Flavor In Full Bloom

May 2, 2014 by

Atlantic City Chef wows diners with edible flowers!

Most people use adjectives like vibrant, cheerful, colorful and exquisite to describe flowers. To Paul Hanley, chef de cuisine at Mia, they are downright delicious.

While many restaurants feature flowers as table decorations, Chef Hanley believes they are better used as a part of the meal itself. Over the past month, he has introduced edible flowers to just about every dish at Mia, the Mediterranean-style bistro located just off the main lobby at Caesars Atlantic City.

“There’s no doubt that edible flowers are pretty on a plate. But in addition to being aesthetically pleasing, each variety adds its own, subtle flavor to a dish. However, they are expensive so I haven’t gotten to use them much in the past. It was always the type of thing where you were lucky to put one on a dish,” said Chef Hanley, who honed his kitchen skills at Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Hotel and Morimoto before coming to work for Georges Perrier and Chris Scarduzio at Mia.

Now that Chef Hanley is calling the shots, he’s adding edible flowers to just about every dish on his new summer menu.

“I ordered my first box of edible flowers and went through them in half a night of service,” he laughed. “I was so excited that I was incorporating four or five – or even six or seven – in one dish.”

Mia’s edible flowers are all sourced through The Chef’s Garden, a sustainable direct-from-the-farm grower based in Colorado. The delicate flowers arrive in a plastic container, sitting on a damp cloth, with a small part of the stem still attached to keep them fresh. Before plating, Chef Hanley removes the stem, leaving the bloom which is entirely edible.

While The Chef’s Garden grows more than 36 unique varieties of edible flowers, Chef Hanley is quickly finding his favorites.

“Some are sweet and fruity, some are really savory. I’m enjoying playing around with the flavors and finding ways to use them in my cooking. You can’t just go by how they look – you have to taste them,” he said.

Included among his favorites are Citrus Marigolds, so named both for their bright yellow and orange coloring and their zesty orange flavor. He also enjoys using French Marigolds, which have a mellower flavor profile. Chef Hanley describes bright red violas having a super sweet flavor that is almost cherry-like. He compares the savory tastes of Johnny Jump Ups and Snapdragons to rosemary.

“Everyone loves pansies. Using them in a dish is like using thyme and a pinch of pepper. They add a little spice,” he said.

These flowers and more are featured on Mia’s new summer menu, which Chef Hanley describes as “out of the box and a whole lot of fun.”

The ahi tuna dish is particularly beautiful. It’s seared on an Italian-style flat top grill and topped with ginger sauce. The fish is then served with an herbed creamy risotto cake with garlic sautéed wilted pea leaves. Chef Hanley plays around with the fruity flower blossoms for this dish.

“It’s great to get the bites together,” he said.

A new summer salmon dish features a tomato pesto puree, buttered fava beans and buttered English peas with toasted gnocchi. Chef Hanley incorporates savory flowers into this dish.

“The salmon dish is not the only dish on the menu to incorporate pasta into an entrée where you would not expect it,” he said. “I’m also doing a filet with red wine spaghetti, which is really different and exciting.”

How are Mia’s customers reacting to the changes? The proof is in the numbers.

“We get graded on everything from food quality to menu to presentation every single week,” Chef Hanley said. “I just got scores for the first week of the menu change and they skyrocketed. We are getting great feedback.”

And not just from customers. An executive chef at Caesars told Hanley that he has never seen anything like this in all the years he’s worked with food. He even went so far as to dub Hanley and his team “ballerinas in the kitchen and Picasso on a plate.”

The art of incorporating flowers in food has been traced back to the ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese and Indian cultures. With their vibrant colors, textures, scents and flavors, flowers are enjoying a revival as a highly creative culinary ingredient. In the greater Atlantic City region, Chef Hanley and Mia are leading the way.

“A lot of people see a restaurant labeled as ‘Italian’ and think they know what to expect. I want people to know that Mia is so much more than that,” Chef Hanley said. “You’re not going to get your basic mom and pop Italian restaurant fare when you come in. Don’t get me wrong – we have chicken parm. But you’re also going to find things you’ve never seen before.”

Consider Mia for your next Atlantic City meal and see what’s blooming there for you.

