Pizza Expo – 2024

I love tradeshows. And I love food tradeshows more than any other kind. Last week, I attended Pizza Expo for the very first time. Because pizza is my husband’s love language, he was ALL IN and had more fun than he ever thought possible at a tradeshow.

I attended lectures, workshops, and demos of all kinds, including a Trend discussion and a Q&A on tinkering with dough recipes to get exactly the results you want. I watched as local favorite Alex White of Yukon Pizza won Best Non-Traditional Pizza. The demo on the Chicago “tavern style” thin crust was illuminating. And I learned so much.

For years, all I ever wanted was a “New York” slice. It was hard to come by here in Vegas for many of our 26 years. Now we have some of the best pizza in the country! I have also broadened my horizons on what constitutes a “good” pizza. There are so many styles out there right now and I am learning to enjoy most of them. After watching a “New York” demo, I realized that MY favorite type of New York pizza isn’t the only type of New York pizza! The entire Expo for me was like a style workshop. Now I have a renewed interest in pizza, more about making it than eating it though. I feel like I must conquer the styles…Next style to try? Pizza al taglio.

We are volunteers for Slice Out Hunger (go to their site and get involved!) and we lent our hands to the the Pizza Tailgate event. As a thank you, we happily received an Ooni pizza oven. The Hubs nearly swooned. Of course, we put it to work right away, and I attempted a Detroit style pizza for the first time. It was delish! For those of you not in the know, a Detroit pizza is similar to a Sicilian, in that it is a pan style pizza, but it is generally MUCH smaller (think 8×10 or 10×14 instead of the entire sheet pan). The dough tends to be airier and lighter. Additionally, the toppings go all the way to the edges. The goal is to get a crispy lace of cheese all around the top outside edge. The Ooni made the process simple. The Lloyd pan (Made in the USA) I found at the show made the PERFECT crispy edge! Yes, the pan makes a big difference.

The most fun thing for me about these types of tradeshows is the vendors never want to pack up their product and ship it back, so they give a TON of stuff away on the final day. As we were walking by the Krinos booth, we heard, “Please take anything you’d like”. A little further down the aisle, a 2-pound wedge of Pecorino Romano and a 1.5 pound wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano were thrust into my hands. The fine folks at Ferndale Farmstead Cheese asked me to take a 3-pound bag of tiny cubes of mozz off their hands. And because we live where the Pizza Expo is…we can take a LOT home.

Using Tony G's recipe for Neapolitan crust in "The Pizza Bible" and the charcoal fired Ooni, we created this beauty.
Using Tony G’s recipe for Neapolitan crust in “The Pizza Bible” and the charcoal fired Ooni, we created this beauty.

When I attend a class, tradeshow, workshop or other learning experience, I get inspired! And my OCD and addictive tendencies kick in. I now have a fermentation station in the kitchen where I am testing out uses for sourdough discard in pizza dough, making poolish, biga, and other pre-ferments. Cookbooks are being scoured for the perfect dough recipes for me to try. The internet is being browsed for unconventional toppings – I am thinking Tikka Masala and Shawarma with feta or kashkaval right now… Needless to say, the Hubs is thrilled with my renewed interest in his favorite food. He has always said the pizza is his first love…

If you aren’t already following me on Instagram, check out the pics there as the discoveries unfold. And Subscribe (at the bottom of the page) to this blog while you’re at it so you never miss a spoonful.

My Most Enjoyed Food of 2022

If you follow me at all on social media, you know I take a lot of pics of my food. Not all dishes are created equal. Some are miserable (and I don’t post those pics), some are just ok (and most of those don’t get posted either), then there are the REALLY good and the mind blowing. That is what I am sharing here. A recap of the most interesting or surprising or delicious things I ate in 2022. Frankly, there wasn’t a ton of that going on. I stuck to tried and true places, except when I was traveling, and a lot of this food is from out of town.

I sit down at the computer every day with the best of intentions of writing you something informative or fun or thought provoking and then I get distracted…The smart person in my brain knows that those who make “to do” lists accomplish more each day than those who don’t, so yesterday I sat down and made a list that included writing this for you (and me quite frankly). Enjoy this list of fantastic food in no particular order

Birthday Surf & Turf

The Lobster en Croute and a beautiful piece of wagyu made up the surf & turf for my Birthday dinner at Carversteak. Chef Dan Ontiveros always hits it out of the park. And this picture and the cover picture of the post say it all!

Surf & Turf at Carversteak, Las Vegas
My Birthday dinner consisted of beautifully prepared dishes by Dan Ontiveros and staff, including this fabulous version of surf & turf.

