Archive for the tag “vegetables”

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


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!


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!



A weekend with Pops… 24 Grille, Detroit, MI

I’ve been sitting on the content for this post for a while.  Dad and I were going to co-write a post (he is an established writer, after all!), but we both dropped the ball.  As I was going through pictures from my recent trip to Singapore, I rediscovered some of the pictures from my night out with dad several weeks ago, and decided to bite the bullet and write this post.

During the last weekend in October, my mom was going on a road trip with her cousin for the weekend, so dad had free time.  The traveling Vietnam Wall (“The Wall that Heals”) was fortuitously coming to Dearborn, MI, and since my dad is a veteran of the war, I thought he might enjoy (a weekend with his daughter, and) the opportunity to see the wall.

Dad (“TK” to most of my friends), and Molly (my boys’ younger sis) came in midday Saturday.

Molly (on couch), Riley (left floor), and Seamus (right floor)

Molly (on couch), Riley (left floor), and Seamus (right floor)

We needed lunch, so we grabbed a burger at Miller’s Bar (a best in the nation burger <– read about just how “no frills” this join is!), and then headed over to The Henry Ford Museum.  TK LOVES museums, digs cars, gets caught up in history – and mom and I don’t.  That said, The Henry Ford is a cool museum, and I appreciate that Masco (my employer) provides us passes to visit the museum regularly.  I’m also very excited to check out the Lego exhibition that is currently at THF.

Dad, at The Henry Ford

TK, at The Henry Ford

After checking out the museum, we went over to the Ford World Headquarters building to check out The Wall that Heals.  I have to say that Dearborn did not do a tremendous justice to the wall, in that it was set up on sand bags, in the parking lot.  Despite the setup, it IS a moving tribute.  Dad and I located the name of his neighbor and friend, who passed away just past the height of the war, at the tender age of 20.  We talked with volunteers working the memorial and were advised that a permanent memorial is in the works, and that pictures would be appreciated.  We’re hoping someone in the family/friend network can find a picture of dad’s friend.

Dad, standing in front of the panel of The Wall that Heals on which his friend's name is etched.

Dad, standing in front of the panel of The Wall that Heals on which his friend’s name is etched.

After leaving the memorial, dad and I headed downtown to 24 Grille in the Westin.  I had originally wanted to dine at Roast, a Michael Symon restaurant (since he’s a big Cleveland chef and all), but even ten days in advance, I could not get a reservation for a table for two.

I have no regrets in taking the recommendation of a coworker of mine. She told me that 24 Grille is great dining, and less pretentious than Roast.  She made a very sound recommendation.  24 Grille is more of a bar-like atmosphere, which was perfect because we were there during game 3 of the (dreaded) World Series.

Prior to ordering dinner, I had ordered a glass of the 2009 Newton Cabernet (Although this was prior to my vacation, I think Singapore drove home the fact that 2009 Cabs are amongst my faves!), which was quite a nice glass of wine.

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Dad and I both perused the menu, and pretty quickly deduced that we would allow our server, Stephani, to choose our meal.  She was cool about it!  As my notes reflect, her response was “What?!? Okay! Any objection to seafood? A preference for short ribs over steak?”  She tipped her hand a bit, but it was all good to us.  Oh, and I did make one request…I wanted a side dish of the Brussel Sprouts. I know many people don’t like Brussel Sprouts, but both dad and I do really like them.

Shortly thereafter, we were served a basketful of warm deliciousness!  Asiago cheese bread that was incredibly delightful.

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Next came our delectable Brussel Sprouts (huge, flavorful and delicious!)…

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and our meals…

TK’s: Filet Mignon with green peppercorn & ruby red glace de veau, spinach, braised parissiene potato, and herbs.

2012-10-27 19.58.11And my dish: North Atlantic Swordfish with fall corn reduction, autumn relish, and a potato crisp crust.

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TK and I both thoroughly enjoyed our meals.  Thoroughly!  Such flavor in each of our dishes…we each got lost in our dinners.

We allegedly cleaned our plates. 🙂

2012-10-27 20.21.11And, then…dad ordered dessert!  Mind you, his preference for dessert is something light, and if possible, fruit-based.  No triple chocolate decadence for him! Although I might have ordered something different (had I been hungry enough), the trio of gelato he ordered was quite tasty. The plate contained scoops of lemon, chocolate, and peach (as seen below).  I was most partial to the peach, which surprised me!  I typically wouldn’t reach toward peach.  As I recall, TK was most partial to the lemon gelato.

