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STRIPLVDINING - BARE Organic Mixers by Vegas Food Nerd

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BARE Organic Mixers
Look in your local Fresh & Easy and or Total Wine and More for a new mixer for your next big cocktail party. Bare mixers are the brainchild of Natalie Susi, a former English Professor who took her rock bottom moment and turned it into something golden. This Italian girl was selling Italian Ice at local farmer’s markets on the side to make a little extra money to add to her teacher’s salary. It was a recipe she learned from her father, and it was so tasty that whenever she was invited to her friends’ homes for parties, they always requested that she bring some of her signature ices to use as mixers for cocktails that they would create.

As fate would have it, the university that she was teaching at told her they were letting her go. Sitting on her couch, enjoying a drink that she had fashioned from one of her father’s signature recipes, suddenly a light bulb went off. What if she bottled this stuff and sold it to others for their drink mixers? Her rock bottom moment is now our city’s gain. 

Bare organic mixers come in three signature flavors: Margarita, Lemon Drop, and Pomegranate Cranberry Cosmopolitan. Currently Natalie is concocting some new mixers to please our palates, including some Bloody Mary mixers, and possibly a new flavor using Blood Orange. 

Not only is this young Italian entrepreneur taking the mixer market by storm and possibly giving the “Skinny Girl” brand a run for their money, but she has also started a podcast to share her biggest mistakes when first embarking on this business of hers. “It’s a chicken soup for the soul for the first time business owners out there,” she says. “We call it our ‘Biggest Mistakes’ and try to encourage new business owners to realize that sometimes our errors lead us to our greatest victories.” 

Aptly named, Bare mixers are organic, low-calorie (only 17 calories per serving), and just plain delectable. Use Bare organic mixers in your mixology arsenal to create a drink that will blow your guests’ minds—without inflating their waistlines. 

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Avery's Coffee by Vegas Food Nerd

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AVERY’S COFFEE— A LITTLE GEM
BY VEGAS FOOD NERD

This little gem of a coffee shop has been delivering fresh-roasted, amazing-smelling coffee for Las Vegas for three years now.  

The owners are a couple of down-to-earth coffee addicts, who decided to open up the shop, rather than suffer from empty nest syndrome.  The day I visited with a friend, I decided to order tea, instead.  (Big mistake, really, considering they roast their own coffee).  Sigh.  Oh well, next time, then.  

I did however have the best cup of Earl Grey Tea that I have had in quite awhile.  After we got our drinks, we then ordered up a breakfast Panini for myself, and a blueberry muffin for my friend.  My crispy little sandwich was a healthy yet decadent creation, with eggs, kale relish, chipotle, bacon, and gooey cheddar.  My friend was equally happy with his order.  His muffin was large.  I know that sounds wrong, but hey, guys aren’t as worried about muffin size, as us girls.  It was a big and hot muffin that he seemed to enjoy thoroughly.  

The other cool thing about this out-of-the-way little spot is the way owners Sherman and Linda Ray have decorated the space.  It has a very homey feel and isn’t overrun with too many hipsters with their laptops and earphones that are at other coffee shops in town.  They even have a great online store that you can go to if the shop is too far out of your way to enjoy a steaming hot cup of their joe.  Go to Averyscoffee.com to order or to send a gift.

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STRIPLVDINING 800 DEGREES by Vegas Food Nerd

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800 DEGREES
NEAPOLITAN PIZZA
By Vegas Food Nerd

I have to preface this month’s column by saying one simple truth: I love pizza.

I know, I know – not really a shocking confession or anything like that, but I will eat just about any kind of pizza. Doesn’t have to be the best pizza. If a piece of pizza is sitting in front of me, it will be eaten. That is why after reading in Robin Leach’s latest column that the new pizza joint at the newly opened and refurbished SLS actually flies their flour and water used to make their pizza dough directly from Naples, Italy, I knew I had to try this place, and fast.

This was the first time that my friend and I had checked out what the SLS was like after SBE switched it from the once iconic Sahara Hotel and Casino to the Miami Beach-themed casino that now sits on the same corner. Leave it to Las Vegas to not celebrate our history and just put something new up to placate a certain species of tourist at any given moment. The re-do of the hotel is impressive, though it just struck me as a bad fit for the type of guests that were walking around the casino floor: a bevy of fanny packs, Asian tourists, walkers, and nice Midwestern folks, who didn’t seem to be the match-up with this now Miami-feeling hotel.

