What Makes a Great Brunch?

Thursday evening we hosted a casual dinner for friends. Chicken wings, baked beans, potato salad… we opted for Kofta instead of burgers and we added a Tabbouleh just because we could. It was a reunion of friends who had not been together for a while so when the evening ended, Barbara said, “If everyone is free on Friday why don’t we continue all this conversation over brunch? I’ve got some eggs and bacon, and I think there is some fruit in the fridge.” This worked for us and our out-of-towners didn’t have any obligations till that evening. We volunteered to pick up some cinnamon bread and so it was set.

When we arrived the next morning the wonderful aroma of bacon greeted us. But that was only a hint of the delightful meal awaiting us. When my friend said she had some eggs, I was expecting some scrambled eggs but instead we had a wonderful Egg Bake.

Egg Bake a la Barbara

Then there was the fabulous oven-fried potatoes (white and sweets), bacon and fruit. The Raisin, Walnut, Cinnamon bread we brought fit right in and it tasted great with the Cloudberry Preserves from our Bellingham friends.

White and Sweet potatoes

BACON!!

Strawberries, oranges …sorry, this was taken before the blueberries were added.

Raisin, Walnut, Cinnamon Bread from Uncle Mike’s Bakery

Cloudberry Preserves

This was  accompanied by coffee. The food was all wonderful but you know what really makes a great brunch? The people you share it with. Here we are in deep conversation about the issues of the day or maybe it was just a discussion about the latest Scandinavian Noir mystery series we watched on Netflix?

The Brunch Bunch minus the photographer.

Below is the recipe for the Egg Bake. So simple yet sooo good.

Egg Bake a la Barbara (feeds 6 – 8 hungry people)

11 large eggs
1 cup milk ( 2% is fine)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper, to taste
1 1/2 Cups White Sharp Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

•  Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 2 quart shallow baking dish ( about 2″ deep)
•  Whisk together the eggs, milk, S&P, and Cayenne till smooth, then whisk in the
cheese
•  Pour mixture into baking dish. Bake until puffed and golden, and the eggs are set.
Check at 20 minutes. Time seems to vary 20-25 minutes.

A very versatile recipe. You can try it with fresh herbs or different cheeses. Makes a great presentation for your guests if you can time it to come out of the oven just before everyone is seated.

 

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Honor the Source

We have a dear friend, Kenn, who grew up a hunter in Northeastern Wisconsin. He long ago moved to Washington State but returns almost every fall to hunt for deer with his son and other relatives. Some years the hunt is better than others. Those years, when he is lucky, we are gifted with a piece of venison. This year Kenn appeared at our door on Thanksgiving day with a piece of loin, a prime cut.

The loin was about 1-1/2# and as beautiful a piece of meat as you could want. But what to do with it? I felt that however I prepared it, I should take care to honor the source – both the animal and my friend, the hunter.

A pound and a half of venison loin is pure meat. Aside from the silverskin, there is no loss to trimming. A pound and a half is also too much meat for two people to eat at one sitting. What ever I did would have to take into account the inevitable left-overs in an equally respectful manner.

This is the tale of the first meal from the loin. The two subsequent meals gleaned from the leftovers follow here;

Honor the Source; Thai Venison Salad
Honor the Source; Venison Potato Salad with Garlicky Dressing

Venison loin. Honor the animal. Honor the hunter.

I don’t get to cook venison very often and am always hesitant in doing so for fear of ruining it. It’s not like I can just go down to the grocery and pick up another loin if I screw this one up.  So it’s taken me from Thanksgiving until March to work up the courage and confidence to tackle this.  My plan was to cook the whole loin in the first pass in such a way as to leave myself some leeway in dealing with the rest in the second and third meals.  Rather than roast the loin whole, I cut it into thick medallions as a form of portion control (remember, there’s supposed to be left-overs).  To season the meat I chose a rub that promised to enhance the flavor of the meat without overwhelming it and without limiting too much what I could do with the remaining meat.

