Friday, March 04, 2011

Midweek at the Festival Buffet at Foxwoods Casino Resort - CT.

Back in September I wrote at two part article on the Festival Buffet located at the Foxwoods Casino Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut. Since then I have been thinking a lot about this buffet. I have been thinking when are we going back and looking for a reason to take the almost four hour drive just for dinner. The occasion recently presented itself - a museum exhibition in Connecticut that both my wife and I wanted to see. I decided that we needed to go mid-week - not on a weekend - so that I could see what this buffet was like on a weeknight. When we were last there it was a Friday night and on the weekends, which always seem to include Friday nights, the buffet is considered "enhanced" - meaning it is a special weekend buffet with extra offerings - and here that means an emphasis on seafood, particularly crab legs. I loved that meal. What would I think about the meal at this buffet mid-week?

We went on a Thursday night. The buffet is three dollars less than the weekend - $16.95 and with a casino card that to get all you need is ask for, register, and walk away with on the spot you get $1.00 off the price of the meal. This time we each got a card and headed off to the buffet.

This is winter - cold - and mid-week. The buffet was not crowded though there were many people inside. There was a line of only a few people ahead of us to get in.

Everything inside is as I described it to you in September so I will not repeat the layout of the buffet. Since there were not the crowds that had been there in late summer, there was no need for the roped lines at each buffet serving station, though there was still such at the carving station.

We sat down, ordered soft drinks (included in the buffet price) and went off to the soup area at the end of the salad bar. As I wrote last time, and again this time - there were two soups and both were cream soups. I really do not understand why this buffet does not offer a cream soup along with a clear/broth soup. Again, my good wife passed on the soup as she does not like cream soups. There were New England Clam Chowder and Cream of Chicken Soup. I took the cream of chicken. It was a thick white cream chicken based soup with rice in it. It was tasty but not what I would say as outstanding. Don't get me wrong but my expectations were set high from my first visit to this buffet and the cream of chicken soup was just fine. I am sure that had I taken the New England clam chowder as I had on the last visit I would have been just as impressed as I had been then - but I was intent on trying something different to get a broader picture of what the buffet has to offer.

A visit to the salad bar came next. I went over to the Caesar salad area - yes, it has it's own section on the salad bar. I seem to recall that on that first visit the Caesar salad was pre-mixed with dressing. It was not this time. There was a large salad bowl with romaine lettuce nicely cut up. I filled my salad bowl with the romaine and ladled on the Caesar dressing. I prefer when you can do this as you can control the amount of dressing on the salad. Last time, I had read before going about the special "grilled" Caesar salad and what I found when I got there was a bowl of cold chicken next to the lettuce to put on the salad. This time there was no chicken. There was a bowl of real bacon bits. I added some bacon and shredded cheese to the salad. I enjoyed this Caesar salad. I eat a lot of Caesar salad - out at buffets and at home. The dressing here was tasty and had a little pleasant bite. I actually thought about going back for more - but there was a whole buffet ahead of me.

I headed up to the different stations and like the first time here, I passed by all of the serving counters to see what there was to offer. Just to repeat the stations that are here - there is a seafood area, an international area, an Italian area, a Chinese area, and a barbecue area - all of entrees and side dishes. Missing from this mid-week buffet that you will see on the weekend were the crab legs (in their own area). There was a difference in dishes that were offered too - and perhaps there were less than there were on the weekend - not obvious by looking but there were repeats of several dishes in slightly different forms but close enough that if you took one you were likely not to take the other.

I did not read my first article before going back and I was only remembering parts of what I found and enjoyed on that first visit during this 0ne - what was memorable it seems was the over great experience on that first visit and that the food was sensational. I remembered some of the things that I had on that first visit - but mostly by seeing them again on this visit. I was not recalling the details - on things that were not out this time. I say this because I had a sense on this visit that there were things missing - or something was lacking - and coming back now and re-reading that first experience, I believe I know why - though that night I could not put my finger on it.

