Archive for the category ““American” dining”

A month of celebrations!

My birthday is right in the middle of March, but I celebrate all month long! This year, my friends and I joked that it’s also a celebration of my “divorce” from my former employer – as the separation was finalized just two days before my birthday. So… we celebrated!

My friends spoiled me quite a bit this year. I think we were all itching to get back out to restaurants after two years at home, and they were all anxious to treat me to something special since I’m often baking for them. Speaking of which, my friend (and neighbor) Kathy and I had another super fun “baking date” to make Guinness chocolate cupcakes with Bailey’s Irish Cream icing for St. Patrick’s Day (and my birthday) – which the neighbor’s eagerly gobbled up! (I threw in a photo of Rory and one of McPaddy just because they’re cute!)

The week of eating my way through the greater Milwaukee area started off with an impromptu dinner at The Knick with my next door neighbor, Brenda. It was a gorgeous spring evening and we enjoyed dining out on the patio. A lovely evening of catching up and enjoying some outside time together.

The next evening (St. Patrick’s Day / my birthday), my friends Wayne, Yazan and Kelly had planned to take me to dinner at Milwaukee Steakhouse. I will admit that I barely ate that day, knowing that I would be enjoying a remarkable steak later that evening. 🙂 Milwaukee Steakhouse has a traditional steakhouse atmosphere – inviting, not too fancy, and a pleasant place in which to have a delicious meal. Plus, our server brought her own spunk to the experience!

Following munching on the relish tray and fried cauliflower, I delighted in a perfect 6 oz filet mignon with bleu cheese crumbles and sauteed mushrooms.

6 oz filet mignon and sauteed mushrooms

The four of us sat at the table having great conversation and lots of laughs before returning back to the city and continuing the conversation into the late hours of the evening. It was a perfect birthday!

Then, of course, I had to use the cauliflower I had at home to attempt to replicate the appetizer. I think I did a pretty good job. Remember, Milwaukee Steakhouse, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! 😉

The following evening, my friends (and more neighbors) Peter, Iris and Kathy treated me to a divine dinner at Birch downtown. This is one of their regular haunts, but I had not been since well before Pandemic hit us. I allowed my neighbors, Peter and Iris to choose the food of the evening, and they did not disappoint!

We started off with the Chef’s bite, followed by grilled garlic focaccia, beef tartare, and sweet potato and braised short rib skewers. Each small plate was individually incredible! We then enjoyed duck ragu and “chicken under a brick” for the entrees – splitting everything amongst the four of us. I don’t recall having ever had such moist and tender chicken, and pairing it with homemade pasta – perfection!

We ended the meal with two desserts. Oof! Does any birthday ever go unacknowledged with a grand dessert? The goat cheese cheesecake was definitely my favorite of the two, though the chocolate tarte with sea salt and house-made whipped cream was certainly decadent!

I had to take Saturday as a day of rest!

Because… on Sunday, my friends Kelly, Wayne, Yazan, Nabeel and I went to Central Standard Craft Distillery for brunch and a drag show. I asked our server, Dory, to choose her favorite thing on the menu and to surprise me. She delivered churro French toast. My friends were a bit concerned because they know that I don’t typically like sweet dishes – at least I don’t gravitate toward them. However, I ate every bite of that French toast (after removing the small pitcher of maple syrup from the area). It was not too sweet, and the cinnamon added a bit of warmth to the overall flavor. No complaints!

Following brunch, we headed upstairs to Central Standard’s event space which was all made up for an afternoon of drag queens lip-syncing to party music for a couple of hours. What better way to spend a Sunday out with friends?!?

I couldn’t leave without purchasing the woman’s v-neck version of this t-shirt!

I honestly have not been this busy, seen so many friends, or enjoyed myself so much in a long time! I’m really grateful to have such wonderful people in my life. I wish everybody could be so fortunate!

I’ve also really been enjoying some time off for the first time in a long, long time. I’m taking Marie Kondo’s advice and evaluating what brings me joy in my professional life before making a decision on the next steps. I’m also confusing myself because I am really enjoying all of the baking and cooking that I’ve been doing, but I’m terrified of starting a business of my own – be it a side hustle, a storefront, a gig as a personal chef, etc. It’s something I talk about with friends frequently but have yet to act on. At least the ink is dry on the “divorce papers” and I am free to move in a better direction. 😀

How many people are getting back out into the world of dining out? Did you ever really take the break that I did? Are we finally coming to a phase in this COVID world where we might stabilize? I’m sure hoping so!

