From sky suites and sake tastings to cocktails with Jean Georges and Michael Mina, the second annual Food & Wine All-Star Weekend has come and gone with tons of buzz and fanfare. I got the chance to taste just about every dish offered over the course of the weekend, with the exception of a few plates I was sadly physically unable to indulge in. I also had the opportunity to sit down with a few of the chefs showcasing their cuisine for the event.
Held primarily in the ARIA Resort & Casino, the All-Star Weekend was almost like being in a secret club. You’d walk through the casino or down a hallway only to pass a chef you had cocktails with the night before, or you’d see Gail Simmons strutting past in sky-high stilettos. And everyone in the hotel who was just enjoying a typical Vegas weekend had no idea the wild, food-nerd fun we were all having.
The first night was First Course, a cocktail party complete with a red carpet (pictured), where food-obsessives were seen clinking glasses with sommelier Anthony Giglio (a co-host of the evening) and Top Chef’s Sam Talbot, Angelo Sosa, Hosea Rosenberg, and Stephanie Izard. The evening continued with an All-Star Nightcap at UNION, with desserts provided by none other than the winner of Top Chef: Just Desserts, Yigit Pura.
Two lunches were hosted at the same time on Saturday, each of which had their own major draws — at the ARIA, Shawn McClain, Stephanie Izard, and Anthony Giglio hosted a lunch at McClain’s Sage restaurant, while at the Bellagio, a Tuscan cooking demonstration and three-course lunch went down with Ben Jenkins, of MICHAEL MINA.
The evening brought everyone back together at the ARIA, though, for the All-Star Tasting, held poolside. When they announced that the pool would be closed from 4 p.m., we club members smiled a knowing (read: bragging) smile.
This was the main event, and the chefs brought their A-game. Jean Georges was seen hustling back and forth from his booth (which was crowded with guests hankering for his famed truffle cheese fritters, pictured) to his restaurant in the hotel. Michael Mina offered his classic shrimp and grits skewers, Shawn McClain served glazed pork belly, and BarMasa brought their braised short ribs. Gail Simmons, again in vertigo-inducing heels, got on stage to encourage everyone to “eat, drink, and live it up,” which was a welcomed (if unnecessary) impetus for downing still more bite-sized snacks.
The weekend ultimately gave “club members” the chance to get up close and personal with some of Vegas’ (and by extension the country’s) best restaurants. To stroll poolside at the ARIA sampling bites from Bar Masa, Jean Georges Steakhouse, Sirio (owned by Sirio Maccioni of Le Cirque), as well as the culinary stylings of Hosea Rosenberg and Julian Serrano is to experience some of the freshest and most passionately prepared food around — all you had to do was ask the chefs plating your food and you’d get an earful.
(All photos courtesy of ARIA Resort & Casino)