Archive for the tag “Dinner”

Kofusion! Champaign, IL Serves Up Great Sushi!

Several weeks ago, I found myself going on a road trip with a colleague of mine. We were headed to the wonderfully sleepy town of Shelbyville, IL. Or, as I affectionately call it: the place where dreams go to die in a cornfield!  Seriously, there’s not a lot going on there. We weren’t able to book a hotel in Shelbyville, not even at the “hotel and bait shop”, so we ended up driving part way and staying overnight in Champaign.

We took the advice of our sweet desk clerk and headed downtown to a sushi joint. Thankfully, my colleague Mike enjoys good, local food as much as I do! He and I don’t choose chains or franchises when we travel together.

Downtown Champaign is small and cute, from what I saw. Kofusion is where we ended up dining. It was a pleasant enough evening that we were able to enjoy the outside patio, which makes any meal all the better in my opinion!

There was a ten piece maki sampler available for $10, which both Mike and I ordered – and thoroughly enjoyed!  There may have been one piece that I wouldn’t necessarily order again, but it was great to sample so many flavors so as not to get bored.

Maki platter!

Maki platter!

We also ordered pork filled pot stickers, which were cooked perfectly and had really nice flavor.  Mike also ordered a house salad (greens, fuji apple and ginger dressing), which he mentioned was quite good as well. The dressing was a hit!

Finally, I ordered an additional roll – the Flaming Phoenix – tempura fried shrimp, mango, butterfly shrimp, avocado, spicy mayo and unagi sauce. So good! I love rolls that are fire-roasted (for lack of a better term) since they have a grilled flavor to them.

Flaming Phoenix roll

Flaming Phoenix roll

Not only did I finish my meal, sharing a few pieces with Mike, but he did as well. I KNOW a meal is good when Mike finishes it because he would rather walk away from a sub-par dish than to struggle to eat it.

We then returned to our hotel, preparing for an early morning drive over to Shelbyville where we would spend the day watching glue run. Fascinating stuff, I tell you! (actually, I LOVE going to manufacturing facilities to see how products are made, so it was fascinating)

If you ever find your way to Champaign, I’d recommend Kofusion. Are there other restaurants I should try if I find myself back in Champaign?

Ringing in the New Year – Out & About in Milwaukee with Good Friends!

Upon returning from Ohio in time to watch my Clemson Tigers beat Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl (yes, my priorities are a bit odd!), I found myself preparing for a visit from my dear friend Dana. Dana has been mentioned here (actually, she wrote that post!), here, and here.  She was driving in from Michigan the morning after I arrived back home, and planned to spend a few days in Milwaukee over the New Year’s week.

Dana is a wonderful and curious traveler, so she suggested several local things to try.  Before I get into how Dana and I ate our way through New Year’s week, I’ll share a few pictures of the other things we saw and did.

First, Dana needed her Bloody Mary from AJ Bombers!

BM_AJ

I’ve mentioned AJ’s before…

Then, on to the Pabst Brewing Company…Not a traditional brewing process tour, but rich in history and quite interesting, in my opinion.

IMG_1128[1]

IMG_1127[1]Though the tour doesn’t focus on the process of brewing beer, you still get to enjoy beer during the tour.  Plus, this facility has a wonderful and intimate space in which to host weddings, parties and other celebrations.

Lakefront Brewery… My neighbor, and friend, Andrew also joined us for LFB and dinner later.

photo (22)

(pro tip: The fried cheese curds are fantastic! The Beer Hall Wheat Ale batter is light and crispy…this is the only way I’ll eat cheese curds, and I’m not generally a big fan of fried foods!)

The Old German Beer Hall… Dana’s pick for dinner on the evening of her arrival.

OGBH

After all we had munched on at Lakefront Brewery, we were not as hungry as we thought we might be. Total bummer, because the German menu seemed to have real promise!

menu_OGBH

We did polish off the Hofbräuhaus Brotzeitteller, which consisted of classic beer hall style bread, meat & cheese board, a 10oz pretzel, Rye bread & Obatzter with (local) Usinger deli meats, Swiss cheese, beer radish, and pickles. A great appetizer to pick at – a lot of variety, and very good food!

We may have polished off a few beers as well.  My choice… the Hofbräu Delikator – “Dopplebock” – actually, that was our server’s choice, and it was quite tasty!

Now…on to the main culinary events!

