Archive for the tag “farm to table”

A Killer Dinner at Kil@wat, Milwaukee

Last week, my employer, Bostik, Inc., had it’s annual UPAF (United Performing Arts Fund) donation campaign. I decided to be a member of the campaign committee for Bostik, though I can’t say that I felt I really pulled my weight (all day meetings and such distracted me).

I did, however, become a member of the UPAF Next Generation affinity group – and was asked to be on the council of Next Generation (you’ll see my name in the list!).  Not only am I happy to support the arts here in Milwaukee (so much in the way of great arts!), but as a member of the NG council and contributing member above the threshold amount, I will be able to take advantage of great local networking events.  I’m super excited to become even more connected to my current city!

Note: I also won the dessert category of the pot-luck fundraiser using the family recipe mentioned here.

I had missed serving my community.  While living in Ohio, I had served on the board of my local Habitat for Humanity affiliate.  I continued to work with HFH when I lived in Orange County, CA (though I couldn’t afford the $50K donation being a board member required).  My work life in Detroit affected me so negatively that I didn’t take advantage of any of the numerous opportunities to volunteer and be engaged that the wonderful city had to offer (save for a Kickstarter campaign or two), because there is no shortage of opportunities to be involved in Detroit’s community activity.  It’s nice to be involved again!

On Monday of last week, I won two tickets to the opera.  “Julius Caesar” is running March 28-30 at the Uihlein stage at the Marcus Center (a mere 0.5 miles from my place). So, my cultured friend Phi accepted my invitation to attend opening night.

We decided to grab a bite at Kil@wat in the Intercontinental Hotel (which is a stunning space, in my opinion) prior to attending the opera. Conveniently, Kil@wat is just across the street from the theater. They are one of four properties associated with the Marcus, and offer rewards and discounts (darn it – I hadn’t received my Smart Card yet!).

After a quick walk over to Kil@watPhi and I were warmly greeted, taken to our table, and advised that Jake would be our server. We had a drink menu, a full dinner menu, and a “pre-theater menu” presented to us. The theater menu (not up-to-date online) consisted of a few options for appetizer/soup/salad, entrée, and dessert for $30. Phi and I both opted to go that route, both because there were great options, and because she knew (from experience) that Kil@wat was swift in serving those items.

The only decision I could make was that I wasn’t interested in the Navy bean soup.  Salad, bacon-wrapped dates – yes. Braised short-rib, Trout, etc – yes.  Chocolate times 3, panna cotta – yes.  🙂

So, I advised Jake that I wasn’t interested in the soup, but would empower him to choose everything else for me.  He was all-in from the start.

I was first served the Shepherd’s salad, which Phi had also ordered:

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Artisan lettuces, roasted cherry tomatoes, goat cheese roulade, torn crouton, goat cheese dressing.  Jake said he chose this because the dressing is so good!  And, it wasn’t only the dressing that was fantastic…this salad is amongst my favorites of all time.  The ingredients were so fresh, so simple, but oh so tasty!  (plus, I love goat cheese!)

Phi had ordered the braised short-ribs, which were as good as any I have had (yes, we share!).  For my entrée, I was delivered the braised pork shank:

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Braised pork shank with Yukon whipped potato, braised scallion, roasted garlic jus.  Aside from that moment in which I bit into a thick slice of garlic and feared that Phi would not want to speak with me for the rest of the evening, this dish was perfection!

I had initially questioned whether I needed a steak knife (stupid me), until I touched my fork to the pork and it just fell apart on my plate.  It was exceptional, and the garlic jus complemented it perfectly!  I’m not ashamed to say that I finished just about every bite of this meal.

And…still had an appetite for the dessert Jake chose for me! He chose the Chocolate3 (chocolate cubed).  Phi had also chosen this dessert.

photo 3This decadent dessert consisted of dark chocolate mousse, chocolate ice cream, and chocolate caramel ganache.  The panna cotta of the evening was mango, and I would have been perfectly happy with that dish, but this chocolate 3-ways was fantastic.  Chocolate and caramel were made for each other!

Jake and the rest of the staff at Kil@wat did a great job of serving up exceptional food and doing it in such that Phi and I were able to make it over to the theater right on time!

Unfortunately, while we both felt that “Julius Caesar” offered up extraordinary music, the set and the actual stage performance were a bit lackluster.  It just started off slowly and never really seemed to gain the momentum that we both needed on a Friday evening after a long week of work.

