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Dining News & Notes: Rao’s, Picasso chefs lead Las Vegas James Beard semifinalists, and more

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Rao’s chef Nicole Grimes was named a semifinalist for a James Beard Foundation Award.

Chef Nicole Grimes of Rao’s in Caesars Palace was named a finalist in the Rising Star Chef of the Year category in the 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards, a first for Grimes and a significant honor considering Las Vegas chefs and restaurants are routinely ignored by the JBF. Other local finalists are: Julian Serrano of Picasso for Outstanding Chef, Picasso again for Outstanding Wine Program, and Raku’s Mitsuo Endo for Best Chef in the West Region. The JBF awards ceremony will take place May 3 and 6 in New York City. The big question is: How does Vegas get passed over in the Outstanding Bar Program category?

Massive food website the Daily Meal unleashes its 101 Best Restaurants in America today, and the Las Vegas Strip was well-represented. Joel Robuchon at MGM Grand scored highest (25), then came Guy Savoy (45) at Caesars Palace, é by José Andrés (57) inside Jaleo at the Cosmopolitan, Jaleo (83) and Bartolotta at Wynn (85).

Jaleo chef Jose Andres works on browning chicken and rabbit in one of his massive paella pans during Vegas Uncork'd on May 11, 2012.

Jaleo chef Jose Andres works on browning chicken and rabbit in one of his massive paella pans during Vegas Uncork'd on May 11, 2012.

The picks were made by a panel of nearly 200, including Vegas’ own Robin Leach. The top 10 restaurants on the list offered few surprises. They are: (1) The French Laundry in Yountville, California; (2) Gramercy Tavern in New York City; (3) Le Bernardin in NYC; (4) Momofuku Ssam Bar in NYC; (5) Eleven Madison Park in NYC; (6) Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY; (7) ABC Kitchen in NYC; (8) Babbo in NYC; (9) Girl & the Goat in Chicago; and (10) Cochon in New Orleans.

Enough awards talk, let’s get some booze: Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonico Steakhouse at Venetian will host a very spirited dinner event on February 28. Each of four courses created by Delmonico chef de cuisine Ronnie Rainwater will be paired with a whisky selected by brand ambassador Brad Jarvis. For example, after a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception and a bite of scallop crudo with 12-year-old Craigellachie, it will be time for roasted quail with smoked apple bacon stewed collard greens and a splash of 20-year-old Speyside. The event begins at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $160 including tax and gratuity and can be reserved by calling 414-3737.

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Brock Radke is Las Vegas Weekly's food editor and author of the Strip-focused column The Incidental Tourist. He has written ...

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