New Year’s Eve at Kanpai Izakaya… I made reservations for the five course dinner special.  $59 / person, for fresh sushi, sashimi, and wine/Saki pairing?  Yes, please!

IMG_8470[1]

IMG_8472[1]

Courses one and two: Lobster Miso Soup and House Salad.  The addition of lobster meat to the soup…brilliant!

photo (23)

Hamachi Ponzu appetizer (course three).

IMG_8474[1]

Course 4: The “OMG” roll as it cooks. The roll has shrimp tempura, avocado, eel, shrimp, spicy and wasabi aiolis, and is served flaming under the fire of burning rum.  The resulting taste is of a delicious grilled sushi roll.

photo (24)

Everyone at the table enjoyed this roll immensely, as do I!

The Chef’s Choice sashimi plate was the final delivery.  Please allow me to say that, OMG, this was amazing!!

IMG_8476

If I had a proper camera, this plate would have looked even better.  However, even with a phone camera, I hope you see just how beautiful all of the seafood looks!  This lovely plates hosts a party of Crab, White Tuna, Yellow Finned Tuna, Salmon, and Talapia (the chefs were advised that Scallops were off-limits for this gal).  I’m not even kidding when I say that the fish melted in my mouth – and, the Yellow Finned Tuna was my favorite, by far!

I’ve always enjoyed the food and service at Kanpai, but I think they managed to (somehow!) step up their game on NYE! And, Mary, thanks for wonderful service – always with a smile!

Kanpai was a great start to our NYE outing!  We then walked over to Cafe Benelux for a drink, and ultimately cabbed back to East Town to enjoy acoustic music (very good acoustic music!) at The County Clare.

The County Clare was busy, but not overly crowded.  Dana, Andrew and I had a great time just chatting, listening to the music, and watching folks (overly) enjoy their evenings.  We also thoroughly enjoyed the complimentary bottle of champagne The County Clare provided just prior to midnight! What a wonderful way to ring in 2015!

It was difficult to get a good photo with the lighting, but you see the "a hundred thousand welcomes" (céad míle fáilte)!

It was difficult to get a good photo with the lighting, but you see the “a hundred thousand welcomes” (céad míle fáilte)!

And…then came the After, After Party at GoodKind.

After having heard about GoodKind from a colleague, and reading about it being one of the top 21 new restaurants in the US, I decided we should make reservations for the After, After Party Brunch on New Year’s Day. We had a lazy morning and then headed over to GoodKind in Bay View with my friend Katie in tow as well.   We walked into an inviting atmosphere, busy with other brunchers!

IMG_1149[1]

This was the inaugural brunch at GoodKind, so nobody, including the staff, knew exactly what to expect!

After reviewing the day’s menu, I knew I couldn’t decide (except to eliminate the Smoked Rotisserie Pork Belly served with a Maple Buttermilk Cake.  I LOVE pork belly, but there is no way anyone will get me to eat anything maple-flavored!)  Everything else was fair game.

menu_goodkind

Our server, Caitlin, advised us that most tables had been ordering tapas style and sharing dishes, so we decided to do the same.  We took a few recommendations from Caitlin, and I asked her to choose an additional dish to surprise us.

We started by sharing a bottle of wine.  This Ramon Bilbao Rioja was rich in flavor and definitely improved as it sat.

IMG_1150[1]

We then ordered:

Polenta Madame with hometown ham, goat cheese curds and fried egg.  What an extraordinary and savory delight!!

Polenta Madame

Polenta Madame

The Pork Cheek Donut – it’s just like it sounds…a sugary donut filled with tender pork cheek and served over a chocolate raspberry sauce.  I LOVED the concept here, but I think the sweet overpowered the savory a bit.  I would have loved to have a bit more pork in each bite.  However, if you have a sweet tooth, this dish may be the one for you!

IMG_1144[1]The aforementioned Smoked Rotisserie Pork Belly with Maple Buttermilk Cake was highly recommended by our server, so we did order that dish,  After being assured by my friends that the pork did not have a maple flavor, I gave it a try.  As it should be, the meat was very tender, if a bit high in fat content.

