Friday, April 30, 2010

Broasted Chicken - What is it?

At a number of buffet restaurants when you go up to the fried chicken on the hot buffet server, there is a sign above that says BROASTED CHICKEN. Shady Maple is a buffet that serves "Broasted Chicken". It looks like fried chicken but it is "broasted", what the heck?

I always wondered. In fact, I wondered about this for a lot longer than when I started go to eat at buffets. When I was a kid a take out restaurant opened in a nearby community called the "Broaster House". Always seemed to be just fried chicken, but they had the slogan, "It's not fried, its broasted!" Hmmm. So broasted - broiled roasted? No actually, not at all.

Broasted is a cooking process that has been around for more than 50 years. It is a pressure deep frying process. It requires special equipment that is made by and distributed by one company - Broaster. Only food that comes from their equipment may be called Broasted and the process can be used on not just chicken, but other meats and fish as well. The name is trademarked and the process must be done in their equipment with the Broaster Company's marinades and seasonings.

So what is the difference between Broasted Chicken and Fried Chicken? The machine is a pressure cooker deep fryer - frying the food under great pressure. Regular fried chicken is either put in a wire basket and sunk into a vat of hot oil or put in a frying pan with a layer of oil in it. The Broaster Company claims that chicken made by their process contains less carbs than fried chicken such as KFC, etc. They also claim there are less calories and less fat in Broasted Chicken. The process results in a more tender, juicy, and flavorful piece of chicken. Sinking the chicken into a plain vat of hot oil as is usually done will toughen the meat of the chicken. Some people think that the chicken when cooked under pressure will have the oil pushed into the chicken, but the company has proven that this is not true and in fact, results in less fat than open frying.

I recently went to Shady Maple Smorgasbord just to check out the broasted chicken. (I hope you don't believe that was the only reason that I went to Shady Maple - there was a lot more that I wanted there than just the Broasted Chicken, but I figured it was a chance to enjoy and critically taste Broasted Chicken with this article in mind.) So, is there a difference. The Broasted Chicken is moister than fried chicken that I have had at other buffets - OCB comes to mind. It is also cooked properly - not over done (as is often the case, again at OCB). The taste is good. Is it the best fried chicken that I have ever had - no, Mrs. Rowe's fried chicken gets that honor - see my article about Mrs. Rowe's a few weeks back. But the Broasted Chicken is good and it should be consistent due to the cooking process.

So next time that you go to Shady Maple or any buffet that has Broasted Chicken over the fried chicken being served, take a bite and know exactly how that chicken was made and why it is not "fried" but "broasted".

Broaster is a registered trademark of the Broaster Company.

Friday, April 23, 2010

All You Can Eat BBQ in New York City

New York City - Manhattan to be exact - is one of the last places that you might expect to find two things - good barbecue and all you can eat at a reasonable price. On Monday nights you can find both at Hill Country Barbecue Market. This is a restaurant in downtown Manhattan that serves Texas Barbecue and Country Music all week from the menu, but on Mondays they offer something special.

The Hill Country Barbecue Market has three restaurant locations - Austin, Texas, Fort Worth, Texas and,of all places, New York City. The restaurants are known for their brisket, pork, and country sides. On Monday nights they are calling this a Recession Special and from 5 pm to 10 pm you are getting unlimited portions of sliced beef brisket, pork ribs, and chicken. All of this for just $25 per person. As is typical of NY restaurants the sides are extra but are served unlimited as well and cost $2.00 each for Mac and Cheese, Chili, and Beans. Now, add all of the sides and you just increased you meal price to $31.00. But if you are willing to pass on the extras, you can leave more room for the Barbecue meats.

As I always tell my readers when I have not been there to try a restaurant but want to share a good all you can eat or buffet possibility - I have not eaten here. I am told it is very good. The All You Can Eat deal is only Monday nights and everyone at the table must be eating the unlimited special. You can not mix menu diners with all you can eat dinners at one table, and of course, you may not take food out of the restaurant that is leftover. There is live country music starting at 8:00 pm.

All you can eat Barbecue is hard to find anywhere - all you can eat restaurants in New York City are very hard to find. If you are in Manhattan on a Monday night and crave a Barbecue feast this is the place to try. If you go or have been for this special dinner, let us know!

