Spice it up For Cinco de MayoEbbitt Room, area eateries break out their best Latin foods

Chef Anthony Micari of the Ebbitt Room at the Virginia Hotel in Cape May displays Verecruz-style local flounder, pan-fried with truffle lime salsa verde with smoked poblano crema and zucchini blossoms for Cinco de Mayo.

How do they celebrate Cinco de Mayo at the Ebbitt Room in Cape May? With not a burrito or sombrero in sight.

Instead, Executive Chef Anthony Micari, 28, has developed a menu that takes his diners on a culinary tour of authentic Mexican cuisine.

"This is not you standard Cinco de Mayo celebration with tacos," Micari says.

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Micari wanted his menu to coincide with the arrival of each season, so he came up with five seasonal tasting menus that not only showcase local products but also pair each course with appropriate beverages.

"What better day to do a tequila dinner than Cinco de Mayo?" Micari says.

The first course is a rock shrimp ceviche indicative of the area around the Riviera Maya. This ceviche is made with a melon salpicon, bitter orange, mango and shaved jicama, along with locally found rock shrimp marinated in the mix.

Casa Noble-Crystal tequila, smooth and robust, seemed the perfect choice for this dish.

The second course is a pork croqueta, a common street food found around Pueblo.

"We're going to elevate it," Micari says.

His version will offer pequin chiles, a charred pineapple emulsion and crispy shallots, paired with a Partida-Reposado tequila that is rich with just a touch of sweetness.

The next course is posole, a traditional Mexican comfort food. In the hands of Micari, it is transformed into a posole souffle made with hominy corn, grilled spring onion, a pickled cactus salad and a huitlacoche vinaigrette.

A brandy-like Don Julio-Anejo is paired with the souffle.

For the fourth course, they will be serving a crispy local flounder with smoked poblano crema, zucchini blossom and salsa verde.

"We are using local Cape May flounder but making it Veracruz style," Micari says.

Flavors of citrus and oak made the Patron Silver tequila a perfect choice.

The dessert course is the French-sounding pot de creme. This version will be made with Mexican chocolate, a completely different product from other styles of chocolate, and an ancho chile infusion, then served with an horchata gelato, made from rice, cinnamon and cream.

"We put our own spin on things," Micari says.

A coffee-flavored tequila called Patron Cafe will accompany the dessert course.

To finish, smoked cinnamon churros will be served.

A tasting menu, the smaller portions are meant to grab the customers attention at a good price point. Micari also says the tequila pairings will "hit on" each course.

"It's like dining around the country of Mexico," Micari says.

Micari spent four years working for a famous Nuevo-Latino chef in Philadelphia. That's where he really got interested in the flavors and niche ingredients from the cuisine.

Unusual ingredients such as the many different kinds of chiles, and ingredients including huitlacoche - a kind of purple Mexican truffle that actually grows on the ears of corn used to make the hominy - caught his attention. So did the different preparations, such as the salpicon used in the ceviche.

Micari learned to make 15 or 16 different versions of ceviche alone every day.

When Micari took the executive chef's job last August, he immediately became involved in the restaurant but also with the farm that provides the Ebbitt Room with much of its products. Starting in October, they planned what to grow for the season and then planned his menus around that bounty.

His entire menu has been built on the seasonality of the farm.

"All our chefs are heavily involved in the farm down to plotting what we are going to plant with our farmer," Micari says.

Since the regular menu might best be described as American/regional/nouvelle, the chef doesn't get to use his knowledge of Spanish food as often as he might like, although he admits it to be his really big love. That's where the series of special menus really let the kitchen shine.

"Cinco de Mayo is going to be a lot of fun for me," Micari says. "But it's still going to be the Ebbitt Room."

Cape May's 'Catch of the Day'

Thursday, July 11, will feature a celebration of fresh seasonal produce and local seafood paired with local New Jersey wines. Dishes include fluke ceviche with melon and ginger granita, pan-seared scallops and little neck clam Carbonara. The star of the show is the fish.

Steers & Suds

Thursday, October 17, will feature grass-fed beef from the Rosenkranz Farms on the Finger Lakes region of New York paired with local craft beers. Dishes include grass-fed beef tartare, crispy braisded short rib and slow-roasted ribeye.

