Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cafe Centraal

Sunday Funday. I don't know about the average person but my weekend doesn't really get into gear until Sunday morning. That's probably due to the fact that I still wait tables Friday and Saturday not to mention most of my friends are in the food industry and have the same schedule. To most night servers Sundays are a holy day of rest. Sunday brunch is the first moment that you feel like you have time to spend enjoying life. This past Sunday, a couple of servers headed out to do just that.

When you work a Saturday night shift you're not really sure what time you'll be done and off the clock. Lets say midnight, Saturday night or Sunday morning (depending on how you want to look at it) is the equivalent of a normal persons Friday at 5pm.  Once your done unwinding from your work week you wake up hungry and exhausted so it's time to head out and find some food to bring you back to life. This week we headed out to Cafe Centraal. 

Brunch at Cafe Centraal is packed! Make a reservation in advance if you can. When we walked in there was a line out the door waiting for a table. We had a reservation and we were able to walk past the sleepy eyed Bayview residents and the host took us to our table right away.  The wait staff was awesome, the second we sat down we had our drink order in.

So lets talk about drinks for a minute. They have it all laid out; about five signature types of Bloody Mary's, tons of Mimosa variants, Irish Coffee's, Beermosas, a Beer list that puts some liquor shops to shame, and a full stocked bar if your having trouble finding the exact breed of dog that bit you last night. We had no such trouble identifying our dogs and were on our way to recovery. 

Some people like the lazy buffet style brunch, an all you can eat affair where you get up and serve yourself plate after plate of factory style produced scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage. Before I knock it, all you can eat bacon does sound good! Maybe it has to do with the heat lamps and the stainless steal pans that hold mountains of eggs, maybe it has to do with how lazy I am Sunday mornings, but I prefer a waiter or a waitress and fresh to order food. 

The menu has your standard brunch essentials omelettes, eggs any style and burgers with fried eggs. It's not to difficult to come up with a decent bunch menu. Take some eggs, add some sort of potato, toast, and you are in business. Where Centraal stands out is they do a brunch menu with a little added style. The potato's are flavored with rosemary, they cook with a lot of bier, the breakfast burger has smoked Gouda cheese on it. Centraal put some care into their menu and is still able to serve it at low prices.

However they do step out of the box on a few items, one being the Black and Bleu Benedict. Blackened flat iron steak and poached eggs served on a homemade black pepper basil biscuit, topped with blackberry jam, sriracha, ale-braised onions, bleu cheese, and sauteed portobellos. Oh and Bacon, there's bacon too. This dish was FOUR LETTER WORD (add "ing") AWESOME. Pardon the language, but it was that good. It was sweet, spicy, savory...  it was great. I had to go for a walk to stop from slipping into a food coma immediately after eating it, but it was well worth it.

Another great dish is the Red Eye Biscuits and Gravy. House-made black pepper biscuit, poached eggs, and chorizo cream gravy. It has a nice spicy kick to it and comes with rosemary potatoes.

To recap... So you went out Saturday night, you woke up Sunday morning hungry, in need of a jump start, you called Cafe Centraal, got a reservation, you packed your friends and family into the car, navigated your way to Bayview, you sat down and ordered either of these two dishes, and now you're going home a HERO!

Check 'em out 

Cafe Centraal
2306 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Bay View, WI 53207
Phone: 414.755.0378
Fax: 414.755 0387

Oh and always, more pics on the Eat MKE facebook site. Search Eat MKE on Facebook or go to http://www.eatmke.com/

Cafe Centraal on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 28, 2011

North Star American Bistro / Brassfield Estate Wine Dinner.

We had a very exciting opportunity this past week. Eat MKE was invited to attend a wine dinner at the North Star American Bistro featuring wines from the Brassfield Estate vineyard. Now I know you're picturing us kicking back and hanging out enjoying an amazing five course meal, tasting wines, and talking about soils and climates. Although that would have been a great time, we decided to hang out and watch the action in the kitchen. When you're seated out in a calm dining room its easy to forget that on the other side of the wall there is a room buzzing with action and people working their collective tails off to bring you the best meal and experience possible. That was definitely the case this particular night.

