Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Red Cow – Edina, MN

D.Rough and I needed a date night and we had heard good things about Red Cow – a new fancy burger place in Edina. And I read that the parking lot for Wuollet Bakery next door is available in the evenings, which is awesome and helpful since it gets busy here. We knew there would be a wait, so we rolled in with our patience at a pretty high level. We put our name in for a table and headed to the bar. The bar is fully stocked and has tons of wine and beer. The wine is in those fancy sealed refrigerators with built in taps to keep it fresh, so you can get a lot of different wines by the glass. Very smart.

A couple got up and left that we were standing near, so we grabbed their barstools and ordered some drinks and an appetizer. I got a New Belgium Shift and D.Rough got a Domaine S. Michelle Blanc de Blanc (basically a champagne because she’s baller like that). And D.Rough had been fantasizing about caramel-bacon Puffcorn all day at work, so we had to get that.

Drinks were up right away and the puffcorn showed up right after that. Then, instead of our 45 minute wait, we were being seated after about 15 minutes. Fantastic! We brought our drinks and corn to the table and dug in. I’m not a fan of puffcorn, so I honestly was expecting to eat just a couple of bites and move to the next thing. But I was soooo wrong. These things were delicious. The perfect amount of caramel and just a sprinkling of bacon on these made them a really nice version of sweet-gummy delicious. I’m a new convert of this, apparently. Who knew?

The server was really patient with us as we debated and argued over which appetizer we would get next and which burgers we wanted. They all sounded amazing, honestly. We asked the server for her opinions and looked at what other people around us were eating and eventually decided on the Scotch Eggs (I’m a major fan of these crazy things), and for burgers, D.Rough went with the Royale and I got the Barcelona – I’ll explain these in a second. Instead of fries, we had to decide between truffle-parmesan fries or sweet potato crinkle planks: Sweet potato!!!!! Duh.

The scotch eggs arrived and were presented much classier than any scotch eggs I've had. There’s something about eating one on a stick at the Minnesota State Fair that plucks my heart strings, but I didn’t need it this time. The scotch eggs at Red Cow were the best I’ve ever had – including in England. The sausage was fully cooked, and didn’t have a thick greasy aftertaste – that’s key. I really don’t like mustard at all, but the beer mustard dipping sauce that was on the plate was really quite good. I only had one bite without it and then once I tried it, I was hooked. Well played, Red Cow.

Another glass of wine for D. These are fancy glasses. They’re large, but sadly, they don’t fill them up all the way. Hahaha. (I also got a Delirium, so you don't think D was drinking alone.)

The burgers arrived and looked serious. They don’t skimp here. There was a significant pile of prosciutto on the Barcelona burger and after sampling a bit of it on its own, I gave it the thumbs up. The burger itself had the best flavor of any burger I can recall right now. Seriously juicy without giving you the dreaded grease-throat. The manchego cheese was the perfect match for this and the bright flavor of the piquillo pepper added a nice pop. The smoked aioli was a nice finishing flavor in my mouth at the end of every bite. And the bun itself was supremely moist and sift, even with a tiny bit of grill char on the inside. Loved it. This, my friends, is how all other burgers should be judged. I’m going to rave about this for a LONG time.

The sweet potato planks were even better than I expected. A dusting of parmesan and fried just-to-crispy. Perfect. The dip, smoked pepper aioli, was the perfect accompaniment to these fries and my complements go to the chef for pairing these.

D.Rough’s Royale burger was also delicious in a completely different way. Wildly different flavors. Still the same perfectly cook generous angus beef patty, but they put slices of pork belly on top and covered that with brie, arugula, and a tomato jam. The flavor combination is quite good and worked better than you can even imagine. I was surprised at the arugula flavor coming through in this, but it worked really well. This place nails it. All of it.

I’m already trying to figure out how we can go back here right away. There are a ton of other things on the menu that I want to try. Burgers, sandwiches, and even a ton of appetizers. Their happy hour has a handful of appetizers at a discount and some discounts on wine and beer. But frankly, after you take a bite of the food here, you aren’t going to complain about paying full price. Sure, it’s a “fancy” burger with fancy burger prices, but you’re paying some culinary mad scientist to create magic in your mouth. Think about that, cheap-o complainers.

