Sand and Snoozing at the Harbor Beach Marriott

During my January 2017 business trip to sunny Florida, we stayed at the Harbor Beach Marriott and Spa. The Marriott is a beautiful hotel, located right on the ocean, with amazing views and great amenities.

The staff is friendly and attentive, greeting you with fruit infused water and a smile. The hotel is easy to navigate, and offers a beautiful pool (one which I thoroughly enjoyed on a January day when it was subarctic in Michigan).

The rooms were ample sized, with comfortable bedding and nice glass enclosed shower. I was disappointed the room did not have a mini fridge, but that was my only complaint!

Omar got “stuck” an extra day due to the Delta debacle that shut down a bunch of flights due to an apparent computer crash. On Monday, while I was working the booth at the conference, he was tanning and swimming by the beautiful pool, munching on a crab salad from the poolside restaurant, “Sea Level”.  The bartenders here were fun and flirty, and the outdoor cafe boosts comfortable ocean al fresco seating.

We got some sun time too, no worries on Tuesday, when we had a break from the booth for a while so enjoyed some sun and cocktails by the vast pool.

I would most definitely recommend this hotel. The ambiance, cleanliness, amenities, all top notch.

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Asian Fusion, Asian Fusion, Asian Fusion at Echo

So, did you get the title? It’s an echo. Right? Ugg I guess if you have to explain it, it doesn’t work.

So during my Florida trip with my main squeeze, after our day at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Beach and the Aruba Beach Cafe, we rested a bit, the headed out to Palm Beach for an evening of highfalutin fun! We went to the Breakers hotel, a historical icon in the Palm Beach area. Founded in 1896, as a grand hotel that brought in dignitaries, tycoons and those of “higher social stature”. The hotel was named after the breakers near the shore, where waves crashed and sprayed and delighted guests.

The hotel suffered from fires in both 1903 and 1925 but the hotel emerged more decadent and opulent each time. Rumor has it the guest registry reads like a who’s who of society. Rockefellers, Vanderbuilts, Andrew Carnegie, JP Morgan, US Presidents and European nobility all stayed at this luxury hotel. Today the hotel still boasts luxury, seaside views and world-class service.  One feels wealthy just being on the premises.

The hotel has a variety of dining options, all located on the vast estate. Steakhouses, Seafood, Asian Fusion, Italian, there is literally something for everyone.

After strolling around the beautiful hotel, and taking in the breathtaking views, we took a shuttle over to Echo, an Asian Fusion restaurant. We sat at the bar enjoying some Cosmo martini’s and sake, before being seated on the front terrace next to the fire.

The evening was filled with food, drink and laughter, with waves of sushi, Peking duck, sweet and sour halibut, won ton soup and more crashing into our table as well as our palates. The food was great, ambiance great. The fireside table was a great feature.

The waitstaff was friendly and patient, as we “oopsie” spilled a martini – I know it is a sacrilege. I highly recommend you spend an evening strolling around the property at the Breakers, and take in one of their many dining experiences. You won’t be disappointed!

Chillin’ at the Aruba Beach Cafe’

A beautiful day enjoying the sunshine in Sunny Florida. I was there for a business trip, but extended a few days earlier, brought my honey with me and we stayed a few days with my sister. Saturday we took a trip during the day to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Beach and the Aruba Beach Cafe. This restaurant, nestled in a small quaint shopping area, boasts beautiful views of the bay, right next to the Anglin’s Fishing Pier, which one must take a walk out on.

The restaurant is a stand-by we always seem to go to when I am in town. The food is good, views are amazing and atmosphere is awesome, especially when you can catch a steel drum musician playing out on the patio.

We decided to split a bunch of food since everything sounded so good. Oysters on the half shell, fish tacos, seafood quesadillas and of course, a loaf of their famous Bimini Bread with Aruba glaze. Warm chewy delicious bread with whipped honey butter. Pair that with some fruity boozy deliciousness and you are hooked up. Light breezes weaved its way through an opened patio, overlooking palm trees and the white sands of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.

We ended our meal and headed out to the pier, stopping at Anglin’s Beach Cafe to grab yet another fruit and booze filled drink before heading out for the great views off the pier.  Here I met a lovely pelican, who was quite friendly.

