Wrought Iron Grill- Father’s Day the Sequel

For Father’s Day 2009, Chris and I took my dad to the Wrought Iron Grill in Owosso at which time I wrote a review and indicated we would certainly go back. And we did, this year for Father’s Day. Despite intentions, driving between Flint and Lansing scads of times, we never made it back in between. I went back to look at my review from ’09 and am sorely tempted to just re-use most of it. We ordered different things but the similarities were striking. Excerpts from 2009 are quote boxes.

We had a number of adventures this past weekend starting with a brief jaunt to Ft. Wayne for storm-chasing on Friday night. The night ended with me driving home through that horrible downpour/second great flood/electrical storm south of Lansing. Fun times!

In 2010, we had some adventures starting with a storm encounter on Friday night. This time, though, we went to Kalamazoo for pizza, stix with dill dip a wee bit o’ college flashback (for me) at Bilbo’s Pizza. Just as we arrived in K-zoo, a fierce storm came through with driving winds and flooding rains. After dinner, we drove around town a bit, tried to go to a movie and toured the storm damage that involved power outages and trees down. Fortunately, I was not behind the wheel for the drive back to Lansing. Even more fortunately, the worst of the storms were well ahead of us and missed our house. We did take a little wind damage to our tomato plants but no power was lost.

No particular adventures on Saturday this year, we spent our time figuring out how to make best use of some special Meijer coupons to buy a new tent, air mattress for camping and fire pit grill/grate. And I made those turkey meatballs…

On to Sunday:

My parents live in Flushing, just west of Flint. We live on the west side of Lansing. I didn’t really expect my dad to drive all the way to Lansing nor did I really want to drive all the way in to Flint considering I also had a paper to finish write from scratch for class, due before bedtime. …We arrived before my dad and, following the behest of our GPS, drove right past the place and around the block to come in from the side. The restaurant is located in an old factory building/warehouse and is surrounded by several other buildings of the same variety. This area is right near the train tracks and across from the grain co-op, apparently the commercial-industrial center of Owosso, in its heyday. We parked along the side and noticed the adjacent building is the (former?) home of the Owosso Casket Company.

No GPS to guide us this year but there is a detour so we had to go around via a few side streets and ended up coming in the same way. It looks pretty much the same as last year.

After a little confusion because the hostess wasn’t listening when we said we’d like to sit outside, we grabbed a table on the porch/patio. … The al fresco dining was perfect. The patio faces east so we didn’t have to worry about baking in the sun and it was neither too hot nor too humid.

We ate outside again. Earlier in the week, in discussing the plan with Chris, he said we should go later to avoid the sun and I said something along the lines of ‘doesn’t the patio face East?’ Guess I should have checked my own blog! The confusion came this year in that the server who told us it was okay to just pick a seat outside apparently failed to tell any other staff of our presence but a waitress did come by a minute or so later. Last year we got the mediciettes as an appetizer which were only okay in my opinion so this year I suggested the Lobster, Spinach and Artichoke Dip. We put that order in then made decisions on our entrees.

After our appetizer, we finally ordered our entrees. I went with the Seafood Risotto, Chris ordered the Wrought Iron Pizza and my dad had the salmon “burger.” … Its not uncommon for Chris to change his mind right when the server shows up to take orders so this could be significant.

In the interest of trying something new this year and not particularly feeling the pasta special, I decided to order the Duck & Wild Mushroom Pizza. Chris opted for the Pork Tenderloin: bacon wrapped and served with a Michigan cherry-jalapeno sauce, sweet potatoes and seasonal vegetable. Dad got the salmon burger again. He was pretty sure that he’d gone for the salmon entrée last year but now we know. I also ordered a glass of Starry Night Zinfandel.

I’ve never had this label before, I don’t know how since Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists and the name alone should have been enough to suck me in.

The Food

Right after we submitted our entrée orders, the appetizer came out. It was not at all what any of us were expecting. Dip implies that upon dunking the chip/vegetable/cracker/bread/finger in the container, something will stick. This Lobster, Spinach and Artichoke Dip did not stick. It was almost dry with very little cheese. We actually asked if this was normal and apparently it is. I don’t expect a cheese bonanza since I’m paying for lobster, spinach and artichokes too but you can go too far or in this case, not go far enough. That’s two poorly received appetizers in two visits for those of you keeping score at home.

