• There and Back With Harry Potter Snacks

    Frozen Butterbeer and Hogwart's Castle

    Frozen Butterbeer and Hogwart’s Castle

    If anyone has ever seen a Harry Potter movie, you will know how beautiful they make the food look. I’ve had the opportunity to visit the UK and let me tell you, the food is not as magnificent as it looks in the Harry Potter movies.  BUT! At The WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER, it’s a different story! The food looks.. well.. magical. Everything from the pot pies, Honeydukes candy , ice cream and butterbeer look delicious and look like something out of the movie itself.

    It can be overwhelming in a theme park, with so many (overpriced) food items, you want to make the right decision. Your tummy and wallet count on it! There are of course food items at the other areas of Universal and Islands of Adventure, but for this particular post, I will focus solely on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Alright…hop on your virtual Hogwarts Express and let’s go!

    Diagon Alley:

    This is on the Universal Side, technically the newer part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but also the smaller area.

    Florean Forescue’s Ice Cream Parlor

    Although this ice cream parlor has some rad flavor combos like chocolate chili , earl grey and lavender, strawberry and peanut-butter. All for the price of  $4.99in a cup or if you prefer a cone, $5.99. The true star for me (as you’ll see from this list) is the butterbeer soft serve. It’s not only my favorite way to enjoy butterbeer, but the creamy texture is devine on a warm, Florida day. You can also enjoy this treat for $4.99 in a cup or again, $5.99 in a cone.

    Soft serve butterbeer ice cream in Diagon Alley!

    Soft serve butterbeer ice cream in Diagon Alley!

    Leaky Cauldron

    I didn’t personally eat here, but I  hung around the restaurant and lurked enough people’s food plates and stared at the menu enough to have a solid idea about this place. If you’re looking for “real” food in Diagon Alley, this is your jam. You can have popular British items such as: Toad in the hole, Scotch Eggs and Guinness Stew. These items are going to be a little more expensive, at about $13 – $18 a plate, but you’ll find yourself full for much longer.

    That’s it for Diagon Alley, short and sweet, just like the place!

    Hogsmeade:

    Located within Islands of Adventure, and what is considered the “main park” of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Hogsmeade will have more dining options overall.

    Butterbeer

    To be fair, butterbeer can be found in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, but since I had all my butterbeer in Hogsmeade, that’s where it’s being categorized. You can have it hot (inside of the Three Broomsticks), soda style, or frozen. All versions have a marshmallow whip on top that really seal the deal on the flavor profile. You HAVE to try all three. My favorite liquid form was the frozen butterbeer. But any of them make a magical beverage. You can purchase the butterbeer for $7 regularly, or you can spend the extra money (which I did) and get the souvenir mug for $12. The mug is only for the frozen or soda since it’s not meant for hot beverages.

    All the butterbeer and real beers in Hogsmeade.

    All the butterbeer and real beers in Hogsmeade.

    Three Broomsticks

    Similar to how The Leaky Cauldron is the main food hub in Diagon Alley, The Three Broomsticks is the main dining option inside of Hogsmeade. The Three Broomsticks offers popular British and Harry Potter food staples such as: Cornish Pasties $9.99, Fish and Chips $13.99 and Shepherd’s Pie $12.49. This is a great place for a mid day break and to fuel up for the evening.

    Honeydukes

    I feel like if you’ve seen the movies, read the books, then you too have been dying to go to Honeydukes in Hogsmeade. The beauty of this store is… it truly looks like the movie! The walls are lined with candy. There are cockroach clusters (yum!), lemon drops, pumpkin pasties and the ever popular, Chocolate Frogs $12 and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans $11. No trip to Hogsmeade is complete until you buy or try those two. The price is a little steep for candy, but it’s really the experience you’re buying with that.

    One of the candy walls inside of Honeydukes.

    One of the candy walls inside of Honeydukes.

    Those are indeed the ABSOLUTELY, WITHOUT A DOUBT, YOU BETTER DO IT, items from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that I believe are worth the time standing in line and the money it takes from your wallet. (See my other post, HARRY POTTER AND THE THEME PARK THAT TOOK ALL OF MY MONEY.)

