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Las Vegas Mini Guide, or, So Much More Than I Expected

4 May

After landing in Las Vegas, I remarked to the husband that I was surprised at how beautiful it is. While he had been before, our trip in February was my first time in Sin City. I quickly realized that Vegas would surprise me many times over the next five days.

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign

I kept hearing that three days was the maximum amount of time many visitors would stay, but I could have easily lingered a day or two longer than we did. While many people go for debauchery a la Hangover, I found that Vegas has infinitely more to offer than free casino drinks and wedding chapels.

Floating Street Artist Entertainer Performer The Strip Las Vegas

For us, having family to visit made the trip exceedingly more enjoyable, but I’d recommend a visit to everyone. Fun sites, new experiences, and amazing food: below I’ll list the things I’d hate for you to miss if you found yourself in Vegas.

Bellagio Las Vegass Chihuly Glass Ceiling

Chihuly Glass Bellagio Ceiling Las Vegas

The infamous Strip, lined with enormous casinos, really proved false the maxim, “everything’s bigger in Texas.” Just a couple of casinos could take you days to explore. I soaked up all things over-the-top, elaborate, and exuberant, like a good Vegas traveller would. A favorite of mine was the Bellagio, with the Chihuly glass ceiling, pictured above, and the world’s largest chocolate fountain, pictured below.

World's Largest Chocolate Fountain Bellagio Las Vegas

At the Cosmopolitan I grabbed a fortune from the giant Lucky Cat and a drink in the stunning Chandelier Bar, a three story lounge, draped lavishly in seemingly endless strands of crystals. The Monkey’s Uncle was a sweet concoction of Monkey Shoulder Whiskey, Creme de Banana, Cream, Nutella, House Made Cinnamon-Vanilla Syrup.

Monkeys Uncle Cocktail Chandelier Bar Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

At Caesar’s Palace we enjoyed truffles that freely dispense from the large clock at Payard every fifteen minutes. While we were there, I picked up a Raspberry Pistachio Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich. At Monte Carlo, bundled up in parkas, surrounded by ice sculptures and sitting on benches made of ice and laden with furs and hides, we sipped cocktails out of glasses made of ice at Minus5 Bar. Vegas has plenty of experiences for the books. While, I opted not to take a gondola ride in the Venetian, I loved hearing the gondoliers singing in Italian as we strolled to brunch at Bouchon where we devoured warm beignets. I loved the antique brass card holder, below, so much, that I came home and scoured Etsy for an identical one.

Bouchon Bistro Business Card Holder Las Vegas

While we were there, the casinos were adorned in Chinese New Year decor. The Venetian and Mandalay Bay were most bedecked for the Year of the Goat.

Chinese New Year Year of the Goat Floral Arrangement Firecrackers

Since we rented a car to day trip to the Grand Canyon, we spent a fair amount of time exploring Vegas like a local might. My favorite meals in Vegas were not prepared by the chefs on Las Vegas Boulevard, but instead on Rainbow Boulevard. I had perhaps my favorite foodie experience to date in Vegas. Following a spicy Thai meal at Lotus of Siam of Nam Kao Tod (crispy rice) and duck panang, I indulged in three course dessert at Sweets Raku.

My experience at Sweets Raku was off to a great start with an edible menu, rolled in a cookie ring, and served with dipping sauce. From there, I chose my courses: Pineapple Sorbet with White Wine Jelly, Strawberry Tiramisu, and a chocolate creme puff with raspberries. Anthony skipped the multi-course meal in favor of an indulgent Chocolate Souffle with Banana Pudding.

We loved the area so much, we returned another day to have lunch at the crowded, but wait-worthy Monta Ramen. Having Ramen Tatsu-ya in Austin has really ruined me for ramen, but my Tonkatsu style ramen with black garlic did not disappoint.

For non-gambling fun, we headed north on Las Vegas Boulevard and visited the Neon Museum, a boneyard filled with the neon signs that Vegas is known for, from years past.

Stardust Neon Sign Museum Las Vegas Nevade

Driving from the airport to our hotel, a glimmer of silver glinted in in my eyes and I knew I had seen Gehry. Not far from downtown, we found it: The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. I know nothing about architecture, but love pretty buildings.

