Pura Vida Bakery & Bystro chef and owner Mayra Trabulse has one goal: to create compassionate cuisine with a level of flavor that reflects her diverse cultural background. As she shared with Katherine Fernelius of Vegas Seven, Mayra is half Lebanese and half Cuban, and was born and raised in Mexico City. After moving to Las Vegas and attending community college, Mayra found herself unfulfilled. She decided to relocate to Florida, where she began to explore the politics of eating and her own relationship with food. She founded a catering business and became a private vegan chef before returning once more to Las Vegas to share her signature Caribbean- and Southwest-inspired dishes with Nevadans.
Mayra incorporated the Spanish phrase "pura vida" into the moniker of her eatery because it's a greeting or a farewell that can signify a sense of community and enjoying life slowly. That's exactly what she wants diners to feel at the restaurant, where she uses local, organic, fair-trade ingredients and incorporates macrobiotic, Ayurvedic, and raw-food principles in her low-temperature cooking. Mayra enhances her creations with unrefined oils and sweeteners and grinds whole spices for maximum flavor. Boasting a designated gluten-free area of her kitchen, she can cater to most any dietary restriction—Vanessa Meier of The Green Girl Next Door blog described how Mayra composed custom, on-the-fly dishes that were "beautiful and clearly prepared with so much love" for her and her husband.
And Meier isn't the only critic to take note of the blossoming restaurant: it earned Las Vegas Weekly’s 2012 Best Vegan Eating award and was named the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Dining Pick of the Week in October 2012. Mayra and her team also cater special events and bake custom vegan wedding cakes for couples being married by an Elvis wearing faux-blue-suede shoes.
With more than 25 years of experience as a chef in Las Vegas and Louisiana, Hott Cakez owner and sweets queen Lacia McKee fuses Southern comfort with Las Vegas glamour to craft seductive gourmet sweets. Though this artistically inclined confectionary specializes in crafting unique and personalized wedding cakes with a flair for drama, today’s deal lets Groupon holders nab a taste of affordable luxury by sinking their teeth into a dozen strawberries that have been dipped in delicious molten cocoa, rendering them virtually indistinguishable to the vegetables they once were. Though equally Valentine-appropriate as flowers or teddy bears, these chocolate-dipped morsels hold the advantage of being infinitely more edible and are only slightly less fun to snuggle with, making them a perfect gift for a sweet loved one this February 14, or a perfect “surprise” for an angry loved one this February 15.
Cupcake Lane Bakery treats foodies with handcrafted, iced, cakey delicacies that bend the most serious of lips into sunshine smiles. Individual cupcakes cost $2.50 each and span the flavor spectrum, from the cinnamon seas of the Sunrise Mountain cupcake to red-velvet Savannah Street, espresso-tinted Pike Place cake with caramel latte buttercream, Park Avenue carrot cake, and more. For those who like their sweets to believe in teamwork, the bakery forges cupcake cakes out of several cupcakes, simultaneously defeating the purpose of being a cupcake and being totally awesome. Circular tops come together to craft a variety of enticing cake shapes such as butterflies, footballs, and rectangles ($33 for a 12-cupcake cake).
Bon Breads’ founder and master baker Carlos Pereira painstakingly transforms top-quality ingredients into artisanal breads over the course of a 24- to 48-hour process. First, high-quality french wild yeast starter ferments for a full day before Carlos adds the active yeast along with flour, salt and water. After the dough is mixed, Carlos carefully sculpts the dough into a loaf, roll, or edible bust of the client's arch-nemesis. Loaves rest and rise in a 45-degree holding area for 12–18 hours before entering the toasty oven. Batards are available in 12 sweet and savory varieties, including indulgent white chocolate, sweet raisin walnut, wholesome multigrain cranberry, or hearty whole wheat. A golden baguette pairs with leafy salads and hearty soup, and the dozen rolls can be sliced into tiny sandwiches or playfully thrown at passing skateboarders.
Draped in fondant flowers and bright swirls of buttercream, Buddy Valastro's cakes would catch anyone's eye?but that's especially true for fans of reality TV. The master baker and his visually stunning creations both star on TLC's Cake Boss, which has filmed at the Valastro family's Hoboken confectionery, Carlo's Bakery, since 2009.
Buddy's cakes have also won national notice beyond the show, including features in publications such as The Knot and Brides. And beyond designing delectable cakes for special occasions, Buddy shares his secrets through hands-on cake decorating classes, which are taught by his dedicated team of bakers at locations throughout New Jersey.
A cake decorating specialist for Carlo's Bakery, Gabby Parisi, talked to us about what it's like to attend the bakery's fondant cake decorating classes (buttercream cake decorating classes are also available).
Are the fondant classes beginner-friendly?
?People find fondant intimidating because the tools and know-how aren?t readily available, but when you come to the class, you realize it?s even easier than working with buttercream."
What types of decorations can students put on their cakes?
"We use water and a paintbrush to apply flowers, fall leaves, bows, and other shapes. It?s super easy once you know all the tricks?you can do almost anything [with fondant], it's really kind of magical. Buddy likes to describe it as the Houdini of cake decorating.?
Are classes available at all Carlo?s Bakery locations?
"Classes are available at our Morristown, Red Bank, and Ridgewood New Jersey bakeries as well as at our Jersey City/Lackawanna Cake Factory. There are no classrooms at our Hoboken, Westfield, or Las Vegas bakeries."
What?s the craziest cake ever made in Carlo's Bakery?
"I?m sure a lot of people will be familiar with the cakes from the TV show, Cake Boss. Buddy always says the craziest cake we?ve ever made was the Transformer, or the life-size Nascar cake."