Vegas Uncork’d Day 3 – Brunch with Giada

I chose to partake in the brunch at the Giada Restaurant because I have cooked her recipes and adore how they are so deliciously simple. She seems like a kind person and upon meeting her she was truly a delight to talk to. She was engaging, sincere and a now I understand the term “cute as a button”. As usual for me, because apparently, I am easy to talk to at times, we had some off the record moments regarding her event coming up around me the following weekend. I did have to confess that I had never attended said event because it was a little “packed” for my comfort level. I also, laughed at the comment because, after all, I was in Las Vegas of all places and I did not feel that it was too crowded. After years of enjoying her coaching on The Next Food Network Star which happened to be the show that launched one of our local chefs, Guy Fieri, into stardom then absorbing delicious recipes she creates on her cooking shows on the same network, I couldn’t wait to get a taste of what her restaurant would showcase.

The restaurant is located inside The Cromwell Hotel on the strip, close to Caesars Palace and Bally’s. The layout of the restaurant is friendly and open with the added pleasure of windows that provide the option to catch a breeze when one should arise. There was a sweet lady with her best friend that had attended the Uncork’d weekend for multiple seasons, but never missed a chance to dine at one of the Giada options and had many of her fantastic books signed by the author herself. I was a little late to that idea as I was so focused on the event, I never thought to bring one of my books to have signed. Well, there may be more options in the future, right?!

As the doors opened there were welcome cocktails offered and passed around for the first part of the afternoon. Nothing makes my heart swoon for brunch like the sight of bottomless mimosas and I was delighted to also see strawberry frose as well. I had to be mindful to not induce myself with the attack of brain freeze as I spied the funny look on my husband’s face that one was upon him. Located around the bar were hors d’oeuvres to snack on as you mingled, took photos and enjoyed the warmth of all the fellow people just happy to enjoy the event offerings.

Placed around the restaurant were some items that Giada stated were from her private collection and freshly made pasta along the inside of the bar. Viewing the plating is part of the things I always enjoy and over the years I have begun to understand the full meaning of eating with your eyes first. Some of the initial passed bites were sweet ricotta crostini, bacon wrapped dates (because everything IS better with bacon), slices of margarita pizza among other items. After a few pictures and moments of laughter we finally decided to find our seat and enjoy the window views.

The menu had me the moment I spied the courses. During the brunch everything was served family style per table which encouraged lively conversation. It turned those that were strangers a moment ago to the comfort of an engaged cousin, aunt or uncle. The first course contained a variety of options. There was a caprese salad, sweet ricotta crostini, truffle salami, or rosemary scone on the savory side while providing the sweet option of the pastry basket assortment including fruit danish or chocolate croissant monkey bread. I immediately lost my husband to the croissant while we reconnected the moment, we decided the truffle salami was the best salami we had ever tasted. We wished we could have bought these in abundance to bring home with us, but it will just linger in our food flavored memories clothed in gratitude.

The second course included the lightness of a romaine salad with torn rustic croutons, fried capers and citrus vinaigrette and the more robust pesto cavatelli with roasted mushrooms, asparagus and peas. One of my observations during this brunch was that this experience reminded me of how we occasionally eat at home. I love the discovery of vacations, but there is nothing more endearing then the universal moments of feeling at home wherever you may be located. I found myself feeling love for that, near to my home, wine option as I chose the light and lovely Chateau St Jean Winery Bijou Rose to pair with my first two courses. I found it very approachable and was glad that my husband agreed.

The third course contained all the things that bring my husband joy during breakfast dining. This course was lobster hash with potatoes, bacon, peppers, tomato, onion confit and eggs with toast. I have yet to make it at home as I am not the largest fan of eggs, but that portion aside, this was a delightful dish with just a perfect amount of seasoning. This is all the things most people enjoy about breakfast and it is highly recommended by my husband should you choose to enjoy a brunch at this restaurant.

The final and fourth course was the dessert course. I had a moment where I wondered who has dessert for brunch. I laugh as I realized this year, I will be enjoying truffle making with Christina Tosi for this year’s event. Apparently, I like desserts with brunch, it just took Las Vegas to show me my hidden desires. The dessert was aptly named, Italian Death by Chocolate. This luxurious desert included a chocolate fudge brownie, chocolate sorbet, Lucini olive oil, sea salt, whipped cream and Italian Amarena cherries. Chocolate is my husband spirit food for sure and I took great delight in his blissed-out grins during this brunch.

Throughout the meal Giada graciously signed menus, spoke with every table and along with the spokesperson for Bon Appetit shared gratitude for all those attending. We were all sent home with a small bag containing her signature lemon ricotta cookies. As we departed, we realized that we had a large coursed dinner that same evening and I told my husband at that moment, no matter what we think we wanted to do that day we would be walking everywhere all day. The only time we got off our feet was for a small costume change before that evening’s dinner. I would gladly return to this restaurant during any of my stays in the lively city of Las Vegas.