    But there are some notable mentions to add to this list as well.

    If you have to’s:

    Pumpkin juice

    Similar to Butterbeer, the Pumpkin juice comes in different forms. The fancy bottle for $7 or Pumpkin Fizz (carbonated pumpkin juice) in a plastic cup for $5. The latter can be found in the Leaky Cauldron or the Three Broomsticks. Now, it’s not a must have for me because I Loooove love pumpkin, and the drink did not taste like it. It was a little bitter but still super sweet. It’s worth a try if you have the time and money, but you’re experience at the park won’t be lost if you don’t try it. Just take pictures of the cool bottle.

    Pumpkin Juice and their cool bottles.

    Pumpkin Juice and their cool bottles.

    Hog’s Head

    Personally, I’m sure this ends up on some people’s MUST DO list, but I’m not a big drinker so I’ll categorize this here. The Hog’s Head is connected to the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. It’s not a full bar area, just a bar. They have some custom beers on tap such as Wizard’s Brew $8 a pint and Dragon’s Scale for $8 a pint. Of course it’s fun to try a custom beer, but for the $16 it costs to try both, I would recommend trying a sip from a friend’s and using the money on souvenirs.

    Gillywater

    Last but not least on my if you have to’s… this is a seriously if you have to aka don’t bother. The bottle looks similar to a water bottle.. .yet it’s labeled Gillywater and is a shocking $8!! I wonder what it is? SPOILER ALERT: It’s an $8 bottle of water. Seriously save your money. They have water fountains.

    Needless to say, I was full and happy from my time in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I hope you have a productive feasting. Let me know what snacks you enjoyed and what snacks you passed on.

     

     

  • Harry Potter and The Theme Park That Took All Of My Money

    Hogwart's Castle within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

    Hogwart’s Castle within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

    So. It finally happened for me. I finally… went… to.. THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!!!!! Words can’t truly sum up the emotion this created for me. In life, the top two things I love are, 2. London and 1. Harry Potter. Needless to say, The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter had me bursting at the seams with joy. In a nutshell, I ran the whole way from the entrance of Universal Studios until the entrance of Harry Potter World (except for 10 minutes I had to wait before the park actually opened). Once I was actually in front of the Islands of Adventure entrance… I broke down. From huge smile to crying face in 2 seconds flat. I was. just. so. damn. happy.

    Part of Hogsmeade

    Part of Hogsmeade

    So now, about the park. If you love Harry Potter, it’s a Godsend, If you don’t like Harry Potter, you will.High five to Universal because both areas, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, look damn near identical to the movies. The buildings have that magical charm and Hogwarts Castle, takes my breath away.

    Just like most theme parks, the rides inside of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter can get LONG. But that’s ok! As long as you hit up The Forbidden Journey first thing in the morning, you only need to wait maybe 20 minutes. (I did, at least.) The Forbidden Journey is located inside of the Hogwarts Castle and they do a fine job of bringing to life some of my favorite aspects of Hogwarts. That would be.. the talking painting, the Fat Lady, the entrance to Dumbledore’s office, the defense against the dark arts classroom, and the entrance to The Room of Requirements, to name a few.

    The entrance to Dumbledore's office.

    The entrance to Dumbledore’s office.

    So the ride is a 4D ride.. you’re in a little ‘carriage” that follows a giant screen. Think Disney Haunted Mansion, except faster and with a screen in front of you. I personally loved it, but be warned, some get motion sickness. I just so happen to love roller coasters, so it worked out for me. If you love it, be sure to ride it again! I went 4 times.

    The Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge are both within the Hogsmeade park, and they’re great! Especially Dragon Challenge. But the other ultra popular Harry Potter Ride is Escape From Gringotts on the Universal side. Similar to The Forbidden Journey in both experience and wait time, this was my second favorite line to wait in. You can see the goblins working and snap some pictures of the inside of Gringotts, aka one of the safest places in the Wizarding World. The true highlight of this ride though, is the dragon on the OUTSIDE of the building that breathes fire every few minutes. Talk about realistic right?

