The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Taste of the Nation Las Vegas 2010

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on June 4, 2010

*Note* – This post is long but we were introduced to so many amazing Las Vegas restaurants and wanted to be sure to cover each and every one of them.

On Wednesday night, the Husband, two of our friends, and I headed to the Palms Casino’s nightclub Rain to attend Las Vegas’s Taste of the Nation 2010.  We first heard of Taste of the Nation last year in Charlotte, but didn’t make it to the event.  This year, Foodbuzz sponsored a number of bloggers to attend this food and wine charity event.  Unfortunately, we didn’t win sponsorship but another Las Vegas food blog, Vegas Musings, was selected and in addition to a ticket for herself won a ticket for a reader.  She held a raffle and I won! I then convinced the Husband and two friends who were visiting from out of town to attend as well and they were glad they came 🙂

Taste of the Nation, according to their website, each spring and summer since 1988, has brought together top chefs, wineries, breweries, and spirits for an annual event in nearly 40 cities in the U.S. and Canada.  The events’ one goal is to raise funds to help end childhood hunger, a goal of the organization hopes to achieve by 2015.  100% of ticket sales go towards Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger.

In addition to supporting a great cause, the Husband and I were looking forward to sampling food from many of the top restaurants in the Las Vegas area.

IMG_0067 We arrived a bit early to the event for regular guests in order to make sure we had no trouble finding it and picking up our tickets at will call (VIPs, whose tickets were a tad more expensive were admitted into the event at 5:30 while the event for the rest of us at 6:30).  We hung out for a bit in the entryway which included those backdrops you see in photos of celebrities at events that often have sponsors listed on them.

IMG_0068 We also watched as Zacapa Rum set up their ice luge and other ice sculptures.

IMG_0070 When the event opened, we were directed through a pink hallway to the Rain nightclub.

IMG_0074 Making our way through the hallway, we were impressed with the grandeur of the Rain nightclub.  There was a large main level, set up with bar tables and restaurant stands with two additional levels overlooking the large floor.

IMG_0075 After a quick review of the indoor event, we decided to head out to the pool area where we believed there were more restaurants and drinks to try.  It was a beautiful, although warm, night for an outdoor event.

IMG_0081 The first restaurant we saw was Lavo, an Italian restaurant and nightclub located at The Palazzo, from the creators of Tao (a restaurant we loved on a trip to Las Vegas a handful of years ago).

IMG_0083 Lavo’s tasting was a Mini Kobe Meatball slider.

IMG_0082 This slider was amazing (a word we said a lot that night… I’ll try to vary my wording throughout the post!).  The meatball was moist and flavorful and the sauce and roll went very well with the meatball.  A great kick off to the event for us!IMG_0084 Up next, my eye was drawn to the Ketel One table.  They were providing tastings of their Ketel One Oranje vodka.  I don’t often drink liquor, but flavored vodkas are my favorite when I do.  In the past, I haven’t been a fan of Ketel One but I was looking forward to trying an orange vodka.

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IMG_0086 I’m not sure what they mixed the vodka with, but it was wonderfully presented.  The cups were rimmed with sugar and orange rind.  It was sweet and the vodka wasn’t too sharp.  This vodka will certainly be added to our liquor cabinet when we need to restock our flavored vodkas.

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We made our way around the first bend and found ourselves at the Island Sushi and Grill table (this restuarant is located in our neck of the woods, south of I-215 on Eastern).  This restaurant had four options to choose from – the most we saw from any restaurant.  IMG_0090 The Husband and our friend Amanda tried the Ahi Belly which was a seared garlic-peppered belly with ISG Poke Sauce and green onion.  I tried the Spicy Beef & Strawberry Lettuce Wrap.  The strawberry was a great touch to this lettuce wrap.

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Next to Island Sushi and Grill we found Border Grill which is located at Mandalay Bay.

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They offered a pork taco which I believe was topped with onions and avocado on a corn tortilla.  This was savory and delicious.  We learned that they have specials for locals (as do a lot of places in Las Vegas if you just ask… we need to start asking!).  We definitely see ourselves heading to Border Grill to see what else they have on their menu.

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The next restaurant we came upon was Bouchon, a bistro located at The Venetian.

