Archive for the tag “steak”

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

A Super Supper at Sara’s Place, Gates Mills, OH

I’m back in Ohio for the holidays, and for the past several years, we have taken the opportunity to have a nice family dinner at Sara’s Place in Gates Mills – a cute spot in a quaint area.

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One of the many nice things about Sara’s Place is that they offer a wide variety of gluten-free entrees.  My brother has Celiac’s disease, and my uncle has a gluten intolerance, so Sara’s Place offers more options than most restaurants do these days.  

This year, we dined at Sara’s Place the evening after Christmas. A lovely Friday night out.

The atmosphere at Sara’s Place is casual, yet elegant.

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One of the unique features I love is that the kitchen is separated from the restaurant by handmade stained glass windows which reflect the local area.

The view to the kitchen

The view to the kitchen

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On Friday evening, I was HUNGRY, as I had been running around all day, including playing school with my god-daughters!

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I *may* be an overachieving student!

At one point, during the “school day”, I was asked to do 30 full push-ups for phys ed class!  And, I did them – straight through – after a morning workout, no less!  I was working up an appetite.  🙂 My Purium apple-berry shake was my only meal of the day at that point as well.

So, when we got to Sara’s Place, everything looked good to me!  The Ahi Tuna, the (healthy option) Stir Fry,  the homemade Chicken Pot Pie, the Pasta Bolognese, the Filet…

Our server, Cindy, first took our drink orders (thank you, mom, for making that a comical series of events!), and then advised of us the evening’s side dish options (mashed potatoes or brown rice, and broccolini).  When Cindy went to take our dinner orders, I advised her that I couldn’t make up my mind.  I handed her my SOW card, and asked her to surprise me.  I also told her that all of the side dishes were fair game. Cindy was a good sport, asked a couple of questions , and then moved on to place our order. She had a big smile as she walked away from the table (a sure sign she knew what she wanted to serve me!)

My dad, my uncle and I started with the Stuffed  Banana Peppers (stuffed with Italian Sausage, mozzarella and parmesan cheese and served in the homemade marinara sauce (the DELICIOUS house marinara sauce!)).  The appetizer is not overly spicy, but it does have great flavor!

Stuffed Banana Peppers

Stuffed Banana Peppers

 

When Cindy brought the entrées out, she delivered me a perfectly cooked filet mignon over mashed potatoes and served with broccolini.  As I mentioned, the filet was expertly prepared, and the entrée was delicious!

Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon

I’m not usually one to dive into dessert, and if I do,when I go to a Gavi’s property, I generally will only order Tiramisu for dessert.  (It’s a fantastic recipe!)  On Friday night, however, I was mesmerized by the lemon-raspberry mousse bomb.  It sounded so light and refreshing.  I tend to love citrus flavored desserts anyhow!

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Lemon-raspberry mousse bomb

 

While we were a bit surprised by the (raspberry-filled) cake inside the mousse bomb, I have to say that the dessert was wonderful!  Light and refreshing – just as I had suspected.

Inside the bomb!

Inside the bomb!

My family enjoyed various desserts and coffee / after-dinner drinks.  It was a great dinner, from start to finish!

Thank you to Cindy and the staff at Sara’s Place for always treating our family to a lovely evening out and a delicious meal!

If you’re in the NE OH area, I suggest visiting Sara’s Place for dinner sometime.  You may be inclined to see a show at the Gates Mills Community Players Theater across the street, or to shop at the boutique next door.  This little Gates Mills area is so quaint and cute that it’s worth the visit!

Cheers!

Ker

Sweetphi’s Date Night at Jackson’s Grill, Milwaukee, WI

I am so excited to be guest posting here on Kerri’s wonderful blog. I’ve been such a fan of her blog and the unique concept behind She Ordered What (whenever I’m at a restaurant and can’t decide what to get, I always use Kerri’s fearless method and ask the server to choose for me…but obviously with less grace than when Kerri does it, because I just get weird looks, so big props to her!)

Ker here: I get weird looks too, Phi!  The card usually helps to explain more clearly than I can do in the moment!  

I met Kerri over a year ago and have truly loved getting to know her and spend time with her. You may have seen my name pop up on She Ordered What a few times (see here, here, and here), but for those of you that may not know me, my name is Philia (Phi for short) and I have a food blog called the Sweetphi blog where I share simple, sweet & savory recipes and love to share how delicious food doesn’t have to have a bazillion ingredients or take hours to make in order for it to be great!

