Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tax Deductible Lives

"Here's to making our lives tax deductible," Michalski said as raised our cocktails and performed a mini-toast while standing at the bar in the sports book at Mandalay Bay awaiting his receipt.

Based on what we do as freelance writers, almost everything in our lives have become a deduction especially if we are going to write about it. Meals are opportunities to talk business and entertain future clients. New clothes for parties are a necessary business expense. Flights, rental cars, hotel rooms... all expensed. We're even discovering creative ways to write our gambling losses off as research.

Just an hour earlier, I ate dinner with Change100, Michalski, and his girlfriend Jen at Burger Bar. I had to pay for dinner when I lost out on credit card roulette. When the waitress brought us the bill, we plopped down both our credit cards. The waitress closed her eyes and picked mine and I got stuck with the bill while Michalski agreed to buy drinks for the remainder of the night. I think it was a wash.

The Burger Bar is always crowded and they don't take reservations. It's also the locale of the best burger in Las Vegas. For a $16 base price, you get a Kobe beef burger (it's American Kobe not Japanese which is why it's only $16 and not $60) served on your choice of bread; cibatta, onion, or sesame. They for an additional charge you can spice up your burgers with a variety of sauces, cheeses, veggies, and sides like sweet potato fries and two types of French fries. You can add baby spinach, sprouts, coleslaw, avocados, chopped jalapenos, sliced cucumber, peppers, sliced zucchini, green asparagus, sliced onions, caramelized onions, pineapple, black truffles, portobello mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, button mushrooms, smoked salmon, grilled lobster, grilled shrimp, marinated anchovies, bacon, peppered bacon, jalapeno bacon, Prosciutto, fried egg, foie gras, homemade chili, pesto sauce, salsa, guacamole, homemade beetroot pickle, cranberry sauce, pickled green tomato, and brown gravy.

I didn't want to drown out the taste of the Kobe, so I picked just Monterey Jack cheese. They also served Angus burgers for half the price and I've had the bleu cheese and bacon Angus burger, which is pretty kick ass.

The dessert was an interesting item called a chocolate burger or cheesecake burger. We got both. It's a slice of cake or cheesecake served in between a Krispy Kreme donut with whipped cream and strawberries, and passion fruit that looks like a slice of cheese.

After dinner, on our way to Mandalay's version of the Hooker Bar, Michalski wanted to play the game "Hooker or Ho?" The hookers are easy to spot for me, but we loved the lack of fashion sense that many women chose to display during a Friday night out in Las Vegas. The looked like cheap hookers, minus the hooker chaffed crotch walk. The lines between hooker and cheap whore were blurred by their multiple fashion errors. I'll leave Change100 to the fashion report. But let's just say that a lot of women on the Strip in fake tans with cheap designer knock offs are dressing more like strippers than sophisticated women in elegant evening wear.

Las Vegas used to symbolize wealth and sophistication. There was a time, many moons ago, when you got dressed up when you went out to gamble. Monte Carlo has Vegas trumped in the high class department. Trucker's hats and dirty hipster jeans don't come close to a tuxedo. At least they are wearing pants. Las Vegas has become a t-shirt, shorts, a flip-flops convention. Most women at a Monte Carlo casino would never expose their butt cracks and g-strings, yet that's what I see more and more of as millions of Americans fly into Vegas to look and act like classless, drunken, inbred dipshits. That's due to the Britney Spears trailer park/glam influence of "I eat Cheetos and expose all my cracks" aftershock.

But that's what the corporations and suits who run Vegas want... thousands of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline clones running rampant down the streets. Eating like pigs and donking off chips in the pits.

I used to head to Las Vegas to avoid the masses and hide out in the back of casinos to gamble. These days, Las Vegas has been turned into a gigantic shopping mall with the occasional slot machine and black jack table nearby.

Where did all these people come from and why is everyone so fat?

Just when I was concerned with my weight, I look around and feel much better about myself being only 10 pounds over my comfortable zone. Las Vegas is a town if excess and all you can eat buffets attract the grossest of the gross.

Last summer, I tacked on about 20 pounds over six weeks. That's due to lack of exercise and poor eating habits. I ate too many buffets with Grubby and I was forced to eat the crappy food at the Rio casino or walking to the Wendy's that was next door to the Redneck Riviera. The Rio actually improved their food and I made sure I walked around a lot more to get minimal exercise.

I also ate a lot more higher end meals, thanks to a bigger paycheck and wealthier friends. I was fortunate enough to be invited to dinner by my friend Ryan. He took a few of us (Spaceman, April, Wil, Otis, Change100 and myself) out to a super pricey meal at Nob Hill in the MGM. It's a fusion restaurant with some unique specialties. Ryan ordered us several tasting dishes such as the Hors d'oeuvres sampler that featured beer-battered prawn tempura and marinated beef satay. He also picked out a Charcuterie Board with selected sliced meats and North Beach focaccia. The selection of meats and cheese were impressive. The after-taste of the fresh mozzarella, salami and lamb sausage still linger. They served fresh baked bread with three types of butter. We ordered a mashed potato combination that featured individual selections of jalapeno, fennel, sour cream traditional, and horseraddish mashed potatoes.

I ordered the bison filet mignon as my main dish. I expected it to have a gamy taste, but none existed. The bison didn't leave a heavy feeling in my belly like a regular filet. Change100 had a sirloin served with foie gras and mushroom potato cakes. That was the second time I had foie gras in my life, and the other time was also in Las Vegas. Dessert for me was jasmine tea and a chocolate souffle.

Yeah, Ryan picked up the tab in one of the seven best meals in my life. It might have been top 5 after thinking about the meal over the past few days.

Despite the utter insanity of the WSOP, I managed to find some down time to experience fine cuisine with some excellent dinner companions.

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