Let me tell you what’s at steak.

I took my beautiful Jen out to Mortons steak house last night for her birthday.  We have been there several times before, usually for corporate parties and always enjoyed ourselves.  We were seated promptly and the server came over right away with bread and water.  Jen ordered a Mojito which she said was good but a little too sweet (kinda like me). I ordered something called the last word.  This was a concoction of three different alcohols, that was pink and served in a stemmed glass that little girls would use for a tea party with their stuffed animals. Had I known this no way would I have got this drink!

The loaf of bread served was hot and fresh and oniony, like a larger lighter Kaiser roll. Very tasty.  Jen and I both ordered off the summer special menu.  This allows for an entree, a salad, a side and a dessert.  Jen and I each ordered a house salad, a 6 oz. filet and Key Lime pie for dessert.  Our only differences, were in the potato dishes. Jen ordered sour cream mashed and I ordered Lyonnaisse potatoes. Jen ordered her steak mid rare and I ordered mine rare.  We also upgraded our steaks Oscar style (topped with asparagus, lump crab in a Bearnaise sauce).

The salads were large but rather un-inspired, just lettuce some crumbled egg with dressing. That’s it, no wow factor here.  The potatoes were just ok, nothing special.  Lyonnaise is just a fancy way of saying spuds sauteed with onions. The sour cream mash was better, but if your gonna charge people 13 dollars for potatoes when ordered a-la carte, they should be special.  These were not. Now for the steaks.

Both of our steaks were super tender, juicy and cooked perfectly, nothing but praise from both of us.  The Oscar topping was equally delicious, except for a tiny bit of cartilage in Jens, otherwise very good. Dessert is a mixed review, I really enjoyed it but Hot Jen felt that the crust on the pie was burned.  I did not. I thought it was good, although Bahama Breeze has a better key lime pie I enjoyed eating Jens’ dessert as well.

Look, I know places like these are expensive, and I don’t mind dropping serious coin on a super stellar meal, however this was only good, not great. I like Mortons and I will go back, but as of my most recent experience, Ruths Chris is a better steak house.  One more word, when ordering a cocktail, be careful, bartenders are trying to get to fancy and sometimes the drink doesn’t work.  That’s why my next drink was a Martini which Morton’s makes very well.

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Think I will black ball BlackFinn

We went to one of our birthday lunches at Blackfinn Ameripub in Royal Oak. Back in the day, Omar and I ate here when it was a nicer steak house. The food was OK then, nothing exceptional.  Now they have reinvented themselves as an “Ameripub” which they describe as a lively, high energy restaurant with classic american fare.  Well Blackfinn is hardly “lively”. In fact, I think our waitress was either asleep or “lost in deep thought” most of the time.

And the food, hardly “classic” is mediocre and rather pedestrian.  Let me start by saying our lunch took two and half hours.  Our typical work lunch is an hour, maybe an hour/15.  All our meters expired, along with our patience. Our waitress had the hardest time even taking our orders.  Our drinks took like 30 minutes to come out, and our food over an hour.

I asked if they had “battered fries” (Please refer to my previous fryrade) to which the waitress said, “no our fries are good, they are steak fries”.  They were neither good, nor steak fries, and seeing them come out to another table, opted for the salad.

I ordered the Chicken and Avocado Chopped Salad with roasted chicken, sliced avocado, bacon, romaine and iceberg lettuce, carrots, bleu cheese crumbles, egg, red onions, roma tomatoes, cucumbers and zinfandel vinaigrette. I ordered sans blue cheese as it has been giving me wicked migraines lately. My salad, and everyone’s salad were served without chicken.  Really, my chicken chopped salad and you forgot the chicken? It did however, have one sad browned slice of avocado all alone on top of a bed of barely dressed lettuce. I actually don’t think I saw any bacon either now that I think of it!! When we all asked where our chicken was, she apologized and proceeded to try and take our salads back.  We suggested to the obviously new, overwhelmed waitress that perhaps it would be easier to bring the chicken to US.  Ahhhh – lightbulb goes off.

So the chef, in his culinary genius, proceeds to takes yesterdays (or last weeks) Costco chicken and shreds some of it up and portions out to each of us.  The dry shreds of what might have been a delicious chicken at one time required two more sides of vinaigrette just to choke it down.

Ugg. My salad was unforgettable.  Unforgettably bad, and that is saying a lot because it is hard to screw up a salad. I think I still have some chicken stuck in my throat.

The waitress took probably 45 minutes to cash us out.  It was physically painful to watch her try and keep everything straight.  We would have been faster had we all lined up to cash out individually at the bar.

