Archive for the tag “service”

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

Odd Duck – An odd’s on favorite in Milwaukee

Last week, my parents were in town to help me with “elderly dog care” while I was booked from day til night with business meetings.  They spent the days in my apartment downtown, only venturing out a couple blocks or two (due to weather and because they were uber-productive at home!).  Mom cleaned my place from top to bottom (including all of the dogs’ toys) and finished all of my laundry for me.  I didn’t ask her to do so, but I was appreciative of her help.  And, dad took care of early morning dog duties as well as running errands.  Oh, and bankrolling our few meals out!  🙂

It wasn’t until later in the week that I would be able to spend quality time with my parents, and on Thursday evening I relied on Yelp! for a recommendation on Mexican food.  Let’s just say, it was a bust.  Not that the food was terrible, but it certainly wasn’t 4 or 5 star rating worthy.  So, when mom informed me that they wanted to take me out for an early birthday dinner (I gracefully age another year on March 17) on Friday, I wanted to make sure to have a good dinner.  I researched a bit that Thursday evening, but ultimately didn’t decide on a locale until Friday afternoon.

Way to go, Ker.  Not good for reservations!

I called Odd Duck, which has been an ongoing recommendation from a coworker and friend for months, and they had one 5PM reservation available.  Mom and dad were totally cool with that. It was 6PM their time, and they had been on a breakfast and dinner only schedule, so eating early was perfect.  Since I was quite under the weather, getting home early was actually appealing to me too!

So, off we went to see what Odd Duck was all about…Nestled in the lovely neighborhood known as Bay View, Odd Duck is a small restaurant overloaded with character.The menu was diverse and reasonably priced.

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Odd Duck Kitchen

Odd Duck Kitchen

Our server, India, came over to greet us and to ask about our drink order. At this point, I told my parents “screw this cold, I’m having wine tonight!”.  When I advised India that I’d have her choose my meal and asked her to bring a glass of wine to complement it, she gave an affirmative nod of her head and simply asked if anything was off-limits.  Just the scallops (and later, i would determine that the maple vinaigrette would not have made my cut).  So, off India went.

India returned with a glass of Portuguese red wine for me, it was so new it isn’t even on the drink menu online.  She suggested that it is a very versatile wine and she thought it would complement her (still secret) entrée choice for me.  Then, wisely, India asked if we’d like to try one of Odd Duck‘s awesome cheese plates.  She and my dad collaborated on choosing five cheeses, including: Hook’s 5 Year Cheddar, Roth Kase Buttermilk Blue Affinee, and Izar-Gazta Raw Milk Idiazaba amongst a couple of others that escape me now but were delicious.  This was the perfect savory start to our meal – not too much food, but a variety of things to nibble on as we enjoyed the atmosphere.

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As we finished up the cheese plate, my dad’s mushroom salad arrived.  It looked wonderful, and he devoured it so I think it’s safe to say it was a very good, earthy-flavored salad!

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My parents were in awe of the crustini as well.  So thin and delicate!

Mom and I ordered another glass of wine (come on, that’s what we Kilbourne women do!) to be delivered with our entrées, which would be coming momentarily.

Mom had ordered a Korean BBQ style pork dish – which was a departure for her, for sure. Let me just tell you how that egg yolk perplexed her!  She finally gave in and broke the yolk to give the rice a better texture.  Aside from the bite of the Kimchi and the pickled pears, she thoroughly enjoyed it!  (mom doesn’t like spicy food) It had great flavor – we all shared bites of our dishes with each other.

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Dad ordered the braised short rib beef stroganoff, which also looked and tasted exceptional!  And, the portions were not overwhelming.

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And, India had chosen the “Duck times two” as I dubbed it.  In fact, it’s much more sophisticated than that by the restaurant’s description: seared duck breast over bread pudding with a cranberry gastrique and handmade (duck) sausage over confit. It was a simple dish, but expertly prepared and very flavorful, yet not “gamey”.  The seared duck and bread pudding were my favorite components of this dish.

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Again, the portions were just right, allowing us entertain the idea of having dessert.  As soon as India mentioned sorbet, I knew what my dad would be ordering.  Odd Duck was featuring Concord Grape sorbet – something I had never heard of before!  I opted for the lemon-ginger creme brûlée.  Mom insisted that she didn’t want dessert.

