What Happens in Vegas…

On this first installment of TCL Goes West, we’re heading to the wild, wild west- Las Vegas.

Day 1

First things first, check out the view from our room:

34th Floor of the Marriott Grand Chateau

34th Floor of the Marriott Grand Chateau

Pretty sweet.

The first night, we went to a rehearsal dinner at the Italian American Club. Turns out the bride’s father, a transplant from NY, is the president.

That night, we had the best Italian Food I’ve ever had outside of the Northeast. In true Italian fashion, first came the antipasto.

Plate of Christmas

Plate of Christmas

This is what we at The Cheese Log like to call Christmas on a Plate. Salami, Capicola, Sopressata, Mortadella along with Provolone, Mozzarella, Fontina and olives. I can hear the Hallelujia Chorus. Hark those herald angels. Amen.

 

I had a bunch of fun explaining the names to my new Uncle John. He’s always a good sport about everything, and tried his best to pronounce them all. And, of course, after 6 Christmases on my side, James knew what to do.

Italian American Billboard Hits

Italian American Billboard Hits

This was the main course. Buffet. Holy goodness.

 

Day 2

The next day, we had several hours to kill before the wedding, so we took off to Red Rock Canyon for some desert hiking. It was gorgeous! And sandy, and hot, and… dry. Very dry.

Red Rock Canyon

 

After all that hiking (which, really, was mostly done from our car. Not sure what that’s called. Let’s call it hiking.) it was time for lunch. Finally, I got to experience the Holy Grail of the American West. The true relic Indiana Jones was searching for in the desert.

The In-N-Out Cheeseburger, Animal Style.

Animal Style

May I just say, WOW? I mean, like Five Guys out here, except better, toasted bun, crispy lettuce, special sauce, and…. WAY cheaper. 2 burgers, fries and a shake and it’s under $10. WHAT?! So, so sad that they are probably never coming to the East Coast.

In-N-Out Menu

In-N-Out Menu

Seriously, did we go back in time? Where did those prices come from? And those hats…

The wedding that night was fun, and the food was good, but not as good as the rehearsal. So, skipping ahead to our last day in Vegas.

 

Day 3

After Mass on Sunday, we went to brunch at the bride’s parents’ house, then headed to the Hoover Dam. Which was like, Damn.

Dam. Just, Dam.

Dam. Just, Dam.

We were really hungry that night, so we went right next door to the buffet at the Planet Hollywood Casino: Spice Market.

This was the entrance to the escalator leading down to the buffet.

This was the entrance to the escalator leading down to the buffet.

They had everything. And to be honest, the food was just kind of OK. It reminded me of… dare I say… college. (Oh no she di-int!)

If I’m ever back in Vegas, we would probably go somewhere else. But the dessert selection, now THAT was pretty impressive.

DESSERT

And that’s only about 1/4 of it. It was way bigger. Plus the soft serve ice cream. And there were some pretty creative items.

Chocolate and Marshmallow

Chocolate and Marshmallow

Cannoli Cupcake

Cannoli Cupcake

Creme Brulee- best thing here

Creme Brulee- best thing here

 

 

 

James was happy.

Pizza, Pasta and Ice Cream, Oh My!

 

After dinner, we saw this:

Bellagio Fountains

 

 

And so concludes the Vegas edition of TCL. Stay tuned for our trip to Flagstaff, Arizona where we almost got killed by an elk. And almost froze to death. And, well, ate stuff. Good stuff. Trust me, you’ll love it.

 

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Smith Island Cake -A.K.A. Why I love Maryland

Not many people outside of Maryland have ever had it. In fact, with the exception of people on the Eastern Shore, not many Marylanders have had it. Smith Island Cake (also known, along with crabs, as God’s Gift to Maryland) looks like this:

Smith Island Cake, as pictured in National Geographic

8-15 layers of yellow cake, with fudgey chocolate icing in between. Seriously, this is the richest cake you’ll ever taste. It’s AMAZING!

They actually make it by cooking each layer separately in its own cake pan, like 8-10 round cake pans with a tablespoon or two of batter in them. Named in 2008 as the official dessert of the State of Maryland, It comes from Smith Island (go figure), a remote island in the Chesapeake Bay that is only accessible by boat. The remoteness and inaccessibility of the island have made the place somewhat of a time capsule. Discovered by John Smith in the 1600s, the people of Smith Island still retain a sort of Elizabethan dialect, as well as an accent that separates them from the rest of Maryland.

Surprisingly, right in the middle of Maryland where most Marylanders live (between DC and Baltimore), Smith Island Cake is almost impossible to find. Luckily for the rest of the world, you can order it online at www.smithislandbakingco.com and have it shipped to your door in 2 days or less. I think I know what I want for my birthday…

Endangered Species Chocolate

This week I decided to try a new brand of chocolate. Well, new to me anyways. I bought a bar of Endangered Species Chocolate, Supreme Dark 72% Cocoa. I was enticed by the cute chimpanzee on the wrapper and the note: “10% of net profits donated to support species, habitat and humanity”  Check out the site:

http://chocolatebar.com/

I mean what’s better than that? Eat some awesome chocolate AND help a monkey while you’re at it? I’m all for it.

I make a point of incorporating dark chocolate into my diet (only a little at a time, of course, because I’m trying to manage my weight as well). I’m no food snob, and enjoyed Hershey’s growing up, but recently in my adult life I started become more interested in chocolate brands.

In my search for awesome chocolate, I found out a little more than most of us want to know. The thing is, chocolate has a dark, disgusting secret. The major chocolate companies of America (read: Hershey’s and Mars) buy cocoa that comes from plantations that use child slave labor.

Do you really want some innocent kid to suffer just so you can have cheap chocolate? Now really, I’ve never been a hippie, and I’m not one of those soapbox, boycotting types. But I’m all in favor of, as much as possible, replacing my “blood chocolate” with better tasting, higher quality chocolate that is also free of slave labor.

I’m glad to read that Hershey’s has been taking steps in the last 10 years to limit their indirect participation in child slave labor chocolate, but if there are a dozen other companies that can go 100% slavery-free, why can’t Hershey’s do it too?