Bar bites at Bravo, Lansing

I love a good happy hour special. It’s so happy because I was not at work. I was also happy because my daughter was having an overnight with her grandparents, so my wife and I had a quiet home waiting for us, and there were a slue of $3.95 bar bites. And for $3.95, it was surprising how much food there was. Also surprising is that I didn’t take any pictures, apparently, so these items will be a mystery to you.

The Bravo in Eastwood Towne Center (it’s cool because it has the extra ‘E’) really lured Andrea and I in. Yes, there was the cheap food, but just as important were the $5 glasses of wine. We ended up getting three apiece, because we didn’t have anywhere to drive, and funny movies are even funnier with alcohol. We were going to see a movie afterwards, but we just walked there to gorge on popcorn.

We started with Caprese Salad, a nice appetizer to our appetizers, because you don’t want to rush into these things willy nilly, or nilly willy. No willies or nillies, please. A Caprese Salad is basically weeds, basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese, but the beauty is in the simplicity. If you have good mozzarella, you have a good Caprese Salad.

Next, we went for the bottom feeders – Crispy Shrimp Napoli. But oh, those tasty sea vermin were excellent. Nice and crispy, and the mystery sauce was fantastic. You’ll want to ask for some of Bravo’s excellent bread to scoop up some of the sauce. That’s a free tip, from me to you. Don’t mention it.

Then we went healthy and tried the Cheese Ravioli Al Forno. Al Forno means something, but I don’t know what. But I do know they were good, and isn’t that all that matters? There was a lot of excess cheese sauce so I could swirl my ravioli around and collect even more cheese.

Out final dish was the Chicken, Bacon & Spinach Flatbread. Crispy and bacony, I recommend this mini elongated pizza because they weren’t shy with the meat, a very important factor in any kind of pizza-ish purchase. And there were two types of meat, and I can’t discount that in the rankings.

So Bravo has the very good happy hour specials. Go, get lots, they’re small – you can work them off tomorrow.

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Corned beef and cabbage at The Watershed

Our St. Patrick’s Day tradition here in Haslett is visiting The Watershed for corned beef and cabbage. But in addition to this traditional holiday meal, we also got the loud drunk lady for free included with our meal. But it’s all good, because it’s a drinking holiday, and you expect that sort of thing. Of course, this was a teaching moment to explain to my daughter the effects of alcohol. That is the second time we’ve had to do that – I’m hoping it will sink

Now onto the food.

Corned beef

Corned beef

OK, it tasted better than it looked. Let’s face it – corned beef is not the most visually appealing food. But the meat was very tender and tasty – my 5-year old wanted me to save some for her lunch the next day. And there were three slabs of meat, so they were quite generous. And the potatoes and carrots were good as well, though there were not many of them. Cabbage is cabbage. More potatoes, less cabbage.

I always have a green beer on this most special of days. I’m usually forced to have Bud Light or Miller Lite or some other golden-colored water substitute. But at The Watershed, they could greenify any beer on tap, so I decided on the Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, and that was a good choice, if I do say so myself – it had twice the heart of any other beer. And Andrea also made a good selection with her Sam Adams Alpine Spring.

Next year, you know where to go. Ireland. But if not, go to Haslett.

The English Inn, Eaton Rapids

There aren’t many fine dining options around Lansing, and unfortunately The English Inn in Eaton Rapids is often forgotten because of it’s location away from the bustling center of culture that is the capital city. But thanks to Groupon, we were reminded of this wonderful place on M100.

What is now “The English Inn” was originally built for an executive of Oldsmobile, which you can read about on the website. I’m here to give a food review, so let’s get to it…. after a brief commentary on society. For those of who are a little clueless on manners, if you watch loud videos on your phone in a nice, classy, quiet restaurant, you should probably be eating at a sports bar, or maybe just stay at home and eat your Hungry Man dinners in the privacy of your own frat house. Losers.

The English Inn

The English Inn

Where was I? Yes, food. The croissants which were served first were soft and tasty and tasted like croissants. Go figure. The star of my show was the bacon-wrapped trout. It smelled fishy, but tasted excellent. Very flaky, very tender, just about perfect. I was wondering, however, how they tricked the trout to swim into the bacon trap they set. Curious, but whoever it was that thought of that genius idea, hats off. Because bacon makes everything better, including trout.