Ker again: Phi’s blog is so aptly titled – she is the sweetest woman!  It was love at first bite!  (we met for dinner with another local food blogger last year).  ❤

But truth is, even though I love to cook, I love to dine out too! There’s something truly great about picking something off a menu, having it brought to you, and then when you’re done enjoying your food you can just leave (I mean, obviously you have to pay or there would be problems) and you leave the mess for someone else to clean up. That, in and of itself is enough to send me to a restaurant, especially since I’ve been so busy lately that my kitchen is looking neglected and like I have a reoccurring tornado staying with us.

And by ‘us’ I mean my hubby and I!

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So this week when he suggested going on a date night I whole heartedly agreed. We decided to go to Jackson’s Grill a lovely supper club in Milwaukee, about a mile away from Miller Park.

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I had heard of supper clubs being a ‘thing’ in Milwaukee, but had never been to one and wasn’t quite sure what they were, so I was happy when I heard the waitress telling a table over from us that they were a supper club and that meant the establishment only served supper…seems like a pretty cool concept if you ask me.

As soon as we entered, it felt like we were transported back in time. The beige décor, antique fixtures and the lingering smell of food, all made for a very welcoming environment, not to mention the gorgeous mahogany ‘old school’ bar one had to walk around to get to the restaurant portion. We were sat immediately, and our server mentioned that they had a wine list, but that they made a really good Old Fashioned.

Old Fashioneds happen to be one of my hubby’s favorite drinks, and not wanting to be left out, I ordered one as well. The server did not lie; they made a really good Old Fashioned. They were HUGE too!

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For starters we had a cheese plate.

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I just can’t resist a cheese plate, and this one did not disappoint. Besides the selection of cheeses, there were spiced pistachios and wonderful cherry compote.

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After our cheese plate arrived, we ordered. I told the server what I was doing (having her order for me) and she played along, just asking what doneness level I liked my meat.

Our meal came with soups or salad to start, and both my husband and I got soup. The server picked a seasonal butternut squash soup for me, and my husband got the seafood bisque. While I did enjoy the seasonality of the butternut squash soup (it had brown butter drizzled on top and slivered almonds) it was a bit heavy for my taste. My husband’s seafood bisque on the other hand…that I would order time and time again, it was absolutely delicious!

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We then received our dinners and I was happy to see that the server had chosen the same dinner for me as my husband had, just a smaller portion and a different side. My husband got the 10oz Black Angus Filet Mignon al a Portobello with garlic mashed potatoes, and I got the 6oz Black Angus Filet Mignon al a Portobello with mac and cheese.

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The steak…oh my goodness…the steak was so good, some of the best I’ve ever had! It was resting on the plate under a Portobello cap and with every bite luscious juices would ooze out (am I the only one that likes to dredge bread through the steak juices? You should try it…it’s so good!) As we ate, the chef came out and went around the entire dining room asking how everyone’s food was – I heard only glowing reviews from the other diners, and had one to add myself (although I did have a giant bite of food in my mouth so my response was just a nod.)

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We finished off our dinner with a dessert I’d never had: Bananas Foster. I’d go back to Jackson’s Grill for this dessert alone. Warm bananas in a caramel sauce topped with vanilla ice cream. My husband got a little glass of port that accompanied dessert. It was the perfect finish to our meal.

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I would also like to note that the entire meal: Cheese plate, soup, steak, dessert, took only an hour in its entirety. What a lovely little supper club that I’m sure I’ll be going to again!

After doing this I have 1 question for Kerri – how do you do it? How do you take pictures with such ease in dark restaurants and make them look good? So many props to you and your wonderful blog!

Ker again… Phi, my blogging / photo best friend has become Snapseed! Here’s the link to the iPhone and to Android app.  It’s so easy, even when I take photos without flash, to correct the images so they properly represent the food I’ve actually received (even in dark spots!).  

If you’d like to connect with me, you can find me on twitter (@sweetphi), Instagram (PhiliaKelnhofer), or on Facebook (SweetphiBlog).

Thanks for having me on your blog Kerri!

Thank YOU, Phi for sharing your wonderful and romantic (Nick is a gem of a guy!) experience in adventuresome dining!  I could NEVER pull off an incredible blog like yours, but I certainly can learn from it!  I’m flattered that you spent time offering to contribute to SOW.  Thank you so much!  

Cheers!

Ker

From Soup to Nuts, errr…Dessert: The Noble, Walker’s Point, Milwaukee

A quick note: ICYMI (in case you missed it), Amanda S. was the randomly chosen winner of the Spreading WI Love Giveaway. She professes to be “obsessed with all things wine and chocolate”, and plans to try the “secret family recipe” I shared with her. Congratulations, Amanda!

Last week, “Stairwell Guy” (Jeff) and I decided to meet for dinner. I was heading to Memphis for friends’ wedding over the Valentine’s Day weekend, so we opted to have a nice dinner on the Tuesday night prior. I lost our Superbowl bet (thank you Denver Broncos for that!), so dinner was going to be my treat.

As a side note: “Stairwell Guy” is a man I literally met in a stairwell. I was walking over to Irish Fest last summer, and happened to hold open the door to a public parking garage that led down to the street that leads one on the way to Summer Fest grounds. He and I struck up a conversation as we walked ~15 minutes to the festival, and then he asked me for my number, or if he could give me his (so as not to appear too forward). Since then, we’ve met up a number of times to explore the greater Milwaukee area. I still refer to him as “Stairwell Guy”, both because it “stuck”, and because I know many Jeffs and this minimizes confusion. *end note*

I think “Stairwell Guy” is the only person I know that is more indecisive than I am; so when my friend Phi reminded me of her and her husband’s favorite restaurant in Milwaukee (The Noble), I texted Jeff and offered it up as a suggestion. He checked the website and thought it was a great option. So, we met at my apartment (in East Town) and drove a few miles down to Walker’s Point to enjoy our first dinner at The Noble.

The Noble is a small and unassuming joint, both inside and out. Phi had warned me that the restaurant doesn’t accept reservations and only has six or seven tables. For these reasons, I felt like heading over there on a chilly (okay, downright cold) Tuesday night was a wise choice.

We were greeted warmly by the staff and were seated right away. The tables, like the general atmosphere, were simple, yet inviting. Brown paper over white linens and silverware wrapped in paper napkins, but tied with sweet little bows.

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Jeff and I opted for hot tea as our beverages – we needed to warm up after the brief walk in the cold Milwaukee winter air. I didn’t even check the drink menu, but the bar in the restaurant gave me the impression that one could order some really delicious drinks if one wanted to do so.

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After perusing the small menu, which consisted of some wonderful appetizers and salads as well as nightly specials of the “Hunters” (meat dish), the “Gathers” (vegetarian), and the “Middle of the Road”, I decided I really couldn’t go wrong with anything on the menu.

Jeff decided to have the tomato and roasted red pepper soup to start. He then decided on “The Hunters” special, which was a NY Strip steak covered with crab meat and shrimp in a cream sauce for dinner.

Since I was so confident in the menu, I simply asked our server, Amanda, to choose her favorite dish for me. She was a bit startled (as was Jeff), but she quickly agreed to take good care of me.

Jeff’s soup came out quite quickly and was a large bowl of thick, creamy soup with wonderful flavor. (I failed to take a photo).

We chatted as we soaked in the eclectic atmosphere, and before we knew it, our entrees were served. Jeff’s was set down first, and it looked spectacular!

photo 1Amanda told me that she chose the “Middle of the Road” special, which was Beef Stroganoff, because “it’s the perfect meal on a cold winter night”. I definitely liked her reasoning, but honestly, after seeing Jeff’s plate, I was kind of wishing that I had gotten the NY Strip. That was…until I tasted the Stroganoff.

photo 2As you can see, it was served with rice, green beans and tomatoes. The sauce was creamy and light, but still very rich. It was a different take on Beef Stroganoff for me – mom had always made it over egg noodles and sans vegetables (well, veggies on the side, but not in the dish!).

I only managed to finish half of the dish, but was excited about the prospect of freezing the other half for dinner at a later date.

When Amanda asked if we were interested in hearing about the dessert specials, Jeff and I looked at each other awkwardly. Were we interested? After several seconds passed, I advised Amanda that we would like to hear the specials. I think Jeff probably let out a sigh of relief when I made that executive decision. 😉

I remember that there was a blackberry bread pudding special, and something else being offered up – but I cannot remember the details after hearing Amanda talk about an orange cake with chocolate ganache, fresh whipped cream, and chocolate shavings. Y’all, I will eat chocolate on the regular, but given the choice, I’ll pass it up for an orange flavored dessert almost every time. So, pairing the two? Genius!

Jeff actually spoke up and ordered that, knowing how much I like orange desserts (and, he has a massive sweet tooth that never quite seems satisfied).

photo 3It took us no time at all to dive into this delicious dessert, and only a few minutes to completely clean the plate! This may be a dessert I need to attempt at home. Or, perhaps I’ll have my friend Katie, of Katie’s Adventures in the Kitchen give it a whirl! It is BY FAR my favorite dessert in the past several years.

