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Aside from being asked how did I become a internationally renowned food critic, the most common question I hear is: where should I take that special someone for a special occasion? Now I generally agree with Dave Barry that anyone over the age of eleven shouldn't make a big deal over their birthday. But I had one recently (geez they seem to come with increasing frequency), and Miss A. set up what I'll call the ultimate Vegas progressive gourmet dinner. All it takes is some stamina, a willingness to move around, and a significant other who doesn't mind busting their credit card limit, for you to taste the finer things in life.

Begin with an aperitif at Aureole. Put yourself in the hands of soon- to- be- Master Sommelier Jaimie Smith, and he will steer you to a glass or two of off-beat white wines that go deliciously with a small plate of house cured sausages with macerated cherries that are addictively good. Sip away, watch the wine angels soar, and start thinking shellfishly.....hey it's your birthday after all.

From there, it's a short hop to the MGM. Bane of all locals. Home of the park and hike from hell. But put those annoyances aside, because all will be forgiven once you sidle up to the bar at SeaBlue and peruse the oyster menu over a glass of fino sherry or Sancerre. There you will see mounds of shaved ice piled with malpeques, kummamotos, quilicines, and wellfleets that beckon and beg to be opened. For some reason, oysters all seem plumper and fresher this year than any in recent memory, and SeaBlue gets some of the best in town. After polishing off two dozen or so--all served with some lethal horseradish and a cucumber infused mignonette sauce, you're finally ready for some meat. And what better place than craftsteak, only a short stroll away, for a heavenly hangar steak, bathed in béarnaise.

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By now you're resolve is starting to weaken, the belly is full and the spirit lagging. You're daydreaming of loosening the belt, kicking off the shoes and sinking into your couch for the Daily Show, when she says the magic words: 'Le Cirque for dessert'. And for once, that long tacky walk through the MGM's bank of slots doesn't seem so bad, and revives your appetite to boot. So into the Bellagio you go, up to the classiest bar around for some crème brulee and a molten chocolate cake-the ultimate yin and yang of sinful sweets.

That's it. No cakes, no parties, no candles..... just the best food money can buy shared with someone you love. It doesn't get any better than that.

This is John Curtas

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