Posts tagged ‘tapas’

Friday Night Tasting: Crazy Water, Blue Jacket and Meritage

Friday night took me on a food and beverage adventure around Milwaukee – such an awesome experience! I got to sample three restaurants that I’d never been to before: Crazy Water, Blue Jacket and Meritage.

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We started with an early first course at Crazy Water (www.crazywaterrestaurant.com) which is located at 839 S. 2nd St. In Milwaukee. Walker’s Point seems to be an up and coming little foodie neighborhood just south of the 3rd Ward, and the restaurant has a non-assuming exterior on the corner. The tiny kitchen is in one I’d the front windows, and the other is filled with a dining table. The interior dining room and bar is absolutely decadent – gorgeous wall papers, dark wood, beautiful fabrics…would be a great place to snuggle up with a date in the middle of winter with a hot toddie. Since its summer, we chose to check out the exterior seating area – a lovely little covered courtyard filled with intimate seating, a fountain, lots of plants and great music.

When we sat down, the first thing I noticed was the great silverware – the knife was created with a handle so that it sits blade down, rather than on its side. I love me some details. Our server came for our drink order and we asked about martinis – although they don’t have a list, he asked what we’d like (something refreshing and cucumber or citrus based, with gin) and returned with a lovely creation. We decided to start with the soup of the day, which had an exotic name that I can’t remember. It was a creamy summer squash soup with the perfect amount of jalape├▒o to make my taste buds dance, served with a fresh and delicious dinner roll.

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We couldn’t resist ordering an appetizer as well, and settled on the garlic chicken wontons with julienned vegetables and hijiki sauce. This also had some special flavor – the bed of vegetables was a wonderful compliment to the crunchy fried wonton and the sauce was peppery and smooth.

I would absolutely return to Crazy Water. The ambiance was right up my alley, the service was spot on and the food that we sampled was delicious and interesting to taste. Entrees range from $22-$28, appetizers and salads are in the $10 range and they’ve got a nice wine list, as well as a talented bartender to make custom drinks. When we asked our server what he’s enjoying in the area, he mentioned a new restaurant, Blue Jacket, just a few blocks away. Off we went.

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Blue Jacket (www.bluejacketbar.com) is located at 135 E. National Ave. in Walker’s Point, right next door to La Merenda. I was in love with the space as we walked up to it, a very open concept on another corner lot, offering huge windows and a very airy feel. I also appreciate the “Live from the Third Coast” mentality honoring our Great Lakes tradition. One of the first things that I noticed and thought was missing was music – until I realized the sound system was based on a turntable surrounded by a large collection of records behind the bar. Stole my heart a little bit.

Upon arrival, we were able to be seated at a high top table near the bar. It took more than 5 minutes for anyone to check in with us, which was a little disappointing as we were eager to peek at the menu. We decided on another round of fancy drinks: the London Fog (smoked tea infused Bombay Sapphire, lemon, grapefruit, yellow chartreuse, sparkling wine) and a Lake Bluff Gimlet (North Shore Mighty gin, lime, lavender syrup and Bittercube Door County Hop bitters).

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We decided we didn’t need anything heavy at this point in the evening, so the fish themed artisan plank it was. I was impressed with the selection at the $14 price point: herring, trout, salmon and whitefish, accompanied by pickled peppers, beans, asparagus and beets, tartar sauce, candied walnuts, raisins and a generous portion of warm bread and flatbread slices. The fish was delicious and well presented, and we also noticed that for an additional $4 you could combine two of the planks (fish, cheese or meat) for an even larger starter. They also have a nice selection of small plates ranging from $8-$20.

Despite being happy with the food and drinks, I will put Blue Jacket at the back of my restaurant rotation and wait a few months before I return. I really enjoyed how open the space was – the breeze was moving around us the entire time. The service had a lot of flaws – very slow and inattentive. I noticed the host in a bit of a panic with a couple of servers – something I don’t want to know about as a customer. I hope they pull everything together, as I think this would be a great place for happy hour or a dinner with friends, especially in the warm months.

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The final stop of the night was Meritage (www.meritage.us) in Washington Heights. There is nothing unbelievably different about the interior of this restaurant, but it feels comfortable and friendly the minute you walk in.

