Sin City Explorations

This year for Spring Break, my boyfriend and I traveled to the one and only Las Vegas! The awesome thing about Vegas is that you can fill your trip with pretty much whatever you want, a sort of “build-your-own-vacation”. Of course, there’s the obvious like drinking, gambling, and partying, but there are things which don’t immediately come to many people’s minds, for instance: restaurants, sightseeing, and TONS of exploring! Since my boyfriend had never been to this iconic destination, we filled our trip with a little bit of everything, including some activities of particular interest: food and art.

Dine like a Queen (or King) all Day Long

When we began planning this trip, it was immediately decided that food would be an integral part of this trip. Good thing too, because this city has so much to offer. It wasn’t until we began walking from casino to casino that I realized just how many restaurants line the strip. I think it was the sheer number of options, paired with trying to find ones in our budget (many are super pricey) that contributed to our dinner the first night: good ole’ Chipotle. With the help of handy dandy Yelp, we perused through options for the days to come.

One of these options ended up being D.O.C.G. Enoteca in the Cosmopolitan. Offering Italian cuisine in an upscale, hip atmosphere, I would definitely recommend this option again. Together, we enjoyed the Ricotta Raviolini pasta and Soppressata Picante pizza which were delicious! The raviolini were a flavor explosion in every bite with perfect ricotta cheese, encased in fresh pasta, and drenched in a sweet tomato sauce. The pizza was equally delicious with fresh salami and roasted peppers in every bite. But truthfully, I think my favorite part of this evening experience was exploring the Cosmopolitan for the first time.

For those of you unfamiliar, the Cosmopolitan is the newest addition to the Las Vegas strip opening in December of 2010, and it is the pinnacle of chic for this generation of Vegas. The centerpiece of this hotel and casino is The Chandelier, a three-story fixture surrounding an accompanying bar at all three levels, making it the perfect destination following our rich Italian meal:


A little after dinner cognac, cheers!

Any successful Sin City food adventure would not be complete without, you guessed it, an all-you-can-eat buffet! To pick the perfect buffet, we consulted Google, searching for the best buffets in Las Vegas. To our surprise, we once again found ourselves at the Cosmopolitan for their signature buffet, The Wicked Spoon. I hate to type this, but OMG, let’s just say, there’s a reason behind this buffet’s #1 rating. Worth the trip alone, Wicked Spoon lived up to all its expectations, with 3 main perks:


Perk #1: Everything is served in perfectly portioned amounts. This was great, because it allows you to try a bit of everything or just grab a lot of what you love. I took full advantage of this with multiple trips to the snow crab section! Also pictured above – I kept to a seafood theme – (from left) salmon with pear puree, shrimp risotto, shrimp cocktail, crab legs, and BBQ shrimp and grits, yum!!!


Perk #2: Trying new things. I think this is the best overall part of buffets, the diversity of options, especially at a place like The Wicked Spoon where endless amounts some of the finest foods are at your fingertips. Pictured above is my favorite item  from the night, a cooked to serve seafood bouillabaisse stew with mussels, clams, and shrimp (I guess you can say I was in the mood for seafood)! Pictured below is another collage of options:wedge salad, hummus, tortellini pasta, gnocchi, and my favorite Mediterranean salad with balsamic blood oranges.

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Perk #3: Unfortunately I don’t have a picture to accompany this last perk (I was preoccupied with enjoying this plate), but you can say I served the best for last: dessert. The dessert bar at The Wicked Spoon is a 360º carousel of deliciousness, filled with everything your heart could desire from a full case of gelato, to fresh macaroons, and every flavor cake you can imagine.

We left our chosen buffet feeling like king and queen of Las Vegas for sure!

When we weren’t enjoying amazing food, we were exploring all the city has to offer even…

The Unknown Side of Las Vegas

Since this was my boyfriend’s first visit to Vegas, he had a long list of places he wanted to check out. Interestingly, one of these locations was the city’s Arts District. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t aware of an art district existing in Sin City, but I agreed to check it out.

Just 5 miles north of the Strip and symbolically right in between old and new Las Vegas, the Arts District is quite the eclectic place. The streets are lined with old buildings covered in elaborate graffiti art, unique antique shops, and hidden eateries. Though I am not traditionally a fan of street art, I was impressed by the scale and vibrance of some of the pieces we stumbled upon:

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The above slide show captures a little of what we saw during this excursion and includes what I consider the two main categories of street art. On one hand, graffiti has been traditionally used as a form of expression stressing a particular statement or sentiment. Many of these pieces were observed, particularly ones which addressed the nature of Las Vegas, a city composed of gambling, lust, and consumption. The other category I consider are street murals. My favorite piece of the day falls within this category – which you’ve already seen above – the rising sun with accompanying butterfly and patterned green background.

