Vegas Uncork’d 2014: Michael Mina’s Pig Roast and Beer Garden (Las Vegas, NV)

Vegas Uncork’d 2014: Michael Mina’s Pig Roast and Beer Garden
MGM Grand
3799 South Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/9/14

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There was a lot of variety across the 31 events during this year’s Vegas Uncork’d. Of course there are the tasting events, cooking demos and exclusive sit-down meals, but this year stretched to cocktail demos, a golf event and even a night clubbing at Hakkasan. Somewhere in that spectrum was this event at the MGM Grand’s pool area, hosted by chef Michael Mina. Dubbed a pig roast and beer garden, it featured a whole roasted pig and BBQ favorites with a handful of side dishes prepared by Mina’s own Pub 1842. Heineken, Newcastle, Dos Equis, and Goose Island brought the beer while Don Julio, Grey Goose and Doña Paula winery completed the drink offerings. $125 purchased a ticket to the all-you-can-eat/drink event.

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Vegas Uncork’d 2014: Grand Tasting (Las Vegas, NV)

Vegas Uncork’d Grand Tasting
Caesar’s Palace: Garden of the Gods
3570 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/9/14

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This weekend marked the eighth annual Vegas Uncork’d wine and food event. Spanning 31 events over 4 days, it continues to be one of the largest of its kind in the nation. I’ve mentioned it before, but Las Vegas is an ideal city for such a festival. Event spaces and hotel rooms are plentiful, and the city’s hunger for “celebrity chef” restaurants has created such a conglomeration of high-profile chefs in one city. They may never actually cook in their kitchen, but they’re well-represented during Uncork’d week.

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The Grand Tasting is the singular event that allows the most variety of food, wine and chef access for one ticket of admission ($225). Over 50 restaurants were represented with many more vintners and spirits. It’s truly a sight to behold. This would be my fourth year attending the Grand Tasting (also see 2012 and 2013 posts).

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The Taste 2013: Field to Fork (Los Angeles, CA)

The Taste 2013: Field to Fork
Paramount Pictures Studios
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 8/31/13

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LA Times’ The Taste was held this past Labor Day weekend, completing the largest tandem of LA food festivals in back-to-back weeks (with LA Food & Wine). This is the third year of The Taste in its current incarnation (fourth if the LA Times Celebration of Food & Wine is included) and I’ve attended every single year. This year, the festival encompassed five individual events at the Paramount Studios backlot.

The Taste’s events have a number of similarities to LAFW events, particularly the tasting events (large lineups of all-you-can-eat food/drink). One of the main differences is The Taste’s events tend to be more all-inclusive, including cooking demonstrations, wine/cocktail tasting/demos, and various discussion panels in the price of admission. Speaking of price admission, it’s much cheaper ($65 GA to most events with a variety of discounts available), although another big difference is the more LA-centric lineup of chefs/restaurants represented here.

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LA Food & Wine 2013: Asian Night Market (Los Angeles, CA)

Asian Night Market
Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival 2013
Grand Avenue between 1st and 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 8/23/13

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Friday night’s Asian Night Market was one of two LA Food & Wine tasting events this year to have a ‘theme’ (the other being Giada’s Festa Italiana). It had to be one of the more impressive chef lineups around for a night market, with 25 chefs from LA and around the country represented. Some big names like Masaharu Morimoto and Roy Yamagauchi combined with some of LA’s favorites to create a modern interpretation of a night market.

This was by far the most approachable tasting event price-wise at $125 ($175 VIP). As with all of these tasting events, it’s all-you-can-eat/drink. The venue was in the middle of downtown – Grand Street was shut down for the event in the shadow of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

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LA Food & Wine 2013: Live on Grand (Los Angeles, CA)

Live on Grand
Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival 2013
Grand Avenue between 1st and 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 8/24/13

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Live on Grand was one of the marquee tasting events of this past weekend’s LA Food & Wine Festival. Formerly called Live on the Plaza when the event was held at LA Live, it’s now moved to the heart of downtown – on Grand right outside the Walt Disney Concert Hall. In the shadow of downtown skyscrapers and the concert hall, it was an ideal location for a summer evening food & drink fest.

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Similar to other LAFW tasting events, approximately 25 chefs/restaurants were on hand from around the country to serve up samples of their food in all-you-can-eat fashion. Dozens more wineries, breweries and a couple of mixologists were around to keep glasses full. Unique to this event, Gavin DeGraw provided live entertainment towards the end of the evening.

General admission was a hefty $250 with VIP tickets (allowing earlier admission) running $350. My tickets were compliments of luxury kitchen appliance maker Jenn-Air, one of the festival’s main sponsors.

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LA Food & Wine 2013: Lexus Grand Tastings (Los Angeles, CA)

Lexus Grand Tastings: Saturday & Sunday
Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival 2013

LA Center Studios
1201 W 5th St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Dining date: 8/24/13 and 8/25/13

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This past weekend marked the third annual Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival. It’s the largest food/drink festival in the city with around 25 different events, primarily held in downtown LA. Friday power lunches, cooking demonstrations, and a number of food/drink tastings make up the bulk of the events. At the larger tasting events, 25+ chef/restaurants (and even more vintners) are on hand to serve their food in all-you-can-eat and drink fashion. One of the distinctive features of these LAFW tastings is the presence of many out-of-town chefs. The size and brand of the festival (sibling to Pebble Beach Food & Wine) draws some big names including Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, Michael Mina, Masaharu Morimoto, Rick Bayless and Scott Conant.

Lexus has sponsored daytime grand tastings each year since festival inception and I obtained a media pass to attend both days. This would be my third year attending; regular-priced tickets were $150 each day, with a $195 VIP option allowing earlier access.

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