Archive for the category “Eclectic Fare”

Odd Duck – An odd’s on favorite in Milwaukee

Last week, my parents were in town to help me with “elderly dog care” while I was booked from day til night with business meetings.  They spent the days in my apartment downtown, only venturing out a couple blocks or two (due to weather and because they were uber-productive at home!).  Mom cleaned my place from top to bottom (including all of the dogs’ toys) and finished all of my laundry for me.  I didn’t ask her to do so, but I was appreciative of her help.  And, dad took care of early morning dog duties as well as running errands.  Oh, and bankrolling our few meals out!  🙂

It wasn’t until later in the week that I would be able to spend quality time with my parents, and on Thursday evening I relied on Yelp! for a recommendation on Mexican food.  Let’s just say, it was a bust.  Not that the food was terrible, but it certainly wasn’t 4 or 5 star rating worthy.  So, when mom informed me that they wanted to take me out for an early birthday dinner (I gracefully age another year on March 17) on Friday, I wanted to make sure to have a good dinner.  I researched a bit that Thursday evening, but ultimately didn’t decide on a locale until Friday afternoon.

Way to go, Ker.  Not good for reservations!

I called Odd Duck, which has been an ongoing recommendation from a coworker and friend for months, and they had one 5PM reservation available.  Mom and dad were totally cool with that. It was 6PM their time, and they had been on a breakfast and dinner only schedule, so eating early was perfect.  Since I was quite under the weather, getting home early was actually appealing to me too!

So, off we went to see what Odd Duck was all about…Nestled in the lovely neighborhood known as Bay View, Odd Duck is a small restaurant overloaded with character.The menu was diverse and reasonably priced.

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Odd Duck Kitchen

Odd Duck Kitchen

Our server, India, came over to greet us and to ask about our drink order. At this point, I told my parents “screw this cold, I’m having wine tonight!”.  When I advised India that I’d have her choose my meal and asked her to bring a glass of wine to complement it, she gave an affirmative nod of her head and simply asked if anything was off-limits.  Just the scallops (and later, i would determine that the maple vinaigrette would not have made my cut).  So, off India went.

India returned with a glass of Portuguese red wine for me, it was so new it isn’t even on the drink menu online.  She suggested that it is a very versatile wine and she thought it would complement her (still secret) entrée choice for me.  Then, wisely, India asked if we’d like to try one of Odd Duck‘s awesome cheese plates.  She and my dad collaborated on choosing five cheeses, including: Hook’s 5 Year Cheddar, Roth Kase Buttermilk Blue Affinee, and Izar-Gazta Raw Milk Idiazaba amongst a couple of others that escape me now but were delicious.  This was the perfect savory start to our meal – not too much food, but a variety of things to nibble on as we enjoyed the atmosphere.

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As we finished up the cheese plate, my dad’s mushroom salad arrived.  It looked wonderful, and he devoured it so I think it’s safe to say it was a very good, earthy-flavored salad!

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My parents were in awe of the crustini as well.  So thin and delicate!

Mom and I ordered another glass of wine (come on, that’s what we Kilbourne women do!) to be delivered with our entrées, which would be coming momentarily.

Mom had ordered a Korean BBQ style pork dish – which was a departure for her, for sure. Let me just tell you how that egg yolk perplexed her!  She finally gave in and broke the yolk to give the rice a better texture.  Aside from the bite of the Kimchi and the pickled pears, she thoroughly enjoyed it!  (mom doesn’t like spicy food) It had great flavor – we all shared bites of our dishes with each other.

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Dad ordered the braised short rib beef stroganoff, which also looked and tasted exceptional!  And, the portions were not overwhelming.

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And, India had chosen the “Duck times two” as I dubbed it.  In fact, it’s much more sophisticated than that by the restaurant’s description: seared duck breast over bread pudding with a cranberry gastrique and handmade (duck) sausage over confit. It was a simple dish, but expertly prepared and very flavorful, yet not “gamey”.  The seared duck and bread pudding were my favorite components of this dish.

