Archive for the tag “recommendations”

Superior Service & Delicious Dining at Urban Farmer, Cleveland, OH

Over Labor Day weekend, I visited my family in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. As is our routine, my brother chose a few restaurants for me to pick from. Our family always enjoys a meal out when I visit. Lately, we’ve been trying to head into the city to try some new places (new to our family, anyhow).

This time, one of the restaurants on Adam’s list was Urban Farmer Steakhouse in downtown Cleveland. It only took me seeing that this is a farm-to-table concept restaurant to decide it was the one I was voting to check out. (You probably know of my love for farm-to-table, and specifically Braise here in Milwaukee.)

Urban Farmer

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We entered the rustic, yet elegant restaurant, adjacent to the Westin Hotel, and sat down in a cozy rounded booth. We were greeted by our server, Ashley. Now, I’m just going to say this right now: Ashley is quite possibly the most knowledgeable and impressive servers I have ever encountered. Absolutely top-notch. More on that later.

Ashley walked us through the concept described above – two kitchens (one for cooking, and one with a butchery and bakery), a below-level garden which supplies most of the herbs and vegetables for the restaurant, the relationships with local farms, etc. Then, she walked us through the different cuts of meat, the differences in how the cattle were raised and the impact of their diets on the flavors of the steaks, and the differences in how they are aged to affect tenderness and flavor. Ashley didn’t require any cheat sheets, and she made everyone feel comfortable (and impressed!). On top of her knowledge, she wasn’t the least bit stuffy or dry; she let her sense of humor come through as she inserted jokes and color commentary during her descriptions (“don’t mess with my meat” – she doesn’t believe in sauces or toppings).

When I gave her my card and advised her that she would be choosing my meal, she asked “seriously?”. Yes. “Okay, I know what I’m serving you!” – without hesitation. These are the types of meals I get really excited about because I know the server is going to choose really well.

We opted to get a few side dishes, which Ashley recommended sharing between two or three people. Ashley chose mine as well.

As it turns, out my entire dinner was shared. By far the best entree at our table; the vote was unanimous. That being said, everyone was very pleased with his/her meals.

So, what did Ashley choose, you ask? Wait no longer…

We started off with fresh baked bread (rolls and ah-mazing cast-iron cooked cornbread) and salted butter (which makes all the difference, in my opinion!). Ashley chose the special salad for me: yellow watermelon over Burrata and topped with olives, tomatoes, balsamic and served with two slices of prosciutto. It was light and flavorful – a nice change up to one of my other favorite watermelon salads (watermelon with goat cheese, balsamic and greens and herbs). We were off to a great start!

Next came the entree and side dish.

Wanting to share her favorite with me, Ashley chose the 14 ounce (FOURTEEN OUNCE!!) twenty-one day dry aged bone-in strip steak. It was perfection! Luckily, everyone at the table wanted to try this cut, so I didn’t feel completely overwhelmed or as though I’d have to try to finish it on my own. The plate was clean by the end of the meal though! The steak was really tender and had terrific flavor. It’s a spoiler for any other cut moving forward.

Ashley chose to bring foraged mushrooms as the side. A very nice compliment to the steak, and enough to feed at least four people! At the table we also ordered: potato puree (though my brother wouldn’t share!), asparagus (with cured farm egg yolk and chili), and twice-baked fingerling potato tart with bacon and aged cheddar. Everything was delicious!

Pro tip: you won’t go home hungry from Urban Farmer Steakhouse. Bring an appetite! 

Ashley asked if she should choose a dessert for me. Where to put it?!? Ultimately, since there was a gluten-free option for my brother and my uncle, my parents and I decided to share whatever Ashley decided to bring so we would all enjoy a bit of decadence.

My brother and uncle tried the lemon olive oil cake with kale ice cream (it’s much better than it sounds!), and pepper crisps.

If I were choosing my own, I’d have either gone for the lemon cake or the strawberry rhubarb cobbler with pistachio, buttermilk frozen yogurt and basil, because I generally like citrus or fruit desserts more than chocolate (but, not always!).

However, I was in the most capable hands, and I knew it! Ashley chose the butterscotch sundae with a warm brown butter blondie and toffee chip ice cream. AKA: heaven in a jar!

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Butterscotch sundae with warm brown butter blondie and toffee ice cream

My parents and I kept passing this jar around, taking one delicious bite at a time. The brownie and ice cream were melting into each other, combining incredible flavors together.

