Category: Restaurant Chit-Chat

Scallops in Lobster Sauce at the Frog Leg Inn

A serving of Scallops in Lobster Sauce. Click the image for a larger version.

Scallops are grilled and arranged on a pillow of homemade spaetzle (german noodle) and finished with a creamy lobster sauce! Garnished with sliced pickled vegetables to give that hint of tartness the Germans are famous for. Chef John captures the finer side of Germany’s cuisine.

I don’t like lobster much at all … but this dish at the Frog Leg Inn was a bit on the exceptional side this evening. Are ya’ jealous? Good!

Fifth Anniversary at the Frog Leg Inn

For various reasons we always celebrate our anniversary with dinner at the Frog Leg Inn in Erie, Michigan. Yesterday our fifth anniversary was no exception. However, exceptions were made in that the Inn had started an updated menu on Tuesday so we were able to try a couple new additions to the resaturant’s offerings …

Baked Brie (appetizer)
A small round brie stuffed with cranberry grape compote and wrapped in puff pastry and fired in our oven.

I’ve had Chef Tad’s baked brie dishes for a couple years now, so this addition to the menu wasn’t a big surprise. What was surprising to Mary and I was the creaminess of the cheese inside the puff pastry. In that filling, the cranberry grape compote added just the right amount of sweetness while the crunchiness of the baked puff pastry added a nice balance to the texture of the dish.

Magret de Canard
Tender duck breast pan seared and served in port wine demiglace and pan drippings. Garnished with sautéed spinach and parsnip-infused mashed potatoes.

Chef Tad really likes to play around with variations on duck and duckling. I’ve seen him and Jeremiah serve duck smoked in the restaurant’s own smoker to parties enjoying one of Tad’s Chef’s Tables, and the Secretary of the Interior on a visit to the La-Z-Boy Center in Monroe. In this dish, where the menu describes it as “tender” it’s more like “Melt-in-the-mouth”. The server had brought a steak knife with the dish (having not served it before) and I made sure to point out the knife was entirely unnecessary! Again, the sweetness of the port wine demiglace is a great contrast to the flavor of the duck. Swirling the potatoes in the sauce, then picking up a slice of duck breast … that’s the best way to enjoy this dish.

Pork Normandy
A hand-cut pork rib chop combined with sautéed apples and imported mushrooms. We then flambé it with brandy and finish with heavy cream and butter.

While not a new dish at the restaurant, Mary’s serving of Pork Normandy was something we hadn’t tried before. This massive pork rib chop was incredibly tender all the way to the bone, and quite flavorful. The combination of the sautéed apples and mushrooms in the cream sauce also made for a nice side dish on its own, one we couldn’t seem to stop snacking on!

Did we have a good time? You betcha!

Breakfasts at Rivalrys Bar in Erie, Michigan

An excellent breakfast at a bar? Who’d of thunk it?

Yeah, that’s a big pile of schmutz. But it’s a good pile of schmutz. Out of all the breakfast burritos I’ve eaten in probably 40 years, this one is one of the best if not the best one of the bunch. This thing is absolutely huge. I’d hoped to get a photo of what the inside of this burrito looks like, maybe with a good cross-section, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

One of the more interesting points about this burrito is where its served. If you live in Monroe County and/or drive the infamous Telegraph Rd. in Michigan near the Ohio state line, you’ll likely have driven through the intersection at Sterns Rd. about two miles north of Ohio. You’ve probably looked at the little bar on the northwest corner, Rivalrys, and because it doesn’t look like much whatsoever you’ve always driven right past it.

Late yesterday morning we were actually on our way to breakfast at another restaurant when I spotted Rivalrys once again. My curiosity got the best of me, I made a hard right turn and parked at the far end of the little building.

Inside, the place is a classic bar. There’s country music in the jukebox, a karaoke machine by the front door, a tin ceiling, Club Keno on a couple flat-screen monitors, burly bearded bartenders schlepping drinks … and yes, vodka-based Clamdiggers being served at 11 a.m.

