Archive for the tag “MKE”

#MKEFoodCrawl in Walker’s Point, Milwaukee, WI

This past weekend, friends and I (mostly) enjoyed a walking food tour of Walker’s Point (sometimes AKA “The Fifth Ward”), an up and coming neighborhood in Milwaukee.

photo c/o of MKEFoodies

photo courtesy of MKEFoodies

I learned about the food crawl through social media – shocking, I know!

After consulting with a friend who was supposed to still be in town visiting, I bought both a “gold” (12 small plates) and “silver” (7 small plates) ticket. The tickets weren’t necessarily inexpensive at $75 and $50, respectively, but I was excited to experience dishes from a variety of restaurants I hadn’t tried before – and one that I had. Here’s the map/menu…

menu

My friend’s plans changed, so as Stairwell Guy says, I turned to “Plan B”.  He’s very good company, and not really a “Plan B”, but I did originally buy the ticket for a visitor, so I guess he is partially correct there.  I thank him for being an enthusiastic and fun fill-in.  Several weeks earlier, I had also invited my friend Phi and her husband to join us, which they happily did!

We met at the Blue Jacket on National Avenue, which served both as the kick-off point as well as host to Bloody Marys. I was especially happy to be there to see Phi experience her first Bloody Mary – EVER!  First sip…good stuff, then…the tomato kicked in a little too far for dear Phi.  In my opinion, the Bloodys were a bit heavy on the seasoning, but were tasty enough (disclaimer: I don’t typically drink liquor drinks, so I am NOT an authority).

Bloody Mary at The Blue Jacket.

Bloody Mary at The Blue Jacket.

From The Blue Jacket, we headed on to Chez Jacques for crepes.  From the almost hour-long wait we had, I have to assume that we were not alone with the plan to start with breakfast. This was both a frustrating, and surprising start to the #MKEFoodCrawl.

Note: Throughout the day I spoke with folks on the food crawl, and to a T, every person expected a casual walk through Walker’s Point with tents or tables stocked with small plates for us to try, converse, and then move on.  Instead, we were seated at each restaurant and served the small plates – sometimes in a timely manner, and often not.

Chez Jacques staff addressed every table in the room before they even greeted our four-top, and we were the second group in the room.  It was so frustrating that we were just getting ready to leave when someone asked us if we had been attended to.  So, we placed orders and waited, and waited, and waited. When we finally were served our crepes (four choices, folks…shouldn’t the kitchen be prepared for that?), three of the four were met with positive reviews.  The chicken curry, the spinach Roquefort, and the vanilla berries crepes hit the spot.  The banana Nutella (read: Hershey’s syrup) was, sadly, a bust.

Here is my spinach Roquefort crepe:

Crepe

The dense filling of spinach and cheese along with the pine nuts were a delicious combination.  It’s just too bad the restaurant seemed more than ill-prepared to deal with the #MKEFoodCrawl crowd.

But, we were on to our next stop (finally!) by noon.  We tried to visit Circa 1880, but the line was out the door and starting to wrap around the corner!  So, we went on to Braise.

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I have written about Braise before (my first meeting with Phi!), and although Stairwell Guy was a newbie, we were all looking forward to checking out the yellow curry dal with ramp yogurt and the Grilled chorizo sope with ramp chimichurri & garlic chive crema.

We were in and out of Braise in 20 minutes, and we had really exceptional dishes in that time. There were two servings of the curry, and two of the chorizo…both dishes were met with rave reviews.  Phi and I also viewed the rooftop garden and dining area in the time we waited for our meals.  Very efficient!

Then, onto Wayward Kitchen for Pork Belly Tostada with Watermelon Rind Salsa, Queso Fresco, and Refried Black Eyed Peas w/ Jalapeno. I liked the casual atmosphere of this “off the beaten path” place.

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Again, by all accounts, service was not expedient, but the experience was a good one.

I struggled with my tostado because of its brittle nature – or because of user error!  Nobody else seemed to struggle like I did. So, I’ll take the blame on that one!

Pork Belly Tostada

Pork Belly Tostada

The Wayward Kitchen is also where I met up with a friend of the friend who left town early.  We had met up with Jon Thursday evening, so it was nice to see him and meet his friends out in a different part of town!  This is the friendly Midwest after all!

We then headed up to Clock Shadow Creamery for pretzels and cheese.  Well, cheese.

@SweetPhi !!

@SweetPhi !!

