It’s been a crazy few weeks as we just released the October issue of Philadelphia RowHome Magazine and then immediately put last minute touches on our annual black tie gala which took place last Wednesday. I needed some downtime before getting to work on our January 2020 annual Food issue. So, when I got the invite to attend the Borgata’s annual Savor Borgata weekend, it was hard to say no. It turned out to be the perfect relaxing getaway…
I was in a foodie Heaven at the Borgata in Atlantic City! November 8th and 9th celebrated the hotel and casino’s annual Savor Borgata Weekend, truly the “Ultimate Food Experience”. On Saturday evening, an epic food festival takes place in the casino’s event center, highlighting all of the restaurants and chefs that make up the Borgata’s huge selection of dining options. We’ll get to the actual festival in the next blog post. For now, it’s important to focus on all of the events leading up to the festival. Yes, that’s right. This isn’t just a one-off food fest and a fun way to spend an evening, Savor weekend is filled with so many culinary experiences that are unique and unlike anything local foodies have ever done before. You’ll want to make a weekend out of this event next year.
I checked into the Borgata’s Water Club on Friday night; a beautiful hotel with 800 spacious guest rooms and suites. The Water Club also offers a spa, designer shops (so you can spend your casino winnings on the way back to your room), and five heated indoor and outdoor pools. Even without a food festival to entice me, this was already shaping up to be an amazing weekend.
The ability to pick and choose what you want to do (and eat!) is what makes Savor so much fun. This isn’t a non-stop, eat-everything-in-sight-for-two-days sort of event (though I wouldn’t complain if that was the case). Instead, you purchase tickets well in advance to what YOU want to experience. That way, there’s plenty of downtime to explore the casino and restaurants in the Borgata, or the rest of Atlantic City. Most of the ticketed events do SELL OUT early, so make your decisions as soon as you can. Details on what was offered this year can be found here.
My first stop after checking into my room was the Sunroom, a beautiful little lounge off of the Water Club’s lobby that makes you feel like you are in a warm, tropical location. Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian is the culinary consultant for the Sunroom and the Water Club’s in-room dining options. I’m a huge fan, so I was excited to see his picks for this lounge. As expected, he did not disappoint. The berry mojito and the skinny mule were the perfect drinks to kick off my Borgata weekend. The truffle fries are a go-to menu item for me no matter where I am; the Sunroom’s version was delicious of course. Simple, crispy…I ate them all. We also ordered the blistered shishito peppers with smoked sea salt and saffron aioli. Wow! Order a plate of these for you and your friends if you’re there! The Sunroom offers a full menu with sandwiches, salads, cheeses, snacks, desserts, even breakfast.
Friday’s Savor Borgata event highlights included Wolfgang Puck’s Spago pop-up, Meatball Mayhem at the Borgata’s new Moneyline Book & Bar, a food and wine tasting at the Borgata Buffet with the executive chef Tom Biglan, champagne and food pairings at the Immersion Pool, a Greg and Marc Sherry (Old Homestead restaurateurs) hosted dinner prepared by Chef Amador Campos and paired with wines, and small plates and whiskey tastings at the new Level One Cocktail Bar & Lounge…just to name a few.
How do you pick?! Thankfully, the perfect pick was chosen for me- a “dine around” with Chef Michael Schulson. Michael opened his first restaurant, Izakaya, at the Borgata ten years ago. He now has award-winning restaurants in Philadelphia, Hollywood, and Florida. One of my favorite restaurants in Philly is actually Michael’s Double Knot. During this dine around, guests walked through Izakaya and could stop at various stations, each one represented by a different Michael Schulson restaurant.
We ate delicious sushi from Double Knot, cheesesteak bao buns from Sampan, chicken parm sandwiches from the new Giuseppe & Sons, lobster skewers from Izakaya (a must-try if you’re at the Borgata), amazing cheese curds from the Independence Beer Garden, and a handmade pasta bite from Chef Jeff Michaud who will be opening Via Locusta in Philly soon with Michael. There was also a large display of mini desserts courtesy of Schulson Catering. Again, I’m just naming a few. Michael is one of my favorite chefs with many of his restaurants located in Philadelphia, so be sure to stop at one next time you’re looking for a night out in the city.
As that was my only event for the evening, I had two options- go to sleep and rest up for a day filled with even more amazing tastings and experiences, or explore the Borgata. Obviously, exploring was the better option. If I remember correctly, the last time I was at the Borgata was in 2008 to see a friend’s band play at one of the nightclubs. I wanted to see what I’ve been missing all these years.
After the Michael Schulson event, I couldn’t imagine eating anything else. But I wanted to try. We stopped at the Long Bar, a laid back bar that’s great to grab a drink and some amped up bar food. The spicy cauliflower dip, lobster mac and cheese, and fire grilled steak tacos were all calling my name. As tempting as they all sounded, I was stuffed (and then sad, because I never made it back to the Long Bar for the lobster mac). Instead, we ordered a couple drinks- the Blackberry Pumps with bourbon, blackberry, Coke, bitters and mint, and the Black Martini with Malibu black rum, chambord, pineapple and pomegranate juice.
I decided I could use something sweet to take back to the room with me, so the Borgata Baking Company was the perfect end to the evening- it’s open until 2am on the weekends. Former Pastry Chef for the White House, and current Borgata Pastry Chef, Thaddeus DeBois, is the mastermind behind all of the Baking Company’s delicious, housemade treats. Along with savory sandwiches and pastries for breakfast or quick dinner/lunch, you can grab coffee, milkshakes, cupcakes, gelato, macarons, whoopie pies, and so much else. People were ordering pies for Thanksgiving while we were there too!
Again, how do you choose? Gelato was perfect for the “feeling full, but there’s always room” mood. I got coconut…and a birthday cake flavored macaron to top it off. We also grabbed an Oreo whoopie pie, because why not?
I went to bed happy, comfortable, and with a beautiful view of the ocean and Atlantic City’s casinos and lights just outside my window. So far, day one at Savor Borgata Weekend was incredible. And we were just getting started!
Continue reading here to find out what we did on day two, including chef meet and greets, and the ultimate food festival event!