Milwaukee’s Best

Man, is this shaping up to be one of the best summers ever, or what? Sure, it’s hot practically everywhere, but last time I checked summers are supposed to be hot. So I won’t complain about it, and instead I’ll say that I’ve enjoyed almost every single drop of sweat that’s dripped down my leg these last couple of months.

Especially from this past weekend. Who doesn’t like to sweat beer?

And have pretzels eaten off your necklace? That’s how Milwaukeeans roll, apparently. Following the awesome concert on Friday that was Bon Jovi (& Kid Rock, who really was awesome too although I hated to admit it), we awoke, hit up the Dunkin’, and high-tailed it up I-94 to Rach & Andy’s new digs.

Word on the street is Milwaukeeans cringe when someone calls their city a “miniature Chicago”, but I’m gonna have to agree with whoever started that metaphor because it’s true. Lake Shore Drive, neighborhood variety (even an Evanston-like suburb), enough greenery to briefly forget about the city, Lake Michigan, and plenty of great food, these are just a few things that remind me of Chicago. Of course, there’s also the affordable housing, two-second parking, no waiting at restaurants (even if you make a reservation one hour ahead of time), and serenity that is a road without honking horns that immediately remind you that you are definitely not in Kansas Chicago anymore, and those are things that undoubtedly go straight to the top of my “pro” list after living in this big ‘ol place for 6 years (as of this week!).

In short, I can easily see why Rachel & Andy are happy to call Milwaukee their new home. If it isn’t your home though, I should add that it’s a great summertime road trip if you’re in the Midwest.

The highlight of our short weekend in Milwaukee was the “1st Annual Brew Fest”, which was held in McKinley Park. Forty bucks at the door gets you in for 4 hours of unlimited sampling of local (and no so local) breweries, people-watching galore, and a long line at the facilities. Of course, since this was the “1st Annual Brew Fest”, there were some kinks to iron out, such as the fact that all but 2 breweries literally ran out of beer, and the other obvious issue was the port-o-potty shortage – a 30 minute minimum wait in line, while everyone else (well, everyone not in line) drinks the quickly diminishing beer supply. Overall, it was a great event, and given the 90-minute drive to Milwaukee from Chicago, I’m guessing we’ll be back next year.

By the way, is Rachel gettin’ frisky up there?! Shame on her.

Aside from Brew Fest, we kept leisurely busy by eating, drinking, and drive-by checking out a few breweries and museums as potentials for the next trip. I probably drove Rachel crazy by saying the following exactly 1,000 times, “Wow, you don’t get this back home!”. Usually, this was because we literally walked up to multiple outdoor eateries (in fact, we ate outdoors everywhere we went) at various times (brunch, lunch, and dinner) and were easily able to snag a table for 4. Don’t get me started on the ease of sliding into a parking spot a block away and Andy asking, “Do you mind walking a block?”, as if he never ever set foot in Chicago.

Hubs was oohing and aahing when we stopped by the Harley Davidson museum, but he must not want one as bad as he thinks because my “a puppy for a motorcyle” compromise was laughed off for a fifth time, after an obvious roll of the eye followed by a vehement shaking of the head. Meanwhile, I almost lost my marbles during one of our drives north of Milwaukee when hearing the price tags for the houses up there, realizing again how outrageous the Chicago market is, and how one smallish condo equals one whopping mansion elsewhere. Bleh.

What we both agreed on is the food – plenty of great restaurants offering all kinds of local, seasonal choices, not to mention custard that rivals Goodberry’s, Milwaukee is certainly on my “to do again” list. Of course, with Rach & Andy there, we’d go back even if we hated it, but nonetheless, we didn’t.

The following are some points of interest from our trip (food included, of course). We didn’t go to any breweries this time, what with a festival full of beer at our fingertips, but if you’re in the neighborhood they are certainly worth a visit.

