Everly does veggies better than everyone

Bluephies wasn’t my favorite Food Fight restaurant, but I was sad to see it go. It had some unique dishes, a funky atmosphere and great dessert…am I the only one who will miss the deep fried cookie dough? So when I heard the restaurant replacing it was going to focus on vegetables I was a little disappointed. But boy was I proved wrong when I visited Everly during winter Restaurant Week.

First let’s talk about the remodel…it’s very bright, white and clean inside. The door has been moved and the space seems much larger even though a chunk of the old Bluephies is now another Food Fight restaurant, Miko Poke. They also popped a chunk of the wall out and put in a big glass wall for the bar. It’s definitely an improvement from the Bluephies space…which I didn’t even think needed an improvement.

celery root bisque

roasted cauliflower

For the Restaurant Week menu, they had some of their menu items and some special items. My friend got the celery root bisque and I got the roasted cauliflower…thinking, “Come on! How can cauliflower be an appetizer on it’s own?” When the small bowl of cauliflower came out and I reluctantly claimed it from the waittress and looked at it with pickled vegetables, parsley, garlic and lemon on top. After the first bite…I was hooked. I’m not sure how you make cauliflower like this…it was crispy and salty and more flavorful than most non-vegetarian food that come out of my kitchen. If I could make cauliflower like that, I’d make it every week!

roasted chicken sandwich

heritage pork sandwich

Their entree options were smoked whitefish toast, roasted chicken sandwich, braised heritage pork sandwich and a So-Cal grain bowl. I went with the pork sandwich…because when I ordered I was just so excited to see a non-veggie option on the entrees list that I went with the heaviest one. The sandwich came with pickles, buttermilk slaw, Fresno chiles, red onions and bibb lettuce on top. And for sides I got the herb roasted potatoes, but you could also get a kale salad. Everything about this dish was perfect. The bun was soft but toasted, the pork was tender and had a flavorful BBQ sauce on it. The pickles were tangy. The slaw was crispy, light and creamy. The potatoes were crispy and salty. I have nothing bad to say about the sandwich or the side.

For dessert we both got the chocolate mousse, and for one las time the disappointment sunk in when I saw how small the bowl of chocolate mousse was. But I was wrong again! This mousse was so dense and so rich that I could barely finish the tiny amount I was given. My one and only tiny complaint about the dessert was the orange peel on top…it was chewy and sparse so when I did get a chunk it was unwanted. I eventually picked most of it off.

FOOD NOTES: Everly definitely does veggies better than most restaurants. But the good news is they also do pork and chicken and desserts really well too! This goes down in the books as one of the top three Restaurant Week meals I’ve ever had. I want to go back and try the So-Cal bowl and their brunch, especially now that their patio should be open for the season!

Local sub shop shines on near east side

Everyone loves a good sub sandwich, but sometimes chain restaurants like Subway, Milio’s or Jimmy Johns just don’t cut it. Recently I checked out a small deli/sub shop on the near east side called Crostini.

Crostini Sandwiches

Crostini Sandwiches

Crostini is located in this randomly placed commercial strip mall on the corner of Johnson and North streets in the middle of a very quaint neighborhood. The day I decided to try out Crostini it was the perfect sunny summer day so their front door was propped open and the crew behind the counter was jamming out to music. The small dining room probably had seats for a about a dozen people, but they also had some outdoor seating. The menu features sub sandwiches, paninis, wraps and pasta.

IMG_1720I got the Crostini club with ham, turkey, bacon, veggies, mayo and their signature dressing. The $7 sandwich came with a decent amount of ingredients…it even had some fresh green peppers in it, which wasn’t on the menu. The menu said it was a cold sandwich, but I was pleasantly surprised that the meat was either toasted or warmed up. The tangy dressing worked well with the mayo, but there might have been a bit too much of it because my sub roll was pretty soggy. The other logistical issue was that when they wrapped it up to go, it got very squished, which made it a little tricky to eat.

