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2011 Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival

Monday, August 8, 2011 at 03:08 PM - Posted by Megan - (2) comments

I’ve only been to Atlantic City a few times in my adult life, but have fond childhood memories of family vacations spent “down the shore”—complete with sandcastle building, flashy boardwalk rides and cotton candy galore. Now, this seaside locale still possesses the same charm, yet is an ever-growing destination for world-class entertainment and a hot culinary scene.

Since debuting as a small scale event in 2007, the Food Network Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival has grown into a massive culinary extravaganza showcasing a bevy of events, Cooking Channel personalities and headlining chefs Guy Fieri, Pat and Gina Neely, Sunny Anderson and Robert Irvine. Last Thursday, I trekked down the familiar Garden State Parkway stretch to cover the four-day celebration which reigned over Atlantic City’s beachfront resorts and casino properties.

The festivities began with the Food Network Kickoff Party at the beautiful Pool at Harrah’s, where partygoers nibbled on dishes from local restaurants, sipped specialty cocktails and mingled with Food Network Star Season 7 finalists, Cooking Channel stars and the darling Sunny Anderson. Naturally, my favorite part was hanging in the desserts-filled upstairs lounge with my hot date for the night—my Mom!

  1. Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival Food Network Kickoff Party
  2. Dazzling displays of desserts and specialty cocktails tempted the crowd
  3. The Pool at Harrah\'s set the scene for this sexy evening soiree
  4. Sprinkled chocolate mini cupcakes charmed sweets lovers all night long
  5. The Atlantic Grill rolled out spicy tuna sushi with sweet Thai chili
  6. Whimsical cocoa art centerpiece in the desserts-only lounge area
  7. Photo ops with Food Network Star Season 7 Finalists (Susie and Chris)

Friday night, cheesesteaks reigned supreme as Guy Fieri hosted his annual Cheesesteak Battle in a tented outside courtyard at Bally’s. Eight regional restaurants served up their best beefy creations—everything from a ‘Classic wit Whiz’ (Wit or Witout) and spiced up Cheesesteak Ole’ (Tony Baloney’s) to Italian style with mozzarella and tomato sauce (Sack-O-Subs) and an Asian-inspired crispy cheesesteak egg roll (Continental)—to a packed house of cheesesteak fans who taste-tested each interpretation and voted for their fave. Things got a bit soggy when a sudden downpour turned the lawn into a mudslide, though no one seemed to care once Guy commanded the stage and amped up the crowd in true Fieri fashion. The battle for the best was fierce, but in the end Nicole DiZio (Philly’s Queen of Cheesesteaks) from Wit or Witout was crowned victorious.

  1. Host Guy Fieri with cheesesteak champion Nicole DiZio from Wit or Witout!
  2. Continental\'s Asian-inspired cheesesteak egg roll with Sriracha ketchup
  3. PYT\'s salted pretzel bun sliders smothered with creamy Cheese Whiz sauce
  4. Cheesesteak lovers packed into the tent-covered Dennis Courtyard at Bally\'s
  5. Cheesesteak Ole’ from Tony Baloney\'s overflowed with 10-spice sirloin, fried onions, Jack cheese, chipotle ranch, shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes
  6. Lovely emcee Jennifer Mueller with former champ & owner of Tony Baloney\'s, Michael Hauke AKA “The Butcher”
  7. Guy Fieri hanging post-battle with the Food Network Star Season 7 Finalists

Saturday morning, I found myself sitting next to a few of Food Network’s biggest celebrity chefs at intimate roundtable interviews. As one of only a handful of press invited to attend, I was incredibly honored to share up close and personal looks into the lives of Robert Irvine (as he detailed the challenges of reviving restaurants on Restaurant: Impossible and the importance of teaching children about proper nutrition), Sunny Anderson (who shared childhood memories and broke out her pink-covered iPad to play the song that inspires her each morning – Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me”) and Guy Fieri (who got pumped about his new show with Rachel Ray and talked about how he and his family spend his occasional down time). Among other questions, I asked Guy his thoughts on the Guy Fieri impostor that was snapping pics with fans at the Kickoff Party – his video response can be seen here.

