Showing posts with label Food and Wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food and Wine. Show all posts

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Party Time with at Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival

After a morning of checking out the Grand Market, my daughter Sam and I still had a full day and night ahead of us at the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival.

We got back to the press room at Caesar’s Resort in time for a fun and candid conversation with Martha Stewart . It was a press only round table. I had never met her before and was surprised how relaxed she was.

One of the things she talked about is a subject close to my palate – infusing vodka. Ms. Stewart, who has a farm in Bedford, New York, said, “Black currants are the basis for cassis. It flavors the vodka very nicely. Within two months, the vodka is great and it only gets better and better. “

She also added, “I use raspberries in vodka. I use strawberries. I grow a lot of citrus on my farm, lots of lemons and limes. I use that a lot for the drinks."

"When I have a lot of lemon or sour oranges, I squeeze them and freeze it for ice cubes, and keep that in the freezer for drinks. That makes delicious drinks. The orange and lemon peels make very good vodka infusions.”

We left the press room and headed to the tent on the beach at Caesar’s for the Burger Bash. I have to say I was a bit disappointed.

They ran out of burgers pretty quickly and seemed to bring more sporadically. What did come in was terrific, however.

Our favorites were: Black Bean & Quinoa Veggie Burger with roasted beets, tarragon aioli and pea tendrils; Roasted Lamb Burger with feta, fresh herbs, oven roasted tomatoes and Kalamata olive oil; Lobster Burger with crispy potatoes and peppered may; Black & Blue Burger stuffed with blue cheese and steak sauce and topped with crispy onions; and the Peking Duck Burger with Hoisin Sauce, pickled cucumbers and green onions.

I was also impressed with the burger-shaped desserts.

We had a short rest to get an appetite back before the Clam Bake. It did work out that Sam doesn’t eat red meat so she didn’t have much at Burger Bash and I can’t eat seafood so I didn’t have anything at the Clam Bake.

The band playing at the Clam Bake was excellent. We had a good time listening to music from the last 30 years while we sat at long tables and talked to the other guests.

Everyone (except me) was given a Corona bucket that contained a whole lobster, clams, corn on the cob and potatoes. There were also salads and clam chowder on buffet tables.

I was careful not to touch anything other than a Malibu and soda and a Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey with iced tea from the bar.

Marcus Samuelsson stopped by and greeted the guests for a few minutes before we left to shower and get ready for the final event of the day, the Beach Soiree hosted by Robert Irvine.

We were a bit early so we went up to Nero’s Steakhouse in Caesar’s Atlantic City and had cocktails. I really liked their Sucker Punch (Belvedere vodka, triple sec, simple syrup, passion fruit purée, and cranberry juice).

After we finished our drinks we went back to the Caesar’s beach tent. Sam and I both felt that it was the best event of the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival.

There were lots of cocktails and gifts for the guests. Viniq made some delicious drinks and the DJ was great. Although the description of the party said “passed hors d'oeuvres,” there were stations with food such as Bacon-wrapped Wasabi Stuffed Shrimp with habanero tartar sauce, South Florida Stone Crab Conch Fritters with passion fruit, and Mini Cuban Pressed Spring Rolls.

My favorite was the Cuban Roasted Pork Empanadas with golden raisins and salsa verde. Sam loved the Jerk-spiced Mahi Tacos with mashed avocado in sambal aioli with green apple slaw.

For dessert, we had a replica of one of my favorite treats growing up – Coconut Snow Balls.

Robert Irvine greeted the audience and spent a while on stage interacting with the audience and taking selfies with many of the guests. Marcus Samuelsson also joined him on stage.

It was a long day, but we made it through and finished with a great time at the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Grand Marketplace at Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival

I've attended many food festivals around the country and the Grand Market is almost always my favorite event. It's a chance to sample many different foods, wines, and spirits, as well as watch cooking demonstrations and meet personalities.

This year, the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival, hosted by Caesar's Resort, moved their Grand Market outside for the first time. It was held in the park of Bally's Resort in Atlantic City. The weather cooperated and the outside location allowed some food trucks to join in the fun.

With the help of my daughter, Sam, I was able to enjoy lots of finds -- some new and some old favorites.

Guy Fieri's Fish Taco, from his new Bally's Restaurant, was a fan favorite.

14 Hands brought a fruit-filled Unoaked Chardonnay

Bay Shore served a delicious Lobster Bisque.

