FOOD & WINE All-Star Weekend {Las Vegas} + Giveaway

Thursday, October 27, 2011
Food & Wine All-Star Tasting

ARIA pool deck during All-Star Tasting, Food & Wine All-Star Weekend
(Photo Credit: Tom Donoghue)

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the FOOD & WINE All-Star Weekend hosted by Gail Simmons at the sleek new ARIA Resort & Casino and the classically luxurious Bellagio. I knew it was going to a helluva weekend when this pulled up for me at the airport. Well played, ARIA, well played.

While any FOOD & WINE event is sure to promise a flurry of star chef sightings and delectable tastings, I had a feeling that this would be particularly memorable given the impressive line-up of chefs involved.

Shawn McClain, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Masa Takayama, Julian Serrano

(L-R): Shawn McClain, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Masa Takayama, Julian Serrano

Vegas has become a veritable foodie destination as the Michelin-starred, James-Bearded, and Zagat-rated flock to titillate the taste buds of high-rollers, rock stars, and culinary devotees of Sin City. ARIA alone is home to world-class chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Masa Takayama, Michael Mina, Julian Serrano, Shawn McClain, Jean-Philippe Maury, and restaurateur Sirio Maccioni.

FOOD & WINE’s Gail Simmons and Anthony Giglio

FOOD & WINE’s Gail Simmons and Anthony Giglio

The weekend kicked off with the First Course cocktail party hosted by Gail Simmons and Anthony Giglio. Between sips of champagne and passed hors d’oeuvres, we schmoozed with Top Chef alumni Sam Talbot, Angelo Sosa, Hosea Rosenberg, Stephanie Izard, and Yigit Pura. Not gonna lie, at any point I half expected Padma to show up and announce a quickfire challenge.

Food & Wine All-Star weekend

Top Chef alumni with F&W Hosts (L-R): Sam Talbot, Anthony Giglio, Angelo Sosa, Gail Simmons, Hosea Rosenberg, Stephanie Izard, and Yigit Pura

Desserts for the evening’s All-Star Nightcap were made by Top Chef Just Desserts Season 1 winner, Yigit Pura himself, who by the way is so sweet in person he just may be spun of sugar.

FOOD & WINE All-Star Weekend Kick-Off Party

FOOD & WINE All-Star Weekend Kick-Off Party

When I wasn’t frantically trying to digest all the food and booze being handed to me, I managed to get in some spa-time (two words: eucalyptus sauna)…

ARIA spa

ARIA spa

…strolled through the stunning Crystals at City Center (which promptly made me wish I had just heisted boatloads of money Oceans 11 style)…

Lanvin, le sigh

Lanvin, le sigh

…and, of course, checked out a Vegas show. Cirque du Soleil’s Viva Elvis made a new Elvis fan out of me. The acrobatics were unreal — the trampoline number made we wonder if these people were actually Gummi Bears, I can now say I’ve seen a man spin an inflamed lasso with his teeth, and well, this was so beautiful it just gave me the chills. Plus, I get the whole screaming girl Elvis fan thing now. The King had lips that were downright smoochable.

Viva Elvis, Cirque du Soleil

Viva Elvis, Cirque du Soleil

Sorry, I digress. Back to the food.

Food and Wine All-Star Weekend_Sage

A New American Lunch at Sage

Day 2 of the FOOD & WINE All-Star Weekend started off with A New American Lunch at Sage with Shawn McClain and Top Chef Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard. The chefs prepared a sumptuous six course meal of:

  • Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Warren pears, macadamia nuts, bacon and mustard vinaigrette;
  • Hiramasa Crudo with Crisp Pork Belly served with an Aji chili aioli, fried caper berries, and meyer lemon;
  • Seared Diver Scallops with butternut squash and shiitake mushrooms in a smoked goat XO sauce infused with ginger, garlic, and lemongrass (one of my favorite dishes of the weekend);
  • Herb-crusted Lamb Saddle with braised lamb tongue, warm butter beans, and a Banyuls wine vinaigrette;
  • a Spanish cheese course of Sheep’s Milk Garrotxa with smoked apple sauce and Marcona Almonds;
  • and Kabocha Squash Cake with saffron-infused pears and burnt honey ice cream for dessert.

Seared Diver Scallops_Stephanie Izard

Seared Diver Scallops with Butternut Squash and Shiitake Mushrooms

Wine/cocktail/beer/absinthe pairings were done by Sommelier Anthony Giglio.

Sage Aria

A peek inside Sage’s bar

From the time between dinner at that evening’s festivities, I once again, willed myself to digest and get hungry again. I could have worked out in the uber nice gym at the hotel. Instead, I slowly walked by, commented to myself about how attractive everyone in there seemed to be, and then headed to my room for a nice bath/nap combo.

Gail Simmons and Stephanie Hua

The lovely Gail Simmons and me

It was a good thing I got my rest, because the main event of the weekend was about to go down: the All-Star Tasting. After I finished drooling over Gail’s hot shoes (Sorry you can’t see them in this pic, but trust me. Stunners.), I proceeded to drool over the culinary creations being served. Here are some highlights:

Vincenzo Scarmiglia

Sirio Ristorante Executive Chef Vincenzo Scarmiglia with his Alaskan King Crab and Leek Salad (Photo Credit: Tom Donoghue)

Sirio Ristorante’s Vincenzo Scarmiglia brought his A-game, serving up two of my favorite bites of the evening! His chilled Alaskan King Crab and Leek Salad wrapped in golden beets was light, fresh, and a drizzle of pomegranate reduction on top made the whole thing pop.

