A Morning in Provence
Aha, I did it, I finally went to buffet -- my girlish dreams from days in Texas ("and when I live in Las Vegas I will eat buffet every day!") are realized at last.

I chose breakfast buffet because I was hungry at about 3 a.m., the time I was awake and started thinking I should suck it up and go to buffet by myself. It's not that I mind publicly dining alone (too much); it's just that buffet isn't half as much fun if you're not comparing and discussing plates with a partner. ("Did you get any of this?" "You should try that." "What do you think this thing could be?")

Because breakfast buffets can be so predictable and more about filling the gullet than trying new things (GOLDEN CORRAL LOGO FLOATS ACROSS SCREEN), I thought one of the higher-end Strip buffets was in order. I chose the Le Village Buffet at Paris Las Vegas. From that link:

[...] Le Village Buffet brings to life five provinces of France through culinary expertise and visual attention to detail. Each station is themed for a particular province and features an intricate façade designed to replicate the architecture of that region. Meals are prepared as they are ordered to ensure the quality and freshness of each selection. [...] Guests dine in a village-like setting, where they may choose to eat outside in the town square or in a casual dining room by a fireplace. Each province’s cottage dining room is decorated for the region.

I had only been to Paris LV once, and that was for about five minutes as Mike and I exited the (now destroyed and replaced) monorail from the MGM Grand to Bally's, walked through Bally's, walked past the million dollar display, walked into Paris and past Le Village and every other shop, and walked out the front door, into the cold night, so we could walk to the (then newly redone) Aladdin, completely forgetting that the exquisite (if you like that sort of thing) "Desert Passage" mall connects the two casino resorts.

So, I am not an expert on Paris LV, but I did write an extensive "review" on the place before Mike and I made our historic Vegas journey. The review is now hopelessly out of date, but I link to it so I may prove that this site can be more than a diary even if it is often less than a (traditional) blog.


I hopped in the car at 6:15ish, damp underwear under all-black getup (because that keeps laundry simple, not because I was dressing Eurotrash for the occasion, and don't ask about the underwear -- I got impatient with the dryer), and due to the obscene early sunshine hour was able to zoom right up the Strip and into the parking garage, level 3, Notre Dame level.

Oo la la, in we go, where I turned right, instead of going straight (which looked boring), and went to Bally's by mistake, and I'm ashamed to say I got all the way to Bally's Big Kitchen Buffet before I realized I was in the wrong casino.

So I nipped back up the steps and around the corner, and there were the cobblestone of Paris (complete with "you are walking on uneven cobblestones, so don't fall down and sue us" sign), and there was Le Village, and there were a dozen or so people ready to go in.

I took lots of photos, but I can't be bothered to show any at this time. (I am rethinking my gallery.)

There were several other singletons (as B. Jones would say) in line. They were all men with newspapers, but I still chided myself for being so silly as to feel self-conscious about going to buffet alone. (I never even thought about how it looks for a fat chick to go to buffet alone, so give me some points there.)

All of the staff do a decent job with their French greetings and comments -- isn't it true that many of the casino's employees are required to take French lessons? To my uncultured ears, they sounded good. Better than me, anyway. (My French is atrocious. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop me. Je veux les pommes frites!)

I was seated in the main square along with everyone else, which was fine with me as the individually themed provincial dining rooms were a little too remote and cozy for my interests. The inflow of diners was steady during my meal, but there were always tables available. No small tables -- I had a four-seater to myself, clearly in view of the waiting line, and yes, I did endure some either baleful or hopeful stares from those wanting to come in. (But they had no way of knowing I'd been hogging a table for an hour and a half...)

As soon as I sat down, I realized I was very glad to have arrived at the start of the dining session. I know that the buffets are busy enough in Las Vegas to ensure plenty of fresh food turnover, but I still liked having first pick.

Before I list everything I had and what I thought about it, I should remind readers that I'm a vegetarian, so my choices fail to reflect the maple ham, three kinds of sausages, crab quiches, eggs benedict, etc.

Another thing: the staff was very nice and encouraged me to get up and start "trying everything" right away, not snooty at all. I was called "miss" (Miss!) by my British-or-islander waitress, who was perfect except for not refilling my water glass after the second plate, but another waitress asked if I needed anything as soon as I noticed this, so maybe there was a waitstaff/boundary change. Otherwise, plates were cleared quickly and invisibly, my cranberry juice arrived (with the cute little nub of paper on top of the straw) right away, and no one asked me if I needed anything other than the one time when I needed something, which kept anti-social me happy.

