Yes, I’ve seen the warnings about food events in Las Vegas (generally overpriced, crowded, often poorly managed), but couldn’t resist giving the Palazzo's Epicurean Affair a try. The participating restaurant list was quite interesting this year, including a number of Mario Batali/Emeril/Jose Andres restaurants and places I wanted to try but hadn’t due to time or cost (Bazaar Meat, B&B, Delmonico, DB Brasserie, Cleo, Yardbird). Plus it was at the Palazzo, which is one of our favorite places in town.
Summary: completely worth going for me. In fact, probably some of the most fun I’ve had eating out in Vegas. Not all of the food was outstanding (and a few got tossed after one bite), but overall it was an enjoyable evening outside with music and plenty of small plates to try.
There were three options for tickets: General Admission - $100 (7pm-10pm), Early Admission - $150 (6pm-10pm), VIP - $170 (6 pm-10pm, special reception area). We went for GA, but got a great deal from TravelZoo (one of the event sponsors - $65 for one person or $120 for two people). For $60 per person, my husband and I had unlimited food and drinks from over 50 restaurants plus quite a few beverage stands. Considering how much we’ve spent on mediocre or even good but not great meals in Vegas, I’m extremely happy with what we got for the price (but my concept of pricing is completely skewed after living here for two years).
The GA ticket allowed us enough time to get through all the places we wanted to try once before they started shutting down (even though the “event” went until 10 pm, a few food places started running out of some selections at 8:30 and a bunch began packing up at 9 pm). I definitely recommend trying everything you want the first time through so you don’t miss out. Walking the complete circuit took us 1 ½ hours – we were completely full at that point but wandered around until 9:15, trying a few other dishes and enjoying the music/entertainment.
The entry line to the event was pretty insane, although we cheated a bit by reserving a room in the Palazzo for that night. So, when everyone else was lining up early downstairs by the elevators, we were relaxing in our room. Early birds & VIPs had already been let in at 6 pm and we didn’t see a whole lot of value in standing in line 30-60 minutes just so we could be one or two places ahead of the rest of the GA crowd. When 7 pm hit and the doors opened, we took the elevator down to the pool area and walked right in (while the line downstairs was still being brought up by elevators). This was a good decision for our feet because we spent most of the evening up and walking around. :-)
The main area by the pool had a pretty good selection of places… then we noticed an offshoot to the left… and the right… which had THREE small pool areas with more places (a total of five areas for the event). It was a bit of a maze, but really impressive how everything was laid out.
- Some places started to run out of food at 8:30 and by 9:00 most food stands started packing up. We missed one dish we wanted to try because we decided to “go back for it” when the front area was crowded when we first got there. (But I was so full at that point, it barely mattered.)
- Non-alcoholic drinks were pretty tough to find. We found a Fiji Water booth in the very back and I think I spotted some cups and a Venetian water cooler on a table, but I bet a ton of people are really dehydrated this morning…
- Minor crowding – usually we didn’t have trouble moving around or finding a spot to eat, but I was uncomfortably close to the edge of a pool a few times. A few of the restaurants got backed up (like the Bazaar Meats/SLS area) while people were waiting for food to be made, but overall most places moved people in/out pretty quickly.
- Plenty of choices (even for picky eaters like me): meat, seafood, some vegetarian, desserts, wine, beer, liquor. Some of the restaurants were serving 2-3 different dishes. Together, my husband and I probably tried about 50-75% of the food places (we both skipped a few or only one of us would grab a plate).
- I love being able to try small plates from new places. The quality of the food was pretty high overall, although we definitely tossed a few plates after one bite. My husband and I were filled up before we tried every dish that we wanted, so it’s not an event where you’ll go hungry.
- The different sections each had different entertainment options (DJs or live music) and, despite being steps away from each other, you couldn’t hear anything from the other areas.
- Great for people who want to try out different restaurants without paying for the cost of a full meal there.
As for specifics on the food, I rapidly lost track of what we tried from where (although I’m sure next year’s event would have different food anyway). Delmonico had the best bite of steak (a number of the other places were too chewy). Yardbird had a rather impressive Pecan Pie Cake Pop. (Especially memorable since half of my first one fell to the ground and I went back later that night to get another.) I normally don’t like banana desserts, but one of Emeril’s restaurants (I think Lagasse’s Stadium) had a banana crème custard/parfait that was surprisingly delicious. Public House also had a memorable “Black and Blue” dessert with blueberry custard, blackberries, beer soaked crumble, and caramel corn on top. I don’t know that I’d want a full serving, but the mini dessert was a tasty, unexpected combination of flavors. Hmm… as I was just about to describe the apple empanada that I had (fantastic), I realized most of the notable food for me was desserts. :-) Carlo’s Bakery also had a wide selection of treats and Bouchon had brownies wrapped to go. Unfortunately, I had a small purse so I had to carry around the brownies in my pocket all night (totally worth it this morning for breakfast).
There were plenty of savory options too – they just didn’t make as much of an impression on me. My husband’s favorite dish of the night was the mini pork sandwich from Bazaar Meats. Both of us liked the Watermelon drink from Hash House A Go Go. For the people who were there for the unlimited alcohol, there were tons of drinks to try, including novelties like a rum filled coconut. And, yes, I insisted we get a coconut. Unfortunately, ours had a giant crack down the side and the rum leaked all over the place, leaving my hand pretty sticky and rum-covered. (This wasn’t that tragic, since the drink tasted terrible and we tossed it immediately after taking a picture. Still fun though.)
Overall, I thought the Palazzo pool complex was pretty amazing and a perfect spot for an outdoor food event like this. Dedicated Chowhounders who’ve been to most of the restaurants probably wouldn’t be very impressed with the food, but I really enjoyed trying new places/new dishes without paying for a full meal at each of them.