Firstly, let me again apologise for another post with dodgy photos. Again, I was out with just a small clutch so I couldn’t take my camera with me.
Maude had only been opened for a couple of months when I visited back in June. When I heard about Curtis Stone’s new venture – a small restaurant in LA’s affluent Beverly Hills, focusing on fantastic produce that complements a hero ingredient selected each month and transformed into a degustation menu offered each night for that month – I loved the concept and knew I had to go.
My friend, Heidi, came with me and our ingredient of the month was morels. The price of the dinner was slightly higher ($115) due to these cute little mushrooms being rarer than your average fungi but I still think overall – when you factor in the great service, exclusivity and beautiful produce – the price point is very good and generally under the $100 mark.
We were super excited and eagerly awaited our first course. When a paper bag filled with popcorn came out and had morels shaved over the top of it we became deflated pretty quickly. Was this what we should be expecting for the rest of the meal? Another 9 courses of cheaply-made movie fare? I SMS’d my mum with a picture and she asked if we’d be served choc tops next. Ha!
We spent the rest of the night eating and drinking and laughing with our lovely waiters but the general consensus at the end of the meal was that we had not enjoyed it at all and that the whole thing was a bit of a rip-off and quite poorly done. It was only in the morning when we were flicking through all the pictures that we realised we were completely wrong. One by one, as each picture popped up, we exclaimed how delicious each one was.
‘NO, THAT one was the best!’
‘Oh, hang on *that* was my favourite.’
‘Awwww, I forgot about that dish…yep. I think that was the tastiest.’
We realised that all the food was exceptionally well made, with an array of flavours, a variety or techniques and textures and we had eaten a throughly good meal.
Admittedly, the dessert didn’t go down too easily. As much as I love vegetables in dessert, I think mushroom is a hard one to transform. In lieu of the coffee we had declined we were given a little treasure chest with ice creams in it and that was probably the perfect way to finish the meal; Maude’s version of a choc top. My mum was right!
Rosemary, Oyster, Crackers
Avocado, Herbs, Passionfruit snow
Wild Garlic, Watermelon Rind, Roe
Summer squash, Horseradish, Smoke
Consommé, Truffle crumble, watercress
Jalapeno, Daikon, Carrot
Green Garbanzo, Eggplant, Leek
Onion, Charred Peach, Nasturtium
Black Forest Floor
Dark Cherry, Chocolate, Hazelnut
So, a little lesson in how first impressions are very important. The popcorn? Not such a good idea. The rest of the meal, the wines, the price and staff? Perfection. Bonus tip – BYO is allowed (with a $50/bottle corkage fee) but the experience will be complete if you order the matching wines.
212 S Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA
+1 310 859 3418
Tuesday – Saturday
Dinner: 5.30pm – 10pm
One of the highlights of staying at The Bellagio was the little-publicised high tea.
This was my fourth of four high teas in three weeks and a very un-Vegas thing to do, which is why it may not be advertised as much as some of the other activities in the city or even the hotel.
The Petrossian Bar is just off the side of the lobby and the high tea is held in a small room at the back, which is set up like a French parlour. The decor is a little OTT (like everything in Vegas) but the plates and cups and saucers were just right and despite the hustle and bustle of the nearby casino floor, there is absolute calm in the room in which you sit.
Basic high tea starts at $35. But for a glass of sparkling wine and jasmine (premium) tea rather than the regular tea menu it was only an extra $15. Even with the glass of sparkling and premium tea it still comes to a much lower price point than most high teas in Sydney and it was definitely worth it $50!
There were three things I especially loved about this high tea:
- It was quite unusual in its offerings. The scones had crystallised pineapple in them, which was certainly nothing I’d eaten before at a high tea. It wasn’t just the scones that were different, though, each of the little morsels had something quirky going on but not to the extent that they were so out there that it would put off a fussy eater.
- The Assistant Chef walked past my table and we spoke about how the cranberry bread for the turkey sandwich came from a recipe her grandmother gave her. I like those kinds of stories and I it is really nice to hear things like that when you dine anywhere. It definitely makes the experience more enjoyable knowing how much tradition and thought has gone in to what you’re eating.
- A lovely afternoon spent enjoying tea is something nice for those who don’t drink. There are so many people who travel to Vegas who do not want to drink and/or gamble and aside from visiting the Grand Canyon, shopping, lying by the pool and going to shows there’s not much else to do. There is also a lot to do in the earlier hours of the day and the late hours at night but that 2-5 pm period can be a little boring, so this is a nice alternative to…nothing.
