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Vegas, Baby! (The Saveur Best Food Blog Awards)

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Hello from Sin City!

Rather than posting in my usual Forky Friday format, I’m going to share with you a bunch of links to awesomeness inspired by our trip to Las Vegas for the 4th Annual Saveur Best Food Blog Awards.

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

We won last year in the Best Special Diets category, but due to my zombie drug dealing responsibilities, I couldn’t make it out to NYC for the celebration, which was held at the magazine’s test kitchen. So when I heard that current and past winners and finalists were invited to this year’s bash at the Bellagio, I immediately booked our flights. (We did our best to convince our pal Russ, a finalist in this year’s awards, to join us, but alas, The Domestic Man couldn’t make it out to the desert.)

After our arrival on Wednesday night, we treated ourselves to dinner at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. We were in a celebratory mood, but then again, any meal at restaurant without the kids feels like a special indulgence. Adult conversation? Sign me up.

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

We ordered the chef’s seasonal tasting menu. To our happy surprise, we discovered that it was virtually gluten-free…that is, until dessert. I’ll write a detailed post about my meal later, but for now, I’ll share with you one of my favorite dishes of the night: l’asperge blanche

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…white asparagus topped with prosciutto di Parma (shaved right off the leg on the counter) and served with a creamy butter sauce. Henry had to stop me from licking the plate clean. Next time, I’m packing a miniature spatula—a tip I learned after dining with Melicious and Dave at Barley Swine.

The next morning, the official festivities began. We headed down to breakfast at the Bellagio Pool Cafe with the whole gang from the Saveur Best Food Blog Awards.

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

The breakfast was sponsored by Mandarine Napoléon and Zonin and, as a result, the libations were flowing early.

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

The morning booze was enticing, but as an Asian flush sufferer, I did my best to keep my alcohol intake to a minimum while I chowed on coffee, bacon, and eggs.

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Plus, I figured it would be bad form to slur my speech and stagger around in circles in front of all the ridiculously talented bloggers and editors at the breakfast, including Ashley and Gabe Rodriguez from Not Without Salt, Joy Wilson from Joy the Baker, Aimée Wimbush-Bourque from Simple Bites, Tsh Oxenreider from The Simple Mom, Brian Samuels from The Boys Club, and Betsy Andrews, Kristin Cohen, Cory Baldwin, Helen Rosner, and Kristin Magnani from Saveur.

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

We were floored and humbled to be breaking bacon with this group of food blogging geniuses, and the outdoor patio was packed with many more of our Internet idols. I felt like a starstruck fangirl who had stumbled into the food blogging equivalent of an Oscar party, and had to remind myself not to gush too much or appear overly stalkerish. But everyone—EVERYONE!—was kind, open, and generous. I’d already fallen head over heels over each of these bloggers’ sites, but after meeting them, it’s hard not to fall in love with this bunch in real life, too.

Believe it or not, the Paleo eaters outnumber the non-Paleo eaters in this photo:

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

And look! Henry emerged from behind the camera for once! It’s like spotting a yeti in the wild. 

After breakfast, a group of us were escorted to Sensi to learn about market-fresh mixology from Ricardo Murcia, Bellagio’s Master Mixologist.

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

We were served four delicious cocktails—all before lunch!—but once again, I could only take wee sips ‘cause I knew the build-up of acetaldehyde would make my face light up like a big red lantern.

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

But we didn’t need alcohol to liven up this group. At this intimate mixer, we connected with a number of talented folks, including the winners in the Best Special Diets category this year, Luise and David of Green Kitchen Stories, who flew all the way to Vegas from Sweden(!) for the event.

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

These two are lovely, smart, and funny, and we immediately hit it off over war stories about real food and the crazy world of app development. You know they have two jaw-droppingly beautiful ones in the App Store, right? As it turns out, our apps are currently being featured side-by-side in the App Store’s “Eat Your Greens” list:

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Luise and David (and their little girl, Elsa) run a seriously gorgeous and inspirational site. Go check it out, and their brand-new cookbook, too.

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

(Image courtesy of Green Kitchen Stories)

And as luck would have it, I was seated next to Ashlae Warner of Oh, Ladycakes. Although our blogs occupy very different food niches (she’s mostly raw vegan and I’m mostly not), I’m a huge fan of her sassy storytelling, gorgeous photography, and innovative recipes. 

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Plus, she’s got some fantastic, Paleo-friendly desserts like this delectable Raw Fig Cheesecake:

image

(image courtesy of Oh, Ladycakes)

Don’t you want to just reach into that photo with a fork—or your hands?

Another fun fact for you CrossFit fans: Ashlae’s brother, Kris Warner, is one of the founders of Rogue Fitness. When Henry learned this tidbit, he almost fell off his stool (and not just because he’d been drinking all morning). My husband is a superfan of Rogue’s products; over the years, he’s outfitted our garage gym with as much of their gear as he can cram in. He’s still eyeing a rig.

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

After a brief break, we got dolled up and joined a small group of bloggers on a progressive dining tour of two of the other restaurants on the property, Fix and Circo. Our gastronomic tour guide was Emmanuel Cornet, Bellagio’s Director of Food & Beverage Operations. Among the group were Aimée, Joy, Cory, Luise and David, Ashlae, and two more new friends: Meredith Bond Steele of In Sock Monkey Slippers, and Lillie Auld from Butter Me Up Brooklyn.

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

After stuffing our faces, we made our way to the final celebratory cocktail event at Hyde Lounge.

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Clutching cocktails and wandering around the crowd, we got to chat with even more of our favorite bloggers and photographers, including Sara Forte from Sprouted Kitchen and the gang from the Bay Area’s own Behind the Food Carts.

Also: I’d be remiss if I didn’t relay to you the awesomeness of the entire Saveur crew. We had a chance to spend time with Betsy, Kristin, Cory, and Helen, and all of them are hilariously funny and incredibly down-to-earth.

Little known fact: Helen Rosner, the head of digital everything at Saveur, eats mostly Paleo! 

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

There were trays of food passed around throughout the evening, and a number of them were based on the recipes of the winning bloggers. One of my favorites: Luise and David’s Mango & Mint Marinated Zucchini Spaghetti. It was amazing: mildly sweet, refreshing, and not just vegetarian, but Paleo-friendly, too!

(Plus, it’s easy to make with a spiral slicer. At the time of this writing, this slicer’s price just dropped on Amazon to $22.49, which is more than 50% off. I bought mine in August of last year for $35—and I still consider it a bargain because my kids get such a kick out of cranking out zoodles with this thing.)

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

As the party wound down, a bunch of us gazed out at the fountain display in front of the Bellagio, and marveled at our good fortune. It’s not every day that we get to share this type of experience with these gifted, hardworking writers, artists, photographers, and food enthusiasts.

Vegas, Baby! By Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

We had an absolute blast these past few days in Vegas. Thank you, Saveur and Bellagio, for an event we won’t soon forget.

 Do I really have to go sling drugs again tonight?


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