Thursday, July 23, 2015

Clarke Hotel Irish Restaurant

My friend and I recently went to get drinks and dinner at The Clarke Hotel. I had heard great things about the fish fry on Fridays and a few other dishes, so we decided to check it out for ourselves.

We went on a Thursday evening and decided to sit in the bar for a drink before we had our dinner. I went for a traditional Irish beer, Kilkenny that pours from a nitrogen tapper. It was very refreshing and hit the spot.
The bartender told us that the hotel was seeing great occupancy rates and the restaurant was a hit! In addition to being the bartender, he was also the hotel "front desk" that evening and checked a few guests in while we were there.
The bar definitely has an Irish flare to it with beer signs, Irish sayings and the dark paneling on the walls, traditional with other Irish pubs I have visited.
The tappers for beer were lit up and really helped make it easier to read what was all on tap.
We decided to start with an appetizer. Although I'm not a huge Reuben sandwich fan, a friend turned me onto Reuben Rolls a few years ago and I have never looked back. We decided to get those to enjoy while we figured out our dinner selections. They came out quickly and we dug in. The horseradish sauce had a bit of a kick but didn't over power the roll. I could taste each ingredient on its own and it all went together really well. These are probably the best Reuben Rolls I have had.
Then it was time for another drink and our bartender suggested that I try one of the specialty beers. I went for a Magner's Cider with a shot of Caramel Vodka in it - so it became a cool spiced cider. This was amazing! I never thought of this combination, but I'm so glad I tried it.
I wandered around the hotel lobby a bit and enjoyed looking at all the vintage pictures of downtown Waukesha. They also have a banquet hall for meetings and small parties that is available to rent.

When it was time to figure out what to have for dinner, we decided to just stay at the bar because some live music was about to start and we wanted to enjoy it. I really wanted someone to order the Guinness BBQ Sandwich because I wanted to see just how huge the sandwich would be. I mean it has mashed potatoes right on it! But alas, no one had, but I did see a variety of other entrees and pleasant reactions from the other diners. I selected the Shepherd's Pie and my friend went with the Beef Stew.

Everything came out piping hot and I had to move the potatoes on the top of mine so that I could let it cool down before I enjoyed. The Shepherd's Pie was fantastic! I enjoyed every bit of this meal and had half of it to take home because it was so huge. The vegetables were tender, the meat was perfect and the potatoes had a light crisp to the top.
My friend's beef stew was excellent as well. Her dad makes a great beef stew but she said this one comes in second to his. Everything was tender, the meat fell right apart and the flavors were outstanding.

After our meal, the bartender then treated us and other patrons at the bar to a little Irish after dinner drink. I'm not exactly sure what was all in it, but it was minty, chocolatey, and delicious.

The service was excellent - the bartender was extremely knowledgeable and could answer all of our questions and made sure we were enjoying ourselves. The music on a Thursday evening was light enough to be able to have a conversation over, but added to the ambiance of the bar. On the weekends, they also have brunch and traditional Irish music that I want to come back and check out.

I think that we will definitely be back as I want to try other dishes from their menu and hear more of the live music. I highly recommend having a drink and a meal at The Clarke Hotel!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Waukesha County Fair Time

How quickly this month seems to sneak up on me every year, but at the same time, I am always very excited to see it come. I have worked for the Waukesha County Fair for the past ten (maybe more) years and it's coming up just next week!

I could not ask to work with a better team at the Fair each year and help make this great family tradition happen. The Fair Association is an amazing group of people to work with and their fantastic Executive Director makes sure there is something for everyone at the Fair. Though I have seen it all - rain, hail, wind, heat advisories, drought conditions, cold, and perfect temps & sunshine, I wouldn't change a moment of it. You can't control the weather, so we roll with it, and have a great time. That's part of living in Wisconsin, right?

The Waukesha County Fair is the oldest fair in the state of Wisconsin and the largest even in Waukesha County, held at the Waukesha County Expo Grounds. The Fair runs July 15 - 19 for the 173rd time!

When I'm not working, my main focus at the Fair is checking out all the new foods, obviously and I have tried some really great things in the past year. The new foods list has been released and a few of the items have peaked my interest. Ruben tots from Jayme's Chopstix and the beer brisket sandwich from Sprecher top that list.

Last year I tried the Adult Root Beer Float from Sprecher that had a little whiskey kick in it and the deep fried Oreos from another vendor that were divine. I tried the nachos from the community tent and they were worth every penny (though they were extremely reasonable!) A Fair staple for me are Bubba's chicken strips from Silver Spur. That is typically my lunch on Saturday or Sunday. They are so tasty - that perfect sweet and salty combination.

And you can't forget about the desserts. The 4-H kitchen has cream puffs (a Fair tradition), ice cream sundaes, dipped cones, and many other sweet treats. Not to mention it's located in one of the Fairgrounds' air conditioned buildings, so it's a great place to cool off. I also have to get myself a funnel cake every year!

You really can't go wrong with what you eat at the Fair. I have yet to find something that I didn't like and I'm on the grounds all five days of the Fair, so I have had a lot of the food.

The Fair has great local bands on the side stages in addition to National Recording artists on their Main Stage - Rodney Atkins, REO Speedwagon, Jackyl & Quiet Riot and Three Dog Night are the evening concerts.

Hot Air Balloons, a Shark Show, rides, games, animals, exhibits, demolition derby, truck pulls, children's activities and so much more. You truly can find something for everyone at the County Fair. And you can do it inexpensively. Each day there is a way to get in for a discount and if you act now, you can save buy buying tickets in advance!

The Fair kicks off on Wednesday (7/15) at noon and it's just $1 to get in, $1 to park and $1.25 per ride. Talk about a bargain! And once you are in the gates, besides the midway rides & games and what you want to eat, everything is included in your admission - even the main stage shows.

So if you need to reach me next week, you know where you can find me - I'll be on the grounds taking in the sights and sounds of the Fair and hoping to get the Fair the best media coverage around. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Emma Faye Nail Salon

My parents have been so helpful in getting projects done around my condo. One Saturday, my dad had a few things to finish up at my place, so my parents drove out to Waukesha and we met up at the Farmer's Market. It was a beautiful start to the day.

This was my first time at the market for the season and I like the new changes they made. The market is located on both sides of the Fox River in downtown Waukesha. Some buildings were torn down in the Waukesha State Bank parking lot last year and grassy areas were put in their place. The booths line that grassy area, providing more room between the rows and a lot more vendors.

Mia Famiglia is one of my parents' favorite restaurants when it was in Hales Corners. I was happy to see they had a booth with their products and samples. I had the onion foccacia bread with a balsamic reduction. It was fabulous! I still have to get over to 225 South one of these days and try more of the great cuisine.
After spending some time and a little money at the market, my mom and I went for pedicures at Emma Faye Nail Salon in Waukesha. The place has been open for about a year, but this was my first time here.
They were ready for us right at our appointment time and let us soak our feet for a bit before starting. They asked if we wanted water, tea, soda or coffee while we were relaxing, but we were both content at the time.
They have six pedicure massaging chairs across the back wall and a counter in the middle with four stools do manicures.
They have both gel and regular polishes for nails.
They performed an excellent job on my feet and it was such a relaxing experience. Tony was extremely personable and talked to my mom and I about all sorts of things while we were relaxing.
And they do a stellar job on the polish. I went with a bright Brewers blue while my mom went with a more typical (for her) mauve-y pink tone. The polish looked great and they let us sit for as long as we wanted to let them dry.
They signed my mom and I up for the pedicure club and after five pedicures, your next one is free. What a great deal!

These are my toes one month later and there isn't a single chip in the polish. I can never do that on my own!
I will definitely be going back for another pedicure soon and possibly a manicure too! The place is very inviting and very clean. And the prices are extremely reasonable! It's not far from work for me either, so I can just zip over here after work or maybe even on my lunch hour.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Cheeze Factory Restaurant

Last month, my guy and I took a long weekend to Wisconsin Dells. It was relaxing and just what we both needed. Besides the boat tour being the number one favorite thing we did, The Cheeze Factory Restaurant experience is definitely right up there.

I was contacted by The Cheeze Factory Restaurant a few months ago and offered the opportunity to dine "on them" and see what they are all about. The Cheeze Factory has recently gone 100% vegan with their menu. Vegan is something that I had never experienced before, but I'm always up for new opportunities. My guy was a little less excited of eating vegan food, but said he would do it for me.

