Vegas Uncork’d 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Vegas Uncork’d 2012: Grand Tasting
Caesar’s Palace
3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/11/12

Las Vegas seems to have something to offer any tourist, whether it’s browsing the large resorts, the gambling, the shopping, the hot weather and pool parties, or the nightlife. It’s really become a food destination as well, with every big-name chef seemingly having a presence in the city. Michelin three-star chefs Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon, Thomas Keller, Guy Savoy, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Masa Takayama, Pierre Gagnaire, and Gordon Ramsay (and Daniel Boulud until 2010) all have restaurants here, along with plenty more notable chefs from every cuisine. Because of this, it’s an ideal location to have one of the nation’s largest food festivals.

Enter Bon Appetit’s Vegas Uncork’d. Now in its sixth year, the event is made up of about 25 individual events, spanning 4 days and 4 resorts. It’s hard to choose which events to go to, but the one that offers the most variety and access to chefs has to be the Grand Tasting with over 50 restaurants and dozens of wineries and spirits represented. It’s all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink at $200 a person.

7191182752 5b96f28ab5 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191178902 d52d6e29bc Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

I’d been to the Grand Tasting a number of years ago (I think it was the inaugural one), but the fact that it’s on a Friday has kept me from coming back as soon as I would’ve liked. However, my parents (and varying other family members) have attended every single year, becoming the family’s most anticipated food event of the year (replacing the now-defunct American Wine & Food Festival). This year, my parents were joined by my aunt, grandmother and a couple of my cousins.

The event was held at Caesar’s Palace’s Garden of the Gods – its pool area. Given daily highs in the mid-90s, it was still pretty warm in the evenings. Not the ideal weather for a food event, but I didn’t think the heat played as much of a factor as I thought it would. Of course, plenty of water would be key. Chugging bottles of Acqua Panna is truly something I don’t get to do everyday…and that’s just the water.

7191142186 3815549df2 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Restaurants were scattered all around the pool area, along with various spirits and wineries. The event, held between 7:30 and 10pm was actually a fairly short amount of time for an event like this, but I think I was able to visit just about every restaurant (careful examination of the map beforehand was critical!).

7191188566 d956c94674 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

What follows is much, but definitely not all, of the food served.

Mix Restaurant & Lounge green mango and papaya salad, prime strip loin beef and thai dressing; pina colada, pineapple jelly and coconut parfait

7191175402 911b0471d0 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191172360 5957b32142 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Aureole charcoal grilled merguez sausage, mint tabouleh, spicy avocado sauce; assorted petit fours and gelato

7191169024 36a2957776 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191164858 9f7344b719 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191160336 a0124bf35e Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Burger Bar spicy lamb burger sliders; 120 min. ipa

7191153050 d7901eaf37 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191156592 3906707810 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Beijing Noodle No. 9 kung pao shrimp skewer, ox trio noodles with beef

7191150328 ed3dd2ca1e Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191147838 55c9d0e573 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191145238 6426aacc7a Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Mesa Grill shrimp and grouper ceviche, mango habanero and pickled red onions

7191136954 41b6f7d3bb Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191138822 d4bd396a0f Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Gordon Ramsay Steak filet of beef wellington, potato puree, buttered glazed root vegetables, guinness demi

7191133334 9f434245e8 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Rao’s sausage with peppers and onions; passion fruit mousse

7191128368 7970c663af Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191125276 debb2b9279 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Bradley Ogden butterscotch pudding, candied pepitas

7191122538 ffa35cfd2a Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Guy Savoy peas all around, artichoke and black truffle soup, toasted mushroom brioche and black truffle butter

7191116034 d7c29ddc9d Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Central Michel Richard braised short rib and creamy polenta; michel’s famous fried chicken, chilled dijon sauce

7191113560 96d73cec8f Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191111792 9e8e2106e9 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Francois Payard assorted chocolates and macarons

7191108704 b971bd647c Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191105388 d8b95f0d22 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Nobu rock shrimp tempura, creamy spicy sauce, yuzu juice, lettuce cup; white fish dry miso sashimi

7191099150 fb1252cd61 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191102232 0d3d5b1927 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Old Homestead Steakhouse steak with house tater tots

7191095654 5fbfdfa9c1 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Holstein’s crispy pork belly slider, pea shoot slaw, chili mayo; truffled lobster mac & cheese fried crispy with truffle aioli

7191086204 63574532c6 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Estiatorio Milos line caught wild sea bass in sea salt crust, capers, parsley, lemon olive oil dressing; tomato salad, english cucumber, red onion, green peppers, olive oil, oregano, santorini capers, barrel aged feta cheese

7191081682 05421567eb Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191077462 e8c832700b Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191073666 4214ec5e37 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191084246 505c8395c9 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Scarpetta creamy polenta with fricassee of truffled mushrooms

7191070350 789902517b Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

STK short rib agnolotti, pea tendrils, fava bean, horseradish

7191065668 27e48b9d1e Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Wicked Spoon colorado lamb loin, spring peas, morel mushroom, cherry jus

