Business travel: It’s not always glamorous! Missing a golden opportunity in Philly…

Not all posts have to be long narratives, right?  Today, I flew from MKE to DTW – where I was delayed, delayed, and further delayed before finally making my way to PHL.  I was attempting to meet my colleague for dinner prior to a customer visit tomorrow morning.  It turns out he was even further delayed and we missed the opportunity to meet up.

He will be retiring in less than two weeks, so this was a bummer for a few reasons: 1) I enjoy spending time with him – talking “family life’ and always learning new things about our business and industry, 2) we seem to have a knack for having good food togethernot always fancy, but tasty, and 3) this will probably be our last business trip together – then he’s off to chilling by the pool and babysitting the grandkids!  (I’ll still be working – for a long time!)

Instead, I find myself in the hotel restaurant, choosing what seemed like one of the healthier and more appealing options:

Hummus, Kalamata olives, cucumbers, tomatoes and mixed greens, with warmed pita points.

Hummus, Kalamata olives, cucumbers, tomatoes and mixed greens, with warmed pita points.

It’s not what I had in mind when I thought Loren and I would meet for dinner, conversation, and business discussions, but it’s the reality of business travel sometimes!  And, the hummus was tasty, the veggies were fresh, and the dish was light.  I could have done much worse!

I’m off to Vegas for work next week (I’ve already refilled my anti-anxiety pill prescription, knowing what that city will do to me!).

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I am, however, looking forward to some good food!  If you have any “must-do” suggestions for Vegas, I’m open to reading them in the comments!  I need all the help I can get to survive that nutty place!

:-)

Cheers!

Ker

Saying goodbye, with fond memories. Recalling a great brunch at Trocadero Gastrobar, Milwaukee

A few weeks back, I had lunch with the guy I had been dating at the time.  Not the right man for me, but we had many fun times together. I appreciated that this man knows and enjoys so many places around Milwaukee.  He introduced me to some very cool places. One of those times was at Trocadero Gastrobar on Water Street near Brady.  I had never been to Trocadero, and, I was in for a treat!

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Courtesy of Google search.

It was a chilly Milwaukee morning, so I was craving a warm beverage. Those of you who know me, know that I do NOT drink coffee!  And, frankly, I haven’t had hot cocoa in quite some time either.  BUT…the Mexican hot cocoa, mixed with Godiva Chocolate Liqueor, Ancho Reyes Liqueor, and sprinkled with cinnamon was too tempting to pass up!  Drinking in the AM is okay when it’s masked by hot cocoa, right?? :-)

Please let the photo speak for itself!

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Amazing!!!

My brunch companion decided to have the spiciest jalapeno Bloody Mary on the menu.  It did have good flavor, for sure!  Quite a bite, as he once or twice had to “recover” from the “hot hit”.

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He doesn’t appreciate photos being posted, and although we’re not together any longer, I certainly respect his wishes.  So, I’ve superimposed (comically, and in a way that will make any “creative type” cringe) someone with whom I’d adore having brunch!  Ever since he appeared on Alias almost 15 years ago, Michael Vartan has had a major fan here!

_notGCI include the picture at all because he  was holding up the menu…a key piece of information!  Plus, my then boyfriend was kindly helping to make the picture a bit more interesting.  His idea, as he supported my unusual dining habits and my blogging.

For brunch,  I had the BELT – bacon, fried eggs, lettuce, tomato, garlic aoli, and Breadsmith herbed focaccia.  I had asked for avocado to be added to it, but alas…the one downfall of Trocadero Gastrobar is that they don’t offer avocado on any dishes.  Boo to that! Still, it deserves to be mentioned that the bread was so soft and delicious (not like any focaccia I have ever had!), and the sandwich was just fabulous!

The picture does not do the sandwich justice!  Trust me, it was SO good!

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He had the biscuits and gravy (Southern roots coming out, y’all?). House-made cheddar biscuits, white country gravy, two eggs. A large portion, but I can tell y’all that this man was pretty darned happy with the choice.

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We both really enjoyed our respective meals tremendously, and each others’ company very much. A lovely late morning/early afternoon out in our beloved Milwaukee. Plus, the atmosphere at Trocadero is quite casual and cool.

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Courtesy of Google search.

Unfortunately, all good things seem to come to an end, and we ultimately determined we were not a good fit for each other.  Perhaps we’ll find friendship together, but in any case, I wish him happiness in life.

