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Philly2Philly Reviews the 2010 Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival

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What do you get when you mix together Harrah’s Entertainment Atlantic City, The Food Network and Conde Nast Traveler? The Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival, where 20,000 thousand people enjoyed four delicious days of fabulous food, world class wines, divine deserts, and celebrity chefs.

This recipe for fun, excitement and delicious food and drinks featured world-renowned chefs at Harrah’s, Caesars, Showboat and Bally’s who wined and dined patrons. The festivities began Thursday night at the Chelsea Hotel for the official kick-off party. Food Network stars and other celebrity chefs attended the soiree, spoke with guests, signed autographs and posed for pictures.

On Friday, things really heated up at Guy Fieri’s Cheesesteak Battle. The “Bad Boy” of the culinary world and winner of the second season of The Next Food Network Star guy fieriis now a fixture on the network, hosting Guy off the Hook, Guy’s Big Bite, Ultimate Recipe Showdown and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Inside the Palladium Ballroom at Caesars Casino, local chessesteak connoisseurs dished out their best for attendees to taste and judge. The competition included Tony Boloney’s, Sack O’ Subs, Chink’s Steaks and Rick’s Steaks. At the end of the evening Guy took the stage to announce the winner, Toney Boloney’s.

After the Cheesesteak Battle some guests bought tickets for the Maker’s Mark Cigar & Whiskey Gala at Sammy’s Beach Bar at Bally’s  while others went to Wine Unplugged: A Doors Experience at Club Harlem inside the Showboat. Celebrity sommelier Michael Green guided wine enthusiasts through a night of music and wine during a performance by The Soft Parade, a Doors tribute band.

For the second year in a row, the festival featured the very popular series, Chefs on Stage. Located in the Circus Maximus Theater inside Caesars, the series showcased Food Network personalities interacting with audience members, conducting demonstrations and of course cooking. On Saturday, Le Cordon Bleu educated chef Sandra Lee shared her simple solutions to create dramatic results in the home along with her 70/30 Semi-Homemade® philosophy, which combines 70% ready-made products with 30% fresh touches.

The NeelysMeanwhile, Food Network star couple Pat and Gina Neely, who are watched by an estimated five million people weekly, hosted the sold out Blues, Brews & BBQ and

The Neely’s Down Home Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues Music Hall at Showboat. With their skyrocketing popularity, Gina said never say never about the possibility of the Neely’s opening a restaurant in the Atlantic City or Philadelphia area, “It just depends on the opportunity and how it comes about, because we have other family members like my brother-in-law, Tony who runs the one in Nashville so there’s always the possibility, we’ll keep our ears and eyes open.”

Pat said he and his wife Gina are proud of the brand they have built and enjoy meeting fans and sharing BBQ secrets. “It’s pretty incredible, and we’re very proud of it and we love to bring it to different parts of the country so people can experience it and I think it went over real well.”

The Grand Market, one of the festival’s signature events at Bally’s, inspired and amazed patrons as they ate and drank their way through the tasting village. The three-hour journey showcased more than 200 stations featuring foods, wines, ales, liquors and more from world renowned restaurants and brands. Culinary demonstrations by celebrity chefs provided many ways to enhance your own dining experiences.

Later, as the sun set on the beautiful Atlantic Ocean, wine lovers joined the Food Network’s Ted Allen, wine celebrity Michael Green, and Wine Down co-founder Andrew Levine  at the stunning One Atlantic for the Wine Down Art Show. This event was truly a must-see, must-taste live action event as attendees tasted through an eclectic selection of over 25 international wines, enjoyed hors d’oeuvres created by One Atlantic’s world-class gourmet team and mixed-and-mingled. In addition, three highly-skilled artists, Michael Fabian, Alice Lipping and Ed Marion, took the stage to turn blank canvases into works of art inspired by wine, food, and summer at the shore.

Conde Nast Traveler’s Taste the World: Grapes & Global Tapas served up food and wines from select countries around the world and featured items from the “2009 Hot List”. Personalities from the elite travel publication spent the year scouring the globe to bring the most unique and flavorful of the world’s cuisine to The Pool for an once-in-a-lifetime tasting experience.

Saturday night, Sweet & Stylish Hosted By Sandra Lee treated patrons to an ultimate nightlife event, blending designer fashion, sensual desserts and cocktails, which created a one-of-a-kind showcase of style and decadence. Ted Allen, Alex Guarnaschelli, Claire Robinson, and Melissa D'Arabian were on hand to help out. As Sandra presented her favorite specialty cocktails and featured chefs served their best loved desserts, models went down the catwalk in Betsey Johnson fashions.

On Sunday, guests were truly treated to some good Southern hospitality and charm by the one and only, Food Network superstar, Paula Deen.paula deen Hosting Paula’s Boardwalk Party at the Dennis Courtyard at Bally’s fans sat at round tables and enjoyed delicious food presented by Paula and her husband Michael. Before her second event, Chefs on Stage: Paula Deen, the host of three popular Food Network shows, including Paula’s Home Cooking, said she loves having any opportunity to meet fans. “You know, I get tired because I’m not as young as all these other kids that surround me so when I get to be out there with my friends who I haven’t met yet it’s like being recharged—they fill me with energy,” says Deen.

In 1990, Paula opened her own restaurant in the south side Savannah Best Western, called The Lady and Sons and has been embarking on more endeavors and opening other restaurants ever since. With her ever-increasing popularity, there’s always the possibility she could open a restaurant in Atlantic City or Philadelphia. “I will tell you there’s conversations going on,” she said. “We’re opening in southern Indiana, at the Showboat there and December 1st we open in Cherokee at the Harrah’s there, so we’re very excited. That will give us three locations we’re in Harrah’s in Tunica in Mississippi and we’ve been there two years. “And it’s doing very, very well.”

With down to earth personalities like Paula Deen, Guy Fieri, Pat & Gina Neely, Ted Allen and Claire Robinson, it’s no wonder, fans enjoyed four days full of food, fun and their favorite Food Network friends, which truly heated up the city that’s, “Always Turned On!”

Contact Veronica Dudo at vdudo@philly2philly.com

Photos by: Tom Briglia / PhotoGraphics Photography   Look to the right side for Tom's photo Gallery.