Coastal Margherita

On our spring trip to Portland, we hit up a bunch of breweries and a cool tiki bar (The Alibi). While we were there The Hubs gets a text from Chris Decker at Metro Pizza telling us we HAD to go to Apizza Scholls. When Chris says you HAVE to go, you go. And we are so glad we did! This was literally a life changing pizza for the Hubs because he normally hates anchovies on his pie. He is now a convert.

Coastal Margherita at Apizza Scholls
This pie is actually half & half – Coastal Margherita and Pepperoni & Mushroom. With Owner Brian Spangler

Farmhouse Tart at Pine Dining

The Pine Dining series was fantastic all the way around. They were single weekend events with outrageous menus and fabulous food. This dish was the one I embarrassed myself over and asked Chef Nicole Brisson if there were leftovers could I take them home…and there were, and I did. Flaky pastry filled with sausage, fontina, and walnuts. In case you are wondering, it reheated beautifully.

Farmhouse Tart by Chef Nicole Brisson
Farmhouse Tart by Chef Nicole Brisson with sausage, fontina, and walnuts.

Bratislavan Food Specialty Halusky

Whenever we travel overseas, we attempt to try as much local food as possible and “eat like the locals”. We try all the local beer we can, and while at the bars ask the folks there where we should eat. In Bratislava we were told the national dish is Halusky (hal-oosh-key). They are little potato dumplings, somewhat like a cross between gnocchi and spaetzle, covered in a decadent sour cream sauce loaded with a local sheep’s milk cheese and topped with bacon & green onion. Incredibly rich and this plate was more than enough for The Hubs & I.

Creamy, rich, and decadent are three words I would used to describe this dish. I really need to learn how to make it!

Mortadella Agnolotti

Chef Oscar Amador at EDO and Anima is a marvel! Pal Gemini invited me to lunch at Anima and we shared these agnolotti. They were so good I was speechless for a moment. I am sure my eyes rolled back in my head and a groan escaped my lips. Gemini laughed aloud because she had never seen me speechless over a dish before.

Mortadella Agnolotti at Anima by EDO
Mortadella is my fave cold cut, and this just put it over the top!

Tony’s in San Francisco

While we do have an outpost of Tony Gemignani’s here in Vegas (Pizza Rock), when my sister-in-law Gretchen says “go to Tony’s”, you go. I have only had coccoli twice and both times they were revelatory for me. If you are unfamiliar, they are like salty beignets. The ones at Tony’s were served with thinly sliced “Italian Beef” and horseradish. I was supposed to be sharing them and had to stop myself from hogging all of them. The salad is pictured just to prove I do eat healthy-ish food now & then.

Coccoli at Tony's in San Francisco
Both the beef and the coccoli were amazing. Add horseradish and giardiniera and you have a hands down winner.

Fried Food

I love fried food and I love all the fish (except catfish), but I have a special love for anchovies. These ones were whole, coated in cornmeal, and lightly fried at the Hog Island Oyster Bar in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. The Hubs even liked them and as mentioned before, he is NOT a fan of anchovies. The aioli was the perfect accompaniment and we scarfed them down in a flash!

Fried Anchovies at Hog Island Oyster Bar
Fried Anchovies at Hog Island Oyster Bar

“The Crime Scene”

In February I went on a real vacation entirely by myself. I took a cruise with Virgin Voyages* and it was superb. We all know that the food on cruise ships is notoriously mediocre at best. That is NOT the case on The Scarlet Lady! Each meal was much better than any mass market cruise line’s meals and the Test Kitchen was the showstopper for the entire cruise. This menu changes regularly, so you may not ever see this when you travel with Virgin Voyages, but it was superb. I nicknamed it “The Crime Scene” because of the splashes of beet juice, but it was a perfectly cooked venison loin with a Vietnamese salted caramel sauce and pickled blueberries.

venison on board the Scarlet Lady
Venison loin “crime scene” on board Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady.

*when you are ready to try Virgin Voyages for your next trip, give me a call and I will happily help you book it.

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A New Home and 11 Years of This Blog

As I type I am writing from the back deck of our new home. Last week marked 11 years that I have been writing this blog. 11 damn years! In that time the following has happened in my life:

  • My only child graduated from high school and college and moved into his own apartment
  • We have taken 5 cruises – 2 in Europe, one in Egypt, and 2 in the Caribbean. And one of those was my first EVER solo vacation
  • I became a travel agent – mainly to get a kickback on my own travel, but if you need help planning YOUR vacations, hit me up!
  • John got his doctorate
  • I had my left knee replaced
  • I lost a parent
  • I lost 40 lbs
  • I joined a cookbook club and made new friends
  • We downsized to a smaller home
  • And so much more

I have been absent for some time, and I apologize, but I am here now.

