Archive for the tag “girls night out”

Girls’ Night Out at La Masa – Empanadas and empathy!

After weeks of planning, and waiting, my girlfriend and I finally found time to catch up over dinner. Shannon, you can tell your mom I called you my girlfriend – even though it doesn’t mean what she might think it means!


Shannon writes a blog about the “fun” of dating in Milwaukee, and I LOVE reading it! Though I can’t relate to everything (mostly because I don’t date enough), some of her stories strike a big chord with me. Most just make me laugh and / or shake my head as I picture the scenarios Shannon describes.

Naturally, our conversation turned to the latest goings on in our personal lives, which made for a funny (and at times frustrating) couple of hours of conversation.

The biggest take-away, men: we just want to be a priority some of the time! It doesn’t seem like too much to ask, but it feels like it must be. 😦

Anyhow, on to the dinner portion of this post.

La Masa is an empanadas bar on Brady Street. It’s casual, cute, and full of friendly service! Plus, we each had City Tin coasters, making it a perfect chance to try out a new place.

The menu is full of options. How does one choose?


We started off with an appetizer of aji queso dip with apple slices, sliced red pepper,  jicama stick, and toasted bread. We could have eaten that all night long, but thankfully, we were wise enough to ask that it be removed from the table before we finished the pot! So delicious!


Shannon then asked me if I was going to use one of my blog cards or if I would actually order. Um…I pulled out a card, and Alicia was more than happy to choose my meal for me. I did give her a bit of guidance: I’d go with the La Masa Trio and I’d like smokey blue cheese sauce on the side, please.

I was delivered three very cutely branded empanadas along with jicama slaw. Alicia chose the black bean and chorizo (BB), the Wisco corn (W) and the mushroom truffle parmesan (M) empanadas. They were all very tasty, and the mushroom was a very close second, but the black bean and chorizo was my favorite of the trio.


The jicama slaw was a refreshing side (though the serving was way too big for me!), and the sauces provided nice additional flavor.

I’m glad I purchased City Tin coasters because I’m not sure I would have stopped into La Masa without the prompt. It just wasn’t on my radar. However, I’d certainly go back. Shannon and I agreed that we wouldn’t wait ten months for another girls’ night out. Perhaps we’ll even have more positive and inspiring stories to exchange next time! Fingers crossed!





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:



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


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!



Chicago with Chanda! A divine dine at The Publican.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see my dear friend, Chanda (pronounced like “panda”) while she was traveling from California to Chicago for business.  Since Chicago is only ~90 miles from Milwaukee, we decided that we MUST meet up for dinner.  I made the, errr, easy (if not for WI construction and Chicago traffic!) drive to meet her at her hotel.  It took me about 2 hours and 20 minutes, but it was worth it to spend an evening with my friend.

From the hotel, we “Uber“ed our way over the restaurant.  Let me preface this by saying that we were not in the center of downtown Chicago – not Rush St, or even Michigan Ave.  We were in a slightly more remote location  – one which our driver even had a difficult time finding.  I mean, it was still Chicago, but a little off the beaten path, so to speak.  So it was a bit disconcerting as our driver took us through some alley ways and nearly got in an accident.  Chanda and I exchanged more than one “what the heck is going on?!?” look!

When we eventually reached The Publican, we entered a huge and beautiful restaurant.   Lantern lights hung from the ceiling, and large, interesting prints of pigs hung on the walls.



In the center there were looong tables.  The edges showcased very private booths (with doors to close off your table!).  Chanda and I were seated at a table near the front of the restaurant – overlooking the now-closed outdoor patio and the street.

We were warmly greeted by our server, Nick, who was a total cross between George Clooney in his “The Facts of Life” days, and Adrian Grenier.  Nick also liked to get right down in our faces to explain the menu, the concept and how the evening would go.  I won’t lie, there was something mesmerizing about him!

Nick advised us that the menu changes frequently, and is organized from smallest dishes to larger plates (within each category).  He advised us to share 3-4 dishes, and to order all at once so he could work the proper timing out with the kitchen.