D.Rough and I were completely unable to finish our burgers. And I can eat a LOT. Keep that in mind and consider sharing or scaling back the appetizers when you go here. That simply means I got to eat these burgers TWICE – once again at lunch the next day. And for the record, the Barcelona reheated better, mainly because of the pork belly on the Royale got a little limp. Both were fantastic to eat again, though.

And, because I talked to D.Rough about it being in my Top 5 of all time, I thought I’d better actually create a Top 5 list for that…

Top burger places (mostly not in any order, but maybe a little bit):
1. Red Cow (Edina, MN))
2. American Burger Bar (St. Paul)
3. Kuma’s Corner (Chicago)
4. Bar Lurcat sliders (Minneapolis)
5. Newt’s (Rochester, MN)

Other noteables
6. Joe Rouer’s (Green Bay)
7. Blue Door Pub (St. Paul)
8. Anchor Fish and Chips (Minneapolis)
9. Red Mill (Seattle)
10. Eli’s Donut Burger (Food Truck in Minneapolis)
11. Zombie Burger & Drink Lab (Des Moines, IA)
12. Burger Jones (Minneapolis)

Top 5 things about Red Cow
1. Barcelona Burger
2. Caramel Bacon Puffcorn
3. Royale Burger
4. Large selection of wines and beers
5. Scotch Eggs
(6. Really fantastic staff – thank you, Forough!)

Bottom 5 things
1. It isn’t cheap, but it’s ok, I promise
2. You will likely have to wait
3. They had some awesome sounding chorizo soup (special of the day) that I didn’t have room to try
4. They don’t have their own dessert chef – but they DO use Wuollet Bakery – but don’t worry, there won’t be room for dessert
5. Some people will complain about the noise there – I call it energy


Monday, June 10, 2013

Glorioso’s Italian Market – Milwaukee, WI

D.Rough and I had finished up all of the roller derby activities in the city for the weekend and wanted to grab a late lunch/early dinner. I wanted to take her to Glorioso’s Italian Market for some time, so we headed over there to see what sort of goodies we could get at the deli/bakery.

They’ve recently moved across the street and upgraded their atmosphere. It’s pretty classy now. There’s a couple of shelves of shelf-stable and dried/canned foods, a refrigerated cabinet, a nice wine and beer area, a dessert care with cookies, cakes, and gelato, a meat and cheese counter, a deli counter, some fresh produce, and a grocery area in the center of the store. It’s a ice layout and flow, so well played on the new location!

We checked out a few things, but got caught up at the deli counter and were in need of some sandwich-type things to eat out in the sun (they have a nice outdoor patio eating area in front of the building). We went with a fig & prosciutto flatbread and also a Villa Sub #1 (meatballs, pepperoni, pepperoncini, provolone). They told us it would be a few minutes so we walked around and checked out the rest of the store. They have a ton of stuff from Italy, including cheeses and snacks and olives, and other delicious things.

Our name got called over the loudspeaker and we retrieved our sandwiches and a couple of other items we picked up while browsing. We paid and went outside to see what we had gotten.
The Villa Sub was a good meatball sandwich. We got the small one, but they had cut it in helf for us so we could share. A very nice sesame seed roll with good flavor. The pepperoni really added some zip to the sandwich and I was pretty happy with this choice.

The fig & prosciutto flatbread was a small pizza sliced up for us to eat. The ingredients were fresh and the prosciutto was cooked enough that when you bit into it, you didn’t drag the whole slice off on to your shirt. The flavor was good, and the balsamic reduction they had on top of the pizza was a really good accompaniment to the sweet figs that were also on top. Nice craker-thin crust rubbed with some garlic before baking. It's a nice pizza! (sorry. Flatbread.)

It was a good lunch – not the best in the world, but a really appropriately sized snack before hitting the road for 6+ hours to drive back home.

