Archive for the category “Asian Fusion”

The Marathon Business Trip – CA, WA, and PA

Some of you may recall my first business trip with my current company.  I still owe y’all a post on the other dining adventures in New Orleans, but this post is about a few meals I had on my second set of business trips.

This particular trip saw me visit six different airports, three different customers, three different time zones, travel 6,200+ miles – in four days.  (the kicker… last leg of the journey had a four-hour delay!  But…I got home, and that’s the important part!)

My coworker, Jeff, and I (bless his heart for having to travel with me from 6AM Monday to 7AM Wednesday!) first went to California to visit my old stomping grounds in Orange County.  It’s amazing how much I had forgotten about getting around the OC.  I was not the best navigation guide!  However, we did have a nice, healthy lunch in Irvine, and then after meeting with our customer, we had a fantastic dinner out in Newport that evening before heading out to Seattle the following morning.

In Newport, our customer led us to Newport Landing – a great location right on the water.  It was a lovely view, and the food was pretty darned fabulous too!  We started with the oysters on ice and calamari strips (friends…that calamari was some of THE BEST I’ve ever had – really meaty, with a light tempura breading).  Shame on me for not snapping a picture of our apps, because they were worth selling y’all on having them!

For dinner, I handed our server my trusty little card. She was quite receptive, and decided to bring me a dish from the downstairs kitchen.  I was delivered the “Hawaiian Nut Opakapaka”, macadamia nut crusted, and served with mango salsa, roasted tomato with cheese, and fantastically delicious wild rice.  Seriously, the flavors on the fish were tremendous, and the wild rice was amazing – red peppers, onions, celery, cheese, spice, etc.



The wild rice – YUM! And, the mango-pineapple salsa – so good!

This filet was quite thick in the middle, and for me, it was a bit undercooked in the center. There was plenty enough food on the plate for me, so I simply picked around the center of the filet.  I was rather impressed when our server came by and asked if she could have the chef further cook the fish to make it more palatable for me because she had noticed that I was picking around the edges.  I politely declined, because I was already full, and there was no reason to send the dish back. However, I did admit that the center was a bit undercooked, IMO, so she could provide feedback to the chef.

All in all, the service, the apps, and the dinner (despite a slight misstep) were fantastic at Newport Landing!  Not to mention that the atmosphere was casual and beautiful – who doesn’t enjoy looking out on Newport Bay?

Jeff and I then continued on to Seattle to visit with another customer.  We were delayed out of LA and into Seattle, but we got there in time to have a good business discussion.  Following our meeting, we headed over to Salty’s for a pre-dinner cocktail.  That one cocktail turned into another and eventually turned into dinner as we waited out a thunderstorm.  Again, we were sitting right on the water, so we had a cool view – even during the storm.

2013-06-25 16.54.56A bit reluctantly, Jeff and I tried the calamari appetizer at Salty’s, and as expected, it simply did not live up to the calamari from the night before.  It wasn’t “bad” calamari; we simply had extremely high expectations after the appetizer at Newport Landing!

2013-06-25 17.14.49We had the blackened fish taco appetizer as well.  I couldn’t really taste the “blackened” flavor, but it was still tasty – if a bit messy!

For my entrée, our server, Chloe, enthusiastically chose the Grilled Copper River Salmon – because it was in season and had been a really popular choice of late.  The salmon was served over sticky rice and with an Asian salad consisting of green papaya, radish, daikon sprout, Oregon baby shrimp, and finished off with a creamy red wine vinaigrette chili sauce and toasted sesame seeds.

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Chloe had asked to have the fish prepared “medium”, and it was cooked absolutely perfectly!  It was a really nice choice, and I love that Chloe chose the dish because she really felt it was the best entree and the right time of year to serve it.  She and I talked for quite a bit at the end of the evening, and this woman knows her stuff!  She’s also going to school to become a dentist and volunteers time helping folks who cannot afford dental care (helping prepare them for job interviews and such) – just a really cool woman!

