Archive for the tag “family”

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

Odd Duck – An odd’s on favorite in Milwaukee

Last week, my parents were in town to help me with “elderly dog care” while I was booked from day til night with business meetings.  They spent the days in my apartment downtown, only venturing out a couple blocks or two (due to weather and because they were uber-productive at home!).  Mom cleaned my place from top to bottom (including all of the dogs’ toys) and finished all of my laundry for me.  I didn’t ask her to do so, but I was appreciative of her help.  And, dad took care of early morning dog duties as well as running errands.  Oh, and bankrolling our few meals out!  🙂

It wasn’t until later in the week that I would be able to spend quality time with my parents, and on Thursday evening I relied on Yelp! for a recommendation on Mexican food.  Let’s just say, it was a bust.  Not that the food was terrible, but it certainly wasn’t 4 or 5 star rating worthy.  So, when mom informed me that they wanted to take me out for an early birthday dinner (I gracefully age another year on March 17) on Friday, I wanted to make sure to have a good dinner.  I researched a bit that Thursday evening, but ultimately didn’t decide on a locale until Friday afternoon.

Way to go, Ker.  Not good for reservations!

I called Odd Duck, which has been an ongoing recommendation from a coworker and friend for months, and they had one 5PM reservation available.  Mom and dad were totally cool with that. It was 6PM their time, and they had been on a breakfast and dinner only schedule, so eating early was perfect.  Since I was quite under the weather, getting home early was actually appealing to me too!

So, off we went to see what Odd Duck was all about…Nestled in the lovely neighborhood known as Bay View, Odd Duck is a small restaurant overloaded with character.The menu was diverse and reasonably priced.

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Odd Duck Kitchen

Odd Duck Kitchen

Our server, India, came over to greet us and to ask about our drink order. At this point, I told my parents “screw this cold, I’m having wine tonight!”.  When I advised India that I’d have her choose my meal and asked her to bring a glass of wine to complement it, she gave an affirmative nod of her head and simply asked if anything was off-limits.  Just the scallops (and later, i would determine that the maple vinaigrette would not have made my cut).  So, off India went.

India returned with a glass of Portuguese red wine for me, it was so new it isn’t even on the drink menu online.  She suggested that it is a very versatile wine and she thought it would complement her (still secret) entrée choice for me.  Then, wisely, India asked if we’d like to try one of Odd Duck‘s awesome cheese plates.  She and my dad collaborated on choosing five cheeses, including: Hook’s 5 Year Cheddar, Roth Kase Buttermilk Blue Affinee, and Izar-Gazta Raw Milk Idiazaba amongst a couple of others that escape me now but were delicious.  This was the perfect savory start to our meal – not too much food, but a variety of things to nibble on as we enjoyed the atmosphere.

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As we finished up the cheese plate, my dad’s mushroom salad arrived.  It looked wonderful, and he devoured it so I think it’s safe to say it was a very good, earthy-flavored salad!

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My parents were in awe of the crustini as well.  So thin and delicate!

Mom and I ordered another glass of wine (come on, that’s what we Kilbourne women do!) to be delivered with our entrées, which would be coming momentarily.

Mom had ordered a Korean BBQ style pork dish – which was a departure for her, for sure. Let me just tell you how that egg yolk perplexed her!  She finally gave in and broke the yolk to give the rice a better texture.  Aside from the bite of the Kimchi and the pickled pears, she thoroughly enjoyed it!  (mom doesn’t like spicy food) It had great flavor – we all shared bites of our dishes with each other.

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Dad ordered the braised short rib beef stroganoff, which also looked and tasted exceptional!  And, the portions were not overwhelming.

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And, India had chosen the “Duck times two” as I dubbed it.  In fact, it’s much more sophisticated than that by the restaurant’s description: seared duck breast over bread pudding with a cranberry gastrique and handmade (duck) sausage over confit. It was a simple dish, but expertly prepared and very flavorful, yet not “gamey”.  The seared duck and bread pudding were my favorite components of this dish.

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Again, the portions were just right, allowing us entertain the idea of having dessert.  As soon as India mentioned sorbet, I knew what my dad would be ordering.  Odd Duck was featuring Concord Grape sorbet – something I had never heard of before!  I opted for the lemon-ginger creme brûlée.  Mom insisted that she didn’t want dessert.

Funny, because that third spoon India brought “for sharing” sure was put to good use by Pamcakes!  She enjoyed the sorbet, but she could not get enough of the creme brûlée!  Both desserts hit the spot – for all of us.

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From beginning to end, my family enjoyed our first experience at Odd Duck.  And, I’m pretty sure the wine mom and I had comprised half the bill!  It’s an affordable place with exquisite food that is not pretentious or intimidating.

As I gazed at the crowd as we were leaving, I saw a young demographic swaying more toward the hipsters’ scene than anything else.  Casual and comfortable sums up my experience.

To India, thank you for making my early birthday dinner delightful.  You know your stuff, and you are a really pleasant server.  Hope to see you and the Odd Duck gang again soon.

Cheers!

Ker

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