The Cheeze Factory is located right on one of the main drags in Wisconsin Dells, right next to The Wilderness Resort. After our really long hike in Devil's Lake that morning, we arrived to the restaurant very hungry and ready for the experience.

The interior is a combination of up north cabin, cafe and diner. I loved the black & white tiles on the floor.

The restaurant has plenty of seating for groups of all sizes and swivel stools at the counter. We chose a table in the corner by the windows and started perusing the menu.
 There were a lot of options to sort through and figure out what we going to want to try. Fresh squeezed lemonade called my name right away, so we both got a glass of that. You could definitely taste that it was freshly made. It was so good.
 I saw this sign on the table while we were figuring out our meals. I appreciate they share they kitchen practices and let you know how things are going to be prepared.
 I selected the Mushroom Lovers Goulash and Gnocchi. I was very excited about the five types of mushrooms in the dish and the fact they are locally-grown was an added bonus. This meal was wonderful. I don't know what the "sour cream" was derived from but you could barely tell it wasn't real cream. The gnocchi was amazing. They were soft but held together in the sauce. The only part I wasn't a fan of was the pepper on the top, that I easily put to the side. Peppers and I sometimes don't agree with each other, so I tend to avoid them.

And let me tell you about the salad that came with the entree, it was heaven. I loved the picked carrots and parsnips and couldn't stop eating it. The salad had a light dressing on it and was created with kale and other greens. This entire meal was absolutely amazing for me.
My guy was a little leary with what to pick that he was going to enjoy. But he finally decided on the Asian Medley dish. This was a really unique combination of a chinese and indian meal with the use of coconut milk in the dish. I really liked his meal and he couldn't stop eating it. He tried the tofu and decided it wasn't for him, but kept on eating the rest of the meal. I tried the tofu and liked the nice char on the pieces. It was very good.

Our meals were so good, that we both decided to pack up some so we could eat it later. I didn't expect my guy to take home vegan leftovers, but he was the first one to say that if I could figure out how to make that meal, he would eat it all the time. Of all the places that we went to eat, and we ate out a lot, this was the only place that we chose to bring leftovers home because it was just that good. (The leftovers were devoured that evening while we watched a little TV - they reheated awesome and were the perfect, no guilt, late night snack!)

We were told from the start of our meal to save a little room for one of the heavenly desserts. It took us a while to decide on what to get and relied on the amazing descriptions from our server to help us pick one from our top choices.

We decided on a piece of the key lime "cheezecake." It was made with cashews and it was absolutely fantastic. The crust was very nutty, but delicious and you would never know that it wasn't cream cheese. I actually think I preferred this over regular cheesecake (and I love cheesecake). I wish the piece was bigger but we decided to share just the one and not over indulge too much. 

The entire experience surpassed any expectations I had and while walking to the car after the meal, my guy already said the next time we were in the Dells, we should definitely come back. I even considered stopping the next morning to bring back some desserts, but we didn't really have a cooler and knew we were going to make a few stops on the way home. 

My entire concept of vegan food has changed, and changed for the positive. I realize now that it's not just a bunch of beans and lettuce and really wonderful entrees can be created from natural foods. I hope this place continues to thrive and I urge everyone to check this place out the next time they are near the Dells. 

I thank The Cheeze Factory Restaurant for this amazing experience. Though they provided the meal at no cost to us, the opinions are completely my own. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wisconsin Dells Part 2

This is Part 2 of my blog about my getaway with my guy to Wisconsin Dells. 

Day two started with breakfast on the patio that overlooks the pool at the White Rose Inns. This is something I definitely love about B&Bs --the breakfasts are always so good.

We were provided a few options - quiche, french toast, scrambled eggs or a yogurt parfait. I went with the quiche and my guy chose the french toast.
The patio is covered from the sun and built around a gigantic tree. We were the first ones up for breakfast as we wanted to get an early start on the day so we enjoyed our breakfast in peace with just the birds chirping from the tree overhead.

