Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Breakfast Buffet at Glass, Sheraton Cascais, Portugal

After a fairly poor breakfast buffet at the Sheraton Lisboa in Lisbon, I can't say I had higher hopes for the Sheraton in Cascais, just 30 mins up the coast.

I approached the buffet with a bit of apprehension, but, pretty much the moment I saw it, my doubts vanished.  This was a very good buffet, particularly, uh, in the sweets department.  I can't speak much to the hot foods or savories, but I was very happy with my selections.

Service was friendly,  items were constantly replenished, and the restaurant was bustling the entire time I was there.  Protip: 9:30-10:15am seems to be crazy time.  Go earlier if you'd like it calm.
Round One!
You'd think that my eyes were bigger than my stomach here, but, uh, this was just round one.  And all for me.  And I ate it all.  Great cheeses, breads, pastries, a fresh pancake machine, toppings to make your own yogurt parfaits ... really a fabulous spread.  Although, uh, yes, I needed to be rolled out of there.

Setting

The entire dining experience is light filled, and made me immediately understand the name of the restaurant: Glass.  The room is surrounded by full length glass walls on almost all sides, that look like they do open in warmer weather.
Tables with full place settings.
The inside area is wooden tables with metal (very scratched) tops and fairly comfortable off-white leather padded chairs.

Placemats and a full table setting with 2 forks, 2 knives, a spoon along the top, and coffee mugs were waiting.  I thought it was funny that with such a formal place setting, they still had paper napkins.

Also on each table was a live plant.
Outdoor Patio.
Seating extends onto an outdoor patio, complete with wicker furniture with comfortable chair pads and umbrellas.
Buffet is under the huge light fixture.
The buffet is huge and occupies one entire region of the restaurant, under a really impressive light fixture.

Buffet

Breakfast is served from a buffet, featuring both hot and cold items.  Everything is self-service except for hot drinks.  Most items are labelled (unlike the Sheraton in Lisbon).

Drinks

Juice, Water.
The juice selection is limited to apple and orange.

Sparkling and still water were available, both chilled and room temperature, a nice touch for those who prefer.
Regular Coffee.
Regular coffee is served by the pot.  I appreciated having the entire pot to refill my cup as needed, but this is way more regular coffee than I normally drink.  Whee, caffeine!  The coffee was fine, not particularly good nor bad the first day.

The second day, I ordered my coffee, and waited.  And waited.  I was actually in a rush, but I wanted bitter coffee to pair with my platter of sweets, and, it just didn't come.  I ordered another coffee, from another server.  And waited.  I heard others around me also asking for coffee.  It was crowded, and the servers just couldn't keep up.

When the coffee finally came that day it was acidic, harsh, and not very good.

Regular sugar and sweetener were on the table.
Decaf Coffee.
I moved on to decaf the first day.  It was served by the cup, and was clearly instant.  It was also awful.  Do not recommend, and I didn't try it again.

Continental Food

Continental selections include everything you'd hope for: cheese, charcuterie, nuts, seeds, yogurt, cereal, fresh fruit.  Fairly extensive and quality options in every category.
Cheese, Charcuterie, Nuts: Part 1.
The first spread of cheese included brie, swiss, manchego, and the local specialty "Serra", served whole with a little spoon to scoop out.  I tried the brie and swiss, both cut into nice sized chunks, both decent enough.

The first section of charcuterie contained prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, and mortadella.  I tried the mortadella, it was fine, not remarkable.

This area also had some whole nuts and dried fruit: hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, raisins.  I grabbed some almonds (blanched) to munch on.  They were pretty standard, but good.
Sliced Deli Meats, Smoked Salmon.
Around the corner was more meats, sliced ham and turkey, and smoked salmon with onion, capers, and lemon slices.
Fresh Cheese.
There was also fresh cheeses, sliced queso fresco and the other chunks of "flamengo cheese".

The flamengo cheese was a very soft, mild fresh cheese, fairly flavorless, but I think would be great used like paneer or cottage cheese in something.  The queso fresco was my favorite of all the cheeses, nice flavor, good firmness.
Yogurts, Butter.
On the side was packaged yogurts in assorted flavors, drinkable yogurt, butter (with and without salt), margarine, and little glass cups of yogurt.

I didn't try the packaged products, but took a glass jar of yogurt, and made a parfait.

