New chefs and events bring fresh flavor to Vegas Uncork’d

Attendees wander about the Grand Tasting during the Uncork’d annual event at Caesars Garden of the Gods Pool which brings celebrity chefs together to Las Vegas on Friday, May 9, 2014.
Photo: L.E. Baskow

GIADA + BOBBY Soon-to-be-queen of the Cromwell Giada De Laurentiis rode into her first Vegas Uncork’d with training wheels, teaming up with Bobby Flay for an opening-night dinner at his Mesa Grill restaurant at Caesars Palace. No one was sure which dishes belonged to which chef, but everything was delicious. The highlights: pea pesto agnolotti with a prosecco sauce, and steamed halibut with mint, olives and anchovies in fennel-saffron broth. –Brock Radke

2014 VUBBA: Master Series Dinners at Caesars

EAST MEETS WEST The Night Market: East Meets West event established a bustling Strip-side culinary carnival outside the Venetian, with celebrity chefs like Mario Batali and Daniel Boulud peddling tasty bites alongside wares from lesser-known talents from Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. The most memorable were from across the pond: Tetsuya Wakuda’s combination of botan shrimp, uni and caviar delivered a complex combination of sweet and salty, while Justin Quek rolled out foie gras-stuffed soup dumplings. These dishes were so good, I had to hover over both. Don’t miss this event if it returns next year. –Jim Begley

CHEF’S ORDERS “Immediately. One bite.” These were the instructions from chef Nobu Matsuhisa as he handed over a piece of freshly made tuna nigiri. Naturally, I complied, opening wide and letting the waves of flavor wash over me—the warm sweetness of sushi rice, the punch of wasabi root just grated on a shark-skin pad, the silky sea notes of tuna, the hit of umami from a quick brush of soy. It was a single-bite masterpiece from the master himself, the kind of only-at-Uncork’d moment that defines the annual food festival. Eyes wide, I sat reveling in the afterglow for just a second. Then with a sip of Nobu’s own branded sake, I was ready for the next piece. –Sarah Feldberg

2014 VUBBA: MGM Resorts Events

BISTRO PERFECTION It’s tough to beat a lazy Friday lunch at Bouchon, even when Thomas Keller isn’t in the kitchen. After mingling with adoring fans over Champagne and tiny bites of caviar and foie gras mousse, Keller spoke about consistency and getting America’s team ready for the Bocuse d’Or culinary competition. Meanwhile, I devoured my beloved salmon rillettes, charcuterie and crispy pain d’epi, and then an entrée of red wine-braised beef cheek. French food rocks. –BR

GRAND MACARONS Every year, certain items seem to pop up all over the Garden of the Gods poolscape during the culinary crescendo that is the Grand Tasting. In 2014 we had two renditions of burgers on doughnuts (from Fukuburger and KGB), two highly buzzed-about savory macarons (cocoa with miso foie gras filling from Michael Mina and black truffle from Francois Payard) and meatballs from just about every other booth. Of course, certain dishes (meatballs) stand up better to hours outside and mass preparations than others, but when you’re eating for three hours straight, creativity is greatly appreciated. –SF

2014 VUBBA: Grand Tasting at Caesars

GRILL AND CHILL Another day, another pig roast: Mina’s MGM Grand whole hog party was popular on Friday, but a more intimate barbecue took its turn Saturday at Bellagio’s pool. Sensi chef Royden Ellamar teamed with resort executive chef Edmund Wong and mixologist Ricardo Murcia for Fire and Ice, featuring body-painted beauties alongside cool cocktails. We couldn’t get enough soy and brown sugar pork shoulder, bison strip loin skewers, and oysters straight from the ice smoker. -BR

ULTIMATE BUFFET The surprise hit of Uncork’d weekend had to be the Chefs’ Counter: All-Star Feast event, where Aria chefs including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Masa Takayama and Shawn McClain took over the buffet, interacting with happy eaters and stuffing everyone with refined fare from toro caviar canapés to guanciale and ramp-topped pizza. Please, please bring this thing back next year. –BR

Tags: Dining
Photo of Jim Begley

Jim Begley

Jim Begley is an avid food lover who began writing about his Las Vegas dining adventures to defray his obscene ...

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Sarah Feldberg

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Photo of Brock Radke

Brock is an award-winning writer who has been documenting life in Las Vegas for 20 years. He currently leads entertainment ...

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