“Aussie Heat” Host Creates a Natural Approach to Fitness Products


Adam Barr’s muscular cast endorses his Green Barr cannabis-based wellness formulas…

Having covered the Mr. Olympia Fitness Expo for many years in Las Vegas, I’ve seen many outside-the-box health and fitness products. Ones like ManCakes high-protein pancakes. Arctic Zero fit frozen desserts. Ostrim ostrich-based jerky and meat sticks. Now Aussie Heat host Adam Barr has opened up a whole new world of ideas with a cannabis-based line of health and wellness products named Green Barr.

The uses of marijuana go back thousands of years, from ancient anesthesia in China to treatment of cataracts in Egypt. Until just recently, marketing items from this family of plants in contemporary United States would have been illegal…and perceived by many as outlandish. But times are changing and the laws are catching up.

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There are those who view cannabis as a type of miracle cure. It’s been used for treatment from conditions as diverse as epilepsy in children to dementia in Alzheimer’s patients. It’s also known to ease the side effects of cancer treatments and has been proven to attack cancer cells.

As the medical community reverses its position on marijuana/cannabis from being a recreational drug to one of serious medical importance, the general public is taking note. And while everyone is playing catch-up with the legalities, forward-thinking individuals are preparing to usher in a new wave of uses.

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     Adam Barr (center, back row) and the guys have a flex-off with this writer…

Adam Barr is one such individual. You may recognize Barr from my numerous articles on the innovative upstart Aussie Heat male revue Planet Hollywood’s V Theater. Adam is a stand-up kind of guy…literally. When not using his charisma to host the sexy production, he sometimes takes to the stage for his own comedy routines.

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Adam Barr is an advocate of all things natural…                  

But Adam’s venture into the cannabis business is no joke. This lover of nature in all its forms has looked to ancient healing methods to create the Green Barr line. His products use natural medicines to restore healthy living and promote recovery. With them, he intends to take the fitness community by storm.

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In a phone interview last week, Adam explained the varieties of marijuana and why various classes are regulated differently.  He said that most people associate marijuana with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the mind-altering form that creates a euphoric “high”…and a stimulated appetite. THC is currently listed as a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and is regulated as such (a detailed explanation is here).

But then there is CBD (cannabidiol), a non-psychoactive compound that’s mostly derived from hemp. While CBD won’t affect the mind, its positive effects on the body make for an impressive check-list of treatments for common ailments.

The most promising research these days is for the use of CBD to fight cancer. Cannabidiol has been shown to block the spread of cancer cells, slow their growth and encourage the destruction of cancerous cells altogether.

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The use of CBD and cannabis derivatives for everyday problems is what Green Barr is all about. By that I mean stress, anxiety, pain, acne, inflammation and depression. Then there are anti-emetic (nausea and vomiting) and anti-oxidant (neuro-regenerative) benefits as well.

Barr had the idea to create a line of micro-dose CBD (Emerald) and cannabis (Green) products that would target athletes, fitness enthusiasts and those looking for a natural alternatives for healing.

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Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

         Stuntman Simon Farrow’s heroic frame is built on Green Mag Mist…   

Adam then teamed up with Simon Farrow, his muscular cast mate from Aussie Heat. Farrow is a sometime movie stuntman (Alien: Covenant) and actor who already had his own Organics4me line of magnesium-centric pre-workout spray. Together they’ve expanded and refined Green Barr‘s presentation to include teas, capsules, tablets, moisturizing creams and spray mist.

Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

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Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

While laws continue to change regarding the distribution of CBD and cannabis, Barr is taking a grassroots (pardon the pun) approach to marketing. In order to do that, Adam is starting small…like selling at farmers’ markets in Los Angeles.

Behind that will be conventional retailing through gyms and online. Of course, the goal of any marketing plan is mass distribution. In this case, easy-to-access state-regulated dispensaries are where Adam ultimately wants Green Barr to be sold.

Not having tried marijuana products of any kind in the past, I was hesitant to sample a relaxation formula that Barr gave me. But years of insomnia have haunted me and it is difficult to get through an entire night.

So I tried one micro-dose capsule before bedtime and slept like I hadn’t in years….with zero negative effects the next day. In fact, I woke up feeling refreshed and alert and got that result every time. As you might imagine, it was thrilling.

The cast of Aussie Heat also uses and swears by Green Barr. With those hard-working bodies on display at the intimate V Theater each night, there’s no way to hide the results of their successful regimens.

