The Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB, Las Vegas

After my little free Art Walk Tour through Gallery Row and The Shops at the Crystals and Aria, I was feeling a little snacky and thirsty. It was Saturday and sunny, and they serve brunch on Saturdays and Sundays until 3 PM so I stopped at Todd English P.U.B. Restaurant (P.U.B. standing for Public Urban Bar). On a Sunday, the regular brunch time this place is likely crazy, but on a Saturday I was seated immediately.

Pretty much I am a huge fan of a good bloody mary, and that was exactly what they were advertising so… sold!
The Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB on Sat and Sun are outrageous in Las Vegas The Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB on Sat and Sun are outrageous in Las Vegas

For the bloody mary menu, you can build your own starting from a choice of vodka or infusion (example infusions include “chipotle” with chipotle, bell, ancho and jalapeno peppers and sugar or “bacon” with applewood bacon and maple syrup), many fixings varying from Old Bay Seasoning and juices (Todd’s blend or V8 or even beef broth or cucumber water) to 9 different hot sauces, 3 kinds of splashes (lime, lemon, or olive brine) and 18 garnishes varying from various pickled items to salami to even shrimp or lobster!
The Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB on Sat and Sun are outrageous in Las Vegas - you can build your own or select the Meat N Potato Mary, All About Mary, or Bodacious Blonde Mary at the bottom The Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB on Sat and Sun are outrageous in Las Vegas - you can build your own or select the Meat N Potato Mary, All About Mary, or Bodacious Blonde Mary at the bottom The Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB on Sat and Sun are outrageous in Las Vegas - you can build your own or select the Meat N Potato Mary, All About Mary, or Bodacious Blonde Mary at the bottom

If that’s too much freedom and choice for you, they also provide 3 bloody mary pre-created combinations or 4 bubbly blends if you want a take on a mimosa. The two shown below are two of those combos from the Todd’s Farm Fresh Bloody Marys section. The Todd English Meat N Potato Mary includes TE knob Creek single barrel bourbon, beef broth, Todd’s Sinful Blend, Worcestershire, steak sauce, toped with waffle fries, bacon, salami, scallions and black olives
At Todd English PUB located between Crystals and Aria, the Meat N Potato Mary includes TE knob Creek single barrel bourbon, beef broth, Todd's Sinful Blend, Worcestershire, steak sauce, toped with waffle fries, bacon, salami, scallions and black olives

And, if that wasn’t enough, here is the proof that the Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB on Sat and Sun are outrageous in Las Vegas and are currently the winner for best garnished bloody mary. This one is the All About Mary with choice of vodka, Todd’s Sinful Blend, stacked with a slider, crispy chicken wing, chilled shrimp, corn dog pup, stuffed olives, celery, carrot and pickled asparagus.
The Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB on Sat and Sun are outrageous in Las Vegas. This one is the All About Mary with choice of vodka, Todd's Sinful Blend, stacked with a slider, crispy chicken wing, chilled shrimp, corn dog pup, stuffed olives, cleery, carrot and pickled asparagus

If you want further snacks to soak up the alcohol, I was smitten with the crispy beer battered pickles served with bbq sauce, ranch, sauce, and blue cheese fondue.
Fried pickles from the Todd English Pub

Other options to eat include duck buns, corn dog puppies, junk chips (with bbq beef ragu and blue cheese and more), prime rib beef chili… and that’s just the appetizer and snack section. There’s almost a dozen burger and sandwiches, another dozen PUB favorites from classic bangers and mash or fish and chips to shepherd’s pie and ribeye…

There’s 9 different carved meats from the rotisserie available by the half or full pound, and several RAw Bar selections. Don’t forget brunch options like a English Bagel Taco or Lobster Benedict.

If the bloody marys don’t tempt you, there are almost 50 beers, beer flights, beer cocktails, more than a half dozen bourbon cocktails, there’s sangria, mead, cider, buckets of canned beer, and more. Happy hour everyday from 3-6 PM and 10-? PM offer $1 wings, $2 oysters, $3 sliders, 1/2 price pints.

Did I mention dessert includes a S’mores Board for two or more? And there’s 3 kind of Adult Shakes?

Todd English PUB is located in Las Vegas by Aria, and also in Birmingham, if that is more convenient.

Have you ever been to a Todd English establishment? What do you think of these over the top bloody marys? What would be your dream garnishes for a bloody mary?

Todd English P.U.B. on Urbanspoon

My Guide to the Free and the Food on the Las Vegas Strip

  • Las Vegas Hotels at the South End of Strip: Mandalay Bay, Delano, Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York, and MGM Grand and what each offers in terms of feel
  • A look at some of the breakfast options at Della’s Kitchen in the Delano, including juice, Doughssant, bacon cheddar biscuits, and Pecan Raisin French Toast
  • Take a little trip to Europe with the offerings and recommendations for free stops in the Middle of the Las Vegas Strip like Paris, Caesar’s, and the Bellagio properties. Did I mention they are all free, and include the World’s Largest Chocolate Fountain?
  • Photos recapping my lunch at Giada Las Vegas inside the Cromwell, including the G signature cocktail, flatbread with pesto, burrata, grilled cheese, gelato
  • Art Walking Tour at The Shops at Crystals and Aria, Las Vegas, including Gallery Row with Richard MacDonald and Dale Chihuly to the various art in Crystals and Aria
  • The garnishes of the Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB in Las Vegas are outrageous, ranging from bacon, onions rings, sliders and corn dogs to chicken wing
  • My tour of The Wynn in Las Vegas, including details on The Lake of Dreams, Parasol Down, the Conservatory, Jeff Koons sculptures, and Le Reve The Dream show
  • Lunch at Beijing Noodle No 9, Caesar’s Las Vegas of Shanghai Wave cocktail, Sichuan Dan Dan Mein Spring Noodles, Shanghai Soup Dumplings, and Lamb Pancakes
  • A Steampunk restaurant of Rx Boiler Room by Mandalay Bay brings an opportunity for a cocktail from a crystal skull
  • Italics – coming soon, not yet posted
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Portland Dining Month 2015

