The Champion's Table
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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Unwind at the On The Rocks Bar & Grill in the Blue Harbor Resort & Conference Center

After a long flight and long commute from the airport, I didn’t feel like venturing out for dinner. The Blue Harbor Resort & Conference Center has a few on-site dining options. The only one that was open when I arrived was the On The Rocks Bar & Grill. Although the sun had set, this place had tableside views of Lake Michigan. The restaurant has a rustic lodge, boathouse feel to it with paddles above the bar and a stonework fireplace. Their menu is actually The Beacon Restaurant’s menu with the inclusion of specialty drinks, wine, and beer.

I didn’t feel like a large dinner, just something light so I could get to bed. Here are some tasty bites you can try:

Citrus Mojito is made with rum, clementine, ginger, and mint. I wanted something to calm my nerves and I LOVE mojitos. It looked great with its orange color and mint leaves on top. I am not sure what kind of rum is used with this but it tasted a bit off with a heavy hit in bitter flavor department. This one may need a remix. Papa’s Pilar Rum would help even out the flavor for a smoother sip. Rating: 3/5

Spotted Cow Curds ($9) is locally-sourced cheddar curds hand-dipped in a New Glarus Brewing Company Spotted Cow (only available in Wisconsin) beer batter, deep-fried, and served with house-made jalapeño ranch dressing. If you have been following me, you know that I love cheese and I love, love, love cheese curds. This is the first time I have had cheese curds with a beer batter. The ale added a yeasty and slight fruity flavor to the batter which paired well with the gooey, salty cheese curd inside. I would leave them in the fryer for a little longer as some of them had a little bit of uncooked batter on the inside. Also, when removing them from the fryer, I would drain the curds a little longer to get more of the excess oil off. Other than that, these were great fried cheese curds. Rating: 4/5

The Wedge ($9) is a wedge of iceberg lettuce served with cherry tomato, smoked bacon lardons, Roth Kase Buttermilk Blue Cheese, julienne red onions, and house-made ranch dressing. This salad is more than just a starter, it is a meal! I wanted a salad to contrast the richness of the fried cheese curds, but was not expecting it to be this robust. I was amazed at how fresh everything tasted since it was so cold and snowing outside – crisp iceberg lettuce, sweet sun-ripen cherry tomatoes, and zingy red onion. The Roth Kase Buttermilk Blue Cheese is to die for! It has a nice creamy and silky texture with pungent bleu cheese flavor which works perfectly with the house-made ranch dressing. But what takes the cake is the smoked bacon lardons. They are what turns this salad into a meal with rich, smoky flavor with beautifully crispy edges with tender pork and juicy fat. I LOVE this salad! Rating: 5/5

With my tummy full, it was time to head to the room, get some sleep, and dream about bacon lardon as it gently snowed outside.. Stay tuned for a look inside The Blue Harbor Resort & Conference Center in the daylight.

Atmosphere: 4 out of 5 stars
Service: 4 out of 5 stars
Décor: 4 out of 5 stars
Food: 4 out of 5 stars

For more information:
(inside The Blue Harbor Resort & Conference Center)
725 Blue Harbor Dr
Sheboygan, WI 53081
Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to close
Seating: Interior
Reservations: First come, first serve

On The Rocks Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Road to Johnsonville’s The Sausage Dome: The Story Begins

Who knew that an email sitting in my inbox could be one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. The title of the email: “Casting Call for the Greatest Game Day Recipe”. I am a big fan of Johnsonville and like any fan, I subscribe to their newsletter to find out about new products that are coming out and recipes. My whole foodie career is the one spent behind the scenes – started by working in restaurants learning about food and cooking techniques, expanding my foodie knowledge with the written word to let the world know about new restaurants and food products, developing recipes for some of my favorite stores and products, and becoming a professional food judge to analyze food entries at food competitions across the country. I have competed in smaller recipe competitions in which your family, friends, and fans get to vote. It is taxing on everyone and the fun seems to end right when it starts. But there was something in this Johnsonville email that just made me say to myself, “Chelsea, you can do this!”

The specs were that your recipe had to have a Big Game taste and utilize Johnsonville sausage. It could be any recipe that I wanted it to be, but since there was a big graphic logo for “The Sausage Dome”, I figured it needed to be themed for a game day party. I took into consideration where you might make the recipe. If you are home, you have an oven, range, other cooking elements. If you are tailgating, you might have a grill and maybe a propane cooktop for making dishes like chili or soup. I wanted to make sure it was versatile and easy to make. And I also knew that the judges would be workers from Johnsonville and wanted to appease their palate. I only had 11 days until the submission deadline which was also right before the start of World Food Championships. I needed to get the recipe finalized and then shoot a short video introducing myself and my sausage dish. Since the hubby and I have been working on a YouTube channel for my OC Food Diva blog, he could edit down the introduction and cook to a minute-long snippet. It is almost like we trained for it! Depending on the day, I can get very nervous on camera, so it did take a while to get my intro out in one swoop. I uploaded my submission and flew to Orange Beach, AL for the World Food Championships the next morning.