Scotch & Cigars

Thursday, November 14, will feature fall cuisine and single malt scotch. Espresso-cured duck breast and maple-smoked pork loin will steal the show. Scotches include Talisker 10-year, Macallan 12-year and Highland Park 18-year. The evening closes with a fine cigar.

But, The Ebbitt Room isn't the only place you'll find great Cinco de Mayo options this weekend. Check out what other restaurants are offering.

Bocca Coal Fired Bistro, 7805 Ventnor Ave., Margate, 609-823-3663. Cinco de Mayo celebration May 3, 4, 5. Appetizers: coctel de camarones martini ($12); pozole ($9); nachos grande ($10). Entrees (served with rice and beans): tacos dorados de pollo ($14); mussels Oaxaca ($16); caldo de Siete Mares ($22); filet fajita wrap ($16). Desserts: dulce de leche xangos ($9). Drink specials: baby margarita shot ($5); pineapple margarita ($8.50); strawberry margarita ($10.50); Bocca berry-rita ($10.50).

Clancy's by the Bay, 101 E. Maryland Ave., Somers Point, 609-927-6969. Appetizers: guacamole and chips ($8.95); Clancy's chicken nachos ($9.95); ceviche ($13.95). Soup: caldo de pollo sopa (cup $3.95/bowl $4.50). Entrees: chile rellanos con quesa y sausage ($13.95); bandera y Mexico ($9.95); pollo alla Mexicana ($12.95). Drink specials: Corona, margaritas, Blue Moon ($3.50). Thursday, May 2: Danny Eyer Band at 7:30 p.m. Friday: happy hour 3 to 6 p.m. with DJ Steve and Company from 9 p.m. Saturday: Kentucky Derby 3 to 6 p.m. with a fancy hat contest with $5 martini and mint juleps. Sunday: Mariachi Band 4 to 7 p.m. and the Bob Pantano Dance Party at 7:30 p.m.

Dizzy Dolphin, Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, Boston Avenue and The Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 609-347-7111. Sunday: noon to 2 a.m. will feature mojitos and margaritas ($5).

BB's Burgers and Beers, Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, Boston Avenue and The Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 609-347-7111. Sunday: noon to 10 p.m. will feature mojitos and margaritas ($5).

Los Amigos, 1926 Atlantic Ave., Atlantic City, 609-344-2293. 34th annual Cinco de Mayo celebration, Sunday, May 5, begins at 11:30 a.m. Roast pork fajitas ($15); enchiladas verdes ($15); costillas (short rib) ($23); Baja fish tacos ($17); carne asada ($22). Drink specials: house margarita $5; sangria $5; Corona $3. The Milagro Tequila Girls between 6 and 8 p.m. Beth Tinnon appears 5 to 8 p.m. Live music, outdoor patio seating, prizes, giveaways.

Maynard's Cafe, 9306 Amherst Ave., Margate City, 609-822-8423. Specials available all day Sunday and Monday. Corona and Corona light bottles $3; Corona Rita (Margarita with a bottle of Corona stuck on top) $5. $5 Food Menu in honor of May 5: chicken or steak flautas, nachos grande, traditional steak or chicken tacos, large burritos.

Fin Bar, Tropicana, 2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 800-345-8767. Saturday and Sunday 5 to 10 p.m. Fresh halibut tacos with house-made tortillas and toppings with red rice ($16). Dos Equis bottles $5; Corona bottles $5.

Dos Caminos, Harrah's Resort, 777 Harrah's Blvd., Atlantic City, 877-346-4642. Available 5 to 10 p.m. $5 Cinco de Mayo Tequila Lounge and Bar only menu: Antojitos (small bites) papas con chorizo, queso fundido, papas disco Mexicanas, chicken empanada. Tacos and tortillas. Chipotle beef brisket enchilada, chicken tacos, choriso quesadilla, pork tacos. Lobster guacamole ($18); grilled beef tenderloin Sabana al Pastor ($27). Coronitas Bucket ($19), Cinco Margarita ($5). DJ at 7:30 p.m. Mustaches, sombreros, wood maracas, chili beads, face paint, custom tattoos.

