In the dark ages of my dining life, before sashimi and foie gras and hummus and sweetbreads all became part of my dining vocabulary, I lived in gastronomic solitude. Then I moved to Las Vegas. With the help of a patient co-worker and, eventually, a weekly gig writing about food for this magazine, I was transformed into an eating machine. It was the best and worst thing that ever happened to me.
Make no mistake: I’m grateful for each and every experience I’ve had, from fine dining to food trucks, but the simple truth is that I can never again go back to that time and place where food didn’t matter. Now, each time I dine out, it’s a calculated maneuver: Will I be trying something new? What do the critics say? What does the food look like on Yelp!? And, most importantly, if I’m going to be spending my own money, will the quality of the food justify the expense? Events like Vegas Uncork’d (“A Heaping Plate”) and the restaurants who exhibit their cuisine during the annual food and wine showcase have made it nearly impossible to simply return to T.G.I. Friday’s every time I’m hungry. (And certainly nothing against Friday’s. I ate there just recently. So what? Joël Robuchon and Guy Savoy weren’t open.)
Uncork’d is to Las Vegas cuisine what ComicCon is to comic books, or what NFL combines are to college football stars: a chance to show off the best and the brightest, the newest and most noteworthy, for a group of people whose job it is to care about such things. At Uncork’d, you might call these people foodies (I don’t; I hate that word), but I refer to them as food enthusiasts, a much more suitable term for people who get excited about a change in sous chef at a restaurant, or the proper way to pronounce Perrier-Jouët. Uncork’d is the one week a year where the dining establishment goes all in on Las Vegas dining and lives to tell a tale of excess. Guests of the Grand Tasting, held this year on May 11 at Caesars Palace’s Garden of the Gods, know what I’m talking about.