On the road to Vegas!

Vegas has always held a special place in my heart.  My grandparents lived there for decades and would regale me with stories of their dates. They’d save up their money as best they could and every weekend go down to Sam’s Town and have a special night out.  They loved their date nights and continued that tradition for years, until my Grandmother’s cancer finally took those nights away. Their love of their little city lives on with each trip I take as I discover new haunts or revisit old favorites.

I’ve always gone to Vegas with friends but I hadn’t been for work, or even by myself, so when the opportunity to go for The Vegas Food Expo came up, I couldn’t say no!  To top it off I turned it into a long girls weekend with my best friend Jen.  She and I hadn’t been on a girls trip since before we both got pregnant…almost 5 years ago, so we were more than due. I had been hearing about tThe Vegas Food Expo. It was slated to be an exciting event, with small scale vendors sharing their lovingly curated foods to connect with businesses, distributors, and bloggers like myself. Amazing food and I was going to be able to learn about and support small businesses? I was in.

I booked my room at the SLS hotel where Jen and I would eventually eat one of the most amazing meals of our lives (check that post out here). The room was bright, with a light up bed and couch, and a mirror placed above the bed, which screamed fun and Las Vegas. It was over the top, and clearly not meant for a single traveler, but it was affordable and had great customer service, a fully stocked mini bar and multiple bars and restaurants downstairs.  While off the strip a little, it was quick to get around. The room was a little small, and I would have liked more separation than a sliding door to my bathroom, but it’s not like folks spend a lot of time in their rooms in a city like Vegas.

I flew out on a Wednesday, met up with my cousin to catch up and get settled. We grabbed a bite at Umami Burger to grab a beer in the sun. After dealing with Seattle’s solid rain for the past 6 months, I was ready to soak up as much of the sun as possible.  For the rest of the night I walked around the SLS to see what all was there, ending up at the Center Bar for a French 75 and some menu planning before a nice sashimi meal at Katsuya (also at the SLS), which didn’t disappoint. I started out with the truffle and lobster “Chawan-mushi” which was a creamy steamed custard, with a light truffle broth, with lobster on top. It was such a nice appetizer, and at $8, it wasn’t a bank breaker. I moved to the Omakase Sashimi which was beautifully presented-the scallop was tender, the blue fin tuna was buttery, and the Ikura was salty and fresh. At $55, it was a good amount of food,  but next time I will likely look at some of their Wagyu options, like the  Waygu Filet with Foie Gras, a beautiful option that the person seated next to me enjoyed. .Living in Seattle, it’s hard to beat our sushi. Wednesday night, I crashed out early, spending an hour or two watching cooking shows in a bed without a toddler-it was glorious!

The next day marked the start of the Vegas Food Expo and once I arrived I made my way through row after row of wonderful vendors, meeting confectioners, brewers, cider makers, and cured meat makers among so many other mom and pop shops. I loved the attention to detail and complete love each booth had for their product. I sat with the owner of Gluten Free Harvest, who talked about a real world need for small  batch, well tested GF projects – his son’s celiac disease diagnosis. I heard the heart behind so many brands, and why they ventured out to create their products. Most were born from identifying a need within their own lives and then seeing that others could benefit, they made the switch to getting their products into the hands of those who could enjoy them. I sipped wines from Barcelona, tasted honey from right outside Las Vegas, and nibbled on an amazing bone broth based beef stew that I found out I could get just up the street once I returned home!  It was lovely.

That night brought a Dune-level sandstorm which made for a hellish trip to an after party at the Lavo Casino Club at the Palazzo hotel and a 15 hour delay in Jen’s arrival.  Walking into the Lavo club, a fun bar and restaurant with multiple levels, I had great conversations, wonderful cocktails and delicious hand passed appetizers.  I would end up traipsing around with a few vendors I met at Lavo, having a wonderful second dinner of a beet salad with walnut, cara cara orange, ricotta salata and mint ($16) some of the most amazing garganelli with rabbit confit and hen of the woods mushrooms ($29) from B&B Ristorante (a Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich venture). I was even given a lesson on how to gamble-thank you Gordon!  Thinking that Jen was finally going to land, I headed back to my hotel…and waited…and waited some more.

Jen finally arrived…at 4 am, long after I had gone to bed after a series of failed flights, seat upgrades, and hotel check in issues, only to be woken up by me and a bottle of whiskey at noon. Poor gal was beat, but when in Vegas, you rally. We headed back to the Expo, meeting vendors and tasting some of the highlights from the previous day, mapping out what we were going to do before dinner.

That night, we would have the most amazing dinner at Bazaar Meat, then hit the strip for some people watching and adventure. We ended up at the Mirage in a failed attempt to find lions and dolphins at Jen’s request, and while I am still solidly convinced they didn’t exist, we did manage to find Starlight Tattoo. Whether it was the magic of Vegas, the full belly, or the few cocktails we had getting my first tattoo (and subsequent first freak out about said first tattoo) sounded like an amazing idea. We both created our designs-a bumblebee for me, and tiny mushrooms for Jen. All my fear had been for nothing-Tony Firmino, my amazing artist, walked me  through what would happen, what could hurt and how to relax (breathe) and 90 minutes later, just after midnight, my first tattoo was complete!  We ventured on with the intent of heading home when we found Toby Keith’s country bar. I happily drug Jen in to sing along to songs she sweetly tolerates for me, provided I picked up some of the tab. We would end up at one more club on the way home, dancing and chatting up strangers before hitting an wall of exhaustion and heading back to our quirky rooms for the night.

My last day was spent relaxing, and enjoying as much time as I could without any responsibility and lack of toddler feet in my back. We spent time at Umami Burger for last cocktails and snacks, before we hit the slots. I chose an Elvira themed slot, which ended up paying out $170 and with that we wrapped up our time with a hug and another shot before I hopped in a Lyft and headed to the airport.

I got home just after midnight, amazed at all the adventures I had, the memories I created and the food I had eaten and smiled happily at my sleeping baby girl who was so happy to snuggle me as she fell asleep in my arms.  I can’t think of a better way to have wrapped up that trip.

Here’s the recap in pictures!

What’s your favorite memory of Vegas?

Raina

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