Both Jeff and I really enjoyed a casual night out for dinner with exceptional food (and so reasonably priced!). Walker’s Point has so many spots to check out that I’ve made the mental note to spend some time there when the weather warms up a bit (June? July? 🙂 )

I want to thank Phi for the recommendation to check out The Noble. I’m thinking we should go back and enjoy dinner together sometime!

To learn more about their ever-changing menu, please check out http://www.facebook.com/thenoblemke or on Twitter @thenoblemke

Cheers!

Ker

Sto mangiando da solo – DiParma Italian Table, Seekonk, MA

I had a brief business trip to Providence, RI recently.  I was traveling solo, and therefore, was dining alone (Sto mangiando da solo, according to the Internet, which we all know is NEVER wrong!)  as well.  Being that it was 6:30PM on a Sunday evening, I decided to take the recommendation of the hotel clerk and walk a short distance over to the local Italian Table, DiParma’s. photo (25) It really was only a 5 minute walk or so – not a big deal as I walked over there, but on the way home, in the dark, I was questioning my own decision.  Especially as I passed three squad cars – lights flashing – as they surrounded the gas station situated between me and the hotel in which I was staying.  I decided to look at it as though I had at least six cops in striking distance should something happen (glass half full!).  Luckily, nothing did happen, and  I arrived back safely to my hotel in time to gather my thoughts for the following day.  I didn’t, however, stop to take a picture, for fear that I might catch the actual moment that guns came out a blazing! (Dad, you didn’t read that part!)

Now, back to the dinner… I don’t mind eating by myself, but sometimes other patrons or the wait staff appear to be a bit uncomfortable when there is just one person at a nearby table.  I caught a stare or two from a couple sitting near me, but the server who attended to me was quite pleasant and gave me just enough attention without appearing to rush me, and without ignoring me.

When he initially approached me, he asked what I’d like to drink.  I simply smiled at him and handed him my trusty little card, while letting him know that I would like him to choose my meal and a glass of wine to compliment it – along with a glass of water.  He quickly returned with a glass of red wine (no explanation) and a glass of water.  He also never introduced himself, but I overheard him speaking with other tables, so I knew his name was Nick (and ultimately, my receipt confirmed that).

Nick then delivered some fresh bread, which was tasty enough, and said he’d be back with my salad shortly. photo (23) The salad, my friends, was delicious!  The Italian dressing had great consistency and flavor, and really made the salad for me.  It was a huge bowl, and I didn’t come close to  finishing it, but I did have a couple of servings! photo (24) When Nick had confirmed that I was done with the salad (I usually use the sign I was taught while serving tables to indicate that I’m finished, but I’m not certain it’s really a US standard practice.), he indicated to me that he would bring my entrée out momentarily. And, when he did place the plate in front of me, he started to walk away without letting me know what I had been served – until I stopped him to ask what I would be eating. photo (26) He clearly  felt bad about his oversight, and then quickly gathered his composure.  He told me that he had ordered me the marinated Steak Tips, prepared medium well.  Medium well?  What is it about my blog card that makes people read “MW” instead of “MR”? photo (27) Somewhat skeptically, I asked Nick if the Steak Tips are normally prepared medium-well, and he said that they were.  I’m not sure I believed him, because the Steak Tips, which tasted as though they were marinated in the Italian dressing, were really delicious!  And…they were prepared more MR-M than MW.  They were tender, flavorful, and a great portion size (though I didn’t finish everything). The smashed potatoes were fine, but  the green beans were fresh, crispy – prepared just the way I like them. I left quite a bit of the potatoes on my plate (too much!).

Although I was expecting a more “Italian” dish, I was pleasantly surprised by Nick’s choice.  And, he did not turn toward the most expensive items on the menu – this one being $15.99 for the entrée.  I think I threw him off a bit with my unorthodox order, but even without properly introducing himself and forgetting to tell me that he had served me a “5 River” Pinot Noir and the Steak Tips, Nick did a nice job of providing me a delicious dinner and enough attention to make me feel welcome, but not overwhelmed.

I’m excited (and hopeful that I’ll have opportunities) to visit downtown Providence again (it’s been several years since I’ve spent time there) to check out the really terrific culinary adventures the city has to offer.

So, friends, I wonder… do you ever dine alone?  Is it fun for you? Do you find it to be ntimidating?  Please leave your comments!

Cheers!

Ker

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