Apart from the art, the most interesting part of this neighboring district was experiencing Las Vegas as it truly is…the desert. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the strip, its easy to lose track of your greater surroundings. Walking around the Arts District, however, it was evident we were in the desert with a certain stillness produced from the arid climate and general flatness. The natural environment enhanced the eclectic nature of this location making it reminiscent to the illusive tone of places like Salvation Mountain.

From there we traveled north to check out Fremont Street to continue our exploration and stumbled upon…

Some Alien Looking Thing Ahead

Yes the desert and aliens go hand in hand, so I couldn’t help but draw this conclusion upon approaching The Mantis in front of Container Park in Fremont’s East District.



This amazing project was imagined and funded by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of the successful It houses a giant tree-house playground in the center and 39 restaurants, shops, and bars all within a two-story structure made of industrial containers. To find out more about this park you can check out the website here.

So…the trip as a whole

You can say we had a pretty successful spring break. Apart from all the excitement of the casinos on the strip, Sin City has a ton to offer. From great food to art and unexpected discoveries, you can truly make your Las Vegas vacation whatever you want it to be (I’ll be back for sure)!


Attempting the Perfect Birthday Cake

I’ve always had an interest in baking, attempting little projects from time to time – though usually beginning with a box of Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines – but, as with many things, I neglected this interest, never allowing it to fully flourish. I suppose that this was due to me telling myself “I won’t be able to make that” or “mine’s not going to look anywhere near that good”, but these days are history! I will banish these thoughts, and as mentioned in my previous post, I will conquer – or at least attempt to conquer – what interests me.

How this mission started…

In preparation for my boyfriend’s birthday, I decided that I wanted to have a go at making and decorating a cake for him…from scratch.  To begin, I asked Google to “show me the best, easy birthday cake recipes” and was, can I say, overwhelmed by the number of options. One website alone yielded over 1,500 recipes! I immediately realized I needed to pare down my options and settle on a specific kind of cake. Upon sneakily consulting the birthday boy, I became determined to make the best German Chocolate Cake ever with one stipulation.

During high school, I worked at a Baskin Robbins where I practiced and rather enjoyed decorating cakes. My experience there allowed me to recognize just what the difference good frosting makes. You see, quality buttercream frosting is almost a necessity when decorating a cake; the store-bought jars simply won’t cut it due to their oily consistency. Being determined to go the extra mile, and decorate his birthday cake, I looked for German Chocolate cake recipes with buttercream frosting. Upon consulting dozens of recipes, I realized none of them had everything I was looking for. So, instead of settling upon one, I decided to take pieces from multiple recipes to make the perfect cake and initiate the potential to perfect my own recipe.

How I made the perfect birthday cake:

To begin, I made a detailed shopping list of everything I needed for the three components: the cake, the filling, and the frosting. I highly recommend you do the same before any baking adventure, because there is no motivation killer like forgetting a key ingredient and having to run back to the store.


Pictured: everything I needed to buy for this cake!

Step 1: The Cake

Since the cake needs time to bake, I figured I’d begin here. You can follow this link to check out the Cake Recipe I was inspired by.

  • Cake shopping list:
    • 2 bars (4oz. pkgs) of Baker’s German’s Sweet choc.
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup butter → *softened but not melted
    • 2 cups granulated sugar
    • 4 large eggs (separated) → *you’ll need both the egg yolks and egg whites
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 cup buttermilk → *I substituted with white wine vinegar and whole milk
    • 2 – 9″ cake pans

Let’s get started!

  • Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat it to 350°F
  • Grease the bottom of both 9″ pans, line with parchment paper, and grease the top of the parchment paper as well – we don’t want these cakes to stick!
  • In a medium bowl combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, & salt. Set aside.DSCN0829
  • On the stove, bring about 1 1/2 cups of water to a low boil. In a small metal bowl, add both bars of Baker’s German’s chocolate and place on top of water (make sure water is not touching the bowl) and stir until melted.

Pictured: sous chef aka boyfriend

  •  In a large mixing bowl, combine butter & sugar, and beat until incorporated and creamy – you’ll want an electric mixer for this.
  • Add egg yolks one at a time continuing to beat mixture.
  • Add melted chocolate and vanilla – it started looking yummy at this point!
  • Now, gradually start incorporating flour mixture, alternating between it and the buttermilk to ensure the mixture stays moist enough to mix thoroughly. At this point I beginning to fantasize about having a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer one day…but power through, you can do it!DSCN0833
  • *Don’t forget this next step* because I almost did. Place the four egg whites in a medium-sized bowl, and begin beating them like crazy. I had no idea that this is how you make meringue, and was blown away as the egg whites started solidifying and growing! Continue mixing at high-speed until stiff peaks are able to form (and if you’re like me and don’t know what this means, see if the top of the mixture will form tips without falling back down.DSCN0831
  • Gently fold the meringue into the cake batter, and then separate the batter evenly into both 9″ baking pans.
  • Place cakes into oven and bake for 30-35  minutes.DSCN0834
  • To test the cakes, have a toothpick ready…but we’ll worry about that later!