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Chanda was really interested in having the octopus, and I was totally game for that!  We also decided to try the charcuterie plate.  I asked her if she had any concerns with me turning my “contributions” over to Nick, and she didn’t.  Well…she wasn’t exactly keen at the thought of being served blood sausage, but we were willing to take that risk!

When I asked Nick to choose two dishes to compliment the octopus, and surprise us, he was all in!  With a confident nod of his head and a big grin, he walked away to place our order.

Meanwhile…the place got PACKED!  This was a Tuesday evening, and the restaurant is not small, so we strongly suspected that Chanda had chosen wisely!

We thoroughly enjoyed everything on the (half) charcuterie plate… genoa salumi, pork pie, head cheese, prune-walnut pâté, morteau sausage, pickles, and mustards. The fresh bread that was served alongside the first dish was delicious too!

Note: I apologize for the poor photo quality.  I should have adjusted my settings during dinner, but failed to do so.  These photos will not do the dishes justice.


Next, we received the octopus and an apple salad (as chosen by Nick – though I admit that the dish had actually caught my eye on the menu).  The octopus (from the Sea of Cortez) was grilled to perfection,  and served with chickpeas, yogurt, lentils and fried shallots.  Amazing flavor!


The Mick Klug Farm (St. Joseph, MI) salad consisted of apples, pickled squash served over a ricotta cheese “sauce” of sorts and topped off with almonds.  It had wonderful fall flavors – a very fresh taste!  And, it was nice to have a light “vegetable” dish.


Following the octopus and apple dishes, Chanda and I were served the country rib.  This is from the Slagel Familly Farm in Fairbury, IL, and dear goodness… Just when we thought the dinner couldn’t be more delicious – it was!

The ribs are simply prepared, with cashews and apple vinaigrette, but the dish packed amazing flavor.


Chanda and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal, and while we were comfortably full, we weren’t overly stuffed.  We just felt as though we completely enjoyed each other’s company as well as a phenomenal dining experience.

Chanda even convinced me to have a bite of dessert (I can’t recall the actual description, but it was basically homemade pizelles with caramel chocolate sauce between them, and topped off with powdered sugar). How could we go wrong?


I hated to have to end the evening so quickly, but I did have 90 miles to drive back home – on a “school night”.

I do HIGHLY recommend a trip over to The Publican if you’re in Chicago and are looking for a great meal. And, if you’re fortunate enough to have Nick as  your server, feel confident that he knows his stuff and will make great recommendations!

Also, as previously noted, the menu changes frequently, so be prepared to be flexible.  The kind staff at The Publican allowed me to take both the dinner and the drink menus (since they’re printed frequently) with me.


If you’ve been to The Publican, I’d love hear about the dishes you tried.  Please share you experience!



Wine-ot let a subject matter expert choose for you?

Since my last travel was cancelled due to Mother Nature’s wrath, I haven’t had much to blog about. I’m heading out tomorrow for Atlanta, and I know we have a couple of good dinners planned down there.  Posts soon to come!

In the meantime, I was lucky enough to have my friend, Kris, visit me from Texas this past weekend.  Though we covered a bit of ground while she was here, we didn’t try any new restaurants. We did, however, try a new wine.  Saturday afternoon, we stopped at Westborn Market in Dearborn to pick up a bottle (actually two) of wine.  Kris was leaning toward Chardonnay, and I was leaning toward a Cabernet Sauvignon.  Therefore, we bought one of each.  Being the open-minded and social gal that Kris is, she allowed the resident wine man (I can’t for the life of me recall his name!) to recommend a Chardonnay to her.

Sidebar: I’ve worked with him before too, and he has made very good, if sometimes pretty expensive, recommendations.  He’s a man whose opinion I trust.  That said, when someone recommends a very expensive wine to me, I typically decline.  When I quit my first job at Corning, Inc (a great company!), I splurged on an expensive bottle of wine – at the local wine shop’s recommendation.  This bottle of 1997 Tera Bella Cabernet Sauvignon was ~$80 in 2003.  There were only 100 cases in total, so the wine was in high demand.