The first thing we heard when we walked in the door is that Clock Shadow had just run out of pretzels.  Since I’m not a fan of cheese curds (aka: squeakies), I opted to try the Basket Ricotta with lemon jam from The National Café and Take-away – another local fave! The Ricotta was quite tasty and the jam was a perfectly sour complement, but it was simply too much for any of us to finish. We were a bit bummed about not trying the pretzels, because they looked really good!

From Clock Shadow, we headed toward Ginger, with a quick stop to check out a restaurant that will be opening very soon, Morel.  It was cool to see the space in its final stages of construction and to meet the owner, sous chef and general manager.  A very friendly bunch, and very excited to be opening a new space in Walker’s Point!

Once we got to Ginger, we finally sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather of the day. Ginger has a lovely back patio. Again, the service was a bit slow, and our server forget to bring three of the plates we ordered. She apologized, quickly brought the remainder and comped the glass of wine I enjoyed with my Vietnamese Rice Noodles (chilled napa cabbage, carrot, peanuts and cilantro, soy chili dressing) and Hoison Braised Pork Shoulder on wonton chi (served with ginger carrot jicama slaw).

Vietnamese Rice Noodles

Vietnamese Rice Noodles

Hoison Pork

Hoison Pork

Everyone else tried the Passion Fruit Ceviche: scallops and shrimp in a passion fruit citrus base with plantain chips and sweet potato and enjoyed the dishes as well.

By this time, it was 2:45PM and the food crawl was to end at 3PM. We had only managed to visit half of the restaurants on the tour, and we had several tickets left. Phi and Nick needed to head home, so Stairwell Guy and I planned a quick stop at Zak’s Café for the stuffed French Toast he had been craving.

Stuffed French Toast

Stuffed French Toast

He was not disappointed, although he was served the wrong dish – are you seeing a trend here with respect to the service that day?

We hustled down the street with mere moments to spare in an attempt to finish with dessert. Jeff and I decided to divide and conquer, with him standing in the long line at Purple Door for ice cream (his favorite!) and me waiting in an equally long line at Indulgence Chocolatier (featured here).

Lines

It was past 3PM at this point, but the local businesses were not going to turn away participants. We were able to hit the two spots at which we had planned all day to finish! Score!

Five mini-scoops of ice cream and 3 truffles to take home (for each of us!)

Five mini scoops of ice cream and 3 truffles to take home (for each of us!)

I have to give Stairwell Guy props – he knew my only criteria was “no maple!”, and he chose really well.  He ordered me mini scoops of: Lime sorbet, chocolate cinnamon, Bailey’s Irish Cream, chocolate banana and butter pecan.  A delicious sampling!

For him, I ordered orange cardamom, Thai peanut butter and milk chocolate truffles.  He ate them on the way home, and told me just how much he enjoyed them.

Indulgence Truffles

Indulgence Truffles

So, while the #MKEFoodCrawl was not exactly what we thought it would be, and the service in many venues did not seem prepared for our crowd, we really did enjoy the food, uncovering new restaurants and, of course, a lovely day with friends!

One final note: Next year, I will not order the “gold” ticket package for 12 tickets, because the schedule just does not allow for sampling at enough venues to make it worth the $75.  The “silver” package at $50 for seven small plates is absolutely sufficient.

I’d love to hear comments from others on the #MKEFoodCrawl tour of Walker’s Point, as well as those of you who live in other cities and have participated in local food crawls.  Please leave a comment below!

Cheers!

Ker

From Soup to Nuts, errr…Dessert: The Noble, Walker’s Point, Milwaukee

A quick note: ICYMI (in case you missed it), Amanda S. was the randomly chosen winner of the Spreading WI Love Giveaway. She professes to be “obsessed with all things wine and chocolate”, and plans to try the “secret family recipe” I shared with her. Congratulations, Amanda!

Last week, “Stairwell Guy” (Jeff) and I decided to meet for dinner. I was heading to Memphis for friends’ wedding over the Valentine’s Day weekend, so we opted to have a nice dinner on the Tuesday night prior. I lost our Superbowl bet (thank you Denver Broncos for that!), so dinner was going to be my treat.

