Day One: W&R Trip/ Work & Relaxation
It had been up in the 70s just the day before. When I get off the plane in Vegas its cold and the sun decides to play coy. Thank goodness I've got my winter coat I wore when I left Chicago this morning. I'll be living in it for the next 3 days. I'm here solo this time to peruse the new season's merchandise and to do some networking at the Champs convention. I decide to check my bags into the hotel and head over to the convention to get some work done. Since everyone in Vegas is now charging for parking I decide to skip renting a car. With both the convention center and my hotel being on the monorail line I opt for a 3 day pass and decide to taxi or rideshare to other destinations.
I get off the monorail and head to the familiar South Hall entrance from the last time I attended Champs. Confused by the catering signs posted everywhere I learn that this year's entrance is on the other side of the South Hall. Then I remember the monorail's informative blurb about the Las Vegas Convention Center being one of the largest in the world. My early prediction for this trip- LOTS of walking. After checking in I make the rounds and exchange information. Day one is for browsing so I take notes and get samples and pricing information from as many places as possible. Before leaving I notice the glass games are featuring a trio of female artists this year and decide to come back and check their progress throughout the next couple of days. I'm interested to see if the ladies are gonna run this...
I'm staying at the SLS hotel on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. It's well-appointed and clean and has great dining options (all of which offer happy hour menus). As much as I plan on checking out the gym and the casino and other resort amenities, I never get around to it. I like a good card game with friends and a bit of a wager from time to time but I'm no gambler. I can tell you that the tables and slot machines were plentiful and that I did not witness any zombies who hadn't left the machine for days or any downtrodden losers cashing in their savings to feed their addictions. Maybe you go to Fremont street for that?
Exhausted from walking the convention all day I decide to hit up the in-house offerings. First up - happy hour drinks and appetizers at Cleo. I order the Clementina vodka cocktail with fresh citrus, serrano chili and basil. If you're like me you might ask yourself if it's a good idea to order the lebaneh- one of the richest dishes on the menu- even though you plan on eating at two other places after this. If you are me then you do it anyway even though the answer is no. And you add the brussels sprouts with capers and almonds. If I had eaten the entire piece of delicious flatbread, brushed with olive oil and spiced with dry herbs with all of the whipped yogurt and feta dip (I did) it might have been a bit heavy. Vegetables- always solving problems. Only complaint is that I wish my stomach was bigger so I could try more dishes.
The lebaneh and Clementina vodka cocktail at Cleo
Next up is Bazaar Meats. Famous Spanish mega chef. Decadent and extravagant menu. Even happy hour seems like a bit of a special occasion here. I order the pulpo alla gallega which is enhanced by a vinegary bloom of smoky pimenton as well as their signature airbread with Kobe beef and parmesan espuma. The biggest anomaly about this dish is that you forget about the beef (Kobe!) and the tasty abundance of espuma in the middle and instead are left wondering how the hell they got such concentrated bread flavor into such a wafer thin shell of bread. HOW? WHY? Can I have another?
Thinking I'm pretty full I step into the elevator to head up to my room and sleep off this food coma. Someone steps in after me with a bag of In-N-Out, then another person with Chick-Fil-A. Am I really getting hungry again or am I just giving into my fear of missing out? I can do this. Just need to sleep it off. I'll see you later tonight, animal fries.
I wake up a couple hours later and flip on that 'Eat your way through this vacation' switch. I head towards the nearest In-N-Out a couple stops down the monorail. Super close to the High Roller giant observation wheel, I get there a half hour before closing time to place my order. Cheeseburger and animal fries. No milkshake even though I want one. Isn't this whole meal just one big dessert anyway? And for those of us who are normally deprived of In n Out throughout the year you know exactly how that fear of missing out feels. Don't judge me for my third dinner!
Day Two: Sweet/Treat/Eat
My food hangover keeps me from the gym this morning and instead I decide to feed the monster some freshly baked goods. I make my way to the Venetian and decide to stop at both Bouchon bakery and Paris Baguette. The latter is super easy to find in St. Mark's square. This popular Korean bakery chain is second in my book to Tous Les Jours but it is still very delicious, super fresh and surprisingly affordable with almost all of the enticing meal offerings costing less than $8. I buy a crispy bread stuffed with curry, a crispy potato cheese puff and a sweet roll. I eat more than half of my new pastries while searching desperately for Bouchon bakery. Such simple, classic flavors that are executed so well. This is the kind of place where you want to order one of everything and only regret not having ordered two. I get his namesake oreo, a kouign amann and a chocolate bouchon. Because you can never have enough, I make a final sweets stop at Honolulu cookie company to get gifts for the girls back home. Pineapple shaped shortbread cookies in different flavors is a wonderfully addictive idea that needs to be made available in EVERY shopping mall. Starting with Chicago, please!?
