September 2011 | I just want to eat!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Restaurant Review: Uncle Jack's Steakhouse (New York, NY)

I love steaks and the meat in this country is incredible! But not all restaurants know how to cook a good steak. Of course the quality of the meat is important too. So, what I am looking for is good piece of meat and good way of cooking it. As I mentioned in a prior post, I have a rule that says that I should not have a steak if the restaurant is not a steakhouse. Steakhouses are specialized in steaks, so they should know how to make them!

I went to Uncle Jack's few months back for lunch and had a special: surf and turf for $29. It came with a petite filet mignon, a small lobster tail with clarified butter, and mash potatoes. It was delicious! So we decided to go for dinner! I am going to make my usual comment: the restaurant was dark! why? One of my colleague thinks that it is because steakhouses were more geared to men decades ago. And so???
At Uncle Jack's, the meat is of the highest quality (USDA Prime) and aged for 21 to 28 days on premises. They cook it at 1800 degrees on an infrared broiler that gives a nice char and then finish the meat at temperature, served with their natural au jus.

I had a very good meal there! I started with crab cakes (I know I am obsessed). They were good and you could see and taste the lump crab! However, I did not like the sauce (kind of a lobster sauce). 
I then ate a bone in filet mignon; first time I tried that! The taste is between the filet mignon and the prime rib with a fattier meat around the bone. The meat was perfectly cooked, tender and very juicy. As a side, we picked onion rings: they were big! Not greasy at all, just missing a bit of salt. Of course we could not finish the meal without a desert...We chose the creme brulee: delicious!

This was definitely a good meal! Uncle Jack's is an address to have in mind for steaks!

Enjoy (I did)!
Uncle Jack's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Restaurant Review: Baluchi's (New York, NY)

Baluchi's is one of my favorites indian restaurants in the city. Some of my friends from India love it, so I guess it confirms my taste! Not only they have good food, but they also have a good deal for lunch: 50% off! How do they do that? They serve less quantity than for dinner, but it is still a good portion.

What I prefer: crab curry (photo), chicken Tikka Masala or tandoori chicken! The crab curry has so many flavors; I always ask mild as it is spicy. Even like that, it has a nice kick!

They also have a good sweet lassi and great nans (bread)! If you'd like to try different types of nans, try the nan basket!

Enjoy (I did)!
Baluchi's (Financial District) on UrbanspoonBaluchi's (Uptown) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Amy's bread - Coconut Bar! (New York, NY)

I like Coconut but I am not a coconut lover. But, when I tried the Coconut Bar from Amy's bread, it was a revelation! Think about it: buttery crust, coconut and chocolate chips! They all pair perfectly together and it is even better after you pop the bar in the microwave for few seconds. Add a glass of milk and it is a perfect treat!

Definitely worth to try!

Enjoy (I did)!
Amy's Bread in Chelsea Market on Urbanspoon
Amy's Bread on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 26, 2011

Recipe: Baguette with a hint of Olive oil

You probably know the caricature of the French: baguette and beret! Well, the beret is truly a caricature (mastered in the movie The Truth About Charlie with Mark Walberg) as you will not see that many people wearing it if you go to France, except if they are a certain age; but the baguette is true! Bread is an institution there! You will find boulangeries very easily, with many types of breads: baguette, sour dough, with olives, blue cheese.... In restaurants, they will always give you some bread with your meal: as much as you want! 
When I came in this country, I missed passing by a boulangerie and buying my baguette or ficelle (very thin baguette - outstanding when hot with just butter on it). Well, I then discovered different types of breads (Challah, focaccia, Hero, bagel...) and locations to buy some: whole food (great baguette), Balthazar (bread sold in different stores) or Amy's bread. Then, to counter the fact that there are not as many boulangeries as I would like, I bought a bread machine: it is great! The kneading is better than doing it by hand (I tested on burger rolls) and you can set the machine so when you wake up, you have fresh bread for breakfast. Not to mention the sensational smell of fresh bread in your home!

Here is an easy recipe of French bread where I replaced part of the water with olive oil to give a hint of olive flavor and make the bread moist.

Ingredients for 2lb:
- 1 1/4 cup (30 cl) lukewarm water
- 1/4 cup (5 cl) olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 4 cups of flour (1 cup = 128 grams)
- yeast

Put all the ingredients together and knead them until obtaining a firm, non sticky dough. Let rise for 1 hour. Put the bread on a backing sheet and make some incisions on top with a knife. Let sit for 30 more minutes.
Pre-heat the oven at 375 degrees.
Cook for 30 minutes.
Once done, let the bread cool on a cooling rack. Et Voila!

Bon appétit!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hoboken Art And Music Festival!

