A.C. with Co-Workers

I’m part of the Social Committee at work and yesterday we organized a day trip down to Atlantic City. We rented a sweet party bus, loaded it up with beer and snacks around noon, picked up co-workers from the Times Sq. office as well, and made it down to A.C. by about 4p. The best deal we got was from the Taj, giving everyone a $20 voucher for cash, so that’s where we went. Or rather, that’s where we had the bus pull in. We all got off the bus, redeemed our vouchers, and then everyone went their separate ways. I was on the fence about whether to stay at the Taj to play their 4:15p $100+20 NL tourney or head over to the Borgata to play blackjack instead. As you know, I normally play at the Borgata and would only spend time at the dilapidated Taj for poker tourneys. The Taj is just so run-down and depressing, but they do have a busy poker room. But as I hit the men’s room to take a leak, I was reminded why I just couldn’t stay there- the old man in the trucker hat standing at the urinal next to mine, breathing like Darth Vader with his oxygen tank on a little rolling stand next to him. It more than a little disturbing and made me want to get the hell out of there, not just the bathroom (Senator Larry Craig: “I don’t seek activities in bathrooms”), but the whole casino.

So with my mind made up, I headed outside to catch the $2 jitney over to the Borgata. Btw, if you’ve never taken the jitney, let me tell you, it’s the only way to roll if you’re just trying to get from one casino to another. They are these little powder blue mini buses that run 24 hrs a day and with so much frequency that you never have to wait more than a few minutes. I think there are like 3 routes or so, but taking it is easy- just ask a casino employee where the closest jitney stop is, and there will be a sign listing all the major casinos along with the number of the correct jitney bus to take to get there. It’s fast and it’s only 2 bucks. Way better than a taxi.

So I got to the Borgata and nestled into a table to play some blackjack. Played for about 3 hours, was up $700, but I was getting hungry and all I could think about was steak at Old Homestead. The shoe was very favorable at that point, my sloppy count had it at +9, so I decided to go for a little excitement and plopped down $500 for one last hand before dinner. Figured I’d finish either up $1200 or up $200, and either way, it would more than pay for dinner. My cards came 16 with a dealer 7 showing. Shit. With the count being what it was, on the one hand it was likely the dealer had a ten in the hole, but on the other hand, it also made my balls shrivel at the thought of making a textbook hit in that spot. Ultimately my lack of balls made me stand pat with my 16. Dealer turned over an 8 to make 15, and the next card was… a deuce. Shit. Oh well, dinner time.

On to the Old Homestead, where everybody is a winner. Since I was dining alone, I asked for and was given a seat at my favorite spot, at the back counter looking into the kitchen. It was not nearly as busy as the last time I was there, which was surprising since it was primetime on a Friday evening. But while the kitchen lacked the entertainment value and energy of a busy dinner service, my steak would ultimately more than made up for it. I kept my ordering simple- a dozen clams on the half shell to start and a steak au poivre medium rare for my entree. Since I had a view of the entire kitchen, I could see the shucker at work to my left. I was a bit aghast to see how he was handling his oysters though- after opening them but before cutting the lower adductor, he rinsed them under a stream of running water! 😮 I had missed seeing him prepare my clams, so I don’t know if he was just doing that because of a gritty batch of oysters, but I admit my clams did arrive looking nicely plump, fresh and still tasted briny and not watered down at all. Despite what I witnessed of the oyster handling, my clams were great.

Then it was time for the steak. I’ve eaten at Old Homestead a lot, and I usually only order one of two things, either the rib eye or the au poivre. It’s always good, but last night, it was exceptional. Remarkable even. Sometimes you get a cut of meat that is so perfect and prepared so flawlessly that you cannot believe what you are eating. That was how I felt. The sirloin was perfectly trimmed, executed to precisely medium rare, and was crusted with exactly the right coarseness of ground peppercorns. The quality of meat at Old Homestead has always been so consistently great that I expect it to be terrific, but the sirloin I had last night was off the charts spectacular. Moist without visually appearing fatty, intensely beefy in flavor, and not even the slightest whisper of toughness or chewiness. I kept thinking to myself, you can have fancier meals in nicer restaurants with more ornate presentations and lavish sauces and whatnot, but here on my plate was a simple, honest steak au poivre and it was simply one of the most perfect and delightful things I have ever eaten. Maybe some extra care had gone into it because the kitchen wasn’t as slammed as they normally are. I don’t know. All I can say is that it was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had. I was truly happy.

It turned out that I had enough points on my Borgata card to cover the dinner (about $90), so I just took out the $20 bill I had gotten from the Taj and left that as my tip. It was time to return to the sobering reality that is the Taj, so I hopped on the jitney and headed back. Our party bus wasn’t scheduled to leave for another 45 minutes and I couldn’t find any of my co-workers when I got there, so I decided to play some blackjack to kill the rest of the time. The result was roughly the same as earlier- I found myself up about $500 when it was time to go so I made a couple of big bets, lost them, and walked away up $150 for the session, $350 for the trip. Pretty tame compared to the swings in past trips, that’s for sure. But regardless I felt like a big winner, mainly because of that steak au poivre.

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