Archive for the tag “date night”

Date Night at Zak’s Cafe

I’m almost a month late in writing this post, but that is no reflection on the food or the experience I had at Zak’s Cafe in Walker’s Point.  I had been on a few dates with a great guy, so this was our third or fourth time out.  I can honestly say that I’m not really sure because what ultimately was our first date happened quite by accident!  It was a situation of being out at an event together, having a wonderful time, noticing the chemistry, and then asking each other if that had been a date!  We agreed that it had been, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Our dinner at Zak’s was relaxed and enjoyable.  John was our server for the evening.  When I handed him the blog card, he didn’t even flinch!  Turns out that he did share it with the bartender, Rosalyn (sp?).  She came over with a glass of wine that she felt would pair really nicely with the “fantastic dish” they had chosen for me.  It was a glass of the Dante Reserve Pinot Noir, and Rosalyn quickly obliged when I asked to photograph the bottle…

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Typically, I’m not big on Pinots, because they tend to be a little on the light side.  My date has the same taste in wine, so he shared the same skepticism.  I quickly ascertained that Rosalyn was right, and I had jumped the gun on judging the wine.  It had great flavor on it’s own, but also paired really nicely with the food that was coming.

We started off by sharing the crab stuffed mushrooms.  Okay, mushrooms stuffed with crab meat, covered with cheese and baked to perfection?  Who can pass that up!  They were a wonderful start to the meal!

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Next came a cream of mushroom soup.  The consistency was perfect, though I felt it needed a bit more flavor.  Black pepper to the rescue!

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Finally, when my meal had been delivered, I was served up the short ribs.  Braised and slow roasted, served in a red wine vegetable gravy on a bed of mashed potatoes.  Melt in your mouth delicious!

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It’s hard to do this dish justice in photographs because it’s not one of those “beautifully plated” dishes, but trust me…the flavor, textures, and overall meal were exceptional!  My date had the prime rib, which he really enjoyed, but when he took a bite of my meal…an audible sigh of approval came out.  He actually ended up taking the leftovers home for lunch the next day!  And, then texted me about how delicious lunch was!  🙂

Not only was the food and wine fantastic at Zak’s, not to mention my company for the evening (wink), but the service was superb.  And, I love that Rosalyn mentioned that she would really appreciate if more “indecisive customers” would give her guidance like my blog card does!  It’s always nice to get some encouragement along the way!

After heading out from Zak’s, we didn’t really have much of a plan.  We ended up going to Bugsy’s – a cool speakeasy downtown.  My date and I had lots of great conversation, and no shortage of entertainment from the folks who had clearly been enjoying the libations for a while!  After several hours of getting to know each other better, and of watching crazy non-sober people, we headed to our respective homes for the evening.  Not before determining our next date, of course!  😉

If you have a chance to get out to Zak’s and/or Bugsy’s I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Cheers!

Ker

Sweetphi’s Date Night at Jackson’s Grill, Milwaukee, WI

I am so excited to be guest posting here on Kerri’s wonderful blog. I’ve been such a fan of her blog and the unique concept behind She Ordered What (whenever I’m at a restaurant and can’t decide what to get, I always use Kerri’s fearless method and ask the server to choose for me…but obviously with less grace than when Kerri does it, because I just get weird looks, so big props to her!)

Ker here: I get weird looks too, Phi!  The card usually helps to explain more clearly than I can do in the moment!  

I met Kerri over a year ago and have truly loved getting to know her and spend time with her. You may have seen my name pop up on She Ordered What a few times (see here, here, and here), but for those of you that may not know me, my name is Philia (Phi for short) and I have a food blog called the Sweetphi blog where I share simple, sweet & savory recipes and love to share how delicious food doesn’t have to have a bazillion ingredients or take hours to make in order for it to be great!

Ker again: Phi’s blog is so aptly titled – she is the sweetest woman!  It was love at first bite!  (we met for dinner with another local food blogger last year).  ❤

But truth is, even though I love to cook, I love to dine out too! There’s something truly great about picking something off a menu, having it brought to you, and then when you’re done enjoying your food you can just leave (I mean, obviously you have to pay or there would be problems) and you leave the mess for someone else to clean up. That, in and of itself is enough to send me to a restaurant, especially since I’ve been so busy lately that my kitchen is looking neglected and like I have a reoccurring tornado staying with us.

And by ‘us’ I mean my hubby and I!

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So this week when he suggested going on a date night I whole heartedly agreed. We decided to go to Jackson’s Grill a lovely supper club in Milwaukee, about a mile away from Miller Park.

