FatSu USA - Las Vegas, Culinary Dropout

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Twice a year, Las Vegas is home to the world's biggest shows for fashion buyers, which I why I travel to Sin City - although I probably do less sinning there, considering my dozen or so visits, than anyone in Vegas history. What does FatSu get up to in Las Vegas? There's the buying, three or four days of selecting styles for my shops, that's fun...then after nine hours of that, there's the inputting of potential orders into my annual budget. Less fun, that part, but I have all my papers spread out on the hotel bed and old episodes of Seinfeld on the huge TV. (Again, record-breakingly unsexy use of a Vegas hotel room, but work is work.)

As a solo female visitor to Las Vegas, I don't really get out of the city what everyone else tends to, or what people expect me to. I sort of hid in my room the first couple of times, post-shows. That was back before I discovered my favourite hotel there, which is the Hard Rock. I used to slum it at the Flamingo (old school Vegas "charm", i.e. sticky carpets throughout) and the Luxor (too noisy, too pointy). A couple of years ago, I gave the Hard Rock a try for show week, mainly because it was one of the few hotels to offer free in-room WiFi (rock and roll baby).

I wouldn't ever have thought I'd love the Hard Rock, from my (deliberately) scant experience of the Hard Rock Cafe franchise. But the hotel in Vegas is awesome. Here is why:

1. Relatively small casino, that you don't have to walk through. So less smell of cigarette smoke on my clothes, hair and food, and the over-excited gambles are localised and can be avoided along with their fag-smoke.

2. Good music playing over the tannoy. The Cure B sides. Blondie. The Pixies.

3. Very comfy beds and sound-proofing in all the rooms. I'm sure this wasn't intended to give me a good night's sleep, but it does.

4. Culinary Dropout.

Culinary Dropout (I've written about it before - I could go on about it all day) is the Hard Rock's gastro-pub, if we're still hyphenating that. Actually, its menu feels like it's been written by a gastro-pub's chef on his day off. The set-up is long communal tables, or you eat at the bar, or curled up in one of the oversized armchairs on the patio. (Another bonus for a non-predatory lone female in Vegas: this place is plenty of fun but not at all sleazy, so you can sit qualm-free at the bar.)

The food rocks. It does, I don't even care if it's a pun. You can get an antipasti platter that you build yourself from a fine, fine selection of cheeses and meat. Yes, fine cheeses in Vegas, including some really good American ones. Desserts like Monkey Bread (a baked, layered pudding of cinnamon apple brioche) and Bourbon Black Bottom Pie are also comforting forays into US-ish cuisine, as is the soft sea-salted pretzel and provolone fondue. Their sweet potato cannelloni with smoked shallots just melts, and melts you. Gorgonzola chicken salad with sour cherry dressing, shaved apple and smoked almonds - whatever the chemical is that the brain releases once our eyes send up the information they gather from a great menu, I get relentless hits of it when I'm at Culinary Dropout. It's not really a Vegas-worthy drug binge, but it feels good.

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