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Again, the portions were just right, allowing us entertain the idea of having dessert.  As soon as India mentioned sorbet, I knew what my dad would be ordering.  Odd Duck was featuring Concord Grape sorbet – something I had never heard of before!  I opted for the lemon-ginger creme brûlée.  Mom insisted that she didn’t want dessert.

Funny, because that third spoon India brought “for sharing” sure was put to good use by Pamcakes!  She enjoyed the sorbet, but she could not get enough of the creme brûlée!  Both desserts hit the spot – for all of us.

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From beginning to end, my family enjoyed our first experience at Odd Duck.  And, I’m pretty sure the wine mom and I had comprised half the bill!  It’s an affordable place with exquisite food that is not pretentious or intimidating.

As I gazed at the crowd as we were leaving, I saw a young demographic swaying more toward the hipsters’ scene than anything else.  Casual and comfortable sums up my experience.

To India, thank you for making my early birthday dinner delightful.  You know your stuff, and you are a really pleasant server.  Hope to see you and the Odd Duck gang again soon.

Cheers!

Ker

High Praise for Braise

Last evening, I was fortunate enough to meet up with a couple of local Milwaukee food bloggers, Phi (aka: www.sweetphi.com) and Shanon (aka: www.thecurvycarrot.com) at Braise restaurant in Walker’s Point (a Milwaukee neighborhood). Phi has been in Milwaukee for a few years now, but was really looking to connect with other area food bloggers.  I’m so glad she scheduled a meetup, and especially glad that she chose Braise – a place I had yet to visit (FTR – there’s a long list of places I’ve yet to visit, and that list grew tonight as I continued to converse with these women!). I’m also very happy to report that I had a much better meal than I had during my last outing in Milwaukee.

Shanon is also fairly new to Milwaukee (~a year here), so we have a lot in common, and shared interview, house-hunting, dating and downtown living stories.  Lots in common!  And, although Phi is happily married for just about a year, she joined right in and took the cake with a truly disastrous dating story (folks, you can’t make this stuff up!), as well as a hopeful and inspiring recollection of meeting her husband here. She’s also covered an insane amount of ground in Milwaukee…she knows this city inside and out!  A great resource, but an even better personality!  She, her husband, and her sister-in-law try a new restaurant every month – what a great way to explore the city’s culinary offerings!

We were seated at a smaller table (many of the tables are longer, and meant for larger parties or multiple parties) chatting for a bit as our server continued to politely check in on us.  I felt like I was with old friends – very comfortable conversation!  We had all checked each others blogs out (though I have much to catch up on with respect to these ladies’ blogs) and talked about how we had gotten into blogging – these two women are more experienced / professional bloggers than I am, but they certainly didn’t make me feel any less relevant.  After all, as my friends and family know, I sometimes like to joke about being “kind of a big deal“. 🙂

When our server, Erica, came back to take our drink order, as my dinner companions expected, I asked Erica to choose my meal and a glass of wine with which to pair it.  Erica was completely on board.  She took my card and gave an enthusiastic “okay!”.  Here’s a peek at the menu – full of unusual and intriguing flavor combinations.

Phi ordered the “Nose to Tail” three-course meal, and Shanon ordered the “Root to Leaf” three-course vegetarian  meal.  Both admitted that the dessert was the big seller tonight.  I can’t say that I blame them…it sounded divine!

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I was also served three courses, but I didn’t know that until I decided that I couldn’t resist the dessert Erica was to choose for me much later in the evening.

In the meantime, as she delivered me a glass of wine, Erica asked me if I like Rosé.  And, frankly, if she had asked me that before my date with “the wine guy” (who will remain a friend of mine here, but I’ll keep his actual identity quiet for now), I may have been disappointed with her choice.  However, “the wine guy” brought a very nice bottle of  Rosé to our first date, and I found it really refreshing and unexpectedly elegant.  The particular glass she served me was the 2012 Rose, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence (Domaine de la Grande Seouve).  There are several  Rosés on the menu, and two by the glass at Braise!

