Archive for the tag “Locally Sourced”

Braise! A fabulous in-home dining experience to support Restaurant Supported Agriculture (RSA)

Though this post strays a bit from my normal theme, I wanted to share this special experience with everyone that reads this blog!

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am generally tied into community events and that I was raised to be charitable with my time and money.

Several months ago, in an effort to help support and promote restaurant supported agriculture (RSA), I purchased an in-home dining experience for eight people. This dinner would be prepared by the owner and chef of Braise, Dave Swanson, and would include four courses plus wine pairings.

I was beyond excited to invite some friends over to enjoy some great food – that I wasn’t going to have to cook!

Fast forward a few weeks and know that Becky (general events manager at Braise) was absolutely wonderful to work with during the planning process. And, when the date finally came to have everyone over, Dave and a bonus chef, Jarid were extraordinary!

I was able to scramble and get my table ready for company – except that this girl who LOVES fresh flowers and purchases them almost weekly, forgot to buy flowers for the table! EEK!

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Enter Dave and Jarid:

  1. They were prompt, polite, and fully prepared with coolers, tubs, and lots of gear!
  2. They were as gracious as can be and seemed to feel right at home in my (small) kitchen.
  3. They left me feeling totally confident that the evening would be spectacular – even if I don’t have restaurant quality dishes and glassware. (But, I really like my dishes!)
  4. Even I didn’t know what my guests and I would be dining on, but Chef informed me that he decided to throw in an extra dish and we would enjoy five courses plus wine pairings. Chef Jarid was kind enough to offer to email the menu in full detail since I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it justice (keep reading; you’ll see why!).
  5. They served us, explaining each dish in detail. Sometimes, it took a bit of patience as our dinner party was very conversational – yet, never a sign of frustration from Dave or Jarid.
  6. The kicker: THEY CLEANED EVERYTHING UP!!!! I told my friends that I wanted to keep them for my own – men who cook AND clean!?! (Guys, I’m kidding…I know y’all do exist)

Now, about that food.

We started off being passed crustini appetizers (which I failed to photograph as I was greeting the final two guests to arrive).

One of the things I love about my friends is that they prefer NOT to sit next to their spouses so they can get to know others in the group, so that’s what naturally happened.

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Once seated we were served homemade wheat bread, Parmigiano sticks, and Parmigiano-cayenne sticks, with Wisconsin butter.

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Then came the Roasted Sweet Corn & Summer Squash soup with olive oil cured pepper garnish and sambal oil. (Yeah, I had to Google a few things) This lovely soup was served with Prosecco to start the evening off.

We were then served a “beets” dish. I have recently found myself loving beets – and it feels like the rest of the world was either ahead of me on this trend, or is on board the way I feel now. Our dish was a mix of yellow and red oven roasted beets served with white wine poached fennel, toasted walnuts, lemon chèvre, herb fennel vierge, and currant salt. Say that five times fast!

The beets were paired with a Cuvee white wine. It was an amazing salad dish!

Next, came the grilled Chanterelle mushrooms, Parmigiano custard (AKA: “I would put this on everything” – Christy), picked ramps, ramp jam, and ramp salt.These delights were paired with a Chardonnay.

I have to say that with each subsequent dish, my dinner guests kept updating their favorites parts of the meal!

Our fourth course was the “main dish”, I suppose. However, in my mind, each of these could stand alone as a dish I would fully enjoy!

We were served roasted airline chicken breast, seared summer squash, candied pepitas, herb creme fraiche, and preserved lemon chutney served with an Italian red wine.

I must call Christy out again, because it was so fun to see her excitement at “finally having creme fraiche; they always talk about it on Top Chef!”. I believe she then claimed to feel “very fancy”. 🙂

Up until this point, we all were fully satisfied and had enjoyed each course immensely.

When we were served dessert, we were surprised with a crazy, refreshing, and delicious dessert of Muskmelon mousse with compressed melon and served in a cucumber fennel broth with milk crumble (and, although I’ve never done drugs, I have to think this is the culinary equivalent of crack!). When paired with a sweet dessert wine, it was essentially perfection in a bowl!

I’d better NEVER learn how to make milk crumble, or I’m in serious trouble!

Because I had asked for permission, and Chef Jarid did joke about needing a photo waiver, but didn’t actually present one, I’m including a few pictures of these fabulous chefs in action.

An endeavor like this is not an inexpensive one, but if you’re anything like me, it’s totally worth every penny (plus tip). Two of my guests texted me that this was a once in a lifetime experience that they thoroughly enjoyed. I have to agree!