Step 2: The Frosting

Never having made frosting from scratch before, I was a little anxious about completing this step, and wanted to get it out of the way. From my experience at Baskin Robbins, I knew the consistency I was looking for, not too firm, but definitely not too runny! To insure I had an idea of what I was doing, I made sure I did extensive research on buttercream recipes, and across the board found that the key to perfect frosting is to make sure the butter is room temp and NOT melted! You can find the recipe I used here!

  • Vanilla Buttercream Frosting shopping list:
    • 1 Cup unsalted Kerrygold butter
    • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
    • ¼ tbsp. salt
    • Up to 4 tbsp. whole milk or heavy cream → I used heavy cream!

The steps:

  • Use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat the butter. Do this for a few minutes or until broken down but not melty.
  • SIFT the powdered sugar into a separate bowl – this is to make sure the frosting isn’t clumpy.
  • Begin by slowly incorporating the powdered sugar with the electric mixer on the lowest setting so you don’t make too much of a mess!
    • You’ll want to start with only 3 cups and add more to thicken the frosting up id necessary.
  • Once the sugar and butter are incorporated, add the vanilla, salt, & 2 tbsp. of heavy cream, and increase the mixer speed. Beat the frosting for about 3 minutes, or until an even consistency.
    • If it is too thick, add a little more cream. If it is too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.
  • Mine turned out pretty damn good to begin with so I didn’t need to add any more of anything. I will admit I was pretty amazed by how easy this was, and will never buy store-bought frosting again!


    So bomb!!!

  • You’ll need this later so set it aside and onto the last component!

*By this time, the cakes were done baking so I pulled them out, ran a knife around the edges to prevent sticking and set them aside on a cooling rack*

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Step 3: The Filling

For the third and final piece, the filling!!! This is the most important part of the German Chocolate cake as it has the goodies: the pecans and coconut! For this piece, I drew inspiration from another recipe found here.

  • Filling shopping list:
    • ¾ cup heavy cream
    • ½ cup granulated sugar
    • 2 large egg yolks
    • 1 ¼ cups unsweetened coconut flakes → * I used sweetened and it worked fine!
    • ¾ cup pecans
    • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter (cut into pieces) → * I would use less butter next time
    • ¼ teaspoon fine salt

How I did it:

  • Start by chopping up the pecans to a desired size. I wanted a crunchy component to this cake so I chopped to about a medium consistency.DSCN0837
  • Then, add the pecans to a saute pan over medium heat, turning them over to make sure they are evenly toasted. Be sure to remove before they burn.
  • Repeat for the coconut, toasting evenly. Set both aside in a medium bowl.
  • Next, in medium saucepan, combine heavy cream, sugar, & egg yolks over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
  • Allow to cool for about 2 minutes, and them pour this mixture into the medium bowl with the pecans and coconut. Add the remaining ingredients: butter and salt, and stir until the butter is melted and all components are evenly distributed.
  • Let the mixture cool to room temp before adding to cake.

Step 4: Putting it all Together!

Cake, check! Frosting, check! Filling, check! Time to assemble and move on to the fun part: decorating!

*Note: some of these steps were done intermittently*

  • Carefully remove one cake from the baking tin and place on your desired serving stand or – if you’re a young college student like me – a good ole’ plate.
  • Add about 3/4 of the filling to the top of this piece and spread evenly.
  • Remove the second cake and place directly on top of the filling. To promote their attachment, I went around the cake pinching the seam between the cake pieces.
  • Lightly coat the sides and top of the cake with the buttercream frosting using a baking spatula or other frosting tool – believe me having the proper tools comes in handy. This is a base frosting so it doesn’t need to be thick or pretty!
  • Place the cake in the fridge for about 20 minutes!

By this point of the night – I started around 8 p.m. so by now it was nearly 11:00 – I was getting a bit tired and my photographer/sous chef/boyfriend had passed out before getting to ring in his birthday at midnight. But I was determined to get this project done!