Food
Water Buffalo, 249 N Water St
Alterra Coffee, 1701 N Lincoln Memorial Dr (but multiple locations throughout Milwaukee)
Cafe Hollander, 2608 N Downer Ave
Buckley’s Kiskeam Inn, 801 N Cass St
Kopp’s Frozen Custard, 5372 N Port Washington Rd, Glendale WI (other locations as well)

Sights, etc.
Historic 3rd Ward Neighborhood
Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 N Art Museum Dr
Milwaukee Brew Fest (annual event), 1600 N Lincoln Memorial Dr
The Pabst Mansion, 2000 W Wisconsin Ave
Miller Brewery, 4251 W State St
Harley Davidson Museum, 400 Canal St

Of course, after all the eating and drinking, we entered the Windy City with a relatively tiny appetite, and a salad seemed like the perfect light dinner, not to mention the fact that there was no cooking and relatively little prepping involved. A pit stop at the Whole Foods remedied that situation, and this salad was whipped up in no time and even though we weren’t really hungry, we ate it as if Rachel’d starved us. Hungry or not, this is a great summer salad that hits all the right spots – sweet & salty, chewy & crunchy, you’ll wonder why you don’t eat peaches with prosciutto all the time.

As for summer, we have a whole lot of it left, even though it doesn’t seem that way! I’ll try to share more about our upcoming vacay real soon, because we are ready for suggestions from ya’ll! As for the rest of you, what’s headed your way for the rest of the summer?

p.s. – if you’re a Facebooker, don’t forget to sign up for my new page!

Prosciutto & Peach Salad
Unadapted from Cooking Light, August 2010 (although I won’t pretend that I measured anything); serves 4

printable version

ingredients
2  T  fresh lemon juice
2  t  honey
1/4  t  freshly ground black pepper
1/8  t  salt
2  T  extra-virgin olive oil
1  T  finely chopped fresh mint
1  (6.5-ounce) package sweet butter lettuce mix
2  large ripe peaches, cut into wedges
3  oz  very thin slices prosciutto, cut into 1-inch pieces
3  oz  ricotta salata cheese, divided into 4 equal pieces
2  T  dry-roasted sunflower seed kernels
Small mint leaves (optional)

instructions
Combine first 4 ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Gradually drizzle in olive oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in chopped mint.

Combine lettuce mix and peach wedges in a large bowl. Drizzle lettuce mixture with dressing; toss gently to coat. Arrange about 2 cups salad in each of 4 bowls; top each serving with 3/4 ounce prosciutto, 1 piece of ricotta salata, and about 2 teaspoons sunflower seed kernels. Garnish with small mint leaves, if desired.

picture descriptions
food: Water Buffalo black bean burger, Cafe Hollander coffee, Water Buffalo salmon burger, Alterra honey latte, Cafe Hollander breakfast tostado special, Buckley’s Kiskeam Inn restaurant sign, Kopp’s Frozen Custard cows, Water Buffalo side salad, Milwaukee Brew Fest beer glasses

sights: 3rd Ward neighborhood, Milwaukee Art Museum, harbor view, view from park, the Wisconsin Club, view of Miller Brewery, Miller Brewery sign, Harley Davidson museum, Pabst Mansion

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This Little Piggy Went into My Belly

Mado brunch Chicago
I have come to a realization. Not today, but I came to this realization many many moons ago. I once thought that being a vegetarian would be cool. Now let me also add that I thought this during a time when I also thought I’d look good with dreadlocks, and during a time when I thought that a good excuse for not shaving would be to insulate myself during those cold cold winters in North Carolina. You know, the ones when it just might get into the 20’s. I am NOT saying that any of the above ideas are non-cool (or even un-cool). But I have changed my ways a wee bit since “the 90’s”. And so today, today wanting to become a vegetarian ranks in priority pretty close to wanting to visit Los Angeles again or wanting to have my fingernails ripped out or, well… you see where I’m going.



What I’ve realized is that meat, in all its shapes and sizes, is an essential part of my food pyramid and something I’m afraid I just could not live without. If truth be told, I haven’t really met a meat I didn’t like. Red or white – I don’t discriminate. Favorites? Sure, I have favorites. I’d choose lamb chops over chicken 9 times out of 10 (the exception being a chicken that might be fried or perhaps stuffed with cheese and other tasty treasures). And I’d fight a polar bear in the snow for a bite of a juicy, vinegar-based North Carolina barbeque sandwich with coleslaw and hushpuppies on the side. Oh and sweet tea with lemon too please. Yep, I’d say I am a fan of swine for sure. I’d go as far as to say that most things do actually taste better with a side of bacon. In fact, I’d originally intended to post specifically about one dish I made for dinner last night that included a “small smattering of pork”, but while thinking about it, I realized that I have officially eaten something of the pork variety for the last 3 meals. So again, vegetarian I am not.

