The clock strikes 9:30am. Normally, I would curse the default iPhone alarm tone for rousing me from my slumber and/or struggle not to roll over and fall back asleep. But not today. I’m in Las Vegas!
As I get out of bed, I’m pleasantly surprised by the absence of a hangover. While I’m still upset about the poor drink service last night, I’m also relieved that I don’t have to catch a shuttle to jump out of a plane with a discernible BAC or hangover; I’ll pay the fiddler later.
Costas has already been awake for a couple of hours, since he’s on east coast time and an early riser to boot. He’s already two or three joints deep, which he’s been enjoying from the comforts of our private terrace as Eugene and I sleep off last night’s Ices.
Eugene is near comatose on the couch, barely stirring as I swing open the sliding door to reveal this beautiful view.
Costas, meanwhile, has smoked himself up an appetite, so he wants breakfast. In typical stoner fashion, he’s feeling donuts. Now.
So I throw on my clothes from last night, rouse Eugene, and we head downstairs to the newly opened Block 16 Urban Food Hall to get some District Donuts.
The second floor of the Cosmopolitan has a ton of amazing dining establishments. But with great restaurants come great lines. Not that there’s ever a good time to stand in a line, but being hangry in the morning after a long night/early morning blowing your bankroll on slots is definitely not a good time for a line. Nor is being with a stoned and impatient Costas who wants his donut fix now.
I cross my fingers that the lines won’t be too long.We enter the main lobby, and the line for Eggslut is around the corner and 50+ people deep, as per usual. This invokes PTSD-esque flashback to standing in line for 45 minutes at Eggslut last year, hungover and drinking flat Bud Light from a Starbucks cup (don’t ask) on my 24st birthday.
Fortunately, the line at District Donuts is only 8 people deep. This gives us just enough time to decide on a round of Croquenuts, and a king cake donut to split.
We get our King Cake donut from the display case immediately after ordering, and are instructed to wait for our Croquenuts. The breakfast sandwiches are cooked to order on the griddle, so it takes 10 minutes or so to come out amidst the morning rush. You can watch them crack the eggs and cook it in front of you, so even as an impatient person, it’s worth the wait.
In the meantime, I ravenously ogle the King Cake donut, building it up to be something it’s not; by the time we split it on the balcony, it’s not nearly as good as I’d imagined. It’s not even close to a real king cake, but still miles ahead of a gas station donut.
The Croquenut, on the other hand, is abso-fucking-lutely AMAZING.
The lightly griddled donut has a subtle crunch that yields to a light, airy donut that melts in your mouth; the saltiness of the ham contrasts with the sweetness of the powdered sugar; and the savoriness of the cheese is perfectly tempered by the tart raspberry preserves. This is hands down the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had, and it is sure to please both camps in the eternal sweet vs. savory brunch food debate.
As a bonus, the powdered sugar also provides some amusement when certain friends (*cough* Costas *cough*) realize that you can neither inhale nor exhale while eating this double coronary sandwich, lest you choke and/or spray white powder all over your black shirt. You’d think a stoner would know better.
Now that we’re properly fueled, we take turns nervously going to the bathroom before heading out for the big excursion of the day: skydiving.
Costas is in charge of the booking and logistics of skydiving. So, in other words, we’re running late for our 11:30am shuttle pickup after a lackadaisical departure from the Cosmopolitan.
Our pickup is “by the McDonalds near the MGM.” As anyone who’s walked the Strip knows from painful experience, you should go ahead and multiply your ETA by at least 2.5 when walking from casino to casino.
So Costas’ initial estimate of 10 minutes quickly proves misguided when we bust out Google Maps and settle the argument before it starts: 28 minutes.
After a tense couple of minutes speed-walking, the ETA has not adjusted, so he throws in the towel and orders an Uber in a huff.
We get to the McDonalds with time to spare. Déjà vu! It’s the same fine establishment where I bought my Smirnoff Ice ammunition last night.
I don’t have time to consider whether this pickup is a good omen or a terrible one, because the shuttle pulls up.
This van brings us to the Boulder City municipal airport. Where we will sign releases to waive all legal rights or privileges. And jump out of a fucking plane.
Liquor Outlet, Part Deux
By the time we’re back on the Strip, it’s definitely time to drink. It’s been 10 hours since I had my last drink, which is simply unacceptable in Las Vegas. I also just survived jumping out of a plane, so a celebratory drink is in order.
