It’s true. In Vegas, there really is no such thing as too much or too many. Tourists, drinks, casinos, pools – the bigger, the biggerer.
In the last decade and a half, this philosophy has taken over the restaurant scene as well, and the concentration of celebrity chefs is borderline intoxicating: Gordon Ramsay, Alain Ducasse, Wolfgang Puck, David Chang, Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis, and pretty much everyone else you’ve ever heard of is setting tables on The Strip. And every year, Bon Appétit throws a really big party with them.
Indeed, this past weekend, Condé Nast’s epicurean bible hosted its 12th annual Vegas Uncork’d, a four-day festival that includes a plethora of food and wine events scattered over several of the higher-end resorts. Thousands came just for the occasion, including us, and left vowing not to eat again for at least a month.
But, of course, it was all an impossibly indulgent good time; and here are some of our favorite experiences, flavors, and run-ins from the big – no bigger – festival.
The Sheer Magnitude of Friday Night’s Grand Tasting Event
A massive gathering at a most appropriate venue, Caesar’s Garden of the Gods Oasis, 2,500 hungry fans assembled to worship at the altars of their favorite chefs. Marble statues gazed upon the palatial grounds as festival-goers elbowed their way to bite-sized tacos, meatballs, puff pastries, chicken lollipops, cheesecake, and so, so, so much more. Our favorites included Rao’s veal and pork meatballs, crispy crab tacos from Joe’s, and Beijing Noodle No. 9’s salt and pepper chicken. Over 50 top chefs participated, and over 100 wine and spirits were represented as well. Fit for an…emperor.
The American Wagyu Carpaccio from Gordon Ramsay Steak
Say what you will about the firm-but-fair star of Hell’s Kitchen. The fact that his team flawlessly executed hundreds – okay, thousands – of small plates of Wagyu beef carpaccio with deviled quail egg, aioli and peppery arugula speaks to his perfectionist, do-or-die attitude. Gordon Ramsay Steak is just one of six of his restaurants in Vegas. He also just opened Hell’s Kitchen at Caesar’s. $)(&$^)#^@!!!
She has a last name, but it’s totally unnecessary. Giada’s like the Cher of the culinary world, and notably just the third female chef to open a restaurant on The Strip, the eponymous Giada’s at the Commonwealth. Ceiling shattering aside, much like her celebrity chef brethren, she’s also quickly opened a second spot bearing her name this year, Pronto by Giada at Caesar’s. The former features the no-fail takes on Italian cuisine that made her cookbooks and TV show so ubiquitous…as well as those spectacular views of Bellagio’s fountains. The latter offers an impressive selection of Italian and Californian wines by the glass, bottle, and flight. We did all of it.
Chef Nobu Matsuhisa
Chef Nobu made history in 2013 when he opened the first restaurant-turned-hotel located adjacent to Caesar’s Palace, aptly named Nobu Hotel. He now owns three eponymous restaurants in Vegas, one in Caesar’s, one at the Hard Rock, and a 12,775-square-footer at the Nobu Hotel. Naturally, his presence was everywhere this weekend. He even hosted a private dinner where he indulged guests in Nobu caviar, fresh-shucked oysters coupled with Dom Pérignon Champagne, and of course, a variety of sumptuous traditional sushi. Heaven.
The Midsummer Night’s Dream Vibes at Picnic at The Park
We followed the Grand Tasting with a flight of Italian wines at Pronto in Caesar’s, because when in an opulent, artificial replica of Rome…well, you know. So heading back into the festival decadence once more felt trying. That is until we arrived at MGM’s The Park (formerly the Monte Carlo). The sweaty tourists slapping the pavement in flip flops were but a distant memory as we were whisked into a neo-Elizabethan dream sequence. There were fresh florals, models in full body paint, and a dozen more small plates to sample. Chefs like Masaharu Morimoto, Shawn McClain, and Michael Mina, along with Ketel One, put together a beautiful lunch al fresco.
Meat, Meat, Meat
Picnic at The Park was a celebration for carnivores, undoubtedly. The wafting scents of short ribs, acorn-fed 100% Iberico de Bellota, lamb rib, octopus, prime rib, and smoked bone-in Wagyu brisket all being grilled, smoked, or cured on-premise made certain that Moby and Morrissey would be nowhere within ninety miles.
A Taste of New York at the Cosmopolitan
What’s great about staying at The Cosmopolitan, aside from their positively chic and fabulous rooms in the newly constructed Boulevard Tower, is that guests can get a taste of New York’s finest. From Blue Ribbon to Momofuku to STK to Beauty and Essex, outposts of some of NYC’s trendiest and tastiest can be found there. As we’re now based in LA, we eagerly indulged in some of our old Gotham faves, from the Blue Ribbon steak tartare, to David Chang’s pork belly buns and hamachi crudo.
Phillip Park’s Wine Tasting
Phil Park ascended the chain at Caesar’s over the years, beginning as the head sommelier at Guy Savoy, and now holding court as the director of wine for all of the Palace. Bon Appétit’s wine editor Marissa Ross welcomed guests to the first-ever Sip of the Culinary Empire at Vista, and the two-hour tasting took guests on a drinking tour of Caesar’s famed restaurants. They started with glasses of Krug Grande Cuvée champagne, followed by Hokusetsu YK 35 sake out of cedar boxes (a la Nobu). But the absolute winner was a divine glass of 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Caymus Vineyards in Napa – a wine that, much like the rest of this highly curated weekend, will make going back to Seamless and cheap reds feel like an absolute crime.