(My scribbling and sitting there taking pictures of the food might have indicated a desire to be left alone, but I'm sure they're also just too busy to get in your face much. Which is why buffet waitstaff are supposed to be tipped 10%, right? I tipped ~16% on a $13-something meal. I hope you people who support tipping over fair wages are happy.)

Plate #1

Blueberry Pancake and Regular Pancake -- small, light... it's better such things aren't full-size when you want to save room for all of the other stations. (Each themed to a certain region of France, remember?) This was from the Provence section. I don't know why. This section also had ham and French toast (see below) and a number of regular toasts. (Elsewhere, there were little individual glass pots of jellies in addition to the sauces at the stations.) There was a slight "pastry" taste to the pancakes, and I could smell the blueberries embedded. Nice.

Cheese Blintz -- eh. Kind of rubbery, actually. The warmed cherries nearby were nice. From the Brittany section, which also had crepes made to order, but I didn't know how I would want them to make my crepe, so I didn't bother.

Chocolate Sauce -- this was near the blintzes, along with powdered sugar, tiny sliced nuts, pineapple, etc. I dipped a little blintz into it and noted that the chocolate was not too sweet, but at the same time it wasn't trying to prove itself by being too bitter. A quiet, unassuming taste that made no attempt to overtake its companion foods. Too bad I'm not into chocolate for breakfast. (Mike boggles over how Americans eat so much sweet stuff for breakfast and I always defend a nice combo of sweet and savoury, but even I think chocolate for breakfast is just wrong. I mean, other than that time in the late 70s/early 80s when Cookie Crisp cereal came out. Now that was amazing!)

Unknown Cheese -- there were four imported cheeses available in the froid section (all surrounded by lovely shaved ice), and each one was fantastic, including the one I completely disliked. This cheese was cut into circles and had an outer rim of something green and something nutty. The cheese was soft and began with a sharp, sour tang that immediately blunted itself into a memory. It was nice. I was afraid it came from goats, though. Somewhere along the line I've come to worry about goat cheese. Probably because goats always seem to be peeing on stuff and eating metal. Who wants that kind of animal's processed secretions?

And yes, I am a vegetarian who eats eggs and cheese, although I've been trying to cut back on eggs that I know aren't free range. Trying, I say, because I didn't hold back at this buffet, and I'm sure the eggs came from very miserable de-beaked factory chickens pumped full of artificial hormones. But I am trying -- you should see my fridge -- and trying harder is my goal, so there you have it.

Lyonnaise Potatatoes -- the only item to appear on all three of my plates. It also appeared at several provinces' stations, even though I'm sure that Lyon itself always stays in one place. Not greasy, very light, no obvious seasoning, yet completely clean tasting without being bland. Yum.

Scambled Eggs -- I let these get a little cold while I was writing down everything and taking photos of the first plate, but they were still good. Fluffy. Maybe a little wetter that I would like. I should have had these on some of the sourdough toast; I always forget how much I like eggs on toast. I wish I had a personal chef who coould remember all of these things for me.

Warm Mandarin Slice -- this probably came from a can, but it had a pleasant, heady smell and tasted fine and I felt it should be duly noted.

Tomato Slice -- fresh-tasting, did not need salt.

French Toast -- I had this with warmed cherry "escoffier." Epicurious has no results for "escoffier." Babelfish translates it as... "escoffier." I have no idea what it means, but it is a sauce, and it was nice. The piece of French toast was "bready" and "full" and "obviously" made from "French" "bread." (In-joke: I am making fun of my own notes.) Otherwise, it was just the standard fashioning of grain.

Baked Pears Bourgonnaise -- fresh, punchy, tart. Not soggy. Good.

Cranberry Juice -- probably made by Minute Maid or somesuch, but it was medium bitter without being too dry. I'm not a big fan of cranberry juice (unless in a blend) because of dryness/bitterness, but it felt like the right thing to order. I wanted something that wouldn't complete with the food. (Water in a beautiful blue goblet was also provided.)

Plate #2

Spicy Poached Egg -- I'd never had a poached egg before. Now I know I am the sort of person who does not like poached eggs. Now I know I am the sort of person who hates poached eggs. I always knew I was the sort of person who hated eating a big glob of plastic, so this should be no surprise. But the spicy sauce was nice.

Far Beton Cake -- I was scared of this. I smelled fish nearby and I was afraid the dark masses in what otherwise looked like a cross between quiche and bread pudding were anchovies. Why is it called "Far Beton," anyway? This was at the Brittany station again -- shouldn't it have been "Far Breton"? So, the bits of fish were actually prunes, and the cake was full and subtle with a tendency to slip right down the throat. Ah, Epicurious has a recipe after all.