I haven’t had the mental bandwidth to write anything except thank you notes. I’d sit in front of my laptop and just stare at the blinking cursor feeling overwhelmed and like no one wanted to hear anything I had to say.

Not our first rodeo or our first old home

Last April, we put our suburban home on the market and moved into a vintage 1939 Tudor style home in downtown Las Vegas. We’ve been remodeling the home and LIVING in it at the same time. You can go to my Instagram and scroll through to see some of the pics.  It’s been a massive undertaking, one that we frankly were unprepared for. You see, when we put our home on the market, we didn’t realize the state of the housing market. We had no clue that we’d sell the house in less than 24 hours. We had hoped we’d live in the “old” house for at least a couple of months while renovating our “new” digs. Instead, we ended up living in a construction zone for the better part of a year while we waited on every damn thing to arrive. Cabinets took 16 weeks instead of the originally planned 8 weeks. It was a 6 week wait just to get on the calendar for the folks to come and recreate a stairwell that was not built to code. You get the idea.

Everything Old is NEW again

This is not our first old home. In Sumter, South Carolina, our home dated to the 1800’s, so we knew there would be challenges. We were wholly unprepared for all of the major things the home inspector missed (rotted floorboards, leaking hot water heater, cracked and damaged plumbing, and so on). Because we want to maintain as much of the original home as possible, in the kitchen I kept the original footprint with the lovely windows. Everything else was updated. The claustrophobic drop ceiling was raised and the kitchen was gutted from floor to ceiling and to the wall studs.

The kitchen was the lynch pin on which all other projects revolved. Nothing could be completed until the kitchen was done because everything that belonged in the kitchen was being stored in every other room of the house. The originally anticipated completion date was 1 November 2021. It was finally completed in January 2022.

I knew a new home would be stressful…but seriously?

We moved 13 times in 21 years with the Air Force. Change is always stressful. With all the military moves in my rear view, you’d think I’d have the stress of moving on lock. I learned that is NOT the case. The movers showed up more than 4 hours late. All they had to do was load and unload the truck. I had already packed everything. By the time they unloaded, it was after 1:00 am. That should have been my first clue that all was NOT going to go as planned.

This past year was the first time in our married life that we didn’t eat T-giving dinner in our home. It was bizarre to say the least, but thanks to wonderful new friends we had places to go, and people to be with who made us feel welcome. Not cooking was a serious blow to my already crumbling mental state. I had to shake my expectations of what a holiday could be and embrace something new. It was worth it!

Soon…I promise

Now that the kitchen is done, I am sure some of you are waiting on the restart of the live online cooking classes. While I am prepped and raring to go, Sister Nancy got herself a new job and she is in training right now, so we will resume once she knows what her schedule is going to be. Take note – since this was a way to teach Nancy how to cook long distance, it may not be on a weekend like before, but of course you will be able to go to YouTube and watch it there after the fact.

We have one room left to repair, but we hosted a “thank you party” for everyone who welcomed us to our new ‘hood, helped us move, or helped us complete projects. It was a smaller, more intimate get-together than we usually host, but after 2 years of not socializing in groups, and still figuring out where things fit in this space, we knew that “going big” was NOT the way to go this time. We were very excited to open our doors to guests for the first time and host our first party. And I do hope a good time was had by all who were able to attend.

I am cooking and doing recipe trials, and getting ready to write and record some simple recipes for all of you. Hopefully that will happen sooner, rather than later. The biggest obstacle is on the weekends when my “camera man” is home, we are busy doing home renovation projects to get this place finished.

In the meantime, I hope you take the time to follow, like, and share my content on other platforms and be on the lookout for cool new stuff soon!

I Have Become a Movie Character

I have become a movie character, or at least an amalgam of characters. If you are a cinephile, you can thank me later for all the movie references.

And WHAT a Character!

One day while breezing into my local bar, whipping off my sunglasses and surveying the room looking for my peeps, I was compared to Miranda Priestly – the character based on Anna Wintour. And I wasn’t offended. Calm, collected, and confident on the outside, using bitchiness to camouflage the raging mess on the inside. The tables have turned. I have now become Myrna Loy. Not the fun, cool Nora Charles version everyone wants to be friends with from the “Thin Man” films.

