The Tasting Room

Mixologist Angie Jackson Leading a Cocktail Class

Mixologist Angie Jackson Leading a Cocktail Class

I used to think a good first impression was everything, and I will never forget the first time I walked into Webster’s Tasting Room. It was dubbed the “Lounge” at the time, filled with beautiful dark wood, statuesque paintings and chairs that were more like sofas. There was an instant feeling of ease and comfort as you peered towards the fireplace or the windows overlooking part of Kalamazoo’s downtown district. A very impressive room, but as a 20 year old at the time, my wallet suddenly felt light. I didn’t feel unwelcome, but I was nervous to see prices and the looks from Kalamazoo’s elite. Well, I’ve definitely learned to not trust my first impression.

Live Music Wednesday and Friday Nights

Live Music Wednesday and Friday Nights

Webster’s Tasting Room is the place where anyone can enjoy great food and drink, live music, local artwork and several special events. We have Hoppy Hour from 5p.m. to 7p.m.  Monday through Friday, allowing you to order any of the beers on our list for half off. Wine Down Wednesdays features half price on select bottles of wine, all night long. We have a great selection of Michigan craft beer and an impressive wine list, as well as some locally made and specialty spirits. Aside from our dining room menu, we are offering a “shareables” and “sandwich” menu, with very affordable pricing to fit every occasion.

Webster’s Prime is proud to now be a curated Art Hop site. We showcase local artists’ work all month long as well as on Art Hop, which is the first Friday of every month.  The beautiful wood floors and relaxed tone of the tasting room is perfect for doubling as an art gallery. We usually like to do something special for our Art Hop guests also. For instance this past week the Tasting Room hosted a gin sampling from Two Birds Artisan Spirits alongside Denis Billen’s beautiful photography. Check out Art Hop, and if you miss it, we’ll have art hung all month.

New Holland Brewing Tapping Dragons Milk

New Holland Brewing Tapping Dragons Milk

Being a cook, it is natural for me to be most excited about the food. Webster’s Prime has rejuvenated its kitchen over the last two years. Take it from me, I have been working in Webster’s kitchen longer than both my chefs and my fellow cooks. Not to say that gives me wisdom, I just have seen all of the changes. The eagerness, creativity, knowledge and refinement from our kitchen is absorbing. The food is better than ever before, with an emphasis on high quality proteins, local product and skillful execution. The kitchen is breeding ground for education and elevation. The team and I have become a much stronger culinary force, and we will keep growing and perfecting our craft.

Ocean Tasting

Ocean Tasting

These aren’t your grandmother’s sandwiches (although I’m sure your grandmother made amazing sandwiches.) A staff favorite, Jud McMichael’s house cured pastrami is to die for. The smoked and feathered beef with melted Jarlsberg cheese, spicy mustard and grilled rye is a mouthful of flavor you will not forget. We also love to make our steak sandwich, especially being a kitchen that prides itself on serving high quality cuts of beef. Sliced medium rare steak, caramelized onions and horseradish cream has always been a guest favorite. All sandwiches come with warm German potato salad and pickles.

Pastrami Sandwich

Pastrami Sandwich

With spring will come a couple of new sandwiches in our Tasting Room. A BLT will feature our new house made bacon, the pork bellies come from Young Earth Farms in Decatur. We then cure them for six days with salts and other flavorings like lemon zest, fresh thyme and black pepper.  A quick two hour smoke and you have beautiful bacon. The other sandwich will be a warm ham and cheese. Delicious rosemary ham, melted gruyere and mustard on house made foccacia will redefine the ham and cheese sandwich for you. If you’re not in the sandwich mood, any of our sharing plates will definitely satisfy, from samplings of grass-fed, grain-fed, wagyu and dry aged beef, to some of our favorite cheeses or even shrimp cocktail. Soon we will also feature daily canapes, a true inside look to the everyday creativity of our kitchen.

Curing Pork Bellies

Curing Pork Bellies

Whether your college students or professors, staff or management, hotel guest or local, Webster’s Tasting Room is an exceptional choice for everyday food, drink and leisure.

Nate Shaw
Lead Line Cook
LobTail

Beef…That’s What’s for Dinner!

