A sure bet in Las Vegas is a rarity—that said, we’re putting all of our chips on Vegas Uncork’d this spring, since the annual festival (May 9 through 12) never fails to deliver a winning combination of luxe parties and to-die-for dishes. Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand host this year’s festivities—several of which are already sold out. Assuming there are still a few spots left for the Vegas Uncork’d Kick-Off Party at Hakkasan Las Vegas, we recommend snagging a ticket. Here, our editors list the other exciting events and hotel happenings that won’t be anything close to a gamble over the thrilling weekend.
What to Know
In 2007, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority decided to elevate the country’s awareness of the city’s sophisticated culinary scene. It teamed with Bon Appétit to create the four-day food and wine festival, which now attracts connoisseurs the world over. In its seventh year, Vegas Uncork’d continues to get bigger and better—6,000 people are predicted to attend this year’s culinary fête held at Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and Bellagio. Top Vegas toques participating in this year’s event include Nobu Matsuhisa, Forbes Travel Guide Tastemaker Rick Moonen, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Alain Ducasse.
Seasoned Uncork’d-goers began purchasing tickets in January, when they first went on sale. Year after year, the most popular events have proved to be the Masters Series Dinners and The Grand Tasting at Caesars Palace. But in 2013, we’re adding another favorite to the list—When in France: A Joël Robuchon Dinner at his eponymous MGM Grand restaurant. We predict this will sell out, so get your tickets now if you want to experience the six-course meal. Expect to shell out anywhere between $95 and $595 per event. There’s an option to snag tickets at the door (based on availability) for The Grand Tasting; the Bellagio Block Party: Cured, Smoked, Braised and Toasted; and The Beer Garden, but be prepared to pay cash only.
What to Do
James Beard Award-winning chef Michel Richard of the 24-hour restaurant Central inside Caesars Palace will showcase his talent at the Master Series Dinner: Michel Richard Gourmand on Thursday. “The menu includes some of my favorite dishes to prepare,” Richard says. “Avocado gazpacho, yellowtail carpaccio and one of my favorite desserts—orange cheesecake flan.” Richard also shares his latest kitchen techniques. “I love playing with textures, and have been working on a vichyssoise that has crunchy potatoes and the soup is cold asparagus,” he says. “I am also creating a very thin burger bun. I make a brioche dough that can be sliced very thin. It’s thinner than a pancake but still holds the burger.” $160, May 9, 7 p.m., Central at Caesars Palace.
Chef Michael Mina will host a lunchtime poolside preview of his food offerings from Pub 1842, which is slated to open at MGM Grand sometime after Uncork’d. “We are going to feature a peanut butter burger with pimento cheese, bacon jam and potato chips,” Mina says. Plan on sampling his steak burger with crispy cheddar, shredded romaine and secret sauces. But leave room for dessert. “We will also feature a variety of shakes and cakes,” Mina says. $115, May 10, noon, MGM Grand Las Vegas.
The much-anticipated Grand Tasting returns to Caesars Palace on Friday evening (last year’s event was sold out with more than 2,500 attendees). This is where you’ll have the chance to sample cuisine from eateries such as Restaurant Guy Savoy (artichoke and black truffle soup, toasted mushroom brioche and black truffle butter; strawberry and basil two ways); Old Homestead Steakhouse (Pat LaFrieda dry-aged New York strip loin with truffle tater tots and housemade steak sauce; mini banana bread pudding with caramelized banana); Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill (chilled fennel soup, poached shrimp and lemon thyme; triple chocolate trifle); and Bacchanal Buffet (peach-smoked brisket with creamy mac and cheese; lemon meringue and foie gras profiteroles). $225, May 10, 7:30 p.m., Caesars Palace.