While we all walked out of Urban Farmer Steakhouse absolutely full, we walked out feeling like we had just had one of the best meals in a long time. And, we all agreed that Ashley set the bar for outstanding service! In fact, my uncle made it a point to seek her out so he could inform her that she was so impressive that she truly did elevate our experience that evening.

I definitely recommend a visit to Urban Farmer Steakhouse if you’re in Cleveland. I’d love to go back and take a tour of the kitchens and garden  (if the management allows it). Of course, I’d have to stay for dinner again! 🙂

What is your most memorable dining experience? Where were you? I’d love to hear from you!

Cheers!

Ker

My first two nights in NYC – I let my friends choose for me.

I’m in New York for a conference this week, so I know I won’t have much time to explore or enjoy the extensive culinary options that Manhattan boasts. It’s kind of a bummer – even our networking dinners always seem to be at a high-end chain restaurant. Never a local gem. And, while these aren’t true “She Ordered What?!?” posts, I’m posting them as such since my friends ordered for me, and I really didn’t know what I was in for!

After what felt like an epic journey to get here (which had me ranting on Facebook and Twitter – ignorant mom with your mobile phone stuck to your ear while your children disrupted every last passenger on the plane, I’m talking to you! American Airlines, I’m also talking to you for boarding, de-planing, re-boarding, de-planing again, canceling, all the while lapsing in customer service and forcing passengers to carry their own bags up and down rickety stairs while in dresses, carrying other personal items, babies, etc, and up again, and down again – and then finally getting us to NYC. – post-script: same bologna on the way home!), I decided to take the advice of my friend Daniel. He tweeted me and advised me to grab chicken and rice with the “crack” sauce (the white sauce I would surely get addicted to) from a street food vendor on the corner of 53rd and 6th called Halal’s. He also advised me that their would likely be a line, indicative of just how good the food was!

It was about a ten minute walk from my hotel, and it was a gorgeous night. The line was 6-7 people deep at 8PM. That was a good sign!
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I spent $6.00, plus a $2.00 tip, and carried home enough food to feed four people! I spent more than twice that on a glass of wine from the hotel bar!!

But, Daniel was correct. It was really good food, and the “crack sauce” was yummy. Not spicy like I thought it would be, given Daniel’s addiction to Sriracha sauce, but that’s why I was also given a tiny tub of red spicy sauce along with the white sauce. To spice it up!
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I was only able to eat about 1/4 – 1/3 of the portion, and I wish I had a fridge in the room to save the rest. But, alas, most of it went to waste. 😦

I think that food gave me some good energy too! Monday morning, I woke up early and went for a run through the city. I knew I was motoring way faster than I used to when I was a regular runner…and map my run (while getting a bit confused amongst the skyscrapers) seemed to agree. I covered some pretty good ground in about 18 min. And, I broke a nice sweat. I was glad to get a workout in, because I knew I was meeting a dear, dear friend for dinner that night. Beth lived in the city for 12 years before she and her husband bought a home in New Jersey last year. My original plan was to go visit them Sunday, but as I mentioned, that didn’t happen.

So, after a day of fruitful meetings, I set out on foot to meet Beth at Inakaya – at 40th and 8th. Again, a short walk, but nice to get out for a bit!

After her long day, and the rough start to my trip (did I mention that my brother called that morning to tell me my mom had broken her leg and was in the hospital?), we decided to split a bottle of wine along with sushi, sashimi, egg custard, and maki.
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Round two – we had already finished off the sashimi and sushi platters (I forgot to take pictures because we just dug right in!).

I let Beth order everything, since she knows me as well as I know myself! We caught up (it had been a year since we’d seen each other) and enjoyed really fine food. The lone “eh” piece was the mackerel. Fishy and not up to snuff with the other pieces.

It was a great night though…how can you go wrong with a good friend, good wine, good food, and in an amazing city?!?

A bit later, another friend messaged me and asked if I wanted to join him for dinner. I told him I’d keep him company and watch him eat…so that’s what I did. I kid you not, Jeff polished off this whole platter of chicken parmesan before we went on to meet up his colleagues and business contacts of mine. I had to throw this photo in for good measure!
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While I wish I had time to spend walking the city like I do on personal trips to Manhattan, I simply don’t. I am grateful to have had two nights to dine as I like to, without forced networking that comes with conference attendance! Tonight, it’s about networking (and turning back into that shy girl I was so many years ago!). Wish me luck!

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