Archive for the tag “Cleveland”

Superior Service & Delicious Dining at Urban Farmer, Cleveland, OH

Over Labor Day weekend, I visited my family in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. As is our routine, my brother chose a few restaurants for me to pick from. Our family always enjoys a meal out when I visit. Lately, we’ve been trying to head into the city to try some new places (new to our family, anyhow).

This time, one of the restaurants on Adam’s list was Urban Farmer Steakhouse in downtown Cleveland. It only took me seeing that this is a farm-to-table concept restaurant to decide it was the one I was voting to check out. (You probably know of my love for farm-to-table, and specifically Braise here in Milwaukee.)

Urban Farmer

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We entered the rustic, yet elegant restaurant, adjacent to the Westin Hotel, and sat down in a cozy rounded booth. We were greeted by our server, Ashley. Now, I’m just going to say this right now: Ashley is quite possibly the most knowledgeable and impressive servers I have ever encountered. Absolutely top-notch. More on that later.

Ashley walked us through the concept described above – two kitchens (one for cooking, and one with a butchery and bakery), a below-level garden which supplies most of the herbs and vegetables for the restaurant, the relationships with local farms, etc. Then, she walked us through the different cuts of meat, the differences in how the cattle were raised and the impact of their diets on the flavors of the steaks, and the differences in how they are aged to affect tenderness and flavor. Ashley didn’t require any cheat sheets, and she made everyone feel comfortable (and impressed!). On top of her knowledge, she wasn’t the least bit stuffy or dry; she let her sense of humor come through as she inserted jokes and color commentary during her descriptions (“don’t mess with my meat” – she doesn’t believe in sauces or toppings).

When I gave her my card and advised her that she would be choosing my meal, she asked “seriously?”. Yes. “Okay, I know what I’m serving you!” – without hesitation. These are the types of meals I get really excited about because I know the server is going to choose really well.

We opted to get a few side dishes, which Ashley recommended sharing between two or three people. Ashley chose mine as well.

As it turns, out my entire dinner was shared. By far the best entree at our table; the vote was unanimous. That being said, everyone was very pleased with his/her meals.

So, what did Ashley choose, you ask? Wait no longer…

We started off with fresh baked bread (rolls and ah-mazing cast-iron cooked cornbread) and salted butter (which makes all the difference, in my opinion!). Ashley chose the special salad for me: yellow watermelon over Burrata and topped with olives, tomatoes, balsamic and served with two slices of prosciutto. It was light and flavorful – a nice change up to one of my other favorite watermelon salads (watermelon with goat cheese, balsamic and greens and herbs). We were off to a great start!

Next came the entree and side dish.

Wanting to share her favorite with me, Ashley chose the 14 ounce (FOURTEEN OUNCE!!) twenty-one day dry aged bone-in strip steak. It was perfection! Luckily, everyone at the table wanted to try this cut, so I didn’t feel completely overwhelmed or as though I’d have to try to finish it on my own. The plate was clean by the end of the meal though! The steak was really tender and had terrific flavor. It’s a spoiler for any other cut moving forward.

Ashley chose to bring foraged mushrooms as the side. A very nice compliment to the steak, and enough to feed at least four people! At the table we also ordered: potato puree (though my brother wouldn’t share!), asparagus (with cured farm egg yolk and chili), and twice-baked fingerling potato tart with bacon and aged cheddar. Everything was delicious!

Pro tip: you won’t go home hungry from Urban Farmer Steakhouse. Bring an appetite! 

Ashley asked if she should choose a dessert for me. Where to put it?!? Ultimately, since there was a gluten-free option for my brother and my uncle, my parents and I decided to share whatever Ashley decided to bring so we would all enjoy a bit of decadence.

My brother and uncle tried the lemon olive oil cake with kale ice cream (it’s much better than it sounds!), and pepper crisps.

If I were choosing my own, I’d have either gone for the lemon cake or the strawberry rhubarb cobbler with pistachio, buttermilk frozen yogurt and basil, because I generally like citrus or fruit desserts more than chocolate (but, not always!).

However, I was in the most capable hands, and I knew it! Ashley chose the butterscotch sundae with a warm brown butter blondie and toffee chip ice cream. AKA: heaven in a jar!

