I’ve been spoiled working as a travel writer living in Las Vegas. Cory and I have eaten multi-course, hundred-dollar meals with the rarest and finest ingredients. We’ve met amazing chefs with star power, reality-TV fame and kitchen creativity worthy of Michelin stars. Hardly a week – and definitely not a month – goes by when our palettes aren’t tap dancing with excitement with a refreshed menu, new restaurant or foodie festival.
Truly, we have been incredibly fortunate, and I’m proud of the hard work I’ve done so we’ve been able to dine like kings in Sin City.
Having lived in Las Vegas for almost nine years and been in a capacity to eat, taste, dine and devour for the last six, it’s saying a lot that last weekend was one of the most epic when it came to awesome dining experiences. And, unfortunately, Cory was out of town, but that didn’t stop me from taking advantage of the fun with friends instead.
First up was Dine in the Dark: A Sensory Experience on Friday evening, which I attended with my friend Kirsten. This is one of the events taking place during Vegas Uncork’d at the end of this month, but I was invited to the practice run at Caesars Palace. To be truthful, it wasn’t actually dining in the dark, though we were completely blindfolded for the experience.
My understanding is that, during some dining in the dark experiences, people aren’t told at all what they’re eating. That was not the case for us. We had four different courses, each with three small bites, defined by certain themes like “Promiscuous Cultivated Lobes” and “Jewels of Earth.” And between each course of three bites, we had a small palette cleanser.
It was a complicated meal, to say the least, and it encompassed several dishes that were created more for their sensory and shock rather than pragmatic value. Consider the bite that was called Fairgrounds & Wharfs, which consisted of foie gras torchon, cotton candy laces, popping rocks and foie powder.
Yeah, it was weird stuff. But we had a freaking blast.
Here are a few things I learned:
- Though I’ve become a more adventurous eater since embarking on my writing career in Las Vegas, I’m much more adventurous when I’m blindfolded. It turns out I’ll try almost anything when I don’t know what it is (and can’t judge based on sight).
- I still don’t like foie gras (and there was a lot of foie gras served during this meal).
- I still don’t like beets either.
- I can feel full but not satiated. When I took my blindfold off at the end of the meal, I knew I’d eaten a meal’s worth of food, but it wasn’t a proper meal.
- Maybe it’s because I don’t have a super sophisticated palette, but it turns out I can’t determine much about food based on taste alone. I ended up touching a lot of my food to learn about it and was a hot stinkin’ mess by the end.
- When you’re blindfolded and can’t watch your wine glass being refilled, you drink a lot. Like a lot a lot. We had to walk around and sober up for awhile when we were done before we could drive home.
- And, when people are blindfolded, they are also less filtered with what they say. It was a loud, boisterous meal, and people who are normally a bit on the quiet side did not hesitate to voice their opinions. Maybe this has something to do with the alcohol situation.
Dining in the dark was so strange, so different than anything I’ve done before, but it was a kick in the pants. Kirsten and I laughed the whole time and definitely appreciated the experience.
Then, a couple days later my friend, Sydney, and I went to Dîner en Blanc, this incredible event that has been held all over the world.
How have I never heard of this? Who knew and never told me?
The premise: It’s a secret dinner where all the guests dress head-to-toe in white. An hour before the meal, everyone arrives at their secret meeting locations, then is escorted to the Dîner en Blanc site, where they put up folding tables and chairs, decorate their tables with white place settings and decor, and then indulge in a picnic they’ve brought for themselves.
Because Sydney and I were invited as guests, our meal was provided for us (cold salads, cheeses, etc.), but we got to gather all the stuff for our table, which we coordinated via text messages for the 24 hours leading up to the event. And I own no white clothes at all, so I went ripping through Goodwill looking for a dress and shoes. (I’m trying to unload belongings, not acquire them, so I wanted to keep this as cheap as possible, and I did a great job, snagging a super cute dress and shoes for about $20!)
I had a sneaking suspicion that the event was going to be held at The Park, the new outdoor pedestrian mall on the Strip between New York-New York and Monte Carlo, and I was right! It was absolutely the most perfect location, right underneath the Bliss Dance art piece that lit up at night and with Cirque contortionists performing on the periphery of the event.
It was nothing short of awe-inspiring.
There was something incredibly beautiful about all these people – literally hundreds of people – dressed in a single color. And white is just really, really elegant. I suppose I knew that but it never dawned on me how beautiful it was going to be.
And the things people did with their tables … Huge flower centerpieces, awnings draped with chiffon, candles with colorful hints here and there. We decked ours out with white paper flowers and clear and red glass jewels (and it looked fab!), but it was nothing in comparison.
This experience wasn’t as much about the meal as it was about the atmosphere, and it really was something else. If it hadn’t been for the fact this was held on a Sunday, Syd and I definitely would have danced the night away beneath the DJ stand, made complete with a DJ in white Beats headphones. Of course.