Las Vegas: Four Life Lessons

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Somehow I managed to get through my entire twenties without going to Las Vegas. Of course in my youthful arrogance I didn’t see the point of rushing away to the desert to throw my money away. Never the gambling type I swore to spend my time attending shows and feasting on the local culinary fare if I ever went. But here in lies the problem with the last sentence…Never is a powerful and generally useless word. This brings us to lesson number 1:

1. Never Say Never

Never the gambling type I say – but Never will end you up at a craps table for 6 hours giving high-fives to your new best friend while throwing out lingo like you’re an old veteran. “There’s something in the air they pump into the casinos” people say, but I say there’s something about free drinks and the roll of a dice.

Lesson learned – I have completely eaten my own words. Over a brief 3 day span I grew quite fond of the desert air and local games, but one thing I won’t become too fond of is my instant love for Craps. No weekend drives to Louisiana here – I need to spend all that money on more important things…like good wine, more fun adventures, and amazing food!

2. Caesar Doesn’t Live Here

One thing will never change, my amusement for the simple things in life. At the beginning of the trip we spent most of our time at Harrah’s. What’s not to like, cheap tables, karaoke, and the hustle and bustle of loud party goers gambling all their money away. Once we were finished with the smokey haze of the casino we headed down the strip to the illustrious Caesars Palace.

One too many Hangover jokes later and a lengthily stroll through the extravagant digs, Caesars quickly became one of our favorite hangouts. We didn’t do much gambling – just a lot of noshing on some of the amazing cuisine.

First Stop: Walking around in the heat gave us a huge craving for something cool and refreshing. Lucky for us a quaint little stand next to the main bar outside made the best Mojito I’ve ever had. Another perk to Vegas – walking around with a nice, big, alcoholic drink to beat the summer heat.

A Sweet Treat: Payard Patisserie & Bistro for some delicious truffles and macarons. In my opinion nothing compares to the Parisian classic, Ladurée, but Payard definitely is a close runner-up. The staff was amazing, letting us sample a few treats to make up our minds, and the atmosphere was perfect for people watching.

The Highlight: Bobby Flay is one of my favorite chefs. I’m quite the southwestern cuisine fanatic so Mesa Grill was an obvious choice for our splurge meal of the trip. For more on this lets move on to Life Lesson Number 3.

3. Bobby Flay Could Make me Eat Anything

Tucked amongst the noise of the slot machines and haze of the jumbo screens is Bobby Flay’s Vegas nod to southwestern cuisine, Mesa Grill. Small and intimate, this colorful restaurant backs a punch that only Bobby Flay could create. Perfectly spiced pork tenderloin and sweet and savory tamales had my mouth watering with every bite. The menu:

[Pics in the Gallery above]

Drink of Choice: Of course I can’t remember what it was called but it was a Peach Margarita that was to die for!!

Appetizers (including an amazing assortment of breads and muffins):

  • ROUGH CUT TUNA “NACHOS” with Mango,  Habanero Hot Sauce, and Avocado Crema
  • TIGER SHRIMP and ROASTED GARLIC CORN TAMALE with Corn – Cilantro Sauce

Entrees:

  • NEW MEXICAN SPICE RUBBED PORK TENDERLOIN with a Bourbon – Ancho Chile Sauce and Sweet Potato Tamale with Crushed Pecan Butter (for me)
  • GRILLED LAMB PORTERHOUSE CHOPS with Preserved Serrano Chile Vinegar Sauce and a Chorizo – Goat Cheese Tamale with Thyme Butter (my friend)

Unfortunately we didn’t leave any room for dessert but my stomach didn’t need anything else to mask the amazingness from my succulent and spicy Pork Tenderloin!! Everything about Mesa Grill was, well, amazing!

4. Everything Looks Better at Night

The last full day we stepped away from the casino and took in the sites of the Las Vegas Strip. It really is a breathtaking scene. With a little bit of Paris, New York, and dancing fountains, my camera and I fell in love with Sin City. My favorite casino for luxury was definitely the Bellagio with the high-end shops and plush casino. For the young and hip I would definitely say the Cosmopolitan with the fun decor and, supposedly, hottest night-club on the strip. I wouldn’t know of course since my nights were taken by the craps table. 🙂

It was a blast walking the strip during the day but nothing was better then taking in the sites at night. Other then NYC I’ve never been to a city that comes alive like Vegas does at night. The lights, the people – I could have walked around for hours if my feet weren’t already revolting against me.

Overall I had an amazing first trip to Vegas. Next time I go back I’m going to relax a bit more, take in some of the scenery at the pools and hit up some of the shows. Until then I’m going to keep my new found love of gaming at bay and recharge my liver.

Until next time Vegas!

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Snackin’ with Sarah Sellers: Guacamole Salad

You know that moment when you see yourself about to do something that not only you’ll regret, but it’s like you see yourself in slow motion, doing it, yet you do nothing to stop it. It was like I was having an out of body experience when I decided to not just sprinkle, but DUMP chile powder and cumin all over my beautiful green guacamole. As soon as I did it my heart stopped as I watched it turn from a beautiful shade of green to putrid brown. FAIL!

Don’t worry, I didn’t make that mistake while writing this recipe. You can sprinkle in the small amount of spices into your guac with confidence that you will not defile it like I did. Of course I still ate it, and it was quite good, but it was like having a bite of guac with a pound of spices. I will definitely NOT be making that mistake again.

Moving on…

This week I’m cooking up recipes from my culinary inspirations in honor of the top 9 American Idol contestants singing songs from their idols. All year long I’ve been providing tasty (catastrophe aside you can eat this with confidence) treats for Lyndsey Parker and her Reality Rocks blog. Last night i took some inspiration from Mario Batali with my Lasagna Cups with Spicy Ground Turkey. Tonight, I’m taking a cue from my ultimate culinary Idol, Bobby Flay.

Bobby Flay just speaks my language. Peppers – check! Spices – check! Southwest cuisine – my fuel! So for this recipe it was a no brainer. My favorite snack besides chips and salsa combined with some sauteed peppers and crispy romaine. Damn I’m hungry again.

Check out tonight’s feature on Reality Rocks HERE!

Happy Eating!

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Chowder! Manhattan Style

Ever since our trip to Boston, back in December, Matt and I have been on a Chowder kick! Whether it be stock full of clams or a basic corn chowder, there’s something so comforting about that creamy bowl of goodness. The beauty of chowder is that it doesn’t have to be made with cream, and I recently made the best Manhattan Style Chowder I have ever had!

I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise that I’m addicted to Food Network. If ESPN isn’t on the tube, it is most definitely set on the food channel. Being from the south I feel the most connected to Bobby Flay’s food. His take on southern cuisine is pure heaven to my taste buds.

A recent episode of Throwdown had him challenging a Brooklyn native and his Manhattan Fish Chowder. Matt, being the lover of chowder that he is, fell in love with the recipe Bobby Flay created and insisted I make it for his birthday. He had never had a tomato based chowder before and wanted to compare it to the creamy favorite. The only problem was, the recipe isn’t posted anywhere online. Continue reading

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