 

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Restaurant Week Menus Extended!

Mar 7, 2014 by

ACRW Diners

 

Atlantic City Restaurant Week 2014 has been a huge success and many of the participating restaurants plan to extend their Restaurant Week menu and pricing through Saturday, March 15, 2014! We hope you’ve enjoyed this exciting seven-day event for food lovers and encourage you to return during this extended period to continue the pure enjoyment of fine fare at some of southern New Jersey’s best restaurants.

While you are in Atlantic City, and in between meals, there are events that you shouldn’t miss like the Home & Garden Show at the AC Convention Center, the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the Boardwalk, or shows by the Texas Tenors, Joan Rivers, the Moody Blues, Elvis Costello or the Antique Show at Taj Mahal. There’s always plenty to do while visiting Atlantic City!

Visit our website at www.acrestaurantweek.com to find out which restaurants will extend their exclusive ACRW menu and pricing through March 15th. (The list of participants will be available on Monday, March 10)

 

Don’t miss Atlantic City Restaurant Week in 2015 because we expect yet another unique food experience full of fun and flavor!

 

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Atlantic City Restaurant Week Kicks Off with a Sizzle

Feb 21, 2014 by

Atlantic City Restaurant Week is the most exciting seven days of the year for food lovers (and really, who doesn’t fall into that category?). Restaurant Week officially begins March 2, but if you want to get a head start on this week of deliciousness, don’t miss “A Taste of Atlantic City Restaurant Week,” February 26 from 6-8 p.m.

This VIP event will feature tastings from 15 of the restaurants participating in Restaurant Week, along with live music and a cash bar – just think of it as an appetizer for Restaurant Week.

If this gets your mouth watering, the price will too. Tickets for this enticing event are only $35. Most people spend that much at one restaurant; imagine trying 15 different kinds of cuisine for the same price!

Sound appetizing? Act quickly because there are only 300 tickets and they won’t last long! Buy yours at the door the night of the event, Wednesday, February 26 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Atlantic City Country Club.

If you can’t make it to the kick-off party on February 26, be sure to join us for Restaurant Week March 2-8 in Atlantic City! Gift certificates are available for those special foodies in your life. For more information, visit the Atlantic City Restaurant Week website or stay up-to-date on the official Facebook Page. Don’t forget to sign up for the Atlantic City eNewsletter, which contains deals, events and attraction information.

Don’t miss Atlantic City Restaurant Week, a unique food experience full of fun and flavor!

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Ten AC Chefs Share Healthy Eating Tips

Feb 21, 2014 by

Most of us would love to cut calories and fend off fats in the foods we make at home or order out in restaurants. But we don’t want to compromise on taste. For savvy advice on cooking light and eating right, we turned to the pros. Here’s what ten terrific chefs working in the greater Atlantic City area had to say about ramping up the flavor while cutting out excess fat and calories. On average, these guys spend 60 to 80 hours a week in the kitchen, so they know a thing or two about creating dishes that are both healthy and delicious.

Executive Chef Keith Mitchell of Caesars and Bally’s Atlantic City

 

 

 

 

 

My tip is a simple and sensible one. Use vegetable purees to thicken your soups and sauces when cooking at home. This not only cuts calories and fat, it also improves the depth of flavor. Almost any veggie will work. Try squash, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini or mushrooms. Simply steam or soft-boil the vegetables and then toss them in a food processor to turn them into a puree.

 

Chef Mike Siegel of Village Whiskey

 

 

 

 

 

Including smoked tomatoes in dressings and sauces adds unique flavor without adding calories. I recommend smoking tomatoes using the stove top method. Place apple wood chips in a deep pan, torch them to ignite, turn stove on medium directly under the pan. Place beefsteak tomatoes that have been seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper in a perforated pan to fit over the pan with the wood chips. Place a cover over the tomatoes to seal in the smoke. Cook for approximately 30 minutes until tomatoes are tender. Then puree the tomatoes and add them to your favorite dressing or sauce. At Village Whiskey, we add smoked tomatoes to our Thousand Island dressing to kick up the flavor without adding additional calories.