So today we went to the Hoboken Art And Music Festival. Ok, I have to admit, I only go for the art of food! I like going to this kind of festivals because you can try different types of food! Of course, not everything is good! I retrieved for instance this BBQ place that I tried last year: their beef was so dry you had to put lots of BBQ sauce. So we walked around and picked different dishes.

Let's start with one of the standard dishes that you can find in any street fair: the Mozzarepa. It is a twist on the arepa, a south american dish. The Mozzarepa is like a sandwich made of 2 arepas (corn pancakes) that are grilled instead of being fried with mozzarella in the middle. It is served hot, so not that great in the summer, but I cannot resist! The first bite makes you want more!

We then went to the Shrimpman, a stand serving buffalo shrimp and buffalo potato. For $11, you get 8 shrimp, potatoes and a fresh homemade lemonade. This was pretty good and the shrimp had a good kick! Again, spicy food on a hot day....Fortunately I had the lemonade! The potatoes were delicious with a little char on it.

Next, was a cheese steak at an all italian stand. The meat was tender, the onions well caramelized and the bread delicious! Overall good but I wish they put more meat! 

We finished of course with desert: cookies from Sassy Sweet Treats. We got 4 cookies for $5. They were great! There was enough chocolate and it was not sugary (I hate when they put sugar on top of cookies or brownies! Isn't it sugary already???).

Enjoy (I did)!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Recipe: Crab Cakes Benedicts

I discovered crab cakes in this country. Well, the first time I tried them, it was at the cafeteria at work and I did not like it (wondering why???). I then tried few years later at Del Frisco's in New York and it was a revelation! Since then, anytime I can, I have crab cakes. The issue with them is that a lot of restaurants put too much bread crumbs and you cannot taste the crab. I tried to make some few months back at the French Culinary Institute (Sunday Brunch with Dave Martin) and decided to make them again, but changed the quantity and some ingredients. So, here I am: put to the test! I have to complete three parts of the dish: the crab cakes, the poached egg and the Hollandaise sauce.

Crab cakes:

Ingredients for 8 crab cakes:
- Claw meat (1 lb)
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 3 to 4 tablespoons of honey
- 1/2 cup of bread crumbs

Mix all the ingredients together and season only with pepper as the crab is salty. The honey is your binding ingredient and replaces mayonnaise. To shape the crab cake, use an egg ring: use you hands to put the crab in the ring and press to remove any excess of juice, otherwise, the crab cake will fall apart (claws are very moist). Cook the crab cake for 4 minutes on each side in olive oil.
Note: if the crab cake falls apart, add one more tablespoon of honey and some breadcrumbs until you reach a satisfactory consistency.

Poached egg:

For an easy way to make a perfect poached egg, check one of my previous posts by clicking here.

Hollandaise sauce:

Ingredients for 2 servings:
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup butter
- cilantro

In a sauce pan on low heat, melt the butter. Once melted, add the egg yolks, the cilantro, salt and pepper. Whisk energetically so the egg yolks do not cook. Once the sauce is slightly thicker, remove from the stove.

Toast an english muffin, put the crab, then the egg and finally the sauce! It's ready!

So now you want to know what I though about it? Well I made a big mistake going with the crab claws! The claws have a lot of sweetness; this added to the honey makes a too sweet crab cake!

It was good, but not a recipe I would strictly follow and next time I will try the lump crabmeat. Clearly, after doing this, I have more respect for those who are making delicious crab cakes from scratch! Not that easy!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Restaurant Review: La Isla (Hoboken, NJ)

Image of Food at La Isla in Hoboken - empanada, rice and beans, tostones

La Isla is a little gem! A tiny, non pretentious Cuban restaurant, with delicious dishes at a reasonable price. As it is tiny, be prepare to wait or come early to get a table!

The restaurant was showcased in Throw down with Bobby Flay on the Food Network: the owner, Chef Omar Ginner, competed for the best Stuffed French toast and won. His French toast is stuffed with fresh guava and the breading is made with corn flakes and almonds. It is pretty original, good, although sugary! His restaurant uses a lot of guava and even puts some in their BBQ sauce!

They also serve their interpretation of the Huevos Rancheros! My favorite! There is a little kick that I love! Definitely to try!

Another favorite for me is the beef empanada: it is filled with a very moist ground beef, that even if slightly salty, has an incredible taste. Their maduros (fried yellow plantains) are sweet and moist, not like the ones I had at Cubanitas in Milwaukee! Portions are good a good size! I did not try yet their other specialties, but I do not desperate...

Concerning the service, you do not go for that: it is like a bee hive!

Definitely a restaurant to go to if you are in Hoboken!

