Las Vegas (Day 1): Aria, Sirio, Top Chefs and more!
What a whirlwind. And I love whirlwinds.
This is what you hope for in Vegas: to be scooped into the atmosphere, with its sparkling dresses and giant cigars, card shuffling, roulette wheels and slot-machines, shiny new cocktails, the best noshes of your life, world-class service and ideally---going home with big stories and a heavier wallet. (And in this case: a chance to rub shoulders with celeb chefs).
My wallet was a tad bit lighter, but my heart and stomach were happily full. Thanks to Aria Resort & Casino and MGM plus Food & Wine [who sponsored this weekend rendezvous]: I met new food/travel blogging friends, a fantastic cast at Aria Resort & Casino, famous Top Chef contestants, plus world-class celebrity chefs and restauranteurs. I met Jean Georges, Chef Michael Mina, Sirio Maccioni and sons Mauro and Mario, Chef Vincenzo Scarmiglia, Chef Masa Takayama, Chef Rob Moore, Gail Simmons (Bravo's Top Chef) plus Stephanie Izard, Hosea Rosenberg, Jean-Philippe Maury and Yigit Pura (Winner Top Chef Just Desserts) to name a few.
People to see. Day 1 people highlights: chatting up Stephanie Izard at the Food & Wine All-Star Weekend Kick-Off Party (Aria's View Bar). She is currently on a whirlwind tour, having just released her first book: The Girl in the Kitchen [how a Top Chef cooks, thinks, shops and drinks]. From Seattle? She will be at Canlis Nov 1. She is as down to earth as you would think, working hard and having fun. We also happily attended an intimate Welcome Reception in ARIA Sky Suite with Sirio, Mauro & Mario Maccioni and Executive Chef Vincenzo Scarmiglia of SIRIO RESTAURANTE (pictured above).
Chef Scarmiglia made us an inventive and ever-changing limoncello flight, including mixed berry 'cello with fruit leather & meringue, truffle chocolate 'cello topped with a chocolate cake bite, and classic limoncello with coconut meringue. It goes like this: the cello is in a shot glass and on top you have a cake/cookie concoction. You insert the savory or sweet bite, with an immediate chaser of the flavored cello and end up with a symphony of flavors rolling around your tongue. Brilliant. Memorable. Thanks Chef. (Chef Scarmiglia had two of my favorite 'bites and sips' from my Vegas weekend; stay tuned for my roundup post!).
After the welcome, we enjoyed dinner at BarMasa (details below) and topped our evening (as in: cherry on top---it just keeps getting better) at the Food & Wine All-Star Weekend After-Party. Here I met Hosea Rosenberg, Angelo Sosa and Yigit Pura. Plus I inhaled-without-breathing sliders from Union and one of my fave sips of the event: a Ginger Rum Cocktail concoction (again Union).
Places to go. We trounced countless restaurants inside Aria resort, ate at Food & Wine tasting events, specialty lunches, even had steak inside Jean Georges kitchen. On the first evening of this whirlwind escapade, we enjoyed dinner at BARMASA with Chef Masa Takayama:
COURSE 1 Um Chef? Can we see the crab please? Kegani " Hairy Crab" Sunomono paired with 2010 Woolaston Sauvignon Blanc from Nelson New Zealand
COURSE 2 Toro Tartare with Caviar paired with Lucien Albrecht Cremant de Alsace
COURSE 3 Kawahagi with white truffle paired with Matsunoi Tokubetsu Junmai from Niigata
COURSE 4 Chicken Yakitori and Wagyu beef skewers paired with 2006 Paul Dolan Pinot Noir from Mendicino County
COURSE 5 Chopped lobster and cucumber salad paired with 2008 Olivier Leflaive, Les Stilles, Bourgogne Blanc
COURSE 6 This was one of my favorite BITES from the weekend; post coming soon! Uni risotto with white truffle paired with 2009 Scarbolo, Ramato XL, Pinot Grigio from Friuli
FINISH Matsutake mushroom soup
Things to do. While there is plenty of shopping at City Center (all the top shops), I stuck to Aria's pool-side, spa & salon, Haze nightclub and their Cirque show. Come to think of it: I don't think I ever left the resort!
The first evening of our weekend was as colorful and entertaining as it comes: we went to Viva ELVIS™ by Cirque du Soleil® right inside Aria's resort/hotel. It was a spectacular display of acrobatic talent, mixed media, raw emotion and breath-taking performances (Can I please say: the workout of these acrobats/dancers makes for a seriously CUT group of individuals. And that is all I have to say about that. Except... wow). If you have never been to a Cirque show: put it on your short list. We always make a point of seeing one, each time we visit Las Vegas. They are stunning, and each and every one is unique.
What? You want to go? Good: go enter your name for a weekend trip of your own (enter from now until NOV 30):
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
Photo credits: Photo of Chef Masa and Truffle Risotto by Derek Schoen. All other photos property of Janelle from Talk of Tomatoes.