A little while back, you heard all about John’s indulgence at the farmer’s dinner at Caesar’s in Atlantic City, showcasing Nero’s Grill’s new commitment towards using sustainable and local products. Yes, Papa Bear got to sample an amazing dinner, while I got a crappy burger at an over-the-top theme restaurant on the boardwalk. Well, the kids were happy, at least; we’re the kind of parents that limit that sort of thing, and as there were few alternatives near Caesar’s that were a) cheap b) kid friendly, it all worked out. But before you feel sorry for me, let me spill the beans about the as-yet- untold “Part II” of this whole adventure, heh, heh, heh…all graciously arranged by our PR contact (Disclosure: all services were provided gratis).
After the farmer’s dinner, with my two little darlings all pj’d and worn out from running around the playground that was my hotel room at Caesar’s for the night, John packed them up and headed for home for a good night’s sleep in their own beds. I got to stretch out on the soft, luxurious, King-sized bed (complete with down comforters and plenty of pillows to sink into-ahhhhhh). Once upon a time, casino hotel rooms weren’t interested in a good night’s rest for you-they wanted the room to be subtly arranged so that you’d want to get back out onto the casino floor ASAP to make more “donations”. But the times they are a-changing: the new trend is the realization that there are additional dollars to be made from amusements that have little to do with gambling. And the longer you want to stay, the more money you will want to spend, whether you are gambling or not. As I lounged in my comfy bed, occasionally looking out at the view of the ocean while watching what I wanted to watch on TV…I fell dead asleep. Oh, well.
The next morning I had to pack up and leave early to meet our PR contact and a few other bloggers and folks from the press: we were headed to the Atlantic City Country Club for breakfast.
Huh? Yes, Atlantic City has a country club, and has had one since 1897. The historical building and course is technically located in Northfield, with a distant view of AC and the ocean. In addition to being a food geek, I am also a sucker for history as well. The AC Country club has been a very private club with a long history; famous players such as Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Arnold Palmer have competed there, and the actual golf terms of “birdie” and “eagle” were coined there. At the end of the playing day, a traditional bell still rings (although it no longer signifies its original purpose, stated on the sign here). About four years ago, Harrah’s purchased it and has opened it completely to the public for everything from rounds of golf to Sunday brunch-but unfortunately, most people still don’t know that. Brass plates engraved with the names of famous members over their polished wooden lockers still remain (such as Willie Mays). As we walked into the 110- year old tap room and grill, I couldn’t help but seeing lots of back-room deals having been made by ridiculously rich men, a’ la Boardwalk Empire (In fact, I wondered why none of its scenes were shot here, as it is perfectly preserved and unchanged from that era). Interestingly enough, despite its history of exclusivity it now boasts a “family friendly” atmosphere (which is kind of hard to find in Atlantic City unless it involves burgers and animated wild animals).
As I ate up the whole setting, I remembered we were about to eat in reality, too. The menu had a variety of selections, nothing really adventurous (hey-it’s breakfast), but very Jersey; I got a real kick out of the fact that pork roll, along with the standard side-order of bacon or sausage, was available as a choice with many of the selections. After we placed our order, Chef Ed Daggers arrived at our table to answer some of our questions. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that during the summer months, the restaurant gets about 60% of its produce from local farms located within the county. Just then, our food arrived, cutting the chit-chat short.
My cinnamon-raisin french toast was perfectly delicious; however, the really fresh, once-plump sausages were- sadly- overdone. Monica Peters (one of our new blogger-buddies of TheGritsandCheeseDish )
ordered the classic steak and eggs, which fit right in with the old-time atmosphere. Fluffy, tasty eggs and a good, thick steak : not adventuresome, but satisfying. The most amazing thing ordered at the table that morning was the frittata, made with red peppers, prosciutto, and Parmesan cheese-slightly browned at the bottom, but not overdone. Perfectly executed.
Then it was off for some-um-research at the Harrah’s Pool. If you haven’t been to this place, ignore the P-Diddy rumors and go hang out during the day (at night it becomes a nightclub);. It’s enclosed in a glass atrium and set at a constant 80-degrees, year-round, and sprinkled with palm trees, cabanas, and tropical flowers.
Then it was time to stop fooling around and get back to work. We’ve been listing them forever on our Cooking Classes page, but had yet to try them for ourselves…I was about to take a cooking class at the Viking Cooking School, involving Thai food. As I walked in, I took my place at a table loaded with cutting boards, utensils and other equipment, along with a few other food bloggers and foodies who were ready to go. On the menu was chicken satay with a peanut dipping sauce, a cucumber-chili salad, and Thai beef lettuce wraps.
The instructor was friendly and informative, and the atmosphere was fun and relaxed (unlike the professional schools which need to have a more “if you can’t take the heat…” approach).
I like to think I’m a pretty good cook, and I did find that some of it was just too darn easy for me. I was torn: I liked how most of the ingredients were laid out already mise-en-place, just like on the cooking shows, and how dirty utensils and bowls were placed in tubs below your station while an assistant would make them “disappear” (do they want to come to my house?); but there wasn’t much opportunity to chop up or prepare stuff on your own. However, the class is only 1 1/2 hours, and that includes eating time, so I guess it has to be set up that way. That said, I think that whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned cook, it’s still a lot of fun. We were grouped into teams of 4, taking turns blending, grilling, and slicing on the mandolin (which you can see me goofily doing in this video here).
I loved my group- I met two really nice, really fun foodie women from my area in Ocean County (I’m so sorry I forgot your names, I never wrote them down!) and when they found out about our blog, we had lots of food stories to swap. In the end, everything came out perfect (of course!) and we all sat down in the dining room with a glass of wine to enjoy what we’d created. It was really, really good, and we all had a copy of the recipes to make at home.
After all that food, I was ready to relax (or, more accurately, go to sleep). Luckily, I was granted access to Qua, Caesar’s new “Roman Baths and Spa”. Although I wasn’t having a particular service done, it was an amazing experience…there is a quiet room to enjoy a soothing cup of herbal tea while you wait for a treatment, but the real treat is the baths. A large marbled room lit by natural light contains 3 pools: one hot, one tepid, and one that feels ice-cold (set at something like 72 degrees). The central tepid pool is a gorgeous, raised pool that bubbles over at the sides-very relaxing. There is also an herbal steam room and cedarwood sauna. I have to admit, I was crazy enough to do a stint in the steam room, followed by a cold-water plunge. A little painful at first, but relaxing and uplifting somehow. If you want to take a little nap, one just needs to lie down on one of the cushy lounge chairs nearby…sigh.
But the real world awaited, and as I did miss my family, so I decided to be there when they picked me up to grab some dinner on the way home. But that’s another post for a later date, of course.