Monday, July 14, 2014

Waukesha County Fair

You may or may not know that my company works media relations and promotions for the Waukesha County Fair . And for the last eight years, I have put in the extra hours to make sure we get the Fair the best  media coverage we are capable of for this organization.

We have had good Fairs and bad (many more good than bad, but you can't control the weather) but regardless, I could not ask to work with a nicer group of volunteers and one heck of an amazing Executive Director who put their heart and soul into this Fair to give you the best event in Waukesha County every year. If you see them on the Fairgrounds when you go (yes when, not if!), please thank them for all their work.

As a Foodie, you know that I am always excited when I get the information on the new foods and vendors at this year's Fair.  And again this year, there is no shortage of new and unique eats. I am personally looking forward to trying the Reuben nachos, bacon cream cheese on a stick and John Deere churned ice cream. (I caught a glimpse of this in action at the Jefferson County Fair this weekend and you will be pretty amazed by this feat.)

Not to mention we have some of the Fairgoers' faves back this year - Catfish Johnny's, Black Angus sandwiches, cream puffs, fudge, Silver Spur, jumbo turkey legs and much, much more. You cannot leave this Fair wishing for more variety. We have it all covered!

Every year, I promise myself that by the end of Sunday, I can treat myself to a funnel cake and gorge on the whole thing myself. But I have yet to keep this promise to myself. By the time I am done working and remember to get one, the food vendors are already closing up shop. So it's my goal this year to have one on Saturday night (instead of waiting until Sunday). I'll just walk more on Sunday instead of ride in my snazzy golf cart :)

There is so much more to the Fair than just food, and I'm glad that I get to see it all - Demo Derby, Live Music, 4-H Exhibits, Truck Pulls, Rides, Games, Vendors, Livestock Auction, Alligators, Fun Run, Classic Car Show, Pancake Breakfast, Animals and again, so much more. Just check out that cake above, such detail and skill from someone so young! I love seeing this sort of dedication and these kids are going to be the ones most likely taking care of me when I'm older. This make me feel really good.

I hope you have some time this weekend to come out to the Fair and if you have never been, come see what it's all about. There are great deals almost everyday to help you save on admission and once you are on the grounds, almost everything is free (midway, rides and souvenirs excluded).

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Noodles & Company has Salads

Sure this place is mainstream and corporate, but I just had to share with you the awesome salads my mom and I got at Noodles & Company.

Who would think to go there for a salad? But honestly, they have really been putting in the effort to have a diverse and cultural menu and I think it's paying off. They have soup, salads, flatbreads and sandwiches in addition to noodle dishes now and the website lists very clearly the ingredients in each dish and the calories.

My mom and I were looking for a quick bite one afternoon and decided on Noodles located at the Shoppes at Fox River in Waukesha. My mom and I are creatures of habit and typically order the same thing every time we go - pesto cavatappi.  But for some reason the salads really stuck out on the menu that day.

I'm trying to watch what I put in my body and make sure I eat for nutritional value as well as taste and this salad seemed to hit the spot. From the website: Spinach & Fresh Fruit Salad Seasonal fruit, crumbled bacon, pecans, house-made croutons, red onion and blue cheese atop spinach with a balsamic fig drizzle. This is right up my alley as I have really been enjoying sweet and savory salads. The onions and bacon brought out just enough savory, to make the strawberries seem extra sweet. The dressing is already on the salad but it wasn't overpowering. I'm sure you can ask for it on the side. 

My mom went for the Chinese Chicken Chop Salad  - Grilled chicken, sesame-soy tossed mixed greens, Asian sprouts, cabbage, red bell pepper, cucumber, carrots, crispy wontons and black sesame seeds. She too raved about the great flavor of all the ingredients together and said she would definitely order it again. 

Her salad came in at 480 calories and she was full but not stuffed. My salad came in at 650 and I too felt satisfied and not full. I'm sure if I took off the bacon, the count would be lower. 

I went back to Noodles today on Capitol Drive in Pewaukee and ordered The Med Salad with Chicken Grilled chicken, romaine, mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, red onion, olives, cavatappi pasta, spicy yogurt dressing and feta. The noodles in the salad were a unique touch that I liked.

When they say spicy yogurt dressing, you better believe it. Because I ordered it to-go, my chicken and dressing were in separate containers. I tasted the dressing before putting some on my salad and thought it had a kick but would be okay. Apparently I should have used just a 1/4 of the container instead of half because I was feeling the burn. It wasn't overpowering, but eventually it was all I could taste. The kalamata olives are very tart too!  If I would order again, I might suggest getting the balsamic fit drizzle from the spinach salad or using another dressing I have around. But I wouldn't change anything else. 

Noodles has figured out salads just like they have pasta and I hope they keep diversifying their menu to stay current.  