I have to admit that I think the food is a bit overpriced at Salty’s.  It was good, but $50 an entree is more than I would generally spend.  There are lower-priced options, but the four of us still managed to rack up a rather hefty bill.  I’m glad Jeff took that one to expense!  🙂

It was still raining a bit when we left Salty’s (I know, raining in Seattle – shocker!), and one of the guys mentioned that there was “liquid sunshine” above us.  I’d never heard that phrase, but I quite like it!

2013-06-25 22.59.35The next morning, Jeff and I headed to the airport and then headed in different directions (sort of). He headed home to Milwaukee and I headed further east to Philadelphia for another customer meeting.  The evening that I arrived, another coworker took me to dinner at a charming haunt that is a fave of our business contact.  We went to dinner at The Saloon Cucina Italia on 7th Street in downtown Philadelphia.  It’s now one of my recent favorites as well.  Everything from the exterior door, to the interior decor, to the service – and THE FOOD!

I was actually able to decide what I wanted for dinner, so this doesn’t truly warrant a “She Ordered What?” post, but the food and atmosphere were too fantastic not to mention!

We started off with a hot appetizer plate of two each of the: Grilled Langostino, Poblano Peppers (yum!), Clams Pavorotti, and Clams Casino.  The Langostinos lacked flavor, but everything else was divine!

I ordered a half order of a salad special that evening. Spinach, mozzarella, apricots, & toasted walnuts wrapped in prosciutto, and topped with fresh black pepper.  It was such an interesting spin on a salad, and it was spectacular!

2013-06-26 20.35.48For dinner, I chose the Fettuccine Lobster Amatriciana.  It just jumped off the page and sounded exactly like what I wanted that evening.  Folks, I made a good choice!  The dish was made of homemade fettuccine with lobster, bacon, onion, fresh tomato, leeks and sharp provolone cheese in tomato sauce.

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I’ll just leave you with this, friends.  If you’re in Philadelphia and want good Italian food, friendly service, and a cool atmosphere, please check out The Saloon.

And…when you see me and I’m fat and happy – you know why!  My new job has me eating a very well thus far!  🙂



The Ker-Bear Roll! A fun discovery during Girls’ Night Out.

I was hoping to add a post or two from outside of the greater Detroit area, but I really haven’t been traveling for work lately.  It’s kind of a bummer, and I miss traveling to see coworkers across the nation, but that’s the deal with respect to my current role.  Hopefully, I’ll still be able to get to South Carolina (CLEMSON!) and to Singapore (for fun) this fall!  At least then I can mix things up a bit!

In the meantime, if you’re interested in contributing to, please feel free to shoot me a note, tweet, Facebook post, etc.  I’m happy to oblige!

Now, onto the latest great meal I had out…

(No, all of my meals are not great – I’ve had people ask me that.  Two rather lackluster experiences were documented here and here)

A couple of weeks ago, the girls who were featured in my first post came into town for a visit.  Megan and Sharon (who was also featured in this post) have been really good friends of mine for many years.


We’ve had tons of dinners together – at each others’ homes, and out on the town.  In the picture above, counterclockwise: Sharon, Ker, Megan, and Dana (local friend).

That Saturday night, Sharon agreed to “take one for the team” to support Megan’s craving (pun intended) for sushi.  So, I made reservations at Crave Lounge in Dearborn.  Sharon has never been a fan of sushi, and in particular, the nori (seaweed) used in making maki (rolls).  She figured some of the small plates Crave offers would be just fine for dinner – trooper that she is!

We started off with one of my favorite appetizers, the Watermelon Napoleon (three time award winner + healthy choice award, consisting of seedless watermelon, French feta, toasted walnuts, Michigan tart cherries, organic Mediterranean olives, Mediterranean micro herbs, organic olive oil, and Balsamic vinaigrette).  I’ve made my own versions of this dish at home when I want a tasty, yet light meal.

