Tag Archives: drink

Restaurant Review: Stokes West

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There are a couple of restaurants in the Omaha area that I consider my “go-to” places when I need to make a quick decision of where to take friends or family. These are places that have great food and drinks, reasonable prices, and good service. They’re places that I can go to several times a month (without tiring of them) and always have a consistently good experience. Stokes is one of the restaurants on my very short go-to list.

Stokes opened their first location in Omaha in 1998 at 114th and Dodge. After a successful first decade, they opened a second location in the Old Market at 12th and Howard. In November 2012, Stokes moved their West Omaha location to 137th and Dodge—the location formerly occupied by Blue Agave and, before that, Ted’s Montana Grill. I recently visited their new location, and it looks fantastic! The restaurant features Stokes’ trademark copper tabletops and Southwestern art. There are also plenty of ornate wood booths and a large bar, which make this a very comfortable and fun atmosphere.20130508_bs_4689_web

The food at Stokes is beyond reproach. Executive Chef John Ursick has all but perfected the style of Southwestern/Tex-Mex cuisine. On a recent visit, my dining partner and I had some of my favorites, starting off with the Black Bean and Sweet Corn Taquitos ($7.95). This scrumptious plate of fried, rolled corn taquitos with corn, black beans, and Cotija cheese are served with two great salsas. Next, we tried the Queso Fundido ($8.95). If you’re a fan of queso, it doesn’t get any better than this! Stokes’ recipe features beans, jack cheese, caramelized onions, chorizo sausage, and ancho chile sauce served bubbling-hot with warm tortillas.

20130508_bs_4722

Executive Chef John Ursick.

For an entree, I had my favorite, Sharon’s Chicken Enchiladas ($14.95). These are not your traditional chicken enchiladas and instead feature shredded chicken breast topped with a white sauce, a poblano pesto, and a mountain of melted jack cheese. Trust me, even if you don’t like enchiladas, you will like these. My partner ordered the Twisted Garlic Shrimp Pasta ($14.95), which I have also had many times myself. This delicious radiatore pasta dish is made with a tasty Southwestern sauce, fresh tomatoes, avocados, and garlic.20130508_bs_4649_web

The excellent bar at Stokes is another reason I keep coming back. They have some incredible margaritas, as well as an excellent wine list and some very imaginative cocktails. They also have some well-regarded beers available…Not to mention that they have great happy-hour specials and, on Tuesdays, their entire wine list is half-price. Between the great food, beautiful new location, excellent bar, and friendly service, it’s pretty much a no-brainer dining spot and will remain one of my favorite go-to places for years to come.

Cheers!

Stokes West
13615 California St.
402-498-0804
restaurantsinc.net/stokes

RATING (5 Stars Possible)

Food & Beverage: ****
Service: ***
Ambiance: ****
Price: Great Value
Overall: ****

Beer Festivals

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For those not yet indoctrinated into the world of craft beer, the term “beer fest” is likely one that evokes images of Munich during Oktoberfest or something else in the realm of drinking for the sake of consumption.

In every one of these articles, we’re searching for deeper meaning, however. For our discussion here, we’ll be exploring beer fests in the sense of discovery, education, shared interests, and time spent broadening what the world of craft beer can mean to you.

Beer fests of late—those with goals such as those I’ve just mentioned—are built around a four- or five-hour experience where fest-goers pay a nominal fee in exchange for a fantastic day spent with brewers, brewery owners, beer zealots, and others just like yourself who are out to learn.

Sure, it’s entirely possible to spend your time at a beer fest tasting four-ounce samples at a rate that would be staggering to most. But those little four-ounce samples—the overall number of which is usually determined by your own tolerance of the day’s fun—are geared to allow you to taste a broad spectrum of breweries, particular styles, and unusual offerings, all under the auspices of fest organizers eager and ready to help you understand the particular pour. They bring along history, anecdotal information, and an introduction to the people and the culture behind the world that has become craft beer.

So are there beer festivals that exist locally that offer such learning opportunities? Absolutely. And the better fests out there actually provide for cab rides home and other people-friendly elements geared to not only get and keep your interest in craft beer, but to ensure you’re fully enjoying yourself and able to return to the next fest!

Nearly every single weekend in the Omaha area you’ll find some sort of beer or craft beer-related event. I draw a distinction because beer in general can be anything—imports, macro brands, and macro brands made to look like American-made small-batch craft beer. Both are good but, in my opinion, you’ll find the true culture embedded in the little brewery owner doing his best to get you to notice.

