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Official Summer of 2015 Atlantic City Report

Official Summer of 2015 Atlantic City Report

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To many the Jersey Shore is the go to destination for summer vacation success. I was lucky enough to visit The Wildwoods, Brigantine, Ocean City, Cape May, and my latest stop Atlantic City all this summer. I saved my visit to AC last this way I could experience well established successful shore points before I gave this supposedly struggling city who is trying to become a family resort a try without spending one single dollar gambling.  

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This much is for sure. Ocean City, Cape May, and for most intents and purposes The Wildwoods have all the facilities, businesses, feeling of safety, and the science of providing a good time down to a science. Brigantine was very enjoyable as well, but this city provides a whole different beach scene then the others with no boardwalk to highlight so I will leave them out.

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Now on to Atlantic City. It has been at least a decade since I have stayed overnight in this city, let alone an entire week. Many things have changed. Some for the good, some not. First the good. Their are more high end dining destinations around town since the last time I was there. Gordon Ramsay’s Pub and Grill’s meal was fabulous and the Beef Wellington is a must paired with a few Innis and Gunn Original pints to wash it down. Landshark Bar and Grill was a joy to visit, had better food than expected and the margaritas were the perfect way to wash it all down while watching the waves. Eastwind at Resorts provided a very personable service experience with better than average Asian food with a front row seat of the boardwalk’s hustle and bustle while eating. The Irish Pub was the perfect getaway from the glitz, glamour, and neon signs for a down home hello, affordable meal, and pint served with a smile. I noticed more families than I have ever seen walking the boards and in the casinos. There seemed to be a nice shopping experience at the outlets. The Atlantic Ocean was clean and clear, and the beaches were utilized much more than in the past.

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Now the bad. Family friendly dining spots, destinations, accommodations, or things to do besides the Steel Pier were almost non-existent. The boardwalk would benefit from a stronger police presence. Aggressive panhandlers and those with substance abuse issues permeated public areas leaving visitors with a sense of diminished safety. Sadly the beach was completely littered with cigarette butts. The much publicized revival of a pier now called The Playground had more empty retail and dining space than occupied. I was refused service when I asked for it at a restaurant because I sat myself, even though I stood at the entrance for ten minutes while they just looked at me. The sight of so many empty casinos and tasteless boardwalk vendors was a bummer.

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You could say the negatives sound terrible, but even with Atlantic City’s flaws, the entire family had a great time, made the best of every situation, and I had one of the best times I have ever had in AC without spending one cent gambling. I think we all know more casinos is not the answer for this town. If they work hard, put their minds towards transforming into a true family tourist area, push politics to the side, and spend money wisely, I see no reason why they can not be one of the East Coast’s premier vacation destinations. In fact I’d bet on it!

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2nd Annual South Jersey Bacon and Beer Fest

(The following is a special series on Bluejeanfoodcritic.com written by guest contributing writer William Knowles. He highlights his passions of of trying something new whenever the opportunity presents itself, or possibly something old, but new again since it has been a while. I hope you enjoy his very special perspective that I am sure many of you can relate to. Follow him on his exciting journey “Around Town”)

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The Collingswood Grand Ballroom at the Scottish Rite Auditorium was the setting, on the night of August 20th, for the 2nd annual Bacon and Beer Festival.  This is an event that is held for a great cause and inspires local chefs to get creative with one of culinary’s finest offerings.

Over 15 local restaurants took part, some presenting more standard recipes while others used imagination to involve bacon in any way possible.  The Tortilla Press, located right down the road from the ballroom in Collingswood, put a twist on their normal fare with bacon flavored guacamole.  Local BBQ notable Famous Dave’s presented a barbecue burger wrapped in bacon and soaked in beer; another favorite, the Pop Shop, doled out bacon wrapped fried pickle.  The Robin’s Nest, located in Mount Holly, supplied some delicious potato, cheddar and bacon soup.  And Trattoria Figaro of Mount Laurel had an awesome desert prepared – chocolate cake with homemade buttercream and bacon on top.  Other local participants included Aunt Berta’s Kitchen, Bistro DiMarino, Braddocks Tavern, Kitchen 519 and Ott’s Tavern.