No sooner than the shuttle drops us off, I find myself back in the Liquor Outlet, my second time in just over 24 hours. I swear I’m not sponsored (but if you’re reading this, Liquor Outlet, I’ll gladly accept free booze).
While Costas and Eugene aren’t as enthusiastic about day drinking as I am, they need something to take the edge off the fact that we just survived jumping out of a fucking plane, so I persuade them to go in on a case with me.
Costas says he’ll buy Shocktop if I agree to carry it all the way back to the hotel. I ask if I can drink some roadies; when he says yes, the decision is made.
One of the fringe benefits of shopping at such a classy establishment is interacting with the clientele. A girl on the phone, loudly arguing with the poor soul on the other end about how she’s going to get to the bus station and pay for her ride, provides free entertainment. Costas overhears this drama and hands her $60 on the way out. I’m not sure how she reacted, because I’m too busy tearing into the box and cracking my first beer of the day.
I get one out for Costas and Eugene too. Let’s ignore the fact that pushing beers also makes my job as designated case carrier easier, I’m just a good friend, damn it!
We toast to our survival and cheers with the most refreshing beer of the day as we head off up the Strip to find lunch.
We start wandering aimlessly up the Strip, when I remember that the Luxor has a birthday freeplay promotion. I attempt to convince Costas and Eugene that I am capable of going into a casino, walking straight to the players club, redeeming my freeplay, and leaving without further gambling. They’re (rightfully) skeptical.
Fortunately for them, my primal drive to eat outweighs my desire to gamble. I prove all the haters wrong by redeeming my $5 of birthday freeplay on a one-and-done spin on a $1 5-reel machine. I hit for $15, and cash out my $10 profit!
We continue heading up the Strip, as our growing hanger quickly becomes apparent. Costas and I testily argue over how long my “quick diversion” lasted (for the record, it was no more than 15 minutes, netting me $1 a minute). Eugene attempts to mediate, but is also getting hungry. Costas is feeling Bavette’s, but we find out to our dismay that we are in the dreaded hour between lunch and dinner, and they’re not serving.
We attempt to take a shortcut through Aria, which quickly turns into a longcut. We finally settle for Cucina by Wolfgang Puck, mainly since it’s open and has immediate seating.
As soon as the food comes, a hush falls over the table as we inhale our entrees. My prosciutto pizza is delicious, but I attribute that more to my ravenous hunger than the quality of the overpriced pizza. We continue our journey back towards the Cosmopolitan, but don’t make it far until distraction calls our name yet again.
In the form of luxury boutiques.
These boutiques have no appeal to Eugene or I, but Costas is amazed by the variety in the Crystals Shops. He excitedly points out stores that we’ve never heard of, as Eugene feigns familiarity and I attempt to conceal our opened case of Shocktop.
We go into Lalique (a French glass shop for my fellow uncultured swines), and the lady takes one look at us before making a snide comment on our beer (the can I offered her probably would have done her good). She can’t even pretend to conceal her disdain. Until Costas asks a pointed question about the figurines.
Costas and the lady engage in a conversation about the history of the company, while Eugene and I marvel at glass sculptures that retail for more than our combined net worth.
Costas decides to buy a green toad for the sweet price of $1000, as I fade quietly into the background with our communal case of beer.
We head to the store of another designer I can’t pronounce full of items I can’t afford, and are again silently judged. Until Costas starts talking history with the shopkeeper, who takes us out to the display case to explain the intricacies of a million dollar bracelet. I’m beginning to feel cultured until I realize that she just brought us out there to get us out of the store. I get the not-so-subtle hint, grab my case of beer, and continue the trek back to the Cosmopolitan.
By the time we get back to the Cosmopolitan, our adrenaline has subsided and we’re all beat. We toast with our beers on the balcony to celebrate our survival, agree on a 7:30pm dinner, and promptly pass the fuck out (for once in Vegas, alcohol was not a factor in me passing out).
I set my alarm a bit earlier to put some work in; with a celebratory beer in hand, I officially launch Viva Las Value from the 56th floor of the Cosmopolitan as Costas and Eugene sleep.
Costas wants to to treat me to a fancy seafood meal for my birthday, so we go to Milos Estiatorio. This was another “go along for the ride with Costas” experience, since I am known to scoff at any menu that lists “market price” rather than a single digit number.
