When some Disney obsessed fanatics like myself get home from a trip to the parks, one of the things they do is write a Dining Report. They talk about where they ate and what they ate, and they often show pictures of their plates full of Disney food. I haven't written one yet (although I am considering making a Better Late Than Never report from my last trip), but love reading them and fully intend to write a great one when I get back from our trip this December.
In the midst of celebrating my birthday this year, I realized I was doing a lot of eating out. I thought it would be a fun idea to make a dining report of my birthday celebrations, and here it is.
Birthday Dining Report, 2012
My first birthday date was with the eternal BFF on Friday. We decided to return to El Potro, my favorite restaurant in town. I didn't take any pictures of this evening. I don't know why I always forget to take pictures when i'm with Deb. Maybe because we're too busy talking. Maybe because I think she hates having her picture taken.
I did take a picture of the temperature sign outside the bank on the way there though. It was crazy hot.
it can't really be 108?!
If you've been reading this blog long, you've probably seen pictures of their food before however, and this time it tasted just the same. Oh, and you'll see more in this very report, near the end.
The first time I tried El Potro was with Deb. I think someone else was with us as well. It may have been Hannah but i kind of think it was Alan. It's somewhat new, on 31st street between Kasold and Iowa. It's next to Sonic in the building that used to House Backyard Burgers.
This restaurant kicks ass.
I've read a lot of mediocre reviews of this place and some of them have valid points. It is a bit noisy, and they don't play any music so there's nothing to drown things out. The menu is huge, but since I always get the same thing it's always good. Maybe some of the dishes aren't as tasty.
Of course they bring you chips and salsa. The chips are light and crunchy. The sauce isn't the best in town, but it's not bad and you can occasionally notice a taste of cilantro. They give each person their own little bowl, and they bring a bowl of white cheese sauce for the table. I am not really a big fan of cheese dip, but I mix a tiny little bit into my sauce and that's pretty good.
I got the El Vaquero Tacos, which I always get. It's 3 tacos in soft corn tortillas filled with chicken, chorizo and a slice of avocado. Oh my goodness it's delicious. It comes with your choice of black, refried or barrachos beans and some mediocre seasoned rice with vegetables in it. The serving size is pretty big, even without the rice and beans it was more than enough.
Sunday I went to lunch at Free State Brewery with a couple of friends I went to Ottawa University with, way back in the 80s. Kevin and Michele were some of my best friends there. They met and fell in love while we were students, and several years later I went to their wedding. All these years later they are still married, and in fact seem happier than ever. Keven let me know that was because he had finally grown up, stopped being stupid, and realized Michele was always right. He said he knows now the key to being happy is to make sure Michele is happy. Go Kevin. You may remember last summer Michele took me to see Styx at Starlight for my birthday.
kevin and michele at free state
Kevin and Michele ordered some delicious bruschetta for appetizers; Smoked Salmon and Peach Brie. I skipped the salmon of course ("nothing from the sea"), but the peach and brie bruschetta was amazing. Peaches and onions and brie and basalmic vinegar. Oh my. I kept thinking about if for days. I still want some now.
I tried a Brewery Burger for lunch, substituting their amazing onion rings for fries. I thought I remembered this burger being really tasty, but this time not so much. The texture of the meat was way too smooth, and I wasn't sure it was all beef. There was only lettuce and a pickle to dress it up, no onion or tomato so it was really kind of sad little burger. The onion rings were amazing. We had to wait quite a while for the side of ranch I asked for when we ordered. Kevin was on his way to get up and ask for it when the waiter came by with it. I was glad to have it because I ended up only eating half the burger and filling up on the tasty rings.
We walked around downtown after that but eventually I needed to head back to the homestead. It started with the lightening and thunder. I was worried because it was so hot I had left my car's windows down, but I still decided to rush into Java Break for an iced White Cow since my car was conveniently right next to the coffee shop.
Sunday I met my girl Jen at Zen Zero for a very early dinner ("old lady dinner" Jen called it). When Zen Zero is not out of long beans, I usually get the Asian Long Beans; with onions, ginger, and mushrooms in a hoisin sauce. That night, however, there was an asparagus stir fry on the specials board and I decided to try it. It was pretty good, but I wasn't entirely in love with the sauce. I saved about half of it and an entire strip of chicken to eat later, but then I ended up leaving it all in Jen's fridge, where it may or may not still be today.
our table when we were done
We stayed a long time talking and no one there tried to rush us out or acted annoyed. That was good. Then we hung out at her pad where all kinds of things happened. It was a great time.
me and jen, just before it turned into my birthday
Tuesday was my actual birthday.