We also munched on edamame (doesn’t everyone do that at a sushi joint?) while chatting, laughing, and giving our server, Phillip, a complex! When he came back to take our dinner order, we decided to try one roll with soy paper rather than nori, to see if Sharon would like it.  Our other friend, Dana, has an aversion to soy, so we had to balance things out.  Note: Phillip did not charge us for the first substitution, but soy paper is typically a $1 up charge per roll at Crave.

At Phillip’s recommendation, we ordered a couple of “off the menu” rolls.  To the left is the “Crave Roll” (made w/ traditional nori) and on the right is the “Care Bear Roll” (affectionately, renamed the “Ker Bear Roll” and made with mamenori (soy paper).  As you can see, I’m never quick enough to catch a photo before we dig right in!

The Crave Roll is basically a fried California Roll, with light seaweed on top, seared Ahi tuna , jalapeno, Wasabi aioli, and a sweet drizzle.  We all enjoyed the roll, including Sharon – who couldn’t taste the nori.  Great flavors, folks!

*Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that Sharon received “rookie chop sticks” from the owner – he made them for her on-the-spot! A total MacGyver move…the chop stick wrapper, a rubber band, and VOILA! She can use chop sticks!*

But, the big hit of the night was the “Ker Bear Roll” which was comprised of spicy tuna , shrimp tempura, asparagus, crunchy flakes and mango Albacore tuna aioli. Folks, it was tremendously flavorful! So much so that we ordered a second serving!  (see below)


While that was closing in on the end of our dinner, Sharon and I should have taken the hint that Megan and Dana had bigger plans in mind!  (Those two are mentioned in the post I referred to earlier)

Yup, folks.  Those are lemon drop shots in their hands (and their wine in the foreground!).  Just the start of the evening for these two crazy ladies! And, I love them for knowing that Sharon and I wouldn’t “hang”, so we were better off at home later that night, and into the next morning!

Finally, I have to post a picture of the fabulous man who was our server that night. Phillip was not only an incredible sport (y’all should have heard some of the conversation he overheard that night!), but he made great recommendations, AND, he was pretty nice eye-candy!  He’s preparing for a teaching career, and I can already see that he will be the most popular teacher in school!  🙂


I’m a fairly regular customer at Crave Lounge (though I don’t frequent it as much as I’d like to!), and I’ve never left disappointed.  This night, however, was particularly enjoyable because we tried some new rolls, we had a delightful server, we chatted with the management (great people!), and we were amongst dear friends.

If you’re in the area, and craving (pun intended, again!) sushi, I do recommend Crave Lounge.  The atmosphere is cool, the staff is great, and the food is delicious!  I’m also told that the menu has been changed up a bit over the past week.  New Carpaccio items, new appetizers, small plates and rolls.  And…anyone who’s known me for any period of time knows that my intel is rock-solid!  😉



Mango Thai, Dallas, TX – Making a first date truly memorable!

This is a guest post from my friend Jerod.  I couldn’t stop smiling as I read this post, and I think you will smile as well. It’s such a great story! Please feel free to leave comments for Jerod above.  Also, visit his blogs: his personal blog: Primility and his professional blog:  Midwest Sports Fans.

Jerod’s adventure: 

Is it supposed to be this easy? Sure, I’m talking about the food. After all, that’s what this site is about. And feeling a little bit of trepidation is natural when putting your dinner entrée choice in the hands of someone you don’t know. There is nothing easy about that. But I’m also talking first dates. 
Like a first meal at a new restaurant, especially a meal you didn’t even choose, first dates should be accompanied by trepidation. Or they are supposed to. First dates aren’t supposed to be easy. To feel easy. To feel natural. Especially when you are meeting the person for the first time. Right? 
Apparently they can. 
I arrived at Mango Thai on Lovers Lane in Dallas around 7:10 on Thursday evening for a date scheduled to begin at 7:15. I’m punctual like that. There was just one other couple there, which surprised me. The online reviews for Mango Thai were excellent, and though it seemed slightly out of place at the end of a strip mall on one of Dallas’ less glamorous stretches of road, it featured a colorful, attractive outdoor décor and an interior that suggested good, well-presented food awaited. 

