The culinary arm of Life Is Beautiful, known as Food is Beautiful (not “Eating Is Beautiful” which is what I’ve been calling it), is just my speed for this inaugural weekend of music, food, art and life. Between the cooking demos and the Culinary Village with its huge array food by a pantheon of celebrity chefs, here’s what I’ll be dishing on this weekend, and so should you.
BBQ Is Beautiful
You don’t need a festival ticket to get in to Grills & Guitars at 8 p.m. October 25 on Seventh Street between Fremont Street and Carson Avenue, but you do need to buy ticket specifically for this official kickoff event ($175 GA, $225 VIP). Think of it as one of the most stacked barbecues Las Vegas has ever seen. And I don’t mean with just the variety of gourmet comfort food. No less than 15 celebrity chefs have put together dishes that might make you question your devotion to Southern barbecue.
The Bromberg brothers, Eric and Bruce, who also head Life Is Beautiful’s culinary advisory board, get down with a spicy and slow-roasted Asian-style London broil. Chefs Rick Moonen and Kim Canteenwalla know that meats grilled on a stick are mandatory for outdoor cooking, with Moonen supplying grilled shrimp with orange-chipotle marmalade while Canteenwalla goes Balinese with his shrimp satay and minced, spiced shrimp in sugarcane skewers. There will be shrimp and grits from Aarón Sánchez, and David Myers will be roasting a pig on a spit.
The man of the hour, however, is Jonathan Waxman, chef and owner of Barbuto in New York. As a mentor and educator to so many of chefs who have come through his kitchen, including the ones cooking for this event, Waxman will be honored by his colleagues for his role in molding the lives and outlooks of so many up and comers. When asked how it felt to be receiving this award, Waxman said, “I told Bruce, ‘I’m not dead yet.’”
Pop Ups Are Beautiful
Tickets for the Culinary Crawls on October 26-27 are a little steep, at $130 per day and also require the purchase of festival ticket, but if you’re really into food and want to eat new and interesting dishes, this is worth the price of both admissions. Each day, three-hour dining tours lead you around the footprint of the festival, stopping in restaurants such as Le Thai, Park on Fremont, the Flame Steakhouse and Eat for pop-up menus by local and celebrity chefs.
On Saturday, Kim Canteenwalla and Sven Mede bust out the Pig & Whiskey at the Flame, with charcuterie and BLT stations as well as passed bites such as pork rillettes, squid ink risotto crackers with whiskey-cured salmon and pancetta, and Spanish hot dogs of blood sausage, garlic chips, saffron aioli and pickled peppers. Then, join Team Batali at Park on Fremont, where chefs Nicole Brisson and Jason Neve go Italian-style on their swine: porchetta with arugula fennel salad and lardo crostini. Richard Camarota of Sage and Five50 in Aria and Chocolate & Spice’s Megan Romano take over Eat with “Amaro & Amare,” featuring smoked swordfish carpaccio with preserved lemon, olives and capers by Camarota and Romano’s sweet finish of dark chocolate Nutella bombe and Kahlua tiramisu ice cream floats.
Sunday at Eat, Waxman teams up with Nancy Silverton and Dahlia Narvaez of Mozza in Los Angeles for grilled and marinated three-inch New York steaks with fingerling potatoes, and rosemary olive oil cake with limoncello zabaglione. Le Thai hosts Moonen and his chicken-fried halibut cheek (which might be my favorite phrase of the day) with green tartar sauce, while Stripsteak’s Gerald Chin doles out some offally-good beef tongue shepherd’s pie. Marcel Vigneron will be on hand with cocktails of his creation, and Cat Cora digs deep into her Southern roots at Park on Fremont with Jason Tuley for a variety of ribs and hot sweet broccoli slaw, along with buckets of shell-on smoked sea salt peanuts.