Archive for the tag “bacon”

MKE Chili Bowl 2015, Potawatomi Casino & Hotel – My winner has been declared!

Just a quick post about how I spent my gloomy Midwest Sunday afternoon…

It didn’t take long for my friend and neighbor, Andrew and I to decide we wanted to go to “The 2015 Chili Bowl”, so he purchased tickets and off we went to the Potawatomi Casino and Hotel.  When he handed me my ticket, ticket number 1770, I cracked a joke about whether there would really be almost 1,800 people at the event.  Well… rest assured that there were several thousand people at the Chili Bowl!

People waiting to get registered for the Chili Bowl. The actual registration is beyond those doors in the background!

People waiting to get registered for the Chili Bowl. The actual registration is beyond those doors in the background!

Tickets were only $13 in advance ($16 at the door), and that allowed for eight 3 oz tasting from a list of 33 vendors.  It was also a fundraiser for the Hunger Task Force (2 cans of food allowed folks two additional tastings).

Please note: Handling cups of chili, a cold beverage, while trying to take pictures just didn’t work, so please forgive the lack of photos.

I mapped out our first four adventures (4A, 15A, 20A, and 4B), Andrew picked our fifth location (7A), then Andrew’s friend Max picked vendor number six (7B), and we all agreed on vendor number seven (9B) – at which point we quit – bellies just full enough!  Don’t you just love our high-tech method (tearing out notches on the printed page!)?

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In the first ballroom, we all liked “4A” best – Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub’s effort.  A traditional chili described as “…filet, ground chuck & andoullie sausage.  Topped with onions, our famous cheese curds, sour cream and garnished with sour dough toast”.

The overall consensus winner was in ballroom B though…”4B” – Superior Culinary Center with Lisa Keefer from Puddle Jumpers, described as “Smokey Green Chili topped with Cheese & Sweet Corn Bread”.

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Superior Culinary Center submission – smokey green chili topped with cheese and sweet corn bread.

It had really good consistency, tremendous flavor, and was just different enough to be special without being too much of a departure from “chili” as I grew up knowing it.

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The very close second place vote (again, consensus) was “9B” from Braise.  We all agreed to try the chili tagged with “most unique” title in past competition.  This year the submission was “white bean & pork chili with rainbow cornmeal croutons”.  We tasted a hint of curry to the chili – which also had great consistency and was full-flavored.  It might have been difficult to consume an entire bowl of this flavorful fun, but 3 oz was a perfect taste.

Other honorable mentions go to: “15A” – The Fire Pit Sports Bar & Grill, mainly for the Fry Bread Bowl in which it was served.  “7A” (Red Rock Saloon) was another well-received submission – bourbon, beer, bacon and beef…need I say more?

All in all, we had a fun time navigating the dense crowds and figuring out which chili recipes we wanted to taste. It was a perfect event for an overcast Milwaukee Sunday afternoon.

I’m looking forward to seeing who wins the coveted “Golden Ladle”!

I’m off to Orlando for business tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll have more good eats to write about soon.  If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment!

Cheers!

Ker

Where do good girls go? Good Girls Go to Paris!

I had a couple of friends in town this weekend, and I knew we’d have a fun time.  As usually happens, our time together centered around chatting over meals.  We grabbed lunch at Buddy’s Pizza, and then dinner at Crave Lounge, which I’ll write about soon.  After that terrific dinner, we headed out to The Well.  If you haven’t read the guest post my friend wrote about that bar, please do!

There were four of us at the beginning of the night – up until about 11PM. The bar was just beginning to get pretty busy, and one of my friends was feeling the effects of the night, while the other two were just beginning to map out the rest of the evening (and, as we would later determine, most of the morning as well).  I took my friend Sharon home at about 11PM, and we both decided to call it a night.  I texted my other friends to let them know that I’d be happy to go back and pick them up if they needed a ride home because clearly there was some partying going on!  I stayed up until ~1AM, and then slept with my phone under my pillow, awaiting that call.

It was about 5AM when I received a call to open the gate and allow my friends into my complex.  At that point, I was quite pleased with my decision to stay in.

Sharon and I are both early risers, so we knew we’d have time to kill before our other friends woke up and would be ready to move (other than to grab the bottle of Advil!).  I suggested that we try a place I’d read about several times:  Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes. I ‘m not a big breakfast person, but I really wanted to check this place out.  It’s only 15 minutes from me, in Midtown Detroit – right near the Detroit Institute of Arts.

So, Sharon and I braved the rain and headed to this charming little restaurant.