About this time is also when the waitress returned to inform me that the kitchen was out of duck. And you can’t have Duck & Wild Mushroom Pizza without duck! She recommended the Wrought Iron Pizza instead but that didn’t really grab me. I vacillated between the Ahi tuna burger and the Seafood Risotto before I realized that there were actually two pork dishes so I ordered Berkshire Pork Chop with creamed leeks and roasted red skin potatoes. Despite the delay in having to re-order, the main dishes came out pretty quickly. The lack of fries with the burgers noted last year hasn’t changed but it was even more noticeable this time because my plate was half potatoes! Strange. I could not possibly eat all the potatoes and I love the starches. I opted to eat the ones with the crunchiest crusts. Tasty. The other half of the plate was dedicated to the pork chop on a bed of creamed leeks with brandied apples.

Brandied apples- reminds me that we have that apple brandy from Uncle John’s and I should use some more of it.

My dish was very good overall with the pork in particular being cooked well so as to remain juicy throughout.

I could tell right away that Chris was going to be somewhat disappointed in his dish. When I said seasonal vegetable up top, I bet you presumed asparagus. It is mid-June in Michigan after all; can’t get much more seasonal than that! But, no. The vegetable serving was skimpy and consisted of what appeared to be over-cooked steamed California Blend (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and maybe onions). His pork was good although perhaps a touch dry on the end and he also enjoyed the cherry sauce. Later, he indicated that the sweet potatoes were not great either but was not specific on the issue. Today, I was checking something on the website and noticed a picture gallery that included several menu items. Although I can’t be 100% positive, the very first dish in the gallery appears to be what Chris ordered. Except it didn’t look anything like that dish aside from sweet potatoes on one end, vegetable on the other and pork in the middle.

On a follow-up call with my dad, he mentioned that he remembered the salmon differently the previous year. We think perhaps last year they served a fillet while this year was more like a burger, ground salmon formed in to a patty. Kind of implies pre-made, eh?

I didn’t order the risotto this year but let’s return to 2009, just because it’s risotto.

I love risotto. I still reminisce over the risotto at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham (MI) which I had at the wedding of my now ex-boyfriend’s sister six years ago. Good stuff. I make it a lot at home, look through the archives here and you’ll find the recipe for the mushroom version we like best.

I will be making risotto tonight. Its phase II in a reverse engineering project to re-create something Chris picked up last week.

The wrap-up

In 2009 I said we would have to go back to the Wrought Iron Grill soon because the waitress told us the menu changes seasonally. Of course, we don’t know how since we went again at the exact same time of year! I do have some additional motivation to return before June 2011 in that we purchased 2 gift certificates from Restaurant.com during a big May sale. We used one on Sunday to save $25 off the bill. One thing about these GCs: in some, the fine print indicates that an 18% gratuity will be automatically added on. The waitress was careful to point it out which I appreciated. That is within my normal range of tipping for restaurants of this type. I will say that slightly friendlier service would have probably earned her 20%. Not that the service was bad but I got the distinct feeling that she was slightly irritated to have to wait on us up until and through closing time. Also, she never came back after delivering the credit card receipt and I still had ½ glass of wine left.

My wine was good enough that I ordered a second glass.

It’s a pet peeve of mine, when waitstaff don’t return to fill water or non-alcoholic beverages after the bill’s been paid. We were not keeping anyone from going home as a table of diners arrived about 15 minutes before closing and it was only a few minutes past 8 when we settled the bill.

For this night, it was just nice to have a good meal and let Chris and my dad get to know each other better

Ditto again. This time we talked about my dad’s newly started consulting business and tried to figure out how we could all have a four-hour work week (google it).


