I know that it might sound crazy, but I never knew that Las Vegas had such a dynamic food scene. Let's face it, food and Vegas don't come together very often in the same sentence. Most people would immediately associate Vegas with neon signs, casinos, gambling, showgirls, the extravaganza that is The Venetian, the Bellagio fountains and stag and hens weekends. While this is all true - fine dining, top quality and vintage wines, and great cocktails are also very much a part of Vegas. The Vegas Uncork’d festival showcases Vegas' resorts, restaurants and culinary celebrities in the best light.
Vegas Uncork'd is an annual high-end culinary and wine event in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event is a partnership between Bon Appetit and the city of Las Vegas. It's the brainchild of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, their advertising agency R&R Partners and various Las Vegas resort partners.
Launched in 2007 and now in its eleventh year, Vegas Uncork’d bills itself as ‘The Ultimate Wine and Food Experience.' A food and drinks extravaganza at some of Las Vegas’ best-known hotels, including Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, the Cosmopolitan and the Bellagio. This event features more than 80 celebrated and Michelin-starred chefs, sommeliers and mixologists over 25 events occurring over a spectacular four-day long weekend.
Upon receiving my itinerary, I was delighted that most of the main events I applied for were built into my programme - yes, I asked to attend events and that how it works: you go to the Vegas Uncork'd site and see the list of events by date, timings and chefs headlining each event. Each Uncork’d event is individually allocated, and you can build your plan.
Getting into Las Vegas was a smooth flight just under 10 hours from London Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic, an airline that still gives you the old flight perks like blanket, food and drinks, alcohol only with food, snacks at no extra charge.
As soon as you arrive at McCarran International Airport you catch a glimpse of Las Vegas, it's so near and yet so far to walk to. A short ride and the Vegas Strip is welcoming new arrivals with open arms.
By London standards, it was hot, 27C when we landed at lunchtime, but sunbathing had to wait, there were eateries to visit and cocktails and bubbles to drink! I arrived the day before the start of Vegas Uncork'd so I had time to acclimatise and get in the zone, the jet-lag had to wait too!
Saber Off at The LINQ Promenade
The festival started with a splash at The Vortex at The LINQ, with acclaimed American chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. They both sabered bottles of Perrier-Jouët champagne to kick off the festivities. They have been part of this epicurean show for the past 11 years; the “Too Hot Tamales” as they are known in America were the first female chefs to lead the saber off. Great fun with lots of beautiful food and champagne.
Welcome drinks at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas at The Chandelier 1.5
We experienced some fantastic drinks by female mixologist Mariena Mercer often called Las Vegas Cocktail Goddess. The cocktails were very delicious, creative and fun.
FIRE BREATHING DRAGON
breathe that smoke and get your wings
Bacardi Dragon Berry Rum, Lemongrass,
Raspberry, Thai Chile, Red Bull Orange Edition
& Liquid Nitrogen-Charged Raspberries
SChNOzBERRIES TASTE LIKE SChNOzBERRIES
a multi-sensory experience: Dragon Berry Rum, Sloe Gin, Aperol,
Pickled Strawberry Lychee Pink Peppercorn Shrub,
over a Miracleberry Ginger Gobstopper Ice Sphere
with a scented Lolligarden
Part of the Master Series, this dinner was about rich tradition with a new twist. At Old Homestead, brothers Greg & Marc Sherry, are a pair of American chefs who devised their menu of divine dishes and exquisite wine pairings featuring steak matched with premium wines from Napa Valley. As an added bonus every dish featured chocolate. A fascinating evening of pure indulgence.
The Old Homestead Steakhouse at Caesars Palace
Next course was white chocolate poached Maine lobster with black truffle gnocchi and Meyer lemon foam. Paired with Chardonnay, Far Niente, Papa Valley, 2015
For the main course, dark chocolate rubbed New York strip with Foie gras bread pudding and chocolate mole. Match wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Far Niente, Oakville Napa Valley, 2014
Unfortunately this event overrun no time for desert...