The wine dinner was held on a Thursday night. Now that might not mean anything to you if you've never been to the North Star on a Thursday night but if you have, you know that Thursdays mean happy hour. Starting at 4pm they offer house wine, domestic beer and well drinks for 1 dollar, at 5pm the prices increase to 2 dollars, then at 6pm the prices go up to a whopping 3 dollars a drink. On top of the drinks, they also offer some Thursday only appetizers for 4 bucks. As you can imagine, the bar is packed by 4:05. The only advice I can give about happy hour is show up early, and plan to share any open seats at your table with strangers. The whole show is run by three bartenders who absolutely rock it out, so don't forget to show your appreciation and tip (To Insure Prompt Service)!

With that going on in the bar, and the North Star's normally buzzing dining room filling up you can imagine the pressure building up in the kitchen. Now add a private room and fill it with 50 guests expecting an exceptional five course meal. I'm not exaggerating at all folks. That was the scene this past Thursday at the North Star. What kind of masochist would set all this up? Well there are two that spring to mind Mike Stoner and Duffy O'Neil the owners. These guys are not the sit at home and let the money roll in kind of owners. They were right there rolling up their sleeves and prepping the food with their team. 

If you've never been back stage at an event like this you'd be surprised at how intense it can get. These guys had maybe five minutes to make 50 empty plates become beautiful works of art and of course, great tasting food. They were moving at full speed rushing against the clock to make sure the food went out looking great and still hot. At the start of the event everyone in the kitchen was so focused that there was a muscle tightening tense atmosphere. You could  read everyone's mind by their faces,  "don't mess this up, don't mess this up, don't mess this up..." and "only get one shot at this..." and "I'm gonna need a drink after this one..."

The first course was plated and out the door to the tables as the kitchen changed gears to start preparing the 2nd course. It was pretty quiet for a kitchen at this point. That's when the first reviews were brought in by servers with empty plates from the dining room. "everyone is loving it!". With that statement, the tense atmosphere broke, smiles lit up on everyone's face and the staff started joking around while plating the second course. At this point, the staff really kicked into gear and started showing off.

The next three courses all went out without a hitch. We even got a chance to taste them. Let me say that the cost to attend the wine dinner was 65 dollars and it was worth every cent. Now it was time to serve the dessert. The cheesecake was pulled out of the cooler and of course, they looked odd. The cakes didn't set correctly, and were all shaped differently. This problem took Chef Duffy O'Neil roughly 20 seconds to correct. "How about we creme brulee the tops and re-cut them?" And with that audible called out the staff went to work. Taking a blow torch to your final course at the last minute is a risky call at best, at worst it could have ruined the cheesecake and left a bad final impression with the guests. However, it worked, and the desserts looked amazing.

I was impressed with everything and was glad to have been a part of it. If you haven't had the chance to try the North Star American Bistro you should, it's well worth the trip. Check them out.

414-964-4663 • 4518 N. Oakland Avenue, Shorewood, 53211
262-754-1515 • 19115 W. Capitol Dr. Ste 100, Brookfield, WI 53045

For more pictures of the event check out the Eat MKE Facebook page by visiting http://www.eatmke.com/ and clicking the Facebook link. Give us a like if you like!

North Star Bistro on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

J. Lotti's Pub & Grill House

So it's Saint Patrick's day and I planned to do some serious bar hopping today.  I wanted to visit an area that isn't as well known as it should be.  With that in mind downtown Waukesha seemed like a pretty good spot.

I know, I know, It's hard to get to, and it's harder to find your way out. If you get a birds eye view the town it almost looks like it was built to resembles a spider's web with all roads converging on Main Street. Yes its true you can get lost in this part of town. Yes street names will just change for no reason and sometimes two streets that are not connected at all will have the same name. Believe it or not, it used to be worse! At least they got rid of the all the one way streets and moved that gazebo where bums used to sell drugs to a well policed area outside Waukesha State Banks main building.