Starting Sunday March 1 2015 Portland will be kicking off Portland Dining Month 2015. During this month, more than 100 participating restaurants all over Portland will be offering a special menu of 3 courses for $29 in order to entice you to visit and see what that restaurant is all about.

Almost all the restaurants will also have their regular menu available, so your dining party doesn’t all have to eat the Dining Month menu, though several of the Dining Month menus offer multiple choices for each of the courses as well so you can all dine at that price.

Portland Dining Month 2015

In terms of the Portland Dining Month menu items, make sure you do ask for it because sometimes the restaurant lists it on a separate menu from the regular menu. Other times, it is part of the regular menu because it’s an item usually on their list but in many cases is priced special only for that month, thus lets you have one of the signature dishes of that restaurant for cheaper than normal.

On the other hand, some restaurants create new items especially for Portland Dining Month and so the special is only for this month!

Furthermore, about 1/3 of those restaurants will additionally have curated a beer pairing or incorporated beer into their dish in some way to highlight a local brewer.

If you are an OpenTable user where you can make reservations for your dining party with just a few clicks of a button, about 60+ of the restaurants on the Portland Dining Month list are also available on OpenTable to make your online reservations.

I wanted to highlight my personal picks for some restaurants that are participating in Portland Dining Month and what their dining month menu offers. There are many, many, many wonderful picks on the list, I’m just pointing out a few based on value or what the menu choice item is to my taste.

Aviary

Aviary had me at their first course option… Their food is consistently good and surprising with their twists on Asian inspiration mixed with unusual flavor combinations. And, they take reservations on Opentable.

  • First course (choose one): Dungeness crab chawanmushi with bone marrow, sea urchin, Asian pear, snap peas and truffle vinaigrette -OR- Warm vegetable salad with romanesco, pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, lime-pickle vinaigrette and black garlic
  • Second course (choose one): Miso-braised beef short rib with taro root, Asian pear, yuzu kosho slaw -OR- Pan-seared salmon with cauliflower, saffron, green apple, trout roe and American caviar
  • Third course (choose one): Chocolate tart with banana ice cream and cocoa nibs -OR- Baked meringue with huckleberries and Meyer lemon sorbet

Laurelhurst Market

Usually that second course item alone at Laurelhurst Market is $26 on their regular menu.

  • First course: Roasted cauliflower arancini with radicchio caponata, roasted red pepper aioli and arugula
  • Second course: Ten-hour braised beef shoulder with potato pancake, warm oyster mushroom salad and beef jus
  • Third course: Honey panna cotta with candied fennel and fennel seed brittle

Nedd Ludd

Nedd Ludd not only is a fantastic restaurant in terms of food and charming atmosphere, but with participating in Portland Dining Month are offering you a huge value because their dinner plate mains are already usually already in the 20 dollar range, so you are getting a bonus that you’ll be getting 3 courses! And, you even get a choice with your first or second courses, and the option is vegetarian friendly so I can take my vegetarian F.

  • First course (choose one): Escarole salad with lemon, egg, olives and crouton -OR- Charred broccoli raab with sumac, za’atar, pomegranate and yogurt
  • Second course (choose one): Chicken breast with leek and mushroom ragout, preserved lemon and green olive -OR- Vegetable gratin with walnut-parsley sauce and spring greens
  • Third course: Bourbon-buttermilk panna cotta with cocoa nib crumb

Park Kitchen

Based on last year when I went to a Portland Dining Month dinner at Park Kitchen, I would recommend Park Kitchen as an option for you. Besides just casually dining near the table of Gabe Rucker, the dinner was one of my favorite of all the Portland Dining Month dinners I went to last year. Make sure you get those chickpea fries! And, they take reservations on Opentable.

  • First course (choose one): Chickpea fries with squash ketchup -OR- Salad of escarole, radishes, red onion and buttermilk dressing
    Park Kitchen's Chickpea fries with pumpkin ketchup
  • Second course (choose one): Ayer’s Creek corn grits, mushroom gravy and Hoppin’ John -OR- Payne Family Farms pork roast with collards, red-eye gravy and cornbread dressing. Last year they offered the grits as a vegetarian option as well, but I went with the pork, which last year was this Milk braised pork with Your Kitchen Gardens leeks, curds and whey so I think this year’s Pork Roast will be just as good.
    Park Kitchen Milk braised pork with Your Kitchen Gardens leeks, curds and whey
  • Third course: Double-chocolate tart with salted caramel and hazelnuts

Lincoln

While Dumpling Week was going on, I had an amazing dumpling dinner (in which the dumpling was Malloreddus tossed in sea urchin butter with mint and preserved lemon) at Lincoln Restaurant. That it was phenomenal shouldn’t be a surprise, especially given that chef Jenn Louis has just released her book Pasta by Hand: A Collection of Italy’s Regional Hand-Shaped Pasta. Based on the fantastic experience I had at that small dinner, I would highly recommend Lincoln for Portland Dining Month, especially since she is showcasing another pasta, and this pasta by itself is usually $18 on their menu. And, they take reservations on Opentable.

