Setting Expectations

BlogWorld Expo ’08

The best meal I had in Vegas was at a surprising place -- the Flamingo Hotel Coffee Shop for brunch -- and I'm not talking about one of those über tourist buffets it was a menu-ordered brunch

I tend to do daydream — big — especially when I am seated in a plane and in airports for hours Unless I am hunkered down in a negative frame of mind, I daydream and imagine big things, things that make me smile. Things that inspire me and make me plug away.

The First Morning of Blog World Expo '08

And in that vain, I expected large things from Blog World Expo ’08. I thought I’d meet a virtual friend in person and find her to be the same IRL as she is in my 2D world. I thought I’d meet dozens of thought leaders. I thought I’d bump into political bloggers of note. I thought I’d bond with food bloggers I admire.

The only one of these machinations to come to fruition was the first. Krystyl is a charming young woman with intelligent wit and a drive to make something of herself who knows many in the social networking world and who is just as speedy on the keyboard of her phone as we see her online in front of her keyboard.

The rest of it? Well, I met a few notable people. I had conversations with both WordPress and TypePad and had two important questions answered; questions I’ve been trying to get resolved for months and now I am a bit closer to understanding what I need to do to transition to my new blog domain.

Other than that? I walked away with a SWAG bag filled with paper which, for the most part, is not going home with me. One of the booths I stopped by, a website design booth made my eyes light up until the very end of his pitch; “Right now we only support Windows, but we plan to work on a Mac version soon.” Ugh. Shoulder slump.

I am going to go home knowing that it is possible to redirect people from my self-hosted blog on to this well worn blog that I’ve poured my soul into for the past 18 months. But as I sit here in the Starbucks in the Westin Hotel, I am wracked with the same question – can I really do what I want with my blog if I redirect people to Living the Justopian Life?

I shot most of these photos with my iPhone, so quality is lacking

I talked with the TypePad folks for a while and my impressionable self walked away thinking their product was worth switching to. In my impulsive way, when I returned to the room I fired up the Mac and headed over to, registered for a 14 day trial and took a brief look around. I was exhausted from a long day of walking around the convention and around the strip and didn’t have it in me to give TypePad a fair shake. I’ll have to do that when I have more time.

Overcooked bread

Overcooked bread

I planned to do that before dinner, but the housekeeping staff has been excruciatingly slow to get to the room so I’ve planted myself in the Starbucks on the edge of the casino. I needed a coffee to warm up with. You never hear me complain about air conditioning, but it’s freezing in this hotel! I wonder if the problem is that the place is a ghost town? The casino is empty. I am looking out at 20 slot positions and there is one person seated and playing. Craning my neck left and right and popping up like a gopher, I see just a couple more.

I’ve got my own theories about this, but not being an Economics major, it’s just supposition. In my imaginative mind it could go one of three ways:

1. The Westin Hotel is not a gambler’s paradise. In this town, it’s more of a business person’s rest stop.
2. The economy is so bad, the tenor of the nation is so low, that people just aren’t spending their hard earned dollars in a place like Vegas
3. The “new” Vegas is not a family draw any longer. With the high price of hotels and restaurants, who can afford to take their family there for vacation?

But back to my thoughts on Blog World Expo ’08. That too was empty. Or for an inexperienced New Media convention-goer, it appeared to be empty. Void of not only attendees, but of vendors. The Las Vegas Convention Center is mammoth in size. It takes a long time in the heat to walk form one hall to the next, but the real estate the Expo used was small. Perhaps ½ of one floor. I might be exaggerating. More like ¼ of one floor.

I think the real value in the convention was in the sessions offered, but I didn’t pay the additional $300, so I missed out on the real meat of the event. My bad. Next time I will know better.

Clogging — My new term for Culinary Blogging! It just came to me — CLOGGING wihout special shoes! 🙂

In the interest of keeping those of you that come to this blog for culinary pleasure, I will regale you with my Mario Batali restaurant experience.

So … last night I found that I could have made reservations at any of the celebrity chef owned restaurants on the strip. I thought about going to Bouchon, but the price and French food were not what I was craving last night. I could have gone to Emeril’s Delmonico, but again, I wasn’t in a steak mood and didn’t want to spend the green. What I did want was to have a Mario Batali experience. I wanted Italian food and I wanted to eat something in a restaurant created by Mario Batali. I have been a Batali fan since his PBS days when his set consisted of a big map and a tight shot of him and his cooktop and prep area.

Look who's plying the canals in Vegas

Look who's plying the canals in Vegas -- female gondaliers. Progress! 🙂

Using,I made a 6:45pm reservation at B&B Ristorante, but after looking at the menu and at the prices I decided to cancel that reservation and go to one of his other properties — Enoteca San Marco. The restaurant is located in the Venetian Hotel. I’d been to the Venetian once before and it was more of the same … Disneyworld on Steroids or Carnival Cruise in Dry Dock which is how I feel about most of Vegas.

