Notes from the 2017 Vegas Uncork’d food and wine festival

The 2017 Grand Tasting at Caesars Palace’s pool.
Photo: Ethan Miller for Bon Appétit

Spago’s 25th Anniversary Lunch Widely regarded as the first celebrity restaurant in Las Vegas, Wolfgang Puck’s seminal venue remains as popular and feels as important as ever. And while Wolf wasn’t available for Friday’s festivities—he had to attend to a family emergency in LA—his staff attended to a sold-out room, highlighting the diversity of talent in his kitchens.

The four-course meal included a playful carrot dish from chef Dave Beran that melded heirloom carrots with miso and fermented garlic, sweetness balanced by funkiness in a plating that looked to mimic octopus. The meal also welcomed longtime Spago chef Eric Klein back to Vegas, with an immaculate Sonoma duck breast accompanied by ancient grains, blueberries and brown butter for a medley of textures. –Jim Begley

Lunch Like a Spaniard at Jaleo Chef José Andrés cooked up his famous lágrima paella on an open flame and gave a quick speech on the tantalizing flavors of his native Spain.

We also got all the Jaleo classics, including the “bikini” sandwich with iberico ham and manchego cheese, Jose’s Taco— a paper-thin slice of jamon ibérico de bellota topped with Osetra caviar—and the cono de la serena y límon, a crunchy, bite-sized, almond-dusted cone filled with creamy, pungent la serena cheese (made in Spain from sheep’s milk) and lemon pith puree.

Jaleo is also known for its gin and tonics, and Lunch Like a Spaniard included a bar devoted to the juniper berry spirit, featuring Jose’s Choice, a transportive yet classic G&T made with Hendrick’s Gin, Fever-Tree Tonic Water, lemon, juniper and makrut lime. –Leslie Ventura

Grand Tasting

Chilly temperatures and howling winds didn’t detract from the signature event, the Uncork'd Grand Tasting, held outside at the Garden of the Gods pool at Caesars Palace.

Giada showcased its California-inspired Italian fare with a cheesy, bright pea pesto tortellini, along with the celebrity chef’s pillowy and cakey lemon ricotta cookies. The Kurobuta pork cheek and green corn tamale from Border Grill blended sweet masa with tender and meaty pig for a rich and warming bite—a necessity on a cold evening.

Curious about Bailey’s new non-dairy offering, I sipped the Irish cream-inspired Alamande (made with almond milk instead of dairy milk). It didn’t live up to the hype, but the new Captain Morgan Loco Nut—made with Caribbean rum, coconut liqueur and spices—could put a lively spin on your favorite rum cocktails this summer. –LV

Crowds amassed as Guy Savoy held court, serving his legendary black truffle and artichoke soup, while Frankie Pellegrino Jr. delivered his equally noteworthy Rao’s meatballs.

Outstanding dishes abounded. Vegas alums Gary FX Lamorte and Adam Sobel manned the Mina Group booth where mortadella-wrapped artichoke was served, while Devin Hashimoto of Wynn’s Mizumi delivered savory binchotan-grilled Wagyu skewers from a back corner of the pool area. Sushisamba also served a memorable bite of A5 Wagyu, adorned with a chimichurri truffle sauce—a nod to the restaurant’s diverse cultural background.

And while this might seem blasphemous, the Cracker Barrel booth—the cheese, not the restaurant—doled out a savory, ham-laden mac and cheese that felt perfect on a chilly Vegas night. –JB

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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Photo of Leslie Ventura

Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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