After dinner, Chris decided he wanted to find a Twisty Treat type of place with his first choice being a Dairy Queen. DQ is top priority because of Warren Buffett*. Thanks to the handy-dandy Droid phone, I determined that the nearest DQ was not too close but by this time we had detoured to check out the local airport which actually appears to be quite popular with the single-engine guys. Airport-related detours are quite common in our life. I indulge it and sometimes even surprise him with directions that just ‘happen’ to go by an airfield; the gazetteer maps are awesome for this. Anyhow, after the airport drive-thru we used the phone, again, to find a local ice cream store. He got a twist dipped in chocolate and I had cookie-dough ice cream on a sugar cone. As per usual with these places, the child-size was a full scoop plus which means the single is really a double, etc. Good price though at less than $5 for both.

Details

Wrought Iron Grill Website with Menu
317 Elm Street Owosso, Mi 48867 989-472-9025
HOURS: Mon – closed Tu-Th 11a-10p Fr-Sa 11a-12a Sun-12n-8p


*Chris deeply admires Warren Buffett and he’s been studying up on his investment theories. He also points out every time we pass a company owned by Berkshire-Hathaway among other things. I would be willing to trade unlimited Dairy Queen runs in return for denying a regular request to name any of our (future) children Warren or Buffett** or Charlie or any other related name.

**Actually I may be willing to use Buffett as a middle name. Most people would probably assume we meant Jimmy since Chris is from the Florida Keys. But I fear they would pronounce it buffet and wonder what sort of freak, food blogger not withstanding, names her kid after a type of meal. This would only be a question in the minds of people who don’t know me well though. My foodie friends would be perfectly understanding if I named a child Wusthof or Forschner or ahem, Alton. Right?

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Good stuff: Chicken, bacon, cream, wine

A week ago Sunday, Chris went to bed complaining of a sore throat. Monday, he was convinced he had strep throat and went to the doctor. Diagnosis: no strep, no swine flu, no regular flu. Most likely a cold. Now, 9 days go by and I’m good, free of illness. I think I’ve won, I’ve dodged the bullet. Tuesday night, I felt a little scratch in my throat. Dang Dang Dang!! I am in the class of employees who get Veteran’s Day off and I had a list of things to do. Not one of which I did. Instead, during my day off yesterday, I watched all the Top Chef episodes from this season minus the two I’d already seen. I laid on the couch and watched people cook some crazy stuff in some crazy environments (3 kinds of ceviche after a night spent sleeping in a teepee in the Nevada desert- really?), occasionally dozing.

Eventually, I made dinner for Chris and I but I was too beat from my hard day of lounging (really, I was exhausted) so he cooked up some boneless pork ribs marinated in chimichurri sauce on the grill while I made rice and some peppers & onions with a slight South American bent thanks to some cilantro and cumin. Then, we sat down to watch the newest episode of Top Chef. The new ep featured Nigella Lawson as guest judge. The quickfire (initial short challenge, for the uninitiated) was focused around the idea of breakfast in bed from room service. I’m not a big breakfast eater but some of those dishes had the potential to turn me around- if someone else were cooking- I’m not in to breakfast because I’m not in to mornings, in general.

The second part of the show was the elimination challenge where each chef had to cook a dish, inspired by a casino in Vegas, for 175 people. Nothing too mind-blowing here and the chef who should have gone home weeks ago finally went home. At the end of the show, we saw a preview for next week- the guest judge is Thomas Keller of the French Laundry- very big deal and all the competition chefs were visibly freaking out. This led to a conversation between Chris and I on who all these people were and I learned that he didn’t know who Nigella Lawson was. Now, Chris doesn’t watch food shows all the time but he likes a certain body type and usually picks up on that instead of one’s cooking ability for TV food celebs. Nigella is right up his alley, especially with her sensuous food talk, lots of oohing over flavors, moaning over aromas, etc.

Cutting to the chase, I brought up her website and while we were talking, I looked at some recipes and found something I thought he’d like, no matter the source. And it used a number of ingredients we had on hand. Upon further review, I ended up making a number of tweaks.

Chicken with mushroom-bacon sauce

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, pounded thin, seasoned with salt and pepper
3 slices bacon
1/2-3/4 cup creme fraiche
2-3 handfuls shiitake mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups sliced)
2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, one sliced, one diced
3/4 cup white wine (approx)
olive oil

mashed potatoes
steamed peas with tarragon

To begin, fry three slices of bacon (I used thick-cut) in a large saute’ pan. Remove bacon when done, draining on paper towels. Drain most of the fat, leaving just a thin coating on the pan. If you don’t have much fat- well what kind of bacon were you using?!? And, if necessary, add a bit of olive oil to the pan. You will probably have some crunchy bits on the bottom of the pan- leave them there. Add two chicken breasts to the pan. Cook 3-5 minutes per side until cooked through and lightly browned. Remove from pan and cover to keep warm.