I had originally reported that this was the weekend of NCAA March Madness consumption.  I was a week off.  It would be a week later that we decided to sit on the couch and watch NCAA basketball, and eventually ordered Smoke Shack BBQ to bring home.  Yum, yum, yum!

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It was also the day that I watched my baby of 13+ years begin to lose the use of his hind legs, and would ultimately experience the single most difficult day of my life…saying a tearful, heartbreakingly sad goodbye to my Seamus.

I was blessed to have this gorgeous goofball / knucklehead / ever-loving, angel of a baby live 14+ years (13 with me, after surviving and thriving after being rescued from an abusive home).  It has SUCKED to say the least, but I know that I will recognize that the good times will far outweigh the sorrow – in time.

RIP, my angel.  I could not have loved you more, my sweet baby.

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– Ker

Casablanca and Next Generation UPAF – May 6th – Mark Your Calendar!

A little over a month ago, on a Monday night, I agreed to meet the man I had been out with a few times for dinner – prior to my leaving for Florida on a business trip.  He suggested (and made a reservation at, as he always does!) Casablanca on Brady Street.  Although we really enjoyed the delicious Middle Eastern food, I was more intent on enjoying the evening with the guy I would find myself dating, and then walking away from (aka: the eventual ex-boyfriend), than on taking photos to share in a blog post.

However, a few weeks later, through my affiliation with Next Generation UPAF, I found myself being hosted to another dining experience at Casablanca by a fellow Next Genner, Nadia, whose family owns the restaurant.  It was the perfect opportunity to take pictures and write a post! Oh, and to enjoy more delicious Middle Eastern food and traditions!

Nadia and her family have generously offered to host a fund raiser for UPAF on Wednesday May 6th, and she wanted a few people to come by and check out the restaurant, the food, and the Hookah.

I met Nadia at the upper level bar (Casablanca is a huge restaurant!).  She greeted me warmly and started to explain the concept of Hookah to me.  The flavors (citrus, mint, etc), the technique (think Clinton), and the social aspect of Hookah. When Nadia gave me my own mouthpiece, I sampled from her bowl.  I can honestly say that smoking Hookah isn’t “my thing”, but when in Rome…

At the bar, trying Hookah with Nadia.

At the bar, trying Hookah with Nadia.

Shortly thereafter, two others joined us, Craig and Kristi. Both work at Apex Systems, and have worked with Nadia in the past.  And, both were lovely folks – it was very easy to feel comfortable with these two!

Nadia, having checked out my blog, already knew that I would trust her and the servers to choose good food for me that evening.  And, they did!

We started with Adas Majrous (lentil soup) – which was wonderfully flavorful and had great consistency.

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Then, as we were enjoying casual conversation, we munched on some deliciously simple hummus and meat with warm, fresh pita bread.

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Our entrees were served quickly thereafter.  I was served chicken and beef kabobs with basmati rice.  A great combination of proteins and vegetables – all perfectly flavored.

IMG_1600During our dinner conversation, we talked about the event Casablanca will host on May 6th. From 5:30-8:30PM that evening, Casablanca will have guest bartenders from local businesses (including Nadia’s employer, Rockwell Automation).  The tips and a percentage of the bar take will be donated to the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).  There will be delicious a Middle Eastern food buffet, a complimentary round of drinks, prizes (vouchers for the performing arts), belly dancers and other entertainment throughout the evening.

We took a brief break to enjoy a few bites of a surprise delivery of baklava (yum!).  I ended up taking a few pieces home to share with my house guest and to munch on later!  And then continued with our conversation.

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With the space Casablanca offers, the FABULOUS food, and the generosity of the owners, this should be a fantastically fun evening out!  “Like” their Facebook page for more information about this event as well as “Classic Movie Night”, “wine and canvas”, and other special events.

I hope to see local folks on May 6th for a great night out in support of the performing arts!

Cheers!