    The dragon of Gringotts

    The dragon of Gringotts

    Now, I talked about the items that come with your admission ticket, but that’s not the only thing you die hard Harry Potter fans will send your money on. The souvenirs are top notch. Each shop has something different to offer. There’s candy at Honeydukes, quidditch must haves from the Quidditch Supply Store, things that make you giggle from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, a wand from Ollivander’s,  and dark magic items from Borgin and Burke. I bought something from every store! (Not to mention food… which I will have to talk about in a completely different post.)

    Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley

    Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley

    So needless to say, bring all the money $$$ because this park does a damn good job of making you spend it, and it will take it happily. In fairness though, it’s worth every penny for the Potterheads out there who want to bring home as much magic as possible. 🙂

    The best way to really understand what I’m talking about is to see an experience everything first hand and I HIGHLY suggest you do so. Don’t wait 5 years like I did! But when you finally make it to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, let me give you some pro tips.

    1. As mentioned, get to The Forbidden Journey ASAP. Do this also for Escape From Gringotts (Preferably go at least two days so you can prioritize appropriately.)
    2. Travel light throughout the park, save souvenirs for the last day because you will HAVE to put your personal items inside of lockers before you get on a ride. Kinda annoying, but rules are rules.
    3. The line for the Hogwart’s Express, which connects Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley can get crazy long. You will be tempted to just walk to each park, but DON’T! It’s not just a train to and from, it’s an experience. So just like the popular rides above, do this early or really late, so you can ride it both ways.

      Just got off the Hogwarts Express.

      Just got off the Hogwarts Express.

    4. I know I just said don’t walk… BUT if you do, be sure to stop next to the entrance of the Hogwart’s Express on the Universal side. Even if you don’t walk, just come out of Diagon Alley and do this…. Go visit 12 Grimmauld Place. You may see Sirius Black! Or at least you’ll see the Knight Bus.

      12 Grimmauld Place.

      12 Grimmauld Place.

    5. Knockturn Alley isn’t meant to be easy to find and most tourists actually can’t find it. For Orlando, it’s at a dead end in the park with the smallest sign that will point you in the right direction. Take the time to find it. When you get there, it’s like another new world. When I went, there were only 5 other tourists in the dark area. It was also storming with lighting which added to the creepy effect of Knockturn Alley, You may also see something Draco fixed….

      The Vanishing Cabinet in Borgin and Burkes.

    6. As mentioned with the storm, don’t let the rain scare you! Most people leave because of the rain and this is the best time to tough it out at the park. Buy a poncho, and keep at it. The crowds will thin, but you’re fun will only increase! Besides, nothing feels more like London, than a rainy night. 🙂

    I know this post was a tad long… but like mentioned in the start, I love Harry Potter… and now you all know a snippet of what I mean by that. Stay tuned for more information about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the amazing food it has to offer. Tell me, have you been to this park? What did you think?

  • Neon Museum

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    Las Vegas gets a bad rap for being a cultural black hole. I’m aware the city is known for tearing down buildings before they collect too much history, but that doesn’t mean Las Vegas is void of all cultural interests. Take the Neon Museum for example. Also known as the Neon Boneyard or Neon Graveyard. You know all those flashy neon signs Las Vegas is known for? Well this is where they go to retire. In case you didn’t know… I LOVE NEON. So this place is now near and dear to my heart.

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    Moulin Rouge letters have been moved around to spell “In Love”

    The Neon Museum opened in 2012 and is located in Downtown Las Vegas and is dedicated to preserving the iconic art form of the neon sign. Tours are available daily and I HIGHLY recommend taking the time to visit. I will admit… I’ve lived in Las Vegas for many years and have only recently visited… but I don’t want you to make the same mistake! So when in Las Vegas.. JUST GO. It’s a quick hour tour where you learn the history of most of the 150 neon sign but also of the old buildings it used to light up.

    Neon Graveyard

    Neon Graveyard

    Sahara Hotel!

    Sahara Hotel!

    Most of the iconic Las Vegas Neon signs can be found in the Boneyard. Such as: The Golden Nugget, Moulin Rouge, Binion’s Horseshoe, Sassy Sally, Algiers, Sahara and my favorite, The Stardust! (Just to name a few, of course.) There are so many more that in a way an hour is definitely not enough. If you’re lucky enough to have the chance, I encourage you to visit more than once.