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Simon Ata puts “flex” in “flexible” thanks in part to Green Barr supplements…

Simon Ata aka “Simonster” is one of Green Barr‘s biggest advocates. As a member of StrengthProject.com‘s fitness team, this shredded young athlete performs astounding gymnastics, yet his body is always flexible and healthy-looking.

Aussie Heat Adam Green Barr

Performing a physically-demanding show nightly can be taxing on bodies of any age. For the Aussie Heat guys, a typical day requires rehearsal and stretching before hitting the stage at 10:30pm. Then they move over to nearby Blondie’s to greet and hang out with audience members before having dinner after 2 am. Then some of them hit the all-night gym for strength conditioning. If Green Barr products can help performers like these guys to get through a typical work week, imagine what they can do for someone in the conventional 9-to-5 world.

To learn more about the beneficial effects of micro-dose cannabis and CBD, check out Green Barr‘s Instagram page or visit them on Facebook.

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Me (center) flexing with the guys from Aussie Heat…                 

Note: This is not a compensated endorsement. Green Barr works for me.

Aussie Heat performs Thursday through Sunday at 10:30 pm inside Planet Hollywood’s V Theater. VegasFool.com is offering a ten-dollar discount by following this link and using promo code VEGASFOOL10 at checkout.

Photos: Sammasseur, Green Barr, Simon Ata, Adam Barr, Simon Farrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westgate’s Culinary Superstars: Chef Bruno Morabito

Sid’s Cafe’s “Master of Brunch” is serious about the joys of casual dining…

Part Two in my series on the fabulous culinary family of Westgate Las Vegas

Sometimes you talk at length with someone whom you’ve previously encountered only in passing…and they blow your expectations away. That’s what happened during my recent morning sit-down with Chef de cuisine Bruno Morabito of Sid’s Cafe. And it was a surprise that made my day.

Chef Bruno Morabito Westgate

Being a semi-regular diner at Westgate’s casual-dining restaurant, I’d seen Chef Bruno strolling by from time to time, greeting patrons at their table to check on their experience. This mild-mannered gentleman was personable, professional and seemed somewhat reserved. But give Chef Bruno the opportunity to relax for a bit of private conversation and this native of Rochester NY will light up the room.

Chef Bruno Morabito Westgate

Perhaps it’s the dazzling white coat that keeps his bubbly personality in check. Maybe it’s the presence of dozens of diners enjoying his creations. Or the years of disciplined experience in world-class kitchens around the city. Whatever the reason, when this veteran of the Las Vegas dining scene gets a moment away from the focus of responsibility, an entirely different person shines through.

Chef Bruno Morabito Westgate

The two of us got acquainted in a corner booth on the tail end of a Sid’s Cafe breakfast rush. Both of us had just returned from visits to Italy, so it was a nice ice-breaker. I confessed that I’d just watched one of his cooking segments about brunch on a local network affiliate page. “Oh, No! I can’t stand doing those!”, he chuckled with a mild flush. “I’m not a TV kind of guy. But I do like to talk about my food”.

Chef Bruno Morabito Westgate

    Jennifer Jean Snyder of KTNV Morning Blend reacts to Chef Bruno’s creations… 

Indeed he does. As is the case with many artists, Chef Bruno beams when discussing how he began to create delicious dishes…and which inspirations set him on the path to success. For Chef Morabito, it was exposure to a combination of many different cultures.

During his culinary school days at Lougheed College in Kitchener Ontario, this descendant of Italian immigrants was affectionately known as “The Yank”. He was nicknamed that by program director Wolfgang Stutz (one could safely assume that Stutz was German). But it was years of experience at a famous French restaurant that secured his place on the Valley’s list of superb culinary masters.

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Visiting the Amalfi coastline of southern Italy with brother Phil…               

After coming to Las Vegas with his wife, Morabito began a 17-month stint as Sous Chef for renowned Charlie Palmer at Mandalay Bay‘s gorgeous Aureole. Then came his first really big opportunity – a position at Venetian‘s world-famous Bouchon Bistro. Tucked away inside an exclusive area of the resort’s Venezia Tower, Bouchon is where Westgate‘s “Master of Brunch” developed his reputation for morning-meal brilliance.

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Chef Bruno (fourth from right) with Chef Thomas Keller and the team at Bouchon…               

Challenged by Bouchon founder Chef Thomas Keller to create a pork-belly BLT from a sketch, Morabito went “off the menu” and took a detour to the unexpected. With free reign to create any special he wanted, Chef Bruno added a personal “why not” favorite of Chicken and Waffles as a special.

