Friday, April 27, 2012

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


The problem here is that it all looks so good - and most of it is quite different from what I see at the usual buffet offerings. It is hard here not to see something and take it - and this buffet requires some - perhaps a lot of - willpower. One way that I deal with this is I try to take just a little bit. It looked good - and most of it was good.

I will start with the really good. The beef brisket in barbecue sauce was good. The meat was tender and the sauce was mild with a nice flavor and not too sweet. The sweet potato fries were good. The manicotti was nice - not the best that I have had, but probably one of the best that I have had at a buffet - and the tomato sauce was nice as well. The sausage was Italian hot sausage - meaning it is spiced with peppers. It was in the server with peppers and onions all together in tomato sauce and the sausages were cut in half. The sausages were nicely thick. The taste was good - authentic - and while I prefer what is known as Italian sweet sausage (with no peppers), this was good. The Japanese noodles with seafood were pan fried broad noodles (likely rice noodles) stir-fried with small shrimp, red and green pepper, onion, bean sprouts and some other oriental vegetables. These were very good! What was not as good as I had hoped? The stir-fry string beans were in a red oil, spicy sauce. They may have been good if you like spicy oriental food, but I was not taking any chances with the long ride home that would eventually follow this meal, as spicy and my stomach do not always get along. I did not finish the green beans after a taste. That leaves the St. Louis ribs. I had very much enjoyed the ribs here on my last two visits. These ribs were cut short and with three bones side by side. There was little to no meat and what meat there was, was not coming off without a struggle. I worked at them for a while to get more than just a taste. I gave up. The rest in the serving tray had looked pretty much the same as these, and I did not go back to try those again. Too bad, too. I really like barbecue ribs - and like them best when the meat just falls off the bones. Not these. But there is so much more to eat here that it was a minor loss.

I went back up to try some more. At the seafood station there were cold peel and eat shrimp - nice large shrimp (I passed those by as I can always get shrimp at a buffet). There were also broiled cod, fried cod, fried clams, french fries, and two types of rice. There were also hot mussels and also jambalaya.

Cod. Before the "evil" talapia became the inexpensive fish to serve, there was cod. There was a time when every menu - at least in the Middle Atlantic and Northeast - had cod. (Now the "new" cod is talapia. Talapia more resembles flounder fillet. The problem with talapia as most is farm raised and it is a fact that farm raised talapia takes away from your body the good Omega nutrients that other fish put in. Why is it so popular? It is cheap.) It set these statements off because I don't want you to think that there is any talapia served here. It is COD. And cod is good and good for you. Cod is a fish of New England and it is no wonder it is still served at this buffet.

I took one piece of the fried cod (I really like fried fish!). I also took a few of the fried clams. The cod was very good. It was thick and pure white. The batter was a beer batter which is a light fried batter. With a bit of tartar sauce, it more than satisfied my taste for fried fish. The fried clams were also good. They were sweet and the batter was a breaded coating. I have probably said this before, but I always compare fried clams to the best fried clams that I have ever had and those were the ones you got at the Howard Johnson's Restaurants of my youth (not the frozen in the supermarket ones that had the Howard Johnson name on them). I have not really found ones to compare. But these were good - not like those, but good.

There was so much that was good that I am losing track of what I had with which trip up. The Italian station had individual bowls of meat lasagna. I did not take that but it looked good. There were three pasta dishes including one that had a pesto sauce, one that had marinara sauce, and a third, that I tried that were little ear shaped macaroni with a bolognese sauce. This was good. They also had meatballs in tomato sauce. I took one of these meatballs on the same plate that I took one of the Swedish meatballs that were in the general section. The meatballs were exactly the same - the sauce was different, of course. The meatball with the tomato sauce was actually better than the Swedish meatball, though that was fine too.