Now, I still have one more week in my birthday month, so I’ll be adding to this. My friend Nabeel is taking me to lunch today, and I’m meeting up with Brenda’s friend, Leslie, for some networking time next week. The fun truly does not ever end!

Cheers!

Ker

Doors Open Milwaukee Weekend – A Honeypie Breakfast

I’m so far behind in blogging. Since I took my current role back in February, I haven’t been able to make time to enjoy writing new posts. I have one from a conference in Miami in March to write. I have others from various travel, including Louisville, and I someday hope to get to them!

However, my brother, Adam, is visiting this weekend, as he does every year for Doors Open Milwaukee (#DOMKE) weekend. DOMKE is the perfect mash-up for Adam’s interests in architecture and photography. It also provides me a bit of downtime to actually sit and write!

We started our weekend at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater seeing “In the Heights”, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda back in 2005. It’s a high-energy musical with great vocals, amazing dancing, and a great story line. We then attended an after-party with music and interactions with cast members. One of my friends and I were absolutely fascinated by a particular member of the ensemble (shown here) – those moves she has – WOW!

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After that late, fun night along with Mike (pictured above), his wife Christy, and our friend Chuck (who gave us a tour of the newly renovated Stackner Cabaret Theater), Adam and I decided to start #DOMKE in Cudahy, and therefore have breakfast in Bay View. So, Honeypie it was!

I’ve been there once before, with Sweet Phi, and really should visit more often! I couldn’t decide amongst three options on the menu:

BREAKFAST CASSEROLE biscuit, roasted potatoes, mushrooms, sausage gravy, cheddar cheese, bacon, sunny egg $13

BREAKFAST RISOTTO pork belly, Fernwood kale, cranberry beans, radicchio, herb butter, poached egg, parmesan $14

SHRIMP & GRITS bacon, andouille, roasted pepper, tomato, poached egg, gremolata $16

Jordan, our server, was “on it”. She chose the Shrimp & Grits which were full of flavor (and full in the bowl!). She checked in several times, made sure we were all set with beverages, to-go boxes, and even “reserved” the last piece of chocolate fudge bourbon pie for me to take home. Now, I have shrimp & grits for another meal as well as a slice of Honeypie’s famous pie. (PS: Jordan’s choice may or may not have been influenced by my sporting my Clemson Tiger gear)

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Read more…

Fahrenheit Cleveland – 15 Years Later, Still Tremont’s Hot Spot, December 2017

My family has a tradition of driving to downtown Cleveland (or thereabouts) to enjoy a nice family dinner together. Four the past four years, we’ve done this, and I know we plan to continue the tradition. It’s really nice that my brother takes the reins on picking the spot and making the reservation! He’s become quite the foodie around Cleveland, and always comes up with a good plan.

For me, it’s great to get out of the suburbs and to try some of the culinary delights the Cleveland food scene has to offer! I am a city lady, after all! (downtown Milwaukee is home to me)

This year, we went a little south of downtown to Tremont, OH. Fun fact: This is the city where the house made famous in “A Christmas Story” is located. We had reservations at Fahrenheit Cleveland, owned by Chef Rocco Whalen, and tucked into a great space on a Professor Avenue.

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When we were first seated, we found ourselves at an odd table / booth smooshed between the servers’ aisle, the men’s room door, and the kitchen. It lacked the lighting my parents and uncle needed to read the menu, and it was just a bit uncomfortable. As Chris, our original server was greeting us, my mom asked if we could please be reseated. Chris didn’t think the odds were good, but the manager that evening swiftly found us a nice round table in the back room. Much more comfortable, and much appreciated by my family. Thank you for that great service!

Our server at the round table was Heather, an attentive, knowledgeable, and fun-spirited woman. She gave us a quick rundown of the award-winning and most popular dishes, and allowed us time to peruse the menu while she gathered our drinks. It was during the drink order that I handed Heather my blog card and asked her to pair a glass of wine with her (surprise!) choice for my dinner. Off she went! That same manager came back to clarify the instructions on my card, so I know Heather shared it with others in the back of the house.