  • First course: Baked hen eggs with cream, Castelvetrano olives and herbed breadcrumbs
  • Second course: Spaccatelli pasta with smoked tallow, speck and sherry
  • Third course: Brutti ma buoni cookies

Little Bird

Little Bird is giving you a deal as well for Portland Dining Month, since their entrees are usually in the $20s and the appetizers in the $15s so you are making out for a mere $29. That choice of chicken fried trout is enough for two people. And, they take reservations on Opentable.

  • First course (choose one): Soup du jour -OR- Salad of frisée, citrus, pistachios, olives and sheep’s cheese vinaigrette -OR- Goat cheese gnocchi, celeriac, mushrooms and Le Chevrot
  • Second course (choose one):Chicken-fried trout, pickled carrots, fine herbs, radish, Dijon and gribiche -OR- Cider-braised pork shoulder with cabbage, carrot and apple slaw, toasted walnuts and bacon vinaigrette
    Little Bird Bistro's Chicken-Fried Trout, gribiche, fines herbes, radishes, pickled carrots
  • Third course: Chocolate mousse cake with pistachio, Meyer lemon and nougat -OR- Ice cream -OR- Sorbet

Fogo de Chao

Another example of a huge value, the dinners at Fogo de Chao are usually $49 for the salad bar, sides, and meats. The Portland Dining Month menu gives you a more limited selection of the meats, but it’s 8 of them and most importantly includes what I think is their best meat cut, the Picanha. The Portland Dining Month menu excludes the Costela (beef ribs), Beef Ancho (ribeye), Filet Mignons and Lamb Chops. The price you are paying with Portland Dining Month is usually the cost of the salad bar alone during dinner! And, they take reservations on Opentable.

  • First course (choose one): Fresh seasonal salads, rare and exotic vegetables, imported cheeses and cured meats
    Fogo de Chão grand opening in Portland- some examples of what is at the salad bar Fogo de Chão grand opening in Portland- some examples of what is at the salad bar
  • Second course (choose one): Brazilian cheese bread (pão de queijo), caramelized bananas, garlic mashed potatoes and crispy polenta
    Fogo de Chão grand opening -  that chewy Brazilian take on gougeres of pão de queijo Fogo de Chão grand opening - sides for the table of caramelized bananas Fogo de Chão grand opening - sides for the table of polenta
  • Third course: Fire-roasted meats carved and served tableside, including Picanha, Alcatra, Fraldinha, Cordeiro, Linguica, Costela de Porco, Lombo and Frango. Check out what these meat cuts really are here, and I covered the restaurant opening so have some photos and descriptions also here at “Grand Opening: Fogo de Chão Portland Churrascaria
    Fogo de Chão grand opening - Picanha (2 versions)-  prime cut of top sirloin, either traditional light seasoning or garlic version Fogo de Chão grand opening - Linguica - cured pork sausage

Paley’s Place

An excuse to visit classy Paley’s Place for an intimate, romantic dinner!

  • First course: Salad of kale and roasted acorn squash with chèvre and balsamic vinegar
  • Second course: Red wine-braised elk, soft polenta and orange gremolata
  • Third course: Warm gingerbread with roasted rhubarb and crème fraîche
  • Rogue Ales beer pairings for an additional $15 or house wine pairings for an additional $20

Acadia

Take a mini-vacation to New Orleans by visiting Acadia and enjoying Creole cuisine.

  • First course: Deviled egg with blue crab meat
  • Second course: Louisiana barbeque shrimp with lemon, black pepper, white wine and butter. I’ve had this dish before and you will want to spoon the sauce onto your bread
    Acadia Restaurant Portland, Louisiana Barbeque Shrimp with lemon, black pepper, white wine and butter. I went back to the bowl and spooned the sauce right onto my bread.
  • Third course: Bronzed wild-caught Louisiana sheepshead with buttermilk cornbread purée, green tomato relish and brown butter. If you haven’t head sheepshead before, it has a texture that is almost creamy but not fatty, and some describe it as “crab-like” which is interesting because the fish’s diet is comprised heavily of shellfish and bivalves. When I had it came with different sides but was still bronzed
    Acadia Restaurant Portland, Bronzed, Wild-Caught Louisiana Sheepshead with Spinach Madeline pie and blue crab meuniére.

Accanto

I love the Northwest freshness at Accanto, which I had blogged about previously for a Portland Dining Mont visit in a previous year and also when I went for an amazing brunch (they take reservations for brunch! No waiting in line!). And, they take reservations on Opentable.

  • First course (choose one): Soup of the day -OR- Escarole salad, goat’s-milk feta and oven-dried olives with burnt orange vinaigrette
  • Second course: Rigatoncini, water buffalo ragù, broccoli raab and ricotta salata
  • Third course: Tiramisu

Besaw’s


Above photo taken by my brother and his Canon EOS 60D camera

Everyone thinks of Besaw’s for brunch, but they still utilize the bounty of their garden and local fresh Northwest ingredients at dinner as well. For their Portland Dining Month 2015 menu, they are offering an entree that also celebrates local Oregon brewer Deschutes Brewery.

