An Incredible Food-Fueled Vegas Trip with Chase Sapphire Preferred
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This past weekend, several TPG staffers took off for the 10th anniversary of Vegas Uncork'd. And with their Chase Sapphire Preferred cards, they were granted access to some neat perks while at the event. Read on for their full experience, as told by TPG Associate Editor Emily McNutt.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one of the most sought after travel rewards credit cards for points and miles enthusiasts. If you're not aware, its lucrative bonus categories and valuable points make this card a no-brainer, as you earn 2x points on all dining (including delivery services like Seamless and Postmates) and travel (including ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft), in addition to 1 point on all other purchases. Those Ultimate Rewards points, which TPG values at 2.1 apiece in his most recent monthly valuations, can be transferred to a number of partners — from airlines to hotels.
The Sapphire Preferred Card is one of those that not only offers significant value in the terms of the rewards it can offer — especially its 50,000-point sign-up bonus after you spend $4,000 in the first three months — but also with the additional benefits and perks that come with being a cardholder. Earlier this year, Chase Sapphire Preferred offered cardholders access to exclusive events at the Sundance Film Festival, and this past weekend, Sapphire Preferred was a sponsor of the Vegas Uncork'd food and wine festival in Las Vegas — this year, celebrating its 10th anniversary.
I headed to Las Vegas to check out Uncork'd along with TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig and Editorial Intern Nick Ellis. As Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders, we purchased some tickets and headed for a weekend filled with fantastic food, great wine and exclusive access to certain portions of the event just for being cardholders. Upon showing up to the event, we were greeted with Chase Sapphire Preferred wristbands, which granted us special access and additional perks at some events. Below, you'll find a breakdown of the events we went to during the four-day extravaganza — as you'll probably gather below, each event was worth the cost of the ticket, and the benefits of being a Sapphire Preferred cardholder make it even better.
Saber-Off Kick-Off Celebration — Thursday, April 28
Each year of Vegas Uncork'd, some of the biggest names in the culinary world get together to kick off the event with a traditional saber off. In the past, this event has been restricted only to those participating in the event, such as chefs and Bon Appetit editors, so it's been very exclusive. However, that was changed for this year's event, and all Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders were able to attend this VIP event for the first time ever.
Tickets to the event were $125 or 12,500 Ultimate Rewards points. Based on TPG's valuation of 2.1 cents, you'll essentially paying $263 to "purchase" a ticket using points — a pretty terrible redemption, so you're best off paying cash.
The event was held at The Venetian, which is located right on the Vegas strip. When I arrived, everyone was gathered in a small room off to the side of the hotel's casino. Inside, there was an abundance of Prosecco and a number of waiters serving light bites. As advertised, I was literally rubbing shoulders with some of the culinary world's most recognizable names — Emeril Lagasse, Daniel Boulud, Guy Savoy and many, many more.
After a few short words from a couple of sponsors, we headed outside for some photo opportunities where the actual saber off was set to take place. This is where my Chase Sapphire Preferred wristband came in handy for the first time. As we were all herded out to the semi-confined space, someone directed Sapphire Preferred cardholders to a reserved front-row viewing area for the saber off. This was a really nice perk, because not only did I have a nearly unobstructed view for the saber off, but some of the chefs also came over to mingle with cardholders afterward.
After the saber off concluded, cardholders were invited back inside The Venetian for a gift bag and a final glass of Prosecco before heading off. The gift bag was really nice — it came in a grey Herschel tote bag and included cocktail-making necessities.
In all, the Saber-Off Kick-Off Celebration was a unique way to begin the four-day event and just being there with these big name chefs made it a really unique experience worth the price of the ticket, in my opinion — and the gift bag was a nice touch, too.
Master Series: A Decade of Indulgence with Guy Savoy — Thursday, April 28
It's not every day when you have the opportunity to eat at a two Michelin-starred restaurant with the chef, but at Vegas Uncork'd, that's exactly what you'll be able to do. Guy Savoy greeted each attendee as they entered the front doors to his restaurant in Caesars Palace for a five-course culinary event with premier pairings.
Tickets to this event were going for $330 or 33,000 Ultimate Rewards points for Sapphire Preferred cardholders (about $693 worth of points per ticket) — again, not a good redemption for your UR points. For non-cardholders, a ticket to the dinner was going for $370. On an average night at Restaurant Guy Savoy, the five-course menu costs $290 per person, but that doesn't include pairings.
There was an open bar that was serving Champagne and everyone in attendance mingled before being seated. Waiters came around with a selection of light hors d'oeuvres, including foie gras, a parmesan waffle with pesto and sliders. We didn't try the foie gras, but the other two options were delightful — in fact, we grabbed seconds when the wait staff came around again.
