Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Broadmoor Hotel, Colorado Springs

Broadmoor Hotel
Brunch buffet with outstanding food

In our ongoing review of the country's outstanding brunch buffets, Mark advises that no tour of Colorado would be complete without brunch at the Broadmoor. A favorite from his younger days, it appears to have retained all of the goodness of childhood memory.

The Broadmoor itself is a historic building, built in the late 1800s, and one of the AIA's 150 most popular buildings in America. Driving up, it's easy to see why. The Broadmoor is an elegant building in a lovely suburb, with mountains flanking it and greenery accenting its soft peach finish. It's very Western in its practicality; the walls are almost plain, with subtle decorations on the top story and plain white trim around the windows. Even the roof is modest but pretty, a small cupola overlooking the trees in front and the lake behind.

Inside, the decorations are more ornate, with beautiful chandeliers in well-appointed lounges, decorated ceilings, and portraits adorning the walls. We got to walk through this lovely hotel on the way up to the second floor Lake Terrace Dining Room, where brunch is served.

For the size of the room, the number of options was staggering, probably not too many fewer than the immense casino buffets in Las Vegas. In addition to the traditional egg, pastry, and griddle items, the brunch featured a full lunch spread, with hot beef, pork, and chicken dishes, as well as a salad bar, deli bar, cheese plate, and dessert table. We tried to sample most everything, but ran out of space long before we got there (and we kept going a little after that anyway).

Many brunch buffets have an omelette bar, but how many have an eggs Benedict bar? The Broadmoor has both. The omelette bar featured a novice who had a little trouble flipping the omelette, but her co-workers were very supportive and we tried not to make her feel bad about it. The Belgian waffles were not standard-sized, but were almost "silver dollar" waffles, made four at a time: the perfect size for a brunch buffet. More buffets should have them, and specifically they should have the light, fluffy, perfect versions the Broadmoor had.

It would take too much time to list all the outstanding food there. Everything we tried was delicious. Of the buffets we've tried, this one ranks up with the Bellagio as our favorites.

Spice Market Buffet, Las Vegas

Spice Market Buffet
Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas

The Big Two of Vegas buffets are the Bellagio and, apparently the Wynn. But Spice Market was voted best buffet in 2007 (then again, this is Vegas, so there are roughly two awards for every person, show, and restaurant) and had been getting great reviews, so we decided to check it out for brunch on our recent trip.

The name is the last holdover of the old Aladdin Casino, now Planet Hollywood. We loved the Aladdin and its Middle Eastern theme, but the Roc Bar is gone, the Desert Passage is now the Miracle Mile, the sweeping mural of winged horses is replaced by lights that change color slowly, and the whole Arabian Nights theme is now a style we can best describe as "generic 1980s." Blah. But the name Spice Market buffet continues on, reminding us of what once was, probably because they haven't figured out whether changing the name to "Lunch Counter" will mean they have to give back the awards.

At any rate, the quality of the food shouldn't be dependent on the name, and we did quite like Spice Market. It remains a touch short of the Bellagio (we have yet to try the Wynn), but it's a good, solid brunch. Good fruit selection, including a couple nods to the Middle Eastern name (figs and prunes); a standard omelette bar; Southern style cornbread griddle cakes (like small pancakes, but with a crunchier outside--pretty good); delicious pastries (surprisingly lacking in the cinnamon department); and very bland scrambled eggs and potatoes. In addition, they had some lunch dishes that were good, if unremarkable. There was plenty there to eat, but for the price, just walk across the street and pay another dollar to get better eggs, more pastries, and fluffier pancakes, not to mention more interesting lunch dishes and good salad selections.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

La Scala, Burlingame

La Scala
Traditional Southern Italian food done right

The problem with a lot of would-be Southern Italian food is the weak tomato sauce. I rarely get overdone or underdone pasta (to my unrefined palate), but a good, hearty tomato sauce with the right amount of seasoning (and by "seasoning," I mean "garlic") is hard to come by. Buca's marinara is a good one. La Scala, happily, makes another.

It's in a nice, hip part of Burlingame, near a train station and high school (not on Broadway). We walked around investigating the area and were in the mood for Italian, so we settled in. The waitstaff are nice and the restaurant has a good southern Italian ambiance that I think works better in the day. Still, it was nice, with wide front windows and pretty wood beams, and though it was small and a little crowded, we had a good table near the window from which to watch the street.

The menu is traditional Italian (with "Insalate" and "Primi Piatti" headings, for example). We tried the "La Scala" salad, which was quite tasty, a nice mix of sweet pears, crunchy greens and nuts, and tangy cheese and dressing. Then we split a pair of penne dishes: the Penne Alla Norma (with eggplant, spinach and ricotta), and the Penne Salsiccie E Pollo (sausage and chicken). Both came quickly, nice and hot. The ingredients in both were fresh, and as I've mentioned, the marinara sauce was full-bodied enough on both. I liked the Penne Alla Norma a little better, but both were good and we'd have no hesitation ordering from them again.

La Scala joins a small, select group of quality Southern Italian restaurants. If it weren't in Burlingame, halfway up the peninsula from us, we'd go there more often for sure.