7191066856 7ef1f6b794 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Border Grill pork belly tacos, spicy cabbage slaw, habanero-glazed pork belly, spicy pumpkin seeds, pomegranate seeds

7191064696 27ea96e481 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

rm Seafood cobia ceviche, yuzu, grapefruit, avocado

7191062710 244ac8036d Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Max Brenner chocolate syringes and cookies

7191049220 00c534efcf Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7190987086 0905dc1e4c Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Sushi Roku bigeye tuna, baby heirloom tomatoes, sesame mustard dressing

7191042350 54139d5542 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

P.J. Clarke’s prime flat iron ‘shabu style’, market vegetables, mushroom broth

7191039374 d5d6811ed9 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Raku assorted robata skewers

7191037398 4f4acbf64b Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191029990 f022d4308d Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Andre’s Restaurant crispy oxtail canneloni with natural jus

7191026866 4b55775530 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Carnevino/B&B/Pizzeria Otto crispy pork trotter, fennel salad, apricot vinaigrette

7191014450 b8ca1baee6 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Shibuya fruit pearls and yuzu float, lychee passion pearls, yuzu sorbet, sparkling sake

7191011798 7b1c3ef387 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Eiffel Tower Restaurant foie gras, rhubarb compote, crispy alsace spice cake

7191008144 2503b4bf3a Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Blue Ribbon Sushi spicy blue crab roll; smoked pork belly kushi yaki, pickled onions, black vinegar glaze

7190995108 d04260a001 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Jaleo paella de verduras de temporada (seasonal vegetable paella), gazpacho

7191002078 2563b03f1f Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7190997358 878f96eed5 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191002982 b215fe6e6a Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Patron assorted cocktails (pictured: tequila sunrise)

7190992970 2800251888 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7190989522 d68e57fc1e Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

There was certainly a ton of food at the event, but the drinks were a big part of the night as well. Even with a bunch of wineries and spirits like Patron pouring out made-to-order cocktails (like the above Tequila Sunrise), I found myself coming back over and over to the Burger Bar booth for the Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. I must’ve had over a dozen pours of the stuff.

As for the food, my favorite dish of the night was the beef wellington from Gordon Ramsay. Coincidentally (or not?), this was also the grand opening night of his new restaurant (and first foray into LV), Gordon Ramsay Steakhouse. The beef wellington featured exceedingly tender tenderloin with the bulk of the flavor coming from the mushrooms (roasted with the meat) and rich demi-glace. A crispy puff pastry, glazed vegetables and potato puree completed the dish.

Estiatorio Milos also had a memorable dish with its whole-roasted sea bass baked in salt. We were lucky enough to catch the restaurant just as the fish were coming out of the oven, and watched in wonder as the salt crust was broken, the skin removed, and delicate moist fish plated with salty capers and a citrus olive oil. I was happy to see off-strip Raku have one of the longest lines, where they were serving their well-known robata (kobe filet, chicken, chicken meatballs, and pork cheek). I loved the presentation of Mesa Grill’s ceviche in a coconut shell, and the dish displayed the bold flavors Bobby Flay is so well known for. Mario Batali’s Carnevino/B&B/Otto brought a nice crispy pork trotter, balanced by a cool arugula and fennel salad. I also found Blue Ribbon Sushi’s smoked pork belly to be very tender (yet seemingly fairly lean), smoky and addicting. As for the sweets, Francois Payard’s black truffle macaron was about as good as it sounded. Other strong dishes I heard about but missed were Todd English P.U.B.’s lobster roll and Spago’s truffled agnolotti.

Getting to see and interact with the chefs themselves was a unique part of the experience as well; chefs I saw in person included Scott Conant, Todd English, Gordon Ramsay, Guy Savoy, David Meyers, Nobu Matsuhisa, Michael Mina, Hubert Keller, Michel Richard, Francois Payard, Bradley Ogden, Charlie Palmer, and Rick Moonen (I’m sure I missed many others).

7191185934 ee809f76d7 m Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)7191130856 29d3d13a23 m Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)7191005966 d820e6f5e4 m Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)7191118926 ebb2d4157e m Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

I thought this was a great event and worth the price of admission. I would say the quality of food served was on par with some of the better LA festivals; what made it more unique was the ability to sample all of these chefs’ restaurants, many of which don’t have a presence in LA. Again, given Las Vegas’ penchant for bringing in the big-name chef, it was a unique opportunity to try their food and even chat/take a picture with some of them. This has to be one of the best chef lineups in the country for this type of event.

Miscellaneous shots of the venue:

7191093500 02d97024e7 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191060674 2834634497 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191018332 dafd23527f Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

7191052468 5006e16b42 Vegas Uncorkd 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)


Comments

Vegas Uncork’d 2012: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV) — 6 Comments

  1. Dear Darin,

    I know this might sound strange, but I really want to meet your grandma!

    Best, Cathy

    p.s. happy to see that you ate like a champion! Bobby Flay’s dish was beautiful.

Leave a Reply!