Blatt + Lagunitas Beer Dinner

Last week, I went to my first beer dinner. I’d been to plenty of wine dinners — I wrote a story about the ones I visited — but never one focused on beer. I like the menu at Blatt Beer and Table and I like the Laugnitas beers I’ve sampled, so to have the two together seemed like a treat. Also, at $30 a head, a decent deal, too.

setupThe first course: Pub peanuts (honey roasted, chipotle chili-dusted and seasoned with cinnamon, cumin and coriander) paired with Dog Town Pale Ale. At the start of each of the five courses, we got a bit of information about the food and then a bit more about the beer.

beerThe pours of beer were 8 ounces at the beginning of the meal and by the last two courses, reduced to six ounces, and I thought it was the perfect amount to enjoy both the taste of the food and the ale together and alone.

saladIndian spiced chicken salad got paired with Lagunitas IPA. (We had one course in between that I got too excited for and forgot to photograph: Blatt macaroni and cheese paired with Little Sumpin’ Sumpin Ale.)

chickenwafflesWe ate chicken and waffles — which has been completely overhauled for the better since I reviewed Blatt last year — paired with Hairy Eyeball Ale, a beer specially formulated by the California brewery to help with a hangover.

brittleDessert was both my favorite course and favorite pairing of the night. Blatt’s bacon brittle is full of small bits of applewood smoked bacon and salty caramel, making it pretty over the top. It tasted great with Brown Shugga Ale, and the pairing brought out roasted flavor in both the ale and the sweet. I’m really tempted to, next December, sprinkle some sea salt and bacon through my grandmother’s peanut brittle recipe, which she’s promised to teach me how to make. But that’s another blog post for another time.

The next beer and food pairing at Blatt is slated for Sunday, Feb. 16 and is a $20 Lucky Bucket brunch.

This is not a sponsored post. I just like beer dinners and paid for both meals.

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2013 Favorites: Restaurants I can’t stop visiting

Some restaurants never get old. Though I don’t write about any of these places often, I visit them often. Two of them serve my favorite cheese plates in town, the third my favorite French fries and mussels, the last is my longest-running favorite in town.

Here’s my final favorites list for 2013: Restaurants I can’t stop visiting.

659073 buvette

La Buvette is one of my favorites for many reasons, not just for the cheese plate, though it is my favorite in the city. I go to Buvette for the creaky wood floors, the reasonably priced glasses of red in the winter and rosé in the summer, the people watching and the patio. I go for the cheese plate, yes, but also for the salmon with saffron rice, the roast half chicken, the salad a-la buvette and specials like cassoulet or boeuf bourguignon. This time of year, their holiday decorations are enchanting. Service isn’t a problem for me at Buvette — I know some dislike the place because of it — but I go to linger over my wine and enjoy whomever I’m with or, if I’m alone, read my newspaper or watch the morning Farmers Market crowd. It’s never rushed, and I never want for something I don’t have. As long as I’m in Omaha, I’ll be at Buvette.

french bulldog

When The French Bulldog opened just more than a year ago, I was mad over it. I raved about it in the paper. And then I took a break from the place because it got incredibly crowded and I had a slew of other places that I had to try for work. Now I’m back at it in full force, because its just as good as it was when I first wrote about it — maybe better. There’s more to the menu now than there was when it first opened. There’s new cheese and charcuterie, including an amazing whiskey bacon that I had on my last visit. A new steak sandwich on the menu is out of this world and a plate of pesto roasted vegetables I’ve savored since day one are still a favorite. A cocktail list that used to include just four drinks has now grown to more than a dozen. If you haven’t visited Dundee in a while, get back and snag a seat at the bar to watch the action.

darios

My list of top ten restaurants came out in the paper Sunday — find it here — and Avoli Osteria, the second effort from Dario Schicke, topped the list of my favorite places I reviewed in 2013. But I’m still a big fan of his first, Dario’s Brasserie. I never tire of their Sunday brunch offerings, including the evil but so delicious croque madame. (Just don’t think about the calories.) I love their big pots of mussels served with cones of angelic Belgian pommes frites, the steak frites and the sometimes-available 36-hour beef short ribs. We often wander in on Tuesday nights, especially this time of year, for a half price Belgian draft. The atmosphere at Dario’s is warm and welcoming, and like Avoli, its my favorite kind of neighborhood place.

ms pubYou probably knew this was coming. What can I say? I have loved M’s Pub since I was a child (I wrote about it here) and I still love it. I love its vibrancy. I love its bartenders and its timeless style. And I love its reliable menu, full of lavosh and fish burgers and the carrot dog that my sister orders. In the summer I rely on the cucumber sandwich, in the winter, the warm duck salad. I rely on Smitty to serve me a glass of wine or a Number Nine and on pastry chef Tina Tweedy for a slew of creative mini desserts. M’s Pub branded matchbooks are scattered through my handbags and around my house — the kind of retro touch that makes this restaurant one of my most reliable and long-running standbys.

See all my other favorites of 2013: My favorite drinksMy favorite brunchMy favorites west of 72nd St and My favorites under $10.

