I know, big yawn.
But whatever. It means getting a baby-sitter, dressing up, and hitting the Strip. I'll celebrate Guy Fawkes Day if it means getting out of the house for a good meal. The place where we actually went on our first date (which, by the way, was nothing but a very long string of comedic errors; it's really a wonder we ended up seeing each other again) has since closed, leaving us free to roam around this grand city of ours, in search of a delicious meal.
Le Cirque? You're off the list. Boo...
Brian settled on Fleur at Mandalay Bay. Perfect. MB holds all kinds of warm and fuzzy memories for us, since our wedding had been held right next door at the Four Seasons, and our first ever "meeting" happened at the Russian Bar near Rum Jungle (which, by the way, is no longer there, either.) We headed up to Mix first for a drink (which hosted our wedding's after-party), caught up with a friend who works there, and had a cocktail while taking in the breathtaking view that is the Las Vegas skyline.
(ironically, as Brian noted, his drink was not mixed very well. At a place called Mix. We got a lot of mileage out of that one.)
Then we headed down to Hubert Keller's restaurant. It just recently reopened to the public in December after an extensive renovation, and was aiming to appeal to the masses. They were now open for lunch, the bar area had been expanded, and they completely redid the menu.
Have I mentioned I don't really like the masses?
I mean, essentially what they did was take a snooty French restaurant and turn it into a tapas bar. You can get tapas anywhere. I don't even like tapas. I hate sharing food. I don't like not knowing what to order to drink, since my "little plates" vary all over the map, from veal ravioli to angus sliders to hamachi. And I will say, Fleur di Lis (pre-reno) was like a culinary learning experience. Ordering the tasting menu with the wine pairing was like sitting through an entire season of Top Chef in under two hours; you learned so much about what wines went with which foods, etc. It was heavenly. Fleur di Lis, after all, is where I discovered my love for red zins and stumbled upon a good Malbec. The old Fleur will always have a special place in my heart.
So Brian and I sat there, grouching quietly about how much we dislike change, when out of the kitchen came the man himself: small in stature, grey hair sleeked back into a curly ponytail, and the trademark white chef's coat. Hubert Keller. Standing about 12 feet away from where I was sitting.
Now, I need to mention that two things. One: I am a terrible celebrity spotter. I think this is because I walk with my head down. Just a few weeks ago, we had gone out for a Girls' Night at Cosmopolitan and were allegedly sitting in the same VIP area as Matt Leinart. I say "allegedly" since I never actually saw him. Shannon Elizabeth was allegedly in the lobby of the Four Seasons the morning after our wedding. Cindy Crawford was allegedly dancing on a pole at (the now-defunct) Cherry nightclub at Red Rock. Either I need to get my eyes checked, hold my head a little higher, or start paying attention, because I am terrible at this.
And secondly, in those rare moments when I do actually see a celebrity, I tend to completely and totally lose it. I cried when I met Robin Leach. (I know, I know.) I am easily impressed, needless to say. And Hubert Keller is about a C-list celebrity chef in a town full of celebrity chefs, but it was a big deal to me.
So we wait very politely for our waiter to come over. He doesn't. We wait for the maitre-de to come over. He doesn't. We watch as numerous diners are escorted back to the kitchen where they are no doubt taking pictures with the big H and shaking hands and maybe sampling something yummy not listed on the menu. We even watch Chef Keller trek out to the bar area and pose with a table of women for some pictures. I was practically jumping out of my seat at this point, re-applying my lipgloss like a mad woman, and cursing the stupid red shirt I had worn (which I wore nine years ago -- thank god it still fit) since it was going to look terribly in the photo. The photo of me, Brian and Chef. Eeek! Did my hair look okay? I started using a volumning shampoo a few weeks back, and my hair has literally been larger than life. It's like a large, exotic bird sits on my head. And now that I had curled it for the night, it was seriously a tangle of blond/red hair that wouldn't lie flat, no matter how much I attempted to squash it.
Enough about my hair. We finally flagged down the maitre-de and I blathered on for a full minute about how much I loved Hubert. "We caught every episode of 'Top Chef: Masters'-" (small, white lie - Scotty was born right before the series finale) "- and we are just the biggest fans. That Rick Bayless should have never won! Hubert was robbed!" After my diatribe finally (blissfully) ended (I could see Brian gripping the sides of the tables with concern), the maitre-de assured us that Mr. Keller would love to meet us, and trotted off to the back.
I could barely breath. This was it! Was I going to be able to pet his little ponytail? Tell him how much I appreciated his culinary efforts? And did he actually help make any of the food that we actually ate tonight? Squeal!
The maitre-de appeared at the same time our waiter did. He didn't even look apologetic. "You wanted to meet him?" he asked. We nodded. "I'm sorry, he's stepped out." All of the air whooshed out of my lungs. "And I don't believe he's coming back, since he took his computer with him."
And just like that, he was gone.
Ultimately, it's not that big of a deal. But man, talk about a bummer way to end the evening. Brian looked at me again with fear, as though I was about to burst into tears right at the table. And yes, I was a little choked up. I mean, was Padma or Tom in the back, too? Maybe Gail? Or Richard Blaise? I just wanted to hang out with some cool culinary dudes, and I'm convinced they all travel together. My one shining opportunity to meet Hubert Keller and take a picture with him evaporated like one of Marcel's bad foam dishes.
And so, no picture. No hand shake. No "Thank you for introducing me to Lodi Zins." Nothing.
Oh, well. Maybe next year.
Update: I just got off the phone with Brian and he said he called Fleur. He expressed his disappointment and said that while we enjoyed our meal, his wife walked out very sad that she didn't get a chance to say hello to Chef Keller. The guy on the other end said that it's tough to predict when Hubert will be at the restaurant, and please join them again soon.