A great day and a great restaurant! Don’t miss this great spot if in the Lauderdale area!!

Felt Like a Whale After the Whale’s Rib

Took a trip to Florida recently for a business trip and Omar and I decided to extend our visit a bit and spend some time with my sister and her family. My sister has a great house in Coconut Creek, and treated us like royalty, even giving up her spa like bedroom. So gracious! The first night, after a long day of traveling and fighting rush hour we decided to head into Deerfield Beach and eat near the pier.  We chose the Whale’s Rib Raw Bar – a quaint hole in the wall – even featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. As Guy likes to joke – No, you don’t actually get to eat Whale here, but they do have some of the freshest and best selection of seafood in the area.

The restaurant has been around for 30 years and is a South Florida staple for seafood. It is a simple, paper on the table, plastic basket kind of joint, that has expanded to include a great outdoor patio area with beer and wine to help us get through the wait.

We were told about a 30 minute wait and surprisingly, for a Friday night we were seated and water coming within 15 minutes.

We didn’t know what to order, so in a hungry glutinous fashion, we all start ordering food to “share”.  We started with Whale Fries with “Whale Juice” which is essentially home made hand cut chips with a sauce that essentially consisted of honey mustard and vinegar.

We then opted for a variety of seafood including peel and eat shrimp, Stone Crabs which happened to be in season, oysters, conch fritters and I ordered a side salad.  Wow, the food was amazing, so fresh, tasty and plentiful! Just skip the salad next time. It was boring as a plate of bagged greens with some pungent onions and mediocre ranch dressing.

It seemed like they just brought basket after basket of food and hot chips.  We all truly felt like whales upon leaving the place. If you find yourself in the Deerfield Beach area, make sure you stop at the Whales Rib.  Well worth the drive and the wait!!

Our incredibly stuffed bellies didn’t stop us from meandering to the local ice cream shoppe called Sprinkles & Scoops.  I do believe I had the most delicious decadent ice cream cone while I was there. They had a ton of candy and treats along with a huge selection of ice cream flavors.  Make sure you complete your Whales Rib experience with a short walk down the block to Sprinkles. It is well worth it.

We uber’d back to their house and crashed early as we know the following day held a wealth of decadent culinary sensations and we needed our rest!

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Out on the Town Tavern

Went to the Town Tavern in Royal Oak for a company lunch. I know what you are all thinking, that I eat out for lunch a lot. Yes I do, what of it!? LOL. How else am I going to get fodder for the blog?

The Town Tavern has great ambiance. A modern take on a 1930’s tavern, this restaurant opened in 2007, although this is the first I heard of it. With the appealing vista of dark mahogany, and rich red tones, the restaurant has an immediate visual appeal.

Although many standard tavern fare items can be found on this menu, it is far from ordinary. From omelettes of the day to Ray’s ice cream, this place has a lot to offer. We somehow told them we had less than actually showed up. They were busy, but accommodated our extra guests by bringing chairs, and the folks next to us were kind enough to move down. When you bring parties of 18 or more to an establishment at a busy lunch hour, it truly shows the management of a restaurant. In this case, they excelled.

They have an array of interesting appetizers from Lobster nachos to Parmesan Truffle fries. Today’s special however was “gouda fries” which sounded really gouda. Ugg sorry. Their soups include venison chili, and salads have unusual ingredients such as Burrata (which I learned is a fancy mozzarella), Pomegranate reductions, The uber popular Kale, butternut squash, and blood oranges.

They have mac and cheeses, fish and chips, burgers, sandwiches, and even entrees consisting of fish, enchiladas and more. Oh and that popular “omelette of the day”.

I opted for the Short Rib Grilled Cheese sandwich, with a side of gouda fries. The Short Rib Grilled cheese had a pile of tender short rib, with pickled carrots and onions, melted havarti cheese, and a spicy horseradish aioli. The meat was a but dry, but the aioli did a nice job moistening the sandwich with its spicy deliciousness. The gouda fries came as tiny pomme frittes, sliced thin just like I like them, hot and salty with a wave of melted gouda cheese sauce. The sauce was creamy with an infusion of smokiness from the gouda. The fries were amazing.