Pan Roasted Venison Medallions with Smoky Chipotle Rub

2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 Tbs. smoked paprika
1 Tbs. sea salt
1 tsp. chipotle chile pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2# venison loin, cut into 6 portions
1 Tbs. duck fat

Mix the dry ingredients and coat the venison medallions well on both sides.  Set aside to rest for several minutes

Coat the venison medallions with smoky chipotle rub

Preheat a well seasoned cast iron skillet to near smoking.  Add the duck fat and tip the skillet to coat the bottom.

Sear the venison in a HOT cast iron pan

Quickly add the venison medallions, spacing them evenly in the pan.  DO NOT MOVE THEM AROUND.

Turn once a nice crust has developed

Leave them sear for 4 or 5 minutes to let a crust develop.  Turn each medallion over and continue to saute for an additional 4 – 5 minutes or until done to your liking – I was shooting for medium-rare.

 

Oops. I always get carried away and forget to take a picture of the finished dish until I’ve eaten half of it.

Remove the venison to a serving plate and let rest 5 minutes.  Serve with a vegetable and a starch of you choosing.  I chose crudites (cucumber, radish and carrot) with a lime dipping salt (2 pts. sea salt, 2 pts. sugar, 1 pt. lime zest – mix well) and purgatory beans cooked grandma style with sage and bay.

When done well, a small piece of venison is satisfying and I hope I was respectful of the animal that provided it and to the hunter who gifted it to us.  Thank you Kenn.

Plan in Place, Dinner Party in Action

Dessert cakes were done the day before. Morning of dinner, butterscotch sauce was made. Corn soup with Indian spices finished before noon. Brioche pudding in oven.

By 1:00 PM we had a strong start on what would be five courses. Guests were due in five hours.

I am sorry to say actual pictures will be few since we got so caught up in cooking and greeting and serving that the camera was forgotten. So I will use some pictures from the cookbooks. Our food looked exactly the same (smile).

The appetizers are pretty self-explanatory. Suffice to say once we decided on the Chicken Livers with Sherry Glaze we found a ton of recipes on the web. It was more common than we thought. So just Google it. Once guests arrived we quick grilled them and the Pears and Prosciutto.

Dinner began with Corn Soup w/ Indian Spices from David Tanis Market Cooking. The spices included garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin, black mustard seed and cayenne. It had a wonderful tang over the creamy corn flavor. It may be the first time we’ve done a soup puree but it turned out quite nice. A tablespoon of whole milk yogurt and some chives topped it off. The yogurt in the photo seems to have cayenne in it.

photo from David Tanis Market Cooking

The Fennel, Radish and Mushroom Salad was from the same book. The lemon/olive oil dressing had been made ahead and the vegetables were all cut so it was any easy job to combine, plate and serve. We used watermelon radishes which looked so nice with the pale fennel and mushrooms.The main course was from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Nopi. The original recipe was Chicken Supremes with Roasted Garlic and Tarragon Brioche Pudding. We substituted duck breast. Because the brioche pudding is so different from anything we have made before I am including the recipe here. If our guests read this I think the ingredients may surprise them. It is very rich.

Tarragon Brioche Pudding

2 heads garlic
1/4 C olive oil
4 eggs
1 1/4 C heavy cream
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp grd cinnamon
1/2 oz. finely chopped fresh tarragon
2 tsp unsalted butter, melted
14 oz. crustless brioche loaf, trimmed and cut into slices
Sea salt and Black pepper

Cut off the tops of the garlic cloves, place on a square of foil. Drizzle w/ 2 Tbls olive oil, sprinkle w/ salt, wrap up the bundle and roast for 35 minutes. Once done and cool to the touch, squeeze out the insides of the garlic and crush to a fine paste.

Place the eggs in a bowl and whisk. Add cream, nutmeg, cinnamon and tarragon with 1 tsp salt and a grind of pepper. Put aside.

Lightly grease a 9″ x 4″ loaf plan with butter and line with parchment paper. Brush a bit more butter on the paper then layer the bottom with brioche bread. Spread half of the garlic puree on top and pour over a third of the cream mixture. Another layer of bread, pushed down so it gets soaked in the cream. Then spread the rest of the garlic, pour another third of the cream and top with the last layer of bread. Finish with the remainder of the cream. Lightly press down and set aside for 30 minutes.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes at 425 degrees. Should be brown on top and a knife inserted should come out clean. Once it is cooled and removed from pan it looks like this.Cut off the end edges and slice into six pieces. Just before serving, fry the slices in a bit of olive oil over a medium heat. Here is what it looks like when served with the duck and the peas & tarragon au jus.