All images courtesy of the Omaha World-Herald

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2013 Favorites: Under $10

For some reason, my final two year-end lists didn’t publish as they were scheduled. Without further ado, here they are. 

Here’s hoping everyone had a great holiday. Today, since we all spent all our dough on Christmas gifts, I present you with the third in my series of year-end lists: My Favorites for under $10.

block16

Block 16 never fails to be in my top recommended spots. My top talked about spots. My top spots for just about any person who ever asks me where to eat in Omaha. And it also happens to be incredibly affordable. My favorite burger in the city, the Block burger, is $5.25. The Salmon Tartine, my other favorite, is $8.95. And if you don’t already follow the restaurant’s Facebook page, do it now to see their epic daily lunch and dinner specials.

blattMy friend Courtney is the queen of the happy hour. She knows where all the best ones are and I learn from her. One of my favorites has to be the happy hour at Blatt, which is affordable even when it’s not happy hour but crazy cheap when it is. Their Fries are a mere $2 during the special; the delicious pub peanuts are $2.50 and a vegetarian currywurst sausage is $5.

lequartierMatthew and I regularly get bread, baked goods and pastries for guests and sandwiches for lunch at our neighborhood Le Quartier bakery, which is just so good. My favorite sandwich is the $6.50 chipotle ham; for breakfast I can never resist a cranberry lemon zest scone.

Earlier: My favorite drinksMy favorite brunch and My favorites west of 72nd St.

All images courtesy Omaha World-Herald

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Review: Flatiron Cafe

flatiron1For my last review each year, I like to focus on someplace special. Last year, it was V. Mertz. This year, I chose another Omaha classic, the Flatiron Cafe. The two places couldn’t be more different.

The Flatiron is fulfilling a very specific spot in Omaha dining, for the kind of old-school, fancy, expensive French food that diners used to find at the French Cafe. There are other modern places to dine in this city — V. Mertz, with chef Jon Seymour at the helm, is one. So are The Grey Plume and the Boiler Room. Go there to find innovation. Go to The Flatiron for the classics, which were almost always delicious instead of dated.

flatiron2

 

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2013 Favorites: Drinks

Its almost time to toast to a new year. Today, I do it one day early with my Favorite spots to drink in Omaha. 

39168 KS-FOODPROWL

The Boiler Room bar is, without a doubt, my favorite spot for cocktails in Omaha. Clark Ross is uber talented and I always leave a spot at his bar with the memory of a nice conversation and a delicious cocktail. The Old Fashioned and the French 75 are my go-tos, but don’t hesitate to sample one of his original creations on the list.

infusion

Recently we’ve really been digging the handcrafted brews at Infusion Brewing Company in Benson. The place is great for hanging out, the beers are tasty and the staff is knowledgeable to a fault. I also love that they’re now serving mini pizzas made with spent grain crust, local sausage and cheese and a selection of sweets. It’s the perfect spot to waste away a Sunday afternoon with friends.

dundeeThe Dundee Cork and Bottle is the wine equivalent of how I feel about Blue Line. I love the place. I also love when Wino Wednesday rolls around, and I can gather friends and sit in this cozy spot to share a half price bottle after 9 p.m. In the summertime, scoring an outside seat and sipping a glass of rose is, to me, one of the finer ways to waste away an evening.

Tomorrow: My favorites under $10
Thursday: My Favorite Brunch
Tuesday: My Favorites West of 72nd

Top image courtesy Omaha World-Herald, bottom image courtesy yelp.com.

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2013 Favorites: Brunch

Today we continue the year-end series of 2013 Favorites with my Top Brunch Spots. (Also, hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!)

BB/GRUB.43474I couldn’t resist this photo from the World-Herald archives of a man brunching at the original Dixie Quicks Lunchonette, where I ate many a meal, and still do on Sundays, now over in their Council Bluffs home. It’s hard for me to name just one favorite item on the restaurant’s brunch menu: there’s eggs benedict, soyiso scramble, cappuccino eggs, French toast, oatmeal and ice cream. The list goes on. And if you go for dinner, the cornbread is to die for (sometimes they have it available as toast during brunch, hint hint.)

CMA_0946.jpg

Matthew and I find ourselves at Lisa’s Radial Cafe for the kind of standard, greasy, delicious breakfast that’s hard to resist and completely satisfying. They have some crazy big brunch items on their menu — one called the raft comes to mind — but I usually stick with the classic two eggs poached, toast, bacon and coffee. It’s cheap, there’s coffee in the waiting area if there’s a wait and I love the diner atmosphere.

KS-AMATOS1

The ricotta pancakes at Amato’s are a thing of beauty. I go there specifically to eat this dish, two pancakes made with big hunks of the restaurant’s homemade ricotta cheese and your choice of berries or none. I get all three kinds of berry and use just a hint of syrup; the texture and flavor of the ricotta in the cakes is simply fantastic.

coffee

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of my favorite coffee shops. Blue Line in Dundee is my neighborhood shop; its right down the street from where we live. But I also dig Aroma’s new Benson location and downtown, Culprit is a favorite.

Tomorrow: My favorites for under $10.
Tuesday: My favorites west of 72nd St.

