ATLANTIC CITY — As the Baby Soda Jazz Band played in dimly lit House of Blues Music Hall on Saturday afternoon, many might have looked around in search of Nucky Thompson or Chalky White from the HBO hit series Boardwalk Empire.
The Blues, Brews and BBQ event, part of the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival this weekend, pulled out all the stops to portray the quintessential southern summer barbecue. Barbecue vendors took over the House of Blues venue at Showboat Casino Hotel to cook up ribs, chicken and brisket.
Pat and Gina Neely, of the Food Network show “Down Home with the Neelys,” made a guest appearance at the event.
On Saturday evening, the Neelys held a 60-minute cooking demonstration at the concert venue at Harrah’s Resort, where ticket holders had the opportunity to see the couple prepare a few of their favorite recipes on stage while participating in a Q&A session with the audience.
Vinny and Bianca Sgaglione, of Long Island, N.Y., were savoring the barbecue dishes at a table covered in a red-and-white-checkered cloth.
The couple had attended the Chef’s in Kitchen event earlier Saturday afternoon with Chef Rocco Dispirito at Casa Di Napoli at Showboat.
This is the Sgagliones second year attending the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival, and this year’s Blues, Brews and BBQ event at the House of Blues was a much cooler and relaxing time than last year, they said.
“Last year the event was outside so it was like a real barbecue, but it was so hot that you were just looking for something to drink. This year, we’ve really been to enjoy the food,” Bianca Sgaglione said.
“The beer and shot glasses were bigger last year,” Vinny Sgaglione said as his wife pulled one of the event shot glasses from her purse and smiled.
“But the food is awesome again. Really, the food was an absolute 10,” he said.
The Sgagliones and the crowd were also there for the music. The lineup of performers Saturday afternoon included Patrick Droney, Billy Walton Band and the Baby Soda Jazz Band.
The Baby Soda Jazz Band, of Brooklyn, N.Y., closed the event with their banjos and tunes reminiscent of the Boardwalk Empire era, band members said.
Jared Engel, a banjo player in the band, said they were asked to play the event after organizers discovered them while they were performing at a barbecue in New York. The band is known to play their street jazz on the New York City streets and subways with influences ranging from 1930s-era swing to New Orleans jazz and southern gospel.
Engel, who is a Boardwalk Empire fan, said the five-member band was happy to play in Atlantic City and looking forward to coming back.
“We have several of our friends who are involved in the music for Boardwalk Empire. We play the music of that same era,” he said.
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