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I had heard of supper clubs being a ‘thing’ in Milwaukee, but had never been to one and wasn’t quite sure what they were, so I was happy when I heard the waitress telling a table over from us that they were a supper club and that meant the establishment only served supper…seems like a pretty cool concept if you ask me.

As soon as we entered, it felt like we were transported back in time. The beige décor, antique fixtures and the lingering smell of food, all made for a very welcoming environment, not to mention the gorgeous mahogany ‘old school’ bar one had to walk around to get to the restaurant portion. We were sat immediately, and our server mentioned that they had a wine list, but that they made a really good Old Fashioned.

Old Fashioneds happen to be one of my hubby’s favorite drinks, and not wanting to be left out, I ordered one as well. The server did not lie; they made a really good Old Fashioned. They were HUGE too!

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For starters we had a cheese plate.

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I just can’t resist a cheese plate, and this one did not disappoint. Besides the selection of cheeses, there were spiced pistachios and wonderful cherry compote.

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After our cheese plate arrived, we ordered. I told the server what I was doing (having her order for me) and she played along, just asking what doneness level I liked my meat.

Our meal came with soups or salad to start, and both my husband and I got soup. The server picked a seasonal butternut squash soup for me, and my husband got the seafood bisque. While I did enjoy the seasonality of the butternut squash soup (it had brown butter drizzled on top and slivered almonds) it was a bit heavy for my taste. My husband’s seafood bisque on the other hand…that I would order time and time again, it was absolutely delicious!

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We then received our dinners and I was happy to see that the server had chosen the same dinner for me as my husband had, just a smaller portion and a different side. My husband got the 10oz Black Angus Filet Mignon al a Portobello with garlic mashed potatoes, and I got the 6oz Black Angus Filet Mignon al a Portobello with mac and cheese.

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The steak…oh my goodness…the steak was so good, some of the best I’ve ever had! It was resting on the plate under a Portobello cap and with every bite luscious juices would ooze out (am I the only one that likes to dredge bread through the steak juices? You should try it…it’s so good!) As we ate, the chef came out and went around the entire dining room asking how everyone’s food was – I heard only glowing reviews from the other diners, and had one to add myself (although I did have a giant bite of food in my mouth so my response was just a nod.)

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We finished off our dinner with a dessert I’d never had: Bananas Foster. I’d go back to Jackson’s Grill for this dessert alone. Warm bananas in a caramel sauce topped with vanilla ice cream. My husband got a little glass of port that accompanied dessert. It was the perfect finish to our meal.

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I would also like to note that the entire meal: Cheese plate, soup, steak, dessert, took only an hour in its entirety. What a lovely little supper club that I’m sure I’ll be going to again!

After doing this I have 1 question for Kerri – how do you do it? How do you take pictures with such ease in dark restaurants and make them look good? So many props to you and your wonderful blog!

Ker again… Phi, my blogging / photo best friend has become Snapseed! Here’s the link to the iPhone and to Android app.  It’s so easy, even when I take photos without flash, to correct the images so they properly represent the food I’ve actually received (even in dark spots!).  

If you’d like to connect with me, you can find me on twitter (@sweetphi), Instagram (PhiliaKelnhofer), or on Facebook (SweetphiBlog).

Thanks for having me on your blog Kerri!

Thank YOU, Phi for sharing your wonderful and romantic (Nick is a gem of a guy!) experience in adventuresome dining!  I could NEVER pull off an incredible blog like yours, but I certainly can learn from it!  I’m flattered that you spent time offering to contribute to SOW.  Thank you so much!  

Cheers!

Ker

Good Golly! An Amazing Dinner at the Holly Hotel (Holly, Michigan)

This post was written by a very good friend of mine, Jess.  She and her husband, Bryan (also a very good friend, who accompanied me for this blog post), are adventuresome diners and love to explore local spots.  I wish I had more of that in my DNA!

Jess was kind enough to vividly describe their anniversary dinner (happy belated anniversary you lovely couple!!) and Bryan was planful enough to take photos of many courses of this seemingly never-ending meal! He may have taken a cue from me, as some of the picture are of half-eaten dishes, or fully cleaned plates!  But, that’s okay…it’s all a sign of a thoroughly enjoyed meal!    I hope you enjoy their story as much as I did.

Meet Jess and Bryan:

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My husband Bryan and I discovered the Holly Hotel last fall thanks to a Groupon deal, and since it was relatively close to our house (we live in the boonies, so nothing is close to us) and there seems to be a lack of chef-driven, seasonal menus anywhere in metro-Detroit, we thought we would give it a shot. Plus, it has been around since the 1860s and is supposedly haunted—how much more can you ask for on a Groupon deal? Even if the meal sucked, maybe we would see a ghost.

