Weston O’Hare Hotel – Chicago

Just wanted to do a quick review and post about the great people and service at the Weston O’Hare in Chicago.  I had a work conference there where I was attending as a vendor. My check in was 3 p.m., but my flight got in at 11 and I had a seminar to attend at noon. I so much wanted to get checked in early and drop my bags before my seminar.  I was priming myself for trouble, but was soooo pleasantly surprised to have them say, “sure you can check in now, your room is ready.” They even gave me a $5 voucher for not needing maid service, which I could conveniently use at the Starbucks.

My room was large and accommodating, with a soft plush bed, and plenty of pillows.  The bathroom had great counter space for getting ready.

If traveling to Chicago, I would highly recommend you to stay here. Great hotel.  Check out my review of Carlucci’s which we visited right across the street.

Noodle Noshing

Recently on a business trip to Chicago, we went to a nearby restaurant – Carlucci’s Restaurant and Bar. An Italian joint, nestled inside an office building, it is a perfect combination of class and style.  With wood burning ovens, lively car area and expansive patio (unfortunately was not yet open this day) appeared to be similar to outdoor cafe’s in Italy, with fountains and music.

Our waiter, Christian, was fun and very informative.  We had a great time talking to him and listening to his great recommendations.  I insisted on getting his name so I could give him (and his company) the proper shout out he deserves.

We started the evening with some drinks, ordering a bottle of Red Zinfandel, which I tasted, but did not drink.  My first (and only) complaint of the evening was the tiny little drinks that I was served.  I know that makes me sound like a lush, but I ordered my new fav, Jameson and Ginger, and it was served in a small (maybe 4 oz.) low ball glass.  With the amount of ice that filled the glass, I had literally about 2 small sips. Not cool for what was probably an $11 drink.  I had to order like 3 to equal one normal drink elsewhere.  Frankly, unless you are ordering straight whiskey on the rocks, a low ball glass is simply not appropriate.

Ah, I digress.  I am just passionate about my booze. Or lack thereof.

For dinner, I ordered the 4 oz. filet which was served with angel hair pasta, and shrimp stuffed with lobster and crab.  Interestingly, 3 of the 5 of us ordered the same dish.  My pasta looked “undressed” while anothers looked covered in a lemon butter sauce and capers, while another had the butter sauce with lots of tomatoes.  Weird. 3 meals, all ordered the same looked all three completely different.  Almost looked like made by three different chefs.  I was forced to order more sauce for the pasta, since I believe they just forgot it on mine. Opps, another (small) complaint.  The waiter asked “soup or salad” to which I said salad.  While contemplating my options, the waiter finally said “oh, by the way soup and salad are ala carte extras”.  How I was asked implied it came with it.  When he posed that same question, my co-worker gave her order, to which a $9 Caprese salad, as big as the table was brought out.  We all graciously helped Jessica eat her giant salad.

My filet was butterflied, which I suppose you have to do with a 4 oz. steak to make it appear bigger than it is.  A 4 oz. non butterflied steak is about the size of a quarter.  The steak was cooked perfect and tender.  No complaints there at all.  Didn’t even need it bigger and the rest sure filled you up.  The pasta was good.  Once I added the extra needed sauce.  The shrimp were tasty and satisfied any seafood craving you may have.

They are famous for their Linguini Bobonato Con Parmigiano, served table side, tossed with prosciutto, fresh basil tossed in a Parmesan wheel, which makes its own cheesy sauce.  The table next to us got it and it looked amazing.

We decided to order a couple deserts to split, which turned into 5 since everything looked so good.  Cannoli, Spumoni, Tiramisu, Turtle Cheesecake and creme brulee.  I have to say, it was all delicious.  We kind of grabbed 5 spoons and set in, trying each and every one.  The turtle cheese cake and creme brulee were my favorite.

Overall a great experience.  Easy to get to, they even have a shuttle that can pick you up and return you safety to your hotel.  I didn’t get the shock of seeing the bill, but I bet it was large.  I would recommend you visit while you are in the Chicago area, especially if staying at the Weston, which was right across the street.



Boodles Mothers Day Buffet

Sorry, I just couldn’t come up with a clever title for this one.