Brioche Pudding: photo from Nopi by Yotam Ottolenghi

It was yummy but alas the recipe serves six so there were no leftovers.

After some time of talk and laughter and wine we served dessert which was described as Sticky Toffee Puddings but in reality looked like little cupcakes with butterscotch sauce and whipped cream on top. They didn’t look great but tasted good.

So with thoughts of an early Spring I had daffodils and green napkins and a floral runner on the table. (My hopes were high but as I write this, two days later, rain turning to sleet and ice is carrying on outside.) It doesn’t matter the dinner was a success.

Afterward: It only took us till noon the next day to clean up. But being exhausted we did sleep in a bit. However it is always a high doing it and we hope your next gathering is as fun. Bon Appétit!

Dinner Party Prep or A Month of “How about this?”

We are planning a dinner party. Yes, we have done it before, many times, but it is always the same craziness and seemingly endless decision-making. The problem lies in the attitude of the two hosts. Me, who wants everything decided and organized at least a week (2 weeks would be ideal) before guests arrive and He, who says we have a whole week yet before guests arrive. Now you may think that this is because He doesn’t do the actual cooking but He is the main Chef. I’m the time, date, invitations, house cleaning, table setting and dessert person. In other words, Management.

All of this starts at least a month before the actual event. Once we settle on who we wish to invite, the dance of dates begins. We are retired but not everyone we invite is retired and everyone, whether retired or not, has a million other things they are involved in. So at least 6 dates are emailed out to guests before an actual invitation is sent and, fingers crossed, at least one works. That is the easy part. Now, what to serve?

We do a lot of talking and suggesting and mulling but finally a day comes when the cookbooks come out and a decision on the main course must be made. Once an agreement is reached, another afternoon is needed for h’ordeuvres, salad or soup or both and dessert. This time I got things started by suggesting a chicken dish we had a couple of months ago but neither of us really could remember where it came from so I just started going through some books and marking other possibilities. Most of my suggestions get rejected…but he doing the cooking so that’s OKAY, at least we’ve started looking. However this usually gets him to mark a variety of dishes and together we whittle this down to the MAIN. This time Yotem Ottolenghi’s cookbook Nopi, was the winner. (that’s it on top of the post). A day later He called an audible and substituted duck for the chicken.

NOPI -Yotem Ottolenghi

I had already found a dessert, like three weeks ago, so we were set there. He rarely questions the dessert choice and even after throwing out a few other ideas we both went back to my original dessert. This came from the Fall 2017 issue of Sift magazine.

After a lot of dancing around other course ideas for awhile, yesterday, a week before the dinner, the cookbooks came out and decisions were made.Even Martha was consulted, but she didn’t make the cut.The winners eventually were NOPI: main, DAVID TANIS MARKET COOKING: soup, PLENTY: salad, SIFT: dessert and a surprise entry, Mallmann ON FIRE: appetizer. Francis Mallmann is a culinary pyromaniac from South America. We will modify his recipe since he usually specializes in large portions.

pears and prosciutto

So now the store list gets made, I start attacking the house clutter, tableware is chosen and a plan of action for cooking day is developed. Hey, we’ve got a whole week. Ultimately it is all about food and friends and we enjoy every minute.

PS: Post dinner I will write about our successes and near misses.

An End and a Beginning with Art

It is no secret that Curt and I appreciate art and have created much of our own. We also have been gifted art, we have traded for art and we have purchased art. The art we buy will probably never appreciate enough that you would call it an investment but we don’t buy art to make money. We buy it because it makes us happy. We enjoy looking at it. There are very few walls in our house that do not have a piece of art on them or, in the case of sculpture, in front of them.

