What’s hot, what’s hip and happening with food and cocktails?
To answer this question, we talked to chefs and drink masters to get their take on food and drink trends.
What we discovered is that Americans swing both ways when it comes to food fads. Some like decadence, while others only want virtuous vegetarian/vegan dishes that don’t taste like cardboard. Chefs follow trends and deliver both — sometimes on the same menu.
When it comes to cocktails, bartenders are creating new takes on old favorites, such as Moscow Mules. Fruity, summer drinks splashed with freshly squeezed watermelon, kiwi and passion fruit are the rage.
Take a look at what foodies are deeming worth a try.
Originating on the streets of Thailand, rolled ice cream is a new way to enjoy an old treat.
A base of milk, cream and sugar is poured onto an ice pad, a device that freezes the mixture. As the base freezes, the artisan takes a spatula and flattens the mixture, while adding other ingredients — cookies, crumbles and/or fruit. As the ingredients are chopped and blended into the base, the artisan continues to flatten the mixture until it’s ready to be rolled. The process takes about two minutes or less.
At Arctic Freeze Creamery in Ocean City, patrons can customize the base with vanilla, chocolate or coconut, then choose the mix-ins like brownies, cheesecake bites, strawberries and mint Oreo cookies. Unlimited toppings crown the sweet treat, which is served in a cup. Ocean City has emerged as a hot spot for rolled ice cream, with Sweet Charlie’s, pictured right, and CubZero, both on the boardwalk, also offering the treat.
“Rolled ice cream is something new that people want to try,” says Arctic Freeze Co-owner Chase Miller. “Because they’ve never seen it before, we have to explain what it is and how we make it. Then they give it a try, and they really like it.”
When it comes to desserts, the bigger, the better — at least that could be the motto at the new AC Burger Co. at Harrah’s Resort, where you’ll find dessert decadence with its already-popular Smorechos, layers of whipped ganache, salted buttered graham crackers and cream cheese spread with pretzel chips and cinnamon sugar cannoli chips.
“In-your-face desserts are huge right now,” says Robert Schoell, executive chef at Harrah’s. “We look at what the market’s doing. We follow it and go all out. People want to come to try our desserts, especially the milkshakes, because they are so over-the-top.”
The best seller is the Ice Cream Sandwich, a 10-ounce milk shake, which is made with cookies and cream ice cream, topped with an ice cream sandwich and chocolate chip cookies. Another specialty milkshake is the Cinnamon Shake Cake with cinnamon swirl ice cream, topped with a cinnamon pastry, cinnamon toast crunch and cinnamon sugar. For an “adult version,” spike any of these with a specialty liqueur.
Healthy food options are a must on menus. AC Burger obliges by offering vegan “sausage,” made with apple and sage. It also features a homemade vegan Mexican burger made with black beans, quinoa and pico de gallo.
“We’re getting a lot of vegetarian and vegan requests,” says Schoell. “And people don’t just want a plate of steamed veggies. They’re looking for dishes that taste good.”
If you like avocado, Okatshe at Tropicana Atlantic City is following the avocado-on-toast trend by putting its own version on its brunch menu — grilled multigrain bread layered with tomato jam and avocado.
“People are a lot more aware of their diets from a health perspective,” says Maria Schmidt, chef de cuisine at Olon and Okatshe, Iron Chef Jose Garces’ restaurants at Tropicana. “Avocado toast is probably healthier than a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. And it’s just as good and as filling.”
Another healthy brunch item at Okatshe is chia pudding, which Schmidt describes as a “fun food.” Made with coconut milk and lime, the pudding is “really light but substantial, like oatmeal,” she says.
In line with healthy eating, Olon offers coastal seafood with inspiration from Ecuador and Peru. Chef Schmidt serves fresh flounder, Jersey scallops and tilefish.
“In summertime, eating a bit lighter is the norm,” she says. “And we use local seafood and produce.”
At Tropicana’s Casa Taco & Tequila Bar, Chef Filiberto Lara follows the trend of healthier dishes by serving vegetarian versions of its fajitas, burritos and enchiladas.
“Mexican food can be heavy and spicy,” he says. “People who are health conscious and still want to enjoy Mexican food can now do that with these options.”
