photos by Blake Myers

As most are aware, UNLVino was co-founded in 1974 by the UNLV College of Hospitality and Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada (now Southern Glazer’s) to provide scholarships and other support where needed to the students enrolled in the school’s program.

The “Vino” portion of this annual fundraising event’s name is extremely appropriate, given the abundance of excellent wine, beer, cocktails and spirits from more than 70 purveyors to which attendees are treated. Though the beverages have remained at the forefront, as UNLVino has evolved, the selection of libations has been supplemented in recent years by a growing variety of impressive food offerings.

If, as the saying goes, variety is the spice of life, then this year’s food selections from many of the area’s outstanding restaurants were certainly enough to satisfy anyone’s palate and serve as a small sample of each restaurant’s menu offerings. 

UNLV Hospitality College students, as well as some two dozen restaurants, presented a selection of tasty choices that allowed you to progress from appetizers to entrees and then desserts, or in any alternative order of
your choosing.

As you can well imagine, the restaurants’ food booths, populated by varying numbers of their staffs, were a virtual beehive of activity as they attempted to supply their culinary selections to the thousands of attendees. Some of the food was relatively simple to make and offer, while other preparations were much more complex to assemble and present.

Following is a rundown of some of the many restaurants whose food I tasted. Nothing Bundt Cake, whose cake selections included decadent chocolate covered chip, red velvet, white chocolate raspberry and strawberry and cream. The UNLV Student Management team featured an impressive display of supreme lobster and cold seafood and Scotch 80 Prime was carving flavorful rib cap beef. The Slanted Door prepared delicate Vietnamese egg rolls, while Libertine Social offered tender
lamb spareribs.

Buddy V’s showcased colorful and sweet cannoli and rainbow cake, LVB Burgers and Bar busily prepared their tasty AAA sliders (an abbreviation for angus, applewood and arugula), a labor-intensive endeavor which contained boursin cheese, sun dried tomatoes and applewood smoked bacon. And Lotus of Siam presented an attractive tempura-battered deep fried prawn.

Another UNLV Student Management booth featured a delicious trio of strawberry shortcake, lemon tarts and tiramisu, Elephant Bar prepared a flavorful Buffalo chicken dip and BLT Steak offered a succulent tuna tartare. The Valencian Gold Restaurant, a recent arrival on the Vegas restaurant scene, showcased its colorful Spanish bruschetta, classic Spanish ham and
chicken croquettas.

The playfully-named Haute Doggery constructed a nod to the past with its deep fried chili cheese dog roll, Estiatorio Milos presented essential Greek flavors with its tzatziki, feta cheese and bell pepper crackers, Hattie B’s featured the spicy chicken drumsticks for which it’s well-known and Tao offered flavorful crispy barbeque pork bao buns.

Rounding out my culinary buffet were Beauty and Essex, who prepared tempting tuna poke tacos and another UNLV Student booth which expertly presented sausage and pepperoni pizza.

The wine, spirits, cocktails and beer offered at this year’s UNLVino Grand Tasting are still outstanding, and well worth enjoying, but the quality and diversity of the food selections also are not to be missed. I’m glad I ate my way through them.