The menu is pretty expansive – a large blackboard provided two columns of options: Savory or Sweet.

Sharon ordered the “Vera” which is a Savory crepe filled with Bacon, Boursin cheese, spinach (note: GGGtP was out of bacon today, so ham was the approved substitution). I was stymied…so many options, and nearly every one sounded delicious!  When I asked the woman behind the counter, Andrea, to choose her favorite and surprise me, she quickly agreed, asking only if I liked mushrooms.  I told her that I have no restrictions (for their menu).  Andrea advised us that we’d both be eating great hangover food.  We weren’t necessarily in need of hangover food, but our friends surely could have benefited!  You know…the friends who were still sleeping!  🙂

We sat down in a quaint room off to the side and had a nice conversation while we waited for our breakfast.

When our plates were delivered, they looked divine!

I chuckled, because I really don’t like ham at all, and I was served “Andrea’s Special” – which is a modification of the “Ksenia”.  The crepe was filled with ham, swiss cheese, mushrooms, and was topped with herb de provence and hot sauce.  And, I loved it!!  The ham was sliced very thinly and was not overpowering or overly salty, so it worked for me.  Now, mom and dad, don’t be getting any ideas! I’m still not ready to have ham for Easter dinner (or any other holiday!), but this was no Honey-baked ham.  It was a perfect complement to the other ingredients.

Sharon’s “Vera” crepe was also excellent (we exchanged bites).  The creamy cheese, spinach and ham were a delightful combination.  The crepe was decadent, but not in an overwhelming way.

It was a great experience – the food was relatively inexpensive (and I thank Sharon for treating me to this delicious breakfast!), was served quickly, was a perfect portion size, and was delicious to boot! I’m really glad we ventured out on a soggy Sunday morning to give Good Girls Go to Paris a try!

Andrea, if you’re reading this, thanks for choosing a really delicious breakfast for me!  I don’t know that I ever could have a made a decision on my own!

Cheers!

Ker

Za-Za-Zingerman’s – A devine dinner with dear friends!

Friday’s outing started long ago with a Facebook message from a friend of mine – someone I met during my first job out of college.  A friend I love as much now as I did then – the same is true for her husband!  Her message came in January of this year, and I marked my calendar, but then…months passed, and it may have (allegedly) slipped my mind. Allegedly!

No harm, no foul.  I was supposed to have another friend come into town this weekend, and I thought it would be fun to introduce these friends to each other. My friends tend to get along, even without knowing each other well.  But, plans changed, and I suddenly found myself without a house-guest and free to make plans as I chose.

Since my friends, Scott and Julie, were coming from Cincinnati, OH through Ann Arbor, and heading “up north”, as Michiganders say, it made sense for me to meet them in Ann Arbor.  And, I was glad to have a reason to head to A2 again.  The last couple of times I’d been there were for sporting events…the “Big Chill” (MSU at UofM hockey) and the first UofM game under the lights (against Notre Dame).  GREAT reasons to be there, but not super conducive to really getting a feel for the city on a “normal” night.

An important note: Masco’s CEO, Tim Wadhams, is a former DB for UofM football, and he and I bonded over our mutual love for our collegiate football programs (mine being Clemson, if you somehow (how could you have?!?) missed that) long ago.  He’s also still actively involved in the UofM and Ann Arbor communities.  So, when I was looking to go to Ann Arbor with friends, I didn’t hesitate to ask him for a recommendation.  And, he gladly obliged.

(Yes, he runs a multi-billion dollar company, and is an incredibly smart businessman, but he’s also a guy who is just as willing to take a minute to help an employee find just the right spot for dinner.  I really appreciate that about him and the rest of our leadership team.)

Tim gave me a few options, but his highest recommendation was Zingerman’s Roadhouse on Jackson Ave. So, our plans were set.

I drove to Ann Arbor (35 min or so – a ride I should take more frequently!), chatted with my friends for a bit, and then we headed up the road to Zingerman’s.

I have to admit that I didn’t do too much research on the restaurant.  I trust Tim’s judgement.  As we walked up to the door, past an airstream trailer, we noticed oyster shells created the garden landscaping – our first indication of the unique qualities of this place.  (BTW, if any Zingerman’s employees or “insiders” are reading this, please comment and tell me what the trailer sells – we didn’t have a chance to check it out.)