Enjoy (I did)!
La Isla on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 19, 2011

Restaurant Review: Brunch at Amanda's (Hoboken, NJ)

Amanda's is a very popular restaurant in Hoboken, opened more than 20 years ago, whose name is in fact the name of the granddaughter of the original owner. 
We went few times in the past and the food was decent. They have an early dinner for $32 for 2 people, Monday through Saturday with reservations at 5pm and 5:30pm; orders have to be placed by 5:45pm in all cases and guests have to leave by 7pm / 7:30pm. For that price, you get an appetizer, an entree and a dessert of good quality. In term of appetizers, the Creamy Polenta with Red Pepper Coulis, Fresh Basil and Three Cheese Sauce is the best! For entrees, I prefer the Sautéed Cod with Basmati Rice and Savory Cabbage and the Quattro Formaggi Ravioli with a Light Tomato Basil Sauce. Desserts are also delicious (apple strudel, key lime pie or chocolate mousse). Definitely, for $32 for 2, it is worth it!
Image of Food at Amanda's in Hoboken, NJ - Croissant French toast, poached eggs with crab hash, honey smokes ham and swiss cheese omelett

So, we decided to try their brunch as Zagat voted them, in 2011, the best brunch in New Jersey. Well Zagat, before voting for a best brunch, you have to try several! I was very disappointed by the food! Let me explain why. We tried:
  • Croissant French Toast with Seasonal Fruit Compote: not sure where the French toast part was. It was just a croissant with a fruit compote on it and it was very, very sugary.
  • Poached Eggs with Crab Hash & Orange Hollandaise: at first I liked it, but gradually, it started to taste sweet. I am not sure if it was the French toast effect or the orange Hollandaise sauce. It came with 2 poached eggs: one well cooked and the other one overcooked (based on one of the eggs, and you can see that on the photo, they must use an utensil to poach). 
  • Honey Smoked Virginia Ham & Swiss Cheese Omelette: nothing memorable.
In fact the best part was the bread basket...from Balthazar...It had some delicious scones, not dry at all, and buttery croissants! I guess next time we will go directly to Balthazar in New York!

I do not think I will go back for brunch, but certainly for dinner!

Enjoy (I did not)!
Amanda's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How to make a perfect poached egg

Making a perfect poached egg is not that simple, except if you know a trick to keep the shape of the egg. If you just drop the egg in the water, that will not do it as the white will just go all over the place. So, here is a trick learnt from Chef Dave Martin: 
Image of recipe poached egg
  • bring the water to a boil. If you have a gas stove, turn it off; if you have an electric stove, remove the pan from it so the water stops boiling. 
  • create a swirl in the middle of the pan. 
  • crack the egg in a bowl and dump it in the center of the swirl. The movement created by the swirl will make the white wrap around the yolk. Wait 30 seconds and then put back the pan on the stove.
  • cook until the white is not translucent anymore. Et voila!

Bon appétit!

Recipe: Ravioli In Parmesan Cream Sauce

So, this recipe comes from a dish I ate at Cafe Fiorello in New York. The first time I tried to make it, it needed some rework (i'll explain why), but now, I think I came up with a pretty good recipe that I hope you will enjoy!

It is very easy to make and will not take that much of your time (20 to 25 minutes)!

Ingredients for 3 people:
- Four Cheese Ravioli (9 oz / 250 g)
- Heavy Cream (1/2 pint / 210 ml)
- Grated Parmesan Cheese (0.4 lb / 200 g)

Bring water with a bit of olive oil to a boil. Do not add salt as the parmesan is already salty. 
Put the ravioli in the boiling water and cook them al dente (if they give you a range of minutes, cook them to the minimum). Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. When the ravioli are cooked, drain them. 
In a gratin dish or a dish that can go in the oven, put a layer of ravioli, heavy cream and then cover generously with parmesan. Make a second layer the same way.
Put the dish in the oven for 10 minutes to let the parmesan melt. Then put the oven on broil until the cheese is gratiné! Et voila!

Image of Ravioli with parmesan sauce

So the mistake I made the first time was to use sour cream. It did not create the consistency of a sauce, instead, it created some patches of cream.

Bon appétit!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Trip To Milwaukee - Part 11: Barnacle Buds

So here comes the last meal to review after this memorable trip to Milwaukee. There was definitely some good eatin' there!

Barnacle Buds is a seafood restaurant in the Bay view area that has a fantastic outdoor deck with an amazing view. I do not think I would have found this place without being invited there and a GPS is definitely necessary to find them, as it is in the middle of an industrial area, a good hour walk from downtown Milwaukee. Even with that, it was packed and, Boy!, there was some ambiance there! Especially with this singer / guitar player who was having a shot of whiskey after each song and had table participate to the show. 