Geez…what a wonderful finish to a spectacular day!

2012-10-27 20.32.46Stephani was sweet enough to take a picture of dad and me at dinner. (check out the caption, and feel free to chime in!)

He says I get my good looks from him...what do y'all think?

He says I get my good looks from him…what do y’all think?

After dinner, TK and I decided to walk downtown for a bit.  We were only approximately 1/2 mile from Comerica Park (a fantastic ballpark (that Detroiters call a stadium – grrr…it’s a ballpark, not a stadium!)), so we walked in that direction and checked out the incredible energy surrounding the Detroit Tigers in their quest to win an MLB title in 2012.  Dad was amazed at the number of people out in the streets, at the infrastructure in the city (the People Mover), and the bars/restaurants in the area.  Clearly, news of the “good stuff” in Detroit has still not made it outside of the city limits.

Dad’s words were something like “Why do people say Detroit has nothing to offer, this city has it all!”

In fact, we have giant Tigers!

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And, lighted baseballs… in Tigers’ mouths!

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Dad also dug the mounted police that were on duty during the World Series.  This poor woman had SO MANY pictures snapped!

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The next morning, we headed back downtown – toward the DIA district – to have breakfast at Good Girls Go To Paris (which I first chronicled here). My dad really enjoys breakfast, but I’m not sure he’d ever choose a crepe place.

To quote Taylor Swift – “like, EVER.”  When all was said and done, he really did enjoy the crepe – we both enjoyed our breakfasts!

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I’m so glad that my dad took the time to visit, share some history, personal experiences, and plain-ol’-simple-QT with me.  In my book, it was a great weekend.  I’m also thrilled that he, an architectural influencer, saw the current delights, as well as the potential, of Detroit.

I’m sorry it took weeks to write this post, because it truly was a lovely weekend with my Pops.

If you’re in Detroit, 24 Grille rates up there in my recommendations!



Za-Za-Zingerman’s – A devine dinner with dear friends!

Friday’s outing started long ago with a Facebook message from a friend of mine – someone I met during my first job out of college.  A friend I love as much now as I did then – the same is true for her husband!  Her message came in January of this year, and I marked my calendar, but then…months passed, and it may have (allegedly) slipped my mind. Allegedly!

No harm, no foul.  I was supposed to have another friend come into town this weekend, and I thought it would be fun to introduce these friends to each other. My friends tend to get along, even without knowing each other well.  But, plans changed, and I suddenly found myself without a house-guest and free to make plans as I chose.

Since my friends, Scott and Julie, were coming from Cincinnati, OH through Ann Arbor, and heading “up north”, as Michiganders say, it made sense for me to meet them in Ann Arbor.  And, I was glad to have a reason to head to A2 again.  The last couple of times I’d been there were for sporting events…the “Big Chill” (MSU at UofM hockey) and the first UofM game under the lights (against Notre Dame).  GREAT reasons to be there, but not super conducive to really getting a feel for the city on a “normal” night.

An important note: Masco’s CEO, Tim Wadhams, is a former DB for UofM football, and he and I bonded over our mutual love for our collegiate football programs (mine being Clemson, if you somehow (how could you have?!?) missed that) long ago.  He’s also still actively involved in the UofM and Ann Arbor communities.  So, when I was looking to go to Ann Arbor with friends, I didn’t hesitate to ask him for a recommendation.  And, he gladly obliged.

(Yes, he runs a multi-billion dollar company, and is an incredibly smart businessman, but he’s also a guy who is just as willing to take a minute to help an employee find just the right spot for dinner.  I really appreciate that about him and the rest of our leadership team.)

Tim gave me a few options, but his highest recommendation was Zingerman’s Roadhouse on Jackson Ave. So, our plans were set.

I drove to Ann Arbor (35 min or so – a ride I should take more frequently!), chatted with my friends for a bit, and then we headed up the road to Zingerman’s.

I have to admit that I didn’t do too much research on the restaurant.  I trust Tim’s judgement.  As we walked up to the door, past an airstream trailer, we noticed oyster shells created the garden landscaping – our first indication of the unique qualities of this place.  (BTW, if any Zingerman’s employees or “insiders” are reading this, please comment and tell me what the trailer sells – we didn’t have a chance to check it out.)

And, when we received our paper menus wrapped in their newsletter, I was overwhelmed by the number of choices.  I had read in a recent Detroit Moxie blog post that Zingerman’s has great Mac ‘n Cheese, so I thought I might go for that…but then there is an entire section dedicated to Mac ‘n Cheese!  So…our server was going to carry the burden of choosing for me.