The Hill Country Barbecue Market is located at 30 West 26th Street, NY, NY 10010. You may need a reservation so call in advance - perhaps well in advance - 212-255-4544. There is a website. I will link here but not at the side as this is not a regular buffet restaurant.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Looking for Corned Beef on St. Patrick's Day

It was St. Patrick's Day and I decided I wanted corned beef. I enjoy good corned beef. Lately I have been on a kick to have a decent corned beef sandwich. Now, there are places that I could drag my wife for what I know is going to be a good sandwich, but she does not appreciate it as much as I so I have been trying to make do with one in the local restaurants that we go to - when we are not going to buffets. Primarily they are diners - and at one time, in this area, one could get a fairly decent corned beef on rye at one of them. Not any more. What I have been given is commercial, sliced cold cut corned beef put into a microwave to make it "hot". What comes to the table is far less than is expected. At one such establishment I tried a " hot open corned beef sandwich". It arrived covered in brown beef gravy. Ycch. At another I ordered a hot corned beef on rye which around here means hot corned beef on fresh and NOT toasted rye bread. It came to the table toasted - and the corned beef had been laid on the griddle to make it hot. No, not what I had expected.

We have just had some really bad rain storms - really bad. In the midst of these storms a local town was to have a St. Patrick's Day Parade in which a group that I belong to was to march. Following that march every year, my group gets together for corned beef and cabbage made by one of the members. She makes a good corned beef - and I (and several others) were looking forward to that corned beef. The rains came and the parade did go on, but our group wisely decided to stay home and not brave the high powered winds and rain. So much for the corned beef.

So as I said in my first sentence - it was St. Patrick's Day and I wanted corned beef. I did not just want a serving of corned beef. I wanted corned beef on a buffet. Lots of luck I thought.

I started by going to the website of the buffet who in the past has had a one day feature of corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day - Old Country Buffet. I had received no email from them on their email list about this for this year. I hoped that the website would say so. Nothing. Not a mention. Not the words, corned beef. In fact, they have not had a featured menu in quite some time of any kind. Maybe they were just not mentioning it. Maybe they were afraid of the massive hoards of corned beef lovers, Irish, and the Irish at heart. Maybe. It seemed like I would have to look further.

I started doing an internet search. Corned beef + buffet + my area. Lots of references came up to each of those phrases (well not much ever comes up about buffet). And with most buffet searches that I do - there was one of my articles in the list of results - "a one day feature of corned beef at Old Country Buffet on St. Patrick's Day" - as part of another article a few years old about features. Anything else? A few local clubs were having private parties featuring this sought after meal, but other than that nothing. I tried adding "all you can eat" and the letters "AYCE" to my search. Still the same results.

When my wife got home from work I told her about my desire and suggested that we go to OCB. She said that even if they did not have corned beef, Wednesday is one of their better menu nights. She is right - as always - and the plan was set to go to OCB and hope for corned beef.

When we got to OCB it was very crowded for a Wednesday night. There were a number of people wearing green shirts and I began to gather some hope. After we found a table - which was no easy thing, I went to look at the carving area. On a carving board were the shreds and remnants of what had been a corned beef. I met up with my wife at the soup pots and she asked, "Well did you find corned beef?" I said that I found what once was corned beef and we probably missed it. Now, why would I say that? Because this OCB is notorious for not replacing something with the same item - and often the replacement is not even close to the same type of item, like rolls for chicken. We got our soup and I watched the carving station from our table to see if another corned beef would be brought out. When we had finished out bowls of soup it had not been.

We went up to the buffet servers and I went to that carving board - no employee to be seen.There were pieces of fat with some edible meat present and a few very well done pieces that had been on the ends. I took what I could find that was edible and headed back to table. As small amounts as it was after taking away what should not be eaten, I had a few bites of what was pretty good. All the while I kept my eye on that carving station.

