A toast to Taste, The Beat and some new summer wines

Rain Nightclub at the Palms recently hosted Taste of the Nation, co-chaired by the Wynn’s Carlos Guia and Jen Lasala, featuring more than 30 of the city’s best chefs.

The event went better than last year, I felt, although the turnout was not as large as anticipated. But the $75 admission was quite reasonable given the fact that there seemed to be a bar for every four food booths. How much rum and tequila did I drink? I’ll never tell.

Chef Zach Allen of Carnevino stole the show with his homemade Italian-style cold cuts that he learned from Mario Batali’s dad, Armandino, who operates the excellent Salumi in Batali’s hometown, Seattle.

Proceedings for this event went to the University of Nevada Reno Foundation/University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Chefs for Kids, Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, the Three Square Food Bank and Project MANA. Plan on being there next year.

I cleared my head the following morning at downtown’s new The Beat Coffeehouse, the coolest place to open in some time. If you fancy a Hopperesque atmo with an Old Vegas feel, here is the ticket.

The room is sparse, decorated with photos of Ginsberg and Kerouac, and there is a long counter. The chef is Andy Knudson, formerly with Guy Savoy, and he makes his salads and sandwiches from scratch.

Coffee is from Colorado River Coffee Roasters, a regular at the Molto Mario Farmer’s Market. I recommend the cappuccino.

The Beat is in the Emergency Arts, 520 E. Fremont St., and it’s open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Summer wines and new products have arrived at Valley Cheese and Wine, 1770 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, in Henderson (341-8191). I love the pink rosé wines from Spain and France, such as Castano ’09 from Yecla, in southern Spain, a peppery, earthy wine redolent of wild berries $14.99, or the delicious Mourgues du Grès Les Galets Rosé ’09, $19.99, which is more fruit forward and food friendly.

Owner Bob Howland always stocks his shelves with surprises. Effie’s all-natural Corncakes are great with cheese, wine or eaten alone. A $7 splurge will net a Barre Infernale Lait from French chocolatier Francois Pralus, an amazing chocolate bar filled with whole hazelnuts.

Finally, there are several new cheeses, the most impressive of which (and the most expensive, at $36.99 per pound), is a Star Thrower Farms sheep’s milk Camembert from Minnesota, perfect with a nice rosé.

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

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