And, when we received our paper menus wrapped in their newsletter, I was overwhelmed by the number of choices.  I had read in a recent Detroit Moxie blog post that Zingerman’s has great Mac ‘n Cheese, so I thought I might go for that…but then there is an entire section dedicated to Mac ‘n Cheese!  So…our server was going to carry the burden of choosing for me.

Chris was the lucky one that night!  He came by to take our drink orders.  Julie ordered a glass of Chardonnay, Scott ordered a beer ( a Stout that featured Michigan fudge as an ingredient!), and I declared that I’d have Chris order my entire meal and that I’d like a glass of wine that would compliment his choice.  Chris didn’t flinch, and simply politely asked if I had any restrictions (I hadn’t given him my card).  He said he knew what he’d order for me – if – IF, they hadn’t run out!  A good sign.

We also ordered the Cornman’s Farms‘ Fried Green Tomatoes (amongst the best I’ve had – with hot sauce and ranch drizzled over them) as an appetizer.

Fried Green Tomato

After he had delivered each of our drinks (initially serving Ben, 4, Scott’s beer rather than the milk that was ordered for him! 😉 ), Chris asked if I would like to know what he had chosen.  Of course I would!  Chris is one of those servers I love encountering…he knows his stuff!  He advised me that he chose a Cab-Franc for me (Beaucanon), providing a detailed  and accurate description.  A very nice choice – and a varietal blend I quite enjoy.

He also, very astutely, asked if he should place an order for Ben while we adults enjoyed conversation.  And then came back later to take our, well, Scott and Julie’s dinner orders.  It’s clear that this establishment knows how to cater to their customers!

After Scott and Jules split a Bacon and Blue Cheese salad, our dinners were delivered.

Dexter Black and Blue

Salmon with Cucumber Soup

BBQ Pork

The “Dexter Black and Blue” had been placed in front of me, Julie did a semi “She Ordered What?!?” by asking for Chris’s favorite seafood recommendation (Grilled Salmon and Chilled Cucumber Soup), and Scott had the BBQ Pork entree, with collard greens and smashed potatoes (skins still on them – yum!).  For the record, Ben had already been digging into his homemade Mac ‘n Cheese.

Chris explained to me that he chose this particular dish, which featured three types of heirloom tomatoes, peppercorn rubbed bacon, and bleu cheese in a stew, of sorts.  As has happened many times before, I admit that this is a dish I probably would not have chosen from this expansive list of options…but I’m REALLY glad Chris chose it for me.  I gave bites to Julie and Scott, and they both agreed – so fresh and flavorful.  And, per Chris’s recommendation, soaking up the sauce with Zingerman’s bread was a grand idea!  YUM!

I had to take ~1/3 of the dish home, even though I was really hungry going in.  The meal was quite filling.  My plan is to make a tomato sauce from the leftovers – I think an immersion blender will do the trick nicely! (and I don’t use mine often enough!)

But, not so filling that we didn’t split dessert!  🙂

Cheesecake trio – we dug in before I thought to take a picture!

We shared a cheesecake trio – NY style, chocolate, and Muscavado (raw brown sugar – a true delight, IMO <– Jules, NOT a fan!).  Now…please note that Julie is a SNOB with respect to dessert…if it’s not chocolate…it’s not worth even reading about, let alone eating!  So, she enjoyed the chocolate slice (w/each of use stealing a bite here and there), while Scott, Ben, and I enjoyed the other slices.

All in all, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in quite some time. The location, the Zingerman’s team, the food, the company, etc…all truly exceptional.

And, here is the cute to-go bag they provide.  The attention to detail was fantastic, from the way they packaged leftovers (everything separately) – to the way Chris chased Julie down in the parking lot to make sure she didn’t forget her leftovers (literally, her last bite!  It made us chuckle that Chris even bothered to package it).

I’m so glad that I asked Tim for a recommendation, that he didn’t hesitate to provide one, and that we had such a delightful experience!

My only complaint:  Chris took my debit card when I handed it to him, and then accepted Scott’s card and allowed him to pay for dinner.  People…these were my friends who were MY guests for dinner…he should have allowed me to pay.  After all…the card does advise him that “I tip well”. But, I guess I’ll have to forgive him.  And, I thank my friends Scott and Julie for a wonderful dinner and a great night out!

With Jules and Ben

With Scott

Another important fact:  Please also note that Zingerman’s has a sustainable farm at which they grow their own produce and livestock.  Everything is extremely fresh, and obviously, the ingredients are controlled.  I really love that restaurants are procuring more and more locally – this being an extreme (but a good one!).  I encourage anyone in the area to give Zingerman’s a try!

Cheers!

Ker

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