Thursday, October 30, 2014

Food, Wine and More Continues in Atlantic City

I was in Atlantic City for a little birthday celebration with my close friends Liza and Lynn before the Food and Wine Festival. We had a fun evening and were up early for a beautiful day along the Jersey Shore.

Liza had to head out in the early afternoon, but Lynn and I remained. I used my free time to walk along the boardwalk for about an hour.

I was happy to see that everything had been rebuilt along this part of the Atlantic Ocean since the last time I was here, prior to Hurricane Sandy.

I spent some time at both the beach and pool before Lynn and I headed to the next stop, Caesar’s Resort.

I’m not usually one to go for the buffets in Atlantic City, but we were both hungry and I knew I was going to have a late dinner.  We were not disappointed as the selection at the Palace Court Buffet is huge.

I had a little bit of everything, including General Tsao Chicken, pork dumplings, salad, pasta, brisket, stuffing, and vegetables. They also had ice cream you could serve yourself and I happily topped mine with hot fudge and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Lynn had to leave and my room still wasn’t ready so I went to the Caesar’s Pier Shops, looking around and using a Victoria’s Secret gift certificate I had gotten for my birthday.

I picked up my credentials, tickets for the Atlantic CityFood and Wine Festival events, and goodie bags, which included Guy Fieri’s new sauces.

My daughter, Sam, was meeting me for the rest of the weekend, but she was stuck in traffic so I had plenty of time left to relax and leisurely get ready for dinner.  

When she arrived we took a cab over to Harrah’s for the Media Dinner at Martorano’s Restaurant with the other writers and the staff at DKC Public Relations.

One thing that I’ve been missing since I moved to Champaign is a good Italian restaurant so I was more than ready for a meal that I was told would be as authentic as it gets.

Martorano’s is everything you’d expect from a New Jersey Italian restaurant and more, including the atmosphere, the music, and the mafia movies (the one thing I actually could have done without -- a bit too much blood and foul language for dinner time). The waiter’s even sported shirts that read “Yo, cuz!”

We ordered cocktails to start and I was very happy with my Watermelon Ice Martini. It wasn’t long before the waiters were also pouring Martorano’s own Pinot Grigio Venezia Giulia 2012, and bringing out platters of food family style.

The food here was beyond incredible and we all ate until we couldn’t any more of meatballs, fresh ricotta, chicken Marsala, calamari, shrimp scampi, eggplant with fresh mozzarella and tomato, ziti with veal and peppers, and spaghetti with a pork sauce.

As we finished dinner, the atmosphere also changed, with disco music and lights. People got up to dance and even the waiters had a bit more swag in their movement. Everyone was having so much fun as the restaurant turned into a nightclub.

It wasn’t much longer before the dishes filled with desserts came out, including waffle sundaes, chocolate cake, and the best red velvet cake I have ever had. The frosting alone was like eating cheesecake.

I am very picky about my Italian food, especially since I spent years perfecting my cooking to please my Sicilian grandfather, and this meal was one of the best I’ve ever had.

It was after midnight by the time Sam and I got back to the room at Caesar's. It took a bit longer before we could finish digesting all that food and go to sleep. We had a full day ahead of us at the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Restaurants and a bit of Burlesque in Atlantic City

I didn’t expect this story to be written quite the way I’m about to. When I decided to attend the Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival, I thought it might be nice to go in a day early and check out a resort I hadn’t been too. That day early happened to be my birthday so a celebration with New York friends seemed to be fitting.

Revel Resort, which I had heard incredible things about, graciously agreed to host me and have me and two close friends, Liza and Lynn, to dinner at Amada, a Jose Garces restaurant. I had been to two of his other properties in Scottsdale and Chicago so I was in for a treat. I had also interviewed the Chef for Cocktails & Joints. 

Unfortunately, I’m going to have to point you to the other Garces restaurants as Revel Resort has closed down in the short time since I was there. I was one of those hoping this beautiful property would be sold before the closing date, but it was not.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have lots to say about food and wine in Atlantic City. Before we get to the festival, I’d like to describe an incredible meal I had at a place that is very much open.

After we checked into the hotel, Liza, Lynn, and I were just planning on meeting Lisa Johnson and Alexis Kull of Lisa Johnson Communications at Atlantic City Bottle Company for drinks before our dinner at Amada. We ended up with a lot more than we planned.

Atlantic City Bottle Company is off the strip and not easy to find, but it’s definitely worth the drive to the stadium (it’s across from there, between McDonald’s and the car wash).

The Iron Room Speakeasy is actually located beyond the AC Bottle Company wine and liquor store. It’s not very big, but definitely makes a statement, with lots of wood, and a spot for live music in the corner.

It was hard to decide whether to go for one of the classic cocktails with a unique twist, or one of the favorite wines from an uncommon vineyard. I went with the Ribbonwood Sauvignon Blanc, a good choice for a New Zealand wine that’s not quite as grassy as some of the others.

My friend Liza did experiment with the Strawberry Pim’s Cup, which she said was very good and mojito-like.

In addition to a great drink list, the food here is amazing. The Udon Mac & Cheese was delicious. It was very cheesy with lots of parmigiana for a bit of a kick. I loved the idea of using long thick noodles in macaroni and cheese.

The Chicken Waffles were excellent. I have had this before and it’s usually a chicken leg, but it’s done instead here with a cutlet. Also, it’s more savory than overly sweet.

The Hanger Steak was tender and tasty, but the Brussel sprouts served with them got our attention fast as the best we’ve ever had.

We also enjoyed the pappardelle, the crab, and the cheese plate, which had a great combination of cheeses and fruits.

After dinner at Amada back at Revel, we went to the Ivan Kane’s Royal Jelly Burlesque Night Club. It was my first burlesque experience and Ivan was kind enough to give us access to the VIP section. Although the club was forced to close when Revel did, I hope it has the opportunity to open up somewhere else in Atlantic City.

We were back in our room after my birthday had ended, but I still had a lot more celebrating to do over the weekend as Lynn and I were staying for the next day, and my daughter was than joining me at Caesar’s for the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival