One of the biggest food events of the year returns this weekend as Caesars Entertainment's Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival celebrates its fifth anniversary from Thursday, July 25, through Sunday, July 28.

Once again, local favorite and former Caesars Atlantic City Executive Chef Robert Irvine will return to the area he once called home to be the festival's main headliner. The Food Network star of the hugely popular "Restaurant Impossible," a long-running series in which Irvine helps resurrect struggling restaurants, will join The Neelys - Pat and Gina - who have also appeared at the festival for the past few years, and newcomer Rocco DiSpirito.

Irvine, whose former show "Dinner: Impossible" and appearances on what seems like nearly every Food Network series including "Iron Chef America" and "Worst Cooks in America," have propelled him to stardom, is certainly the big draw of the weekend.

He will offer two "Chefs in Kitchen" events, where he will interact with the crowd for exclusive gourmet dining experiences inside Arturo's at Bally's Atlantic City 7 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday for $150 each. He will also offer a demo 9 p.m. Saturday for $50 at Caesars, and will appear at other events, including a new one: a "Beach Soiree"

10 p.m. Saturday with The Neelys and DiSpirito, priced at $75 at Bally's Bikini Beach Bar.

The Neelys are stars of The Food Network's "Down Home with the Neelys," which offers Southern recipes and tips. DiSpirito is best known for his Italian-American fusion style and for starring in the former NBC reality series "The Restaurant." DiSpirito, who won a James Beard Award for his cookbook "Flavor," was also a contestant on Season 7 of "Dancing with the Stars." He launched a syndicated TV show "Now Eat This! With Rocco DiSpirito" in September.

The four-day festival, like previous years, will offer events at all Caesars Entertainment properties, which also include Showboat Casino-Hotel and Harrah's Resort.

Other highlights include the kickoff party at The Pool 8 p.m. Thursday; Blues, Brews & BBQ noon Saturday, where BBQ vendors offer an all-you-can-eat feast of ribs, chicken, brisket and plenty of cold beer for $75 with music by Patrick Droney, the Billy Walton Band and Baby Soda; the new Beach Soiree that offers an evening beachside party with gourmet passed hors d'oeuvres and cocktails; the Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues hosted by the Neelys 11 a.m. Sunday for $60 that will include Southern brunch favorites buffet-style and a gospel performance; and the new Island Luau, also hosted by The Neelys, 6 p.m. Sunday at The Pool at Harrah's that will offer hula dancers, flamethrowers and plenty of Hawaiian food for $125.

The festival features fewer events this year and is no longer aligned with the Food Network. Events that will be sorely missed this year include the Cheesesteak Battle and Sunset Sliders.

Tickets can be purchased at, or by calling 800-736-1420 or go to Total Rewards members can purchase discounted tickets. Check out the complete schedule on left.

Phillips Spiked Brunch

Phillips Seafood will once again get in on the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival action with its own Spiked Brunch noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 27. Located inside The Pier Shops at Caesars, Phillips Seafood never disappoints at this annual brunch prepared by Executive Chef Paul Drew and his staff.

Drew will offer entertaining demonstrations during the indulgent, multi-course experience that will highlight Patron spirits in a glass and on the plate. The fun menu will feature fish tacos with Patron Citronage, grilled fruit, porcini-encrusted scallop and spicy seared tuna on a soft tortilla; a salad with crispy tempura softshell crab, mixed seasonal greens and Ultimate Vodka dressing with watermelon and pickled ginger; mojito-inspired surf and turf of citrus-marinated mahi mahi and chipotle-spiced pork tenderloin, creamy Pyrat rum cream sauce, sauteed spinach and Yuca fries. Finish with a dessert made with Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa.

The all-inclusive tickets are $69 and can be purchased at Call 609-348-2273 or go to

Celebrity sightings

The cast and crew of the Style Network's reality series "Jerseylicious" descended upon Trump Plaza Beach Bar last week. They were shooting scenes for the Season 6 premiere episode, and the cast was partying with the public on a hot day.

Good buzz about

Burlesque Show

Borgata is once again stepping up its entertainment offerings by adding a new weekly show that will be offered throughout the summer - and this one is sexy.

The Burlesque Show, a fun, flirtatious variety performance is now being offered inside Borgata's Music Box every Thursday through Aug. 29.

Offering an updated, stylish tribute to a 1940s-era burlesque routine featuring a talented, sexy, hilarious cast of dancers and comedians, along with a multitude of sparkling rhinestone trimming and tassels.

I haven't seen the show yet, but I have been told by numerous people that it's a great show that is well worth checking out. Offering fast-paced frames, classic vaudeville blackout skits and unique acts, The Burlesque Show has some very strong buzz.

Pre-empting Borgata's popular comedy shows on Thursday nights, the show is at 9 p.m. and tickets are just 25 bucks. Go to The

Dogs welcome at Revel

If you have a dog and you hate leaving it at home, you no longer have to.

Revel announced it is accommodating dogs up to 30 pounds with pet-friendly accommodations. Revelers of the doggie variety will receive gourmet specialty treats, baked in house by Revel's executive pastry chef, plus the Ruff It at Revel amenity kit will contain a custom plush dog bed, dog bowl and mat and a "Dog in Room" dog hanger. Dog owners will have exclusive access to the covered "Bark Avenue" dog walk.

Ruff It at Revel accommodations are limited and must be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis and advance reservations must be made by calling 855-348-0500. A fee of $50 per night will be added to the room.