The Sweet Side of Sin City

Las Vegas is famous for many things, and it often means something different for different people. Some see Vegas as the gambling mecca that it obviously is, while others see it as sprawling party playground where anything goes. Some visitors come for the golf, while still others come for the legendary stage shows and concerts. Eating Gelato

And then there are the ones who come for the food.

Las Vegas has claimed its spot as a culinary destination, and rightfully so. The hotels on the strip compete with each other and outdo themselves with decadent buffets and restaurants owned and run by the world’s top celebrity chefs. For foodies, this city has a little bit of everything that you could ever want to see on a plate.

And that includes dessert.

For those with a sweet tooth Las Vegas might just be the city of your dreams. From lavish dessert buffets to decadent ice cream shops and candy stores brimming with your favorite treats, Las Vegas offers a little something for the kid in all of us.

If you’ve had your fill of prime rib and cocktails, learn more about where you can go to get a glimpse into the sweet side of Sin City.

The Cream of the Crop

Since Las Vegas is an over-the-top city, it’s fitting that you can find over-the-top desserts in many of its most famous eateries. At Serendipity 3 at Caesars Palace you can try their Golden Opulence sundae, which consists of many of the things you’d expect in a sundae, as well as 23-karat gold. Yes, you’ll find edible gold leaf atop Tahitian vanilla ice cream, and gold-dusted edible sugar flowers. This treat will set you back a measly $1,000, but you also get to keep the gold spoon and the crystal goblet that it’s served in.

Serendipity 3 has many other desserts on offer that have topped the city’s “Best of” lists, including a frozen hot chocolate and a fried Oreo sundae that kids and adults will both love.

The Candy Shop

If you are a fan of candy stores and want to immerse yourself in the midst of chocolate sweets of all kinds, why not pay a visit to HERSHEY’S CHOCOLATE WORLD Las Vegas? With shelves piled high with all of your favorite HERSHEY’S products, as well as the ability to customize your candy bar labels, this shop is a candy lover’s dream come true. It’s also a great place to pick up gifts for those friends and family who weren’t lucky enough to make the trip.

For retro candy choices, try the B Sweet Candy Boutique, and pick up a Couture Pop at It’s Sugar as the perfect accessory for your outfit when you hit the clubs.

Vegas LightsI Scream, You Scream

Let’s face it. The temperatures can be on the warm side in Las Vegas, and what better way to beat the heat than with ice cream. You’ll find plenty of ice cream stores here, from simple places to grab a cone to those boasting truly gourmet flavors.

Lappert’s Ice Cream is famous for its smooth ice cream base and the natural ingredients used to flavor it. Think exotic guava, fresh coconut, and macadamia nut for a taste of Hawaii, and other fabulous flavors from around the world. They offer incredible coffee as well.

For a break from the traditional, try Luv-It Frozen Custard, which Las Vegas residents have consistently voted as the best in town for several years.

The Dessert Buffet

If you’re the type who eats dessert first, Las Vegas is your kind of town. If you’re the person who only eats dessert then you might as well move here. Dessert buffets abound here, and the world may never be the same.

Try the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace for cakes, pies, and cookies, as well as tasty mochi, creme brulee, and cinnamon rolls. The Buffet at Wynn keeps things elegant with cake pops and homemade gelato. However, the one that takes the literal cake is Studio B at M Resort. If you visit from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays and all day Saturday and Sunday you’ll be overwhelmed by the collection of every single dessert item from each of the buffet options.

And don’t worry, all of these buffets serve real food as well.

Las Vegas. Sin City or Sweet Spot? You be the judge.

Dishing it up Croatian Style

One of my favorite things about traveling is the food.  I LOVE trying new foods, spices and dishes from around the world, and I especially LOVE bringing new things into our kitchen.  That’s why when we were contacted to take part in the World On a Plate campaign with Expedia I was all too excited to find something delicious from the focus country – Croatia.

Sadly, Croatia has not made it onto our list of “been to” countries.  It is high on the list of places we still want to go, but despite the fact that it is a pretty huge tourist destination these days, we still haven’t found a way to get there!  While most people probably dream of it’s sapphire waters and seaside, I’m really more focused on exploring the Paklenica mountains and Plitvice Lake area further inland.   Alas those dreams are going to be set aside for the moment thanks to two very active toddlers and our ever growing family.

