Archive for the tag “cheese”

“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! 🙂

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

Viva l’Italia – Vincenzo’s, New Jersey

It’s been a couple of weeks since I went to New Jersey to visit with a customer whom I had been wanting to meet for a long time. I’ve heard great things about this company, and I know we have opportunities to partner on some good things!

So, my colleague (and now frequent road trip buddy) and I set out to Middlesex, NJ to have a couple of meetings as well as a nice dinner up the street at Vincenzo’s with our customers.

Foolishly, I only brought my small Clemson clutch with me, which funny enough, my dear girlfriend who lives in New Jersey gave me as a gift earlier this year.

Clemson_Clutch

Anyhow, the point being that I forgot to bring my blog card with me. Thank goodness for mobile phones. I called it up from the blog page itself!

I had been warned that this dinner and our dining companions were going to be fabulous, so I came hungry! In addition to fabulous table mates, our server, Carlos, was perfect. He was professional, yet was equipped with a biting sense of humor. The best of both worlds!

Carlos started us off with several appetizers: calamari (two ways: fritti and with an “Italian hot sauce” – which everyone at the table claimed was Thai sauce!), escarole and pignoli nuts, and sausage and peppers. To be honest, I was full by the time we worked our way through these delicious plates of apps!

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A mesh of apps! Calamari, sausage and peppers, and escarole. 

And then came this salad… I think it’s one of my favorite salads – ever. The tri-colore insalati. The mesh of flavors – and that cheese! Heaven on a plate.

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Tri-colore salad made of European blend, tomatoes, pepper, and parmagiano cheese.

I’d say finally, because it really should have been the final set of bites, but it wasn’t. This is the penultimate dish.

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Grilled salmon over escarole and served with roasted potatoes.

Without flinching while reading the blog card, Carlos had chosen a popular dish that evening – salmon over escarole with roasted potatoes. The salmon filet was enormous, and cooked to perfection. Those who know me know that salmon is not my favorite seafood, but when cooked well,  I really do enjoy it! I loved that there were some greens on the plate and just a few potato bites.

It was  a simple, delicious dish and light enough not to pain me after all of the appetizers!

It was then that our customer insisted that we all have dessert. What?!? How was I going to fit one more bite into my mouth and belly?

Here’s how:

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Chocolate banana pie with fresh whipped cream, strawberries and mint.

I mentioned “heaven on a plate earlier”. This banana chocolate pie is heaven on a plate served by singing angels! I could have eaten two or three slices (but I didn’t!).

Our dinner lasted a marathon four hours, but the time flew by. We did indeed have a wonderful time with our customers and we really enjoyed the ambiance, the service, and the FOOD at Vincenzo’s! I’m still working off those glorious calories. 🙂

Since I’m not a huge connoisseur of salmon, I’m curious to know your favorite way to prepare it. I’d love to try more recipes at home. Please leave a comment if you have a recommendation.

Cheers!

Ker

 

 

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

#MKEFoodCrawl in Walker’s Point, Milwaukee, WI

This past weekend, friends and I (mostly) enjoyed a walking food tour of Walker’s Point (sometimes AKA “The Fifth Ward”), an up and coming neighborhood in Milwaukee.

photo c/o of MKEFoodies

photo courtesy of MKEFoodies

I learned about the food crawl through social media – shocking, I know!

After consulting with a friend who was supposed to still be in town visiting, I bought both a “gold” (12 small plates) and “silver” (7 small plates) ticket. The tickets weren’t necessarily inexpensive at $75 and $50, respectively, but I was excited to experience dishes from a variety of restaurants I hadn’t tried before – and one that I had. Here’s the map/menu…

menu

My friend’s plans changed, so as Stairwell Guy says, I turned to “Plan B”.  He’s very good company, and not really a “Plan B”, but I did originally buy the ticket for a visitor, so I guess he is partially correct there.  I thank him for being an enthusiastic and fun fill-in.  Several weeks earlier, I had also invited my friend Phi and her husband to join us, which they happily did!

We met at the Blue Jacket on National Avenue, which served both as the kick-off point as well as host to Bloody Marys. I was especially happy to be there to see Phi experience her first Bloody Mary – EVER!  First sip…good stuff, then…the tomato kicked in a little too far for dear Phi.  In my opinion, the Bloodys were a bit heavy on the seasoning, but were tasty enough (disclaimer: I don’t typically drink liquor drinks, so I am NOT an authority).

Bloody Mary at The Blue Jacket.

