Vegas, Hello

You may be thinking, “The girls made it across to Newfoundland!  All done!”  If you count them up, however, that only makes for ten provinces and two territories, and there have been three since 1999.   After our adventures around The Rock, we still had to get to our country’s northernmost region - Nunavut.  

But before that, just to throw you waaaaay off, we’re going to write about a place that could not be more different from Canada’s arctic lands.  A little place called *VEGAS.*

We just returned from the Saveur Best Food Blog Awards, and want to share the experience while it’s still as fresh in our minds as a poolside margarita. 

In fact, we did so much during our four days there, we’re dedicating three posts to the Nevada desert, which I hereby declare (with no statistical backing) to be The Hottest Place On Earth, and also The Most Air Conditioned.  It's home to a faux Eiffel Tower, a faux statue of David, a faux Statue of Liberty, and an ORIGINAL Statue of Liberty made entirely of shellacked Jelly Belly's.

The adventure began the second Lisa Medford, our driver from the airport, began talking.  We asked how long she’d been in Vegas, and discovered she’s actually the city's first semi-nude showgirl, beginning her career there in 1957.  She worked as a showgirl all over the city, including a stint with the Rat Pack, and has written a book about her life called “I Can Hear the Applause.” 

Now 76, Lisa works as a chauffeur, and says all kinds of fantastic things like “I’ve been at this for hours; I’m all out of lip gloss,” “This place looks like the inside of a giant condom….they really ought to put a big plastic horse in here or something” (her description of Las Vegas Airport’s Terminal #3), and “When I die, they can just prop me up and use me as a security guard.  You can work in this city forever.”  Needless to say, we loved her, and asked if we could take a photo with her before she left.  She replied “A selfie?  SURE!”  

Our first two days were spent at the Monte Carlo Resort

Before we even checked in, we headed to 800 Degrees Pizzeria to have lunch with my (new!) step-cousin Krista, an artistic director and producer who’s worked with Cirque du Soleil for years. 

Needless to say, she’s an incredibly talented woman, and was such a lovely and inspiring person to break bread with.  I wish she didn’t live so darn so far away.  

800 Degrees was originally founded in LA, with the goal of providing people with affordable, high-quality Neapolitan-style pizza. 

Their location at the Monte Carlo opened just a few weeks before we dined there, but their system is already smooth; diners pick from the basics (like Margherita, Pizza Bianco, and Pizza Verde), dough is rolled to order, extra toppings are chosen,

and finally the pies are slid into one of two beautiful Stefano Ferrara wood-burning ovens. 

The pizza was great, the burrata (made in California!) was killer, and both the truffle bread and meatballs were so darn tasty we went back the next day for more.  

Just across the way, at BLVD Creamery, we sat down to do an ice cream tasting. 

They make all their ice creams and sorbets in-house, and served us enough of each to feed about fourteen people.  We did our very best to eat an amount appropriate for two, but it was hard. 

Some of their flavours include mint chocolate chip, cherry, peanut butter and jelly, apple pie, passionfruit sorbet, coconut sorbet, and jalapeno watermelon sorbet, and the case is also filled with all kinds of beautiful, hand-dipped frozen treats.

Each day, they bake a variety of fresh cookies for ice cream sandwiches, and I’m only half joking when I say I’d head to Vegas specifically to combine their snickerdoodle cookie with the peanut butter and jelly ice cream in a sandwich.  It was ridiculous.  Just ridiculous.  

After lunch, we spent a few hours submerged in the Monte Carlo's pool, doing aqua-fit moves in an attempt to re-summon our appetites.  A few hours later, refreshed and donned in our fancy Vegas clothes, we headed to the Aria Resort for cocktails at Sage Restaurant and Bar.  

Located just off the Aria’s sprawling and decadent hotel lobby, Sage felt like a quiet refuge from the crowds. 

Head Bartender Craig Schoetller prepared six (!) cocktails for us to try, two of which involved fire.  We’re both THRILLED when cocktails require blowtorches, and have shattered many glasses during our own pyromanic drink-craft endeavours.  

We tried: The Daily John (pictured right), What's She's Having (my favourite, with Belvedere unfiltered vodka, Meyer lemon housemade shrub, soda, lemon wheel, and fresh cracked pepper), La Flamme (pictured left, please note burning mint leaf), Form of Flattery (Dana's favourite, with Ford's gin, house cucumber syrup, lemon juice, simple syrup, and rose water), Julep de Mure, and Smoke Missing Mirrors.

For the last one, a small oak board was doused solidly with flames, then a glass was placed upside down over the ensuing smoke. 

Once the cocktail was mixed (Paul Beau VS Cognac, Cocchi Torino Vermouth, Pineau des Charentes Vin de Liqueur, and house lavender bitters), the glass was turned upright, and the smoke and alcohol rolled over one another as the cocktail was poured in. 

The aroma lingered for a surprisingly long time, making it one of the most interesting and enjoyable cocktails we’ve had.  The dinner menu at Sage looked phenomenal, and we both agreed we’d love to come back for dinner the next time we’re in town. 

After drinks, we headed upstairs for a tasting menu dinner at Jean-Georges Steakhouse

Steakhouses are ubiquitous in Vegas, and Jean-Georges’ contribution to the scene is unsurprisingly refined.  Each dish on our tasting menu seemed to outdo the one prior.  We ate carpaccio with cheese fritters and truffles (my personal holy trinity); Hamachi tuna; a snap pea Caesar salad;

a gorgeous little half Meyer lemon rind filled with lemon gelee and topped with sustainable sturgeon caviar (hello delightful tie-in to New Brunswick!);

miso glazed sea bass; and filet mignon so good it actually silenced the two of us.  Us.

Dessert was Vahlrona chocolate mousse with mint ice cream and crunchy little chocolate pearls.  

So that was our (very full) first afternoon and evening.  Check back tomorrow for more adventures, and to see if we find anything that can possibly top an original Jelly Belly Statue of Liberty.  Thanks to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors' Authority for all their incredible help!


Dana, sleeping.

(To provide the soundtrack to our first Vegas experiences, who better than the original Canadian in Vegas herself?)

Pictures credits of Lisa Medford: (photo at left), and