Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Weekend at Mohegan Sun, Part I

Mohegan Sun is visually stunning, from the Chihuly sculpture to the giant wall of water to the tiniest details, like the beautiful tiling in the bathrooms. All this eye candy somewhat makes up for the depression I expected to feel gazing at row after row of people pouring money into machines when it's clear the house always comes out ahead. While I've barely explored other casinos, this one struck me as more Disney-like than most, a glittering, kid-friendly playground meets shopping mall meets giant arcade. As such, it left me with a vague sense of unease; it's clearly the kind of place you go to willingly throw money away on un-winnable games and expensive stuff you don't need. Not really my thing, but I can see how some people would enjoy it.

I spent this past weekend exploring Mohegan Sun and overeating at the Sun BBQ Fest, thanks to an invitation to cover the event here on the blog. Joel got to come along, too, so although neither of us gamble and we both shy away from fancy-shmancy shopping plazas, we do love barbecue, and we both needed a couple days away from real life. I'll spread the recap out over three posts so as not to overload you with photos of meat, meat, and more meat. Full disclosure: Mohegan Sun provided us with a free hotel room (two nights) and free tickets to the BBQ fest ($30 value, per person, per day); the tickets included a food allowance that covered everything we ate at the fest, as well as a bunch of bottles of hot sauce that we brought home. We covered other costs on our own (gas and tolls to and from Boston, meals outside of the fest, and tickets to an MMA fight). (Yes, an MMA fight! More on that in Part II!)

We weren't able to leave Boston until rush hour on Friday, but aside from some traffic early on, we made good time and were able to grab our first taste of the BBQ fest before checking into the hotel. There were six major food vendors lining one side of the parking lot, and after a quick scan, we decided to start with Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Big Boned BBQ Co. ("We're not fat, we're big boned!"), drawn partially by the name, partially by the menu, and partially by the fact that we know someone from Chattanooga. Joel went all-out with a sampler platter, while I opted for pulled pork and a side of mac and cheese. (Sadly nearly every other booth only had sides of beans and slaw, neither of which I like, so I was thrilled to have mac and cheese and a taste of Joel's cornbread.)

(Spoiler alert!) While we might be a bit biased towards this first meal because it came after a stressful day and a long drive, this ended up being our favorite overall vendor. While other vendors had the best brisket but bad sauce or other combinations of awesome and not-so-good, this one was solidly enjoyable on all fronts. According to Joel, the ribs were fantastic, outweighed only by the very last ribs he tried on Sunday (more in Part III!) This was also the best spicy barbecue sauce. When we had extra food tickets on the final day, we went on a sauce-buying spree, but unfortunately they were already sold out of that sauce. Instead, we took home the medium and the honey barbecue. I'll let you know how those turn out.

After eating our fill and browsing the other vendors, we headed back to the car to check in at the hotel; we weren't sure how far away it was from the parking lot where the fest was taking place. Driving around Mohegan Sun can get quite confusing, despite lots of signage, and we ended up stuck in the valet area when we really just wanted to self-park; we both feel kind of weird about valet parking. The valet grudgingly agreed to not park the car while we went inside to check in, and when we came back out and finally found the proper place to park, it turned out that it was right back next to the BBQ fest. We then had to walk quite a long way through the crowded casino to get to our room.

Exhausted and quickly entering full-on meat coma mode, we put our bags in the room (which was quite nice), went back downstairs to wander around a bit, and then rested up for a weekend of even more BBQ.

Coming up tomorrow, part II - in which we try out one of the hotel restaurants, take an epic nap, eat even more BBQ, and go to a set of MMA fights.

But one more photo for the road, for those of you who love Chihuly as much as I do. Here's a close-up of the sculpture:

The coolest thing about it is that it is located at the base of a series of ponds in the lobby that lead into a small waterfall between the escalators going from the lobby to the center of the shopping area, so it looks like the spray at the base of the falls.

Want more Chihuly? Here's a collection of photos I took at the Museum of Fine Arts Chihuly exhibit in May 2011:

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