Riverhouse Inn, Williamston, Mi

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Chris and I enjoyed a lovely riverside dinner at Riverhouse Inn in Williamston on the last weekend in August. Hopefully we’ll have another chance for such a nice meal al fresco before fall truly sets in.

I started two new classes today and unlike previous quarters, I haven’t done any reading yet. My first bit of home work is due Thursday, in both classes, we’ve been out of town since last Thursday, my google reader is overflwoing and ditto for my inbox, our fridge is both empty or full of ‘stuff’, depending on how you look at it and this weekend is our first wedding anniversary (!!) so I’m probably gonna have to pull out some kind of romantic meal at some point (we are going to an old favorite w/ special meaning for the official celebration).

This post is mostly pictures. 

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Bread is served with flavored olive oil. Yes, that is a giant mound of garlic in the center. You can use as much or as little as you like. We used most of it.

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Chris had the butternut squash ravioli with a sweet, maple cream sauce and pecans. It was yummy and as you can see, I had to get my pics quick before he started chowing down.

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I had a hard time choosing but a craving for ‘green’ and crunchy’ led me to the Caesar salad with added chicken.  The salad includes anchovies but whole ones so I just set those off to the side.

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Chris’s dinner came with a side salad and he decided to get two dressings, one for me to try (he’d sampled on a previous visit) and one new one. On your left is the avocado ranch and the right is raspberry vinaigrette, both house-made.  I like green in all things (see above and my closet) but also the raspberry was bit sweet for my tastes.

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We actually had this first but I saved it for last because it was the best part of the meal. Two bruschetta options are offered, one with hummus, the other more traditional. Chris dislikes hummus (sigh) so we ordered this one. It was delicious though so I will forgive him.

With goat cheese and balsamic glaze:

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Riverhouse Inn

http://www.riverhouseinn.org/Index.html

Menus available at the above website though not identical to the ones we had. Chris says they also make a good steak as went there for lunch while I was out of town a few weeks ago.

There are three dining options- indoors, outdoors on the patio, outdoors at picnic tables down by the river. We ‘chose’ option 3 as it was nice out but all the patio seating was reserved. There is also a lovely gazebo for private dining. When we first came in, someone thought we were the party that reserved this gazebo which could have been very awkward later (there was a gift on the table). I may have suggested to Chris that he should take a cue from this when planning our dinner on Sept 11.

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The Buzzard’s Roost; Key Largo, FL

On our first full day in the Keys (12/20), it was time from some fresh seafood!

This is actually my second trip to Buzzard’s Roost. Chris and I went last year when I came down for my first Christmas with his family. I can’t remember what I had last year except that the more I think about it, the more I suspect I ordered the same thing this year.

Buzzard’s Roost has two seating options: a screened enclosure or an open-air section right next to the boat lift. We sat in the screened in area as the service is usually a little better. Buzzard’s Roost is on the ocean side of Key Largo but in a little cove for the marina so the view is mostly boats with a little water in the distance.

While I was washing my hands, Chris ordered drinks (coke products) and an appetizer of Blue Crab Cake for us. The crab cake here is made with local crab and corn then served with a housemade remoulade sauce. I liked the corn addition but I felt like this crab cake was a little heavy on the fillers and not enough on the crab meat. Overall, we agreed that the crab cake from Regatta’s in Lexington was better, thanks in part to the marmalade and also the fried-green tomato.

Chris is a big fan of the chicken salad (on a croissant) here but they also have tuna salad on croissant so he ordered that this time, with potato salad. I, opting to fill my seafood quota, went for the Lobster Reuben. Also satisfies my opulence at lunch quota probably: lobster meat in housemade mango spiked thousand island plus coleslaw on grilled rye. Yum Yum Yum.The Lobster Reuben isn’t on the regular menu but I still keep thinking its what I had last year too. Anyhow, its delicious. I would advise getting a little extra dressing just so you can taste it without the lobster and coleslaw mixed in.