Bloody Mary at The Blue Jacket.

From The Blue Jacket, we headed on to Chez Jacques for crepes.  From the almost hour-long wait we had, I have to assume that we were not alone with the plan to start with breakfast. This was both a frustrating, and surprising start to the #MKEFoodCrawl.

Note: Throughout the day I spoke with folks on the food crawl, and to a T, every person expected a casual walk through Walker’s Point with tents or tables stocked with small plates for us to try, converse, and then move on.  Instead, we were seated at each restaurant and served the small plates – sometimes in a timely manner, and often not.

Chez Jacques staff addressed every table in the room before they even greeted our four-top, and we were the second group in the room.  It was so frustrating that we were just getting ready to leave when someone asked us if we had been attended to.  So, we placed orders and waited, and waited, and waited. When we finally were served our crepes (four choices, folks…shouldn’t the kitchen be prepared for that?), three of the four were met with positive reviews.  The chicken curry, the spinach Roquefort, and the vanilla berries crepes hit the spot.  The banana Nutella (read: Hershey’s syrup) was, sadly, a bust.

Here is my spinach Roquefort crepe:

Crepe

The dense filling of spinach and cheese along with the pine nuts were a delicious combination.  It’s just too bad the restaurant seemed more than ill-prepared to deal with the #MKEFoodCrawl crowd.

But, we were on to our next stop (finally!) by noon.  We tried to visit Circa 1880, but the line was out the door and starting to wrap around the corner!  So, we went on to Braise.

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I have written about Braise before (my first meeting with Phi!), and although Stairwell Guy was a newbie, we were all looking forward to checking out the yellow curry dal with ramp yogurt and the Grilled chorizo sope with ramp chimichurri & garlic chive crema.

We were in and out of Braise in 20 minutes, and we had really exceptional dishes in that time. There were two servings of the curry, and two of the chorizo…both dishes were met with rave reviews.  Phi and I also viewed the rooftop garden and dining area in the time we waited for our meals.  Very efficient!

Then, onto Wayward Kitchen for Pork Belly Tostada with Watermelon Rind Salsa, Queso Fresco, and Refried Black Eyed Peas w/ Jalapeno. I liked the casual atmosphere of this “off the beaten path” place.

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Again, by all accounts, service was not expedient, but the experience was a good one.

I struggled with my tostado because of its brittle nature – or because of user error!  Nobody else seemed to struggle like I did. So, I’ll take the blame on that one!

Pork Belly Tostada

Pork Belly Tostada

The Wayward Kitchen is also where I met up with a friend of the friend who left town early.  We had met up with Jon Thursday evening, so it was nice to see him and meet his friends out in a different part of town!  This is the friendly Midwest after all!

We then headed up to Clock Shadow Creamery for pretzels and cheese.  Well, cheese.

@SweetPhi !!

@SweetPhi !!

The first thing we heard when we walked in the door is that Clock Shadow had just run out of pretzels.  Since I’m not a fan of cheese curds (aka: squeakies), I opted to try the Basket Ricotta with lemon jam from The National Café and Take-away – another local fave! The Ricotta was quite tasty and the jam was a perfectly sour complement, but it was simply too much for any of us to finish. We were a bit bummed about not trying the pretzels, because they looked really good!

From Clock Shadow, we headed toward Ginger, with a quick stop to check out a restaurant that will be opening very soon, Morel.  It was cool to see the space in its final stages of construction and to meet the owner, sous chef and general manager.  A very friendly bunch, and very excited to be opening a new space in Walker’s Point!

Once we got to Ginger, we finally sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather of the day. Ginger has a lovely back patio. Again, the service was a bit slow, and our server forget to bring three of the plates we ordered. She apologized, quickly brought the remainder and comped the glass of wine I enjoyed with my Vietnamese Rice Noodles (chilled napa cabbage, carrot, peanuts and cilantro, soy chili dressing) and Hoison Braised Pork Shoulder on wonton chi (served with ginger carrot jicama slaw).

Vietnamese Rice Noodles

Vietnamese Rice Noodles

Hoison Pork

Hoison Pork

Everyone else tried the Passion Fruit Ceviche: scallops and shrimp in a passion fruit citrus base with plantain chips and sweet potato and enjoyed the dishes as well.

By this time, it was 2:45PM and the food crawl was to end at 3PM. We had only managed to visit half of the restaurants on the tour, and we had several tickets left. Phi and Nick needed to head home, so Stairwell Guy and I planned a quick stop at Zak’s Café for the stuffed French Toast he had been craving.

