Friday, April 20, 2012

Return to the Festival Buffet, Foxwoods Casino Resort, CT PART I

About a year ago I wrote about a return trip to the Festival Buffet at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. We recently went back again.

This is one of the buffets that comes to my mind when I think, "what buffet would you really like to go to". From my experience with casino buffets it so one of the nicer of those that I have eaten at. As I pointed out in the March 2011 article (linked above), there are two different experiences to be had there - the weekend or as they call it, the enhanced, buffet and the weeknight buffet. This trip was made for business in the earlier part of the day that had to be done mid-week, so we went on a Wednesday night in April. The weather was nice and the trip to Connecticut as usual was miserable with traffic and construction along the way - there and back. The Connecticut Turnpike always seems to be under construction - and there is never anything to notice that has changed (though I am sure if you live there, you can tell the difference). Anyway, we got there after our business appointment. It was just 6:30 pm and seemed too early to eat. We walked past the buffet and there was no line so we walked around the casino complex for about an hour. The buffet serves until 10:00 pm on weeknights. When we went back to the buffet there was still no line - though it was not empty inside. We paid and walked right in and were seated.

The price of the buffet since a year ago has gone up two dollars per adult on the weeknight price. This does include soft drinks. The price is now $18.99 each.

The dining tables are in three locations within the buffet. There is a section that is actually on the promenade outside the restaurant, separated by a low, decorative wall. There is a section that fills the room with the buffet stations all around it. There is a section next to that room that is separated from a hall off the promenade, though not as much out in the open as the front area is. The seating area on the promenade is a smoking section. This is also adjacent to a bandstand with a music show that starts around 8:30 - 9 pm or so and the music is LOUD. Even if this was not the smoking section I would still not want to sit there - though if you want to Rock while you buffet, you might enjoy it. We asked for a table in the center dining room and there was no problem.

Our meals usually start with soup and there was a surprise - where there were two soups last year, there were four soups on this night. And they were not all cream soups which was a criticism that I had last year. There was chicken rice soup, minestrone soup, a bean soup, and New England Clam Chowder. We later discovered that there was a fifth soup - Chinese chicken dumpling soup at the Chinese area. My "like it simple and plain" wife chose the chicken rice soup and I choose the New England Clam Chowder.

You likely know that New England Clam Chowder is the white cream version and not the red thin version, which is called Manhattan Clam Chowder. The chowder was good. It was thick and full of clams and potatoes. It was nicely seasoned and the clams were cut into chewable pieces, as were the potatoes. My wife said that the chicken rice soup tasted "homemade" and not what would come from a can. The soups (on this visit) started us off happily.

There is an extensive salad bar with two sides - one side had romaine lettuce for Caesar salad and a pre-mixed lettuce salad with blue cheese dressing on it. There was a variety of dressing next to these bowls including creamy Caesar dressing. There were also toppings including real bacon bit pieces. There was also a servers full of mixed olives in a dressing, half sour pickles, sweet pickles, hot peppers, and chunks of chicken. Around the other side of the salad bar were bowls of lettuce, dressings, salad toppings and fixings, cottage cheese, and prepared salads including pasta salad, macaroni salad, potato salad, etc. I made myself a Caesar salad and my wife fixed her usual, salad with vegetable toppings but no dressing. We both enjoyed the salads. I have had Caesar salads in many buffets. I like them most when you put your own dressing on, which you do here. The dressing was nicely flavored and not too sharp, as it can be.

The entrees and side dishes are set up in sections or stations. There is a seafood station, a large general station of various hot entrees and side dishes that includes two carvings, an Italian station, a Chinese/Oriental station, and a Barbecue station. On Fridays and Saturdays, the large general station is divided to include snow crab legs. There are not more dishes at this section on the weeknights - just a duplication of dishes on both sides of the carvings.

I went straight to the Barbecue section. There were fixings to make tacos and there was barbecue which included barbecue brisket, Kansas City ribs, and barbecue chicken. On the weekends you will also find steak here. I took a piece of the brisket and a piece of the ribs. There were sweet potato french fries that I could not resist and I took a very small sampling of those. I went around to the other sections and added a piece of Italian sausage from the Italian station with a small sampling of the baked manicotti. Passing the Chinese section, I spotted a wok server with Japanese noodles with seafood and took a small spoon of that. I had not seen any vegetables that appealed and at the Chinese station there was a wok of string beans sauteed with tofu. A small spoon of that went on my plate. My plate was beginning to resemble an international platter and I went back to the table.


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