While chicken is cooking, chop bacon in to small pieces.

After chicken has been removed from pan, add a teaspoon of olive oil, if necessary. Add garlic and rosemary to pan, cooking and stirring frequently until fragrant and garlic is turning golden brown. Add mushrooms, stir to coat then add bacon. Allow to cook until pan begins to dry then add 3/4 cup wine to deglaze. Turn heat to medium-high to bring sauce to boil. Cook until wine is reduced by 2/3. Reduce heat to low and stir in 1/2 cup creme fraiche.

Serve in layers: mashed potatoes then chicken breast then mushroom-bacon sauce. On the side, we had steamed petite peas with just a bit of butter and 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon.


If the ingredients don’t tempt you, the pictures surely will. Except I didn’t take any pictures because I couldn’t find the camera!! Of course, this is the night my plate looked perfect- great presentation with the mushroom sauce draped lovingly over the chicken breast, small amounts of sauce pooling at the bottom, lying on a bed of mashed potatoes with a nice bright green along the side thanks to the peas.

I’ll make this again. Next time, I’d like to cream up the sauce even more. I was using up the creme fraiche we had. I probably would have used more if I’d had it. The advantage of creme fraiche over heavy cream is that the creme fraiche is less likely to curdle on the high heat. You have to be more cautious with heavy cream- turning the heat down before adding and waiting a few minutes for security.

Rosemary

I made dinner awhile ago.  Chris is in love with his new rice cooker so he, earlier, had put a pot of jasmine rice on.  We had the parmesan-crusted chicken from Kroger on standby in the fridge and just needed a way to tie it all together.  Oh, and baby bella mushrooms were on sale this week so we have several packages in the crisper.

I decided to make an enhanced tomato sauce using our favorite Prego Organic Tomato-Basil as a base.

To make the chicken:

  • Heat oven to 350.  Spray a small baking pan with non-stick spray or olive oil spray.
  • Cut 1/2 onion in to wedges and place in the pan.  Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar.
  • Place chicken over onions and bake in oven. I set timer for 30 minutes initially.
  • After 30 minutes, I took the onions out and I put my thermometer-timer probe in one breast and set the temperature-alert for 163 degrees.  It took another 6 minutes back in the oven for the  chicken to finish.

For Sauce:

  • Heat 1 tbls olive oil (I used a garlic infused one) in a pan.  Add 1/4 onion chopped and 1 sprig of finely chopped rosemary to the pan. Saute 5 minutes until onions are translucent.
  • Add mushrooms to the pan, stir to combine. Allow to cook 2-3 minutes then add 2 pinches salt and walk away.  The water will come out of the mushrooms and they’ll shrink down.  Let them cook about 7-8 minutes.
  • Pour 1/4 cup red wine over mushrooms.  Add 3/4 to 1 cup tomato sauce and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low and let simmer while the chicken finishes (about 10-15 minutes).
  • When I took the onions out of the baking pan (see above), I put them in sauce to finish.

I used Tiz red wine for the sauce. We had about 1/4 bottle left from a previous meal so half went in the pan and half in my glass.

This rosemary was so fragrant and beautiful looking, I had to take that picture.  I found these bundles (also bought some sage) at Horrock’s Farm Market this week.  I think later this week I’m going to fry some of the sage for garnish on some kind of risotto.

Sounding pretty good?  Wouldn’t a picture really bring it to life?

The problem with food photos is you can’t take a quality photo of hot food. The steam interferes and makes the picture look all fuzzy.  And if you wait for it to cool off? Well, see above!

This is Chris’s plate. Note the near oblitaration of the sauce.

Old Town BluesFest

Last night, Chris and I went to Old Town to check out the music at scene at the Blues Fest. We didn’t go until late- about 9pm so there were just one or two acts left. I hadn’t eaten anything yet so my first priority was the food vendors.