Bacon-wrapped trout

Bacon-wrapped trout

For dessert, I had the cheesecake, which was delicious. It was small, but for cheesecake, it was the right size. The Groupon included a salad, entrée, and dessert, so I got to have my own, non-chocolate dish. I love chocolate as much as the next guy, but I’m a fan of cheesecake, and when I split dessert with Andrea, non-chocolate is not allowed.

Cheesecake!

Cheesecake!

Don’t wait for a Groupon to head south of the city. Eaton Rapids is the place you need to be for a nice dining experience.  And with warm weather returning shortly, it’s a perfect time for stroll in the gardens behind the inn.

Tapas at San Chez Bistro, Grand Rapids

First off, my advice for eating at San Chez is that if you are going to a Maroon 5 convert at Van Andel, make a reservation. We did so we were golden, but there were many who walked away, sobbing, and there was much gnashing of teeth. Or something like that.

It was my first visit to the bistro, not to be confused with San Chez Café, the San Chez store, or the San Chez gun – knife –  BBQ grill outlet. The interior design was a little funky (for you jive turkeys out there), and included pillars covered with mirror shards, and a monkey. Not a real monkey, by the way – there would be health code violations for that.

San Chez, Grand Rapids

San Chez, Grand Rapids

As I hinted earlier, the place was packed, but we had a table by the window to watch hundreds of cars pulling into a nearby parking ramp. What entertainment! And that view was at no extra charge, by the way.

For me, the choice of beverage was easy: A pitcher of Sangria. There were three choice – white, red, and pink (a little white, a little red). White was the sweetest, red the least-sweet, and we decided on the red. It was good, and it went quick. There were either invisible aliens stealing my booze one sip at a time, or else I drank a lot. I’m leaning towards the former.

The first course was a loaf of bread. No picture, I know – how disappointing. But it was a tasty loaf of bread with olive oil Technical term.) Hard on the outside, soft on the inside, just like a police officer in a 70’s drama. Don’t eat all the bread right up front! I’ll explain shortly.

Our first tapas were the Empanadas. Filled with onion, potato, and garlic (not necessarily in that order) and served with aioli, these were tasty. The exterior was crispy, the interior creamy, and 100% good. Remember, this is tapas, which is Spanish for “you don’t get very much.” That explains why there are a lots of items I’m going to talk about.

Empanadas

Empanadas

Before we knew it, dish #2 had arrived, “La Costra de Trucha Alpina” – a.k.a. fish. There were a bunch of fancy little ingredients, but the main one was char. If you’ve never had it, it tastes like salmon, or at least the char we had at San Chez did.  It was served with maple carrot mush (fancy name: coulis) which tasted like sweet potatoes. So I think they actually served us salmon with sweet potatoes, but I’m not going to sue. After all, it was very good – I especially like the crispy bits on top that, combined with the tenderness of the char, made for an interesting combination.

Char

Char

Time for “Pollo y Chorizo a la Plancha”, grilled chicken and chorizo. I was a fan of both, but the chorizo won me over. And luckily for me, Andrea started to pace herself and she gave me her leftover chorizo. Or maybe she was just being nice. The meats were tender and oh-so good. And it was Grand Rapids-area chorizo. If you didn’t know, chorizo is made from tigers, and yes, Grand Rapids has tigers. The city is full of them.

Pollo y Chorizo

Pollo y Chorizo

Gambas Asadas al Fuego – just the title sounded hot. And when you get down to the description, “fire roasted”, that reinforces that impression. “Banana mustard cream” doesn’t, but you don’t want to scare off the customers. The gambas (shrimp) had some kick to them, but they were not overwhelming spicy – I didn’t cry or anything. Well, not too much, but that was because I saw a cute kitten picture, and everyone cries when they see kittens.

Gambas

Gambas

Anyways, this is the dish where the bread comes in handy. Had I not eaten all the bread, it would have been perfect for lapping up the leftover sauce. Alas, I did eat it, so I had to use my socks, and those were not nearly as good.

Finally came the “Fritos de Arroz”, rice fritters with bacon and shrimp. These were my least favorite tapas. There was an odd taste to them – it reminded me of Drano or dish soap – I can’t place it, but it just didn’t work for me. I had to use the last of my sangria to wash it down. OK, they weren’t that bad, but they didn’t live up the high level of goodness that the previous dished had reached.

Fritos

Fritos

So go eat at San Chez. Excellent tapas, even better than the tapas at Burger King, if you can believe it. Eating there will not only provide you with some great food, it will also make you feel European and impress your friends. And fellas, ladies love guys that eat tapas.