Beer, the other wonderful thing about this night’s party, was abundant with the presence of numerous local breweries.  Evil Genius, Flying Fish, Neshaminy Creek, Saucony Creek, Smuttynose, Troegs and Weyerbacher all had a nice selection of their craft suds to try.  Evil Genius previewed their Trick or Treat Chocolate Pumpkin Porter, a must try if you haven’t already…

The most important accolades for this event go to the job well done by Michael Snyder, the CEO of Crossroads Programs, and his team.  The non-profit organization frequently hosts fundraisers in Southern New Jersey to help run homeless shelters for abandoned and abused teenagers, and in turn try to provide them with a fulfilling life by finding them foster families.  The beer and bacon event is one of their biggest money makers, and I encourage you to visit their website atcrossroadsprograms.org to learn more about their fine work.

See you at the 3rd annual Bacon and Beer Festival next year, and much sooner than that “around town”…

Jalapenos Grill – Haddon Township, NJ

Jalapenos Grill – Haddon Township, NJ

I must admit that Mexican cuisine is not one of my strengths at ordering or eating something I like, so sadly I usually skip this type of food. It is odd because the seven or so odd times I have visited Mexico I have enjoyed my meals quite a bit there, but struggle finding the same at home. After enjoying a family show at The Ritz Theatre Company situated right next door to Jalapenos Grill (JG) I decided to give JG a try. The staff was extremely welcoming and warm the second we stepped foot inside JG. Language was a slight barrier, but was able to manage. Things started off with a complimentary basket of chips with dip.

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JG was off to a very good start, as I enjoyed the dip and the chips were nice as well. Taking baby steps, I decided to try their pork carnitas taco, plain and on a hard shell.

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Again JG shined with pork that was seasoned beautifully, moist, a generous serving, and very affordable. Feeling a bit more adventurous, my next order would be Pollo borracho drunk chicken served with rice and chipotle fries. (sorry for the blurry picture, the camera was not cooperating)

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Let me start by saying the chipotle fries at first glance just seemed like run of the mill potatoes, but they were fabulous. They were cooked nice and crisp and seasoned to perfection. I always enjoy being surprised while dining. The rice was nice, but could have used a little more of a serving of it and a few more veggies possibly. The chicken sauce was very powerful. It was a mix of sweet and sour flavors with a punch of tequila in every bite. It was good, but overpowered the chicken completely. Also, the chicken was a bit on the dry side. The dish overall was good, just not grand. I enjoyed my time at JG and I will certainly be back to try more things on their menu.

Overall

Three and Half out of Five Stars

 

Delaware Burger Battle 2015

Delaware Burger Battle 2015:
17 Burgers Enter, No Burgers Leave (Uneaten) 
Contestants include three returning champs, three food trucks and six newcomers
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(August 20, 2015—Wilmington, DE) Fire up those grills and find your stretchy pants – we’re only a few weeks away from Delaware Burger Battle 2015, the end-of-summer competition that will determine once and for all (for 2015, anyway) who has the best burger between the buns in the First State.
The Delaware Burger Battle, benefitting Ministry of Caring’s Emmanuel Dining Room, will take place on Saturday, Aug. 29, from noon to 3:30 p.m. on the grounds of the Cauffiel House, 1016 Philadelphia Pike, Wilmington.
Competitors this year include 8th and Union Kitchen, At The Rail Wine Bar & Grill, Cantwell’s Tavern, Chelsea Tavern, Crave Eatery, Deer Park Tavern, Drip Café (The Brunch Box), Ernest & Scott Taproom, Home Grown Café, I Don’t Give a Fork, Kelly’s Logan House, Maiale Deli & Salumeria, Matilda’s/Mad-Macs, Pizza by Elizabeths, Redfire Grill + Steakhouse, The Meat House and Ulysses Gastropub.
Can Redfire Grill, Deer Park Tavern and Ulysses Gastropub continue to wow the judges and win the hearts of attendees as they have in the past? Who will win the face off of the food trucks (Brunch Box vs. I Don’t Give a Fork vs. Crave)? How will newcomer At The Rail Wine Bar – a finalist in Philadelphia Magazine’s Battle of the Burger – shake things up? 
All questions will be answered, all tales will be told, and all meat will meet its maker on the last Saturday before Labor Day weekend. Restaurants at the battle will offer unlimited samples of their best burgers; a panel of expert judges will select the Critics’ Choice and Alternative Burger Winners, and guests will vote on the People’s Choice Winner.
In recent years, national media including Business Insider and Thrillist.com have referenced the winners of the Delaware Burger Battle when discussing each state’s best burger.
Last year, the Delaware Burger Battle raised $10,000 for the Ministry of Caring’s Emmanuel Dining Room. Over three years, burger battles have raised more than $21,000 for the Ministry of Caring.
All Burger Battle attendees enjoy all-you-can-eat burger samples; beer (including Blue Moon White IPA, Yuengling Summer Wheat, Twin Lakes Pale Ale and more) and wine are included in the ticket price for adults, while soft drinks are available for children and designated drivers. Tickets are $49 through Aug. 28 and $60 at the door. Tickets for designated drivers and teens (ages 11-20) are $17, and tickets for children 10 and under are $7. The event is rain or shine.
For more information, visit www.deburgerbattle.com or facebook.com/deburgerbattle.