My uncle made a quick decision, which I seconded emphatically, to order the grilled avocado with Thai sweet soy sauce, goat cheese, and lime appetizer. Apparently, it was voted Cleveland’s favorite appetizer, and now we know why! Absolutely wonderful! It spreads over the grilled bread for a perfectly delicious bite! (so good that my mom’s “one bite” of mine to try resulted in her eating the whole slice).

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I was served a glass of Chef’s Table Pinot Noir, which Heather mentioned “pairs well with almost everything” – giving no indication of her dinner choice yet. I tend to like hearty red wines, so I was very pleased when I discovered this was a rather hearty Pinot – very tasty.

We enjoyed a little fresh-baked bread, house-made olive tapenade and honey butter between our appetizer and our dessert. My oh my!

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When our main dishes were delivered, I was served the same dish as each of my parents ordered – the award-winning Kobe beef short ribs, served with Teriyaki Lo-Mein noodles, bok choy, roasted mushrooms, ginger, and Soy-apple glaze.

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The flavor was intense, complex and delicious! The meat was so tender, no knife was necessary. Finally, the portion was so large that there was plenty of food left over for another meal. A two-for-one!

The other two meals family members tried, and raved about were: the coffee & mustard crusted pork tenderloin (my brother) and the 18 hour Ohio pork shank (my uncle). Both looked delicious, and I tried the pork shank (and loved it!).

The manager came back to check how things tasted, and let me know that Heather grappled with my request. She was torn between the short ribs and the salmon, but chose the short ribs because the salmon is served with wasabi (bring it on!). Either choice would have been delicious – of that I’m certain!

Now, let me be clear: I did indeed save enough room for dessert, which I asked Heather to choose as well. I had my thoughts about what she might choose, but I was wrong! My first thought was that she would bring the peanut butter tart (because it’s made with a pretzel crust, and I thought that was pretty unique). Then, I thought perhaps Heather would bring the mango mason jar. However, she brought her personal favorite:

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The banana and chocolate bread pudding. Winter warmth and goodness!

To those of you who don’t care for bread pudding, I don’t understand you! 🙂

This was rich with flavor, and the caramelized sugar coating over the bananas gave a bit of crunchy texture to offset the softness of the bread pudding and the bananas themselves.

All in all, my whole family thoroughly enjoyed our experience at Fahrenheit. We would certainly recommend dinner to friends and other family members. And, we would all like to thank the staff for being so understanding and responsive to our request for a different table at the start of our evening out. We really appreciated the accommodation!

Where should are family consider going later this year? There are so many great spots in Cleveland – what are your favorites?

Cheers!

Ker

Superior Service & Delicious Dining at Urban Farmer, Cleveland, OH

Over Labor Day weekend, I visited my family in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. As is our routine, my brother chose a few restaurants for me to pick from. Our family always enjoys a meal out when I visit. Lately, we’ve been trying to head into the city to try some new places (new to our family, anyhow).

This time, one of the restaurants on Adam’s list was Urban Farmer Steakhouse in downtown Cleveland. It only took me seeing that this is a farm-to-table concept restaurant to decide it was the one I was voting to check out. (You probably know of my love for farm-to-table, and specifically Braise here in Milwaukee.)

Urban Farmer

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We entered the rustic, yet elegant restaurant, adjacent to the Westin Hotel, and sat down in a cozy rounded booth. We were greeted by our server, Ashley. Now, I’m just going to say this right now: Ashley is quite possibly the most knowledgeable and impressive servers I have ever encountered. Absolutely top-notch. More on that later.

Ashley walked us through the concept described above – two kitchens (one for cooking, and one with a butchery and bakery), a below-level garden which supplies most of the herbs and vegetables for the restaurant, the relationships with local farms, etc. Then, she walked us through the different cuts of meat, the differences in how the cattle were raised and the impact of their diets on the flavors of the steaks, and the differences in how they are aged to affect tenderness and flavor. Ashley didn’t require any cheat sheets, and she made everyone feel comfortable (and impressed!). On top of her knowledge, she wasn’t the least bit stuffy or dry; she let her sense of humor come through as she inserted jokes and color commentary during her descriptions (“don’t mess with my meat” – she doesn’t believe in sauces or toppings).