My co-worker sitting next to me ordered the buffalo mac and cheese. It came in a small crock, baked with a buttery bread crumb topping, hot and oozing with spicy cheese. She gave me a small taste, for the blog of course, and the dish was delicious.

Others ordered the special, which was Italian sausage, which was fairly underwhelming. A sausage served in a bun, it always fairly pedestrian, is it not?

But it came with GOUDA FRIES did I mention how yummy they were?

All in all, I would definitely go back again. In Royal Oak, many restaurants are not super busy for lunch. I went to Mongolian Barbecue the other day and basically had the place to myself. This place is hopping, alive with people and conversation, which is indicative of a superior lunch spot. Check it out and let me know if you enjoyed it!

Would You Like Samoa Pie?

pie

So you may have saw the recipe going around Facebook for the Girl Scout Samoa Pie. If you haven’t, I have attached a picture (left) and the link here. Basically, it is a creamy, caramely, gooey pic covered with caramel, coconut and chocolate. I was finally having my mom over to celebrate Christmas, yes, don’t judge, we have been crazy busy.  I needed a dessert, so thought I would attempt a Facebook recipe.  Now I made the recipe according to the directions, but I must say, the creamy pie portion just didn’t firm up as expected.  The dessert resulted in, although tasty, a gooey mess.

Fast forward to the next week, I decided to change up the recipe and create my own Samoa Pie.  Here is how I changed it:

I bought a store bought chocolate pie crust (this one was Oreo).  To that, I added a layer of cream cheese mixture (4 oz. cream cheese, 1/2 c cream cheese and about 4 oz. cool whip.) beat these together and spread on bottom of pie. Anyone ever making the Oreo pie, or similar will recognize this step.

Then I added a layer of caramel sauce, drizzled, not too think (I used Ghiradelli’s, you can find by ice cream or in baking).

Next layer, a layer of instant Jello brand caramel pudding.

Let firm up in fridge for a bit, then add your cool whip topping, layer of coconut/caramel mix (1 C coconut mixed with 1/2 C caramel sauce).

Drizzle with melted chocolate and viola! Same great tastes, perhaps even more complex, but none of that gooey mess I had before.

I even had extra layer mixes, so in order to accommodate more people than pie, I made these adorable mini deserts.

I think adding chopped pecans would have just vaulted this recipe into the stratosphere, but alas, I did not have any.

Here is what my desserts looked like! Happy Eating!

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Gimme Some of Your Tots, Gosh!

To celebrate a co-worker’s birthday my company, the whole lot of us, went to lunch Jim Brady’s in Royal Oak to celebrate. The restaurant accommodated the large (25) person group we had, and had a table waiting and set for us.  The waitstaff was friendly and efficient.

Jim Brady’s has a whole section on their menu allocated just for “tots”. Well, they say “awesome tots”. We of course had to try some as an appetizer.  The Ochos Totchos Tots, which were crispy tots loaded with Chipotle chicken, melted cheese sauce, Jalapeños, fresh Pico and cilantro sour cream were amazing.  I wish in hindsight, I just ordered a big gooey plate of just these for my entree. Sharing with the group I got a mere tasting.  Good for my waist, but not so good for satisfying my calorie overload needs.

We also ordered naked tots (how controversial). Which came as standard tots. Crispy and hot but not unusual.  They did come however with some fun dipping sauces, including Spicy Buffalo – Buffalo sauce made with Franks Red Hot and butter, Choco-Tella – A combination of Nutella and chili spices, McClure’s Bloody Mary Ranch –Ranch infused with McClure’s Bloody Mary Mix,  Maple-Sriracha – Maple syrup and Sriracha sauce, Rockin’ Rye BBQ –Jim Brady’s own recipe which includes Faygo Rockin’ Rye pop and lastly the Maple Bourban sauce, which literally tasted like a doughnut glaze, making your tot more of a desert than appetizer.

I decided I would behave myself and order a salad.  I chose the Baby Kale with Grilled Salmon salad, which came with Delicate Baby Kale, Grilled Atlantic Salmon, Avocado, Grapefruit, Watermelon Radishes, Candied Walnuts, Feta Cheese, and Lemon Vinaigrette.  I find salads that have ingredients like spinach or baby kale difficult to eat with the long stems that always accompany the leaves.  I feel like I am constantly trying to look cool, yet cramming what looks like green worms into my mouth, but I digress.