The Red Hen – Swedesboro, NJ

The Red Hen – Swedesboro, NJ

Once you travel outside the cities of Philadelphia, Collingswood, and Haddonfield, which I call the Triangle of Tasty, the list of notable dining destinations seems to dwindle quite considerably. I decided to take a trip to the historic town of Swedesboro, New Jersey for some fun at the beautiful Swedesboro Lake Park also known as Lake Narraticon Park and a bit of shopping along the main street.  After an afternoon of fun, the need to eat hit. I saw The Red Hen (TRH) and remember hearing of a new spot called Travo 13 when Terence Feury was cooking there, but TRH looked much more appealing with my two year old son in tow and advertised as a family friendly establishment, so I decided to give them a try. Family friendly TRH is indeed. Besides the bar area, eighty percent of the diners present had a family in tow, games and toys for purchase as soon as you step inside and kids eat free Monday thru Thursday. The décor is modern, hip and fun with the right mix of music playing. Service was friendly and efficient. The menu is a bit eclectic and they have a very nice craft beer selection. I would start things out with French Onion Soup.

The French Onion Soup was your standard variety and better than average, with a nice amount of cheese and bread throughout the bowl, but the onions could have been caramelized a little more. Next up would be calamari.

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TRH would serve one of the better calamari dishes I have had in a long time. The calamari was so fresh, moist and cooked perfectly. Every bite was heavenly and was seasoned with Parmesan, pickled hot pepper, and lemon aioli. This dish alone paired with the Shock Top Banana Spiced Wheat beer I was drinking, I could leave TRH happy, but I pushed through for an entrée of grilled shrimp.

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The dish consisted of shrimp marinated in a light teriyaki, lime and chili sauce accompanied with fresh summer vegetables. The dish had a great concept and flavor profile, but was executed terribly. The taste of sauce and rub on the shrimp was fabulous, but sadly the shrimp were so overcooked I could have used them as bouncy balls. The veggies were overcooked as well. The broccoli had no snap, while the squash and peppers were mush. Also, besides the top layer of broccoli, squash and peppers the rest of the pile was onions, onions, and more onions not cooked well. I can see where they were going with this dish and respected the combination except for the amount of onions, but was very disappointed after eating the perfectly prepared calamari.

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TRH had a bump in the road with my main entrée, but I was so pleased with every other aspect of service, ambiance, menu, drinks, and meal, I will happily return. Hopefully next time they will just be a little more careful to pay attention to what they are serving for each course. Two out of three ain’t bad, but the with the shrimp dish it made them go from OMG to SMH IDK.

Overall

Three out of Five Stars

SUGARHOUSE CASINO ANNOUNCES SECOND ANNUAL NIGHT OUT RESTAURANT WEEK

 

 

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Press Release:

 

SUGARHOUSE CASINO ANNOUNCES SECOND ANNUAL NIGHT OUT RESTAURANT WEEK

Restaurant Event Highlights Fishtown, Northern Liberties and Penn’s Landing Hot Spots

 

PHILADELPHIA—August 7, 2015—SugarHouse Casino today announces its second annual Night Out

Restaurant Week. The event, which runs from Aug. 21—Aug. 30, will include participating restaurants

from the Fishtown, Penn’s Landing and Northern Liberties neighborhoods. Offering a taste of these

neighborhoods’ epicurean delights, diners can expect special menus, discounted pricing and

entertainment during their time at many participating eateries.