I was not the only person there that night craving this meat. a crowd started forming around the carving area - yet, nothing had changed. It was still empty except for the few scraps that I had not taken - and no one else was taking either. But then... then... a tray came out with a whole corned beef! Those around the counter descended upon the woman who set it down on the carving board and picked up the carving knife ready to serve. We had both finished our plates and were ready to go up so I headed directly there, picked up a plate along the way and got on line. It was a large corned beef and there was plenty for the crowd that was waiting. My wife came up behind me on the line - she likes corned beef but does not eat anything with that much fat for health reasons. She asked me if it was any good. I told her that what little I had tasted was actually pretty good. She waited behind me for a slice. When I got up to the server, I asked for two slices - no sense in taking any chances. No problem, the large corned beef was still more than half there. My wife took a small slice. To go with the corned beef was the traditional cabbage and wedged boiled potatoes with a light butter sauce. I took some potatoes. I passed on the cabbage - I like it, but after my eating it, no one around me appreciates that I did. So I passed on the cabbage, both as a public service and to avoid the physical discomforts.

Corned beef is actually beef brisket that is spiced with pickle seasons and traditionally either boiled or, as some specialty delis do, steamed. It can be baked - and that is how OCB makes it. This corned beef was coated with the seasonings (much like a pastrami) and baked or roasted in an oven. This method of cooking results in corned beef that is thick and crusted on the outside. The remains of the seasonings baked onto the black and crusty surface. It is tasty but at the edge tastes more like pastrami than corned beef. Further inside, beyond the crust it gets moister and more like the traditional corned beef. I have had corned beef made this way in other parts of the country - one place was Boston (though this may just be the way that this one particular restaurant in Boston prepared it). Cut away the fat while you eat it and cut away the crusty outside, and what you have at OCB is some pretty good corned beef. Not the best, but far better than the excuses for corned beef that I have experienced locally recently.

When I looked up from my plate over toward the carving station just a few minutes after starting on that first slice, I saw that once again the carving board was left with just remnants and shreds. But, shortly, another whole corned beef was brought out - and they actually kept on coming out through the time that we were there. I would say that at least five were brought out while we were eating - and each time there was a crowd at the carving station to get the first slices from each new one.

That first whole one that I had slices from was the moistest of all of the rest that I tried. Other slices from others that I had were drier - more well done. But they were still good.

One thing that goes along with corned beef for many is mustard - except for my wife who hates mustard. With those first shreds that I took, I went to the condiment bar to fill a small serving cup with mustard. The tray of mustard was empty with the exception of a thin coating at the bottom, which also happened to be coating a lemon that someone had dropped in from the condiment tray behind the mustard. I scraped what I could into my cup. Later that tray was even emptier, with many trying to do the same as I had - and of course, that lemon remained there at the bottom - more visible now. I must say that one dip of my fork of corned beef into the mustard cup came up with mustard and a lemon pit. I spit the pit into my plate and continued eating - nothing was going to spoil this. At one point I went up for more mustard. Some time had passed and I figured that it had been replaced - especially since several very large men were telling the women working around the buffet servers that the mustard tray was empty. Mostly it looked like the women were ignoring them - or did not understand what the men were saying to them in English - as this is a problem at this particular OCB. As I approached the mustard tray - still empty - another man was there looking for the same thing. He had tried communicating the need to one of the women who went about wiping up the counter below the drink machines there behind the condiment bar. After about five minutes we walked away in frustration - never getting any acknowledgment of what was needed. A while later I went back to see if anything had changed and in fact, someone had made the need known well enough that the tray was now brimming full of mustard. As I took some I wondered if the lemon was still there at the bottom.

I ate more corned beef than I should have. I had a good time doing it. I satisfied the urge, at least for the time being.

So despite the lack of anything on OCB's website, next St. Patrick's Day if you are looking for all you can eat corned beef (and all of the rest) you will probably find it at Old Country Buffet.

Friday, April 09, 2010

One of my Favorite Buffets - Good Taste Buffet, Commack, NY

One of my favorite "local" buffets is a Chinese buffet in Commack, NY - about twenty miles each way from my home. I wrote about this buffet first in 2006 and since I have been there a number of times since that first happy discovery, I keep thinking that I have updated the review. I have mentioned the buffet in several articles, but I have not actually gone through a re-visit review. Since gas prices are lower than they were in 2006 I have been able to go to this buffet more frequently.

