Pancakes are good any time of the day, or year for that matter. And with Valentine's Day falling smack-dab in the middle of Pancake Week this year, whipping up a batch of flapjacks is an almost fool-proof way to impress your beloved.
Consider cutting heart shapes into a batch of red-velvet pancakes and drizzling them with chocolate, which pairs as well with the theme du jour as with the cocoa powder that adds smooth flavor. If you don't mind getting a little cheesy, fold some whipped cream into sweetened lite cream cheese for a frothy frosting and pop a bottle of Champagne, suggests Chef Edward Salvadore, who runs Cafe Roma at Caesars Atlantic City.
"Red velvet is flavorful, but not really chocolatey," Salvadore explains. "It has the familiarity of chocolate but more than that, the cake itself is just really rich."
Salvadore breaks up red velvet cupcakes and mixes them into the pancake batter, which "gives it that cakey texture, but doesn't get it too dense." And he uses yeast to make Cafe Roma's pancakes "lighter and fluffier, so you can eat a whole stack," but he admits he may have shot himself in the foot with that move.
Cafe Roma, along with 6ix: A Bistro inside Bally's Atlantic City and Crossroads inside House of Blues at Showboat Casino Hotel, is extending National Pancake Day - usually a Fat Tuesday celebration of excess just before Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, or abstaining - to a whole week with all-you-can-eat pancakes for $12. Flavor options include Oreo, royal pecan cinnamon roll, strawberry shortcake, death by chocolate, bananas Foster and pina colada, to name just a few.
Red-velvet waffles also are available; Salvadore simply adds a couple extra tablespoons of flour, "to add more body" to the batter. But one thing you won't find anywhere in the corporate kitchens is red-velvet beetle juice. No insects are injured in producing the sign ature red color.
"Bakers used the syrup from cooking down beets when sugar was at a premium, because they could buy the leftover beet sugar" to sweeten and color the batter, says Caesars' executive chef, Keith Mitchell. "All you need is cocoa powder, a splash of vinegar and a drop of red dye."
Cafe Roma, which also prepares food for room service in the hotel, regularly offers lemon ricotta and whole wheat pancakes, as well as homemade maple syrup.
But it's not just breakfast all day. Salvadore describes his restaurant as "modern American bistro, with an Italian twist," offering hearty fare such as Porchetta, slow-roasted pork with broccoli rabe and provolone; and "Sunday Dinner," a mix of meatballs, bracciole and sausages with pasta.
"If you're from an Italian household, you know the tradition," he explains. "Mom might make meatballs one day, bracciole another night, but Sunday is kind of mom's day off, so you forage for what's leftover and get a little of everything."
Contact Felicia Compian:
Caesars Atlantic City, 2100 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City
Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays and Tuesdays to Thursdays; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays and 24 hours Fridays and Saturdays