Thursday, October 29, 2015

Ox Bow Trail Disc Golf Course – Ashland, NE

I had to get in a round or three of disc golf while in Omaha for roller derby. I looked up a couple of courses and picked this one, since it was recently upgraded to 18 holes, from 12. It is about 30-35 minutes outside of Omaha, so not a terrible drive. 

The park is set in a sort of transitional industrial area and residential area. The park has a set of ball fields and volleyball courts, but no one was there at 8 in the morning, so I didn’t have to worry about a lot of traffic.  The map online only shows the middle section of the course for some reason, so I had to figure out where each of the holes were – not usually a problem. 

The course is flat with just an occasional tree. So you don’t have to navigate a lot of doglegs or finesse or anything. Not very much distance on the original 12 holes and even the newer holes on the other side of the bridge were pretty drive-able. 

I don’t think this course gets very much play or attention. I say this because despite the tee pads being concrete, it was missing a few tee signs and an occasional basket (though they have planned for multiple placements, so you can see the pvc pipes indicating where the baskets should be. The area looks like it gets some flooding, so you may have to search hard for concrete pads. There’s also a tee pad with a brand new light pole installed at the throwing end of the tee. Very unusual hazard, frankly. 

For some reason, I was absolutely on fire this morning. I shot 8 under par. I can’t think of the last time I did that, if EVER. So, needless to say, it’s a pretty easy course. Worth the drive from Omaha? Probably not, but if you’re passing through, it’s an ego boost.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Amato’s – Omaha, NE

My high school friend Becky married a wonderful woman from Omaha and gave me some suggestions for dining while I was there. She said I needed to check out Amato’s, an old Italian diner that serves American breakfasts with Italian twists on them. Everyone else I was with bailed on me for breakfast, so I went to Amato’s myself.

The inside looks like it used to be a meat counter or deli, but it’s now a bright open restaurant filled with people. The menu had some really tasty looking items on it. More than I even expected. Omelets, pancakes, eggs, and other assorted items. I really wanted a Gut Buster omelet, but I finally decided on Larry’s Volcano – the name sounds worse than it really is. It’s biscuits topped with eggs, potatoes, sausage, cheese, and gravy. Warning, this is a risky order  – I’m a biscuits and gravy snob from way back, since my family hails from Alabama and does shit RIGHT there.

The food arrived very quickly and looked appetizing. Flaky-looking biscuits were almost entirely covered with gravy, which is what I needed. The gravy is decent, it’s still more flour and water than sausage, but the flavor wasn’t bland, so they definitely get points for that. That’s hard to do without overdoing it on the salt and pepper – which Amato’s didn’t do, thankfully. I think they did a pretty good job with this. The potatoes were nice and crispy. If I were to complain about anything at all, and please know that this is really minor, would be that there were onions in the dish and not on the menu. I love onions, but I’m slightly allergic, so I had to pick out as many as I could and deal with the repercussions later. Worth it though! I’d come back here again if I’m in Omaha.

I also ordered a glass of milk. They brought me out the largest glass of milk I’ve ever gotten. I’m not joking, it was at least as large as the giant glasses you get at Texas Road House. I’m guessing it was at least a quart of milk. That rules so much. I love me some Vitamin D!

Can’t wait to come back to Amato’s!!! 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Reverb Lounge – Omaha, NE

After our complete fail at tiki-dom at the Firewater Grille, we headed to Reverb Lounge in the Benson neighborhood of Omaha. I had seen a few positive reviews about the drinks there, even though it’s a music venue and a regular bar. I even saw photo of tiki drinks there, so I knew at the very least, we could drink SOMETHING out of a ceramic vessel. The bar is a smallish place with a substantial looking bar in the center of one wall and separate doors for the music area. We grabbed a booth right when we walked in and scoured the menu – actual tiki drinks!!!

We had wasted precious time at the previous bar, so we needed to catch up. We all decided on our drinks and then discovered the drink for four people. I immediately got up and ordered a Kava Bowl for our table. I was going to head back to the table, but there’s something magical about watching an expert assemble a tiki drink, especially a large one. They actually put two people on the job, one mixing various rums and juices together and the other cutting intricate animal designs out of different fruits. People sitting at the bar eventually asked “what the hell IS that?”. Kava Bowl, people. Read your menu.