Tomatoe's, 9300 Amherst Ave., Margate, 609-822-7535. May 5 from 5 p.m. to closing. Sponsored by Patron Tequila with reduced price special cocktails ($9). Mexican specialties: posole ($5), fish tacos ($2.50), chile rellenos ($5) and shrimp tostados ($3.50). Featuring DJ Sparkles. Sombreros, maracas and moustaches for everyone.

Revel, 500 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 855-348-0500. Revel honors Cinco de Mayo with a weekend-long, resort-wide fiesta. Saturday, May 4, and Sunday, May 5 from noon to 6 p.m. will be centered at the Flower intersection between Lugo, Mussel Bar and Distrito at The Row. Distrito Cantina drink specials: Corona, Corona Light, Modelo Especial and Modelo Negra $5; salsa Mexicana $6; Patron silver, Patron Orange, XO Cafe, and XO Cafe dark cocoa shots $7; Distritorita $8. From 2 to 4 p.m. each day, Corona and Patron models will be offering giveaways. Live Mariachi band features authentic Mexican music, contests and giveaways. At 4 p.m. five winners' names will be selected for one chance to toss a lime into a beer mug and win $10,000. Runners up will receive special gifts. Participants must stop by the Revel Card Desk or Box office between 9 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. to receive an entry.

Gregory's Restaurant & Bar, 900 Shore Road, Somers Point, 609-927-6665. Sunday, May 5, will be the 30th Cinco de Mayo celebration held at Gregory's. Open daily from 11 a.m. for lunch, dinner and late-night food until 2:30 a.m. Food specials: grilled fajitas ($6.29), nachos ($7.99), quesadillas ($6.29), and grilled fish taco ($4.99) plus full regular dinner and sandwich menu. Drink specials: Dos Equus draft pints, $3, and 12-ounce bottles of Coronas. Giveaways and music.

El Coyote Southwest Grill, Ocean Heights and Zion Road, Egg Harbor Township, 609-927-0004. Celebrating Cinco de Mayo on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with dinner specials from 3 to 10 p.m. Scallop appetizer ($9.99), lobster tail tacos ($17.99), surf and turf burritos ($14.99). Giveaways, prizes, gift certificates. Maracas, sombreros, beads. BYO.

Isabella's Ventnor Cafe, 4 S. Portland Ave., Ventnor, 609-822-2477. Sunday, May 5: special buffet from 6 to 10 p.m. Mole, fajitas, burritos, quesadillas, taquitos, salads, guacamole, chicken, pork chops, chips, salsa, rice, beans, flan, rice pudding. Raffle. Live band outside. BYO. $19.95 per person, kids eat half-price.

Phillips Seafood, One Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic City, 609-348-2273. Sunday, May 5, open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Happy hour all day in bar and lounge area: $4 wine, $4 mixed drinks, $4 domestic bottles and draft beers. $5 Phillips signature blue crab margaritas. Discounted appetizers.

Red Sky Cafe, 3054 Route 9, Seaville, 609-624-2550. Special menu served Friday, May 3, to Thursday, May 9. Lunch served Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. Dinners served daily from 5 p.m. Appetizers: chipotle-seasoned cheesesteak egg rolls with petal dipping sauce ($10); Buffalo chicken nachos drizzled with blue cheese ($11). Entrees: guava-braised short rib tacos served with Mexican rice, confetti black beans and Texas slaw ($14); Sloppy Joses topped with crispy jalapenos and onions, served with sweet potato fries and Texas slaw ($13); seasoned and grilled shrimp and chicken in twin moles with fried plantains ($17); and Mexican lasagna with chicken and black beans ($15).

La Hacienda Fine Mexican Cuisine, 265 S. New York Road, Galloway, 609-652-6050. Cinco de Mayo weekend: 11 a.m. to midnight Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Appetizer specials available at bar and dining room: $5 nachos, flautas partidas $5. Drink specials: all Mexican beer in bottles or draft $3.75, lime margaritas $5, Jose Cuervo shots $4. Music: May 3, Jukebox Kings 7:30 p.m.; May 4, Dance Force 7:30 p.m.; May 5, DJ Radio Durisima 6 p.m. Free giveaways all weekend. Dining room reservations highly recommended.

