cheese

Treadwell’s Travels – Harry And Eddies, A Second Serving, Lacking Service

As you read in my earlier blog about Harry And Eddie’s, in Hinsdale, Illinois, on my first visit a couple months back, the food was Fabulous, yet the service missed the mark completely. Sadly, the second visit was very similar.

On my second visit to Harry and Eddie’s, I wanted to create a similar situation for fair comparison, so I choose to go at the same time and sit in the same seat as before. The bartender from the previous visit was apparently not there, so I was greeted by a bartender mentioned during my first visit. (She) greeted me with “Welcome Back!” which instantly led me to believe that this visit was going to be different and with much better service than  the first experience. Unfortunately, this was not the case. While she crafted my cocktail, I selected appetizers not tried previously. Pei Mussels was my first selection and I was not disappointed. Fresh and plump sitting in a minimal broth that was flavored with cilantro and pieces of pork belly, the entire bowl topped with fries that were crisp and flavorful.

Some crusty bread to soak up the remainder of the broth would have been Fabulous, but unfortunately the bartender was no where to be found. Later when she returned, the bowl of leftover broth was cleared without an offer for more bread. The next item was a a bowl of Tomato Basil, and a bowl of French Onion soup (I like my soups). The Tomato Basil was good, although needed more seasoning to be rated as Fabulous. The consistency of the tomato was perfect, not to thick, not to creamy. I asked for freshly ground black pepper (why wasn’t if offered in the beginning?) hoping to spice up the Tomato Basil soup, it helped, although it continued to lack the balance of flavor.

 

The French Onion Soup – which was served classically served with a thick mound of melted cheese, slightly charred, was Fabulous from beginning to end. Everything was as expected from this classic soup, both in appearance with flavor, that was beyond Fabulous. The Onion Soup had the flavor of being been slow-cooked for hours, in house, by a chef who strived for excellence. It was Fabulous.

When I I asked about desserts the bartender presented the selections. I choose (2) separate desserts, Peanut Butter Pie, and Strawberry Shortcake.  The first dessert – the Peanut Butter Pie was whimsically presented in an old fashion, bell-top jar. The serving was small in size although enjoyed immensely. All of the traditional elements in the traditional presentation, yet served deconstructed.

The second dessert was Strawberry Shortcake With Burrata for topping, in place of the traditional whipped cream. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you already know my love of cheese for dessert, so the combination of berries and Burrata was delicious. In addition to being a cheese lover, real whipped cream gets my attention faster than one can say Fabulous. Whenever I order any dessert, regardless of the venue and regardless of the menu, I always request the server to add extra whipped cream, especially to something such as strawberry shortcake. My request is always the same – “I LOVE Whipped Cream, so make me look for it.” I don’t mind paying more for what I want, just give me what I want when requested. In most cases, servers are always eager to comply (think larger tip).

The bartender/server had confirmed that she would ask the chef to add plenty of whipped cream to the Shortcake. Unfortunately as beautifully as it was presented, the dessert came with little to no whipped cream at all. There may have been a slight amount added, but due to the deconstruction of the Burrata, the whipped cream must have dissipated, or disappeared. Again, searching for my server to ask why there was no extra whipped cream on my dessert, soon had become more trouble than my time was worth. Nearing the end of the dessert, the bartender came over and asked “How’d you like the whipped cream?” (?!?) “It was made in house”.  Apparently she never realized the additional whipped cream had never been added, even when she sat the dish in front of me?

The food at Harry And Eddie’s is both creative and delicious. However after two visits, you may have to settle for service that’s far from Fabulous.  When dining out, as with everything else in life, people remember the experience and how you made them feel, long after the memory of the food.

 

Treadwell’s Travels – The Brook Bar And Cafe’, Whole Foods Market

I usually shop at my local Whole Foods Market, near my home, in Hinsdale, Illinois. While running errands one recent afternoon and in another part of town, I remembered there was a Whole Foods in Willowbrook that was also on my way. Walking into the store, I quickly realized this Whole Foods was much larger than the Hinsdale location. I enjoyed roaming the spacious isles, discovering the Fabulous possibilities.

While perusing the last isle prior to checkout, I spot the wine and spirits section. Stopping to see the selection of Rye Whiskies, I quickly noticed a full figured, bearded gentleman, and I also overheard him coaching an employee. When he spotted me, he immediately asked if he could be of assistance? After a brief discussion of his recommendations of whiskey, my selection was complete. He then invited me to stop by “The Brook“, which is a separate cafe’ and bar, conveniently located inside the store, and only steps away from the spirits isle. The bearded gentleman also mentioned that rotating selections of beer and wine continued to keep (the bar and cafe) ‘interesting’ and that I should be sure to try it out during my next visit to the store. I thanked him for his recommendations and walking away I heard him return to his coaching.

 

Willing to get out of my comfort zone, several days later I decided to try The Brook – which as described above, is a casual restaurant located inside the Willowbrook Whole Foods. I’ve long been aware of grocery stores featuring their own cafes, however never at Whole Foods. Upon my return visit, I first did a bit of shopping, then soon after I stopped by The Brook (short for “Willowbrook”) near the wine and beer isle. I parked my cart by the entrance, walked in and claimed my usual spot, a seat near the end of the bar. After a short wait, an awkward although nice young man asked if he could help. I explained that this was my first visit and that I was referred here by the friendly, knowledgable, bearded store associate. The bartender winked, knowing exactly whom I was referring to. The daily special advertised on a large menu board, featured special pricing on selected brands of beer. I decided that an IPA (my beer of choice) would be most refreshing. Aside from beer specials, also offered were small plates to help hold off hunger. After all, one can easily work up quite an appetite while grocery shopping.

My first choice of an IPA was as close to Fabulous as possible in this setting, as well as a different IPA for ’round two’. For my third libation, I choose a red wine accompanied by the cheese plate. The cabernet was surprisingly inexpensive, with a liberal pour and worth considering for purchase, and adding it to the home wine cooler. The Cheese Plate was another pleasant surprise, and of generous proportion. Tasty selections, and at a very modest price. A few days later and again needing groceries, I decided to give The Brook yet a second try.

It was Friday, and with specially priced whiskey being the daily offering, I was already convinced I had made yet another good decision. Again, the same nice, awkward young man offered his help. Selecting a rye whiskey and pairing it with a cheesy Gnocchi with Red Sauce, was a Fabulous choice. After deciding on a final glass of wine at -what I thought would be the end of my meal, the nice young man asked – “Would you also like the cheese tray with your wine as you did last time?” Very impressed with his memory and his attempt at Fabulous service, I said yes! Again the cheese tray was consistent in presentation and quality, yet one of the cheese selections in particular, was especially outstanding. So much in fact, I wanted to know the name of this Fabulous cheese so I could purchase it at check out. This was a Whole Foods Cafe after all, so there was no doubt that practically everything offered on the menu, was also available in the store itself. My assumption was correct, and directly beside the cafe, the friendly cheese monger pointed me directly to the cheese I had at the bar. Definitely a home run.

A grocery store cafe and bar with quirky, yet courteous service, was indeed an anomaly, and on so many levels. However with that thought, I most likely will try The Brook again, of course for the most comprehensive of quality control measures.