Image courtesy of the Holly Hotel

When we first walked in, we were a little surprised and not sure what to expect from the meal. I don’t think the interior has changed much since the hotel first opened, with the exception of adding some electricity. To add to the experience, we brought my parents along.  They are well-traveled foodies, and have eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world.

It turned out to be a wonderful evening, with fantastic food and great service, and an interpretation of the décor as being “shabby chic”. So, when it came to figuring out where we wanted to dine for our 1 year anniversary, we decided to go back to the Holly Hotel.

Now, I should say that Bryan is a pretty adventurous eater. Snack Street in Beijing was like a playground to him, so he always chooses the chef-driven menus whenever he can. He did so during our first experience and decided that it worked so well, he wanted the chef-driven menu again. Since I had also chosen the chef-driven menu the first time, I thought I would mix it up and try some of their staple items during this dinner instead. And, we generally share so it works in our favor and we get to taste more of the menu.  I say “generally” because there was a squabble over some black truffle mashed potatoes on this particular evening.

Bryan’s meal started off with an amuse-bouche of chicken mushroom spring rolls with sriracha and yuzu (an Asian citrus). I had never had yuzu before, but it was pleasantly tart and paired well with the sriracha and the woodsy mushroom flavor, bringing a nice brightness to the spring roll.  Luckily they gave Bryan two spring rolls, so I got to gnosh on one. For my starter, I had onion soup topped with a puff pastry, which was a unique twist and absolutely delicious. When I commented on my love for puff pastry to our server, she shared my opinion saying “I’d eat a dead cat if it was wrapped in puff pastry. In fact, I’d tell you that’s how I like my dead cat prepared”.

I’m pretty sure “wrap it in puff pastry” didn’t make the list

(This is Ker:  When Jess relayed that ‘puffed pastry / dead cat’ story to me, she and I both bust up laughing! )

Next, Bryan had a pumpkin parsnip soup, which he devoured. I love parsnips, especially seeing them used as a puree for heavier cuts of meat like short-ribs, but am not so much of a pumpkin fan, so this wasn’t my favorite. Even though I wasn’t in love with the pumpkin flavor, I have to say the texture was incredible—very thick but pureed finely, and lots of flavor. Meanwhile, I was still working on my onion soup.

For the salad course, I had ordered a Bibb lettuce salad with shaved Bavarian ham, parmesan and a Dijon mustard dressing, but as soon as they served Bryan’s salad I knew I was going to have to forfeit mine. Bryan was served a spinach salad absolutely loaded with Stilton crumbles, Stilton dressing, beets and roasted corn. The problem: Bryan HATES blue cheese. The good news is that I love it, so we quickly switched. The blue cheese flavor was intense—if you aren’t a true lover of blue cheese I wouldn’t recommend this salad—and the roasted corn added a touch of sweetness that I really liked. As for my original salad… the Dijon dressing was the perfect blend of sweet and spicy, especially when paired with the slightly salty Bavarian ham. Not that I got to taste much of it.

Next up for Bryan was flounder stuffed with chorizo and shrimp grits and topped with a champagne feta cream sauce. I am allergic to seafood, so Bryan was on his own here.

I was concerned about a lot of really strong flavors and how they would all mix together, especially the chorizo with flounder, and I was even more curious about a champagne feta sauce, but judging by the empty plate the server cleared away, apparently the flavor profiles were a success.

After a quick orange sour palate cleanser (yummy! Not too tart and just the perfect amount of orange zest) we were finally on to the main course.

Beef Wellington is a signature dish for the Holly Hotel, and wanting to try some of their staple items, this was my choice. I was curious to see how they would handle this—not only is it a dish that has somewhat fallen out of fashion (along with Chateaubriand), but it is also extremely difficult to prepare, getting the correct temperature on the beef without overcooking the puff pastry.

Bryan had Lollipop Lamb Chops, Filet Mignon and Black Truffle Red Skin Potatoes. Which is where our sharing-system broke down.

First of all, my Beef Wellington was incredible. I’ve already mentioned my weakness for puff pastry, but throw in some flavorful, creamy mushroom duxelles on top of a tender filet and I am in heaven. I drifted off for a while, sipping my wine, enjoying my classic dish. It practically melted in my mouth. Bryan was also quiet, tucked into his lamb, filet and taters.

