eaten enough, we had some cheesecake and chocolate from the Jean-Philippe Patisserie just around the corner from the conservatory. This patisserie is the realized dream of Pastry Chef Jean-Philippe Maury “Our approach was not to think that we were selling pastries, rather, we approached the space as if we were selling exquisite jewelry." And what an exquisite and tempting display indeed it was! Each petit fours and chocolate is dressed and displayed as lovingly and delicately as a bejeweled engagement ring would be.

There are four rotating shelf-towers with a dazzling display of cakes and chocolate, a gourmet crepe station, sandwich station and the piece-de-resistance: the world's tallest chocolate fountain! Imagine a 27 foot waterfall of milk, dark and white chocolate, cascading in a lyrical descent swirling from one receptacle to the next. It is utterly mesmerizing! I would have given anything to stand in there with my tongue sticking out.

Precious gems at the Jean-Philippe Patisserie, Bellagio
The white chocolate-covered cheesecake (bottom center pic) was to die for!

For my birthday, I had only one request - to have dinner and drinks in Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville at the Flamingo hotel. If you don't already know or have not seen my Jimmy Buffett page in my old website (constructed back in 2001) , I am a self-proclaimed Parrothead. And until I find my own Margaritaville, I am content to live vicariously through Jimmy (yes, we're on first name basis cos we're tight like that ;) ).

Like in most popular Vegas eateries, there was a minimum 2 hour waiting list, so we left our names with the hostess around 5pm after which she handed us a pager. The place was already bursting with fun. (It IS always five o'clock somewhere!). Folks spilled onto the streets, swaying to Jimmy's tunes playing from the outdoor speakers as they sipped their margaritas and pina coladas in take-out cups, parrot shaped balloons bobbing on their heads created for them by pirates on stilts. We went back home to freshen up a bit before returning at 7. I was so psyched! Sandra's husband joined us and so did my 2 aunts and their friends.

Inside was the perfect laid-back party atmosphere. We were seated at the center of the restaurant. Above our table hung a life size replica of Jimmy's seaplane, manatees hovered above the Coral Reefer bar next to the "lost shaker of salt". To the left of that is a tiki hut that serves as the stage for live bands and for Jimmy, of course. The booths are designed to look like the backs of fishing boats complete with fishing rods. I was immediately transported to a tropical beach far far away, I loved it!

Search for the lost shaker of salt on the bottom right picture

Patrons can order their "boat drinks" from 2 other bars, the walk-up Volcano bar outside where you can order your drinks to go and the patio bar on the second level overlooking the Strip. Adjacent to the Volcano Bar is the Margaritaville gift shop. I got such a kick out of all the Buffetisms rendered on all types of things like wooden signs, mini surfboards, bottle huggies, light switch plates, even wooden furniture.

A friendly waiter in a floral shirt, shorts, and flip-flops served us volcano nachos, crab cakes, "cheeseburgers in paradise", and chicken caesar salad. All this washed down with, what else? Margaritas! We ordered 2 of those huge cylinder/dispensers with the spout. They were fab, just the right sourness and kick.

Shortly after we finished eating, the waiter came to the table with a slice of cheesecake and set it in front of me and everyone at the table started to sing. I thought it was so cute that the cake, for the lack of a candle, had instead a makeshift flag made out of a drinking straw and paper with the words "Happy Birthday" on it. Normally, I hate it when people sing to me in a restaurant, but this time maybe because of all the tequila in my system, i didn't mind at all. I even agreed to 'blow' the flag for the camera. Funny!

I had freaked out the day before when I found out Jimmy Buffett was playing live at the MGM on the night of my birthday. I would have given my arm to watch him, but I didn't want to have to drag anyone with me who didn't care for him or his songs. And besides, we had already made plans to meet up with my aunts. But as if my birthday couldn't be any more perfect, they broadcast the concert live at the bar! How cool was that? :)

My niece's pretty doodling

Round Table Buffet

Excalibur Hotel
3850 Las Vegas Blvd. S

Jean-Philippe Patisserie
Bellagio Hotel
3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville
Flamingo Hotel
3555 Las Vegas Blvd. So.


Mila Tan said...

I'd never have taken you for a parrothead! Now I know what to look for online when buying stuff! lol

You and I have to go to that chocolate fountain and dare each other to stick our tongues in it!!!!

joey said...

The post I have been waiting for! :) I am so so happy you got to spend your birthday in Margaritaville! Sounds like you guys had a blast :)

Without you I still might be thinking this guy was Warren's brother...hehehe :)

Knittymommy said...

You must have had the best birthday ever! That was very very cool. I am glad you got to enjoy your birthday the way you did!

christine said...

Mila, I am, big time! :) I have a super old copy of Margaritaville that I've read over three times. It was the only book I took with me when I moved to London.

Jo, thank you! :) You would have enjoyed it too, I know you. Maybe he'll open the chain in Vancouver someday. ;) Heehee, Warren.

Hi KM!! Thanks so much. It really was such a special day for me because I spent it with my sis who I love to bits and who I was missing terribly! :)