Uncork’d Event: Lunch like a Spaniard with José Andrés at Jaleo at The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino
|Chef José Andrés|
Uncork’d Event: Grand Tasting at Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis at Caesars Palace
|pastries by Michelin Chef Guy Savoy|
|Chef Guy Savoy|
|Chef Gordon Ramsey|
|Rao's tiramisu and Bailey's cupcake|
Uncork’d Event: Picnic in The Park
This was the most beautiful event of them all, visually pleasing and with food offerings from renowned and Michelin starred Chefs. Among them Alain Ducasse, Charlie Palmer, Michael Mina, Julian Serrano, Rick Moonen, Tom Colicchio, Shawn McClain, Roy Ellamar, Akira Back, David Werly & many more! It couldn't go wrong. On arrival, we were given a basket with a plate, cutlery, and champagne flutes. We were invited to walk around this 'Garden' which was chock full of beautiful and creative twists on classic picnic dishes created by the Chefs and accompanied by some equally creative drinks as well as premium wines and quality fizz - it was a land of plenty!
The tables were gracefully decorated with flowers and colouring books, classic board games and a variety of social games such as ping pong and corn hole were scattered about the place. Bliss Dance, a 40-foot-tall sculpture by artist Marco Cochrane was the focal point of The Park experience. We were provided with flower garlands for our hair and gold tattoo transfers for our bodies. It was a gorgeous sunny day with spectacular food and bubbles.
|Michelin Picnic by Rivea by Chef Allain Ducasse|
Uncork’d Event: Sweet Escape: An Evening of Buddy, Beignets, Bon Bons & Booze at the Palazzo Pool Deck at The Palazzo Las Vegas
Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro hosted a decadent evening to surrender to the sweeter side of life. The evening featured the chefs of The Venetian Las Vegas and The Palazzo, each preparing a unique take on beignets and bonbons. The poolside reception included a live band and speciality cocktails. This extra special night was spent dancing away by the pool.
Cocktail demo at Libertine Social with Modern Mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim at Mandalay Bay
|Tony Abou-Ganim, The Modern Mixologist|
Uncork’d Event: Little Italy From City to Strip: Rao's Italian Brunch Hosted by Rao’s Owners Frank Pellegrino Jr. & Ron Straci at Rao’s at Caesars PalaceThe epicurean extravaganza closed with Rao’s Italian brunch organised by Frank Pellegrino Jr. and Ron Straci on Sunday, April 30. A fun and entertaining demo by Frank and Dino was the centre stage of this event, together with family members dotted around the room sharing stories and anecdotes from the family and the restaurant business.
|Caesar salad, roasted red peppers by Rao's|
|blackberry gelato served with Zeppole by Rao's|
|Frank Pellegrino and head chef Gino Gatto|
In a little Q&A with Frank Pellegrino, I asked a bit about his history, where he and his team gets inspiration for the menus and for the cookbooks:
'I started working at the restaurant with my father at the age of 12 as a Summer job at my dad's wish, and have worked at Rao's ever since.
The restaurant is for the people and celebrates the good relationship with the customers, who sometimes they inspire the dishes in the menus too. This business is all about customer service, which is in short supply nowadays. Rao's is about building relationships. Chef Dino, who has worked for Rao's for the last 21 years and oversees the whole kitchen operation throughout the restaurants, he has developed the same connections with customers and peers and has strength these relationships in the process. The cooking is Southern simple Italian fare with Sicilian influence here and there, food that comes straight from the heart. Chef Dino has worked on a few new dishes and enhanced them to today's taste buds and trends.
The new cookbook features staple dishes and lots of family recipes from the team at Rao's. The recent book talks about the history of Rao's and their Harlem neighbourhood in New York, where Rao's started. We encourage people to cook and try the recipes and make them their own.
Desert island ingredient: Rao's Tomatoes jars - they are hard to find, and I would go fishing and create more dishes using Rao's tomatoes!'
Las Vegas was all the glam and glitter I expected and more. It's a unique place that needs to be experienced. I had heard many elaborate in-depth descriptions, but nothing beats the personal experience, especially when food and drink are involved. Pack your bags for the Vegas Uncork'd in 2018.
The central and famous hotels resorts in Las Vegas are like something you see in Hollywood films, except they are real! They are cities, I will explain in detail in my next post: Las Vegas, Luxury stays and eats.
Until next time why not join me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook…X
Disclosure: I was the guest on this press trip to Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit organised by Hills Balfour in conjunction with R&R Partners and Las Vegas Tourism Board.