When Bon Appetit magazine invites you to Vegas to eat and drink with the best chefs in the world, you jump on a plane.
The Bitches arrived in Sin City, cameras in tow, ready to meet some of the biggest names in food—and enjoy their creations right from the source.
It was our second year attending Vegas Uncork’d, Bon Appetit magazine’s annual food extravaganza on the Strip. But this year was special—and even more over the top—because the event was celebrating its 10th year.
The chefs were bigger, the parties larger, the booze darker—even right from day one, we knew this was going to be four days of glorious gluttony. And it was.
Becca arrived for the kick off to the event, held mostly at The Venetian and its sister tower, The Palazzo. In front of the beautiful hotels, right on the strip, with a requisite gondola in the background, all of the attending and participating chefs gathered for a photo.
Chef Daniel Boulud, the man of the hour, stood in front with a long knife and a few ready bottles of bubbles. Each time he sabred off a cork, spilling champagne at the chefs’ feet, there were loud cheers and plenty of flashing bulbs.
That evening, Becca joined 500 other VIPs in the porte–cochère of The Palazzo for an elegant dinner on the Strip. The long white tables, each hosting about 100 people, reminded her of Diner en Blanc. But the incredible live band, the performers, and the food itself, pushed this event to the top of her list for the rest of the weekend.
Served up? Emeril Lagasse’s chilled Alaskan king crab. Then fine charcuterie from Daniel Boulud. The main courses, however, drew gasps from attendees: pots of grilled gambas (shrimp) on an open flame from Olivier Dubreuil, and a flaky and flavorful halibut with spring asparagus by Emeril. It was a night she’ll never forget.
Ally arrived to Vegas on Friday and kicked off her inaugural Vegas Uncork’d experience with a seasonal, multi-course lunch at chef Daniel Boulud’s db Brasserie celebrating the vegetable, the festival’s first and only exclusively vegetarian event. Standout dishes included a vibrant, fresh pea soup served tableside by Chef Daniel himself and a stunning crusted beet main course.
Chef Daniel was quite hands-on during the event, taking the time to make sure that every pastry was arranged perfectly and checking in on his diners throughout the meal. Ally was relieved that the menu was rather light since there were hours of other tastings on the agenda later that afternoon.
After polishing off an ice cream sundae with Chef Daniel and a quick walk around the Strip, it was time for happy hour! We convened at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar for a Southern-infused get-together highlighting bourbon, beers, and plenty of delicious bites. We had previously dined at Yardbird’s original location in Miami so we had high expectations of the Las Vegas outpost in the Venetian.
We rotated between craft beer samples and bourbons infused with bacon and honey, to wash down the copious amount of hors d’oeuvres including deviled eggs, maple glazed bacon doughnuts, and bite-sized chicken and waffles, a Bitch favorite. It was the perfect casual setting to unwind and socialize before the keynote event of Vegas Uncork’d later that evening, the Grand Tasting.
This was Becca’s second Grand Tasting, but Ally’s first, so Becca advised her to come hungry and wear a comfortable dress. We arrived right on time, but the venue was already jam packed with thousands of guests surrounding more than 50 booths at the Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis at Caesars Palace.
The venue was perfect for this large-scale event. Bright lights and live music brought the spacious pool to life as attendees mixed and mingled around the periphery. More than 2,000 guests were mingling and sipping on free-flowing wines and spirits.
Celebrity chefs like Giada De Laurentiis, Gordon Ramsay, Guy Savoy, Nobu Matsuhisa, and Hubert Keller were personally manning stations and serving guests tastings from their respective Las Vegas restaurants. Our top bites were Hubert Keller’s truffle burger, sashimi from Nobu, and the ice cream sandwich from Border Grill’s Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger.
On Saturday, we divided and conquered brunches across the Strip. One team, one dream.
Ally was ecstatic to head to Chef Giada De Laurentiis’ first Vegas Uncork’d event at her namesake restaurant at The Cromwell. She was blown away by Chef Giada’s hostessing skills; Giada greeted every guest with a mimosas and Italian bites, and stayed on her feet throughout the four-course meal to ensure that everyone was taken care of. The brunch menu all featured Giada’s signature rustic and refined Italian style, with a menu including smoked salmon “SLT” sandwiches, lobster hash, and chicken and waffles.
In the meantime, Becca scooted to Buddy V’s Ristorante, where “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro and famed Las Vegas husband and wife team Chef Kim Canteenwalla and restaurateur Elizabeth Blau hosted an epic buffet that did not disappoint.
Featuring classic brunch favorites such as panettone French toast, scrambled organic eggs, Tuscan style potatoes and steak and egg sliders, the meal was complemented by elaborate seafood stations, a caviar ice bar, a carving station with herb crusted rack of lamb, spicy Italian sausage and slow roasted ham, bottomless bubbles, build-your-own Bloody Mary bar, a decadent dessert display, and more.
After brunch, we were off to The Cromwell, for what would be one of our favorite events of the weekend: an intimate cocktail mixing class hosted by one of the world’s best bartenders, Salvatore Calabrese. We learned how to properly stir, shake, and sip on some of Maestro’s delicious signature cocktail concoctions such as the classic martini cocktail, breakfast martini, spicy fifty and Old Fashioned. Becca even snagged the coveted gold shaker award for her Old Fashioned.
Later that afternoon, Ally joined Chef Gordon Ramsay for a taste of his hit show, Hell’s Kitchen, at the Gordon Ramsay Pub and Grill. Diners were joined by the television series’ contestants for a feast of organic beet salad, seared scallops, steaks, and prime NY strip. Each dish was paired with a beer, which was a fun take on his British gastropub ambiance in the dark, sexy restaurant.
By nightfall, the Bitches reconvened to head off the Strip to Downtown Container Park. This funky outdoor center was created from storage containers and houses a smattering of local small businesses and restaurants. We admired the outdoor space and listened to live music while munching on exclusive Shake Shack offerings like the Crackle Burger topped with pork rinds and a salted pretzel concrete. We also sampled bites from Yardbird’s new fast casual concept, Spring Chicken, and cold ramen from Itsy Bitsy Ramen.
On Sunday we polished off the decadent weekend with a brunch, naturally. We haven’t managed to score a reservation at Rao’s original location in Harlem (hint, hint), but its Vegas outpost in Caesars Palace is the next best thing.
Rao’s is pretty much a Vegas Uncork’d tradition by now, last year we had a blast interviewing Frank Sr. and Frank Jr. Pellegrino, the father and son duo behind the famous restaurant. This year’s brunch didn’t disappoint either. We were treated to plenty of vino alongside Italian specialties such as lobster fra diavolo (a fancy name for lobster and spaghetti), herb crusted prime rib, and an extravagant ice cream parfait.
Needing a break from all that fabulous dining, we convened at the Palazzo’s pool for a few final hours of basking in the sun and recapping an incredible weekend in Vegas.
Bitch Biz: Bon Appetit magazine and its PR firm invited Bitches Who Brunch to attend Vegas Uncork’d on them. We received no other compensation; this article was written independently.