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Shanon had a glass of Malbec – I knew I liked this woman! (Malbec is a favorite varietal of mine.)

As Shanon and Phi were served their respective first courses, I was served mine.

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I was served this delicious appetizer of grilled summer squash tart, black pepper Mascarpone & Romesco.  The flavors were all strong, yet none was overpowering. The charred grill flavor of the squash along with the creamy Mascarpone and the nutty Romesco flavors worked beautifully together!  On top of everything, this was a perfectly portioned size – not too large, but enough bites to really enjoy the flavors.

Following the appetizer, a plate of roasted chicken  breast was placed in front of me.  Friends, I’ve been served roasted chicken several times in recent months (must be an “it” meal), but before even touching my cutlery to the meat, I could tell this was special.   Look at how moist the chicken breast is!

Roasted Chicken Breast, Panzanella Salad with Cucumbers, Feta, Olives, Basil & Salsa Verde

Roasted Chicken Breast, Panzanella Salad with Cucumbers, Feta,
Olives, Basil & Salsa Verde

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The chicken breast was insanely tasty, and expertly prepared.  And, the flavors beneath the chicken were incredible!  Light and “summery” thanks to the cucumbers and feta.  Yet, there was a bit of a hearty bite to the plate with the Panzanella salad (another recent favorite of restaurants I’ve been to lately).

I was only able to finish about half of this dish, but I’m confident that the leftovers I brought home with me will be very good tomorrow night.

Mind you, both  Shanon and Phi were really enjoying their meals as well.  Plates were pretty clean all the way around.

When Erica came back around to deliver my leftovers, she asked if she should choose a dessert for me too, since my companions were having desserts as part of their meals.  I love that she was so confident in Braise’s offerings, and so “on board” with “She Ordered What?”!  As I mentioned, I didn’t know I’d be having a three course meal…I had to take half of my entrée home with me, for crying out loud! So, I politely declined Erica’s offer.

Then… I asked her what she would have chosen if I had taken her up on her offer.  She told me she would have chosen the “Pork Fat Budino” (basically, a caramel pudding-type of dessert with whipped cream and salted shortbread crumble (and, Erica and/or Braise staff, please correct me if I’ve butchered this!)).  I was so intrigued that I decided to give it a try.

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DELICIOUS!!!!   I’m not one of those “crazy for salted caramel” people.  And, I’m not always a dessert person.  Yet, aside from the bite I offered up to Phi (who tried it) and Shanon (who denied it), I finished the whole danged thing! Phi mentioned tasting a bit of a gingerbread flavor to it, and I think the salted shortbread probably contributed to that.  Regardless, this was light in texture, but rather heavy in flavor (in a good way!), in my opinion.  In short, it was unusual and quite decadent (but not in an overwhelming way).  It was also a nice sized portion, like the appetizer – enough to enjoy, but not so large as to overwhelm.

I’m really glad to have gone out to Braise on an evening when we could enjoy our leisurely dinner (Tuesdays nights are not likely their busiest evenings), and to have enjoyed this evening with two extraordinary women.  I thank both Phi and Shanon for spending time getting to know me, and for allowing me to get to know them.  I’m looking forward to exploring more of the GREATer Milwaukee area with these women, and other local bloggers.

Phi, Shanon, Ker (l-r)

Phi, Shanon, Ker (l-r)

A few other key notes:

Braise is part of the RSA – Restaurant Supported Agriculture (Braise RSA was created to make local, peak of season produce easily accessible to area restaurants. By working with area farms and restaurants in a cooperative effort, the RSA addresses the obstacles that have prohibited restaurants from using local products, namely the time and cost associated with sourcing locally.  The RSA also allows farmers to be fairly compensated for their hard work, while keeping their farms’ identity intact.)