Omar and I took our Moms to Boodles for their famous Mother’s day Brunch. In all the years we have been together, our mom’s have never met so we felt it was time. I had been to Boodles a very long time ago and took my mom and remembered it to be really good.  This trip did not disappoint.

We had reservations at 10, the earliest time slot of the day. We arrived slightly early and were surprised to find the door locked.  I was a bit worried they were not going to open at all, but lo and behold, they opened the doors right at 10.  We walked in with one other couple, and were surprised to see just a few other tables show up.  We basically had the place to ourselves!!  Our waitress said that the noon time slot really fills up. Maybe moms on Mothers Day just want to sleep in.

The food selections were amazing.  Chicken picatta, eggs benedict, bacon, sausage, beef in gravy, made to order crepes, fruit, peel and eat shrimp, salads galore, desert. I am sure I am missing a lot, but let’s just say it was very robust.  The food was hot and delicious.  We didn’t have to stand in any lines, or fight any crowds.  It felt like the restaurant was working just for us!

Our only complaint was that the coffee was lacking and only luke warm. They have one coffee maker and one pot for a whole restaurant.  I like a lot of strong hot coffee in the morning.  This coffee was none of those.

Other than than, a wonderful morning. We were all stuffed and had great conversation.  Looking for somewhere to go for Mother’s Day? This is your place!!


Murphy’s Family Restaurant Allendale

13100731_10208313247100407_5121992651404002262_nWent to Grand Valley to see Jamie’s graduation. Proud mom moment: Jamie received a graduate of distinction in Biomedical Sciences award (with about 1500 biomedical students only 36 chosen for award of distinction) followed by stole and medal for graduating from honors college with distinction.  She walked across the stage with 3300 other graduates. It’s one thing to get awards in high school but to be honored as a stand out student in a sea of thousands is impressive.

I drove in Friday, so I could participate in the honors awards. After a great day, and making it through my first college party (lucky for me rather tame) we woke Saturday very hungry.

We headed to a local Grand Valley favorite, Murphy’s Family Restaurant.  From what I hear the place is always packed and food good.

Arriving, the busy portion kept its word.  There was quite a line, but we only had to wait maybe 15-20 minutes for a table.

They offered a Saturday morning breakfast buffet.  As a total lover of food, I usually like buffets for the variety, but usually am always disappointed with the quality of the food.  I took a look at the buffet and it offered everything I was craving, from scrambled eggs with salsa and cheese on the side, bacon, sausage, french toast sticks, pastries, fruit, and even corned beef hash and biscuits and gravy! For $7.99, I couldn’t say no.

The french toast sticks were crispy and sweet.  I am not sure what it is about eggs cooked in bulk, but they are never like real eggs, and these were the same. Tasty though. I covered mine in salsa and cheese. Yum!  couple slices of crispy bacon, some sausage (actually kielbasa which was weird but good), a big scoop of corned beef hash (my fav) and some biscuits and gravy.

The hash was the biggest disappointment.  I think sitting in the warmer got the hash rather gummy and dry.  Quinton said it was even hard to swallow and I had to agree.  So sad.

The biscuits and gravy though, were really good.  The sausage gravy actually rivaled mine which is hard to do!! Flavorful, spicy, lots of pepper and the floury taste of the roux cooked out perfectly.

A couple cups of hot coffee and I was a happy camper.

Allison, in her quest to be different, ordered a breakfast sandwich and a cinnamon roll pancake.  This pancake was really big, light and airy, with a crisp outer coating of cinnamon and sugar.  All drizzled with a delicious glaze.  I think her eyes were a wee bit bigger than her belly though, as most of the pancake was brought home.

We all rolled out of there so full ready to take on the day!  Alas Jamie is done with Grand Valley but when I visit Allison next year I will most definitely return! Those whose kids go to Grand Valley, or those attending there make sure you go here. Plan on a wait and plan on getting stuffed!!



Riding on the Metro Bar

Omar and I, after what was an extremely painful “talent” show (I won’t say where, out of respect, but it was brutal) needed a beer and fast. We were also hungry as it was now about 9 p.m. and we haven’t eaten. We stopped in on a whim to the Metro Bar and Grill on Ryan and 12 Mile Road. We have drove by a lot, and reviews were pretty good so we popped in.