The thing gets a lime half filled with 151 on top, which they then light on fire. I paraded this massive flaming drink through the dining room like I was a priest from The Temple of Doom (Kali Ma Shakti de was going through my head the entire time). People noticed, to say the least.

We all dove into this drink with fervor. Yes, I said fervor. Mainly we just needed a drink to sip on while we were deciding what to get for the next drink.

I went with a Pineapple Boo Loo – a drink for two people which comes in a pineapple. Like an actual pineapple that they core out and fill with rum. Sadly, Reverb had purchased some faulty pineapples and I got the only actual pineapple that didn’t spring a leak. Cha-ching! Everyone else got their pineapple boo loo in a ceramic bowl. It still did the trick. We had a fantastic night and got to listen to a little bit of the band in the other room. Plus, both bartenders were really fun to chat with when it slowed down a bit in the bar.

We weren’t really done when the bar started to close up, so we went back to the hotel room and played Exploding Kittens and drank Flip’s Fireball and my Fruit Loop Vodka. We travel well when we go to roller derby tournaments. If you haven’t played Exploding Kittens (a card game), then you really should. 

Go check out Reverb Lounge, either for the music or the tiki drinks. We were really glad we did. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Firewater Grill – Omaha, NE

When I go out of town to watch roller derby, one of the things our travelling fan group likes to do is find a (or many) tiki bar in the city where the event is happening. We usually do some research to see what our options are. This recent trip to Omaha, there happened to be a tiki bar across the street from our hotel. ACROSS THE STREET. How amazing is that?!

Our first concern about this place was the name – Firewater Grill. Isn’t “firewater” sort of a derogatory, or at least hinting at, racist term – and oddly enough in the middle of a land with tons of beautiful native American culture? Well, yes, it is. Our second concern was that it’s in a Comfort Inn. Our third concern was the d-baggery of clientele smoking on the outside patio when we arrived. We thought we’d check it out, even if very briefly. 

The lobby of the hotel has a tiki statue in a fountain, so at least they got that right, even though it wasn’t anywhere near the entrance to the bar. That’s weird. When we walked into the bar area, it was really well-lit. Like REALLY bright. There is a full bar with some bamboo reeds nailed to it, which serves as their version of a tiki bar. We found our friends (who hadn’t left yet) and sat down. Firewater Grill doesn’t have a tiki drink menu. Unusual, right? They have lots of bud lights and coors and pbr and fireball shots, but they don’t have tiki drinks. We asked about it and were told the bartender could make us whatever we wanted. We rattled off a couple of commonly understood tiki drink names (zombie, scorpion, rum runner, yellow bird, and even a Bahama mama or rum punch), but the server’s expression was blank. They WERE however running a special on mai tai cocktails. Fine. We’ll get that, even though it’s going to come out of a icee machine.

We all commented on the only other tiki related item in the room – a giant plaster tree with a huge chunk out of it where some frat boy’s head clearly impacted after a rousing game of darts. Here is that tree.

The drink arrived and was a mai tai flavored slurpee. Waste of time. We unhappily listened to a guitar duo singing some awful version of 90’s and 2000’s songs and drop a few n-words here and there. Are you serious? What’s wrong with this place?

We looked up the next tiki bar in Omaha and packed up to leave. The server brought our individual checks and my friend LooseChange wondered why her check was completely different than all of ours. I knew she had ordered a margarita, but all the drinks were the same price. Or, so we thought. I want you to look at the drink ticket and tell me what’s wrong with it… Go ahead…
First off how do we get different prices from sub-total to total? Then, why is there an occupancy tax? Do they charge people for sitting? The liquor tax we ARE willing to allow, even though it was not really taste-able in the drink. Then, there is a food tax somehow. I’ll assure you that none of the rest of us got any of these random taxes on our drinks. You might think we’re done with the confusion – but WAIT!!! There’s more. Go ahead and add up these numbers in your head. Better yet, get a calculator. How did they come up with 19 cents??!?!?!?

The server came back and we were laughing openly about the bill. LooseChange asked him about the check and he took it to his manager – who promptly comped the drink and told her not to worry about it. Thankfully. We used Uber to get a ride to the nearest actual tiki bar in Omaha. A mere 15 minutes away, but totally worth the cost to get out of this fake tiki bar.