As a side note: “Stairwell Guy” is a man I literally met in a stairwell. I was walking over to Irish Fest last summer, and happened to hold open the door to a public parking garage that led down to the street that leads one on the way to Summer Fest grounds. He and I struck up a conversation as we walked ~15 minutes to the festival, and then he asked me for my number, or if he could give me his (so as not to appear too forward). Since then, we’ve met up a number of times to explore the greater Milwaukee area. I still refer to him as “Stairwell Guy”, both because it “stuck”, and because I know many Jeffs and this minimizes confusion. *end note*

I think “Stairwell Guy” is the only person I know that is more indecisive than I am; so when my friend Phi reminded me of her and her husband’s favorite restaurant in Milwaukee (The Noble), I texted Jeff and offered it up as a suggestion. He checked the website and thought it was a great option. So, we met at my apartment (in East Town) and drove a few miles down to Walker’s Point to enjoy our first dinner at The Noble.

The Noble is a small and unassuming joint, both inside and out. Phi had warned me that the restaurant doesn’t accept reservations and only has six or seven tables. For these reasons, I felt like heading over there on a chilly (okay, downright cold) Tuesday night was a wise choice.

We were greeted warmly by the staff and were seated right away. The tables, like the general atmosphere, were simple, yet inviting. Brown paper over white linens and silverware wrapped in paper napkins, but tied with sweet little bows.

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Jeff and I opted for hot tea as our beverages – we needed to warm up after the brief walk in the cold Milwaukee winter air. I didn’t even check the drink menu, but the bar in the restaurant gave me the impression that one could order some really delicious drinks if one wanted to do so.

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After perusing the small menu, which consisted of some wonderful appetizers and salads as well as nightly specials of the “Hunters” (meat dish), the “Gathers” (vegetarian), and the “Middle of the Road”, I decided I really couldn’t go wrong with anything on the menu.

Jeff decided to have the tomato and roasted red pepper soup to start. He then decided on “The Hunters” special, which was a NY Strip steak covered with crab meat and shrimp in a cream sauce for dinner.

Since I was so confident in the menu, I simply asked our server, Amanda, to choose her favorite dish for me. She was a bit startled (as was Jeff), but she quickly agreed to take good care of me.

Jeff’s soup came out quite quickly and was a large bowl of thick, creamy soup with wonderful flavor. (I failed to take a photo).

We chatted as we soaked in the eclectic atmosphere, and before we knew it, our entrees were served. Jeff’s was set down first, and it looked spectacular!

photo 1Amanda told me that she chose the “Middle of the Road” special, which was Beef Stroganoff, because “it’s the perfect meal on a cold winter night”. I definitely liked her reasoning, but honestly, after seeing Jeff’s plate, I was kind of wishing that I had gotten the NY Strip. That was…until I tasted the Stroganoff.

photo 2As you can see, it was served with rice, green beans and tomatoes. The sauce was creamy and light, but still very rich. It was a different take on Beef Stroganoff for me – mom had always made it over egg noodles and sans vegetables (well, veggies on the side, but not in the dish!).

I only managed to finish half of the dish, but was excited about the prospect of freezing the other half for dinner at a later date.

When Amanda asked if we were interested in hearing about the dessert specials, Jeff and I looked at each other awkwardly. Were we interested? After several seconds passed, I advised Amanda that we would like to hear the specials. I think Jeff probably let out a sigh of relief when I made that executive decision. 😉

I remember that there was a blackberry bread pudding special, and something else being offered up – but I cannot remember the details after hearing Amanda talk about an orange cake with chocolate ganache, fresh whipped cream, and chocolate shavings. Y’all, I will eat chocolate on the regular, but given the choice, I’ll pass it up for an orange flavored dessert almost every time. So, pairing the two? Genius!

Jeff actually spoke up and ordered that, knowing how much I like orange desserts (and, he has a massive sweet tooth that never quite seems satisfied).

photo 3It took us no time at all to dive into this delicious dessert, and only a few minutes to completely clean the plate! This may be a dessert I need to attempt at home. Or, perhaps I’ll have my friend Katie, of Katie’s Adventures in the Kitchen give it a whirl! It is BY FAR my favorite dessert in the past several years.

Both Jeff and I really enjoyed a casual night out for dinner with exceptional food (and so reasonably priced!). Walker’s Point has so many spots to check out that I’ve made the mental note to spend some time there when the weather warms up a bit (June? July? 🙂 )

I want to thank Phi for the recommendation to check out The Noble. I’m thinking we should go back and enjoy dinner together sometime!

To learn more about their ever-changing menu, please check out http://www.facebook.com/thenoblemke or on Twitter @thenoblemke

Cheers!

Ker

High Praise for Braise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phi, Shanon, Ker (l-r)

Phi, Shanon, Ker (l-r)

A few other key notes:

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

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

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

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

Milwaukee! The First Post… AJ Bombers!!