For awhile I have been admiring the work of a Wisconsin Plein Air artist by the name of Steve Wysocki. Steve lives in Northern Wisconsin in a town called Armstrong Creek. He is a tireless painter. He recently posted pictures on Facebook of him painting on a frozen lake while ice fishing with his son. The guy can’t stop. And when he isn’t painting he is working on the family ranch, The Armstrong Creek Bison Company. If you look through his body of work you will immediately notice the influence the bison have on him. Now I mentioned that Steve is a Plein Air painter, well Plain Air is a French term meaning “open air” that refers to creating a work of art outside. It literally means the artist has his palette and canvas and easel and paints outside and he is literally painting what he or she is looking at, they are not just outside. Once again, when you look at Steve’s work I think you will understand.

Last summer I saw one of his works on a Facebook page and I was immediately drawn to it. I inquired about the painting but at the time I just couldn’t justify the cost no matter how much I liked it. Time passed, I scanned Steve’s online gallery, good work but nothing clicked. Then that painting I loved was accepted into the Northern National Art Competition at Nicolet College in Rhinelander, WI. You may be saying, so what, but not so fast. This show has a National reputation and hundreds of artists enter every year for inclusion in the show. More than $8500 in awards is given out, including three $1000 awards of excellence. I thought for sure someone would snap it up. By now I was in communication with the artist so when I found out the painting had not sold at the exhibit (whew!) I showed it to my husband and asked him what he thought. He also liked it a lot and Christmas was coming. These days It is hard to buy gifts for each other so we decided to make Steve an offer and maybe, just maybe, this would be our Christmas gift.To make a long story short this great crow now lives with us. This was our last new art for 2017. And perfect for a couple of bird watchers.

“Flight” by Stephen Wysocki 16″ x 20″

Just a note to say this one is not Plein Air. Steve can’t paint that fast but his website said this image came from a trail camera he had set up.

The first piece of 2018 came as a surprise gift. I have a high school friend that I have reconnected with on Facebook recently. We graduated in 1967 so it has been a long time and in school we were probably acquaintances at best. We ran in different circles. But that’s the miracle of FB sometimes. I’m not going to go into the convoluted way how Rich and I found each other but since he has retired from a tech industry job he has been deeply involved in his first love, photography. Lots of great nature work, textures and occasionally a bird or two. Whenever a bird would show up in his lens he would send me a note asking, ‘what is this bird?’ And I or Curt would give him an educated guess (some were pure guesses, others were definite IDs depending on the photo). Over the last couple of years Rich would post pictures of his serious work and for a short time he had a shop on Etsy. Now I believe you have to visit his business FB page, Image with Vision, Inc., for information on him and his work. Worth a look. He lives in Chicago but on the far east side, almost in Indiana, so he does a lot of shooting at Wolf Lake and the Indiana Dunes State Park. Yes, even in the winter. Also a recent trip to Alaska has provided some inspired shots. Last week I received a cryptic message from Rich saying I should watch the mail. This is what arrived.

Corrugated Iron Ice #3-Wolf Lake , 10″x 6.625″ photograph by Richard Ackerman

It is a photo I had admired on his page. The simplicity and the color just drew me in. He sent it along as a thank you for all the bird identification and the support I have sent along to him in his new found love. Can’t wait to get it framed.  So this was the new art that began our journey into 2018. Hope your year is filled with art and images that make your life richer.

Where Does the Time Go?

End of May we got together with an old friend. He lives in Maryland but was going to be in Wisconsin for a funeral. I estimate it has been over 30 years since we have all seen each other face to face.

We met Jon, and at that time, his wife Molly, when we were in graduate school at Northern Illinois University. Curt was a Graduate student in Ceramics and Jon was one of his ceramics professors. The unusual part was Jon and Curt were the same age, separated by 25 days, Curt being the older. A friendship and a mutual respect developed between the two of them. I got to know Molly better and the four of us became friends. Once we graduated, we left Illinois. There was no email then, no Facebook so  but kept in contact with each other through letters and Christmas cards. Jon and Molly visited us once in Green Bay and we visited them once in Maryland.