Despite the internet saying Firewater Grill has tiki-style meals, an island bar, an island in the middle of Omaha, island cuisine, fun dining, “commissioned artwork of Aztec” (their words not mine), this place should be skipped at all costs. It was a complete waste of time and money. Sorry to be harsh, but come on.

I’m not even going to put the business address on here so I don’t accidentally make it easy for you to go here. You can thank me later.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Haute Dish (Take 2 – for Restaurant Week) – Minneapolis, MN

We have friends – multiple sets of friends – that rave about Haute Dish in downtown Minneapolis. D.Rough and I went last year to check it out and  thought we had a fluke dinner that wasn’t so great, so we thoughts we’d give it another try during restaurant week, when many restaurants do a special tasting menu of their best items. And my cousin Houston was in town, so we thought we’d drag him along for fun!

We had reservations, but things weren’t ready when we arrived, so we sat at the bar and ordered some drinks while we waited. After their ten minute wait turned into 30+ minutes, we asked about our reservation and, despite seeing some empty tables, we got sat in the furthest section of the restaurant. I mentioned customer profiling in my last review of this place, and I’m starting to get suspicious about it, frankly. We then waited almost ten minutes for someone to come over and take our order. By then, we were clearly ready to pick our first, second, and third course from the Restaurant Week menu options. 

The first course had two options we were both excited about – the third option was a South Dakota style salad, which apparently is a wedge salad. Yawn. We ordered a Steak and Eggs appetizer and a Char Cuts (charcuterie) appetizer. 

The Steak and Eggs was a decent sized portion of steak tartare, and egg in a hole (which is like an egg soft boiled on top of a piece of toast), and a bloody mary oyster shooter. I started with the shooter. I’m usually indifferent on oysters, but this whole set up was pretty delicious. The bloody mary was almost entirely vodka, which helps, since I’m not a huge bloody mary fan. But the oyster was nice and soft and not chewy – great work on this. The steak tartare was actually pretty good. It was very finely chopped and not ground, which is the difference between something being intentional and something previously chewed. Good seasoning on the meat, though a tad too much onion for my taste. It also went extremely well with the egg in a hole due to the sweet bread that they had turned into toast. 

D.Rough’s charcuterie board was in the shape of a pig, which ruled. It had a cube of head cheese, a slice of terrine, and a couple slices of kielbasa. D.Rough thought the head cheese tasted good, but then she got weirded out about where it came from, so I ate – cha ching! I thought it was better than a lot of head cheese I’ve had, though not the best in the world. I was glad she shared this one though. She liked the terrine just fine and was better with that texture and origin story – I also thought it was pretty good. She really liked the kielbasa, though – I mean, who DOESN’T like kielbasa. Overall, the first course was looking pretty darn good.

The second course, I got the Mac and cheese, which every one of my friends has raved about. It’s sort of deconstructed, apparently, which I didn’t really see. I thought it was more minimalist than deconstructed, but hat’s neither here nor there. D.Rough got the pumpkin stew, which was a curry soup served in a tiny pumpkin.

The Mac and Cheese was a little sub-par (my cousin Houston agreed with me on this point). It’s a large manicotti-style noodle cut into 5 or 6 loops, and filled with taleggio cheese, celery, truffle oil, and two small bits of king crab. It looked like an Italian sushi roll since they put a little red fish roe on the top, as well as some panko or breadcrumb dust. It tasted a little flat, which is odd because I LOVE me some taleggio, and every mac and cheese I’ve had with taleggio has been brilliant. This one failed pretty bad. I’m not sure what it needed, besides some sort of flavor. I almost missed one of my small bites of crab meat, but even that didn’t help with the flavor much. I just wanted something better, and I’ve totally had better mac and cheese. In fact, the mac and cheese I had when I was last at Haute Dish’s pop-up BBQ restaurant was much better than this.

The pumpkin stew tasted fantastic. All three bites of it. There was one piece of shrimp and one small piece of crab in it, but the curry soup itself was really quite tasty. That tiny pumpkin didn’t hold much soup, apparently. Also, our pumpkin may have been a little smaller than everyone else’s. Just saying. D.Rough says they missed an opportunity to make it more of an entrée by cooking the pumpkin, before adding the soup, which left her a little disappointed (and hungry). Second course, not the greatest.