It was definitely nice to get out and enjoy more of what Milwaukee has to offer, and I’m looking forward to future opportunities to do so.  There are so many wonderful shows and performances coming to the city.  Which are your must-see recommendations?

 

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?

BaconBros

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

“Powered by Bacon” – Bacon Bros. Public House, Greenville, SC

It’s taken me a week to write this post, and it’s a shame, because this meal was one of the most wonderful surprises I’ve had in a long time! I was back in South Carolina to visit with friends and to see my Clemson Tigers win their sixth game of the season, and we decided to grab lunch in Greenville after I landed at GSP! It was my choice – uh oh! So, I turned directly to the Yelp! app on my iPhone.

I scrolled through the list a bit, and one name stuck out to me – Bacon Bros. Public House. I’m not going to lie…it stuck out because so many of my friends, and in particular the guys I was to be meeting up with the next day, are bacon fanatics! (hashtag #BACON)

I knew that the restaurant’s name alone would inflict a little pang of jealousy! Aside from that, this fairly new establishment averaged 4.5 stars and had some very positive reviews. My friend Cindy, who was my hostess, taxi driver, and friend extraordinaire, was all in for Bacon Bros., so we headed in that direction. We were meeting up with our friend Greg for lunch on Friday since we weren’t sure if we’d be able to meet up at our tailgate the next day (Greg is a reporter for Clemson and has a pesky job that gets in the way of tailgate fun). 😉

We found Bacon Bros. Public House in a small strip mall. We would soon discover that this is a hidden gem on Pelham Road!

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We waited for a few minutes for an outside table, and for Greg to arrive. As we waited, I was able to check out a bit of the restaurant’s atmosphere. The meat locker immediately caught my eye.

Bacon Bros Meat Locker

Bacon Bros Meat Locker

It was nice to be able to see the (locally sourced!) pork, beef, etc that would be served up. Not that I’m generally suspicious of restaurants, but transparency like that really inspires confidence in my mind.

I’d also like to give shout-out to the beautiful sink in the ladies’ room. I didn’t take a picture, but it was a very nice sink/faucet.

When we sat down, we were warmly greeted by a gentleman who poured us water. His voice was so calm and sweet that I found myself (somewhat jokingly) asking him to sit down and join us! He politely declined, since he was at work, but he clearly had a good sense of humor about it.

We were then greeted by yet another gentleman (hey, this is the south, y’all!) who “threatened” to sit down and join Cindy and me if Greg didn’t show up soon. Greg did show up just moments later.

In the meantime, at my request, a third gentleman, in the form of our server, Tanner, chose a red beer for me. From start to finish, Tanner proved to be a really engaging and attentive server. He added to the overall experience in a very positive way.

Boont Amber Ale (Anderson Valley Brewing Co)

Boont Amber Ale (Anderson Valley Brewing Co)

He then chose my lunch. Tanner was very cool about the whole process – not a single flinch. It was clear that he and the other gentlemen that work at Bacon Bros. not only know the menu well, but are confident in the food that’s being served.

Tanner chose what he called the sandwich that “is becoming our signature sandwich” – the B.E.T., with a side of Farro Verde.

The B.E.T. and Farro Verde

The B.E.T. and Farro Verde

Y’all, this sandwich…maybe it should be called the O.M.G. instead of the B.E.T.! The sandwich consisted of pork belly pastrami, Swiss cheese, fried duck egg, green peppercorn mayo, arugula, and yellow tomato. A fantastic combination – and expertly prepared! Note: the sandwich can get a little messy due to the runny egg yolk, but it’s worth a little finger licking to clean up!

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A close up of the B.E.T. and Farro Verde

The side is definitely not one I would have picked out on my own since it’s centered around boiled peanuts – a snack I never really developed a taste for when I lived in SC. I’m here to tell you that when boiled peanuts are mixed with field peas, tomatoes, and hominy, they are DELICIOUS!

Cindy and Greg were more than happy with their respective choices as well. Cindy chose a burger and onion rings (perfectly battered), and Greg chose the Pulled Pork Shoulder (served with waffles that have country ham in the batter!).

And, I couldn’t resist taking a piece (or two – Bacon Bros. recently increased their dessert portions – the one thing about this restaurant that I would change – revert back to smaller servings of sweets) of Orange Dreamsicle pound cake home.

