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October 20, 2014

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A delectable scene as Uncork’d chefs serve Vegas

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John Katsilometes

Beijing Noodle No. 9’s station, featuring pork dumplings.

Uncork'd Grand Tasting

Wolfgang Puck's station at the Grand Tasting. Launch slideshow »

It was like the food court at the county fair, but instead of corn dogs and mutton burgers, the offerings were goose fat potato chips with foie gras dip, Kobe beef tartar with black truffle vinaigrette and ricotta cheesecake slathered in fresh berries.

No Starship 2000 at this high-end carnival, either.

More than 70 of the world’s top chefs and vintners assembled temporary tasting stations last night at the Caesars Palace pool for the Uncork’d culinary festival’s Grand Tasting. The four-day Uncork’d event, which further cements Las Vegas as one of the world’s foremost culinary centers, wraps tomorrow (click here for info about the event).

I looped through last night’s party, bumping into (and in some cases, I mean actually bumping into) such kitchen-dwelling rock stars as Guy Savoy (Guy Savoy at Caesars), Kerry Simon (Simon at Palms Place), James Beard Award winner Paul Bartolotta (Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare at Wynn Las Vegas), Frank and Carla Pellegrino (Rao’s at Caesars), Kim Canteenwalla (Society Café at Encore), Michael Mina (Michael Mina at Bellagio), Rick Moonen (RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay), Bradley Ogden (Bradley Ogden at Caesars), Joel Robuchon (L’Ateliere de Joel Robuchon at MGM Grand), Julian Serrano (Picasso at Bellagio), John Schenk (Strip House at Planet Hollywood), Alain Ducasse (Mix at Mandalay Bay) and Joseph Elevado (Social House at T.I.). The most famous judge not sitting on the Supreme Court, “Top Chef” star and Craftsteak at MGM Grand proprietor Tom Colicchio, was there signing his new cookbook (which should be titled “Stuff I Can’t Make”). Also followed by agog participants was “Desperate Housewives” (and, earlier, “Sex and the City”) star Kyle MacLachlan, who ambled through the throng while gripping a bottle of wine in one hand and a glass in the other. MacLachlan spent a lot of time chatting with Simon, and it was hard to tell who was the bigger star in this forum. The long-maned Simon, as always, looks the part.

Impressively, the turnout was reported to be about 1,000, even higher than a year ago. It seemed that way, as colliding foodies spilled such delights as sweet corn soup with huitlacoche ink (from Diego at MGM Grand) onto tropics-patterned Tommy Bahama shirts. Later, at Encore, Bartolotta won a celebrity chef blackjack tournament, the second-most impressive honor he’s picked up this month.

Given the magnitude of the event, and an admittedly long setup, what follows is the Top 13 Things Overheard at The Uncork’d Grand Tasting:

13. “I picked the wrong weekend to go vegan.”

12. “Is it a violation of protocol to order delivery from Pizza Hut?”

11. “Warning: The blue fin tuna slider does not go well with a fistful of Altoids.”

10. “Is that Savoy? Hide me! I did a dine-and-dash at his place last month.”

9. “Grab my camera -- I think I just spotted Chef Boyardee!”

8. “I had this smock custom-made, and wow am I meeting the ladies.”

7. “What do you mean, these little forks aren’t edible?”

6. “Congratulate me! I just slammed into my 500th stranger.”

5. “Kobe to the rack!” (Also overheard during the Lakers-Rockets game.)

4. “Hey, honey, I must compliment your wine pairing.”

3. “Why are two giant guys wearing black Armani suits and earpieces manning the Tao station?”

2. “Beijing Noodle No. 9 has it all over Beijing Noodle No. 8.”

1. “That’s no pork dumpling! That’s my sister!”

Thank you, goodnight, and remember to tip your chef.

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