When I gave her my card and advised her that she would be choosing my meal, she asked “seriously?”. Yes. “Okay, I know what I’m serving you!” – without hesitation. These are the types of meals I get really excited about because I know the server is going to choose really well.

We opted to get a few side dishes, which Ashley recommended sharing between two or three people. Ashley chose mine as well.

As it turns, out my entire dinner was shared. By far the best entree at our table; the vote was unanimous. That being said, everyone was very pleased with his/her meals.

So, what did Ashley choose, you ask? Wait no longer…

We started off with fresh baked bread (rolls and ah-mazing cast-iron cooked cornbread) and salted butter (which makes all the difference, in my opinion!). Ashley chose the special salad for me: yellow watermelon over Burrata and topped with olives, tomatoes, balsamic and served with two slices of prosciutto. It was light and flavorful – a nice change up to one of my other favorite watermelon salads (watermelon with goat cheese, balsamic and greens and herbs). We were off to a great start!

Next came the entree and side dish.

Wanting to share her favorite with me, Ashley chose the 14 ounce (FOURTEEN OUNCE!!) twenty-one day dry aged bone-in strip steak. It was perfection! Luckily, everyone at the table wanted to try this cut, so I didn’t feel completely overwhelmed or as though I’d have to try to finish it on my own. The plate was clean by the end of the meal though! The steak was really tender and had terrific flavor. It’s a spoiler for any other cut moving forward.

Ashley chose to bring foraged mushrooms as the side. A very nice compliment to the steak, and enough to feed at least four people! At the table we also ordered: potato puree (though my brother wouldn’t share!), asparagus (with cured farm egg yolk and chili), and twice-baked fingerling potato tart with bacon and aged cheddar. Everything was delicious!

Pro tip: you won’t go home hungry from Urban Farmer Steakhouse. Bring an appetite! 

Ashley asked if she should choose a dessert for me. Where to put it?!? Ultimately, since there was a gluten-free option for my brother and my uncle, my parents and I decided to share whatever Ashley decided to bring so we would all enjoy a bit of decadence.

My brother and uncle tried the lemon olive oil cake with kale ice cream (it’s much better than it sounds!), and pepper crisps.

If I were choosing my own, I’d have either gone for the lemon cake or the strawberry rhubarb cobbler with pistachio, buttermilk frozen yogurt and basil, because I generally like citrus or fruit desserts more than chocolate (but, not always!).

However, I was in the most capable hands, and I knew it! Ashley chose the butterscotch sundae with a warm brown butter blondie and toffee chip ice cream. AKA: heaven in a jar!

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Butterscotch sundae with warm brown butter blondie and toffee ice cream

My parents and I kept passing this jar around, taking one delicious bite at a time. The brownie and ice cream were melting into each other, combining incredible flavors together.

While we all walked out of Urban Farmer Steakhouse absolutely full, we walked out feeling like we had just had one of the best meals in a long time. And, we all agreed that Ashley set the bar for outstanding service! In fact, my uncle made it a point to seek her out so he could inform her that she was so impressive that she truly did elevate our experience that evening.

I definitely recommend a visit to Urban Farmer Steakhouse if you’re in Cleveland. I’d love to go back and take a tour of the kitchens and garden  (if the management allows it). Of course, I’d have to stay for dinner again! 🙂

What is your most memorable dining experience? Where were you? I’d love to hear from you!

Cheers!

Ker

Braise! A fabulous in-home dining experience to support Restaurant Supported Agriculture (RSA)

Though this post strays a bit from my normal theme, I wanted to share this special experience with everyone that reads this blog!

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am generally tied into community events and that I was raised to be charitable with my time and money.

Several months ago, in an effort to help support and promote restaurant supported agriculture (RSA), I purchased an in-home dining experience for eight people. This dinner would be prepared by the owner and chef of Braise, Dave Swanson, and would include four courses plus wine pairings.

I was beyond excited to invite some friends over to enjoy some great food – that I wasn’t going to have to cook!

Fast forward a few weeks and know that Becky (general events manager at Braise) was absolutely wonderful to work with during the planning process. And, when the date finally came to have everyone over, Dave and a bonus chef, Jarid were extraordinary!

I was able to scramble and get my table ready for company – except that this girl who LOVES fresh flowers and purchases them almost weekly, forgot to buy flowers for the table! EEK!

