Food Confessional: Vegas Breakfast Buffet
On Monday1, we celebrated Dad’s birthday in Vegas. My sisters and I preferred to celebrate his birthday at a nice2 restaurant, especially since we live on opposite sides of the country and rarely get to celebrate dad’s (and mom’s) birthdays together. So when we do, we like to make an event out of it – glam up and go somewhere you wouldn’t normally go on a “regular dinner.” We enjoy the elegance and expected exceptional service that accompanies fine dining; and we have worked hard for such opportunities. We also recognize that life is short and unpredictable, and we ought to celebrate significant life moments beautifully. BUT Southern suburban living has dramatically affected the way my parents view dining out. Dad would always say, “We’re simple meat and potatoes people,” to which I want to always retort, “But we are, too:3” We like Wagyu meat and Bonnotte potatoes plated by a James Beard Award winning celebrity chef. Same thing, right? Well, not exactly, but let’s leave it there. The Vegas visit was no different: dad immediately asserted that he and mom each got a birthday dinner voucher from their loyalty program, and wanted to these vouchers for his birthday dinner. Apparently, their high roller status grants them not only a “host” that arranges and comps all their travel and hotel arrangements; gets them rooms at fabulous floors with panoramic views; but also gets them a pair of birthday dinner vouchers4 that could be used at any of the hotel restaurants. This is a consequence of elite gambling that I am totally on board with. Dad must have known that we were eyeing Gordon Ramsay’s Steak House or the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, so he said he “didn’t need to have an expensive piece of steak.” I took his statement as a not-so-subtle reference5 to the intimate dinner party we threw mom at Ruth’s Chris6 in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago, where he, my two sisters, and I all ordered expensive7 steaks, which were luscious in flavor.
Dad wanted to go to a buffet. Gross8. The buffet reference kept coming up, and since it was his birthday and it was Father’s Day Weekend, too, we did not protest. It is rare, anyway, that Dad gets his way, as decisions are often swayed by what my twin9 little sisters prefer. So off to Le Village Buffet we went. Fortunately, the Breakfast10 Buffet worked best for each of our travel itineraries, and with their casino royalty status, we did not have to get in the long line with the other people. Even more spectacular: Dad got us bottomless booze with the breakfast buffet, because we are classy11 like that.
In Therapy: Deeply Rooted Buffet Issues
I confess12: I am not a big fan of buffet restaurants. No matter how expensive they may be, and no matter how beautiful they may be appear, I still feel there is a sense of tackiness inherent in buffet restaurants. This perception probably takes root from childhood experiences13 of going to Sizzler’s, Chinese food buffets, or Frantone’s14 for special occasions, e.g., my birthday, my sister’s high school graduation party, and other life events we consider remarkable. What turns me off the most from buffets is that they facilitate gluttony and often lead to food waste.
ABCs of Buffet Food Waste Reduction
On most occasions, I will choose to not dine in a buffet, but at times when I need to dine at a buffet for family or social reasons, I use an ABC trilogy of guidelines to temper my appetite and help reduce food waste – Anticipate, Browse, and Commit. Let me share:
Anticipate that the food choices will be visually appealing, and that you could swiftly get seduced into filling plate after plate of the bounty you see. You must keep in mind that not all buffet food are created equal. Not in flavor; not in quality; and most certainly not in fat, caloric, and nutritional value; so choose wisely.15 Preparation is key to successful food decisions.
Browse your choices. Scope before you scoop. Start your buffet dining experience by visiting each station to familiarize yourself with your options. This orients you to the layout of the buffet and inspires the composition of your meal. While browsing, start plating mentally. You may look a bit odd and may catch some attention when you walk around at least once and momentarily pause at times to envision your plate. Don’t mind the stares. You are all in a buffet, for goodness sake, and no one is above others to be in a position to judge16. I also promise you: You will have the last laugh when you exit the buffet with a respectable waist line17.
Commit to the plating you have envisioned and the number of courses. To feel as if I have eaten my (or my host’s) money’s worth, I would normally get a three-course elegantly plated meal – a starter of seafood, a main course meat18 and sides plate, and then dessert. When you design an elegant plate, you avoid over-stuffing19 your plate with food. This is when Social Media helps in tempering your appetite. The loveliest food posts are usually those that incorporate color, texture, and leave some empty spaces on the plate. A colorful mindset will encourage diversity of flavors and food groups; and texture will often lead to roughage, whether it be vegetables or fruits; and the empty spaces will definitely force you to be temperate in your servings. Think of Instagram fame when plating. It could actually be one of those rare moments when thinking of IG likes would actually be beneficial for your health.
Defying My Own Dining Guidelines
I try my best to follow my ABCs, but I am not perfect. I did Anticipate; I Browsed for a while; but I did not fully Commit. My first plate (pictured above) is an example. I didn’t think I would write about this confessional, otherwise, I would have made my plate prettier and added more color and texture. Reflecting, I now realize that I did not even have any veggies or fruits from that breakfast buffet, and although tragic, I told my mom that I was making up for my vegetarian years.
Another tip I could add is to Slow Down. There will be no scarcity of food and so there is no need to rush. It causes me anxiety when I dine with people who eat as if they were on a 15 minute break. Savor your food. Sip on your mimosa. Converse in between bites. Laugh when appropriate.
Family Over Taste and Preference
That morning, I did not have thoughts of a Blog post, but I had thoughts of how my little sister Coco20 was so lively, even exuberant as she dined across from Dad and picked her favorite dishes, dessert, and all the ice cream her skinny self could enjoy; and Mimi, cheerful with her classic crepe of choice: strawberries and ricotta, topped with whipped cream and delighted that “the strawberry tastes different and better,” flips her hair and bats her eye lashes as she scopes out the buffet for cute boys. And my eight year old niece Brooklyn, ever distracted and ever-exploring leaves little squirrel bite marks on food she picks herself tells me “That is the speech of the day,” after I whispered to her that there are so many people starving in the world and that she shouldn’t waste food. My mom, after making me realize that it was the first time she has ever tried smoked salmon makes almost the same statement to my niece. Across from me, my sister Anna between her IG and Facebook posts shares the parade of mimosas and pure sparkling wine that kept arriving in front of us, even before we finished our current glasses. This, she did artfully and without gaining any weight, as like Mimi, she scanned the fake French village of cute guys French or otherwise. And Dad: He seemed happy, as he should be, especially on his birthday; not because of his triumphant restaurant choice, but because the twins and Brooklyn were happy. Because we21 were all happy. And because on top of the bottomless mimosas, he also had a three-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower filled with Pina Colada.
It is interesting how the family dynamic has significantly changed through the years: The influence on choices and decisions have shifted from the authority of my parents to the whims of my twin baby sisters and from the interesting life events Brooklyn prompted. Life changes, and so do people, when they want and need to.
The buffet, although it was not and will never be my first choice, worked perfectly for us to all sit together and enjoy whatever we wanted to enjoy; to converse and laugh; to celebrate as a family. At the end of the day, food choices and philosophy about ethics and our choices matter less than how we are in actuality – how good we are to each other, ourselves, and the world. We may have divergent choices and beliefs, but what really matters is that we find that common thing that brings sustenance, connection, and love. Even if it’s a tacky22 buffet.
- One Monday in June 2017
- Like, at least 4.5 stars nice.
- Especially now that I am a meat eater.
- With quite an impressive value.
- It was somewhat a jab, too, on me and my sisters’ affinity for dining at steak houses that boasts of excellent meat and extensive wine lists.
- A compromise because mom and dad did not want to go anywhere beyond “business casual attire.”
- This is so relative.
- I will tell you soon why I’m being so “maarte.”
- I love them so much, but they are Brats Extraordinaire.
- I love breakfast!
- More like, “ghetto fabulous!”
- As if you couldn’t tell yet.
- Where all issues were born.
- This local pizza / Italian restaurant, which is no longer in existence.
- What a groundbreaking declaration, huh! Haha.
- Although I must admit, people who wear their pajamas in buffets or anywhere outside of the house are inviting judgment
- This is probably rarely a goal of a buffet diner.
- Now that I am an evil meat eater.
- I have learned the hard way. A full plate is not pretty, makes you look like a disgusting slob, and it is not good for you.
- Like a typical teenager, she is moody and often comes across bored, un-engaged, and “somewhere else.” Whenever we ask her if she’s ok, she responds that she’s “tired.” OMG, how could you be tired at 17?
- My other sister was already back in Los Angeles teaching a Zumba class as we were lounging in a buffet restaurant.
- Paris Hotel and Casino’s Le Village Buffet was NOT tacky at all.