Archive for the tag “@sketchthis”

My Favorite Dining Experiences of 2013…

I wrote about my favorite experiences of 2012 last year, and it has been fun to go back and revisit some of them periodically.  So…I thought I’d make another list for 2013 – the first full year of “She Ordered What?”.

First, let me say that 2013 has been a fantastic year!  I left a job that, to put it nicely, was un-fulfilling, moved to Milwaukee (a city that I am LOVING!), am working for a supervisor I respect – and like, and have coworkers I enjoy (so much so that we opted to spend time together after the holiday party this year).  I am living in downtown Milwaukee, and am thoroughly enjoying metropolitan living (as are my (now 13-year-old) dogs!). I am also traveling a bit more again, allowing for some interesting dining experiences.  For me, change has been very good!

So…I started compiling my top 5 choices of 2013, but the list quickly grew beyond five.  I’ll list my “top 5” and a few honorable mentions – which provided great memories with a bunch of friends and colleagues.

5) Melt Bar and Grilled: This is a bit of a cheat, as I actually posted this on December 28, 2012.  However, I think Melt deserves a mention since the sandwich was so very good!  Full of carbs and comfort, the “Mom’s Meatloaf” grilled cheese was excellent, and very filling!  I did end up having the second half of the sandwich for lunch the next day – and I ate it cold.  It was really delicious as a cold leftover!  I’d also like to thank Melt Bar and Grilled for posting a link to my blog on their website.  I really appreciate the additional traffic!  I’m looking forward to hitting up Melt when I make it back to Ohio next year.

Melt

4) AJ Bombers:  As I mentioned, I had been following AJ Bombers on Twitter ever since I read about their social media program a couple of years ago.  So…when I moved to Milwaukee, I was really excited to walk over and check the place out in person.  After all, the place promises “Happiness, with a side of burgers”.  Not only is the food far better than your average bar food (let’s face it, it’s NOT healthy!), but the Bloody Mary drinks are the best in town – I don’t care what WISN readers say!  Finally, the service is always outstanding – though I tend to favor being a customer of this girl.  😉

AJB

3) Braise: I was introduced to Braise through a local food blogger, Phi, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole dining experience with her and another food blogger, Shanon.  The atmosphere is so cool.  This used to be a bowling alley, and the owners repurposed a lot of the old elements to create a unique and inviting space.  But, the food…is SO good!  The menu is changed up regularly to incorporate the best ingredients, and it’s not an overwhelmingly large menu so one doesn’t have to feel pressure to sift through pages of options, hoping to make the right decision.  I’ve been to Braise several times now, and in my opinion, any decision is a good one!  Also, Braise just opened a second floor bar/lounge area.  I’ll need to check that out!

Braise

2) Bacon Bros. Public House: Another locally sourced restaurant makes the list!  I have Yelp! to thank for introducing my friends and me to this hidden gem.   While visiting South Carolina to see my Clemson Tigers beat Boston College, we stumbled upon Bacon BrosThe food:  the meat is locally sourced, and spectacular, and the side dishes have a definite southern flair to them, but with a new twist.  The service was fantastic.  And, their motto is “Powered by Bacon”!  What’s not to love about this place?

BaconBros

and…the top “She Ordered What?” dining experience of 2013 was…

1) The Publican:  The fact that I drove ~90 miles each way to and from Chicago on a Tuesday night (in traffic and weather) could not even put a damper on this meal!  Our server, whom I mentioned a few times in the post, was very good – and he was totally on board to surprise us that evening.  The food was expertly prepared.  Again, The Publican is a restaurant that sources its ingredients locally – must love that!  All in all, the atmosphere, the service, the food, and the company (Chanda!) were top-notch.  I loved this place that is off the beaten path, so to speak, but may be home to the best meal I’ve had in Chicago (and I’ve had some REALLY good meals there!).  I highly recommend The Publican if you’re looking for an excellent dining experience.  The menu changes up frequently here as well, but here is the selection from which we had to choose.

Publican

Honorable mentions:

I kicked the year off by celebrating a dear friend’s birthday in Detroit.  I was able to meet some of her other wonderful friends, and we just had a fantastic time enjoying a city that tends to be “off-limits” after work or late at night. Detroit does indeed have some safe and fun spots to enjoy “after hours”.

I also enjoyed celebrating my own birthday with friends – in Massachusetts.  My friends gave me a perfectly balanced weekend.  We had fun “out on the town”, enjoyed chilling at home, oh, and we ran a 10K in the middle of it all!  I’m looking forward to seeing this crazy crew when we meet up for our other friends’ wedding in Memphis this February.