We go out a lot for lunch, and it is a general consensus we won’t go back there, we just don’t have 3 hours to spare!!

 

Mesa for Two!

Mesa means table in Spanish. Just to explain my odd blog subject header.

Ok, so don’t judge, I went to lunch with my co-workers once again.  We typically go out to celebrate events and birthdays, and today was one of those. We went to Mesa Taco’s and Tequila in Royal Oak.  Now Mesa used to be Monterrey Cantina, and must have recently changed to Mesa.  My only complaint about Royal Oak is parking can sometimes be tricky, but once you learn to navigate the parking, it is smooth sailing.

Mesa has a lovely patio, that overlooks main street, an ample interior dining section, and a cute little upstairs.  They tout themselves “second to none” as far as fresh unique flavors and tequila selection. Their tequila offerings were extensive, although, being a workday lunch, did not imbibe.  They also had a large selection of craft beers.

The menu definitely is filled with a wonderland of unique flavors and ingredients.  From their Mango Habenero Guacamole to their Mexican Crab Dip to the Mole Brisket.  The chips were salty, thin and crispy and freshly made.  The salsa was flavorful and they worked hard keeping them filled.  By the time my lunch came I was already stuffed!!

I ordered the Burrito Mesa, with the Mole brisket, black beans, arroz verde, peppers, onions, queso chihuahua and pico de gallo.  It was served with their “Mesa Sauce” on the side, which I assumed was a mild sour cream based sauce, took a large bite, and discovered it was SPICY!! Woah doggie, my mouth was on fire.  The burrito was really good, but really big.

The wait staff was exceptional.  With such a large group, she kept all drinks and chips filled, took orders flawlessly, food was out quickly and had no problem separating our bills. Efficiency so important when going out to lunch!!

To “wrap” this up.  Mesa = Si! Señor and señorita!

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Scrambling to find a good breakfast??

When searching for a good breakfast restaurant I am pretty picky.  I look for the trifecta of breakfast deliciousness.  I need three things to satisfy my breakfast cravings. 1. Good food, of course.  2. International Delight Vanilla individual creamers 3. Orange Marmalade.

I have yet to find a restaurant that satisfies all three requirements.  Here are some of my go to restaurants in no particular order.

Rams Horn – Dequindre & 13.  Great staff, good food. NO vanilla creamer, orange marmalade is a hit or miss. Sometimes I get lucky.

Country Chef, Dequindre & 14 – My dads favorite restaurant. Owners very nice.  Good food, plenty of it. NO vanilla creamer, but they do have orange marmalade.

Jimmy’s Coney Island – Dequindre & 16 – Food is meh, the DO have both vanilla creamer and orange marmalade. I try to avoid Jimmys as meh food is more important than lack of orange marmalade.

Angelos Avenue Grille – Van Dyke & 15 – Food is OK. I like to eat the polish food for breakfast, like a plate of perogies.  They DO have vanilla creamer, but alas, no orange marmalade.

Fino’s in Waterford on Dixie Highway. Food is pretty good.  Stay away from the corned beef hash though, just mediocre.  They have these giant sausage links that Omar REALLY loves!!  They do not have creamer, but they do have a very extensive fancy gourmet coffee menu, and they make a toffee coffee frappe that Omar loves.  Alas, one of the things I miss about living in Clarkston.

I am sure there are more, but for now, hopefully, my breakfast reviews have been an “eye opener”.

When your palate needs a massage, go to La Saj!

On Friday, I took my Beautiful Jen to La Saj Lebanese Bistro.  We have been there a number of times and never had a bad experience.  We always order the family combo for two and take food home on every occasion.  Even before you place your drink order, the staff is placing hot fresh pita bread and garlic dip on your table. This dip is so garlicky and awesome there is no need to worry about vampires, ever!  Love it!  Next they bring salads, Tabbouleh, hummus and Babe Ghanoush,which is a creamy smoked eggplant dish.  Now just imagine all this food with the bread before our entree is out yet, we are already full.

The entree consists or rice pilaf, grilled veggies, shish kabob, kefta, chicken kabob, grape leaves, falafel and fried kibee.  A lot of food for 30 dollars, so much so, we eat it for lunch the following day.  For the most part dinner and service was nearly flawless except for the following:  The  salad is good (my dad’s is way better) but needs more of the Bulgar wheat in it.  The grape leaves were kinda listless and flaccid. The taste was good but not exceptional and they needed to be firmer. All the meats were cooked to order and beyond flavorful as was the falafel and kibee.