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We were intrigued by their presentation.  There were little spoons on one board filled with a mixture of items (that I unfortunately don’t recall other than the radish) while the other board had little cups of ginger beer (reminded me of our trip to Bundaberg!) to chase the spoonfuls with.  While I don’t recall what was in the spoon, we were impressed with the uniqueness of the combination and the overall freshness of the dish. IMG_0100 As we rounded the corner, my eye was caught by what I thought were potentially cupcakes!  IMG_0103 As we got closer, we saw that it was a table for Silk Road located at Vdara, the condo-hotel at the new City Center.

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Turned out they weren’t cupcakes, but Frozen Honey Nougat and Pistachio “Sundae.” Our friend Jeff tried one and enjoyed this sweet treat.

IMG_0105They also offered a Vietnamese Style Crispy Softshell Crab with Tamarind Glaze and Pickles.  The Husband and I each had one and loved the combination of flavors and textures.  I’ve never had softshell crabs before and was impressed. (On top there is a red jalapeno, not a mild red pepper.)

IMG_0108 Next, I had my first dessert of the evening…

IMG_0109 We found ourselves at Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood table.  Ironically there was no seafood 🙂

IMG_0110 Instead, they were serving Strawberry Creme Brulee Puffs.  Yum!!

IMG_0112 To round out the first section of the pool, Jeff grabbed a salad at Osteria del Circo, an Italian restaurant at the Bellagio.

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His salad was the largest dish we saw that night.  It was a Panzanella Salad & Burrata – a Tuscan bread salad with cucumbers, red onion, basil, arugula, heirloom cherry tomatoes and (I believe) a cream/mozzarella mix which he particularly enjoyed.

IMG_0113 While deciding where to head next (across the pool or back inside) we noticed that we were standing in front of the Jim Beam bar.  They were serving Red Stag, a black cherry infused bourbon.  I am neither a bourban fan nor a cherry fan, but for some reason I HAD to try it.  I’m so glad I did.  Something about how the cherry and bourbon went together (I’m not sure what the mixer was but perhaps a combo of orange juice and tonic?), but this was amazing.  A definite contender against the Ketel One Oranje (above) and now has me considering adding bourbon to my bar for the first time in my life!  IMG_0116

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Instead of heading back inside, we decided to try the rest of the restaurants located in the pool area.  We headed to the other side of the pool and found three of Michael Mina’s restaurants.  First, we tried Sea Blue which is located at the MGM Grand.

IMG_0117 They had Oysters Rockefeller with a bacon and spinach cream sauce.

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IMG_0120 Next to that was his Stripsteak restaurant which is located at Mandalay Bay.

IMG_0125They served  American Kobe Beef Shabu Shabu in a mushroom consomme.  This was the first dish I had difficulty determining how to eat (and probably did it incorrectly!), but I enjoyed it the way I chose to eat it 😉IMG_0123Next to StripSteak was American Fish which is located at Aria at the new City Center.IMG_0126

The Husband tried their Foie Gras & Bing Cherry Popper.

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Not being a fan of cherries, I tasted their Ruby Red Shrimp Salad.  I definitely enjoyed this one.

IMG_0129Last but not least outside, we stopped at Union which is also located at Aria.

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They presented Crispy Veal Sliders with pickled shallots (sliders were present at a lot of tables).  The Husband and I each tried one and found them to be an interesting and flavorful twist on the traditional slider.

IMG_0131 Overall, we thought the pool area offered a number of great tastes of food and spirit.  The tables were spaced generally nicely (though I stepped in water a handful of times along the pool’s edge near some of the tables – thankfully I didn’t see anyone slip on the deck nor fall into the pool). IMG_0134 We then headed back inside to see what else there was to offer.  We decided to head up to the third level of the club.  Unfortunately, this is where we began to see some poor placement of tables.  The lighting and spacing on the third level was not conducive to a food and wine festival.  It was very dark (my pictures didn’t turn out and I barely could see descriptions of what was being presented) and it was a tight squeeze to walk around.  While I enjoyed the food up here, I hope the restaurants didn’t miss out on promoting their cuisines.  There were a number of wine producers up along this edge as well and I felt that their wine was overlooked by most attendees due to their poor placement.

One restaurant I did get some decent lighting for was Level 107 located at the Stratosphere.

IMG_0146 Another unique slider option, they had a Vietnamese Duck Confit Slider.  I thought they did a good job of presenting this dish and particularly enjoyed the unique roll it was on.

IMG_0147 A view from the top…

IMG_0151 One other restaurant with decent lighting at the top was Roy’s which specializes in Hawaiian fusion.