Timing is everything, so if you’re up for an afternoon of smiles, check out Sunfest in late July, which is put on by the folks at The Crescent Moon, 36th and Farnam streets. Or check out the Great Nebraska Beer Fest in late August in Papillion. You might also check in with some of your local Hy-Vee Wine and Spirits guys, as they have numerous educational mini-fests running quite often. I think you get the point though…Get out there, sample a few brews, and learn a little!

And as always, drink responsibly and designate a driver.

Pasta Salad

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16oz) package tri-color spiral pasta
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ lb. provolone cheese, cubed
  • ½ lb. salami, cubed
  • ¼ lb. sliced pepperoni, cut in half
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 (10oz) can black olives, drained
  • 1 (4oz) jar pimentos, drained
  • 1 (8oz) bottle Italian salad dressing

Instructions:

  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
  • Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente.
  • Drain and rinse with cold water.
  • In a large bowl, combine pasta with tomatoes, cheese, salami, pepperoni, green peppers, olives, and pimentos.
  • Pour in salad dressing and toss to coat.

Sugar-Free Lemonade

Ingredients:

  • 1¾ cups sugar-free sweetener, granulated
  • 1½ cups lemon juice
  • 8 cups water

Instructions:

  • In a small saucepan, combine sugar-free sweetener and 1 cup of water.
  • Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve sweetener in water.
  • Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled.
  • Remove seeds from lemon juice, but leave pulp.
  • In pitcher, stir together chilled sweetener/water mix, lemon juice, and remaining 7 cups of water.

Sources: allrecipes.com 

Restaurant Review: Louie’s Wine Dive

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“Wine should be fun” is what it reads on the staff’s t-shirts at Louie’s Wine Dive, and I have to say that I couldn’t agree more. So often, it seems that people are put off by buying wine, ordering wine, or going to wine bars because of the “snooty factor” that is perceived to come along with it. At Louie’s, they’ve done a good job of making wine more accessible to the masses and keeping the snobbery out of it. For that, I commend them.

The Shops of Legacy in West Omaha, has a large selection of very good restaurants. The location that Louie’s now occupies has been home to a couple of restaurants over the past few years, which should be a clue as to how competitive this area is for the West O dining dollar. If the success this small company has had in its Des Moines and Kansas City locations is any indication, then it’s safe to say that Louie’s has a good shot at making it here. The restaurant is very attractive and far from what I would call a dive, but they do have some “divey” features, such as chandeliers made from liquor bottles and mismatched chairs. I would describe the atmosphere as casual and comfortable.

After studying the wine list for a few minutes, it quickly becomes obvious that great care has been taken in the curation of the selections. Most growing regions and varieties are well-represented, and there’s not a dog in the bunch. The food menu has a little of everything as well: creative gourmet food with interesting twists on familiar favorites. There are appetizers, bruschettas, sandwiches, comfort-food entrees, pasta dishes, and salads.

On a recent visit, my dining partner and I started off with an order of Lobster Poutine ($15) and Louie’s Margarita Bruschetta ($9). This version of poutine is a rich lobster sauce poured over some delicious French fries with chunks of Maine lobster and topped with Fontina cheese. This dish was excellent, and one that I would recommend. The bruschetta was equally good and earned extra points since it was made on a baguette from Le Quartier Bakery, which happens to be my favorite bread in Omaha.20130329_bs_9505_Web

Next, we had a starter version of Emily’s Apple Harvest Salad ($5). This was made with baby greens, apples, cranberries, bacon, goat cheese, and candied pecans. I can promise you that I will order this salad every time I return. For entrees, we had the porchetta ($16) and the Shrimp Diablo Pasta ($16). The server told me that the corporate chef had won awards with the porchetta in the past, and after a few bites I could see why. This Italian-rolled pork shoulder is braised for hours with herbs and garlic so it melts in your mouth. The Shrimp Diablo might be the next one to win an award, as the creamy red pepper sauce had just the right amount of spice and a lovely toasted garlic finish. The shrimp are large and cooked perfectly.

Even though we were full, we soldiered on to try Lemon Pound Cake ($6). This moist cake had just the right relationship between sweet and sour and was topped with some fresh blueberry puree. It was a solid finish to a great meal.

I usually like to give new restaurants a little time to work out the kinks before sharing my thoughts with our readers, but, in this case, I made an exception, as it seemed to me that there were no kinks that needed working out. One of the many advantages a small restaurant company enjoys is the ability to send seasoned staff and managers to help open a new location, which makes the whole process considerably smoother and more enjoyable for the patrons. Our server was very well-trained and made some very good food and wine recommendations.

