Party cities in the off-season

One of my favorite girlfriends, Mary, is a baller. She plays craps better than the addictive personality I-Bankers. She drank scotch all throughout my wedding and is one of those people you know you should just follow and it’ll be a good time. It was fitting, then, when she sent out a PSA that she has two nights free every month this year at Paris Las Vegas.

Obviously I’m not going to say no to that.

But what do you do in Vegas in January? We were there over the MLK weekend (Sunday through Tuesday) and absolutely no one was performing. Might I remind you — or, if I haven’t been doing my job well enough, inform you for the first time — that we are Celine Dion SUPERFANS. But this weekend, she was performing Saturday night and Tuesday night. (Cue a full-sized violin — not one of those sarcastic “world’s smallest” ones — because this is a very serious and sad problem for us.) There was some show that Scheana from Vanderpump Rules was in, but unless it’s got the drama with the rest of the gang, I am not into it. (And I know they only film Pump Rules in the summer so I would never meet the rest of the gang. 😉

So Mary and I set out to have an amazing time without the regular Vegas stuff. The highs were in the sixties (fahrenheit) and it was pretty much always overcast, so we decided to make it all about the world-class food, drink, and culture in Vegas. And it was a-m-a-z-i-n-g. So if you are heading to Vegas in the off-season, or if you have been wondering if there’s a reason to take advantage of the CRAZY CHEAP prices this time of year, listen up.


The Paris was so cute. I hadn’t been there since college, and I was so pleased with everything. The location was dynamite — totally central to the Strip. The room was updated and clean and gorge (photo evidence above). The room had a mini fridge for our use (aka for our 3am Chinese food leftovers and a view. There’s a bit of a shopping center attached to the Paris, too, and it served our needs (cross-reference the aforementioned 3am Chinese food).


Then there’s everything else we did.

Short ribs are never not good, right? We went to The Henry for a quick snack of short rib tot-chos after we landed. It’s in the Cosmo and we’ve been a good handful of times, but this time it was our first stop vs. our last stop. Because they’re a 24-hour joint, I had low expectations. They were shockingly good.
Drinks at the Cosmopolitan’s Chandelier bar are never not good. Mary got her classic fizzy drink. Apparently I’ve had it before (???). It’s a nice, smooth cocktail with a little fruit that makes your whole drink feel like Pop Rocks. I had an amazingly airy, herbal cocktail (times two) before doing the obvious perennial activity: Gambling.


That night, we ate at Beauty & Essex. I wish I had photos of the bottle of champagne we got; of the tuna poke tacos and the chicken meatballs (sounds lame but they were UNBELIEVABLE) or even of the espresso we enjoyed, but no. We were so hungry (and honestly it was so dimly lit) that our table was dry in just over an hour before we headed back to the craps tables. All I can say is: Please go.

I’d never had brunch at the Paris, so I made reservations ahead of time at Hexx. I booked it because I’d heard that the waiters will send you on your way with a mimosa to go. (I forgot about this and went home empty-handed, but I bet it would happen if you ask — they were very quick with the refill.) The food was actually fabulous. We had the mimosas (which were too opaque for my taste, but probably a good idea for people in the Vegas mentality) and a hearty omelet with a housemade English muffin. Did you know that English muffins don’t have to be the dry, boring lump that sometimes houses your Egg McMuffin? They can be rich and delicious! Plus, I got a side of (good, thick) bacon and that thing on the right is a cinnamon roll, if you can believe it. We thought it would be WAY too rich but it was unbelievable.

Did you know Vegas has a ton of art installments? We did, but we’d never taken the time to seek them out. This weekend, we hit up two separate James Turrell (!!!) pieces. The one pictured above is in the Shops at Crystals, attached to the Aria. You can see the colored spaces from the mall, but then you can access the actual rooms where the neon lights live, and it’s such an amazing bath of light.


We also went to Akhob, the James Turrell installment inside the Louis Vuitton store. While the tour is free, I had heard the waitlist fills up weeks in advance, so when we made these plans to go to Vegas one week prior, I got ballsy and just called. Turns out, they had an open reservation time. I took it, and we toured it. All I can say is: Make the time. I felt so otherworldly when looking into the space. (And if you have any sort of psychological or medical condition that may not be compatible, looking back always cured me of anything odd I was experiencing.)


Also in the Shops at Crystals? An absolute heap of photogenic spots. When Mary and I walked down these stairs, we thought they were pretty and wooden. But when we looked back, they were a glowing mosaic of natural materials. (Psst: that’s Mary on the stairs!) While I had my DSLR in Las Vegas, I hadn’t brought it to these shops. Bring yours if you’ve got one!

We also hit up the beloved Mandarin Bar, atop (of course) the Mandarin Oriental. I love time lapse videos, and while this one doesn’t capture the hustle of Las Vegas very well, it does show all the lights.