Food wise, they serve different types of seafood: oysters, mussels, crab cakes... They also serve burgers, wings...I went for the crab cake benedict. The crab cake was good: you could really taste the crab. However, I was disappointed by the poached eggs: they were overcooked. How can you overcook that ! What is interesting is that I was not the only one who had an overcooked egg. So maybe they prefer doing it this way... That was a big disappointment because the beauty of an egg benedict is when you break the yolk and it falls on the other ingredients of the dish, as if it was a sauce in addition to the Hollandaise (that was very good). And then you dip the crab cakes and muffin in the yolk and sauce, bringing an explosion of flavors to your palate! The dish was served with two hash brown very crispy, but kind of greasy.

I saw some other of their dishes and they looked appetizing (mussels and fries, oysters, wings), with a very simple and rustic presentation. If you like a Bloody Mary, theirs looked good with a pickle in it!

Despite the eggs, I would go back and would go for the oysters and mussels! I would also go back for the crab cakes but not benedict...

Enjoy (I did)! 

Barnacle Bud's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A trip to Milwaukee - Part 10: The Cafe at the Pfister Hotel

The Pfister hotel is one of the nicest hotels I ever stayed at. Simply Gorgeous! On top of that, the legend says that it is haunted! The ninth floor...
We went to the Cafe for breakfast and brunch and it was pretty reasonable. One comment though: why do you put sugar on top of a chocolate croissant? Come on!

Besides that, their brunch menu offers a nice selection of classic and special dishes, from pancakes, french toasts or eggs. We have tried (in order of photos 2 to 4):

  • The fresh veggies omelet: stuffed with sautéed mushrooms, onions, green peppers, fresh spinach, diced tomatoes, and finished with wisconsin swiss cheese. This was really good! The eggs were cooked perfectly (not overcooked and moist!) and you could really taste the vegetables and the cheese. It was served with some very nice hash brown. 
  • Bananas Fosters French Toast : classic French toast with caramelized banana, rum sauce and whipped cream. Delicious! Although I wish they put real whipped cream...
  • South of the Border: two poached eggs, griddled chorizo, toasted english muffins, hollandaise sauce with fresh pico de gallo. Served also with hash brown. That was good although a little salty (the chorizo). The eggs were perfectly poached and the hollandaise sauce quite creamy. Putting pico de gallo on top of this was a great idea!

Definitely some good food there! If you do not have time to sit, you can purchase to go some croissant, chocolate croissant, cupcakes, chocolate cakes, etc... Try it out!

Enjoy (I do)!
Cafe at the Pfister on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Trip to Milwaukee - Part 9: The Cupcake Company

First, you need to know that before coming to the USA, I had no idea what a cupcake was. Then, I tried and did not like it! Simple: not enough frosting and too much cake! I then tried Sweet in Hoboken: that was a revelation! Good proportions, incredible cream cheese frosting and very moist cake. So, when we saw the Cupcake Company next to the restaurant Coquette (see previous post), we were really excited. 
We tried (in order on the photo):
  • S'mores: quite good.
  • The Riverwest - Cookies and cream. Good but nothing astonishing. 
  • The Shorewood: vanilla cake with butterscotch chips, filled with caramel, and topped with caramel buttercream, sea salt, raw sugar and pecan. Very good, my favorite. The best part is when eating caramel and salt at the same time!
  • The North Shore - Red Velvet: weird taste. Red Velvet is either a hit or miss. It was a miss.
It was definitely not the best Cupcakes I ever had. I would persevere though as they seem to have some creativity and it might have been a wrong choice on our part. For example, this week they have a creme brulee cupcake!!!

Milwaukee Cupcake Company  on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Trip to Milwaukee - Part 8: The Best Short Ribs I Ever Had

So we went out with our friends one night and they proposed to go to Five O'Clock Steakhouse, named by Rachael Ray, "One of America's best Steakhouses". The restaurant, opened in 1948, gets its name because, according to the legend, an alarm clock was ringing everyday at 5pm to announce free drinks for the clients. The atmosphere of the restaurant is warm, friendly and welcoming. Surprisingly, the main room was very dark, explaining why I will not publish any photo (I never use the flash for food photography).
Before you sit at the table, the waiter will meet you at the bar and take your command there. He will then setup the table for you. I though that was a nice ritual; if you come for the first time, you will be wondering what is happening (if you read this blog, you will not). What they do is that they setup the table with a salad, veggies, bread, butter and honey. I have to say that I passed on it as I wanted to focus on the meat. First came the short ribs: the best I ever had! The meat was literally falling off the bone! I think I dreamt about it for few days! Then, I ordered the bone-in ribeye (medium rare).The steak was slightly overcooked, making it medium. It had a nice char, was tender and juicy. The filet mignon was also delicious (apparently better the next day after being soaked in its juice all night!).  All steaks are served with sauteed mushrooms. 