In November 2009 we set out one night on this long drive to go to Good Taste, arrived in the parking lot, got out of the car and walked up to what seemed to be a dark restaurant. In the restaurant next door on this "strip" mall, we saw that there had what appeared to be a serious fire in that restaurant with the windows and front all boarded up. Good Taste was closed and a sign on the window said nothing more than that. Oh boy. Some time later we were in the area again and drove past and it was still closed.

On this night I decided to try calling and see if they had reopened. Someone answered the phone! Yes, they are open again. No question about where we were going to go to eat!

Why do I like this restaurant so much? The quality of the food, the selection of the dishes, the spare ribs, and the value in the price make this Chinese buffet stand out from all others on Long Island - including the big, high priced Chinese, so called international buffets. Now, you notice out of all the foods I could mention, I mention the spare ribs. I wrote an article in April 2009 about these ribs. Yes, they are that good. But it is more than the spare ribs here.

Let's talk about the restaurant. First thing to note is that there is no evidence inside of any damage that may have resulted from the fire in the restaurant next door (that restaurant is still boarded up and does not look like it will ever reopen). There is no odor of smoke inside. The wall touching the wall of the other restaurant looks freshly painted white - but the very large, lighted photographs of Hong Kong and China on the wall look untouched. Everything inside is just as I described back in 2006. The layout of the buffet servers and the dining room is the same.

There has been a price increase - add a dollar to the prices that I listed in 2006. In three years that is not too bad an increase considering the increases in the other buffets in this area.

Food selection is has pretty much stayed the same as well over the past three years - with some new dishes added or substituted. There is a nice selection of sushi - a number of rolls and fish on rice. There are several vegetable rolls and a few spicy rolls. In addition there is sliced raw salmon on ice - nice to take if you like the fish and don't want to fill up on all of that rice.

Hot appetizers are plenty here. I do not see shrimp toast at any other buffet but here. There are several types of steamed dumplings still including the shrimp dumplings with whole shrimp inside and there is a variety of pan fried dumplings as well. I must still complain that there is no dumpling sauce to be found anywhere in this restaurant. There is a tray in the condiments section that is marked dumpling sauce, but this (after trying it countless times) is only soy sauce and in no way tastes like dumpling sauce. There is tempura, fried lobster balls (I resist making any joke here), sweet dumplings, and more along with the standards like egg rolls (nice ones) and spring rolls.

Then there are the spare ribs. I will not go on again about how good these spare ribs are, but I am not the only one in this restaurant that makes a meal out of these spare ribs and little else of the many excellent dishes that are offered. These are old fashioned, Chinese restaurant spare ribs. They are thick and full of meat, crispy on the outside and no sauce on them of any kind. None of that gloppy red sugar sauce that all other Chinese buffets have a need to saturate their spare ribs in is found here on these ribs. If you really want that sauce, there is a tray of boneless ribs close by and they are graced with this over-sweet sauce. There is real Chinese duck sauce and real hot mustard at the condiment section if you want to sauce your spareribs to taste. None is needed, but if you want sweet you can have it and if you want hot and spicy you can do that too.

If you are a crab leg lover there are substantial, snow crab legs on the hot buffet. One night that we were here they used the cluster tops to make salt and pepper crab - the cluster is coated in a batter with salt and pepper and fried. Break through the shell and suck out the crab meat with the taste of the salt in the batter on the shell and it is very good. There are also salt and pepper blue crabs - usually in the same serving tray. These are good too, but blue crabs only have meet in the sides and usually this is just a small nugget of crab meat.

There are a variety of hot entrees from the common chicken with broccoli - a staple at all Chinese buffets - to more exotic dishes ranging from Cantonese to the spicy dishes of China. There is a very nice shrimp with lobster sauce with meaty shrimp and a mild and egg filled lobster sauce. There are often additional entree dishes brought out on dishes and placed between the filled hot server trays. These tend to be the more unusual dishes. When you see one come out go up to get it while it remains hot. These special dishes do stay warm while on the hot server but they do tend to cool down some if they sit. There are also carvings at the end of the last hot buffet server. There is ham and a carved steak. You carve these yourself. Also here is Peking Duck. Overall, there is a good assortment of meats and seafood to choose from in the entrees.