Monday, July 7, 2014

Vegas Thru My Belly

Last month, I went on a Las Vegas vacation with the ladies to celebrate my friend's final fling before the ring. We stayed at the gorgeous Aria Resort and Casino at City Center and we were not disappointed. As you all know what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, unless we post pictures on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to share (which we all did!). But the only part of the trip that I'm going to share on the blog is all of the food we ate while out there.

Though I didn't manage to take shots of everything we ate, I did take a few and luckily the ladies helped out and shared their images with me so I can in turn share them with you.

Let's break it down by location.

When we arrived at the hotel, we were famished and just went to the Cafe Aria and grabbed a drink and meal. This became a hit for all of us and an easy go-to. They have a wonderful breakfast and lunch selection. I had the Club that was seriously the largest sandwich I have ever gotten. I couldn't even eat half of it and we then realized that we needed to order a fridge for our room for our leftovers.

I also had the French Toast and Belgium Waffle for breakfast. They were again gigantic and delicious!

One of the other ladies captured this lovely image of the Eggs Benedict with the hash browns that everyone raved about on the trip. I never had them, but they looked very crispy on the outside and mushy, buttery on the inside.

I also dined for lunch and ordered the Asian Chicken salad that could again easily feed two people!  It was chock-full of all sorts of amazing eats -Napa Cabbage, Romaine, Bibb Lettuce, Carrots, Bean Sprouts, Cucumbers, Red Peppers, Snow Peas, Crispy Wontons, and Sweet Soy Vinaigrette.

Also in our hotel was Jean Philippe Patisserie that had crepes, sandwiches, salads and these amazing pastries. These are really the spotlight and because I have diligently been playing the MyVegas game on Facebook and my phone, I was able to redeem a reward and get some pastries for the mini-party we had for the Bride-To-Be in our hotel room. Pastries start at $7 and go up from there. I purchased 2 small pastries - Snickers and Chocolate Indulgence. Though they are no larger than a coffee mug, the desserts are so rich and amazing, you only need a bite or two. We actually had some left over after all six of us had some bites.

Saturday night, we dined at Gordon Ramsay's BurGR. Though it was over an hour wait for a table, it definitely was worth it. (NOTE: they do not take reservations and the website is completely out of date) They told us they would text us when our table was ready, so we were able to wander Planet Hollywood and here is where I found one of my favorite slots. It paid out every time! I will leave that a secret and get back to the food.

BurGR has a 30 ft. wall of flame to divide it from the casino and all I could wonder it how much fuel they use to keep it burning.
The menus come as part of the table set up - very ingenuitive and as you can probably guess, it's a burger joint.

We had a server and tablehand that took great care of us. The drink menu was on an iPad, which was pretty awesome to flip though. I decided on a grapefruit cocktail and the bride grabbed a martini. The drinks were nice and strong and really flavorful.

Then we had to choose our food. I saw goat cheese and I was sold. I went with the Euro burger that had truffle aioli, argula, tomato and goat cheese on top of the burger. It was seriously the best burger I have ever had. The meat was perfectly cooked medium and the flavors went together so well. I didn't leave anything on my plate.
Another favorite burger was the American - where you choose your toppings. We splurged for 3 orders of fries - two truffle fries and one regular and we definitely could have gotten by with two. However, you must get the fries as they are delicious with specialty ketchups and sauces on the side.

On Friday night, I made us reservations at Twist, one of the bride's top choices for a fancy night out. And Fancy it was.

Right away we were greeted by a the wonderful staff and sat at a table for 6 in the middle of the dining room. Being on the 23rd floor, we could still see the strip out the window and the tables by the windows didn't really interrupt our view.

We were asked if anyone had allergies to be made aware of and they offered us some small nibbles to enjoy that the chef created for tonight. I don't remember the official names but upper left was a cracker with fig on it, upper right was some fish (that tasted really fishy), the bottom right was a lard wrapped breadstick that was delicious and bottom left was a macaroon tart that tasted sweet and savory.

They came time to order our meals. Although the place came with a floating wine room over the dining room, none of us chose any drinks besides water. We were all recovering from the day at the cabana, so we kept the "water boy" quite busy doing laps around our table.

The menu was simple but decadent. But the service is what really stood out to me. No one's glass was ever more than half empty with water, plates were cleared and tables combed before the next course came out. and the main meal presentation was something I wish I video'd. Six staff got together, took our plates and circled the table. All plates were set at the same moment and silver lids removed together. Each dish was then explained again to us and made sure everything was to our liking before they walked away.

I went with chicken instead of steak - hard decision but it just sounded so interesting, I just had to go unique.