Myrna Loy & William Powell from the Thin Man

But the slightly neurotic, persnickety Muriel Blanding…and my husband is becoming the Cary Grant character from that film. Someone compared us to Shelly Long and Tom Hanks in The Money Pit, but let’s face it, Grant and Loy did it first and did it better.

Why Can’t ANYTHING be Simple?

Each time we tackle a project in the house, it leads to 3 others that must be completed before we can move on and do the initial project. And each complication adds a week or more to our timeline. Here’s an example – My original goal was to have the kitchen complete by 1 October. When I had the original measurements for the cabinets done, that was a realistic goal. Here’s the hold up: an ugly drop ceiling had to be removed and the actual measurements needed to include the additional 14 inches I was gaining. Once the hideous soffit was removed, we found out WHY there was a drop ceiling. To accommodate the plumbing for the master bath. A call to the plumber to raise the pipes to allow the raise of the ceiling and we have a one-week delay.…

We Are on Our Way

The measurements have been done and the cabinets and pulls have been ordered and now there is an 8 week wait…with all the delays and supply chain difficulties that are acting like gum in the gears, it is now looking more like 15 November. And that doesn’t include the gas line and stove…but that is another whole story in and of itself.

Have I mentioned that I am NOT patient? I am almost Veruca Salt (original Willy Wonka) level impatient without the brattiness. Well, most of the time I am not bratty. When I finally decide on something, I want it NOW. Not 3 weeks from now, but today; tomorrow at the latest.

Why am I telling you this?  Because at the end of it all, becoming a movie character has built some character. I am learning to be more flexible (not my strong suit). I am learning to go with the flow more. Side note: On vacation I am usually really flexible and willing to just roll with whatever looks like fun, but in day-to-day life? Not so much.

And through all of this, I am cooking. While it might sound fun to dine out every night, when you actually ENJOY cooking and your kitchen is your happy place, it’s really not. As I type, my mom is visiting, and I am cooking for her. I am trying out new recipes, shopping in the local ethnic markets and learning new things. Joyfully cooking in my hot mess of a kitchen with holes in the walls, bare board flooring and no cabinets. And a god-awful electric stove. “It builds character”, I keep telling myself. At this point I think it is more fun to BE a character.

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Vegas Strong – Community Action Has Huge Impact

As I am sure you are aware, there was a horrific mass shooting in my beloved city last night. Of course, things like this bring out the best and the worst in many people. I am proud to belong to this community and so proud of the way people came together from all walks of life to help out in any way they could.

Community – a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

People waited in line for up to 10 hours to donate blood. Citywide, culinary community members delivered meals, water, snacks and blood to donation locations across the valley.

Our culinary community and hospitality community offered meals, drinks, blood, and hotel beds to anyone who needed them. Read this great article by pal Al Mancini to see how so many are helping out.

Even if you are not in Vegas, you CAN help.

Follow the link to donate funds to the GoFundMe campaign to help victims and their families.

Many restaurants are donating food and beverages around the clock. Call a local restaurant and offer to pay for some meals to be delivered. Here’s a short list of some that are active participants.

Donate to the Urban Seed Foundation’s Nevada Big Give campaign to provide food and air mattresses to aid locations.

Give cash to the Red Cross or donate blood in your community.

Be sure to hug your loved ones often. Give thanks for their safety. Finally – many thanks to all of you who reached out, called, texted, messaged or emailed to make sure my family, friends and I are all safe. Thanks as well to the many readers of this blog who have donated time, cash, blood, food and every other thing imaginable.

Stuck in a Rut. But How Do I get “Unstuck”?

If you have been searching for my posts lately, I am sorry. I’ve been stuck in a rut. A rut doing the same old things, visiting the same old places and generally NOT trying new things. It is blistering hot outside (Hello? It’s Vegas!). I am bored, and I am too damn hot and bored to do anything about it!

“I don’t like it down here. It stinks.”

We all get there at different times in our lives. Those times when trying new things or stretching our comfort zone is a fucking chore. I am there. Right now. I am stuck. In fact I am a little down in the dumps, and as my Mom says, “I don’t like it down here. It stinks.” I know that getting out and doing stuff, trying new things, always makes me feel better, but frankly, I have no interest in doing much of anything right now.

So how do I get “unstuck”? Well…I have been cooking of course; sometimes with friends and sometimes alone. I have been trying new things, and teaching others some tried and true things. And yet, I still find myself stuck in this fucking rut!

I made these sourdough sesame bagels. They came out looking more like pretzels. I think I figured out WHY they were so dark, but haven’t had the gumption to try them again to test my theory (too much lye in the water bath). Stuck.

