When chef John McKibben first opened Grape Street Cafe in 1997, his small restaurant took a back seat to a large front-of-the-house retail area where customers could purchase house-made sauces, salads, and high-quality wines. Though the concept quickly transitioned to focus on the fresh, house-made dishes flying out of his kitchen, McKibben has held on to his retail license and continues to encourage his diners to finish their meal by picking up a bottle of wine to go or commissioning a self-portrait painted with balsamic vinegar.
With the exception of a handful of rotating nightly specials, the menu has stayed largely the same, and Chef McKibben credits the cuisine as the eatery's 14-year secret to success. Dinner finds the shop's signature hot sandwiches, creamy pastas, and pizzas sharing top billing alongside nationally inspired entrees such as a baked Alaskan halibut topped with lemon beurre-blanc and Colorado lamb in a sweet-and-sour mint glaze. However, the diverse menu is designed to complement the restaurant?s real draw: its extensive wine selection. Up to 90 vinos are available by the glass each day, with selections that hail from as near as Napa and as far away as Mosel, Bordeaux, Rioja, and Mos Eisley.
Las Vegas doesn't necessarily have a reputation for high culture, but the founders of the Las Vegas Philharmonic showed they were serious from their very first concert. In 1999, the orchestra debuted with Mahler's Resurrection Symphony, a demanding work with unusual instrumentation that can stretch up to 90 minutes in length. "As far as we know, this is the largest staging of a classical music piece in the city's history," cofounder Harold Weller told the Review-Journal of the 260-musician production. In the decade-plus since then, the Philharmonic has continued its record of accessible ambition with a pops series, live accompaniment to silent films, and collaborations with superstars such as Sarah Brightman, Placido Domingo, and Andrea Bocelli.
In 2012, the orchestra moved into The Smith Center, a brand new cultural center built from 2,458 tons of Indiana limestone and crowned by an art-deco-style carillon tower that holds 47 bells. Inside the theater, streamlined chandeliers evoke 1920s elegance, and a wide, palm-tree-flanked lawn frames the massive building with enough space for outdoor spectacles and double dates with other orchestras.
A nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities, New Vista Community hosts festive fundraisers throughout the year. Savvy to the pulse of the community, event organizers throw raucous events such as wine walks, which regale guests with the foolproof combination of fine food samples, wine and cocktails, and live music. Guests at the Brew's Best Hand-Crafted Beer festival sip free samples of regional brews, and at the lighthearted Adam & Eve's Love Fling, love-happy attendees and confused mannequin collectors bid on bachelors and bachelorettes.
Though many in the community may know New Vista Community primarily for these events, the organization dedicates its best energies to help those with disabilities. Founded in 1984 by three sets of parents with intellectually challenged kids, the charity provides group homes, assisted living, job training, and field trips to kids and adults.
Early VIP admission to the second-annual Bikini Beer Festival kicks off at 7 p.m. at the Downtown Grand Hotel and Casino's rooftop pool. VIP guests sip specialty drinks from Cocktail City Vegas in the VIP lounge and can also imbibe in unlimited craft-beer samples from more than a dozen brands, including Big Dog's Brewing Company. Food is available for an additional cost. Partiers are encouraged to come in their swimwear so they can hop in the pool or attempt to get a nighttime tan from nearby building's florescent lights. DJs and local bands, such as indie new-wave act Play for Keeps, will blast tunes until the fest ends at 11 p.m. and will continue to play during the after party featuring DJ Paradice.
The ultra haute guides at Elite VIP Tours lead groups to Vegas's hottest and most coveted clubs and venues. Whether on a club hop in a luxurious party bus, a walking tour of the nightlife, or a jaunt to some of Vegas's most exclusive day-club pool parties, guests enjoy the special attention of a VIP host and the right to dodge any lines and cover charges they come across. Venues change to keep the tour as hot and fresh as a biscuit made by Gucci; past locations have included Tao inside the Venetian, LAX inside the Luxor, and Pure inside Caesars Palace.
For more than 30 years, Lee's Discount Liquor has stocked its shelves with myriad spirits, beers, and wine, earning a readers' pick as the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Best Liquor or Wine Store of 2012. Prospective imbibers get lost in a fluorescent catwalk of domestic and international tequilas, rums, cabernets, and microbrews, which deck out beverage collections with enough flavors to match any type of cuisine or postage stamp desired. Lee's Discount Liquor also hosts in-store tastings and an annual spirit-sampling event, which merges its myriad sips with entertainment from live bands.