Archive for the tag “Birthday”

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

Turkish Cuisine at Tulip, Milwaukee

Last Friday, “Stairwell Guy” and I drove over to Tulip (a little over a mile from my place) to help my friend Phi celebrate her birthday.  We were the first to arrive, just moments before 7PM, and we took in the atmosphere.  Tulip is an expansive space, casually yet elegantly decorated with a friendly staff.

Once the other 20 people showed up – yes, Phi and her husband have loads of friends and family who turned out for this event! – we found our way to a large table off to the side of the restaurant.  It was somewhat secluded, and perfect for our party.

The gang's all there!

The gang’s all there!
Photo courtesy of Phi’s Facebook page.

 

The crowd was fully of friendly and engaging folks, making the evening comfortable and fun.  Lots of conversations happening in smaller groups all night.

Jeff and I had trouble deciding what to order because so many things sounded interesting and several items came personally and highly recommended by Phi and others.

Ultimately, Jeff landed on the Iskender (marinated lamb and beef roast, sliced thin and piled atop chopped pita bread.  covered with savory tomato sauce and drizzled with butter with yogurt on the side).  This was a heaping plate of meat that I wasn’t sure Jeff could finish.  I was wrong.  🙂

We both thought the Kayisili Tavuk Sarma (boneless chicken breast flattened and filled with crushed pistachio and apricot, rolled and baked to perfection) sounded intriguing, so I decided to order it (with rice pilaf on the side).  The chicken was moist and the filling was flavorful.  The portion was a bit too much for me, so I slyly slid two chicken rolls onto Jeff’s plate, which he eagerly ate.

I also tried a bite of Phi’s Doner (Turkish Gyro: marinated lamb and beef roast, sliced thin and served atop of bed of lavosh bread), which was quite yummy as well!

As I looked around, nearly every plate was completely clean.  It seemed that everyone enjoyed their meals.  And, for a group of 22 people, I have to say that the service was quite impressive.

It’s nice to know there is a good Turkish option close to home, though a bit “off the beaten path”, so to speak.  It’s in the Historic 3rd Ward neighborhood, but not on the main drag.  It’s worth checking out, in my opinion.

Have you tried Turkish food before?  Do you have a favorite dish?  Would love to hear from you!

Cheers!

Ker

 

 

Mussels in Brussels…A Pot Full of Perfection, Brussels, Belgium

I’ve been in Brussels, Belgium since Sunday morning.  The trip got off to a rocky start (our company’s IT team forgot to grant me international phone access, thus causing me to miss connecting with a coworker for a ride from the airport to the hotel, cars were banned from Brussels for “sustainability day”, my room was not ready for five hours after I arrived to the hotel, etc.), yet, the trip has been a good one!

On Sunday afternoon, I did meet up with my coworker, Loren, and he and I set out to explore the city.  First stop?  Belgian waffles, of course! Actually, it was Belgian “waffle”, singular.  Loren and I split a traditional waffle with powdered sugar and cinnamon.  I have to admit that the waffles topped with some combination of Nutella, whipped cream, strawberries, and nuts did look decadent, but I preferred the simple sugar and cinnamon version.  IMG_4957

Once we continued on our way, we headed to the most popular place (at least with everyone I’ve spoken with) – The Grand Place.  Because of “Sustainability Day”, the plaza was quite full – of both energy and people!  Much more so than usual.  It was a bit hectic, but it was also quite beautiful.

The Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium

The Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium

I had asked my Loren if we could have a beer (it is Belgium, after all!) and toast to my friend Erica, who passed away two years ago and who would have been 32 years old on Saturday (while I was flying across the Atlantic).  So, we sat in The Grand Place and had a toast to my friend.  It was lovely of Loren to oblige me – that’s the kind of guy he is.

Cheers to Erica!  Miss that angel...