Frank Gehry Architecture Las Vegas Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

We also spent a little time on Fremont Street downtown, zip-lining on Slotzilla under the LED video canopy and walking through an old casino or two where you could hear all the coins clambering as people won and lost buckets of money, rather than swiping player cards as is common on The Strip.

Slotzilla Freemont Street Experience Las Vegas

I wanted to purchase a day pass to slide through the shark tank at the Golden Nugget, but it closes early and swimming was not allowed when we had the time. I suppose that means I have to visit Las Vegas again.

Shark Tank Slide Golden Nuggest Las Vegas

Have you been to Vegas? Tell me about your trip.

Snow Globe Cake

22 Dec

This year, Anthony and I hosted our first annual Christmas party. After all was said and done he told me, “We need to throw more parties. It makes your soul happy.” I guess it was pretty obvious to him that I loved every bit of “work” that went into it.

The centerpiece was an easier-than-it-appears snow globe cake. Christmas Snow Globe Cake

I never take shortcuts on frosting because nothing can beat a homemade buttercream, especially when it is Nutella buttercream. Everything else, I totally cheated on. Boxed cake. Premade fondant. Store-bought gingerbread house kit.

Snow Globe Christmas Cake

The depth of the gingerbread house had to be cut to size so the house would fit under the dome. I sawed through the gingerbread with a bread knife and realized later it probably would have been easier if I had worked with a wet blade.

Snow_globe_Christmas_Cake

I entered photos of the cake in a contest at work. Cross your fingers for me, there is $100 on the line!

Snowglobe Cake Red Christmas

Tell me about some of the best Christmas parties you’ve ever been to in the comments.

Thanks for reading,

♥ Dominique

Pizza Week

30 May

Love makes you do crazy things. In my case, it was eating pizza for dinner five nights in a row.

I am fairly confident pizza is my husband’s love language, so what better way to spend date night funds than to explore the pizzerias in Austin-town? We made a point to go to places we had never been before so, while delicious, Winflo, Home Slice, and Salvation Pizza didn’t make the cut. We also avoided chains, so Pizza Hut, Dominos, and Papa Johns were out.

Don’t bother consulting with your doctor before attempting to recreate this adventure, you already know what the M.D. would say.

Day 1: We went to aRoma, a brand new place a few miles from home. We devoured their pizza the second day they were open.

aRoma Pizza Austin

We ordered a pie with four cheeses, including gorgonzola, and added truffle oil (because what pizza doesn’t need more greasy fat?).

aRoma Tiramisu Austin

aRoma’s version of tiramisu was a personal favorite. It had the classic ingredients (which I am a stickler about) and a fun presentation. That is Kaluha granita melting on the side.

aRoma Tiramisu

Day 2: We wandered over to the Eastside and tried VIA 313: Detroit style pizza made in an Austin style eatery.

Via 313 Austin

The thick, meaty, square  pizza was comfort food to the core. Carb. Overload.

VIA 313 Austin PIzza

Day 3: Possibly my favorite of the five, Bufalina used fresh ingredients and baked its pizza in a wood-fired oven in the dining area. We arrived promptly at 5:30, Bufalina’s opening time, and there was a wait within minutes, for good reason.

I should have snapped a few images of the oven, the restaurant interior, and the delectable gnocchi we devoured while our pizza was prepared.

Bufalina Pizza Austin

Day 4: We ventured out to Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza in Dripping Springs.

Stanley's Farmhouse Pizza Pints and Pies Sign

Our Mediterranean pizza pie was topped with spinach, sundried tomatoes, olives, and feta.

Stanley's Farmhouse Pizza

I don’t think the pizza was worth the 45+ minute wait, but the outdoor-only dining allowed us to tote Nola around.  The atmosphere is also great for a large group.  In addition to the pizza, my favorite local brewery, Jester King, is located right next door.

Nola at Stanley's

Day 5: We headed to fabulous Rounders before going to a screening at the Ritz Alamo Drafthouse. The sign has been begging me to come in for months. Who can resist New York style pizza with a Vegas vibe?

Rounders Pizza Sign Austin

We had to go classic and ordered a plain ol’ pepperoni. We ordered the casino (small) size, and still brought home almost half of a pizza. Can I add that the garlic knots were the best of their kind?

Rounders Pizza Austin

Rounders is the place you want to have your birthday party as a kid or the place you might play endless arcade games on a first date.

Rounders Pizza Decor

Day 6: We mulled over the places that remained on our list, Eastside Pies, Pinthouse Pizza, Hoboken Pie, Little Deli and Pieous, and decided to save them for another day…

Thanks for reading,

♥ Dominique

Paris Eats

20 May

Here is what I found odd and endearing about eating in Paris:

  1. No butter or oil for your baguette
  2. No bread plates -patrons placed their bread directly on the table
  3. Tips tax included in the menu price -how spoilingly (yep, made up that word) refreshing
  4. Waiters looking at you sideways if you refused espresso and/or dessert after any meal
  5. How long the French linger over each meal
  6. Having to request your check each time you finished your food- it is thought rude for a server to present a bill before it is requested

Anthony and I learned quickly that most Parisian restaurants are closed between lunch and dinner and reopen around 7:30pm. We weren’t quite hungry for lunch after getting situated in our HomeAway, missed our first opportunity for a good meal, and were starving by dinner time. La Fontaine de Mars, a suggestion I had picked up from an article about interior designer Kelly Wearstler, served excellent French fare . There, I ate Morel mushrooms for the first time. I’m a believer.

La Fontaine de Mars | Paris, France

Rue Saint Dominique, an avenue near the Eiffel Tower, was packed with too many wonderful restaurants and patisseries. Some of my other favorites in the neighborhood were Les CocottesGateaux Thoumieux, and Aux Merveilleux de Fred.

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Cookies and Cream Macarons

6 May

As  you are reading this blog post, Anthony and I are jet-lagged (but enjoying every minute of our first day) in Paris. We are here celebrating our one-year anniversary, fulfilling goals of travelling as often as we can afford our first few years of marriage.

I’ve probably eaten half a dozen French macarons by now, so I thought I’d share a recipe with you so you can get your own taste of Paris.

Cookies and Cream Macarons Recipe | www.gustoandgraceblog.com

 

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Chocolate Chip Cookie and Buttercream Push Pops

1 Apr

Chocolate Chip Cookie Push Pops https://gustoandgrace.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/chocolate-chip-cookie-and-buttercream-push-pops

I saw a few push pop cake pops pop up on party blogs last year and was certain they’d be the next cupcake. Boy, was I wrong. Regardless, I’ve been wanting to make a creative batch of the nostalgic treat since I saw them. With my cookie-loving husband in mind, I opted to bake mini chocolate chip cookies, sandwich them with buttercream, and top them with sprinkles. Chocolate Chip Cookie Push Pops

I found my push-pop containers on clearance at Target, but I have also seen them at Michaels, and on Amazon and Etsy.

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Everyone Should Have A Good: Chili Recipe

4 Mar

As requested by readers after posting my first recipe in the “Everyone Should Have A Good” recipe series, I bring you my favorite Chili recipe: Beef Chili with Avocado Crema. I promise you, this chili will not disappoint.

Chili with Avocado Crema www.gustoandgraceblog.com

For all you Texas Chili fans, beans are optional. For all you chili lovers, consider making a double batch and and freezing half for a lazy day.

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The Best of the Basics: Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

4 Feb
I’ll start by saying this isn’t your average chocolate chip cookie recipe. It’s game changing. Possibly even life changing. Sure, you might have to break out your food scale, pick up flours you don’t normally keep on hand, and make the dough a day in advance, but I promise you, it is worth every. single. bit.

Everyone should have a good killer chocolate chip cookie recipe.

World's Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe https://gustoandgrace.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/worlds-best-chocolate-chip-cookie-recipe

I used to be a Toll House kinda girl. When the day called for chocolate chip cookies, I’d go buy a yellow bag and make the recipe right off the package. And then these.