Finally, categorize this under the “last, but not least” header… I had some fun times traveling with my new coworkers this year.  We had some really fruitful business trips, but always seemed to sneak in a good meal or two! There was the “first meal in Nola”, the “marathon trip”,  the “French food in Montreal”, the “mussels in Brussels”, and the “pork in Paris”.  We’ve had other dining adventures, but not all warrant a “She Ordered What?” post.

I will say this, I’m grateful for the way my colleagues have embraced me, and I find it refreshing to enjoy having a meal and/or a drink (or two!) with my coworkers. It certainly makes work more enjoyable!

“She Ordered What?”: 2013 by the numbers:

I wrote 22 posts to contribute to the overall number of 83 posts. The readers and I have posted 221 comments to the blog.  There are over 1,800 “She Ordered What?” followers who viewed the blog almost 17,000 times.  And, from all over the world…83 countries, actually (led by the US, Canada and Singapore)!

SOWmap

Thank you again for your support and readership.  As I mentioned last year, if you would like to write a guest post, please let me know.  I enjoy sharing others’ experiences as well!

Here’s to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling 2014!

Cheers!

Ker

Alphabet Soup – part II (Massachusetts)

This past weekend I headed east and visited a close friend of mine, Eric (whose last name is a ridiculous mess of letters, and thus I dubbed him “Alphabet Soup” when I first met him, “AS”, for short.)  I hadn’t seen him in just about a year, and I hadn’t seen our mutual friends (whom I met through him) since that last trip either.  Azelie and Trey (aforementioned mutual friends) are getting married in May, and I wanted to squeeze a visit in before their planning chaos prevented us from being able to spend quality time together.  So, we decided that I would visit during St. Patrick’s Day weekend – which also serves as the joyous (errr, 28th (29 is just too obvious!)) anniversary of my birth, and an annual reminder of just how lucky I am to be blessed with a good life, great friends, and fabulous family!

While I didn’t necessary pull a true “She Ordered What?” all weekend, I did often defer to Eric to choose my/our food.  And, sometimes, it’s just fun to share culinary and personal experiences – even if they don’t follow the theme of this blog to a T.

I arrived Friday afternoon, and Eric was kind enough to drive ~2 hours east to pick me up at the airport.  After a ridiculous scene at the airport that mimicked that one in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (skip to ~2:10), wherein we were on the phone, trying to find each other, we headed west toward Eric’s place in Greenfield.

My personal chauffuer

My personal chauffeur

By the time we got home, we were both starving, so we headed to Magpie for some pizza.  We were greeted with a “Here they are!!!”.

Wait, what??

Turns out, Jim, the lovely (and cute!) proprietor, and his staff were greeting us as the first customers of the evening.  I joked that we should be wearing blue wigs – it was 4PM, and here we were having dinner!  Or, was it a late lunch?  Not sure!

Before I even checked the menu, Eric suggested ordering the “bread to share” with sea salt and olive oil and the Meatball pizza.  I was totally agreeable, so that’s what we went with.  And…it was ah-mazing!

The Meatball - tomato sauce, roasted pepper, onion, Ricotta, and Parmesan.

The Meatball – tomato sauce, roasted pepper, onion, Ricotta, and Parmesan.

We, reluctantly, decided against the “Fudge bottom pie” and the special shot of the day: Jameson w/ pickle juice and a pickle  (Eric thought it sounded fantastic!).

Later, we headed over to Northampton, which I’ve previously posted about to meet up with Trey, Azelie and Trey’s roommate from college, Chris, who was visiting for the weekend.  We hung out, catching up at Trey’s place, before heading to The Elevens for a monthly stand-up comedy show.  Trey was kind enough to pay our cover charges (very reasonable, folks!), and Azelie handed out our raffle tickets.  Turns out, everyone with proper admission gets entered into a raffle.

There were some really funny comedians that night – a variety of younger and older, male and female, “cleaner” and “more risqué”… though I have to admit that most of us were busy talking amongst ourselves and missed many of the jokes that got really big laughs.

At the end of the comedy show, the raffle prize was to be drawn.  Confident in my recent winning streak, including my second consecutive strong showing at The Phillip DeVito Reverse Raffle, I was boasting to Trey that I just KNEW that I’d win, especially when he said that the prize would be a ticket to the next show.  I’m an out-of-towner, and wouldn’t be able to go to the show, so surely I would win.  And as the raffle numbers were called off…my numbers matched, one for one…I did win!!!

Turns out that I had won a perfectly executed surprise birthday cake and celebration!  My friends DUPED me – big time!  Thank you, Aze (the clear Mastermind), Trey, and Eric. Y’all stink at following orders, but you’re fantastic people!

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This was a DELICIOUS chocolate cake!

We ended up sharing this cake with a man with a March 16th birthday, and with the wait staff at The Elevens.  Later, we may have *allegedly* regretted that decision – meaning the “less sober” folks in our group may have wished for cake at the end of the night.