A little darker than I wanted or expected. I suspect too much lye in the bath, but I don’t care enough to re-try the recipe…Stuck

No stretching my comfort zone. Stuck.

I hosted our monthly supper club – Cooking with Gemini – again. It was Greek themed this time. I offered gyro meat, spanakopita and dolmades. And I made labneh for the first time; not that difficult. No stretching my comfort zone. Stuck.

Pals John and John learned to work with phyllo and created the spanakopita. I do love men in the kitchen.

I did check out a relatively new place, Cured & Whey for a fab panini (Spanish ham and Manchego cheese with quince jam) and some lovely conversation with the owner. But I would hardly call that stretching my comfort zone. Stuck.

House made pickles came with this fab sandWISH and I loved every bite.

As I write I am getting ready to revisit Chicago for the first time in several years, and while I love the city, I am left wondering should I hit up the tried and true spots that I love and can’t enjoy here, or should I try new places, or a combo of both? Will I “ruin” my trip if the new places don’t live up to the hype or expectations? Will I label myself as a boring tourist if I stick to what I know and already love?

I despise being called boring. If you want to insult me, that’s one of a very few words that’ll REALLY piss me off. And yet I am about to label myself that way because I am STUCK. In fact, I feel boring and probably deserve that hated word. So, for now, I am reading M.F K. Fisher’s recollections of Provence in 1970, and I find myself very much in her mindset; simultaneously wanting familiarity, and wanting to experience new things at the same time. And I curiously find myself increasingly annoyed by people who never annoyed me before, like M.F.K. did all those years ago in Provence.

Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste by [Barr, Luke]

So, I’ll sit here, reading, drinking tea, and smoking, waiting for my next adventure to begin.

To see all of my food pics – be sure to follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook (Good for Spooning on all platforms). There are convenient buttons at the top right of this page for you to share this post. As a matter of fact, invite your friends to follow along!


Vic Vegas Comes Full Circle

Vic Vegas moved to Las Vegas at age 14 and has called the city home since then. After several years of jobs, Vic Vegas comes full circle with the opening of his 7 Sinful Subs shop on Maryland Parkway a few doors down from where he started his culinary journey.

He knew he wanted a career in culinary the first time he walked into the kitchen at Ferraro’s

Vic started his culinary career at the now closed Tom & Jerry’s Grub & Pub which was located on Maryland Parkway near UNLV. He was a dishwasher. He subsequently worked at several places in Las Vegas. Vic worked hard and learned what he could at each restaurant and bar, but he says he knew he wanted a career in culinary the first time he walked into the kitchen at Ferraro’s. Vic Vegas has never been to culinary school, but has had plenty of on the job training. With each restaurant and every position in the kitchen, he learned something new. When I used the term “self-taught”, he gently corrected me and said, “No. I am not self-taught. I am self-inspired. I had the desire and other people taught me.” For me, that is a really telling statement. He credits all of the chefs, cooks and staff he has worked with over the years with helping him to become the person he is today. He never says he did it himself.

We all saw him on Next Food Network Star

I first learned of Vic Vegas when he appeared on the show, Next Food Network Star. And like many Las Vegans, I cheered him on and rooted for him to win. He didn’t win, but that show shifted his life and his career began to snowball. Vic said he had applied to the show numerous times and the one time he didn’t send in his application was the time they called him and said they wanted him. He quit his job at the Rumor Hotel to film the show and has never looked back.

The most surprising thing about Vic is that although he has always worked, and worked hard, he was, at one time homeless. After splitting with his ex, he moved out of his home, and continued to pay the bills, so his kids would have a safe place to live. He couldn’t afford two places, so he couch surfed and lived on the streets until he could make all the ends meet. This was shortly before we all saw him on Next Food Network Star. Since the airing of that season, his life has changed drastically as you can probably imagine. Despite his celebrity, he is a private person and though we are friends, was somewhat reluctant to sit with me for this interview, because he knew it would be about more than the shop and his career.

Vic Vegas makes time for the important things

One of the things that makes Vic Vegas special is that no matter how busy he is, he continues to make time for the important things. Family is everything to Vic and his friends are a close second. He also makes time to give back to the community. He is actively involved in St. Jude’s Ranch for Children in Boulder City. He volunteers for Three Square Food Bank (my pet charity) and the day I met him for this interview, he was appearing as a local celebrity at a fundraiser for a child with cancer that was being held at a local pizzeria. Unlike some, he knows with celebrity comes public expectations and a responsibility to give back. Vic doesn’t look at it as a burden, but as a gift to share what he has been given in his life.