All of the Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders were seated together at a large table in its own room, however, Zach, Nick and I were only able to get two tickets from Chase, so the restaurant set us up with our own table rather than splitting us up. That being said, it would have been nice to interact with other cardholders and hear about their experiences at Vegas Uncork'd (which we had plenty of opportunities to do later in the weekend).
While seated, our first course technically could have been the bread selection the wait staff brought around. There were a variety of options, and there was really no poor choice. A personal favorite of mine was the pesto-infused option, but you really couldn't go wrong.
The real first course of the night was a "Golden" Osetra Caviar, Langoustine Tartare & Cauliflower Bavaroise, paired with Piper-Heidsieck, Brut, Reims, NV. This was fantastic — there was the perfect amount of caviar, and the cauliflower bavaroise was a perfect texture. Inside the cauliflower bavaroise, there was shrimp tartar. As someone who's generally not a big fan of caviar, I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the taste of these combined ingredients and the great pairing with the Brut Champagne.
The second course was Roasted Turbot, Asparagus & Smoked Sabayon, paired with Bouchard A&F, Le Poruzots, Meursault, 2013. The fish could not have been any more fresh, its texture and taste were out of this world, especially when combined with the asparagus and smoked sabayon. Again, the pairing went especially well with the white-bodied fish. Before serving, the whole Turbot fish came around on a platter for viewing before being plated and brought out.
The third course was Artichoke & Black Truffle Soup with Toasted Mushroom Brioche and Black Truffle Butter, paired with Bouchard A&F, Pommard, 2011. This is the dish that Chef Guy Savoy is best known for, and after trying it, I can definitely tell why. You dip the flaky mushroom brioche into the soup and it just melts in your mouth — I've never tasted anything quite like this.
The fourth course was Veal Chop, Seasonal Vegetables & Black Truffle Puree, paired with M. Chapoutier, La Bernardine, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 2013. Out of all the courses included in this meal, this was (at our table) the weakest link — and it was still delicious! It's not that it was disliked, but the other courses were so out-of-this-world delicious, it's hard to compare.
The fifth and final course was dessert — Strawberry, paired with P.S. Match, Rosso, Trento, NV. This wine pairing was perfect for the dish — the taste of the sweet red complemented the taste of the strawberry perfectly.
Before leaving, the restaurant sent guests home with a brioche. I ate it the next morning for breakfast and it was truly a melt-in-your-mouth culinary experience, which summed up the whole event. Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders also received a Herschel gift bag with a West Elm ceramic and wood cheese cutting board and William Sonoma ceramic cheese marker, which went well with the theme of the Guy Savoy dinner. Overall, this was probably the best complete meal I've ever had — everything from the service to the pairings to the dishes themselves was exquisitely done.
The Grand Tasting — Friday, April 29
The Grand Tasting is the signature event of Vegas Uncork'd, and it's really something you have to experience for yourself. More than 50 of the biggest names in the culinary world and more than 100 of the world's best wine and spirit makers come together to throw one big sampling party.
Tickets for this event were going for $300 or 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points — worth about $630 based on TPG's 2.1-cent valuation. Booking as a Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholder gives you early access to the event, which is also $300 for non-cardholders and gives you an extra 30 minutes before general admission attendees are allowed in. If you book as a non-Sapphire Preferred cardholder, you can pay $225 for a general admission ticket, which doesn't give you the early access.
I had an early access ticket because I'm a Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholder, so I was anxious to see if it was really worth it to pay the extra $75 for 30 minutes. In the end, a 30-minute start isn't that big of an advantage — especially when you have to wait 10-15 minutes to get in, you only have 15-20 minutes before general admission attendees are allowed in. If you're thinking about this event in the future, I'd advise you to pass on the $75 early access pass and go straight for the general admission unless you're one of the first few people in line and know exactly which booths you want to go to first.
What makes this event so unique is the variety of booths and options that are available. It seems that everywhere you turn your head, there's a big name chef's stand with something that looks more than appetizing. It becomes a challenge to sample as many interesting foods and drink concoctions, and it's an even better opportunity to check out high-end chefs before you decide if you want to spend the money to actually go to their restaurant.
That being said, it is hectic and can be overwhelming, which is where the special access as a Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholder comes in. With your wristband or a flash of your card, you're automatically granted access to the Chase Sapphire Preferred lounge, which is actually located on top of the Garden of the Gods Pool. It's lit up in blue lights and it's hard to miss, as it's in the center of all the action.
Wolfgang Puck teamed up with Chase to offer one of his speciality items exclusively to guests in the Sapphire Preferred lounge. In other words, no one on the outside of the lounge had access to Wolfgang's creations, which were great. There were also drink specials at the lounge like a Mezcal — also a great choice.