The yogurt was tart and pretty good, and I loved topping it with the extensive topping options from other stations.   I really enjoyed the assortment of toppings to make my yogurt parfait, as I added fresh cut fruit, cereal, nuts, seeds, jams and honey.  I was pretty happy with the results, although, I took the photo here before I realized I wanted even more toppings, and went back to load it up.
Fruit, Cereal, Seeds, Jam.
The cereal selection was the same as the Sheraton Lisbon, except here it was actually labelled: All Bran, All Bran with Fruit, Corn Flakes, and Chocapic  (ok, so, the sign said "All Brain", but, at least they tried!) .  There was one type of milk next to the cereal.  No hot cereal or porridge.

I liked using the All Bran with Fruit as a crunchy topping on my yogurt parfait.  This was the same cereal that I found moderately enjoyable at the Sheraton Lisboa Executive Lounge.

This area also a big jar with honey and two big jars of jam.  The honey had a huge spoon, and was really difficult to serve.  I ended up with way too much and made a horrible mess both times I tried to use it.  The jams were not labelled, which was a bit strange because everything else was so well labelled, but, one seemed to be a mixed berry and the other perhaps peach?  They were both sweet, and pretty tasty, great to use as a topping on my yogurt.  No nut butters or Nutella.

The jars in front had goji berries and other seeds, including chia and sesame.  The goji berries made a great yogurt parfait topping too.  The jar presentation was cute.
Fresh Fruit: Part 1.
Next came fruit.  In the back jars was stewed pears and peaches, next came chopped kiwi, oranges, and melon, and in front was larger kiwi slices and papaya.

The fruit was the best I had in Portugal.  I had sorta decided that kiwi in Portugal was just bad, since the breakfast buffet at the Sheraton Lisboa had such bad kiki, as did Weeel on the froyo (stay tuned, great froyo, besides the kiwi), but this was ripe, juicy, and flavorful.  I added the cut kiki on top of my parfait.

The papaya was really ripe and fresh too.
Fresh Fruit: Part 2.
Next came sliced pineapple, watermelon, other melon, and larger orange segments.

On the side was also whole fruit, including bananas, apples, pears, and more.

I was impressed with both the range and freshness of the fruit.

Hot Foods

Next, was hot items.  There was no made-to-order egg station, only a buffet.
Hot Buffet.
Here we had all the standard buffet classics:  bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, baked beans, rosti potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, and a mixed veggie.

I tried only the bacon, it was crispy, but super greasy, and tasted more porky than I like.
Buffet Close Up: Sausage, Mushrooms, Rosti Potatoes.
I didn't try any of this, but it looked identical to other Sheraton offerings.
Pancake Machine!!!!
I turned the corner, and saw this.  Yes, a self-serve instant pancake machine.  One of the Google offices I visited had one of these, and I quickly learned that it was more of a novelty than anything actually tasty, but you know me, I couldn't resist.

Fresh pancakes in 60 seconds!  And, likely better than those that have been sitting in a buffet for hours ... and if nothing else, more fun.

I pressed the button, put my plate out, and 60 seconds later, 2 pancakes rolled on on.

Real maple syrup was provided, a luxury, but I'm guessing not many people actually use the machine, given the plethora of other options.
Insta-Pancake.
The pancakes were ... kinda boring.

Thin, flavorless, but, fresh I guess, and basically just a means to get butter and syrup into my body.  I wouldn't get them again.

Baked Goods

And then ... the best part of any buffet for me, and usually the part that makes me the most disapointed: the baked goods.

Here, we had an incredible selection, and actually, some hits!
Breads, Croissants, and more.
The first station started with breads, sliced breads, whole loafs to slice yourself, and rolls.  There was a toaster available as well.

Ojan didn't make it down to breakfast, so I made him a platter with meats, cheeses, and breads to make his own little sandwiches.  I tried a couple of the breads, when he didn't finish it all.  They were mostly hard and not great.  The one I did like was a raisin roll, softer than the others, with juicy raisins inside.  I had a fresh cheese and fruit spread in the room that I used on it, and thought it was a pretty tasty combo.

This area also had assorted pastries like croissants (regular, whole wheat, chocolate), apple turnovers, raisin swirls, and a few others.  I tried the raisin swirl and it was ok, the pastry wasn't flaky and buttery, but it wasn't as spongy as sometimes happens at buffets.  It had juicy raisins and a custard filing.

