Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas/New Year's Special Dinner at Best Buffet, Huntington Station, NY

I am pushing this article ahead of other articles that are scheduled to appear on this site, as I want to give those who would like to try this special dinner a chance to get there for New Year's Eve 2012 or New Year's Day 2013. We have been to the very special Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day dinner at Best Buffet located in Huntington Station, New York last year and the year before on Christmas Day. We returned there again this year and were very pleased. Last year, and prior, at this restaurant there had been temperature problems with the food. There was no such problem this year and everything that I tried was very, very good!

This is a Chinese/Asian buffet and it is one of the highest priced such buffets in this area. The price for this special holiday dinner is $33.99 per person - the same as it was last year. This is the most expensive buffet dinner that I have been to and written about. It is way above most of the buffets that I recommend. This price is just for this special holiday dinner, but it is not much more than their usual weekend dinner. For a holiday dinner- we are talking about the biggie holidays here - it is not that bad. If you want soda or tea you will be charged $1.79 each more. They will automatically add a 12% tip onto the bill in addition to sales tax.  The children's price is $16.99!  The bill for the two of us without beverages - just water - was over $84.00. For us that is a lot - but I enjoyed the meal and that is what is important!

There are usually over 180 items on their buffet at dinner. This special meal is adding a number of special items to this - you will find:

Special Seafood bisque - this was a very unusual soup and unlike any bisque that I have ever had. It was a dark brown similar to hot and sour soup but not spicy. It had chunks of seafood - not sure what but some had the consistency of shrimp and lobster. It also had gelatinous noodles which may be soybean noodles. It was interesting and good.

Tokyo Beef Shortrib - this was a large roasted beef rib carved at the carving station. It was carved off the bone and placed on your plate. It was very rare at the center and crispy at the edge. It was very good.

Lobster Salad with Tropical Fruit - this was on the cold bar with the salads and fruit. It was white in color and it was pieces of lobster and fruit. As I have to watch which raw fruit I eat due to allergies I did not try it. I wished I could have!

Roast Suckling Pig - they have had this each year. This year it was on the carving station and you took it yourself. It was inch wide strips of pork with a very crisp skin and each strip was about three inches long. Unlike year's past, it was hot and very good. The skin is very hard to bite. It is worth trying!

Grilled Stuffed Clam - this was a half calm that was grilled with bacon on top. It was overly salty to the taste and the clam was very, very chewy. I tried one but did not go back for another.

Fillet Mignon with Pepper Cone - this was a large roll of Fillet Mignon that was roasted with a pepper cream sauce on top. It was very good and very tender. It was served and carved at the carving station.

Alaska Jumbo Crab Legs - these were single legs - not clusters and not very jumbo. There were both hot and cold crab legs. Mixed in were also steamed lobster claws.

Fresh Oysters and Clams - raw oysters and clams on ice next to the sushi bar. The oysters were large and tasty. I added cocktail sauce. There were several types of sauce to top them with.

Grilled Lamb Leg with Rosemary Sauce - served on the carving station.

Pan Fried Fresh Scallop - these were served at the grill and they had a dark sauce on them and they were served on a large scallop shell. The scallop was tender and very tasty!

Grilled Lobster with Cheese - these were half lobsters - small with no claw. Mostly you are eating the tail as there was no meat in the rest of the half shell. The lobster was tasty. There was always a line when these lobsters came out and they were served at the carving station at one per plate. When these lobsters were not out, there was lobster in ginger sauce served to your plate in a good quantity. The lobster in ginger sauce was tastier.

Italian Seafood Platter - I have to say I have no idea what this is - I did not see anything there that would meet this discription, but there was seafood everywhere on the buffet!

Salmon Fish with Dijon Sauce - there was a large salmon on the buffet. I am not partial to cooked salmon so I did not try it.

Jumbo Shrimp Scampi- these were large shrimp in garlic sauce. They looked very good.

Teriyaki Chilean Sea Bass - this was on the buffet and was very popular, especially with the Oriental people who were dining. Large chunks of Chilean sea bass were covered in a thick teriyaki sauce.