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They had slow roasted beef short ribs topped with a parsnip puree, smoked tomato concassa, and chanterelle mushroom truffled demiglaze.  Amazing.  We will definitely be heading to Roy’s as soon as we can!

IMG_0155 We then made our way to the second level which was much smaller, less crowded, and better lit than the third.  Here we found Sushi Roku which is located in the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace.IMG_0157 I believe we had a Salmon Tartare in what looked to be a little ice cream cone.  The salmon was very fresh.

IMG_0158 They shared the platform with Boa Steakhouse, a sister restaurant also located at the Forum Shops.IMG_0159 I believe these were beef skewers (aren’t I good at deduction of observation?).  I enjoyed these more than the Husband did.

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IMG_0164 In between the two restaurants on this platform was Green River Sake.  While neither the Husband nor I are huge sake fans, we enjoyed the smoothness of this sake a lot.

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IMG_0165 Next, our little group of four headed to the main level to see what else there was to taste and sample.  We headed over to a larger bar that was serving Stella Artois and Leffe.  The Husband had never had a Leffe and our friend Amanda loves them so they each had a glass to enjoy.

IMG_0170 We decided to take a break from all of the food and drinks (and the heat in the club) and headed back out to the pool to hang out for a while.  The sun had begun going down and we enjoyed a light breeze around the pool area.

IMG_0171 After cooling off (and digesting a bit!), we headed back in for our final tastes (and views for those tables we were too full to taste!).  It appeared that Nove Italiano, a restaurant there at the Palms, may have had a few tables.  The Husband tried the first dish, an heirloom tomato salad, while I photographed the other selections on their tables.

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IMG_0182 At the next table for  MK The Restaurant, I couldn’t hear very well (it was directly in front of the stage).IMG_0185 Their dish looked intriguing, but all I got out of what I could hear was that the cup was a green tomato gazpacho.

IMG_0186 Next, we headed into a back/side room where Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House.

IMG_0189 Here we sampled a fish taco that was scrumptious.

IMG_0190 Across from Emeril’s was Alize, located at the Palms.  Jeff braved the dish even after seeing the name of it: Foie Gras Creme Brule.  He advised that it was actually really good and convinced Amanda to try it as well.  They both said it would have tasted even better if they hadn’t known what it was first.  Such an interesting combination!

IMG_0191 At this point, we thought we were done but there was one more row of tables to check out! At the same time, a live auction started as they continued to promote a silent auction which had lots and lots of great packages up for bidding.  Items included weekend getaways, having chefs come to your home and hosting a dinner for eight, tasting menus at some of the top Las Vegas restaurants, and sports and music memorabilia.  My eye was particularly caught by an I Love Lucy framed item, but unfortunately the starting bid was at $950!! Unfortunately I don’t have that much to provide to charity at this point in my life, but maybe one day…IMG_0195 On to our last row of tastings…Amanda is apparently a huge pesto fan so she was excited when these pesto topped crostinis caught her eye at Valentino.

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IMG_0196 Next to them, though, was the perfect tasting end to the night…  Megan Romano and Aureole from Mandalay Bay had a final sweet touch for our palates.IMG_0198

First, I grabbed myself a Pixie Tangerine Sorbet (on the right; on the left was, I believe, the Cantaloupe-Lime Sorbet).  So refreshing and sweet (but not too sweet).

IMG_0200Next to that, we found her chocolate.  It all looked so good! We each ended up trying one of the truffles and it was amazing.  I can’t wait to check out the permanent location!IMG_0202

IMG_0203 After determining that we weren’t going to win any auctions, I headed to the San Pellegrino table and grabbed an Aranciata – a sparkling water and orange juice (kind of like an Orangina).  I saw these at Costco and wanted to try one, but not in Costco bulk of course.  This was refreshing and not too sweet – perfect for me.  They also had a lemon version so I’m hoping to find one to try some time soon.IMG_0207 Overall, this was an amazing event for a great cause.  We were glad we were able to support the fundraising to end childhood hunger, especially in the Las Vegas area (all proceeds went to the local area charities).  We were exposed to so many great Las Vegas restaurants as well as a handful of spirits we never thought we’d enjoy.  Hopefully we can make this an annual event for us, whichever city we may be in at the time.  We also look forward to trying out the full menu at many of the restaurants above.  We hope to see you back for reviews after we do!

As we headed out, one last look at the pool…  IMG_0216

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One Response to “Taste of the Nation Las Vegas 2010”

  1. Good to “see” you guys! We miss you!! 🙂

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