I had the opportunity to have a brief weekend trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey the past Friday. Then it was the classically hot and humid day when I left New York City and eventually it rained during toward evening unlike that gorgeous blue skies you see on this photo above on Saturday.
I was invited to meet celebrity chefs Aarón Sanchez for dinner and Chris Nirschel for his cooking class later in the evening at Harrah’s.
When I arrived to Atlantic City, I met up with fellow guests of this event, if you will, at the Foundation Room at The Showboat. This lounge looked Indian inspired, as it’s decorated in bold, lush colors primarily of reds and gold, and dark wood and what looked like embroidered tiles, and symbolic icons of this culture.
We started with drinks of sparkling wines, wines, cocktails and beer and delectable bites of cheeses and crudite prior to having dinner.
We eventually met and was greeted by Chef Aarón Sanchez at Crossroads at the House of Blues. Chef Sanchez created the menu for the revamp of this casual dining restaurant, showcasing his favorite dishes and style of food that reflects on his cooking career ranging from tacos to a nod to New Orleans since he honed his cooking skills there.
We started with platters of enormous meatball sliders that each were the size of my fist. These hefty sandwiches were flavorful and the meatballs had a good slightly chewy texture and it was juicy. The street tacos were one of my favorite dishes of the evening. The tacos were made of beef marinated steak served street style corn tortillas topped with Cotija cheese and served with a side of pico de gallo and roasted tomatillo salsa. Steak was tender and juicy, while the condiments added a good depth of flavors to make it tasty. The grilled flatbread with basil pesto, tomato and blend of cheeses was a zesty, free-form flatbread and I do like the sharp bite of the Parmesan cheese used in here.
For the main courses, we had nuances of Chef Sanchez’s past with his nods to the Big Easy. The chicken jambalaya had a wonderful kick of spices, cubes of chicken and the rice was perfectly cooked. The shrimp and grits were delicious. The fried patties of grits, instead of it sitting in a pool of grits, added an excellent crunchy texture to the dish. The citrus grilled chicken breasts were juicy and thankfully, had the skin on to give it extra flavor from its natural fat. My other favorite dish was the chile braised short ribs on top of sweet andouille corn pudding. The short ribs were fork tender and had an incredible depth of flavor from the mixture of chiles that it’s cooked with. The corn pudding added a sweet twist and I loved the subtly crunchy, sweet sugar snap peas and snow peas.
When dinner was over, I have asked Chef Sanchez for his photo. He graciously accepted. He’s a very funny and sweet guy to talk to.
Sammy D’s is a casual dining spot at Harrah’s that vaguely of reminds me of an upscale diner with the rotating dessert case, booth seating, and it features a large bar at the front the restaurant.
Since we’re here for desserts, there’s lots of cake to be had. These were gargantuan three to eight-layered cakes ranging from the happy and girly cotton candy cake that is topped off with a large pink cloud of cotton candy to the Killer Chocolate Cake, which is certainly one of the largest chocolate cake slices I’ve ever seen in my life.
My favorite of this spread of desserts was the salted caramel pretzel cheesecake. The cheesecake was rich but not too dense. I loved the pretzel-studded crust to give the cake a subtly interesting flavor profile, touch of salt, and crunch. I also had a wonderful not too sweet yet fruity pomegranate Mai Tai cocktail and coffee to chase down the cake.
By then my body was flooded with alcohol, sugar and caffeine. I have enough energy to burn it at their nighttime club at The Pool…after dark (hey, it’s a Friday night) that’s right across the hall from Sammy D’s.
But instead of burning that energy at The Pool, I went over to Chef Chris Nirschel’s demo cooking class at the Viking Cooking School at Harrah’s. His interactive cooking demonstration class was a festive affair with watermelon mojitos and a smattering of tasty Italian-inspired food to pair with other fun cocktails throughout the evening.
Then I retired to Harrah’s spacious (about 500 square feet), luxurious hotel room at their Waterfront Tower. I did have a view of a bay and it was a beautiful sight when I woke up the morning when the skies cleared up.
I took a dip at The Pool at Harrah’s. As I’ve mentioned earlier, during the nights this would be a club but during the day, this is a gorgeous tropical oasis. It has a huge a swimming pool, a separate large hot tub, and cabanas lined along the pool.
But no trip to Atlantic City is complete without visiting the Boardwalk. I took a cab ride over and soak in the glorious morning sun (it was about 9 AM). I also walked over to the beach and feel the ocean (with my feet). When I walked back to the Boardwalk, I spotted an adorable cat napping under the shadow of a bench.
It’s a great trip out to Atlantic City and I can never thank enough the gracious hospitality of the Showboat, Harrah’s, Crossroads at the House of Blues and Chef Aarón Sanchez, Sammy D’s, and Chef Chris Nirschel.
To view more of my photos of this visit, please scroll through the slideshow below (or click through my Flickr set):
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