Savory Fare, Eclectic Tastings and Cooking Demos
by Patricia Mack
Atlantic City’s fifth annual Food and Wine Festival attracted more than 20,000 visitors to New Jersey’s historic metropolis by the sea. A multitude of events took place July 25-28 at various hotel casinos including Caesars Atlantic City, giving food and wine lovers a chance to sample Atlantic City fare as well as meet celebrity chefs. Attendees included Food Network stars Robert Irvine (“Restaurant: Impossible”), Pat and Gina Neely (“Down Home With the Neelys”) and Rocco DiSpirito (star of the syndicated show “Now Eat This! With Rocco Dispirito”). A portion of the proceeds were dedicated to helping New Jersey’s seashore recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
As in previous years, the busiest and most popular event was the Grand Market, where festival-goers strolled among hundreds of booths and tables to sample a wide selection of foods, wines, craft brews and liquors from culinarians such as Terry French, winner of the Food Network’s “Extreme Chef.”
“Every year you can expect hungry crowds,” said French. “They want to sample good food and drink and they’re really interested to know everything about it.”
His comments were confirmed by the robust attendance at various food and beverage seminars about cooking and imbibing hosted by the culinary stars.
Scholarly interest aside, the Beach Soiree, hosted by the Neelys, DiSpirito and Irvine on the beachfront outside of Caesars Atlantic City on Saturday night, rocked out well into the wee morning hours. The soft sand made for barefoot dining; the food was served at festive little sea shacks in an amazing array of delicious preparations accompanied by numerous tropical drinks. Seating was available at elegant inflatable couches and chairs on the sand, but most stood and many danced.
Crowds also chowed down at the popular Blues, Brews & BBQ inside the House of Blues at Showboat Atlantic City where music, craft beer, ribs and cornbread fueled the party-like atmosphere.
Said chef/restaurateur/celebrity Pat Neely, “It was nice to see the folks up here do the food right.”
You can click on each picture to enlarge. (All photos courtesy of Tom Briglia/PhotoGraphics Photography).