  • First course: Grilled prawns with cornbread croutons, arugula and chili aioli
  • Second course: Fontina- and chard-stuffed pork roulade with soft polenta and Deschutes Cinder Cone Red jalapeño chutney (YUM)
  • Third course: Rhubarb crisp with vanilla whipped cream

Meriwether’s

exterior of Meriwether's restaurant in Portland

Meriwether’s suffers from a similar fate as Besaw in that people think of them too often for brunch and not for all the other goodness they get from their own Skyline Farm. As a plus, I love pointing out Meriwethers has their own parking lot, so is great not only to meet with others (including out of towners) but also if you have a family. Their menu offering includes an amazing entree (note that it utilizes local Reverend Nat’s hard cider) and dessert. And, they take reservations on Opentable.

  • First course: Salad of arugula with shaved fennel, olive oil-fried almonds, feta and preserved huckleberry vinaigrette
  • Second course: Braised pork cheeks glazed with Reverend Nat’s Hallelujah Hopricot hard cider, Roy’s Calais flint corn polenta and braised early spring greens
  • Third course: Butterscotch pot de crème

Which of the Portland Dining Month 2015 restaurants is calling to you? Check out the list at Portland Monthly or the Eater PDX PDM List for their picks, as well as picks from fellow blogger friend Erin at Bakery Bingo and from Annie of Serious Crust. Blogger friend Meredith at Martha Chartreuse also had put together a great way to break down as you’re reading the list, how to make your own picks!

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Art Tour at The Shops at Crystals and Aria, Las Vegas

In my previous posts I covered where I had breakfast at Della’s, walked the south strip, then took a pretend trip to Europe at casinos in the middle of the strip (and also had lunch at Giada’s, my favorite meal of my trip to Vegas this time). While covering the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard I skipped over this section of the Shops at Crystals and Aria in Las Vegas. The reason is because I love this specific area of the strip, wanted to highlight it by itself.

You see, in my fake trip mid strip tour to mini Europe, I moved right from Monte Carlo to Bellagio. But the Crystals and Aria are actually located in between these two on the west side of the street. In fact, if you enter the Monte Carlo you can board a free tram that will take you to Crystals and then Bellagio.

One of the pluses of walking is that before you get on the escalators that take you to the bridge crossing City Center Place street and into the Crystals shopping mall area is that you can stop at Gallery Row. If you look up from outside, you can see the sky reflected on the Aria windows and the residential condo Veer Towers and wonder about the rich and famous who can afford and choose to live in there.
View on City Center Place in Las Vegas, before crossing over to Crystals, on the Gallery Row side View on City Center Place in Las Vegas, before crossing over to Crystals, on the Gallery Row side

One of the offerings of this little Gallery Row of a handful of art galleries is a gallery of sculptures featuring the art of Richard MacDonald. Richard MacDonald uses the incredible physiques and posing ability of performers in various Cirque du Soleil shows to create breathtaking sculptures of the human body.

Another gallery you can visit features some of the gorgeous glass art of Dale Chihuly in theGallery featuring Dale Chihuly. His art is a celebration of form as well as color and  light in the way they carefully design how the artwork is displayed.

There are additional sculptures by Richard MacDonald you can see in Bellagio in The Art of Richard MacDonald by the O theater lobby. There is also a famous Dale Chihuly sculpture in the Bellagio lobby, Fiori Di Como.

This is one of the things I love about Vegas- you might get spendy on the gambling or the food, but many shows you can get half price tickets (thanks to Tix 4 Tonight) AND there are so many free things you can do like this. Here’s a taste of both these artists I mentioned (the other 2 galleries of Gallery Row, one of photography and one of antiques, are also fun to visit but Richard MacDonald and Dale Chihuly were my personal favorites).

Continuing on with the art theme, when you enter the Shops at the Crystals, besides the high end designer shops that you can window shop at, you can also check out some floral and garden art. Since I was visiting in November, you can see the theme of Autumn reflected in the horticulture art.

Also here in the middle of the Crystals building is The Treehouse, a 2 story modern tree house which also is the home of a restaurant. You can wonder at what the wooden structure may resemble as it tries to fulfill artform and functional space.

The Treehouse in Crystals and some of the autumn themed horticulture art The Treehouse in Crystals and some of the autumn themed horticulture art The Shops at the Crystals, some of the autumn themed horticulture art and a selfie The Shops at the Crystals, some of the autumn themed horticulture art The Shops at the Crystals, some of the autumn themed horticulture art and a selfie The Shops at the Crystals, some of the autumn themed horticulture art

As you continue to walk towards Aria, before you go up the Grand Staircase of bamboo and pink agate is the art/sculpture walk through water feature installation called Halo. Basically, it’s a bunch of water tornados in various cylinders with different lights to highlight the movement and shape of the liquid funnels in different mesmerizing ways.