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Butterscotch sundae with warm brown butter blondie and toffee ice cream

My parents and I kept passing this jar around, taking one delicious bite at a time. The brownie and ice cream were melting into each other, combining incredible flavors together.

While we all walked out of Urban Farmer Steakhouse absolutely full, we walked out feeling like we had just had one of the best meals in a long time. And, we all agreed that Ashley set the bar for outstanding service! In fact, my uncle made it a point to seek her out so he could inform her that she was so impressive that she truly did elevate our experience that evening.

I definitely recommend a visit to Urban Farmer Steakhouse if you’re in Cleveland. I’d love to go back and take a tour of the kitchens and garden  (if the management allows it). Of course, I’d have to stay for dinner again! 🙂

What is your most memorable dining experience? Where were you? I’d love to hear from you!

Cheers!

Ker

Montreal Smoked Meat – Can’t Beat Pete’s!

Typically when I travel for business, I don’t have much time to really enjoy touring the cities I’m in. This trip was no different.

On Monday I flew from Milwaukee through Detroit to Montreal, arriving at 1:30AM. I flew out of Montreal through Detroit to Cleveland on Tuesday afternoon. I left Cleveland for Miamisburg on Wednesday afternoon and left Miamisburg to stop in Cincinnati on Thursday before flying out to Milwaukee on Thursday evening. There was not much time to see anything but the inside of airports and rental cars, folks! I was fortunate enough to have a meeting less than five miles from my parents’ house, so I did get a chance to say hi to them while staying overnight at “home”.

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At least in Montreal we had time to stop for a local lunch prior to heading back to the airport. My colleague loves Smoke Meat Pete’s because of the food, and because of the live blues music they have in the evenings.

Outside

Since this was a lunch stop, no live music, but still plenty (I mean plenty!) of good smoked meat! (it was tough to get a photo of the stage because of the sunny glare coming in through the windows, but here it is…)

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In case you’re not familiar with it, smoked meat is a type of kosher-style deli meat product made by salting and curing beef brisket with spice, either “lean” (my preference) or regular and served as a platter or on a sandwich. I had asked the man behind the counter suggest his favorite menu item for me – whoops! He had “recently decided to become a vegetarian” (an interesting choice for working at a joint known for its meat!), so he couldn’t make a personal recommendation. Fail.

However, he did recommend the “Pete’s Special” which is a smoked meat sandwich with yellow mustard, french fries (frites) and cole slaw (salade de patates – vinegar based). It was a LOT of food, and it wasn’t healthy (evenly “lean cut”), but it was a tasty indulgence. (much like a REALLY GOOD corned beef deli sandwich is)

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The meat was thicker than I thought it would be for “lean cut”, but I forgave it because of the flavor! It’s also one of those sandwiches that has to be (at least partially) eaten with a fork.

And, those fries… so good! Real cut potatoes, perfectly fried to heavenly perfection!

As any great joint has, here is the ever-present “neon sign”!

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And, for good measure… great press for Smoke Meat Pete’s

Lord of the fries

I’ve seen smoked meat spots in the US, but admittedly have not tried it. If you’ve had smoked meat, in Montreal, or elsewhere, did you enjoy it? How do you think it stacks up to US style deli meat? Please comment below!

Cheers!

Ker

 

A Super Supper at Sara’s Place, Gates Mills, OH

I’m back in Ohio for the holidays, and for the past several years, we have taken the opportunity to have a nice family dinner at Sara’s Place in Gates Mills – a cute spot in a quaint area.

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One of the many nice things about Sara’s Place is that they offer a wide variety of gluten-free entrees.  My brother has Celiac’s disease, and my uncle has a gluten intolerance, so Sara’s Place offers more options than most restaurants do these days.  

This year, we dined at Sara’s Place the evening after Christmas. A lovely Friday night out.

The atmosphere at Sara’s Place is casual, yet elegant.

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One of the unique features I love is that the kitchen is separated from the restaurant by handmade stained glass windows which reflect the local area.

The view to the kitchen

The view to the kitchen

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On Friday evening, I was HUNGRY, as I had been running around all day, including playing school with my god-daughters!