A succulent serving of roasted chicken atop a bacon and chive waffle, sauce chasseur (aka “Hunter’s Sauce”), Tahitian vanilla bean butter and maple syrup, Chicken and Waffles was a runaway hit…and continued to grow in popularity. It became the cornerstone for an entire brunch menu that Morabito urged Kelly to try.

Chef Bruno’s brunch menu remains his legacy there and is now served in every Bouchon Bistro nationwide. It was also Forbes Travel Magazine‘s pick for Best Brunch in Las Vegas.

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                  Chef Bruno flanked by his lovely 14-year-old daughters….

After a decade with Chef Thomas Keller, this thoroughbred horse-racing enthusiast (he’s attended the last eight Breeder’s Cups and owns several horses back in New York) was now the proud father of twin girls.

The increased responsibilities of being a parent and husband to wife Tracy didn’t deter Morabito from taking on a new challenge, though. In 2014 he was recruited by celebrity Giada De Laurentis to be her new Chef de Cuisine at Giada inside The Cromwell.

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Chef Morabito and Giada De Laurentis remain friends…                     

History repeated itself a bit at The Cromwell. Morabito’s reputation for success allowed him to create a brunch menu for De Laurentis at the trendy eatery. If you seem to recall Chicken and Waffles in the Giada line-up, you aren’t mistaken…although he gave the dish a new distinctive Italian twist. It came as no surprise when the new offerings were lauded by Las Vegas Review Journal readers as “Best Brunch”.

Nearly two and a half years later, the visionary “Master of Brunch” joined the ever-growing list of superlative chefs at Westgate Las Vegas. And now he’s serving his award-winning food at Sid’s Cafe.

Sid’s Cafe is named after Westgate founder David Siegel‘s father, who absolutely loved Las Vegas. Sid’s may be the most casual of Westgate‘s restaurant, but the home-style menu is meticulously prepared and served with pride. Chef Bruno runs the entire operation, from kitchen to staffing. He’s a hands-on kind of man when it comes to ensuring quality:

What goes out on that plate has my name on it. I personally answer Yelp! and other guest reviews, both positive and negative. Kindness is an easy way to build rapport with our guests. I want you to be satisfied with what we bring to your table.

Bringing things to the table is exactly what Chef Bruno had planned for me. Being a frequent visitor, I was already familiar with lunch and dinner offerings at the Cafe (Matzo Ball Soup, Free-Range Turkey Burger and Chopped Italian Salad are my personal favorites). So it was with a bit fortuitous that I’d be sampling his brunch creations for the first time during our meeting.

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 Mojito Fruit Bowl with lime juice, mint and toasted coconut…                    

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Smoked Salmon Platter…                 

My host could scarcely hide his enthusiasm when describing each dish that arrived at the table.That carefully-hidden smile of his surfaced frequently…and it continued to grow with each visit back.

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Grande Cinnamon Roll is big enough for the entire table…                   

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Cinnamon Roll French Toast and several hearty skillet breakfasts…                 

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As Chef Bruno promised, everything he creates is fresh, delicious, gorgeous to look at and downright satisfying. Brunch is available at Sid’s Cafe every Thursday through Sunday from 7 am until 2 pm. You can add unlimited mimosas for $10.

Echoing sentiments from other Chefs I’ve spoken to at Westgate, Sid’s chef de cuisine is thrilled with the opportunity to add, fine-tune and elevate his cafe’s line-up. And no doubt the resort is pleased to have attracted another major player to their team.

As with all members of the Westgate culinary family, Chef Bruno Morabito aims to bring happiness to your table and a smile to your face. Be sure to ask for him when you visit…and don’t you dare miss that Chicken and Waffles masterpiece.

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Sid’s Cafe is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hours are 7 am to midnight Sunday through Thursday, 7 am to 2 am Friday and Saturday. Call 702-732-5755 for more information. Dress code is casual, restaurant is non-smoking.

Photos: Sammasseur, Bruno Morabito via Facebook/Instagram, KTNV Morning Blend

 

 

 

 

I’m Too Sexy For My…Burger?


