Archive for the tag “RSA”

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

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?

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