Notes from the field: Plant-based diet meets steak and wine
I like Las Vegas, but I am not quite sure why. I think it’s that blend of Western skies and mountains, incredible glitz and a bug nutty lifestyle that fascinates me. From the food and wine perspective, it is hard to beat.
I was in Las Vegas recently speaking at a fabulous meeting. Dr. Mike Roizen, bestselling author and Director of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Program, put on a fantastic course entitled Optimize Aging by Altering Inflammation! I was relegated to running a Boot Camp called Immunology for the Non-Immunologist and was warmly received. I learned a lot, too, about the benefits of a plant-based diet. Dr. Mladen Golubic gave a high-power presentation on the benefits of plant-based diets, noting they are not only good for our overall health, but such diets also have a small carbon footprint and thus are good for the planet as well. I was so impressed I actually took notes, but unfortunately already had reservations for my brother-in-law and I to dine at Mario Batali’s steak house CarneVino, considered by many to be among the country’s best. It was quite the affair: we ate bone-in ribeyes about the size of the Bellagio and left an immense carbon foot print for our indulgence. Yes, I was guilt-tripped, hid this transgression from my course mates, and, as penance, promised to revisit my diet (after I left Vegas of course) and hit the gym. Oh well, life is complicated.
The wine experience in Las Vegas is also incredible, with so many award-winning lists in every size, shape and style. The list at CarneVino was extraordinarily strong in Italian offerings from virtually every region, but it was one of the most expensive lists I have encountered in a long time. We drank Passopisciaro from Mt Etna in Sicily where I was invited only six weeks ago (see ACR Annual Meeting and Wine: San Francisco via Sicily) and it was excellent. The night before, we were the guest of Dr. Roizen at the hipster Asian restaurant Andrais in the Encore feasting on spectacular seafood, sushi and Asian fusion offerings. We drank an IGT from Bocelli vineyards called Poggioncino, a luscious sangiovese, rich in red fruits in the nose with an elegant finish. I was informed we were drinking this selection in honor of the great tenor who was appearing in Las Vegas the following night. I made a mental note to try to get some of this beautiful wine when I returned to Ohio.
The next day we toured the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, an incredible edifice built by the famous architect Frank Geary and the ‘brain child’ of the philanthropist Larry Ruvo, a Las Vegas icon. I was really impressed and had a warm welcome and tour, but still had no idea what waited at our next stop.
Our host for the day was Michael Servino, the director of special events at Southern Wine and Spirits, a major (no: incredibly major) distributor of wine and spirits in Las Vegas. Michael is a wonderful guy and told us he was taking us to a wine tasting, end of story. We arrived at the MGM Grand and were ushered to an inner sanctum reserved for high rollers or whales, as we were told they were often called. Here, a smart group of perhaps 30 people chatted and drank the wines of Bocelli. As it turns out, the Bocelli family has been making wines in Tuscany since 1881. We were given the opportunity to taste two other wonderful Bocelli IGTs including In Canto, an elegant 100% cabernet and Alcide a Super Tuscan Sangiovese Cab blend. Finally, after meeting an array of interesting people including The Ruvo Center’s developer Larry Ruvo, a hush descended upon our little group as the maestro himself, Andrea Bocelli, entered to mingle. We were told he does not speak before a concert but he was gracious and charming, posing for photos with some of the attendees. I was reluctant to approach him, but when our host ‘insisted’ we pose, we were there in a flash. I approached the tenor with my poor Italian to say “Molto piacere maestro” and in return he smiled and posed for the camera with us. I couldn’t believe it and felt both joy as well as a sense I was imposing on a special moment.
Ok, reader, what is Wine and the Rheumatologist saying this month about, well, wine and rheumatology? As I think of the many meetings I attend as a speaker or attendee, the experience ranges from grueling to exhilarating. Yes, each venue has its own merit, including furthering my education, presenting my research, and, certainly, seeing old friends and interesting places.
This particular trip had all of this but so much more. While meeting Andrea Bocelli was a real thrill, I am reflecting that wine was the central component to making the experience what it was. We first drank his family’s wine and enjoyed it for sure, but when drinking it with him it was magnified exponentially. Placebo effect again? Maybe, but who cares? Wine was my entrée to meeting some wonderful people, who I may not ever have met otherwise. While the wine was a focal point, it was not the most important thing. I can’t say, seriously, that I have enjoyed a two-day meeting as much in long, long time.
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