Award-winning hunks turned away from Palms poolside cafe…

Sin City. The name alone suggests wild, outrageous parties, outlandish behavior and sex galore. In most cases, the city delivers on that promise. Mobile billboards offer “Ladies Direct To Your Room”. Puppetry of the Penis is a runaway hit at Erotic Heritage Museum. Porno conventions take over entire resorts. But shirtless guys eating burgers at a poolside cafe? That’s apparently too graphic for one Las Vegas restaurant.

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You may be scratching your head and wondering “How could this even be an issue?”. That’s a legitimate question, but don’t get bogged down by the specifics. I’ll elaborate on the details in a moment. Instead, allow yourself to digest this fact: A private luncheon for shirtless Vegas celebs is considered “unacceptable” by Station Casinos…specifically Palms Place.

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If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’ve written many columns saluting the Hot Guys of Vegas. Performers, bartenders, a popular celebrity publicist…even a well-known lawyer. Respected, hard-working gentlemen, one and all. They are great sports and have had plenty of fun with my columns.

Out of gratitude, I thought it would be a wacky idea…and make another great article…if I gathered a few past and future recipients of that series for lunch. My group included performers from the likes of Absinthe, WOW – World of Wonder, DIVAS, Men of the Strip, Jubilee and Men of Sapphire. The idea was to allow them to network with one another, take some photographs and share an “only in Vegas” experience with you, the readers.

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I invited several guys to revel in gratuitous shirtlessness. They’d arrive sans tops and remain that way for a meal, drinks and laughs….a positive social experiment. Every invited guest agreed to join in on the fun and yours truly would pay the bill. The location would be my favorite casual-dining spot in the city: Cafe 6 at Palms Place.

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This awesome, secluded burger joint on the sixth floor of the Palms Place tower is serviced by a dedicated elevator (directly from the parking lot to the cafe entrance). It sits next to a lovely pool and hot tub with only walls of glass separating the swimmers and the diners. The effect is that of eating at the pool deck while remaining indoors.

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Another reason for choosing Cafe 6 is that they have a private meeting room immediately to the left of the entrance. My guests would be able to arrive discreetly with only an infinitesimal chance of being spotted by patrons in the main dining area. Nobody who could be potentially offended would be affected. Perfect, right?

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I then chose a weekday afternoon in the middle of December, historically the slowest week of the year in Vegas. It’s so slow that many shows shut down and restaurants send their staff on vacation. So you’d think that any restaurant would welcome hundreds of dollars of guaranteed business during those days.

With a plan in place, I emailed a known contact at Palms Casino Resort who is involved in food and beverage operations there. I described our gathering, the number of people in our party, our willingness to order from the regular menu and other assorted details along with a few possible dates. For the sake of anonymity, I won’t specifically name anyone involved here.

It never crossed my mind that our lunch party would be denied. After all, Palms was until recently home to the “World’s Largest Hooters”. Because, you know, female breasts sell chicken wings…

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Anyway, the person I wrote to copied another individual on their team when replying back. They informed me that they would discuss my request, then they passed it on to a third person in their public relations department for final disposition.

It should be noted that in the follow-up correspondence, our group promised to be respectful and behave discreetly. I even suggested the name of a particular server who is very outgoing and enjoys male eye-candy. Nevertheless, our party was refused with a curt denial:

“Hi Sam, thanks for considering us, at this time we are going to politely pass on the opportunity.”

That was it. No questions, no offer of alternate conditions., no mention of potential code violations..and most importantly, no explanation of any kind. While it’s safe to assume that bare chiseled torsos were the deciding issue here, how can we know for sure? And WHY is a sexy guy forbidden to show his abs in a poolside cafe?

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View from inside the main dining room of Cafe 6…                   

As you might imagine, I found this response to be quite ludicrous. Cafe 6, as I mentioned earlier, is my favorite lunch place in town. I gave it a stellar review in a previous column, chose Cafe 6 as my “Best Vegas Bargain of 2016” and even hosted my most recent birthday party there. So what gives? And should I have even bothered to describe our reason for gathering in the first place?

Luckily, Dave Wahlen, General Manager of Flair Nightclub and the soon-to-open Hamburger Mary’s on Flamingo Avenue, caught wind of this absurd situation and welcomed us with open arms…and shirts.

Sam, I’d love to have them…anytime you want! The city gave us the final approved plans a week ago Tuesday. We have been balls to the walls. We have a night and a day crew working on the kitchen. It has taken nearly 8 months to get this done. Come see us as we love these guys at Mary’s. I miss seeing you buddy. I hope you’re doing well!