 

Chef Brandon Iacone of Continental AC:

 

 

 

 

 

For healthier eating, start using an app on your smart phone to track your calorie intake. I personally like My Fitness Pal and Lose It!  With built-in food databases and easy calorie trackers, these apps are great for letting you know what you should and should not eat when dining out. It’s motivation and smart decision-making, made easy.

 

Chef Austin Schafer of Amada

 

 

 

 

 

If you are watching you sodium intake, try using vinegars as a substitute for salt in dressings, pan sauces, salsas, tomato-based sauces or even to marinate vegetables.  You can also reduce vinegar to concentrate the flavor and make a great condiment for cheeses.  Try using a medium to high quality Vinegar de Jerez, or Sherry Vinegar.  Cider vinegars, balsamic vinegars, and red or white wine vinegars are great substitutes as well.  Vinegar tends to have a significantly lower sodium level than kosher or table salt.

 

Chef Glenn Rolnick of Carmine’s Atlantic City

 

 

 

 

 

I use citrus juices and vinegars a lot to add flavors to dishes while keeping down the calories, and of course add a lot of fresh herbs. Instead of butter, I blend light oils to enhance the dish while keeping it healthier and less caloric.

 

Chef Aedo Rufino of Distrito Cantina

 

 

 

 

 

Smoke jalapeños, peel the skin off and take out the seeds. This will leave you with a full-flavored, not-too-spicy pepper. It is a great way to add flavor without calories to guacamole, salads, hoagies, breakfast wraps, chicken salad, tuna salad, quesadillas, you name it.

 

 

Executive Chef Aram Mardigian of Wolfgang Puck American Grille

 

 

 

 

 

Grilling, roasting, steaming and broiling are all healthy cooking methods. It’s often the accompaniments that create a not-so-healthy meal.  A sirloin steak cooked with a little seasoning and grilled is much healthier than the same steak fried in a pan and smothered in sauce. Instead of a fatty sauce, grill some scallions and some hot chilies and serve it with the steak. The same theory applies when eating out. If you see some really attractive proteins like steak, chicken, pork chops or fish, inquire as to how they are prepared. If you see “sautéed” or “pan-fried” you may want to ask the chef to use light oil (don’t worry we chefs can handle that, it’s easy to do). Also, if there is a sauce listed on the menu ask for it to be served on the side so you can determine how much to use.

 

Executive Chef Tom Biglan of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa

 

 

 

 

 

At home, try to cook with the exchange system in mind. Substitute low or non-fat dairy products whenever possible. Use purees to thicken stocks and sauces instead of butter or heavy cream. To maintain the nutritional value of the vegetables you cook, do not overcook or cook at high heat. When eating out, my best advice is to avoid highly-processed fast foods, choose fresh seasonal foods and share!

 

Chef Alain Allegretti of Azure by Allegretti

 

 

 

 

 

I like to pick one really amazing dish for the main course, but then I make healthy choices around that dish, like healthy vegetables for appetizers and side dishes and fruit for dessert. Of course, always pay attention to portion control. You have to have fun while eating, so pick a great dish and bon appetite!

 

Luke Palladino of Luke Palladino at Harrah’s Resort and Luke’s Kitchen & Marketplace at Revel

To amp up the flavor when cooking at home, replace butter with a good-quality extra virgin olive oil. Use it to cook with and also drizzle it on fish, meat and vegetables to finish a dish for a nice fresh flavor. Incorporating fresh garlic, herbs and spices in your home cooking really punches up the flavor.  When eating out, your best source of information is your server. He or she should be aware of how menu items are prepared and what is gluten free, lower in fat, etc. But never hesitate to ask for the chef directly. I’ll bet they’ll be thrilled to make you something special and healthy. We are always happy to make people feel good about our food in our restaurants!

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RAISE A FORK

Feb 12, 2014 by

Sixth Annual Restaurant Week on the menu March 2-8

 

The countdown is on. Avid food fans are once again preparing to savor the flavors of Atlantic City’s eclectic dining scene during this year’s Restaurant Week. Now entering its sixth year, Atlantic City Restaurant Week is a seven-day celebration of dining in the greater Atlantic City area. This popular event will take place at restaurants throughout the city’s signature casino resorts, neighborhoods and surrounding suburbs from March 2-8, 2014.