Deserts take up a long buffet server along the back wall and there is a soft serve ice cream machine at the end of that counter. The desserts are a mix of the usual little squares of sheet cake common to most Chinese and Asian buffets and some of their own backing. There are home-baked almond cookies. The dessert is adequate but the meal is the focus is here.

Service is good. There are plenty of napkins brought to your table and if they are not there when you sit down, just ask your server for some. Dishes are picked up quickly. Soda dispensers are at the buffet counter and while this is not to be a serve yourself soda station, if your server is busy and you want more soda, I have seen many go up and fill their glass. I have found that the server will bring you refills promptly anyway.

This is a restaurant worth going out of your way for. It may just be the best Chinese buffet on Long Island and maybe in other areas as well. Many agree with me.

The restaurant is open seven days a week and the hours are until 10 pm on weeknights and 11 on Friday and Saturday. The last dinners are let in up to an hour before closing. There is no website, but the telephone number is 631-543-9583.

Friday, April 02, 2010

A Reader Speaks Out to Support Buffet Europa

I get a lot of comments and emails telling me how those of you near Buffet Europa have enjoyed this buffet. I just received an email from one of our readers who is passionate about keeping this restaurant going and had some ideas to share. Since this is my forum arena for such as that I want to share with you what this reader wrote. Now, please understand, that there is NO indication what so ever that there is any idea that Buffet Europa is not doing just as fine as it can - and may be very happy with how business is. But, not seeing this gem of a restaurant packed as it SHOULD BE we have concern - and we do not want to lose this wonderful place. So - here is what this reader wrote -

I live about 20 minutes away from Buffet Europa. First let me say I almost never go on e-mail and it's taking a great effort for me to type this. That being said, you can tell I feel passionately about Buffet Europa!!!!

Buffet Europa is AWESOME and everything you say about it is true: food authentic, fresh, hot and delicious; owners warm and friendly; restaurant clean (including bathrooms); atmosphere nice with soft, pleasant music playing in the background; and EVERYTHING included for about $16!!! ( I go on weekends). I can't understand why there aren't more people enjoying this FABULOUS restaurant :( It makes me sooooo sad because I fear it will close and we will lose this gem.

I have had the same experience as you i.e. being almost the only (and often THE only) occupied table in the restaurant no matter what time of night I go whether it be a Friday or Saturday. I "psych" myself up to go in even if I feel it will be awkward. When I peek through the window just before I enter, I hope there will be some other diners there to take the "spotlight" off my family and me. We continue to go despite the awkwardness because the food is so spectacular!!!

Now..what to do about would think "word of mouth" advertising might be enough..apparently not so. They do advertise locally but that doesn't seem to have helped either. When I asked about putting up a sign on Route 1, they said that they weren't allowed to ( I don't remember the reason). Maybe the LOCATION i.e. New Brunswick is the problem!!

I'm certainly not a city planner nor do I claim to know anything about the restaurant business BUT maybe they should move to a place where they would be more greatly appreciated. A sign of a good Chinese restaurant is that it is populated by Chinese people, so perhaps in that same way, a GREAT Polish restaurant like Buffet Europa would benefit by being in a Polish area. For example, Linden N.J. has a BIG Polish population who would really appreciate FABULOUS Polish food without having to cook, clean, etc. I know Buffet Europa's concept is to provide new dining experiences for the general public, but this idea apparently isn't working too well and we all don't want them to close!! ( Also, selfishly speaking, Linden is close enough to us so we could still eat there!!).

Of course, I haven't discussed this with the owners; it is kind of awkward, and in addition, I don't know the conditions of their lease or any other factors that might affect their decision with respect to the business. BUT pardon the pun, it is definitely food for thought.

Here's to saving Buffet Europa!!!

Great ideas and certainly all true. I know that this site has had some influences and I am hoping that what this reader has written and what I have written about this wonderful restaurant will have some positive influence on business at Buffet Europa. I also know that the owners have read some of the articles here about their restaurant and hopefully some of the ideas here - and our support will reach them. No matter what we want to be able to continue to enjoy this restaurant for a long time to come! (Now, I have to go and check to see if Linden is easy for me to get to when I go to NJ...)

Buffet Europa is located at 1000 Arron Road, North Brunswick, New Jersey 08902. Their telephone number is 732-940-1122. They do have a website and the link is listed at the side of this page.