I was surprised that I hadn't previously sampled Absolut Texas, a limited edition worth trying.

Goodway Gourmet Cafe had scrumptious coconut macaroons.

Barefoot Wines has done it again, this time producing a must-try Tropical Fusion.

Sam loved Rigatoni's Famous Crab Cake

Delaware Spirits Spice Infused Rum with vanilla bean was smooth and tasty.

Sammy D's Philly Cheesesteak Dumplings was my favorite food.

I love my New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and won't forget Dryland. 

Waffatopia brought along yummy Caramelized Waffles. 

SKYY Vodka poured some great cocktails, including a Pear Vanilla. 

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

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Secrets at the Cancun Wine and Food Festival

It was another beautiful day in Cancun and I took advantage at the start with a room service delivered breakfast on my balcony at Secrets The Vine.

I didn’t have a lot of time to get ready for the first event of the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival, the press conference with Garry Manuel Tattinger, Dave Amar and the star of the festival, Daniel Boulud.

I’ve been to wine and food festivals in Atlantic City, New York, Aspen and South Beach, but this was my first time attending the Cancun-Riviera Maya one.

It is hard to be a food-lover and not be in amour with Boulud, chef and restaurateur extraordinaire. That feeling was even stronger after listing to him talk about his journey around the world learning about and celebrating food before he landed in New York and produced his most famous restaurants.

There was a lot of talk about protecting the environment, GMOs and using locally sourced ingredients, all things that are becoming very popular in Mexico.

After the press conference, we attended a number of seminars taking place at Secrets The Vine. The first was “The Future of Cuisine” with Chef Normand Laprise of Canada. He spoke about “cooking from scraps” and not wasting product, whether it is meat, fruit, vegetables or fish.

Guillermo Gonzalez Beristain then talked about his (successful) quest to bring gastronomy to Monterrey, Mexico and how he worked with the fact that there wasn’t a lot of meat in the area.

“There wasn’t a lot to eat,” he said. “We had to learn to use everything.” This included the figs and lemons that grew freely in the area.

Last, but certainly not least, Daniel Boulud spoke about his history that started as a young teenager in Lyon, France, and went through London, and on to New York.

Boulud also talked about re-inventing dishes, “A chef wants to be known for a dish, but you don’t want it to stick to you too long. You need to re-invent yourself.”

By the time we got out of the seminars, we were all very hungry. I headed to the Market Cafe with Donna Heiderstadt, a longtime friend whom I had gone to college with. Despite the fact that the buffet was about to close we were impressed with the selection of fresh food.

I took a selection, from eggplant to tostadas and gazpacho.

We had a little free time in the afternoon and I was more than ready to hit the pool with a cocktail. It was warm and sunny out and my fellow journalists all had the same idea.

I had forgotten how beautiful the beach was in Cancun and Secrets had the perfect setting for it. After enjoying it for a bit I met up with the group for a tour of the hotel.

I was happily surprised to find a large sports bar at the resort, Half Time. There was also a wine bar (with a huge selection), and coffee bar I hadn’t visited yet with a selection of coffee drinks, pastries, and soft pretzels.

I also hadn’t realized that my Preferred Club suite allowed me access to a pool for just those in that section. It had its own restaurant and bar.

We toured a number of suites, including the Master Suite and Honeymoon Suite, which had a bathtub in the room, unlike the others. Given the high rise stature of this particular Secrets, the majority of the rooms did not have tubs.

Before heading back to the room to change, I was able to see an incredible night view of the strip of Cancun with both bodies of water.

I can’t even begin to describe how much I enjoyed the meal at the Dragon. It took a village (from AMResorts, RBBpr and the kitchen staff of the restaurant) to put together a safe and incredibly delicious meal for me.

It had been years since I had eaten in an Asian restaurant. It had involved too many hospital trips.

It’s very difficult for a cuisine that relies on seafood and fish sauce to make something safe for someone with a severe allergy to eat.

Dragon not only accomplished this, but they did it with THREE dishes I love: Wonton Soup, Chicken Pad Thai and Vegetable Tempura. Everything was cooked for me in a separate part of the kitchen from the fish and it was done to perfection.

Some of the group went to Secrets’ Red Piano Bar for music and dancing after dinner. I didn’t stay long because I knew I had another long day ahead of me. It would be filled with exploring the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival, as well as Secrets The Vine.