The quiche was spinach, mushroom and cheese and really delicious, but the potatoes stole the show. Just the right amount of rosemary and butter when they were pan fried, making them the best part of the breakfast. So delicious.
 My guy loved his french toast too and we both cleaned our plates. We spent a short time relaxing a little bit enjoying the morning air.
Then it was off to Devil's Lake. I bought a State Park pass this year and asked my guy if he would mind hiking with me. I promised him the views from the trails would be totally worth it. So we headed off on the East Bluff Woods Trail.

The path was very scenic at the bottom with a crick running next to our trail. We ventured out on a few rocks to take some pictures.
Because I had never been to Devil's Lake before, I knew the trails would be on a incline, but I didn't realize that it was literally up hill the entire way.
 We took some breaks to recover as it was quite the workout.

But like I said, once we got to the top, it was all worth it. The views are just breathtaking. I was so proud of my guy ( a non-hiker) for doing this with me. I'm sure there was a point on the way up that he was contemplating if it was all worth it, but he agreed that the view was spectacular.
And then the walk back down, though long. was definitely much easier (all downhill). We could actually talk to each other. When we got back down to the bottom, we took another break by the crick, took some pictures and just enjoyed each others company and nature.

Then it was back to Wisconsin Dells and time for lunch. I was emailed by a manager of The Cheez Factory in the Dells a few months back and offered a meal in exchange for sharing about their restaurant on my blog. In a post next week, I will give you all the details on lunch. But here is a brief overview. The Cheez Factory is a completely vegan restaurant - something that I have never eaten before. To say that my guy was a little hesitant to eat vegan food would be an understatement, but he said he would try it for me.

The food was incredible and I am so glad that we had this experience. Our minds were completely blown away with the quality and flavors of the food. My guy said that he would even eat here again if we came back to the Dells. Watch for a complete report next week.

 After lunch, we went back to our room and relaxed a bit by the pool. We even went in but the water was just a tad too "refreshing" for us to stay in longer. Maybe if the weather was five degrees warmer outside and less windy, we would have lasted longer.

 We went back to the room, showered and headed down the strip to take in a little mini golf.

The place wasn't very busy so we could take our time at each hole. I haven't mini-golfed in probably 10 years so it took me a little bit to get my swing back. We were pretty much even at the end of the course.

 And again the views from the course were spectacular of the upper dells.

 At the end there was a petting zoo and this little goat was really friendly wanting snacks.

We weren't super hungry but decided to get some dinner. The night before I saw this place called The Cheesey Tomato and on our way to mini golf, we checked out the menu. It sounded really unique and delicious. I was sold at donut grilled cheese!
We ordered and then were told they would come find us and sit wherever. They are renovating the property a bit, but still had tables outside over looking the river. We sat down at one that overlooked the boat tours and took in the views.
My grilled cheese donut was really good and just the right size. It had a dab of jelly in the middle and was  sprinkled with powder sugar. This was a sweet-savory combo that I really enjoy. I would definitely get this again and might try making it at home.
My guy's BLT was on nice buttery, toasted bread and had a really fresh taste. We both enjoyed our meals and then decided to grab a drink across the street at the Showboat Saloon and see if American Pharoah could complete the Triple Crown.
Showboat Saloon had a very diverse beer selection with a few unique firkins and many micro-brews on tap. I got an Oberon and a Ballast Point Sculpin for us and let my guy choose which one he wanted.

Showboat has been in the Dells for many years and I'm sure the building has some great history. I did a little research and found the building is from 1907 and was originally a tavern, then a candy shop during Prohibition, and then back to a tavern after. The same floor is still inside the place today!

American Pharoah did win the Triple Crown and the crowd in the bar was really into it. We finished our beers, walked the strip a bit more, and then headed back to our hotel for some relaxation. Our tired legs needed it after our long day.

The next morning was a little too rainy and chilly to eat breakfast on the patio, so we ate it in the cafe in the basement of the main building at the Inns. We both chose the egg scramble and it was just as good as our breakfast the first morning.

Then it was time to get on the road and head back home. We stopped at a restaurant in Johnson Creek for lunch and finished off the trip with another great meal. Unfortunately I didn't get the name of it and it's not showing up on any maps. It looked rather new and was a great sports bar atmosphere.

The weekend was a great mix of new experiences and relaxing. But most importantly it was time that we got to spend together and really enjoy each others' company. Until our next trip!