And that, dear readers, is how you do good business and promote healthy public relations. I understand that Cafe 6 and Palms Place are undergoing a transition of ownership and management. But their response to a simple request has successfully alienated an entire group of Vegas influentials…and one beef-loving blogger.

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Thanks for being such a soggy pile of wet blankets, Palms. Let us know when you’ve removed that stick from up your _____. As for me and my guys, it’s “Next stop…Hamburger Mary’s”!

Photos: Sammasseur, CBS Daytime, KTNV.com, Hamburger Mary’s

 

 

Get Sweaty for Christmas with 98 Degrees


Steamy pop group’s holiday tour schedules final show for Vegas fans…

As popular boy bands of the 90’s segued into nostalgic “pop groups”, most of them have disbanded or faded into obscurity. Not the hotties of 98 Degrees. As part of the primary 90’s 4-pack (along with N’Sync, Backstreet Boys and NKOTB), 98 Degrees built a ravenous and extremely loyal fan base.  Of those groups, only 98D continues to record great new albums and fill arenas. They also manage to stay relevant in an ever-changing musical landscape.

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While New Kids and Backstreet have shown love to Vegas from time to time, it’s 98 Degrees that shares a special bond with Sin City. For that you can thank group founder Jeff Timmons, who calls Las Vegas home.

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A frequent guest at local functions and on Vegas TV talk shows, the ultra-sexy and ridiculously-fit Timmons is also the chesty front man for Men of the Strip. That’s the male revue which took on a vastly-inferior Magic Mike Live and is currently touring the U.S. and Canada.

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98 Degrees Christmas

  Timmons delivered Christmas in July with Men of the Strip at Hard Rock…                

But before I get more drool on my keyboard, let’s return to the matter at hand….Christmas! Yes, the four-part harmonies and soulful voices of 98 Degrees are back for their second collection of holiday treasures.

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Has it really been eighteen years since this album hit the shelves?                   

The first, This Christmas, was a certified-platinum hit at the peak of their popularity. Brimming with seasonal standards and three new songs, the album was released on the Motown label in 1999. Fans have been clamoring for a follow-up ever since…and for them, Santa came early this year.

 

98 Degrees Christmas

Better hair and clothing, same soulful harmonies…                 

Let It Snow debuted on October 20th and the boys gentlemen have been quite busy supporting their new album. They launched another nationwide tour along with TV appearances and a glorious performance during last week’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

98 Degrees Christmas

Ever trendy, the guys made sure that Let It Snow will be released on the retro-hip vinyl format (yes, actual freaking VINYL!) on December 1st. Click here to order the LP via Amazon.com. It’ll be great addition to my own collection of treasured holiday records gathered through the years. That postman better be on time….I have plans to get mine autographed.

98 Degrees Christmas

It’s amazing that 98D‘s four members  – Timmons, Justin Jeffre and brothers Nick and Drew Lachey – managed to find time to record a new collection this summer. With Jeff’s Men of the Strip launch in July (read my review here), Nick’s successful stint on Dancing With the Stars, the brothers’ super-popular Lachey’s Sports Bar in Cincinnati and Jeffre’s political activities….well, the logistics must have been staggering.

This isn’t the first time that 98D found themselves riding a new wave of popularity. In 2013 they released 2.0, their first studio album since 2000. They followed that with The Package Tour, a multi-group effort with Boyz II Men and NKOTB.

Now they’re back for phase three and closing out 2017 with a final stop in Las Vegas. 98 Degrees at Christmas will sleigh-ride into the area on Saturday December 23. Star of the Desert Arena in Primm Nevada will host the final performance of the tour. This awesome venue is a short drive south of Las Vegas and a world away from the madness.

The 6,500-seat arena is located at Buffalo Bill’s Hotel Casino in Primm. If you’re concerned about leaving the city limits for an evening, don’t be. Primm Valley Casino Resorts has three hotels serving the venue with hundreds of newly-renovated rooms. Rates start at $59 plus taxes/fees for the night of the event.

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So why not venture beyond the Strip for a different kind of fun? Turn up the heat and get sweaty on the eve of Christmas Eve with the guys of 98 Degrees. I hope to see you there.

“98 Degrees at Christmas” performs Saturday December 23rd at 8 pm. Tickets start at $20 plus taxes/fees up to a $149 VIP experience with meet/greet. Click here to order.  