Braise also offers a home-delivery produce/meat service.  It’s similar to a community supported agriculture service, but allows you to only pay for what you buy (plus an annual fee), rather than a set fee and an order which may be more, or less, than you need on any given week.

The restaurant also offers cooking classes.  I’m fairly certain I will give one of these a try in the future!

What’s your favorite spot in the greater Milwaukee area?  What’s your favorite farm-to-table, restaurant-supported-agriculture, or other locally supplied restaurant – anywhere?

My first food truck rally! A great night out with a food truck addict. Waterford Twp, MI

I have never really indulged in food truck grub before. I had nothing against it, but also didn’t have much opportunity to try it. So, when my friend emailed me about a “Food Truck Rally” that was taking place about 45 minutes from my place, I decided I definitely wanted to give it a go. It became a bit of a joke since his wife (my friend and coworker) Jess was to be out of town on business. So, he – the married man, and I – the single woman, were going out – with his wife’s blessing. Y’all, I have the best friends!

It’s been a gorgeous night – 70s and sunny. Perfect for walking around the Elk’s Lodge grounds and grubbing on some food truck fare. There weren’t as many food trucks as we both expected, but in hindsight, I think that was a blessing. Our bellies were FULL by the time we did a lap!

We started off at El Guapo Grill, which I had been made aware of by my friend and coworker, McDuey. I asked the young man at the window to serve me his favorite thing on the menu. I was delivered the “Aloha, Mr. Hand” (side note: Bryan got a kick out of some of the movie-reference names – I missed most of them!). It’s a pork belly taco, stuffed with Asian slaw, pineapple salsa, and fresh jalapeno. I thought it was delicious – very flavorful! A great choice. A bit messy because of the sauce in the slaw, but that’s to be expected with this type of food. Thankfully, I didn’t end up wearing the whole taco!

The “Aloha, Mr. Hand” taco.

Next, we hit Bryan’s favorite local food truck Jacques’ Tacos. Bryan knew exactly what he was going to order – the D-Town (braised beef short ribs) and the Little Piggie (slow roasted pork). Again, I asked the woman at the window to choose her favorite two items, and surprise me. She chose the Little Piggie and the Cabo Shrimp tacos. Again, two tasty treats, though I favored the Little Piggie slightly over the Cabo Shrimp. It just had more flavor to it. Regardless, I scarfed them both down, and by now was getting full.

Jacques’ Tacos

Shrimp Cabo (top) and Little Piggie (bottom)

Neither one of us wanted to pass up a BBQ truck, so we stopped at Big RBQ’s for a bite. Bryan ordered the beef brisket sandwich, and I asked the woman at the window to serve me her favorite of the meat dishes (nothing with too many carbs, because our last stop would take care of that!). She handed me a pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw. I LOVE pulled pork, so she made a wise decision. The sauce was good, but not too much bite or kick to it. While I enjoyed it, the sandwich was just more than I could finish at this point – knowing there was yet another stop along our journey! Leftover pulled pork for me!

Big RBQ’s pulled pork and slaw sandwich

Finally, we HAD to hit the Mac Shack. Bryan and Jess have been on the hunt for the ultimate mac n cheese for a couple of years now. And, I’m never one to turn down good ol’ comfort food!

The Mac Shack

Bryan ordered the “Shack Made Mac” – a fairly traditional mac n cheese. I tried a bite, and it was yummy!

Bryan and his “Shack Made Mac” – a happy man!

I, on the other hand, handed my restaurant card to Lindsay Gearig, wife of Dan, and woman in charge! Dan and Lindsay own the joint. She and Dan conferred and decided to provide me an $8 surprise. Folks, while I really did enjoy all of the food, let me tell you that this was my favorite meal of the night!! Can you guess what this is??