Roasted Peking Duck - this is always offered at the carving station here. The duck was large and meaty - and surprisingly not very fatty. Duck was carved and put in a thick, doughy steamed pancake and there were the traditional toppings and sauce for you to add yourself. There was no problem just carving several good sized pieces of duck to your plate.

Japanese Sushi and Sashimi - there is always a sushi bar here and there was a good variety of fish being offered. While I was at the sushi counter, one gentleman was asking for a certain roll and they were making it for him.

Seafood Delight with X.O. Sauce - this was no the buffet. I did not try it.

Roasted Prime Rib - this was on the carving station and they were carving thick slices of prime rib. This was real prime rib - not just roast beef. There were slices on the bone. The meat looked moist.

Fried Oysters with Wasabi - this was on the buffet. While I like raw oysters, I do not care for cooked oysters. If you like cooked oysters, these would be good.

Crispy Prawns with Mayonnaise - this was on the buffer. I did not try it.

Holiday Dessert - there was a variety of desserts with the most authentic being two Chinese dessert soups. There were cups of mango pudding, honeydew pudding, and chocolate pudding. There was a sign for creme brulee but there was no out. There were the usual Chinese buffet sheet cakes, a variety of cookies and macaroons, a coconut cake (which was gelatinous), kiwi fruit, something called Dragon Fruit which was red on the outside, white inside with black seeds, fruit salad, apple pie roll, and a sundae bar with soft serve ice cream. I tried a small piece of cheese cake which was not much more than the usual cheese cake found with the sheet cakes at many Chinese buffets. It was fine but not great cheese cake. I also tried something that looked like it should be a very thin chocolate cookie. A platter came out with very thin cookies in random shapes as a batter must have been poured out as liquid onto the baking sheet. There were the shapes of almonds (inside) bumped across the pieces. It looked like a chocolate cookie. It was hard to the bite and it did not really taste like chocolate. When you bit into the bump where the almond shape was it tasted like almond but no almond could be seen. It was very unusual - and without the chocolate taste was not really worth finishing.

These were the holiday features. In addition there were many other things to eat - some of which is found on their regular and weekend buffet and some not. There were two soup pots on the side near the carving station. One had duck soup. The other had spare rib soup. There were a variety of meets and seafood coming off the grill - beef, chicken, shrimp, octopus, and more. There were three dumplings - traditional shumai, a shumai stuffed with wild black rice, and pan fried pork dumplings. There were non-Asian foods like Fettuccine Alfredo (which was very good) and Chicken Marsala. They also have an hibachi grill now that they did not have in the past and there were raw meats and vegetables for you to choose and give to the chef to grill for you. There were many, many good things to choose.

The only problem is that there is so much, it is not possible to take even a small amount of everything that you would like to try. I tried to just take a little of what I wanted to try and still could not include everything that caught my eye. One thing that I had that is worth mentioning - along with so much else - was sweet and sour cod fish. The tray had a whole fried cod including head with bared teeth. There were large chunks of fried cod that were continually added to this tray and they were covered in a light sweet and sour sauce that was not the usual red sweet and sour sauce you usually get in a Chinese restaurant. This was very good. So much was very good.

When we were almost finished, my wife asked if I felt (pertaining to value) if this meal here or the meal at Captain George's Seafood Buffet in Virginia was better. That was a hard question to answer and she choose that buffet to compare to as it is the closest (though cheaper) to the price of this buffet. My answer was this meal and I based that answer on the carving station. Here you could make a meal of Prime Rib, Leg of Lamb, Fillet Mignon, Short Rib, Duck, and two types of lobster. And not include anything else. There is no place (at least locally) that you can do that for $34.00 - and the food was quality.

I do this holiday buffet once a year. It was a nice holiday dinner. I recommend that you try it and as New Year's Eve and New Year's Day is next week you still have an opportunity to go here and also enjoy this meal. Otherwise you have to wait until next year's holidays.

Best Buffet is located on Route 110 North - 179 Walt Whitman Road in Huntington Station, New York on Long Island. Their phone number is 631-385-0800. There is a website and that is linked at the side of this page.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Buffets, Inc. Gets New Chief Exec

With Buffets, Inc. coming out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this past summer, they have announced the hiring of a new chief executive, Anthony Weedo. Buffets, Inc. is the parent company of Old Country Buffet, Ryan's, Hometown Buffet, and Fire Mountain. Mr. Weedo replaces CEO R. Michael Andrews. I am told by a reliable source that we should recall Mr. Andrews as the executive that gave himself and other execs at Buffets, Inc. bonuses while the company was actively closing restaurants across the country without notice and without any exit benefits to restaurant employees or managers. This was the "Good morning, you are all fired. Go home." episodes that took place across OCBs and Ryans this past year.