If you decide to take home your leftovers, they will pour the steak and its juice in a plastic bag....

I would definitely go back to Five O'Clock Steakhouse. My only regret is that they do not ship their short ribs to New York!

Enjoy (I did)!
Five O'Clock Steak House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Trip to Milwaukee - Part 7: A modern Italian

As we wanted a quick bite for lunch, we walked around our hotel and found this italian place called Zarletti, a bright restaurant with a modern feel. Believe it or not, that day I was not really in the mood for pasta. So I went for a cheese panini (asiago, parmesan, and provolone cheese). It was good but nothing extraordinary and I was expecting to taste the sharpness of the cheese, especially parmesan, but I did not. However, we shared as an appetizer a trio of spreads that was delicious! It was composed of:  Pomodoro sauce, tapenade, and herbed goat cheese. That was very nice to mix the different spreads together and the pomodoro sauce with the goat cheese was awesome and refreshing.
Zarletti offers different types of salads and we decided to go for the caprese (mozzarella and tomatoes). It was good and fresh, similar to the one we make at home...

If I had the chance, I would have probably gone back for dinner to try their pasta (hopefully homemade!) as what we got for lunch was pretty basic and did not really showcase italian food. What we had was good but nothing worth waking up in the middle of the night! 
Zarletti on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Trip to Milwaukee - Part 6: ...and I followed the steps of Man vs. Food...

Man vs. Food is one of my favorite shows! I am not talking about the challenges, but rather about the concept that is to find these neighborhood gems that you would probably not know about without word of mouth. Each time we go to a city, I try to see where they went. A week before leaving for Milwaukee, there was a repeat on TV! Isn't that great?

The first place we tried is Benji's, an old american deli located in the Shorewood area. We walked to go there taking the path along the lake Michigan. Ok, it took us 3 hours but it was worth it! Look, 3 hours to have some good food is not only worth it but it makes you hungry! And for the sandwich I ordered, I needed to be! That sandwich is the Hear O Israel: Pastrami, salami, corned beef, pepper beef, swiss cheese and cole slaw served with 1000 Island dressing. For the bread, they give you the choice between Challah, Rye, etc...I picked Challah. 
That sandwich was delicious! The meat was so good and the first bite was divine: you get the crunchiness of the slaw and then the different tastes of the meat! I have to say that I finished it but did not even touch the chips served with it....
I also tried the matzo ball soup (very good; the chicken broth is made daily) and the potato pancake with apple sauce (delicious, not greasy at all). 

If you like deli food, Benji's is definitely a place to try! Just bring your sneakers...and stretch pants! 
Benji's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

To complete the story on Benji's, we walked back to our hotel after that fantastic dinner. That time it only took us 1h30! On the way, we saw this little place selling mini donuts called sil's drive-thru. How can you resist? We got the combo: cinnamon and powdered sugar (6 for $1.5). They were the perfect dessert: fresh and hot! I really think it was destiny that put Sil's on my way!
Sil's on Urbanspoon

The second place is Sobelman's: I wanted to try their signature burger showcased in the show. What is surprising is that, despite the area where it is (close to Marquette university but quite industrial), it was packed with working people on their lunch break and people did not stop coming during the entire time we were there.  The story of the owners is really nice: Dave is eating in a restaurant and falls in love with the waitress, Melanie. They get married and start a family. Later on, the owner of the restaurant proposes to sell a tavern he owns. They buy it and although they do not have any culinary experience, create Sobleman's Pub and Grill where they serve mainly burgers. Their signature one, the Sobelman's burger (3 slices of cheese, bacon, onions and jalapenos), is one of the best burgers I had: the meat was cooked perfectly and was juicy; if you like cheese, with its 3 slices, you will be more than happy! The jalapeno was the little plus: at first I did not notice it. Then, little by little, I started to feel some heat on my lips, but not enough to make this experience painful! The only regret I have is that I did not follow the advice of my friend Jeremy: double the patty to respect a certain proportion between the meat and the bread. Probably next time, because I will be back! Last, let me mention the onion rings that were very good: crunchy and not too greasy! Perfect pairing with a burger!

Enjoy (I did)!
Sobelman's Pub and Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Trip to Milwaukee - Part 5: Bad, Bad, Bad!!!

Ok, sometimes I get great meals, sometimes, I don't! This post is about the bad, bad, bad choices we made in Milwaukee! Close to our Hotel (The Pfister - great by the way), were two promising restaurants: Cubanitas (Cuban) and Ouzo Cafe (Greek).

