Agua Caliente Casino
Grand Palms Buffet
Rancho Mirage, CA
I ever found a place for seafood lovers. Friday evening at the Agua
Caliente Casino buffet. Some of you already know about it because you
told me, but for the others, well, you have a treat in store for you.
I know it’s a distance, about
43 miles from Yucaipa, and it’s pricey, about $24 per person, but when
you feel like splurging, it’s worth it. I think I’d eat dry toast for a
month just to make another trip to the buffet.
Therese Everett-Kerley from
the casino press department met Kathryn and me at the entrance and
escorted us to the buffet so I could take photos.
The first thing I saw after
entering the buffet was a u-shaped dessert food station. The end unit
holds about four rows of various cakes, pies and cheesecakes, and
around each corner are tarts, cookies, cream puffs. They even had
little round bite-size chocolate covered cream puffs on a toothpick.
Past the desserts was the first seafood grouping. Even before we were seated, I
almost hugged the showcase, as right before me, sitting on packed ice,
were oysters on the half-shell. Oh, my goodness, what a beautiful
treasure. I seldom see oysters on a buffet and I felt like I’d found
the Holy Grail of seafood. These oysters were a good size, and the
shells were the pretty, ruffled-laced-shaped ones that spoke of
quality. Next to the oysters were other goodies, but I didn’t pay that
Instead of grabbing a plate
right then, I managed to maintain some semblance of dignity and took a
seat like the nice, civilized adult I was supposed to be. The server
took our drink orders and I saw that in the back of the room the
regular buffet stretched from wall to wall. That was worth
investigating as well.
Kathryn and I chatted with
Therese, who graciously showed us around then introduced us to Mike
Milligan, the Executive Sous Chef. He told us about the food
preparations and the lengths the cooks go through to make sure
everything is fresh. I mentioned the oysters, and he told me they
lightly pasteurize them at low temperatures to kill any bacteria that
might be present. That made me feel a little better, but I would have
eaten my fill regardless.
Although a young man, Mike had
been in the food industry over twenty years, starting as a dishwasher
at a local restaurant in New Jersey. With a grin, he told us his family
had made it a condition that he work when they spent summers on the
shore. He grew to love the restaurant industry and later went to
culinary school. What a privilege it was to meet someone with such a
strong work ethic.
(Therese Everett-Kerley and Executive Sous Chef Mike
Mike also told us about the
sixteen-story hotel, expected to be completed in early 2008, and will
cover approximately 415,000 square felt. He said they’re preparing for
24 hours of food service and will remodel the buffet. Even now, the
restaurant employs about one-hundred people.
Kathryn had some coffee and
commented about the flavor several times, even asking the server about
it. He told us they order 100% Colombian coffee concentrate, so there
is no bitterness like there can be with grounds. I later had a cup and
found it smooth and delicious.
After I took the photos I
wanted, Therese and Mike left and Kathryn and I filled our plates.
Several times. Not only were there the buffet stations, but next to the
desserts was an ‘Action Station’ offering cooked-to-order seafood
dishes such as shrimp and scallop scampi.
Next to the oysters was a bin
of peeled shrimp, then King crab legs, cut into 2” tubes for easier
handling. The casino goes through a thousand pounds per week, Mike
said, not only for the buffet, but they also have a Thursday evening
King Crab Madness night, with the longer sections of legs. On the other
side of the oysters were slices of smoked salmon. The salads were next,
such as crab and papaya salad, a scallop salad as well as the standard
greens and veggies.
The soups were roasted corn
and Manhattan clam chowder. I prefer the creamy New England chowder, so
it wasn’t difficult to pass it up in favor of something else.
The buffet line in back held
more seafood dishes such as cornmeal encrusted catfish, wild salmon
pango pango, blackened trout and golden fried shrimp, Maryland style
crab cakes, flounder and snapper. Most of them were in the American
section along with sides of mashed and roasted potatoes, chicken Oscar,
NY steaks, roasted turkey and rotisserie chicken.
Garlic snapper was one of the
dishes offered in the Latin section, and the Italian section held
swordfish with roasted tomato and garlic, linguini with clams and
shrimp and Caribbean Calamari. Four large pizzas sat on the end.
The Asian section offered Mahi
Mahi with Szechwan sauce, scallops with garlic sauce and several more
shrimp dishes such as white pepper, sweet & sour, along with egg
rolls and rice, steam or fried.
Kathryn and I enjoyed a
wonderful evening, not only at the buffet, but we spent some time at
the slot machines. Oh Nirvana! They had nickel slots! Since I’m such a
big spender, I blew my three dollars, but it was fun because the
machine kept giving back a few nickels here and there and kept me
Ok. Now to fix some dry toast to save my money. I wonder how soon I can talk Kathryn into going again . . .
The Oasis Buffet seats
approximately 300 people and offers several different specials, such as
the Friday Seafood Sensation from 4pm-11pm for $23.99 plus tax.
Thursday evening is the King Crab Madness along with fish of the day and specials from the various stations.
Saturday features steak and king crab legs, and they also offer a Sparkling Sunday Brunch from 11am-3pm.
Oasis morning breakfast is
7am-11pm for $7.99 plus tax and mid-day lunch is Monday through
Saturday, 11am-3pm for $11.99 plus tax.
And the buffet is only one of
several restaurants the casino offers. Maybe I’ll try one of the others
after I get my fill of crab legs, oysters and shrimp. Maybe.
Agua Caliente Casino
32-250 Bob Hope Drive
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
I-10 East about 43 miles, then
take the Ramon Road exit in Rancho Mirage. You’ll see the hotel
construction. Turn left on Bob Hope Drive, then another left into the