Inside the 2012 Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival

(Image credit: Caesars Entertainment)

By Diane Henderiks:

This past weekend I had the pleasure of being one of the culinary personalities at The Fourth Annual Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival, three action-packed days of food, wine, spirits, beer, fashion, celebrity chef demos, tastings, coffee, teas and sweets. You name it, it was there.

The festival kicked off on Thursday. What followed were three days and over 30 fantastic events that took place at all four of Caesars Entertainment properties. Atlantic City was the place to be.

A highlight of the festival for me was hosting a class at The Viking Cooking School (VCS) at Harrah's.

There are fifteen VCS's across the country where more than 75,000 students including kids, moms, dads, business professionals, and others attend classes each year. To a chef, the VCS is the equivalent of the Olympic pool to Michael Phelps. The teaching kitchen is gorgeous and equipment is state of the art, with high-performance professional Viking appliances, cookware and cutlery.

The setting at the VCS Harrah's is intimate, the staff is spot-on and the attached market is a foodie's candy store. Guests mingled, munched on fruit and cheese, sipped wine and Pomegranate martinis and waited for the demo to begin. I then got to work making my Pistachio-Pesto Crabcakes with Avocado "Cream" and Kiwi-Mango Salsa.

They asked a lot of questions that really led to some great discussions like:

What type of olive oil makes the best pesto?

Extra virgin olive oil is classic, but don't be afraid to experiment with different types of oils, and infused oils, which with bring a different flavor to your pesto. There are 120 calories in a tablespoon of olive oil, so even though it's good for you, moderation is the key.

Why are avocados said to be so good for you?

Avocados provide close to 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, B vitamins, and folic acid. They contain a lot of fat but it's monounsaturated fat or "the good fat" that can help lower cholesterol. Avocados also boost absorption of fat-soluble nutrients in foods that are eaten with it.

Why did you add egg white to the crabmeat?

It helps to bind the crab cake and keep it from coming apart. Also adds a nice nutritional dose of excellent protein.

Does it matter what kind of salt you use?

It does. Kosher salt and sea salt are great everyday cooking salts. Fleur de Sel, Hawaiian salts, Himalayan salts, Sel de Gris and the more expensive salts are better suited as finishing salts. The more expensive the salt, the later you use it in the cooking process, with the most expensive ones used at the table. Remember, your body needs only a little salt to be healthy, so whatever salt you choose to use, use with a light shake.

When the demo was over guests dined on the crab cakes and salsa.

RECIPE: Diane Henderiks' Pistachio Pesto Crabcakes With Avocado Cream

In addition to the VCS class I was part of several great events. The Grand Market and Italian Village had back-to-back chef demonstrations all weekend long, while 100 culinary and wine stations were crowded with hungry and thirsty foodies. I hosted three culinary demonstrations that were packed with over 300 people who sat and enjoyed each presentation.

Once again, former White House chef Guy Mitchell was terrific as the host and emcee. Sweet & Stylish was an event at which guests were served a healthy dose of sweet treats and a fashion show from top designers hosted by Nadia G and Buddy Valastro. Guest were treated to my Mint, Chocolate, Pretzel and Nut Bark and there were many rave reviews. Your Morning Cup which was an extravaganza of teas, coffee and baked treats held in the Diamond Club at Caesars.

Do not miss the opportunity to attend this festival next year. You will be very glad you did.

Diane Henderiks is a registered dietitian, the founder of and a "Good Morning America" health contributor.

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