LAS VEGAS: 6 Sugar Shops & Bakeries

smore cupcake closeWhile bars are a dime a dozen, those wanting a non-alcoholic treat have to search a little harder to find satisfaction. Whether you want a cronut, éclair, decadant chocolate or old-fashioned apple pie, we think you should try one of the following Sin City establishments and score some “sweet” treats.

Sweet Ruby Jane Confections
Named after Grandma Ruby, this candy store offers “handcrafted candy with a retro flair.” That includes brittles and barks, cookies and clusters, popcorn and pretzels, you name it, they make it. Try one of their popular cookie pops, s’mores, or cinnamon caramels. You will not be disappointed. 9550 S. Eastern Avenue, Las Vegas

Gimme Some Sugar Bake Shoppe
Kristen LoVullo and Ashley Mastowski started making elaborately designed cakes for special events and have now opened their own shop. The décor features their whimsical and sophisticated themed cakes along the walls, while the bakery cases spotlight their artful  macarons, mini-cakes, pastries and cookies.  Try their Dirt & Worms (chocolate mousse, Oreo cookies, whipped cream and gummy worm), the decadent Opera Cake (Kahlua-soaked jaconde filled with coffee buttercream and covered in dark chocolate ganache) or their maple-bacon macaron. Mmmmmmm. 19 S. Stephanie Street, Henderson

Bambu Desserts & Drinks
Located over in Chinatown, Bambu Desserts & Drinks has almost 100 offerings, most of which include unusual Asian ingredients (lychee, longan, lotus, pandan jelly, taro). These exotic treats all come in a cup, whether it is a grass jelly or tapioca-based desserts or one of their milk teas, smoothies, or traditional hot drinks. This is a great place to try something new and be a bit more adventurous. (You are in Las Vegas, after all.) 4810 Spring Mountain Road, Suite B, Las Vegas

Sugar Factory
There Sugar Factory operates two restaurants as well as 4 stand-alone stores in Las Vegas. The Paris Las Vegas Hotel contains a full-serve brasserie, Sugar Café and Chocolate Lounge (open 24 hours/day) and there is a 7,000 square-foot brasserie at Town Square. Both offer their cool line of signature cocktails (Cotton Candy Cosmo, Blow Pop Martini, Cherrie Tootsie Pop to name a few), an extensive menu (with a lot of comfort food), as well as yummy desserts and fondues. For desserts only, you can find their stand-alone stores at the Paris, MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood and The Mirage. They have a full line of candies, cupcakes, desserts and are most well known for their couture pops (your girl will flip for the Britney Spears jeweled lolly pop) and Hello Kitty line of sweet treats.  Town Square: 6605 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Suite 145, Las Vegas/Paris Las Vegas Hotel: 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas

Sprinkles
This Southern California company is setting up shop inside The Linq complex mid-strip and scheduled to open—fingers crossed—in February. In this new prototype store, you’ll not only find an assortment of their 50 types of cupcakes (love those salted caramel cupcakes!) and rich and creamy ice cream flavors, but a new line of gourmet cookies as well. As a bonus, they will be installing a cupcake ATM. Yep, a vending machine that dispenses fresh cupcakes, baked that day in-store. (See video here.) And for those of you out for a stroll with Fido, you can purchase doggie cupcakes, too! The Linq, 3475 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas

Kuma Snow Cream
Opened late last spring over in Chinatown, this dessert palace was created by Jet Tila (formerly of Wazuzu at Encore). Snow cream is a cross between shaved ice and ice cream, featuring only a quarter of the fat found in a typical scoop. Kuma offers 5 base flavors to start (currently kuma snow, mango, strawberry, taro and green tea), to which you can add from a selection of 24 dry or 5 liquid toppings. And to stay true to its Sin City location, Tila may eventually add an alcohol component to these sweet treats. 3735 Spring Mountain, Las Vegas

And don’t forget, Cake Boss Buddy Valastro will be opening a Carlo’s Bake Shop in the Venetian in early 2014. The 2,200 square-foot space will serve up his famous cannolis, biscotti, and Italian sponge cakes, as well as the elaborately decorated cakes he is famous for.

LAS VEGAS: Mother’s Day Weekend at Vegas Uncork’d

New-Years-Eve_uncorkedWant to treat your mother (or your children’s mother) to a tasty getaway? Head to Vegas May 8-11th for the annual Vegas Uncork’d celebration and enjoy wine and food from some of the best vintners and chefs.

