Postcard from Las Vegas: Street Art Murals of Fremont East

After spending four days cooped up inside Caesars Palace and Casino where the work conference that had brought me to Las Vegas was taking place, I just really wanted to spend some time outdoors, even if that meant braving a 102 degree heat for a few hours. I had rented a car and planned to drive out to Red Rock some 20 miles west of the city.  But I got lost and instead found myself downtown. What can I say… I’m a city girl. I somehow always wound up downtown 😉 Turned out the area looked pretty interesting with its boarded up old motels and retro signs decaying in the sun. Then I spotted an interesting mural and that sealed the deal. I parked my rental car, badly apparently since I got a ticket, and set out to explore the gritty parts of Las Vegas, north of the strip. Here is some of the cool street art I stumbled upon in the Fremont East District:

Street Art Mural By British Stencil Artist DFace in Las Vegas, Nevada

Regal Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma solare) by ROA

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A downtown Las Vegas mural by Fintan Magee

Las Vegas Street Art

Most of these large scale murals were created for the 2013 or 2014 Life is Beautiful Festivals. They’re all within a few blocks of each other around the legendary El Cortez Hotel & Casino, the longest continuously-running hotel and casino in Las Vegas. That part of town has benefited recently from an influx of cash from Tony Hsieh, the founder and CEO of zappos.com. After moving his company’s headquarters to the former Las Vegas city hall (check out some pics of the new space here), he began investing some of his own money to turn that part of downtown into a place where his employee would want to work, live and play. The result is still ways away from the thriving creative scene and walkable tech-hub that Hsieh envisioned, but downtown Las Vegas is slowly becoming an exciting travel destination of its own, and an alternative to the scene on the strip. And yes, the street art is a big part of that scene!

Mural by Bicicleta Sem Freio at the Market on Fremont Street

D*face's “Love Forever” was created for the 2014 Life is Beautiful Festival IMG_9579_2

The bright and bold ever after mural was paining by Lakwena

 “Everafter” mural in Las Vegas by Lakwena

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A Recap of Art & Soul’s Second Biscuit Bash

Biscuit Bash, a biscuit-themed friendly cook-off benefiting D.C. Central Kitchen and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, returned to Art and Soul‘s patio last night. For its second year, the fundraiser sold out quickly (obviously, word got out that this is a can’t-miss delicious event for an awesome cause!) prompting the organizers to close off the restaurant for the evening to allow more people to attend. Chef Hamilton Johnson of Vidalia, whose biscuit took the top prize last year, returned to defend its title. Otherwise all the restaurants and chefs biscuit bashing yesterday were new to the friendly competition. This year, Vidalia’s biscuit was slightly less messy, though is was still drenched in tasty sauce. I loved its local Chesapeake-theme. Jumbo lump crab, old bay gravy, Virginia ham, wild ramps and scrambled eggs are just a great combination with buttermilk biscuits!

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Vidalia’s Chesapeake Biscuit came in second at Art & Soul’s second Biscuit Bash

So who won last night, other than my stomach? That would be Chef Andrew Evans of BBQ Joint DC (check out their new stall at Union Market!) who wowed everyone with his buttermilk biscuit with smoked pork belly “pretending to be ribs.” Pork belly, BBQ and biscuits are also a great combination! 

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The winning biscuit! You can’t go wrong pairing biscuits with bbq pork belly if you ask me.

Other notable biscuits included Jason Gehring’s scalion biscuit with Korean fried chicken (I love me some Korean fried chicken so thanks Mason Dixie Biscuit Co.!), Art & Soul’s Fried Chicken biscuit (fried chicken and biscuits … also a winning combo in my books belly) and Doron Petersan of Fare Well (coming soon to H street NE) and Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats‘ sweet vegan biscuit. I actually ended up giving my vote chip to Doron’s biscuit! It’s not easy being the only sweet entry in a crowded field of bacon, ham, bbq and fried chicken! And it’s not easy being a vegan biscuit either on top of that! I loved her polenta biscuit with macerated organic strawberries, fresh basil, vanilla bean & whipped coconut cream and gave her extra point for providing a cocktail pairing too, the Cattywampus made with rum, brandy, banana lemon, nutmeg & coconut. I can’t wait for her new cafe to open on H Street! And I can’t wait for biscuit bash to come back next year! 

