festivals and events
raves and reviews
the sweet scoop
the sweet scoop
After maxing out my appetite at Meatball Madness, my stomach was pushed to capacity again at Friday’s Blue Moon Burger Bash, presented by Pat LaFrieda Meats. One of NYCWFF’s most popular events, this sold out meat extravaganza drew more than 20 A-list chefs and food personalities, who served up their “best between a bun” in the ultimate burger throwdown.
Comedian Whoopi Goldberg took over for Rachael Ray to host this year’s massive grillfest at Dumbo’s landmark Tobacco Warehouse. As aromas of sizzling meat and grease wafted through the air, carnivorous guests noshed on burgers and side dishes, sipped Blue Moon brews and Sutter Home wines, and voted for their favorite patty. Beloved burger joints Shake Shack and Bill’s Bar and Burger drew the longest lines, while last year’s People’s Choice winner Bobby Flay attracted the biggest fan mob.
Some of the night’s mouthwatering bites included Beauty and Essex’s Lamb and Brisket Burger (with spicy garlic aioli, vine ripe tomato, goat-feta & pickled red onion), DBGB’s Piggy Burger (beef with BBQ pulled pork, jalapeño mayo, mustard-vinegar slaw & a cheddar bun), and Dram Shop’s Cheeseburger (two beef squares, double cheese & the works). Between burger sampling, attendees indulged in milkshakes and pie with Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman and belted out 80’s, 90’s and Top 40 hits along with a rockin’ cover band.
Judges David Burke, Anne Burrell, Adam Richman and Andrew Zimmern picked the cheddar cheese, Nueske bacon and brioche “Wisconsin” from Franklin Becker (Abe & Arthur’s) for the win, People’s Choice went to Josh Capon (Burger & Barrel) for his juicy bison round, and Chris Santos (Beauty & Essex) snagged the Heinz Best Dressed Burger Award. Many congrats to all!
Ultimately, this year’s Bash was a blast, even though a sudden mid-event downpour kept me from trying several of the burgers. No big deal—many more delicacies were on my evening’s agenda, and I left Brooklyn to make my way to the all-desserts soiree, SWEET.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.