Friday, June 12, 2009

Taste of the Nation 2009 - Las Vegas

As I said in my preview, I was lucky enough to have been invited to a spectacular foodie event at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino called Taste of the Nation, hosted and produced by a charity called Share our Strength that fights hard to end childhood hunger.

The hubby and I arrived right on time, and stepped into a ballroom filled with music and smells of delicious food. The place was still fairly empty when we got there, but by the end of the evening the room was packed full of foodies, chefs and their assistants, bartenders, celebrities and Las Vegas! Vegas events dont get any better than this, people.

One of the highlights of my night- other than the food- was being able to meet one of the celebrity hosts of the night, Holly Madison from The Girls Next Door. She used to live in the Playboy Mansion and share Hef's bed, people! She was very kind and gracious to me, and my apologies to y'all for the picture being blurry. That's what I get for turning the flash off and letting my husband take the picture. Darn! But get the idea. Holly's even prettier (and skinnier!) in person.

I didn't see the girl didn't eat a single bite of food all night. That would have been sheer torture for me. I wanted to see her EAT, but it didn't happen. I considered bringing her a scallop or something but her publicist (or her bodyguard) would have probably kicked my ass.

David Burke, a celebrity chef and a member of Taste of the Nation's Culinary Council, was the first station we visited. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Burke last year at the Signature Chefs event, and a little insider foodie fact about him is that his favorite ingredient is scallops! I guess that's why he shares it in so many of his dishes? For Taste of the Nation he served a scallop with fresh herbs and a bit of crunch. They... were... fantastic.

There were so many beautiful ice sculptures, and most were used not only for display, but to keep the food cool while it patiently waited for a guest to help themselves to it.....brilliant. Here's some seafood ceviche from Border Grill (in Mandalay Bay ) displayed on top of ice. I loved how they used clear dishes to bring the light up over the ice and into the food.
Gorgeous... and so yummy.

Roy's (one of my favorite places to dine) was part of the event and served some bright and colorful (and might I add very tasty) sushi. It was so good I went back for seconds!

One thing I've noticed about these kind of events is that guests are snooty and not looking to chat up another foodie stranger. But this time, at Taste of the Nation, I remember coming away thinking how friendly and fun the crowd was. Even the chefs at each station were open and happy to answer questions or pose for a picture. And usually, when I have my camera and start snapping away at people, they get annoyed. But here, people would turn to me and smile. Smile! Wow, this made my job so easy and I enjoyed myself SO much more!

Here's the biggest display of shrimp I've ever seen from The N9Ne Steakhouse in The Palms ( I hear they have good steaks, too. Ha!

There were adorable go-go dancers dressed as chefs walking around giving out some sort of goodies out of their baskets. I don't know what was in them, because they didn't offer it to me, but they were kind enough to post for a photo.

There were complicated, colorful food displays in every direction. Some chefs sold their cookbooks or specialty knife sets....


My favorite restaurant of them all, Rosemary's, was there. I got to shake hands with owner Michael Jordan and snapped a few pictures of their newly released cookbook,
Food of Love. They even have to recipes from the book on CD-Rom if you're more of a listener than a reader....
I swear Michael and Wendy Jordan and I should be BFFs by now with how much I talk about their restaurant.

The bartenders from the Rhumbar (in the Mirage) station made me a wonderfully refreshing Latin Manhattan, and I don't even like bourbon! It was lemony and minty and as smooth as a baby's bottom. Delish!
Here's another bartender doing a little showing off for my camera. How cute is his sassy shake shake?

While we were busy stuffing our faces with delectable food, there was silent auction going on all around us with some pretty amazing items to bid on. Wine, pictures, vintage music albums, reestaurant and spa gift certificates and more. My hubby and my favorite was a framed, autographed album from U2. We bid on it several times but, in the end, lost to another bidder.
Note to self: watch the damn bidding sheet until the last 10 seconds in order to seal the deal... and if someone else bids again, kick their butt.
Just kidding.

In my very humble foodie opinion, this was an extremely well put together (and pulled off) party. This event (and the food) was even better than The Epicurean. Less about flash, more about food. Because that's what people great food and good company. And the best part? 100% of the profits from the event go to help feeding our nation's children through Share Our Strength.
Check to see if there's a Taste of the Nation event in your area by visiting their website. They're hosting events through the end of August so there's still time to find a party near you. And if you missed this year's, make sure to make a note for next year. You wont be sorry you did!


Tales of Whimsy said...

What fun!
Thanks for the full report!

Rita Templeton said...

Thanks ... now I've drooled all over my keyboard. ;)

Mrs. Jeremy said...

So jealous!!!!!!

KT said...

Lucky you. I love Holly.

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