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By Andrea Bennett | December 14, 2016 | Lifestyle
You may be an amazing gift-giver, but my annual holiday challenge is this: How can I give a gift that requires minimal effort while maintaining the illusion that my thoughtfulness knows no bounds? This year, I’m giving only-in-Vegas gift combos: An item that’s great by itself under the tree matched with an amazing Vegas experience. Here’s how I’m catapulting myself from gift-giving zero to hero this year.
Under the Tree: Okay, so, I follow the one-for-me, one-for-you rule of holiday giving, and I am already in possession of celeb colorist Michael Boychuck’s new line of vegan, hypoallergenic makeup brushes. Boychuck coined the “Vegas Blonde” years ago (see also Paris Hilton, Josie Bissett, Kirsten Dunst, and various Playboy and Baywatch manes), and his full-service salon in Caesars does every makeover, gel polish, color treatment, and tanning service you can imagine. This year, he came out with a whole line of products, including these brushes. (The tapered face brush will put you in soft focus a la the Vaseline lens on Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting, circa 1985. And since I’m dating myself like this, you can tell that I need that brush.) Through Valentine’s Day, Boychuck is donating 15 percent of his makeup brush website sales to Keep Memory Alive.
Hero Status: I once got one of the best makeup applications of my life at COLOR, which transformed me into a sculpted, way-better version of myself. Treat your significant other (or a friend, or if you’re me, yourself) to some serious theatrical evening makeup—and pepper your makeup artist with questions about how to use brushes 1-18 of your 24-piece set.
Under the Tree: For the cookbook-obsessed, Michelin-decorated chef Alain Ducasse’s volume of 11 arguably perfect recipes, gorgeously photographed and with step-by-step instructions, is a beautiful—and manageable—ode to the master’s favorites. I even attempted and had what I believe to be moderate success with Ducasse’s Autumn Fruit and Vegetable Cookpot, the dish on the book’s cover, with its rainbow fish scales of root vegetables.
Hero Status: This fall, I celebrated the one-year anniversary of Ducasse’s fabulous Rivea restaurant, on the 64th floor of Delano Las Vegas. With its 180-degree view of the Strip and iconic Champagne bubble glass installation, it’s one of the most romantic dining destinations in town. I’m still dreaming about that John Dory with clams, calamari, prawns, fennel, and purple potatoes in bouillabaisse. Think sun-drenched French Riviera vibes all year long. And while you might not find the rum baba on the menu from Ducasse’s book, you can order his incredible limoncello baba with citrus-flavored brioche and chilled limoncello, which I think gives the classic a run for its money. Start or end the night with something boozy with a view in the adjacent Skyfall Lounge.
Under the Tree: This year, just in time for a stunning winter 2016-17 season, the Las Vegas Philharmonic re-released their Flex Passport. Your passport holder gets six seats to any of the season’s concerts—which they can configure any way they want: three seats over two performances, two seats for three, stag attendance for all six. Essentially a flexible subscription, it constitutes membership at a 25 percent discount, which you can use through the Phil’s in-house concierge. Two tiers, gold and silver, give the Passport holder the best available in tier A or B seating when they book.
Hero Status: When you give the Passport, your recipient can choose from this year’s performances, including huge crowd-pleasers like Cabrera Conducts the Music of John Williams (think the suite from Jaws, the theme from Schindler’s List, and “Princess Leia’s Theme” and the Imperial March from Star Wars). The popular Spotlight Concert Series, now in its second season, isn’t included. Pop the Passport in your SO’s stocking, then take him or her to a concert in the intimate series, in which members of the symphony play pieces for small ensembles. A great bet: the post-Valentine’s Day (Feb. 16) performance of Schumann’s Märchenbilder (Fairy Tale Pictures), Opus 113, for viola and piano; Sonata No. 2 in E-Flat Major, Opus 120, No 2, for clarinet and piano, by Brahms; and Mozart’s Trio in E-Flat Major, K. 498 “Kegelstatt” for clarinet, viola, and piano. You have now achieved romantic epic hero status.
Under the Tree: There’s a knife you didn’t even know you needed: an 8-inch offset serrated knife that zips through anything smoothly while protecting your knuckles from the board—and it never needs sharpening. It’s just one of the knives in celebrity chef Rick Moonen’s brand-new Blades collection of a dozen professional-grade chef’s knives (which are a complete steal at $199). After a certain amount of experimenting with my own set, I have come to the painful realization that having Rick Moonen’s knives doesn’t actually transform you into the Top Chef Masters competitor, Top Chef judge, and so-called “Godfather of Sustainability” who raises awareness for the world’s oceans. They do, however, give you an incredible blade (plus tutorials for each knife, which you can find at Blades by Moonen), and good karma, too.
Hero Status: Pair that great knife block with an evening out at RX Boiler Room, the steampunk-inspired restaurant one floor about his rm seafood flagship in The Shoppes at Mandalay Place. At RX, you’ll get a good dose of both Moonen’s amazing wit and skill from the “Nourishment Chart” in dishes like RX fish tacos in taro root shells (my favorite!) and so-wrong-it’s-right duck confit poutine: tater tots, cheddar cheese curds, and Bordelaise sauce, accompanied by modern interpretations of Victorian punches from the Libations chart. Downstairs at rm, it’s a more traditional seafood experience, with faultless sustainable catches of the day and (my other favorite!) the crab “menage a trois”: ½ pound of steamed Alaskan King crab, ½ of the daily crab selection, and Rick’s signature crab cake (fresh blue crab, carrot salad, and chipotle aioli).
How do you keep pace with a party-packed Vegas lifestyle without burning out? Vegas Editor-in-Chief Andrea Bennett seeks out the healthy indulgences, insider finds, and desert beauty tricks that help you balance Vegas’s unique climate, nightlife culture, and fabulous temptations. (Hint: It’s not all yoga and kombucha here.)
Got some local favorites you'd like us to know about? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet us @vegasmagazine and @andreabennett1 and Instagram @AndreaBennettInk #TheVegasEdit, and see previous stories here.