    Sassy Sally... It really means $a$$y $ally

    Sassy Sally… It really means $a$$y $ally

    I would love to give you the history breakdown of all the different signs but that would take the fun out of going yourself! I’ll give you one fun fact… The Stardust used to host “Nuclear Parties” aka…. come to the hotel and let’s watch the atomic testing in the desert. Stardust was also the hotel run by Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal!! Don’t know who that is? Robert Di Niro plays a character based on him in one of my favorite movies… CASINO! Have you heard of it? I hope so. If not…. go watch it now! See why the Stardust is one of my faves? 🙂

    The Stardust

    The Stardust

    So let me know… what do you think of Las Vegas culture? Until next time!

    ;)

    😉

  • Chicago Must Eat

    In case you haven’t figured this out about me, I like to eat. I love eating when I am traveling and sometimes I even choose my next destinations based on what snack items I am dying to eat. The most recent food destination was Chicago. I’m going to cut straight to the point and tell you what you absolutely MUST EAT when in Chicago.

    Pizza – Chicago Style – Deep Dish

    Chicago Deep Dish

    Chicago Deep Dish

    I’m pretty sure I summed up everything important in that header. Eat pizza. Eat Chicago style pizza. Eat deep dish. When in Chicago just do it. You will not be disappointed. In case you don’t know what it is, it is the dough, then cheese and toppings, finished off with sauce. It is basically a pizza backwards and also  a staple of the city. Truly one piece can carry you throughout the day. There are many places that sell “the best deep dish in Chicago” and I definitely ate at a few of them, but my favorite was Giordano’s. They have a couple locations throughout the city so you can’t miss it.

    Hotdog – Chicago Style Dog

    Portillo's Chicago Hotdog and Chocolate Cake Shake

    Portillo’s Chicago Hotdog and Chocolate Cake Shake

    Again. Another obvious, but I shall reiterate. You must eat a Chicago style hotdog. It’s like a regular hotdog except it is topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, relish, pickles, tomatos, pepper and celery salt. In short, it has everything on it except ketchup and it’s glorious! Commonly found at many fast food locations in Chicago, I found the best one to be from Portillo’s. An added bonus of Portillo’s is their chocolate cake shake. The perfect complement to a Chicago dog.

    Italian Beef

    Al's Italian Beef

    Al’s Italian Beef

    Chicago has another sandwich on a bun that’s a force to be reckoned with and that is the Italian Beef. The messy sandwich of thin slices of beef on an Italian roll, onions and either sweet or hot peppers that is all dripping with delicious meat juices. It’s a sloppy mess but you will literally eat it all up. This is probably my favorite savory item I discovered while in the Windy City. I am on the hunt for the perfect Italian Beef on the west coast.

    Donought Vault

    Doughnut Vault - Salted Bourbon Pecan

    Doughnut Vault – Salted Bourbon Pecan

    Located at the end of an empty street, Doughnut Vault is a tiny and I mean TINY doughnut shop that sells their sweet treats daily until their stock runs out. In other words, get there early! They have their staples like a vanilla glaze doughnut and doughnut holes, but they also have their seasonal flavors. When I visited the flavor of the day was a salted bourbon pecan doughnut and it tasted like a drunken Christmas in my mouth and I loved it.

    These four places in no way encompass all the snacks and meals that Chicago has to offer, but I am confident in saying that no vacation to Chicago would be complete unless you eat THESE foods. Let me know, have you been t Chicago and tried these places? Am I missing another must have?

     

  • Sotto Mare – San Francisco

    Sotto Mare 3

    In a city known for it’s seafood, Sotto Mare in San Francisco still manages to stand out. It’s been featured on food shows and travel shows and is labeled a must visit when in the San Francisco Bay Area. The restaurant is located on a small street near the Little Italy portion of the city. It doesn’t have a flashy store front, but you will smell the deliciousness as you approach and you will know you have found the right spot.

    In case you need the sign, this is what you are looking for!

    In case you need the sign, this is what you are looking for!

