A QUIRKY FACT OF LAYOUT: Plenty of cities have well-known attractions and pursuits and destinations, the kind of things that appear on the fronts of the tourism brochures as well as along the walls of the local airport in poster form. But it isn't often that those attractions and pursuits, be they sports or something outdoors or an offbeat museum, are so close to world-famous cuisine. As in, steps-away close. The stand-out in this category, the lone example, is once again Las Vegas, a city that's a stand-out in so many unusual ways. Consider that its on-stage extravaganzas and casino floors are up against -- and that's right up against, as in sharing space -- restaurants helmed by household-name chefs. Meaning you can sashay from the city's most famous attractions and pursuits right to a dinner prepared by a cuisinaire with her own TV show. It's a funny bit of layout, and one that's oh-so-Las-Vegas, and it serves as further reason that one of the hottest of hot food festivals happens in Sin City each spring. It's Vegas Uncork'd, it is hosted by Bon Appétit, no less, and it lands at a number of Strip-snug properties, like MGM Grand, Caesars Palace, ARIA, and Bellagio. As for the chefs? We weren't joshing around in the whole household-name department.
MICHAEL MINA, GORDON RAMSAY, GIADA DE LAURENTIIS, and a host of other stove-focused smarties will be participating, as well as first-timer Emeril Lagasse (that name rings a bell, for sure). And, for sure, Mr. Lagasse will be one of the top draws for food fans and cook fans, people showing up for "the intimate dinners and interactive experiences." Look for happenings like The Chefs of Wolfgang Puck: A Lunch Across the Empire (you'll taste many Puckian plates) and an In Hell's Kitchen Dinner with Gordon Ramsay (both events happen at Caesars Palace). Can you buy your tickets a la carte, and just do what you want? Yes. Will tickets go? Yes -- this is the ninth annual, and Uncork'd grows each year in stature and gotta-go-ness. Will you find plenty to fill the April 23-26 weekend extravaganza? Plenty, yes. And will there ever be another place like Las Vegas, where the main attractions are located cheek-by-jowl with all of that celebrated food? Dream big, other places everywhere.