Uncork’d reflections, and Munchbar magic

My body is still recovering from the four-day Vegas Uncork’d, sponsored by Bon Appetit. The fourth annual event kicked off with a photo shoot at Mix with several of the world’s greatest chefs, including Guy Savoy, Joël Robuchon, Alain Ducasse and Pierre Gagnaire, plus a coterie of American, Spanish, Italian and Asian superstars. Mayor Oscar Goodman, ever present, stood steadfast in the group’s center.

I started my festivities with an amazing lunch at Twist, Gagnaire’s restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental, during which he paid homage to American products. A sampling of the featured dishes: Maine lobster paired with a Granny Smith apple glaze, Washington scallops and Sonoma foie gras with a ginger goat cheese ice cream.

The evening of May 7 was the Grand Tasting, held at Garden of the Gods in Caesars Palace. This year’s turnout, estimated at more than 2,000 people, was the largest ever. Among the dozens of memorable offerings were Luciano Pellegrini’s spaghetti alla chitarra with rabbit meatballs, Bar Masa’s Peking duck tacos with foie gras, and an exquisite panna cotta with strawberries from dessert genius François Payard.

The next day there was an interactive lunch at Wynn Encore, where chef Paul Bartolotta, who won the event’s blackjack tournament for the third year in a row (he’s banned next year), taught the crowd how to make sea bream with a salt crust.

Later that evening I literally pigged out at a barbecue at Mandalay Beach, where Ducasse and Charlie Palmer grilled lobster, carved a whole roast suckling pig and poured pinot noir from boutique producers.

Uncork’d truly is the culinary event of the year in Las Vegas. I can hardly wait for 2011.

Over at Caesars Palace, wunderkind chef Bryan Ogden, son of chef Bradley Ogden of the restaurant of the same name, has uncorked his own new concept, Munchbar, with partner Robert Frey of Pure, the nightclub next door. The décor is pure pop art, and food is basically upscale pub grub, perfect for the post-Pure crowd at 2 a.m., when the place is busiest.

Ogden’s Rueben wrap with turkey pastrami on rye flatbread is delicious. So is the Munch Burger, a huge cylinder of tasty ground meat topped with provolone and cheddar cheeses, lettuce and “fancy sauce.” The Munch Breakfast Sandwich, made with the meatiest sausage gravy of all time, or the Tiny Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, may be the best cure for a night of hard partying.

There are also specialty cocktails, such as the Pear Ginger Fizz, and beers on draft at $15 for a 60-ounce pitcher of domestic. Call 731-7110 for details.

Hungry, yet? Follow Max Jacobson’s latest epicurean observations, reviews and tips at foodwinekitchen.com.

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