    The restaurant is small and cozy with plenty of cutesy decorations on their wall. There isn’t too much seating to speak of and I would bet my bottom dollar though that they are constantly full in the evening… Luckily, they were not too busy when I arrived in the middle of a Monday afternoon. Which was great because I was HUNGRY.

    Inside of Sotto Mare

    Inside of Sotto Mare

    They have a variety of shellfish on their menu such as oysters, clams and mussels. All brought in daily. The prices are reasonable so I opted to try their oysters and clams. Both were so fresh and were served with some excellent horseradish, Seems like a weird thing to focus on, but it was so good…and I don’t even normally like horseradish!

    Some of the clams and oysters at Sotto Mare

    Some of the clams and oysters at Sotto Mare

    Now the shellfish is delightful, but the real stars of their menu are their Italian influenced seafood dishes and none compares to their “best damn crab cioppino”. If you don’t know what cioppino is.. then my friends, you have not been living. Cioppino is a fish stew that is traditionally made with the fresh catch of the day. Luckily, in San Francisco that consists of shrimp, mussels, clams, squid, scallops and crab! Tons of crab. Then it is all stewed together in a hearty tomato soup and served with sourdough bread. In short, it is seafood heaven. The bowl is $40 but is good enough for two hungry people and maybe three if you are feeling generous. There were only two at our table and no left overs to be found.

    Sotto Mare 4

    Bowl of the best damn Crab Cioppino at Sotto Mare in San Francisco.

    In all the times I have visited San Francisco, this was my first time at Sotto Mare. I usually do not eat at the same places when I visit my favorite city by the bay since there are so many extraordinary establishments to try, but Sotto Mare may just become a regular spot for me when I am in the area. I mean, any place that serves that much seafood in a bowl deserves a new loyal customer. Wouldn’t you agree?

  • Arawan Thai Bistro

    Arawan Thai Bistro & Dessert

    Arawan Thai Bistro & Dessert

    Arawan Thai Bistro is a new restaurant that has opened up off the Las Vegas Strip. The ambiance is modern and has a very welcoming and friendly staff. However, the location is a little seedy but is next to other popular Thai restaurants such as the legendary Lotus of Siam and Komol. Tough location to be in, but their food delivers.

    Arawan 2

    Reasonably priced entrees that are sized enough to share with the table and a $10 lunch menu make this a top choice for anyone budget conscious but looking for a great meal. The lunch menu in my opinion is the way to go. It comes with egg drop soup and crispies, the main course and the daily dessert, all for $10. You really can’t beat that.

    Lunch menu at Arawan

    Lunch menu at Arawan

    Arawan 4

    Arawan 7

    Arawan 8

    The soup was delicious and the perfect size to start a meal with. I opted for the basil rib-eye and the medium heat choice was the right amount to make everyone at the table happy and the dessert of they day was a hazelnut tart, which was also delicious. Since we were a larger group we did order some additional items for the table. We shared the tempura calamari appetizer and the calamri had awesome texture and tasted pretty fresh and got a second dessert…. because everyone has a sweet tooth! We opted for their creme brulee instead of a traditional Thai dessert because the presentation for which was beautiful!). Don’t forget to wash it all down with their delicious Thai tea! (Also a favorite drink of mine in general).

    Arawan 5

    Arawan 6

    Arawan 9

    I definitely see myself becoming a regular at this establishment and I highly encourage any Las Vegas local, or tourist looking to leave the Strop to become one as well.

     

  • Sage at Aria

    Sage Menu

    Sage at Aria is a contemporary American restaurant with a bit of French flair. Created by Chef Shawn McClain, Sage features fresh, farm to table produce and puts a new spin on what is considered comfort food or American Cuisine. As a Concierge, I have been fortunate enough to sample Sage during a work dine around, however, this was my first time having a full blown, dining experience and my opinion has done a 180 degree turn around. 

    Let’s begin at the bar. Their drink menu is phenomenal. It was a little difficult to choose. Do I want something with jalapeno? or maybe some ice tea ice cubes? How about a drink with liquid nitrogen? In the end, I chose the sweetest option. The Pink Cashmere $18, aka, a drink made with a huge pile of cotton candy!!

