more fabulous brunches

Seems I’m off on a tangent recently, posting about food non-stop. Blame it on the holidays. I’ve many more interests to address, but for now “’tis the season to be jolly”…and plumpy?

My daughter reminded me of a few other fabulous brunches. I’m hoping to entice you to try them some time. They require traveling, whether by plane or car, unless you’re lucky enough to have them in your own “back yard.”

The Halekulani Hotel on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu is my choice for buffet brunch, when I’m home visiting relatives. Offered only on Sundays, reservations are mandatory. Islanders and tourists alike line up for the gastronomical feast, so no amount of waiting for the tropical skies to align, will get you in without calling ahead for seating.

The setting alone will captivate your senses, ocean breezes wafting through the restaurant, gently touching your cheeks. Fragrant orchids and plumerias grace table settings and serving stations. Aromas from the bounteous variety of foods invite you to partake, quickly, before they all disappear, or so you think. At least that’s what I think.

While the usual, but not necessarily the exact, breakfast fare awaits you, like banana pancakes, portuguese sausage, roasted pig, bacon, rice, scalloped potatoes with cheese, sweet bread French toast, there’s also the “locals” favorites. There’s “poke”-raw tuna chunks in a seaweed, sea salt, vinaigrette; there’s “lomi-salmon” -salted salmon chunks mixed with diced tomatoes, sliced green onions, and chopped onions; there’s potato salad and macaroni salad prepared the island way; there’s a sushi spread; and an assortment of salads. Desserts will include another islander favorite, “haupia” cake, which is made with coconut milk. You will most definitely leave this island buffet sporting a full “opu,” the Hawaiian word for “belly.” As with most buffets, there’s no pressure to hurry. I make it a habit to sit back and dine leisurely, while staring out at the blue, Pacific waters. The view alone is worth the price; the amazingly yummy food is a bonus. Trust me, it’s all good!

The buffet brunch at the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, had been our family’s Christmas Day tradition for several years. After attending Mass, we’d eagerly make our way to the elegant hotel and their, just as elegant, spread. The grand staircase leading from the spacious front lobby, brought us to the second floor balcony where our eyes rested upon, what seemed like, an endless row of tables covered with platters of delectable foods.

As soon as the waiter took our beverage orders, we made our way around the u-shaped balcony, deciding our plan of attack. Of course I always began with a plateful of shrimp and cocktail sauce. You’ve probably surmised that I’m not very adventurous when it comes to food. You’re right! I pretty much stick with the “tried and true.” I hate to be disappointed. As I’ve told my husband and daughter, “I don’t waste my calories on food I don’t enjoy.” It’d be another story if I was skinny.

While there wasn’t anything particularly extraordinary about the Four Season’s buffet brunch, we enjoyed it enough to make it part of our tradition each Christmas. One specific incident which won my loyalty was when we returned one year, and found that caviar was not offered as it had previously been. Our daughter’s favorite, she was disappointed, but managed just fine without. Knowing how she had looked forward to the delicacy, I asked our waiter about the omission. He apologized, disappeared into the kitchen, returning moments later, with the treasured caviar, and accompaniments. His surprise garnered huge smiles from all three of us, but most especially our daughter. Now that’s what I call excellent customer service!

On our first and only visit to Las Vegas, my husband, daughter and me felt like family sitting down to a meal with relatives at the Paris Hotel’s buffet brunch. I remember that the food was very good, although the ambiance was a little too cozy. While the spacious restaurant was like the village scene from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” tables, and bodies, were a little too close for comfort. But hey! This was Las Vegas, after all. “When in Paris…”

I think I’ve gotten food out of my system, for a short while, anyway. Would love to learn of any buffet brunches you might recommend, wherever they may be. We don’t travel like we did in the “good old days,” but we still manage to get around, now and then. As I like to say, “Getting old, doesn’t mean we’re dead.” Getting there, but not quite yet. What’s that cliche? “Mountains to climb, and something, something, before I sleep.” I can never get those sayings right.

had a green salad, a scoop of chicken salad, and grapes for dinner. all that talk of food made me full…hugmamma. now for some exercise…island style.

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buffet brunches, worth the money?

Our family has been to its share of buffet brunches, usually on special occasions, like Mother’s Day or someone’s birthday. If you’ve ever been to one, you’ll probably agree that leaving with “doggy bags” would be a great idea. And I don’t mean taking home your leftovers, I mean carting off platefuls of new servings of items you couldn’t get enough of at one sitting. But, of course, restaurant management might not be keen on people loading up on doggy bags for the next few days meals…at home.

Now there are buffets, and then there are BUFFETS! When my husband and I still lived in Honolulu, “many moons” ago, we frequented the Flamingo Restaurant’s “All you can eat” buffet. I’m sure it’s no longer around, the restaurant that is. I’m sure it was great, especially for local food, which I do miss though it’s been 30+ years since we’ve moved to the mainland. We use to remark that the ones who really got their money’s worth were football teams who ate at Flamingo’s after their games. Pity the restaurant owners who probably “lost” money those nights.

When we moved to Garden City, Long Island in New York, my husband and I found another eatery which served a great buffet. Just around the corner from our apartment, we’d walk there, mouths watering at the thought of eating as much shrimp as we could. I can still picture peeling off the pinkish-red shells, dunking them into spicy cocktail sauce, and shoving those tasty little critters into my mouth, whole. That and the prime rib, kept us going back time and again. 

Our favorite brunch here in the Seattle area is at Salty’s on Alki Bay. Walk, fly, or swim there. You won’t be disappointed. But make sure you bring along a healthy appetite. Remember, it’s “all you can eat,” there!  A long line of cars usually awaits, and then another line of people waiting to be called to their tables. How long, depends upon the day of the week, if it’s a holiday, if the weather’s good, and so on. Reservations are necessary. Getting in without one might be possible, if all the stars are aligned perfectly in the skies above.

The spread at Salty’s brunch buffet is heavenly, ranging from the usual breakfast fare, pancakes, french toast, scrambled eggs, sausages, ham, fruits, pastries, muffins, breads and hash browns. Then there’s the usual buffet offerings like carved roast beef, eggs benedict, and desserts. Other buffets might also offer pasta stations, which Salty’s does as well. What is the “piece de resistance,”  as far as I’m concerned, is their seafood table. There’s oysters-on-the-half shell, mussels, clams, CRABS LEGS, and all the shrimp you can eat! Now if I could only shovel loads full of these into doggy bags, I’d have died and gone to Heaven.

While Salty’s is incomparable here in the Pacific Northwest, my all-time favorite buffet brunch is at the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Canada. The hotel itself is a destination, a castle with turrets, winding staircases, banquet halls, even an armored knight on permanent display. While much of the hotel seems like the real thing with naturally dark, but well-lit corridors, one dining/lounging area boasts a panoramic view of the Canadian Rockies. When we’ve stayed at the Banff Springs, we made sure to take afternoon tea in that space, gazing out at God’s handiwork. 

While meals in any of the hotel’s eateries were scrumptious, none were as eye-catching or pleasing to the palate as its buffet brunch. Elegantly laid stations offered international food from Japan, China, Mexico, the UK, Italy and France. From soups, salads, appetizers to desserts and every imaginable type of entrée in-between, The Banff Springs Hotel aimed to please. Although attired in white jackets and black slacks or skirts, the waiters and waitresses were helpful and pleasant. As with Salty’s, reservations for this buffet brunch are recommended, unless you’re again fortunate to have the universe line up just right in the overhead, Canadian skies.

perhaps you’ll agree, buffet brunches are definitely worth lots of hugs, if not lots of money…hugmamma.