The set-up, for those familiar with Old Town, is a stage at the north end of Turner St and a stage at the south end where Turner intersects with Grand River. The listening areas, free and the $5 section with the adult beverages are sandwiched in between. Grand River is blocked off to traffic for a few blocks to the east and west of Turner. Behind the south stage there was a vendor area with about 10 food kiosks and some people selling assorted stuff, some of it junk (i.e. glow in the dark everything and rip-off sunglasses).

We walked the food court once to see what the options were. I had a hard time deciding what I wanted but knowing that we’d need cash for drinks later, I drifted towards cheap. There were a lot of options including gyros, Jamaican food, Mongolian BBQ, Turkeyman turkey legs and somewhere Vernadine’s Soul Food. I didn’t see a temporary shop for them but since the restaurant is in Old Town maybe you were jsut expected to go there. In the end I chose Maria’s Tacos. And while I didn’t choose poorly, I don’t think I made the best choice either. And I had time to back out and I didn’t. The food was good: fresh, homemade tortillas were top notch. The issue we had was with the group running the show. In addition to two adults hanging towards the back and presumably handling the cooking of the meats, there were 3 kids working the booth, all under the age of 15. Girl #1 was taking orders while Girl #2 was scooping the meat and beans in to the tortillas while Boy was adding the toppings. They weren’t doing anything bad per se but Girl #2 couldn’t keep up with Girl #1’s shouted out orders. This was made all the worse by Girl#1 messing up and saying the wrong stuff and forgetting who ordered what. We kind of saw this happening while we waited in line but it wasn’t until our order and the order for the people in front of us got all confused that it became apparent communication was not a strong point. In the end everyone got the right food and I was able to stop Boy from putting a pound of shredded cheese on my tacos. I would have liked spicier meat but as I said, the tortillas were very good and the salsa was fresh and tomato-y. Oh, and Girl#1 under-charged us by 2 bucks so I really can’t complain.

Today, I found the website for Maria’s Tacos and now I’m really not sure who the people were working the booth. I don’t want to make too many assumptions but no one under the tent looked like an “Espinoza” or a “De Los Rios”, the names of the company founders.

Tacos & burrito in hand, we walked back across Grand River Rd to the stage area. At either stage, there is a seating area with some chairs, or you can bring your own. In between those open areas is a section that serves beer, wine and specialty drinks. Its five dollars per person then you buy tickets for the drinks. Wine was four tickets ($4) per glass. The people working the bar area knew nothing about the wines which was okay, I wasn’t expecting a formal tasting. I was surprised that the first person we went up to didn’t know that Cabernet was a red wine. For the first round, I had a Pinot Noir and Chris had the Cabernet. I don’t recall the winery for the Pinot Noir and my vague recollection is that the Cabernet was 201 or 209 or some number combination that started with a two. After my first glass, I tried the Merlot and found I liked that better. That I do remember was a Penfold’s Rawson Retreat Merlot, vintage unknown. A quick on-line search indicates this is a $8-10 bottle. Pretty decent choice for an event like this- not to strong but with a nice plum-cherry flavor and a hint of oaky spice on the finish.

While enjoying our first glasses and getting some top-notch people watching time in, Chris and I started talking about wines and his likes/dislikes. Really, he doesn’t know what he likes except that he’s not a fan of whites in general. I think he’d like some of the heavier oaky whites like big Chardonnays but anyhow. So we decided he should do a blind sampling of a number of varieties and make notes about the flavors and rate the wines. And I decided this should involve other people because it can’t be smart or healthy for us to open and drink 5 or 6 bottles of wine some night just to taste the varietals. So I guess we are going to maybe host a wine and cheese party sometime soon.