Finally, we came back to earth, decided to engage in conversation again, and shared bites. Wow. Wowwowwowwow. His filet mignon was one of the most tender I have ever had, which is saying something, because filet mignon is my favorite dish – hands down.  I almost always order it. His was like cutting through butter. I thought the beef wellington was good but this…. This was incredible.

And the potatoes…. I don’t even know how to describe them. The black truffle took the flavor on the potatoes to mythic heights. When I reached for a second bite, I nearly got stabbed with Bryan’s fork. After some pleading on my end and reminding the hubby how kind I was to forfeit my original salad to him (not like that was really a loss for me since I love blue cheese, but whatever), I was allowed a second bite. A blissful, perfect little bite. I would go back to the Holly Hotel for those alone.

Alas, soon the potatoes, the filet and my beef wellington were consumed and we were on to the cheese course. The server brought us (okay, technically Bryan) a tray of porter cheddar cheese, smoked cheddar, homemade caramel sauce, candied nuts and dried blueberries. I am a fan of smoked cheddars and the smokiness of this one was a perfect complement to the heavier flavors of our dinner. I was also digging the caramel sauce and dried blueberries and even dipped the cheddar into the sauce, which was surprisingly good.

As if we hadn’t been gluttonous enough at this point, Bryan had one more course to go—the dessert course. I had been eye-balling a puff pastry wrapped apple for dessert (are you sensing a theme here?) but Bryan’s trio of cheesecake was enough for the both of us (courtesy of the server, who knew it was our anniversary dinner) so I decided not to be piggish. We had a cheesecake slice topped with a chocolate and the aforementioned caramel sauce, one with a raspberry sauce and one with a strawberry sauce. Unfortunately, this was our least favorite dish of the night. We found the cheesecake to be very dense and dry, and were somewhat disappointed to wrap up our otherwise incredible meal on this note.

Overall though, our meal was amazing—the slightly kitschy atmosphere was quiet and romantic, the food was heavenly and our service was fantastic. We picked the perfect place to celebrate our anniversary, and it stacked up to our first experience there almost a year prior. In fact, it was so good that we became Dining Club members there, and will be taking my parents back when they are in town this weekend.  So, for anyone in the metro-Detroit area who doesn’t mind a bit of a drive for a truly wonderful dining experience, we highly recommend the Holly Hotel.

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Thanks to Jess and Bryan for taking time from their romantic anniversary dinner to prepare a blog post!  Yes, folks, I did razz them a bit about thinking so much about this blog while they were out celebrating such a special day!  But, I love them for having done so!

Now, I’m off to find dinner.  After reading about eight delicious courses, I’m starved, friends!

Cheers!

Ker

PS. Since I stopped writing my other blog, I don’t really have a good place to post general experiences.  Since y’all must know about my adoration for my beloved Clemson Tigers, I’m going to direct you to my friend Anthony’s recap of our weekend in God’s Country last weekend.  Thanks for the wonderful memories, Ant and everyone else with whom I spent QT in SC. xoxo.

HôM, Charleston, SC – Distraction led to a delightful dinner

In just as many weeks, I’ve had the honor of publishing three wonderful, and very different guest posts to my blog (this one included)!  I’m so grateful for the support that my friends and family have given me.  This post is from a woman I call “Superwoman”.  She does it all!  Wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend – and all to the max!  I won’t go into great detail describing Rachel, because she does a great job of describing herself in her post. Just know that I adore her!  This is the story of how she ended up with a delicious and unique burger at a local burger boutique in Charleston, SC (another city I LOVE!)…

Rachel’s story: [and sorry, Rachel, I interjected a couple of times – couldn’t resist!]

I am one of the few people I know that never makes substitutions on my food, omits ingredients, nor do I have allergies or any type of aversion to trying new foods. Yet, I still like to make my own choices off the menu. I get nervous when other people order. I fidget in my seat when someone suggests, “Let’s split some appetizers!”   Simple answer for this: When I go out to eat, I like to choose items that I won’t make at home (I am an adventurous cook, too), and I anticipate others to not be liberal enough with the menu. There are times I will let my husband give the waiter(ess), my order – as a gentlemanly gesture, although I have told him beforehand what I wanted. I am a petite girl and I get judged very quickly by what foods others *think* I eat.

But here’s the thing: I LOVE meat and I can put away killer amounts of food [Ker here: folks, it’s true, tiny Rachel can pack it away!]! Accordingly, if my husband puts in an order of, let’s say, a meal salad and a giant, medium rare steak with all the sides, guess who they stick the salad in front of – without fail? Yeah, me!  It’s why I figured I’d never trust a wait staff to decide my food fate.