IMG_1721We also got some of their freshly baked chocolate chip cookies for dessert. They were definitely freshly baked because they were will warm when they handed them to me!

FOOD NOTES: If I lived closer to Crostini it would definitely make it into my regular lunch rotation. So if you live on the near east side or are heading that direction, you should really check it out. Their prices are reasonable…especially because of the quality ingredients that were in my sub. I’ve read some pretty terrible reviews on Yelp about their customer service…most of them pertaining to delivery, so I would avoid delivery and just go get the food.

Shocker: Cafe inside gym serves up tasty, healthy food

Going out to eat for me is usually a time to go all out — something I wouldn’t normally eat, something a little more extravagant or something less healthy than my regular routine. But every once in a while I like trying out healthy options that I just don’t know how to make on my own. And that’s exactly what I got to do when I went to Fit Fresh Cuisine with a friend last month.

IMG_1689Fit Fresh is basically inside Hybrid Athletics in Fitchburg. They offer cleanses, meal plans and a regular menu. Their menu has juices, smoothies, acai bowls, breakfast sandwiches and scrambles, sandwich and salads.

IMG_1691

palisade acai bowl

I’ve heard about acai bowls but never knew what they really were, so I jumped in with both feet and got the first one on the list. The palisade bowl comes with acai, strawberry, Sugar River vanilla yogurt, whey protein and wheat germ topped with tahini (I know…what?!), chia seeds, pepita and homemade granola. I was expecting to get a bowl of yogurt with acai berries and a bunch of other stuff on top, but I can only describe what I got as breakfast soup. It was good, but it wasn’t what I was expecting!

IMG_1690The yogurt-like mixture is slightly thinner than regular yogurt, but just as tasty. I was worried about the tahini on top, but it added just the right amount of savory flavor to cut the bitterness of the acai. The chia seeds, pepita and granola were the perfect crunchy additions. My bowl also had slices of banana in the yogurt. Even though it was not what I was expecting, I really enjoyed it. My friend got a sandwich and enjoyed it too.

FOOD NOTES: Fit Fresh Cuisine is not very conveniently located, but if you’re in the Fitchburg area looking for a healthy lunch option you should check this place out. My acai bowl was not what I was expecting, but it was pretty tasty. I loved that it was tasty, fresh and filling. Most of the time you get one or two of those…not all three! I’ve had friends try their meal plans and cleanses, and they’ve given it some pretty positive reviews.

Monona Drive has better lunch options than Rosie’s Cafe

Rosie's Coffee Bar and Bakery

Rosie’s Coffee Bar and Bakery

Small cafes that serve up homemade pastries, quality coffee and great sandwiches are some of my favorite places, but sometimes they can be hard to find. A couple months ago I had a great lunch at Crema Cafe on Monona Drive and I was hoping to find another great place in Monona, but Rosie’s Coffee Bar and Bakery was a let down.

bakery case

bakery case

doughnut

doughnut

cinnamon roll

cinnamon roll

I went there with my friend Nicole and her daughter. The coffee was decent, but their bakery items weren’t great. My cinnamon roll was thick and crusty, not flaky and sweet like I expect from cinnamon rolls. And it was frosted with a thick, sugary glaze instead of a cream cheese frosting. It was one of the only times I’ve ever not finished a cinnamon roll.

tuna salad sandwich

tuna salad sandwich

tuna salad sandwich

tuna salad sandwich

They serve breakfast and lunch, but I decided their tuna salad with sprouts and tomato on a wheat roll sounded good. The tuna salad was good — not too much mayo and just the right amount of chopped onion for a good crunch. The sprouts were a nice touch, but there weren’t enough of them to matter and the bread was a little too thick.

FOOD NOTES: I had a good lunch at Rosie’s, but the company was better than the food. I would skip their cinnamon rolls all together and if you’re looking for a sandwich, go another mile down Monona Drive to Crema. There’s nothing wrong with the food at Rosie’s, there’s just a better option nearby. I’m not sure how their breakfasts are (quiche, breakfast sandwich, oatmeal), but I’d give it a chance.

