Just An Ordinary Weekend At Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel

I never thought I’d be attracted to a piece of meat. But at 3:25, on an afternoon at Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel, it happened.

The meat was oversized, blown up on a screen that covered an entire wall of the Borgata’s Music Box theatre, where several hundred people watched the hamburger patty sizzle and sweat in a pan on the stove. Over the patty reigned Geoffrey Zakarian, otherwise known as “the guy who won The Next Iron Chef” or “the cute chef with the glasses.”

With his gift of gab (which he attributes to his mom: “She was bitingly sarcastic,” Zakarian says), the bespectacled chef serenades the crowd at his cooking demonstration with his Italian accents, self deprecation, and meat innuendos. After two hours of cooking a hamburger (“no sauces or spices, it’s all about the meat”), a ginger and golden raisin-inflected coleslaw, and a raspberry soufflé – the crowd was sold – and so were his cookbooks.

Zakarian is the culinary lifestyle consultant of The Water Club, the more luxury hotel branch inside the Borgata resort. And the term “lifestyle consultant” is really just a fancy name for someone who checks in and okays all the activities involving food and drink consumption.

And wowee, did a lot of that happen during my recent stay at the Club. The portions are three times the size of any entrée at most NY restaurants (yep, I’m looking at you, Izakaya’s peanut butter-chocolate-crispy sushi roll) and it’s the options themselves – choosing from the Borgata’s 12 restaurants – where a decisive appetite becomes more valuable than some chips at the poker table.

Lines like shoelaces – full of day-trippers and vacationers craving all-you-can-eat – loop around the corners of the Borgata Buffet, while dinners at Bobby Flay Steakhouse on a Friday and Saturday night necessitate reservations made days in advance. I dined at the resort’s Japanese restaurant Izakaya, and most notably the southern Italian restaurant Fornelletto, and let’s just say it’s inspired this strange dream about a plate of potato gnocchi with sage and brown butter, lifting into the heavens, on top of a dish of their heavenly vanilla ice cream.

But people don’t come to Atlantic City for the food. They come for the party. And on – oh, just an ordinary weekend in Atlantic City – two celebrity DJs were spinning at the Borgata’s mur.mur nightclub and MIXXSamantha Ronson (aka Lindsay Lohan’s ex) and Steve Aoki. So when you pair these two rockstars with the Zakarian visit, the Borgata suddenly becomes an oceanside celeb hub.

But for me, the star of the show was definitely the Immersion Spa, where I headed for some much-needed recovery. A masseuse named Elyssia somehow managed to restore my late-night pancake and vodka-stuffed self into a viable, blissed-out human being. The whirlpool also helped.

Now, I’m not going to tell you to go to the Borgata and stay at, more specifically, The Water Club. I’m all about showing, not telling, of course. But when you are, in fact, looking for a weekend that includes a view of the ocean, celebrities, and really good gnocchi, may you consider the Borgata. It’s the AC experience.

Get all the info on the Borgata’s Water Club hotel here, and follow Bonnie on Twitter.

Taste of the Nation Charity Event Draws New York’s Best Local Chefs, Feeds Kids

Last night the charity Share Our Strength hosted Taste of the Nation, their annual culinary fundraiser as a means to help end childhood hunger. “We are here tonight because there are 16 million American kids who struggle with hunger,” said co-founder Debbie Shore. Since 1988 the foundation has hosted these yearly events in 30 plus cities and raised over $75 million, and frankly, given the number of top named chefs, bartenders, and restaurants that volunteer their time and ingredients, the organization makes donating money easy.

In New York this year, the two-story, four-room space at 82 Mercer was filled with delectable bites including: Old school Lobster Thermidor served by chef Aaron Bashy of The Water Club; the infamous fois gras and jelly doughnuts made by the boys at Do or Dine; a fluke cebiche from La Mar’s smiley chef Victoriano Lopez (plus his translator); and an amazing razor clam and fennel dish from Ai Fiori.

On the high-end-low-end spectrum guest were forced to ingest the comforting pickled beef tongue by the gang at Mile End, slices of a six-food wedge salad sandwich by chef Joe Dobias of JoeDough, and the most amazing savory cotton candy being whipped up by the adorable Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy. Oh the tragedy.

To wash all these treats down Eben Freeman shook up a delectable Melagrana Sour for Osteria Morini, Jeff Bell from the clandestine bar PDT poured a smoked cardamom-infused Mariner cocktail, and Employees Only whipped up a blackberry vodka drink. Hands down the most exciting drink being made came in the form of Booker and Dax’s Hendrick’s Rose, a sweet, fizzy cocktail that smoked.

Amid all the opulence, we can’t forget the real reason Taste of the Nation is held. After all, most people don’t think of American kids going hungry and in a place where many of us throw food away every day, it’s tragic that about one in five children in this country don’t get enough to eat. As the organization continues to fight this cause, they continue to give something to raise a glass of smoking pink bubbles to and I hope to see them again next year.