Beer selection was very limited. I ordered a fat tire on draft, which turns out was a mistake.  The beer was warm, and tasted like the lines were dirty (ugg).  Omar’s beer was fine, or so he said.

The burgers are really hyped here.  Reviews say they are really good so of course, Omar ordered a burger and fries.  I saw a “slim Jim” on the menu and the waitress assured me it was really good, so I ordered. Why not? Decided to get a little crazy.

Omar’s burger was good and cooked well. The fries crisp and very hot. It came with “Metro Mayo” which may have not been anything more than mayo with reconstituted dried onions, and some seasoning, but man, it was good!  Even dipping the fries into it.

My slim Jim was really good. Very similar to Big Boys. Funny, I said to Omar “this is good like Big Boys, but just doesn’t have that seeded bun” when I realized the bun was indeed seeded, just for what ever reason, turned inside out before the sandwich was “pressed”.  I don’t remember Slim Jim’s of the past being squashed like a squirrel on a busy highway, but they sure are now. And this sandwich sure mimicked that.

We were wrapping up our meal when the waitress said, “don’t leave yet, we are just starting Karaoke, are you brave enough to sing?” Haha she doesn’t know me very well does she?? Well I GUESS I could be persuaded!  Omar, who is now one of the biggest Karaoke junkies I know was up for  the challenge as well.  I ordered another beer, a pedestrian Labatts, in a bottle this time though, and it was cold and refreshing!

After I rocked Jolene and My Baby Loves Me Just The Way That I Am (dedicated to my honey of course) and Omar rocked out Whipping Post and Love Without End, Amen we decided to pack it in for the night. It was a work night after all.

We will go back for sure.  Close to home, good food and karaoke every night!! What else could you ask for?

Three Ale Mary’s and Two Thumbs Up

The day after we went to Bastone Brewery Omar actually agreed to go to Royal Oak again! Was it he is warming up to the food diversity there, or was it just because our friends Ray and Denise suggested it? It was funny, because Denise and I made tentative plans to meet at Mr. Paul’s Chophouse.  A little tableside Ceasar Salad, Chateaubriand for two… yet somehow our men folk changed plans and we went to a beer hall style dinner.

Humph.  Well going with the flow as I usually do, cause I am cool like that, we headed out to Ale Mary’s.  I have never been here, but heard it was really good from people at work.  We were surprised to find the restaurant was so small.  The second half of Tom’s Oyster Bar, transformed into a German Style Beer hall with long community tables and a robust beer menu.  I don’t really like sitting at picnic table style seating with, as Stealers Wheel so eloquently put, clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, but alas, go with the flow aye?  Also I am getting kind of old for a long beer drinking session with no back to lean up against.

Our “dates” for the evening were running a bit late, and we were running very early, and hungry so we opted to order the duck poutine while waiting. The fries, cooked in duck fat, are layered with a thick hearty gravy, cheese curds and pieces of duck.  Very tasty but so bad for you!

This blog post, I will first review the food, then the beer.

I ordered the cuban sandwich.  It was tasty, with pulled pork, ham, spicy mustard and extra pickles.  The bun though, as I have experienced in the past seemed less cuban-esc and more hot dog bun-esc.  My sandwich cane with even more fries, which I shared but did not partake.

Omar ordered the, wait for it, Beer Cheese burger!! My honey is so predictable.  The burger cooked medium, with applewood smoked bacon, final absolution beer cheese, sprink mix, picked red onion and roasted tomato on a brioche bun. His too, served with more fries.  The burger was good, dripping with oozy cheese and very messy.

Ray ordered a deconstructed chicken pot pie, which consisted of free range chicken, roasted, atop a mound of mashed peas and potatoes, with a puff pastry cap and mirepoix (which for you foodie newbs is basically tiny chopped veggies).  He said it was good.

Denise ordered roasted brussels sprouts for an appetizer for the table. Roasted and tossed with pine nuts and an orange brown butter sauce, they were delicious.  She too ordered the beer cheese burger and enjoyed it.