Chris was the lucky one that night!  He came by to take our drink orders.  Julie ordered a glass of Chardonnay, Scott ordered a beer ( a Stout that featured Michigan fudge as an ingredient!), and I declared that I’d have Chris order my entire meal and that I’d like a glass of wine that would compliment his choice.  Chris didn’t flinch, and simply politely asked if I had any restrictions (I hadn’t given him my card).  He said he knew what he’d order for me – if – IF, they hadn’t run out!  A good sign.

We also ordered the Cornman’s Farms‘ Fried Green Tomatoes (amongst the best I’ve had – with hot sauce and ranch drizzled over them) as an appetizer.

Fried Green Tomato

After he had delivered each of our drinks (initially serving Ben, 4, Scott’s beer rather than the milk that was ordered for him! 😉 ), Chris asked if I would like to know what he had chosen.  Of course I would!  Chris is one of those servers I love encountering…he knows his stuff!  He advised me that he chose a Cab-Franc for me (Beaucanon), providing a detailed  and accurate description.  A very nice choice – and a varietal blend I quite enjoy.

He also, very astutely, asked if he should place an order for Ben while we adults enjoyed conversation.  And then came back later to take our, well, Scott and Julie’s dinner orders.  It’s clear that this establishment knows how to cater to their customers!

After Scott and Jules split a Bacon and Blue Cheese salad, our dinners were delivered.

Dexter Black and Blue

Salmon with Cucumber Soup

BBQ Pork

The “Dexter Black and Blue” had been placed in front of me, Julie did a semi “She Ordered What?!?” by asking for Chris’s favorite seafood recommendation (Grilled Salmon and Chilled Cucumber Soup), and Scott had the BBQ Pork entree, with collard greens and smashed potatoes (skins still on them – yum!).  For the record, Ben had already been digging into his homemade Mac ‘n Cheese.

Chris explained to me that he chose this particular dish, which featured three types of heirloom tomatoes, peppercorn rubbed bacon, and bleu cheese in a stew, of sorts.  As has happened many times before, I admit that this is a dish I probably would not have chosen from this expansive list of options…but I’m REALLY glad Chris chose it for me.  I gave bites to Julie and Scott, and they both agreed – so fresh and flavorful.  And, per Chris’s recommendation, soaking up the sauce with Zingerman’s bread was a grand idea!  YUM!

I had to take ~1/3 of the dish home, even though I was really hungry going in.  The meal was quite filling.  My plan is to make a tomato sauce from the leftovers – I think an immersion blender will do the trick nicely! (and I don’t use mine often enough!)

But, not so filling that we didn’t split dessert!  🙂

Cheesecake trio – we dug in before I thought to take a picture!

We shared a cheesecake trio – NY style, chocolate, and Muscavado (raw brown sugar – a true delight, IMO <– Jules, NOT a fan!).  Now…please note that Julie is a SNOB with respect to dessert…if it’s not chocolate…it’s not worth even reading about, let alone eating!  So, she enjoyed the chocolate slice (w/each of use stealing a bite here and there), while Scott, Ben, and I enjoyed the other slices.

All in all, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in quite some time. The location, the Zingerman’s team, the food, the company, etc…all truly exceptional.

And, here is the cute to-go bag they provide.  The attention to detail was fantastic, from the way they packaged leftovers (everything separately) – to the way Chris chased Julie down in the parking lot to make sure she didn’t forget her leftovers (literally, her last bite!  It made us chuckle that Chris even bothered to package it).

I’m so glad that I asked Tim for a recommendation, that he didn’t hesitate to provide one, and that we had such a delightful experience!

My only complaint:  Chris took my debit card when I handed it to him, and then accepted Scott’s card and allowed him to pay for dinner.  People…these were my friends who were MY guests for dinner…he should have allowed me to pay.  After all…the card does advise him that “I tip well”. But, I guess I’ll have to forgive him.  And, I thank my friends Scott and Julie for a wonderful dinner and a great night out!

With Jules and Ben

With Scott

Another important fact:  Please also note that Zingerman’s has a sustainable farm at which they grow their own produce and livestock.  Everything is extremely fresh, and obviously, the ingredients are controlled.  I really love that restaurants are procuring more and more locally – this being an extreme (but a good one!).  I encourage anyone in the area to give Zingerman’s a try!



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