Archive for the tag “server”

A month of celebrations!

My birthday is right in the middle of March, but I celebrate all month long! This year, my friends and I joked that it’s also a celebration of my “divorce” from my former employer – as the separation was finalized just two days before my birthday. So… we celebrated!

My friends spoiled me quite a bit this year. I think we were all itching to get back out to restaurants after two years at home, and they were all anxious to treat me to something special since I’m often baking for them. Speaking of which, my friend (and neighbor) Kathy and I had another super fun “baking date” to make Guinness chocolate cupcakes with Bailey’s Irish Cream icing for St. Patrick’s Day (and my birthday) – which the neighbor’s eagerly gobbled up! (I threw in a photo of Rory and one of McPaddy just because they’re cute!)

The week of eating my way through the greater Milwaukee area started off with an impromptu dinner at The Knick with my next door neighbor, Brenda. It was a gorgeous spring evening and we enjoyed dining out on the patio. A lovely evening of catching up and enjoying some outside time together.

The next evening (St. Patrick’s Day / my birthday), my friends Wayne, Yazan and Kelly had planned to take me to dinner at Milwaukee Steakhouse. I will admit that I barely ate that day, knowing that I would be enjoying a remarkable steak later that evening. 🙂 Milwaukee Steakhouse has a traditional steakhouse atmosphere – inviting, not too fancy, and a pleasant place in which to have a delicious meal. Plus, our server brought her own spunk to the experience!

Following munching on the relish tray and fried cauliflower, I delighted in a perfect 6 oz filet mignon with bleu cheese crumbles and sauteed mushrooms.

6 oz filet mignon and sauteed mushrooms

The four of us sat at the table having great conversation and lots of laughs before returning back to the city and continuing the conversation into the late hours of the evening. It was a perfect birthday!

Then, of course, I had to use the cauliflower I had at home to attempt to replicate the appetizer. I think I did a pretty good job. Remember, Milwaukee Steakhouse, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! 😉

The following evening, my friends (and more neighbors) Peter, Iris and Kathy treated me to a divine dinner at Birch downtown. This is one of their regular haunts, but I had not been since well before Pandemic hit us. I allowed my neighbors, Peter and Iris to choose the food of the evening, and they did not disappoint!

We started off with the Chef’s bite, followed by grilled garlic focaccia, beef tartare, and sweet potato and braised short rib skewers. Each small plate was individually incredible! We then enjoyed duck ragu and “chicken under a brick” for the entrees – splitting everything amongst the four of us. I don’t recall having ever had such moist and tender chicken, and pairing it with homemade pasta – perfection!

We ended the meal with two desserts. Oof! Does any birthday ever go unacknowledged with a grand dessert? The goat cheese cheesecake was definitely my favorite of the two, though the chocolate tarte with sea salt and house-made whipped cream was certainly decadent!

I had to take Saturday as a day of rest!

Because… on Sunday, my friends Kelly, Wayne, Yazan, Nabeel and I went to Central Standard Craft Distillery for brunch and a drag show. I asked our server, Dory, to choose her favorite thing on the menu and to surprise me. She delivered churro French toast. My friends were a bit concerned because they know that I don’t typically like sweet dishes – at least I don’t gravitate toward them. However, I ate every bite of that French toast (after removing the small pitcher of maple syrup from the area). It was not too sweet, and the cinnamon added a bit of warmth to the overall flavor. No complaints!

Following brunch, we headed upstairs to Central Standard’s event space which was all made up for an afternoon of drag queens lip-syncing to party music for a couple of hours. What better way to spend a Sunday out with friends?!?

I couldn’t leave without purchasing the woman’s v-neck version of this t-shirt!

I honestly have not been this busy, seen so many friends, or enjoyed myself so much in a long time! I’m really grateful to have such wonderful people in my life. I wish everybody could be so fortunate!

I’ve also really been enjoying some time off for the first time in a long, long time. I’m taking Marie Kondo’s advice and evaluating what brings me joy in my professional life before making a decision on the next steps. I’m also confusing myself because I am really enjoying all of the baking and cooking that I’ve been doing, but I’m terrified of starting a business of my own – be it a side hustle, a storefront, a gig as a personal chef, etc. It’s something I talk about with friends frequently but have yet to act on. At least the ink is dry on the “divorce papers” and I am free to move in a better direction. 😀

How many people are getting back out into the world of dining out? Did you ever really take the break that I did? Are we finally coming to a phase in this COVID world where we might stabilize? I’m sure hoping so!

Now, I still have one more week in my birthday month, so I’ll be adding to this. My friend Nabeel is taking me to lunch today, and I’m meeting up with Brenda’s friend, Leslie, for some networking time next week. The fun truly does not ever end!