Well since the city got rid of the biggest problems plaguing business in this district it has attracted some very cool entrepreneurs. As far as a town designed for bar hopping and food you can't get any better then this. Off the top of my head I can probably name 10 restaurants and pubs that you can visit within walking distance. When you're done however, call a cab! The police still roam these streets as if it was the same seedy neighborhood it was in the early 90's.

Tailor's Peoples Park was closed due to a small fire a few months back so I got to stop in at J. Lotti's. It's a little off the main drag of the downtown tucked back on South Street.  It's known for its burgers. In fact most times I've been in there I end up getting the Lotti, its a burger with an egg on it, a locally farmed egg no less. It's Saint Patrick's day so the normal menu is off the menu and they are serving tradition Irish meals. This means corn-beef, potatoes, carrots and of course cabbage.  Growing up at my house we ate stuffed cabbage at least twice a week thanks to my dad so any meal featuring cabbage always reminds me of home. I was sold on the traditional Irish plate and the server talked me into the stew.  The selling point was that Chef Phiona is from Ireland and this sealed the deal.

While seated at the bar the owner John Malott made frequent stops around the room to make sure everyone was enjoying their food and having a good time. I always like places that the owner is out on the floor running his business. It's easy to grow to love a place if you can see the people running it enjoying their jobs.  We did have a rather large camera with us and we eventually caught the attention of, and got a warm greeting from, the wife and Co-owner Tiffaney Malott ( T.lotti ).  She was very happy to let us know that J. Lotti's will now be open for lunch. All I can say is I can't wait to stop back.

So if your driving in circles and suddenly find yourself in downtown Waukesha, find a spot, park your car, and have a great time. Oh and stop in to J. lotti's of course.

J Lotti's Bar & Grill House
225 South St.
Waukesha WI 53186

J Lotti's Pub & Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lillies Place

Saint Patrick's Day 2011

I know, the site is called Eat MKE. Most people would assume the MKE stands for Milwaukee and would think “the first review will surely be a restaurant in Milwaukee”. To your and even my surprise our first stop this morning was in Genesee Depot. My first thought when I was told that's where we were heading was "where the heck is Genesee Depot?". Apparently it is this small strip of businesses on highway 83 that connects the lake country area to the rest of south eastern Wisconsin.

So there I was out in a beautiful country landscape walking up the steps of this old white victorian house about to walk into a coffee and wine shop called Lillie's Place. From the second I opened the door I was overcome with “hellos” and “welcomes”. In fact so many I wasn't sure who worked there and who was just a customer. I also wasn't sure if it was a restaurant, or a coffee shop, or if I just walked into someones living room. The atmosphere was very free and you're welcome to pretty much walk in and make yourself at home.

Being it was St. Patrick's and almost 10 am I made my way to the counter and ordered a Irish coffee with Jameson and Baileys. That's when I met the owner proudly working as a barista in her own shop. Cathy Witkowski bought this store in 2006 when her family was rebuilding their lives after the death of Liz her daughter in law. The process of restoring the building and creating Lillies Place became symbolic of that loss and Lillies Place now stands as a tribute to Liz.

Lillie's place offers a variety of artisan wines and desserts along with coffee drinks that are above and beyond what you can get at a Starbucks. The restaurant area “Pal's” has a full lunch menu and offers a cozy room to relax. Up for some dessert? They even have an ice cream and candy shop in a room on the other side of the house. I'm looking forward to going back and enjoying a bottle of wine on there deck once summer gets its act in gear.

If you live in the area or find yourself needing to get out of the city you should stop by either for one of their events ( wine tastings, live music, etc...) or just for a relaxing morning. 

Lilies Place
S42 W31428 Hwy 83
Genesee Depot, WI 53127

Phone: 262.201.4376
Cathy Witkowski | Owner