I also tried the little rolls on the top right.  They looked sorta like donut holes, but not glazed, and in the bread station.  I think they were little Portuguese sweet breads, but they were kinda stale tasting.

Also in this area, on the right hand front side, you can see the little mini waffle things.  I was super excited by these, but they were sorta like just eggy waffle shaped cookies, not really waffles.  Amusingly, one kid who was dining near me had a huge, huge plate full of these and nothing else.  He refused to eat anything else, and you could see his parents were just resigned to it.
Cookies, Cakes, Donuts, oh my!
And then I turned the corner to all the goodness.

Donuts, so many types of donuts.  Cookies ... for breakfast.   Cakes.  Brownies.

Yup, "breakfast".

The brownies (front right) were ok, they had walnuts and a decent enough chocolate flavor.

I tried one cake from the back row, the almond cake, labelled as a speciality.  It was dry and boring.  The other cakes, chocolate and orange, looked equally boring so I didn't try them.  I'm just not into pound cakes ever.

I also took some cookies (front left basket) to go.  I'm not really a cookie person, but I knew some were local specialities, and I figured Ojan might like them.  They were far better than I expected (of course I tried!).

The one on the front right had cinnamon on top, and was soft and crumbly, sorta like a biscuit.  I believe these are called Bolinhos de Canela, aka, Cinnamon Cookies.  Next to that, front left, was the larger one that was very soft, I think actually perhaps a scone, and glazed.  Top left was a harder style, rolled in sugar, with a good buttery base.  These were "areias", Portuguese "sand" cookies, literally just butter cookies.   All far better than I anticipated.  I was glad to get to try some local items.
Stuffed Raspberry Donut(!)
But, the donuts.  Oh my.

The first day at the Sheraton Lisboa I kinda liked the little mini donuts, in a very nostalgic way.  These were a similar experience, except this location had a ton more types and I liked them even more.

The first one I took had a pink glaze and white sprinkles.  I bit into it, and was met with surprise.  It was stuffed!  With pink stuff!

I LOVED this.  It was sweet, soft, fluffy bread.  The glaze was sweet and the perfect thickness.  The filling was sweet and fruity.

I ate it in about two bites.

I got one for Ojan, that looked exactly the same, and ... it had no filling.  I have no idea why some were filled and others weren't.  He rejected it, and I quickly devoured that one too, still tasty, but better with stuffing.

The next day, I got another, and, just like before, mine was filled, and I again really loved it.
Vanilla Glaze with Caramel Drizzle, Chocolate Glaze with Nuts, Almond Cake.
Even the first day, with my giant plate of food, I couldn't stop eating the donuts, and returned for more.

Next I tried the one with white glaze and a caramel drizzle.  I hoped it would be stuffed with caramel or cream, but it wasn't.  It was still plenty tasty though, sweet fluffy dough, sweet icing.  My least favorite of the ones I tried though.

I moved on to a chocolate glazed with nuts (regular chocolate glaze was also available).  It too had no filling (nor did the plain chocolate glazed I got for Ojan).  Again, good, soft, fluffy dough (more like a sweet bread than what I think of as a donut, but that isn't a bad thing, it meant it wasn't greasy or oily or too fried).  Again I enjoyed it, and felt that the thick chocolate glaze was just right.

I didn't try the sugar coated ring donuts, as they seemed far less exciting than the icing topped ones.

The final donut selection was donut holes in a separate basket, not stuffed, not particularly interesting.
Chocolate Iced (and stuffed) with Nuts.
The second day, I grabbed a chocolate icing topped with nuts donut again, and bit into it, and, much to my very happy surprise, I found it was stuffed!  Stuffed with a wonderful chocolate cream.

This one turned out to be my absolute favorite, as I liked the crunchy nuts on top and the creamy chocolate filling.  I quickly sent Ojan a message to get these when he went to breakfast, and, lols, just like the first day, he got one and it wasn't stuffed.  His second one however was, and there really was no way to know if one would have filling or not.

I'm curious now if there were any of the vanilla/caramel ones with filling, as I think that would have been my favorite, but, alas, I was only in the hotel for two days, and, I had 4-5 donuts every day, and well, even I have my limits.
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