With my bag full of sweet treats for later I head to Champs for an all day marathon. Notes in hand I approach the vendor map only to realize the map is not going to be any help. With no order to the booth numbers and the map heavily pixellated and unreadable, I kick myself for not taking notes on where the tables were located and am forced to blaze my own trail. I start a zig zag pattern across the convention floor with the intention of crossing back the other way. Hopefully I can keep my sense of direction. I introduce myself to the ladies working with Jane West and Grav Labs and notice a lot more fun and vibrant colors this year. There also seemed to be a focus on smaller, sleeker pieces for this new season. It was awesome meeting the ladies of Dank Gals. So great to see how they've grown over the last year and love their new line of infused skin creams and bath products.
Watched the ladies in the glass games busy at work on their masterpieces. I always get so nervous watching them fuse separate pieces together. Been trying vapes and tasting CBD edibles all day long and I start feeling a little heavy in the head. Tired from walking all day I leave half an hour before closing time and wonder where between meals I can squeeze in a massage...
I unload all of my convention swag and my sweet treats from earlier and get ready for meal number one of the evening. Originally having planned to add a third happy hour to yesterday's tour but having run low on time I head to Scarpetta inside the Cosmopolitan. Handmade pastas really stand out and everyone who eats here, including me, will tell you to order the short rib agnolotti with horseradish, brown butter and bread crumbs. You won't regret it. Before leaving I find a masseuse who can squeeze me in at the last minute. The best part is that she's super close to my next dinner stop and overall favorite restaurant in Vegas, Raku.
The massage feels magical and I feel like I'm floating until I slip back into my shoes and feel all the lightness begin to slip away. Damn you high heels. Time for a drink! Raku is in the Chinatown part of the city, along with most of the delicious, more affordable late night ethnic Vegas eateries. I dream about the dishes here. The flavors are so clean and the special fish of the day are all lovingly displayed and prepared by chef right in front of you. The grilled eggplant or wagyu skirt with crispy garlic and even some of their dishes that sound rich like the poached egg with ikura and uni never are- they have a striking balance of flavors that renders every dish perfect.
Because two dinners are not enough, I make my final stop for the evening at Izakaya Go. Gotta love reverse (late night) happy hour. With an extensive discounted food and drink list available from 11 to close, the server effectively convinces me to order more food than I know I can eat because why not? It's happy hour! I order a Yuzu Chuhai, fried shrimp, miso marinated grilled eggplant, spinach gomae, a sushi hand roll. More too I think but it's such a blurry haze of food that I can't remember the rest. I'm gonna need a box. Aaaaand someone to roll me outta here!
Cheesy mochi skillet from Izakaya Go
Day Three: Ladies' Luck
It's the last day and I try my best to take as few wasted steps as possible. It'll be a long day with my flight back home around midnight. I place my orders with our regular vendors and say my goodbyes until the next convention.
Maybe a bit of charm, maybe a bit of luck, whatever the case we have good news! We are planning on debuting some vaporizers in the future- look out for new vape pens coming soon. We will enjoy spending the next few weeks testing our favorites before we narrow down the best choices. We will also be adding water pipes from Jane West and Ohio Valley Glass in addition to some nice accessories that will be affordably priced from $5-$30 like fun candy-colored doob tubes, mini bubblers, stylish smell-proof containers and pouches. Samples are in hand, inventory is on the way and plans to expand and add more selections to our store are currently being worked on so stay tuned for exciting changes to Meli Jein!
I return to the hotel to pickup my bag from the bell desk and decide to have one more meal in Vegas. I choose Katsuya, and I already know what I'm going to order. I get the Kiwi Envy cocktail and the Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna. Just as tasty as always. Exactly how I remember it from the last time. I take one last stroll along the strip while the fountains outside the Bellagio are singing and dancing. I order my ride to the airport and my driver informs me his last passenger from Chicago had to fly from there to St. Louis to Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Otherwise he'd still be waiting in Chicago. I check my flight status and sure enough, it's delayed. I guess I've got some time to stop at the dispensary for some edibles before heading to the airport. Maybe I'll even have a little time to try lady luck and hit those airport slots!