Dear wife and I traveled to the Windemere Hotel in Sierra Vista, Arizona for their 2010 Thanksgiving Buffet. This is the third year in row we have patronized the event and had been very happy with the food and service until this year. We sat in the Oyster Bar and ordered ice tea as there was what appeared to be a long wait for seating in other areas.
We decide we wanted to start our meal off with soup as this is a soup to nuts affair right? We walked the great hall gauntlet where there were many items available and found no soup. A bit disappoint we went to the a noticeably skimpy seafood section and started with the smoked salmon. The ice tea was on the table when we arrived. The fish was very good but the first grazing was a bit disappointing. The selection of traditional Thanksgiving items was pretty good. There seemed to plenty of different kinds of stuffing but I did overhear other guest asking the staff if there was more mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. It seemed like that staff was slow to get the food out to the line. I filled up my plate with fixings and got in line for a portion of turkey. The great hall seemed very small now as I waited to approach the carver. And waited and waited. By the way I saw the gentlemen who was carving the turkey pull meat off of the bones with his glove-cover hands. I'm not sure if this is a normal occurrence as I rarely serve as a carver. Finally it was my turn and I asked for white meat. The carver pulled back the skin from the breast of the turkey. And I waited as he fiddled with something else and my arm became tired from holding out my plate. I readjusted the plate full of food and the carver sliced a thin piece of breast meat and placed it on my plate. O.K lets dine.
By the time I had got back to the table my food was cold. I had selected portions of mixed vegetables and green beans and both dishes were extremely overcooked. Maybe a bit of salt will help these poor things. Oh there is no salt and pepper on the table. I looked on other tables in the bar area and there was not a salt shaker to be found. I could hear Jimmy Buffet singing Margarita ville looking for his lost shaker of salt. All the other dishes were O.K. including the cranberry sauce from a can.
Round Three: I passed the cheese and crackers on the way to the side dishes. Someone had spilled crackers on to the table cloth covering the table. I noticed this when we went in search of soup. The staff had still not straightened up the area as of yet. I put a couple of tater tots on my plate which were placed next to the blintz and cherries and I wonder what genius came up with that placement idea. I stuck to the vegetables and filling. The food was O.K as it was filling. But filling I could get for a donation at the American Legion or the VFW.
Desert: Pumpkin pie slices were cut very small obviously so they would not run out and served on coffee or tea saucers. The cool whip on most of the pumpkin pie had turned to a white liquid. The piece of blueberry pie that I also had tasted kind of waxy. The coffees we asked for did not come with saucers as those were obviously being used for the pie.The coffee tasted like it was made in a cut-rate Mr. Coffee machine and we were charged $3 a cup for lukewarm bland java. Nice finish Windemere. DW said she did not remember paying for non-alcoholic drinks in past years. The final bill came to $63 and we gave the server $80 and told her to keep the change. We could have eaten at the Bellagio, Wynn or CityCenter buffets in Las Vegas for that price where they know how to do a buffet. Maybe our frequent trips to Sin City has made us jaded?
The Windemere facility seems to be getting a bit rough around the edges. The paint job in the bar is messed up and there is white showing through. In the restroom the stall locks seem to be falling apart. On the bright side my stomach is no worse for the wear.
DW and I attempted to walk off and settle the meal at a local park and speculated that perhaps some of Arizona's recent changes to immigration law has resulted in the lack of skilled food service labor and that's why Windemere never came close to the standard we had become accustomed to. Next year we'll give this buffet a miss and look for our holiday meal elsewhere.