…by Anura Guruge
>> Thanksgiving: Portsmouth, NH, Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel
>>— Nov. 16, 2012.
This was at least the 5th time we have been to the Portsmouth Sheraton for a holiday buffet; Thanksgiving 2010 the previous.
So will we be going again next year or the year after?
Not sure, but I wouldn’t totally rule it out
— and I think that that is a fair summary of our experience yesterday.
The folks were GREAT, though the ‘Director of Operations’, who was delightful,
Mr. Steve Merrill, really should wear a tie.
Click on any of the pictures to ENLARGE them.
One of the unmitigated highlights Stan Bednarz. Dazzling and very kid friendly. He, rather than (the rather insipid) dessert table (compared to 2010), did much to add sorely needed ‘glitter’ to the proceedings. Bravo Stan, you made the day. Thank You.
The tightly packed buffet and the uninspiredly laid out appetizers.
The carving station with the tieless but nevertheless apparently tireless Steve Merrill, with bonhomie a plenty.
The centerpieces were colorful and festive. I met the young lady who did them. She was everywhere. Seemed to be doing a great job. Credit to the Sheraton.
The foyer. The piano, with the superlative Stan is directly behind her with the buffet beyond that. Carving station is at the top left.
To keep this as succinct as possible, lets start with what they did NOT have:
↓ Pecan pie.
↓ A dress code.
↓ Appropriate space for the buffet.
↓ Necessary, functional serving utensils for the appetizers.
↓ Detectable flavor in the Prime Rib.
↓ Adequate lighting to highlight the wood.
↓ Moisture in the stuffed chicken breasts.
↓ Apple pie with the crust intact.
↓ Horseradish with any kind of kick.
↓ Stuffing better than what I can make from a packet.
↓ Ice to keep the crab claws cold.
↓ Firmness to the New England corn pudding.
What they DID have:
↑ Enthusiastic, motivated staff.
↑ Absolutely divine wild mushroom Ravioli with spinach & a Gorgonzola cream. WOW!
↑ A fresh baby spinach and bosc pear salad that could convince you that you could live just on salad.
↑ Excellent piano accompaniment by Stan Bednarz.
↑ Above average baked haddock.
↑ Decent smoked salmon.
↑ A mouthwatering butternut squash.
↑ Par for the course cheese cake.
↑ Great panoramic views of the river and bridges.
↑ 6 PCs with Internet access in a common room next to the dining room.
Well the above should be fairly self explanatory.
Not counting the (rather overpriced) $9 for a glass of Mimosa, the one Sprite, one coffee and the 9% NH ‘meals and rentals’ tax, it costs us $100 for the 4 of us. That is not too bad.
Not sure why they crammed the buffet and the carving station into the foyer of the hotel this year. I went and checked the room in which the food was served in 2010. It was empty; a few stacked chairs and boxes of breakfast cereal. Not sure what prompted them to make the change. I was not impressed. It lacked adequate lighting, inspired layout and utensils to properly get at the appetizers.
For what was supposed to be a semi-formal Harvest Buffet at a fairly posh hotel the attire of the diners was shocking.
Yes, I know that people think that it is cool to wear jeans to restaurants, but in my opinion it doesn’t really work when you are in you are past 65 or less than 5′ 4′ in stature. To be fair I can even put up with faded, grubby blue jeans. It is the T-shirts that irk me, especially one sported by a guy that extolled the supposed virtues of a diner in Maine! That was beyond the pale. All I can say is that the guy was obviously from Maine, and he probably thought that he was dressing up. [It is OK. My wife is from Maine (born and bred) and as such I do have the right to stand my ground when it comes to the amount of Red Neckery I will tolerate from across the border.] That the ‘manager’ didn’t wear a tie set the tone. [I used to work as a manager for ITT in the days we owned Sheraton. This kind of dress would never have been tolerated.]
Lets be fair, for $40 less we could have gone to the ‘Great Buffet II‘ down the road and had as much food — though it would have, overall, been a tad inferior in quality. But, if I have to dine with riff-raff wearing merchandizing T-shirts, sweats and grubby blue jeans I might as well go to a Chinese buffet. Sorry.
So, that is about it.
It was ten years since we met. This picture also allows me to see how I looked compared to Thanksgiving at the same place in 2010 when I had a cracked rib and severe bronchitis. Steve M. very kindly took this picture. Thanks Steve.