Cheers to Erica! Miss that angel…

After enjoying a leisurely beer in the plaza, we set out to find a place to have dinner.  Loren was craving mussels (and I’ll never turn down mussels!), so we found ourselves wandering around the area adjacent to the plaza while trying to find a good place for mussels. We ultimately ended up asking two young men where the best place for mussels is and, at their suggestion, made our way to Chez Leon.

IMG_4969

Friends, I LOVE seafood, and especially mussels!  So, I was quite happy with the menu options.  I asked our server, Atia, to bring me his favorite mussels on the menu.  He didn’t even hesitate.

IMG_4974Turns out, he favors Moules Poulette (mussels with mushrooms, scallions, and cream sauce).  The mussels were delicious (perfectly cooked!), and the cream sauce was light and flavorful.  I had no trouble sucking down a pot full of mussels!  In Belgium, mussels are always served with ‘frites’ (French Fries), which I could take or leave.  Knowing that it’s a Belgian tradition, I ‘ took’ them this time!

Also, if you weren’t aware (and I wasn’t), there is apparently a “pro tip” to eating mussels.  Use one shell as your utensil to pull a mussel from another shell and slurp it down!  See how Loren demonstrates this technique?

IMG_4977

After dinner, later that evening, I emailed another coworker, whom I mentioned here, about The Grand Place and Chez Leon.  He and his family are going to be in Brussels next weekend, so I promised him I would provide recommendations if I found anything worth seeing/doing.  Chez Leon, in my opinion, is worth stopping by (if you like mussels).

And, funny enough, Loren and I ended up taking a customer, his wife, and one of our Parisian colleagues (Benoit) to dinner on Monday evening.  After striking out a couple of times at restaurants along the way, at Benoit’s suggestion, we ended up back at Chez Leon.  While I thought it was a bit of a bummer that we had dinner at the same place two nights in a row, at least it was a good restaurant!

This time, I ordered the Moules Provencale (mussels with butter, garlic, tomatoes, and cheese).  The mussels were served on the half shell, and were broiled to bake the cheese on top.

Moules Provencale

Moules Provencale

This made them seem a bit overcooked and chewy.  Not at all terrible, but not as delicious as the mussels I had the prior evening.  Although I love cheese, I think I’ll stick to traditional steamed mussels from here on out.

On Tuesday evening, I met up with a friend of mine, Tina, who is now living in the Netherlands.

Tina, one of my favorite people - funny, smart and beautiful! Oh, but she moved to the Netherlands.  :-(

Tina, one of my favorite people – funny, smart and beautiful! Oh, but she moved to the Netherlands. 😦

We always wear bibs when we’re together. 🙂

Just teasing…we donned the bibs for our photo-op, and for the forthcoming lobster dishes we were awaiting.

It was a joy to be able to grab dinner with her and her current coworkers!  We walked past the Nord Station (train station north) and over to The Rugbyman restaurant – situated on a small spot of water.  We sat outside and enjoyed the evening in Brussels.  Tina and I both ordered a preset menu of scampi (in garlic butter – SO WONDERFUL!), half of a lobster (her’s with cream and vegetables, and mine cold), and dessert.

Incredibly flavorful scampi and salad!

Incredibly flavorful scampi and salad!

IMG_4996

Cold lobster and salad

We both opted for Crème Brûlée over chocolate mousse – and cleaned our dishes!

Creme Brûlée, 'nuff said!

Creme Brûlée, ’nuff said!

As good as the food was, even as the lobsters were quite difficult to eat (we looked like “stupid Americans”!), what made the evening grand was being reunited with my friend again.  We both traveled from another country to meet up in Belgium for dinner.  How cool is that?!?

Now, I’m on a train and on my way to Paris for two evenings before heading back to the States.  I believe I’ll be on my own for dinners, so we’ll see what happens there!

Language barrier or not, there is almost certain to be a “She Ordered What?” in my near-term future!

I hope you enjoyed my post from Brussels.

Cheers!

Ker

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