I think Louie’s Wine Dive will make an excellent addition to the West Omaha restaurant scene, and I am already looking forward to my next visit.

Cheers!

Louie’s Wine Dive
16920 Wright Plz., Ste. 118
402-884-8966
louieswinedive.com

RATING (5 Stars Possible)

Food & Beverage: ****
Service: ***
Ambiance: ***
Price: Moderate
Overall: ***1/2

Follow a Craft Beer Calendar

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

To many, reaching for a beer is a pretty simple affair—grabbing whatever is on sale or sits on top in the cooler. But I’m not here to advocate for simplicity when it comes to your choice of beverage. Putting some timely thought behind your selection can pay some great dividends!

As I write this, the sun is shining, the temperatures are finally rising, and the desire to get outdoors is overpowering. Just as certain craft beers pair beautifully with particular foods, so too do the myriad styles of craft beer find select pairings with the seasons, hence, the phrase “seasonal beers.”

Seasonal beers offer their peak appeal within a particular time of year. Certain styles have become the norm for the type of activities people find themselves involved in or the type of weather they’re experiencing. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Darker, maltier styles are well-suited to the colder months due to their more filling and higher alcoholic nature, for example; thus, they are popular in the fall and winter.

But we’re now several weeks into spring, so which craft beers marry well with springtime? Spring seasonals tend to have a straw or golden color, a lively effervescence, and a bitterness rate geared toward quenching a growing thirst.

Pale ales, “smaller” IPAs (just a bit bigger in stature than pale ales), and wheat beer styles are perfectly suited to the warming temperatures and activities of springtime. And like good wine, beers also have many intriguing variations and tilts on a style that will keep you entertained throughout the season. You need not chose just one seasonal option—you can find several you enjoy!

One of my personal favorites is wheat beer—American, German, Belgian—and with brews from so many little regions within these countries, the list is quite long. Wheat beers are generally made with 50 percent wheat/50 percent malted barley. Most are cloudy in nature due to the yeast and proteins left in suspension because of a deliberate lack of filtration. Differences emerge in the artistry of the brewer. American wheats are fairly straightforward, less challenging, or possibly a bit less entertaining, while the German wheats can be hugely effervescent and possess a nose bursting with banana, clove, and vanilla. There are many variations within the German ranks, but as I’m here to guide you, I’ll send you right to an immensely pleasing German Hefeweizen (pronounced “hefay veitzen”).

Most area grocery or bottle stores carry a nice selection of seasonal craft beers, and the local brewers either have one on tap year-round or are just gearing up for the seasonal change. This is one of the easiest times of the year to make your own personal-best seasonal choice.

Now, get out there and try a few!

Bean & Corn Dip

March 25, 2013 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Bean & Corn Dip

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can shoepeg corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 6 tbsp lime juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro , chopped
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped

Instructions:

  • Mix all ingredients (except the tomato) in a large mixing bowl, then place in fridge for 30 min.
  • After chilled and just before serving, add diced tomato to mix.
  • Transfer to decorative serving bowl and garnish with cilantro.
  • Serve with tortilla chips.

Margaritas on the Rocks

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sweet and sour mix
  • 1 cup triple sec
  • 1½ cups gold tequila
  • 1/3 cup brandy-based orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier®)
  • 2 limes, quartered

Instructions:

  • Salt the rims of your glasses. To do so, pour salt onto a small plate, rub the rims of the glasses with lime, and press them into the salt.
  • Fill glasses with ice.
  • In a shaker, combine sweet and sour mix,
  • triple sec, tequila, and liqueur. Shake to your hearts desire.
  • Pour into glasses, squeeze a quarter lime into each glass, and serve.

Recipe Sources: Linda Persigehl and allrecipes.com.

Oreo Truffles

January 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Oreo Truffles (makes 3.5 Dozen)

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16oz) package Oreo cookies
  • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 (8oz) packages semi-sweet baking chocolate

Instructions:

  • Melt chocolate in an uncovered pot on low heat. Use rubber spatula to stir and break up chunks.
  • Crush 9 cookies to fine crumbs in a resealable plastic bag, and reserve for later use. Crush remaining 36 cookies to fine crumbs in a resealable plastic bag, and place in a medium bowl.
  • Add cream cheese to crushed cookies in bowl and mix until well blended.
  • Roll cookie mixture into approximately 42 balls (about 1” in diameter).
  • Dip balls in chocolate, and use two forks to lift from pot (to allow excess chocolate to run off). Place on wax paper-covered baking sheet.
  • Sprinkle reserved cookie crumbs on chocolate balls.
  • Refrigerate until firm (about 1 hour).

