There are countless restaurants in Las Vegas, so whatever it is that sets one apart from another is important. At Public House in The Venetian, that difference is the gourmet bar-inspired menu created with a European twist.
The menu at Public House consists of several dishes that offer a hint of familiarity served up with a high-end touch. I recently had the chance to taste a variety of dishes on the menu. Here are the highlights:
The short rib sounds simple enough … until you realize it’s served in a puff pastry with butternut squash purée. The crispy oysters, served in a half shell, come with foie gras, golden raisins and cider gastrique. For the most part, I like seafood, and I loved the oysters as well as the octopus, which was served with white bean salad.
In addition to tasting a variety of the sea-inspired dishes, I tried my taste buds on a few other things as well. The Welsh rarebit was a favorite at our table. This dish, which consisted of sliced bison on cheddar-beer sauce toast, has a great mix of flavors. There were other dishes that also perfected the right mix of sweet with savory, such as the country pate, which was served with mustard sauce and fruit compote. I also tried escargot, which was a new experience for me, and I found it to be a bit salty but quite tasty when served on a small puff pastry.
Oklahoma surprised me. A lot. And one of the things that most surprised me was the discovery of Bedré Fine Chocolates — both a factory and a shop owned and operated by the Chickasaw Nation.
When I think of fine chocolate, I picture it served on small china plates in quaint cafes (though I’ve been known to break open a box or two in my own kitchen as well). An antiquated image, yes, but what I picture nonetheless.
Bedré Fine Chocolates is neither snooty nor snobby, and its candy is not served on small china plates or out of a quaint cafe. But the company does craft incredibly delicious treats, is super affordable and is well worth the stop if you’re heading through America’s Heartland.
It’s a small operation as most chocolate factories are. People are often surprised how little space it takes to make chocolate, and Bedré Fine Chocolates is no exception. When guests enter, they walk into a small shop coated in the lingering aroma of warm cocoa. A long glass counter with rows of chocolates (my favorites are the chocolate cowboy boots) and shelves stacked with gift boxes crowd the room, tempting guests to pick up a box of milk peanut clusters, dark chocolate crisps or pecan caramel treats.
If it is possible to grow grapes somewhere, chances are there is not only a vineyard but several of them. And, to make the most of the different products offered by these many wineries, many places have made wine tasting an attraction by stringing them together in so-called wine trails.
After a day at Niagara Falls, we decided to go the grown-up route and spend a whole morning traipsing through the New York countryside tipping back samples of wine from a few of the area’s vineyards on the Niagara Falls Wine Trail. Fifteen wineries along this trail offer a variety of wines ranging from hybrids and sparkling wines to those made with native grapes. Reds and whites. Fruity and dry. Spicy and chilled. Whatever a person’s wine taste (and mine tends to be fruity, chilled and either white or blush), there seems to be something for everybody on this wine trail.
We knew we couldn’t hit all the wineries in the area, especially since we were driving ourselves, so we made some strategic choices to hit a few that sounded particularly interesting to us.
I’m not a fanatic about candy, but I’m also known to feed my occasional sweet tooth when the opportunity arises. Though I can indulge in tasty treats just about anywhere in the world, I’m particularly drawn to those with a local twist. What makes a certain brand special? Why should I chow down on a particular piece of coagulated sugar over another?
During my last trip to Mexico, I discovered Ah Cacao, a chocolate cafe that can only be found in three locations in the Riviera Maya. Chocolate shops are found around the world, but Ah Cacao isn’t the typical chocolate shop. Sure, there are glass covered cabinets packed with sweet treats (chocolate cookies, brownies, chocolate mousse), but there is so much more! These shops are truly cafes with chocolate snacks to munch on as well as a large selection of cacao-accented beverages including mochas, hot chocolate and chocolate milk (non-chocolate options like iced tea and lattes are also available). It’s also worth noting that Ah Cacao chocolate is the real deal. Unlike the sugar-packed sweets found in the United States, the chocolate offered by Ah Cacao is natural in every sense of the world.
Of all the places I visited in Vietnam on my two-week country tour, my absolute favorite city was Hoi An. It is significantly smaller and more user friendly than the likes of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, and it’s not nearly as touristy or tacky as Nha Trang. Granted, it’s gaining popularity with travelers, so it’s probably lost some of its local charm to foreign influences over the years, but I still found it to be an interesting, charming and fun place to visit.