So, now, onto the food. I’ve already told you about the scones and they were gorgeous. Really tasty. They were finished with a glaze and a sugary drizzle. They were served with lemon curd rather than jam, which I’m normally not a fan of, but the tartness of the curd and the sweetness of the glaze worked so well.
The interesting and welcome thing about the cakes in this high tea was that they were all fruity and light. Not only does this make for bright, happy photos but also allows you to walk away without that heavy feeling chocolate gives you. I wish more high teas were as balanced and held back on the density and volume of cakes served like this one did.
There was a delicateness to all of the cakes, which you don’t often get at high teas. I find sometimes the pastry chefs go a little overboard and there’s a whole lot of nothing really enjoyable on the stands. This wasn’t like that at all.
The sandwiches were very classic. The cranberry bread, as mentioned above, was an exciting change from plain white or wholemeal. I have actually been noticing a bit of a trend lately with flavoured breads being served with afternoon teas- tomato being a very popular one.
As you can see from the pictures, this is a very understated high tea. I would call this tea for beginners. It’s light and pretty, the flavours are traditional and nothing is too overwhelming. I really do wish this would be more heavily publicised by the Bellagio because it is an asset to their hotel.
Please do try it if you find yourself in Vegas.
For more information on high tea at the Petrossian Bar or to book, please see their website here.
Soooooo, my time im Vegas started off *very* badly. I went to get cash out (I only use a debit card, no credit) a few hours before flying out of Chicago and my card wouldn’t work. I still had a fair amount of cash on me so I didn’t panic too much. I got to Chicago airport and tried again. No luck. I needed to pay for some luggage and my card wouldn’t work there either. It was at this point that I realised I was in trouble.
I freaked out for the whole plane trip from Chicago to Vegas but thought it might be different in another state (???). Card would not work at McCarren Airport either! Exhausted and stressed, I knew I had enough money on me to at least stay two of the four nights I’d planned to stay in Vegas for as I’d paid a large chunk of the booking already. Usually I pay everything in advance but the Bellagio’s booking system only requires a deposit.
When I got the front desk and explained that my card wasn’t working, the man at the desk told me they’d refund what I’d paid so far and basically find a new hotel. WTF? Isn’t the US supposed to have the best customer service? I was flabbergasted. Firstly, I’d just told this moron that my card didn’t work so it probably wouldn’t have even accepted a refund and secondly, I’d already paid for two nights in full. I can’t believe *I* had to suggest that to him. I told him I had enough cash to leave a deposit (which also meant I was able to use the $100 dining credit that came with my room) and he reluctantly and finally took my money and gave me a key to my room.
The room was revolting. It was overlooking the roof of a lower floor and it absolutely stunk of smoke. I was completely miserable.
In the morning I went down to complain about the room and had the displeasure of talking to the most disgusting, smug, inept excuse for a hotel manager I’ve ever met. I ended up getting really angry so I had to walk off before I completely lost it. When I got back to my room I couldn’t believe it when hammering and drilling started. I rang the front desk immediately and was this time put onto someone lovely and she moved me to a different room immediately. She told me there was construction going on down that end of the hotel. I’m sure the idiot who checked me in put me there purposely after I refused to go to another hotel.
I was put into a gorgeous Fountain View room overlooking the Strip and the famous Bellagio lake and fountains. Much nicer and no construction work! It was here that I was able to relax a little bit more and finally made my way down to the stunning pools.
It worked out that I did have enough money on me for the remaining two nights of my trip so I ended up staying. I enquired at a few of the surrounding hotels but it was just not worth the effort and the hassle outweighed my anger at the first staff member I encountered and that ghastly manager with the creepy, glassy eyes.
So what are the pros and cons of the Bellagio?
All the food outlets I tried were fantastic. I had so many good meals. I mean, you’re not eating anything special but everything was just spot-on and tasty. The portions are huge of course, and I thought things were very well priced. The best iced coffee EVER was from Jean Phillipe Patisserie but that was one expensive item at over $10 a pop.
The pools are simply stunning. They were never too loud or busy and one of the reasons I chose to stay at the Bellagio initially was that they do not host pool parties like some of the other hotels. I just didn’t want to get involved in a pool party situation.