3632133_origThe salad was disappointingly boring.  I had high hopes for the myriad of interesting ingredients.  The salmon was fishy to start, which tainted the salad from the start.  Combine that with the difficulty in looking classy while trying to cram the leaves in your mouth, which really after a while just makes me angry. LOL. Add the weird bitterness of the kale, along with grapefruit, which in hindsight is not a good fruit for a savory salad and the need to hunt for the few candied walnuts that were there, made the meal quite a let down.  The salad was under dressed, with a benign and understated lemon vinaigrette. That’s what I get, when I choose to eat healthy.  Sometimes a salad can be a home run, but in this case was strikeout. The picture I have put in this blog is from the website, and resembled my salad if you took the salmon portion and cut it in half. More greens, less protein.

Other people ordered Cesar Salad, which was plentiful but I don’t think anything to write home about since most did not opt for carryout boxes. I think I ate at the healthy table, because we all got salads, while other tables partook of burgers, and sandwiches.

The highlight of the meal was when my co-worker Liz and I split a scoop of the Nutella-Chocolate ice cream. It was gooey and creamy, and far too large for one person so it was good we split it.

The ambiance of the restaurant pays homage to the original location at 7 Mile and Greenfield. The entire place has an eclectic retro mafioso speakeasy feel. They boast craft beers from local breweries, including ROAK and Michigan products like Faygo, Bettermade and Vernors. They also have live music weekend nights.

Due to the ambiance, friendliness of the staff and amazing Ochos Totchos tots I would go back. I would try a different dish, but probably would return.

Irish You Would Try Malone’s

img_3244I had tickets the other night to Andiamo to see Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits.  It was a great show – even got to get an autograph and a picture with him! A wee bit tipsy, we invited him to my friend Michelle’s house for Nachos the night night , but he was heading for Ohio in the morning.  Otherwise, I am sure he would have joined!

We wanted something a bit easier and more economical than Andiamo’s for dinner, so we decided to try Malone’s Tavern, a local Irish pub, on Van Dyke and 14 Mile.  I made reservations, that we waiting for us when we arrived. The service was friendly and she took good care of us, even though she seemed to be one of the only waitresses.

Omar and I ordered a Super Trooper Coffee and Donut Brown Ale by Petoskey Brewing Company. 7.3% abv.  The beer was smooth, not too heavy. The beer is a brown ale that has chocolate malt, Colombian coffee and donuts in it, sourced from local companies.

From the website: The coffee grounds are from Higher Grounds in nearby Traverse City and the donuts are from Johan’s Pastry Shop in Petoskey. The brew smells more like a coffee than a beer.

Their menu is fairly large, with your standard bar fair, intertwined with Irish specialties. Some of their more unusual offerings are pepper jack cheese balls, reuben sliders made with Wigley’s corned beef, home made potato chips, shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash.

I was not super hungry, and just felt like potato skins, which I ordered with a side salad. The potato skins were a bit disappointing.  They were under cooked, with a small amount of toppings.  The salad was inconsequential.  A simple bagged salad with a few soggy croutons and ranch dressing. Edible, not memorable.

Omar got a Louisiana Burger, which is a Cajun spiced burger, topped with jalapeños, pepper jack cheese, sriracha mayo and onion straws. Served on a grilled brioche bun. He ordered onion straws on the side as he doesn’t like onion straws/rings on a burger. He said the burger was good, but didn’t order any sides so was not super filling.

Our other guests ordered such items as reuban sandwiches, atlantic salmon, burgers and shepherds pie.  Everyone said their food was ok.  Nothing special, but nothing terrible either,

Overall, I give the atmosphere and friendliness factor a 7 out of 10 and food, a mere 5 out of 10.  It is what it is, bar food, nothing less, nothing more.  I would go back again for the convenience, but don’t think I will be singling it out for its amazing food.

 

 

Nothing Fishy Here, Just Pure Seafoody Goodness

Marine City is quaint little town with a bustling main street that has antique shops,theaters ice cream parlors and a variety of restaurants. One of these restaurants is the Marine City Fish Company. This is a rather unassuming place with very little space, so reservations are a must. My beautiful Jen and I were meeting our friends Steve and Katherine there for dinner.