Food & Wine All-Star Tasting Vegas

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Duck Leg Confit from Sirio Ristorante
(Photo Credit: Derek Schoen)

Scarmiglia’s Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Duck Leg Confit in a brown butter and parmesan fonduta was fall comfort food at its finest.

Black Truffle Cheese Fritters from Jean Georges Steakhouse

Black Truffle Cheese Fritters (Jean Georges Steakhouse)

If crack came in a truffled cheesy poof form, this would be it. I could.not.stop.eating these sublime Black Truffle Comte Cheese Fritters from Jean Georges Steakhouse. I peeked behind into the prep area and saw this dear woman churning them out at lightning speed.

Making Jean Georges Steakhouse’s Truffle Cheese Crack

Making Jean Georges Steakhouse’s Truffle Cheese Crack

I wanted to give her a big kiss. And then kidnap her so she could make them for me every day.

Food & Wine All-Star Tasting Vegas

Venison Carpaccio from Hosea Rosenberg's Blackbelly Catering & Blackbelly Farm

I had my first taste of raw venison ever – and loved it – thanks to Top Chef Season 5 winner, Hosea Rosenberg. Hosea created a Venison Carpaccio wrapped around petite watercress, a nice chunk of Wisconsin-aged parmesan, and tomato confit, served on a thin, crispy chip. The venison was surprisingly tender, fresh, and elegant, not gamey in the slightest bit, and absolutely delicious.

A update from the Denver-based chef – Hosea most recently opened Blackbelly Catering, which draws from fresh, seasonal ingredients, including naturally raised animals and produce from Hosea’s Blackbelly Farm.

Top Chef Just Desserts Season 1 Winner Yigit Pura

Top Chef Just Desserts Season 1 Winner Yigit Pura

Food & Wine All-Star Tasting Vegas

Indian-Spiced Caramel Pears, Pain de Mie Clafoutis Cake, Maple Sugar Chiboust from Yigit Pura’s Taste Catering & Event Planning / Tout Sweet Patisserie

Yigit Pura (Taste Catering & Event Planning) made sure we ended on a sweet high-note with his tasting of Indian-Spiced Caramel Pears, Pain de Mie Clafoutis Cake, and brûléed Maple Sugar Chiboust. For SF readers, get excited, Yigit’s latest venture, Tout Sweet Patisserie, is set to open in Union Square May 2012.

Grey Goose Le Citron Lemon Sorbet

Grey Goose Le Citron Lemon Sorbet

Thanks to all the chefs for a calorie-laden, fun-filled weekend! Time to hit that “Goodnight” button by my bed stand now – the one that magically turns the lights out and closes the curtains to blackout mode. Love that button.

View from my sweet suite at ARIA

View from my sweet suite at ARIA



ARIA has generously put together a special giveaway just for you, my lovelies! Check out the goods:

All-Star Food & Wine Package

  • 2-Night Suite Accommodations at ARIA Resort & Casino
  • Invited Guest Check-In
  • Dinner for 2 at BARMASA
  • Dinner for 2 at Sirio Ristorante
  • 2 Tickets to Viva ELVIS
  • VIP Tour from our Social Media Expert

Simply enter here from now until November 30.

The winner will have one year from receiving the prize to redeem their certificate. Good luck!

Beso_Crystals City Center


FOOD & WINE All-Star Weekend
October 21-23, 2011
ARIA Resort & Casino / Bellagio
Las Vegas, NV

Disclosure: Trip was sponsored by ARIA Resort & Casino

17 Responses to “FOOD & WINE All-Star Weekend {Las Vegas} + Giveaway”

  1. Oh! Looks like such an amazing, delicious time! Wish I could have been there… And sweet mama, that Seared Diver Scallop w/ Butternut Squash and Shiitake Mushrooms!

    • Stephanie says:

      Sweet mama is right…our table was basically fighting over the bread basket so we could sop up that sauce, and that scallop was perfect.

      Funny though, the entire time I was eating it, all I kept hearing was Fabio’s voice in my head “Thees eez Top Chef, eez not top scallllops!”

    • Great pictures! I am so glad Average Betty was not there, though. I get a little flustered when I am around her. Maybe It’s not her but the great guy behind the camera that does it for me.

      Great job on this, Stephanie.

  2. Betty Wong says:

    Stephanie!!! My favorite food blogger!!! Glad to see you had FUN in Vegas!!! Luv your stories as you and your husband travel around the world. Keep up the great work and hope to see you around!!!

  3. Hua says:

    Oh my a god! Hungry like a zombie for flesh, probably not the best analogy but you get my point. Sweet Mama indeed

  4. jeannie says:

    great pictures!! and especially the one with Gail Simmons!!

    what a beautiful event!!

  5. Very kool! Looks like so much fun….Gail is so sweet, isn’t she? x M.

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  7. Christine says:

    Hi There! Just trying to enter the contest by Nov 30, and once again notice that it is not open to residence of Canada, even though you may choose a country other than US. I am wondering why Canadians cannot participate in your give-away contests? Or do you have a separate contest for just Canadians? Lord knows I just plumped up your slot machines end of October!! Thank you!!

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Christine,

      I believe that the ARIA contest should be open to Canada residents — I’ve sent an email to confirm this and will keep you posted.
      Regarding my other giveaways, the US residents only restrictions are due to where the sponsors are willing to ship.


      • Stephanie says:

        Christine, sorry but the ARIA contest is only open to US residents :( I’m hoping to open more of my giveaways to US and Canadian residents down the line. Best, Steph

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