Mexico Restaurant & Bar, 3810 Ventnor Ave., Atlantic City, 609-344-0366. Cinco de Mayo weekend: 11 a.m. to midnight Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Seatings from 6 to 8 p.m.; 8 to 10 p.m.; 10 p.m. to closing. Drink specials: All Mexican bottled beer $4, lime margaritas $5, Jose Cuervo shots $4. Music: May 3, DJ Radio Durisima 6 p.m.; May 4, DJ Radio Durisima 6 p.m.; May 5, El Charro Negro 6 p.m. Free giveaways all weekend. Dining room reservations recommended.

Rush Lounge, Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Huron and Brigantine Boulevard., Atlantic City, 800-777-8477. Open 24/7. House margaritas $2, Patron XO Cafe shots $3, Patron margarita shots $3, Dos Equis $4, Patron Citronge spritzer $5, Patron margaritas $6.

Fitzpatrick's Deli & Steakhouse, 650 New Road, Somers Point, 609-653-8155. Cinco de Mayo, three-day fiesta from Friday to Sunday, May 3 to 5, available from 5 to 10 p.m. Appetizer (choice of one): chicken quesadilla soup, chipotle chicken flatbread or beef quesadilla. Entrees (choice of one): beef or chicken chimichanga baked in mild red chili sauce with melted pepper jack cheese, tequila lime shrimp tacos served in soft corn tortillas or grilled chicken and shrimp in mole sauce topped with queso fresco. All entrees served with Spanish rice and black beans. Dessert: tres leches cake. Beverages included: soft drinks, coffee, tea. Fruit and pitcher supplied for sangria. $19.95 per person.

Atlantic City Country Club, 900 Shore Road, Northfield, 609-236-4400. Sunday, May 5: Featuring $5 Mean Margaritas, fish tacos with roasted yellow tomato salsa and saffron rice, crab nacho's grande and spicy chicken fajita. Chips and salsa.

Cafe Roma, Caesars, 2100 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City, 609-348-1111. Friday, May 3, from 7 a.m. (open 24 hours); Saturday, May 4, open 24 hours; Sunday, May 5, until midnight. Seafood ceviche $8; fried tilapia tacos $14; baked flan $7.

Toga Bar, Caesars, 2100 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City, 609-348-1111. Friday, May 3, from 2 p.m. to 4 a.m.; Saturday, May 4, from noon to 4 a.m.; Sunday, May 5, from noon to 2 a.m. Dos Equis drafts $5; margaritas $6.

6ix Bistro, Bally's, 1900 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City, 609-340-2000. Friday, May 3, from 7 a.m. (open 24 hours); Saturday, May 4, open 24 hours; Sunday, May 5, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Enchilada a la Suisse ($16.99); mojito-marinated skirt steak ($27.99); homemade Mexican donuts ($6.99).

Wild about Wings, Bally's, 1900 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City, 609-340-2000. Friday, May 3, noon to 4 a.m.; Saturday, May 4, noon to 4 a.m.; Sunday, May 5, noon to 8 p.m. Fresh tacos, steak or beef $4.

Lobby Bar, Bally's, 1900 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City, 609-340-2000. Open 24 hours. Cucumber jalapeno margaritas, avocado margaritas, pomegranate margaritas, spicy Thai margaritas $15.

French Quarter Buffet, 801 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 609-343-4000. Sunday, May 5: noon to 9 p.m. $35 per person, includes a margarita.

Worship Surf Bar, 801 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 609-343-4088. Saturday and Sunday, May 4 and 5, noon to 10 p.m. Tacos $3, churros $4. Corona $4, margarita $8. Sombrero with purchase.

Freeze Daquiri Bar, 801 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 609-343-4000. Friday, May 3, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday, May 4, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.; Sunday, May 5, noon to 10 p.m. Coronarita and Matador $25. Sombrero with purchase.

Rio Station, 3505 Route 9 S., Rio Grande, 609-889-2000. Dining room hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Bar hours: 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Selection of homemade Mexican specialties: tamales, tostados, enchiladas, quesadillas and fish tacos. Beer and sangria specials.

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