Like most restaurants in the Keys, Buzzards Roost has a catch or catches of the day which can be prepared in a number of ways. They also have an assortment of other typical sandwiches like the chicken wrap. Besides the crab cake, they offer conch fritters and alligator bites on the appetizer menu. There is also a more extensive dinner menu but I’ve only been for lunch so I can’t speak to that.

Service can be a little spotty, especially on drink refills. But, any special requests are always taken care of happily.

Details

Address: 21 Garden Cove Dr, Key Largo, FL

Reviews: Via Google
Website: With menus This site worked last week when I looked at the menu but as of 1/2/09, it was listed as “parked” at GoDaddy.

The Cooks’ House – Traverse City

Okay, I admit. I’ve been holding out on you all. In June, while in Traverse City, Chris and I ate lunch at this little restaurant on the edge of downtown. We’d driven by it coming in to town on Saturday morning then passed it at least a few more times going to and from the ceremony and our wine tasting adventure.

The little striped awning had caught my eye. And the words ‘Cooks’ and ‘House.’ From the street, you couldn’t tell if it was a restaurant or a retail store. Eventually, on Sunday we stopped to at least look at the door. They were closed but I noted the times for Monday- open at 11 for lunch.

Monday, it required dilly-dallying in the hotel until they opened. And it also required repeatedly turning down offers of a little bite of this or that when we met the rest of the family in the hotel restaurant. They were eating breakfast and we’d missed the cut-off. Deliberately but no one seemed to get that. Finally, we could say our good-byes and head over to The Cook’s House, just the two of us. I was very excited based on my quick glance at the menu posted by the door.

It was a little breezy but we opted to sit outside at one of three or four tables scattered across a little greenspace alongside the restaurant. The interior is quite small but we were there so close to 11 that they were not busy yet. I just wanted to enjoy the sunshine.

Our servers (2) were very attentive although sometimes it was a little awkward- the busser didn’t seem to have a strong grasp of English so asking for a new knife took a few tries.

Despite wanting to try everything on the menu, we limited ourselves to one dish each. Chris went for the chicken salad sandwich and I chose Walker’s Pesto Passion. I’m not sure who Walker is but I think I’d like him (her?)! The sandwich is fresh mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and pesto on the lightest bread. It was like a pastry bread. It kind of looked like foccacia but it didn’t taste like it. It had just a hint of sweetness. Maybe like challah but not overly sweet and not heavy. Seriously, good stuff. And the perfect outside to an amazing inside. This mozzarella was chewy and moist without being gummy or too salty. The oil in the pesto wrapped the tomatoes its velvety glove while spreading hints of basil through every bite.

Chris’s chicken salad sandwich was served on whole grain bread that had been grilled. The chicken salad was not like any salad I’d ever seen- it was chunks of chicken with dried cherries and a not-mayo dressing. He kept handing over bits of it so I could try to figure out what was in there. I couldn’t although I’m still guessing some kind of grainy-mustard. EDIT 10/10/08: Chris sandwich was accessorized with pea sprouts. I forgot about that before. They were slightly sweet and definitely a nice change from plain ole lettuce. End Edit I did give up one bite of my sandwich but I was very reluctant to share. And I probably would have stolen half his sandwich if I thought I could have.

Each our sandwiches came with a side salad of mixed greens dressed with a light vinaigrette. The salads had exactly the right amount of dressing. Every piece of lettuce had been touched but not much more than that.

Prior to our sandwiches, we also go a basket of freshly baked breads and butter. Guess what- it was wonderful!

While we waited for our meal, I started looking around the garden. I noticed herbs in one area, some future squash in another and down the stairs at the back of the restaurant, hanging over the river were baskets filled with heirloom tomatoes. As if this food wasn’t delicious enough- most of it was local. In fact, they pride themselves on sourcing locally as much as possible. On their website, you can see a list of suppliers. It seems that Traverse City would be a very good place to live while doing the 100-mile challenge!