This year’s Vegas Uncork’d, sponsored by Bon Appetit magazine, takes place at various locations on the Strip. You have your choice of 23 events held at Aria, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, MGM Grand and the Venetian with celebrity chefs Joel Robuchon, Guy Savoy, Nobu Matsuhisa, Francois Payard, Bobby Flay and others tantalizing your tongue with delectable delights.

One of the big draws is the Master Series dinners, with a focus on a particular type of food. There are five of these, all being held on Thursday May 8th at Caesars Palace. They include Dinnertime Decadence with Guy Savoy, French Elegance with Francois Payard, Rao’s Italian Feast with the Pellegrino Family, The Great American Steakhouse at the Old Homestead, and Global Gourmand with Nobu Matsuhisa. Prices range from $175 to $315 per person.

Want something a bit less structure or alcohol-centered? No problem. There is a Mix Master showcase at the Lobby Bar at Aria, where you can watch master bartenders whip up some wicked cocktails, and then you get to step in and compete to create a drink to be featured on their menu. Price $100. (Friday May 9th, 1 pm) There is also The Perfect Pairing: Art and Wine at Picasso at the Bellagio, where you will be able to go wine tasting amongst the famous works of art. $80 per person. (Friday May 9th, 2:30 – 4 pm). Or maybe you’d like to go to Sommalier Feud: Guys vs Gals, where the action is based on the TV game show Family Feud, in which you will be in on the action providing the “survey says” answers and enjoying passed cocktails, appetizers, and a blind tasting of a mystery wine along with the contestants. $85 per person. (Saturday May 10th, 2:30-4 pm)

Another fun experience will be the Night Market and Grill Challenge at the Doge’s Palace in the Venetian. You will get to experience the taste treats of an Asian night market and then watch as studens of Las Vegas’ Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts pair up with famous chefs in a culinary showdown that will reward them with tuition money. (Thursday May 8th, 8-11 pm)

The crème de la crème of Vegas Uncork’d just might be the When in France: Joel Robuchon Dinner. Described as a “one-of-a-kind, six-course menu and wine pairing hosted by Chef Joël Robuchon and the restaurant’s Master Sommeliers,” you will not only enjoy great food by one of the world’s leading chefs, but will take home signed menus, Joël Robuchon’s book, and some special treats, all for the price of $775/person. (Saturday May 10th, 6-10pm)

A full listing of all events can be found here.

Vegas Uncork’d
When:
May 8 – 11th
Where:
Various Strip hotels
Cost: 
Varies, tickets available here

LAS VEGAS: Family Adventure Awaits at Cowabunga Bay

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Keeping the kids entertained in Las Vegas just got a whole lot easier with the announcement that the ‘60s-themed Cowabunga Bay will soon be open in nearby Henderson. Cowabunga Bay is a 23-acre water park that offers a variety of water slides, massive sand beach (with cabana rentals), endless lazy river, 33,000-foot wave pool, as well as food, drinks, and children’s play area.

Visitors can drop down a 73-foot enclosed tube that circles its way to the bottom and dumps riders through a trap door into a pool of water or take a raft down a 55-foot slide into the world’s largest man-made wave. If you are at all competitive, try the Surfin USA slide where your skills will be tested against 5 other riders as you make your way to the finish. Not adventurous? No problem. You can splash in the wave pool, cruise the Cowabunga River on an inner tube or float around one of the many pools. There is something for kids of all ages, so get on over there and check out the water!

Cowabunga Bay
Where: 900 Galleria Drive, Henderson (off the 515)
When: May 24, 2014 through Labor Day, weekends in September
Cost: General admission $35.99, under 4 feet $27.99, 3-hour evening rates $19.99 (includes free inner tubes and life jackets)

Las Vegas: Professional Bull Riders Last Man Standing Tournament

Bull_Tamer

Time to dust off those cowboy boots and make plans for the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Last Man Standing competition. Coming to the Mandalay Bay Events Center on May 9th and 10th, this signature event pits man against beast for $200,000 in prize money. Each of 35 of the best PBR riders will get 8 seconds to ride and prove his mettle in a progressive-elimination tournament format. Riders who last those 8 seconds move on to the next round until a winner is crowned.

