Oh, Vegas. The bright lights, big city, sounds of ding-ding-dingity-ding in every direction. I don’t make it there often, but when I do, it always amazes me how there seems to exist a full-fledged metropolis within an metropolis, an excess of eating, imbibing, and miscellaneous debauchery all along one long strip. It’s warmly reminiscent of a time gone by full of Frank Sinatra and dollar buffets, replaced instead with flashy hotels of every theme and size packed to the gills with guests and business people alike – and one of the best, and often overlooked, restaurant communities in the West.
Arriving for Bon Appetit’s fifth annual weekend showcasing the impressive culinary scene, attendees of the 2011 Vegas Uncork’d event even managed to luck out with warmth and blue skies, the sun beaming down on the 50+ chefs gathered fountain side at the beautiful Bellagio for the festival’s official champagne “Saber-Off” on Thursday. Chef Julian Serrano stood at the ready with knife in hand, as renowned culinary masters gathered to celebrate the kitchens of Vegas, with Joël Robuchon, Jean Joho, Pierre Gagnaire, Michel Richard, Hubert Keller, Alain Ducasse, Nobu Matsuhisa, José Andrés, and Tom Colicchio joining Sin City heavy hitters like Rick Moonen, Jet Tila, Alex Stratta, Paul Bartolotta, and Michael Mina, for the bubbly toast.
A few hours later, after I had somehow turned $1 into $50 at the Caesar’s Palace penny slots, I finally had the good fortune share a table with one John Curtas of Eating Las Vegas, along with a handful of other media and culinary friends, for the Master Chef Series “Ultimate Indulgence” dinner at Restaurant Guy Savoy. Hosted by newly-minted Bon Appetit editor Adam Rapoport, Savoy and his staff delivered four indulgent courses, highlighted by the lobster in cold steam and a roasted turbot with morels, asparagus, and parsley puree, before a chocolate fondant with chicory cream rounded out the evening.
Tomorrow, my Day 2 adventures with a Grand Tasting hosted at Caesar’s Palace and my favorite event of the weekend, Friday night’s Moonlight Celebrity Chef Blackjack.
*Many thanks to the folks at Vegas Uncork’d for inviting me down to cover the event.
**Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender