Vegas Uncork’d 2019 Day 2 – Sushi Perfection with Chef Nobu

Oh dang, if my dad was still alive to see me now, he just may have passed out. As a youth, I was what some refer to as a finicky eater and literally ate maybe five different staples without question, well three really. If I watched someone cook and there seemed a questionable item, there was no way I would attempt to acquaint my taste buds with such flavors or textures. My father would attempt to get me to try sushi or many other dining options at the various restaurants he took me too, but I would realize the menu type, then think of my minimal list. In this case, I would have attempted to find teriyaki anything and raw preparations outside of salads would be a hard no. Somewhere in the last fifteen years my sense of adventure took over my palate and there has been no looking back.

My entry into the delicate and divine world of sushi was at Hana Japanese Restaurant, a local gem in Rohnert Park, California. It was here I would initially swoon for the texture and flavor of otoro, the highly desired fatty bluefin tuna belly. This would eventually lead me to one of the best dishes I have had the pleasure of enjoying, the toro tartare at Morimoto, Napa. This dish was served as part of the Omakase tasting menu that we indulged in for the new year a few months after the restaurants initial opening. We felt extra fancy as David Beckham and Gordon Ramsay sat behind us with their wives and children. I have been back to this restaurant a few times and always make sure that the toro tartar is part of my menu choices. I generally like to pair this dish with the Copain Wines rose when it is available on the wine menu because I can be comfortable that the wine plays well with other items on the Omakase menu, should I choose a tasting menu over individual dishes.

In the beginning of the year, for my husband and my collective birthday dinner, I chose PABU Izakaya in San Francisco, which is part of the Michael Mina empire of delicious restaurants. It is here I discovered the dish called the Happy Spoon. At this location, the oyster is presented with uni, ikura, tobiko and ponzu creme fraiche. I can say that the variety of textures and flavors on the varied iterations I have tasted at this and other restaurants is a joyful dance upon the palate. So, to the topic of this article, the only place left on my immediate bucket list for Japanese fare was Nobu. For the years of following Vegas Uncorked I would see offerings from lunch to dinners with a glimpse into the magic of Chef Nobu. For those that say they are hungry after small plate courses, I am unable to relate. I actually had to take small bites and share a few of these dishes with my husband as I was beyond satiated at the conclusion.

This year the Master Series lunch called Beyond the Blade with Chef Nobu Matsuhisa was decided as a not to be missed event when we finalized our Vegas Uncorked itinerary. Quite honestly, we decided the prior year we would attend any Nobu option, should it be offered. As we waited in line we ran into some lovely ladies we met last year at the brunch with Giada (read that prior post HERE) and enjoyed catching up. Upon entry to the restaurant we decided to sit together for the dance of precision we were about to witness. Greeted by a lychee martini our friend wished she could bathe in; we were salivating with anticipation. Our new Vegas Uncorked friends had experienced this event in prior years and the fact they returned was noted in my memory as I recalled dietary preferences from last year. Yes, I have that kind of memory. Names, not so much in my wheelhouse. Faces, more my skill set. I also have an uncanny memory of flavors too, but I have fallen off track.

As the chefs began their preparations in front of us, Chef Nobu discussed his view of sushi and how one should enjoy these dishes freshly and promptly. With intense focus and quick movements each individual plate was created then delivered to each person at the table. My only sadness was that the dishes arrived in a more rapid pace than I was able to notate. First dish, first sake and with that being said I will proceed with photos.

As lunch concluded, we were gifted a polite box of chocolate and the second we saw the packaging we knew it was from Le Belge, a chocolatier in Napa, California. We’re fans, what can I say. So grateful to have enjoyed this whirlwind feast we were suddenly happy that we decided to forgo the Grand Tasting event this evening in order to attend a Cirque Du Soleil show instead. This way we could walk off all those bites we consumed. We may have gone back to our suite to enjoy a little nap since I had slept lightly the prior evening and I laughed as this was a first for me. Napping is a foreign concept to me, but this one had me feeling refreshed in the evening and ready to enjoy a show. After the show we decided to peruse Mandalay Bay’s shark exhibit as I had always wanted to see it. Full of food, I must have appeared to be delicious to the piranha because they all eerily stared at me. Creepers!

As I entered the room with rays and jellyfish, I may have begun to sing the Sponge Bob theme song as I viewed the jellyfish. That induced a giggle from my husband, but we do enjoy a daily laugh even in the oddities. Later, as we entered the final shark tank my tune changed to one that my niece enjoys…any guesses. Yup, Baby Shark. I may have got a few giggles from others as this jingle passed my lips quietly.

All silliness played in my mind as we began our return to our room, we had a quick snack on our way, then off to rest up for the next day’s brunch. I found the days unplanned ending full of swimming fishes sickly humorous considering the beginning of the day dining on seafood. I do love a good shark steak! Sorry to my more squeamish readers.

Sake full cheers to under the sea!

 

Next up: Vegas Uncork’d 2019 Day 3 – Getting Baked for Brunch with Christina Tosi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegas Uncork’d Day 1 – The Gordon Ramsey experience

I happen to be a big Gordon Ramsay fan; not as big as the lady that painted a picture of him, flew in from Sweden just to be on the wish list for the VIP meet and greet, but a fan. I have cooked with his recipe for salmon en croute to perfection as well as others, read his book Humble Pie and can say that I have actually dined at his two unnamed mentors’ restaurants. I appreciate the humor; get the brand and he is the nicest person when we’ve met him. In conversation, my husband had a moment where Gordon gave him a very sincere thank you. Unfortunately, I am unable to share because I can’t give away all the secrets. What I will share is that the hospitality and courtesy for privacy in our home area, as well as a neighboring county is well appreciated. Not sure how long that will last with the paparazzi style generation, but it made me proud to know I live in such a loved space.

Pub Crawl & Danny Boy cocktails hit the spot for these whiskey fans!
Fish & Chips with Mushy Peas

There were actually a few event options to dine at a Gordon Ramsay establishment, but we casually dined upon arrival to Las Vegas at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill because we needed a travel weary cocktail and satiation. Besides, I had to see if the fish and chips could compare to my extended families. It is good, but going to the Highland Games in Northern California just screams to enjoy the best fish and chips at Taste of Britain. Sorry, I digress…must have a craving. We chose to have dinner at the new Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen Restaurant located at Caesar’s Palace. The event day had started with the Saber Off and a glass of prosecco. We enjoyed a few shopping hours and were ready for dinner. As we waited for the doors to open, we enjoyed conversation with other patrons discussing the event and what others had tried before. I loved the conversation as well as the building anticipation for what would be a fantastic experience.

Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace
Gin Cocktail greetings and the fantastic little touches like the little cards with show quotes.

As the doors opened everyone was greeted with a refreshing gin cocktail aptly named Notes From Gordon which consisted of gin, peach syrup, lemongrass, orgeat and peach soda, then the guests were guided towards a cocktail and hors d’oeuvre reception. The TV shows season 14 winner, Michelle Tribble and season 10s winner, Christina Wilson were a true joy to talk to. I really loved engaging in multiple conversations with them both throughout the evening about the show, their life now and of course amazing food. The array of hors d’oeuvres were perfect bites from avocado toast with heirloom radishes and sunflower seeds, beet cured salmon with golden beets and lemon creme fraiche, pepper-crusted watermelon with prosciutto and goat cheese, meatballs I devoured so fast I forgot to take notes on, arancini with the perfect kiss of truffle and a bounty of prawns and charcuterie. They were serving two cocktails that we had to partake in, for the name of research, however I failed as I have since lost my notes. I looked over at my husband and all the sudden my great grandmothers voice rang out of me as I told him we should walk away before we have no room for dinner. She did always comment on how I loved to just snack all day and not want to eat a full meal.

Avacado Toast with Heirloom Radishes & Sunflower Seeds
Beet Cured Salmon with Golden Beets & Lemon Creme Fraiche
Pepper-Crusted Watermelon with Prosciutto & Goat Cheese
Michelle Tribble on the left & Christina Wilson on the right
Arancini that I literally had to walk away from before I ate them all!



Kitchen views as the diners were being seated

The guests received their table numbers and started to zigzag towards the appropriate placements. Part of the entertainment for me at these types of events can usually include the conversations at the table. We sat with some local entertainment business owners and a couple that flew in just for this dinner. As we were seated, we decided another round of cocktails were in order and began to open the envelopes in front of us. The envelope contained the full recipe for Michelle Tribble’s pepper crusted watermelon, lemon goat cheese with cucumber coulis. The center contained an autographed photo of Michelle with Gordon Ramsay outside the restaurant and to the right lay the menu. I immediately spotted a local to me wine, Landmark chardonnay, that brought back that hometown love. During our dining experience Gordon mingled with the guests and we enjoyed the entertainment of randomly selected guests participating in the blind tasting challenge. I took a video as two ladies from our table participated and sent it to them to enjoy later. It was rather difficult to not laugh as I was taking photos during the commentary which occasionally made me laugh so hard, I was doubled over.