All images courtesy the Omaha World-Herald archive.

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2013 Favorites: West of 72nd Street

My list of top restaurants I’ve reviewed for the Omaha World-Herald comes out on Sunday, and this year I decided to lead up to it with some other “top lists” on different topics because I’d like to be able to recognize some of my favorite places that weren’t reviewed in the past calendar year. Check back each day this week for another list leading to Sunday’s main event in the paper and on Omaha.com.

Meanwhile, check out my best reviewed of 2012 here.

Without further ado, here’s my Top Restaurants West of 72nd Street.

dante bolognese

The papardelle bolognese at Dante Ristorante, pictured above, is a perennial favorite, and Dante is a restaurant I’ll drive more than 20 minutes to visit from my midtown home without a blink. Their pizzas never disappoint, I love the all Italian wine list and the craft drinks, the service and atmosphere are second to none. But what really snags me about Dante are the Italian entrees, like the pasta above. Always seasonally driven and locally sourced, chef Nick Strawhecker’s homemade pastas, well cooked proteins and homemade sauces simply never let me down.

gold mountain

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned in a review about a Sarpy County Mexican restaurant that West Omaha is home to my favorites for Chinese, pho, dim sum and fish tacos and I got an incoming of emails from readers asking me where I dine. My favorite for both dim sum and pho is New Gold Mountain, near 156th and Maple Streets. Their pho is a spicy bowl of delicious broth, tendon and beef and their dim sum is second to none. When I first visited years ago, they handed me an Americanized Chinese menu and I had to argue to get the dim sum list. Now, thankfully, both are available on the same menu, divided into sections.

canton houseCanton House, near 90th and Fort Streets, has dumplings and tofu that are the closest thing I’ve found locally to what I ate in China. I always advise to ask what’s written on the white board near the door; nothing I’ve had from that menu has ever been bad. Other favorites: steamed pork dumplings, salt and pepper tofu and Peking spare ribs.

riverasRivera’s Mexican isn’t on South 24th Street, or even in South Omaha, but it serves food that is right on par with what I find in the city’s best neighborhood for Mexican food. The fish tacos at Rivera’s are my hands-down favorite in town. So are the Shrimp Alambres, pictured above, a house specialty. Bacon-wrapped shrimp are spiced with a blend of bread crumbs, poblano and red bell pepper, onion, oregano and cotija and pepper Jack cheeses. The appetizer is served with a chipotle-cream sauce.

Tomorrow: my top brunch spots.

All images courtesy the Omaha World-Herald archive.

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Food Prowl: Coffee

coffeeThe coffee food prowl was one that taught me a ton: I learned what I like when it comes to coffee, and the team was instrumental in that lesson. And the winner was, truly, in the most unlikely of places. Read the story here.

 

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On Midwestern Food

202_Thie_Red Berry Molded Dessert_art_r2The first Jell-O salad I have ever wanted to eat, courtesy of Amy Thielen’s new book “The New Midwestern Table.”

It’s pretty exciting to see the food I’ve grown up with — the food many of us have — in the spotlight for a moment. And it’s even more exciting to see the young, talented chefs mentioned in my story playing with classics.

I loved chatting with Amy Thielen for my story in today’s paper about the resurgence of Midwestern cuisine. She’s as funny and down-to-earth as the excellent introduction in her book, available now, makes her seem. I can’t wait to try my hand at a number of the recipes in the book, including the three I share today in the paper: the above Jell-O salad, her take on the classic seven layer salad and, of course, a retooled Runza.

runza_amythielen

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Shop Local gift guide, part two

…better late than never. For all you eleventh-hour holiday shoppers (sheepishly raises hand) here’s part two of my annual shop local gift guide, featuring makers and artists all based just an hour down the road in Lincoln. (Find part one, focused on Omaha, here.)

UrbanDetritus

A few years ago I invested in a pair of handmade Christms stockings, and I love to get them out each year. These aren’t the ones I have, but the selection at Urban Detritus are just as gorgeous, as are the small, handmade gifts, like this pretty pin cushin.

mitt

I love utilitarian items made pretty, and these Pasque Flower oven mitts will come in handy year round, while taking the Christmas turkey out of the oven next week and next summer, grilling burgers.

wreath

You’d still have a few weeks left to give one of these gorgeous Ball Wreaths as a housewarming or hostess holiday gift. And the beauty of it is they’ll be just as shiny and pretty next season.

toddsties

Ok, this is awesome. Handmade bow ties! Enough said. Find them at the simply named Todd’s Ties.

hines

Well-designed underthings are worth investing in, or gifting, and I love the sweet but still sexy vibe of everything designed by Sophie Hines.

shoes

I must not be the only one who loved these little baby moccasins from Belle and the Bear: they’re nearly sold out. Get your hands on the gold pair, above, for your favorite baby’s stocking stuffer.

pillowAnd finally, a touch of snazzy home decor from the Designer Pillow Shop. There’s lost more geometric, colorful goodness where these came from. A pop from one of these designs would make even the dowdiest couch come alive.

Happy holidays, until next year.

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