Archive for September, 2015

Shelley Buchanan, author of the Bloody Mary brunch blog called “The Drunken Tomato” and the book:  The Drunken Tomato: A Definitive Guide to the Best Bloody Marys in Los Angeles and Orange County, has recently published her second book, The Drunken Tomato Seattle.

Drunken Tomato Seattle

While I’ve never met Shelley in person, she’s become a resource of sorts for me as I’ve traveled to various cities, sometimes following in her footsteps, testing out her recommendations and sometimes giving her tips in return. I traveled to Los Angeles a few times since reviewing her first book and I’ve used it as a resource, checking out Hungry Cat and Franklin & Company, to name a couple.

So,  needless to say, I was thrilled when she asked me to preview and review her latest book.

I’ve never been to Seattle, but as fate would have it, 2016 just may take me there and hopefully I’ll finally get to meet Shelley over a bloody or two.  And, after perusing this guide, I’m definitely looking forward to my visit!

This unique and comprehensive city guide is organized by the different neighborhoods of Seattle: North, Ballard, Central, Capitol Hill, Downtown and West Seattle & South. She provides contact information for each bar and restaurant, along with reviews and pictures. The establishments range from well-known restaurants to the lesser-known “dive bars.”

“After drinking over 100 of the best and worst bloody marys that Seattle has to offer, I’ve learned three things,” Shelley writes in the intro. “First, Seattle snubs celery, second, infused vodka reignes supreme, and third, with the exception of a very few places, Seattle bloody marys are damn expensive.”

The book includes her “Top 10 List” of her favorite bloodies and she uses a cute category key throughout to denote things such as “Build Your Own,” “All You Can Drink,” “Beer Back,” etc.

Even if you’re not planning on visiting the area anytime soon, you’ll find that this book, like the Los Angeles edition, is put together so beautifully and the photos are so gorgeous (yes, I’m biased, I know, but I think Bloody Marys are amazing and photograph fantastically) that it could just as easily serve as a coffee table book and/or conversation piece.

Be sure to give Shelley’s blog a follow, follow her on Twitter @TheDrunkenTomato (and us, if you’re not already following– @OutForBloodies), and pick up this book if you get the chance.

She’s also got swag! Be sure to check out her site for cute tees and tanks in addition to her fabulous reviews and books. Thanks for sending me this sweet tank, Shelley! (White was a bold choice when you know I’m gonna be drinking tomato-based drinks in it!)

Drunken Tomato Tank

In this “business,” we don’t consider ourselves competitors, but rather co-conspirators, searching for that ever-elusive perfect Bloody Mary and having a blast trying.

Cheers!

Recently, I visited Cafe Hollander in Wauwatosa again.

Cafe Hollander

This time, I had the La Maria Verde. It was very good with quite a bit of kick! (Although, with a name like that, I expected it to be a) made with Tequila and b) be a greener hue.)

Cafe Hollander La Maria Verde

Seems like they change out their bloodies here on a regular basis, as the Hasta Manana is no longer an option (replaced by the Buenos Dias, I’d imagine). Of the above list, I’ve tried them all with the exception of the Buenos Dias and the Southsider. I’m a big fan of the Milwaukeean and the Frenchie as well.  You can read my original Cafe Hollander post here.

Cheers!

 

Yesterday was East Tosa’s annual Chili’n on the Avenue event, featuring both a Bloody Mary competition and a Chili competition.

We’ve chosen to attend this event over events like the Tomato Romp over the last couple of years because we really prefer the intimate neighborhood feel of the Chili’n event and how true each spot stays to the actual Bloody Mary served at their establishment.

However, this year we were a little disappointed in the event. The previous two years, there were four entries in the Bloody Mary competition (Last year: North Avenue Grill, Cranky Al’s, Bel Air Cantina & Red Dot).

This year, the event was moved further east on North Avenue, there were only three establishments participating, and only one of the competitors from previous years (Red Dot, the winner!) was involved.

This year’s competitors were:

-Hue (a new Vietnamese restaurant that opened last fall);

-Camp Bar; and

-Red Dot

When you think of Bloody Marys, you don’t typically think of Vietnamese restaurants, but we gave Hue a whirl first.

