Thursday, August 4, 2011

Wine, Spirits, Sexy Women and Cheesesteak in Atlantic City

As strange as the title of this post sounds, it’s a rundown of my first full day at the Food Network Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival. And what a fun day it was.

The events weren’t starting until the evening so I used the time to catch up with Michael Green, former Gourmet Magazine editor and current wine and cocktail guru. We had drinks in Trinity Pub at the Shops at Caesars. We were joined by Michael’s partner at Liquid Assets, Andrew Levine, for a fun and informative discussion on the Food Network Festivals (they work closely with Food & Wine Magazine as well as Food Network on all of them).  I was disappointed that I didn’t have any of their seminars on my overbooked schedule, but vowed to catch them at one of the future events.

My daughter Sam joined me at the Pier Shops for lunch before we headed to change hotels. As much as I loved Harrah’s (and there’s a lot to love), the events I would be attending were mostly down at the Boardwalk so we were changing to Showboat. We were also lucky enough to get a House of Blues Studio Suite which definitely makes you feel like a rock star! It’s a spacious room with a circular couch and an amazing entertainment system. I wished I had longer to test out the sound, but it was time for us to make our way down the hall to Foundation Room.

A trip to Atlantic City is not complete without a stop at the Foundation Room in the House of Blues. I was so impressed last year with the décor and comfortable booths (not to mention the view from the patio) that I couldn’t stop talking about it. This time I was here for the Sexy Women Eatevent with Divya Gugnani.

I have to confess that I didn’t do my homework on Divya before I got there and it may have been a good think. Had I walked in knowing that this woman had an MBA from Harvard and was a high powered business woman, I might have expected to be bored. Instead, I met a friendly, personable woman who made everyone feel more like they were coming into her living room than paying to attend her event. We were served tasty cocktails, like Drinkable Dessert (Perrier Jouët Champagne and Chambord) that were all under 150 calories along with Chicken Fingers in Panchenko with Corn Salsa and an Apple Walnut Snack as Divya told us how important it was to treat ourselves right. After she gave every person a copy of her book and spoke to each one as she signed it, I don’t think anyone left the room not feeling “sexy.”

From the 150 calorie bites I went in the exact opposite direction to Guy Fieri’s Cheesesteak Battle. This year it was held outside in a tent between Bally’s and Caesars. It was a nice idea to set up in the tents in comparison to last year when everyone crowded into the ballroom, but it unfortunately turned into the hottest night of the year that became one of the rainiest. Guy’s helicopter was delayed and our shoes were mud soaked, yet I don’t think I saw one unhappy person! 

The tents were filled with eight restaurants putting out their best product and hoping to go home with the gigantic trophy. In addition to the tasty and unusual cheese steaks, were the complete fixings – onion rings, French fries, potato salad, coleslaw and more.  There was also no shortage of wine, spirits and Blue Moon beer to wash it down with. I did my duty as a food writer and tasted every one of the cheese steaks and did not have trouble picking my winner – Continental’s Eggroll Cheesesteak. It was absolutely delicious, with a crisp eggroll coating around tender meat and gooey cheese.  I also have to give a shoutout to Sack-O-Subs Pinky, an Italian style Cheesesteak with mozzarella and tomato sauce. Guy Fieri, on the other hand, went for the Classic with Whiz from Wit or Witout, which I thought was more bread than meat.

When the rain let up, we made our way back to Showboat Hotel, where we stopped to check out Wine Unplugged, The Dead. The band was very good and the wine selection (chosen by Michael Green) diverse and international. I had some great 2009 Hogue Gewurztrminer from Washington, with a good balance of sweet and spice, and before we headed to our suite to catch some shuteye before another day of food, wine and spirits.

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