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

Vegas Uncork’d

What is Vegas Uncork’d, you ask? I have been watching this event since it first began 12 years ago, just wishing, clicking my heels ferociously together in my mind and crossing my fingers. This food extravaganza is sponsored by Bon Appétit in partnership with Visit Las Vegas hosted by some well-known (also, some not as well known) chefs. The event did not disappoint last year when I finally got to attend. The offerings are varied so you could just attend the grand tasting, you could add a fun brunch, a fancy dinner or something with a little more theatrics. Traditionally May is just a difficult month for me to plan. It just seems that there is a lot of items that start dancing onto my calendar in advance, almost like the world is ready to push me into summer socializing early. This is also my favorite time outside of winter to travel, yet I had to block out May in advance just to ensure my dance card would be open.

The event appears to always be around Mother’s Day weekend (thank you Giada for the tip) so bring your mom, celebrate being a mother or tell your mom, “Sorry. I will make it up to you when I get back.” Each year there is a mix of varied lunches, brunches, dinners or occasionally after-hours excitement with beautifully plated food and spectacular libations. Vegas Uncork’d has a plethora of events to schedule from Thursday through Sunday so bring your appetite! The reason I first became interested in this event was because I do not get to travel much, I love to eat and drink my way through Las Vegas and I enjoy a great show. I saw great value in being able to dine at restaurants owned by world renowned chefs with locations in Las Vegas, Nevada. I got to mix this with the option to see great shows while I was on getaway and it seemed the perfect recipe for an over the top experience. I remember one year there was an option to have dinner with Wolf Gang Puck and be able to pick his brain in conversation. I was sad I was not able to schedule that year, but it wasn’t my time. I knew that when I finally attended, I would make the best of it and leave shy Brina at home. Call it, from bucket list to actualized bliss, if you will.

I will offer some pointers based on my first experience. Watch your timing! I chose to attend a brunch then a dinner in one day. I thought I would burst at the seams. I walked as much as humanly possible in between meals just to ensure I would have an appetite at all. I also was mindful to have picked a coursed dinner after a family style brunch to be aware of large portions at all meals. If you can handle anything or do not mind waste, go all out. Speaking of portion control, the grand tasting has probably a hundred or more vendors with some of the most beautiful, fun and enticing bites. Do not be afraid to take a bite, then sadly tossing the remainder. It’s not ideal, but no one wants to enjoy life to the fullest then feel miserable later…wait, it’s Vegas baby. Everything is to the max and past. I just err on the side of comfort, personally. I confess, most breakfast bites for my husband and I while on this vacation, were a bowl of fruit and a bottle of rose. One couple I spoke with had attended for 6 years, never missing an opportunity for a specific dinner and letting their friends know they would catch up to them later. So, if you go as a group, make sure it is enjoyable for everyone, dividing to fit your style is perfectly okay. This event is a blast! However you chose your schedule, I am sure you will enjoy yourself.

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Cameras OUT!
Saber Off success by Chef Masaharu Morimoto

I paid for this event in full and was not provided any extra sponsorship or privileges. Take a peek at this year’s event here: http://vegasuncorked.com/

Next: Vegas Uncork’d Day 1 – the Gordon Ramsay experience

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.

Christmas List 2017: Dear Santa

Oh, the joys of Christmas & last-minute shopping! Minds racing furiously for ideas while sending your blood pressure up & making you contemplate your next opportunity for fun in the sun. I have been busy this year with many projects & life hurdles, luckily for you, I stumbled upon some great ideas along the last few months that will make your wine loving person happy.

The first gadget, I might have blown off as just another stopper, but witnessing its use personally changed my mind. The Repour Wine Saver, conveniently available at https://www.repour.com/, is designed for a single bottle use. This wine stopper is designed to absorb the oxygen that likes to alter your wine in the space after you pour a glass & don’t want to commit to the rest of the bottle. So, imagine that amazing wine you put off because you feel like it should be opened on a special occasion, but you really just want a glass now, well every day is a special occasion so open it. Pour your glass, put on the repour & feel confident that you can preserve the wine in that bottle for your next sips.

The 4 – pack would be great for stocking stuffer for $8.99, but for those of us that know the year will hold many bottles in the future you can order a 72 pack for $71.99! There is no reason not to have this item in all your friend’s homes. Because it’s designed for one bottle use, that can be sealed multiple times, you should stock up…which reminds me I need more!

4-Pack of Repour Wine Savers

My second item, is a gorgeous coffee table book that will transport you to the area I’ve called home for around 20 years. The photographic eye of George Rose brings inspiration & depth to simple things that others may overlook. His most recent book, Vineyard Sonoma County has more than 188 pages of gorgeous color images that take my breath away. Considering the recent fires in the area, these images become even more precious to those that have been touched by the experience.

A portion of the proceeds from this book will be going to the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation for those workers who have been displaced due to the firestorms. Do a little good & give (or keep) this book available for $80.00 at  https://georgerose.com/

Image result for vineyard sonoma county book

My next wino must have, is another recent discovery that I was Wowed by, Wine Nots. This fantastic tablet of pixie dust takes away that red wine lover purple tongue & gets you good night kiss ready. A little effervescent lime hint of flavor that will have everyone wondering how you didn’t look like you spent a moment in your Malbec. These packets of 12 tablets are perfect for stocking stuffers for a convenient price of $12.99 & available at https://winenots.com/

I’d love to wax poetic, but this is something you may just have to try to believe!

Image result for wine nots

Lastly, but in no way least, is my favorite travel companion other than my husband, The Wine Check! In my travels this year I actually packed my clothes in this handy travel companion on my way to France & then filled it, lovingly with 12 precious gems to bring home. Ok, less the bottle of bubbly in the hotel the night before we left, but it could hold a full case. I love this product! A new gorgeous label design was born after the recent fires in Sonoma & Napa that truly steals my heart, which you can see on the website.

For the price of $70.00 & up you can bring back the bottles that brought great memories during your vacation so that you can share upon your return. This fabu piece of luggage is available on Amazon as well as https://thewinecheck.com/

Image result for wine checkImage result for wine check

Happy shopping & get your orders in soon so that they come in time for your loved ones. All these item, with the exception of the book can also be found on Amazon.

Happy holidays & cheers to the best wine times ahead!

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.