Top 5 things about Glorioso’s Italian Market
1. Well defined sections for different foods
2. Fig & Prosciutto Flatbread
3. Great beer/wine section
4. Villa Sub #1
5. Lots of things to look at and they will offer you samples of things if you need them

Bottom 5 things
1. I expected bigger and classier than the middle-of-the-road atmosphere we got – maybe we’re spoiled by the Cosetta’s renovation in St. Paul
2. A lot of the desserts (including cheese cakes) came from outside giant chains like Cheesecake Factory
3. It’s pricey, but not off the charts, especially for a very unique deli
4. The website isn’t the most user friendly in the world
5. They have my favorite olives in the world – Castelvetranos – and I didn’t get any – my fault


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Icky Ricky's - Kenosha, WI

Seriously, that's the name of this bar.

And it looks like they just doctored some of the existing letters from the former bar's "sign".

I didn't go in.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Frank’s Diner – Kenosha, WI

I had the morning free and was in the mood for a drive from Milwaukee, so I decided to go to the place that Betty and Rink recommended to me: Frank’s Diner. It is in “downtown” Kenosha – a pretty run-down downtown, but still has a handful of old-timey shops still eeking out enough profits to stay afloat. It’s also ALMOST on the lakeshore which DOES have a spectacular view and some impressive boats in the marina – worth a two block walk.

Frank’s is in an old dining car, but it has a couple of additions built on to it. So you’ve got your counter area where you sit two feet from the grilling awesomeness of the cook. Then you’ve got some booths in one portion of the enlarged room, and then they‘ve built on a back room to house overflow. When my brother-in-law Uncle DumDum went here, he said there was a line and every available seat was being used. I must have gotten lucky. I parked it at a spot right by the grill, since I enjoy a good show with my dinner and then I can hear the staff smack talk and crack wise at each other. Fun for me.

I knew the thing to order here is called the garbage plate. It’s kind of a pile of eggs, hashbrowns, meat, and veggies to your liking. I tried NOT to order it, but I couldn’t resist – it sounded… right. I got a half garbage plate (full disclosure) with bacon and corned beef hash, cheddar cheese and jalapenos. And sure, throw on a side of homemade toast, as well.

The server turned around and handed the cook the slip and two minutes later, the food was sitting in front of me. Looking all hot and sassy. I threw on some Tabasco and ketchup and set to work on it.

It was good. I wouldn’t say life changing, but it was honestly a great diner breakfast. I’d happily order this again. You could taste the corned beef hash and the bacon and everything was in the perfect proportion. Nothing overwhelming. And it surprisingly wasn’t greasy, either. Just perfect for diner food. The homemade toast was also buttered generously, like I like, and complemented breakfast perfectly.

I was full, but not stuffed. And happy. Rink and Betty, this was a great recommendation and even though it wasn’t on the way to anywhere, it was worth the trip for me.

Not enough info for a Top 5 list, but it would be mostly positive anyway! Nailed it!


Friday, June 7, 2013

Cempazuchi Comida Brava – Milwaukee, WI

D.Rough and I had seen one of the Food Channels cover this awesomely lively Mexican restaurant in Milwaukee and had filed it away for future reference. When people asked us where to go, D.Rough suddenly remembered Cempazuchi. I’m sooo glad she did.

The inside is decorated in crazy awesome garish bright colors that make you smile even when you don't want to and it even has decorations made specifically for us (or so we assume): Luchadore masks and jammer helmets. Hahahaha.

The margarita special of the day was pineapple mango, so a bunch of us went in on a pitcher. That’s how you play this game! Also, this place has hundreds of tequilas in stock and can make you any kind of margarita with any kind of tequila you can think of. Get adventurous!

Bam. Margaritas.

The menu had a lot of authentic dishes on it. You can find the standards like tacos, tostadas, and burritos, but you have to look hard and read the fine print. My advice, go with something authentic and delicious sounding, or have your server suggest something. Ours was fantastic. I decided on the Tacos al Pastor de Pato (duck tacos): wrapped in blue corn tortillas and topped with tropical salad salsa. D.Rough got the Enchilada Oaxaquenas: tortillas stacked with filling and a red chile salsa, chicken, and pork.