Make a Date with Some Delicious Deals

The 2014 culinary event features prix fixe dinner menus at $33.14 per person (excluding beverages, tax and gratuity). Select restaurants also offer a prix fixe lunch for just $15.14 per person. With more than 80 participating restaurants, you can easily enjoy a new cuisine every day.

Choose from the city’s most beloved steakhouses, oceanfront seafood restaurants and world-class dining experiences from celebrity chefs. Or treat yourself to a memorable night in one of the city’s lively Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Cuban, or Japanese restaurants. Or keep things casual with a visit to a burger joint, bistro or bar and grill.

Browse the list of our participating restaurants, check out their Restaurant Week menus and reserve your table today. Be sure to visit the website regularly for updates as new restaurants join and more menu offerings become available.

New Participants for 2014

Restaurant Week is a great way for Atlantic City residents and visitors to try a dining destination they might not have otherwise experienced. This year, three newcomers have joined the Restaurant Week roster.

The Iron Room at Atlantic City Bottle Company

 

 

 

 

“We chose to participate in Restaurant Week this year as part of The Iron Room’s debut to Atlantic City’s vibrant dining scene,” Atlantic City Bottle Company’s owner Paul Tonacci says. “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to showcase Chef Kevin’s incredible menu, and are sure that our small plates will leave a HUGE impression on guests.”

Located at 648 North Albany Avenue in Atlantic City, The Iron Room is so named to commemorate the iron token in the classic game of Monopoly, which was retired in 2013. For more information about The Iron Room, call  609-348-6400 or visit www.acbottlecompany.com.

 

Rainforest Cafe

 

 

 

 

Atlantic City Restaurant Week just got a little bit wilder. Rainforest Café, located inside Trump Plaza at 2201 Boardwalk, offers diners the chance to feast in the middle of a tropical rainforest. You don’t have to be a kid to get a kick out of the lush jungle atmosphere teeming with elephants, lions, tigers, apes and brightly-colored parrots. Waterfalls, aquariums, and frequent thunderstorms add to the dining adventure. Don’t forget your camera.

For more information about Rainforest Cafe, call 609-345-5757 or visit www.rainforestcafe.com.

 

The Cellar 32 in Brigantine

 

 

 

 

Located at 3119 Revere Boulevard in the nearby shore community of Brigantine, The Cellar 32 offers upscale dining, an energetic bar scene and package goods all under one roof.

“We are so excited to be a part of Atlantic City Restaurant Week this year,” says The Cellar 32 owner Fran Palena. “We’ve been in business two years and have been busy completely revising the whole restaurant. Guests who visit us can expect great food, nicely-priced drinks and an incredible wine selection.”

For more information, call 609-264-9463 or visit www.thecellar32.com.

 

Whether you choose to try a new dining destination or revisit one of your perennial favorites, the restaurants of Atlantic City are determined to make your experience memorable and fun. Happy eating

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Spirits of the Season

Dec 9, 2013 by

Tasty ways to raise a glass of good cheer in AC

Let’s face it. The season of comfort and joy would not be complete without a festive drink or two. And when it comes to wonderful winter libations, Atlantic City really knows how to roll. Check out these delicious options for sipping, savoring and celebrating. (Or simply dealing with those visits from your in-laws.)

 

Some Like it Hot

If you’re a fan of the classic hot toddy, you’ll want to swing by The Iron Room at Atlantic City Bottle Company for “Just a Little Fling.” This tempting hot drink combines Journeyman Ravenswood Organic Rye Whiskey, brown sugar spiced compound butter, raw Vermont maple syrup, hot water, house made vanilla infused whipped cream, freshly grated nutmeg and a dash of cinnamon.

 

“Just a Little Fling”

 

The Iron Room is also where you’ll find “The Doctor,” a hot, head-clearing mix of Hendrick’s Gin, English breakfast tea, infused simple syrup served with cream or lemon. It’s good for what ails ya!

 “The Doctor”

 

Another great way to chase the chill is the Warm Jack Daniels White Cider Martini at Mays Landing Golf & Country Club’s Grill Room. Join the after-golf crowd for this popular blend of Winter Jack Tennessee Cider, caramel sauce and cream. Upping the delicious factor is a rim coated in a decadent combo of caramel sauce and crushed butterscotch candy. Who needs dinner?