The location is great. The best in Vegas. The Strip is sooooo long. You can see everything from the Bellagio and no matter where you are on the strip if you can see the Eiffel Tower (across the road from the Bellagio) you can find your way home. I looked in the lobby of most of the surrounding hotels and the Bellagio was easily the nicest in its vicnity.
The casino is pretty nice for a casino. I like to gamble but not really on pokies or card games. You have to walk through the casino to get pretty much anywhere in the hotel but it wasn’t very smokey (honestly, less smokey than the first room I was put in!) and people were generally pretty well behaved and dressed nicely etc. I did gamble in one other casino across the road and it had a bit of a sleazy feel. The Bellagio didn’t feel sleazy and gross at all and I was awake at all different times of the day. The security was really quick to react to things- I saw one woman falling asleep at a machine and they gently woke her up and got her some water and made sure she was ok before suggesting maybe she should leave. I actually thought they handled it pretty well.
The shopping within the Bellagio is great. A lot of the better hotels have designer shops in them, I think the Cosmopolitan or whatever hotel I walked through that is next to it had the best, though. Bellagio had the usuals – Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada etc. and their gift shops were actually quite nice as well. You know, if you want non-tacky Vegas merchandise.
I encountered a lot of crappy staff. I don’t rate the Bellagio as an expensive hotel. Some say it is and that’s personal opinion, but considering it is touted as being one of the best in Vegas the staff should lift their game and act that way.
The check-in / check-out area is ridiculous. The lines are long and you just stand around like a bunch of cattle waiting to be slaughtered. Not ideal.
The lobby also gets incredibly busy because of the flower displays that are open to the public. If you want to see them and take photos without the bother of crowds, get there really early. I’m a very early riser when I travel so I was fortunate enough to enjoy the displays (and cafes) with nobody around but it gets ridiculously busy from about 10am.
The one thing about the food I wasn’t that impressed with was the buffet. It is rated so highly but there was nothing special about it in my eyes. I had the buffet lunch at Mandalay Bay one day and enjoyed it immensely. It was a lot cheaper than the one at Bellagio and far more relaxed. I also had some cocktails at one of the pool bars there afterwards and the staff were much nicer overall.
So that’s it from me on the Bellagio. I probably would stay there again but I also loved the look of the Wynn. I ended up going with the Bellagio based on location, which I was pleased with but given the rude staff I could easily be swayed.
I do have one more post coming on the high tea that is offered at the hotel. It is definitely worth a separate post!
I was booked in to have brunch at the gorgeous North Pond restaurant not long after I was due to arrive in Chicago but since my train was delayed by three hours I completely missed out. I was devastated as this was not going to be any ordinary brunch. Three courses, in a renovated 1912 skaters shelter, and did I mention they hold a Michelin star?
Since I wasn’t able to use my phone on the train at all I couldn’t even ring to say I was going to be late, so I was one of those dreaded no shows. I called the restaurant as soon as I got to the hotel and fully expected an annoyed maitre d’ on the other end telling me that the card details I left upon booking would be used to charge the price of the brunch. Quite the opposite! In fact, I was offered a table for dinner which I quickly accepted.
Upon arrival I was greeted with a glass of champagne for ‘the stress endured for the train getting in late’. How sweet!! Things just got better from there. The feel of the restaurant is so lovely. I was already deeply in love with Chicago before venturing out to the iconic Lincoln Park but it was a warm summer’s night, families were still out walking the park, couples were sitting by the lake and this cute old building had so much character and was the perfect place to have a cruisy dinner and people watch.
I apologise for the very dodgy photos. I only took a small clutch out with me so I only had my phone. Everything was bright and beautiful so it’s a shame I couldn’t capture that.
I’d eaten high tea just a few hours before so I wasn’t starving and decided to have just a main and dessert. The adorable staff organised for a seared foie gras to be brought over to me, though, and who am I to refuse? The rhubarb, whey sorbet, candied ginger and salsa were the perfect match for the liver and perfectly balanced out the taste and textures. I find that foie gras simply seared can be quite heavy but this dish went down quickly and easily.
My second course was also nice and light for a perfect summer’s eve. I loved the sound of sour cream pannacotta, which was served with candied beets and pastrami. Another colourful and tasty dish that I could eat endlessly.
The desserts alllll sounded fantastic but I am quite partial to savoury desserts. Savoury being not entirely made up of chocolate, caramel or fruit flavours, for example. I forgot to write down exactly what flavours I had but I’m quite certain there was some pumpkin ice cream, some ginger in there, cucumber gelato – you get the idea. All very quirky and a not-at-all sweet dessert that would certainly not be for everyone. I enjoyed it and it was very suitable to someone who had completely stuffed themselves in the space of a few hours!