Milky Way Martini

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups ice cubes
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 2oz vanilla-flavored vodka
  • 2oz white crème de cacao
  • 2oz Irish crème liqueur
  • 1 tbsp chocolate syrup

Instructions:

  • Chill a martini glass by filling it with ½ cup of ice and cold water.
  • Place 1 cup of ice cubes into a cocktail shaker. Pour the vanilla-flavored vodka, white crème de cacao, and Irish crème liqueur over the ice in the cocktail shaker. Cover and shake vigorously.
  • Dump the ice and water from the martini glass and drizzle chocolate syrup inside the glass.
  • Strain the cocktail into the glass to serve.

Recipe Sources: allrecipes.com.

Jazz: A Louisiana Kitchen

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Walk through the wrought-iron gates of Jazz: A Louisiana Kitchen, and the beads and feathers tell you you’re no longer on 15th and Farnam. You’re on Bourbon Street. “I’ve had more offers than I can count for that,” says Jordan Jackson, nodding at a huge white show cape pinned to a wall. “Shangri La” it reads, letting diners know this is the place to laissez les bon temps rouler.

Jackson has been letting the good times roll as the general manager of Omaha’s Jazz for two years. “We have a full-on Cajun menu,” he says. “Like ètouffèe, it’s just not something you find much outside Louisiana.”CrawFish copy

The original Jazz in Lubbock, Texas, (and consequently all five other Jazzes scattered across the nation’s middle) was heavily inspired by celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme. The Louisiana native popularized Cajun cooking with his restaurant, cookbooks, and TV shows. Omahans can enjoy his time-honored flavors as prepared by head chef and co-owner Justino Gomez, who’s cooked for Jazz for 20 years. “I love the Cajun food,” Gomez says. “It’s healthy, and it’s just good, you know?”

How does the food compare to what you’ll find in The Big Easy? “This is a little more Midwestern,” Jackson admits. “Cajun food is spicy, and that’s not what everyone up here is looking for.”

Those looking for authentic heat need not sweat the Midwestern standard. Each dish is made to order down to the sauce. “You want it mild? I’ll just put in the garlic and chives,” Gomez says. “You want it spicy? I’ll add more cayenne.”Untitled 2

Night owls know that finding decent food downtown can be a chore with most kitchens closing at 10 p.m. Jazz’s full menu is available until two hours before closing (which is 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and midnight the rest of the week), but Jackson swears by the late-night menu. Basically the only part of the regular menu not included is anything using the sauté station, like pastas, house specialties, and the (of course) sauté menu. “You can still get a good meal late,” Jackson says. Get the crab cakes a la mer. The best appetizer, in his opinion.

If you’re the type that insists on unique drinks to go with your unique food, Jackson makes sure local craft beer is in good supply. “Whoever’s got the better beer menu, that’s where I’m going for dinner,” he says. Usually all but two of the restaurant’s 12 taps are craft brews like Keg Creek, Chefs in Black, Blue Blood, and of course, Lucky Bucket.20121116_bs_4037 copy

What is dinner without a little music? Jazz brings in local musicians to complete the ambience every Thursday through Saturday. “It’s mostly jazz and the blues,” Jackson says, “but we do have one Dixieland band.” The Street Railway Company performs every third Friday of the month. Bands play on a stage overlooking the dining area from 7 to 11 p.m. Diners looking for a mellower evening should come on Thursdays, when the music only lasts until 10 p.m.

“Downtown’s becoming more than just the Old Market,” Jackson said. “If someone’s going to a show at the Orpheum, I want them to just know, oh yeah, Jazz’s right around the corner.”

Jazz – A Louisiana Kitchen
1421 Farnam St.
402-342-3662
jazzkitchen.com

Holiday Shrimp Dip

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Holiday Shrimp Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 (4oz) cans small shrimp, drained
  • 1 (8oz) jar cocktail sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced
  • assorted crackers for dipping

Instructions:

  • Spread cream cheese in an even layer on a serving dish or in the bottom of a glass pie pan.
  • Combine shrimp with cocktail sauce in a bowl and spread evenly over the cream cheese layer.
  • Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, covering the shrimp layer as completely as possible. Sprinkle the red and green bell pepper over the cheese layer.
  • Serve with crackers.

