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March 6, 2015

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Businesses find sweet spot in economy with dessert


Sam Morris

Shoppers examine the chocolate fountain at Jean-Philippe Patisserie at the Bellagio.

Got a sweet tooth? Try heading out to the Las Vegas Strip.

Las Vegas Boulevard is best known for its resort casinos and fancy restaurants. But more and more dessert and pastry shops are popping up. Consider it a function of the economy.

“Chocolate is more of an impulse buy,” said Elizabeth Blau, a local restaurateur and founder of the restaurant consulting firm Blau and Associates. “When times are tough, people are still willing to spend money on a candy indulgence, whereas spending $30 or $40 in a moderately priced restaurant might be a stretch.”

That’s not to say these are ordinary candy shops. Most sell gourmet goods at a premium. Among the options:

    • The Sugar Factory

      With three Strip locations (at Paris Las Vegas, the Mirage and the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood ), the Sugar Factory is the whopper of Las Vegas candy stores. It’s a Willy Wonka’s paradise with almost every kind of sweet imaginable.

      The $25 Couture Lollipop is the shop’s signature confection, but there’s also an ice cream counter that serves up shakes and sundaes. The Chocolate Lounge, tucked behind the Sugar Factory American Brasserie, is where customers can splurge on a $1,000 “Chocolate Gold” fondue that comes with gold-coated truffles, a bottle of 2002 Dom Perignon Champagne and glass of Hardy d’Or 50 Year Cognac.

    • Jean-Philippe Patisserie

      French Pastry Chef Jean-Philippe Maury’s chocolate shop at the Bellagio is one of the oldest pastry stores on the Strip. It opened in January 2005 and serves crepes, pastries, chocolate and gelato.

      Maury spent two years designing the eatery. It features the world’s largest chocolate fountain — a $1 million cascade of melted chocolate — and themed holiday offerings, including a life-size chocolate Grinch and 6-foot candy witch.

      Maury opened a second candy shop in 2009 at Aria. That restaurant is larger, with an 85-seat cafe and on-site kitchen.

    • Vosges Haut-Chocolat

      This isn’t your average chocolate shop, in price or offerings. Among the unique confections customers at the Forum Shops boutique at Caesars Palace can try: chocolate bacon bars (four for $33), a lemon zest-pink peppercorn white chocolate mix ($8.50) or holiday gingerbread toffee (a quarter pound for $15).

      Owner-Chocolatier Katrina Markoff hand selects all of the blends and infuses her creations with an “East meets West” sensibility. Her chocolates often include spices, flowers, and even mushrooms and beer.

      Las Vegas Chocolate Shop

      The newest member of the Strip’s sweet club opened in August at Planet Hollywood. It sells typical chocolate fare — bars, dipped strawberries and truffles — as well as baked goods, classic sugar candies and coffee. It also features collectibles such as chocolate-scented bears and solid chocolate replicas of the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign. Much of the candy is made by local artisans. And, yes, the shop gives samples.

    • Vincent Pilon

      Mandalay Bay’s executive pastry chef Vincent Pilon has been named one of the 10 best pastry chefs in America and has won numerous accolades from the Food Network and various food magazines. In addition to leading a team of 59 chefs who create thousands of pastries a day, he recently opened a pop-up chocolate and pastry kiosk at Mandalay Place. His signature treats include chocolate marshmallow pops, truffles and cupcakes.

    • Popsicle fondue at Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man

      Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man

      Max Brenner, known as the “Bald Man,” is trying to revolutionize chocolate by presenting it in unexpected forms: molded as pizzas, dripping from syringes and folded into quesadillas.

      His Las Vegas restaurant at The Forum Shops at Caesars is the largest in his international brand, with 300 seats, a VIP room and walk-up kiosk. Brenner also has outposts in Israel, Singapore, the Philippines and Australia.

    • M&M’s World

      M&M’s World at the Showcase Mall is a chocolate lover’s dream. Each of its four floors feature a different type of treat: rainbows of M&M colors stored in floor-to-ceiling candy bins, collector’s items such as M&M guitars and Swarovski crystal baubles, T-shirt and key chain souvenirs, and specialty goods including handbags and dog sweaters. There’s even a free theater that plays a 3-D movie, “I Left My M in Las Vegas.”

      M&M’s World Las Vegas opened in 1997 and was the company’s first U.S. store. Locations have since opened in New York City in 2005 and Orlando in 2006. Last year, the local shop expanded, adding 3,300 square feet of retail space. It now spans more than 30,000 square feet.

    • Ghirardelli

      This famous ice cream-chocolate shop is a throwback to the old days of soda fountains. It specializes in sundaes and scoops, although candy and coffee are also available.

      Named after Italian chocolatier Domingo Ghirardelli, who brought his chocolate recipes from Peru to San Francisco, Ghirardelli is the second-oldest chocolate company in the United States and one of only a few that controls every aspect of its manufacturing process. The Las Vegas location is located in Carnival Court near Harrah’s.

    • Ethel M

      The 30-year-old gourmet chocolate company opened in 1981 in Henderson and has become an integral part of Southern Nevada’s flavor. It was founded by billionaire candy tycoon Forrest Mars Sr., who invented M&Ms and the Mars bar, and is named after Mars’ mother Ethel, who was lauded for her homemade brittle and candy.

      Ethel M has eight Valley locations, including two on the Strip: at Fashion Show Mall and at the Flamingo. All of its ingredients are made in-house, and its most popular products remain its satin cremes, liqueur-filled truffles and almond butter crisps.

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