Then: Curt and Jon

But over the years the cards and letters got fewer, life happened, as it does, and we lost track of each other. A few years ago I found Jon (or he found me) on Facebook. Our mutual interest in birds, love of food and Jon’s connection to Wisconsin (he was born here) brought us together. He was going to be in LaCrosse in May and then planned on doing some camping in Door County, so we knew this was the time to rekindle an old friendship. In the intervening years there has been homes in 5 states, 3 children raised (He-2, Us-1), careers built, a divorce, less hair, gray acquired and a couple of retirements. But here we were again eating and talking and laughing.

Now: Curt and Jon

Funny thing with good friends, the conversation picked up like we just saw each other yesterday. And with that many years gone by we had a lot of catching up to do.

Peru comes to NE Wisconsin: Pisco Mar

Back in November, our friend Carol shared a newspaper clipping with us about a new Peruvian restaurant opening in Appleton (WI), a nearby city. Always on the lookout for new culinary adventures this was a possible contender. My first impression was that there was lots of fish, not my favorite. But we all agreed that maybe we should give it a chance sometime. Then the article got shuffled into a pile of papers and was moved and kicked around until last week when we and our friend planned a trip down to Appleton (about 45 minutes away) for a museum exhibit. Carol said, Why don’t we go later in the afternoon and then try that Peruvian restaurant for dinner? So destination ‘Pisco Mar’ was on.

First impressions were good. It was nicely decorated, warm colors, Peruvian art on the walls. Good variety of seating and even some outdoor tables.

Pisco Mar, outside and inside

After ordering drinks (pisco sours) we perused the menu. Lots of appetizers, small plates and main courses. In order to maximize our first time here we all decided it was going to be a dinner of sharing from the first two sections. If all was good we would try main entrees on the next visit.

So first choices were Crab Cakes w/baby arugula aji aioli, rocoto sauce and Beef Carpaccio w/ lemon vinaigrette, baby arugula capers, shaved Parmesan.
Both were excellent. The two Crab Cakes were softer than I like but the flavor was very good. Rocoto is a red chili pepper that is a staple in Peruvian cuisine. The sauce is a combination of a paste from these peppers combined with mayo, lime, vinegar and dry mustard. I loved the Carpaccio, beef sliced super thin. Frankly I was sorry I had to share this one.

While we were enjoying these and deciding what to order next our waitress brought a complimentary bowl of crispy homemade potato chips with a chili mayo dip to the table. She said they were from blue potatoes that are white inside. Really good.
Feeling the need for some greens we ordered a Kale Salad. Quite nice with radishes, cherry tomatoes, avocado, shaved Parmesan and pine nuts tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. It was a pretty large bowl, easily shared by three, or four. Pictured is just a serving on my plate.After more discussion we decided to go with two more dishes, Peruvian Ceviche Mixto (fish, shrimp, octopus, scallops) and Empanadas Criollas. The Ceviche came with plaintain chips (very tasty) and large corn (interesting). This was a huge plate of food and could have served as a main. Maybe all three of us could have finished it but since I am not a fan of octopus or fish there was some leftover. Carol and Curt liked it, there was just too much after already having four previous small plates. Empanadas are a puff pastry with a filling; we went with ground beef. These came with a chimichurri sauce. The pastry was a bit soft but at the same time very flaky. with very nice preparation and an interesting combination of flavors.

By now we were pretty full so when our waitress arrived with the dessert menu I was ready to pass. Just coffee please. But Carol wanted to try it all and thought we should have dessert just so we could make a full report on the dining experience. One order of Doughnuts please.

Ping pong ball sized doughnut holes, light and fluffy inside, vanilla sugar coated on the outside and served with Peruvian sweet cream.

There were six and yes, I ate two and loved the sweet cream as well. My advice, leave room for dessert.

Before I end, just a little background on the co-owners. Laura Saintgoers has previously operated restaurants for 11 years in Appleton and Miami. While in Miami she met and joined up with Hugo Torres, a native of Honduras, who spent five years learning and cooking Peruvian cuisine under a chef from Peru. Lucky for us they decided to come up to Wisconsin instead of trying to insert themselves into the overcrowded restaurant scene in Miami.