Funny, because that third spoon India brought “for sharing” sure was put to good use by Pamcakes!  She enjoyed the sorbet, but she could not get enough of the creme brûlée!  Both desserts hit the spot – for all of us.

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From beginning to end, my family enjoyed our first experience at Odd Duck.  And, I’m pretty sure the wine mom and I had comprised half the bill!  It’s an affordable place with exquisite food that is not pretentious or intimidating.

As I gazed at the crowd as we were leaving, I saw a young demographic swaying more toward the hipsters’ scene than anything else.  Casual and comfortable sums up my experience.

To India, thank you for making my early birthday dinner delightful.  You know your stuff, and you are a really pleasant server.  Hope to see you and the Odd Duck gang again soon.

Cheers!

Ker

Guest post: The Tipping Point: The Art and Science of Tipping

I’m very grateful to Richard Bracke for reaching out to me via email and asking if I’d be willing to have him guest post.  He admitted to being a fan of this blog, and thought he could provide a different, yet related, point of view.  His idea was to write a post on the art and science of tipping.

I’m sure many of you have stressed over the proper tip at one point or another; I know I have!  Richard provides good information in his post below.

First, here’s a little information on Richard.  An avid writer, father, and foodie, Richard Bracke loves to try out new restaurants in Charlotte, and especially enjoys Spanish tapas accompanied by a nice Catalonian Cava.  He currently blogs for the website, EZ Cater.

Richard’s “tips” (pun intended, folks!)

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You’ve just finished a great meal and the waiter has returned with your bill and card. You pick up the pen and start to scratch an amount on the dotted line with the precursor, “tip”. But you pause, “what’s the right amount?” you question. “Twice the first number minus one? Times the whole amount by 0.2? Round up to the nearest whole number?”

Image courtesy of:  http://earthsky.org/space/making-sense-of-misconceptions

If this sounds familiar, keep reading!

It’s obvious to say that the topic of tipping has long been a source of contention amongst families, friends, and wait staff everywhere. The origins of the act itself seem to be just as ambiguous as the process.  The term “to tip” appears to have started in the 18th century as a way for patrons of an establishment to encourage better service and quality of their goods.

So while the general consensus of tipping is a little subjective, there are a few things to keep in mind the next time you find yourself in the position to give a tip. The first is a generational gap. Depending on which generation you come from, your preconceived ideas about how much to tip may vary.

While the industry standard in previous eras has been anywhere from 5% to 10%, the current accepted amount is about 15-20%.  Why the change?  Well that takes a little math. 

The average server generally makes a much lower per hour wage than the minimum wage (which varies by location).  Restaurants typically pay the wait staff at a reduced hourly wage because the money they take home in tips off-sets the state’s minimum wage rate.  On any given night, a server could have anywhere from three to ten tables, sometimes more, sometimes less all depending on the volume of the restaurant. Assume each bill was about $60 dollars; this is what their income for that evening would look like.

 As you can see the slight increase from 10% to 20% makes a huge difference in the nightly totals a waiter or waitress brings in. Literally that extra 10% could mean the difference between making rent, and not making rent. It’s also important to note that any problems you had with the preparation or taste of your food should not be translated to your server’s tip, they are simply the conduit, not the source. Be sure to voice your concerns with the wait staff so they can let the cooks and kitchen know, but don’t let your distaste with the food affect your server’s tip!

The choice of how much to tip in any situation is of course up to you, the patron. If your wait service was less than stellar you should, of course, vary your tip accordingly. While, giving a bit extra in the tip shows you really appreciated the great service, and gives the employee an incentive to keep up the good work!

In closing, I suppose the important thing to remember here is that we’ve all had a day where we weren’t at our best, so regardless of whether a good tip was “earned” or not there is one thing you should always remember, a little generosity goes a long way in making someone else’s day! And really, it’s always better to err on the side of more, rather than too little.

So even if the accepted amount is 20% leaving 25% is always acceptable too!  🙂

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Thank you, Richard, for sharing your thoughts on tipping wait staff.  It is indeed a critical part of the dining experience, IMO! I’d love to hear readers’ points of view.  Please comment if you feel strongly about tipping or if you have a method of your own.

Cheers!

Ker

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