Not too long after I sat down, I received the following text message: — “I’m literally hitting every red light!” — I responded: “Try driving through them instead. No need for violence.”  I was admittedly proud of this reply. (Didn’t her profile say she found “wit” attractive? Why yes, yes it did. I might have fist-bumped myself were it socially acceptable…not that there was anyone around to judge.)  Another text followed soon thereafter: “I parked.” 

A dinner I had very much been looking forward to would finally begin. 

I had decided earlier in the day to use this dinner as the source for my first guest post at this here blog. This was something of a risky move, seeing as how I had never dined with the charming young woman who was about to walk through the door (albeit after struggling a bit to get it open). But it also seemed like the perfect opportunity to test my instincts. Something told me that this was a girl who would be all about a spontaneous dinnertime adventure. I obviously didn’t know her well, but I just had that feeling. If I suggested it and she balked? No harm, no foul really. My instinct would be proven wrong, but dinner could otherwise go as planned. Maybe she’d just laugh it off and think I was “quirky.” Or maybe she’d think I was a tool. Either way, I was being myself and doing what felt natural, plus I’d learn something important about her; and I do know that is what first dates are supposed to be about. 

Well, she was all for it from the get-go. 

It’s true: somehow I was here on a first date with a girl who shared my music taste, wrote in complete sentences with flawless grammar, possessed an effortless smile that pictures cannot do justice, and was cool enough to go along with my crazy idea of having the waiter choose our food. An auspicious beginning to be sure. However, our waiter’s reaction to our order was not quite so auspicious. 

In discussing our game plan for explaining our crazy ordering idea to the waiter, she and I decided that we would coach the waiter thusly: “Consider this your last meal ever at Mango Thai, with the possibility that it might even be your last ever meal period. You have to choose an entrée for yourself and for your mother (because we figured he would take extra special care choosing an entrée for his mother) along with drinks to accompany it, and you cannot tell us what it is until after the meal.” Our poor waiter looked dumbfounded. 

The look on his face suggested that he was waiting for us to tell him we were kidding – we later found out this is exactly what the look on his face was meant to communicate – but of course we weren’t kidding. We were serious. And so off he walked, confused. He came back a few minutes later, however, with a new bounce in his step. He wanted to know if we meant alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks, since he was underage. We told him the former, and he smartly asked the lady on my left if she preferred “sour or sweet.” She responded that she would not direct his decision – or the decision of the manager or bartender who would have to make the drink – but that rather the food choice should dictate the drink. This time he bounded off confidently. He had something up his sleeve. 

Turns out what he had up his sleeve were two incredible entrée choices, and a couple of nice drinks to match. Some 13 or 14 minutes later, after my date and I discussed work, school, music and “weird things,” the food came. It looked, in a word, scrumdiddlyumptuous. My plate was an ocean of brown sauce accented with rivers of white the color of wave tips before they roll over. And like the tide, the sauce washed up onto a thick piece of salmon nestled ever so comfortably on top of a bucolic beach of spinach and broccoli. 

His dish: As yet, still unidentified. As per their instructions.

Her plate was resplendent with bright hues of yellow, green, and red. A fried concoction of something stood tall like a plateau against a verdant backdrop of broccoli and asparagus. And beside it all, rising like a mountain on the distant horizon of her plate, was a heap of fried rice with shrimp embedded in its peak. 

Her meal: A colorful delight!

Neither of us knew what to expect, but we dug in without fear. The tastes were spectacular. My food was hot but flavorfully so. And the white sauce helped to balance out the initial heat of the brown. The salmon was cooked just right, and the broccoli provided the perfect vegetable accoutrement, working well in tandem bites with the salmon or on its own dipped in the sauce. Her food was even better, nearly as sweet as she was when the delicious pieces of fresh mango were included in the bite. 
We were impressed…and soon to be satiated. 
Our waiter had delivered great drink choices as well. A tasty Cabernet for me, and a pink, lemony Cosmpolitan for her. Both drinks complemented the food well. 
How could he have known? Our waiter’s choices were perfect. 

