ATLANTIC CITY - About 50 people clustered around a long U-shaped table and at other nearby tables a little before 1 p.m. Saturday, soundlessly hanging on Marc Forgione's every word.
He is an internationally regarded chef with multiple Michelin stars, and if they just listened, maybe they could, as the title of the event suggested, "conquer the steak."
The event, at Revel's American Cut steakhouse, was one of more than a dozen foodie events the casino sprinkled like a pinch of fleur-de-sel throughout the weekend. People who attended could sample the gourmet cooking of the casino's restaurants' top chefs while learning the whys and hows of what make the best-tasting food taste the best.
Beyond learning to "conquer the steak," patrons had a chance to pair chocolates and wines with chef Luke Palladino, mix Belgian beers and a wide variety of cheeses with chef Robert Wiedmaier and mix cocktails and music with cookbook and food writer Katie Lee.
This is the second year the casino has held its Taste of Revel, said Jennifer Fortucci, the casino's executive director of property marketing and programming. With these events, she explained, "it's not just about eating and enjoying it, it's about learning more about it as well."
At "Conquer the Steak," Forgione spoke at length about sourcing the meats from quality providers. American Cut used Creekstone Farms, which raises grass-fed cattle about an hour south of Wichita, Kan.
Forgione referred patrons to their four-page handout on meats as he discussed the differences between cuts such as filet mignon (a barely used muscle that is famously tender) and hangar steak (a denser, flavorful cut sometimes kept by butchers for their own).
He extolled the qualities of his favorite cut, the "tomahawk chop." Then he held up a plate with a thick, richly marbled rib steak sporting a bone trimmed of meat and fat, so it looked like a 44-ounce beef lollipop.
Waiters passed the steak around. The slab of meat was as wide as two fingers, and when pressed, receded densely into the plate, both tender and substantial.
Toward the back of the room, 39-year-old Liz Hickey sat with her husband, Jason Martinek, who just turned 40. They drove from Jersey City, she said, because this was his birthday gift.
"It's amazing," she said. "He's definitely picking up some good tips."
They listened as Forgione suggested that cooked steaks rest for at least 50 percent of the cooking time, and be gently reheated before serving. They paid attention when he told patrons that the steaks at the restaurant are all washed with what he called a "mop," leftover scraps of meat thrown in a pot with some rosemary, bay leaves, garlic and thyme and left to gently cook until the mound of seasonings and meat all but melted into a richly scented brown mass. (It was "good fat," Forgione insisted. "In a primal way, it's good for you.") They were interested when Forgione suggested using smoked salt.
Then waiters served the first course, a delicate filet mignon.
"Oh, I loved it. I particularly loved the mop sauce," Martinek said when he finished. "It was so tasty."
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Conquer that steak!
Three pieces of steak-cooking advice from Iron Chef Marc Forgione:
1) People "play with it too much. You only need to turn it a couple of times," Forgione said. A minimal touch allows the juice to stay in the meat while it cooks – and by extension, gets to your plate juicier and tastier.
2) Use the right tools. Restaurant steaks are frequently seared, and that can be done at home with a heavy, cast-iron pan, with the heat cranked up.
3) Once the steak is sliced, sprinkle on a pinch of chunky, complexly flavored gourmet salt, either Maldon Sea Salt or fleur-de-sel, and enjoy.