Never judge a cafe by its strip mall

La Petit Croissant

La Petit Croissant

From what I’ve heard, the owners or bakers or cooks or someone involved in the new bakery where Midvale Boulevard, Verona Road and the Beltline collide came from La Baguette. La Petit Croissant is probably the best hidden secret I’ve ever found. I went with my friend Nicole and her daughter for lunch, and I got there a couple minutes early…which was good because I snagged the last table just before a bunch of people walked in. The small shop is in a rundown strip mall between a Tae Kwon Do school and a random Mexican restaurant with Dorn Hardware at the end. Based on La Petit Croissan’ts location I had no expectations, but that was a mistake.

La Petit Croissant bakery case

La Petit Croissant bakery case

As soon as I walked in and almost all the tables were full and saw a very promising cinnamon roll in the bakery case I knew I had found something special. The girl at the counter was super nice, and between her and another guy they kept the place running smoothly with smiles on their faces. Their bakery case and menu are small, but based on my first visit it’s because they focus on quality over quantity.

La Petit Croissant cinnamon roll

La Petit Croissant cinnamon roll

I’m a big fan of cinnamon rolls and this one did not disappoint. It was just big enough to share, and was obviously made that morning. The dough was light and flaky, and the cinnamon swirl was a good balance of cinnamon and sugar. The frosting was cream cheese, which is the ONLY appropriate topping for a cinnamon roll. The La Petit Croissant cinnamon roll definitely gives La Baguette’s a run for its money.

La Petit Croissant spicy turkey sandwich

La Petit Croissant spicy turkey sandwich

LPC spicy turkeyI got the spicy turkey sandwich. The sandwich came with a very fresh green salad with a light vinaigrette, and the sandwich itself was just as surprising as the cinnamon roll. The bread, jalapeno cheddar ciabatta, was crusty but not too thick. The turkey was lean and there was a lot of it. The rest of the toppings really made the sandwich — chipotle mayo, avocado, lettuce, onions and pepper jack cheese. The sandwich isn’t super fancy, but it was so good because of the quality ingredients.

La Petit Croissant molasses cookie

La Petit Croissant molasses cookie

I also got a molasses cookie for “later,” but “later” ended up only being a couple hours after lunch! Their molasses cookie had the two qualities that make a good molasses cookie — crispy edges and a soft middle, and the molasses is balanced out by a good sweetness. It also had that great sprinkle of sugar on top!

FOOD NOTES: I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about this place because I don’t want to give up my new secret spot, but I really want this place to succeed! The cinnamon roll was the best I’ve had in a while (cream cheese frosting really does make a difference!). The spicy turkey sandwich is extremely impressive – everything worked so well together. The turkey and bacon were amped up with avocado and chipotle mayo, and the bread was great. This place is a diamond in the rough.

Crema Cafe is gem hidden away in Monona strip mall

Crema Cafe

Crema Cafe

I don’t get over to the Monona area very often, but every time I do I make an effort to try a new restaurant. So when my mom and I wanted to check out a new consignment shop on Monona Drive I figured it was the perfect time to try out Crema Cafe. Crema is definitely a hidden gem. It’s super colorful inside and has mismatched tables and chairs, but it’s hidden behind the boring facade of a strip mall.

Crema Cafe Bluebird sandwich

Crema Cafe Bluebird sandwich

When you walk in it may have the feel of a coffee shop, but trust me — you’ll want to try their food. My mom got the Bluebird sandwich, which is chicken salad made with dried blueberries and walnuts, and comes with white cheddar and greens on a baguette. I did not try it, but my mom loved it.