Apples Calvados with Whipped Cream and Nutella -- this is not a real dish. This is what you get when you put a few of the Belgian waffle toppings together. (The apple was firm and full-flavoured with spice, the whipped cream was whipped cream, and I didn't get a good enough taste of the Nutella, damnit, and I've been waiting years to try it.) Later, I will explain why I didn't have any Belgian waffles. Hang on a few.

Mini Loaf of French Bread -- Whole wheat. Kind of hard. Eh.

Croissant - Flaky, soft, and nice. (I tell myself that, in this heart-healthy culture, Paris LV surely uses vegetable shortening and not lard.)

Flaky Thing with Date or Fig or Something In It -- Nice, too simple, not really sweet nor savoury, just okay.

Cheese Cut into Hard, Yellow Triangle -- it looked hard, but it was just firm and softened quickly in the mouth. Mildish taste. Maybe a cheddar relative? Maybe not. A "fine little wedge" (says the notes).

Cheese of Some Blue Variety -- fresh and pungent, al dente texture, slow to realize its stinkiness in the mouth but unrelenting once it has done so. Quickly swallowed and not reattempted. Ew. (But an "ew" uttered with respect.)

Cheese in Porous Little Cubes -- delicious! Super-creamy and very light. Also made it onto plate #3.

Capers and Chopped Onions -- I just used these for garnish. Buffet always involves taking a few things to have just for the sake of having.

Hash Browns -- I took too little to remember even eating them, or where I put them. (I was trying to take just a mouthful or two of everything so I could try a whole bunch of stuff.)

Interlude Things I wrote down between plates #2 and #3 and just here and there:

  • (Guy at table behind me) "And it's this stingray village. You know how they paint swimming pools blue? They painted it all blue like that. And the stingrays, they have their stingers, but they don't hurt you because it's, like, their village."
  • (Waiter to nearby man who said Blue Man Group was stupid) "It's abstract music. That's what it is. Do you like abstract art? Because that's what it is -- abstract music. Abstract art. Abstract music."
  • Does anyone else try to "wash" stickiness from their hands by rubbing their palms on their juice glass (hoping for condensation)?
  • 70s/80s music... That "Give a Little Bit" song was on -- Mike says it's by Supertramp. I recognized "Head Over Heels" by Tears for Fears.
  • Okay, the deal with the Belgian Waffles. I kept checking for them, but the "pots" were always empty. On my second check, a cook at the station said, "Oh, there's nothing there." I nodded and said, "oh." And she said, "they're for lunch." And I said, "oh." (I didn't ask why they had all the berries and Nutella and cream and sprinkles out for the waffles, then.) And then the next time I was there, I noticed the mini waffles on top of the grills. AHA! And then the next five times I walked by, and including every time I craned my neck back to look from the table, those same mini waffles were still sitting on top of the griddles. I hope those weren't the ones planned for lunch.

Plate #3

(Another piece of French toast, this time with butter. More potatoes. More cheese.)

Not a Biscuit -- this was the flakiest pastry-thing ever. It was shaped like a biscuit (American-style biscuit) and flakier than the flakiest pie crust you could ever tell stories about, and this was a good thing. I think there might have been a dab of apple in the middle. It was so light that it was hard to tell what was going on. It was also a little bland. But interesting. In an unfinished (as in I didn't finish) way.

Mixed Berries -- from the No-Waffles station. Raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, and strawberry, and I think some other berry that is dark like a blackberry but somewhat different shaped. I ate the berries and the beautiful porous cheese together on the same forkfuls. Mmm.

Peanut Butter Cookie -- Not really something I wanted, but I had to try a bite. Lovely. I would pay $1.29 for this cookie, and I bet people pay more than that for the same one at the bakery across from the buffet. Very, very creamy, but not overly sweet and definitely no sugar grit taste. But definitely sweet, and not one of those peanut butter cookies that is trying to remind you of how healthy peanut butter can otherwise be. Soft with some crumbs, but not crumbly. I wish I could have found a way to take the rest home.


And then I wandered around the casino, got a slot club card good at all Caesar properties (I think I've now collected all of the major ones), sat down at a "Sinatra" video slot, and on the second 45c pull (playing nine lines at a nickel each), the Chairman shook his bonus dice and gave me my money back plus $12. Yes, that's right, I went to Las Vegas and Frank Sinatra (pretty much) bought me breakfast. And that's how I'm going to tell the story from now on.

17 April 2005 |






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