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Dining

Five thoughts on Mandalay Bay’s Beer vs. Wine dinner

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In the end, Sarah Johnson’s Team Beer won out over Harley Carbery’s Team Wine at an innovative pairing dinner at Mix atop Mandalay Bay.
Photo: MGM Resorts International

1. Those of us lucky enough to attend the Beer vs. Wine Pairing Smackdown on May 21 at Mix at Mandalay Bay were told the event could be the first of a series. Let's hope that's true. Not only did we feast on five decadent courses from chef Bruno Riou, but each course was paired with a beer from Firestone Walker Brewing Company and a wine from Herman Story Wines. Tasting and choosing a favorite beverage was as much fun as witnessing the friendly smack-talking between Team Beer, Mandalay Bay director of food and beverage and certified cicerone Sarah Johnson and Firestone Walker brewer Matthew Brynidlson, and Team Wine, Mandalay's wine director Harley Carbery and Herman Story winemaker Russell From. It turned into a deliciously rowdy event, informal fun that felt exciting in such a regal restaurant.

2. After each course and double-pairing, diners/drinkers were asked to vote for the beverage of their choice by holding up the "W" or "B" side of a card. My official tally was a landslide 4-1 victory for wine, but I was in the minority as Team Beer won out. Perhaps it had something to do with Weekly food writer Jim Begley swiping my vote card and casting extra votes for Firestone Walker's syrupy, heavily malted Stickee Monkee, a barrel-aged Belgian Quad. It was pretty good, but I preferred the round, juicy Nuts & Bolts syrah that came with our filet mignon.

3. By the way, that beef was a mind-blowing dish, a tender, perfectly cooked filet served with an unctuous shiitaki mushroom gratin and a smokey, braised beef short rib-stuffed piquillo pepper. It was the favored bite of the night; I could have eaten an entire plate of those peppers.

4. Team Wine went rogue on the fish course, serving up a powerful red blend called Casual Encounters with a brown butter-drenched cod brandade. The old rule that fish requires white wine isn't really a thing anymore, but this rich red just didn't work. Brynidlson's ideal Opal stole the vote instead, a peppery, lemon-y saison that seemed custom-brewed for this dish.

5. This dinner may be my last at Mix, which is transitioning into a different concept called Rivea as TheHotel at Mandalay Bay becomes Delano Las Vegas. Despite its stellar cuisine, crisp design and breathtaking location atop the hotel tower, Mix hasn't wedged itself into the upper echelon of fine French dining rooms on the Strip. Perhaps it's time for something new. But I'll miss the restaurant's signature dessert, the Mix Candy Bar, a crunchy chocolate masterpiece that was served with lime sorbet and paired with Firestone Walker's coffee-meets-Parabola Parabajava and Herman Story's On the Road grenache. Had to go wine on that one, too.

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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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