Until we have a chance to go, we brought a little of Croatia to our kitchen.  I present my masterpiece:

 

Rizot od sparoga or asparagus risotto

Asparagus Risotto Croatian

 

Always fearful of making risotto after living in Italy, I was a bit nervous to try out this new recipe. Risotto everyone had told me is hard to make right – if you overcook the rice it turns into mush, if you under cook it, well let’s just say an Italian grandmother somewhere will roll over in her grave.  Fortunately Croatian risotto isn’t as scary as it’s Italian cousin.  (Don’t ask me why, it is the same grain!) That’s right, it was surprisingly easy and turned into the the perfect use of some left over aspargus.  Oh, and it was pretty much toddler approved from the moment it landed on the plate.  In fact these little girls couldn’t eat enough.

Croatian Asparagus Risotto Toddler Approved

 

I found this easy to make and perfect for spring recipe online at: http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/asparagus-risotto-rizot-od-sparoga (Note the Australian measurements if you are US based before you attempt to make the dish.)

Only the adventurous eat swamp pizza…

Nearly a year ago I stumbled on an article about about Everglades Pizza in Ft. Myers, Florida. The pizza had all the best of the Everglades on it: snake, gator, swamp cabbage and frog’s legs. I promptly emailed a few friends about this and then began harassing them on Facebook about making the trip as a guys outing. One was tepidly interested, the foodie was sarcastically interested (which meant he wasn’t interested) and the rest shared varying levels of being grossed out. Those were my guy friends, quite the manly and adventurous bunch.

Last weekend Laura came to town. Somehow we started talking about Everglades Pizza, which we keep calling swamp pizza, and she was intrigued. Once we nixed a spontaneous day trip (Laura, unforgiving, didn’t think to bring her passport!) to the Bahamas, Laura suggested we drive across Florida to try the pizza. My guy friends have nothing on Laura.

IMGP2273

I went back to that old Facebook thread and email list to let my buddies know we were actually going to do it. The one who was tepidly interested in the past decided to come on for the ride, along with his family, and no others joined. We did alert Jillian’s parents, who live in the area, and they met us as well. I made it clear that everyone agreeing to try the pizza, it is $45 after all, needed to commit to eating at least one slice. In the end that meant that of our caravan of 7 adults and 3 toddlers, only 4 of us were going to make the try. Oh, and we planned to have the kiddos each try one new meat….we were expecting leftovers and those kids eat ANYTHING! Needless to say, I was relieved when we arrived and learned that our pizza was a medium with 6 slices rather than a large with 8 slices, far less food to eat.

IMGP2268

The pizza arrived, it clearly had frog’s legs on it but otherwise looked, more or less, like any other pizza. I dove in and found it delightful with just a hint of spice courtesy of one of the meats. The others did more or less the same but took the time to take apart their slices so that they could try each of the tastes.

IMGP2272

Rob, the guy friend who made the trek, was surprised at how flavorful the whole thing was when he was expecting it all to be gamey. He thought the gator was the best part and thought the python was chewy but still incredibly flavorful. Jillian’s dad, Jimmie, agreed with Rob on the python and compared it to Rabbit. He also felt the Alligator was spiced just right. Unlike Rob though, he really enjoyed the ‘swamp cabbage’ which was hearts of palm. Neither seemed too entranced or offended by the frog.

Laura pointed out, and I have to agree, that it was a bit annoying to have actual bone (from the frog) on the pizza, which we all had to pick off. She had actual been quite nervous and non-committal toward eating the entire slice but loved it all and the frog best, pointing out the frog had a nice, crispy skin. If anything, she was disappointed that the gator reminded her of chicken.

IMGP2270

As for me, I just ate the whole thing and didn’t look back. Had the frog not had a bone and you told me it was a meat-lover’s pizza I might not have known the difference.

We ordered three pizzas and some other food and the Everglades pizza was the first item finished. We all had our initial one slice and we dived up the leftovers as equitably as possible. The next day, no stomach ailments were reported.

 

Interested in trying it yourself?  Head to Evan’s Neighborhood Pizzeria in Fort Myers, FL.  Call ahead if you want the Everglade’s Pizza – it takes an hour to make.

Turn my hair PINK and PURPLE for my 70.3 Triathlon

Working towards taking items off a bucket list is a pretty awesome feeling.  Being able to cross item #1 off that list is even better.