 

Each restaurant will feature $35 three-course dinners from special, prix fixe Night Out Restaurant Week

menus. Select restaurants will also include a $20 three-course prix fixe lunch menu. Nine new

participants join the 2015 Night Out Restaurant Week for a total of 21 participating locations.

 

Participating restaurants include:

Bardot Cafe

Bar Ferdinand

Bourbon & Branch – lunch and dinner

Cantina Dos Segundos

Chart House

Circles Contemporary Thai Cuisine

El Camino Real – lunch and dinner

Girard Brasserie & Bruncherie – lunch and dinner

Heritage

Jerry’s Bar

Johnny Mañana’s – lunch and dinner

Keating’s River Grill

Lloyd

Modo Mio

Morgan’s Pier

Moshulu

The Pickled Heron

The Refinery – lunch and dinner

Ristorante La Veranda – lunch and dinner

Suppa – lunch and dinner

Taste

 

“We are delighted to showcase what this area of the city has to offer the Philly food scene during our

second annual Night Out Restaurant Week,” said Wendy Hamilton, general manager of SugarHouse

Casino. “The culinary talent and variety is spectacular and I know restaurant-goers will enjoy the best of

what our neighbors have to offer.”

 

In addition to The Refinery’s special menu for the week, SugarHouse is going all out for the event,

including live music from 6—10 p.m. each weekday to accompany its usual 9 p.m.—2 a.m. Friday and

Saturday performances at The Refinery. For full details, menus and the entertainment schedules visit

http://www.nightoutrestaurantweek.com.

 

As an added bonus, diners who eat at an official Night Out Restaurant Week establishment are eligible

to receive $25 match play at SugarHouse Casino. Promotion details are available at Rush Rewards and at

the Night Out Restaurant Week website.

Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar Launches 4th Annual Burger Contest

Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar Launches 4th Annual Burger Contest

Fans Invited to Submit Their Own Creations; Winning burger to be featured on Zinburger’s menu for one week

Livingston, NJ – August 12, 2015 – No one ever heard of the Honolulu Baby Burger featuring charred pineapple, volcanic fire roasted red peppers and SPAM until the one-of-a-kind creation won Zinburger’s Burger Contest last year. Now, Zinburger is hoping to take it to an even greater level for their 4th Annual Burger Contest.

The upscale gourmet burger concept is inviting burger fans to submit their own burger creations via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ZinburgerEast) or Instagram (#ZinFanBurger) through August 31, and be sure to tell them Bluejeanfoodcritic referred you!!!

The winning burger, picked by Zinburger chefs and Facebook fans, will be featured on the Zinburger menu for one week at the 10 east coast Zinburger locations.  The winning chef will also receive a $100 gift card.

After the last day for entries on August 31, Zinburger chefs will choose their top three choices. Facebook fans and Instagram followers will then vote for their favorite from September 9-21. Winner will be announced September 22 and the winning burger will be served October 5 -11.

Guidelines for the burger include the following: 

  • Must use Certified Angus Beef only
  • Must use Zinburger’s Bun
  • Any and all toppings and sauces allowed

Burger will be chosen and judged on the following:

  • Taste (do the flavors combine to create an appealing flavor and texture)
  • Mass appeal
  • Visual appeal
  • Name of the burger
  • Complete Recipe
  • Creativity – videos, photos, etc.
  • Seasonal ingredients/Accessibility of ingredients
  • Overall cost to produce
  • Ability of the submitter to participate in media promotions

Since opening the East Coast’s first Zinburger in Clifton, N.J. four years ago to much fanfare, stellar reviews and packed crowds, Zinburger has developed an almost fanatical customer following who enjoy made-to-order gourmet burgers, hand-spun shakes and floats, decadent pies and 23 wine varieties.

Zinburger is located in Clifton, NJ, Paramus, NJ, Cherry Hill, NJ, Nanuet, NY, Huntington Station, NY, Atlanta, Durham, Charlottesville, Sunrise, FL and Boca Raton, FL.

For more information, visit http://zinburgereast.com or https://www.facebook.com/ZinburgerEast and be sure to tell them Bluejeanfoodcritic referred you!

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