I haven’t quite moved into my apartment in downtown Milwaukee yet, but I have been spending my weekends here in an attempt to learn a little bit about my new home.

I've graduated from using the dogs' bed to an air mattress.  This is all I have at "home" right now!

I’ve graduated from using the dogs’ bed to an air mattress. This is all I have at “home” right now!

I decided to try to maximize my day (and the nice weather) this weekend by exploring different aspects of the city.

This morning, I got up and took part in my first Bikram yoga class in three years!  The studio is about 1.2 miles from my place, so it was a nice morning walk over to class.  Then, Bernadette, the instructor, proceeded to kick my toosh!  Well, it really wasn’t her fault – it’s the nature of Bikram!  The walk back home was a nice way to decompress and keep the muscles stretched a bit.  But, y’all, I smelled FOUL!  I really should have showered at the studio, but space is limited.  In any case, I managed to make it home without offending other pedestrians!

Post-Bikram: A little sweat and a lotta water!

Post-Bikram: A little sweat and a lotta water!

After making it home, showering, and throwing my drenched clothes into the washing machine, I was finally able to cool down enough to think about venturing back out.

The group I failed to meet up with last night was heading to AJ Bombers for lunch.  I missed them (again), but the seed was planted and I decided to make my way over for “Happiness, w/ a side of Burgers” by myself.  It’s about 0.7 miles to get to Water Street.  I love that I can walk so many places – and the city feels so safe!

AJ Bombers, at the corner of Water Street and Knapp.

AJ Bombers, at the corner of Water Street and Knapp.

I passed by the giant chairs, which you can see at the right of the picture and into this unique establishment.  It’s funny, because I have been tweeting @AJBombers for a couple of years – ever since I read about them in an article and sent them a link.  I never imagined I’d be living in Milwaukee and would walk my way into their building.  As I was walking over, I tweeted @AJBombers to let them know I was finally coming by for a bite to eat.

I took a seat at the bar, rather than waiting for a table.  I perused the laminated menu (their Web site advises customers to bring a Sharpie!), ordered a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and asked my server to choose her favorite thing to serve me (No, I didn’t bring the trusty card with me! Shame on me!).  She asked me how creative I am willing to get with my food, and I answered her by advising her that if she thinks something is good, I trust her.

By this time, AJ Bombers had tweeted me back – and a conversation began.  In fact, I learned that my server’s name is Emily because I mentioned the jersey she was wearing to their Twitter account, and proceeded to get the skinny on her!  And, when I showed Emily the tweet, she jumped right in!

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How fun are these folks!?! Not to mention that we were “bombed” with peanuts shortly after I took my seat at the bar.  You’ll see the peanut delivery system if you look closely (sorry, the sun’s glare made for poor picture quality).

Do you see the bombers in the background?

Do you see the bombers in the background?

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When my meal arrived, Emily let me know that she chose the burger that came with American cheese, bacon, and chunky peanut butter <– Yes, CHUNKY PEANUT BUTTER! on it. She advised me to try it without ketchup or mustard to start, and then doctor it up as much as I wanted.

I never messed with it – the burger (known as the Barrie burger) was delicious just as it was.  Emily also chose sweet potato chips to pair with the burger, rather than the standard fries.  While I’m not typically a huge fan of sweet potato fries (because I feel like they tend to be mushy), these chips were fantastic!  Not greasy, just enough salt, and crispy.

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Emily and I talked about the fact that I would likely never have chosen to put peanut butter on my burger, and that’s the beauty of having the server choose a meal for me.  I’ve tried plenty of things that I otherwise may not have tried.  And, she was totally game for making the recommendation (though she did say that she would bring me something else if I hated her recommendation).

All in all, I had a great experience at AJ Bombers.  Emily was a wonderful server/bartender, and the food and atmosphere were equally fantastic! And, I’m looking forward to going back to try one of these

BOMBERS SECRET Bloody  Mary Recipe:garnished  with a lemon, lime, olive,  pickle and our signature  AJ Burger strip with  muenster cheese and bacon. Served with your choice  of domestic shorty.

BOMBERS SECRET Bloody Mary Recipe:garnished with a lemon, lime, olive, pickle and our signature AJ Burger strip with muenster cheese and bacon. Served with your choice of domestic shorty.

(thanks to the dude next to me who allowed me to photograph his drink!)

Off to meet some folks to explore more of the city!

Cheers!

Ker

 

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