When you go to 7 Sinful Subs, you may not see Vic Vegas. Don’t be disappointed. He’s a busy guy! You can catch Vic on episodes of Bar Rescue on Spike TV (he is part of a team that goes into struggling bars with food programs to help them move their business forward). In addition to the sub shop, he works as executive chef/culinary consultant for Nicholas & Company food distributors. And, as if he wasn’t busy enough, he’s getting ready to launch additional locations of 7 Sinful Subs (locations to be determined and I begged for a location in my neck of the woods). What you can expect when you walk into 7 Sinful Subs is what I like to call Classic Italian Subs with a Vegas twist. Clever sandwich and salad names, combined with interesting artwork round out the theme. The subs are fantastic! 7 Sinful Subs is located at 4632 S Maryland Pkwy #12, Las Vegas, across from UNLV. They are open daily at 11 am. Look in the student coupon book for UNLV next semester for info on how you can save. Also, mention Good for Spooning when ordering through the end of January (LeAnne-uary) and receive a free regular beverage with any sub or salad purchase.

The Baller - a Meatball parmigiana sandWISH!

The Baller – a Meatball parmigiana sandWISH!*

Club to the Head - Their twist on a classic club sandWISH

Club to the Head – Their twist on a classic club sandWISH. *

This is part one of the menu. Clever names with delicious ingredients. What more can you ask for?

This is part one of the menu. Clever names with delicious ingredients. What more can you ask for?

Congratulations to Kim Willard of Pikeville, KY! She is the winner of the

Anthony Bourdain Appetites Cookbook giveaway

* for all of you new readers – I always write sandWISH…


Murray’s Cheese Shop

If you know me at all, you know that I LOVE cheese. In a small secret circle I am known as Sister Silver Hair, Goddess of the Cheeses. I once tried a diet that had me eliminate dairy. Yeah, that lasted about 48 hours. I will put cheese on just about anything and I literally have a drawer in the fridge specifically relegated to cheese which contains no less than 6 varieties for different uses. My husband recently remarked that I was not allowed to buy any more cheese until I finished what was in the fridge. Let’s just say I am working on it. So you can just imagine how delighted I was when my local Smith’s became home to the latest Murray’s Cheese Shop in Vegas. Finally Centennial Hills gets something before Summerlin does!

Inside the Montecito  Smith's at 7130 N Durango Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89149

Inside the Montecito Smith’s at 7130 N Durango Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89149

Murray’s Cheese Shop on Bleecker Street in NYC has been around since 1940 and in recent years they have expanded slowly so other parts of the country can enjoy great cheeses from around the world and across the country. Believe it or not, we have some fantastic artisanal cheese makers right here in the USA. The majority of the nationwide Murray’s are located in Kroger stores (Ralph’s, Smith’s, and King Supermarkets) and many of them are in the Midwest. Each Murray’s throughout the country has a bonafide cheese monger that receives training at the original Murray’s and from local  or regional experts. Here in Vegas we have two Murray’s outposts, both in Smith’s Stores, one at LV Blvd and Windmill and the other in Centennial Hills at the Montecito Smith’s. My local cheese monger is Charles.

Recently I was invited to a personal tasting and chat session with Charles (sadly none of the pics of Charles turned out the way I would have liked, but ask him for him at the counter), and I learned a few things about Murray’s that I didn’t know. For example, each one across the country is client and regionally driven in what they offer. The location in Centennial Hills offers different cheeses and other items like crackers, charcuterie and Bloody Mary mixes than the one in Henderson. And some of the items available here in Vegas are not available in the Midwest or California and vice versa.

clockwise from upper left: Stilton, Manchego, Aged English Cheddar, Robiola Bosina, Taleggio, Parrano on a slate board. Everything and the board available for sale!

Clockwise from upper left: Stilton, Manchego, Aged English Cheddar, Robiola Bosina, Taleggio, Parrano on a slate board. Everything and the board available for sale!

When you go, expect to have a tough time deciding on what to get because there are nearly 200 cheeses available, but KNOW there will be help in selecting and setting up your cheese board for your next get-together. In case you didn’t know, there is SO much more out there than the pre-cut cheese cube tray offered by your local grocer (fine for tailgating or football games, but HARDLY what I want when entertaining at my home). Let’s say, for example, you want to feature all sheep’s milk, or all California, or all Italian cheeses. Charles can hook you up! Tallegio? Check! P’tit Basque? Check! Aged Manchego? Check! Burrata? Check! And so much more! What I really love about this counter is that it is divided by the style of cheese – crumbly, creamy, rind style, etc. Can’t find what you are looking for? Don’t know EXACTLY what you are looking for? Don’t worry!  Charles or one of his capable staff is there to help you! They love cheese and they want you to love it too! And seriously, don’t be afraid to ask for a sample! They have samplings every day of featured offerings, but also will offer a taste if you are unsure on MOST of the cheeses in the case, but don’t be THAT GUY and ask for a sample of several and walk away with none in your basket.