For those of you who have not tried Mid-Eastern food, because you think its weird and can’t pronounce it, this place is very novice friendly and caters to the American palate. The food is great and plentiful and the service has always been good as well.  However, if your idea of great ethnic food is Taco Bell, then please stay away from La Saj because we will be more than glad to take your seats.

Tour of Italy? More like a ride around the block.

Typically, I won’t post any reviews from what Omar deems a “pedestrian” restaurant.  Rarely do we ever frequent any “chain” type restaurants as Omar thinks (and I agree) that the food is just mediocre. The food is what it is really and I find if you get the right thing from each restaurant it is sometimes pretty good. Saturday night I went to Olive Garden with my Mom and sister, Beth.  This is quite a step down as well from my sisters typical dining repertoire, however, we chose Olive Garden because she had a free $50 gift certificate, so we just couldn’t refuse.

I ordered a Peroni beer, as I was in an Italian Restaurant and felt I should order something Italian.  I suppose as Peroni is a rather eclectic beer, it came ice cold, yet completely skunked. Anyone who has read my Facebook posts lately, the beer smelled just like my dogs head. I sent it back and ordered a Stella, which although did not come in a gold rimmed Stella glass, it wasn’t skunked so that was good.

The food was just meh. I got the tour of Italy, with Chicken Parmesan, spaghetti with meat sauce and a cheese tortellini. The chicken tasted like those frozen banquet patties we ate as a kid.  Rather processed and definitely was not fresh chicken.  The spaghetti was best of the three, and the tortellini was average, with an alfredo sauce and bacon bits.  Really unexciting.

The breadsticks and salad are always good, although our salad was sorely missing dressing.

Frankly, the only reason I am posting is because of the new POS system they installed on all the tables.  My excitement was soon squashed when I was told many restaurants are adopting this now.  With the POS (like a small tablet) you can get drink refills, order food and drinks and even play trivia! My Mom, sister and I played a few games while sipping our cocktails.  When your evening is over, you can cash out, run your credit card and even print a receipt. All from your table. Pretty cool.  It makes me wonder if waitstaff are a thing of the future and restaurants will have more “runners” instead. I do think the more and more we see technology grow, the chances of jobs taken over by machine grows greatly.  I see our school systems in the future taught in students own homes with a holographic teacher, similar to Obi Wan Kanobi in Star Wars. But I digress, I am getting a wee bit off topic.

Oliva Garden again, is what it is.  Great place to take the kids, but for a romantic Italian dinner this is not the place.  Will I go back? Of course. Just not with super high expectations. That way when a meal is really good, it is a really nice surprise.

When you are feeling crabby, go to Red Lobster.

This past Saturday, I took my kids to Red Lobster (Lakeside Mall location) for dinner. Now I know what your thinking, I usually avoid the big chain restaurants (Ruby Tuesdays, Olive Garden, Fridays and Chili’s).  I just don’t like those places, the food is never as good as it looks on the commercials and the foods taste is the height of mediocrity.  But Red Lobster is different, I like their food and Saturday was no exception.

We arrived at 530 and the place was very busy with a 20-25 minute wait.  I suggested to the kids, we sit at some open seats in the bar area so we as to skip the half hour wait.  The server greeted us and took our orders.  My son and I each ordered the ultimate feast (crab legs, shrimp and lobster tail) and my daughter, a combination crab Alfredo and crab legs.

Our food came quickly and looked great.  I could see the fascination in my sons eyes as he gazed at the crab legs. After showing my children how to crack the legs, we all dove in. The bartender/servers at the bar area were very busy, but were on top of everything, bringing extra napkins and refilling our beverages. Great service and great food equaled a great dining experience for us. Now of course Red Lobster isnt cheap and I know its not a 5 star seafood restaurant, but it was very enjoyable and my kids left wondering when we were coming back.  Don’t worry I said we will.

Fondue or don’t, well maybe.

It was my baby girl’s 20th birthday and Allison wanted to go to the Melting Pot in Troy for dinner. I went to the bank, took out a second mortgage on the house, and prepared for our visit.  Kidding, but dang, it is expensive. So let me begin by saying find a coupon. Or check the website for specials.  This night out is crazy expensive and you have to do it right. Thanks a bunch to Maria Slawick who graciously gave me her Entertainment Book coupon. That saved my $25!!

