Our senses were alternately soothed and stimulated with the textures and flavors offered at the “Food is Beautiful” event at Made L.V. We were offered a taste of what’s to come September 25-27 with the Life is Beautiful festival, the Downtown Las Vegas three-day extravaganza of music, art, food and learning. Host Chef Kim Canteenwalla described it as the “Beauty and the Beast Dinner” with Mixologist Mariena Mercer of The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas as our Beauty and all the male chefs as the Beasts.

We were served one flavor sensation after another, paired with cocktails by our beauty, Mariena Mercer. I particularly enjoyed the “Summer of Love,” since it tasted exactly like dessert first—a lemon meringue pie in a martini glass, thick, creamy and rich.

One of her other standout drink pairings, “Kaffir the Reaper,” was served like a regular Moscow mule with the obligatory copper mug. The moment I tasted it, I knew it was special with its extraordinary flavors of coconut and pink peppercorns to complement the ginger beer. My favorites of Itsy Bitsy Ramen Chef Ricardo Romo’s appetizers included the pork pot stickers, served with spicy soy. These were very flavorful and rich, slightly spicy and perfectly seasoned.

Chef Brian Massie’s Hearthstone was represented very well with his Frog Hallow peach salad, which was exceptional—sweet and savory. It tasted like a peach pie complete with pieces of buttery crust. It featured this remarkable savory element of Benton’s ham and mustard seed mixed with the creaminess and subtle flavor of mascarpone.

Echo + Rig’s Chef Sam Marvin provided one of my favorite dishes of the evening with his Snake River Farms Kobe Wagyu silver beef, which was tender and very flavorful, with preserved citrus chimichurri reminiscent of a sweet potato with hints of maple syrup. The drink pairing for this dish from Mariena Mercer was the remarkable “American Gothic,” a Woodford Reserve combination with Ancho Reyes liqueur and chai masala tea. It was rather strong and very tasty, with notes of anise and clove.

My absolute favorite dish of the night was the last one, courtesy of Chef Kim Canteenwalla of Made L.V. I asked Chef Canteenwalla what made his yellow watermelon salad so dynamic. He shared that the watermelon salad was prepared with many different uses of watermelon. They use the whole fruit, respectfully demonstrating the range of every part of a simple watermelon. He created the sweet and sour flavors using the rind—some parts candied and others pickled. He also prepared a watermelon gelatin and condensed watermelon in cubes to intensify both flavor and color. The whole watermelon salad was adorned with crystallized honey. It was a truly wow dish to end a truly wow evening.

With a taste of what’s to come at the Life is Beautiful festival, I can’t wait for the main event on September 25-27 in Downtown Las Vegas. For more information, visit http://lifeisbeautiful.com.