So moving on to the best part of the evening, the beer.  This first beer, I actually had a whole glass while waiting for our guests.  The rest Omar and I shared a flight.IMG_2190

Saugatuck Neopolitan Milk Stout Nitro: Officially a blend of milk sugar, chocolate, vanilla beans, and strawberries. From their menu: “This decadent specialty stout has developed a cult following and just one sip will tell you why.” I will tell you why: This intricate beer somehow infused all the flavors of a classic Neapolitan in a single glass.  Layers of chocolate and vanilla, with slight overtones of a gentle strawberry flavor.  This really tasted like melted ice cream in a glass. 5.9% abv, I give this beer two big thumbs up!

Clown Shoes Clementine: A Witbier, 5.9% abv, Light-bodied and crisp, this is a terrific seasonal packed with plenty of zest! Hazy in appearance and healthily carbonated, it utilizes Blanche de Chambly yeast to energetically shape its wheat malt base. Light, with just hints of clementine oranges. A light and refreshing summer beer.

Goose Island Matilda: A Belgian Ale, 7.0 abv, this pale ale is fermented with the wild yeast Brettanomyces. Matilda pours a golden sunrise color with dried fruit and clove aromas, a spicy yeast flavor, and a satisfying dry finish.

Wolverine Barista Coffee Lager: 6.2% abv, A collaboration brew with Ann Arbor’s RoosRoast featuring locally roasted Colombian coffee. Wolverine Brewer Karl Hinbern, once in the coffee roasting business himself, spearheaded the coffee side of this beer, finally selecting a Colombian Excelso bean roasted at Roos. Pours a dark clear brown with an off white head and features huge coffee flavor and aroma. OMG Omar and I were in love love love with this beer. Tasted like iced coffee.  The coffee flavor is this beer just slaps you across the face.  Amazing and HIGHLY recommended.

Liberty Street Pooh Beer Honey Porter: I had to order this beer with such a cute name!A whopping 9.8% abv, you wouldn’t know by the light texture and smooth taste.  This is a honey porter made with locally harvested honey, and plenty of it, to give this high alcohol beer a very sweet finish.

Ballist Point Peppermint Victory at Sea Imperial Porter: 10.0 abv, a festive take on Ballist Point’s popular Imperial Porter. They took their trademark robust porter brewed with Caffe Calabria coffee and vanilla and added a dose of refreshing peppermint. The trio of flavors play perfectly on your palate – the brew’s sweet roasting balances nicely with a cool, minty finish.

Founders Nitro Oatmeal Stout: 4.5% abv, brewed with generous amounts of flaked oats, chocolate malt, roasted barley and a healthy helping of Nugget hops, it is extra smooth and has a creamy mouthfeel. This beer was your typical Oatmeal Stout.  Nothing amazing, but good nonetheless.

Overall, we will most definitely go back. Maybe not so much for the food, but for sure for the beer. Check it out while you are in Royal Oak!!




Bastone Brewery – a Beer Tour

You may remember my previous Bastone Brewery Post (read here). We went for lunch during work, so I was unable to sample or review the beer.  I finally was able to drag Omar to Royal Oak.  Begrudgingly, he agreed to go to the “biggest pain in the butt city to park”.  As I now work in Royal Oak, I showed him a world of convenient, albeit paid, parking, easy walks and interesting establishments.  Dare I say he didn’t complain and said he would even return? (Which we did, see my next post!)

We were excited to find out they do indeed brew on-site, and offered a flight of (really large sample) beers for a mere $8! You can’t even order a single glass of craft beer for that in most places.  WE had so much beer we almost (almost) couldn’t finish it!

I will touch upon our food, but as I already reviewed the food here, I want to focus on the brews.

The flight contained 7 different beers ranging from blonde to a seasonal ale.

First glass, Monumental Blonde:  A simple american-style lighter beer. Low abv, 4.5%. This beer is nothing fancy.  A simple beer, akin to labatts, Bad Ass, or other lighter beers. Low bittterness, and very light. Maybe wouldn’t appeal to craft beer enthusiasts due to its ubiquitous flavor.

