Friday, April 04, 2014

St.Patrick's Day at Old Country Buffet

There are a few foods that are my favorites. One of those is corned beef. I don't have it often and when St. Patrick Day comes each year, I know that Old Country Buffet will have all you care to eat corned beef on the buffet. It is one of the days that I look forward to going to Old Country Buffet and this year not only did OCB have corned beef, cabbage, and red potatoes on the buffet but they also sent out a coupon to those on their "Crave" list (email list) for a discount on dinner for that day.

I decided that I was taking no chances with the nearest OCB in Levittown, NY, and took the trip out to the other OCB not far from me. We left early to avoid traffic as we were heading out on Long Island with rush hour traffic coming from Manhattan which is generally bumper to bumper at this time of day. Perhaps everyone took the day off for St. Patrick's Day because there was no traffic at all. We arrived even earlier than I had anticipated but seemed by about fifteen minutes to avoid a big crowd of people who came in after us. So far so good!

With a dinner like this, the corned beef will be the main course for my entire meal but that does not mean that I will not have soup and salad before and when I went up for both I looked over to the carving area to make sure that there really was corned beef - and there was. As you by now know if you read this site regularly, my wife is a picky eater and she is very particular about the type of corned beef that she eats. She likes deli corned beef and does not much care for the type of corned beef generally served on St. Patrick's Day. There were other things for her to eat on the buffet and she was skipping the corned beef. We finished our salads and it was time for me to go up and get my first plate of corned beef.

I went up and stood behind a short line of people also there for corned beef and we were all waiting for a new one to be brought out from the kitchen and it arrived in very short time. What came out di not much look like corned beef at all. Someone toward the front of this short line said out loud, "Is that roast beef!" It was said more with surprise than as a question. Indeed, it looked like roast beef. It was the shape of roast beef and it had a dark char covering the outside all around. There are different cuts of corned beef. There is a flat cut and there is a tip cut. This must have been the point cut. The point cut has more fat than a flat cut. Well this was not flat but shaped like a roast beef and as it was cut into the fat was thick and wide.

It was obvious from the remarks being made all around me that the other diners on this line knew corned beef better than I did. They watched as the carver started cutting into this dark, crusty lump of meat. The people all around were telling him that he was cutting it all wrong. It had to be cut with the grain they said and not against the grain as he was cutting it. He continued to hack away at the meat. Removing sections and putting them on people's plates. Some people refused what he was putting on their plate - "I don't want that grizzle!", "Don't put that hunk of char on my plate!". It went on like that. Some asked for more than he was putting on their plate, and he complied. When I got up there I took what he offered and then also asked for more. I had not waited for this to walk away with two small pieces. I took a little cabbage and some boiled red potatoes. I added some string beans to the plate and went back to our table to eat.

I have never had charred corned beef before. It was just like roast beef on the outside. I have had corned beef all over. I have had it served to me by Irish friends. I have had it at deli's. We have made it ourselves at home. I have never had corned beef like this before. I expect corned beef to be stringy. This was barely stringy, but it was definitely chewy. It was dry. Some was inedible - it could not be chewed, cut, or pulled apart with the teeth. What was on the outside tasted bitter and burnt. I ate what I could salvage as edible on my plate and hoped that the next corned beef to come out to the carving station would be better.

I went back and now one of the managers was carving. This was not the manager that I know at this OCB. This was a woman who has been there on some mid-week nights that we have been there. I could not help but wonder if the other manager had been there, if the cooking of the corned beef in the kitchen would have gone better and if it would have then been cooked properly. The corned beef coming out on this night certainly was not cooked properly. This time what came out was also charred. Customers were still criticizing how it was being carved. The manager carving commented that if she carved it as they were telling her to, it would fall apart. Perhaps that is what it needed to do, but she was going to do it her way. Again, it was tough, chewy, and took a lot of cutting away to get to edible meat. There were some parts that were tasty. And parts nearest the fat were moist, but this was not what I had been looking forward to.

I admit that I ate what I could of it. I went back again for more. This time a corned beef that was flat came out but it was still partially charred on the outside.  And again it was no different. I wondered how they were cooking this. Corned beef is pretty basic - boil it with seasonings. This was not pastrami which does have a coating and slight bark on the outside. I am not sure what they thought they were cooking. I have had it boiled and then cooked in an oven, but nothing like this.

Well, the corned beef at OCB - at least at this OCB - was not really worth going for this year. It has not been like that before- here or in Levittown. Maybe I made the wrong choice in OCBs to come to, but this one is usually much better than the other - and in service, etc. that night they did far surpass the other OCB - and the best server at any buffet ever (who I have written about) was our server and as wonderful as ever!

We decided to make a corned beef at home. Perhaps we should have done that on St. Patrick's Day instead of going to OCB. But, frankly, that it was not good was a surprise based on past St. Patrick's Days at OCB.

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