Orange Dreamsicle Pound Cake (top), burger (left), Pulled Pork Shoulder (right)

Orange Dreamsicle Pound Cake (top), burger (left), Pulled Pork Shoulder (right)

I didn’t end up eating the pound cake until Sunday, and by then it was more dry than I would have liked. However, the flavor was very good – not too overwhelming with the citrus, but light and tasty.

So, in addition to being amongst great company, Bacon Bros. Public House offered fantastic service, a unique and comfortable atmosphere, and spectacular Southern style food. We all agreed that it’s a place to go back and visit.

Note to self: next time, I’m going to get one of those “Powered By Bacon” t-shirts! I should have picked one up last weekend.

And, through Twitter, I learned that my colleagues in the Greenville area had also recently discovered Bacon Bros. and frequently visit for lunch. They had been holding out on me!!!

Because this trip was planned around meeting up with good friends to see my Clemson Tigers play, here are a couple of pictures from campus.

L-R, CC: The guns!, beer and egg rolls, Shorter Porter (Frankly Good Beer Co), and my college roommate, Bill and me.

L-R, CC: The guns!, beer and egg rolls, Shorter Porter (Frankly Good Beer Co), and my college roommate, Bill and me.

It was a wonderful weekend – as time in South Carolina always is! If you’re in the Greenville area, I highly suggest finding time to make it to Bacon Bros. Public House. Have you been? What was your favorite Southern style dish?

Cheers!

Ker

High Praise for Braise

Last evening, I was fortunate enough to meet up with a couple of local Milwaukee food bloggers, Phi (aka: www.sweetphi.com) and Shanon (aka: www.thecurvycarrot.com) at Braise restaurant in Walker’s Point (a Milwaukee neighborhood). Phi has been in Milwaukee for a few years now, but was really looking to connect with other area food bloggers.  I’m so glad she scheduled a meetup, and especially glad that she chose Braise – a place I had yet to visit (FTR – there’s a long list of places I’ve yet to visit, and that list grew tonight as I continued to converse with these women!). I’m also very happy to report that I had a much better meal than I had during my last outing in Milwaukee.

Shanon is also fairly new to Milwaukee (~a year here), so we have a lot in common, and shared interview, house-hunting, dating and downtown living stories.  Lots in common!  And, although Phi is happily married for just about a year, she joined right in and took the cake with a truly disastrous dating story (folks, you can’t make this stuff up!), as well as a hopeful and inspiring recollection of meeting her husband here. She’s also covered an insane amount of ground in Milwaukee…she knows this city inside and out!  A great resource, but an even better personality!  She, her husband, and her sister-in-law try a new restaurant every month – what a great way to explore the city’s culinary offerings!

We were seated at a smaller table (many of the tables are longer, and meant for larger parties or multiple parties) chatting for a bit as our server continued to politely check in on us.  I felt like I was with old friends – very comfortable conversation!  We had all checked each others blogs out (though I have much to catch up on with respect to these ladies’ blogs) and talked about how we had gotten into blogging – these two women are more experienced / professional bloggers than I am, but they certainly didn’t make me feel any less relevant.  After all, as my friends and family know, I sometimes like to joke about being “kind of a big deal“. 🙂

When our server, Erica, came back to take our drink order, as my dinner companions expected, I asked Erica to choose my meal and a glass of wine with which to pair it.  Erica was completely on board.  She took my card and gave an enthusiastic “okay!”.  Here’s a peek at the menu – full of unusual and intriguing flavor combinations.

Phi ordered the “Nose to Tail” three-course meal, and Shanon ordered the “Root to Leaf” three-course vegetarian  meal.  Both admitted that the dessert was the big seller tonight.  I can’t say that I blame them…it sounded divine!

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I was also served three courses, but I didn’t know that until I decided that I couldn’t resist the dessert Erica was to choose for me much later in the evening.

In the meantime, as she delivered me a glass of wine, Erica asked me if I like Rosé.  And, frankly, if she had asked me that before my date with “the wine guy” (who will remain a friend of mine here, but I’ll keep his actual identity quiet for now), I may have been disappointed with her choice.  However, “the wine guy” brought a very nice bottle of  Rosé to our first date, and I found it really refreshing and unexpectedly elegant.  The particular glass she served me was the 2012 Rose, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence (Domaine de la Grande Seouve).  There are several  Rosés on the menu, and two by the glass at Braise!