Photos: Sammasseur, 98 Degrees via Facebook, Jeff Timmons via Facebook, Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

“Drag Brunch” at Treasure Island is a Bold, Giddy Blast


Señor Frog’s Wakes You Up With Breakfast Burritos, Mimosas…and Drag Queens?

These days, the opportunities to say “Only in Vegas” are getting harder to come by. The lions have left MGM Grand.  The volcano at Mirage rarely erupts these days. Bowling with “glamazons” at Drink and Drag Lounge has faded into memory. But there’s an activity in Sin City that you most likely can’t do at home. It’s Señor Frog’s Drag Brunch at Treasure Island.

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When I first heard about Treasure Island’s Drag Brunch, I didn’t think much of it. This writer has covered many weekly mixed-crowd events that quickly “petered” out (no pun intended). But during my weekend mornings at home in Oregon, I noticed plenty of Vegas friends tagging themselves and checking in at the Brunch on the official Facebook page.

Would this be the one that actually catches on? Chances were pretty high, as the concept had already been the rage at Señor Frog’s locations in MiamiNew York City, and Fire Island Pines.

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Then I started getting a Groupon offer that was very tempting. Buffet, unlimited mimosas and a show for $45.00? I was already a fan of Señor Frog’s menu and wacky atmosphere. Throw in some seasoned RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants (like CoCo MontreseDesree St. JamesKahanna Montrese and India Ferrah) dishing out racy comedy and hit songs onstage and throughout the venue…and this makes for one heck of a deal.

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There’s also a VIP option with two-hour premium open bar and preferred seating. Prices are higher at the official site, which also lists a standing-room show-only option with cash bar for $10. I was told by an insider that the Groupon deal will be extended indefinitely, so that’s the way to go.

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Drag Brunch

As luck would have it, I was just about to purchase my Groupon when I got an official invitation to review the brunch. Despite a whirlwind schedule, I accepted and arrived early enough to take some photos…and get an early jump on the mimosas best seats.

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The venue on the second floor of Senor Frog’s overlooks the Strip (and lagoon for the former Sirens of T.I. show, another lost attraction) and has a dedicated bar and DJ booth. Most tables are large and “family style”, so you may make a friend or two before the show begins.

Drag Brunch

If you’ve never attended a female-impersonation show before, this is the perfect opportunity to lose your gender-bender virginity. Drag entertainment has been around for centuries, going as far back as ancient Rome. Even Frank Marino’s DIVAS Las Vegas has been running on the Strip (in one form or another) for over 30 years.

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If you’re feeling a little insecure, the basic admission package includes unlimited mimosas. There’s also a cash bar staffed by muscular masculine bartenders. That should help to loosen your inhibitions and prepare you for the wild ride ahead.

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The Vegas version of Drag Brunch is emceed by Shannel (Bryan Watkins), whom you may have seen at Divas Las Vegas53X at Paris or Piranha Nightclub. Shannel has lightning-fast wit, amazing skill as a female impersonator and just enough gravitas to act as house mom to hold the younger “girls” slightly in check.

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Drag Brunch host “Shannel” will elevate your idea of drag queens….                

The jokes flew fast and furious, as did the wigs, lips and elaborate costumes. A cast of four performers covered the entire floor with outrageous dance numbers, wonderful spontaneity and laughs galore.

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Be aware that drag shows are extremely interactive. You may find yourself as part of a comical moment, dance number or group toast. Almost anything can happen here, but that’s why you come to Vegas, right? (BTW, it’s traditional at drag shows to wave some tip money at the performers, so you might want to have some singles ready).

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Since this review originally appeared on another site, I’ve attended Drag Brunch on numerous weekends and consistently have a great time. It’s a great choice for bachelor/bachelorette parties, anniversaries and any special occasion. They even hosted my birthday party this year, as you can see below.

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If you want to return home with your own “Waking Up In Vegas” tale, this is the one that you want to tell. Senor Frog’s Drag Brunch is a smash hit. Bring your appetite, a camera…and a sense of adventure. But leave your stuffy, uptight friends behind.

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Senor Frog’s Drag Brunch is held every Saturday and Sunday at Treasure Island Hotel Casino. Seating times are 11:30am and 2pm. Ages 21 and over. Prices range from $10 entry-only cash bar to $79.95 VIP including open bar and photo with cast. Group rates available. Discount admission via Groupon starting at $45 via this link.

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This review previously appeared on another site. It has been updated with current information and photos.

Photos: Sammasseur, Toshia Marvin, Drag Brunch

Wishing You The Happiest Thanksgiving


Warmest wishes and gratitude for being a friend…and a reader….

I want to express my gratitude to each and every one of you who have followed me here from other sites…or found my writings on your own. As we come up on nearly a half-year of reviews, news and eye candy galore, the thrill of bringing you new and updated articles becomes more and more enjoyable.

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Have an excellent holiday season and please keep returning. Vegas Unfiltered will continue to grow, evolve and become more attractive in the coming weeks and months ahead. Just like you!

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Best wishes from Sammasseur…

 

Westgate’s Culinary Superstars: Chef Michael McNeilly of Fresco Italiano


Westgate’s unconventional Chef de Cuisine infuses every dish with his untamed spirit…

While Las Vegas continues to be a city of re-invention, some resorts in the Valley have been far more successful than others at maintaining their relevance. Westgate Las Vegas (previously the Las Vegas Hilton) continues to surprise with the levels of excellence it’s achieved in restoring the once-floundering property. It’s truly become Sin City’s most daring and innovative destination.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Since taking ownership in 2014, Westgate Resorts has set new standards for lodging, entertainment, gaming, service and fine dining. When launching this site, my very first article was a review of the outstanding Fresco Italiano. I’ve been back to Westgate many times in the ensuing months, enjoying the resort’s hospitality and amenities (you can read my recent review of their new spa here). 

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Now I’m excited to publish the first in a series on the creative and gifted people behind Westgate‘s food and beverage offerings. As I’ve said in the past, there are great reasons why expert chefs leave some of the highest-profile restaurants in the city to make Westgate their new home.

Along the way,  we’ll explore how Westgate has become the new center of elevated dining excellence. More importantly, I’ll sit down with the creative minds behind these amazing dishes and cocktails. The artists will share their backgrounds, the influences behind their unique creations…and the personal drive that makes them some of the best in their fields.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

And they’ll do all that it while serving me their favorite dishes. Bon Appétit!

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Chef Michael McNeilly of Fresco Italiano                   

Nobody can prepare Italian food like a genuine Italian. At least that’s what I was told when growing up in a little town brimming with Italian immigrants. So don’t let Chef Michael McNeilly‘s last name fool you…he is indeed of Italian descent. Just don’t confuse him for a small-town boy. If you forget, his tough-talking uncensored manner of speech will remind you.

Chef Michael and his three younger siblings grew up in the tough areas of New York City. They were partially raised by his grandmother, who taught him her style of Italian cooking…and the importance of food in our everyday lives.

Food is power. It controls your day. Everything you do is planned around when you eat, what you eat and where you eat.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

                          Michael (left) with father and little brother Johnny… 

As part of a hard-working blue-collar family, Chef Michael looked out for his siblings when not lending a hand at his father’s trucking firm. Delivering food and merchandise to businesses taught him early lessons in discipline. And no matter what went on before it, the family meal was always the best time of the day.

With Italians, the party starts in the kitchen. And it ends in the kitchen.

McNeilly admits that in his youth he was very prone to getting into trouble, some of it quite serious. His personal problems sometimes threatened to get the best of him. Developing an appreciation for cooking became a salvation of sorts.

Each corner in New York had something different….it was a melting pot of people and smells. The bakeries, restaurants and outdoor carts had every different kind of ethnic food you could imagine. I could travel around the world by walking through my neighborhood.

Chef Michael’s first professional foray into the culinary world came at age 14…as a garde manger (or pantry chef) for a French restaurant. He amusingly referred to himself as a “soda jerk” at Long Island’s Brown Osprey Restaurant. Watching the methodical operations of fine-tuned kitchens intrigued the young man and created a desire to learn more. Much more. So he absorbed everything he could from each mentor along the way.

Eventually Chef Michael realized he needed a change of location. A bad situation threatened to consume him if he didn’t seek a drastic change, so at 28 years old he headed for Texas and settled in Austin. That’s where his real adventure in culinary arts began.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Despite having no formal culinary degree, the Irish-Italian threw himself headlong into Austin’s dining scene. From Sous Chef at Roux to Chef at Mesa Ranch Bar and Grill, McNeilly learned the finer details on a wide array of food preparation. From “breaking down” large exotic fish to smoking and curing meats, nothing was too big or too challenging.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

“I can do that” was the mantra that got McNeilly into higher positions…and greater opportunities to create. He recounted an amusing story involving a particular job he desired:

I showed up with my chef coat and utensils, let myself into the kitchen and took a place in the line. I started filling orders and sending them out. Others were looking at me like “Who are you?”. So I introduced myself and kept on working…for hours. I did so well that when I was discovered by management, they offered me a job.