As soon as the bartender had gotten us our coffees and we opened the menu, we spotted it: The Belly Bustin Burrito:

Mary said that, if I didn’t order the thing that she was going to because one of us had to have the experience. I went ahead and order the Burrito while she ordered the Farmer’s Omelet.

Like I said, this was likely the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had in my life. It may not be the largest. That would have been one I tried to eat at Tony’s in Birch Run, Michigan, where they don’t measure their portions. (They just serve the package they get!) One problem with a lot of breakfast burritos is that the fillings are either too dry or they’re a bit on the runny side. The filling of the Belly Bustin Burrito was neither, with thick chunks of sausage and good potatoes in with the eggs. The sausage had an excellent flavor, while at the same time it didn’t overpower the rest of the dish. There was also a good southern-style sausage gravy on it, one that’s not too peppery. What was interesting about this dish was that I didn’t have to use salt or pepper. This burrito came perfectly seasoned, an accomplishment that was impressive on its own.

I did finish this beast. It was about noon and I hadn’t eaten since an early dinner the night before. After eating the Belly Bustin Burrito I also really didn’t eat much the rest of the day either (no surprise there), and only had some cottage cheese and Georgia peaches for dinner.

Mary’s Farmer’s Omelet was also incredibly good, and good-looking as well.

This was also overstuffed with all kinds of good things, potatoes, sausage, cheese, mushrooms and peppers. There wasn’t a brown spot on it as it was obviously carefully made. The lighting in this pic, the sun coming through the front window of the dimly-lit bar, really doesn’t do this omelet justice.

Notice the prices in the menu. The burrito itself was $5.50. Other places would probably charge over seven or eight dollars for that same burrito, or even something smaller. I think her Farmer’s Omelet, as big as it was, was $4.99 like the Mexican Omelet was as shown in the menu photo, but don’t quote me on that.

If you like a really good breakfast, and can tolerate a classic, smoky bar atmosphere (it is what it is), Rivalrys is one of those places you should stop into instead of just driving past. We’re glad we did, and will definitely be going back.

Waterside Dining at Boatwerks, Holland, Michigan

Every once in a while I’ll get an email out-of-the blue from Patty Lanoue Stearns. Patty is one of the more well-known food writers here in the state of Michigan, having written quite a few books on Michigan foods and authoring an even larger number of articles on the subject. One of Patty’s current gigs is that of food contributor to the coffee table mag “Michigan Blue“. This magazine focuses on living in Michigan on, or finding entertainment and activities near, one of these four Great Lakes. (Ahem … yes, I know there are five, but Lake Ontario doesn’t apply here.) Since I can look to my left at the moment and see Lake Erie, “Michigan Blue” applies to Mary and I in many ways.

A year or so ago one of Patty’s questions was this: Was there anywhere down here in southeast Michigan where a boater on Lake Erie can dock the boat and enjoy a good meal? I told her of a few places; Weber’s on Lost Peninsula, Bolles Harbor Café, and Erie Party Store, an Oliver’s Pizza franchise in a fishing shop that also owns a marina in Bolles Harbor. A lot of folks dock at the Erie Party Store and walk the thousand feet or so to Bolles Harbor Café for one of Chef Silverio’s delicious meals.

The Party Store and Bolles Harbor Café made it into the final printing, but Weber’s didn’t. That may be because of the Lost Peninsula location which, if you don’t really understand it, it’s kinda weird. Ok well, it’s kinda weird anyway … Lost Peninsula is what George Clooney would call a “geographical oddity”. While it’s not “two weeks from everywhere”, and it is part of Michigan, you can’t get there from here without going through Ohio first. You have to take Summit St. south out of Michigan where Summit splits off from I-75 at exit 2. Follow Summit into Ohio. After the bridge, turn left onto 131st St. Follow that till it turns left and you’re heading north again. Immediately after the “Welcome to Michigan” sign on the peninsula, Weber’s will be on the left. As there’s no bridge connecting the peninsula to the rest of Michigan, the Mason Consolidated school buses have to take this route to get these kids to school in a part of the state that isn’t “lost”.