    Sage Pink Cashmere

    Sage Pink Cashmere

    Adorable presentation of the cotton candy that melts once the drink of cherry vodka, lime juice and cranberry juice is poured over it.Totally girly, totally me. My boyfriend opted for the Queen Bee $15. I know it too sounds girly but the mixture of gin, lemon juice and honey & habanero syrup leaves a manly kick. They also have a wide variety of craft beers from around the world, various wines and their signature Absinthes! If you just drink and dine at the bar, you would not be disappointed.

    Decor at Sage

    Decor at Sage

    For us though, it was onward to the main dining room. Let me take a minute and tell you about what Sage looks like. It’s gold and dark purple, with interesting painting on the wall. The light fixtures and plush seating is all meant to be reminiscent of a prohibition era speakeasy. Think Great Gatsby in Purple. Sounds nice right? It is. They do an excellent job seducing you into the restaurant and making you forget you are actually inside a hotel, yet it is not so stuffy you feel like you can’t let your hair down a tad.

    Now on to what is REALLY important (at least to me) in a restaurant. The food. They have a great selection, but some items spoke to me right away. We opted for the following appetizers: Kushi Oysters $21, Roasted Veal Sweetbreads $18 and the Spanish Grilled Octopus $22. Dear Lord, let me tell you!! Each of those were great.

    Kushi Oysters at Sage

    Kushi Oysters at Sage

    The oysters were served a sauce of tequila, pepper and tobasco that gave the right amount of kick I like.

    Veal Sweetbreads at Sage

    Veal Sweetbreads at Sage

    The sweetbreads were very interesting. Creamy yet meaty all at the same time. It paired well with the mushrooms and polenta it came with, definitely the more filling of the appetizers.

    Spanish Octopus at Sage

    Spanish Octopus at Sage

    But the octopus was the real star of the appetizers. t’s so fresh and cooked so well, it will leave a lasting impression on you. I think there is only one other octopus dished I’ve had that has come close, but I would have to go to San Diego for that. (Click here if you want to see what I’m talking about).

    For my main course, I knew I needed the Maine Day Boat Scallops $44 in my life.

    Maine Day Boat Scallops at Sage

    Maine Day Boat Scallops at Sage

    The plate comes with three massive oysters and oxtail. The plate was light, yet satisfying. The scallops were perfection. I do not believe I have ever had such a great scallop dish. If you go to Sage, get the scallops! I mean… after all… it is one of their signature dishes.

    After the appetizers and my main dish, I didn’t think I would have enough room for dessert, but my waiter sold me on the Foie Gras Candy Bar $20.

    Foie Gras Candy Bar at Sage

    Foie Gras Candy Bar at Sage

    It sounds a little… odd, I know. Served with salt & pepper peanut butter ice cream with a layer of foie gras, which is then covered in a milk chocolate shell and bourbon caramel sauce and popcorn. I don’t know about you, but that translates to heaven to me. It is so decadent and out of this world. It is literally a game changer in the dessert world for me. I usually like my foie more savory and I thought I wouldn’t like it served sweet, but to be honest, you can’t even taste it in the dessert. I think if anything it just enhances the creamy texture. I can’t express enough how much I love this dessert. I would go back and order three courses of this.

    I know that Sage is known for a constantly changing menu, but the selfish part in me is really hoping that they don’t change any of the listed items any time soon. 🙂 Now that my mouth is sufficiently watering, please excuse me while I go and book another reservation at Sage. Until next time!

     

     

     

     

  • Lago

    Lago at the Bellagio

    Lago at the Bellagio

    Lago, is one of the newest restaurants in Las Vegas by James Beard Award-winning Chef Julian Serrano and is located within the Bellagio. When given the chance to dine at Lago (and ultimately review it) who wouldn’t be thrilled?! Lago is an Italian restaurant with small plate options of meat and seafood, vegetarian, desserts and cocktails! Not only that, but it has arguably, one of the best views of the Bellagio Fountains.

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    Patio views from Lago at the Bellagio

    Since Lago by Julian Serrano is all small plates, each plate is meant to be about 3 or 4 bites and the recommendation is that every person at the table order about 4 plates of food. However, if you have a large appetite, I would suggest to order 5 – 6 plates. The menu at Lago is large and diverse. I would venture to say that there is something for everyone. During an opening preview had the opportunity to try about 80% of the menu with my party, so I will fill you in on some of my favorites.