Mr Weedo comes from corporations involved in the finances of restaurants and the mergers and acquisition of restaurant - not someone who knows restaurants from the inside. He has given an exclusive interview to Nations Restaurant News and is quoted as saying ""Stay tuned. We have a story here that will unfold in the next six to 12 months as we reinvite old guests back and bring in new guests. The company's spent a long time going through a painful process, and I want to lead them to a victory, which could include some new portfolio growth down the road."  He is calling his mission "Plan to Win". With Weedo is a new leadership team at Buffet's Inc. He wants to look at recipes and the menu. (Which may or may not be a good thing.) He likes the new Mongolian Grill concept that they have recently introduced to the restaurants and also the steak. (I will be writing an article in the near future about the Mongolian Grill - so far it is far from appetizing. As to the steak - the steak is good but no one at the restaurants know how to cook it so that you get a steak you can actually chew and bite through.) He has commented that other than an occasional store closure, there will not be the wholesale closings that we have seen in the recent past.

I wish Mr. Weedo all of the best. Perhaps he should look at OCB and Ryan's before the downfall. Bring back some of the things that people loved to go to those buffets for. Perhaps he should look more closely at what made Ryan's so much better than OCB before OCB took them over and instread of putting OCB food into Ryan's, put Ryan's food and methods of grill to order into OCBs. Time will only tell,

If you would like to read the Buffet's Inc. press release about the change in administration, it is linked here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Swedish Christmas Julbord at Ikea Store Restaurants

I have been sharing some wonderful meals that we have had at the Ikea Store Restaurants all you care to eat smorgasbord dinners that they hold four times a year. We recently enjoyed the Christmas smorgasbord - called the Swedish Christmas Julbord.

All of these dinners are held for two seatings on just one night. The first seating is at 4 pm and ends at 6. The second seating starts at 7 and ends at 9 pm. This year's dinner was held on December 7th. Tickets for the dinners must be purchased in advance and one week after the sign went up at our local Ikea store that the Julbord dinner was coming, we went to buy our tickets. The second seating was already sold out. I grabbed the first seating without hesitation. I don't usually like to dine this early but I was not going to miss this dinner. The price for the dinner is $12.99 for adults and $4.99 for children, but if you have an Ikea Family card - available free at kiosks all over the store, the price was discounted to $9.99 for adults and $2.49 for children. This is all inclusive except for sales tax. Your beverages are included and there is no tipping.

We arrived at 3:30 to wait on the already long line of people with tickets to get into the restaurant. The restaurant on these days is closed from the afternoon to the evening to prepare for this special dinner. While the Ikea restaurants are ordinarily cafeteria style, the cafeteria section is closed and large smorgasbord tables are set out where there are usually tables in part of the dining room. I noticed right away that many of the people on line were Seniors. Older people seem to like dining early. There were some families and younger couples mixed in. At 4:00 pm tickets started to be collected and the line quickly moved into the dining room. You are told to sit at any table you wish. Each table was festively set with  silverware, glasses with fanned red napkins in each one and for this dinner a bottle of a Swedish holiday drink made from hops and malt. It was a sweet soda drink that in essence was "beer soda" - though totally non-alcoholic. The couple that eventually sat down at the table next to us have been to Sweden and the wife was Swedish. They loved this drink and finished their bottle quickly. They have been to this dinner before and they made a point to comment to us how authentic everything served is. 

Once seated you go up to the smorgasbord tables as you please. There are a lot of people dining at these dinners and early on into the dinner there is generally a line to get up to the food. It never was more than a few minutes wait and there are very friendly employees who are directing the flow to get people to each of the two sides of the two smorgasbord tables. As you got halfway through the line area, there was a server offering everyone a hot cup of Glogg. This is a non-alcoholic version of hot spiced wine. The idea is that you will finish your cup of Glogg by the time you get up to the smorgasbord tables. I mistakenly decided to hold onto mine until I got back to the table and juggled it as I filled my plate.