Crema Cafe hot chick sandwich

Crema Cafe hot chick sandwich

I got the Hot Chick sandwich (awesome name right!!!) that had grilled chicken, bacon, roasted tomatoes, chipotle mayo and aged cheddar on multigrain bread. When it came out I was sad because it didn’t look very big, but then I realized it had been panini-ed, which made it so much better! The chicken was moist and the chipotle mayo was just smokey and spicy enough…and you can never go wrong with bacon! It was a little messy to eat, but it was totally worth it! The sandwiches also came with what tasted like homemade Doritos…yum!

We both also got iced coffees, which were perfect. Sometimes iced coffee can be bitter, but theirs was smooth. I also like that they don’t sweeten their iced coffee.

FOOD NOTES: The only thing that could make Crema Cafe better is an outside seating area…because it has a decent view of Lake Monona across the street. The inside is super cheery and eclectic, and their menu has a decent amount of options…but who needs more options when the 10 or so options are so great already!? Next up…I’ll be back to try their breakfast options!

Brewery surprises with unique, upscale menu

I haven’t had good luck when trying to eat at breweries. The food is usually sub-par and the only reason people keep going back is for the beer. I’m not a beer drinker, so it’s usually not as great of a visit for me as for others. But Karben4 off Stoughton Road by MATC is definitely different than other breweries I’ve been to. Their dining room is literally inches from their brewing and bottling space. And based on my super scientific calculations, their kitchen is about 1/4 the size of their brewing facilities, but it sure does churn out some fantastic dishes.

 

karben4Here’s how I would describe the options on the menu: take normal brewery or bar food — jack the flavor up on steroids, use local ingredients and toss some beer into most dishes for good measure.

Karben4 pretzels and horseradish cheddar sauce

Karben4 pretzels and horseradish cheddar sauce

When I went with Michelle we got to try a couple different options, but we started with the housemade pretzels and cheddar horseradish sauce. The pretzels were perfect — crusty, salty crust, and a fluffy, butter center. The cheese sauce was so good I wanted to lick the container clean.

Karben4 portabella mushroom sandwich

Karben4 portabella mushroom sandwich

karben4 portabella 2The portabella sandwich is one of the vegetarian options on the menu. It has a balsamic roasted portabella mushroom with mozzarella, basil aioli, spinach, tomato and onion between two pieces of panini-ed bread. The veggie option was good (and I would recommend it to my veggie friends), but I would not choose it over the other sandwich we got to try.

Karben4 ruben

Karben4 reuben

karben4 reubenThe summer sausage reuben just sounds ridiculous. I’ve never heard of anyone making a reuben with summer sausage, but Karben4 does it and they do it well. The sandwich comes out on a housemade pretzel roll (come on!! the sandwich is already winning with that) and has summer sausage, kraut made with their Lady Luck beer, housemade Russian dressing and aged whited cheddar cheese. I’m not quite sure how to explain this sandwich except to use these words: sinful, fantastic, decadent, unique, scrumptious and one more — perfect. The pretzel roll was super soft and moist. The kraut had a great earthy flavor without being too tart. The Russian dressing was smooth and tangy. The cheddar added a great Wisconsin feeling to the sandwich and the summer sausage was not nearly as intrusive or heavy as I was expecting it to be. I’m not sure what more I could ask for in the perfect sandwich.

Karben 4 chocolate tart

Karben 4 chocolate tart

We also go to try their chocolate tart made with one of their beers — I ate it so fast I didn’t get a chance to note which beer it was, but I don’t have to know which beer the tart is made with to know that it was tasty. It wasn’t too sweet and the crust was buttery and crumbly. The drizzle of raspberry was basically useless because I couldn’t taste it over the other strong flavors in the dessert.

FOOD NOTES: If you’re going to Karben4 for the beer, DO NOT skip ordering food. If you’re not a beer drinker…trust me, their menu has enough great things on it to satisfy. Another unique thing about Karven4 is that they don’t serve french fries…all of their sandwiches come with a small side salad, which made me feel better about eating a ruben made with summer sausage!