At the end of April I had the absolute pleasure of being invited to the ultimate food and wine experience that is Vegas Uncork’d with Bon Appétit. I travelled from New York City after a week of eating burgers and running around Manhattan to the fantasy land that is Las Vegas. I stayed at the MGM Grand resort in a huge room with a gigantic bathroom and started a weekend of the most incredible and memorable eating and drinking experiences. There was also some fun in the mix, but you know what they say about Vegas?
This year’s program by Bon Appétit was packed with culinary superstars, winemakers and mixologists. Some of the world’s top chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck, Francois Payard, Julian Serrano and many more participated in a sparkling array of special events and tastings. I was so lucky to attend a few of these.
My first event was the Chef’s Counter: All-Star Feast at The Buffet at Aria where Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Julian Serrano, Michael Mina, Shawn McClain, Masa Takayama, and others put their gourmet spin on self-service style dining. It was a wonderful evening with champagne flowing and delicious flavours.
The culinary masters of Wolfgang Puck’s Las Vegas restaurants came together for a special lunch on Friday, hosted by Spago Executive Chef Eric Klein, to showcase the many flavours of Wolfgang Puck’s empire at Spago in Caesars Palace. We enjoyed five courses prepared by top chefs Eric Klein, Dustin Lewandowski, Mike Tiva, Jorge Martinez and Matt Hurley, and were treated to a surprise appearance by Wolfgang Puck. I landed up having a glass of champagne and talking to him while he signed a mountain of his new cookbook after lunch which was very special.
Friday night was the Grand Tasting at the Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis at Caesars Palace and you can find my story and images here. It was pretty overwhelming to be in the same space as so many rock-star chefs and I was thoroughly inspired by some of the incredible dishes I sampled.
On Saturday I met Julian Serrano, the James Beard award-wining chef at his third and brand new restaurant in the Bellagio. Lago is jaw-droppingly beautiful as far as restaurants go and I have never seen anything quite like it. I was a little mesmerised by the design. It’s also one of the few eating venues which have an outside seating area which is unusual for Vegas where everything is built inside gigantic resorts. It doesn’t really matter that you are looking out onto a fake Eiffel Tower and a fake lake that erupts into a spectacular dancing fountain feature every hour, it’s just nice to get an outside view. Sadly I didn’t get to taste any of his food at Lago which is innovative Italian small plates or Cicchetti, but this is what it looks like:
I had lunch at Border Grill in the Forum Shops and I can’t wait to try to recreate the best ceviche I have ever tasted. Watch this space.
I took a spin in the 550 foot tall High Roller with wonderful views of Vegas. It didn’t matter that it was pouring rain. We were served a delicious signature cocktail by Mixologist Tony Abou Ganim from Caesars Palace which was delicious.
On a Saturday Night I had a mind-altering food and wine experience at Hakkasan at MGM Grand
It was a one-of-a-kind six-course dinner prepared by Michelin-starred Chef Ho Chee Boon and his team of wok and dim sum chefs. It was modern Cantonese cuisine paired with exquisite wines selected and personally presented by The Hakkasan Group Head of Wine, Christine Parkinson, who took diners on an eating and drinking journey. This was next-level stuff for me and certainly amongst the most memorable meals I have ever eaten in my life.
Sadly the room was too dimly lit for photography but this is what the menu looked like:
Classic dim sum platter: River prawn dumpling, scallop siumai, ChaoZhou chive dumpling
Braised duck soup with truffle
Roasted silver cod with Champagne and Chinese honey sauce
Fried Brazilian lobster with lotus root
Seared wagyu beef served with lotus leaf rice with dry shrimp, shiitake mushroom, peanut
Chocolate & coffee ganache black sesame cracker, Meyer lemon sorbet, caramelized popcorn
The final event I attended at Vegas Uncork’d was a spectacular brunch at the brand-new Bardot Brasserie in Aria. If Vegas knows how to do anything really well it does fake perfectly. This Parisienne-themed restaurant is quite beautifully done and you feel like you are stepping back in time into an authentic Paris brasserie.
The Americans also know how to brunch properly. We are not talking a few egg based dishes and pastries. This was next-level stuff and each course was prepared by a different celebrity chef and paired with a beautiful French wine.
1st Course: Huevos Serrano with Tuna Belly, Caviar, EVOO By Julian Serrano
2013 Luneau Papin Clos De Alles Muscat Sevre-Et-Maime
2nd Course: Maine Lobster Ravioli, Michigan Ramps and Fava Beans By Shawn McClain
2012 Cahtreau D’Escalns Les Clans Cotes De Provence
3rd Course: Char Grilled Wagyu Strip, Smashed Peas, Nasturtiam Vinaigrette By Jean-Georges Vongerichten
2012 Domaine Anne Gros Bourgogne Hautes-Cote De Nuits
4th Course: Hunters Waffle Sourdough Waffle with Duck Confit, Root Vegetable Hash, Sauce Maltaise By Michael Mina
2012 Jean Foillard Cuvee Corcelette Morgon
5th Course: “The Sweet French Affair” Opera, Warm Chocolate Cake, Lemon Sensation By Jean Philippe Maury
2006 Domaine La Tour Vielle Rimage Banyuls
Vegas Uncork’d was the most extraordinary food and drink festival I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. If you are a lover of food and wine. Put this straight onto your bucket list.
See my Steller story at the bottom of the page with a few short video clips from the weekend included.
Check out the story I created on Steller