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I was cozy on the couch a few weeks ago when I was taken aback by an episode of Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern.  I’m watching Andrew gallivant around the University of Wisconsin’s dairy farm talking about cheese, and all was well in the world…until all of a sudden I see him reach into the stomach of a large female cow!  Immediately my interest was sparked as I am fascinated by the things the medical world (both for human and animal) can do.  Here this beautiful female cow is just standing there minding her own business chewing on some grass, as Andrew is elbow deep in her tummy!  Andrew then pulls out large handfuls of the grass (or cud) that she is consuming and the big girl just turns and looks at him, I’m presuming with the thought of, “Hey, Dude, I’m hungry.”Stomach

The University of Wisconsin’s Department of Dairy Science is committed to researching, developing, and spreading the word of quality production of milk.  As are several other universities, such as Ohio State who has cannulated cows in their Ruminant Nutrition Department as well.  A cannulated cow is the technical term for a cow that has been fitted with a cannula (or what looks like a window.)  A surgery is performed to provide ingress to the cow’s Rumen, so that the researchers may collect data and study the best feed combinations for future cows.  The Rumen is the cow’s largest part of their four compartmental stomach and the Rumen can hold up to 50 gallons of partially digested food.  Interesting, huh?

cowwindow

I had no idea these mysterious “cow windows” existed in the dairy science world.  Andrew Zimmern, and a professor at the University of Wisconsin, go on to discuss the difference of milk and butter from a grain feed cow versus a grass fed cow, and pasteurized milk and butter versus non pasteurized.

Andrew focuses on the taste, and while I have never tried grass-fed cow milk I can imagine that it is better for you, with a higher content of vitamins.

All this cow talk started me to thinking about our grass versus grain fed beef in our restaurant.  Currently we are featuring grass-fed, New Zealand Wagyu breed beef, from First Light and Darling Downs farms.  These grass-fed cows feed on their pastures and are never finished on grain, and no additional supplements or hormones are given.  A lot of people think that all cows eat grass, which is true, but a lot of cows feed on grass for about six months and then they are finished on a mix of corn, grains, and other supplements, and hormones, and antibiotics.  Our lead line cook, Nathan Shaw, likes to joke, “Have you ever seen cows grazing on corn fields before?”

Our restaurant offers a beef tasting in addition to our Wagyu beef selection, which allows you to taste the difference between grass-fed hanging tender, New Zealand American Style Wagyu, and grain-fed beef.  Pretty neat if you have never tasted grain and grass side by side before.  Grass tastes a little earthier than grain, it is a bit more aromatic, and it is clean, lighter, and somewhat healthier than grain-fed.  Come check it out sometime!Beef Tasting

The world of beef, like anything else in life, is always changing.  Another new exciting trend in the state of Michigan is dry-aged beef versus wet-aged beef.  Wet-aged is what we are most commonly used to, where as dry-aged beef is hung in extreme climate and humidity controlled locations, to further enhance its tenderness and flavor.  Webster’s has, and will continue, to offer dry-aged beef.  On our new spring menu we are very pleased to offer 14 oz dry-aged ribeye, cut from 15 LB and up loin,* dry-aged 28 days, and cut in house.  Very unique and very tasty!  Again, if you have never tried dry and wet beef side by side, stop in and ask for a sampling of both.

Beef 2

The big thing that I took from writing this blog is that we are what we eat.  And if we are what we eat, than the animals that we eat are what they eat.  Recently a Chef said something to me during a discussion on where to dine out next that really resonated with me.   He said that it worries him when he looks at a dinner menu and the restaurant does not tell you where their beef is coming from.  I started thinking about that, and started thinking that it may be even more unsettling to ask the servers, who I bet will hesitate and look at you with a quizzical face as if you were trying to pull one over on them.  That thought makes my stomach churn even more, and it makes me appreciate our restaurant and all that we stand for.  It also makes me appreciate our servers who are eager to learn and for a culinary staff who is eager to teach them.

Please tell me to get off my high horse at anytime by the way, as I am a recovering Taco Bell addict by night.  I realize that it is not realistic to eat out all the time, or to eat premium quality food at all times, but every once in awhile while I’m painting the town red (those few times that they let me out of the four walls of what is Webster’s Prime…)   🙂  I choose to dine in those very rare finds, that treat you like deserve to be treated, and feed you like you deserve to be fed.

Alana Fisher
Event Coordinator
Alana's Photos 132

* Which means that every primal (the whole boneless rib loin of the domestic cow) that Webster’s gets in house will be at least 15 pounds and no less.

What’s your favorite restaurant?

