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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. ūüôā 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! ūüėČ

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. ūüėÄ

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

A stellar cellar – Adega in The Nine, Cleveland, Ohio

The Christmas holiday season is my time to return to the suburbs of Cleveland to visit my family (and usually friends, but that didn’t really happen this year). We have local spots we always tend to visit, and enjoy. You may have read about Bistro 70 in the past. This year, my brother scheduled a dinner downtown in the heart of Cleveland. He chose to have us dine at Adega in the Metropolitan at the 9 Hotel. Adega can be translated into “cellar” in Portuguese, and I’m guessing part of the reason the restaurant is named Adega is that it has a beautiful wall of wine. It also has gorgeous lighting, an inviting bar, and a very small waiting area comprised of eclectic furniture. It is a unique and fresh space.

Being an urban-dweller for almost four years now, I can appreciate that going downtown allows for finding unique cuisine more easily than is typically available in the ‘burbs.

Adega’s menu is not one you’d easily find on the east side of Cleveland (from where I hail). The menu is full of Mediterranean ingredients and flavor combinations.

Everything looked appealing to me, so I pulled out my handy card to provide to our (extraordinary!!) server, Jay. He didn’t hesitate, even commenting on the “surprise” aspect of the dining experience.

Jay actually took things a few steps further. He brought Chef Nelly out to greet us and to thank us for dining at¬†Adega that evening. He also brought the table a serving of the octopus appetizer, much to my mom’s dismay. Though, she did try it! Everyone else did too, and most enjoyed it. I’ve had octopus many times, served in different ways, and I was pleased that Jay chose to serve us this dish.


The salad Jay chose was superb! It was a winter vegetable salad – hearty and healthy. Just¬†look at¬†this photo¬†– those vegetables and that beet sauce…


For my main dish, Jay chose the “Kobe beef of pork”, the Iberico pork. It was so tender and flavorful (though, as a warning, a bit on the salty side). I shared bites with everyone at the table and it was unaminous – WOW! Such a simple dish, but decadent.


We were also served the crispy Brussels. I told Jay it was like he was reading my mind – he picked perfectly! The Brussel sprouts were like an early dessert at the table – we could not get enough of them! Crunchy deliciousness!


After dinner,the general manager came by with Jay to check on us (I told you we had great service!). Then, we were served a couple of desserts. Jay knew that we had two people with gluten-free requirements, so in addition to the warm apple fritter doughnuts with Franglica and caramel sauces, he brought sorbet for my brother and uncle. Great attention to detail! I also loved the presentation of the food Рfrom start to finish.

Now, we didn’t need the dessert, nor would we likely have ordered it, but we did do some damage anyhow. The doughnuts were a sweet, wintery treat, and a pleasant way to finish the meal.


Overall, the dining experience with my family at Adega was fabulous! The service could not have been better, and the food was absolutely delicious. I’d like to hope that I will be back when I visit Cleveland again, whether for family time, out with friends, or taking a customer out to dinner – Adega is a great spot to enjoy the experience of dining out.¬†

Cheers!

Ker

Doin’ it – 20 Hours in Dublin!

A couple of weeks ago, two colleagues / friends and I decided to take a long layover in Dublin prior to heading on to our business trip in Paris¬†(again…sigh). We knew that we would be pressed for time, and although I tried to make a plan, during our planning session, we really just ended up drinking a couple of beers at the County Clare and decided we would “wing it” when we got to Dublin.

We landed in Dublin at ~8:30 AM and took an Uber to our hotel, the Jury’s Inn at Christ Church (yes, Jeff, the one who booked that hotel got some razzing from me about choosing a “religious” place. I didn’t expect that from him). I’m the one with egg on my face¬†though, because the hotel was PERFECTLY situated and gave us access to everything we thought we might want to see (and, the name reflects location)!

Derek, the third musketeer, had only ONE wish: a traditional Irish breakfast. So, off we went (around the corner!) to Copper Alley Bistro. After quickly perusing the menu, we all got the traditional breakfast, and enjoyed it. In fact, a friend of mine saw a picture of the breakfast and asked me if I had tried the black pudding. Of course I had! I tried everything on the plate!

The traditional Irish breakfast consists of: sausages, bacon, black & white pudding, hash browns, grilled tomato & fried egg served with toast.

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Jeff and Derek added beans to theirs, and Jeff and I added mushroom to ours. It was a LOT of food! My plate was left half full just due to the shear amount of food, but it was no indication as to how much I enjoyed this new experience.

After breakfast, we set off by foot to see the east side of Dublin and circled back to the west side, seeing all kinds of sites. Of course, we toured the Guinness factory along the way!

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We didn’t have much time in Dublin, so we decided to go back to the Temple bar district (the “tourist trap”) for dinner and drinks. We stopped into The Quays restaurant for dinner. I handed my card to our server, and he was on board with taking over. The only question he asked me was if price was an issue, noting that he wasn’t planning to bring the most expensive item, but also not the least expensive. It was not.

He brought me the most delicious lamb shank and potatoes I have ever had – Braised Wicklow Lamb Shank cooked in red wine with root vegetables, fresh parsley & thyme, served with chive mash & red wine jus.

That sauce! I surprised myself by eating a good portion of it (after sharing a few bites with the guys)! It was great that our server was cool with choosing a local meal for me , and that he brought something different than Jeff (traditional Irish stew) and Derek (cottage pie) ordered.