cute pig



Sunday began just like most Sundays should – we’d reunited with long lost band members and rocked it out pretty late the night before (and for those of you who think Rock Band is not “real” you are most definitely un-cool) – so we awoke no earlier than 10 to find ourselves thirsty and hungry. Fortunately for us hungry people, we live near a long list of eateries with the majority serving brunch. And so, we made our way about three blocks east to Mado. We’d eaten dinner at this fine establishment a number of months ago and remembered the cuisine to be pretty good. In addition, they’d recently been listed by Bon Appetit as one of the “top places in the U.S. for brunch”. So when faced with the seemingly impossible task of choosing a restaurant, this was a no-brainer.


For those of you who are into sustainable eating, Mado is for you. They list, on their wall-spanning chalkboard, all the local farms from whom they purchase their produce and meat. They don’t lie when they flaunt their use of all parts of an animal and they even house-cure their meat and made their own apple butter and jams. Their website lists their menu, which is to be expected, but they also list a few events and links which again include the farms they use. One link I found to be particularly intriguing was the one called “Sky Full of Bacon” – series of video podcasts about food, centering on Chicago. I plan to subscribe. One reviewer summed his site up in one word – priceless. That’s my kinda food writer 😉

recipe ingredients


Anyway, brunch at Mado was just as tasty as what we’d remembered about the dinner. I had a dish called “eggs in purgatory” which was eggs baked in a spicy tomato sauce with fennel & olives. Served on a little piggy board. Chris had an omelet accompanied by an arugula salad, his favorite green. We split a side of toast with house-made apple butter (de-light-ful) and a side of house-cured ham (also de-light-ful). The ham side was plentiful and had that perfect saltiness. Needless to say, we were good to go until dinner.


proscuitto and peas pasta



Since our brunch was a little heftier than our usual cereal, I’d decided on a real spring-y dinner full of lots of fresh ingredients. I’d seen the recipe in Bon Appetit (yes, this is one of my favorite foodie mags) and it reeked of Spring – asparagus, butter lettuce, peas. The real kicker was the prosciutto topping. How can you resist a spring salad topped with prosciutto? And when you add parmesan cheese? Jeepers! In case you can’t tell, I was excited.

You’ll see below that the recipe makes a pretty ginormous dish. Which is great when you’re in school for three nights straight and unable to cook. I think, had I unbuttoned my jeans a bit and taken a couple of breaks between bowls, that I could have eaten it all in one sitting. It was that good. So, even though (at least in Chicago) it may not look or even feel like Spring, this salad will put you in some sort of a Spring trance – at least until it’s all gone. Oink! Oink!


butter lettuce and prosciutto side view


Pasta w/ Peas, Asparagus, Butter Lettuce, & Prosciutto
adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2009
6 servings (or less if you just can’t stop!)



ingredients
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzling
1/2 pound spring onions or green onions (dark green parts discarded); white parts cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, pale green parts cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (I used spring onions)
2 tablespoons minced shallot
Coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces
2 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 2 pounds peas in pods) or 2 cups frozen petite peas, thawed
1 pound campanelle (trumpet-shaped pasta) or medium (about 1-inch) shell-shaped pasta
1 head of butter lettuce or Boston lettuce (about 6 ounces), cored, leaves cut into 3/4-inch-wide slices
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for sprinkling
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
4 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips


instructions
Melt butter with 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and shallot. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Sauté until tender (do not brown), about 8 minutes. Add wine; increase heat to medium-high and simmer until liquid is reduced to glaze, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to simmer; set aside.


 

Cook asparagus in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus. Using skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer to large bowl of ice water. Return water to boil. Add peas and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Using skimmer, transfer to bowl with asparagus. Drain vegetables.


Return water in pot to boil. Cook pasta until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, reheat onion mixture. Add drained asparagus and peas; stir until heated through. Remove from heat.


Add pasta, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, lettuce and parsley to skillet with vegetables; toss, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Season with salt and pepper.


Transfer pasta to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle prosciutto over; drizzle with olive oil. Serve, passing more cheese alongside.