The three-day Life is Beautiful festival concluded on Sunday, September 18. And while the first event since rolling stone acquired a majority stake in the festival marked noticeably thinner art and music lineups, local chefs and restaurants made a splash in the downtown Las Vegas festival’s culinary offerings.
“If you look at our lineup, the majority of our food vendors are local,” says Sharee Macy, the festival’s food and beverage director. “We have such a great local community and great chefs and restaurants – and we can show that at Life is Beautiful.” There was plenty to eat in the festival’s culinary villages, including the wood-fired grilled meals at Cookout, the many caviar-infused dishes at Omakase Cantina’s sit-down dinners, and the range of flavors coming out of the pizzeria by about a dozen. Las Vegas pizza maker. Here are some of the best bites of the weekend.
La Strega Things by Gina Marinelli of La Strega and Harlo
Chef Gina Marinelli stranger things– the Sunday themed prix fixe dinner was both playful and thoughtful; the hour-long seat opened with an Eggo waffle – a nod to the TV show – layered with crème fraiche vinaigrette and caviar. Plated on a TV tray alongside wagyu strip loin, bone marrow potato croquettes and a play on the Cosmic Brownie, the real star of the ’80s-inspired dinner party was the spaghetti. Handmade squid ink noodles have been tossed with crabmeat soaked in shrimp oil, parmesan and basil, all topped with bright little pearls of wasabi tobiko. The dish had a great visual – deep black noodles and tender white crab contrasting with the neon green of translucent wasabi pearls. And it made for a delicious bite of pasta that was brackish, spicy, and satisfyingly textured.
Carnitas Tacos from China Poblano by Jose Andres
One of the festival’s best deals, the Cookout offered open-fire meals by top local chefs for $15 each. Among them, China Poblano’s carnitas taco plate with three tacos, salsas and fries. The corn tortillas were filled with tender, smoky braised pork and stuffed with cilantro and onions. Even the fries carried a generous seasoning of a tangy and salty chili mix. Dipping every bite of taco carnitas in warm tomatillo salsa and creamy avocado salsa makes for an ideal lunch while sitting in the shade and listening to performers on the nearby Huntridge Stage. And it’s hard to beat a Jose Andres original at this price.
The Yukon from Yukon Pizza
Another eatery on the pop-up circuit, Yukon Pizza burst into the pizzeria’s culinary zone on Sunday to make Yukon, a version of a Margherita pizza using a 125-year-old sourdough starter, tomato sauce with just what it takes sweetness, candied garlic, parmesan and a bouquet of large mozzarella. The crust on this four-slice pizza was delicious – thin and crispy, a little charred from the hot oven and slightly sour, pairing well with the garlicky pizza toppings.
Night + Market Chicken Pad Thai
Virgin Hotels Las Vegas’ Night + Market made an appearance at Life is Beautiful to serve Thai street food on the downtown stage. When the temperature cooled after dark, nothing could soothe like the warm, fluffy noodles of Chicken Pad Thai. With eggs, sweet radishes and crunchy peanuts – and a sauce made from fish sauce, vinegar and sugar – the end product is salty, sour and sweet. Well-wrapped take-out containers came with a cup of red pepper flakes for those who wanted to add some extra heat.
Black Pearl Tuna Ceviche Tostada
The Las Vegas ceviche experts at the Black Pearl have been cooking up generous helpings of seafood dishes all weekend, with the tuna ceviche tostada being the main one. Chefs Daniel Arias and Isidro Marquez offer scoops at local pop-ups, and the Life is Beautiful iteration combined ahi tuna with crunchy cucumber, red onion, cilantro, black garlic and a plate-licking clean chili cascabel dressing. It all came served on a tostada chip perfect for scooping up and cutting through the heat from the peppers. Even better? The portion, while substantial, was unlikely to make one feel too full before a night of dancing.