The big mistake that I made - and I always seem to make this same mistake - was to go up to the carving station and get a slice of the Prime Rib that they were carving. The mistake was not that there was anything wrong with meat. The meat was very good. The mistake was that the serving that is given fills a plate. This is like a slice of Prime Rib that you get in a menu restaurant. And asking for a "thin" slice or a "small" slice does not really make any difference. The carver sliced down a nice, large portion of the meat and placed it on my plate. That could have sufficed for dinner all on its own. I decided that I would eat as much as I felt comfortable eating, and leave over what I did not want. And I did exactly that.

Also on what I am calling the general station, as American food station does not really describe everything that was there, was a baked chicken in mushroom gravy. My wife tried this and she said it was very good. There was also fried chicken that looked good. Mixed in with the meat dishes were plain broccoli, macaroni and cheese, the Swedish meatballs that I mentioned before, another rice dish, and carved ham. My wife also tried the ham and she said that was good also.

The Chinese/Oriental station had several spicy dishes including the string beans that I spoke about, as well as fried rice, the Japanese noodles with seafood talked about earlier, and a tray of a thin soup with chicken dumplings in it. There were bowls above the counter. I decided that I would like to try one of the dumplings and took a bowl, scooped one out and drained the soup back into the serving tray with the ladle before I brought the ladle near the bowl. The chicken dumpling was mildly seasoned. It was nice.

There were a lot of side dishes though other than the broccoli, they were carbohydrate based - potatoes of various types - mashed, french fries, sweet potato fries - plus four or so different rice dishes, and then a number of macaroni dishes. There was also kernel corn. I can't say why I feel that there needed to be something different, but my wife took more salad as a vegetable side dish, and at one point, rather than take broccoli, I opted for a slice of half-sour pickle from the salad bar.

Even with tasting sized portions - and the more than plentiful Prime Rib - I was overfull. This is not something that I let happen at most buffets, but this buffet, perhaps because it is different and we get here so rarely, draws me to that.

There there is dessert which takes up a long counter in the front entrance of the buffet. There was a lot of very tempting desserts and a wide variety from hot cobblers, hot bread pudding, an assortment of puddings including tapioca, rice pudding, etc. There were many different cakes. The apple cake caught my eye. It was a large slice of brown cake with apples very visible in the slice. There was coconut cake - yellow cake with white frosting super-filled with coconut. As I stood next to the serving counter, I could smell the sweet coconut call to me. There were brownies, chocolate mousse, soft serve ice cream, sundae fixings, and an area where crepes were cooked and filled to order. There is also a section of sugar-free desserts - mostly cakes. (Understand that sugar-free cakes and desserts have just as many and sometimes more carbohydrates as their non-sugar twins. So calling them sugar-free really does not make them any better.) This was a special occasion for me and I had decided before dinner that I would have a small dessert. I looked from cake to cookie to cupcake and all along the counters and cases deciding what to take. I was like a kid in a candy shop with just enough money in his hand for one treat. And I picked a small chocolate cupcake with a light chocolate swirl of frosting on the top. Why? I am not sure but it was a small portion and easier to choose than the apple cake which I could not eat all of or that wonderfully tempting slice of coconut cake. The baking is pretty good here. I tasted some of the frosting and it was very nice. I then removed the rest of the frosting and set it aside and ate the little chocolate cupcake. It tasted just like chocolate cake should - it was good. Was it spectacular? Not really, but it was to me. And if you are fortunate enough to be able to eat spectacular desserts there were those there to have.

The server that we had was excellent. She was very attentive to her tables. At the table next to us, the people must have asked her to make them chocolate egg cream drinks (this is soda water mixed with just the right amount of milk and chocolate syrup). I would have never imagined requesting such a thing. It certainly can be made on your own at any buffet with a self-serve beverage bar, but to ask the server to make one - well, she did and seemed very happy about doing it. They were discussing how good they were at the next table with her and she had a lot of pride in having made a good one. For us, she refilled out beverages promptly, brought my wife tea when she no longer wanted soda at the end of the meal, and removed all of our soiled plates immediately. She was one of the best servers that I have ever had at any buffet, and I tipped her accordingly.

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. As I talked about in my article last year, use a GPS to find the casino. It is in the middle of the woods - as a good Native American casino should be.

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