The team from local favorites, Artisanal Foods, headed by Brett Ottolenghi, hosted the second Vegas Food Expo at the Westgate Resort April 15-16. The variety of products offered was astounding considering the event is so young. Everything from caviar, foie gras, truffles, cheeses and imported cured ham to eco-friendly pest management and serving pieces was on display. Of course no Food Expo would be complete without samples and there were some delicious offerings to be had. 

Photos courtesy of CurlyTop Baker, Chase R McMurdy courtesy of Urban Seed Inc., Buzz Pops and Cafe do Paraiso

Several local Las Vegas companies took this opportunity to show off their wares side by side with international companies and purveyors from all over the country. Of interest was the abundance of companies, both local and outside the Vegas Valley, whose core value is to reduce waste, be eco-friendly, give back to the community or a combination of those goals.

Urban Seed Inc., our local aeroponic urban garden company, was in attendance showing off gorgeous herbs and lettuces which were also used in the Back of the House Brawl chef competition. They have farms in Nye County and a soon-to-operate farm on Wynn road. Many of our local chefs, on and off the Strip are featuring Urban Seed Inc. lettuces in their salad menus. The Urban Seed Foundation works in conjunction with Urban Seed Inc. to bring fresh produce to at-risk communities with a goal to start school and community gardens.

CurlyTop Baker founded by husband and wife team Mark & Angela Pepe, was born of a desire to feed the homeless here in Las Vegas. Part of the proceeds from each cookie sold goes back to the Las Vegas community to feed the homeless or care for women and girls who are the victims of sex trafficking. These cookies are delicious and made from scratch, by hand, and are the cookies you would make for yourself if you had the time. They showcased their product with full sized samples of several of their flavors, including the Campfire pictured.

Locally owned and operated Café do Paraíso imports coffee beans direct from farms with the help of a trusted importer in California and distributes from their Post Road location. For each pound of coffee sold, one dollar is reinvested in school gardens through a partnership with Green Our Planet. They also support educational services both here in Clark County and in Africa on a fifty/fifty basis, with half of the charitable funds going to the areas where the coffees are grown. Fresh brewed coffee was available for sampling.

Buzz Pop Cocktails offered samples of their frozen adult push pops. Chef-created flavors, like Southern Belle—like a bourbon peach pie—were happily received by guests in attendance. The locally-owned company markets here to our large pool and cocktail culture. The patented freezing technique makes for a smooth sorbet-like mouthfeel instead of an icy, granular texture usually experienced in “boozy” frozen treats.

Needless to say, Artisanal Foods was well represented as was MGP Specialty Food. MGP is owned by J. Michael Stamm. He also owns the café Cured & Whey. Here locals can get a great sandwich, soup or salad while shopping a carefully curated selection of artisan groceries previously only available to chefs and the culinary community.

The Back of the House Brawl, emceed by Chef Vic Vegas, was a highlight with attendees and merchants alike. Four top chefs from on and off the Strip went head to head in three rounds of competition. Each round had a secret ingredient list including products from the sponsoring vendors. Chefs John Courtney from The Cosmopolitan, Justin Kingsley Hall from The Kitchen at Atomic, Sean Farney from the Aria, and Shaun King from Momofuku battled across the two days of the expo with John Courtney coming out on top as the winner. The judging panel included sponsoring vendors, local writer Jason Harris, Chef Gary La Morte and me.

Many participating vendors offered information on sustainability, fair trade practices and sourcing, as well as quality control, organic content and non-GMO content. Because nearly every merchant in attendance had artisanal offerings and are appealing to a savvy culinary community, the knowledge of the merchants was well received and appreciated.