Saturday’s festivities kick off at noon with an Oyster Extravaganza in front of Mandalay Bay’s restaurant, Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Aureole Las Vegas. You might have to sneak out a few minutes early to catch the two-hour Beef and Whiskey, “Japan Style.” It’s located at Mandalay Bay’s StripSteak and starts at 2:30, but you’ll be glad you did once you experience the three-course Japanese wagyu tasting and handcrafted Japanese whiskey cocktail pairings. Oyster Extravaganza: $125, May 11, noon, Aureole Las Vegas; Beef and Whiskey: $165, May 11, 2:30 p.m., StripSteak Mandalay Bay.
If you already have tickets to chef Gordon Ramsay’s Across the Pond Sunday Roast event, consider yourself lucky, as it’s already sold out. But there is a waiting list, so if you’re dying to go, get your name on it immediately. Attendees at the lunch will dine on authentic pub grub at his Vegas outpost. “The special part of participating in Uncork’d is that I’m able to get together with so many of the other top chefs from around the world,” he says. “Some I already know well, and am able to catch up with personally and professionally. And [I also like] meeting new chefs and seeing new styles and food trends.” $195, May 12, 2 p.m., Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, Caesars Palace.
Where to Party
If you scored a ticket to the sold-out Vegas Uncork’d Kickoff Party at the newly opened Hakkasan Las Vegas inside MGM Grand on Thursday, you’ll be treated to Cantonese creations from chef Ho Chee Boon. You’ll also be able to explore all five levels of the 80,000-square-foot nightclub outfitted with LED screens, an Asian-inspired garden, sizable VIP booths, dance floors, an exclusive mezzanine area and more. $150, May 9, 9 p.m., Hakkasan Las Vegas at MGM Grand.
In the mood for an after-dinner drink? Catch a cab to Mandalay Bay for chef Brian Thomas Massie’s Vodka & Caviar Social at Red Square. Since he’s been in tons of kitchens across Las Vegas—including Aureole, Charlie Palmer Steak at Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas and FIX at Bellagio—you’ll be in for a fun night. Be sure to step inside the vodka vault for a shot while you’re there. $160, May 10, 10 p.m., Red Square at Mandalay Bay.
The Bellagio Block Party: Cured, Smoked, Braised, Grilled and Toasted is sure to draw a major crowd, so get your tickets early. It’s hosted by chef Michael Mina and other A-listers, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Edmund Wong, Akira Back and Forbes Travel Guide Tastemakers Julian Serrano and Todd English. “I am teaming up with a culinary star from the local Le Cordon Bleu, and taking on Akira Back [from Bellagio’s Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant & Lounge] and another Le Cordon Bleu student to battle it out in this culinary challenge,” English says. The stakes are high: The winning protégé gets $20,000 and the runner-up receives $5,000. Serrano will be preparing traditional paella over a wood fire. “The preparation takes a day-and-a-half, and then about 40 minutes the day of,” he says. “But I love the aroma and color of paella when it’s cooked on a wood fire.” $165, May 11, 8 p.m., Bellagio.
Where to Stay
Since Vegas Uncork’d kicks off at Caesars Palace, make it easy on yourself and book a room at The Laurel Collection by Caesars Palace. This Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel includes the Augustus and Octavius towers, a private valet entrance, elegant décor and direct access to the Five-Star Restaurant Guy Savoy.
Other hotel options include the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Skylofts at MGM Grand. The Tony Chi-designed suites come with chic furnishings, Bang & Olufsen entertainment systems, personal butler service and convenient access to chef Joël Robuchon’s Saturday-night When in France dinner at Joël Robuchon inside MGM Grand. You can also opt to book a room at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Signature at MGM Grand Las Vegas. The beds in the three-tower, all-suite hotel are outfitted with Anichini linens, and rooms include whirlpool tubs and terraces.
But with five events taking place at the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Bellagio, you might want to make this hotel your base. Choose from fountain-view rooms or the hotel’s resort tower king or deluxe queen rooms. All provide easy access to Via Bellagio should you need to do some shopping at high-end stores such as Bottega Veneta, Hermès and Prada to find something to wear to the festival.
Photos Courtesy of Ethan Miller, Todd English, Michel Richard, Michael Mina and Greg Gayne