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I *may* be an overachieving student!

At one point, during the “school day”, I was asked to do 30 full push-ups for phys ed class!  And, I did them – straight through – after a morning workout, no less!  I was working up an appetite.  🙂 My Purium apple-berry shake was my only meal of the day at that point as well.

So, when we got to Sara’s Place, everything looked good to me!  The Ahi Tuna, the (healthy option) Stir Fry,  the homemade Chicken Pot Pie, the Pasta Bolognese, the Filet…

Our server, Cindy, first took our drink orders (thank you, mom, for making that a comical series of events!), and then advised of us the evening’s side dish options (mashed potatoes or brown rice, and broccolini).  When Cindy went to take our dinner orders, I advised her that I couldn’t make up my mind.  I handed her my SOW card, and asked her to surprise me.  I also told her that all of the side dishes were fair game. Cindy was a good sport, asked a couple of questions , and then moved on to place our order. She had a big smile as she walked away from the table (a sure sign she knew what she wanted to serve me!)

My dad, my uncle and I started with the Stuffed  Banana Peppers (stuffed with Italian Sausage, mozzarella and parmesan cheese and served in the homemade marinara sauce (the DELICIOUS house marinara sauce!)).  The appetizer is not overly spicy, but it does have great flavor!

Stuffed Banana Peppers

Stuffed Banana Peppers

 

When Cindy brought the entrées out, she delivered me a perfectly cooked filet mignon over mashed potatoes and served with broccolini.  As I mentioned, the filet was expertly prepared, and the entrée was delicious!

Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon

I’m not usually one to dive into dessert, and if I do,when I go to a Gavi’s property, I generally will only order Tiramisu for dessert.  (It’s a fantastic recipe!)  On Friday night, however, I was mesmerized by the lemon-raspberry mousse bomb.  It sounded so light and refreshing.  I tend to love citrus flavored desserts anyhow!

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Lemon-raspberry mousse bomb

 

While we were a bit surprised by the (raspberry-filled) cake inside the mousse bomb, I have to say that the dessert was wonderful!  Light and refreshing – just as I had suspected.

Inside the bomb!

Inside the bomb!

My family enjoyed various desserts and coffee / after-dinner drinks.  It was a great dinner, from start to finish!

Thank you to Cindy and the staff at Sara’s Place for always treating our family to a lovely evening out and a delicious meal!

If you’re in the NE OH area, I suggest visiting Sara’s Place for dinner sometime.  You may be inclined to see a show at the Gates Mills Community Players Theater across the street, or to shop at the boutique next door.  This little Gates Mills area is so quaint and cute that it’s worth the visit!

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

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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

My Favorite Dining Experiences of 2013…

I wrote about my favorite experiences of 2012 last year, and it has been fun to go back and revisit some of them periodically.  So…I thought I’d make another list for 2013 – the first full year of “She Ordered What?”.

First, let me say that 2013 has been a fantastic year!  I left a job that, to put it nicely, was un-fulfilling, moved to Milwaukee (a city that I am LOVING!), am working for a supervisor I respect – and like, and have coworkers I enjoy (so much so that we opted to spend time together after the holiday party this year).  I am living in downtown Milwaukee, and am thoroughly enjoying metropolitan living (as are my (now 13-year-old) dogs!). I am also traveling a bit more again, allowing for some interesting dining experiences.  For me, change has been very good!

So…I started compiling my top 5 choices of 2013, but the list quickly grew beyond five.  I’ll list my “top 5” and a few honorable mentions – which provided great memories with a bunch of friends and colleagues.

5) Melt Bar and Grilled: This is a bit of a cheat, as I actually posted this on December 28, 2012.  However, I think Melt deserves a mention since the sandwich was so very good!  Full of carbs and comfort, the “Mom’s Meatloaf” grilled cheese was excellent, and very filling!  I did end up having the second half of the sandwich for lunch the next day – and I ate it cold.  It was really delicious as a cold leftover!  I’d also like to thank Melt Bar and Grilled for posting a link to my blog on their website.  I really appreciate the additional traffic!  I’m looking forward to hitting up Melt when I make it back to Ohio next year.