Not only was I eating a truly unique, spicy, and flavorful dish, but after chatting a bit with Dan, I was more inspired than ever about this blog. He is clearly a foodie, does the “surprise me” ordering regularly (look for a guest post from him in the future – I’ll be hounding him!), and just thought it was a really cool idea. I got great feedback from some others throughout the night too – so energizing!

But, back to the best dish of the night!! I was treated to the Mac Shack “Koh San Road” which is mac and cheese topped with peanuts, bean sprouts, green onions, lime, cilantro, and SriRacha sauce. A different spin on Pad Thai, if you will. And, while it did have a kick to it, the dish was amazing! Bryan tried a bite and agreed. It’s not something either of us would normally have ordered – because it does sound a bit odd – but I’m really glad that Dan and Lindsay decided to serve the dish up to me. I’m looking forward to having leftovers tomorrow.

So, I left my first Food Truck Rally delightfully full and already looking forward to the next one! And, BTW, when I call Bryan a food truck addict, I mean it. The dude knows his stuff – or at least he presents himself as though he does! So much so that he had a couple of people following him (us, but really him) around, and asking what he ordered at every truck. He has food truck groupies, y’all! It was rather comical, but also enjoyable to watch. I know for a fact that he made great recommendations!

Now, my question to you… What are the best food trucks you’ve eaten from? I’m anxious to learn more!


Guest post… By my dad! A divine surprise at Bistro 70 – Painesville, OH

Two things I never expected to happen when I launched this blog last month: 1) that it would get the kind of traffic it’s been getting – thank you! (even my dad subscribed to it!), and 2) that my dad would not only comment on a post, but also write an unsolicited guest post!  My dad is a technology-savvy guy (he’s the guy at the left of the picture), so it probably shouldn’t surprise me, but it did – and I’m delighted to share his story with you. And, to find out more about my dad’s (and the family’s) day job, click here.

Mom and dad’s night out at the Bistro, as told by Terry Kilbourne:

This past Saturday was one of those rare occasions when my lovely wife Pam and I decided to go out for dinner. Okay, maybe not rare. Okay, maybe not rare at all…we have dinner out every Saturday. More often than not, we find ourselves at our favorite dining establishment Bistro 70, in downtown Painesville, OH.

Terry and Pam, and their second set of children (post – Adam and Ker leaving the nest), Molly and Tucker.

IMO, this little gem of a restaurant is one of – if not the best – fine dining experiences to be found in Lake County, and perhaps in all of NE Ohio. From the rather unassuming street level entry at 70 North St. Clair Street (hence the name) you might never suspect the fabulous treat in store.

We are always greeted warmly by Hostess Vivian, and Katie – one of several friendly and cheerful severs. Most visits, Katie gets stuck with us.  Once again on Saturday, she drew the short straw, and we were very lucky. Once seated at our corner table, Pam had her wine and I had my standard iced tea.

Katie, The Server of Surprises on Saturday

Truthfully, I did not intend to have Katie pick my meal tonight. But, in addition to a great menu on the weekends, Chef Keith prepares three scrumptious specials. Saturday was no exception. The choices included a seafood dish: blackened divers scallops, roasted bok choy, and sticky rice. The second dish was surf and turf, Bistro 70 style: filet and crab, with asparagus, and potato. Finally, a black and blue pasta dish with pasta (obviously!), filet, crumbled blue cheese, and a beef-based sauce. All sounded delicious, and therein was my dilemma.

Just like my daughter Kerri often is, I became momentarily indecisive. After my wife ordered the black and blue pasta special, the die was cast – I would become a guest blogger on “She ordered what?!?”!

Katie was thrilled to select my meal for. I had no idea if it would be one of the specials, or something off the menu. What I did know is that I was in very capable hands. Not only is everything very good at Bistro 70, as I mentioned Katie is our sever regularly, so she has a pretty good idea that I will eat almost anything.