The third course, I ordered the Pig and the Apple – a pork chop, blood sausage, mushrooms, and apple. D.Rough got the Flavor Country Burger, and Houston got the Tater Tot HauteDish. We thought we’d make sure we tried one of everything.

The Pig and the Apple was a disappointment. First off, D.Rough was surprised to see a SLICE of a pork chop on my plate and not a chop like she had seen on other diner’s plates. Secondly, the pork was pretty fatty. Like really fatty. The apple was fine. I also found one small slice of overcooked blood sausage under my chop. The best part of the plate was the half a brussels sprout on my plate. I really love brussels sprouts and this one was fantastically cooked.  This was the worst of the three 3rd courses.

The Flavor Country Burger was interesting. There were a ton of things on it. The menu said everything, and it really had a ton of things on it. D.Rough was surprised at how many flavors were on it, and many of them weren’t really in harmony with each other. I won’t get all foodie on you, but sometimes ingredients don’t mesh well. This was one of them. That being said, the plate came with some very unusual fries. They were almost sweet and sour fries and they were great! I’m still not even sure what sort of seasoning was on them to make them taste that way, but they were worth fighting over. The burger, not so much.

The Tater Tot HauteDish is one of this place’s signature dishes. And it was actually pretty darn good. It’s two house made tater tots with a generous portion of short rib, and mushrooms and green beans. The meat was really quite tender and really flavorful, and the crust on the tots was top-notch. This dish won the night in my opinion. Sadly, it wasn’t mine nor D.Rough’s entrée. Hahahaha

Overall, we were underwhelmed a second time by Haute Dish. We really WANT to like this place and we hope someday that desire will pay off, if we can assemble enough items we like, narrowed down from the failed items. Again, I’m not saying there’s customer profiling, but our plates didn’t look like the plates we saw at the front of the restaurant that we walked all the way through on our way to the back by the kitchen.

Top 5 things about Haute Dish
1. Tater Tot HauteDish
2. Egg in a Hole
3. Kielbasa
4. Pumpkin curry soup (flavor)
5. Sweet and sour fries

Bottom 5 things
1. Pig and Apple
2. Mac and Cheese
3. Flavor Country Burger
4. This the second of three tries we’re going to give this place that all our friends love
5. I’m not saying there’s profiling, but I’m going to let D.Rough go into the restaurant and get a table and maybe order before I come in next time – which I hope is NOT the case

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bad Weather Brewing Company – St. Paul, MN

D.Rough and I knew a new brewery was opening up right by our house and we were too busy to go the first week they were open. We managed to get there after work one night and had a blast. They’ve got lots of new beers to try and sometimes they even have a food truck out front. Tonight’s food truck was Hot Indian Foods – one of our favorites!

The inside has a bunch of tables, both short and tall, and an overflow room that can be booked for occasions. The bar itself is pretty substantial and we really liked how they have a section at the end for people to order beer. It’s a very fast process that doesn’t have you shouldering yourself between people sitting at the bar and disturbing their night yelling over their heads. It’s really a smart idea. The beers are listed on chalkboard panels behind the bar, but they also have printed beer menus with descriptions of the beers and ABV levels. Plus, they have a great outside seating area with outdoor heaters and even a game of bags for people to play. Great idea!

We grabbed a flight of beers to see which ones we liked best. Firefly Rye Pal Ale, Migration Blonde Ale, Galactic Tide Nitro Rye Porter, and the newly tapped Scarecrow’s Friend Harvest Ale. D.Rough liked the Scarecrow’s Friend the best and I liked the Galactic Tide the best, but they were all pretty good. She even decided to get a full-sized Migration Blonde Ale since she thought it would go better with food. I went with the Galactic Tide. 

We grabbed some fries from Hot Indian Food (it’s a mix of sweet potato and regular fries and heavily coated in Indian seasonings – delicious!). These things are a must.

It was a perfect end to a long work week, and we’ll be back very soon. Looking forward to it!

414 7th St. W.
St. Paul, MN 55102