Smoked Rotisserie Pork Belly with Maple Buttermilk Cake

Smoked Rotisserie Pork Belly with Maple Buttermilk Cake

And, Caitlin’s choice for us was the Dungeoness Crab Bread Pudding with frisee, tarragon and lemon vinaigrette.  I thoroughly enjoyed this dish too!  The crab meat was not overpowering, but what a rich flavor!  I loved having a serving of savory bread pudding for brunch!  And, the frisee with lemon vinaigrette…so light and fresh!

Dungeoness Crab Bread Pudding

Dungeoness Crab Bread Pudding

As if my friends and I hadn’t tasted enough goodness at GoodKind, Dana made the executive decision to order each of the two desserts that were being offered that day!  I don’t recall what GoodKind named these desserts, but one was Door County cherry tart with whipped cream and anise sprinkles, and the other was chocolate cake, topped with chocolate mousse and brittle bites.

Door County cherry tart

Door County cherry tart

IMG_1147[1]

Chocolate mousse cake

We enjoyed both desserts, although the chocolate cake was deemed a bit too rich for my rookie friends!  (I, on the other hand, thought it was super tasty!).

I think the menu at GoodKind, being so unique, may seem a bit intimidating to some people.  I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to take the leap of faith and to dine at GoodKind, knowing you’ll have great flavors served up!

GoodKind will begin regular Sunday brunches this month, and I hope locals and visitors give it a try!  If you’re into sushi, sashimi and the like, I really suggest Kanpai in the Third Ward.  Neither my guests nor I have ever been disappointed there.  And, for  local fare that is not fancy, but is just good, AJ Bombers, the Old German Beer Hall, and Lakefront Brewery are great local options.

I hope you enjoyed our tour of Milwaukee over the past few days!

Happy new year!

Cheers!

Ker

Delicious Dining at Restaurant Hôtel du Nord, Compiegne, France

In this post, I’m combining a couple of meals that we had in the restaurant in our hotel in Compiegne, Francethe Hôtel du Nord.  We arrived into France late on Tuesday evening and decided to have dinner at the hotel rather than going out.  It was a very good choice!  We also had lunch there on Thursday because we were meeting in the conference room at the hotel all day.

At dinner, we started with a les amuse-bouches (appetizer) of Brussel sprout mousse.  It sounds strange, and it was a bit peculiar, but it was also surprisingly tasty! But, then again, I love Brussel sprouts!

IMG_0191[1]

Then, I had a traditional Filet Mignon with crispy polenta and mixed greens.  It was nothing fancy, but it was a good, solid, and well-prepared meal.

IMG_0194[1]

I didn’t partake in any extra appetizers or dessert, but I thought I’d share pictures of my coworkers’ dishes, because they are so beautiful!

Image (4)

Appetizers: vegetable torte on the left and avocado and green pea starter with a mint jelly base on the right.

Tiramisu

Dessert: Tiramisu

The French certainly do know how to innovate food with flavors and design!

For lunch, we had a set menu which was all a surprise to me because I don’t understand French!

We started with a layered carrot mousse with ginger cream.  Again, it’s an interesting flavor and texture, but we all agreed that we liked it.

IMG_0136[1]

After the small plate (errr, shot glass!), we were served the classically French appetizer of Foie Gras.  We were all a bit surprised by the chocolate crust, and my French colleagues thought it was too sweet and overpowered the flavor of the Foie Gras.  They all ended up removing the crust and focused on enjoying the center.

IMG_0138[1]

The dish was served cold and almost tasted like an ice cream to me.  I’m not sure I would order it on a regular basis, but I did enjoy trying a new appetizer.

Our main course was roasted cod, served over broccoli puree.  I truly enjoyed this dish.  The fish was light and flaky (and the knife the French serve with fish does a fantastic job of peeling the skin right off the meat), and the broccoli puree had a thick and somewhat chunky texture.  It felt like a substantial meal, but not overly filling – which is good since lunch in France is a four-course meal!

IMG_0141[1]

The dessert we were served was not only beautiful (again!), but light and delicious!  I didn’t finish the dessert, but I did try each component and loved the flavors.

This was a coconut mousse served over a small muffin (almost banana-nut-like) with a crispy wafer over it.  Isn’t it lovely?

IMG_0144[1]

To say that this lunch is way more fancy than I normally have would be an understatement.  It’s also more food than I would normally have!

I’m excited to share another great experience in Compiegne with you shortly.  I had a wonderful young server who was all-in on the surprise, much like Ralph was in Bocholt! Please stay tuned!

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

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: