If music be the food of love, play on, so wrote the Bard. But we all know that festival hunger is real. In its fourth year, Life Is Beautiful will welcome more than 40 chefs to the expansive 1-million-plus-square-foot spread in Downtown Las Vegas. We road-tested seven dishes to get you off to a beautiful start.
Lumpia Shanghai, Aloha Kitchen
Bringing all the flavors of the islands in its third year at Life Is Beautiful, Aloha Kitchen owner Maria Liza Ochiai delivers the main hit of every Filipino gathering. Each Shanghai-style lumpia is hand-made, filled with ground pork, minced carrots and onions and rolled into a two-bite-size egg roll. The sweet chili sauce adds a little zip to the crunchy and savory rolls. Double-dipping is highly encouraged. The dish comes in a set of eight rolls, each one the size of your ring finger. Now that’s finger food.
Salmon Club Sandwich, EATT
Akin to something you’d expect to find in a café adjoining a spa, the salmon club sandwich is healthy and nutritious, and even more delicious. Making his second appearance at the festival, owner Nicolas Kalpokdjian says the salmon is cured for 24 hours in citrus juices, dill and sea salt before thin slices are placed on multigrain bread with romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes and Greek yogurt mint dressing. The crunch of the bread, combined with the soft and cool bite within, is the ultimate intermingling of texture and flavor. This sandwich is also available as a gluten-free option.
IPA Burger, Freedom Beat
The classically delicious flavors of the great American burger get a buzz from Lagunitas India Pale Ale hidden in the aged cheddar cheese sauce of this IPA Burger. Everything lovingly comes together, from the soft, buttery brioche bun and the richness of caramel malt barley of the IPA to the sweetness of the caramelized onions and tang of the crispy dill pickle chips. The newly opened Freedom Beat in Downtown Grand is headed by Hell’s Kitchen Season 12 winner chef Scott Commings, who says, “This is truly what I desire. All the aspects of taste teasers and textures lure you to take another bite. It’s as infectious as rock ’n’ roll.”
Bacon Dippers, MTO Café
For the nights you’re staying out so late it’s practically time for breakfast, there are Bacon Dippers. Now in its second year at the festival, MTO Café fashions buttermilk pancakes into easy-to-hold, oval-shaped treats ready to be dipped into sweet maple syrup. Adding a savory touch, thick and crispy bacon has been inlaid onto the tops of the pancakes. Just grab these flavor grenades and go.
Freakin’ Vegan Satay, RM Seafood
RM Seafood has tenure at Life Is Beautiful, serving up sustainable options since the festival debuted four years ago. Featured among other delectables is the Freakin’ Vegan Satay. Organic Japanese eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red shishito peppers are grown at Desert Bloom aquaponic farm in Pahrump. After marinating in a “superfood” vinaigrette of flaxseed oil and unpasteurized apple cider, the skewered veggies are cooked robata-style over petrified oak. Vegan, fresh and healthy, the satay comes in a set of two, which should keep you nourished while you party.
Life Is Beautiful Donuts, Donut Bar
Donut Bar is joining Life Is Beautiful for the first time, and it’s going all in with a gourmet assortment of Life Is Beautiful logo’d donuts. Choose from the most in-demand flavors including Homer’s Donut, with bubblegum-pink cake batter glaze and sprinkles; Nutella, a light yeast doughnut with a delicate smear of Nutella topped with fine hazelnuts; Funfetti, a vegan vanilla cake doughnut with rainbow sprinkles; and the maple bacon bar with maple glaze and candied bacon that tastes like you’re soaking up classic breakfast goodness of melted butter, hearty bacon and maple syrup.
Asian Barbecue Twisted Chips, Clever Chefs Catering
Robert Raymondi makes ultrathin potato chips that are irresistible, then adds an extra layer of addiction with a mountain of toppings. Over a bed of Russet potato chips golden fried with wasabi and ginger spice, the chef heaps marinated shredded chicken and cool, crunchy, miso-ginger slaw and generously sprinkles toasted black and white sesame seeds over the top. Prepared this way, you’ll think those chips are actually fried wontons. At Life Is Beautiful for the second year, you can expect this and other unique foods with a “clever twist.”