We hung out and listened to the music for awhile, ran in to someone I know through work and continued making observations on our fellow music-listeners. I can be really catty sometimes and one of the things I love about Chris is that he let’s me but he will still maintain a girl is hot even if I think her outfit is ridiculous. Eventually, we met up with some friends and after the music ended, about 11:30, we decided to move our party to a bar. One of our group is a born & raised Lansing-area local so I’m guessing he picked the bar we adjourned to- Stober’s Lounge. Located on Michigan Avenue near Sparrow Hospital, Stober’s is an old-school Lansing bar. Way back in some day before my time, Stober’s was voted “Coolest Bar in Lansing,” not for being hip but for having air conditioning. The exterior wall facing the parking lot is painted with a large mural that echoes the stained glass decor on the inside. The gargoyle dragon thing looking at me from above the bar was a little disconcerting with its glowing red eyes but the Merlin stained-glass centerpiece was very cool.

After closing down the bar, a reduced party of three, including Chris and I decided we were hungry. After vetoing Taco Bell, we ended up at Sawyer’s Pancake House. Since they are now open 24 hours during the weekend, we decided that we should support them and get some good food at the same time. And it was tasty. Last time, I mentioned the fries were a little too crispy? Not this time- they were pretty close to perfect. The place was pretty quiet but there were a couple of take-out orders while we were there. Hopefully they can build a name for themselves with the late-night crowd; Theio’s did it. One plus- they have a guy on site to handle any overly drunk fools that want to cause problems.

In reality, I don’t plan to make a habit out of being out past last call and then eating a big meal at 3 AM. I realized this morning that I am probably getting too old for that, on a regular basis. But we had a good time and I was able to make friendly with some of Chris’s fellow law school students.


Oh yeah, we had a nice time at the Blues Festival but in discussing it this morning, we both agreed that the music itself wasn’t that impressive.

Pollo Tempranillo

Having opened a bottle of red wine last night, I thought I might use some of it in cooking tonight’s dinner.  I had taken a package of chicken breasts from the freezer yesterday so I knew I’d be using that as the protein.  The only wine-focused dish I could think of was Beef Bourguignon (aka Beef Burgundy).  I had that once, in 6th grade, at Disney’s Epcot Center.  My 11-year old tastebuds were definitely not prepared for the complexity of such a dish. I believe I traded with my dad.

When I got home, I looked up Beef Burgundy and found a few recipes that I thought I could modify. I mostly worked off this one at RecipeZaar

Ingredients

3 slices bacon, chopped before cooking
1 lb chicken breast, cut in to 1 inch cubes
1/2 onion, sliced
2 portabellas and 1 handful shiitake mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 sprigs each thyme and rosemary, fresh
approx 1 1/2 tbs tomato paste
sage, 1/2 tsp divided
1 1/4 cups medium-bodied red wine like tempranillo, merlot or a shiraz.
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
Olive oil
1/4 cup flour & 1/4 cup water combined
salt & pepper

starch of your choice but I recommend noodles

Directions

Cook bacon over medium heat in large saute pan or dutch oven.  When cooked, remove bacon to a bowl leaving fat/drippings behind.  Add chicken and garlic to hot pan and brown the outside of the meat, 2-3 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and season with salt and pepper.  Depending on how much fat is in the pan, add enough olive oil to equal 1 tablespoon.  Add onions and mushrooms to pan, cook 3-4 minutes until vegetables are softened. Remove from the pan and add to bacon in bowl.  Return chicken to the pan along with any juicee. Add add wine, broth, thyme, rosemary and half of sage along with tomato paste.  When you add the first liquid, use a spatula to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on.  Remove lid, add flour-water mixture then mix in mushrooms (and onions and bacon) and rest of sage. Return to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 10 minutes until sauce thickens as desired.

Notes:

In retrospect, I would have made this with chicken thighs. I think the darker meat would hold up better to the longer cooking times.  No matter what meat you use, adjust your cooking times to create tender but not overcooked meat.

Adjust seasonings as desired.  Thyme seems to be consistently included in the recipes I looked at.  I like rosemary in everything and I just bought some sage so it seemed like a reasonable addition.  I think my tastebuds are still off-kilter from the antibiotics and their side effects* so I probably under seasoned this dish. Chris didn’t seem to mind.

Tonight, I served this over garlic-parsley fettuccine but I think it would be pretty tasty over mashed potatoes too.

*I’m off the antibiotics now despite still having some issues.  Woke up Sunday morning to a rash all over my arms and legs. One trip to Urgent Care later, I’m itchy and officially allergic to penicillin.