If you are looking for the opportunity to try a new restaurant, learn about a wine, whiskey or beer you are not familiar with and meet new people at a reasonable price, you might want to check out one of the many pairing dinners that are offered in Las Vegas.
Restaurants have been suggesting wine pairings with meals for years. But, the idea of a restaurant hosting a prix-menu communal dinner with pairings provided by a specific winery, microbrewery or distillery is a more recent offering.
In Las Vegas, these dinners are hosted by some of the top restaurants in the city. The food preparation is usually overseen by the restaurants executive chef, who is often one of the towns many "celebrity chefs." The chef also attends the dinner, mingling with the guests and explaining the dishes that are being severed.
Depending on what beverage is being served, a representative from the featured winery or microbrewery or distillery will also be in attendance and will co-host the dinner along with the chef.
At first glance, the cost of a dinner might seem to be a bit pricey for most of us. Dinners can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 per person, not including tax and gratuity. But if you take a second look, you will often find that the dinners are actually quite a bargain, usually about half of what a diner would normally pay for meal.
For example, take a look at the Westland Whiskey Dinner, hosted by Chef Rick Moonen, that took place in mid-December at Mandalay Bay's Rx Boiler Room.
The cost of the dinner was $75 per person. It included a pre-dinner mixer featuring a selection of appetizers, followed by a four-course dinner. A different cocktail was served with each course and at the pre-dinner mixer.
Here is the menu from that dinner and regular menu prices:
Pre-dinner mixer (cocktail and appetizers)
Rx Boiler Room Smoked Whiskey & Cola -- $15
Chicken Pot Pie Nuggets -- $12
Bacon Wrapped Bacon-N-Egg -- $14
Devil’s on Horseback -- $8
Main Dinner Menu
Crispy Duck Confit & Frisee Salad -- $18
Paired w/ the bLVd cocktail featuring Westland American Single Malt -- $28
Rx Boiler Room Beef “Tongue-N-Cheeks” Sheppard’s Pie -- $16
Paired w/ Westland Sherry Wood Whiskey -- $20
North Carolina Jumbo Shrimp with Creamy Anson Mill Grits & Cajun Grits -- $42
Paired w/ the “Westland Peated Sweet Tea” cocktail featuring Westland Peated Whiskey -- $28
Whiskey Cola Cake with Nitro Toffee Meringue -- $9
Paired w/ Distiller’s Choice Westland Selection - $32
It is pretty easy to see without even having to do the math that $75 per person or $150 per couple is quite a bargain.
And, as mentioned earlier, not only do diners have the opportunity to try new restaurants and meet the chefs who work in those restaurants, they also have a chance to meet people they may not normally meet and form new friendships.
The dinners are usually served communal style, which means that people may end up sitting with people they do not know at large tables. Socializing is often encouraged before the dinners and during the dinners themselves.
The dinners primarily attracts locals and people between the ages of 35 to 55 years old who consider themselves to be "foodies." However, about 10 to 15 percent of the attendees are from out-of-town, at least at dinners hosted by Rx Boiler Room.
Libertine Social at Mandalay Bay
Executive Chef Jamaal Taherzadeh hosts Fireside Chats at Libertine Social. Guests will enjoy seasonal food and beverage pairings at the restaurant’s interactive chef’s counter. The intimate food and beverage pairing events will host two seatings of eleven guests and will begin with a reception inside Libertine Social’s Arcade Bar. Dates are Jan. 7, 14, 21 and 28. Cost is $75 per person.
GIADA at The Cromwell
GIADA hosts monthly wine dinners. During each dinner, GIADA's team of sommeliers guide guests through a wine pairing hosted by a different winemaker for each dinner. The tasting menu includes GIADA's favorites and some unique additions to highlight the selection of wine. Guests also take home a signed picture of selection of Giada De Laurentiis’ favorite recipes, including her beloved lemon ricotta cookies. Rombauer Vineyards will be the featured winery on Jan. 11 and Luciano Castiello from Banfi Estates will conduct a Tour of Amarone on Feb. 2. Cost is $200 per person.
The Charcoal Room at Palace Station
Enjoy a five-course dinner pairing with wines from Kendall-Jackson on Feb. 2 at The Charcoal Room. Menu highlights include a late winter salad, seared day boat scallops with roasted beets, petite lobster bisque, lollipop lamb chop with soft polenta, a petite filet with Hudson Valley foie gras and a cappuccino tart. The dinner will feature a wine expert from the Santa Rosa, California, winery. Cost is $55 per person. Guests should RSVP to 702-221-6678.