But then, that brings us to Friday night, where it all changed. The husband, Jason, and I decided to try HôM (a boutique burger and ping-pong bar in Charleston, SC). There seems to never be a shortage of new restaurants or new menu items to try in the Charleston dining scene – and I have no complaints! There has been a recent crop of these boutique burger bars to pop up recently in the area, and all have had their own twist a special bun, local ingredients, sliders, etc. I’d heard a lot about this restaurant and loved the idea of a ping-pong table in the back room! [Ker here…me too, Rachel!]

Y’all, it’s a ping pong joint too!

Right when we walked in, I got a text from a friend that needed some emergency consultation.  Although my husband is a computer and gadget nerd, and checks his phone repeatedly throughout a meal, I keep my phone stashed away. I like good old-fashioned conversation during my meal and focusing on the food in front of me [Ker again: Amen, sista!]. Well, here was my first exception of the night – my friend needed me and, although it pains me to say this, friends come before food!

I was absorbed in the conversation, when our waiter appeared. I shrugged and said, “You know what, just bring me whatever. It’s fine with me.” {BTW- huge side eye from Jason right here, who couldn’t believe I was actually doing this….. he knows me well, which means he knows how much I like to order my own food. He might have even interjected with an “Are you really going to do this now???”}

Our waiter went along with the idea pretty quickly and questioned, “Well, let me ask you this, first – Do you like all American Beef burgers, and how do you usually have them prepared?” Me: “Yes, I like beef and I tend to order medium to medium-well but whatever you bring me is fine.” Waiter, a little bolder, “So, if it was rare, you’d be ok?” Me: “If that’s what the chef feels is best for that burger, okay. To be perfectly honest, whatever you bring out and set in front of me, I’m gonna eat. Just take a look at me and whatever you feel is right, bring it!” He started to ask if I wanted to start with a salad and I kinda gave him a *look.* He pulled himself together and said, “I’m going to suggest you start with the Golden Beet Salad (honey-herb vinaigrette, arugula,goat cheese, golden raisin puree).” I gave my go-ahead.

Golden Beet Salad
(honey-herb vinaigrette, arugula, goat cheese, golden raisin puree)

Not a lot of people were there at the time, so our food came rather quickly. The salad was delicious – very light and I am a huge fan of beets. It was large too. About halfway through the salad, our burgers came out. He just kinda slid it in front of me and started to walk away (yes, I was still rudely absorbed all in my phone) so I called out: “Oh! What is this?” He smiled and replied, “THE HURRICANE!” {From the menu: stuffed with duck confit & goat cheese, hōm steak sauce, vanilla onion relish, crispy rings}

Y’all- it was amazing! Very juicy and not too overpowered by the duck confit. It did have that distinctive “duck taste” but it was also very sweet. A decent sized burger and typical for this area – filling but not gut settlingly full. Sadly, I did not take any pictures of the burger, because I dove into it before there was even a chance!

Overall, I appreciate that the waiter went with a specialty meat burger even though he originally questioned me about an all-beef burger. I think he understood that he needed to impress, yet still wasn’t sure if I was legit. He might have even thought I was drunk- I am rather high energy and bounce and squirm and use lots of hand gestures, all which can be misconstrued as being under the influence very easily. Furthermore, this particular burger was one of the most expensive ones on the menu ($9.50). A very reasonable price for the type of burger, and I have no issue with the cost. I do, however, wonder if the waiter chose that burger because of the high price, or did he really assess me and feel that was the best choice for me? And, yes, I was happy with the choice.

It really was a good balance between light and heavy. The interesting part is that after looking at the menu afterwards, I probably would have gotten THE RITZ {oven tomatoes, parmesan, truffle braised mushrooms, red onion marmalade}, which was also a $9.50 burger. I will definitely return to HôM and if the waiter happens to remember me, I’ll take a moment to ask him why he decided to bring me that selection. What are your thoughts?

Thank you, Kerri for sparking this movement! I might even give it another shot. Someone else will have to call me with an emergency emotional situation, which I can’t ignore, right when I have stepped into a restaurant, so that I am thoroughly distracted! [Ker again: I’m on it! I’ll manufacture a great emotional story for you!]

[Ker again]  Thanks so much for documenting your experience at HôM, Rachel.  When I come to visit, game on!!  (and who can’t love this place just for the picture on their latest blog post alone?!?).  HôM is also on Facebook and Twitter.

I have to say, he had several options between $9.00 – $9.50, so I think he really personalized his order to you!  But, then again, I can’t read his mind!  😉  Look forward to seeing what other readers’ takes on the question are…

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