Shimizu Chicken Breast, Morel Cream & Grapefruit Confit
Creamy Polenta, Snow Peas
Tomato Otti Ice Cream
The chicken was the most juicy and flavorful breast I have ever eaten and the morel cream was fantastic. It melted in my mouth. I was a little worried about the grapefruit confit but it added an asian infused element to the dish. The polenta was crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. I wasn't a fan of the snowpeas on top because I believe they were cooked with fennel, but I just pushed it on the side and ate the rest. And the tomato ice cream had coconut in it! I had to eat this quick before it melted but it was quite lovely like a gazpacho. I have never had coconut that was sliced instead of shaved but it wasn't too overpowering with the tomato.
Some ladies ordered a salad with their meals, I opted not too, knowing I didn't want to fill up.

Mixed Salads & fresh Herbs with Lemon flavored Olive Oil
Avocado, Dried Tomato, Kalamata Black Olives
Grilled Chicken Breast with Rosemary
Mendiant Toast, Tapenade
I was able to try the toast, that resembles a cheese crisp over the tomato tapenade that looked like Port Wine cheese spread. It was really tasty and I wish I had more crisps to eat it all. Definitely something I would like to try to make at home. 

The Bride-to-be treated herself to a fancy filet of Wagyu beef. We were told that it actually is white when pulled out because of the marbling but then when cooked, that melts into the steak to make it the most "like butter" experience. I was offered a bite and it was actually extremely heavenly. Besides the few bites she offered up, the bride enjoyed the steak very much and had it cooked to the chef's liking. The server even complimented her on knowing how to order.
 After all the plates were cleared and coffee was offered, the server came over with a special dessert from the chef for our bachelorette. We were all able to try it and if this doesn't look rich to you, you are crazy. One bite was all we needed to enjoy this with her. The chocolate was excellent and dark.

Little trays of small desserts prepared by the chef also came to our table - Jellied apricot crisps, mini macaroon looking treats and something with nuts. My stomach had reached it's rich food limit for the day, but others enjoyed it.

I cannot say enough wonderful things about Twist and you must splurge and try this when you are in Las Vegas. You will not regret it. And try all the other places I listed above, I have no regrets and my belly came home happy and inspired to try to recreate some dishes at home. But I will leave the Wagyu Beef to the pros.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Overheard - Vol. 1

I have been considering making this another tab on my site for quite some time and tonight is going to be the first entry. I overhear a lot of fun stuff where I live with retail places and a bar very near. Tonight, I was provided the perfect example. 

What sounded like four grown men leaving a drinking establishment around 11 pm and walking to their respective vehicles and each let out extremely childish yelps of terror when lightning flashed across the sky. It didn't touch down nearby and no thunder followed. 

One guy tried to call the others out on it and that started a yelling match to obviously prove they are macho and tough guys and that they didn't scream. 

Don't worry boys, I don't think any ladies heard you....except just about anyone within 3 blocks! Man those were high pitched squeals! 

Stay tuned for more entries to come. I think I'm going to be hearing a lot more and this could be very entertaining :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuna Casserole

Nothing tastes as good as a family favorite recipe from your childhood. I hope to share with you some of my most memorable recipes from my youth on the blog in the future. Just the thought of these brings back memories of happiness and sitting around the kitchen table as a family.

Today's installment will feature my mom's tuna casserole. This is super easy to put together and can be altered easily too. We always had this on a school night as it comes together so quickly and we all loved it.

TUNA CASSEROLE-6 servings 
1 box Mac n Cheese (if you don't like the packaged stuff, feel free to make your own favorite recipe. 
Milk and butter that the box requires. 
1 can condensed cream of ? (I use mushroom but celery or chicken works too)
1 can white albacore tuna, drained
1/4 cup milk
1 cup frozen broccoli or peas
1 can mushrooms (fresh works too)
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Make Mac n Cheese according to box but undercook noodles by a few minutes. (They will cook the rest of the way in the oven.)

Add remaining ingredients except cheese and mix together. Spread out in glass 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle cheese over the top and bake for 10-15 minutes or until bubbly. 

Consider putting corn flakes over the top for crunch.

So simple to put together and tastes delicious! Now where is my dance leotard and ballet shoes and my brother needs to find his soccer cleats and ball.......such happy memories! 

Nutrition per serving:
198 calories
5 g fat
29 g carbs
11 g protein
2 g dietary fiber

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summertime in Waukesha

So, so, so much to do in Waukesha this (and every) summer. I can't wait to take it all in.

Here is just a sprinkling of events that I can think of to kick off your summer.

Waukesha Friday Night Live - Every Friday from June thru October the streets of downtown Waukesha becomes a festival of fun with the streets closed down and many stages of music set up. See great local acts, check out the shops and enjoy yourself while meeting up with thousands of other Waukesha friends.

Waukesha Farmer's Market - Since 2008, I have seen this steadily grow in size and variety of vendors. It is now over 100 vendors with all sorts of things - plants, veggies, candles, woodwork, jewelry, meat, popcorn, flowers and much, much more. Every Saturday morning from May - October you can find Riverfront Plaza shut down between Broadway & Barstow and full of lively vendors.