The menu basically covers 4 courses. A cheese fondue course, with a variety of different cheese selections. Second, a salad course, with I think a variety of 4 different salads (and to answer a questions posed to me when telling this story previously, no, you do NOT dip your salad into anything hot!) Third, a main meat course, which offers ample selections for all you meat lovers out there.  Fourth and finally, and my favorite, the dessert course, which is a decadent chocolate fondue. You can order each course a la carte or  you can order as a four course meal, which really is the best value.  The four course meals range from about $39 to upwards of $48 depending on the type of meat you choose. Now we learned that we could split the meat course on 2 four course meals and I would only be required to add an extra cheese and extra dessert (I opted against salad) this method saved us $20 as well, so consider it when you go – there is a LOT of food. Especially for 3 girls who don’t eat a ton.

We ordered our drinks, Jamie a basil infused strawberry lemonade made with strawberry vodka, and me, my standard Mojito.  After what seemed an enormous wait, they came back to say no basil, so what was her option. As I didn’t even get my mojito yet, Jamie said she would try mine before ordering. After another LOOONG wait, I got my mojito, or should I say my mint salad with rum dressing!  The drink was OK, kind of weak, but had so much mint in it it seemed more a salad than a drink. I had trouble even sipping through a straw. Jamie liked it, and ordered the Lemon Berry Mojito, which I think was better, since it was sans mint. 20 minutes later she was finally enjoying her cocktail.

We started with Quattro Formaggio, which was Butterkäse and fontina cheeses, roasted garlic, basil and tomato pestos, mozzarella and Parmesan.  They brought apples, carrots and cauliflower and a variety of breads for dipping.  The bread was a wee bit stale, but the cheese was tasty.

As I said, I skipped the salad course, but Allison got the house salad, which was a basic salad with Peppercorn Ranch and Jamie a Caesar salad.  The interesting thing about  the Caeser was it was topped with Parmesan encrusted pine nuts, which Jamie enjoyed, but for me, seemed out of place.

Our meat course we split the Classic, with Certified Angus Beef sirloin, pork tenderloin, Pacific white shrimp, herb crusted all-natural breast of chicken and teriyaki marinated sirloin. We added more steak with the Steak Lovers which included Premium Filet Mignon, teriyaki-marinated sirloin and Certified Angus Beef sirloin.  The meats were tender and well seasoned.  My favorite was the Filet, which had a peppery rub and super tender. The meat course also comes with potatoes, and veggies to cook as well.

Our broth however, the classic court bouillon, as we began was not quite hot enough.  We were cooking our meat longer than suggested, and it still wasn’t cooked.  A little worrisome when dealing with chicken and pork.  It quickly rose to temperature and we were on our way!!  We did pretty good, but even splitting the 2 meat courses, we still couldn’t finish it all. At the end of the meat course we were all stuffed.  Good thing they take a TON of time in between courses so you can get hungry again, well at least not stuffed beyond comprehension.

For desert, Allison got a special Happy Birthday plate with a chocolate covered strawberry and a candle.  They said they would bring her a champagne toast NEXT year when she was all legal like.  We ordered the S’mores fondue with chocolate, flambeed marshmallows, and graham cracker stir ins.  With that, we got  plates full of brownies, marshmallows, fruit, pound cake, rice crispy treats and more for dipping.  We were so full!!

Overall, we were there over 3 hours.  It is an adventure, not just a meal.  Plan on a long leisurely meal and don’t go when you are in a hurry.  The food is good, not exceptional, but the cook your own fondue is different and could be very romantic.  Keep in mind though, due to cooking at the table, you will walk away with your clothes and hair smelling like chicken soup!! Should you go? I would say that it is a special occasion type experience everyone should do at least once.  It falls into that dinner and a show category like the Brazilian type steakhouses, or Hibachi.  We had fun, and did not leave hungry that’s for sure. Hence my title, Fondue or don’t it is really up to you!! Happy birthday Allison!!

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Vinsetta Garage – You should “auto”matically go!

Went to a business lunch at Vinsetta Garage the other day. Vinsetta Garage on Woodward in Berkley is owned by the same husband and wife duo that own Clarkston Woodshop, which I love.   I was looking forward to checking out this new place and seeing what the similarities were, if any.

Their menu is vastly different than the Woodshop, with a menu weighing heavy with burgers and sandwiches, but also featuring wood fired pizza and pastas.  There is a few main entrees on  the menu, but for a $42 Waygu Strip Steak, I will stick with the burgers.

I ordered the “Vinsetta Burger” which is basically two 4 oz. Vinsetta blend patties cooked through, stacked with two slices of American cheese, L.T.O. (lettuce, tomato, onion), sliced McClure’s pickles, Woodshop MI maple bacon and Vinsetta Burger Sauce (which was kind of like a ketchup-y thousand island). The flavors were great, with the charbroiled flavor of the burger itself, and the smoky salty-ness of the bacon. This was probably by far, one of the sloppiest burgers I have ever eaten.  Thank goodness the napkins (which are so cleverly auto shop towels) were in large supply. This not a meal I would want to eat on a first date.  Not ladylike at all!!