Note the labels in red guiding you to the styles and flavor profiles of the cheeses.

Note the labels in red guiding you to the styles and flavor profiles of the cheeses.

Always remember, you get what you pay for. If blocks of yellow cheddar and bland Monterey Jack are what you and your friends think is good cheese…you may want to walk on by (as Dionne Warwick would say); but, if like me, you view cheese as particularly as you view wine or beer…well then, slow down, take a minute and a sample and ENJOY!


David Leibner – It’s On Me & Gift Local

David Leibner is one of those guys. You meet him and immediately want to get to know him better. You know the type, handsome and confident with a strong handshake and a salted caramel voice. He looks and acts like he knows what’s going on…and that’s because he does. He’s the mastermind and creative genius behind one of the coolest apps for your phone and it’s one of those ideas that once you realize the brilliance of it you smack your head and say, “Why didn’t I think of that!?”


An 18 year resident of Las Vegas, via New York, Leibner works and lives downtown, participates in and supports downtown ventures and is the Founder and CEO of It’s On Me and Gift Local; a digital gifting app that interfaces with your desktop and smoothly performs on both Android and iPhone platforms. As of this writing there are three major cities with offerings – Las Vegas (75 locations), San Diego (30 locations) and newly launched New York City (6 locations) with more than 250 new locations to be added within 6 months across those cities. The participating merchants are a carefully curated group of locally owned restaurants and bars; no big box chains to weed through when looking to give a gift. Currently the app encompasses dining and cocktails, but they aim to bring personal services on board (like spas and hair salons) soon. The app literally takes gift “cards” to a whole new level and it’s a win-win-win for merchant, gift giver and gift recipient.

Let’s start with the merchants. Frequently, merchants will employ couponing services like Groupon to drive business in the doors. The downside is, “Once a customer has had your $20 [menu item] for $10 they aren’t going to come back and pay full retail for that same dish, no matter how much they liked it,” says Leibner. When someone uses a gift from It’s On Me it has been purchased at full retail value, no discounts. With the sign-up fee, a merchant is guaranteed a certain amount of sales. In the event that doesn’t happen, It’s On Me gives the merchant that specified dollar amount of gifts to use as they please. They can send them via email or text to clients who haven’t visited in a while. They can run a promo on Facebook to encourage participation. However they decide to use them. Sign up is available through the website and merchants can even add a free “affiliate button” to their website linking clients directly to the purchasing site of It’s On Me to purchase gifts for themselves or someone else. No cash spent on mailing or printing. Cost effective and genuinely effective marketing – go figure!

Bloggers like me, who write about food, can also be affiliates. Very soon you will see the affiliate button on my site – be on the lookout for it. When I write about someplace that is part of the It’s On Me network, I will be sure to point it out.


As a gift giver, how many times have you “forgotten” someone’s birthday? This app allows you to send a gift immediately to a recipient in any of your multiple contact lists (personal, Facebook, Twitter) and it will arrive via text, email, Twitter or Facebook message. Heard someone had a bad day? You can send shots of their favorite spirit at the neighborhood bar or coffee and a muffin, or a slice of pizza. The gift you choose will show up as a photo (like a gift card), but they can use the dollar amount to select anything they want. Of course you can choose a dollar amount instead of a specific item. And you can gift from your desktop or your phone.

When you receive a gift card, do you lose it, only to find it after it has expired? Yeah, me too. With It’s On Me, your gifts are in your phone. When was the last time you walked out the door without THAT? You don’t need the app to receive the gift, but you will need to download it to redeem your gift. Redemption is easy. Once you receive your check, open the app, find your gift and enter the receipt info from the check. The gift amount is automatically deducted and the server will charge you the balance if there is one. Don’t really like that bar or restaurant? No hassle re-gifting with ease!

Possible new logo for It's On Me

Possible new logo for It’s On Me – keep your eyes peeled for changes!

Leibner and his team have created a unique ecosystem (think economic system) that is totally interactive, symbiotic and easy to navigate. The logo is easy to recognize, but watch for changes once the aforementioned service options become available. All too often finding local merchants with quality products can be a crap shoot. By vetting these merchants for you, the guess work has been taken out of gift giving by providing you with a list of premium locally owned businesses. Gifting local will forever be changed.