Let start with Cubanitas: promising because the manager is also the owner of Indulge Wine Bar that is a great place, and because Cuban food is delicious! We went for lunch; they asked us to order at the bar and then to pick a seat. Nothing terrible so far. But then they brought the food: the maduros were very dry, as was the rice. The beans were good for beans (I get the same from a can) and the empanada, beef and cheese, was just ok. How complicated is it to cook that? If you go to La caridad in NYC or La Isla in Hoboken, you will get some great cuban food (La Caridad is cuban and chinese). On top of the bad food, the people working there were not nice: it is as if we offended them when we asked for plates!

Cubanitas on Urbanspoon

Then the second bad choice is Ouzo Cafe. As the name suggests, it is a greek restaurant. I saw a review saying: "The best greek food in Milwaukee". Is there only one greek restaurant there??? 
We went for lunch. Although the restaurant was not crowded, the service was very, very slow. Then comes the food.  They brought us some homemade pita: very good. We then went with the saganaki (greek cheese flambe): it was good but a little too salty. Then comes the greek salad: in term of appearance, it looked good and fresh, with very nice colors. But it was overdressed and the dressing tasted funny. There was definitely some ouzo in it but I found the taste definitely weird. Then the best: I decided to try the greek feast: a combination of lamb gyro, dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with ground beef, rice and herbs, with a lemon sauce on it), pastitso (baked pasta, ground beef, cheese and bechamel sauce), spanakopita (spinach and feta in a phyllo) and moussaka. The appearance of the dish was horrible and it was a mess: I was wondering if somebody barfed on the plate! It was not appetizing at all. The gyro was salty and most of the dish did not taste good at all. That was a big disappointment!
Ouzo Cafe on Urbanspoon
I would definitely avoid these two restaurants, although I may have given a second chance to Cubanitas as some other customers commented positively on the sandwiches....

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Trip to Milwaukee - Part 4: Charro, A Touch Of Central and South American Cuisine!!

We went to Charro for a rehearsal dinner and it was so good that we went back! They have a large menu that gives you the choice between sharing small plates or having your own. For entrees, they propose dishes from different countries: Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Peru, etc...

In this restaurant, I got an amazing butternut squash soup! The first one I got had carrots and ginger. The second one had onions and Caribbean spices.  This was so good that I could have licked the plate! The spices gave a nice twist to what could have just been a butternut squash soup and were not overpowering.
They also make their guacamole to your taste (mild or spicy) and serve it with either plantains or tortilla chips. You could really see that it was fresh!

They have great dishes:

  • The presentation of the Ecuadorian style ceviche, made of marinated grouper, roasted red pepper, coconut, honey and shallots was beautiful (served in a coconut)!
  • The Ropa Vieja (Cuban style braised beef and pork, sweet plantains, salsa verde and four types of cheeses) was incredibly moist with so many different flavors. They put the different components in layers, so you get the plantains in the bottom with the rice, then the meat and then the cheese. It is like going for a treasure hunt!
  • The vegetarian enchiladas were the best of this kind I tried: you could really taste the veggies and they were evenly cooked!
  • For dessert, their cheesecake with cashew brittle was amazing!

In fact, the only thing I did not like is the beef empanada. The rest was very good! I forgot to mention the bread they give you at the beginning: bad idea! It is so good that you are going to stuff yourself before the meal!

Charro is definitely a good restaurant to go to if you like this type of cuisine!

Enjoy (I did)!
Charro Central & South American Cuisine on Urbanspoon

A Trip to Milwaukee - Part 3: Coquette, A Touch Of French Food!

I have to admit that we ended up in Coquette randomly as we were looking for a BBQ place that we never found...We finally did not regret and went twice for lunch and then dinner.

The main room of the restaurant has a French restaurant feel, but know that nor the owner, neither the Chef are French! The Chef graduated from the Cordon Bleu school and has been classically trained in French cuisine. Besides the restaurant, they give cooking classes every Tuesday evenings for $59 per class.
They serve typical French dishes such as the Escargots de Bourgogne (snails), duck confit, Coq au vin (chicken instead of rooster) or Flammekueche (I would call it Alsatian Pizza!).

The escargots were perfect! You would think that just adding butter, parsley and garlic is not complicated? Well, I can tell you that I had surprises in the past! Cafe D'Alsace in NYC, on the Upper East Side, used to propose them and it was terrible! Apparently they removed them from the menu: Thank God! Even Whole food has better ones! The beauty of that dish is that if you do not like snails, you can enjoy the sauce...That's why they serve them with bread!