For a Michelin-starred restaurant the prices are great. The staff were WONDERFUL and the feel of the place was so relaxed and friendly. If you’re after a fine dining Michelin-starred restaurant in Chicago, this probably isn’t the one for you, but if you want honest food made from local produce, interesting flavours, tonnes of texture and unique techniques then this is a winner. Even if you just go for brunch. (seriously, check out the brunch menu…see why I was upset about missing it?!)North Pond 2610 North Cannon Drive (only about 100 metre into the park from the road, it’s easy to find) Chicago, Illinois 773.477.5845 http://www.northpondrestaurant.com/
My third of four high teas in the US took place in the stunning Mies van der Rohe-designed building which houses The Langham, Chicago. The beautiful area to the left of the lobby where I took my tea is Pavilion, which overlooks the city scape of Chicago. It has a modern feel with its Czech glass globes hanging from the ceiling but the plush, dove grey couches provide an absolutely luxurious place to sit for what is the best high tea I’ve ever experienced.
The tea selection is diverse and like nothing I’ve been offered before. I went for a pink tea to match my surrounds and the classic Langham Pink that is accented in the decor.
I’m told that no scones are available on the day I am there, and that I would be served biscuits instead. It took a bit of getting used to but what the English and us Aussies call scones is what they call biscuits in the States, so it turned out well for me.
The sandwiches were next level. They really went above and beyond. Not that I have a problem with cucumber and cream cheese but you will not find anything that simple here. The sandwiches of the day were a meatball sub, a slider, a shot glass of carrot bisque with short rib and cheddar toastie and an olive tapenade and truffle sandwich. Woah.
The desserts were chocolate heavy and included a dark chocolate cigar, seven layer cake, a sugary donut and another chocolate cake with bourbon ganache.
There’s not really much else to say except go. Enjoy. Go again if you can and please report back to me with how much you enjoyed it.
High Tea at Pavilion at The Langham, Chicago is served between 3:00 and 4:00 pm daily. For more details, please see The Langham’s website.
When I booked my stay at The Langham, Chicago it had only *just* re-opened after some major renovations so I was extremely excited to get there. It did not disappoint in any way. The location, decor, staff and food were all top-notch and I had the most relaxing and wonderful time in Chicago.
As you may have seen in my last post about the Lakeshore Limited, my train arrived three hours late. Even before the delay I knew I was going to be scarce on time in Chicago so my plan went like this:
- Arrive at the hotel
- Go to Brunch at North Pond in Lincoln Park
- Head to the Art Institute and other attractions and walk off brunch
- Arrive back at The Langham in time for high tea
I wasn’t even in the city by the time my brunch booking had come around and I was so upset. Instead I had to bring my high tea booking forward, change my booking at North Pond and completely miss out on the touristy stuff. I will be doing a separate post on the high tea at The Langham because it was…*drum roll* THE BEST HIGH TEA I HAVE EVER HAD! Yep. I’m calling it and coming from me that is a huge compliment.
I got to settle into my room quite nicely since I had a bit of extra time. I had a partial view of the city and the other part looked onto another building, however, all the buildings in Chicago were just lovely so the view was actually stunning. The room was huge and had a separate dressing room and large wardrobe.
The bathroom was also big and luxurious and there was a privacy screen that could be turned on and off when in the bath which meant I could watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians as I soaked. *holler!*
I flew out of Chicago in the middle of the day meaning I had time for a massage at the amazing Chuan Spa. I got to spend a fair bit of time testing out the Chuan Spa in Melbourne last year (we’re getting one in Sydney next month, so watch out for that!) and the one in Chicago is even more advanced. I loved the relaxation rooms with heated beds – the perfect place to unwind after a long day of walking. I had an hour-long Harmony Massage (one of Chuan Spa’s signature treatments) and it was just lovely, particularly since I was nearing the end of my trip and had probably overworked myself with all the walking and lugging
My only issue with my stay at The Langham, Chicago is that I did not get to stay longer! I got to have a little wander in the morning and it really reinforced how fantastic the location of The Langham is. The neighbourhood has a mixed feel – you can tell that it’s in the CBD, which was fairly quiet, but the famous Chicago River is just footsteps away and so are many other landmarks of the city so you get the hustle and bustle too. As I caught a taxi back from dinner I saw the major shopping district just a street or two away from the hotel – OMG. Every designer and high street label you could think of. It just did not stop. Kind of like a cross between Avenue Montaigne and Oxford Circus but bigger, less busy and more pristine. Wow.