Stuffed French Toast

Stuffed French Toast

He was not disappointed, although he was served the wrong dish – are you seeing a trend here with respect to the service that day?

We hustled down the street with mere moments to spare in an attempt to finish with dessert. Jeff and I decided to divide and conquer, with him standing in the long line at Purple Door for ice cream (his favorite!) and me waiting in an equally long line at Indulgence Chocolatier (featured here).

Lines

It was past 3PM at this point, but the local businesses were not going to turn away participants. We were able to hit the two spots at which we had planned all day to finish! Score!

Five mini-scoops of ice cream and 3 truffles to take home (for each of us!)

Five mini scoops of ice cream and 3 truffles to take home (for each of us!)

I have to give Stairwell Guy props – he knew my only criteria was “no maple!”, and he chose really well.  He ordered me mini scoops of: Lime sorbet, chocolate cinnamon, Bailey’s Irish Cream, chocolate banana and butter pecan.  A delicious sampling!

For him, I ordered orange cardamom, Thai peanut butter and milk chocolate truffles.  He ate them on the way home, and told me just how much he enjoyed them.

Indulgence Truffles

Indulgence Truffles

So, while the #MKEFoodCrawl was not exactly what we thought it would be, and the service in many venues did not seem prepared for our crowd, we really did enjoy the food, uncovering new restaurants and, of course, a lovely day with friends!

One final note: Next year, I will not order the “gold” ticket package for 12 tickets, because the schedule just does not allow for sampling at enough venues to make it worth the $75.  The “silver” package at $50 for seven small plates is absolutely sufficient.

I’d love to hear comments from others on the #MKEFoodCrawl tour of Walker’s Point, as well as those of you who live in other cities and have participated in local food crawls.  Please leave a comment below!

Cheers!

Ker

Flour: Funghi and Friends… Italian Dining in Moreland Hills, OH

Over the holiday break, I met up with a long-time friend of mine, Jen.  We made plans to have dinner months in advance of my visit to Ohio, but we waited until the last-minute to choose a location.  Earlier in the day, Jen texted me a couple of options, and I decided we should try a place I’d never been to before – Flour Rustic Italian Kitchen in Moreland Hills, OH (about 30 minutes or so from where I grew up).  The restaurant had 3.5 stars on Yelp!, and the reviews were detailed and positive.  Not to mention that the menu offered delicious options, and the wine list had a great selection!

After a few failed attempts to find reviews on a couple of wines, Jen and I decided to share a bottle of the Justin Cabernet, which we both agreed was a fine choice.  Smooth and tasty.

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We also decided to share a few appetizers and see where the rest of the meal took us.  We asked our server about a few of the appetizers and went with her recommendations.  Here’s what we shared:

Appetizers

Appetizers

My favorite was definitely the Whipped Burratta.  It was creamy, and flavorful, but didn’t feel like a “heavy” appetizer.  The stuffed peppers were good – we each had one, but in my opinion, they lacked a little flavor.  I tend to like things on the spicier side of life, so mine may not be the popular opinion.

Paul's Peppers

Paul’s Peppers

Where I think the appetizers really fell a bit flat was in the Fried Goat Cheese Stuffed Olives.  Our server sold these as “amazing”, yet there was barely a hint of goat cheese flavor to them.  Jen and I both felt a bit disappointed with this choice, though we didn’t stop munching on them!

Appetizers: Whipped Burratta, Fried Goat Cheese Filled Olives

Appetizers: Whipped Burratta, Fried Goat Cheese Filled Olives

Where there was no disappointment was with our choice to have the Funghi Pizza to finish off the evening.

Funghi Pizza

Pizzas

The crust was almost like a Naan bread, and the flavors of the mushrooms, shallots, and goat cheese worked beautifully together.  The char-grill and mushrooms gave the pizza an earthy element, and the goat cheese’s creamy texture and slightly tart flavor was a perfect complement.

Funghi Pizza

Funghi Pizza

We weren’t able to finish the pizza, but Jen was more than happy to take leftovers home!

All in all, we had a really nice experience at Flour.  It’s got a chic atmosphere, solid service, and good food.  It’s also always nice for me to spend time with a good friend!  Once again, I failed to take a photo with Jen.  I’m the worst about that!

If you’re in the CLE area and are looking for a good twist on Italian food, I do recommend visiting Flour. And, if you like mushrooms and goat cheese, definitely give the Funghi pizza a try!

Cheers!

Ker

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