That bottle of wine tasted like any other $15-18 bottle, in my opinion.  I didn’t have an advanced palate, and I still don’t consider myself a connoisseur – though my palate may be a bit more discerning these days.

Back to this past weekend… The Chardonnay we took home was this 2010 Michael Pozzan Chardonnay ($15.99), and it was delicious!  Very oaky (a pre-requisite of Kris’s), with a smooth and slightly buttery flavor.

It was so good that we stopped back at Westborn Market to pick up another bottle (or three) just in case we wanted to have a glass after we experienced the Oakland Roller Derby bout.  (and, to allow me to keep a couple of bottles for later dates)

We didn’t drink any wine later that evening, but Kris did mention that she would take bottles home with her, had she checked her bags.  And, this comes from a woman who works for an alcohol company!  She knows her stuff!

Moral of this story…the man in the wine department at Westborn chose a great Chardonnay for us.  Again, putting some faith in the experts panned out.



“She Ordered What?!?” The birthday booze edition!

I am delighted to introduce y’all to a very good friend of mine.  Dana wrote her first blog post – ever! – and she did it for “She Ordered What?!?”.  You’ll definitely get a feel for why I like this woman so much, as her personality comes screaming off the page! 

I’m bummed that I wasn’t able to take part in this particular evening’s activities, as I was one of the women who bowed out because of “summer flu bugs”.  😦  But, I’m glad to be able to live vicariously through this post!  I also want to thank Dana and our other friends for providing the first “liquid” version of “She Ordered What?!?”.  I don’t drink “spirits” myself, but I told Dana that the second drink she photographed sounds quite intriguing to me!  Please, let us know your thoughts…


Ladies’ Night went “Well”

Every now and then, we all need a little break.  Some time to kick back and relax or get gussied up and spend an evening out on the town.  July 14th I did the latter.  Dressed in my finest pair of silver flip-flops, I met up with three of my friends for a couple of drinks and great conversation.  The evening plans initially consisted of around 8 girls, but with work obligations, summer flu bugs, etc., the group whittled down to four.  Now that we had the gang established, it was on to the more important decision.  Location, location, location…

Coming from opposite parts of SE Michigan, we agreed to meet in the middle.  In this case, it was Michigan Avenue in Dearborn.   Several options were tossed out there…Canada, Ferndale, Livonia, but in the end, proximity trumped all!  There are several bars, restaurants, and even hookah lounges in this three block stretch.  The location provided a plethora of options for this easy-going posse.  We met up at Bailey’s (a popular sports bar), and over a cold beverage, we decided to find an outside patio…the night was beautiful.  The Well  was calling our name.

It was still early in the evening, approximately 10:00.  The Well has a few patrons on the inside, but we opted for the empty patio.  A sign by the gate announced a drink special…The Drunken Sailor.  The name alone was intriguing.  Being the adventurous lassie that I am, I ordered it despite the waitress’ lack of knowledge of the drink.  Thought to myself, “How bad could it really be?!?”  While we were waiting for our first round, a young man came out to welcome us to The Well and made sure we had been taken care of.  He introduced himself as Nick.  We asked him about the drink.  He said it was a shot that he created with Captain Morgan, Root Beer Schnapps and a few other ‘secret ingredients’.  I was delighted to hear, as I’m a fan of all of the above! 

Our waitress delivered our drinks, a glass of Merlot, diet Coke, water and my “DRINK”…not a shot.  Now, I wasn’t disappointed because it wasn’t a shot, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. 

Sidebar… This is where ordering something specific has its faults.  You have a preconceived notion of what you’re getting.  Let them decide and you have no expectations. 

Back to the story….  My friend Melissa happened to run into Nick on her way to the restroom and commented, “Wasn’t that Drunken Sailor supposed to be a shot, not a drink?!?”  He apologized, while explaining he was not the one who made that particular order, and offered to bring a round for our table.  Since 2 of the 4 of us had ordered alcoholic beverages, Melissa accepted the offer for two shots.  A few minutes later, out comes Nick with three shot glasses. 