We weren’t hungry in the slightest at this point, so we decided on an after dinner drink instead. The drink list is fascinating with creations like the jala-poblano margarita, coconut-curry martini and Nutella cocktail. The bartender asked what we were in the mood for and recommended his off-menu rhubarb pie martini. We were quick to agree, and reminisce about our Grandmothers and rhubarb (freshly picked and dipped in sugar, baked into a cake for Memorial Day every year).

The martini was fabulous (we learned that it was a simple recipe: home-made rhubarb infused vodka, sour mix and simple syrup) and I was slightly disappointed that my stomach couldn’t hold another course. Appetizers like ricotta gnocchi with scallops and entrees like bison stuffed chile caught my eye, bringing this restaurant to my “visit again” list.

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Odd Duck surprises and delights

I visited Odd Duck for the first time tonight with my friends Annie and Mike. After a long week, I’m usually not a Friday night gal, but this experience was worth the drive from my home on the west side of Milwaukee to Bayview, our ever evolving foodie paradise. We had a 6:30 reservation, which I was thankful for; this tiny venue was packed when I arrived.

Let’s say, I’d heard some rave reviews about this place, but didn’t really have a clue what to expect. I was surprised at how small the place is – a limited number of tables and bar seats, although I noticed a back patio from my indoor table. The kitchen is literally closed in by unfinished 2×4’s and curtains – I wondered out loud at one point in the evening where they wash all the dishes! Despite the tight quarters, the ambiance is lovely – it feels comfortable, retro and a little bit chic.

After Annie and I ordered our wine (and Mike chose bourbon) we decided on an appetizer. I was impressed with the meat and cheese selection which offered a variety of a la carte options, all served with warm (warm!) crusty bread and excellent compliments.

Charcuterie & Cheese Board

Charcuterie & Cheese Board

Our selections included Old Skool Salami from Bolzano Meats (a local Milwaukee favorite), pepperoni, coppa and soppressata from Underground Meat Company, and we took our waiter’s recommendation on the cheese selection. Accompaniments included peach preserves, grainy mustard and some of the best pickles I’ve tasted in a long time.

Once we made our way through conversation and course number one, I left it up to Annie and Mike to make the decision on the small plates to follow. They did not disappoint!

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Egg Rolls

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Egg Rolls

The pork egg rolls were my favorite of the evening. Served with Sriracha aioli, these little puppies were an incredible combination of salty, well-prepared pork wrapped in the crispiest fried wrapper I’ve ever encountered. Perfection.

Pork Belly & Clam Korean Pancake

Pork Belly & Clam Korean Pancake

I’m fairly certain this was Annie’s favorite dish of the night – a pancake filled with pork and clam, topped with scallions, little curly fried wonton strips, cucumber and a sweet ginger-chili sauce. In my opinion, the highlight of this dish was the sauce – I wasn’t in love with the rest of it, by my companions were enamored.

Seared Scallops

Seared Scallops

The seared scallops were nested on a spicy udon noodle salad dressed in wasabi yuzu vinaigrette and mixed with seaweed. This dish is completely in my wheelhouse, so I can’t put my finger on why it didn’t put me over the top. The scallops were prepared perfectly, but something was missing in the total package. The scallops were worth it though.

Bread pudding & creme brulee

Bread pudding & creme brulee

Our little adventure wouldn’t have been complete without a sample of two of the three desserts featured tonight. Clearly, we couldn’t even hold ourselves back to take a picture without digging in! Mike is the creme brulee guy, so that wasn’t event a question. This one was infused with lavender – ┬áspectacular reviews from us and was compared to the magnificence of Lake Park Bistro’s version. The bread pudding was at my insistence. It had bacon in it. I kid you not. For me, this is the perfect combo: soft, saturated almost savory bread pudding with the essence of bacon, sitting in a pool of caramel, topped with sea salted ice cream. Pure Heaven.

All in all, I thought Odd Duck was an excellent experience. When we left, around 8:00, the crowd had thinned out and there were tables and bar seats available, which was nice. Our server, despite being busy all night was great about taking the time to give us quality recommendations and never seemed impatient. The atmosphere was beyond easy – laid back and comfortable, but stylish and unique. Small plates ranged from $6-$15, with most being in the $8-$10 range. Both glasses and bottles of wine were offered and the spirit collection was extensive.

I’d recommend Odd Duck for a night with friends or family dinner. There’s nothing romantic about it; it just feels easy and fun.

http://www.oddduckrestaurant.com/

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