October 4, 2010
Lake Tahoe Food and Wine Festival was off to a great start

By Allen Pierleoni

Harrah's and Harveys hotel-casinos at Stateline at Lake Tahoe sure know how to throw a party for foodies and the culinarily curious.

Beginning Thursday and concluding Sunday, the inaugural Lake Tahoe Food and Wine Festival featured nonstop food-and-wine pairings, special dinners, cooking demonstrations and educational seminars. The event-closing brunch was Sunday at 19 Kitchen Bar at Harveys, at which chefs from various Harrah's Entertainment properties contributed to the extensive menu, and took shifts sitting at a table to autograph copies of their collective cookbook.

Harrah's South Shore Room sold out Saturday night as author ("Medium Raw") and iconoclastic TV-show host ("No Reservations") Anthony Bourdain entertained an engaged crowd of fans. Among other topics, he discussed world travel ("I am grateful"), veganism, adventures in eating foods in other cultures ("I took a hit for the team with roasted warthog"), and a few Food Network chefs and series.

Among the post-show VIPs crowded into Bourdain's dressing room was chef-cookbook author and veteran TV host Martin Yan. Earlier in the day, Yan delighted a standing-room-only crowd that watched him bone a whole chicken in 18 seconds and use it in a fragrant stir-fry.

Part of the impetus for the festival was the West Coast release of "The Seven Stars Cookbook," edited by John Schlimm, with a foreword by Paula Deen (Chronicle Books, $45). It's a collection of 125 recipes from chefs at various Harrah's Entertainment properties around the country.

The centerpiece of the festival was the Beyond the Fork: An Affair of the Senses Epicurean Expoin Harrah's huge Special Events Center, which drew more than 1,000 people between 1 and 6 p.m. Saturday. There, many of the chefs who contributed to "Seven Stars" prepared their recipes from the cookbook. On offer at kiosks around the room were hearty samples of succulent scallop and crab dishes, five-onion soup, seafood gumbo, prime aged ribeye roast with fingerling potatoes, shrimp cerviche, and a host of desserts.

Co-starring in the events center were raffle drawings and prize giveaways, as well as acrobats, a juggling stiltwalker and other performers who were backdropped by live music. Premium wines were poured in the cooking-demonstration tent connected to the events center.

"We're very excited about the response to the inaugural event," said John Packer on the phone Monday morning. He is the director of entertainment and public relations for Harrah's-Northern Nevada. "We're looking forward to repeating next year, in bigger and better ways."

Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni at (916) 321-1128.

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