I’m writing about this place now because the secret is out. All this time, despite not reviewing the place, I’d had a link to the blog from the chef at The Cooks’ House in my blogroll. I also recommended the place to a fellow blogger and he wrote about his visit (this weekend), here. In light of that also great review, I thought I’d go ahead and share my experience too. It was hard. I really was reluctant to talk about this place because I didn’t want to share. I didn’t want someone to go there, hate it and complain. Because I’d have to smack them. I have eaten in some pretty pricey restaurants in my life. I’ve eaten in places with national reputations. This was just lunch but it was one of the best meals of my life. You could taste the care and respect for food coming from the kitchen. I can’t put this lunch above my dinner at Charlie Trotter’s because that might be sacrilege but until I get my dinner at The French Laundry (in California, not the one in Fenton), lunch at the Cooks’ House will sit at #2.

Details

Websitethe cooks’ house with menus
Address: 439 E. Front Street Traverse City, MI 49686
Hours: Monday through Saturday – Lunch 11:00am-4:30, Dinner 4:30-9:00

The RIGHT wrong turn

I’m on a bit of a blog overload tonight- too much to write about and not enough time to write.

Saturday, Chris and I ended up having quite an adventure. First we went to lunch at Sawyer’s Pancake House. I ordered a turkey burger with avocado and goat cheese. I’ve had this before and really was tempted to get something off the new dinner menu but it was too early for that much food. Chris and I split the Southwest Vegetable Wontons though. They were tasty and obviously homemade. Chris also had the yellowfin tuna sandwich, another new item. He’d eaten one earlier in the week and said its best with lettuce and tomato added. The fries have changed a little bit since my last visit. they were definitely crispier this time, maybe a little bit too crispy. But, I do like the crunchy end pieces so I “suffered’ through it. Dipped in basil mayo, you can’t go wrong anyhow.

After a few errands, we decided to go see a movie, like a lot of other people in this town. Not much else to do on a rainy day, I guess. Narrowing it down to two movies, I made the choice for the black comedy Burn after Reading. The Coen brothers are great and this movie was very typical of them. Brad Pitt, whether you think he’s a hottie or not, played his character perfectly! We had about 45 minutes to kill until the movie started so we wandered over to the Williams-Sonoma store (in Eastwood).

As we walked in the door, Chris said “try not to spend any money.” I replied, “Are you talking to me or yourself?” We wandered around, I fiddled with the gadgets, my favorite section, and wiped my drool off the glass in front of the knife cases. I turn around and who do I see at the cash register? Yep, there is Chris saying “don’t look.” Silly boy was buying a large cookie press “for me”, visions of sugarplums spritz cookies dancing in his head. I pointed out the cool Halloween cookie cutters I’d found and soon enough, we were adding that to the bag.

After the movie, we hop on 127 and I figured we were going home but then Chris stayed left and headed toward 96 Eastbound. Wouldn’t tell me where we were going either. I guessed somewhere in Okemos and that was true originally. But, too busy talking, he missed the exit for Okemos (he was planning to visit Dusty’s Cellar) and the next one isn’t until Williamston. As it happens, this week’s City Pulse had a write-up about a new restaurant in Williamston so I suggested we check it out while we were there.
The Riverhouse Inn was pretty busy and I felt a little underdressed so I just grabbed a menu and added it to our mental “to do” list. As we were driving around trying to find the place (its on Grand River, really very easy except the odd/even sides change depending on if its East or West Grand River), I remembered the D&W Fresh Market. We have shopped at one of these in Grand Rapids and while its not as nice as The Fresh Market (also in GR), they have excellent produce, carry Boarshead deli products and offer good prices on wine. Somewhere recently I had seen an ad for the new Williamston location which was filed away on that mental list. This location is smaller than the one in Grand Rapids, mostly in the deli department. We still found plenty to buy including a few new cheeses to try out (see future post). And there, on the 2nd to bottom shelf, was a label I’ve been looking for since our trip to Minneapolis in July. Idiziabal cheese, the smoky sheep-milk cheese from Spain that goes fantastic on a slice of bread with a pile of turkey. Unfortunately, it was only the label, they were out of stock of the actual cheese. Guess we’ll have to check back in a few weeks.