Ker

Date Night at Zak’s Cafe

I’m almost a month late in writing this post, but that is no reflection on the food or the experience I had at Zak’s Cafe in Walker’s Point.  I had been on a few dates with a great guy, so this was our third or fourth time out.  I can honestly say that I’m not really sure because what ultimately was our first date happened quite by accident!  It was a situation of being out at an event together, having a wonderful time, noticing the chemistry, and then asking each other if that had been a date!  We agreed that it had been, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Our dinner at Zak’s was relaxed and enjoyable.  John was our server for the evening.  When I handed him the blog card, he didn’t even flinch!  Turns out that he did share it with the bartender, Rosalyn (sp?).  She came over with a glass of wine that she felt would pair really nicely with the “fantastic dish” they had chosen for me.  It was a glass of the Dante Reserve Pinot Noir, and Rosalyn quickly obliged when I asked to photograph the bottle…

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Typically, I’m not big on Pinots, because they tend to be a little on the light side.  My date has the same taste in wine, so he shared the same skepticism.  I quickly ascertained that Rosalyn was right, and I had jumped the gun on judging the wine.  It had great flavor on it’s own, but also paired really nicely with the food that was coming.

We started off by sharing the crab stuffed mushrooms.  Okay, mushrooms stuffed with crab meat, covered with cheese and baked to perfection?  Who can pass that up!  They were a wonderful start to the meal!

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Next came a cream of mushroom soup.  The consistency was perfect, though I felt it needed a bit more flavor.  Black pepper to the rescue!

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Finally, when my meal had been delivered, I was served up the short ribs.  Braised and slow roasted, served in a red wine vegetable gravy on a bed of mashed potatoes.  Melt in your mouth delicious!

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It’s hard to do this dish justice in photographs because it’s not one of those “beautifully plated” dishes, but trust me…the flavor, textures, and overall meal were exceptional!  My date had the prime rib, which he really enjoyed, but when he took a bite of my meal…an audible sigh of approval came out.  He actually ended up taking the leftovers home for lunch the next day!  And, then texted me about how delicious lunch was!  :-)

Not only was the food and wine fantastic at Zak’s, not to mention my company for the evening (wink), but the service was superb.  And, I love that Rosalyn mentioned that she would really appreciate if more “indecisive customers” would give her guidance like my blog card does!  It’s always nice to get some encouragement along the way!

After heading out from Zak’s, we didn’t really have much of a plan.  We ended up going to Bugsy’s – a cool speakeasy downtown.  My date and I had lots of great conversation, and no shortage of entertainment from the folks who had clearly been enjoying the libations for a while!  After several hours of getting to know each other better, and of watching crazy non-sober people, we headed to our respective homes for the evening.  Not before determining our next date, of course!  ;-)

If you have a chance to get out to Zak’s and/or Bugsy’s I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Cheers!

Ker

Lunching and Brunching in Milwaukee

This past weekend was a bit decadent for me. No real “working”, and lots of quality time with neighborhood friends.

On Saturday, my neighbor Andrew and I decided to head to The Historic Third Ward for a late lunch (mostly due to the fact that I indulged in a late morning nap!). Andrew suggested trying Swig after reading about it on Urbanspoon. I had heard of Swig and had passed by the place, but hadn’t stopped in yet, so I was game!

Natural light by way of a garage doorfront.  Mixed media decor. A nice, comfortable vibe (IMO).

Natural light by way of a garage doorfront. Mixed media decor. A nice, comfortable vibe (IMO).

Swig has a rustic modern casual vibe and because we were lunching at 2:30PM on a Saturday, the place was fairly empty. Andrew and I were seated at a table near the fireplace (the thing I miss most about my last apartment!) and greeted warmly by Kate, our server for the afternoon. I immediately liked Kate because she had spunk! As Andrew contemplated having a drink, Kate quickly called him out about enjoying the weekend – and soon after he was enjoying a Ginger Old Fashioned. Kate: 1, Andrew: won!

Ginger Old Fashioned

Ginger Old Fashioned

I was impressed, and overwhelmed with the menu.  I knew that I wanted a house salad – I needed my veggies!  Beyond that, I could have chosen almost anything!  The two items that bubbled to the top of the list for me were the Brie Grilled Cheese (I LOVE Brie, and I haven’t had it in quite some time) and the Crab Cake appetizer.  If I’m *really* honest with y’all, the baked Brie appetizer was appealing as well!

Long story short, I asked Kate to surprise me by choosing between the two and by choosing a flight of wine for me to enjoy along with the chosen meal.  She was on board from the get-go.

*side note: At Swig, you may choose your own flight of wine (three 2oz glasses – of your choosing) and then a 5 oz glass – all for $15. 

There was no way that I was going to be able to choose a wine flight with so many options from which to choose!

Borgo Pinot Grigio, Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc, and Crème de Lys Chardonnay.