Golden beet salad with greek yogurt, kumquats, pistachio granola and white balsamic vinaigrette
Beef Wellington with potato puree, glazed vegetables and red wine demi-glace

Our first course was a golden beet salad including greek yogurt, kumquats, pistachio granola with white balsamic vinaigrette. It was a perfectly palate awakening and refreshing start to the richness that awaited us and I chose to pair it with the Landmark Winery chardonnay instead of the Justin Winery sauvignon blanc which I had enjoyed earlier. Both wines would have been perfectly paired depending on the flavors you wanted to enhance from the dish. I prefer to quiet the zing slightly. The main course of beef wellington with potato puree, glazed vegetables and red wine demi-glaze did not disappoint. In all fairness though I do not eat a lot of beef, but I am a sucker for a good beef wellington. I’ve enjoyed beef wellington done three ways for Christmas before and have become smitten with the individually wrapped wellingtons. I paired this with the Justin Winery cabernet sauvignon and though tasty I could’ve upped the game on that pairing if I had access to the fuller wine list. Swoon to the moon for this dish. The evening meal concluded with sticky toffee pudding that may have been tasted and then brought back to our room for breakfast because that’s how we roll on vacation. Let them eat dessert for breakfast! Honestly, we concluded the meal with a glass of cognac instead.

Sticky toffee pudding

We lingered to meet Gordon Ramsay and speak with him a little more and share our appreciation for a fantastic first impression meal as we began our Vegas Uncork’d experience. We later found ourselves in true Vegas fashion unready to turn in for the evening. On our way back to the room we stopped to enjoy a whiskey flight before tucking ourselves in to ready us for another day of delicious morsels and libations.

Next up Vegas Uncork’d Day 2 – The Grandest Tasting

I’m Back!

Apparently studying wine almost killed the blog…oops. A full-time job that was less than savory combined with a full time study routine taught me that sometimes I am not able to succeed in all the things at once. I hope to start writing more currently on this blog as well as my writing forums and other manuscripts during my current reinvention.

Cannot wait to share my food and wine adventures with you. Because, after all, I may have been quiet here but, I was fully living out loud in real life.

Wine Bloggers Conference – Take 1

I have had the desire to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference for years, and really wanted to go to Lodi last year. However, time was usually not the best for my schedule or other life reasons would impede me from going. This year, as they celebrate their 10th year, it is back where it began…in my back yard of Santa Rosa. I put it on my schedule early so that other things wouldn’t creep in to push it off until another year and I am excited as well as nervous to be attending!

Life within the last month has felt like it is moving at the speed of light, but pockets of joy in tragedy always shine a little sideways. Living with the different conversations after the firestorms of Sonoma and Napa counties has really reminded me why I love this community. Watching chefs, farmers, business owner, neighbors and wine makers come together to care for those in need has been heartwarming.

I feel honored to get to share my love of wine and food from our counties bounty with others as well as spend time with likeminded lovers of the vine! I’m looking forward to meeting some of you beautiful people from social to put in a little real face to face time. There are so many sessions I am looking forward to attending and it will be hard to narrow down on a few.

“Enrich Your Wine Vocabulary” should hopefully bring insight on how to stay true to my voice while delving into wine descriptors during wine reviews. How do you bring the common aromas and flavors that us wine educators share with just the right hint of your own spiced word choices? Hello, this session has the phenomenal Andrea Robinson! I have a little vine chat dream with that powerhouse!

I am looking forward to the Wine Discovery Session with Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC. As a certified sommelier, there is nothing more exciting to me as wine discoveries. As someone knee deep in studies for my CSW, I can’t wait to bring the knowledge to the forefront and learn about this region. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the region will be an honor to experience in the glass.

“Live Wine Blogging” sounds intimidating and exciting all at once. I love taking notes to share with others and I am curious to see how this will unfold for me, the lover of pen to paper. Will I take to the Twittersphere or do short posts during the brief interviews? I guess you’ll have to follow to see how this will shake down.

“Legal Issues Every Blogger Should Know” is something that I am very curious about as my day job revolves around compliance issues in finance. I am looking forward to learn how compliance relates to my blog. There are other items I hope are touched on like copy write issues with photos as well as some I may not even be thinking of right now. As odd as it may sound to some, I’m excited to learn what this power hour may unfold.

Bring on the education and camaraderie! You can follow me on twitter & Instagram @gotchabygrapes for my Wine Bloggers Conference shenanigans.

Favorite White Wine Finds of 2017

As most people in my resident Sonoma County are starting to think of rich fall foods and full-bodied wines, as always, I am doing my own thing. I am getting into the last of my favorite white wine finds of the year and mourning as they disappear from my shelves and fridges. I thought I would share my list so you can stash up on those that are still available, or begin planning amazing purchases for next year as these wines became my must have splash in a glass on sunny warm days.

