Don’t you just love hotels? They’re theatrical and cozy at the same time, a place to escape and a place to feel at home while you escape.
On our September trip to Atlantic City, my companion and I enjoyed our stops at the new Ocean Resort Casino so much that we decided to return for a stay. The hotel’s light blue palette gives it an open, airy feel. The public areas are spacious, with lots of light from the walls of windows looking out over the water. It’s relaxing to walk around, a rare find in Atlantic City. So after a few days at the beach, we drove aboard the ferry and on to our favorite East Coast casino town for a couple of days of food and fun.
The Atlantic City Expressway is lined with billboards advertising hotels and their upcoming shows. But amid the smiling creased faces of the current entertainers, what stood out to us was Hard Rock‘s sign advertising its Wild Card Tier Match–a pledge to match preferred status from other casinos because “It wouldn’t be fair to make you start over.” This caught our attention because just six weeks earlier we’d tried to take them up on the same offer–but they pulled it away like Lucy with the football. Talk about unfair!
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Up in our room, the bellman delivered the bags, and I put our snacks in the refrigerator, hung up my dresses, and opened my Mac. Sure enough, Hard Rock was touting the same status match they’d previously emailed but denied us. There was just one problem now: My MGM card had expired; we’d have to Uber to Borgata so that I could get a new card.
Okay, so maybe this wasn’t such a terrible problem after all. We played a little at the casino to get our first drinks comped, then stopped in to the Gypsy Bar for a margarita. For dinner we sat at the bar at Bobby Flay Steak, one of our favorite Atlantic City restaurants, because the service and the food are both excellent. This time, we split the Cast-Iron NY Strip, perfectly seasoned and melt-in-your-mouth tender. And the Cauliflower Goat-Cheese Gratin side was also fantastic; the large florets were soft, and the generous sauce was rich and creamy. There’s nothing like upscale comfort food.
Back along the Boardwalk, we stopped in to a gift shop at Caesars. Earlier this year, the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore had included a white Kenneth Cole Reaction Double-Trouble cross-body as one of its give-aways. It became my summer go-to bag–small and lightweight, but the twin compartments make it easy to organize, and the slot in the middle is perfect for keeping my iPhone handy. I hated having to suspend carrying it when Labor Day rolled around. So I was thrilled in September to find a black version at Ballys and snapped it up just in time. Then I decided to look for it in navy as well at Caesars.
I didn’t find the bag at Caesars. But I did find a soft plushy comforting faux fur white jacket. Maybe I lost my mind a little. Maybe I’d had too much tequila back at Borgata. Maybe I was facing a weird milestone birthday–in two days, I’d be 15 years younger than my mother was when she died. And this reality has given a new sense of urgency to my personal pursuit of happiness through pleasure. Without thinking, I pulled the jacket off the rack and started “modelling” it around the shop, posing in front of every mirror. My friend deemed this display “so cute”–and bought the jacket as my birthday present! I wore it back up to the room and rolled around in it.
The next day, I grabbed my new jacket and my new MGM card, and we headed to Hard Rock. Success! The casino honored its offer, and it is a good one; we both scored complementary rooms among other perks. I’m not sure for how long or how consistently it’ll be honored, so I’d encourage you to take advantage of it soon if you can. On the way out, we stopped to admire Elvis Presley‘s 1963 silver Rolls-Royce, older than I am and still stunning.
For my birthday (eve) dinner, I’d chosen Amada, a rustic tapas restaurant at Ocean, where my friend had reserved a birdcage booth overlooking the beach for the occasion. We ordered four small plates. All were very good, but my favorite was the Alcachofas al a Parmesana, cheese-covered artichokes to rival those we’ve had at Oscar’s in Las Vegas. Then I tried to decide between the Crema Catalana and the Copa Helado for dessert. But perhaps due to our booth’s unfortunate location by the kitchen, as well as the rest rooms, we found the waitress just annoyingly intrusive, flitting into our birdcage every several minutes. We felt so pestered that we decided to go back to the bar we’d enjoyed so much last time at American Cut.
We scored two stools, ordered sparkling wine, and looked over the dessert menu. I chose the Cheesecake because its description carried one word guaranteed to spark my interest: guava. Long-time readers may recall that I fell in love with its sweet flavor in Hawaii. Even now, it’s a rare find on the East Coast, so I indulge whenever I can. And it was a fine choice. The cheesecake was like a tropical party on a plate. The full guava flavor blended deliciously with the coconutty creme fraiche and the creamy passion pineapple sorbet.
I happily blew out the candle. And my birthday hadn’t even started yet.