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lgott

Epicurean Affair (NOT Vegas Uncork'd) - Any Good?

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I've already signed up for Vegas Uncork'd (see separate thread). However, there's an outside chance I'll also be in town for the Nevada Restaurant Association's Epicurean Affair (http://www.nvrestaurants.com/associations/...ureanAffair.cfm) on April 23. It sounds a lot like Uncork'd's Grand Tasting Lite.

Has anyone been to this before? Is it worth $100?

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I just heard about it this morning. I haven't been before, but I'm probably going to fly down for it. I think it would certainly be worth the $100. I can't compare it to last year's Grand Tasting at Vegas Uncork'd, but I would imagine it will be well attended and will feature some recognizable chefs.

It's being held at The Flamingo, which is part of the Park Place Corporation-that includes Caesar's Palace. These are as much marketing events for the restaurants as they are events for the public, so my guess is that many of the top chefs of Las Vegas will be there. And since Caesar's is part of the Park Place family of hotels, I would think some of the Chefs from the restaurants at Caesar's might be there-i.e., chefs from Bradley Ogden and Guy Savoy.

I'll see what kind of information I can get on a list of Chefs.

The setting around the pools at the Flamingo is very nice and a great atmosphere for a tasting event.

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Thanks! I'm going to give it a try.

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Thanks! I'm going to give it a try.

I checked the website yesterday and they have a solid roster of participating restaurants and clubs so I don't think you'd be disappointed given the price.

Some of the more well-known restaurants that I saw on the list are:

Aureole-Mandalay Bay

Mesa Grill-Caesar's

Bradley Ogden-Caesar's

Emeril's-MGM

Fleur de Lys-Mandalay Bay

Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab-Caesar's

Payard Patisserie-Caesar's

Guy Savoy-Caesar's

Seablue-MGM

I would imagine it will be similar to the Grand Tasting at Uncork'd-meaning you sample small bites at each station and have the opportunity to meet the Chefs. But I actually think the locale-amidst the pools at the Flamingo, is probably more desirable than the location of the Grand Tasting at Uncork'd last year. I certainly didn't find the stuffy, hot, over-crowded tent at Caesar's the best venue for the 2008 Uncork'd Grand Tasting.

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Interesting list!

I bought my ticket a few days ago. There was a little confusion about the start time. There were different times on different sites, and even different times on the same page at the Flamingo site. However, I emailed both the Flamingo and the Nevada Restaurant Association, and they both say that the doors open at 7 pm (6 pm for VIP tickets).

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I was invited to attend 19th annual Epicurean Affair held at The Flamingo on April 23. The Epicurean Affair is comprised of restaurants from both Las Vegas hotels and independent restaurants. Many of the restaurants in attendance are housed in hotels that are a part of Park Place Entertainment. The Park Place family of hotels includes Caesar's Palace, Paris, Harrah's, The Flamingo, Rio, Bally's and the Imperial Palace.

Public Relations is a very important piece of the Las Vegas business model, so it's critical that the large hotel/resort/casinos are constantly advertising their amenities to the public. And of course, dining and drinking are a large part of that PR effort. Thus, a tasting event like the Epicurean Affair is one of the avenues that are used to promote a restaurant to the public.

In addition to the restaurant booths, there were more liquor vendors than I could count, some local food product companies, and beer and wine merchants. There were so many people crowding around the booths that I didn't have time to spot, or visit with, many recognizable chefs. I did shake hands quickly with Chefs Luciano Pellegrini of Valentino and Bradley Ogden whose namesake restaurant is in Caesar's. Chef Carla Pellegrino of Rao's at Caesar's was surrounded by doting fans the entire night. The program listed Restaurant Guy Savoy as one of the featured restaurants-but Chef Savoy and his staff were noticeably absent.

Even in these lean economic times for Las Vegas, the event was well-attended. My rough estimate is that there were about 1,500 people in attendance-mostly locals and Flamingo hotel guests, (many of them “invited” guests who were given complimentary tickets). The weather was very cooperative for an outdoor tasting event set amidst the pools of the Flamingo-about 80 degrees with a light breeze.

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The basic idea is of these tasting events is that you go from booth to booth and eat small samples of each restaurant's offerings. As it usually goes for me, I never get enough food, nor is the food ever of the same quality one would find if one were sitting at the table in the dining room.