  • After the cake is cooled down and the base frosting has hardened, you are ready to decorate!
  • To begin, I assembled and set aside a frosting bag fit with a #5 writing tip, and a second with a star boarder tip, leaving enough frosting to coat the cake.
  • Frosting a cake can be a bit of a challenge – I found my skills a little rusty – but don’t worry too much about perfection, and just do your best to cover the cake!
  • After coating the cake, add the remaining 1/3rd of the filling right on top of the frosting.
  • Finally, decorate as you please! I added a bottom border, small star puffs on the top outside edge, and, of course, wrote a Happy Birthday message.


So I did it! Almost midnight and the cake was finally done. Part of me wanted to shove my face into the damn thing for as much time and energy went into making the masterpiece, but alas, I stuck it back into the fridge to be enjoyed as the greatest birthday cake ever!

From my experience, I revitalized my interest in baking, mostly from seeing how simple the most complicated procedures are. It is my goal to continue this hobby and build my own repertoire of recipes, because according to the birthday boy “this is the best f***ing cake I’ve ever had”!

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Welcome to My Blog!

Making Sense of Information Overload

We are a generation faced with a problem never-before faced by our parents, grandparents, and ancestors. We have too many options. Yes, this sounds trivial in comparison with the issues plaguing the world at large, but let me explain why this IS a pressing matter.

Our world is no longer simplistic, over the course of a single day, we are bombarded with a series of products, ads, topics, news, social media, the list goes on and on. If you’re like me, you find it easier to shut it all out, but this leads to an even greater problem: a deficiency of pure interests and inspiration. Growing up, I was drawn to the allure of film and the arts, keeping up with the latest movies and delving into books which captured the rich history of art. While it was never my intention to let my interest in these topics waver, with the passing of each year the number of movies produced grew exponentially – often sacrificing quality – and the nature of art shifted from archaic beauty and traditional form to an outlet for social commentary. Today, at 21 years old, I find myself lost, being pulled in every which way, but holding no true connections or passions.

This is what I will attempt to change over the course of this blog. I shall consider it an exploration of the vast unknown like the great explorers and conquistadors of the 15th century, and I shall lay my claim on these topics and enrich my life.

Food – well, more like Pizza!

You remember being a kid and being forced to answer what your favorite kind of food was? I don’t know about you, but I could never identify my favorite. What I didn’t realize then was that I needed to venture out and become acquainted with more than what Pizza Hut and Dominos has to offer. If, like me, you consider yourself a pizza sommelier, you sort the many pizza offerings into three main categories: super thick crust – basically all your pan crust pies, thick crust – all other crusty variations, and finally, thin crust – I include flatbread variations here as well. While I am typically a fan of crust (you know, the more the better), my enjoyment of thin crust has recently grown exponentially.

My love for pizza began in 2008 when my family owned and operated a small pizza franchise. I fell in love with the rich variety the food group has to offer, and enjoyed creating my very own pizza concoctions. I experienced great withdraws from the freedom of pizza creation when my parents sold the restaurant, until this past summer when I discovered Pieology – “the study of custom pizza”. The food industry has entered the era of customization. Look around, and you’ll see the Chipotle, Subway, self-serve frozen yogurt, Five Guys, and Pieology-ization of the market, and people love it!


My Pieology creation (left) and my boyfriend’s (right) in Irvine, CA

For just $8, you can create your dream pizza with as many or as little toppings as you’d like making this an offer you just can’t refuse. It was like being a kid in a candy shop, ready to once again have a go at synthesizing my perfect pie. I started with a blend of pesto and red sauce as the base with mozzarella and feta cheeses. For toppings I veggied it up with spinach, red onion, basil, pineapple, and cherry tomato, and a little pepperoni for meat. Just one bite later, and I was hooked! Pieology certainly takes the pie in the realm of food customization, but they aren’t the only ones taking advantage of this delicious niché. In the quest for more pizza, I grabbed my boyfriend and drove to Hillcrest, one of the hip districts of San Diego, which is home to many good-eats including Project Pie. This popIMG_20150509_211428229ular pizza spot mirrors Pieology in many ways offering an extensive list of toppings and options all for just $8. With my Project Pie creation being just as amazing as Pieology, I had to call a tie, however Project Pie has one clear advantage. This establishment offers self-serve organic Boylyn Sodas, and let me tell you they are the perfect compliment to your custom pie! A smaller-scale competitor in the customizable-pizza market is found just north of San Diego county in Temecula. From the I-15 you’ll see Garage Brewing Co., an eatery specializing in your custom pizza and craft beer needs all-in-one.

Okay, so I like pizza a little bit…

Which leads me to digress to the introduction of this blog. The world we live in today has many, many options just like deciding where to get your pizza fix. Instead of being overwhelmed by these options, it is my quest to continue to try new things – food and projects alike – and document my experiences in a fun, analytical, and at times snarky way. Stay tuned for more at Lindsay’s Corner!