Vegas: Unlike Virginia, Not For Lovers

Las Vegas is many things to many people, but opinions vary on what it is not. From the surface appearance, it is not for the long-term, the serious, the romantic. In other words, it’s for fast fun frolics. At least that’s what everyone says. I wonder how often the casual-meetup section of Craigslist or the hookup apps crash under the sheer weight of panting people in party apparel.

Now its mid-May and the first blast of heat for Las Vegas in 2014: four solid days of 100-ish temperatures with barely a bit of gauzy clouds to filter the rays. Tourists pound the pavement in search of whatever it is they think Vegas is, with barely a bit of gauzy clothing to filter their derrieres.

The King (of photobombs?)! Photo by Geo Perdis

I use the word tourist deliberately, optimistically, and elitistically, for I no longer consider myself a tourist. In my first few Vegas stops, sure. I “did” the Strip, stayed out relatively late, ate comically-cheap-in-every-sense-of-the-phrase buffets, and tried to not make an ass of myself. (In that last bit, perhaps I’ve isolated myself from many tourists here.)

These days, and this trip in particular, I’m a visitor. I work with Vegas to coax out what I need: wonderful but not stupid expensive food, trail running, social opportunities. Getting lost in the thicket of Caesar’s Palace is amusing and a bit sad instead of exciting, even if Bourdain and Ruhlman lived it up within those walls. In the mornings I escape for dirt pounding on trails south or west of town, or find a local coffee shop a drive away from the hubbub. Note to coffee-fiend visitors and tourists alike: Sunrise Coffee is THE SHIZ.

Las Vegas, this visit, is the vehicle for a group get together of sweets professionals: the 2014 eGullet Confections & Chocolate Confab. I’m no pro, but good friends with some in the bunch, including the amazeballs James-Beard-nominated Rob Connoley of The Curious Kumquat. I’m not a pro, so I’m just spending my time doing writing, researching for Rob’s book, and attempting to take in some of the local non-strip offerings.

I’m not sure what I hope to learn from the stay this time. A trip to a completely divey spot like the Double Down might be awesome. I’ve had Lotus of Siam now, and that is well worth the visit for crispy fried prawns. Tonight will be taco trucks a go-go and hey, sometimes that’s all a person needs.

Cage Fight: KFC’s Double Down vs. Sanity

Knock, knock! Who’s there? Nutritionists and foodies having apoplectic meltdowns!

Oh, yes, it happened. The “limited run” legendary whipping-boy sandwich from KFC called the Double Down is back after a multi-year hiatus, to the chagrin and delight of the Internets.

When first unleashed in 2010 the Double Down was the scorn of nutritionists and the bane of foodies alike – a strange alliance given that the two camps are often at odds over concepts they believe cannot exist together like “health” and “deliciousness”. The vitriol from both was rather frothy.

But perhaps in the context of our “eat less evil foods” culture, popularized by sites like Eat This, Not That and YumSugar, I can look at the Double Down within my own paradigm – that of valuing foods that are less processed as the better choice. (Note, my book proposal – no joke – to Rodale for “Eat This, Not That: Paleo” is yet unanswered….)

What does the Double Down have going for it? Let’s take a look:

  1. Low-carb option for those on the Atkins or other ketogenic diet (though not rock-bottom due to likely seasonings in the meat, for a grand total of 11 carbs vs. 35 carbs in a regular KFC fried chicken sandwich)
  2. Made from three sort-of straightfoward ingredients (if you get the grilled chicken option instead of fried and skip the sauce): chicken, cheese, bacon. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell you what kinds of awful go into making sandwich buns at fast food joints (like dough conditioners also used in yoga mats).
  3. It’s a chicken cordon bleu for $5.49. Yay.

Um, that’s about it.

How about the Double Down-sides? I can come up with a few:

  1. The cheese. Likely a frankenish creation that has mere molecules of dairy as an ingredient in order for it to use the word “cheese” in its description. Also source of part of the low-carber’s unwanted carbohydrate grams.
  2. The chicken. I won’t even go into the horrors of life as a battery chicken; here I will only talk about nutrition. There ain’t much that resembles what a real chicken should taste like after you’ve raised the birds on soy and antibiotics, injected the meat with saline, and then slathered it in a crusty spice layer (which includes wheat, according to KFC’s website). I’ll stop there.
  3. It’s a chicken cordon bleu for $5.49. Ick.

Interestingly, even with a bit of nutrition education, I (just like the rare blogger back in 2010 who said Double Downs were not the most evil thing they could imagine) would put the Double Down far ahead of many, many things recommended by the likes of Eat This, Not That and their ilk. I do give some kudos to that series’ desire to allow folks to make incremental changes from where they are now in their habit. However, I think their “evil” list is misguided, namely in their rote avoidance of saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol.

So where does this leave us? My dude and I (mostly him, OK) tested out a real Double Down, for science. It was breaded and weird. It was not at all like the “extra tasty crispy” stuff you expect from KFC. The cheese didn’t have time to melt, the sauce was unnecessary if they’d only use bacon with flavor…. but…. it didn’t make us throw up in our mouths. So, good job, KFC?