I think once you’ve been to Venice and have been lost in the myriad of walkways and bridges in over the canals in Italy, anything else claiming to be Venice is comic book in nature. Now mind you, Venice is not my favorite place in Italy. I long for the Tuscan Sun and the food and the romance of Florence and the Chianti region, but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at another trip or a relocation to Venice.

So, for those of you that haven’t been to Vegas or haven’t made it to the Venetian, this is how it goes. The hotel is mammoth in size. Look at it on Google and you’ll see what I mean.

Do you see how enormous it is?

There are multiple points of entry, but since I didn’t bring good walking shoes (I don’t know what I was thinking!) I entered at the point where there are moving walkways to take you to the Shops which is where the restaurants, theaters and casino are located. The hallways are Venetian style and the floors are faux cobblestone. There are bridges over a canal or two and the façade of the “buildings” are reminiscent of Venice.

It’s all there to make you think you are in Venice, but clearly you are not. I saw hordes of tourists being led through with tour guides and for the life of me I am sure why. It’s a hotel people! Ok, enough of that.

The special salad of the night

When I looked over at the canal and saw a gondola heading my way, I was surprised to see a female gondalier. I thought it was an all male club, but there on two gondolas were women plying the waters of the Venetian canals. I did some research and it looks like it’s still not a common occurrence in Venice.

But these things are trivial and not very important to this post. What I want to talk about is the meal I had at Enoteca San Marco.

Unfortunately, the gelato was not truly gelato. It was more like ice cream that's been sitting in the freezer for a while

So let’s review my meal. I ordered the following:

  • Fried cauliflower
  • Watermelon and Honeydew Melon with Arugula, oil and 25 year balsamico
  • Pork Belly Pasta

The first thing I noticed about the cauliflower was that it smelled of fish. It smelled strongly of fish. It was apparent to me that it was fried in re-used oil. The vegetable pieces were thick and the bater was a bit undercooked on the inside.

The salad was a great combination, but as you can see from the photo (although it’s not very clear) is that it is overdressed and frankly, doesn’t look very appealing.

The past was most disappointing. The pork was cooked to the state of being mush and the greens were an unattractive brownish-yellowish-green. I could not identify what the green was and when I asked I was told it was kale. I thought it may have been spinach, but really, there was no way to know and it had little to no taste left.

I paid without ordering dessert and made a stop at the Gelato stand just across from the restaurant. That too was a disappointment. There was nothing about the waffle cone of Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream tha said fresh or gelato or even mint for that matter. The chocolate was shaved and impossible to really sink your teeth into.

Cauliflower Closeup

All in all, I was terribly disappointed and it’s a shame. I am happy I decided not to plunk the money down on the restaurants that would have cost twice as much as Enoteca, but sad that I not only had a disappointing meal but that I didn’t have one truly memorable meal in an entire weekend.

My recreation of the Enoteca San Marco meal I had in Vegas

In the end, I decided to recreate the meal as best as I could with what I had in my fridge, freezer and pantry. No question, my meal was far better. I made the following:

  • Zucchini-Feta Fritters
  • Pork Pasta with Bok Choy
  • Olives with fresh Red Bell Pepper slices

It wasn’t an exact match, but all of the components were represented, it was fresher and while I clearly am not a food stylist and struggle to plate food beautifully, my creation looked more appealing.

Another iPhone shot -- Fried Cauliflower

The end of the story … I am not going to give up on Mario. I had a fabulous lunch at Salumi in Seattle a few months ago and would recommend it to anyone going to or living in Seattle, but I would not go to another Batali property in Vegas. I will have to think twice before I go to Les Halles. I wouldn’t want to be disappointed by a Tony Bourdain restaurant.


6 Responses

  1. OMG> what a good blog post. I know it wasn’t everything you expected. For some it was amazing but for others it was a wash. That’s how conferences go. still, i love your blog.

  2. Hi Adam!

    Thanks for reading and for commenting! I take the blame for the Expo not meeting or exceeding my expectations — I should have shelled out the dough for the sessions. What an epic fail on my part. Next time.

    It was great meeting you!

  3. That’s how I always remember VEGAS – but now in this economy – well it seems even more over the top with the way things are falling apart in our country! Who has any extra bucks to blow gambling? $20 bucks won’t even get a half a tank of gas these days! My how times have changed.

  4. Yep Jane. It’s not what it was. I am working on a post tonight that talks about the other side of Vegas. Off the strip in the daytime. Look for it late tonight, or when you wake up tomorrow.

  5. Hi Justopia!
    It’s been awhile. I tried logging on to chat the other night but forgot my password.
    Your creation of the dinner you had in Vegas does look MUCH better. I hate when I order fries and they are fishy tasting!

  6. Hi Sumdance! Good to “hear” from you. I’m not able to reset your password, but you can create a new account — maybe Sumcance1? Or TheOtherSumdance? 🙂 Come join us!!

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