Cheers!

Ker

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

“I know a guy who knows a guy…” – La Belle Ferronniere, Paris, France

That’s how the email started. “I know a guy who knows a guy that recommended a typical French Brasserie.”

My colleague was voted to be “party planner” (probably by me!), and he stepped right up to the challenge, as he always does. We had twelve colleagues who were ready to enjoy an evening outside of the Charles de Gaulle airport region, and wanted to spend some time in Paris proper. It’s not necessarily an easy feat to coordinate for twelve people, but what a fun evening we had!

It turns out that when you “know a guy who knows a guy (the owner of La Belle Ferronniere)”, you get treated very nicely! We had excellent service from start to finish.

I had requested a cheese plate, and man oh man did La Belle Ferronniere deliver! We devoured the various cheeses before I even thought to snap a photo. We did this while enjoying a few bottles of wine (I think there were twelve emptied in total – whoops!).

When it came time to order dinner, in typical fashion, I surrendered my order over to our server. He asked a few vague questions, but seemed right on board with surprising me.

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It was a simple dish of shrimp and vegetables – much needed vegetables at that point! It was not too heavy and full of flavor. Perhaps just a bit on the messy side! 🙂

None of my colleagues could pass up dessert either! I only ate half of my dish before passing on to another colleague to finish, but bourbon creme brulee with a Woodford Reserve on the side? Yes, please!

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We had such a good time, laughing and chatting (and being obnoxious Americans). It was much needed after travel overseas and a couple of looong days of meetings!

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As we were leaving, we were stopped at the bar to enjoy a shot “on the house”. Oh boy…

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We then walked a bit of the dinner off and enjoyed the typical sights of Paris.

It was a fantastic way to cap off a very busy week in the City of Lights / Love.

Next stop: Barcelona!

Cheers!

Ker

Viva l’Italia – Vincenzo’s, New Jersey

It’s been a couple of weeks since I went to New Jersey to visit with a customer whom I had been wanting to meet for a long time. I’ve heard great things about this company, and I know we have opportunities to partner on some good things!

So, my colleague (and now frequent road trip buddy) and I set out to Middlesex, NJ to have a couple of meetings as well as a nice dinner up the street at Vincenzo’s with our customers.

Foolishly, I only brought my small Clemson clutch with me, which funny enough, my dear girlfriend who lives in New Jersey gave me as a gift earlier this year.

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Anyhow, the point being that I forgot to bring my blog card with me. Thank goodness for mobile phones. I called it up from the blog page itself!

I had been warned that this dinner and our dining companions were going to be fabulous, so I came hungry! In addition to fabulous table mates, our server, Carlos, was perfect. He was professional, yet was equipped with a biting sense of humor. The best of both worlds!

Carlos started us off with several appetizers: calamari (two ways: fritti and with an “Italian hot sauce” – which everyone at the table claimed was Thai sauce!), escarole and pignoli nuts, and sausage and peppers. To be honest, I was full by the time we worked our way through these delicious plates of apps!

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A mesh of apps! Calamari, sausage and peppers, and escarole. 

And then came this salad… I think it’s one of my favorite salads – ever. The tri-colore insalati. The mesh of flavors – and that cheese! Heaven on a plate.

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Tri-colore salad made of European blend, tomatoes, pepper, and parmagiano cheese.

I’d say finally, because it really should have been the final set of bites, but it wasn’t. This is the penultimate dish.

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Grilled salmon over escarole and served with roasted potatoes.

Without flinching while reading the blog card, Carlos had chosen a popular dish that evening – salmon over escarole with roasted potatoes. The salmon filet was enormous, and cooked to perfection. Those who know me know that salmon is not my favorite seafood, but when cooked well,  I really do enjoy it! I loved that there were some greens on the plate and just a few potato bites.

It was  a simple, delicious dish and light enough not to pain me after all of the appetizers!

It was then that our customer insisted that we all have dessert. What?!? How was I going to fit one more bite into my mouth and belly?

Here’s how:

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Chocolate banana pie with fresh whipped cream, strawberries and mint.

I mentioned “heaven on a plate earlier”. This banana chocolate pie is heaven on a plate served by singing angels! I could have eaten two or three slices (but I didn’t!).

Our dinner lasted a marathon four hours, but the time flew by. We did indeed have a wonderful time with our customers and we really enjoyed the ambiance, the service, and the FOOD at Vincenzo’s! I’m still working off those glorious calories. 🙂

Since I’m not a huge connoisseur of salmon, I’m curious to know your favorite way to prepare it. I’d love to try more recipes at home. Please leave a comment if you have a recommendation.

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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