 

Warm Jack Daniels White Cider Martini

 

 

The Italian Connections

For many Italians, coffee is a way of life. That concept is gleefully celebrated with Caffe Alle Noci at  Lugo Italian inside Revel. It begins with exceptional Corso Coffee from Anèri Tri Caffè, one of Italy’s most respected artisanal roasters. To make this special blend, top-quality Arabica and Robusta beans are individual roasted and blended by hand. Frangelico, Bailey’s Irish Cream and whipped cream finish off this luscious, liquid Italian treat.

 Caffe Alle Noci

 

Carmine’s, the family-style Italian restaurant at The Quarter, gives its own nod to Italy with Tuscan Coffee. This must-try concoction blends coffee with Tuaca, the legendary vanilla citrus liqueur created for Lorenzo de Medici—ruler of Florence and visionary benefactor of renaissance art and architecture. One taste of Tuscan Coffee and you’re sure to have a flavor renaissance of your own.

 

Tuscan Coffee

Just Add Chocolate

Gallagher’s Steak House at Resorts has developed the ultimate chocolate shake for grownups. The G.S.H. Blizzard is made with whiskey, Frangelico, Bailey’s Irish Cream and coffee. The drink is then topped off with Grand Marnier, whipped cream and a decadent chocolate drizzle. Is there a G.S.H. Blizzard in your future forecast?

 

GSH Blizzard

 

Is there anything better than hot chocolate in December? Yes — spiked hot chocolate. Kevin Weiner, manager of Firewaters at Tropicana has made a good thing even tastier. For his signature Irish Hot Chocolate, Kevin combines Jameson Irish Whiskey, Baileys Irish Cream, hot chocolate and whipped cream. For a festive dash of holiday flair, he garnishes this boozy masterpiece with a candy cane. Sweet.

 

 Irish Hot Chocolate

 

 

I Want Candy

Speaking of sweets, the Candy Cane Martini at Scarduzio’s Steak, Sushi, Lounge inside Showboat puts a whole new twist on peppermint. Skyy Vodka, White Crème de Menthe, Peppermint Schnapps and Grenadine combine to make spirits oh-so-bright. Try one and get hooked.

Candy Cane Martini

 

You don’t need a Girl Scout connection to score that coveted Thin Mint taste in AC. Mia at Caesars Atlantic City caters to your cravings with the Mint Chocolate Chip Martini, made with Belvedere Vodka, green mint syrup, chocolate chip syrup, fresh cream and whipped cream. Ding dong… your drink’s ready.

 

C is for Cookie… in a Cocktail

Run, run as fast as you can to catch a Gingerbread Tini at The Tap Room and Grille at the Atlantic City Country Club. Cookie lovers will flip for this tasty concoction of Absolut Vanilla, Baileys Irish Cream, gingerbread syrup, fresh cream and whipped cream. Yes, those are gingerbread cookie crumbs on the rim.

 

Warm up to Wine

Wine lovers, we didn’t leave you out of this holiday drink roundup. Swing by Bellview Winery and pick up a bottle (or several bottles) of Winter Spice wine, a lightly sweet red wine spiced with cinnamon, cloves and orange peel. It’s heavenly when warmed slowly in a crock pot or simmered gently on the stove to open up the aromas and flavors of the wine. While you can add anything you like, Bellview’s staff members prefer to drink it just the way it is.

 

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Small Plates. Big Flavors.

Nov 22, 2013 by

Serious food lovers will tell you that tapas, a Spanish tradition, originated in Andalusian bars. Often featuring a slice of ham or a piece of cheese, these tasty tidbits were put to practical use covering mugs of wine or sherry to deter the fruit flies between sips. Tapas got their name from the Spanish verb tapar, which means “to cover.”While the word “tapas” is officially still used to describe authentic Spanish dishes, the definition has blurred. America has gleefully adopted and embraced the concept of small plates, evolving it to include inspirations and flavors from around the globe. This type of noshing is as much about the dining experience as it is about the food itself. When a meal is not centered on one specific plate, it encourages sharing, conversation and an atmosphere that’s downright celebratory.This month we take a look at exciting small plate options throughout the greater Atlantic City area. Here’s to grazing in all its delicious glory.

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