When you hear about things heating up in Atlantic City, NJ, you think of someone on a hot streak at the craps table. But when guest blogger Felicity Loughrey (who recently launched Lustaday, a blog about fashion, lifestyle and pop culture) visited Atlantic City last week, she found herself heating up a Viking range at a cooking class. Like many destinations, AC is trying to develop its foodie side. It’s also trying to show visitors that it has more to offer than gambling and shows. Here, Felicity tells Travelogged what’s cooking in Atlantic City.
In the mall-like ambiance of Harrah’s casino in Atlantic City, NJ, there’s a Viking Cooking School. This is Viking, named after the appliances, not the Nordic raiders. On one side of the premises is a shop that sells cookbooks, Le Creuset cookware and nifty devices for squeezing limes. And on the other side is class space for 12 adults (classes cost $65—$129 per person). There are four Viking cooking ranges, professional-looking aluminum work benches and a plastic tray under each bench for dirty dishes to magically disappear.
Our instructor Ayanna, wearing a white chef’s hat, welcomes the class. On each work station is a folded white apron and a print-out of the day’s recipes: chicken satay, peanut dipping sauce, Thai cucumber salad and Thai beef salad with lettuce cups. My cooking partner is Daphne, an intensive care unit nurse who escapes New York City for Harrah’s on a $45 bus fare from her home in Queens.
As we begin our first recipe, Ayanna brings a tray with all the ingredients pre-chopped and measured to each work station. The experience is like being a guest on a cooking show as you tip perfect portions into gleaming pots. The space, surrounded by glass, has a Truman Show-like feel as vacationers amble past and peer into the school.
Ayanna cheerfully shows the class how to chop cilantro in a radial fashion and never to scrape the herbs off the chopping block with a knife (it dulls the blade). She has a special plastic scraper tool for that. This is just what makes the Viking Cooking School a marketer’s dream. Cooking on the gas-powered Viking range makes you want one. And I’ll take that plastic scraper tool too.
At the end of the session, food is piled on plates and crushed peanuts sprinkled as garnish. The classmates gather around a long communal table (shielded from onlookers by a curtain) and wine is served. Daphne and I agree we’ve never made such delicious Thai food. Maybe it’s the glass of Riesling or the stress-free cooking experience with measured ingredients and no washing up; but it’s a giddy feeling of accomplishment. When I get home I try the recipes again and again, and they still work. Meanwhile, I keep thinking about that Viking cooking range.
Comped but Never Compromised: Felicity Loughrey was a guest of the Viking Cooking School, but she is free to write whatever she wants.