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Parts of the proceeds from Biscuit Bash benefited DC Central Kitchen and some of the non-profit's students were there to help (and serve lamb!!)

Parts of the proceeds from Biscuit Bash benefited DC Central Kitchen and some of the non-profit’s students were there to help

 

April in Paris Washington

April in Paris may be a feeling that no one can ever reprise but if you were in Washington this past weekend you probably met the charm of spring directly in the face too. Paris may have “chestnuts in blossoms” but we’ve got stunning cherry trees given as a sign of friendship by Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki back in 1912. I don’t know if I was starved for spring after a long winter that kept dragging on… or if I was lured to the Tidal Basin by an unlikely combination of peak bloom time coinciding with a weekend which also happened to be an absolutely stunning spring day, but I definitely caught cherry blossoms fever over these last 2 days! Here are a few pictures I snapped during sakura on Saturday and Sunday:

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial  during Sakura

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Ah, DC, city in bloom… what have you done to my heart this weekend?

DC’s Crumbs and Whiskers off to a Great Start

Crumbs and Whiskers

Crumbs and Whiskers’ founder Kanchan Singh kicks off the cat cafe’s kickstarter campaign


I’ve been making the cat café rounds lately. Last November, I visited both Café des Chats locations in Paris. More recently, I swung by Meow Parlour in New York City, and enjoyed a Hello Kitty themed macaron while hanging out with a bunch of adoptable cats. So, obviously, while I have my own BFF (Best Furry Friend) already, I’m thrilled that there’s a plan to bring a cat café concept to the D.C. area. And apparently, I’m not the only one. Last Sunday, some 50 people showed up at Penn Social for the launch of Crumbs & Whiskers’ kickstarter campaign. A campaign which, by the way, reached its goal within 24 hours and has already surpassed its stretch goal (update: it’s currently at $25,000… meaning, hello CAT WHEEL!). Not bad for a concept that still hasn’t actually signed a lease (though is rumoured to be looking at space in Georgetown… womp womp!)

The scene at Crumbs and Whiskers' Kickstarter Launch Party

The scene at Crumbs and Whiskers’ Kickstarter Launch Party

Crumbs and Whiskers‘ founder Kanchan Singh is a bubbly 24 year girl who just quit her consulting job to focus full time on this new venture. I had a blast at the event, though I realize I need better crazy cat-lady clothes 😉 It was great meeting her and her brother as well as her group of supportive friends. It’ll be interesting to see where Crumbs and Whiskers ends up, and what concept it ultimately becomes since D.C. regulations probably prevent it from being a traditional cat café… the launch party and success of the kickstarter campaign shows that there’s definitely a receptive audience (myself included) in Washington…

Drink the District’s Cloverfest Returns to Yards Park on March 14

Cloverfest at Yards Park

 

Obviously, I’m more into celebrating the Gallic than the Gaelic, but it is Saint Patrick’s Day and it is a big deal around here. Never one to miss toasting a big holiday, Drink the District is back with its second Cloverfest at Yards Park. The beer-centric event will feature unlimited sampling and full pours from over 20 breweries and cider houses like Sam Adams, Lancaster Brewing CompanyAtlas Brew Works, Brewery Ommegang or Brewer’s Alley Restaurant & Brewery. And of course, since it’s Saint Paddy’s Day there will be a very special green beer 😉

Hopefully, the weather will be nice because there will also be dueling piano shows, giant Jenga, beer pong and other backyard games as well as a great line-up of food trucks, with food available for purchase. Two of my current favourites, Arepa Zone and Borinquen Lunch Box will be there, as will Captain Cookie and the Milk Man with a very special Saint Patrick’s treat: an Irish cookie bomb made of two Guinness cocoa cookies with a Baileys filling. Cap Mac, on the other hand, is bringing out some corned beef mac and cheese! How good does that sound?

Pretty good right? Here are the details:

  • The event is March 14, 2015.
  • There are two sessions, one for day drinkers, from 1:30-4:30PM and one in the evening from 6-9PM.
  • You can buy tickets for either session right here ($44 per ticket.)