Weber’s does have its own nice marina there in the Ottawa River so dockside dining is a given.

I told you that story to tell you this one.

It’s Patty’s fault that I now find myself looking for these kinds of places where a boat on the Great Lakes can be docked during dining. I don’t own a boat and so have only been on one of the Great Lakes in a boat a few times in my life. But boats are a passion of mine anyway so I’ll keep looking for these places. We found a really nice one a couple weeks ago in Holland, Michigan, over on the Lake Michigan side of the state on Lake Macatawa. I’m not sure if Patty covered this restaurant in her article in her Michigan Blue article. Seriously, I can’t find the darn thing. I think I may have left it at the Erie Party Store.

Patty may not have covered Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant in Holland as it seems to be fairly new. We spotted it from the road as we were driving by but since they had just opened for the day there weren’t many cars in the parking lot. One of the employees was going inside when I shot this photo and I actually asked her if they were open yet. Of course they were, so we went inside for a Friday lunch.

It was once we were inside that Mary asked if there was outdoor dining. We were taken through the restaurant, past the large panes of glass that made the grill area in the kitchen an exhibition, through the open boathouse dining rooms with the high vaulted ceilings, past the coffee table seating areas with boating magazines on low tables, and outside to the real waterside restaurant

Patty may not have covered Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant in Holland as it seems to be fairly new. We spotted it from the road as we were driving by but since they had just opened for the day there weren’t many cars in the parking lot. One of the employees was going inside when I shot this photo and I actually asked her if they were open yet. Of course they were, so we went inside for a Friday lunch.

It was once we were inside that Mary asked if there was outdoor dining. We were taken through the restaurant, past the large panes of glass that made the grill area in the kitchen an exhibition, through the open boathouse dining rooms with the high vaulted ceilings, past the coffee table seating areas with boating magazines on low tables, and outside to the real waterside restaurant

I ordered the ground steak cheeseburger on a toasted Kaiser bun with gouda. This was served as you see it in the first photo of this post. Those chips are handmade from whole potatoes in the exhibition kitchen. The burger itself is made from very flavorful ground meat and grilled to perfection. The bun was fresh and was toasted just the way I like it. The gouda was thick, probably 1/8″, and as it was so thick its own flavor set the burger off nicely. And those chips were rather remarkable and delightfully crispy. If I could duplicate them at home with the same flavors, I would.

Mary had the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. Souns simple, doesn’t it? The menu describes it best:

Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Herb marinated breast of chicken, grilled and topped with applewood smoked bacon, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato and red onion. Served on a unique pretzel bun.

Yeah, that’s a pretty good thing, there. You can just imagine it, and then it’s even better than that. Mary thoroughly enjoyed it.

Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant is the kind of place we’ll definitely go back to when we’re in the area once again. Maybe by boat? Who knows …

An Odd Way to Make New Friends, and Jeanne’s Café, Grand Haven, Michigan

The Smoked Salmon Omelet with cream cheese, capers and dill at Jeanne’s Café in Grand Haven, Michigan

I didn’t eat this omelet. Neither did Mary. Oddly enough, some biker we met at a rest area ate this particular Smoked Salmon Omelet.

Already, you’re definitely getting the wrong image of the guy. Believe you me, we had an entirely different image of him at first, which was also quite wrong.

Lemme tell you this story …

 Traveling along I-96 last Wednesday we pulled into the rest area just west of Lansing near Portland, Michigan. We pulled in next to a Harley with a lovely young lady standing next to it. We were guessing she was in her early 20s. In the rest room I spotted the other rider … a man obviously in his 40s. My first thought was, “Wow he’s way too old for her.” As Mary and I were walking back to the van she was thinking exactly the same thing. That was, until the guy turned to us and innocently asked, “Would you take a picture of my daughter and I?”