I love water art, so I lingered for a while to check out each of the cylinders, as each is unique. It was cute as some children were “cheering” a funnel on as it would start or wane down. I tried to capture some of the appeal in these photos…
A fun water funnel art installation (Halo) inside Crystals as I walk towards Aria in Las Vegas. A fun water funnel art installation inside Crystals as I walk towards Aria in Las Vegas. Crystals is a high end mall. This is a funnel just starting A fun water funnel art installation (Halo) inside Crystals as I walk towards Aria in Las Vegas. A fun water funnel art installation (Halo) inside Crystals as I walk towards Aria in Las Vegas. A fun water funnel art installation (Halo) inside Crystals as I walk towards Aria in Las Vegas. A fun water funnel art installation (Halo) inside Crystals as I walk towards Aria in Las Vegas. A fun water funnel art installation (Halo) inside Crystals as I walk towards Aria in Las Vegas. A fun water funnel art installation (Halo) inside Crystals as I walk towards Aria in Las Vegas. A fun water funnel art installation inside Crystals as I walk towards Aria in Las Vegas. There is something at the bottom which spins the water and colored lights that the water tornado will pick up A fun water funnel art installation inside Crystals as I walk towards Aria in Las Vegas. There is something at the bottom which spins the water and colored lights that the water tornado will pick up A fun water funnel art installation inside Crystals as I walk towards Aria in Las Vegas. There is something at the bottom which spins the water and colored lights that the water tornado will pick up A fun water funnel art installation inside Crystals as I walk towards Aria in Las Vegas. There is something at the bottom which spins the water and colored lights that the water tornado will pick up A fun water funnel art installation inside Crystals as I walk towards Aria in Las Vegas. There is something at the bottom which spins the water and colored lights that the water tornado will pick up A fun water funnel art installation inside Crystals as I walk towards Aria in Las Vegas. There is something at the bottom which spins the water and colored lights that the water tornado will pick up A fun water funnel art installation (Halo) inside Crystals as I walk towards Aria in Las Vegas. Here the funnel is waning

After going up the stairs, walk outside briefly and then into Aria, where it seems like the art gallery continues but now in the form of dramatic decorations inside the hotel for the lobby, lounge, and restaurant Julian Serrano Tapas. All the restaurants in here are pretty impressive.

Then there are luxurious art details everywhere in the public areas of Aria, particularly dramatic floral arrangements on pedestals. By the check in desk – that silver sculpture? Oh that’s just Silver River by Maya Lin (who most know as the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial), making a statement about water conservation and the importance of the Colorado River to Nevada in terms of energy and water.

Of course most noticeable are probably the rotating art installations in the lobby – in November it was these glass swirling leaves. Because the featured art changes, I always like checking out Aria’s latest design theme.

Julian Serrano Tapas restaurant inside Aria Las Vegas Lobby inside Aria Las Vegas Inside the lobby of Aria are beautiful art design details Art details inside the Aria reception/lobby area in Las Vegas Floral Art details inside the Aria reception/lobby area in Las Vegas Art details inside the Aria reception/lobby area in Las Vegas Art details inside the Aria reception/lobby area in Las Vegas Art details inside the Aria reception/lobby area in Las Vegas Art details inside the Aria reception/lobby area in Las Vegas

Has all this chatting and admiring the free art made you a little thirsty and snacky? Stay tuned for my next Travel post, which I will share on Foodie Friday, where I cover some insanely garnished bloody mary options at Todd English PUB!

Have you ever been to The Shop at the Crystals or Aria? Which of these art pieces I have pointed out would you pick as most interesting to you? Have you ever done an “Art Walk Tour” while visiting Vegas?

My Guide to the Free and the Food on the Las Vegas Strip

  • Las Vegas Hotels at the South End of Strip: Mandalay Bay, Delano, Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York, and MGM Grand and what each offers in terms of feel
  • A look at some of the breakfast options at Della’s Kitchen in the Delano, including juice, Doughssant, bacon cheddar biscuits, and Pecan Raisin French Toast
  • Take a little trip to Europe with the offerings and recommendations for free stops in the Middle of the Las Vegas Strip like Paris, Caesar’s, and the Bellagio properties. Did I mention they are all free, and include the World’s Largest Chocolate Fountain?
  • Photos recapping my lunch at Giada Las Vegas inside the Cromwell, including the G signature cocktail, flatbread with pesto, burrata, grilled cheese, gelato
  • Art Walking Tour at The Shops at Crystals and Aria, Las Vegas, including Gallery Row with Richard MacDonald and Dale Chihuly to the various art in Crystals and Aria
  • The garnishes of the Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB in Las Vegas are outrageous, ranging from bacon, onions rings, sliders and corn dogs to chicken wing!
  • My tour of The Wynn in Las Vegas, including details on The Lake of Dreams, Parasol Down, the Conservatory, Jeff Koons sculptures, and Le Reve The Dream show
  • Lunch at Beijing Noodle No 9, Caesar’s Las Vegas of Shanghai Wave cocktail, Sichuan Dan Dan Mein Spring Noodles, Shanghai Soup Dumplings, and Lamb Pancakes
  • Steampunk restaurant of Rx Boiler Room by Mandalay Bay brings an opportunity for a cocktail from a crystal skull
  • Italics – coming soon, not yet posted
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Brewstillery Festival

Most of you know I enjoy beer – I’ve covered other beer events like festivals and beer pairing dinners in the past. Usually this world is completely separate from spirits – it’s like Mars and Venus with F having a beer while I have a cocktail at a happy hour. We might sip a taste of each other’s drink, but they never go together or are related in any way. The closest you might get would be a beer back after a whiskey or boilermaker or shots in beer, but whatever way it isn’t usually something where you savor the beer and liquor together.

Yet, brewers love acquiring the barrels from distillers to make barrel-aged beer. It seems like there could be more to the relationship than beer only absorbing flavors from the containers that used to hold the spirit,  but having nothing to do with the spirit itself.