As a chef I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question.  My usual response is ‘I have several, depends on what we’re hungry for’ and that usually satisfies most inquirers.  People rarely ask ‘What’s the most comfortable dining experience you’ve enjoyed?’  That might be a better question.

Edison Food + Drink Lab

Edison Food + Drink Lab

Recently Jud and I had the honor of being in Tampa to receive an award for the restaurant and we were able to eat some really good food in some really nice restaurants.  I’m talking food that we want to do and some we don’t, doesn’t mean it wasn’t tasty, just not our style.  Check out Bern’s Steak House and Edison Food Lab, both in Tampa, Florida.  They had some winners on their menus that we enjoyed.  Great food, really top notch and friendly service, however, they also had one thing in common that we talked about at great length, their chairs.

Bern's Steak House

Bern’s Steak House

At Bern’s we were in a group of fourteen so we were crammed at a table and might have had different chairs than normal diners to save space.  I’d bet the normal dining room chairs are very comfortable based on the atmosphere, the level of service, and the comfort we felt in their atrium waiting area.  At Edison, we were two guys at a table for four, so the chairs were the everyday put your fanny on a space kind of chair.  Both, in my opinion, might have been two of the most uncomfortable seats I’ve experienced outside of a full airplane.  It was sad too, the food was great.  Bern’s has some wonderful dry aged prime beef that was fabulous.  Edison had the best bone marrow I’d tasted in a while and absolutely delicious potato crusted oysters.  The chairs were just uncomfortable.  I mentioned it to Jud and he was quick with his ‘I know!  I couldn’t get comfortable.’ DeluxeBistroChair

I understand back some time some genius restaurateur came up with the North American version of Bistro, tons of tables and chairs, really uncomfortable, with the idea to turn tables quickly and make more money, I get it.  Those of us that have fortunate enough to experience Milan or Paris understand the concept.  The chairs aren’t quite as uncomfortable with the Mount Blanc views or fresh croissants on the Siene.

My wife and I love a restaurant in Kansas City called the Classic Cup.  Pretty good food, really uncomfortable seating, but it’s right on the Country Club Plaza with outdoor seating if you’re lucky enough to get there early.  The person watching is top notch, the buzz is great, and you almost forget your rear end is numb.  There are a couple other spots like that but Webster’s will never be one of them.

Our chairs are comfortable.  We’ve had a guest describe our booth seating as his ‘food cockpit’.  He requests it every time he’s in for a giant steak and twice baked.  Its home to him and his guest, they’re comfortable.  Zazios downstairs in the Radisson is the same way, great chairs, super comfortable.  You don’t want to leave.  We let guests linger, that’s just our style.  We want you to be comfortable and enjoy the experience.Webster's Chairs

Call me crazy but part of the experience of dining out is the ambiance and comfort.  You don’t expect a great seat at the food truck or the luncheonette, but you should at a sit down dinner.  We’ve all experienced the table by the kitchen or the server side station and commented on what a bad table we had, but do we consider our actual seat?

So, here’s the question; is your favorite restaurant due to food or ambiance?  Perhaps both.  I’d argue that comfort has something to do with your answer, be it comfortable with the level of service or relationship (think Norm from ‘Cheers’) or the ability of a kitchen to prepare something you love and can’t recreate at home (that’s me with some Asian places).  Regardless, we think less about how comfortable our seat is than we deserve. Think of your favorite ‘chair’ at your home.  Do we deserve anything less when we spend a buck on a meal????

Stefan Johnson
Executive Chef
General Manager
Stefan Johson Pic

Webster’s has dry aged beef!

We are excited and proud to offer 28 day dry aged beef in the restaurant.  Working with Striploins of both Prime grade and Certified Angus, cutting steaks in house and enjoying the journey.  Ever had dry aged beef?  We’ll put it side by side with 21 day wet aged (normal grocery store range) so you can taste the difference.

We’re sad to say that summer is coming to an end, but you can still stop in and say hello to our friends at the outdoor K’zoo Farmer’s Market, maybe see you there some Saturday.  Lucky to have local Michigan heirloom tomatoes finally, pairing them with a true Mozzarella di bufala from Campania, Italy, a dash of smoked sea salt, artisanal balsamic and first pressed olive oil.  A sprinkling of Michigan organic sweet basil and the Caprese salad is complete.

 

 

 

Stefan Johnson
Executive Chef
General Manager

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