Friday, April 26, 2013

Festival Buffet at Foxwoods Casino, CT - Hmmm...

The Festival Buffet at the Foxwoods Casino and Resort in Mashantucket, CT is one of our picks for top buffets in 2012. I have been to this buffet many times over a number of years and was there twice in 2012. It was just my birthday and each year on my birthday we will travel within a certain radius to a buffet that I very much enjoy. In past years this has included Shady Maple, a now closed buffet at one of the casino's in Atlantic City, NJ, and the Festival Buffet at Foxwoods. This year it was between Shady Maple (where my meal would have been free on my birthday) or Foxwoods. I decided on Foxwoods for several reasons - one, I have been looking forward to going back, two, I was recently at Shady Maple, and three, the expense in tolls and mileage is a lot less. We make a day of it, do some things I like to do in the area and then go on to dinner.

I particularly like this buffet when they have the "enhanced" menu on the weekend but my birthday was on a Thursday so that was the day we were going. The basic difference in the buffet menu is that for an increase in price of two dollars they include steak and crab leg clusters. The rest of the buffet is pretty much the same.  We arrived at the buffet at 7 pm and there was no line to get in. The dining room was busy but not overwhelmingly so. We were sat at a table near the buffet. I was anticipating a great dinner.

The server came over to the table and very pleasantly asked what we would have for beverages. I ordered an unsweetened ice tea and my wife, a diet soda. We went up for soup. There were four soups  - two thin and two cream  - and all were good choices. I choose the New England Clam Chowder over the Tomato and Cheddar soup. As it has been in the past the soup was nicely thick and creamy and you could see and taste the fresh clams in the soup. So far so good. When we came back to the table our drinks had arrived. I always take a sip first before I add any artificial sweetener, just in case there was a mistake made and the tea was sweetened to start with. Good thing because this glass of ice tea was sweetened. My wife sipped her diet soda and said it tasted too sweet. I tried it and it was not diet. We looked for the server. She was around but ignoring our table. She even went by twice tending to other tables but never looked in our direction and never acknowledged either of our attempts to get her over. At one point she was standing on the side having what appeared to be a meeting with someone in authority. Never the less, it was until we finished our salads that she actually saw the dishes stacking up on our table and came over to get them - and that was when she was told that the drinks were wrong. She insisted that the soda was correct and was uncertain about the ice tea. She picked up the glasses and went off to get us new drinks. When they came back, this time they were correct. It happens - and with an attentive table server it is no problem at all - he/she comes over as they should to pick up plates or see that all is well, you tell them of the problem, and they whisk away the glasses and bring new ones. But this can't happen if the server does not come by. I had medication to take and I am swallowing pills with clam chowder with the potatoes wanting to go down with the pills. She only minorly got better for the rest of the meal. The servers we have experienced here in the past have always been good.

As I mentioned we had salad. The salad bar items were fine, but the signs over the dressings that were attached to the glass sneeze guard above looked like someone had shuffled them randomly before sticking them on. All of the dressings on the signs were down there but which was which? Obviously, the colors are a give away from some, but the three white dressings - Ranch, Blue Cheese, and Caesar were anyone's guess. I guessed wrong. I had a Caesar salad with Ranch dressing.

I will not go into the details of the food items on the vast buffet. You can read about this buffet in the article naming it a Top Buffet of 2012. I expect items to change from visit to visit and in many sections they do. I went around to all of the sections and looked at what there was before I started selecting. My wife later commented that she thought that there was less out than usual - and it did appear that this was so. Not a lot less, but less.  I went over first to the barbecue section which is separated from the other sections by a wall and a door into a side dining room where the barbecue section can be found. There were barbecue ribs and pulled beef barbecue. There was also baked chicken and fried chicken. The same fried chicken was repeated on another section.  I choose the ribs and some of the beef barbecue to try it. The beef barbecue was strings of beef in a nice pulled sytle barbecue sauce. I had a hard time finding ribs in the half full tray of ribs. Most looked burnt and dry. I found one nice looking rib with a lot of meat on it, and I took a smaller rib that had lost its bone that was the better of the overdone looking ribs. The nice looking rib was very nice. The other was tough and chewy and not worth trying to bite through. Later when I went back to look the rib tray was just as I had left it - no more had been put out - I had hoped of finding another good one.