Trey, me, Aze, and Eric (clockwise from top left)

Trey, me, Aze, and Eric (clockwise from top left)

Aze and I were sober, and ready to run our 10K on Saturday.

Okay, to be fair, Aze was ready to run, but I was still scared because I had not trained well at all for the race!  Despite my Asylum training, running was not a natural workout for me these days!

On Saturday morning, Eric and I headed to Shelburne Fall Coffee Roasters for breakfast on the way to Holyoke for the annual St. Patrick’s day 10K.  I had fond memories of Shelburne Fall from last year.  I’m not normally a fan of cream cheese on bagels, but last year, Eric had convinced me to try their homemade veggie cream cheese.  Folks, I am a fan!  Yet, on Saturday, I found myself trying the “Hadley” breakfast sandwich – bagel, strip bacon, cheese, and egg – and it was a PERFECT start to race day. Note: the race didn’t start until 1PM, so the sandwich wasn’t going to sit heavily in my stomach. (until it did)

Aze (actual name = Catherine) and I ended up running pretty much step-for-step during the whole race.  She was a GREAT running partner!  Easy-going, yet motivating.  Between mile 5 and 6, I recall Aze asking “Am I trying to keep up with you, or are you trying to keep up with me?”  The answer?  We didn’t know!  We’re just a good match!  We both finished with the exact same time:  1 hour, 1 minute, 0 sec.  Go figure!

Mine and Azelie's scores - couldn't be in much better sync!

Mine and Azelie’s scores – couldn’t be in much better sync!

That night, we spent some time hanging at Trey’s again – I got a bit of “guy talk education” when Eric left me with the guys so he could visit a friend for a bit (thanks a lot, Eric!).  I’m still hopeful that the scars will heal! LOL.

A bit later, Eric and I decided to go to enjoy a sushi dinner.  The others were happily drinking, so we ventured off together – without them.  We went to Moshi Moshi, and had a great dinner!  We went up the spiral staircase, sat on the second floor and enjoyed the Spicy Tuna Roll (2x over), the Moshi roll, and the Rainbow roll, along with the Tuna sashimi.

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Left to right: Spicy tuna, rainbow, Moshi rolls
Bottom: Tuna sashimi

Everything was truly excellent.  We left as happy patrons.

And, then, headed to East Hampton to the Brass Cat to meet Eric’s friend Brannon, and his girlfriend, Abbi.  We had a nice time chatting with these two – down-to-earth, funny, real, and all-around good people.  Eric, has really fantastic friends.  We share that trait.

Following our chat with Brannon and Abbi, we chased down Aze and the group at “The Deuce”.  The “group” consisted of Trey’s sister Cassie, whom I had met last year too, but hadn’t spent much time with prior to this trip, and Aze, since the guys had gone home and “crashed”, per se.

I have to admit that I was incredibly tired late Saturday night, since I hadn’t slept well Friday night, and was jealous that Aze had (wisely) snuck a nap in earlier.  She and Cassie were dancing up a storm, and they were having a blast doing so!  I WISH I had their rhythm, and their energy!  Luckily, Eric and I shared that lack of talent. We ended up heading home early to catch some zzzz’s.

On Sunday morning, we lounged around for a bit laughing out loud to this series of video clips prior to heading into downtown Greenfield to grab brunch at The Brass Buckle. Eric had the Cowboy (hashbrown patty, bbq, scallion sour cream, bacon & egg on Texas Toast), and I had the Buckle (rocket pesto, tomato, avocado (I LOVE avocado!), & egg on Texas Toast).  

Forefront: The Buckle (mine)Background: The Cowboy (his)

Forefront: The Buckle (mine)
Background: The Cowboy (his)

Both were INCREDIBLE breakfast sandwiches!  (we shared with each other)  We also couldn’t pass up the Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, made with Guiness and Jameson Whiskey.  Hey, it was my birthday (and St. Paddy’s day), after all! 

2013-03-17 11.42.57

The cupcakes were good, but I wouldn’t say they were super special.  They had more of a carrot cake (mild spice) flavor to them than the chocolate base I had anticipated.  Still, we managed to polish them off!

Then, we decided to head into Boston for the day/evening.  We took the T in from Brookline and headed toward the North End.  After walking all over searching for a place to eat, we settled on ducking into a little Italian joint called La Familia Spagnuolo’s.  We wanted something casual and laid back.  Well, um…

We witnessed the most epic fight between the owners and a patron that I have ever seen – In. My. Life.

I tried to record it, but by the time I got myself together, I had missed the majority of the epic cat fight.

Eric and I sat across the table from each other, each looking like two deer in headlights.  What were we to do in this situation?  Two extremely loud women were yelling at the top of their lungs at each other – trading insults and threatening to call the cops.  This lasted for a good ten minutes or so.  And, we never received an explanation or an apology from the owners, so we’re really not sure exactly what went down!