The city’s Old Town spans just a few blocks in each direction, and the entire area is walkable or accessible by bike. I visited Hoi An in the middle of August, and the daytime temperatures were high, especially when combined with humidity that made my hair curly (something that has never, ever happened before). As a result, the city woke up early (myself included, thanks to a noisy rooster outside my window), hibernated during the hottest hours of the day and came out to play once the sun set.
So what was it about Hoi An that appealed to me? Well, in addition to its accessibility (and lack of scary traffic), I found the following to be the highlights of my stay:
A Bustling Marketplace
Along the river’s edge was a market that was particularly busy in the morning hours. I happened upon it by accident my first morning there and spent the better part of an hour wandering among the tarp-covered stalls. I wasn’t interested in buying anything, but I love walking through markets, checking out the local produce and brand name knock offs.
Before my trip to Switzerland, I really had no idea what I might encounter there. It had been so long since I’d been to Europe that I wasn’t really sure what to expect. My wild imagination stirred up images of farmers in lederhosen herding cows through rolling, verdant green valleys while cowbells provided a comforting, gentle background melody.
Our first stop in the country was picturesque and charming Appenzell, where I was surprised to find that stereotypical Switzerland is very much a part of the landscape. In this region of the country, farmers where traditional clothing at certain times of the year, the sound of yodeling can be heard across the hills during special occasions and many other local traditions make the destination unlike any other.
No trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, is complete without a tour of the area’s food. I’m not normally a foodie at home, but when I travel, I love to taste the local flavor, and Mexico is no exception. Spices, sauces and seafood, all served up with extra care and attention.
Here were some of the highlights of my culinary exploration:
Seafood: It only makes sense that seafood is a main staple on menus around Huatulco. Although I didn’t see any fishing boats while I was in the area, there was seafood available at every meal. This particular platter had shrimp, lobster, crab and a couple types of fish. One of the more unusual things I got to taste while I was in Huatulco was shark, which came in a samosa-type of appetizer. I’m not a big meat fan, but I do like seafood, and, except for the standard pieces of fish, I really enjoyed the freshness and flavor of the seafood I ate.
I’ve always known conch as those pretty pink and peach shells that decorate my grandmother’s home in Florida. It turns out that they aren’t just good for decoration, though. In the Caribbean, conch is served up in just about any way imaginable and plays a delicious part in many meals.
On Grand Turk, I had the chance to visit a conch farm, where conch are actually raised and bred for food. They start out as itty-bitty microscopic bits that can live to be a whopping 20 years in captivity. The larger conchs are heavy and huge, with equally heavy and huge reproductive organs that aren’t so attractive considering the very raw nature of the animal.
Raw is actually one of the ways people enjoy eating conch. I haven’t had a chance to try it in that form, but I can tell you that every other tidbit of conch I’ve tossed in my mouth has been delicious.
Holland America is known for its top-tier culinary demonstrations and classes. I’m not much of a cook myself, but when my sister and I noticed in the daily schedule that there was going to be a cooking demonstration for the ship’s cinnamon rolls, we decided to go. Something deep inside said we’d be getting free samples … and we did!
When I got home, my husband whipped up the rolls from the recipe, which is posted below. They were heavenly, but two words to the wise: First, I would add a bit more cinnamon than the recipe calls for. Second, the recipe says it serves 10. I don’t know if that means 10 people who are going to eat six rolls each or what, but we had so many cinnamon rolls and they were so big, we immediately took half over to our neighbor. Next time we’ll probably half the recipe.
And now for your tasting pleasure:
You know those restaurants where you wait forever to get a menu, your waiter is rude, you feel intimidated by the staff and the restaurant feels just a little untidy? Well, at Dick’s Last Resort, you get what you pay for, and what you pay for is rude and obnoxious staff and an environment where throwing paper wads at strangers is perfectly acceptable.
There are a smattering of Dick’s across the United States, but the only one in Las Vegas is located in Excalibur Hotel. Every time I’ve walked past the restaurant, there’s been a line out the door. After hearing rave reviews about the Dick’s experience, I braved the line (only a 15-minute wait on a holiday weekend) so that I could see for myself whether it lived up to its hype.