Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Take on Restaurant Week 2010: Lots of Eating and Pictures

It's Restaurant Week once again here in Madison, WI! I've never participated in any of the Restaurant Weeks in the years I've lived here, and I have to say, I'm sorry I've missed it for this long. I think the idea of making a whole week-long event out of eating is just fantastic. Yes, yes, I know this also happens every time I go visit my family in Chicago, specifically the week of Thanksgiving, the week of Christmas, the weekend of July 4th, Superbowl Sunday, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, Fridays, Saturdays, weekends in conclusion, we eat a lot. But I think when you live in one city for a long time, you keep going to your old favorites and forget about trying new things. And then it's Restaurant Week, and you have a reason to try new places! The restaurants offer a $25 3-course meal, and some offer a cheaper lunch option. Most of these are places I wouldn't regularly go to because of the high prices, so there you go! Everybody wins!

I hit up one lunch place and two dinner places this week. And dudes, I am full. Maybe permanently. Or at least until a beautifully layered sandwich comes my way. Check out the delicious food! Disclaimer: these are not reviews of the restaurants. Similarly to my non-review of Carmen, this is just my experience. And some hot ass pictures of food.

I started with lunch at the Ocean Grill. As many of you know, I hate seafood. I think it actually even made it on to my shit list! But, I have started liking some fish. Mostly the lighter, non-fishy fare. So, although the Ocean Grill would not be somewhere I'd usually go, it was a successful outing! Pictured below are the meals of myself and companions:

Roasted tomato and shrimp bisque

House salad of mixed greens, chèvre, brazil nuts, vidalia onions, blueberry vinaigrette

Grilled Ahi Tacos - rare ahi tuna, pineapple-mango salsa

Almond crusted tilapia with green beans, citrus brown butter

Sorbet with fresh fruit

And, one special feature about the restaurant itself: even the cutlery is fish themed!

My first of two dinners was at La Brioche, one of my favorite breakfast places in town. I actually wasn't even aware that they served dinner until one of my co-workers told me he played piano there on Friday and Saturday nights. I'd recommend going, especially on a date! How romantic - tasty, lovely food in a warm, homey atmosphere, accompanied by beautiful piano music in the background? Perfect!

I had three companions with me for this outing, and we did a pretty amazing job of covering the entire Restaurant Week menu. In fact, we got every item possible except for one. Good job, everybody!

Spicy chickpea cake served with organic arugula salad with orange cumin vinaigrette

Organic local winter spinach salad from Richland Center with roasted beets, pepperchini, fried leeks & Maytag blue cheese

Mushroom ragoût layered with assorted vegetables served with housemade celery root chips

Free range smoked chicken from Pecatonica Farms, served with root vegetable gratin, homemade applesauce with dried cherries & a maple infused braise reduction

Grilled organic pork chop from Lange Farms with sweet potatoes, spiced apples & a golden raisin broth

Apple and cranberry cobbler served with housemade toasted walnut cinnamon gelato

Brioche bread pudding served with roasted chestnuts, molasses cream & a sweet rum glaze

Chocolate intensity cake with rich fudge frosting, served with fresh whipped cream

And my favorite feature of this restaurant - the best wallpaper in town!

My second dinner was a sort of funny one. My friend and I had picked The Mariner's Inn on sort of a whim; I'd never been, my companion loves seafood, and the website looked hilarious. Yes, we did have to wait quite awhile although we'd made a reservation, but whatever, the company was awesome. And, I gotta say, the food was worth it. And the atmosphere was way, way, way more than worth it. And, it was a zillion times worth it when I ordered a dirty martini, which I'd sort of forgotten about. Oh my god, I love dirty martinis so much!

Now, I bet you're probably wondering about this place. And I can answer all of your potential questions in the following sentence: Yes. This is the place from which the Betty Lou Cruises (Madison's Premier Cruise Line!) take off. Awesome. Just awesome. Anyhow, on to the food...

The famous clam chowder

Mixed greens with glazed pecans, dried cherries & bleu cheese dressed with maple balsamic

Classic Surf and Turf combo: an 8 oz. center cut top sirloin paired with a succulent 6 oz. lobster tail

Macadamia encrusted chicken: a tender breast of chicken set atop a pool of raspberry chambord sauce & topped with mango salsa

Chocolate decadence cake

Betty's cheesecake with Door County cherry sauce

Now I'm sure you're wondering to yourself, "where in the world is the Mariner's Inn?" Good thing I took a picture of the map! It's right there, where the big arrow is pointing. Those grease spots are to scale.

I bet you're also wondering where my "favorite feature of the restaurant" is. Well, my friends, I have to be honest. The decor of this place was so great that I couldn't pick just one favorite. How would one even begin to narrow down from the following brilliant selection of items?

Like the porthole through which you could view a very realistic ship...

...or the aptly named Captains Quarters, which could have been anything from an office to a private dining room to a broom closet. What's behind this door, we'll never know. Only the captain knows these kinds of secrets.

Oh wait! Remember this olde-timey diving mask? It was sitting on the bar next to a half-drunk vodka in a plastic cup, just like in the olden days. Now that's classy.

See that lady? That lady used to be on the front of the ship, I bet. And the wavy-shaped white thing on the left side of this picture is a big ole set of jaws. From some kind of vicious shark, I assume.

Wait! My favorite part has got to be the bathroom doors, on which was written "Buoys" and "Gulls." Okay, this is brilliant. Buoys and Gulls, get it? GET IT?! How could anything beat this brilliance? Also, when any Simpsons reference is found in the real world, that's really exciting. Yeah, I think this might be my favorite thing.

So, that was restaurant week! I should probably end with some kind of awesome exclamation like "Well, my wallet is empty, but my stomach is fuller than it's ever been!!! Right, gals?!"

I mean, right? RIGHT GALS?!


Lauren said...

Man. I'm hungry now. Mariner's Inn looks incredible. But I think my favorite dish is the mushroom ragout. And the chocolate cake. Both chocolate cakes actually. Send me your doggy bag.

jx said...

OMG GALS! You HAVE to read this BLOG! My girlfriend Reem is such a HOOT! I mean, seriously. You'll just EAT HER UP!

We ended up going to Lombardino's last night. It was delicious and we saw 2 tables of people we knew. How delightful. People we know, know where it's at, basically. I bet you saw tons of familiar faces at Mariner's Inn.

I will have to go get that cherry cheesecake, though. Totally serious. I know it's kind of a gals thing (think cheesecake in the freezer at all times on the Golden Girls). But I mean it.

syb said...

I should have read this after I ate dinner. Leftover mac n cheese just isn't going to cut it now. I also wish I had the ca$h and the time to do NYC restaurant week --

oh that's it - you need to visit here during a NYC restaurant week! I think $25 is the lunch price, but I've gone to some really excellent places.

Thanks girl!

SophisticatedBrew said...

Wow. I'm impressed with all the fanciness. "Reductions?" "Fancy Cheese Names?" "Surf N Turf?"

But seriously, good job. And I'm so impressed you might sometimes eat seafood now???

Reem Tara said...

Sarah - no seafood, just fish once in awhile. The "Surf" part was all Lynn, as was the clam chowder.

Jess - "hoot" and "eat her up"?!?!?! You are brilliant!

jx said...

oh - forgot one more thing -
the grease spots are to scale? SO funny, reem!

Anonymous said...

great ...........................................................

烤肉 said...

Drive carefully. It is not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker.............................................

Genia the Queenia said...

mmmm, will you ever go to Ocean's with me sometime? I mean, you made the food look so good! Nice photos...all these restaurants should pay you by the way!