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Deen, Horseshoe open buffet

Deen, Horseshoe open buffet
Deen, Horseshoe open buffet
Flanked by her husband, Michael, left, and son, Bobby, celebrity chef Paula Deen greets a diner Friday at the grand opening of the Paula Deen Buffet and Retail Outlet at Horseshoe Southern Indiana. Photo by Alan Stewart (click for larger version)

The list of legendary acts Horseshoe Southern Indiana Casino and Hotel has hosted in the past reads like a who’s who across all genres of music.
But a person would be hard-pressed to name anyone who drew as much attention as the Queen of Southern Cuisine did Friday at Horseshoe. Folks armed with giant cookbooks and cameras of all types packed every nook and crannie of the long, wide walkway in the main atrium to catch a glimpse of the rock star, er, celebrity cook, Paula Deen.
Cheers erupted and flash bulbs popped when Deen, joined by her husband, Michael, and one of her two sons, Bobby, cut the ribbon on the Paula Deen Buffet and Retail Outlet. The new buffet ‘ featuring all sorts of southern fare ‘ replaces the Villa Buffet that had been a staple at the Bridgeport casino since it opened in 1998.
It cost the casino $3.4 million to renovate the facility.
The facade of the 525-seat buffet resembles a country home, and, unlike the Villa Buffet, dining areas hope to make customers almost feel as if they are in Deen’s residence in Savannah, Ga. One dining room features vaulted ceilings with bright chandeliers and ceiling fans; another area near the smorgasbord of desserts has a front-porch feel.
‘I think it’s beautiful. And, of course, the food is really good,’ Erica Makurat said.
Makurat, of Bloomington, brought her daughter, Hailey Rose, 4, to meet Deen. Rose wore a shirt that read, ‘Got butter?’ which brought a hearty laugh and a big hug from the butter-loving cook when they met.
As diners ate Friday, Deen made her way through the area, signing autographs and posing for photos at each table.
The new buffet features stations modeled after Deen’s well-known Savannah eateries, The Lady & Sons and Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, and includes Deen Brothers’ Barbecue.
Just a few of the items included in the buffet are potato salad, macaroni salad, macaroni and cheese, pork loin, barbecue ribs, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, baked chicken, southern fried chicken, green beans, lima beans, collard greens, crab boil, fried pickles, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, grilled oysters, raw oysters, crab cakes, roast beef and smoked sausage. But don’t toss back that hoe cake (Deen’s sweet, buttery form of corn bread); there’s a long list of desserts, too, including butter cakes.
‘The Paula Deen Buffet will be an asset to both Horseshoe and the Kentuckiana region, drawing in thousands of new visitors by offering a truly unique dining experience within the region’s leading entertainment destination, Horseshoe Casino,’ Eileen Moore, senior vice president and general manager at Horseshoe, said. ‘From The Lady’s mac and cheese and fried green tomatoes to Paula’s famous hoe cakes and key lime pie, the menu is sure not to disappoint.’
Approximately 200 people paid $80 each to take part in Friday’s lunch with Deen. The $80 will pay to feed one child each weekend for a year as part of the Blessings in a Backpack program. With an equal match from the Harrison County Community Foundation, about 400 children will benefit from the lunch.
Prices for the buffet are as follows: breakfast, $11.99; lunch, $15.99; dinner, $19.99; seafood nights (Friday and Saturday), $27.99; and Sunday brunch, $19.99.
In addition to eating at the buffet, diners can walk off a few calories as they peruse the retail outlet, where they can purchase Deen’s signature items, such as aprons, cookbooks, cookware and even items from her newly introduced furniture line in the 1,357-square-foot store designed after her kitchen as seen on her Food Network shows.
Deen helps fill backpacks
Students at S. Ellen Jones Elementary School in New Albany didn’t seem to care that celebrity chef Paula Deen was fashionably late. They still cheered her appearance and even sang her a song written by a teacher and some of the students.
After Deen spoke to the children, she proceeded to an assembly line, where she helped fill approximately 270 backpacks as part of Blessings in a Backpack, which sends each child home with food for the weekend.
Blessings in a Backpack is a program that helps feed more than 25,000 students in 21 states across America.
‘Everyone was yelling and screaming, and it was cool. It’s really fun to have a famous person in our school,’ fourth-grader Mykailya Jones said. ‘It reminds you of her show and how she cooks. Did you know I even got to hug her? She’s so nice. And I loved her hair. She’s very pretty.’
Another fourth-grader, Lucia Laffita, joined Jones in giving Deen a thank-you card with the lyrics to the song the students sang. She was also the recipient of a hug from Deen.
‘It’s nice she’s giving out food for people because some people don’t have food. She doesn’t have to do that, but she does. It’s really nice,’ Laffita said.
‘These children are so precious. The men and women (at S. Ellen Jones), and I say this based on a first impression, they do a fabulous job with their children. They were all so polite and said ‘thank you’ and they were just so nice,’ Deen said. ‘These children are our future. They’ll be the ones taking care of us. They are my blessings. I know that this visit today was for the children and to help feed their souls, but, like I told someone else, my soul got fed today. I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to do this.
‘I was putting food in their backpack. They have no idea what they gave to me today.’
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