Melt

4) AJ Bombers:  As I mentioned, I had been following AJ Bombers on Twitter ever since I read about their social media program a couple of years ago.  So…when I moved to Milwaukee, I was really excited to walk over and check the place out in person.  After all, the place promises “Happiness, with a side of burgers”.  Not only is the food far better than your average bar food (let’s face it, it’s NOT healthy!), but the Bloody Mary drinks are the best in town – I don’t care what WISN readers say!  Finally, the service is always outstanding – though I tend to favor being a customer of this girl.  😉

AJB

3) Braise: I was introduced to Braise through a local food blogger, Phi, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole dining experience with her and another food blogger, Shanon.  The atmosphere is so cool.  This used to be a bowling alley, and the owners repurposed a lot of the old elements to create a unique and inviting space.  But, the food…is SO good!  The menu is changed up regularly to incorporate the best ingredients, and it’s not an overwhelmingly large menu so one doesn’t have to feel pressure to sift through pages of options, hoping to make the right decision.  I’ve been to Braise several times now, and in my opinion, any decision is a good one!  Also, Braise just opened a second floor bar/lounge area.  I’ll need to check that out!

Braise

2) Bacon Bros. Public House: Another locally sourced restaurant makes the list!  I have Yelp! to thank for introducing my friends and me to this hidden gem.   While visiting South Carolina to see my Clemson Tigers beat Boston College, we stumbled upon Bacon BrosThe food:  the meat is locally sourced, and spectacular, and the side dishes have a definite southern flair to them, but with a new twist.  The service was fantastic.  And, their motto is “Powered by Bacon”!  What’s not to love about this place?

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and…the top “She Ordered What?” dining experience of 2013 was…

1) The Publican:  The fact that I drove ~90 miles each way to and from Chicago on a Tuesday night (in traffic and weather) could not even put a damper on this meal!  Our server, whom I mentioned a few times in the post, was very good – and he was totally on board to surprise us that evening.  The food was expertly prepared.  Again, The Publican is a restaurant that sources its ingredients locally – must love that!  All in all, the atmosphere, the service, the food, and the company (Chanda!) were top-notch.  I loved this place that is off the beaten path, so to speak, but may be home to the best meal I’ve had in Chicago (and I’ve had some REALLY good meals there!).  I highly recommend The Publican if you’re looking for an excellent dining experience.  The menu changes up frequently here as well, but here is the selection from which we had to choose.

Publican

Honorable mentions:

I kicked the year off by celebrating a dear friend’s birthday in Detroit.  I was able to meet some of her other wonderful friends, and we just had a fantastic time enjoying a city that tends to be “off-limits” after work or late at night. Detroit does indeed have some safe and fun spots to enjoy “after hours”.

I also enjoyed celebrating my own birthday with friends – in Massachusetts.  My friends gave me a perfectly balanced weekend.  We had fun “out on the town”, enjoyed chilling at home, oh, and we ran a 10K in the middle of it all!  I’m looking forward to seeing this crazy crew when we meet up for our other friends’ wedding in Memphis this February.

Finally, categorize this under the “last, but not least” header… I had some fun times traveling with my new coworkers this year.  We had some really fruitful business trips, but always seemed to sneak in a good meal or two! There was the “first meal in Nola”, the “marathon trip”,  the “French food in Montreal”, the “mussels in Brussels”, and the “pork in Paris”.  We’ve had other dining adventures, but not all warrant a “She Ordered What?” post.

I will say this, I’m grateful for the way my colleagues have embraced me, and I find it refreshing to enjoy having a meal and/or a drink (or two!) with my coworkers. It certainly makes work more enjoyable!

“She Ordered What?”: 2013 by the numbers:

I wrote 22 posts to contribute to the overall number of 83 posts. The readers and I have posted 221 comments to the blog.  There are over 1,800 “She Ordered What?” followers who viewed the blog almost 17,000 times.  And, from all over the world…83 countries, actually (led by the US, Canada and Singapore)!

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Thank you again for your support and readership.  As I mentioned last year, if you would like to write a guest post, please let me know.  I enjoy sharing others’ experiences as well!

Here’s to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling 2014!

Cheers!

Ker

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