By Denise Mattia
From its inception as a gambling playground, friends lauded Atlantic City and couldn’t see why I’d no desire to visit it. Since I didn’t have a gambler’s instinct (or inclination), going into dark rooms to play blackjack was incomprehensible to me.
Years later I took the opportunity to visit Atlantic City with a group of society members for a convention. The place exceeded my expectations.
The main attraction is the most historical pedestrian promenade in the world – the Atlantic City Boardwalk. It’s well managed, spotless and fun. T-shirt, saltwater taffy and souvenir shops abound, and I found a 99-cent store that resembled an old-fashion five and dime. Although not original, the city did an excellent job recreating turn-of-the-century buildings.
Boardwalk Hall is transformed into a jukebox time machine at night thanks to the Moment Factory’s use of projections, technology, sound and theatrical lighting. The show is imaginative and not to be missed. Whether night or day, guests can spend hours at the renovated, family-friendly Steel Pier. The famous pier extends 1,000 feet over the ocean, is open year round and features 25 rides (including the ercreated 200-foot Ferris wheel) in addition to food and drinks kiosks. The beautiful, wide, white-sand beach is raked daily. Lifeguards are posted at regular intervals for the safety of ocean swimmers and the tall-grass dunes that flank the boardwalk add charm and protection to this American seaside town.
The Northeast Inlet
Toward the end of the boardwalk near the inlet stands the Revel Casino Hotel, boasting almost as much outdoor hospitality space as its indoor casino. With 1,200 guest rooms (all with seaside views) a dozen restaurants, three clubs and meeting spaces in addition to a gigantic recreation, pool and spa facility and easy access to the boardwalk, the hotel is a popular resort.
A few of out members arrived in Atlantic City by car (busses are generally the preferred method of travel from New York City), while members from other centers had flown via Spirit Airline to the Atlantic City International Airport. We learned that Spirit Airline is working with the Port Authority of NY & NJ toward initiating flights from JFK to Atlantic City.
Along the Bay
We converged at our hotel, the Golden Nugget, opposite the Frank S. Farley State Marina. As I’d imagined, there weren’t C-notes flying on green felt as we walked around the roulette and crap tables. There weren’t Guy Masterson types who’d bet on what the guy next to him would bet before his wallet appeared. The corridor to the reception desk advertised a car and the return of the Miss America Pageant and was generally quiet, save for the “ding dings” of the one-arm bandits. Registration was speedy and I took the elevator to the 14th floor.
Room 1451 in the Golden Nugget is a hangover from Donald Trump’s former ownership. Planners completed extensive renovation on the opulent suite; the wet bar, sitting/bedroom area and bathroom – one of the first places I looked at when I entered the room. “Where’s the bath!” I spoke the words out loud to the shower stall. I’d asked for one specifically.
Miffed, I stormed out ready to complain but stopped in time to see the gigantic Jacuzzi next to the entry table sequestered behind a handful of delicate beaded strands. The tub that fits four easily didn’t register in my brain when I entered the room. In the days that followed, I might have turned into a prune from use had I not come to Atlantic City to attend meetings and to see the city – so close to Manhattan and so accessible – I’d only heard about.
Overlooking the Trivia and Significant
That there were ironing implements provided but only a floor outlet narrowly installed behind the over-stuffed L-shaped couch in front of the window proved manageable. That there was a coffee pot on the wet bar counter but no outlet nearby was of little consequence. But that the room smelled of stale cigarette smoke on a non-smoking floor was unconscionable. The management was very understanding of my complaints and did its best to remedy the problem. Hopefully, there’s sufficient left over from the $150 million budget spent on the hotel “to bring guests a more refined, modern resort experience” to invest in an ionizer.
Admittedly a fussy eater, many of the meals weren’t to my taste – heavily spiced foods mask the true flavor of good meat or vegetables. Although not a beef eater, many members agreed that dry, liquor-infused gravy gave an alien taste to the beef. The single oyster and crab cake from Robert’s in the Trump Taj Mahal, however, received unanimous acclaim, as did the reception and haute cuisine dinner at Borgata.
Tasty cubes of juicy lamb and crab and avacado hors d’oeuvres accompanied a light, dry méthode champenoise wine during the cocktail hour at Borgata. The sit-down meal began with an amuse bouche, a slightly sweet foie gras served with chutney mango and cherry reduction. Accompanying the first course — a slightly tangy vinaigrette dressed mesclun and goat cheese salad — was a Chateau d’Escians Rosé from Provence. The crisp, white Monastero Suore Cistercensi from one of the great domains of Italy went perfectly with the fettuccini topped with summer peas, white truffle, asiago cheese and a prosciutto crisp sauce.
More . . .
The fish course consisted of a tasty roasted-to-perfection Alaskan Halibut and seared jumbo shrimp. The delicate white meat fish combined well with the savory shrimp and was served with a fennel Barigoule — a traditional white wine vegetable reduction artichoke dish. The perfumed Cold Heaven, Le Bon Climat Viognier from Santa Barbara added a citrus, slightly spicy flavor to the fish course.
A meat course followed – a most delicious, tender Delmonico Steak served with a deep, aromatic Dominio Dostares Cumal, Castilla y Leon Spanish wine. The
sorbets refreshed the palate and ended the meal nicely. Sadly, there was no time thankfully for dessert as we were due to the
Borgata Theatre, where a strip-tease show was about to start.
Take it All Off
The dancing was superb, and the strip tease was more balletic and athletic than the strippers of olde. Still, the audience, both male and female, loved it. We returned to the Golden Nugget to try our hands at the gambling tables.
I had time the following morning to view the sculptures along the Bay, the city’s first attempt at introducing art to the public. It’s hoped the program will grow in sophistication, as quickly as Atlantic City is growing as a resort destination.
About Denise Mattia
A writer and photographer, Denise Mattia’s works are published nationally and internationally and include all aspects of leisure travel: art , culture, resorts, spas, food and wine and sports’ activities. She's the founder of the soon to be launched Yum-Yum-Traveler, a site devoted to reviewing restaurants in addition to her travel articles from around the world. She lives and works in Manhattan, where she was born.