One thing I know is that I will be back to Chicago FOR SURE. I will not hesitate to stay at The Langham again and I highly recommend that you make it your first choice when staying in Chicago.
Rooms at The Langham, Chicago start from US$335/night and treatments at Chuan Spa start from US$120. For more information or to book please see their respective websites http://chicago.langhamhotels.com/ and http://www.chuanspa.com/en/Chicago/index.html
When I booked my flights to and from LA I hadn’t really planned on heading to the east coast. It was only when I remembered how desperate I was to go back to Discovery Cove in Florida that I added Orlando to my list and then thought, hey I may as well go to New York as it’s so close. I didn’t really want to waste another whole day flying back to LA from New York so I thought I’d try something a bit different and catch the train to Chicago, which meant I could fly to Vegas afterwards. The Lakeshore Limited, as its name might suggest, is almost entirely lake scenary the whole way along. Of course, you go through Detroit and some other not-so-pretty places but for the part when you’re awake, it’s quite lovely and there are some very American-looking areas.
I’ve always loved the idea of train travel and I’d absolutely LOVE to travel on the Ghan or the Orient Express – they’re just so expensive. Since the trip from New York to Chicago is 19-hours I knew I definitely wanted a bed, and Amtrak offers three options for sleepers. One has enough room to sleep 3-4 (bedroom suite) with two showers and two toilets, the second (bedroom) has a toilet and shower and sleeps two people and the other sleeps two and only has a toilet. (roomette) The price difference between the two most suitable options for me was fairly significant and I figured that I’d flown from Europe to Australia before without taking a shower in between so I didn’t *have* to have one in that 19 hour block. I opted for the roomette which included meals and beverages.
The check-in was pretty smooth and I didn’t realise you have access to the lounge as a sleeper customer (only at certain stations). It’s not as nice as an airport lounge but train stations are notoriously sleazy so it’s pleasant to be on a comfy lounge with some snacks and drinks and you are escorted to the platform when it’s time to board.
The staff members were excellent! Everyone went absolutely above and beyond to make sure that the passengers were comfortable and had everything they needed.
Once you’re in your room you are told you can have your bed made up at any time. I chose for mine to be done while I was at dinner and as a solo traveller it was far more comfortable lying in bed rather than sitting in one of the chairs, although they’re not uncomfortable themselves.
It’s not the prettiest set up, but you’re meant to be looking out the window anyway!
The toilet situation is a little awkward. Being in there alone is fine but I can’t imagine sharing the sleeper with a mate and having to get up in the middle of the night to wee when someone might be asleep millimetres from your naked lower half. I’m actually glad I didn’t take the shower option. In my opinion it would be ridiculously hard to navigate as you basically stand over the toilet with a shower hose. Not my idea of fun.
I was shocked at how nice the food is! As I said above, the meal is included if you’re in the sleeper cabin but you can purchase a proper dinner/lunch/breakfast if you’re in the other classes too. The menu is varied and I chose to have beef cheeks with pearl barley. I think they have an onboard kitchen as I had a lovely fresh omelette for breakfast so it’s not like your food is simply reheated.
The dining cart has a nice feel to it but if you’re travelling alone – be warned – you will be seated with strangers. I lucked out and got seated with a really nice guy from New Jersey who gave me some awesome tips about the next places I was visiting. He was a father or two daughters so gave me good advice on where I should and shouldn’t venture to, from a father’s perspective. VERY helpful.
My only major gripe with the whole Amtrak experience was that the train was delayed due to a broken drawbridge. The part of the track we were stuck on was owned by a freight company so when the bridge was fixed, they let their own delayed train through first. Normally I wouldn’t care about something so out of my control but I only had one night in Chicago and a very tight schedule and the three-hour delay completely threw out my plans so I didn’t get to do about half of the things I had carefully planned.
It was also a little cold in my room. I woke up a few times due to the chill and I slept in my jeans and a light jumper because of it. The blanked you’re supplied with is not very substantial so it might be a good idea to take long pyjamas (I only had shorts and singlet style pjs) or a spare blanket if you’re doing an overnight trip.
All in all, though, a very enjoyable experience and a nice alternative to being stuck in another airport.
Amtrak offers routes all across America. For more details please see their website.