For the 11th year of Vegas Uncork’d, foodies turned out in droves, braving wind gusts and an unexpected chill during the Grand Tasting at the pool at Caesars Palace. The Master Series events are more popular than ever, as fans seized the opportunity to get up close and personal with their favorite chefs and learn a thing or two about the magic that goes on in those kitchens. (If you missed this year’s festivities, this is your public service announcement to get on the ball next year, as these events sell out fast.)
We couldn’t possibly attend all the events over the four-day event, but here are the highlights from our writers:
Friday, April 8: Lunch like a Spaniard
“We cook with real fire here!” said chef José Andrés as he stirred his paella before a blazing fire pit in front of guests who attended Lunch Like a Spaniard with José Andrés at Jaleo in The Cosmopolitan. After a few words and a proper demonstration of drinking from a porron, guests experienced a taste of Spain, which included lobster paella, José’s Taco, (a slice of jamón ibérico de bellota topped with osetra caviar and gold flakes) and Coca con Erizas del Mar (crusty Spanish cristal bread topped with sea urchin, ibérico bacon and butter). Drinks passed included sangrias and, of course, José’s famous gin and tonic. —Marisa Finetti
Friday, April 28: The Grand Tasting
The Grand Tasting is the highlight of Vegas Uncork’d, where more than 2,500 food enthusiasts enjoy a variety of dishes prepared by some of the world’s most celebrated chefs. The dramatic five-acre Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis at Caesars Palace hosted more than 50 award-winning chefs and over 100 of the best wines and spirits from around the world. One of the many standouts was the Robatayaki grilled Snake River Farms American Wagyu short rib with negi (green onions) and Yakitori sauce, prepared by executive chef Devin Hashimoto of Mizumi inside Wynn. —M.F.
Tao Group always brings something delicious to the dine-around, and this year was no exception. With its Beauty & Essex, Lavo and Tao restaurants represented, it was tough to pick a favorite from all the nibbles. The crispy barbecue pork buns with Chinese black vinegar was the taste that for me lingered long after the small bite. Soft, crunchy and umami-packed, it was heavenly. Chefs Marc Marrone and Chris Santos were on duty fronting their respective stations, too—where I managed to catch up with the guys about the goings-on surrounding their recent big Los Angeles opening. —Melinda Sheckells
Given the staggering number of outstanding dishes at the Grand Tasting, it’s nearly impossible to pick the best bite, but I can confidently narrow it down to the best five bites I had in the course of the evening. The aforementioned Wagyu short rib from Mizumi elicited appreciative “hmmmnns” from the crowd, and deservedly so. I would have backtracked and taken a second helping if not for the number of people behind me waiting for a taste. Eggslut’s 63-degree coddled egg, which sat on a potato puree, topped with gray salt and chives and served with slices of baguette was more a meal than a bite, but who’s complaining? Edge Steakhouse had the evening’s best pasta bite—tender gnocchi with morels—while Buddy V’s signature burger was the simplest, best iteration of the American classic. For dessert, it was hard to resist Gordon Ramsay’s sticky toffee pudding paired with a gorgeous cube of butter ice cream. It was the perfect ending to an evening of gastronomic delights (oh, I almost forgot about the two lemon ricotta cookies from Giada that mysteriously ended up in my purse …). —Genevie Durano
Saturday, April 29: Sweet Escape: An Evening of Buddy, Beignets, Bonbons & Booze
A night sprinkled in sugar was Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro’s decadent evening, where guests surrendered to the sweet side of life. Chefs of The Venetian and The Palazzo each prepared a unique take on beignets or bon bons. The poolside reception took place on perhaps the most perfect night weather-wise, and included a live band and specialty cocktails. Chef Lorena Garcia of the soon-to-open Chica at The Venetian made a special appearance. Her charisma added to the sheer joy of the evening. At her table, she offered guests some Buñuelos — ricotta and lemon zest doughnuts with white chocolate, dulce de leche and berry-filled pipettes for an extra squeeze of goodness. —Marisa Finetti
Thursday, April 27: An Epicurean Affair With Guy Savoy
This year’s Master Series proved profferred a smorgasbord of culinary icons to dine with, but the Uncork’d gods were smiling on us when a ticket to Guy Savoy’s fete became available. While there are no immediate expansion plans on the horizon, the culinary icon continues to receive so many awards it’s hard to keep track. On Thursday, Savoy was tending the stoves with his Las Vegas lieutenant (chef Julian Asseo) and interweaving new spring dishes with classics such as oysters in ice gelee and crèmeless artichoke and black truffle soup (quite possibly the best soup on the planet). New for spring and straight from Paris, we did preview the most insane homard (lobster) salad and John Dory “in the garden” we’ve ever had. –David Morris
Saturday, April 29: Brunch With Bobby Flay at Mesa Grill
The seven most interesting things we learned at Bobby Flay’s brunch:
1. A breakfast panna cotta topped with homemade granola is divine.
2. You should always bake your bacon to cook it evenly and avoid splatter.
3. Flay will be coming out with a new cookbook this fall called Bobby Flay Fit.
4. The chef gave up alcohol to train for the London marathon.
5. Upon learning that Flay ran the London marathon, Gordon Ramsay told Flay he would have ran with him and let him win.
6. Flay thinks opening a restaurant in LA is harder than opening one in New York because it’s a lot more about the scene and the people who come in.
7. When asked if he has any plans for a left coast expansion, Flay said, “I would love to open Gato in Las Vegas with Caesars. Definitely here in Las Vegas and not L.A.”
Saturday, April 29: Chef Gordon Ramsay and the Hell’s Kitchen Dinner
A rock-star chef if there ever was one, Gordon Ramsay inspires such adoration from his fans that they’re practically fainting at the sight of him. And who can blame them? They’ve caught on to the fact that the Hell’s Kitchen hellion is really a pussycat. The chef is the epitome of a gracious host, and on this evening, the just-for-TV-volume was notably turned down, as Ramsay was recently sick and had lost his voice. After he went to every single table, signed autographs and posed for photos, diners were treated to a five-course meal featuring the famous butternut squash and lobster risotto, followed by halibut, Wagyu strip loin and beef short ribs. Each course was paired with beer—we were at a pub, after all. The best part was the chef confirming his soon-to-open Hell’s Kitchen restaurant on the Strip, when he will undoubtedly return for the opening, vocal cords turned to 11. —Genevie Durano
Rao’s also threw an elaborate brunch at Uncork’d. For our exclusive interview with the brand’s first son Frank Pellegrino Jr., click here.