Their leg of Duck confit was delicious! Usually, it tends to be salty, but this was fine. It was served with a very refreshing salad, made of frisee salad, brandied blackberries, honey clove pistachios, drizzled with a grapefruit vinaigrette. To serve it with a salad made the dish light and the colors of the plate made the dish very appetizing! I would go back to Coquette just for this...and the snails!

Now, don't be freaked out, they have more common dishes! For instance, they have a nice cheese platter served with toasts, walnuts, grapes and some kind of chutney. We got:
  • Semi soft Gruyere
  • Bucherolle (goat cheese aged 4 months)
  • Ossau-Iraty (firm sheep milk cheese)
  • Explorateur (triple comment!)
  • Fourme d'Ambert (blue cheese)
All of these cheeses were delicious and pairing them with a chutney enhances the taste! If you do not like strong cheeses, you can put some butter on the bread: it will help making it taste less strong.

Cheese is still not your thing? They also have homemade caramelized onions and goat cheese ravioli served with toasted pine nuts, sweet peas, tomato concasse (basically peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes), oyster mushrooms, Grana padano cheese (popular italian cheese), and basil oil. That was a great dish! The ravioli were perfectly cooked (I hate when they are over cooked!) and when you bite on it, you can really taste the caramelized onions and the goat cheese that paired deliciously! 

We also tried:
  • The Grilled shrimp with patty pan squash, sweet and sour swiss chard, basmati rice and...white truffle herb butter. My choice was driven by the latter. It was a mistake....Although the grilled shrimps were good, the swiss chard was really sour and there was not enough sauce. Too bad!
  • The chilled mozzarella soup served with a tomato compote and a balsamic vinegar reduction. Pretty interesting...I liked it but only when eating all the elements together (otherwise, I found eating only the mozzarella bland). Perfect on a hot day!
Last, the most important part of the meal: dessert! They do have a nice dessert menu. Their key lime pie with meringue looked delicious according to the drunk old ladies that were sitting behind us... We tried the Oeufs a la neige / Ile Flottante (snow eggs or floating island) that are a very light meringue on vanilla custard, a classic French dessert. This was pretty good and light after a pretty complete meal!

I definitely enjoyed my meals at Coquette and would go back! If you are in Milwaukee, check it out: it is worth it!

Enjoy (I did)!
Coquette Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Trip to Milwaukee - Part 2: Wine and Cheese at Indulge Wine Bar!

We passed by few times in front of Indulge, a Wine Bar located North Milwaukee street and decided to try it (it opens at 4:30pm). Started in 2008, they serve wine, cheese, charcuterie and chocolates! What a program! When we went there, there was a wine tasting and we tried some very good Parducci wine, especially the pinot noir...

The decor is modern, clean and classy, with a dark setting, and the service was good. They offer a nice menu where you can mix cheese and meat! Our pick was:
  • Wisconsin artisan cheese plate: composed of Sartori Rosemary Asiago, Carr Valley 4-year cheddar, Sartori Sarvecchio parmesan and Carr Valley cocoa Cardona.
  • Tripple cheddar cheese plate: Snow white goat cheddar, Carr valley 4-year cheddar (again???), applewood smoked cheddar (divine!).
  • Truffle shuffle plate: started with a box of truffle popcorn (they should try that in movie theaters!), truffle tremor cheese (very strong), foie gras mousse pate and truffle mousse plate. 
All the cheeses were delicious, at the exception of the truffle tremor cheese that was very strong! We did not try the chocolates but they looked delich!

I think there is a misconception about cheddar cheese and it is probably because people only try the processed one! A good aged cheddar on a piece of bread or in Mac and Cheese is delicious! I think I am hungry just thinking about it!

Anyway, if you like the concept of Wine Bar, sharing plates, cheese and charcuterie, go to Indulge and...indulge!

Enjoy (I did)!
Indulge Wine Room on Urbanspoon

How We Walked Out Of Zen Palate (New York, NY)!

Zen Palate is the first vegetarian restaurant I tried after hearing my wife talking about it and I have to admit that, even if I am more a meat guy, I like it. I think it all comes to preconceived ideas once have about vegetarian food! 
They have several locations in the city: on 18th, 46th and 105th. The restaurant on 46th street was closed once by the Department of Health, but for sure with the grades now (they have an A), they will be careful or at least, it gives some indications to the customers if they should eat there or not! 

So, we went to their 46th location and right away noticed the makeover: we went from a small dark restaurant to a modern bright one with a simple decoration. My stomach was all happy to be sitting at a table for dinner, after a light lunch (I insist: light). 