They brought us some chips and salsa, but not standard salsa. One was a chili pepper-garlic salsa with some kick, the other was a sesame seed and peanut salsa. The chili one started out my favorite, but then it switched to the sesame seed one. Really very unique and delicious. You will be asking for more of this.

The food was pretty awesome. I heard this from almost everyone. The Duck Tacos were some of the best version of duck I’ve had in years. It was very moist and seasoned and served on very small blue corn tortillas. I thought I’d be disappointed with the small size fo these, but I honestly wasn’t. It was just the right portion size for the delivery of this amazing duck. And the vibrant and spicy almost-fruit-salad salsa was great. The blue corn has a very distinct corn flavor, but not overwhelming – I just loved these, honestly.

D.Rough’s Enchiladas Oaxaquenas were also very good. The shredded pork and chicken were a great match for the rich red salsa (not spicy, just rich and smoky and tasty). It was filling, but thankfully, it wasn’t a massive portion – just about right (at least right enough that I still got some left-overs hahaha).

I heard a "meh" from the corner of the table that got the torta, but that's the only downside I heard.
But, the winner of the day was Second-Hand Smoke’s Arracheras en Chile: basically a skirt steak in a chili sauce with some other veggies. After having a bite of her dish, I knew she had won the champion of the world for ordering this day. The meat was falling-apart-tender and the flavor was some of the best I’ve ever had. It was brilliant. Order this when you go there. You’ll be glad you did.

And a huge massive thank-you to Mama Smoke, who bought us all lunch, when she absolutely didn’t have to. She’s one of the coolest people in roller derby I know and we will continue to make sure to include her in as much as possible on these road trips. She’s the proud mother of one of the top derby skaters in the world and she’s one of our gang – we’re really happy to have them both!!!

Top 5 things about Cempazuchi Comida Brava
1. Arrecheras en Chile
2. Tacos al Pastor de Pato
3. Enchiladas Oaxaquenas
4. Pineapple Mango Margaritas
5. Our server and his trust sidekick, Don, were wonderful to us

Bottom 5 things
1. Aside from it not being next door to my house, I’m hard-pressed to find any downside


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Kiku Japanese Restaurant – Milwaukee, WI

Roller derby had ended for the evening and we were all hangry (angry+hungry=hangry) (angry at having not eaten real food in too long, not because of anything that happened – MNRG played some of the best derby I’ve seen them play). A faction of us decided sushi was in order and there was a place within walking distance that served late enough we could eat.

The menu has a ton of rolls and other sushi on it. D.Rough and I were in the mood for serious specialty rolls, so we got a Superman Maki roll, a Las Vegas Maki roll, and a Big Country Roll. We were tempted to get a fourth roll, but thought we could go ahead and get another if we were hungry. We needed a Kani Salad to split, as well. This is D.Rough’s favorite thing of all time and we have to order it whenever we see it on the menu.

And I needed a flaming volcano drink for two. It was delicious and I’ve never had it blended up like this. Like a piratey daiquiri.

The Kani Salad was out and was one of the prettiest ones I’ve ever seen. It was beautiful to look at. And thankfully, it was one of the better Kani Salads we’ve had, as well. There wasn’t any seaweed, which I’ve usually seen with this salad, but I almost forgot about it, since the flavor of the sauce in the shredded crab was so good. If we had had more energy, we probably would have fought over this one (or ordered another one), but suffice it to see, it was a fantastic start.

The rolls came out a while later, which I suppose is ok, considering there were 10 of us. The rolls were huge. The biggest I’ve ever seen. They were three-biters or four-biters. There was no way you were popping these into your mouth. When you see the $17 per roll pricetag on the menu, don’t be alarmed, they make up for it by giving you $17 worth of sushi. The fish and veggies and all the ingredients were very fresh and tasty. I didn’t hear a single person complain about any of it. The only thing I heard people complain about was not being able to finish all their food. I’m a serious eater and I was not able to finish the three rolls that D.Rough and I ordered. Thankfully, we didn’t order a fourth roll. My favorites, in order of liking, were the Superman Maki, Las Vegas Roll, and the Big Country, but I honestly liked all of them.