Main Street Pilsner: A bit hoppier and more malty (is that a word) than the blonde. A wee bit stronger (5.5% abv). Had an interesting aroma of yeasts, corn and malts. Probably one of my favorite on the flight, as the hoppiness was low and flavor profile was unique.

Witface: A Belgian-style white beer, flavored with orange, lemon and coriander. Now I am not a fan or fruited or spiced beers.  If you like these types of beers, blue moon for example, you probably would like this beer.  One of my least favorite samples. This beer had a moderate abv with 5.5%.

Royal IPA: This pale ale, with an abv of 6.75%. Pretty much your standard IPA. Hoppy and bitter.  IPA’s if you have read my previous blogs not really my thing.  All you hop heads out there, this is probably not hoppy enough for you, but alas too hoppy for me.

Dubbel Vision: This Belgian-style amber ale, has a abv of 7.5%. Brewed with candi-sugar and dark fruits. This beer is not a stand out against other Dubbel type beers.  If you are a Dubbel lover, this beer is for you.

Nectar des Dieux Triple: A Belgian style strong golden ale with light fruity notes and a hint of sweetness 9% ABV. This beer was pretty drinkable. Strong candied flavors and a tart bite.

Imperial Cherry Stout: As I said, I am not a fruited beer lover and was kind of dreading this one. It however surprising good! Not the glass of caramelized cough syrup I was expecting.  I apologize, but as a seasonal beer, I failed to get the abv.  My guess is somewhere in the 6-7% range.  This beer was full of deep roasted malt flavors, smooth with just a hint of cherry that added a deeper component to the beer.  Tasty, and to my delight, one of my favorites on the flight.

For the food portion of our evening, I ordered the filet mignonettes.  Beef tenderloin tips, ordered sans mushrooms, with roma tomatoes and a Dubbel Vision demi-glace, and substituted crushed redskin potatoes for the yummy pomme frittes and veggies.  The steak tips were just ok.  The meal kind of reminded me of stew meat, although a bit more tender, with a dark, almost balsamic and tomato tasting sauce. Good, not great.

Omar ordered his classic burger.  It is rare that Omar doesn’t try a burger in these types of places.  He ordered the pork belly burger, grilled and topped with braised pork belly, herbed goat cheese and a red onion marmalade. A side of their delicious pomme frittes accompanied his meal, with both artichoke, garlic and the mammoet (see previous post for description). Omar said the burger was good, but wasn’t bursting with the pork belly flavor he was hoping for.

Overall would we go again? Sure.  Especially just for the beer.  The value and amount you got on the beer flight was well worth the trip.  We recommend.  Especially for those wanting to try out new beer offerings.

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Killing Time at Sterling Bistro

So Omar and I had to kill some time while his daughter was at Lakeside Mall with her friends.  Didn’t make a lot of sense to drive home and then drive all the way back.  We decided to grab some dinner at the Sterling’s Bistro (in the Lakeside parking lot, next to the new Fuddruckers).

Now we had been here some time ago, pre-blog era.  I honestly don’t remember much about the place, whether we thought it was good, or worth revisiting.  Omar was recently here for a work event and was happy with his meal so we checked it out.

They have a rather upscale menu, with meatball lollipops, fried brussels sprouts, and crab and shrimp cake appetizers.

All of which we did not partake. Omar was looking for something on the lighter side, so he ordered volcano sushi.  It came out so pretty, it really was visually stunning.  Although not the best sushi Omar ever had, it was tasty and plentiful.

I ordered the strip steak, which was served with garlic mashed potatoes and veggies.  The steak was flavorful although the potatoes were a bit gummy.

Omar enjoyed his Tangueray Martini, up, with 3 anchovy stuffed olives.  I ordered a gin and tonic, to keep things simple.  Sorry, no beer review tonight.

Overall, we were happy with the service, the food and the ambiance.  We will return, when it is convenient.  Unfortunately it is one of those places that you can visit if you are in the area, but maybe wouldn’t seek out and drive a long way for. Good, not great. Frankly, writing this review weeks after the fact, and I forgot a lot about the dinner, which does say something.