You can buy tickets or you can test your luck of the Irish right here and try to win 2 tickets from moi! (Please note the tickets are for the evening session from 6-9PM only.) To enter, just comment on this post with your favourite Gaelic (not Gallic) food! You can also find and like one of my #cloverfest posts on instagram (follow me here) to get additional entries. I’ll announce the winner on Wednesday, March 11. Bonne chance!

But until then, stay up to date with Drink the District and their upcoming events. Follow them on facebook or twitter. Spoiler alert: the next event will have a cherry blossoms theme and will involve wine too! You can already buy early bird priced tickets too.

Ben & Jerry’s Introduced Spectacular Speculoos Cookie Core

The Vermont ice cream company just introduced three new flavours to its “cookie core’ line-up. Since I grew up eating spéculos (that’s how we spell speculoos in French, you might know them under the name cookie butter) I’m really only excited about one of those flavours: the spectacular Speculoos Cookie Core. GET IN MY BELLY!!!

Image courtesy of Ben & Jerry's

Image courtesy of Ben & Jerry’s

Oh, and in case you want to know, the other two news flavours are Boom Chocolatta! Cookie Core and Peanut Buttah Cookie Core. But really: SPECTACULAR SPECULOOS!!!

Wine Wednesday: A Special Screening of American Wine Story on November 13

A couple of years ago, my husband and I ran the Lawyers Have Heart 10K through Georgetown to benefit the American Heart Association. That was fun. But you know what sounds like an even more fun way to benefit that same association? Not running, and watching a documentary on American winemakers followed by Q&A and tasting reception instead. Definitely.

American Wine Story Screening

You’ve heard the claims before… drinking red wine (in moderation) may lower the risk of heart disease, and every year the American Heart Association hosts an amazing 4-days wine auction event in Washington, DC, called Heart’s Delight. The fundraiser celebrates exceptional food and wine and has raised more than 13 million dollars for the American Heart Association over the past 15 years. This year’s auction will be held April 22-25, 2015 (so save the date for that too!) but until then, you can celebrate wine AND benefit the American Heart Association by attending a special screening of “American Wine Story” on November 13 at E Street Cinema. The film celebrates the men and women at the heart (pun intended) of the American wine industry, including Jimi Brooks, a young Oregon wine maker who died of a heart attack at the age of 38. When he passed away, just before harvest, his fellow winemakers banded together to make his wine. The film also profiles a number of passionate local winemakers like who put aside their initial careers to start over and follow their dreams of making wine. Among the winemakers highlighted in the documentary are Al and Cindy Schornberg of Keswick Vineyards in Virginia or Luca Paschina of Barboursville, also in Virginia. All three will be present, along with David Baker, who wrote, directed and narrated the film (which he funded through Kickstarter,) at a wine tasting reception and Q&A session following the screening.

For more information and ticket sales (tickets are $50) click here. Or, you know, you can start training for the Lawyers Have Heart 10K. It’ll be on June 13 next year 😉

 

 

Americana ~ Visiting the Pez Factory in Orange, CT

pez, pez factoryDid you collect PEZ dispensers when you were a kid? They’re quite an iconic childhood and pop culture item, even in France, and I did keep a few dispensers around, mainly of Snoopy and Star Wars characters. While I think of PEZ as pretty American, the candy actually originates from Austria and only arrived in the USA in 1952.  Initially, the candy was minty and was marketed as an alternative to smoking. Quickly, the candy was rebranded for children and became fruitier. The very first dispensers available in the United States were a full-body Santa, a robot, and a space gun. Since then, the character-themed dispensers really took off and a few years ago, PEZ opened a factory and visitor center in Orange, Connecticut. Since that’s just a quick drive from where my friend and college roommate Elena lives, we thought we would check it out…

The PEZ visitor center is part museum, part factory, part store, and all PEZ 😉 It’s a brightly colored space that can be explored in less than one hour.

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The museum part contains the largest, most comprehensive collection of PEZ memorabilia on public display in the world as well as the largest PEZ dispenser in the world. There’s all sorts of different dispensers, from Will & Kate to KISS, US presidents, and all sorts of Disney characters.

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All PEZ sold in the United States are made in America, so visitors can also check out the production area (the factory goes through 100,000 pounds of sugar a week!!!) and packaging facility.