David says, “We thought it would be great for you to see how good it feels to receive a gift so click here and your next round is on us”.

Kerry Clasby – The Intuitive Forager

Growing up on the east coast Kerry Clasby was no stranger to farm stands and farmers’ markets. They are literally everywhere. In California she found them as well, but not in Las Vegas. With a background in education, sales & marketing and business, she did the only sensible thing. She followed her intuition and started one here. And boy has it grown! She talked with family farmers, educated herself through hands-on time at the farms, and through reading and talking with clients. She is a wealth of information on produce, the health benefits of nearly everything she sells, and what is in season at any time of the year. Kerry forages through the farms’ offerings to bring us the best and she follows her instinct on what to choose. Kerry is a fascinating human and an excellent raconteur. If you get the chance to chat with her – good luck getting her to sit still for very long – ask her about rose scented geranium and Michael Mina. Or how Tom Colicchio called her his vegetable girl on national TV. And she always wants to know your Zodiac sign.Kerry Clasby

In 2007 Kerry, with the help and urging of Mario Batali, started to bring farm fresh produce to the Vegas Valley, running the market out of Batali’s warehouse on Dean Martin. It started out as a way for the Strip chefs to get the quality and variety they had been lacking previously. Heavy weights like Batali, Michael Mina, Joel Robuchon and the Blau Group all began shopping at the market and the local community jumped on the bandwagon and began shopping too. MTO, Grass Roots, VegeNation, Pizza Rock and Carson Kitchen, all in the downtown area, get their produce from the market now as well. Recently Southern Wine & Spirits has gotten in on the action, sourcing ingredients for their in house development kitchen from the market. With ever expanding cocktail programs in all the casinos and many bars, mixologists are on the hunt for new and interesting ingredients to showcase not only great spirits, but the talent of the mixologists as well. The market is an obvious fit. Fantastic fresh herbs and fruits, some used to make shrubs, are in demand as well as less common citrus fruits to round out their ingredient lists. Just like our culinary community, our beverage community is creating sensational seasonal menus of cocktails that highlight produce and herbs at their peak.

Locally grown heirloom tomatoes

Every bit of produce you see at the market is organic. No commercial farming practices are used in the creation of the beautiful produce. Because we don’t have a vast array of farms here in Nevada, most of the produce at the market comes from California, however there is a whole section devoted strictly to Nevada farmers. On any given week, you can go in and find up to 450 different items to choose from. Several varieties of peaches, plums, potatoes and melons were on display in addition to morel mushrooms and of course the ever popular heirloom tomatoes. In choosing the farmers she deals with, Kerry visits EVERY farm. She investigates their growing practices, their past production and walks their fields. She knows these farmers, their families and what’s going on in their lives. It makes a difference. Any salesperson worth their salt will tell you a personal relationship with the client makes all the difference in the world. That is the case with Kerry as well. Knowing what is going on in the lives of her producers is important to her and it shows. She can tell you the provenance of every single item on display; where it was grown, how it was grown and when it was picked.

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It is more than just a farmers market with fruits and veggies. Need gifts? You can find them at the market too. Handmade hardwood cutting boards, flavored oils and vinegars and so much more can be found there. There are food, home, personal care, jewelry and decorative items. May I suggest starting your holiday shopping NOW! You can also see live cooking demos by local chefs and test ride an e-bike (think electric moped for the hip cyclist commuter).

Does it cost more? Yes. But as the old adage goes, “You get what you pay for”. When you bite into a slice of tomato from the market, it tastes the way a tomato SHOULD taste! The melons and peaches are sweet and juicy. The reasons for this are the produce is allowed to ripen naturally, they are picked at the height of flavor and are at the market in 24 hours. None of that is true when you shop elsewhere. If you want fresher, you’ll have to grow it yourself. When asked why she does this, Kerry responded, “It’s the right thing to do”. I asked her if she meant right for the community, the earth, or our bodies. “All of it!” was her response.

After a few location changes, the markets have found two stable locations. You can find weekly markets at both the former bus station at Downtown 3rd street on Fridays and also at the Downtown Summerlin mall on Saturdays. Both locations run 9 am – 2 pm weekly. A quick note: bring cash. The market is cash only and the local craftsmen and food purveyors (Jamaican cuisine, fantastic granola, micro-roasted coffee, for example) on site appreciate cash as well. Go to for more details and to contact Kerry about purchasing the best produce for your business.