A shucking good time at the Vegas Uncork’d Grand Tasting

The Grand Tasting at Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit took over the Caesars Palace Garden of the Gods on May 10, 2013.
Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Bon Appetit

There is that moment during every Vegas Uncork’d Grand Tasting when you realize you’ve eaten too much. Mine came on Friday night in the far corner of the Caesars Palace pool after a bite of pasta with cream sauce.

It wasn’t bad—in fact, it was tasty—but my body reacted as if I’d just attempted to down an entire hot fudge sundae (in a waffle cone bowl, of course) while running a half-marathon. It simply said no.

It had its reasons. I’d been sampling the evening’s bounty for hours at that point—chewy beef tendon skewers from Raku’s smoking stall, salt-crusted fish from Milos, beef tongue shepherd’s pie from Stripsteak and a bite of crispy lamb pancetta with pomegranate and arugula from Vintner Grill that I can’t stop thinking about. Tetsu’s surf and turf skewers elicited eyebrow pumps from total strangers. Sushi Roku’s bigeye tuna with salsa fresca was a bite of brisk excitement for a tired mouth.

2013 Vegas Uncork'd: Grand Tasting at Caesars

And in between the memorable noshes from Stripside eateries and neighborhood gems, there were cocktails, beer and plenty of wine. Unibroue served selections from its notable line brewed in the Trappist tradition. Andrea’s at Encore mixed cocktails over a sphere of ice, adding a “vibe dining” twist to an event that already had plenty of vibe and plenty of dining. Patron took the kegerator to its next evolution with a white wall of taps that pulled pre-mixed cocktails for waiting guests. We drank. We ate. We were merry.

But the highlight of my night had nothing to do with beverage tech or carefully crafted cuisine. Right as my stomach hit the breaking point, I strolled past the P.J. Clarke’s booth in time to see the staff take a quick break for some liquid refreshment. I made a crack about them slacking, and before I knew it, I was hovering over a cutting board, telling the chef I was a lefty as he fit a small oyster knife into my right hand. Purse slung over my shoulder, I grabbed a gnarly bivalve and slowly, carefully followed Sir P.J.’s directions, popping open the shell, sliding the blade under the oyster and working my way around to free the creature from its rocky home.

“Will you eat it like that?” my teacher asked, when I’d finally succeeded in shucking my first oyster.

Eying the slimy seafood in the palm of my hand, I forgot all about the two hours of steady eating, the epic fullness of my gut, the cream sauce. We raised our oysters in a celebratory toast and swallowed them au natural. They tasted like the ocean, and a sweet new skill.

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