Many of the entrees that were being served in various sections were very oily. Even the fried cod - batter dipped pieces of cod that has always been good before was sitting in grease in the pan. As regular readers know, I take a little and try it and if I really like it, the item becomes one of the things I will go back for more of. One dish was a beef in a wine sauce with mushrooms. The beef was chewy but the sauce was nice. Another dish was sliced pork sorentino- slices of pork loin in an oily onion sauce. That was tough and way too full of oil. In the Italian section there was small plates of individual chicken parmigiana - these small ceramic plates were sitting on a hot metal warming plate that was so hot that picking up one of the small plates of chicken I burned my finger as it brushed the metal below. Also in the Italian section there was sausage and peppers in tomato sauce. The sausage was also tough - it is not easy to make sausage tough. I will also mention the Asian section. Most dishes there were spicy. There was something that I decided I would try a little of - thin noodles with squid. I do not like squid or octopus and I do not eat it. This goes way back for me to when I was a child - and both were popular dishes served on Christmas Eve by my family. Popular with everyone except me. Anyway, I was intrigued by thin Asian noodles with squid so I took a spoon of it. There was no visible squid. The noodles were a very, very dark brown. I suspect that this was made with squid ink and not pieces of squid. I did try it - more than one bite. I was bitter and otherwise not all that worthwhile to keep eating - and my reaction to the taste had nothing to do with my aversion to squid. Perhaps someone who has had noodles with squid would have thought this was very good, but it did not seem like something to waste the carbs eating. I also took an ear of corn from the barbecue section. This was a small half ear of corn and in the serving tray the corn was sitting in a white liquid which I believed to be milk to give the corn some sweetness or it could have been liquid butter like substance. Whatever it was, the corn kernals on the cob were mushy and off color - a whitish brown. I believe it was the corn that gave me stomach distress shortly after the meal...

I tried other things - the fried clams were as they always have been and good. The carved beef - Prime Rib? - was tender and tasty. The two pasta dishes - one in an Carbonara sauce and the other in tomato sauce were just OK. The meal was not living up to my expectations of a great birthday buffet. (And it has in the past.)

It was my birthday and I was going to have something for dessert. I was not going to over do it but something small. We both went up to look. There were a few hot desserts - bread pudding and a cobbler. There was apple pie. There was coconut cream cake. I like cupcakes and they had mini chocolate and mini vanilla cupcakes - both with a large pink swirl of frosting. I took one of the chocolate ones. I also eyes some chocolate chip cookies that looked good. I took one of those. My wife went over to take the bread pudding but there was no serving spoon. There was a woman behind the bakery counter and my wife pointed this out to her. The woman bent down to a bucket on the floor and pulled out a serving spoon that was not exactly clean. She took a cloth and wiped it off and handed it to my wife. The woman then took her gloved hand - the same one that was just in this bucket of dish water and put her hand into the tray of bread pudding and pushed what was in the back of the tray forward. My wife gave me a disgusted look and put the serving spoon down into the tray and walked away. My wife did stop by the salad bar to take some fresh melon. When she got back to the table and tasted it, the liquid it was in was sugar syrup. She did not eat it. I scraped the frosting off the top of my cupcake. It came off in one lump and the lump rolled on the plate. It was almost solid and it was not supposed to be. The cupcake was dry and overdone- and had little taste of chocolate. The chocolate chip cookie was full of chips but was hard to bite into - and not worth finishing.

This was not a meal or service that I expect from a Top Buffet. Was this a one time off night or has this buffet gone downhill since I was here last. Perhaps, it has.  At some point I am sure I will go back and see again, but not very soon. It is likely that the award we gave this buffet for 2012 will be the last it receives. And we looked for the certificate - so far every buffet that has received an award certificate from us has posted it prominently. Not here. The certificate was no where to be seen. My wife said maybe it is on the wall in the "office". More likely it went into the trash. Maybe that is better as no one should see that certificate after my experiencing the meal on this particular night. Well, I had a fun day for my birthday despite the dinner - but I should have headed south to Pennsylvania instead of north to Connecticut and had a really great birthday meal and any one of several "Top Buffets" there!

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