And he had one choice left: dessert. 
We had decided that we’d follow his lead on whether to get dessert or not, and if dessert was the suggestion then so be it. As any good waiter should, he was more than ready to suggest a dessert. A few minutes later he brought out a delectable treat with three oblong fried shapes and what looked like some kind of whipped cream  – it was fried bananas and coconut ice cream, as we’d soon find out. 

Fried bananas and coconut ice cream. May I have some, please?!?

At this point, she assertively asked him to sit down so we could thank him and find out exactly what we had eaten. He obliged, barely able to contain the smile on his face. He’d clearly enjoyed the experience. He first told us his name was Harrys – spelled thusly but pronounced “Aries” like the Zodiac sign – and then explained what he had chosen for our entrees and why. 
My meal was the Green Curry Salmon with jasmine rice and coconut garnish – the white sauce. He had never actually eaten this particular meal but said that he’d always wanted to try it. I assured him that it was quite tasty and worth tying. I also admired his trust in the Mango Thai kitchen to bring something he’d never eaten himself. 

Her meal was the Mango Sea Bass with fried rice, and he’d had it cooked mild. As Harrys explained, he did this because his mom was not a fan of spicy food. Needless to say, we were tickled that he’d taken our instructions so seriously. Then he described what he was thinking when we initially broached the subject of him choosing our entrees. He admitted to initially being nervous, as we’d thought. As he described it, verbatim, “I was like, fuck! I have to make the customer smile!” We laughed. 
Harrys may be young, but he quite clearly has a personality, an easy charm, and a genuine honesty in his face that will open plenty of doors for him. We then asked to speak to his manager, who came out of the kitchen…eventually, and somewhat reluctantly. (Note: Portions of this part of the story may have been omitted…because they simply would not make sense out of context. It was one of those “you had to be there” moments that, if we ever come across Harrys again, we will all surely laugh about.) We met the quiet, unassuming manager with smiles, which he returned, and we told him how wonderful Harrys had been and how terrific the food was. He thanked us appreciatively before returning to the back. 

We took a few more bites of our dessert before Harrys returned, wanting to share even more about the many thoughts that had run through his head while adhering to our crazy requests. He informed us that he too now wanted to suggest this idea to dates, and that he had been thinking about that – what entrees would be good for a date? – while choosing our meals. I assured him that he’d made an excellent choice for a date, because he’d given the colorful and special plate – the only one that included actual mangos at Mango Thai – to the lady. I could see the wheels spinning in his head. His next date is going to have quite the dining surprise in store for her. 

Finally, after he had taken our check and was on his way out the door, Harrys stopped back by our table and said, “You guys just made my night.” That’s certainly appropriate, because he’d made ours too. Good food is one thing, but good food with caring and attentive service is quite another. And there was something extra special about the care and attentiveness we received given our rather odd request. It did not go unnoticed. Harrys, if you somehow stumble across this blog post, know that you made our night. A good server can do that. Harrys was a great server. 
But all good things must come to an end. Our meals came to an end, the service came to an end, and so too did my first date with this intriguing girl with the unforgettable name. I walked her to her car, we made one final joke about making ravioli together someday, and then hugged before agreeing to have yet another restaurant ordering adventure at some point in the future. I look forward to it, as I hope she does too. 

It’s interesting and ironic how things go sometimes, isn’t it? There were so many opportunities for awkward or uncomfortable moments on a night like tonight: a first date, an odd ordering request, the initial tasting of unfamiliar food. And yet, nothing was awkward or uncomfortable. Everything went as well as it could have. 

That won’t always happen. In fact, it will rarely happen. Maybe that’s why I’ve been writing about it ever since I got home and am now near 2,000 words into trying to describe this thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying dining experience. 

My words won’t do it justice, but hopefully they give you a somewhat descriptive taste of this great meal.  It was a meal chosen and served by a great waiter, and I was lucky enough to share it with a great girl. 
Yes Harrys, you did indeed make us smile tonight. 
It was a night for smiling. 
I still am.

—- (me too, Jerod!) – Thanks, so much.  – Ker

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