After dinner we stopped at Temple Bar to have an Irish Whiskey (or two). It seems that a trip to Ireland would be incomplete without doing so (for those who drink alcohol), right?

We had a 6AM flight in order to make our midday meetings in Paris the next day, so it was early to bed and EARLY to rise! In any case, it was a FUN 20 hours in Dublin.

I’m looking forward to taking more time to go back over and see the countryside and everything the rest of Ireland has to offer (golf, hiking, etc). That’s a trip I’ll have to plan!

Please chime in with your comments about your experiences in Ireland!

Thank you, and happy holidays!

Ker

PS. Coming soon – Adega at The 9, Cleveland.

 

Eccezionale! Trevini Ristorante, Palm Beach, FL

Earlier this month, I was at a trade conference with two of my favorite travel companions (they’d better be since we spend an extraordinary amount of time on the road together!).

We tend to get silly together as well. ūüôā

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We snuck away from our stay at the Breakers one evening to try a local Italian restaurant, Trevini Ristorante. Since one of my colleagues is old-school authentic south-side Chicago Italian, I suspected her choice would be a good one!

We made the short drive over to Trevini Ristorante and decided to sit on the quaint patio out front. The service was on-point, very upbeat, polite, and attentive. Gonzo, our server, shared the specials and delivered our beverages. We all perused the menu, and decided Avette had made a very good choice! When he returned to take our orders, Avette ordered Ossobucco Alla Milanese, Risotto Carnaroli Al Zafferano (braised petite veal ossobuco, and carnaroli saffron risotto) and Tyler ordered Tagliolini Al Limone, Granchio, Fave, Bottarga (tagliolini with lemon, crab meat, touch of cream, fava beans, and bottarga). I simply handed him my card, as is standard practice. He promptly advised that he was going to give the card to the chef and that chef would choose my meal! Our table let out a collective giggle as it seemed that Gonzo was both on-board, but a little hesitant.

When the meals were served, I was delivered the Scaloppine Di Vitello Valdostana (Veal Scaloppine Topped With Prosciutto and Fontina, Sage, Chardonnay Sauce, and Steamed Spinach). Though it looks like a lot of food, it was thin and light, yet full of flavor! Gonzo also advised that the chef really enjoyed reading the card and choosing my meal.

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We all finished all of our meals and collectively agreed that we would absolutely NOT pass on dessert here Рand we were going to share! I knew that I wanted an authentic Tiramisu (coffee dipped lady fingers, mascarpone cream). Tyler wanted chocolate on chocolate so  he ordered the Salame al Cioccolato (chocolate, biscotti salame, and caramel ice cream), and Avette had her heart set on Crema Catalana (Creme Brulee).

Unfortunately, we were informed that the restaurant was out of Crema Catalana. Huge “boos” all around! Avette decided to go with the Torta di Ricotta (cheesecake with strawberry sauce) as “Plan B”.

The Tiramisu and ice cream were fantastic! The cheesecake was a bit dry and dense for my taste, but I’m certain others prefer that style to a creamier cheesecake. And, as we were a few bites into our desserts, the manager, George, delivered a Crema Catalana anyhow! It turns out the pastry chef wanted it to set a bit longer, but it was close enough to ready that George decided to buy one for our table. A lovely and unexpected gesture. And, it was delicious! “Hoorays” all around!

We didn’t leave much on the table, and our bellies were comfortably full. ¬†Though I don’t have any specific plans to return to Palm Beach soon, if I do return,¬†I will most assuredly¬†dine at¬†Trevini Ristorante¬†again.

What are your favorite resort dining experiences?

Cheers!

Ker

 

“I know a guy who knows a guy…” – La Belle Ferronniere, Paris, France

That’s how the email started. “I know a guy who knows a guy that recommended a typical French Brasserie.”

My colleague was voted to be “party planner” (probably by me!), and he stepped right up to the challenge, as he always does. We had twelve¬†colleagues who were ready to enjoy an evening outside of the Charles de Gaulle airport region, and wanted to spend some time in Paris proper. It’s not necessarily an easy feat to coordinate for twelve¬†people, but what a fun evening we had!

It turns out that when you “know a guy who knows a guy (the owner of La Belle Ferronniere)”, you get treated very nicely! We had excellent service from start to finish.

I had requested a cheese plate, and man oh man did La Belle Ferronniere deliver! We devoured the various cheeses before I even thought to snap a photo. We did this while enjoying a few bottles of wine (I think there were twelve emptied in total – whoops!).

When it came time to order dinner, in typical fashion, I surrendered my order over to our server. He asked a few vague questions, but seemed right on board with surprising me.

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It was a simple dish of shrimp and vegetables – much needed vegetables at that point! It was not too heavy and full of flavor. Perhaps just a bit on the messy side! ūüôā

None of my colleagues could pass up dessert either! I only ate half of my dish before passing on to another colleague to finish, but bourbon creme brulee with a Woodford Reserve on the side? Yes, please!

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We had such a good time, laughing and chatting (and being obnoxious Americans). It was much needed after travel overseas and a couple of looong days of meetings!

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As we were leaving, we were stopped at the bar to enjoy a shot “on the house”. Oh boy…

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We then walked a bit of the dinner off and enjoyed the typical sights of Paris.

It was a fantastic way to cap off a very busy week in the City of Lights / Love.

Next stop: Barcelona!

Cheers!

Ker

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