This ever-popular event draws big crowds to see the world’s toughest cowboys ride some of the meanest bulls in the nation. Professional bull riding is considered to be one of the fastest growing sports in the world, but it is also the most dangerous. Tickets are almost sold out for day 1 of this competition, so if you are interested in going, you’ll need to jump on those tickets soon.

Professional Bull Riders Last Man Standing
Where
: Mandalay Bay Events Center
When: May 9th (8pm) and May 10th (6pm)
Cost: $20/$40/$60/$80/$125
Tickets: Call (800) 745-3000 or via Tickemaster

LAS VEGAS: March Madness Events

 	Rob Holland (flickr user bobbyuggles)Basketball fans always find adventure in Vegas during March Madness. Spanning from March 18th (first round play) until April 7th (championship game), you can do a lot more than watch college hoops on a gigantic screen while knocking back a cold one with your buddies. Here are a few of the more “special” events taking place:

Carmine’s, The Forum Shops, Caesars
Carmine’s, located inside Caesars Forum Shops, is offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity during the second and third rounds of March Madness. Turning one of their private dining rooms into the “ultimate man cave” for your group of 25, you can relax all day in recliners, watch all the games on big screens, play video games, beer pong, eat some kick-ass Italian food (including their famous 45-ounce Porterhouse) and enjoy an open bar (yep, unlimited brewskis and anything else your heart desires). If the games leave you tense, a massage therapist is available or maybe you’d like to partake in the free throw contest and win $1,000? After the games are over, the Hangover Heaven Bus will give you a tune-up to put you in shape to finish your evening with a VIP experience at PURE Nightclub. The cost to book one of the 8 available days is $50,000, which may sound excessive, but for a group of 25 that shakes out to be $2,000/person for an all-day and all-night extravaganza that you will brag about for years. Reservations can be made by calling 702.473.9700.

Hoops & Hops, The Chelsea, The Cosmopolitan
The Cosmopolitan if offering a more reasonably priced MM package at The Chelsea. The event, dubbed “Hoops and Hops,” will offer an exclusive sports lounge setting where you can watch the action, take advantage of multiple betting stations, access to a basketball court, video and arcade games, as well as pool tables. Running from March 20-22nd, there are four package options to choose from.
Main: open seating and 2 free drinks ($45/day or $112.50 for 3-day pass)
Gallery: Prime viewing assigned seating, select open bar and free snacks ($150/$275)
Floor Sofa: Prime viewing assigned seating for groups of 2-10, plus 2 free drinks (call for prices)
Gallery Box: Prime viewing assigned seating for groups of 10-16, select open bar and free snacks (call for prices)
Main and Gallery tickets available here. Group tickets available by calling 702.698.7120.

Rhumbar, The Mirage
Eat and drink to your heart’s content at Rhumbar at The Mirage. From March 20-23, you can watch all the action while chowing down on an all-you-can-eat buffet and enjoying an open bar. Taking place from March 20-23rd, you can buy a one-day pass for $100 or splurge on a 4-day pass for a mere $250. Packages are available by calling 702.735.8322.

For those of you preferring to watch basketball courtside, consider heading to Las Vegas during conference tournament play, March 6-15th. Here is the schedule:
West Coast Conference tournament – The Orleans Arena March 6-11.
Pac 12 Conference tournament – MGM Grand March 12-15.
Mountain West Conference tournament – Thomas & Mack Center March 12-15.
Western Athletic Conference tournament – The Orleans Arena March 13-15.

LAS VEGAS: French Master Chefs Coming to the Venetian

© Wolfgang StaudtAlways wanted to hobnob with the best chefs in France? Well, you can do just that without even leaving the United States, The Association of Maitres Cuisiners de France will be holding their annual general assembly in Las Vegas in early March, bringing to town 150 of the world’s best master chefs.

The Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino will play host to this event, which will run March 5th to 9th. This elite culinary group is making history by holding the event outside Europe for the first time, largely due to the efforts of Palazzo executive chef Olivier Dubreull, who is a member and lobbied for his adopted home to host the event.

The Association of Maîtres Cuisiniers de France serves to preserve and spread the French culinary arts, encourage training in cuisine and assist in professional development. Members advance and perpetuate the tradition of great French cuisine and actively promote French products of top quality, such as the Red Labels and “Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée” or European signs of quality, such as the IGP, AOP and STG. In addition, they are involved in culinary education in Europe and employ nearly 10,000 qualified iindividuals.