A big seller at Casa Taco is the guacamole, prepared tableside.
“It’s fresh, it’s tableside. You don’t get any better than that,” he says.
The regular guac satisfies the discerning vegetarian population. And the crab guacamole (a current trend) satisfies everyone else.
“People just love it,” says Lara.
“When it comes to cocktails or mocktails, the drink is just as important as the food,” says Schmidt.
Bartenders, therefore, take their jobs seriously and deliver cocktails that match the season.
“Because it’s summer, cocktails are fruity and fresh,” says Michael Garguilo, beverage manager for The Continental and Buddakan in Atlantic City.
Freshly squeezed juice and muddled fruit — watermelon, mango, pomegranate, kiwi, strawberry, raspberry — burst on the taste buds with summer freshness.
“Champagne cocktails are big, too, and they’re refreshing,” adds Garguilo, “As is the seasonal sangria, particularly the white version.”
Recipes abound for white sangria, depending on how the house makes it. At Buddakan, patrons can enjoy white peach ginger sangria, or they can go to The Continental to enjoy green apple, raspberry sangria — an ideal drink for sipping on summer nights.
Riffs on Moscow Mules — a cocktail made with vodka, ginger beer and lime— appear frequently on drink menus, as well. AC Burger features the NJ Elit Mule, a blend of Stoli Elit, ginger beer, blueberries and cucumber, while The Continental offers the Mexico City Mule, a mix of Milagro (tequila), ginger beer, cucumber, mint and jalapeno.
And while we may be nowhere near Hawaii, tiki cocktails —rum-inspired drinks with an island flair — always seem to scream “summer.”
“Typically, these drinks are layered with a lot of different ingredients,” says Garguilo.
The Continental makes its version with its Painkiller cocktail: rum, pineapple, orange, nutmeg and crème of coconut.
AC Burger Co., Caesars.com, 777 Harrah’s Blvd., Atlantic City
Assaggio, AssaggioGalloway.com, 500 W. White Horse Pike, Egg Harbor City
Arctic Freeze Creamery, ArcticFreezeCreamery.com, 1119 A Asbury Ave., Ocean City
Blue Water Grille, BWG-AC.com, 60 N. Maine Ave., Atlantic City
Buddakhan, BuddakanAC.com, 1 Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic City
Restaurants at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa offer various cuisines, many trendy, some timeless. Go to TheBorgata.com, 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City: Angeline, Bobby Flay Steakhouse, Izakaya, Old Homestead Steakhouse, Wolfgang Puck American Grille
Casa Taco & Tequila Bar, Tropicana.net, 2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City
The Continental, ContinentalAC.com, Pier Shops at Caesars, 1 Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic City
Cuba Libre, CubaLibreRestaurant.com, 2801 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City
Golden Nugget Atlantic City offers its share of restaurants. Go to GoldenNugget.com, 600 Huron Ave., Atlantic City: Vic & Anthony’s, Chart House, Grotto, Lillie’s Asian Cuisine, Michael Patrick’s Brasserie
Kelsey’s, KelseysAC.com, 1545 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City
LB One, LB-One.biz, 6605 E. Black Horse Pike, Egg Harbor Township
McCullough’s Emerald Pub, McCulloughsGolf.com, 3016 Ocean Heights, Egg Harbor Township
Okatshe, OkatsheRestaurant.com, 2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City
Olon, OlonRestaurant.com, 2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City
Pic-A-Lilli Pub, PicaLilliAC.com, 231 S. Tennessee Ave., Atlantic City
Restaurants at Resorts Casino Hotel offer a variety of cuisines. Go to ResortsAC.com, 1133 Boardwalk, Atlantic City: Eastwind, Capriccio, Gallagher’s Steak House
Ruth’s Chris, RuthsChris.com, 2020 Atlantic Ave., Atlantic City
Sofia, SofiaOfMargate.com, 9314 Amherst Ave., Margate City
Sweet Charlie’s, SweetCharlies.com, 928 Boardwalk, Ocean City
The Palm, ThePalm.com, 2801 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City
Wonder Bar, WonderBarACNJ.com, 3701 Sunset Ave., Atlantic City