For the past few years, the Food Network, along with Caesar’s Casino (and their other casinos: Showboat, Harrah’s & Bally’s) and a ton of sponsors, have thrown a huge Food and Wine Fest in Atlantic City. It’s a bunch of events over a few days revolving around food, booze and some music along with a bunch of Food Network personalities. It’s really a great excuse to meet some famous people, try some new foods and have a great time in AC. This year, DidjaEat? was invited to come and enjoy the festivities!
They started the weekend off with a Thursday night party at Harrah’s, at their cool indoor pool area. They try to advertise it as a pool club, which makes sense since the pool doesn’t seem to go over 4 feet in depth. No one actually went into the pool, except one chef who accidentally lit his pants on fire. The quick thinking DJ, DJ Vito G, played “Disco Inferno” just as the guy emerged out of the pool (would I have played “The Roof Is On Fire”? Probably. But then again, I am pretty lowbrow.). It was all I could do to not dive in because it was about 900 percent humidity and I drove down from Philly in my car with no AC.
The whole point of the kick off party is to give everyone a taste, literally and figuratively, of what the fest is offering this year. So, the Blues and Brews BBQ guys were serving up some pork tacos, the Re-Define Cheesesteak guys were serving up cheesesteaks and, well, you get the point.
Speaking of the BBQ, the Blues, Brews and BBQ guys had a big ol’ roast pig out on the table for all to see, along with some grilled corn (I took a skip on that because I cannot stand it when it gets all jammed up in my teeth, but it looked pretty awesome.) and delicious pork tacos. I had many, many of those. Unbelievably good! I can’t wait to go to that event and stuff my face full of BBQ!!
The DJ, who I mentioned above, really did a great job. I normally cannot stand loud dance music, but he mixed in some great old stuff and got people dancing in front of the DJ booth. The last hour, when people had really started feeling all the free drinks, busted out all the old stuff, starting with Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison and slid right thru all that late 80′s, early 90′s stuff. He knew his demographic and ran with it.
Even Anne Burrell was having a blast. While they kept her sort of behind a rope (to keep from people totally swallowing her up), she was dancing, having a great time and did not say no to one person who wanted a picture with her (and you had to use a flash because of the lighting, I can’t believe she wasn’t blind by the time she left). When the DJ played a special request of hers, she almost lost her mind. It was cool to see someone famous actually enjoying themselves with the fans, alcohol or no alcohol. I think Andrew Zimmern was supposed to be there too, but I didn’t see him.
Speaking of having a blast, the SteakHouse guys were not messing around. They had Dirty Grilled Flank Steak Bruschette with Jersey Tomatoes (note: if you have never had Jersey tomatoes, seriously, go get some.), a Goat Cheese spread and microgreens. I loved it so much but I would have liked it better without the Goat Cheese. I don’t know what it is with that, but I get a very weird after taste that makes me gag. I wonder if that’s what it’s like for people who can’t eat cilantro? I don’t know, but the rest of it was mouth-watering.
There was a stand that was all about the desserts. Oh yeah. Mini strawberry shortcakes, mini chocolate awesomeness, raspberry & berry with a gel in the middle and even a cool green gelee’ that looked like a votive candle but tasted like clouds.
The chocolate thing in the corner was almost mind bending. It was layers of chocolate with a hard chocolate base. So good.
My favorite thing is one I actually didn’t get to take a picture of, I ate it too fast. It was a tiny brownie type cupcake with caramel in the middle. It was topped with some sort of whipped cream and dusted with caramel dust. Unreal.
One of the more delicious of the savory things was something we don’t eat too much of on the east coast down below New England: The Lobster Roll. Usually the Lobster Roll is chopped lobster mixed with some mayo and maybe some relish and served on a bun that’s not unlike a hot dog roll. Well, they made an appearance at the Pool Party in Parker House rolls! They were absolutely amazing. Buttery, fresh and packed full of lobster meat. I had many, many of these (“Lady, she’s puttin’ my kids thru college!”).
Another thing I had that is a favorite of mine that I was expecting to appear somewhere close to this fest is the Cheesesteak. I am from Philly, I live in Philly and I think I swallowed a bit of Philly one day when I was sleeping with my mouth open. It was either that or a fly, I can’t tell. Either way, I know a cheesesteak. I can point you to not only good cheesesteak places (and no, not Pat’s or Geno’s. Those places are tourist traps. If you are from Philly, the only time you go there is if it’s after 2 am and you are shitfaced. Seriously.), but specific ones in a certain area of the city (ie: going to the Northeast? Hit up Chink’s on Torresdale Ave. Going to Roxborough area? Hit up Dellasandro’s, etc. etc. etc.).
Cheesesteaks are on the upswing these days, called “Philly Cheesesteaks”. When I see that, I get suspicious. It usually means that the people making them aren’t from Philly and might not know what they are doing. It’s easy to screw up something so simple to make. There was a stand making cheesesteaks on Parker House rolls and Cheesesteak eggrolls.
The bun was nice and fresh and I get that they are doing a new spin on the cheesesteak (“Redefining Cheesesteak”) but the meat was a little too chopped up for me. It sort of reminded me of the cheesesteaks from high school. I applaud the effort tho, and the servers and the guys working behind the table were super nice, very efficient in the plating and overall looked like they were having a good time.
The cheesesteak eggroll was a little different. The cheese was not inside the roll, as they were appetizer sized eggrolls, not what you think of when you think eggroll. But, considering how many had to be made, it makes sense. It would have cost them a bazillion bucks to make full size ones for all those people. They were tasty tho, and served with the cheese at the bottom of the cup for dipping (later on they used paper boats, but the little cups I thought were cool.).
They fried them to order and were blazing hot but still pretty good. I could give them some tips on putting cheesesteak in things, as I used to make some kick ass cheesesteak pierogies. Gimmie a call, guys!
So, after sitting down and relaxing for a while, I made one more trip around the pool and decided my time at the Pool Party had come to an end. I think it was when the DJ played “Ice, Ice, Baby” but I could be wrong. I had to rest up for the rest of the weekend and digest all the awesomeness I had consumed over the course of the night. On the way out I spotted a really cool sand sculpture, smiled…and burped. Whoo, time for a nap. See you on friday, Food and Wine Fest!