On October 26th, that’s this coming Sunday, I am going to compete in the Miami Half Ironman 70.3 race.  This is 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of cycling and then a half marathon.  In total 70.3 miles.  I’ve been training hard for about four months now.  Getting up when it is still dark in the morning to swim, bike and run my to work each day to hopefully make it to the office by 9am.  My weeks have consisted of anywhere from 10 to 20 hours of exercise.  I’ve lost weight, purchased a fancy bike, eaten gobs of food and [luckily] managed to avoid major injury.  The worst part, Florida’s summer sun and time away from my family.

With the race so close though, some friends have asked me if I’m racing to support any charities.  Until yesterday, I had not set anything up but…..that was yesterday.

In the past, I have done an occasional race in support of the RSDSA in memory of my sister, Rachel.  The problem with this is that this charity is more a memory of Rachel’s death rather than her life.  In life my sister was interested in three things: helping people, helping animals and doing things with glitter glue.  (I’m sure there was something else but those three are pretty encapsulating.)

Specifically, I remember my sister in her younger years collecting wildlife card files, books she would fill with information about wild and endangered animals.  In her ‘later’ years she and I spent a lot of time working with what was then called the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). The mission was to stop racism and hatred of all types.  Unfortunately, NCCJ has not survived the test of time but the Miami Chapter lives on as the MCCJ.  Most important to the sparkling memory of Rachel’s life was her constant obsession of decorating everything with glitter glue.

For each of the first two items, I’ve decided to create fund-raising pages with The MCCJ and The Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN). Their connection to my sister should be obvious to all who knew her.  To memorialize the glitter glue is a bit more difficult so instead of donating do the American Association of Glitter Glue Enthusiasts (gosh, I hope that’s not a real organization) I will instead place one centimeter of glitter glue on my helmet for each $50 donated to the above charities.  And to make sure it is clear I’m memorializing my sister, I’ll use purple glitter glue for donations to MCCJ and pink for donations to WCN.  (If you’re curious, the helmet is black.)

There is one other item about my sister that is relevant.  This Friday, October 24th, would have been her 30th birthday.  So, with only a few days to go we’ll set the fund-raising target at $3,000.  It’s a stretch, I know, but as an incentive if $1,500 or more is raised for MCCJ, I’ll dye my hair purple.  If $1,500 or more is raised for WCN, I’ll die my  hair pink.  If we meet both goals, I’ll be running the triathlon as the Miami Beach version of the villain Two-Face from the Batman comics.

The race is THIS Sunday, October 26th.  I’m not going to do this again.  Click the fund-raising links (MCCJ | WCN), share this post on facebook, and help give my race outfit some serious style points!

Rachel as a bunny!
Rachel as a bunny!

That time I finished a race in first place…and didn’t realize it!

Checking items off a bucket list is always a lot of fun.  Checking an item off and not even realizing can be even more rewarding.

In early 2013 I challenged a couple of friends to walk with me from Washington, DC all the way to Harper’s Ferry, WV.  We did it, unfortunately that item wasn’t on our bucket list.  Several months later, one of those friends challenged the group to another silly idea, competing in a really long triathlon.

We all took the bait.

This past August, six friends and a pair of one year old twins descended on Penn Yan, New York for the Peasantman Triathlon.  The friend who challenged the group to the event was planning on competing in the Steel Distance Triathlon, effectively a half iron man.  His girlfriend and I signed up for the Olympic Steel Triathlon, while Jillian and the other pair of athletes took care of the Half Steel Relay.  We focused on keeping the race low-key and fun.

We all finished our triathlons, some of us in first place.
We all finished our triathlons, some of us in first place.

Fast forward to the end of the race… when the two of us who ran the Olympic distance triathlon got the surprise of our athletic careers…we were first place in our respective divisions.  Despite coming in the bottom half of the overall race field, we cleared the first place position in our divisions and, that means item #46 on the bucket list has been achieved.  I came in first place in a race, it doesn’t matter that I was the only one in my division, my certificate says 1st and so… item #46 has been officially checked off the list!

Just don't ask how many people I had to leave in my dust....
Just don’t ask how many people I had to leave in my dust….

The only problem is that in training for that Olympic distance triathlon (which I WON!), I somehow managed to sign up for a half Ironman race, something I like to call the “Aluminium Man”.  The reason I signed up is that completing the aluminium man (70.3 miles total) happens to have been the first item on the bucket list.  Wonder if I’ll come in first again….