Haute Event: Food & Wine All-Star Weekend Invades Vegas

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Photos: Powers Imagery
Photos: Powers Imagery

Food & Wine All-Star Weekend crowned MGM Grand’s ultimate burger, played host to Bellagio’s Asian chefs’ redefinition of the buffet and experienced Aria’s celebrity chefs’ collaboration on multi-course feasts at its fourth annual event Oct. 4-6. Eight events enraptured sold-out crowds as the world’s greatest culinary talents showcased their skills.

The weekend began at MGM Grand’s Japanese restaurant, Shibuya, as its executive chef Heather Zheng led “10 Ways to Sushi.” Guests entered the restaurant to the eye-popping sight of a 300-pound blue fin tuna on full display. Zheng and Shibuya’s sushi chefs educated guests about Japanese cuisine’s most popular fish — tuna — and explained its composition. Hungry guests delved into multiple courses of the tuna, featured in different fashions such as tuna carpaccio served with pickled wasabi ponzu and seared tuna tataki with wakame su miso. The guests indulged in limitless cuts of fresh sashimi, as well. MGM Grand’s director of wine and master sommelier Joe Phillips offered expert sake pairing suggestions throughout the culinary experience.

Celebrated chefs Masa Takayama, Julian Serrano and Shawn McClain teamed up to throw the ultimate cocktail reception at the “First Course Kick-Off Party,” Friday night at Aria’s View Bar. The all-star chefs prepared appetizers from their respective ARIA restaurants. Favorites from the night included barMASA’s tuna toro caviar, Sage’s Kushi oyster with aged tequila mignonette, and Julian Serrano’s coca vegetarian — a Spanish pizza made with aioli, tomato, onion and pisto. Aria’s beverage team crafted cocktails for the animated attendees who also were treated to fine champagnes such as Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot. Also in attendance were award-winning chefs from MGM Grand and Bellagio who walked the red carpet with their culinary counterparts.

Aria kept the good times and tastes rolling Saturday morning as guests entered American Fish to enjoy a four-course “All-Star Brunch” by legendary, culinary masterminds Michael Mina, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Jean-Philippe Maury, as well as celebrated restaurateur Sirio Maccioni. Delectable dishes included Mina’s Smoked Salmon Egg “Benedict,” Sirio Ristorante’s Veal Agnolotti topped with mushroom ragout and black truffle, Grilled Filet Mignon with buttery hot sauce from Jean Georges Steakhouse and an illuminated Hazelnut Tart from Jean Philippe Patisserie. Aria’s director of wine Kim Wood and mixologist Craig Schoettler provided diverse cocktail and wine pairings with each course, starting off day two of the festival on an indulgently delicious note.

Perfect weather accentuated MGM Grand’s poolside “Burger Bash” as eight restaurants served endless sliders in an attempt to become Las Vegas’ burger champion. Restaurant booths – including Avenue 24, PUB 1842, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak, Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House, Fiamma Trattoria & Bar, Shibuya and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill – encircled the talent pool, serving up hundreds of burger fans before battling it out in front of the celebrity judges. Chefs Joël Robuchon, Michael Mina and Ho Chee Boon as well as Fantasy’s Jaime Lynch congregated on an elevated stage in the middle of the pool to taste and score all of the burgers. The final vote was razor thin, but it was Michael Mina’s PUB 1842 that took the title with the winning dish featuring a prime beef patty topped with smoked Gouda and  melted “‘merican” cheeses, PUB 1842’s secret sauce and piles of crispy bacon. Chef Mina proudly congratulated his team for all of their hard work.

Wine connoisseurs headed to Bellagio’s Jasmine for the lively “Syrah Wine Tasting.” Master sommelier and Bellagio director of wine Jason Smith was joined by a panel of renowned wine producers including Red Car Wines owner Carroll Kemp and Amavi Cellars partner Travis Goff. The team led an entertaining discussion and tasting of the celebrated syrahs while guests sipped robust varietals in an event set amongst the backdrop of Bellagio’s iconic dancing fountains.

Fine dining fanatics gathered in Joël Robuchon’s three-Michelin-starred eponymous restaurant at MGM Grand as the “Chef of the Century” prepared a “Six Course Bliss” feast. The evening featured dishes such as Le Homard, a Maine lobster simmered in Chateau Chalon and Le Porc Iberique, a caramelized plume of Iberico pork served with creamy polenta and golden Belgian endives. With a highly anticipated white truffle season at its very beginning, Chef Robuchon also prepared Le Champignon which was comprised of indulgent veal ravioli and Paris mushrooms topped with shaved truffles. Chef Robuchon came out from the kitchen to meet and thank the event’s guests throughout the meal, who all received a signed copy of his cookbook as a gift.

Personifying the festival’s title, Food & Wine All-Star Weekend, two leaders in the epicurean world joined forces at “Michael Mina & Far Niente Dinner” for an unforgettable evening on Bellagio’s Grand Patio, which overlooks the resort’s pool.  Hosted by Bellagio’s director of wine and master sommelier Jason Smith, guests were treated to a four-course menu from Chef Mina alongside the award-winning wines of Far Niente. The complex and well-rounded tastes charmed the crowd including the savory notes of Far Niente’s 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, perfectly accenting dishes such as Australian Wagyu Strip Loin with Matsutake mushrooms and mustard greens.

Wrapping up the weekend of food festivities, Bellagio’s widely acclaimed Asian chefs convened at Jasmine to create a rare edition of the resort’s Fountains Brunch experience, “From Far East to Champagne.”  Bellagio executive chef Edmund Wong, Noodles executive chef Patrick Lee and Jasmine executive chef Hiew Gun Khong came together late Sunday morning to provide an array of delectable dishes. Bellagio’s director of wine Jason Smith kept the champagne flowing and mixologist Ricardo Murcia, Bellagio’s assistant director of beverage, delighted attendees with three specialty cocktails including the guest favorite Jasmine martini, as well as libations featuring beer and champagne.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

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