Here is a peek at the main entrees on the menu. We definitely want to go back. Want to join us?

 

BFFs

Last week I spent three fabulous days with two dear, dear friends from high school  (graduation: June 1967). We have been getting together on and off over the years either going out to Colorado to where Lynn lives or up here in Wisconsin with me or to Arlington Heights in Illinois, Audrey’s stomping ground. Last year we got together in Santa Fe, New Mexico and vowed that we would not let years go by before getting together.

Reason 1) We ain’t getting any younger.

Reason 2) We heard about the untimely death of one of our former friends.

Granted we had lost touch with Sue but it still was a shock to hear of her death in a car accident. In high school we used to be a “group” of five but Marie left us very early from a severe health issue. Then we were all working on marriage and kids and everything else that comes with life so we hadn’t even started to think about our mortality or getting together to celebrate old times, since those times weren’t that far in the past.

But hold on, this wasn’t supposed to get so maudlin. This year was our 2nd consecutive gathering and I was not going to miss it no matter what. That meant hobbling around on my arthritis riddled knees (coming up this fall: knee replacement ). So with drugs and a knee sleeve, I made it. Of course my besties sure made it easy. We held back on the walking (the tram around the Chicago Botanical Garden was great) and Audrey even had a small stool for getting into the back seat of the van. However the bag of frozen carrots I iced my knee with in the evenings might never be the same. The rest of the time we talked and ate, and laughed and drank, and talked and ate some more. Another year, solving all the problems in the world. We’ve all had our trials and tribulations, our health issues and setbacks, our joys and celebrations. It was good to share them. So I am ending here with some pictures that I know Audrey is going to kill me for posting. I subscribed her to my blog last week but I think I heard her say something about not wanting to see herself on it. Close your eyes Aud!!

Then: circa 1967. Looks like Aud and Lynn went to the same hair salon. Hmm, so that's what they did on those weekend outings without me.

Then: circa 1967. Looks like Aud and Lynn went to the same hair salon. Hmm, so that’s what they did on those weekend outings without me.

Now: circa 2016. Looks about the same to me except Aud and I have exchanged smiles.

Now: circa 2016. Looks about the same to me except Aud and I have exchanged smiles. (from left – Jeanne, Audrey, Lynn)

Sturdy and Fuzzy go Birding

sf7Recently we were together with friends who had just returned from a trip to Florida. While there they had seen some unusual birds. Well unusual for Wisconsinites but quite normal for Floridians. One they already had identified as an American Oystercatcher. A cool bird to see. After some description and explanation we determined that the other bird had been an Avocet. Another fine bird to see. Our friends said while they were there a group of birders had also gathered to view the birds. They knew they were birders because the men all had facial hair and outdoor vests or L.L. Bean jackets and the women, dressed similarly, were sturdy.

Guys with facial hair? Sure. Sturdy women? Hmm, should I take offense? I took some pictures of the people watching the birds on some of our trips. You be the judge.

sf4SF3SF8sf5SFsf6I don’t know. Do you see any hairy guys or sturdy women? Well maybe. Below is a picture of us and our friends taken about five years ago. Can you tell which are the birders? I guess Curt is kind of fuzzy and I am much more sturdy than Barbara. Or maybe the binoculars gave us away?

heuerslukens

 

 

Oh, What a Night!

Last night was almost surreal, or maybe I was hallucinating but a little “sort of surprise” retirement party took a lot of interesting turns. If I was Alice I might have thought I was sliding into the rabbit hole but no, we were at a new restaurant, to us, called THREE THREE FIVE. Seems it has been here in Green Bay for almost six years and we vaguely knew of it but had never been there. Fine foodies we are. Anyway this all started because a dear friend of ours is officially retiring from a fine academic career and we, Curt and I, and three other of her friends wanted to celebrate this milestone. We were initially called by Sid who proposed this outing. We readily agreed and the planning began. This particular restaurant was her first choice but they are a bit unusual as they are only open on Wednesdays to the general public. The rest of the time they host private parties, cooking classes and corporate gatherings. They tout themselves as an upscale private dining studio. Also they only take reservations a week ahead so on the off-chance we could not get a booking, Sid put an alternate plan in motion. She reserved us a table at Cafe Chanson, a local restaurant featuring French cuisine. If we couldn’t get THREE THREE FIVE, Cafe Chanson was a lock.

