Archive for the tag “GNO”

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!

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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. ūüė¶

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?

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Cheers!

Ker

 

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@wat,¬†Phi 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, entr√©e, 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. ¬†ūüôā

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?

 

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:

Appetizers

Appetizers

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

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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!

Cheers!

Ker

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.

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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 Рoverlooking 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 p√Ęt√©, 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.

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Next, we received the octopus and an apple salad (as chosen by Nick Рthough 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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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

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“. ūüôā

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 Ros√©. ¬†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 ¬†Ros√© 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¬† Ros√©s 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 Рnot 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 entr√©e 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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