Borgo Pinot Grigio, Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc, and Crème de Lys Chardonnay.

An incredibly tasty house salad (and only $4.50).

An incredibly tasty house salad (and only $4.50).

The house salad was loaded up with veggies and topped with parmesan cheese.  And, the dressing was AMAZING!

An amazing sweet and spicy apricot vinaigrette dressing!

An delicious sweet and spicy apricot vinaigrette dressing!

Kate gave me an idea of how to make this apricot vinaigrette, and after lunch Andrew and I promptly walked to Oro di Oliva in the Public Market to buy the appropriate vinegar!

Andrew decided to go “Ahi all the way”, with the seared tuna, arugula, and avocado salad with chimichurri sauce.

Seared Tuna salad with lots of avocado!

Seared Tuna salad with lots of avocado!

I was envious of all of the avocado that accompanied the beautiful seared tuna!  We both thoroughly enjoyed our salads, and probably could have stopped there, as they were generous portions.  But, we didn’t!

Kate brought me the crab cakes small plate.  These meaty crab cakes were covered in panko crumbs, sat on avocado puree, and were covered with roasted corn relish (another fave!).

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Like I mentioned, these were meaty (real) crab cakes.  The flavors were mild, but really tasty, and the wine paired beautifully with the dish.  For my 5 oz pour, I decided on the Crème de Lys Chardonnay.

Andrew stuck with the ginger Old Fashioned and had the Ahi tuna sandwich which had spring mix, red onion, wasabi aioli, and tomato cucumber salsa on it.  It was a big, and beautiful sandwich! Andrew said he liked that it had the teryaki flavor to it, making it a different experience from the salad he had just enjoyed.  The tomato-basil soup looked pretty thick and tasty as well!

IMG_1477[1]We ended up enjoying a few adult beverages and just hanging out on a Saturday afternoon.  After hitting up the Public Market, we stopped in at Hudson’s Business Lounge – simply because Andrew had never been in there.  It’s a cool shared space office building that my work team had used last year for an off-site working session.  There is a full bar attached, so we spent a few minutes there before calling it a night.  Nothing like a five-hour lunch!  :-)

Then, in a blink of an eye, it was Sunday!

I had previously made plans to have brunch with my friend Katie on Sunday morning.  The original plan was to head to the Hotel Metro because I love their breakfast and Katie had yet to experience it.  However, after talking with a colleague about Black Sheep, we decided to head down to Walker’s Point and hit it up.

We arrived just as the doors opened and found a small high-top table for two – which was a good thing since the place filled up pretty quickly!

After day-drinking with Andrew the afternoon before, I wasn’t sure I wanted to have a drink with brunch, but the list was intriguing.  After tasting the Wolf’s Spiked Tea, and having our server Corrine hint that there may be maple in it, I decided to head in a different direction and ordered the 2nd Street Cup (Canton, cranberry, lemonade and champagne), and after striking out twice with her orders (due to missing ingredients), Katie ended up choosing the Perfectly Peared (Belle de Brillet Cognac, pear nectar, and champagne).  Both were refreshing and light – and didn’t taste too heavy on the alcohol!  And, through the tea-tasting, Corrine learned of my disdain for maple (and she shares it due to a bad experience in the past!  I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE!!)

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The 2nd Street Cup in the foreground and the Perfectly Peared in the background.

As I perused the brunch menu, I couldn’t find any item that was off-limits, and so many things looked yummy.  Corinne was on board for choosing just as Kate had been the day before.  And, she made a great choice for me!  Lobster Benedict, which consisted of poached eggs, lobster meat, arugula, hardwood smoked bacon, tomato confit and hollendaise sauce all atop brioche toast.  Did I mention it was a decadent weekend?  ;-)

Lobster Benedict

Lobster Benedict

Katie chose what I learned is a Wisconsin staple:  Hot Ham & Rolls – which is a Parker House roll with shaved smoked Berkshire ham, maple butter (ick!) and two eggs. Though Katie mentioned this was a simple dish, she also said it had really good flavor.  We also agreed that Black Sheep’s fries were excellent – crispy and flavorful.

Hot ham & rolls.

Hot ham & rolls.

Both Swig and Black Sheep are local spots that I plan to revisit, especially since we didn’t try any of the wines on tap at Black Sheep!

Do you have a favorite daytime destination?  Please feel free to share in the comments!

Cheers!

Ker

 

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