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Shanon had a glass of Malbec – I knew I liked this woman! (Malbec is a favorite varietal of mine.)

As Shanon and Phi were served their respective first courses, I was served mine.

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I was served this delicious appetizer of grilled summer squash tart, black pepper Mascarpone & Romesco.  The flavors were all strong, yet none was overpowering. The charred grill flavor of the squash along with the creamy Mascarpone and the nutty Romesco flavors worked beautifully together!  On top of everything, this was a perfectly portioned size – not too large, but enough bites to really enjoy the flavors.

Following the appetizer, a plate of roasted chicken  breast was placed in front of me.  Friends, I’ve been served roasted chicken several times in recent months (must be an “it” meal), but before even touching my cutlery to the meat, I could tell this was special.   Look at how moist the chicken breast is!

Roasted Chicken Breast, Panzanella Salad with Cucumbers, Feta, Olives, Basil & Salsa Verde

Roasted Chicken Breast, Panzanella Salad with Cucumbers, Feta,
Olives, Basil & Salsa Verde

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The chicken breast was insanely tasty, and expertly prepared.  And, the flavors beneath the chicken were incredible!  Light and “summery” thanks to the cucumbers and feta.  Yet, there was a bit of a hearty bite to the plate with the Panzanella salad (another recent favorite of restaurants I’ve been to lately).

I was only able to finish about half of this dish, but I’m confident that the leftovers I brought home with me will be very good tomorrow night.

Mind you, both  Shanon and Phi were really enjoying their meals as well.  Plates were pretty clean all the way around.

When Erica came back around to deliver my leftovers, she asked if she should choose a dessert for me too, since my companions were having desserts as part of their meals.  I love that she was so confident in Braise’s offerings, and so “on board” with “She Ordered What?”!  As I mentioned, I didn’t know I’d be having a three course meal…I had to take half of my entrée home with me, for crying out loud! So, I politely declined Erica’s offer.

Then… I asked her what she would have chosen if I had taken her up on her offer.  She told me she would have chosen the “Pork Fat Budino” (basically, a caramel pudding-type of dessert with whipped cream and salted shortbread crumble (and, Erica and/or Braise staff, please correct me if I’ve butchered this!)).  I was so intrigued that I decided to give it a try.

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DELICIOUS!!!!   I’m not one of those “crazy for salted caramel” people.  And, I’m not always a dessert person.  Yet, aside from the bite I offered up to Phi (who tried it) and Shanon (who denied it), I finished the whole danged thing! Phi mentioned tasting a bit of a gingerbread flavor to it, and I think the salted shortbread probably contributed to that.  Regardless, this was light in texture, but rather heavy in flavor (in a good way!), in my opinion.  In short, it was unusual and quite decadent (but not in an overwhelming way).  It was also a nice sized portion, like the appetizer – enough to enjoy, but not so large as to overwhelm.

I’m really glad to have gone out to Braise on an evening when we could enjoy our leisurely dinner (Tuesdays nights are not likely their busiest evenings), and to have enjoyed this evening with two extraordinary women.  I thank both Phi and Shanon for spending time getting to know me, and for allowing me to get to know them.  I’m looking forward to exploring more of the GREATer Milwaukee area with these women, and other local bloggers.

Phi, Shanon, Ker (l-r)

Phi, Shanon, Ker (l-r)

A few other key notes:

Braise is part of the RSA – Restaurant Supported Agriculture (Braise RSA was created to make local, peak of season produce easily accessible to area restaurants. By working with area farms and restaurants in a cooperative effort, the RSA addresses the obstacles that have prohibited restaurants from using local products, namely the time and cost associated with sourcing locally.  The RSA also allows farmers to be fairly compensated for their hard work, while keeping their farms’ identity intact.)

Braise also offers a home-delivery produce/meat service.  It’s similar to a community supported agriculture service, but allows you to only pay for what you buy (plus an annual fee), rather than a set fee and an order which may be more, or less, than you need on any given week.

The restaurant also offers cooking classes.  I’m fairly certain I will give one of these a try in the future!

What’s your favorite spot in the greater Milwaukee area?  What’s your favorite farm-to-table, restaurant-supported-agriculture, or other locally supplied restaurant – anywhere?

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