Obviously I got champagne from the Mandarin’s infamous vending machine after we left the bar. (Probably a mistake in hindsight, as we got two drinks at the bar in Bardot before splitting a bottle of wine eating dinner.)


I got the Midnight in Paris (twice) because it has one of my newest fave ingredients: Giffard Pamplemousse. Check it out if you haven’t yet! This was followed by Steak Tartare and a rare steak (what can I say) which I was too hungry to photograph.


I’d always held off on going to Eggslut in Vegas (also at the Cosmo — I seriously love it there) because I’d lived in LA for years, which is where Eggslut began. I finally relented after I had hours to kill alone after Mary left for home on Tuesday morning. I forgot how amazing their food really is. Limited menus are the way. to. go. Do a couple things REALLY WELL instead of doing a lot of things (end of sentence). I added bacon to the Fairfax. Unbelievable.

The crazy-cheap travel prices in Las Vegas during the off-season are there to incentivize you to make all these purchases. It did for me (I even paid for my flight in Southwest miles because I thought it’d be fun to say the whole weekend was free — ha) and all I can say is I hope my husband isn’t reading this because we spent p-l-e-n-t-y on the food experience. So worth it. I’d probably never done Vegas without a pool party in there (thanks to Mary’s cousin who is a promoter — did I mention how awesome she is?) but the food and booze was so enough to justify an amazing weekend away from home. And for me, it’s just over an hour flight. Please, take advantage of the cheap flights and better-than-cheap hotels. Go to Vegas — or whatever equivalent party city you’ve got — and experience it in the off-peak. It’ll make next time even sweeter.

At-home craft cocktails with Shaker & Spoon

Anyone who knows me enough knows I love a good drink. If you’re a friend, you’ve probably been to our place for a cocktail party. Tim and I are major cocktail enthusiasts (and wine, and beer, and spirits served neat or on the rocks or out of the bottle — just kidding) so when we got married, our super talented/interesting/passionate cocktail maestro of a friend, Faith (@barfaith on Instagram!) and her partner Dylan sent us a three month subscription to a craft cocktail kit called Shaker & Spoon.

Each Shaker & Spoon box has three recipes with four servings per recipe. Our box included super interesting ingredients, some of which (like lapsang souchong ginger honey syrup) I’d never heard! They include everything except the alcohol. (Some recipes also called for egg whites, which weren’t included.)

I let Tim choose the first drink we made, and he selected the Mystic Mule. I love ginger but I was totally hesitant about this drink because I think Moscow Mules are incredibly boring (except the mugs, am I right?).

The recipe calls for:

1 1/2 oz rye whiskey (I used my favorite, Rittenhouse 100)

3/4 oz lime juice

3/4 oz lapsang souchong ginger honey syrup

2-3 oz ginger beer

Candied ginger (for garnish)

I enjoy making cocktails so I shook up the first two. The recipe explained how to “whip” the drink in a shaker, which was amazing because I got to learn something AND drink! The cocktail itself shocked me in how delicious it was. I loved having the pretty ginger garnish, too. At home I rarely do any non-necessary garnish. It was warming and just interesting enough without losing the richness of the rye!

The second recipe we made was the East End Sour. Tim was not excited about this one because he doesn’t love coconut, but our box was missing one ingredient so this was the only recipe we could make. (Shaker & Spoon immediately sent us a replacement item once I emailed them!)

The East End Sour was:

1 raw egg white

2 oz rye whiskey (Rittenhouse 100 again!)

3/4 oz lemon juice

3/4 oz spiced coconut syrup

1 dash habañero cocktail spice

1 handcut lemon peel

Candied fennel seeds

I LOOOOVED this cocktail! Even Tim agreed it was deliciously well-balanced, and he drank his two with no problem. I loved how smooth the texture and taste both were. The fennel seeds were intriguing to me, but it turns out they were just garnish that were floated atop the lemon peel. It was cute but I definitely don’t need them if I make it at home.

The final was the most spirit-forward. It was sort of an old fashioned, but much more interesting than the kind that some 25-year-old bro orders because he read it was cool in GQ (and he probably doesn’t have a preference on bourbon). And if you want to hop on the trend of “new twist on an old classic,” this is a great way to dip your toe in without venturing too far from the original. (PS: There are a lot of rum old fashioned recipes circulating — delish, but I think a lot of people have a lingering college-era aversion to rum. Please trust me, rum is worth the re-introduction to your bar cart!)

Sugar and Spice:

2 oz rye (continuing with my Rittenhouse overproof fave!)

1/4 oz fig-raisin syrup

2 dashes Angostura

3 dashes Bittercube Blackstrap bitters

1 spritz orange oil

2-3 spritzes Woodward Extract Co. Allspice extract

Griottines cherry

This one showcased the rye the best. It definitely isn’t for the faint palate, but if you like rye, this is going to be a dynamite one for you.

I can’t wait for our future boxes.

What’s your favorite cocktail recipe? Any new versions of old classics?