Alan came over in the afternoon and when I couldn't think of where I'd like to lunch, he suggested Wheatfields, which was perfect.
Alan had the Roasted Chicken Breast sandwich with some veg on a baguette. He liked it just fine. I had my most favorite #9. Turkey & Cranberry Relish "Turkey breast roasted daily, accented with garden greens, fresh mayonnaise on Walnut Sage bread". I'm telling you that bread is magnificent, but every part of it was good. Turkey, mayo, lettuce, cranberries too. It was supremely delicious and I was so glad he had suggested it.
incredibly good sandwich
We walked around downtown for a bit after that and decided to stop in at Silas & Maddy's for some home made birthday ice cream in a home made waffle cone. That's hard to beat. I had something called Rock Chocolate Jayhawk. Here's a look:
i love a waffle cone soaked with ice cream
When it came to dinner ideas, I was out again. I asked Alan to decide that too, since he'd done such a great job with lunch. He suggested we try Genovese. It's run buy a guy who runs some other Lawrence restaurants I dig (notably Zen Zero, previously mentioned), and it's Italian so it seemed like an brilliant choice.
It's in a huge space downtown. It's split up so there are 3 floors without ceilings, which is nice and open and airy. But that combined with the stone walls makes it one noisy place to eat. At first we were seated on the enclosed patio, but it was crazy loud out there so we asked to move. It wasn't very full so that was no problem. Even at our new table it wasn't exactly cozy or private or romantic. I could hear just about every conversation around us clearly. Alan had to keep asking me to speak up because he couldn't hear me, but I didn't really want to shout and have everyone know my business. So that was frustrating and certainly detracted from the feeling of the evening.
The food was great though. My favorite part was our appetizer. Fried baby artichoke with shaved parmesan and a lemon caper aioli. They were super yum. I want them all the time.
appetizers are often my favorite part of a meal
I enjoyed the peach bruschetta so much at Free State the other day I decided to try to pear pizza. Pizza Bianca it's called, with grilled pears, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, gorgonzola and truffle oil. Very nice as well. Tart and cheesy, and heavy on the onions.
Since I knew we were going to celebrate it up with the tiramisu for desert, I boxed up a few artichoke hearts and half the pizza. I loved that they wrote their name and the date on the box. My birthday, right there in black and white.
The tiramisu was pretty good, although not as good as my favorite. It could have used some more Kahlua I think. It came in it's own little glass, which made it weird to share. It was rich and cold and tasty, and I was happy to have it.
a cup of tiramisu
Wow. That's a lot of celebrating!
But it didn't even stop there.
The next day for lunch, Alan and I stopped by my favorite Mexican place El Potro. Yes I had just been there on Friday, but that was almost a week before!
chips, cheese and salsa
Lunch specials were in action so I decided to branch out and try the Pollo Ixtapa. "Chicken breast slices sautéed with wine, onions, poblano peppers, pico de gallo, mushrooms and topped with white sauce."
too much greasy sauce
The white sauce was really just like the free cheese sauce they give you; way too thick and dense. It was so very heavy and not ideal for lunch on such a hot day. There were hardly any mushrooms, which had been a big selling point to me. The chicken was good though. If I were to get it again, I'd ask them to leave the white sauce off. More likely I'll just stay with my known favorite.
Alan got the taco salad which looked really good. I might try that some time if I'm looking for something different.
There was one more birthday dinner before the whole thing was through. My mom came to town to see me Thursday morning. By that point I had eaten about everything I like in Lawrence, so I let my mom and Danny pick where we'd have dinner.
my mom and danny outside the restaurant
We ended up at Hibachi Grill, which is a big Asian buffet. I don't really love it, but it's agot a lot of choices and I'm never sad to go there. They have 10 tables of food (although 4 are salad and dessert), a sushi station (which I skip because "nothing from the sea"), and a grill area with a limited number of raw items to hand to the grill master. I went with my usual: lots of green beans, egg drop soup, low main with added sweet and sour chicken, green beans and mushrooms. For my final birthday desert I had some red jello.
And then I was so full that I never ate again.
So hooray for my birthday, and all the people that helped me celebrate it. And hooray for Lawrence restaurants, who probably wondered what their spike in sales that week was.