By the time we left the store, it was full dark and still raining. Again, I thought we were headed for home but just before turning back towards the highway, Chris said we needed to make one more stop. We pull in to a street-side parking spot and he starts walking towards what appears to be a bar or restaurant of some kind.

It wasn’t until we sat down, at the bar, that I found out the name of this place: CB’s Bucket Bar & Grill. Formerly known as the Williamston Bucket, its been re-opened under the new name for about a year after a fire destroyed the original in February 2006. The old version was a more typical bar with tvs and NASCAR memorablia, so I hear. The new version is nicely done up with a wood bar, light green coloring and a tranquil, smoke free environment.  It was very quiet but the bartender assured us that its normally busier, with Friday night being their biggest night.  I’m sure the constant rain kept many people away this weekend.

We were originally only going to have a drink but I was hungry so we decided to take a look at the menu.  Along with a few nightly dinner specials, you can order something so simple as a pub burger or get fancy with a full steak dinner.  I opted for CB’s Special Salad with grilled chicken while Chris had the Steak Bites appetizer- cubes of cooked-to-order sirloin served with bread and boursin cheese dipping sauce.  About half-way through eating this, he declared “New Rule: we are coming here at least twice a month.”  Since Williamston is not on our side of town, I don’t know if we’ll be able to stick to that but I can see coming to the D&W grocery store twice a month so we could become regulars soon enough.

We didn’t order anything complicated but sometimes simple food gets the worst of it when a place is trying too hard or trying to cover up their shortcomings. In this case, Chris’s steakbites were medium with a hint of pink as requested. My salad was made up of fresh apple slices, cucumbers, romaine and good cheese with just the right amount of dressing.  I’d much rather some places just do dressing on the side because they go overboard especially with creamy dressings.  Not a problem here.

My first glass of wine didn’t really excite me. I think my medicines are affecting my tastebuds but also it was too strong for my salad.  When I said I’d just like a glass of the house Pinot Noir, the bartender suggested I try the Mark West Pinot as its the same price ($5/glass) and much better.  She was right.  (side note: Mark West Pinot is on sale at World Market for under $10/bottle right now, we saw it Sunday).  The bartender was also our waitress/server. She was attentive and friendly but didn’t hover. As we sat there, we got involved in a conversation with another couple at the bar.  Pretty soon everyone was chatting about the economy of all things!

I had a hard time finding information about this place on the internet. This is partly because I couldn’t remember the exact name.  I finally got the word combination right and found some reviews from when they first re-opened last fall.  No website and no mention anywhere of the club they have opened on the 2nd floor. I’m not convinced that a club in Williamston is really “right” but there were about 30 people there Saturday night. It was smoky though- we didn’t actually go in.

Considering our eventful evening was all based on missing that exit for Okemos, I think it turned out all right!

Details

CB’s Bucket Bar & Grill

Hours: Mon-Fri,  11 AM -2PM (kitchen closes at 11PM)
Address: 132 Grand River Ave., Williamston (just east of the Williamston Sun Theatre)
Phone: 517655-1000

Accepts all major credit cards, smoke free!

More pancakes for everyone!

Last week I drove by and then tonight, I just read an article in City Pulse about Sawyer’s Gourmet Pancake House’s new hours.

I previously wrote about Sawyer’s in June. At the time, the restaurant was only open for lunch and dinner. Beginning Labor Day weekend, they will now be open continously from Friday morning at 7AM to 3PM at Sunday.  The restaurant has also expanded their breakfast and lunch menues while added a select number of entrees for dinner service.

In an effort to increase lunch traffic, Sawyer’s is also creating a lunch express option. Certain items can be ordered with a guaranteed delivery time of 10 minutes, or less.  The express menu is only available 11 AM to 2 PM during the week.

Since the speed of service was one of my reasons for not making Sawyer’s a regular lunch spot, I’m looking forward to checking out the new and improved menu.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be rushed and I didn’t think they were overly slow but when the place is hopping and many things are made to order, you can’t expect a quick in and out for lunch.