I would like to say these wines are in no particular order, but I am not a good liar even in type. I love them all, but some I just can’t get enough of, some I wish I had more of and some I feel grateful I got to try them. All of them will be purchased again with the exception of the ones that will not be made anymore…insert crying emoji here!

2015 Via Giusti Sonoma County Vermentino is truly a gem of the county. The brilliant friendly aromas of young apricots and mandarin orange waft up from the glass to grab your attention. There is a refreshing apple note with youthful stone fruit flavors lingering on the palate just a little longer than anticipated. I love that this is a wine that can be enjoyed all year long! If you are looking for something out of the more traditional few varietals that can dominate a tasting menu this will deliver a unique perspective. You may begin to chase the varietal after this experience. This is a versatile wine that pairs well with many dishes from a vast option of cheeses, grilled zucchini, or garlic rosemary white fish or chicken. Order online at:  https://viagiusti.com/

 

2015 Kokomo Winery Timber Crest Vineyards Muscat Blanc is a beautiful blend of my household’s tastes. This bottle offers all the beautiful aromas you would crave of the varietal with the perfect dry character I enjoy in my white wines. The happy sunflower hues welcome you as you bury your nose into the lovely aromas of honeysuckle, pineapple and Meyer lemon blossoms. Flavors of young pineapple, white tea leaf and ripe stone fruit are wrapped up in this dry styled dream. I paired this wine with spicy kimchi and peanut Thai chicken salad. Stop in the tasting room or order online at: http://www.kokomowines.com/

2016 Reeve Wines Anderson Valley Riesling was one of my favorite new finds of the year. This year was laced with new discoveries and the old Kachina Vineyards location now is the breathtaking home for Reeve wines. I do tend to enjoy white wines of Mendocino county and this is no exception. Just a hint of petrol on the nose that announces the varietal is muted by citrus blossoms, preserved lemons and young white peach. Flavors of apple meet lively lemon and zings your palate on a hot summer day. I got my weekend leisure day on and paired this with citrus chicken tacos, because every day should be a taco day! Make an appointment to visit this beautiful location or order online: https://www.reevewines.com/

 

 

2016 Cartograph Wines Ferrington Vineyard Gewurztraminer has a light straw yellow that reminds me of summer sunshine in a glass. Aromas of lychee and honeysuckle pull you into the glass multiple times before the first sip. Preserved Meyer lemons and honey kissed apricots embrace the palate. I paired this wine with spicy Korean chicken Bao and green bean, green bell pepper and tomato salad. This was the most enjoyable symphony of flavors as spice meets floral while creamy sauce danced with the palate cleansing dry character of this wine. Visit the tasting room or order online:  http://www.cartographwines.com/

2016 Inizi Wines Tocai Friulano was a wine I rediscovered during a spring event and gladly visited the tasting room after to purchase a few bottles. Aromas of lemon, kefir lime and young honeydew melon spring out of the glass. Flavors of lime zest and Granny Smith apples are grateful thirst quenchers on a warm afternoon. Recently I actually paired this with a homemade chicken pot pie with sage drop biscuits. The crisp, clean acidity cut through the rich creamy sauce and dense biscuit while playing well with the celery, carrot and sage flavors of the healthier version of pot pie. Order wines from the road less traveled online at:  https://iniziwines.com/

 

2015 Mounts Family Winery Picpoul Blanc was a special surprise from the makers of my favorite local Cabernet Franc. This wine offers aromas of honeydew with a touch of lemon that follows through to the palate with a fuller mouth feel then the other wines. I have one more bottle stashed with no intention of sharing. As I write this post I notice my taste has become small vineyard, family focused support, where my dollar matters more. I paired this with a sunshine on the patio moment, but it would pair well with oysters or salted white fish. Visit some of the friendliest people in the Dry Creek valley by appointment or order some amazing wines online at:  http://www.mountswinery.com/

 

2015 Quivera Vineyards Fig Tree Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc may be my last wine pick, but by no means is it the least. This bottle was my Sauvignon Blanc pick of the year for the varietal.  I enjoy the crisp refreshing ability of this varietal, but prefer when it melds with tropical flavors and this wine never disappoints. Aromas of lemongrass, young pineapple and guava bring a vacation in a glass smile to my face. Flavors of wet stone, pineapple, papaya and guava brought memories of white beaches and warm Adriatic waters to my mind with a unique palate feel as it spends a few moments in Acacia barrels. I paired this wine with pan seared chicken, creamy fairytale eggplant with charred green beans and fried oregano. Visit the lovely gardens around the tasting room or order online:  https://quivirawine.com/

Whether you want to taste this line up, or make up a mix of your own I always find pleasure when enjoying the bounty of Sonoma and surrounding counties. Cheers to a delicious line up of spectacular adventures in white wines!