The food at each of the smorgasbord dinners that I have been to at Ikea have been very much the same from one dinner to the next. There are slight variations and also some differences in how some of the food is prepared. I will list through menu that was offered - and if you have read my articles about Ikea smorgasbords before you will not a lot of similarity.

There were three herrings. All were in a wine sauce. Two I had a hard time telling apart though the seasonings visible with the herring in the sauce were different. The third was sweeter than the other two - and I preferred that more than the other two. There was Gravad Lox with Mustard Sauce on the side. This is smoked salmon - similar to American lox but seasoned  a bit differently. There were large rolled slices of the salmon to take. The mustard sauce was a bit sweet and you added this as you wished. There was Najad Salmon with Horseradish sauce. This was cold smoked marinated salmon thinly sliced. There was also poached salmon - a large whole salmon poached and set out on a platter. You dug out what you liked from the fish and scooped it onto your plate. There was a nice cold cream sauce on the side to add to this. I have commented on this before - I do not like cooked salmon. I do like this poached salmon. There were also hard boiled eggs with shrimp stuffed into the middle of each half egg. There was one more fish dish that I was not aware was fish until later in the meal. There was what looked like au-gratin shredded potatoes. My wife asked me about them and it looked to me to be just potatoes. If you read this site regularly you know that my picky eater wife does not eat fish. I took some and she waited for me to report to her.  The potatoes were good but a bit salty and there was a grainy feel mixed in with the cheese. I told her that they were just potatoes but they were salty. On her next trip up to the smorgasbord she took some. She did eat it and commented that there must be something more than potatoes. I was sure not and I spoke too soon. On one of my trips up I saw a sign on the table near this platter that I had not seen - GRATANG Jansson - with an explanation - shredded potatoes with cheese and herring. I wondered if I should tell her. I asked if she wanted to know. She did and it was no big deal, but she took no more of it. Other than the salt, it was good.

Those were the fish dishes but there was much more. There was Swedish Cucumber Salad, Red Beet Salad, and Swedish Potato Salad. I particularly liked the Swedish Potato Salad. There was Christmas Ham that was being carved on a table of its own. The ham had a thick crust on the outside. The ham was served cold. There was sharp mustard served on the side. There were Prinskorv Sausages which are a favorite of mine. There were Swedish Meatballs in creamy gravy and there were jellied Ligonberries on the side. There was hot red cabbage. There was supposed to be boiled potatoes with dill, but in their place was mashed potatoes with dill. On a side counter there were several different cubed cheeses. There was also Swedish crisp bread and also large pieces of a French type loaf bread.

The usual Ikea soda bar beverages are available including Ligonberry juice plus Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, etc. There is also coffee and tea.

I know that many of my readers want to hear about deserts and, yes, there were several desserts to choose from. There was Swedish Rice Pudding with Almonds. There were also two other puddings. A platter was stacked high with squared of chocolate truffle cake. This was a rich and very thick cake - more like a fudge than cake. It was quite good. The rice pudding was interesting - the rice was not cooked soft as some rice puddings are. There were also very thin Swedish holiday cookies.

This dinner was excellent and the value was phenomenal. If you came even to Ikea for a single plate of any of the fish dishes that were offered here as much as you cared to eat, you would pay almost as much as this entire dinner cost. Where I live, even at a deli counter, Lox is extremely expensive. Here was all you wished to eat.It is rare to find smoked salmon or lox on a buffet and if you do it will not be one of the lesser priced buffets.

Everyone around us was enjoying this dinner. The Swedish lady next to us was piling her plate high - as was here husband. While we were eating we heard people at another table talking about purchasing tickets for the next dinner which is for Easter in March. It sounded like the tickets were being sold right then at this dinner. My good wife went up to find out and came back with two tickets - again $9.99 with the Family Card for the later seating of the Easter Smorgasbord.

If you have an Ikea store near you and you want a buffet dinner that is something very different, keep an eye out for signs about the Easter Smorgasbord in March. In fact, you could ask now at the restaurant cashier. Get one of the Family Cards - they give changing discounts in the store and also free coffee or tea at the restaurant - which day to day is not a buffet.

I look forward to the next Ikea smorgasbord!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Timber Creek Grill Buffet - Idaho and Washington States

I have come across a buffet that looks very interesting. There are two locations and they are located in the Northwest corner of the United States. The buffet restaurant's  name is Timber Creek Grill Buffet and one is located in Spokane, Washington and the other is located in Lewiston, Idaho. For those who are not all that familiar with geography, the states of Washington and Idaho border on each other.

I must start out by saying that I have never been to either of these locations and I only know about these buffets by chance. I have not eaten there. I cannot tell you if the food is good or not. The buffet looks good and has an interesting menu variety and I thought that I would share it with you all. This is the type of buffet that I like to go to and if there was one that I could get to - and all was as good as it looks, I would go there frequently. It is also not often that I find buffets in this part of the country to share with my readers.

The food type is what has become know as "American" despite the variety. In fact, it changes by the day of the week.  They also have a breakfast buffet on the weekends. Each day is a different theme food. There is a large salad bar and a dessert bar.

I will tell you about the dinner features. The lunch features are similar but there are less choices at lunch. Monday is "Timber Creek Favorites". At dinner on Monday night you will find Meat Loaf, Beef Liver & Onions, Macaroni & Cheese,Timber Wings,Chicken Fried Steak,Butterscotch Rolls,Chicken & Dumplings, and the soup of the day is Broccoli.  Tuesday and Saturday share a theme and that theme is BBQ. On those nights you will find BBQ Pork Ribs, BBQ Beef Ribs, BBQ Chicken, BBQ Wings, Macaroni & Cheese, Baked Potatoes, Fresh Baked Bread, and the soup of the day is Steak Soup.  Wednesday is Italian and you will find Spaghetti & Meatballs, Veal Parmigiana, Manicotti, Garlic Cheese Biscuits, Texas Toast, Ravioli, Butterscotch Rolls, and the soup of the day is Minestrone.Thursday is Mexican and on Thursday's you will find King Ranch Chicken, Sirloin Burgers, Grilled Cheese, Macaroni & Cheese, Enchiladas, Beef or Chicken Fajitas, Tacos, Nachos,  Chicken Tenders, Cotton Candy, and the soup of the day is Cream of Tomato. Friday is seafood (what else?) and on Fridays you will find Scallops, Steamed Clams, Salmon Bites, Shrimp Scampi, Baked Fish & Fried Fish, Fried Clams, Fried Shrimp, Baked Potatoes,Mussels, Pickled Herring, Seafood Alfredo and the soup of the day is Clam Chowder. On Sundays dinner is served all day from 11:30 am and you will find on the buffet Carved Turkey Breast, Chicken & Dumplings, Yams, Scalloped Potatoes, Lasagna, Baked Potatoes,Timber Wings, Bread Dressing,Yukon Potatoes, and the soup of the day is again, Clam Chowder.

You will notice that the menu here is a bit different from the familiar chain buffets in that it does not feature the usual southern style cooking which always seems to include fried chicken. Every night at dinner they also serve Steaks Grilled to Order, Carved Ham, and Carved Roast Beef.
The two restaurants are run by one family - the Klinke family who have been running restaurants in Washington state since the 1970's. The restaurants also appear to be involved closely with their communities giving food to school districts, feeding veteran's and active military for free in recognition of Veteran's Day and other worthwhile causes.

I  have seen very positive comments about how clean the restaurants are and how good the food is.
Lunch is served from 11:30 am and dinner starts at 3:30 pm. I do not have a closing time for the restaurants. I do not have any prices, but from comments I would say that the price per person at dinner is similar to the other chain buffets and two can eat for about $25 or less at dinner.

If I am ever in Spokane or Lewiston, this is a must visit for me. If any of you have ever eaten at either of these locations at Timber Creek Grill Buffet please leave a comment and tell us how it is.

Timber Creek Grill Buffet is located at 9211 E. Montgomery, Spokane Washington 99206 - telephone number 509-892-6390 and at 2305 Nez Perce Drive, Lewiston, Idaho 83501 - telephone number 208-743-5430. There is a website and it is linked on the side of this page.