Nick pulls up a chair, offers the Sweet Tart shots, which of course I accepted without hesitation.  And then picks up a shot glass of water for himself; a quick clink of the glasses, and down the hatch.  Nick apologized to me for the error, but assured me that he made THESE shots and hoped that they were satisfactory.  He further explained that he had recently taken over partial ownership of the bar.  Needless to say, I was über impressed with this young man’s charisma and professionalism, especially for appearing so young!  Further proof; don’t judge a book by its cover!

After a bit of chit-chatting, we decided to head back down Michigan Avenue to feed our meters (it’s a Dearborn thing, folks!) and catch a live band at another establishment.  Within that hour, half our group decided to retire for the evening and head home.  Melissa & I… well, we decided the night was still a bit too young for us!  We headed BACK to The Well and thought we would give Nick a run for his money, or at least that was MY plan. 

We arrive back at The Well.  I was pleased to see the crowd had grown.  The DJ was awesome and played a great mix of current, with a throwback here and there.  Remember “OPP”?!?  So did this DJ!  I walked up to the bar and Nick greeted us with a friendly wave and smile.  Melissa, being the responsible one, ordered her Diet Coke and I ordered a “Surprise Me!”  He didn’t pause for a minute and went straight to work.  Moments later, he returned with a glass of purple bubbly goodness.  My first surprise was a “Grapealicious” drink.  Bet you can probably guess how it tasted!  EXACTLY like grape bubble gum, just liquid & cold.  But this was no kiddie cocktail!  It packed a punch.  I was initially concerned that it was going to taste like grape cough syrup, but was pleasantly surprised.  I would get it again, but only one per night, as it was VERY sweet.



Surprise #2…the “Chocolate Covered Pretzel”, almost had me doing the Mambo #5.  It was like a symphony to my palate.  A well-balanced mix of sweet & salty, with the sodium chloride encrusted rim!  The smooth chocolate liquor with the creamy half and half, combined with whatever else was in this scrumptious beverage, topped my leaderboard of favorite drinks!  But drinkers beware…it’s another strong one.


Chocolate Covered Pretzel

As Nick circled the floor tending to his patrons, he stopped by our table.  I figured, “What the hey?!?  How many 29th birthdays can a girl have?!?”  Apparently many, as this was my 5th!  Yet again, I left my final drink in the very capable hands of my new BFF!  He nailed it with this one!  I asked the name and he said it was just something he came up with and really likes, said it’s very refreshing.  At this point, the water-based drink was EXACTLY what I didn’t know I needed!  It had a shot or two of sweet tea vodka and lemon juice.  Very smooth and yes, VERY refreshing!!!       


Nick’s Sweet Tea Concoction

Around dark o’clock in the morning, Melissa pulled up in my driveway.  I quickly went into my house and changed into my Michigan State PJs, threw my hair in a high pony tail, and reminisced about the night’s events.  That’s when it hit me, “I’ll write a blog post!!!  Just not tonighZZZZZZZZZ” 

If you take anything away from this blog post, I implore you to pay special attention to these two things!  First, if you’re going to enjoy a night out, PLEASE…PLEASE…PLEASE do so responsibly!  It only takes a second to change the rest of your life and potentially the lives of others FOREVER!  It’s just not worth it!  Designate a driver BEFORE you head out and stick with that plan OR call a taxi!  The expense of a cab doesn’t even compare to the cost of a DUI or worse, DEATH! 

Having said that, I would like to say an extra special thank you to my dear friend Melissa for taking one for the team and being my DD!  I owe you one, toots!!! 

Second moral of the story, check out The Well in Dearborn.  If you have the pleasure of meeting Nick, tell him to ‘surprise you’.  You won’t be disappointed!  Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed!

Cheers to all, and to all a safe night!!


P.S.  I never claimed to be a photographer; especially not at 1:45 in the morning!  But, I would be remiss if I didn’t include this one and “TRY” to give credit where credit is due.  Please excuse the FLASH!!!


Again, I’d like to say a special “Thank you” to Dana for sharing her story, and for bringing a new perspective to this blog.  And, another belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY girlie! 



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