Well, the great divide is closing, and to help promote and celebrate that is the upcoming Brewstillery Festival, a new festival coming to us on Saturday February 28th. The goal of the festival is for breweries and distilleries to team up to create perfect pairings, which means beers paired with a whiskey, scotch, or rum, etc. that are intended to be enjoyed together.

Advance tickets are now on sale for $20 (the cost of admission is $25 day of event), which includes tasting glass and 10 tickets. Each ticket gets approximately either a 4 ounce taster of beer or 1/4 ounce taster sample of a spirit.
Brewstillery Festival

This new festival is being hosted by StormBreaker Brewing which purchased the Amnesia Brewing space on North Mississippi last year at 832 N Beech. They plan to be using their inside and outside space as home base for this festival. This is pretty exciting as it is the first big beer fest event StormBreaker has held since taking the reigns. You can see StormBreaker Brewer/Owner Rob Lutz is pretty excited about the festival too, modeling a festival shirt that showcases anthropomorphic kettles from a brewery and a distillery that to me look like they have faces like something out of a steampunk robot graphic novel. Or maybe that’s just me.
StormBreaker Brewing at 832 N Beech, Portland StormBreaker Brewing at 832 N Beech, Portland StormBreaker Brewing at 832 N Beech, Portland StormBreaker Brewing at 832 N Beech, Portland StormBreaker Brewing at 832 N Beech, Portland StormBreaker Brewing at 832 N Beech, Portland StormBreaker Brewing at 832 N Beech, Portland Rob of StormBreaker who set up the Brewstillery Festival preview I attended and was already proudly wearing the festival shirt Brewstillery Festival 2015

I was fortunate enough to attend a media preview of the event and sample a few of the pairings. A few pairings really stood out to me.

A pairing called “The Devil’s Coat” was the pairing in mind by StormBreaker in founding the Brewstillery Festival, and paired their limited edition Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Coat with Bull Run Distilling’s Temperance Trader bourbon whiskey. Winter Coat is their Winter Ale which has already spent 2 months aging in Bull Run Distilling Temperance Trader Bourbon Barrels, and bringing the barrel aged beer back with its original barrel inspiration spirit brought out new flavors in each of them. The beer started to have more pronounced spicyness and vanilla and chocolate flavors, while the bourbon seemed to have stronger caramel tones.
Brewstillery preview of a beer and whiskey pairing

Another pairing called “Gin & Juice Gose” brought together Breakside Brewery‘s collaboration beer with Fat Head’s, a Juggling Salted Plums Gose using Umeboshi (a fermented Japanese Salt Plum) with House Spirits’ Aviation gin. They together made a savory flavor combination that highlighted coriander notes and seriously was as good as a craft cocktail. I love both Breakside and Aviation so I was super pleased as I saw fellow attendees gush over how delicious Aviation gin is and how they would even just drink the gin straight – even from one guest who doesn’t usually do spirits at all. To me, that’s part of what Brewstillery is about, the great potential for delicious discovery.
Brewstillery preview of a beer and whiskey pairing> Brewstillery preview of a beer and whiskey pairing

Ex Novo Brewing Company demonstrated that a beer and spirit together can go further than complimenting each other. Thheir At Her Majesty’s Pleasure Brown Ale with Oregon Spirits Distillery‘s Otis Webber Wheat Whiskey joined powers and combined to bring out more toast then either had and further upgrade it to that perfect golden crispy toast at breakfast that makes a scratchy sound but doesn’t break or smush as you butter it but isn’t hard like a crouton either. Oh, but that Whiskey makes sure it isn’t just plain butter on that perfect toast- it’s a hint of honey butter.

At the preview event, I further had the pleasure of meeting Stuart MacLean Ramsay, a whisky and craft beer expert who also happens to be the founder of the idea of WhiskyBack Beer. This family of beers currently consists of three beers which are brewed at Coalition Brewing’s location but take Stuart’s recipes.

All the beers are inspired by the flavors and ingredients of whiskies.  Although they  are designed to compliment whisky, of course you can also drink this beer alone or pair it with food. As he explained, he “want to make a very complex beer for a very complex whisky.”
Brewstillery Festival preview and meeting Stuart Ramsay and trying his WhiskyBack beer Brewstillery Festival preview and meeting Stuart Ramsay and trying his WhiskyBack beer

The WhiskeyBack Red I sampled had a lot of malty, herbal and grassy not bitter hop with a hint of spice in the flavor profiles. This is intended to highlight barley based whiskies’ own grain and malt characteristics (which it did with Monkey Shoulder).

Meanwhile, the WhiskeyBack Gold paired with a Jim Beam Black was smooth and brought out more sweetness together than either of them had alone. The third beer, a WhiskeyBack Black is not ready yet but that’s the one I’m excited about, since I prefer smokey whiskeys and dark beers and that’s what WhiskeyBack Black promises.
A beer and spirit pairing with WhiskeyBack beer, preview for Brewstillery Festival

There are more pairings on the list they are putting together, and flavors vary from Baerlic Brewing‘s Noble Stout working to be a dessert like treat with EastSide Distillery’s Cherry Bomb Whisky to Cascade Brewing 2013 Apricot with Indio Spirits‘ Hopka to Deschutes Brewery Dissociator Doppelbock pairing with the elusive (usually sold out in 20 minutes) Clear Creek Distillery McCarthy Oregon Single Malt Whiskey (I was swooning over the peat flavors – they import peat from Scotland to make them in copper stills and everything is on site in Oregon) and more!

For a list of all the pairings, check out the blog Portland Craft Beer’s post “Stormbreaker Brewstillery Preview”.

The 18 Participating Breweries of Brewstillery:

  • Amnesia Brewing
  • Baerlic Brewing Co.
  • Base Camp Brewing Company
  • Breakside Brewery
  • Cascade Brewing
  • Coalition Brewing
  • The Commons Brewery
  • Deschutes Brewery Portland Public House
  • Ecliptic Brewing
  • Ex Novo
  • Hair of the Dog
  • Hopworks Urban Brewery
  • Humble Brewing
  • Laurelwood Public House & Brewery
  • Migration Brewing Company
  • Stormbreaker Brewing
  • Upright Brewing
  • Widmer Brothers Brewing

The 12 Participating Distilleries of Brewstillery:

  • 4 Spirits
  • Bull Run Distillery
  • Big Bottom Whiskey
  • Clear Creak Distillery
  • Eastside Distilling
  • Indio Spirits Distillery & Tasting Room
  • Stein
  • Parliament
  • House Spirits Distillery
  • Dry Fly
  • Oregon Spirits Distillery
  • Stone Barn Brandy Works

Don’t worry, there’s food available as well from the StormBreaker kitchen, with goodies such as their Pickle Jar of spiced pickled beets, sweet pickle chips, moroccan cauliflower and more; Warm Kale salad with bacon, aged gouda, almond and seed brittle, soft egg, all in a balsamic brown butter dressing; spiced peanuts; almond and seed brittle; house potato chips; and the $14 StormBreaker Smorgasboard, which is a Cheese Plate combined with their Meat Plate that includes selections of Cheeses with Olympic Provisions meats and mousse and sliced bread that adds a soft boiled egg and simple salad
Brewstillery Festival preview, StormBreaker showed off their Pickle Jar of spiced pickled beets, sweet pickle chips, moroccan cauliflower and more Brewstillery Festival preview of the StormBreaker Warm Kale salad with bacon, aged gouda, almond and seed brittle, soft egg, all in a balsamic brown butter dressing Brewstillery Festival preview, StormBreaker showed some of the snacks available such as spiced peanuts, almond and seed brittle, and chips Brewstillery Festival preview, the StormBreaker almond and seed brittle Brewstillery Festival preview of some of the snacks available such as Stormbreaker's house chips Brewstillery Festival preview of the StormBreaker Smorgasboard, a Cheese Plate combined with their Meat Plate that includes Olympic Provisions Selection meats and mousse and sliced bread that adds a soft boiled egg and simple salad, all for $14
What do you think of the idea of pairing spirits and beer, have you ever had both together? What style of beer and what kind of spirit do you think you might try together?

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Lunch at Giada in The Cromwell, Las Vegas

I last left off in my Travel Tuesday posts with a little pretend trip to Europe in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip after my tour of the South End of the Strip and breakfast at Della’s Kitchen. Also here in this middle area of Las Vegas Boulevard was my favorite meal during my long weekend when I was here in Las Vegas: a lunch at Giada in The Cromwell.

You can tell she thought about every detail of the experience, even starting with the bottom of the escalators that take you to the second floor where the restaurant is located, to the long reception hostess area where you check in and see arranged shelves as if you were in someone’s home. Naturally some of those shelves include some Giada branded products and cookbooks.
The downstairs area where the escalators where take you up to the second floor of The Cromwell, where the Giada restaurant is located The downstairs area where the escalators where take you up to the second floor of The Cromwell, where the Giada restaurant is located The escalators take you up to the second floor of The Cromwell, where the Giada restaurant is located The escalators take you up to the second floor of The Cromwell, where the Giada restaurant is located

There are some cushioned seats and a PHOTO BOOTH in that waiting area. The photo booth is FREE, so take some photos if you are waiting! You can upload the photo booth strip directly to Facebook and Twitter or print them directly to photo strips as keepsakes.
The Photo Booth in the waiting area of the Giada - it's free, you should stop in before and after your meal The Photo Booth in the waiting area of the Giada - it's free, you should stop in before and after your meal

This is Food Network star Giada de Laurentiis’ first restaurant and the interior is large with big window views and terrace that look out across the street to the Bellagio fountains. Despite the size, at the same time it evokes a feeling like you are inside her home, with the same feel as the interiors she films her shows. It’s posh yet warm and homey.

And, very branded, from the G on the seats to the Giada on the placemats and more. The round light fixtures read one of her most famous quotes, which is an answer to how she eats so much great food and stays slim: “I eat a little bit of Everything and not a lot of Anything”.

When you first walk in, you can take a look at the big open kitchen. After you are seated, you might consider coming back to peer at the antipasti plates like I did.
A look at the big open kitchen inside Giada inside The Cromwell, Las Vegas A look at the big open kitchen inside Giada inside The Cromwell, Las Vegas A look at the big open kitchen inside Giada inside The Cromwell, Las Vegas A look at the big open kitchen inside Giada inside The Cromwell, Las Vegas

I was there for lunch. The complimentary bread service includes fresh Lemon Thyme flatbread fresh from that big wood oven you saw when you were walking in. It is served with pesto instead of butter – healthier and yet even tastier! I think at dinner the bread basket is filled out further with doughy thick focaccia and parmesan breadsticks.
Lunch menu at Giada in the Cromwell in Las Vegas, the bread service comes with lemon thyme flatbread and pesto Lunch menu at Giada in the Cromwell in Las Vegas, the bread service comes with lemon thyme flatbread and pesto

Many years ago, it was Giada who first taught me about burrata – I had never seen or heard of it while living in Chicago. As an homage to that, I ordered the Burrata with balsamic salt, olive oil, and microgreens.