There, we found the owner behind the bar, ready to mix up the drinks. The Bloody here was Asian-inspired, containing hoisin sauce, sriracha, fish sauce and some chili paste among other ingredients. It was topped off with olives and Vietnamese pork for the garnishes.

Hue Bloody Mary

This Bloody Mary was the polarizing for the group. Either you liked the unique flavor or you hated it. In speaking with the owner, he told us that his wife had helped him come up with the recipe the night before. He wasn’t sure how many people would be trying his drink, so he was a little unprepared for the rush, but was very nice. When we inquired as to whether or not we would find this drink on the menu moving forward, he was not yet sure.

This was a deal breaker for us… The reason we stopped attending certain Bloody Mary events was because the bloodies strayed away from what was actually served at a restaurant in order to cater to the competition. What we like best about the competition is getting to try a variety of bloodies and then coming back to those establishments later to enjoy them again in the future…NEXT!

We then headed across the street to Camp Bar. We’ve reviewed Camp Bar here twice in the past, once for its Shorewood location and again last fall when Camp Bar opened up in Wauwatosa. We’re pleased to say the bloody mary they entered into the competition was a smaller version of the one they serve on a daily basis:

Camp Bar Bloody Mary

The final stop was at Red Dot, the winner of the event in years past. This Bloody Mary is already one of the tops in our book, so we knew going in, this was a frontrunner. And they did not let us down. We had to rightfully cast our vote for Red Dot’s Basil-Garlic Bloody Mary.

Red Dot Bloody Mary

While we still love Red Dot and they got our vote, the public voted Camp Bar as the new Bloody Mary champ:

Like we said, we have come to like this event far more than others for many reasons, but we do have a few more suggestions for the future, such as getting more bars & restaurants to participate in the event; having those bars/restaurants only use the bloody they actually sell; creating fun ratings cards like they had the first year; and making sure to announce the winners on social media on the day of the event so those who had to leave early are able to find out the results (we only know the winner because we saw a tweet from Camp Bar), plus making an official hashtag for the event.

This year’s set up was different than in years past. As mentioned, it was hosted farther east on North Avenue. This seemed to exclude several businesses. In addition, the Chili was moved to individual tents and more spread out, but they still ran into the same problem they’ve had before: The participants run out of chili as early as 30 minutes into the event. We had purchased tickets and several went to waste because the chili was gone. When we tried to return the tickets where we had purchased them, we were told we were out of luck and that many had the same issue. That really wasn’t a satisfactory answer…. something should definitely be done to fix the issue moving forward. For example, there should be some sort of set amount of chili each participant has to create, or only a limited amount of tickets can be sold…

Just something to think about for future years as we would hate to see this event fail!

 

 

 

 

We recently visited the Claim Company in Northbrook, IL.

We found this restaurant in a mall in northern Illinois called Northbrook Court and stopped in for lunch on a Friday afternoon.

This slightly western-themed restaurant appears to be known for its “Motherlode Burgers” and large salad bar.

We opted to check out the salad bar and ordered a bloody mary to wash it down.

Claim Company

MIX: Housemade

CHASER: None offered

FIXIN’S: Lime, Lemon, Olives, Celery & Beefstick

PRICE: $Unsure

Overall, we were underwhelmed with the Claim Company. The bloody mary, like the food and service, was pretty average. Although it gets props for the beefstick, the mix didn’t have much flavor. Claim Company is okay if you’re at the mall and need a quick bite, but we would not go out of our way to go back here.

 

We recently visited Dicken’s Grille in West Allis, Wisconsin.

We had been hearing a lot about Dicken’s lately from people in different circles, so we knew there had to be something there.

We learned that they offer specialty bloodies on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-3pm (we learned this the hard way, stopping in at off-time last winter), so we stopped in one Sunday during a Packers game.

The Bloody Marys at Dicken’s are essentially build-your-own… they start at $6 for a pint and the price can fluctuate based on the options you choose.

