Taste Buzz shows tasty side of Vegas

With the upcoming additions of professional sports teams to the Las Vegas area, one might wonder: what is the next evolution of Sin City?

Taking a food tour of center strip restaurants was a snapshot of the journey through the evolution of the of Las Vegas. Founder Kathy Kelly and tour guide Darrick Borund of Taste Buzz tours took Journalism Education Association Adviser Institute attendees on a brief tour of what Las Vegas has to offer in its central strip location. Stops included a quick sight-seeing tour of the Bellagio’s Conservatory and then brief indulgences at locations including The Juice Standard and Secret Pizza at The Cosmopolitan, Hexx Chocolate & Confections and Hexx kitchen + bar at Paris, and finally Honolulu Cookie Company at The Linq.

Starting the tour in the conservatory of Bellagio, Kathy Kelly, owner of Taste Buzz Food Tours, pointed out that the decorations of the Conservatory changes with seasons, and is modeled on Lake Como in Italy. The attention to detail and grandeur of the location seemed reflected in its patrons, who are marketed posh experiences in the form of exclusive shopping and fine dining experiences from well-known chefs. Bellagio served to bring about a late 20th-century renaissance of Las Vegas, setting a tone of timeless ornate elegance to contrast with the flashiness of Old Vegas.

From Bellagio, the group was led to The Cosmopolitan, one of the newer properties of Las Vegas, which stands in sharp contrast to the open and palatial Bellagio. The Cosmopolitan, which opened in 2010, seemed to be a reflection of the city’s desire to open up to new markets who are less inclined to partake in gaming. The target audience is instead given chic experiences and atmosphere in sexy contrast to Bellagio. Again, who the property is marketed toward to is evident in what it offers its patrons. According to Borund, the changes seen in the style and offerings in the new millennium are a reflection of the strategy of staying “ahead of the curve.”

Borund says it is about “how can we be better than we were a decade before… whether it be having a sports franchise or legalizing marijuana, to the changing beverage concept and how we deliver it”

Tour guides Kelly and Borund brought their crowd to Juice Standard, which boasts fresh, organic ingredients, served alone or mixed into cocktails.

After a healthy buzz from sampling juices, the group moved on to Secret Pizza, an unmarked New York-style pizzeria tucked down a hallway in the Cosmopolitan. Another trendy hidden oasis for patrons includes a speak-easy behind a pawn shop exterior.

From the cool vibe of The Cosmopolitan, Kelly and Borund led the tour across the strip to Hexx Chocolate for a tasting of the artisanal chocolates of the sweet shop, followed by a quick nosh and the attached Hexx kitchen + bar. Hexx touts itself as having “approachable cuisine” in contrast to Cosmopolitan’s offering of molecular gastronomy. Instead, the group found comfort and familiarity of eating pork belly bacon, nachos and guacamole, and spinach dip.

The final stop of the tour is the next iteration of that curve, The Promenade at The Linq, a repackaged Imperial Palace that includes a Bourbon Street-style district of shopping and experiences. The tour was led to Honolulu Cookie Company, a business that connects Vegas as the “Ninth Island” of Hawaii.

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