    Crostini & Pizzette (Toasted Bread & Small Pizza)

    Lago at the Bellagio

    Lago at the Bellagio

    Left to right: ‘NDUJA | spicy pork sausage | gorgonzola $10, MARGHERITA | tomato sauce | house made mozzarella | basil $14, BRUSCHETTA AL POMODORO | tomatoes | basil | garlic oil $7. If you only pick one bread item, my favorite was the Nduja. It was everything. Very flavorful. The texture and taste is very satisfying.

    Pesce (Seafood)

    In general, seafood is not one of the main items I like to order at a tapas style restaurant. But if YOU like seafood, these two are my main recommendations.

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    Seafood at Lago

    BRANZINO LIVORNESE | capers | olives | tomatoes $16, which was excellent. The fish was light and the skin was just the right amount of crispy. I may put this second to Dover Sole (which is my favorite.)

    The bottom is a seafood platter sample of the following: *CIOPPINO |white fish and clams, *TONNO | ahi tuna,*CAPASANTA | scallop, and *SALMONE | Skuna Bay salmon. The best one would be the salmon! The capers are always a good pairing.

     GNOCCHI! 

    No other word for it. No need for it’s specific classification. Just look for gnocchi on their menu. To the left, GNOCCHI ALLA ROMANA | flat semolina gnocchi | blue cheese $14. The gnocchi alone is heavenly but if you order the dish to the right, 7 & 7 | potato gnocchi | lobster knuckles | salsa di crostacei $19 you will be able to leave the restaurant happy. I would come back just for those dishes..

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    Carne (Meat)

    Make sure you save room to try some of these meats! Left: POLPETTE DI CARNE | tomato braised beef meatballs $15            Top Right: SCALOPPINA DI VITELLO | veal piccata $20 Bottom Right: *BISTECCA | 1lb bone-in rib eye $50. I know the Bistecca seems a little pricey, but it can be shared easily with at least 3 – 4 people. More reason to order it, right?

    PhotoGrid_1429073784680Desserts!!

    Just like the gnocchi, the desserts need no introduction. EVERY SINGLE ONE of them were beyond amazing. As great as other dishes were, the desserts were still the best part in my opinion. 
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    The canolis (bottom left) and the gelato mousse (bottom left) were two of my absolute favorites. The tiramisu (upper left) is a classic and is above and beyond the level of average. Lastly, the chocolate hazelnut dome (upper left) is any nuttella addict’s dream come true. Don’t judge me, but yes, I ate them all.


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    All in all, Lago is a spectacular edition to the Bellagio. An addition that they needed, if I’m being honest. When you are done enjoying the food of Julian Serrano, be sure to step out to the patio and catch some of the Bellagio Fountain show. It’s a view that is hard to come by, so enjoy it!

    I hope you enjoyed my review of Lago at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Leave a comment and let me know if you’e been to Lago and how you felt about it. Have a fabulous day!

  • A Cosmopolitan Staycation

    Late afternoon view from the Cosmopolitan

    Late afternoon view from the Cosmopolitan

    I’m going to start this blog piece with a fairly bold statement… The Cosmopolitan is my favorite hotel (so far!) to have a staycation. There. I said it! There is no going back now.

    The Cosmopolitan is a fun and vibrant hotel. It exudes that young and trendy vibe that makes you want to come back again and again. I’ve had the chance to stay in The Cosmopolitan many times and each time is just as great, if not better, than the time before. The room, which will be the highlight of this blog post, is best described as modern and funky luxury. The Cosmopolitan building was originally envisioned to be a condominium complex on the strip and you can see that reflected in the room shapes and sizes.

    View from the main entry of the room.

    View from the main entry of the room.

    In general, the rooms at the Cosmo are much more spacious than you will find in standard rooms on Las Vegas Blvd. However, this time around I opted for a much more spacious lodging area. I chose the ‘Terrace Suite’. It’s considered one of their premium rooms and has a separate living room and bedroom as well as an oversized private terrace!! (The only hotel on the strip with a balcony I might add.)

    The terrace of the Terrace Suite

    The terrace of the Terrace Suite

    This room just makes me feel like I am living the high roller lifestyle and relaxing in the lap of luxury. Who wouldn’t want to curl up in a massive bed like this on a daily basis?

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    If you ever want to Treat yo’self! in Las Vegas, spring for a room at the Cosmopolitan. This is the kind of room you can spend hours in and you would not regret a single moment of it. Want to lay in a comfortable with the balcony door open and watching tv? You can do that!

    Cosmo3Want to soak in a bubbler tub and think about nothing other than how soothing the water is? You can do that!

    Tub big enough to fit 2!

    Tub big enough to fit 2!

    Want to cook food in your room with a stove or oven so you don’t have to pay ridiculous restaurant rates? You can do that! Want your friends to have their own bathroom and shower so you don’t have to share your own amazing bathroom? Yup. You can do that here too. Want a nice couch and coffee table to feel fancy while scrolling through your phone? Yes, that is available to you.

    The furnishings inside of the room.

    The furnishings inside of the room.

    Lastly, want to watch the Bellagio Fountains all night from your own private balcony that give you the best view in the city? Yes. You can indeed do that too.

    The only thing you can’t do at the Cosmopolitan is go wrong. Seriously, if you haven’t stayed there before, you owe to your Las Vegas vacation or staycation to give it a chance. You will probably end up a Cosmopolitan junkie like I am, but it’s worth it!

    Where else can you have a view like this??

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  • Sweets Raku

    Stella at Sweets Raku

    Stella at Sweets Raku

    In case you didn’t know this about me, I’m a big desserts person. Given the fact that Sweets Raku is an establishment geared towards desserts, I knew I had to check it out. It did take me some time but eventually I decided my birthday was a good enough excuse to give it a whirl.

    Jack in the Cup at Sweets Raku

    Jack in the Cup at Sweets Raku

    Located west of Las Vegas Blvd. near the Chinatown area, the restaurant is designed for you to try a three course dessert tasting menu. (It’s only $19!). Two courses are already pre-selected by the chef and you are able to choose an individual dessert from their menu of five options (which changes seasonally). Everything is then prepared in front of you, which is also wildly entertaining.

    To begin the epic dessert adventure of Sweets Raku, they have you eat the menu. That’s right. It’s edible. Pretty cool right? Talk about a no waste system.

    Edible menu at Sweets Raku

    Edible menu at Sweets Raku

    After the menu, the real first course is usually a light option, like a seasonal sorbet. Something that helps cleanse and prepare the palate for the awesomeness that is about to ensue.

    First course - Mango sorbet and mint jelly

    First course – Mango sorbet and mint jelly

    The second course would be the item of your choosing. My friends opted for the Jack in the Cup (similar to a mug brownie but about 30 times better) and the Stella. I chose the Mt. Fuji. A chestnut/hazelnut flavored cream dessert. It looks like a pasta ball but tastes like heaven. They even customized it for my birthday! Nice little touch, if I do say so myself.

    Mt. Fuji - Happy Birthday Style

    Mt. Fuji – Happy Birthday Style

    (*The fantastic thing about all their desserts is that none were too overwhelmingly sweet. Since it’s not too decadent, it makes it easy to go through the three courses). Finally, the last course was a fresh made cream puff filled with your choice of vanilla or chocolate cream and your choice of berry jam.

    Third course - Cream Puff

    Third course – Cream Puff

    If spectacular desserts isn’t enough reason for you to visit this adorable place, just know it also has a few savory dishes (like foie gras!!) on the menu. In addition to savory, they also have some libations to choose from. Sweets Raku has an impressive wall of teas to choose from and a fairly wide selection of wines.

    Tea wall at Sweets Raku

    Tea wall at Sweets Raku

    Be aware that the restaurant does not take reservations, so on busier evenings there may be a long wait or it may be difficult with a large party. However, bonus points to Sweets Raku for also being open until 12:00am on most nights.

    If you’re really into hole in the wall spots, and looking for a break from the price point and fuss of Las Vegas Blvd… consider venturing out to Sweets Raku.

    Wine selection at Sweets Raku

    Wine selection at Sweets Raku