I remembered that the barbecue area particularly impressed me and I headed there first. There were barbecue ribs - but they were not the riblets that I had had the first time but rather ribs that were large, thick and meaty - in fact there was little bone except at the tip. They were in a thick red barbecue sauce. Missing was the pulled pork. Also not there were the grilled steaks and these are part of the weekend buffet only. There was fixings for tacos. There was chili. There was barbecue beans. There was taco beef and strips of grilled chicken. There was also a tray of broiled chicken which was labeled fried chicken. The broiled chicken - or perhaps it was some other type of chicken on the bone - was in an oil that was evident on the bottom of the serving tray. I took two of the ribs - as I say there was a lot of meat on each of these ribs - not really like one would expect of a rack of ribs. I added to that some of the Italian meatballs and some of the grilled Italian sausage that was served as Sausage with Peppers. I added a spoon of the Chinese sauteed string beans so that I could say that I was eating vegetables.

The ribs were good. The sauce was not too sweet as the riblet sauce had been on that first visit. The meat was tasty. I don't know why I should feel that there was too much meat on these ribs - after all the more of a good thing - but there was too much meat on the ribs and I did not have a "rib sensation" eating them. Sounds crazy but if you are a barbecue rib eater you should understand. The rest of the plate was good too - the meatballs were nice and the sausage was good. Some sausage lately is too highly seasoned - this was nice. The stir fried string beans were a bit on the spicy side but not too spicy.

So what next? On the last visit I had not taken much from the seafood area and I was drawn back there for the fried fish. Last time a lot was labeled cod - this time it was "fish". There was a seafood special of the day but that was all that it was labeled and the fish also was unidentified. The peel and eat shrimp were here as well but I passed on those to save more room for less common things. (Imagine considering shrimp cocktail common but when you go to buffets you will generally find it - other than at the chain buffets.) There were fried clams. There was a sign that said Jambalaya. Beneath it was a tray of what looked like fried rice. There was nothing evident in the tray but fried rice. Jambalaya is usually served with rice but it is usually seafood and sausage in a red sauce with peppers and such. This just looked like fried rice. I did not take any - I was not interested in fried rice. All together at the various buffet areas there were four different variations of rice. There were also fresh cut french fries with parts of the potato skin still on. It took some of that as well along with the fried fish and a some of the fried clams.

The fried fish was just OK - nothing wrong with it - just fried fish. The fish inside the batter fried coating was pure white and thick with no sign of bones - which is a good thing. The fried clams were chewy and tasty. I have to go off on a tangent here about fried clams. A long time ago there was a chain restaurant that was everywhere in the US called Howard Johnson's and Howard Johnson's had the best ever fried clams. There was nothing like them in texture or taste. And I tend to compare all fried clams to those - these were not those - but then again, neither are any other fried clams I have had since the last Howard Johnson's closed many years ago (replaced by the massive fast food industry). You may still find Howard Johnson's Fried Clams in the freezer case of your supermarket - they were around after the chain closed down and may have stuck around even until now - but you know what - the frozen ones are not like the real thing at all either.

Next - I know you are thinking - does this guy ever stop eating at one meal? Well - as I have said before I take a sampling plate when I take from the buffet - especially a buffet new to me. I take a small amount - enough to get a good idea of how it is and also in combination there is plenty to eat. (And I go back later for more of what I really liked.) I went next to the carving area or as they call it the "international" area - which has an assortment of entrees, potatoes, and the carvings. I went for the Prime Rib which was nice and rare. A large slab was sliced off and placed on my plate. Next to it in one of the hot trays were meatballs stroganoff. I took two of those. There were pirogi's and I took one of these. And again just to say that I had a vegetable I went to the Chinese area again and took some of the Shrimp Chow Mein.

The prime rib was excellent - as I remembered it. My wife took the other carving which was terriaki loin of pork. She said it was good. The meatballs - now these are another repeat - there were Italian meatballs and these meatballs strognaoff. Both were exactly the same meatballs - one was in tomato sauce and the other was in brown gravy - and it was just that - meatballs in brown gravy. The shrimp chow mein was good - it was good on the first visit too. It was nice because it was not thick and starchy but thinly covered in its semi-clear sauce. It made for a satisfying vegetable.