In addition to the added food and drink options, there was also access to something that wasn't available anywhere else in the venue (beside the $600 per person 10th anniversary tables) — seats. There were plenty of seating options and cocktail tables for people to stand at while in the lounge, which made it extra enjoyable to stay at the lounge when you got tired of standing outside.
Perhaps one of the highlights, though, was when Wolfgang Puck and Guy Savoy were hanging out around the lounge. They seemed very pleasant and willing to chat and more than happy to pose for photos with cardholders — a definite perk! Overall, I would definitely recommend going to this event, especially given the special access you'll get to the lounge as a Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholder.
Little Italy from City to Strip: Rao's Italian Brunch with the Pellegrinos — Sunday, May 1
Brunch at Rao's at Caesars Palace was the perfect way to end an amazing — and filling — four-day event. Brunch with the famed Frank Pellegrino, Jr. and Frank Pellegrino, Sr. was one big Italian family affair. The brunch itself was delicious, and the show between the two Pellegrinos was even more entertaining.
Tickets to this event were going for $155 for both Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders and the general public. However, Sapphire Preferred cardholders could spend 15,500 Ultimate Rewards points (about $326) on this ticket — again, not a good redemption for your valuable UR points.
The first course was Rao's Beet Salad, which was paired with Nuschese Pinot Grigio from Veneto, Italy. The beets were really fresh, and the salad was just great with the Pinot Grigio wine pairing.
Luckily for us, our table was essentially located right next to the area where the Pellegrinos and the head chef of Rao's Dino Gatto were holding demonstrations while cooking our brunch. It was really neat to see all the cooking and preparations done from up close — you really get a great view and a new perspective.
One of the nicest parts of this brunch was the atmosphere. Because there was such a small number of people inside Rao's for brunch, there was the chance for the Pellegrinos to make the brunch cozy. Those in attendance really felt connected to what they were watching — and what they were about to eat.
Although Frank Pellegrino, Sr. was there, he mostly stayed on the sidelines and watched his son, Frank Pellegrino, Jr. do all the cooking. It was a neat father-son dynamic to watch in realtime. And even though Pellegrino, Sr. didn't do any of the cooking himself, he was still actively involved in the brunch.
Part of the second course included Lobster Fra Diavolo. The lobster, which was cooked right in front of us, was delicious and perfectly prepared.
The second course also included a Garlic Studded & Herb Crusted Prime Rib with Rosemary Roasted Fingerlings and Broccolini Aglio Olio.
Both courses were paired with Castello di Querceto Chianti from Tuscany, though some chose to stick with the Pinot Grigio.
For dessert, there was a Grilled Pound Cake with Fresh Seasonal Fruite and Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, which was paired with Banfi Brachetto d'Acqui, Rosa Regale from Piedmont, Italy.
Like with the Guy Savoy five-course dinner with pairings, Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders were seated together. Unlike at that event, though, at this event we were seated with other cardholders, which was nice to be able to chat about each others' Vegas Uncork'd experiences. We had a nice time chatting with a couple who had recently retired in Vegas — it was great to hear that they maximize their points with the "Chase trifecta." And, as an extra highlight, the head chef Dino was part of a New York Giants Super Bowl-winning season and allowed those at the table to try on his ring — pretty neat!
And just like with the Saber-Off Kick-Off event and Guy Savoy dinner, Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders received a special gift bag. This time, the Herschel bag included various types of Rao's homemade pasta, a serving spoon and a Frank Pellegrino cookbook.
Aside from the bonus perks that come with being a Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholder at the designated Vegas Uncork'd events, there were also some other perks that weren't event-specific. Because Vegas Uncork'd is spread across several hotel properties throughout the city of Las Vegas, you do a lot of walking — and walking in the hot Vegas sun isn't always the most pleasant experience, so every once in a while you need a break.
Luckily, Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders are given complimentary access to a lounge at The Palazzo. Although it's not big and it's nothing like you might expect at something like a Centurion Lounge, there are all the basic amenities you could need to stay refreshed in between events.
The lounge was located inside The Palazzo Theatre, which is toward the back of the casino. It was air conditioned inside, so you could go in and cool off before moving on to your next event, and there were bowls of light snacks on the tables.
There was a small area for cooking demonstrations in addition to a small bar and complimentary water. There were also private bathrooms inside the lounge. This was just a nice place to go during the event — and another added perk of being a Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholder at Vegas Uncork'd.
Between its bonus categories and transfer partners, I knew the Chase Sapphire Preferred card was one of the best points-earning credit cards out there. However, this was my first Sapphire Preferred-sponsored event, and I was a big fan of all the perks that come with just being a cardholder. The Vegas Uncork'd event is one that any foodie should not miss, and that experience can be magnified to be made more enjoyable just by being a Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholder. I'm now looking forward to more Chase Sapphire Preferred events and other ways my card will give me added benefits on top of its already-great points-earning perks.