lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

abreo restaurant rockford, il

Happy New Year 2014!

My husband & I celebrated New Year’s Eve at Abreo Restaurant, in downtown Rockford and it was amazing, just as we knew it would be.

We’re big fans of Abreo, who catered our wedding, and this is our first time there since their remodel. We don’t make it down there as often as we’d like, but we always enjoy our experience there, when we do.

Our dinner reservation was for 8:30, but we arrived at 7:30 to enjoy a cocktail at the bar. The new bar area is beautiful, though the fireplace is gone, which I kind of missed. As my husband noted, it was most likely taking up prime real estate, as far as seating goes, and I have to agree on that point.

We waited only about 40 minutes before they seated us (we were an hour early, remember) and I can’t say I love their new dining area. It may have been a set up strictly for New Year’s Eve, but it’s not nearly as intimate and unique as it used to be.

We were well prepared for the menu offerings for the evening, since I’m a smart cookie and subscribe to their e-newsletter. They offered 2 menus: a three-course for $50 and a five-course for $75. Of course, we opted for the five-course and It didn’t take us long to decide what each of us would be ordering. We agreed to each order something different than the other, so that we could taste a wider variety of things.

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Here are the selections that we chose:

First Course:

  • Me: Vodka-cured hamachi, toasted crepes, cream fraiche, chive oil, osetra caviar and pickled fennel
  • Husband: Foie gras torchon, micro herbs, fig, sourdough toast and pickled apple

Second Course:

  • Me: Yellow fin tuna sticky roll, with jicama, mint, cilantro, sesame lemon vinaigrette, wasabi caviar and cucumber
  • Husband: Pork belly with a slow-poached egg, poblano potato mash, frisee, sweet & sour croutons and pickled onion

Third Course:

  • Me: Lobster cocktail, with horseradish brulee, peas, tomato gelee, preserved lemon and micro greens
  • Husband: Roasted beets with frisee and arugula, dijon, aged gouda, red wine vinegar and sunchoke chips

Fourth Course:

  • Me: Coffee-cured beef tenderloin with balsamic jus, roasted mushroom, asparagus and hazzard farm polenta
  • Husband: Elk prime rib with parsnip mash, dried cherries, port wine, roasted brussels sprouts and bacon

Fifth Course:

  • Me: Chocolates – chili, miso, dried cherry, salted caramel and orange lavender
  • Husband: Chambord crepes with raspberry and vanilla

Overall, the shining star was the pork belly dish – my husband & I could have devoured about 6 of them alone and been blissfully happy.

His elk and my tenderloin were the next favorites and temped beautifully. Both were very flavorful and I absolutely loved the coffee flavoring on my tenderloin. We weren’t served steak knives with these, which struck me as odd, especially when I saw other diners with them, but we happily didn’t need them – that’s how tender these cuts of meat were. We each had a glass of Cabernet with our dinner and it was a perfect accompaniment to both of these meats.

The hamachi and caviar where delicious, and I loved the tuna rolls, with its fresh herbs and lemon. The foie gras was good, though it didn’t bowl us over, but we loved the roasted beet dish.

My chocolate dish was pure chocolate overload and could have been split between the two of us. 5 pieces of chocolate was a lot to digest at that point, but my favorites were the chili and the miso, with the caramel a close third.

Sadly, continuing snowfall made for inclement weather and cut our evening a bit shorter than planned.  After enjoying some coffee, we headed back out into the snow, and slowly made our way home.

I hope that if you live in the area and haven’t had a chance to experience Abreo, that you’ll get there in 2014. Service is always friendly and helpful (thank you Melissa and Debbie) and the food is always fabulous. Paul, the owner, splits his time between Abreo and  Social, another fantastic downtown Rockford restaurant; both are worth the trip.

Happy New Year to all my friends and family. Thank you to everyone who helped make my blog a success in 2013 and I hope we’re all blessed in the year to come.

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

spring art scene – rockford, il

We went downtown Rockford for Spring Art Scene last weekend and had a truly wonderful evening being able to wander around and stretch our winter-weary legs.

First, we stopped at J.R. Kortman Gallery where, if you’ve never been, has a ton of fun, unusual items. Then we walked over to Kryptonite Bar, where we enjoyed a cold craft beer while perusing the art. My husband had a Smuttynose Robust Porter and I had a New Belgium Shift Pale Lager…both of which I recommend if you’re a beer lover.

We then wandered through the artful nudes at Irish Rose and from there we headed up to see my friend who’s a bartender at Someplace Else II.  We relaxed over a cold Corona while we caught up and then headed back down E. State St to The Office.

Once a regular at The Office, this night I was there to check out the photography of my friend John, who I hadn’t seen in quite a while. John, aka JD Nelson, had some amazing shots displayed and it was truly great to see him again. Seeing as how I’d also ordered one of his prints last fall, it was also exciting to see my choice hanging in his show.

We bid adieu and from there we stopped over at Abreo. We’d hoped to have a chance to say hello to Paul and Karen, but they were out catering a wedding that night. We checked on a time for a table and moseyed up to the bar for a cocktail. I ordered a bottle of Harp’s and my husband opted in for a Maker’s 46 Manhattan:

Terrible photo, I know. The drinks were delicious but, unfortunately, our wait at the bar grew longer…and longer…

So we canceled our wait for a table and walked down the street a bit to check out Kuma’s Asian Bistro for the first time. Very, very glad we finally had an excuse to try this restaurant because it ended up being a wonderful dinner.

We started off with a mixed appetizer of fried wontons, crab rangoon, egg rolls and steamed edamame, along with a Chang beer for each of us. Their menu is quite extensive but we were starving and had a good idea what each of us wanted. My husband had Korean Beef BBQ and I had Spicy Calamari Stir Fry and we both had the sheer audacity to say we’d like a definite kick to our plates. Jamie, our incredibly personable server, tested our heat-tolerance level with a few well-aimed questions and she left to place our order.

The mixed appetizer was delicious – even the crab rangoon, which everyone seems to love no matter where they order it and of which I am typically not a huge fan.

The dinners were the true delight though. Both large servings came with heaping mounds of rice, kimchi, and pickled Daikon radish.

I’ll apologize here for not taking any photos but I was admittedly starving and I’m pretty sure my husband was on the verge of passing out by the time we sat down to order.

Anyway, the food was divine! I had just a taste of my husband’s, but the beef was tender and the Scoville level was definitely on the upper side of fiery. My dish was only 1 step down in heat but the calamari tubes, sliced into meaty slices, were cooked to perfection.

As hungry as we both were, we still weren’t able to finish the generous portions and were forced to ask for take-home containers. And most delightful of all? Mixed appetizer, 2 dinners, and 2 beers came to a grand total of $50.00. We’re already looking forward to our next visit to Kuma’s.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening out. Spring Art Scene was an array of mixed media and the weather blessed us with a warm evening. I finally got to catch up with some old friends and my husband and I had the chance to experience a new downtown restaurant.