We did, however, have a tasty stuffed mushrooms (really delicious!)

photo (19)

That’s our server’s hand, not mine!

and the house pizza to which we added sausage.

photo (20)

Peppers, onions, mushrooms, chicken and sausage – oh my!

Parts of the pizza were missing sauce, but it was still a good pie.  I’d say, if you want, err, a “colorful” atmosphere, this was probably a good place to try.  🙂

Yet, we were happy to leave that restaurant and find a nice place to grab a few drinks and catch up.  We ended up in the Faneuil Hall area for the rest of the evening – just having a good time hanging out.

I always make AS pose for a picture… (he’s photogenic, he should pose!)

photo (21)

And, while I am wildly UNphotogenic, I wanted a picture with the St. Paddy’s day headband some randomly nice woman gave me earlier in the evening.  Too bad I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that they were backward (they actually light up) before Eric took the picture (and, no, it wasn’t due to excessive alcohol).

photo (22)

That was my last night in MA, and then Eric dropped me at the airport Monday morning and we headed our separate ways again.  He headed back to Western Mass, and I headed west!  I’m grateful to have had a few days to spend with wonderful people – to “take a leave” from real life, and to (reluctantly) celebrate my (28th) birthday.

Thanks so much, friends!

Cheers!

Ker

Need your input, readers. Planning a special meal…

Last night, I received an email that triggered a ridiculous set of emotional responses.  The email had a picture of me and my deceased friend, Erica, who lost her battle with lymphoma last December.  She was 30 years old.  The email had a note that it was a great picture of the two of us.  Fast forward two and a half hours, countless tears, and numerous fond memories, and I was a total train wreck. I mean – off my rocker!

I had spent the aforementioned two and a half hours scouring Facebook photos, not only of my friend, but also  of my cousin – whom we lost to cancer as well (and who was an amazing chef and bartender – he’d probably have loved this blog).  I was sobbing uncontrollably for the better part of the night.

I couldn’t think, let alone speak, a coherent sentence, though I tried while I was on Voxer with my friend Eric (who, incidentally, is celebrating his birthday tomorrow – happy birthday, Eric!).  He was finally making his way home from a long day trip in a car that was slowly breaking down, and I was bugging him to make sure he made it home alive.  Anyhow, he thought I was drunk, and listening back to our Voxer conversation, I don’t blame him!  Not only did I have post-cry foggy head, a total inability to speak, but also had four different communications devices around me – all beeping, dinging, and buzzing.  Total Continuous Partial Attention – insane CPA, folks.

Basically, I sounded (and felt) like I was out of my mind. The only clear thought I had last night was that the last meal I had with my friend, and her husband, was Mexican at Jalapenos in downtown Orange, CA.  And, then, I thought…I want my next post to be about Mexican food.

So, readers in the Detroit area, in particular…I’ve been to a place or two in Mexicantown and I’ve been to Taqueria Mi Peublo.  What are your favorite Mexican restaurants? Which should I try?  Should I do lunch or dinner?  This is going to be a special meal, in memory of my friend, and I want to make sure it’s a good one.  Please leave a comment if you have recommendations!

And, if you wish to donate to the LL&S page honoring Erica, here’s a link. She’s the  2012 Light the Night Memorial Honoree!

Erica, and a picture of the card I sent her when she was first diagnosed – fight the good fight!

Thank you!

PS. Eric, for the record, I still don’t buy the NoHo nickname!  😉

Fitzwilly’s Restaurant, Northampton, MA

A few weeks ago, I went to visit a friend of mine, Eric, who lives in Western Mass. Thanks to, Foursquare checkins, I knew several of his “local haunts”. One of them was Fitzwilly’s Restaurant, so on the night that I arrived, he, his friend Trey, and I enjoyed a late dinner at this fun bar/restaurant.

After a little bit of friendly banter, I asked our server, Sean, to pick something from the menu for me and to surprise me. He was such a good-natured guy and didn’t skip a beat. Eric got Buffalo chicken Mac ‘n Cheese (sounds delish!), Trey ordered a burger, if I recall correctly (and I may not!), and I ordered up a surprise.

This is what Sean brought me.

A delicious turkey sandwich with a surprising taste of cinnamon apple, cheddar cheese and honey mustard.  It was way too much to finish during a late dinner, but it was also excellent as a cold leftover the next afternoon. At one point, Sean had asked me if it was the best sandwich I’d ever had, and while I’m not sure I could go THAT far, it was a darned good sandwich! I certainly recommend it if you’re in Northampton, MA.

I also recommend dining with Eric and Trey – they’re fun guys!

Here’s to good eats!

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