The Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival, Part One: A Review

Sounds like a simple thing to do, but after four days of constant movement (mouth and feet), I needed a little bit of time to put the whole Food and Wine Festival experience into words. In fact, this is Part One of four different posts that we will be doing to sum up our extended weekend in AC.

Things did not get off to a great start. Despite the best laid plans (and isn’t that always the way?), we found ourselves hustling over to Caesars to get our press passes before the media room closed. And then we were running over to The Chelsea for the kickoff party. Poor Lisa, decked out in her sexy black dress, found herself running barefoot a few times to save time.

But…we made it. And it was every bit the schwanky party you’d expect to be thrown at The Fifth at The Chelsea: the fellas and femmes dressed to impress, the constant thumping of techno beats, and the unique nibbles and drinks being passed around for sampling.

You had upscale sliders (which were decent) as well as cucumber lemonade cocktails (which were not so good). The best of the h’ors d’oeuvres that night was the watermelon pieces with goat cheese and a balsamic reduction.

There were also wines available for sampling from Provenance Vineyards of Napa Valley. Much more enjoyable than those cucumber nasties. We would come across Provenance again at another event over the weekend.

This is Olga, our wine server. We liked Olga a lot – very sweet. We think she’s going to be modeling soon. Even as we were snapping this pic, a breeze came through to move her hair just so. It was pretty funny.

We also had our first brush with culinary celebrity at the kickoff party, a theme which would run for most of the weekend for us. Anne Burrell showed up and mingled with the regular folks for a good part of the night. We got a chance to say hi, and she remembered her interview with Lisa. We only got a few minutes (as she was being moved in ten different directions), but Chef Anne was genuine and gracious.

Our luck improved greatly on Friday. We were able to get a room at Showboat for Friday night, so we wouldn’t have to shuttle back and forth from Forked River every day.

Later in the day it would be time to head over to the Cheesesteak Battle at Caesars, hosted by Guy Fieri. Four locations were in the competition: two from Atlantic City and two from Philly. We ate ourselves silly with meat and cheese goodness, not to mention a few beer samplings as well. And, whilst stuffing our faces, we enjoyed an excellent cover band that went from Build Me Up, Buttercup to PYT (Pretty Young Thing), then brought a big smile to my face as they nailed a version of Beginnings by Chicago. More on this in Part Two.

Even though we were leaking grease from our pores, we still found a way to head back to Showboat and to the House of Blues for a wine tasting event called Wine Unplugged: A Doors Experience.

While you sampled a variety of wines, a Doors tribute band played an acoustic set. It confirmed my feelings about The Doors: I can only enjoy a few of their songs in succession. After about three songs, I had had my fill. We had also had our fill of wine; the selections were decent but not terribly exciting, and one of the servers seemed less than enthused about being there. So we decided to make this The End of the evening and headed up to our room for a night of uninterrupted sleep.

Saturday would turn the Food and Wine Festival experience for us into something more than just an exercise in how much we could eat and imbibe. It certainly started out that way, the eating-and-imbibing part that is, with a barbecue lunch being provided by The Neelys, beers being provided by a host of craft brewers and music being provided by the Robert Cray Band. Oh yeah, that all worked for us very nicely. We even got to meet Sunny Anderson while enjoying the brews, blues and bbq. We’ll talk more about this in Part Two as well.

As fun as all this was, this was still a working event for us. Before the bbq, we received a text message from our contact for the event that there would be chefs available for interviews later in the day. What we would soon find out that the personality that would be available would be none other than Ted Allen! And so, later that afternoon, there we were, sitting around a table with a few other writers and bloggers asking Ted questions. And Ted could not have been nicer, funnier or more generous. Of course, we had to add extra drama by rushing out to the Staples in Absecon right after the bbq to get a voice recorder and try to get back into the city and park on a Saturday afternoon in the summer. Gotta make things difficult, don’t we?