I adapted this recipe from one my friend Mark gave me, who adapted it from Jacque Torres’ recipe. Mark appropriately calls these cookies “Slap Yo’ Mama Cookies,” because they really are THAT good.

World's Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe https://gustoandgrace.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/worlds-best-chocolate-chip-cookie-recipe

Ingredients:

  • 8 1/2 ounces cake flour
  • 8 1/2 ounces bread flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs yolks
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 18 ounces chocolate chips (I prefer to use 2-3 different sizes and a variety of milk and dark)
  • sea salt (optional)

Directions:

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.

2. Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars until very light, approximately 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours to let the gluten relax.

3. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 340°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

4. Roll 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough and place onto baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool cookies on a wire rack. Eat warm with a big glass of milk.

Makes: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

World's Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe https://gustoandgrace.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/worlds-best-chocolate-chip-cookie-recipe

Want more of my favorite staple recipes? Check out the first recipe in the series: waffles and follow the blog for more to come. When polling readers, chili was a popular response, so keep your eye out because Gusto & Grace will be dishing up a bowl-full of meaty, spicy, avocado crema topped chili soon.

Thanks for reading,
Dominique

Everyone Should Have a Good Waffle Recipe

7 Jan

When I was writing my year-in-review post, I realized I had not shared many savory or staple recipes on Gusto & Grace. This year, I want to change that. Throughout the year, look for basic recipes with the title “Everyone Should Have a Good __________ Recipe.”

Anthony and I have tested four or five different waffle recipes. This recipe makes the best waffles around. The best part is they’re really easy to make. Whip up a batch without separating eggs and whipping egg whites!

Everyone Should Have: A Good Waffle Recipe www.gustoandgraceblog.comMy husband got me the rose gold flatware for Christmas. Isn’t it lovely?

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Toppings of your choice for serving

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Next add the buttermilk, oil, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Let sit for 30 minutes. This allows the buttermilk and baking soda to react and give your waffles that crisp, fluffy texture. Heat up your waffle maker. Use non-stick cooking spray just before pouring the batter onto the waffle maker (only do this for the first waffle). Cook according to waffle maker’s instructions. Makes approximately 10 waffles.

Sometimes, I like to add a little cinnamon to the batter.

Everyone Should Have: A Good  Waffle Recipe www.gustoandgraceblog.comNotice the mini gravy boats I painted for Thanksgiving in the background? They’re perfect for syrup.

Word to the wise: If you don’t yet have a waffle maker, purchase a square one when you do. Frozen waffles toast up nicely, but round waffles won’t fit in a standard toaster. You also make four servings at a time rather than one which is great if you have breakfast guests.

Fill in the blank by commenting below: Everyone should have a good ___________ recipe.

I hope your new year is off to a great start!

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: A recap with recipe links

26 Dec

I hope you had a merry Christmas. I also hope you followed along with the 12 Days of Christmas Cookies Online Cookie Swap Series. I have put permanent links directly to the recipes below for your reference. Here is a recap of what bloggers baked this holiday season:

Day 1: Chocolate Toffee Pretzel Bark with Gusto and Grace

Salted Chocolate Pretzel Bites www.gustoandgraceblog.com

Day 2: Sugar Cookies with Hello Homebody

Day 3: Russian Tea Cakes with Healthy Isn’t Hard

Day 4: Peppermint Brownie Cookies with Unconventional Adventures

Day 5: Almond Jam Bites with Blaine Arin

Day 6: Pizzelles with The Well-Styled Child

 Pizelles with The Well-Styled Child

Day 7: Peanut Butter Blossoms with Debbie Allen

Day 8: Gluten Free Chocolate Walnut Cookies with Thirty One Ministries

Day 9: Treasure Cookies with Enjoying the Journey

Day 10: Dark Chocolate Persimmon Cookies with Simple Pleasures

Dark Chocolate Persimmon Cookies Recipe

Day 11: Chocolate Espresso Cookies with Styled By Ryn

Day 12: Gluten Free Lebkuchen with Clothes, Crafts and Creativity with Caitlin

Did you try any of these recipes? Plan to try any?

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