While most of the events are by invitation only, the public is invited to a special open house event: the Master Tour de France. Twelve chefs, as well as twelve wineries and spirit makers, will be showcasing their specialties from the various regions in France. For a mere $50, you can sample food from some of the best the culinary world has to offer, and you wash it all down with some lovely French wine.

Note: There is an age restriction. All attendees must be over the age of 21.

Master Tour de France: 12 Chefs/12 Wineries
Where:  Doge’s Palace, The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino
When: March 8th, 6-10 pm
Cost: $50 (tickets available here)

LAS VEGAS: The Golden Gate and D Las Vegas Now Accepting Bitcoin

bitcoins1The newest craze in Las Vegas is the bitcoin. While you cannot yet gamble with this internet-based currency, you can pay for your hotel stay at two Sin City establishments. Both the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino and the D Las Vegas Casino Hotel, located downtown, have added Bitcoin to its approved methods of payment. Five locations around the casinos will accept bitcoin payment: the front desks, the gift shop at the D, and restaurants Andiamo Steakhouse and American Coney Island.

Bitcoin is a growing international monetary system utilizing digital currency to pay for goods and services. Using a virtual wallet and encrypted software, bitcoins can be spent worldwide and transactions appear in a matter of minutes, with no regular delays like a traditional bank. Gaining popularity, there are concerns about the lack of consumer protection and bitcoin use for illegal activity but the lower fees charged for their use is below that of a credit card or currency conversion fee, making it a win for merchants.

Given that Bitcoin just held an international conference in Las Vegas in December, it’s no surprise that merchants are jumping on this bandwagon. It’s the kind of currency that lures e-geeks and forward-thinking entrepreneurs into their establishments, bringing with them the traditional cash that keeps them afloat.

For more information on restaurants in the Las Vegas area that accept bitcoins, check out Bitcoins in Vegas blog.

LAS VEGAS: Artsy Inspire Theater to Open Downtown

InspireTheatre_720

The revitalization of downtown continues with the opening of the Inspire Theater scheduled for the month of January. The new year will bring this hip event center in the fray with a variety of art events, as well as the opening of a newsstand café, bar, and rooftop lounge. The 150-seat theater will be host to book readings, spoken word presentations, lectures, as well as musical events.

In addition to the theater, the ground floor will be occupied by the Inspire News Café, which will operate both an international news stand and a café. The news stand will carry 300+ newspapers and magazines from around the world, a boon for international travelers and those wanting something more global than the latest issue of Newsweek or the Wall Street Journal. Rumor has it there will also be a print-on-demand press for patrons to order and have a book printed and bound while they wait. Way cool.  The café portion will serve the regular arsenal of coffee and tea beverages, as well as simple and fresh food items. The bohemian atmosphere will offer a variety of seating options, wi-fi, and even an outdoor patio.

The second floor will be home to the mid-mod Wayfarer Bar overlooking the theater that will serve up craft cocktails with a retro feel. The bar scene continues to the roof, where the aptly named “The Roof” lounge will operate. This climate-controlled outdoor lounge will allow patrons to watch the activities along Fremont Street while indulging in “communal” service, meaning large pitchers of alcoholic beverages to share table-side.

 

LAS VEGAS: Bye Bye Bill’s – Caeser’s to Open New Strip Hotel-Casino

Image by Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0

While new construction has been at a standstill since the City Center complex opened, we are still seeing old establishments being rehabbed into brand new hotels and casinos. The Imperial Palace became the Quad, the Sahara is being renovated into an upscale SLS hotel, and Caeser’s transformed its Centurion Tower into Nobu Hotel. Now Caeser’s is at it again, transforming Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon, located at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road.

No doubt it is the location that attracted the casino giant to the space. It is center-Strip with a good amount of foot traffic and corner marquee. According to Vegas Eater, the property will be a collaboration between Caeser’s and upscale Gansevoort Hotel Group and be called The Cromwell. It will house approximately 200 rooms & suites, a 40,000-square foot casino, Giada De Laurentiis’s first restaurant, and a mega night/dayclub on the roof operated by Las Vegas nighlife guru Victor Drai. Look for a February/March opening.