After the Ted interview, it was time for the Ted event – a wine and art show at the top floor of The Pier Shops at Caesars called One Atlantic. One Atlantic is a beautiful, glass-enclosed space with wonderful views of the ocean, the beach and the skyline. The wines offered for tasting were each excellent in their own right. We also got more time to chat and take pics with Ted…and we even got to meet another known chef at the event who recently opened his own new restaurant in Atlantic City. Who was it? You’ll just have to wait for Part Three, heh heh heh.

After a couple of hours enjoying the wine and the company, we zipped (and by zipped we mean chugging along slowly in lots of traffic) over to The Pool at Harrah’s for the Conde Nast Taste The World tapas event. Sadly, by the time we got there, some stations had already closed. And sadder still, the folks who run the place were very keen on quickly getting us out by 9PM to open the nightclub for the younger set. In the future, they really need some lag time and not make it seem like we’re getting the bum rush.

That being said, some of the nibbles that we did get were wonderful. The ropa vieja served over plantains was meaty, spicy, tender and sweet. And the chef that was pumping out the smoked mozzarella ravioli was doing God’s work. The chefs by the end of the event were a pretty playful lot, actually.

Now – Sunday was supposed to be the quiet day, the day that was going to be simple and low key. Yeah, that happened. The text message came in as we headed down from home in our car: interview time with Paula Deen at 4:30PM. A brief moment of panic crept in to the car; what the heck were we going to ask Paula? Well, you’ll find out what we asked her….in Part Four!

And since we were now going to meet Paula Deen, we felt obligated to go to her Boardwalk Party in front of Bally’s and sample the offerings. And boy, were they ever good! Pics and other stuff on this event will also be a part of Part Four.

We could have stayed and eaten some more at the Boardwalk Party, but we had not been to The Grand Market yet – and everyone was telling that we must go there. So go there we did.

Honestly, it was just too much for us to do in a short period of time, as good an effort as we made. Lots of food to sample. Lots of alcohol to taste. Viking School was doing cooking demos. And then there were the local food vendors. Thankfully, we were able to spend some time with the local folks: chatted with and sampled the cooking of Chef Geoff from Copper Fish in Cape May, tasted the wonderful barbecue sauces of Funni Bonz out of West Windsor, finally got to try a few wines from Hawk Haven Winery out of Rio Grande, and had a nice conversation with the folks running Mud City Crab House in Manahawkin (even scored a six-pack of frozen crabcakes!).

Somehow, we actually had a few moments to stroll the boards before heading back to the media room and the big interview with Paula Deen. We decided to get on line and try some free ice cream being served out The Cooking Channel’s ice cream truck. Didn’t see any Cooking Channel celebs, but when it was Springer’s Ice Cream of Stone Harbor being served, who needs celebrities?

And then, it was time for Paula Deen. I’ve always liked Paula, but after meeting with her, I have a new level of respect. For those who think she’s all schtick, you couldn’t be more wrong. She was so genuine and personal during that little bit of time we had, and there was even a moment that I will never forget. We’ll talk about it in Part Four.

So, yeah, whew! It was quite the four-days’ journey. And that’s why we will take a few more posts to talk about what we experienced. We hope that you will enjoy it.

Oh, and just to whet your whistle a bit, how about some celeb pics?

I know: completely shameless. But hey – how could we not share this stuff?

– John


4 thoughts on “The Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival, Part One: A Review

  1. You know me- The Shameless Queen of self promotion, so I say I love it!I met Ted Allen on several occasions and he said he would call me for catering- I am still waiting Ted?I already had WAMPP on the winery books or we would have been there instead 😦 Glad I can live it through you!

  2. I loved your post! It was so cool to see what we missed on Thursday and Friday – and I am SO jealous you were able to stay for the Paula Deen interview time!!

  3. Wow-we were in Cape May during the AC Food and Wine fest and headed to AC and missed everything–so glad I got to read all about it through your great post! Thanks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s