If I had an endless amount of discretionary income, I would do this once a month (or more frequently!).

I’m happy to report that five of the guests who had not been to Braise previously do plan to have dinner there soon! Also, by word of mouth (because I can be a big mouth), another several people in my network plan to swing by for a meal.

Finally, during our dinner, our group of eight talked about taking cooking classes at Braise’s Culinary School as another fun outing. I have since learned that both Chefs Dave and Jarid are focused on this aspect of the business more so than the restaurant (which allowed other talented chefs to run the restaurant while they were graciously hosting my friends and me to a fantastic dinner!). Definitely something to explore further!

Have you ever had an in-home experience with professional chefs preparing meals? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience.

Cheers!

Ker

Lunch & Brunch, Milwaukee Style…

I have been SO BAD about finding time to write, so I’m grateful for a day off, college football on the tube (thankfully, my Clemson Tigers pulled off a huge win yesterday so the rest of the bowl games are just gravy), and a comfy spot to sit with my laptop.

I have some photos from a meal in Vegas, but I think my disdain for that city has prevented me from posting about the excellent Beef Wellington I had at Mon Ami Gabi. I have more upcoming travel (San Antonio, I’m looking at you!), so I look forward to hitting my “She Ordered What?” stride again in 2016.

In the meantime, I have recently tried a few restaurants right here in Milwaukee. They’ve been on my list of places to try, but it took me 2 1/2+ years to check them off the list!

First up was Engine Company 3 in Walker’s Point. My brother was in town for Doors Open Milwaukee and I convinced him to venture out to a new, and very cool joint. The Polenta Con Gamberi e Uovo is not on the current menu, but dear gosh…it was GOOD! Excellent, really! It gave me a sense of good southern shrimp and grits from back in the college days in South Carolina. 😉

I’ve recommended this spot to others, always with satisfied feedback!

Next up is Story Hill BKC in Milwaukee.  Our server – if I recall correctly, Beth – was energetic, funny, and on top of her game. She was lovely, and was totally amped when I handed her my card. She showed no hesitation, though my friend did. It was her rookie outing with me during a “She Ordered What?” meal! I have been known to make dining dates uncomfortable by surrendering the decision to our server. It’s not on purpose, I promise!

I was served a flavorful dish which is a standard on the menu – the Shakshouka. The dish consists of two Local Eggs Baked in Cumin-Spiced Tomato Sauce, Smoked Lentils, Cilantro, Goat Cheese, Sumac Mayonnaise, with Flatbread on the side and our server added avocado because that’s how she likes the dish to be enjoyed.

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I admit that I don’t think I ever would have ordered this dish on my own accord, but that’s the beauty of trusting servers to introduce me to new dishes. The Shakshouka was deliciously full of flavor. It was also a healthy portion, but not overwhelming large. When my friend took a bite, she agreed that Beth had chosen a winner for me!

And, let me say that I love having servers who get so excited about reading the card and choosing a meal for me. Beth wasn’t the only one… Next up: Blue’s Egg (a sister restaurant of Story Hill BKC).

Upon arrival, my friend and I decided to take the opportunity to snag two open stools at the counter rather than wait for a table. We both agree that counter service is usually quite good, and there’s just something fun about being close to the action.  Cory was our server that morning.

When I handed him my card, he admitted that he had been wondering what I had sitting on my menu and then gave it a read, gave me a wink, and said he was “on it”.  Frankly, there were so many interesting dishes on the menu, so I knew there was no way I could choose. I also had heard nothing but praise for Blue’s Egg, so I was confident I would be in for a treat. And, I was! I was served the Blue’s Classic Benedict with a helping of stuffed hash browns.

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A huge serving of poached eggs, pulled ham, english muffin, hollandaise and goat cheese stuffed hash-browns. Hello decadence!

I’m not normally a huge fan of ham, but this shredded ham was off the charts good! Admittedly, I had to have half of the meal boxed up – only because it was such a large portion, not because I didn’t enjoy every bite. In fact, at one point, our server overheard me mention that “holy hell this is GOOD”. That definitely put a smile on his face!

This time, my friend was familiar with my routine and knew to wait to eat until I got a picture of his crab cake and poached eggs as well as his Bloody Mary.

 

In addition to the places I’ve detailed here, I’ve also enjoyed breakfast pizza at Wolf Peach (for three meals!), had many great breakfast dishes at Hotel Metro, and yet I feel like there are a million treasures I still need to visit in Milwaukee. We’re so fortunate to have a great culinary scene here!

What is your favorite brunch spot? Brunch dish?

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@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.

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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.  😉

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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!

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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?

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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.

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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

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