Saturday, May 3, 2008


This post was inspired by the Sunday Scribblings Post: smorgasbord.

A smorgasbord is really another European word for buffet. It somehow seems more decadent and bountiful than the more pedestrian buffet. One is Swedish, the other is French, but they can be used interchangeably to describe the same kind of meal. Smorgasbord is definitely more fun to say.

The most amazing buffet/smorgasbord that I ever attended was Sunday Brunch at the Plaza. The Plaza is currently in the final stages of being transformed into luxury condominiums. They may bring back the Brunch, but it will never be the same. The meal has become even more fantastic in my memory because it can no longer be replicated.

We were at the Plaza to bring my mother and my boyfriend's parents together for the first time. We had just moved in together and my mother was visiting from France. I should have been nervous about bringing our families together, and I probably was, but any butterflies in my stomach flew away the minute I spied the amazing spread at the back of the ballroom. Everything at the Palm Court was golden: the chairs, the painted ceilings, the accent plates, and the chandeliers. There was a string quartet playing with gusto in the corner. Once my eyes and ears tired of the opulence immediately around me, they were drawn to two large golden French doors at the back of the room. This was the gateway to the inner sanctum, where all the glorious food was hiding.

Our waiter came by to distribute mimosas and offer coffee and tea. He then gave us the go ahead to help ourselves to the buffet. My legs and hands were shaking with anticipation. Steve sensed my eagerness and got up to accompany me. Neither one of us could bear to wait for the polite parental get to know you chitchat to end. We had to see for ourselves the delights awaiting us. He took me firmly by the hand and we stepped past the giant golden French doors.

It was an awesome sight. There was a table with a towering array of shellfish: dewy clams and oysters on the half shell, pink shrimp, ruby red Alaskan king crab claws, and even lobster tails. Little ramekins of cocktail sauce and mignonette sauce joined by quarter lemons in adorable little cloth jackets rounded out the shellfish offerings. The usual New York offerings of bagels and lox were taken to the next level with five different kinds of smoked salmon, along with little bowls of caviar, and even a selection of foie gras and pates. There was a mountain of pastries from around the world: croissants, mini chocolate pains au chocolat, strudels, Danishes, brioches, blintzes, and a myriad of flavors of muffins. The sweet vanilla aroma of warm waffles drifted over to us from the waffle station. It mixed pleasantly with the tangy salty smell of the roast beef station. The feast continued with a wide array of savory lunch dishes like mushroom tagliatelle and veal Marsala. They looked good, but were no competition for the rest of the brunch fare. The typical breakfast offerings were like Olympic competitors here: eggs Benedict with either Canadian bacon or smoked salmon with gleaming fresh hollandaise sauce, fluffy silver dollar pancakes with blackberry compote warm on the side, Challah French Toast sprinkled with powdered sugar. My head was swimming trying to decide where to start. Then I looked into the next room and discovered the world of dessert. The room was filled with chocolate and vanilla layer cakes topped with clouds of buttercream frosting, glossy fruit tarts, Boston Cream Pie, German chocolate cakes, mocha mousse cakes, little crystal bowls filled with decadent chocolate mousse, buttery pound cakes, fruit cakes, brownies, and chocolate covered strawberries.

I briefly considered the possibility of just refusing to leave the room for the next week. Then I remembered that brunch ended at 2:30. I came to my senses, realized I was wasting valuable time, and went to work. It was time to take charge of what was sure to be one of the most memorable meals of my life. If I paced myself, I was sure that I would be able to sample the best and the rarest. I found Steve, compared notes, and together we set off to enjoy this momentous meal.

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