Archive for the tag “Milwaukee”

Thumbs Up to Tre Rivali! (at the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel)

On September 16th, I received an email from a publicist in Chicago, Madelaine, inviting me and a guest to enjoy a complimentary brunch at the new restaurant in The Kimpton Journeyman Hotel in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward.

The invitation to Tre Rivali was for Saturday brunch for two (“on the house”), so I decided it was a great opportunity to invite my visiting friend to join me a what could be the “hot new spot”! My friend, Rich, was scheduled to visit me during the weekend of Oct 7-9th, and the ONLY thing I had planned was this brunch on Saturday the 8th.

Before I get into the experience at Tre Rivali, please let me tell you that, despite an intentional lack of planning, Rich and I covered (literally) lots of ground in Milwaukee, walking all over the city and visiting: the lakefront, Lakefront Brewery, Colectivo Coffee, Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub (Go Tribe!, Go Clemson!), the Pabst Mansion, the Harley Davidson museum, Kanpai IzakayaBugsy’s Back Alley Speakeasy and finally, Zak’s Cafe. It was a busy, fun and social weekend with other friends joining in here and there!

Back to Tre Rivali. We walked over to the Journeyman and entered a posh, but not intimidating boutique hotel.  Here are some of their photos. The restaurant is off to the left of the lobby, and I first thought it to be a coffee shop. Had we entered from the street, it would have been more obvious to me! (May I please have a break – it was still morning!).

There are two main areas within the restaurant. The room one enters is beautifully tiled, with a casually comfortable feel. The second room, which is all dining space almost had a bit of a cottage type of feel with large comfy cushions and white “siding”. It was a very inviting space.

Please note that the photo in the upper right is from the Journeyman Hotel’s Instagram page.

One of the disappointments of the weekend was the lack of good service at some of (not all of) the aforementioned establishments. We had EXCELLENT service at Tre Rivali. Larissa was our server, and she was prompt, happy, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable.

Rich asked me if I planned to let her choose my meal, and after perusing the menu, I had decided “yes”. There were many good options from which to choose, so why not let the expert do the choosing? And, Larissa was right on board! So much so that Rich felt compelled to “step outside of his comfort zone” and have her choose his meal as well!

Larissa chose the avocado toast for me. She had no idea how much I love both avocado and poached egg! This light whole grain toast was smothered in avocado, and topped with radishes, sprouts, olive oil and a poached egg. It wasn’t overly-flavorful, but had nice texture and the radishes gave a slight “bite” to it.

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For Rich, Larissa chose the beef burger which was topped with bacon jam pesto aioli, Fontina cheese and a sunny-side up egg. This was no small feat, and required a knife and fork, in my opinion! Rich was also served a bowl of the cucumber gazpacho (such a delicious side of soup!).

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Since he and I split our dishes down the middle and tried a bit of everything, I can personally attest to the fact that the burger was FULL of flavor and quite filling! As I mentioned, the gazpacho was extraordinary, with cucumber flavor cooling the palate beautifully!

I feel very fortunate that local companies reach out to me to try new venues and provide feedback. This was a great experience at new spot downtown. I’ve seen other friends post about brunch at Tre Rivali as well. I hope they had similarly nice experiences!

It’s certainly a restaurant I will keep in mind as the visitors keep coming (or when I just want a good brunch downtown!).

Thank you for a wonderful morning meal, Larissa and Tre Rivali.

Cheers!

Ker

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. 😦

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

 

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

Montreal Smoked Meat – Can’t Beat Pete’s!

Typically when I travel for business, I don’t have much time to really enjoy touring the cities I’m in. This trip was no different.

On Monday I flew from Milwaukee through Detroit to Montreal, arriving at 1:30AM. I flew out of Montreal through Detroit to Cleveland on Tuesday afternoon. I left Cleveland for Miamisburg on Wednesday afternoon and left Miamisburg to stop in Cincinnati on Thursday before flying out to Milwaukee on Thursday evening. There was not much time to see anything but the inside of airports and rental cars, folks! I was fortunate enough to have a meeting less than five miles from my parents’ house, so I did get a chance to say hi to them while staying overnight at “home”.

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At least in Montreal we had time to stop for a local lunch prior to heading back to the airport. My colleague loves Smoke Meat Pete’s because of the food, and because of the live blues music they have in the evenings.

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Since this was a lunch stop, no live music, but still plenty (I mean plenty!) of good smoked meat! (it was tough to get a photo of the stage because of the sunny glare coming in through the windows, but here it is…)

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In case you’re not familiar with it, smoked meat is a type of kosher-style deli meat product made by salting and curing beef brisket with spice, either “lean” (my preference) or regular and served as a platter or on a sandwich. I had asked the man behind the counter suggest his favorite menu item for me – whoops! He had “recently decided to become a vegetarian” (an interesting choice for working at a joint known for its meat!), so he couldn’t make a personal recommendation. Fail.

However, he did recommend the “Pete’s Special” which is a smoked meat sandwich with yellow mustard, french fries (frites) and cole slaw (salade de patates – vinegar based). It was a LOT of food, and it wasn’t healthy (evenly “lean cut”), but it was a tasty indulgence. (much like a REALLY GOOD corned beef deli sandwich is)

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The meat was thicker than I thought it would be for “lean cut”, but I forgave it because of the flavor! It’s also one of those sandwiches that has to be (at least partially) eaten with a fork.

And, those fries… so good! Real cut potatoes, perfectly fried to heavenly perfection!

As any great joint has, here is the ever-present “neon sign”!

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And, for good measure… great press for Smoke Meat Pete’s

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I’ve seen smoked meat spots in the US, but admittedly have not tried it. If you’ve had smoked meat, in Montreal, or elsewhere, did you enjoy it? How do you think it stacks up to US style deli meat? Please comment below!

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

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