It turned out Alexandra is only 14 but, like my own Briahna, easily looks older then that. She and her dad John are from Windsor, Ontario, and had rented the Harley from a shop in Farmington Hills. I would learn later her dad had promised her this trip on her 12th birthday so, as she put it later, “I had to wait two years for this!”

But I digress.

We chatted a bit at the rest area. We told them we were headed for Grand Haven. John and Alexandra had been headed for Traverse City but felt there wasn’t time, so they were headed for South Haven. We chatted a bit more, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

Or so we’d thought.

You know how, every once in a while, some really odd coincidence will happen, and the world will suddenly seem very small? That happened to us the following morning when we were leaving the hotel and Mary said, “Hey, isn’t that … ???” There they were, John and Alexandra, leaving the hotel in front of us! We don’t recall telling them exactly where we were staying, so the odds of us showing up at the same hotel some 80 or so miles from where they were headed are somewhat astronomical.

John and Alexandra in front of Jeanne’s Café with their Harley.

As I’d mentioned in yesterday’s post I was already planning on dropping Mary off for her morning sessions and heading for Jeanne’s Café so I told John about the 25 omelets there. When I got to the restaurant, John waved me over to their table. We had a most enjoyable visit, while at the same time enjoying some of Jeanne’s wonderful omelets.

Jeanne’s Seafood Omelet

I knew what I wanted. The previous evening I’d had some of Jeanne’s wonderful Smoked Salmon at the Michigan Association of Mayors reception near the Grand River and I knew that same salmon was in the Smoked Salmon Omelet. John ordered the Smoked Salmon Omelet shown in the first photo and obviously loved it. (Alexandra had ordered the pancakes and said they were also quite good.) But Jeanne had told me of her Seafood Omelet, containing both crab and shrimp, some Swiss cheese, all topped with hollandaise sauce. I’ve always enjoyed a good seafood omelet, particularly one containing crab. This particular omelet was rather good and the Hollandaise sauce was a perfect complement to it. I’m glad I ordered it.

[Yes, I know that’s not real crab, and Jeanne herself had mentioned this the night before. Just because it’s imitation crab doesn’t mean the omelet’s not good. It was delightful, actually. At over $20/lb right now, real crab likely won’t make it into any omelet I eat any time soon, so I’ll certainly take it this way.]

The exterior.

After feeding Mary and the other city leaders Jeanne came back to her café to chat with customers. After spending some time at our table she was off chatting with others … but after a while came back. She asked if I had my camera as she wanted to show some of the buffet photos from the previous evening to some new friends. After sending John and Alexandra on their way I headed to the table Jeanne wanted me to speak with. It turned out the folks there were Larry and Lisa from the Cocoa Cottage Bed & Breakfast further north in Whitehall. I’d heard of their B&B before, and Mary and I had talked about visiting such a place where chocolate is a way of life. We’ll have to head up there sometime.

You guessed it … the interior.

The following morning I once again dropped Mary off for her sessions and went back to Jeanne’s Café for another omelet. After going through the list of 24 possibilities (I planned on something different from the Seafood Omelet) I settled on the Philly, with its roast beef, sautéed onion, green pepper and mushrooms, some Swiss cheese and a side of cream cheese. The dark rye toast seemed appropriate for this omelet.

The Philly Omelet

So far this one’s my favorite. The roast beef was tender and juicy. There were just enough veggies and cheese to give the impression of a good Philly Cheesesteak sandwich without going overboard. And as Jeanne had told me, the cream cheese made for an excellent topping.

One thing I really enjoy doing is making friends at out-of-the-way restaurants the locals go to but that we’d normally never hear of. There in Grand Haven, with Jeanne’s catering service and her café, and with John and Alexandra unexpectedly showing up in the mix as a nice bonus … this is a place, a city, a group of friends Mary and I plan on visiting again when we can.

A word of warning: The backs of the t-shirts read, “PLEASE don’t feed the waitresses”. I get the feeling that’s a sentence we should all heed …