OMG it was amazing. I’ve had burrata before, but the freshness of the burrata here combined with the simple but excellent oil and a touch of salt and those microgreens was the best way I’ve ever had burrata, ever.
Lunch menu at Giada in the Cromwell in Las Vegas, the Burrata with balsamic salt and the bread service comes with lemon thyme flatbread and pesto Lunch menu at Giada in the Cromwell in Las Vegas, the Burrata with balsamic salt

The Signature Cocktail at Giada is the G with Kappa Pisco, pineapple simple syrup, fresh lime, homemade apricot preserves, egg white and Angostura bitters. I was impressed with how even this cocktail was so strongly branded…
The Signature Cocktail at Giada is the G with Kappa Pisco, pineapple simple syrup, fresh lime, homemade apricot preserves, egg white and Angostura bitters The Signature Cocktail at Giada is the G with Kappa Pisco, pineapple simple syrup, fresh lime, homemade apricot preserves, egg white and Angostura bitters The G Cocktail, Lemon Thyme flatbread (served with pesto) and Burrata with balsamic salt.

For my lunch entree, I was tempted by the wood fired pizzas and pastas (one of the pastas is the Pasta of the Day, which changes daily), but ultimately picked out of of the half dozen sandwich options, the Lemon Pesto Grilled Cheese with heirloom tomatoes with prosciutto San Daniele and fried zucchini scapecce (or salad, but I went with the zucchini fries as my side, you get a choice of either). My rationale is the day I had this lunch, I was leaving on a plane that evening and I knew I could take the other half of this plate with me on the plane as my dinner. The prosciutto is optional so you could keep it vegetarian.
Lunch Menu at Giada in the Cromwell Las Vegas, Lemon Pesto Grilled Cheese with heirloom tomatoes with prosciutto San Daniele and fried zucchini scapecce Lunch Menu at Giada in the Cromwell Las Vegas, Lemon Pesto Grilled Cheese with heirloom tomatoes with prosciutto San Daniele and fried zucchini scapecce

Dessert was a Chef’s Choice Assortment of sorbet and gelato, one of which was an incredible toasted banana pine nut gelato.
Dessert of an assortment of Sorbet and gelato at Giada in the Cromwell, Las Vegas Dessert of an assortment of Sorbet and gelato at Giada in the Cromwell, Las Vegas

I was thrilled when I later opened my doggy bag with the other half of that grilled cheese and found an autographed photo of Giada in the bag too! Notice the check presentation too (along with the doggy bag and placemat). Even the paper towels for drying hands in the restroom was not missed in terms of detail.
Giada branding details with the doggy bag, check presentation, even the placemat at the table at Giada in The Cromwell, Las Vegas Giada branding details with the doggy bag, autographed photo that came with the doggy back, a paper towel from the restroom for drying hands, and photo strip from the complimentary photo booth in the waiting area

I was here for lunch, but could imagine with the views of the Bellagio fountain shows in the evening this restaurant could get super busy in the evening, so you want to try to make reservations (they are also on Opentable). The portions at this restaurant are reasonable, unlike most of Vegas so keep that in mind. The dishes are very flavorful, but they are at the same prices you would find anywhere on Las Vegas Boulevard for this class of restaurant, so you are paying for the high quality ingredients.

For me, service was very friendly and smooth where the dishes came out quickly for me and the others around me. We were checked on but left alone to enjoy the atmosphere with no pressure like we were in a friend’s living room in her oh, million dollar mansion in Los Angeles. When I’m back in town, whenever that is, I would definitely return and try Giada Las Vegas again.

Giada on Urbanspoon

My Guide to the Free and the Food on the Las Vegas Strip

  • Las Vegas Hotels at the South End of Strip: Mandalay Bay, Delano, Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York, and MGM Grand and what each offers in terms of feel
  • A look at some of the breakfast options at Della’s Kitchen in the Delano, including juice, Doughssant, bacon cheddar biscuits, and Pecan Raisin French Toast
  • Take a little trip to Europe with the offerings and recommendations for free stops in the Middle of the Las Vegas Strip like Paris, Caesar’s, and the Bellagio properties. Did I mention they are all free, and include the World’s Largest Chocolate Fountain?
  • Photos recapping my lunch at Giada Las Vegas inside the Cromwell, including the G signature cocktail, flatbread with pesto, burrata, grilled cheese, gelato
  • Art Walking Tour at The Shops at Crystals and Aria, Las Vegas, including Gallery Row with Richard MacDonald and Dale Chihuly to the various art in Crystals and Aria
  • The garnishes of the Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB in Las Vegas are outrageous, ranging from bacon, onions rings, sliders and corn dogs to chicken wing!
  • My tour of The Wynn in Las Vegas, including details on The Lake of Dreams, Parasol Down, the Conservatory, Jeff Koons sculptures, and Le Reve The Dream show
  • Lunch at Beijing Noodle No 9, Caesar’s Las Vegas of Shanghai Wave cocktail, Sichuan Dan Dan Mein Spring Noodles, Shanghai Soup Dumplings, and Lamb Pancakes
  • Steampunk restaurant of Rx Boiler Room by Mandalay Bay brings an opportunity for a cocktail from a crystal skull
  • Italics – coming soon, not yet posted
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