Saturday, August 20, 2011

Final Day at Food Network Wine and Food Festival in Atlantic City

All good things must come to an end and Sunday was the end of another great Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival. This event is one of the Food Network’s newest and it still needs some tweaks, but despite a few minor disappointments, it is at the top of the festival list for value and location. I’m also seeing changes made each year to the activities that have a few problems so I’m confident the 2012 event will be even better.

My first stop for the day was a brand new one, “Sun, Sand & Organic – A Wine Tasting” and I can't say it was one of the best. Now, of course it wasn’t anyone’s fault that it was 95 degrees and the sand was burning, but the turnout was tiny and there really wasn’t much that you couldn’t find at the Robert Mondavi Grand Tasting Market (an absolute must for anyone attending). It was a great experience for me personally because I got to spend some time tasting and checking out some things I hadn’t had before.

I started the afternoon with a Botanical Bliss, made from Thatcher’s Elderflower, Farmer’s Botanical Gin, Hibiscus Pomegranate and tonic water. It was perfect for a hot day, but I was there to taste some wine organic wine from around the world and I got to work, sniffing and sipping away until I narrowed it down. Some of the standouts that I found were: a refreshing 2010 Santa Julia Torrontes Chenin Blanc from Argentina; a fruit-filled 2010 Casa Lapostolle  Carmenere from Chile; and a delicious Porto from Casa de Jordoes in Portugal.

As for the other events taking place on Sunday, I heard nothing but raves for The Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues Concert Hall, led by Pat and Gina Neely. It seemed to be a great replacement for last year's Paul Dean brunch. Everyone who attended couldn’t say enough about the food and music. The beer tasting Super Suds seminar, which I attended last year, was another popular event.

After I left the beach, I headed over to the Grand Tasting Market for some brunch of my own since I hadn’t had much to eat (a rarity at a food festival).  Rastelli, a company that produces just about every type of food and was also putting on cooking shows,  was tasting some interesting pasta in sauce at the Italian Village. I had a taste of Pico Porton, an interesting spirit that advertises itself as a cross between vodka and tequila.

I took a slow walk with lots of stops along the Boardwalk, enjoying a soft pretzel from Philly Pretzel Factory and marveling at how the Steel Pier is just as beautiful a sighting as it was when I was a kid growing up in New York and visiting here with my family. 

I had some time to look at some of the pictures in my House of Blues Suite before I headed to Harrah’s for dinner at Luke Palladino, a new restaurant by the acclaimed chef. I was originally supposed to be there on Wednesday night with some friends, but the best laid plans don’t always work and I was doing this one solo so I my full attention went to the food.

I think I loved Luke Palladino the moment I walked in. It was modern, with white and gray throughout, and an open kitchen so that the aroma of garlic and basil permeated the place. The menu (which changes seasonally) was full of small plates and the wine was all Italian. Fresh is the key here with a co-op of nearly two dozen local vendors supplying meat, fish and produce.

The pasta is made fresh daily at this restaurant and, honestly, everything on the menu sounded delicious. I had a Moscato Chinato and asked for some help from Signe, my very knowledgeable waitress who happens to share the same birthday as me. I started with a few small plates, the first of which was Caciocavallo Scaloppine, a Sicilian cheese made of cow’s milk that is sautéed with toasted garlic and mint, then flambéed with Sambuca. It was absolutely incredible, full of so many flavors that you just wanted to chew every bite slowly and take them in.

Next, Executive Chef Anthony Ricardi brought over Stuffed Roasted Figs with Gorgonzola, wrapped in Smoked Ham came. They were a great combination of sweet and smoky and the walnut vinaigrette was just right on top. I also enjoyed the Eggplant Arrostto, roasted eggplant with a tomato ragu, pine nuts and shredded pecorino.

It was at this point I asked Signe for some time to digest before attempting my main course, but I didn’t have to worry about fitting some of the homemade Ravioli in as they were the lightest I’d ever tasted, in an uncooked sauce of red and yellow tomatoes and topped with slices of parmesan cheese with lots of fresh basil. She suggested I have a glass of Turlo’s Sangiovese/Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon combo and it was a wonderful match. (All of the waiters here are well-trained in food and wine.)

I did get a break before dessert, which was a good thing because I’m so glad I tasted the Ricotta Zeppole with Moscota Zabaglione. The Valhrona Chocolate Pudding Tart with Shredded Dark Chocolate also looked inviting, but I was stuffed and had to head back to my room at Showboat for a four a.m. wake up call and an early morning flight.

I would certainly recommend to anyone in Atlantic City, to stop at Luke Palladino, where the prices are reasonable and the food superb. Anytime is fine, but if you can make it at the same time as the Food Network Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival, you are in for a double treat… See you there next year!

1 comment:

  1. Great post! It seems that Atlantic is very enchanting city. Pictures are so lovely. I will make a plan to visit this place. Last year i was in Orlando and stayed in hotel near orlando convention center. The food was so delicious and also the services that they provided were superb.