Next up, I headed straight to the Grand Market at Bally’s Grand Ballroom. The festival’s signature event showcased more than 125 stations featuring foods, wines, spirits and more from world-renowned restaurants and brands. Guests sampled and sipped their way through the Robert Mondavi-sponsored tasting village and watched interactive culinary demos by celebrated chefs.

  1. Interview with the one and only Chef Guy Fieri
  2. Guy chatted with the press about his upcoming \"off da hook\" show with Rachel Ray, Celebrity Cookoff
  3. Guests flooded into the Grand Market Tasting Village at Bally\'s Ballroom
  4. SKYY was a crowd favorite and served up the tastiest cocktails at the event
  5. Throughout the weekend, celebrated chefs demonstrated their favorite cooking techniques on the Viking stage
  6. Pillowy black truffle potato dumplings with bolognese ragu from Caesars
  7. The Madison Chocolatiers West topped silky chocolate truffles with caviar

Saturday evening brought two of the festival’s hottest parties. Joined by Everyday Exotic’s Roger Mooking and Hook, Line and Dinner’s Ben Sargent, headliner Robert Irvine hosted Fire and Ice, which paired spiced up foods—the “fire”—with cool bites and creative cocktails—the “ice.” Guests savored dishes with a kick, including spicy curry fish soup, pork and shrimp tacos and fiery jalapeño and mango guacamole, all while swaying to live Latin beats. Then, onto the stunning rooftop pool at Caesars for Sunny Anderson’s sexy Sunset Sliders event. As the blazing sun set over Atlantic City, the crowd delighted in beachside views, passed sliders and specialty cocktails created by Sunny, as well as charming commentary from the hostess herself. These sizzling soirees are not to be missed next year!

  1. Cooking Channel’s Roger Mooking served scrumptious pork and shrimp tacos
  2. Fire and Ice host Robert Irvine manned the mic to pump up the crowd
  3. Costanera Peruvian restaurant\'s braised osso bucco over spinach-potato puree with shiitakes and balsamic onion relish. Seconds, please!
  4. The smokin’ hot fiesta took over the Dennis Courtyard at Bally’s Casino
  5. Pressed ham, pork and swiss Cubans from Martino\'s Cuban Restaurant
  6. Hook, Line and Dinner’s Ben Sargent spiced it up with curry snapper soup
  7. Robert Irvine\'s tart and tangy citrus sorbet-topped conch ceviche cocktail
  8. Sunny Anderson turned on the charm at her signature Sunset Sliders event
  9. Sunny\'s cajun clam sliders with spicy tartar and sweet n\' smokey onion rings
  10. The rooftop pool at Caesars was the perfect setting for this sexy sunset shindig
  11. Sunny\'s jerk lamb sliders with spicy mango habanero salsa

Bring on the glitz and glam! Sunny Anderson played emcee extraordinaire at Saturday night’s all-desserts affair, Sweet and Stylish. This fashionable fête at Caesars Palladium Ballroom featured sinful confections from celebrity chefs and local restaurants, unlimited drinks and bubbly, and a live runway fashion show. The chic crowd satisfied sugar cravings while they checked out the latest styles and listened to DJ Ed Smooth’s party-starting playlist—which got everyone on their feet and turned the place into a late-night dance party! Undeniably my favorite event of the weekend.

  1. Couture chocolate silk from Caesars Executive Pastry Chef Deborah Pellegrino
  2. Sweet and Stylish (and sassy!) host Sunny Anderson works the crowd
  3. The swanky scene at Caesars Palladium Ballroom
  4. Pat and Gina Neely\'s whipped cream topped peach fool dessert
  5. Robert Irvine\'s ricotta caramel popcorn cheesecake
  6. Models showed off the latest looks during a fierce runway fashion show
  7. Sunny\'s double chocolate bread pudding with bourbon whipped cream
  8. Creamy Oreo cookie milkshakes from Bill\'s Bar & Burger

My long day was capped off with the Chef Party at the Foundation Room, which was a relaxing, low-key way to end a whirlwind weekend. Overall, my first Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival was a complete blast and I appreciated how well-run and organized everything was. Thanks again to everyone at DKC News, Caesars Entertainment and Food Network for an incredible experience! I am already looking forward to heading down the Parkway again next summer.

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media & press

Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 09:01 AM - Posted by Megan - (0) comments

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