Next up: Vegas Uncork’d Day 3 Continued – Dinner at Guy Savoy

Vegas Uncork’d Day 2 – The Grandest Tasting

After the fantastic dinner and entertainment, the evening before at Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen we decided on a morning of leisure, lingering in our room as long as we allowed. After all, we were on vacation. We had a fresh fruit bowl we picked up and a bottle of Sbragia Family Vineyards rose…well sticky toffee pudding too, but who is counting. I was craving the wines acidity after all the rich bites and the fresh fruit was a perfect compliment. I figured with another evening event in sight that we should walk around during the day to prepare ourselves to work up an appetite. The day was filled with window shopping and people watching bliss. I was finally ready for a feast of world cuisines after hours of sightseeing during the day.

The Grand Tasting event is located at Caesars Palace and is an amazing snap shot of some of the fabulous restaurants in Las Vegas. Though I have many friends that enjoy gambling and other traditional items associated with the city, we love to dine, enjoy shows and dance our way through our stay. This was a perfect way to see a sampling of the great dining options about town. We decided to arrive an hour early and wait in line towards the front as to enter with less initial crowding. When the doors were opened and we collected our plates and glasses I was struck by how beautifully this event was set around the Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis. Having worked and attending many events in my life I have a favorite rule of thumb about entering. Most people for whatever reason enter and begin to the left, so I go the opposite way of the crowd and head right. Now, if there was a design scheme of starters to dessert this wouldn’t make since, but that was not the case as there was a varied mix of dishes and types as far as the eye could see.

At this juncture I will let a small sample of pictures do some of the explaining! Because it is truly a feast of the eyes as well as the palate.

Sushisamba Las Vegas – Acevichado Roll with Tuna, Salmon, Yellowtail, White Fish, Avocado, Cucumber, Red Onion, Sweet Potato, Cancha Corn & Aji Amarillo Leche De Tigre
Lavo Italian Restaurant & Lounge – Hand Made Gnocchi with Truffle Cream Sauce & Fresh Shaved Truffle
Beautiful & delicious!
Beauty & Essex – Tuna Poke Tacos with Wasabi Mayo & Lime
The work & hustle of every member of every team to put this event together is so appreciated!
STK Las Vegas – Braised Short Rib with Pickled Cabbage & Dijon Mustard Cream
STK Las Vegas – Coconut Panna Cotta with Sweet Pineapples, Guava Foam & Pineapple Macaron
Casamigos Mezcal Blanco, Fresh Lime Juice, Strawberry Syrup topped with Jalapeno Rhubarb Foam. The jalapeno rhubarb foam was everything!
Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips
Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar – Lobster Tacos with Tequila-Lime Marinated Lobster Tail, Mango-Radish Slaw, Salsa Verde & Pink Chili Mayo
That’s my idea of a cupcake!
Jaburrito – Sushi flavors in a cupcake! One of our favorite dish ideas of the night!
Sprinkles – The perfect dessert cupcakes! Black & White, Dark Chocolate, Strawberry, Sprinkle & Vanilla
The Slanted Door – Daikon Rice Cakes with Chili Soy
The husband was getting very thirsty! Pool side drinking is delightful.

Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill – Beer Flight for me please!
Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill – Gordon’s Classic Shephard’s Pie
Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill – Chocolate Trifle
A sample of what I would experience at dinner the next day
Guy Savoy – Artichoke & Black Truffle Soup

We would be dining at Restaurant Guy Savoy the next evening as a Master Series Dinner event. I was delighted to get a sneak peek at some of the fabulous offerings this restaurant had in store for us.

Old Homestead Steakhouse – Braised Wagyu Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta, Seasonal Vegetables & Parmesan Emulsion
Old Homestead Steakhouse – Old Homestead Cheesecake with Macerated Berries & Chantilly Cream
Giada Restaurant – Spring Vegetable Risotto had me looking forward to the next day’s brunch I had on the schedule
Sip sip horray for the Lychee Martini. I could’ve enjoyed these all night long for sure.
BLT Steak – Popovers & European Butter
BLT Steak – Tuna Tartare with Avocado & Soy-Lime Dressing
Searsucker – Mini Dry Aged Burger with Homemade Bun & Bacon Onion Jam
The band killing it all night!
Cocktail time to finish off the over the top Grand Tasting!

Should you decide to attend this event by itself or this along with other dining options you will definitely find something to please everybody here. The venue is gorgeous, the music was exciting and the options were bliss. I think if you have never attended, this is a must do event. Bon Appetit was the perfect host with some of the best of the best in Las Vegas in their hands. After attending this extraordinary food event I can understand how it can take almost a year to plan. Check for tickets for this year’s event that kicks of Thursday, May 9th check out the link here:

Next up: Vegas Uncork’d Day 3 – Brunch with Giada

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:

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.