Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gluten-Free Road Trip: Jersey Sure

Harrah's Resort in Atlantic City
My wife and I played the part of empty-nesters the past three weeks, as the boys were at sleepaway camp in the Poconos. Looking for somewhere to relax for a few days, we decided on Atlantic City. We considered booking a couple nights at the brand-new Revel, but considering the premium room prices and the fact that the hotel's private beach is still not finished (and likely won't be until after the summer season), we opted for Harrah's since there were many amenities on site.

We booked a two-night midweek package that included a dining credit for the new Sammy D's casual American restaurant, where we ate after checking in. The restaurants at Harrah's are GREAT-trained through the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and every chef I spoke with at the resort was familiar with gluten-free food preparation. (Dos Caminos, Luke Palladino and The Steakhouse have their own gluten-free menus.) At Sammy D's, I ordered an egg-white omelet and my wife got the chopped salad. Gluten-free bread is available and the kitchen keeps a dedicated toaster on hand.

The Atlantic City Boardwalk
Walking past the Viking Cooking School inside the resort, my wife - the cook in the family - grabbed a calendar and noticed that a Thai class was scheduled for the day of our departure. Given that my kitchen repertoire consists of making breakfast and quesadillas, she convinced me to sign up with her. I could hardly curb my enthusiasm.

We relaxed for a few hours at the adults-only indoor pool, ringed by hot tubs, cabanas and bars. (On weekend nights, the pool area is converted into a dance club of sorts.)

Curious to see the Revel, we drove over there and ate dinner at Mussel Bar, recommended by a friend of my wife. (Stay tuned for my review.) The building is vast, sleek and - judging from the casino floor - largely empty. I did appreciate that the entire building is non-smoking - a claim no other resort in Atlantic City can make.

The Ventnor Beach
The next morning, we drove downbeach to Ventnor, where we enjoyed breakfast at Hannah G's. The gluten-free menu there includes blueberry pancakes and eggs with quinoa, prepared on a separate grill. Walking on the Ventnor boardwalk after our meal brought back fond childhood memories; I pointed out to my wife where my great-aunt kept a house and where my family rented a condo for a few years. We trekked all the way to the Atlantic Club (the original home of the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City) before walking back to Ventnor on the beach.

We returned to Harrah's pool in the afternoon, and had an easier time snagging lounge chairs than the day before.

Filet Mignon and Baked Potato at The Steakhouse
Harrah's arranged a complimentary dinner at The Steakhouse on the second evening of our stay so that my wife and I could sample the gluten-free fare. We were presented with gluten-free menus that featured cocktails, appetizers and entrees. (The kitchen can also modify other choices to accommodate gluten-free diets.)

Our server brought us a basket of warm gluten-free bread and took our martini and appetizer orders. My wife's chopped salad was dressed with a honey vinaigrette, while the three large poached shrimp I ordered was brightened with a spicy cocktail sauce.

We both ordered the same entree - a center-cut 10-ounce filet and a baked potato side. The meat, seared well, was flavorful and tender. None of the steak sauces are gluten free at present, but the chef told us that he's looking to develop one.

Toffee Cheesecake at The Steakhouse
As with the bread, the kitchen will prepare a special gluten-free dessert with advance notice. On this evening, our server brought out a silky toffee cheesecake, which we chased with espressos.

We arranged for a late checkout the following morning so we could attend the Thai cooking class that would double as lunch. The menu included chicken satay, peanut dipping sauce, Thai cucumber salad, Thai beef salad with lettuce cups, and sticky rice. Thai cuisine is easily adapted to be, if not naturally, gluten free. Gluten-free soy sauce can be used in lieu of the wheat version to marinade the steak; otherwise, none of the other  recipes called for gluten-containing ingredients.

Chicken Satay at the Viking Cooking School
Our class of seven was divided into two groups, with my wife and I sharing a prep table with a gentleman from Indiana. We chopped, diced, prepped, squeezed and mixed the various ingredients and, after doing so, I appreciated the amount of time and work it takes to prepare a square meal.

The class, led by two Harrah's chefs, ran a little over an hour, and we enjoyed the fruits of our labor over glasses of Chardonnay. We were even given our very own chef's aprons as souvenirs.

As we checked out of the hotel, my wife remarked that she was impressed with my newfound cooking skills. While the class gave me a shot of confidence, I'm not quite ready to stray from pouring milk into a cereal bowl.
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1 comment:

  1. Wow! what a great review of the restaurants. Who knew you could get GF pancakes in Ventnor? Thanks for sharing..