Meals always start with warm bread served with olive oil and cheese for dipping. (no butter). Tonight was not an exception.

Fresh bread with oil and cheese for dipping

This was followed soon after by a small house salad of greens, tomato, onion and house made blue cheese dressing. Both the bread and the salad hit the spot, since on Saturdays neither of us take time for lunch. It was a long time between breakfast and dinner, and we were hungry!

Soon enough, it was time for my mystery entrée. The black and blue pasta Pam ordered looked and smelled terrific. I was kept in suspense until Katie placed a beautifully plated blackened scallop dinner in front of me. Here are the details: three V-10 divers scallops, pan-seared, finished with a white wine miso butter sauce, braised bok choy and sticky rice.

Blackened diver scallops, braised bok choy, and sticky rice.

(I know the picture shows four scallops – I guess I am special). Occasionally I order the scallops off the menu, as good as they are Saturday’s special was truly, well, special! Perfectly prepared, scallops were firm yet tender, blackened just enough to enhance the flavor, the white wine miso butter sauce a provided a creamy texture. The braised bok choy was flavorful, and sticky rice is always good.

Kudos to Katie – she did a great job. I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner. Hats off to Keith – he prepared another excellent dinner. Ah, but it is not over.

Recently, like last week recently, Bistro 70 started serving special desserts. The multi-talented server Katie is also a baker. Not just an ordinary baker, but a baker of the most exquisite, and moist cakes.

Keith started purchasing Katie’s cakes last week. She prepares a different cake each week.

Katie, and her cake.

Red Velvet cake.

The staff of Bistro 70: Katie, Keith, Joe, Vivian, and Ann Marie

While we normally do not indulge in desserts, except perhaps on special occasions, how could we pass up red velvet cake with cream cheese and brown sugar frosting? Along with a cup of fresh-brewed coffee,  and great service, a perfect ending to another great dining experience at Bistro 70.

And, if you’re interested in Katie’s cakes, tweet her, email (katiescakebake@gmail.com) her or give her a call (440.856.6192)!

Katie’s Cake Bake

Thank you, Pops , for sharing your story, and for highlighting a restaurant I know and love – and am so glad I introduced you to Keith and the gang so many years ago!

Love, Ker

Bistro 70, Painesville, OH

Although I live in Dearborn, MI, I still own a home in Painesville, OH.  I only lived in it for 2 1/2 years, but I loved living there.  One of the perks was being just up the road from one of my favorite spots: Bistro 70.

Inside Bistro 70 (photo courtesy of Bistro 70 Facebook page)

I had become friends with Keith, the owner and head chef through frequent visits.  For a while, I even served on the wait staff there.  I had also introduced my family, now weekly regulars, to the Bistro.

Keith changes the menu up regularly (quarterly or so?), but there are always great options!  So, frequently, I am unable to decide exactly what I want, and ask the servers to choose for me.  I’ll usually give them 2-3 options that I’m considering, and have them surprise me with their choice.  Over the years, I’ve had nightly specials – seafood, steak, and other delicious recipes Keith and his staff whip up.

I’ve also had wonderful dishes off the standard menu.  Some favorites: Seared Ahi Tuna Steak, Fettucini Rustica, Grilled Flat Iron Steak, and Maryland Crab Cakes.

The Seared Ahi (photo courtesy of Bistro 70 Facebook page)

There are others that are not on the current menu: some Asian fare, other pasta dishes, as well as more seafood.  And, don’t pass up the desserts!  They’re divine!

One of the many delicious pasta dishes (photo courtesy of Bistro 70 Facebook page)

And, I can’t lie…my friends and I have spent many a night hanging at the bar with Joe, the greatest bartender!

The bar at Bistro 70 (photo courtesy of Bistro 70 Facebook page)

In fact, I had my farewell party here when I left OH for CA.  Good times!

And, happy anniversary Keith and company!  Eight years, this week!  🙂

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