On the last day of the World Food Championships, I finished up some writing assignments in the hotel and checked my email. I see an email titled, “Welcome to the Sausage Dome!” At first, I was a little nervous to open the email, but told myself, “It says “welcome” so it has to be good news.” And it was! I was picked as one of the competitors for Johnsonville’s The Sausage Dome food competition reality series. I was bouncing around the room like a bunny rabbit. I needed to calm down since I still had to be professional for a media interview at a restaurant within the hour. After my World Food Championships trip, I would have a couple of weeks to unwind before flying out for the taping of Johnsonville’s The Sausage Dome.

On a cold December morning (at least for Southern California), I headed up to Los Angeles International Airport to catch a flight to Milwaukee, WI with a short stop in Dallas along the way. I arrived at General Mitchell International Airport in the late afternoon. As the plane glided its way to the terminal, snow was falling big time. It was my second time landing at an airport with snow but it still seemed magical to me! The terminal was warm so I didn’t think much about putting my jacket on. I got my luggage and proceeded outside to wait for my ride. OMG! I love it when it is cold, but it was freezing! Keep in mind, I live in Southern California and originally from Hawaii. I was literally freezing my òkole off!!! I am so glad that my mom nagged me about bringing Papa Dave’s heavy jacket. Mahalo, Mama! Along with it being my first time seeing a snow plow going through an airport, this was also my first time in Wisconsin!

We had a long car ride to Sheboygan, WI and got to know one of my competitors. His name is Mason Partak, a 13-year old cooking prodigy. He started baking with his mom when he was two years old. No stranger to reality food competitions, Mason is a Season 1 Food Network’s Chopped Junior Champion! I was excited to see what he was going to make for The Sausage Dome. But just meeting him indicated that there would be some fierce competition ahead. He was clearly a natural! Now, I could feel my nerves kick in. I was getting super nervous!!!

The competitors received amazing accommodations at the Blue Harbor Resort and Conference Center. I went up to the room to drop off my bags and it was time to for dinner! Stay tuned for more about the Blue Harbor Resort and the On The Rocks Bar & Grill.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ronin Sushi and Steak marks off an item off my foodie bucket list

On the last night of World Food Championships, I met up with Chef Chris Kelly, owner of Ronin Sushi and Steak and Driftwood Bar and Grille. Chef Chris also competed in the World Seafood Championships scoring 91.125 on his structured build and 85.5 on his signature dish resulting in a total score of 88.3125 placing him 26th. He had a great time competing and is “absolutely grateful of World Food Championships for bringing business to The Wharf, Orange Beach, and showcasing local chef talent”.

Ronin Sushi and Steak was a dream that Chef Chris had 10 years ago. The concept was to take sushi in a different direction and create a new way to make it. His dream became a reality in July 2016 with Ronin Sushi and Steak’s debut at The Wharf, right next to its sister restaurant, Driftwood Bar and Grille. As you peruse the menu, you’ll clearly see Japanese techniques at work but fusion is what is really happening at Ronin. You’ll see influences from Chinese, Latin, Thai, Hawaiian, and Southern cuisines.

An item that has long been on my foodie bucket list is lionfish (p`terois) which is native to the Indo-Pacific region. But since 2000, these beautiful but invasive fish have been wreaking havoc on the local marine life along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Due to their venomous spines, these fish are considered “trash fish”, but there is a new wave of chefs that have been able to transform this trash into a delectable dish. But even though an appetite for this fish exists, they can only be caught by spear fishing, which doesn’t even make a dent in their population. A single female lionfish can release up to 2 million eggs a year!

Okay, let me get off my soap box and tell you about my first taste of lionfish. Chef Chris makes a Lionfish Roll that is truly beautiful to behold. The lionfish sashimi on top is very delicate and translucent. It has a sweet flavor and silky texture. I have never had a piece of sashimi quite like this before! He uses purple Thai sticky rice and it adds a nutty flavor, very different from Calrose rice normally used in sushi. The roll also had pork belly inside which gave each bite just the right amount of salt and added a smoky flavor. Instead of seaweed, a yuzu wrap was used and added a citrus flavor without being overwhelming. I can wait to go back in November and have another one! Rating: 5/5

Next time you are at The Wharf, you need to try Ronin Sushi and Steak! If you’re not up for lionfish, there are many other great options to try!

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
8651 Wharf Parkway Unit 116
Orange Beach, AL 36561
Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Seating: Interior

Ronin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato