By Porcshe Moran
When I think of a buffet meal, quantity often comes to mind before quality. The taste of the food and level of customer service can be easily overlooked in favor of the endless options and the ability to pile your plate ad nauseam for a low price. The reputation of the traditional smorgasbord is being challenged by the Farmer’s Pick Buffet at the Isle of Capri Casino Hotel-Boonville. With its fresh, seasonal entrees and sides that feature produce and ingredients from local farmers and businesses, Isle of Capri is raising the bar for buffet feasts.
The Farmer’s Pick Buffet is a complete overhaul in every way from the venue’s previous eatery. The décor is earthy and updated with ceramic tile floors that aptly mimic hardwood and granite countertops. The space has an ambiance of casual elegance with a color scheme of sage, cream, pale yellow, brown and lavender accented by glossy, oversized photographs of wheat, grains and beans displayed on the walls. Each table in the dining room is brightened with a modest bouquet of fresh, local flowers in brush nickel vases. The buffet’s philosophy for serving its guests has also changed. Executive chef Mike McKay says that the restaurant’s staff has increased by 25 to 30 percent. There are more servers, but fewer tables in an effort to increase the level of personalized service for each guest. Six action stations were installed along the buffet line to allow guests to watch the preparation of their food and to encourage more interaction between the cooks and their customers.
But, the food is where the Farmer’s Pick Buffet truly makes its mark. The all-you-can-eat adventure begins with a host of home-style staple items that stay consistent each day such as fried chicken, carrots, green beans and mashed potatoes with gravy. Next, there two made-to-order stations featuring customized pasta and omelets. Meat-lovers will rejoice at the meat carving station and the adjacent grill that is fired up to prepare a variety of beef and pork dishes. On weekend evenings, guests are also treated to fried shrimp, frog logs and crab legs.
On the opposite side of the buffet is a sizable salad bar that showcases fresh greens and sliced tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar along with eight different compound salads made in-house with layers of robust ingredients. Further down the line is the soup bar which has chicken noodle soup and tomato basil soup every day, but keeps things interesting with a rotating soup of the day. Hot, toasted sandwiches, which change in variety each day, are prepared by chefs at an adjoining action station. The dessert bar has its own area and features both hot and cold sweet treats such as pies, cakes, mousses and an impressive selection of sugar-free options. Even though guests have plenty of choices, the buffet’s easy to navigate layout and well-planned menu helps it to avoid the overwhelming and haphazard atmosphere from which many buffets suffer.
One of my favorite items on the buffet was the flavorful tapas-style meatballs which I paired with a cup of the hearty tomato basil soup and one of the warm, delicious rolls from Boonville’s own Butternut Bakery. Another standout was the flat-iron steak from Missouri Legacy Beef which was succulent, perfectly seasoned and cooked to my preference of medium. My dessert, a dish of creamy vanilla Central Dairy ice cream, was a simple, yet satisfying conclusion to the meal.
The slogan for the new Farmer’s Pick Buffet is “A fresh way to buffet.” I can definitely say that this dining experience opened my mind to the pleasure of buffet dining when quality is the top priority.
Porcshe Moran was selected as the winning entry for Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Boonville’s Guest Blogger Contest and was treated to a complimentary meal at the buffet plus one-on-one time with the chef. To learn more about Porcshe, visit her website.