Not everyone has the guts and gumption to spontaneously create their own position at someone else’s business. But Chef Michael refuses to follow the rules. His unconventional approach still works for him in his current role:

Whenever I’m told “You can’t do that”, my answer is “Why not? If it makes sense and will improve performance, morale, efficiency and the bottom line, I’ll find a way to make something happen…and prove that I was right.

Life in Austin was a time of constant growth… both personally and professionally. It was there that he met his wife Kelsey, settled down and started a family. From his home kitchen to the grill at legendary Four Seasons, Chef Michael balanced his family time with creating new recipes (and entire menus) and managerial responsibilities of running a kitchen.

The business aspects (like controlling food and labor costs to operations in both front-of-house and back-of-house) were modeled after the lessons he’d learned from his father.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

By fall of 2012, the outspoken N.Y. badass with his signature baseball cap had become Executive Chef of Trattoria Lisinia, a highly-regarded restaurant on the Mandola Estate and Vineyard outside of Austin. McNeilly’s talent for charcuterie was a great fit for the Tuscany-styled eatery, where hand-made pastas and hand-stretched pizzas wrestled for attention with flame-grilled steaks.

Trattoria Lisinia‘s support of various youth organizations also struck a chord. Being appreciative of the opportunities he’d been given, Chef Michael began mentoring other young people that faced difficult situations (more on that in a bit).

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

      “Start them young” says Chef Michael McNeilly, pictured with his children… 

A role as Chef Partner for Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar became McNeilly’s final position in Austin before taking the next big step…to Las Vegas. Much like other noteworthy chefs in the Valley, he was drawn to the unique opportunities at Westgate.

There’s a certain “something” that attracts extremely talented people to the historic property. Culinary artists with successful runs at The Cromwell, Caesars PalaceMGM Grand, Cosmopolitan and Wynn have made this off-Strip resort their home. Chef McNeilly seems to know why:

My worst day here is better than my best day when I’ve worked elsewhere. They (Westgate’s administrative team) allow us to have creative freedom and take chances. I love my bosses because they let me be me.

After a lengthy conversation filled with “colorful” language and plenty of laughter, Chef Michael took me to his dining room to enjoy a wide array of spectacular dishes. As I dove in with fork and knife, he told me about some noteworthy experiences since coming to Westgate.

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Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Fresco Italiano opened two years ago. Chef Michael has been there from the beginning, hand-picking the ingredients, staff and every dish on the menu. It’s a culmination of all the training and exposure he’s had since being a boy. He’s now a familiar face on local talk shows, demonstrating what makes his offerings unique and delicious.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Early this year, McNeilly and several other chefs from Westgate had the privilege to participate in one of the nation’s most prestigious culinary honors – preparing a meal for the legendary James Beard Foundation. This not-for-profit culinary arts organization, created with the involvement of Julia Child, honors chefs who make America’s food culture more diverse, sustainable and delicious for everyone.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Westgate‘s landmark event at James Beard House was called Valentine’s Day with a Vegas Kiss. Seven experts from the resort’s culinary team traveled back to McNeilly’s old stomping grounds in NYC, along with 40 crates of food, dishes, utensils and equipment. They created an epic six-course dinner for over eighty guests, complimented by 132 bottles of wine that also traveled with Westgate’s team.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

The experience was immensely gratifying for Chef McNeilly. The son of a humble trucker had come full circle…and prepared the ultimate meal at the city’s most prestigious venue.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

    Looking over a memory book from the James Beard Foundation dinner….  

It’s in that spirit that he continues to foster the young people of Las Vegas. He’s taken several members of Fresco Italiano‘s staff under his wing, training them in various aspects of restaurant operations. And hopefully grooming them for a lifetime of success.

This is a tough world that we live in. I want to help hard-working young people the way that I was helped. To give them a chance. If they’re willing to put forth the effort, I’ll do whatever it takes to improve their lives. It’s my goal to leave people better than I found them.

Westgate Chef Michael McNeilly

Fresco Italiano is open for dinner from 5pm daily with lunch on select days. Call 702.532.5276 for more information or to make reservations.

Photos: Sammasseur, Michael McNeilly via Facebook/Instagram, Greg C.