Okay, on to 800 Degrees Pizza. The sleek black restaurant is a fast-styled casual restaurant, which sadly is all the rage of the younger demographic these days. I tend to go to a restaurant to get served, not to have to serve myself. We ordered a BLT Pizza, a pie with toppings listed on the menu board as bacon marmalade, arugula, and cherry tomatoes. We also ordered the Burrata Salad with beets and balsamic, as well as the Broccolini, wood-roasted with garlic, Calabrian chiles, and olive oil. Once we got to the front of the line, we also ordered a couple of Stellas, because, well, beer and pizza seem to just go together, at least to us anyway. This is where our meal started to go very wrong. Our salad was ready, so I grabbed it and headed to an open table while my friend went to get silverware, napkins, and also waited at the counter for our two beers. Well, he waited a while… so long that our fresh, piping hot pizza was delivered right in front of me while he kept on waiting. I had no plates, no beer and no utensils while this pizza sat in front of me. True torture for a pizza fiend like me. Finally they figured out that our beer was no longer available on tap and gave my friend an alternative choice. The guy did offer to refill it for free, but at this point our pizza was lukewarm and we were pretty bummed out. Then, on top of it all, they forgot to top our BLT Pizza with the arugula. At that point, we just enjoyed our somewhat warm pizza and didn’t mention it to anyone. Next time I visit the SLS I will try the noodle place. They actually make the noodles fresh in front of you through a big glass window. It looked amazing as we left and headed to our car.

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TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF - CHARLIE PALMER - Oysters

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TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF
--CHARLIE PALMER
AWARD-WINNING CHEF, HOTELIER AND ENTREPRENEUR

OYSTERS
BY CHEF CHARLIE PALMER

Every fall, I look forward to hosting the Aureole New York Oyster Social: endless oysters and some of our region’s best seasonal seafood fare, served with lots of beer and Bloody Marys, a grand event culminating in our annual shucking contest, that time-honored spectator sport from New England to New Orleans. In this era of local consciousness about food, we celebrate the oyster, because nothing else you’ll ever eat bestows such a sense of place.

Oysters, found in estuaries where seawater mixes with fresh water, have the power to transport through taste because their flavor and texture is a direct result of their locality. Even their shells are made up of calcium carbonate, which is abundant in seawater. Oysters truly are exactly what they eat, right down to the mineral content, salinity and temperature of the water pumped through their gills. The colder the water in which it resides, the crisper (or firmer) the texture of the oyster and the flintier (or mineral-like) the taste. Warm water oysters are sweeter and meatier—the reason those extra-large oysters you find along the Gulf coast are typically propped up by a saltine and hit with a dash of hot sauce to enhance their mild flavor.

As filter feeders, oysters play a role in safeguarding their regional marine ecosystems. This sustainability is one of the reasons that cultivated oysters are just as good as—if not superior to—those in the wild. Oyster farmers such as Hog Island in Tomales Bay or Rappahannock River Oysters™ in the Chesapeake may better an oyster’s chance of survival by managing reproduction and giving fertilized eggs (called spat) a safe place to “fall” (where the spat can safely attach). But the oyster continues to feed only on what nature gives it, by filtering anywhere from 20 to 50 gallons of sea water a day through its gills (removing phytoplankton and other nutrients), and so different places still create different tastes, the reason oysters are named for the areas in which they originate, like wine appellations.

It may be hard to believe, but every Native East Coast oyster from the Malpeques of Prince Edward Island, light-bodied with a crisp lettuce-like finish, and the plump, mild Wellfleets of Cape Cod, right down the coast to the slightly sweet Chesapeake Bay Stingrays and distinctively briny Chincoteague Bay Oysters is the same species (crassostrea virginica) with flavor differences being the result of their local waters. In the Pacific Northwest, the only native species native is the tiny Olympia, named after the thriving oyster community of Olympia in Washington’s Puget Sound. Once a casualty of shoreline pollution and overfishing (particularly during the California Gold Rush), the Olympia is making a slow comeback and its small size makes a perfect cocktail oyster. However, as the Olympia went into extinction, exotic varieties were imported from Japan to revitalize the regional industry, like the slightly sweet Kumamoto oyster, known for its subtly mineral flavor.

At Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas, we don’t play favorites. We draw our impeccable oysters from both coasts. For our Oysters of the Day, we like to bestow some sparkle with a spoonful of delicate and tangy Champagne Mignonette, and we go all-out in our Shellfish Platter, a grand extravaganza that partners the oysters with clams, mussels, crab claws, lobster, shrimp, and more. In either case, we serve our oysters on a bed of crushed ice, not only to keep them cold, but to keep them level, so you don’t lose any of the nectar, which can be as refreshing as a dip in the ocean. Come on in, the water’s fine. —Charlie 

Charlie Palmer Steak • The Four Seasons Hotel. • 702.632.5120 • CharliePalmer.com

STRIPLVDINING - Mercadito by Vegas Food Nerd

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STRIPLVDINING

MERCADITO
By Vegas Food Nerd

Recently opened in Red Rock Casino out in Summerlin is a new spot for Mexican food. We are certainly not short on Mexican restaurants here in the Las Vegas Valley, but with a billboard for the place which actually reads: 

“The Taco that will change your life” 

—I had to try this place for the sheer chance that I might have a life-altering experience. 


The night that I put that lofty declaration to the test was a Friday night. Immediately, I was struck by the high level of volume in the place. It was too loud, though that seems to be what many diners long for lately. Texting is dominating good old-fashioned conversation these days, but that is a rant for a different day. The interior is dark and sleek with great lighting that will compliment just about anyone. So if you are overindulging in electronics at the time, it might be a perfect time for an all-too-common and narcissistic selfie. It is modern, yet the wood floors and ceilings bring nice warmth to the space. The dining room indoors is a bit scrunched with their seating, so if you are looking for more space, I would suggest trying the patio on your visit. 

Mercadito, which translates to “Little Market,” is the vision of Chicago-based Mercadito hospitality, which was created by the Sandoval brothers, who were inspired by the little markets that they remembered from Mexico. The flavors they experienced growing up in Mexico helped to create this gourmet take on the standard Mexican restaurant that most are familiar with. The Tippling brothers came in to help them craft a unique cocktail menu that really complements the food. 

We started with a Guacamole Sampler and their Salsa Sampler. Some big standouts for us were the Tocino Guac that was made with crispy hominy, bacon, corn, and their pico de gallo, as well as the Habanero Salsa with its nice, smoky flavor. The chips were warm and crispy and this sampler tasting of flavors was a fun alternative to the standard baskets of chips and salsa that you get in other restaurants. Sure, they do charge for this option, but it is worth it. Generally, if you aren’t digging the chips and salsa that other spots offer gratis, you still end up filling up on them, even if they are sub par. 

Next up, we had to get to those Tacos. Each order of Tacos is served with 4 small Tacos, making it ideal to order a few different varieties and share at your table. We tried three varieties: the Blackened Swordfish Tacos (Espadas), Chicken (Pollo), and the Skirt Steak Tacos (Carne). All were unique and incredibly flavorful. The homemade corn tortillas really added to the tacos, as well. They offer bibb lettuce as a replacement to those amazing tortillas if you are watching your waistline, but I’d advise against it. 

Our server raved about the Pollo a Las Brasas Chile-Crusted Chicken with Plantains served alongside their homemade Black Beans and Rice. I couldn’t resist adding a side of their take on Macaroni and Cheese. The chicken wasn’t our favorite dish, but those Rice and Black Beans and the Macaroni and Cheese were just incredible. Usually I leave the rice and beans till the end, but their version was so good that I can see making a meal out of just an order of them on their own. The Mac and Cheese was a comforting, gooey concoction of poblano chilies, corn, and manchego cheese, perfecting a classic dish with a touch of Mexican flair. 

We also spent a little time trying a few of the Tippling Brothers’ cocktail mash-ups. The Sangria was excellent, but there was one true standout that got our attention. The V-9 is one of the more inventive libations that I’ve sampled in a while. It is a Tesoro Blanco Tequila mixed with pineapple juice, ginger, fresh lime juice, and super greens juice. Served in a glass that has been dipped in a blend of salt and other slightly hot spices, this drink was a table favorite. Savory, slightly sweet, and a slight burn to the tongue, it was worth a second round. 

The buzz in the food world is that gourmet level Street Tacos may well become the new Sushi to foodies out there, and Mercadito food and service are proving that could be the case. A tad overpriced, but so is much of the food at Red Rock Casino. At least you’ll know your palate will be smiling when you leave. Now you have to be wondering, did that Taco change my life? No, not exactly, but I was a very happy and content food nerd when I left, so it did improve my spirits at least. 

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