Carl Zach Cycling Classic - Watched this for the first time last year and it was exciting. How these folks can stay on those skinny tires around the tight turns of downtown Waukesha at the speed they are going, completely boggles my mind and gives more props to them from me!

Gibson Guitar Town & Murals - Walk through the historic downtown area and you can't help but see murals everywhere! Many of them relate to music and Les Paul (The Wizard of Waukesha) that started three years ago as part of Waukesha being designated a Gibson Guitar Town. But a few other businesses have other murals as well - Waukesha Tattoo Company, Bernie's Tap Room (inside), Couri Insurance and Discount Liquor. 

Outdoor Dining -
     People's Park roof is a popular stop with great views of the city.

     Sprizzo's artistic outdoor area is a nice place to take in the sites of the streets.

     Magellan's retracting windows to open up the whole bar to the outdoors is awesome.

     Bosco's back patio is covered from the elements, has lawn games and big TVs to take in the games.

     Sloppy Joe's offers outdoor games like hula hoop and bean bag toss to those walking by.

     Divino Gelato has nice benches and a few tables to enjoy the downtown with a sweet treat.

     Jackson's & Bernie's have a few tables available to enjoy dinner at on the sidewalk.

     The Steaming Cup has a lot of tables to take in your morning or afternoon coffee.

     Just outside of downtown on Grand is La Estacion with excellent Mexican cuisine and a gorgeous stone patio.

If I missed any more, I apologize!

There is plenty more planned for downtown this summer, including more live music throughout the week and weekends, parades, events, charity run/ name it....Waukesha has it going on. Hope you can come down and check it out soon!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Curry Chicken Salad - I'll Leave it to the Pros at Sprizzo's

Last Fall, I met my friend for lunch at Sprizzo's in downtown Waukesha. She had never been so I wanted to introduce her to someplace different and delicious.

Sprizzo's happened to have a curry chicken salad lettuce wrap as a special that day. Both of us said it sounded wonderful but (and these are her exact words) "something doesn't like chicken right now. I love chicken but something else doesn't." With a small point to her stomach, it was my friend's super cute way of telling me that she was going to be having a baby! The baby was anti-chicken at that point in her pregnancy. I jumped up and hugged her immediately and was so excited for her.

I still ordered the curry chicken lettuce wrap and was majorly impressed. I even went so far as to review Sprizzo's on Facebook and told them to keep it around.

I'm embarrassed to say but even the ridiculously cold weather kept me out of downtown Waukesha more than I wanted it to this past winter. I shouldn't have let it be an excuse, but I did, and I apologize to the city for my lack of support during those frigid months. 

BUT, last week was gorgeous finally and I took full advantage of walking downtown and seeing what's new and changed. More on that in a future post.

I ended up stopping into Sprizzo's after doing a mile walking loop around downtown and saw that Chicken Curry Lettuce Wrap as the special. SOLD! No doubt about it - I knew I was having that for lunch.

It was just as wonderful as I remembered. Not to spicy, a good amount of sweet and the chicken was so nicely chopped up.

I decided to try making this at home with a recipe I found online that seemed to have similar ingredients to what I could taste in Sprizzo's version. I would say that I made a solid effort and liked the outcome for the most part, but I overdid it on the curry powder and it overwhelmed my 'buds. When I tasted it right after I made it and didn't allow the flavors to meld, it tasted bland, so I added some more curry. That was my mistake. I had to have it with crackers or on bread and couldn't just have it with lettuce wraps. I needed something to help absorb the spice.

I do have more sensitive buds than the average mouth so maybe this recipe will be fine for some, but I think I am going to leave it up to the chef at Sprizzo's to make my curry chicken salad from here forward. This doesn't mean I won't try again with less curry or a sweeter curry powder, but I do know that Sprizzo's knows what they are doing and I will definitely keep ordering it from them.

Here is how I altered the online recipe:
-I started with 1 1/2 Tbsp. curry and added just 1 more tsp. It ended up really peppery so I would suggest 1 1/2 Tbsp. or use a sweet curry.
-I used 1/2 cup Miracle Whip and 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt. I ended up added 1/4 cup more Miracle Whip to reduce the peppery spice. 
-Didn't have mango chutney, so I took 4 frozen peach slices, 1 Tbsp. strawberry preserves and a Tbsp. of sugar and pureed it in my blender. I ended up adding more strawberry preserves to help kill the pepper of the curry.
- I didn't have whole peppercorns, so I used black pepper on the chicken, but I tasted the chicken and it wasn't peppery then.
-I didn't have cloves, so I used all spice and it worked well in this instance.

Overall, I modified a bit to try to get the flavor I was looking for and definitely gave it my best effort, but Sprizzo's, you make it better and I'll keep coming back for it. Don't take this special away :)