The last plate was a small sampling of some of the things I had taken earlier - two more Italian meatballs, another rib, and some green olives mixed with cold artichokes from the Italian area. That was very tasty- just a simple olive salad but well seasoned and the parts of artichoke were soft and tender.

Again on this visit there was no room for dessert but I went and looked and there were many really great looking desserts to take including crepes and hot desserts - and cheesecake! If you have been reading along with me for awhile you know that I can't really indulge in these any longer so it was hard not just giving in to temptation. But I was satisfied never the less with all that I did have.

Service was very good. The server at our table was there when we needed him. Empty plates disappeared when we went up for more and drinks were offered and refilled.

Was I disappointed at all that I went back? No. Was it the same experience as I had remembered? I have to say no. It was fine. It was good. Had I not been here before would I say that this was exceptional - as I had felt that first time. No. I would say that it is a cut above most but not memorable. Why? One thing is that this is way off season - this weeknight buffet in mid-summer may very well be very different. Another thing is that it just may be that the main effort is placed into the weekend buffet and that is what impressed that first time around. The quality of the food was the same - very good. Gourmet preparation? Yes, that first time - not really this time. Will this keep me from going back - midweek - again? I will be going back. As I write this a few days after the meal my mouth is watering. So maybe there was something there that is still drawing me back again - even mid-week.

Go and enjoy. If you go mid-week, take heed of this article. If you go on a weekend - take note of my first article.

Now getting there as I said back in September is a bit of a drive through the woods. We got there just fine this time with the help of our GPS, but going home in the really dark - with snow considerably still covering the ground from a recent heavy hitter storm was a bit of a story. We set the GPS for home and left the parking lot and came to the end of the driveway road into and out of the complex. The GPS said turn left when I-95 was to the right. Hmm. Maybe it new about traffic or such and we had come from the left though we had not come there directly form home but more north from where the museum we visited was. Ok - silly me we listened to the GPS voice and turned left onto what was a long and dark country road into the woods and out of the woods and into the woods again. In a while it said we were to turn left down a road that was no where yet near the main road we had come down on. Listen or not? We were not sure what to do if we went straight on ahead to parts unknown so we turned off onto the road it directed us on. I entered the road and went "NO WAY!" This was a narrow, single lane road into the woods that just went off into the darkness. Where? And as I said there was still snow on the ground and the roads were iced. I stopped in the middle of this road and said we are going back to the casino and going toward I-95. I managed to make a u-turn on this narrow dark road and headed back. Don't you know that every cross road we came to that GPS chirped turn here, turn at the next corner - make a u-turn. It was relentless. It was not until we were well past Foxwoods and heading to I-95 that it gave up and routed us on the main road. I expected it to come back and say - "All right already, we will do it your way!" By the way - this is a new GPS from the one I had on the first trip here.

Be prepared when you go to Foxwoods. Have an idea of where it is and how to get back home - without totally relying upon your GPS.

The Festival Buffet is at Foxwoods Resort Casino. The address is 350 Trolley Line Boulevard,
Mashantucket, CT 06338-3777. The phone number is 1-800-369-9663. There is a website with directions, etc. and that is listed at the side of this page.


brian said...

I find that the Foxwoods Buffet is one of my top 5 buffets which includes the Virginia City Buffet and the expensive Harrahs Buffet. I find the Virginia City one to be similar in style to foxwoods but with foxwoods being a bit more extensive. From Long Island it is quite a drive but well worth it.

We paid a visit to Shady Maple buffet 2 weeks ago and had a good meal. It was crowded and the line was about 20 minutes to get in and be seated. Out of all the Amish buffets this one was clearly the best. The whoopie pie was delicious. If I'm in that area again I would definitely visit it, it's a great price for the buffet. The gift shop is by far the best one I've ever been too. Lots of great things there.

RemixedCat said...

hi, what GPS was it that got you lost? LOL.

But that place does sound like a decent place to eat though.

Art of the Buffet said...

I have had two GPS devices and neither has been exact ALL of the time. This one knew where it wanted to take us and was probably the fastest route - but there is just no way to tell these devices that there is several feet of snow surrounding the roads and ice with no street lights - at 11 at night. :)