French 75 (Champagne Cocktail)

Ingredients:

  • cracked ice
  • 2 fluid ounces gin
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup
  • ½ fluid ounce lemon juice
  • 5 fluid ounces brut champagne, chilled
  • 1 slice lemon (optional)

Instructions:

  • Chill cocktail shaker and glass (champagne flute or Collins glass) in the freezer.
  • Add ice to shaker.
  • Pour gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice into shaker.
  • Shake well.
  • Fill chilled glass half-full of ice, then strain cocktail into the glass.
  • Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon slice.

Recipe Sources: allrecipes.com.

Millard Roadhouse

October 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If homemade comfort food is what you crave—think golden fried chicken, creamy mashed potatoes and gravy, and pork tenderloin—look no further than a historic eatery in southwest Omaha. Grab a friend or two (or more, there’s plenty of seating) and head to the Millard Roadhouse.

Just a stone’s throw from 132nd and L streets, the Millard Roadhouse has been serving up stick-to-your-ribs lunches, dinners, and Sunday brunches since its owner, Mark J. Kitson, opened the restaurant in 1997.

Mark Kitson, owner.

Mark Kitson, owner.

With more than 20 years experience working in the dining industry, Kitson says the Millard Roadhouse personally provides him with the perfect professional balance: great food with the opportunity to continually meet new people and routinely see familiar faces.

On a steamy Friday afternoon in early summer, Kitson chatted with a handful of regulars who have found a home at the Millard Roadhouse. The menu, along with the relaxed atmosphere, keep patrons coming back each week, Kitson says.

A spacious restaurant with room to hold upward of 350 guests (children eat free on Monday nights), the Millard Roadhouse’s signature red-checkered tablecloths and Americana décor can make any party, large or small, feel right at home. Its signature Husker Room is a popular pick for larger parties, especially during football season.

Millard-Roadhouse-20120726_bs_3920-copy

Kitson adds that the Millard Roadhouse often hosts pre-nuptial dinners and other family celebrations. The reason?

“We are very accommodating,” he says. “We see family dinners of 20, 30 people. Sports teams, too. We can make our layout work, hosting parties of up to 70 people. When a big group arrives, we make it work—even if they don’t have reservations.”

And while the space provides a relaxed and casual dining atmosphere, it’s the food that keeps Millard Roadhouse fans hungry for more, meal after tasty meal. A quick scan of the menu will leave anyone with taste buds salivating for what’s sure to be a memorable meal.

Millard-Roadhouse-20120726_bs_3985-copy

“Everything here is homemade,” Kitson says. “It’s all from scratch…our homestyle breading, homemade mashed potatoes and gravy. We even have fresh-baked cookies.”

The onion rings are a popular appetizer, fried perfectly golden and served piping hot. During the summer months, fresh-baked pies are a signature dessert; apple and strawberry rhubarb are among the most-often ordered. Another decadent favorite is a dense (and delicious) chocolate and peanut butter pie, served atop thin ribbons of caramel with a pretty strawberry garnish.

Although the Millard Roadhouse’s broasted chicken dinner is a fan favorite, Kitson says his variety of steaks are always ordered, too: roasted prime rib, New York strips, and T-bones by Omaha Steaks, to name a few.

Millard-Roadhouse-20120726_bs_3971-copy

The lunch buffet is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday; and the popular Sunday brunch menu (featuring both breakfast and lunch favorites) is also served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tradition is a big part of the Millard Roadhouse history. Kitson says that today’s regular customers started dining at the restaurant as children with their parents. Today, the children are all grown up, bringing in their own children for lunch and dinner. They stop by, too, for happy hour during the workweek, ordering up a variety of cocktail specials.

Millard-Roadhouse-20120726_bs_3947-copy

The building itself is historic, as well. At more than 100 years old, the Millard Roadhouse space is actually a combination of three adjoining buildings. At various points during the past 100 years, the buildings housed a number of local businesses: a post office, another restaurant, a barber shop, café, even a hotel and speakeasy. And part of Millard’s surrounding brick streets remain intact, giving the neighborhood a small town feel.

“We are Millard,” Kitson says of his restaurant. “We’re in the hub of Millard. I love that we support our heritage and our roots here in Omaha.”

Millard Roadhouse
13325 Millard Ave.
402-891-9292
millardroadhouse.com