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The Imperial Palace is known more for its location and automobile collection than its restaurants-but the tiramisu from the “Embers” Steakhouse was one of the best desserts I tasted.

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Les Artistes Steakhouse is in the Paris hotel. The steakhouses of Las Vegas have become obsessed with prime grade beef and one becomes quite confused over the choices-Kobe #1, 2 or 3, Wagyu, Nebraska corn-fed or Montana grass-fed. I’m not sure of the origin of this beef, but it was delicious and the perfect dish for an outdoor tasting-a small skewer of tender beef, sweet crab and crisp, fresh asparagus. (Of course, traditional steak "Oscar" includes a sauce Bernaise. I didn't see a small dollop of bernaise on this "Oscar.")

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One of the many, too many really, cocktail booths. Sweet, rummy, sort of Mai Tai.

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The very deadly “skeleton of vodka” served by Red Square restaurant at Mandalay Bay. You don’t really notice it in this photo, but a nice young lady poured vodka in the top of the skeleton and the deadly spirits traveled through the icy skull into a cup.

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Often over-looked for the more popular restaurants on the Strip, Envy Steakhouse is located in the Renaissance Hotel. Popularity and location on the Strip don’t necessarily correlate to the food being better. Envy Steakhouse is more than worthy.

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(The Strawberry Infusion was even better with a shot of vodka from the aforementioned “skeleton.”)

More prime-grade beef.

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I couldn’t taste much garlic in the garlic-marinated prawn, but it was cooked to perfection, as was the beef.

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Chef Luciano Pellegrini, Chef of Valentino at the MGM Grand, wondering where all these ravenous people came from.

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From Emeril’s in the MGM Grand.

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If it’s kept properly chilled on ice, chilled seafood and cold fruits are a perfect dish for a tasting event-the Chef can prep the seafood and fruits ahead of time and then dress the dish on-site. The taster has the benefit of a small bite that can easily be handled with drink in hand.

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Jasmine at Bellagio.

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Behind-the-booth prep of watermelon with Dungeness crab.

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My personal favorite dish and cocktail came from Jasmine restaurant at Bellagio- little squares of meltingly tender Kobe beef short ribs glazed in what I would describe as a teriyaki sauce. It was the perfect dish given the venue-the highest-quality beef slowly-braised in the restaurant for hours and a sauce prepared and reduced at the restaurant. A simple dish that didn't need fussy on-site cooking and better yet, anything served on skewers that can be eaten with the fingers is a good dish for a tasting event.

Behind the scenes saucing and prep of the beef dish.

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Most of the cocktails were overly sweet, and overly boozed. But the standout cocktail of the evening also came from Jasmine at Bellagio-a smooth and refreshing drink with a base of lychee vodka.

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Three Chefs from McCormack and Schmick’s worked all night to shuck these beautiful fresh oysters-Kumamoto from the Pacific and Bluepoints from the East coast.

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Succulent pork belly and crisp cucumber in steamed bun from Pearl restaurant at the MGM-

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Steakhouse 46, (I didn’t figure out the number association to the name), at The Flamingo-

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Grilling lamb chops, (Which I mistakenly missed on my first pass by this booth. When I came back they were all gone).

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Steak “sliders.” The sliders were displayed en-masse at numerous booths and in every imaginable guise a Chef could concoct-both sweet and savory. Slides have become all the rage at parties and on restaurant menus. They’re o.k., but don’t you end up eating three or four when what you really want is just one big burger?

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From the vodka shots flowing from the mouth of a skeleton carved in ice, the requisite Las Vegas "models" outfitted in tight pants serving alcohol-laced "sweet-tea" and "Chicken and Waffles" at the Toby Keith "I Love This Bar and Grill" booth, the delicious little hazelnut gelato truffles encased in chocolate served by Fiamma at the MGM, the freshly-shucked Oysters served by McCormack and Schmick's, the food was generous and delicious.

While the Epicurean Affair won’t necessarily cure Las Vegas of its economic flu, it was an appropriate showcase to advertise some of the city’s great restaurants.

Tickets for the Epicurean Affair were priced at $100. Considering that $100 barely buys an appetizer and entrée at some of the high-end dining rooms in Las Vegas, the evening was certainly worth it-an exceptional value given the setting, the always interesting Las Vegas crowd and the variety of food and drink.

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Thanks for the report, David! Great pictures of drool-worthy eats; wish I had been there instead of here in boring old South Florida! :raz:

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