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Enter Dave and Jarid:

  1. They were prompt, polite, and fully prepared with coolers, tubs, and lots of gear!
  2. They were as gracious as can be and seemed to feel right at home in my (small) kitchen.
  3. They left me feeling totally confident that the evening would be spectacular – even if I don’t have restaurant quality dishes and glassware. (But, I really like my dishes!)
  4. Even I didn’t know what my guests and I would be dining on, but Chef informed me that he decided to throw in an extra dish and we would enjoy five courses plus wine pairings. Chef Jarid was kind enough to offer to email the menu in full detail since I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it justice (keep reading; you’ll see why!).
  5. They served us, explaining each dish in detail. Sometimes, it took a bit of patience as our dinner party was very conversational – yet, never a sign of frustration from Dave or Jarid.
  6. The kicker: THEY CLEANED EVERYTHING UP!!!! I told my friends that I wanted to keep them for my own – men who cook AND clean!?! (Guys, I’m kidding…I know y’all do exist)

Now, about that food.

We started off being passed crustini appetizers (which I failed to photograph as I was greeting the final two guests to arrive).

One of the things I love about my friends is that they prefer NOT to sit next to their spouses so they can get to know others in the group, so that’s what naturally happened.

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Once seated we were served homemade wheat bread, Parmigiano sticks, and Parmigiano-cayenne sticks, with Wisconsin butter.

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Then came the Roasted Sweet Corn & Summer Squash soup with olive oil cured pepper garnish and sambal oil. (Yeah, I had to Google a few things) This lovely soup was served with Prosecco to start the evening off.

We were then served a “beets” dish. I have recently found myself loving beets – and it feels like the rest of the world was either ahead of me on this trend, or is on board the way I feel now. Our dish was a mix of yellow and red oven roasted beets served with white wine poached fennel, toasted walnuts, lemon chèvre, herb fennel vierge, and currant salt. Say that five times fast!

The beets were paired with a Cuvee white wine. It was an amazing salad dish!

Next, came the grilled Chanterelle mushrooms, Parmigiano custard (AKA: “I would put this on everything” – Christy), picked ramps, ramp jam, and ramp salt.These delights were paired with a Chardonnay.

I have to say that with each subsequent dish, my dinner guests kept updating their favorites parts of the meal!

Our fourth course was the “main dish”, I suppose. However, in my mind, each of these could stand alone as a dish I would fully enjoy!

We were served roasted airline chicken breast, seared summer squash, candied pepitas, herb creme fraiche, and preserved lemon chutney served with an Italian red wine.

I must call Christy out again, because it was so fun to see her excitement at “finally having creme fraiche; they always talk about it on Top Chef!”. I believe she then claimed to feel “very fancy”. 🙂

Up until this point, we all were fully satisfied and had enjoyed each course immensely.

When we were served dessert, we were surprised with a crazy, refreshing, and delicious dessert of Muskmelon mousse with compressed melon and served in a cucumber fennel broth with milk crumble (and, although I’ve never done drugs, I have to think this is the culinary equivalent of crack!). When paired with a sweet dessert wine, it was essentially perfection in a bowl!

I’d better NEVER learn how to make milk crumble, or I’m in serious trouble!

Because I had asked for permission, and Chef Jarid did joke about needing a photo waiver, but didn’t actually present one, I’m including a few pictures of these fabulous chefs in action.

An endeavor like this is not an inexpensive one, but if you’re anything like me, it’s totally worth every penny (plus tip). Two of my guests texted me that this was a once in a lifetime experience that they thoroughly enjoyed. I have to agree!

If I had an endless amount of discretionary income, I would do this once a month (or more frequently!).

I’m happy to report that five of the guests who had not been to Braise previously do plan to have dinner there soon! Also, by word of mouth (because I can be a big mouth), another several people in my network plan to swing by for a meal.

Finally, during our dinner, our group of eight talked about taking cooking classes at Braise’s Culinary School as another fun outing. I have since learned that both Chefs Dave and Jarid are focused on this aspect of the business more so than the restaurant (which allowed other talented chefs to run the restaurant while they were graciously hosting my friends and me to a fantastic dinner!). Definitely something to explore further!

Have you ever had an in-home experience with professional chefs preparing meals? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience.

Cheers!

Ker

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