Arriving at 5:30, already there was a line at the door to get a table. Unfortunately, their patio was not being used because it was rainy and windy. Nevertheless, we were seated quickly and began to peruse the menu. Now when I am at a place noted for seafood, I do not order steak. We started with a bread basket, calamari and the Fish Company Spread. I must admit the house bread was just ok, rather forgettable. The fried calamari was good, but the spread was wonderful. The fish spread consisted of smoke salmon, herbs and Bermuda onions that you could place on baguette slices.

Again, because its a fish place I had to order fish. My beautiful hottie and I each ordered the fishermans platter which was a special combo platter of fries,walleye, perch and shrimp that could be fried or sauteed to your liking. When seafood is cooked correctly, it is hard to beat as a meal. The perch was very tasty, but the Walleye was beyond excellent, I had forgotten how good that fish tasted since it had been so long that I’ve eaten it. A great feast, well worth the 20 dollars. And to top it off they also served craft beers like Atwater Vanilla Java Porter. Please people I implore you don’t wash down a tasty meal like this with a Bud Lite. Ah but that’s a discussion for another time.

So, If you are ever in the area of Marine City and want to experience small town quaintness and are hungry, stop in the Marine City Fish Company. Better yet I advise you to call ahead first or may not get a table at this tasty little gem of a restaurant.

Beer Beer and more Beer

Looking for something to do, and somewhere to go, Omar and I decided we needed to try the brewhouse that his barber recommended. You never know where your next awesome restaurant referral will come from. We headed to the Brown Iron Brewhouse in Washington Township, at 26 and Van Dyke.

The place when we pulled up was already rocking, lots of people, full tables and a full patio with fire pit. We managed to grab a couple seats at the bar, and began to look over the many tappers on the wall.  Imagine an entire wall full of tappers with an array of beer offerings from light lagers to unusual porters to ever so fun and funky IPA’s. The menu of beers changes daily and sometimes even hourly we were told.

They offer sample size beers in small snifter glasses from 1.50 to 4.00 depending on the beer.  You can also get larger sizes but whats the fun in that? We both ordered to start a Liquid double fudge Imperial Stout by Evil Twin brewing company, abv of a whopping 12%. The waiter, who was amazing said we don’t want to do that what we want to do is order that AND an Evil Twin Imperial Doughnut Break, which was a Doughnut Imperial Porter, with a abv of 11%. I love that! I love an educated beer server who knows his stuff and isn’t afraid to speak his mind!!

Both beers were really smooth. Dark, rich and chocolaty. The Liquid Double Fudge had overtones of a bittersweet chocolate while the Doughnut Stout was a bit smoother, with a bit more sweet overtones of brown sugar and a little smoother.  I was so full after that I couldn’t do anymore. So disappointing. It was like being in a beer wonderland. Literally any kind of beer for every palate! Omar ordered a Jaden James Peanut Butter Porter with a abv of 6.8%.  The beer indeed tasted like peanut butter. Omar loved it. He loves peanut butter in many things. Shakes, sundaes, etc.  I thought it was really gross myself.  But I have to hand it to the brewers, it did have distinct flavors of chocolate, coffee, and peanut butter. Like breakfast in a glass. Although this brewhouse doesn’t officially brew yet, they were in the process of adding tanks and will begin brewing their own beer soon.

The menu is really interesting, Although a BBQ/smokehouse with the menu weighing heavy with your standard BBQ fare, ribs, brisket, burnt ends, pork, etc., it had eclectic and interesting appetizers. I had to order the loaded potato egg rolls.  Egg rolls filled with a warm cheesy mashed potato filling, with smoked bacon, sour cream, green onions, dipped in a homemade buttermilk ranch dressing.  So unusual but they were so good!

We also ordmenuered the hot soft pretzels, which came with an amazing caramelized onion dip and spicy mustard.  We added by recommendation the warm beer cheese dip.  The pretzels were really good and that onion dip you could eat by itself, with a really big spoon!

We unfortunately started our journey here too full and too late but we will go back and are excited to try some of their other offerings. What a nice surprise to stumble into somewhere you had never heard of and feel you are transported somewhere else! We can’t wait to go back.  We give this place a million thumbs up!!

I have attached a pic of the robust beer menu – but remember it changes every day!!