Vegas Uncork’d Grand Tasting
Caesar’s Palace: Garden of the Gods
3570 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/10/13
Each year, Vegas Uncork’d is one of the largest food and wine events on the West Coast. Las Vegas is an ideal place for one of these festivals, given its high concentration of notable chefs with a presence in the city. Granted, Las Vegas is rarely the location of their flagship restaurant, but a large-scale event such as this one really seems to bring in these chefs from across the country (and some internationally).
Vegas Uncork’d, presented by Bon Appetit, spans almost 30 individual, unique events. Intimate dinners and cooking demonstrations make up the bulk of the events, but the one I’ve gone to the past couple of years is the Grand Tasting (and my extended family has been going for many years now). This year, the all-you-can-eat/drink event brought together 100 different restaurants/wineries/spirits for a $225 admission. It’s definitely not cheap, but the food is typically of high quality and the event provides the unique ability to see and interact with many of these chefs (many of whom are elusive, hopping around between restaurants so often). Some of the bigger-name chefs I spotted this year (I’m sure there are others I missed) were Joel Robuchon, Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay, Michael Mina, Guy Savoy, Michel Richard, Francois Payard, Masaharu Morimoto, Hubert Keller, Graham Elliott, and Charlie Palmer. Yep, a lot.
About a hundred booths were set up for each restaurant/winery/spirit throughout the Caesar’s Palace pool area. Below is a sampling of some, but definitely not all, that was served. Most of the chef/restaurants craft multiple dishes, making it pretty much impossible to eat everything.
RM Seafood ranch-smoked sturgeon, oro king salmon tartare, phytoplankton foam
Joel Robuchon truffled langoustine ravioli with chopped cabbage; fresh strawberries, strawberry mousse with rose champagne, cream, soursop sorbet
Diego bay shrimp ceviche verde
Pearl chilled chicken & green papaya salad; chocolate banana mousse
Shibuya tuna soba pasta, spicy goma ponzu
Craftsteak slow cooked pork belly, napa cabbage, apple slaw
Fiamma malloreddus with duck ragout
Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill sweet corn agnolotti, piquillo pepper puree
Mesa Grill spicy red chile shrimp ‘fondue’ taco
Old Homestead pat lafrieda dry-aged new york strip loin, truffled tater tots
Nobu yellowtail jalapeno; sea bass lettuce cups
Rao’s beef, pork, and veal meatballs
Central michel’s chicken bites; braised short rib with syrah sauce
Guy Savoy artichoke and black truffle soup; toasted mushroom brioche with black truffle butter
Payard Patisserie assorted macarons; black truffle macarons
Beijing Noodle No. 9 hand-stretched noodle with XO sauce; crispy kung pao chicken
Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill chilled fennel soup; ham hock and parsley terrine; triple chocolate trifle
Stripsteak beef tongue shepherd’s pie
Fleur/Burger Bar cucumber gazpacho
Il Mulino porcini mushroom ravioli
Estiatorio Milos salt-roasted milokopi fish
Strip House roasted bacon, heirloom tomato salad
Raku assorted yakitori
Gordon Ramsay Steak pork belly, baked bean cassoulet, pork rind
Bacchanal Buffet assorted dishes
Wines and cocktails were aplenty, too. I thought the Patron cocktail wall was the most fun, with about 6 different cocktails to choose from. As hard as it would be to sample all of the food, I’m pretty sure trying a sip of every drink would be even tougher – the variety is impressive.
There was a lot of good food served on this evening. My favorite had to be Robuchon’s truffled langoustine ravioli, of which I had four servings. Even while being prepared in mass production, the pasta held its chew very nicely while plump, sweet langoustine filled each one. A generous amount of truffle, both within the filling and grated on top, completed the haute surf-and-turf dish. Another favorite, shared with prior years, was Estiatorio Milos’ salt-encrusted fish. The preparation ensured a very moist piece of fish – a touch of olive oil was a simple way to add some fruit and depth. While Gordon Ramsay Steak’s beef Wellington didn’t return this year, the pork belly they served was another highlight. Pressed into cubes, they had an ideal balance of fat to meat with a very crisp skin. Very well done. Michael Mina’s Stripsteak made a deliciously tender beef tongue in a shepherds pie, and Spago’s sliced rack of lamb was quite tasty.
One thing my family noted was that this felt like the most crowded of past Grand Tasting events. It was often elbow-to-elbow getting around and, given everyone was juggling a wine glass, plate and fork, spills and dropped food happened frequently. Having said that, I thought individual lines for food were pretty reasonable and none were painfully long. A little more seating (and better scattered throughout the venue) would be nice, too. Still, this has become kind of a treasured family tradition that has sort of taken the place of the now-defunct American Wine & Food Festival. Barring any dramatic changes, we’ll plan to be here next year too.