The Cromwell
3595 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Fodor’s Hotel Awards

fodors 100

Fodor’s Travel recently named the 2013 Fodor’s Hotel Award Winners, which included hotels from around the world. According to Arabella Bowen, Fodor’s Travel executive editorial director, “To compile the Fodor’s 100, we look for properties within emerging destinations, trends our editors have been seeing throughout the year, new and noteworthy openings, and enduring favorites to create a list that will inspire all types of travel and traveler.”

This year’s list has been broken up into eight categories: Enduring Classics, Creative Conversions, Culinary Gems, Home Suite Homes, Sleek City Addresses, Local Characters, Exotic Hideaways and Blissful Beach Retreats. While you can access the full list here, the editors at JenLeoDals.com have carefully chosen one hotel from each category to feature.

Enduring Classics
“Enduring” is the perfect term for The Peninsula Hong Kong, which is described by Fodor’s as “an oasis of old-world glamour—opened in 1928.” As the island’s only historical five-star luxury hotel, this oasis of calm amidst the bustling city sits on the harbor, with outstanding views, outstanding service, and the perfect blend of east-meets-west.

Creative Conversions
According to the Travel Channel, Croatia has become the fastest growing Mediterranean tourist destination, and the Hotel Vestibul Palace could be one of the reasons. This creative conversion is made up of three palaces from three different eras in the Old Town of Split. It marries the new with the old, with modern touches interspersed with that of the Romanic, Gothic and Renaissance periods of the castles.

Culinary Gems
The lone Las Vegas entry in Fodor’s 100 is the new Nobu Hotel, a boutique hotel located within the Caesers Palace property. This hotel within a hotel sports 181 rooms and suites, has its own check-in lobby and dedicated concierge, as well as the largest Nobu restaurant in the world (hence it being named a culinary gem). The rooms, envisioned by Chef Nobu and partner Robert DeNiro, provide guests with complimentary valet service, priority access to Nobu, and free access to both PURE nightclub and the Qua Fitness Center.

Home Suite Homes
This category pays tribute to small boutique hotels with fewer than 40 rooms, and while there is a wide range of locations among the honorees, we were most impressed by Fazenda Nova in Tavira, Portugal. Sitting among 25 acres of olive groves and fruit orchards, this converted farm has a wide array of amenities and is located near both beaches and the country’s Algarve vineyards. Described as “affordable chic,” Fazenda Nova has a mere 10 suites along with a restaurant that serves seasonal dishes, inspired by the kitchen garden and orchards on the property, as well as the nearby ocean.

Sleek City Addresses
In contrast to the rural Fazenda Nova mentioned above is the ME London, an upscale, avant-garde hotel centrally located along the Strand. Part of the Melia Hotel Group, the ME London is a high-tech modern masterpiece, boasting 157 rooms, two New York-based restaurants, and a location that puts you near theaters, shopping, trendy nightclubs, as well as a bevy of tourist destinations.

Local Characters
The Volcano House on the Big Island of Hawaii nailed this category, which features “one-of-a-kind properties [that] specialize in immersive experiences that push beyond the typical hospitality formula.” Sitting on the rim of the Kilauea caldera in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Volcano House may be the oldest hotel on the list, with its first incarnation beginning in 1846. The hotel, with only 33 rooms, recently underwent a major rehabilitation  and reconstruction implementing sustainability initiatives and providing simple luxury with gorgeous crater views.

Exotic Hideaways
The exotic locales in this category run the gamut from Bali to Zambia but our attention strayed to a retreat in the Kingdom of Bhutan, a tiny little country located in the eastern Himalayas. Uma by Como is located in Punakha, a less-traveled area of the country that only has 750,000 residents. Twenty-nine luxury rooms and private villas occupy the property, set amongst the forested mountains, all with stunning views of the Punakha Valley.

Blissful Beach Retreats
To round out the eighth category is an entry from Central America, El Secreto in Ambergris Caye, Belize. Opened just last year, El Secreto has only 13 private villas combining a rustic exterior with a luxurious interior. The opportunity for adventure abounds here, with the Caribbean outside your door where you can kayak, dive, snorkel, fish and swim. Nearby nature preserves and archeological ruins await exploration on foot or by bike. Relaxation can also be yours, lounging on the white-sand beach or partaking in a massage or spa ritual at their Ikal Spa.