I opted against the fries (I know you are all thinking I must be crazy since they CLEARLY were the hand cut, skin on fries that I love) but I had to compare the famous mac and cheese to the Woodshop location. The mac and cheese was cheesy, creamy and had a baked crispy buttery panko crust. I found it slightly different than the Woodshop, but delicious nonetheless.

Some of the other offerings looked amazing, with bacon wrapped, deep fried hot dogs, mac & cheese burgers,  handcrafted and open fired pizzas and a variety of pastas. They even have tuna casserole!!

I wanted so bad to try the Faygo Rock ‘n Roll flavored nitrogen churned ice cream.  Handmade, sounded amazing, with pop rocks on top!! But alas, was too full to even read the words ice and cream LOL.

The large garage doors open the restaurant up for a open-air feel, and they do have a patio if you can manage to grab a spot.

Ugh, I was so full you had to roll me back to work for a very long, over stuffed afternoon worth of work.

For you car lovers, interesting decor and history in this place. I would recommend Vinsetta Garage to both car lovers and food lovers!!

 

 

Bastone Brewery – ooh la la – don’t mind if I do-ery

Today for lunch, the owner of my work took us all to lunch to celebrate one of the ladies 10 year anniversary.  After trying to find a restaurant that would accommodate like 20 or so of us at the prime lunch time hour, we settled on Bastone Brewery.

Now Bastone touts itself as a Belgian brewery with Belgian inspired food.  The first thing that caught my eye, of course (if you remember my fryraid), was they had pomme frittes on the menu, could they be the thin, salty, fries I was hoping for?

As soon as we started looking over the menu, baskets of warm bread were brought to the table with a chive infused butter.  The bread was really good. Imagine a good French bread and a sourdough bread had a baby.  That’s what this bread was.  Crispy on the outside, warm, chewy and thick on the inside.  Melt some chive infused butter on it – oh baby – there goes my diet!!

Before we could settle on a selection, the owner ordered appetizers of spinach artichoke dip and pomme frittes for all. The spinach artichoke dip was unlike any I had ever had. It was baked with what they advertise as four cheeses. The overall look and taste was that it had a cheddar cheese base, rather than a white cheese base.  It was served with warm seasoned crostini. It was delicious. The pomme frittes, not quite as I imagined, stick thin and fried just til crispy, these were thin(ner) and twice fried, giving them the deep brown look and flavor of a hand cut fry.  They were served salty in a paper cone, and came with a variety of mayonnaise dipping sauces (or Aioli’s). All just as tasty as the next.  Garlic, horseradish, red pepper, artichoke, tarragon, basil and mammoet – which is one of the three new culinary words I learned today.  In Belgium, fries are often served as a main dish, and always have some kind of mayonnaise.  Mammoet is a tomato based mayo with garlic. soy sauce, onion and a sweetener.

Here is an interesting website on the history of the french fry, and appropriate preparation and toppings. Just in case you were interested.

http://www.webfoodculture.com/side/fries-and-george-crum/

For lunch, not that I even needed anything else, I ordered a burger.  Now they have a burger served with braised beef cheeks and gouda, but I opted for the face free burger.  I asked for thousand island for my burger, and was told they have no thousand island, no ranch.  Those topping are simply too pedestrian for this place.  I was given both artichoke mayo and mammoet.  I also ordered pomme frittes. Don’t judge, I didn’t want to make a hog of myself with the ones for appetizers.  The burger was cooked well, and seasoned properly. It had that slight charred flavor from a flame grilled burger. The bun was odd, but good. It was almost crispy on the outside, and really light on the inside.

Now others ordered, and here are my other two new culinary words I learned today, grilled Onglet with stoemp. Onglet, basically french for Hanger Steak, and stoemp, which is a mashed potato with carrots and spinach.  I think they were good, but of course, can’t really speak for them. Just mentioned because of my two new words I learned.

The service was spot on, and they treated us really well for such a large party.  Unlike other restaurants that say “Oh, we can’t accommodate a big party you have to leave!!” And you know who you are (**cough cough Parrot Cove**).

Omar has an aversion to Royal Oak, mostly due to the parking. As I work in Royal Oak now, I am getting to see the rich diversity and culinary adventures that Royal Oak has to offer and I am going to start dragging him there whether he likes it or not! Bastone is one I will drag him too. And that time I will be able to sample the Belgian beers and report back to you!!