Based on the way the restaurant is run, here are some basic rules:
  • First, if you manage a restaurant, be organized: nobody seemed to be taking care of us. In fact, it seems that everybody thought that the other person was taking care of us! Note that the restaurant was not that crowded on top of that.
  • Second: if you have a bad memory, write the order! Two minutes after I showed my choice to the manager on the menu, she asked me again if it was what I wanted!
  • Third: based on second, you have a bad memory; so, enter the order right away on the computer! Tell the old man that he needs to wait 5 minutes before talking to you! When I saw her taking to the man, I was sure it would not be good....
After a fair amount of minutes and seeing people who arrived after us getting their food, they saw that we were inquiring for it and realized that they forgot our order! They started to freak out and even proposed to give us a 50% discount. But, we just wanted to eat and my stomach was telling me to leave as I may have appreciated the food, but would not have been... Zen in that environment (if you are in a mood for some food, you have to be in the correct mindset to appreciate it, otherwise, you will notice any flaw - at least, this is the way I am)!  

So we ate that night, vegetarian, but at Two Boots Pizza!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Trip to Milwaukee - Part 1: The Public Market

We went to Milwaukee to attend the wedding of Dear Friends and as any trip, we made the most of it (I should say EAT)! I will publish different parts for Milwaukee as with all the food we ate, one post would be too big!
I am going to start with the Public Market, located in the 3rd Ward, downtown Milwaukee. The Market showcases artisans and ethnic food; most of the vendors are supposed to be local producers. There are in fact two buildings: the main one (Public Market) and the Annex located across the street where Benelux Market is.
I like this type of market because you can try different types of food or find interesting produces in the shops (The Green Kitchen offers different types of corn).

Here is a summary of the different things I have tried:

  • The Meltaways at Kehr's candies - Kehr's Candies was founded in 1931 by a couple who wanted to sell caramel corn and potato chips. They became candy makers and are making 70% of what they sell, the rest being purchased from other manufacturers. When you see their stock, you really do not know what to eat! They sell chocolate covered graham, peanut bars, red hot pepper truffles, peanut brittel, peppermint patties, etc... I have tried the meltaways (chocolate bar similar to fudge) and they were delicious!
  • Cookies and cake bites at C Adams Bakery - This is a really nice bakery who makes some good bread and offers a wide range of treats! Their chocolate chip cookies are delicious and they are not cheap in chocolate chips! My favorite are the cake bites: some cake and frosting dipped in chocolate. The red velvet is good, but the best is the dark chocolate layer one: moist, dense and addictive!
  • Baklava at Aladdin - They propose two kinds of baklava: pistachio or walnut. Unfortunately, I did not really like them. The dough was undercooked for both of them and tasted... weird! I would not try again!


  • St Paul Fish Company: they serve fresh seafood that goes from oysters to lobster and even offer a lobster dinner for $12.95. Their New England clam chowder was good (could have been a little creamier) and you can take as many crackers as you want! Their crab cakes are decent although the one I got at Cafe Benelux was far better! They have different types of oysters that you order by the piece (prices range from $1.50 to $2 a piece). The service was efficient and courteous. 

  • Margarita Paradise: Mexican place, spin off of a larger restaurant on Water street. They have a large selection of tacos or burritos. For tacos, you pick the shell (hard or soft), the filling and sauce. Besides the refried beans, I did not like it: their chicken taco was soggy and the fish taco tasteless (once you try the Taco Truck in Hoboken, no fish taco is good enough)! On top of that, they did not have avocados anymore! Who has tacos without guac???

  • Cafe Benelux: located across the street from the Public Market, it is an Annex that features a restaurant and a small market. They have a huge beer list and their menu features various dishes, some more comfort food and some european specialties (the name comes from Belgium, Nederland, Luxembourg). One of their specialties is the Pannenkoeken, a large thick crepe. I should say a huge thick crepe! We tried the Roubaix, served with Ham, cheddar and belgian beer cheese sauce. That was delicious! I cannot imagine the desert one with banana, chocolate sauce, nutella, hazelnuts and bourbon cream! I also tried the jumbo lump crab cake: it was a good one! I was ticked of by the breading at first, but you could really taste the crab and see the lump! The spicy red bell pepper aioli sauce was a perfect pairing and the sweet slaw refreshing. Last, I tried the mussels with fondue sauce (ham, leeks, asiago, beer and cream). They give you some bread with it: thank God! I could dip the bread in this delicious fondue sauce!!! Definitely one of my favorite restaurants! 

If you go to Milwaukee, stop by the Public Market: it is nice to try all these different foods! When I go back, I will definitely enjoy again some cake bites, St Paul Fish Company and Cafe Benelux!

Enjoy (I did)!

St. Paul Fish Company on Urbanspoon
Cafe Benelux on Urbanspoon
Margarita Paradise on Urbanspoon
Milwaukee Public Market on Urbanspoon