Be ready to eat a lot at this place. Which means one roll per person is a pretty safe start. You’ve been warned.

Also, I love giving OurManFlip a hard time, so I video'd him eating sushi, when he thought I was taking a photo. I'm a jerk, but OurManFlip is an awesome guy!

Top 5 things about Kiku Japanese Restaurant
1. Superman Maki
2. Las Vegas Maki
3. Kani Salad
4. Big Country Roll
5. Portions are massive

Bottom 5 things
1. It can get pricey
2. Not super fast
3. Service was a little shaky, but everyone got what they ordered (and the food is worth the wait)
4. Parking isn’t the easiest but it’s a downtown restaurant, so deal with it
5. Sometimes, 4-bite sushi can get messy


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

EE Sane Lao-Thai – Milwaukee, WI

EE Sane is one of my favorite Thai restaurants in Milwaukee (yes, they have a Lao influence in their cooking, but I generally think of it as Thai). We have a long history together, so naturally, I wanted to bring D.Rough and some others there to share in the experience. We dragged along Fluzzi with us and called Rita to see if she wanted to meet us there. Oddly enough, her kick-ass friend Bromar had taken her there and they were already eating! Hilarious coincidence!

The place is sort of known for its surly service. That’s all I’ll say about it, so don’t expect over-courteous servers and such. Just deal with it and enjoy your food - it's never bothered me in the past, and sometimes, it's really hilarious. Also be very wary of the spice level here – you get to choose between 1-10. They sometimes tell you 3 is "medium". I’d start on the low end if you’re scared of some heat. Anything above 5 will make you cry and may possibly be inedible. I’m not joking.

We pulled up some chairs with Rita and Bromar (and somehow Fluzzi backed up right as I took the photo), and set about the menu. It’s a large and comprehensive menu, so it’s tough to decide. But I finally settled on some curry with chicken pork and beef, and D.Rough got Pad See Ew and Fluzzi got the Volcano Tofu (but then ordered a low spice level, smart move). D.Rough and I love our fresh spring rolls, so we got one of those, as well.

The food isn’t fast, but it’s tasty. The spring roll was massive: burrito sized. It was a lot of filler (lettuce), but it had a great flavor and they didn’t skimp on the peanut sauce. Pretty good showing on the spring roll.

The dishes came out next. My curry was really quite awesome. I could have gone with a 5-level spice, but was pretty happy with the heat it did have. Very good and deep curry flavor and the meats were good quality. No gristle or chewy bits. Plenty of other veggies in this dish, as well. I’m a fan of the curries here and this was one of the best things I’ve ever gotten at EE Sane.

D.Rough’s Pad See Ew was just ok. It lacked some color and also some flavor, but the noodles, even though they looked floppy and puffy, were actually cooked pretty darn well. The spice was a little safe on this one, but I think with a higher number and maybe if you ordered ti with extra vegetables, you’d be raving about this one.

The Volcano Tofu was decent. The tofu is fried really awesomely crispy and the sauce on it I’m guessing could pack some heat if you get above 5 on the scale. As it was, it was above average but not life changing.

Thankfully, no one ordered anything they couldn’t eat – I have witnessed (and been part of) this in the past. You just kind of have to get it dialed in over the space of a few trips. I’m certainly willing to go here as long as it takes to get the spice level right. Again, be patient and you’ll eventually get served and taken care of.

Top 5 things about EE Sane
1. Chicken, Pork, and Beef Curry
2. Fresh spring rolls
3. Bromar raved about the peanut sauce (which I KNOW is delicious)
4. It’s not expensive
5. Really generous portions

Bottom 5 things
1. It’s hard to get the spice level right on the first shot
2. The spice level CAN be dangerous – to the point of inedible – order accordingly
3. Could use some vegetables in some dishes both for color and flavor
4. Service is just something you’re going to have to get used to being not there
5. Menu is REALLY large

1806 N Farwell Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Munchkins - Milwaukee, WI

Some mornings, you just need 25 Munchkins from Dunkin Donuts and a chocolate milk. this was one of those mornings.

It brings back my childhood and eating donut holes with my grandfather at SpudNuts in Rock Island, IL. Sigh...