THREE I THREE I FIVE with Christmas lights reflected in window

THREE THREE FIVE with Christmas lights reflected in window

Fortunately she was able to get us a table and our guest of honor promised to hold the date open. We weren’t telling where we were going just that Curt and I were picking her up at 5:40pm. No dancing shoes required but bring your appetite.

When we entered the dining room we immediately saw two other friends and former colleagues from the University who had retired a few years earlier. They are great foodies and it wasn’t surprising that they had discovered this restaurant and were regular diners. They, of course, had a seat at the counter which overlooked the kitchen and the food prep. We greeted them and asked about the food, needless to say they gave it a vigorous thumbs up.

Once seated we got caught up in the atmosphere and the menu, which was printed on origami paper and had extremely small type. This group does not have young eyes and this was REALLY SMALL type and the lighting was dim. We muddled through but Ginny dug out her magnifying glass. The theme of tonight’s menu was the chef’s interpretation of Japanese cuisine.  We discovered later that each Wednesday is different and some evenings the menu has twice as many choices. Tonight happened to be Asian.

Origami Paper Menu

Origami Paper Menu

Three Three Five menu 1/6/16

THREE THREE FIVE menu 1/6/16

Once we started ordering I didn’t think of taking pictures of the food but this being a special occasion, it really wouldn’t have been appropriate. Some of us just wanted to graze on starters while three of us went directly for the Tonkatsu Ramen. Between the 6 of us we ended up trying everything except the Bread & Butter and the Steamed Bun (which we saw on another table and it looked great).

Now is when some of the special things happened. The chef arrived at our table saying this must be a special occasion because a couple at the bar wanted to buy us a bottle of wine or two bottles or cocktails. Well of course it was the friends I mentioned earlier. We went with a bottle of champagne (and asked him not to break the bank with his choice.) He chose well, not too dry, not too sweet.

After a few more plates were brought to the table, the chef sent an order of sablefish with his compliments. Okay here is the second weird thing this night. If you read us regularly, you know I don’t eat fish. I can’t even get it near my mouth. But Carol, after tasting the sablefish said I had to try this. It didn’t taste fishy. I would like it! All right, for the guest of honor, I would try. it. I am embarrassed to admit, I liked it. It was almost buttery. And…I had a second piece. Whoa! we were definitely down the rabbit hole.

As we ate and observed the other diners, we started to recognize people we knew but were not acquainted with, like the new director of the public library. He started after I retired so I was a stranger to him. Also one of our local sports stars, Jordy Nelson, from the Green Bay Packers. He is on the injured list so obviously can go out for a nice dinner instead of sweating it out somewhere preparing for this weekend’s playoff game.

As to the food… the Tonkatsu Ramen was amazing. Fabulous broth, mushrooms, slices of super tender pork belly and a perfectly cooked egg with a firmly set white and a totally runny yolk inside. We were so impressed with the egg that we asked the chef for details on how he accomplished that trick.

Curt pronounced the oysters good even if there was too much granita on top.The Wagyu Beef Dumplings were fabulous. Sid and Carol gave us some little tastes but kept the majority for themselves; they were really almost too good to share. The only real disappointment was the Chilled Foie Gras…lots of Riesling gel, lots of ground pine nuts, slices of lychee but if there was foie gras in there, Ginny couldn’t find it. The rest of us looked too. Maybe they waved it over the plate before bringing it to the table.  But that was a minor blip in the evening.

The major surprise came at the very end when we asked for our check and was told, “your bill has been taken care of.”. What?  No way. Our friends again.  Where are those two?  Gone.  Of course, the waitress wouldn’t tell us what it came to so we might tip her appropriately and we couldn’t thank our benefactors. So one of us asked if THREE THREE FIVE had gift certificates. They did, so we left a $100 certificate for our generous friends and an additional tip for the waitress. Next time our friends come in, it will be their turn for a surprise.

Like I said, What a Night!