But Costas is my culinary tour guide tonight, so to the market we go!
Costas picks out our fish, which had been flown in from the coasts of Portugal that afternoon according to Aleksander. He also picks out a claw of some kind for each of us.
After picking out our seafood, we return to the table where the Sommelier is waiting with a $200-something dollar bottle of wine that Costas picked out after his first choice was sold out. The wine is good.
Is it $200 good? Probably not when that $200 will buy you 20+ bottles of the wine I normally drink.
What can I say? I’m a man of simple tastes; apparently my palate has been ruined by cheap beer and whiskey, since I can’t appreciate the finer notes. I’d rather blow $200 in the casino, but to each their own.
When our claws come out, Eugene and I stare at them and wait for Costas to start.
We don’t know how to eat them.
You’d think there would be a classy way to eat these, but there really isn’t. Eventually, I learn to just dig in and tear it apart;Apparently, the only difference between class and trash is how expensive the food you’re tearing into.
The dipping sauce is incredible, and adds a nice mellow flavor. It’s hard to decide between savoring the meat, or accenting it with the sauce.
Next up, our Greek Spreads come out. There are three types of spreads, none of which I am overly impressed by. The hummus (on the bottom) is probably the best, since it’s fairly simple and pairs nicely with the pita. The htipiti in the middle is overpowered by pepper notes (I’m not a huge fan of raw pepper, so I acknowledge my bias), and the taramosalata on top has a pronounced fishniness and is way too rich and pasty for my tastes.
The pita bread is good, but they don’t give us nearly enough. Especially for $36. After burning through the bread quickly, we’re forced to resort to dipping raw vegetables. At this point, I opt to save room for what’s to come next.
The Milo’s Special is next. This is far and away my favorite part of the meal. It’s a tower of lightly breaded and fried zucchini, covered in tzatziki sauce and garnished with some kefalograviera cheese curds.
The breading doesn’t overpower the subtleties of the zucchini, and the mild flavor allows for all of the intricacies of the tzatziki sauce to come through. It strikes the perfect balance of salty and savory, while also remaining light enough to not spoil the rest of the meal. The sauce is so flavorful, with nice garlic notes that are accented by the lightly fried delivery vessels.
We also give the herb couscous a try. The portion is laughably small for $13. It’s the size of half a softball (if we’re being generous).
Parsley dominates the flavor. It’s light and refreshing, but nothing too mind-blowing. For the size, I would peg it for something included as a side, not an unremarkable side that costs $13.
Lastly, we had the Greek Fried Potatoes for $12.
Which is a super pretentious way to say “shitty, soggy, flavorless french fries.”
These fries would be shitty even if they were included with a cheap burger at a dive bar in middle-of-nowhere Nebraska, so to charge $12 for them is laughable. I try three or four expecting them to get better and they don’t, so I quit eating them; it’s not worth wasting the room.
It’s finally time for the main course.
Our fish comes on its own table, where Aleksander filets and serves it in front of us. While it’s cool (and quite exciting for someone like me who is unrefined), I’ll take a 80% discount for less dramatic preparation any day.
The fish is pretty good and very flaky. The small bones aren’t noticeable, and the fish melts in your mouth. It has a rich and buttery mouthfeel that pairs nicely with the wine.
Since we’re pretty full from our fish, we decide to split Baklava, since we are at a Greek restaurant after all.
It follows the trend of being “good, but not $xx good.”
Aleksander also brings out a traditional Greek dessert. I’m so surprised, I forget to blow out the candle for a bit!
It’s free, so I shouldn’t complain given the price. But that won’t stop me from being a curmudgeon (since I’m an old 25 now): it’s not that great. The berries provide most of the flavor, but other than that it’s pretty bland. I’d describe it as rich, but without much backing it up; it could be described as “slimy flour paste.”
After dinner, we head up to the balcony for a round of vice to kick off the night.
I crack open my standard: beer.
Eugene pours out his favorite: bourbon.
And Costas lights up his: marijuana.
I’m full from dinner, so this proves to be my last beer of the night before I transition to whiskey. You can probably guess how this night will end…
(Un)fortunately for you, you don’t have to guess. Read on for the antics of the evening of January 12 and the morning of January 13, 2019.