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The most fun really is all the PEZ trivia and all the different dispensers. Also, just being silly in the visitor center!!

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If you go: the PEZ visitor center is located at 35 Prindle Hill Road in Orange, CT (a quick drive from New Haven). It’s open on Monday-Saturday from 10AM-6PM and noon-5PM on Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for children and that includes is a PEZ lanyard and a $2 credit for the store (which is about the cost of an average dispenser. ..) 

 

Foodie Keepsake: USPS’ Celebrity Chefs Stamps

Just when I had almost given up on sending actual snail mail, the United State Postal Service announced the release of a pane of celebrity chefs forever stamps. The chefs honored are James Beard, Julia Child, Joyce Chen, Edna Lewis and Felipe Rojas-Lombardi.

 

Pictured below is the Beard stamp, which was the first design to be released. The Postal Service will reveal the other stamp designs through its social media outlets (follow USPS on twitter, facebook and pinterest) leading up to the first-day ceremony in Chicago, Illinois on September 26. The selvage area will have a photograph of a large plate set on a white linen tablecloth.

james beard stamps, celebrity chef stamps
I can’t wait to be stamping those on my lovely Paper Source macarons stationery 😉 Do you still send snail mail often these days? Or only for special occasions like celebrations or the holidays?

 

Recap: Art and Soul’s Biscuit Bash

Last night, Art & Soul in the Liaison Capitol Hill Hotel kicked off patio-season with a friendly biscuit competition benefiting Hospitality High, a preparatory high school for D.C. students interested in the hospitality industry.  Good thing I recently traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina, to brush up on my (American) biscuits because biscuit means two completely different things in France and in America. In France, biscuits are typically sweet, more like cookies. In America, they’re more like bread. Either way, I would have enjoyed any event named biscuit bash!!

With the assistance of students from Hospitality high, five chefs battled it out for the title: Jason Gehring of Menu MBK; Hamilton Johnson of Vidalia; Dylan Fultineer of Rappahannock River Oysters; Brian McPherson of Jackson 20; & Susan Wallace of BlackSalt. My personal favourite was Brian McPherson perfectly buttery biscuit (it was pan toasted in a butter,) which featured Mangalica ham from D’Artagnan, farmers’ greens and tomatoes, pickled ramps and thyme aioli. 

 

Jackson 20's Buttery Biscuit for Art & Soul's #BiscuitBash

Jackson 20’s Buttery Biscuit for Art & Soul’s #BiscuitBash

 

My wooden token was not enough to tip Jackson’s 20 biscuit though, and Vidalia‘s Hot Mess was crowned best biscuit. (Can you believe I’ve actually never eaten at Vidalia?)

 

Vidalia's Hot Mess Biscuit for Art & Soul's #BiscuitBash

Vidalia’s Hot Mess Biscuit for Art & Soul’s #BiscuitBash

The winners of Art & Soul's  biscuit bash pose with Tommy McFly, chef Art Smith and the student from Hospitality High who assisted them.

Chef Hamilton Johnson of Vidalia and his team pose with Tommy McFly, chef Art Smith and the  Hospitality High student  who assisted them throughout the evening.

 

Now if eating your way through biscuits on a gorgeous patio and for a great cause doesn’t already make for a great evening, there was also bluegrass music from the Drymill Road Band, a whole lamb roast from Border Springs Farms, oysters from Rappahannock and cocktails from Southern Efficiency. Derek Brown’s bartending staff generously donated their tips to Hospitality High as well…

 

Cocktails from Southern Efficiency paired perfectly with the messy biscuit sandwiches.

Cocktails from Southern Efficiency paired perfectly with the messy biscuit sandwiches.

Oysters from rappahannock river - try them at Union Market or Dereck Brown's Eat The Rich

Oysters from Rappahannock river – try them at Union Market or Eat The Rich

 

A huge thank you to Tricia at the Liaison Hotel for inviting me to Biscuit Bash yesterday. I can’t wait to have more of Art & Soul’s own biscuits throughout the summer. The restaurant is actually serving them as a side with their new fried chicken to-go picnic lunch for two ($35, includes biscuits, potato salad and beans along with fried chicken, starting memorial day weekend.) Oh, and of course, they’re always available at the restaurant and on its fabulous patio!