You get a say in your Vodka/Liquor, Bloody Mix, Spice, Garnishes, and Chaser, all by filling out a little slip of paper and handing it to the bartender. Here’s an example:

Dicken's Grille Bloody Mary

MIX: You choose! We definitely wanted to try their house mix, without any extra spices. It wasn’t bad at all, just nothing special. We also wanted to try Ben’s Bloody Kentucky since that was new to us  as well. We liked that a bit more and will probably stick with that or Zing Zang in the future.

CHASER:You choose! You can even upgrade to a full mug for just $.75! So say you’re having bloodies with someone who just wants to have a beer… you could be kind and just give them your chaser… or keep it for yourself.

FIXIN’S: Four tremendous options to pick from! We can vouch for the Lambeau (perfect for a Packers game!), Meat & Cheese and Surf & Turf, as our party was able to try these three. Apparently, they have limited offerings of the Racing Sausage bloody mary each weekend, so it is recommended that you get there early if you want to try that one (and we do, so we’ll be back!).

PRICE: Starting at just $6

We were very happy with our visit to this hidden gem (or maybe not-so-hidden anymore!) in West Allis. The people were friendly, the prices were fair and the drinks were flowing.

We loved our Lambeau Bloody Mary and will definitely be back for this again (cheesehead wedge cut off in photo!):

Lambeau Bloody Mary

We also enjoyed the Meat and Cheese option:

Dicken's Meat and Cheese bloody mary

as well as the Surf & Turf Bloody Mary:

Dicken's Surf and Turf Bloody Mary

We’ll be back again, banging on the door when they open to try that Racing Sausage option another time.

Besides the excellent Bloody Marys, Dicken’s also offered free chips, cheese and salsa during the game, shots for Packers scores, beaded necklaces for fans, a lengthy beer list and special sandwiches available for purchase.

If you’re a true Bloody Mary enthusiast like I am, you’ll want to be sure to add this one to your list!

 

We recently visited Comet Cafe on Milwaukee’s East Side.

Comet has been around for over 20 years, specializing in comfort foods like home-style meatloaf, cheesy-gooey sandwiches (like the Classic Cheesy Tomato, which I tried) as well as breakfast everyday until 3pm. They are also well-known for their free baskets of bacon during happy hour, Bacon Night on Sundays and their bloody marys.

Comet has appeared on many Milwaukee round-up lists of the best Bloody Marys, but I had somehow never made it there…until now.

I headed down to Comet around 11am on Labor Day with a friend planning on grabbing a quick drink, not really thinking it would be difficult to get in…. We were surprised to find ourselves saddled with a 40-minute wait just to get in the door. Even bar seating was not first-come, first-serve. Since we had already driven down to the East Side, we were committed to making this happen. We decided that if we were going to go through the trouble of a wait and getting seated properly, we might as well eat there, too.

We were finally seated (inside, at the bar) and it took another 10 minutes or so for our server/bartender to address us after a busperson brought us water. We decided we had one shot to order drinks and food, or we’d be waiting even longer. We also contemplated asking for the check up front, too, but decided against it.

Anyway, at long last, our Bloody Marys and food arrived:

Comet Cafe Bloody Mary

MIX: Housemade

CHASER: a Miller High Life pony

FIXIN’S: Lime, olive, mushroom and bacon

PRICE: $9

From the description: “Our house-made bloody mix with Rehorst Vodka. Comes with BACON (of course!) and the cutest little chaser ever: a 7 oz Miller High Life Pony!”

This bloody mary had a nice overall “fresh” flavor, but was not very spicy. It tasted more like pizza or marinara sauce. We had also read reports that this bloody mary was made with Guinness, but we detected none of that and wonder if the recipe has changed over the years.

Aside from the bacon, the garnish was pretty standard. We enjoyed the bacon but found it to be a little limp for our drink on this particular day.

We enjoyed our (huge servings of) food and left full, almost two hours later.

The verdict?

If you’re in Milwaukee, Comet is an institution and you should definitely check it out–just be prepared to wait. The Bloody Mary is pretty good, but if you’re just looking for a beverage, there are plenty of other quicker and just-as-good (if not better) options close by.