I’m standing with one of the bellmen at the main entrance when a hotel events coordinator approaches to let the young man know about an important arrival: 30 boxes of cookies that will need to go immediately into a refrigerator, so she needs to be notified as soon as they are here. The thought of 30 boxes of cookies arriving by mini-van on a Friday in the middle of the afternoon might be noteworthy if we were someplace else, but we’re at the Pfister, where anything can (and does) happen, so neither of us flinches except to wonder aloud what kind of cookies they might be.
A short while later, I spot a group of folks standing around a cluster of framed photos, set out on one of the marble tables in the lobby, and ask if there’s a family reunion or something else going on this weekend? The woman who is putting the photos away in her bag tells me they’re for the cookie table. The “cookie table?” Yes, they’re here from Pennsylvania for a wedding and in Western Pennsylvania there is a wedding tradition where everyone makes cookies for the reception. Nearly 100 guests have made 30 cookies each, for a grand total of 3,000 cookies of all kinds! The ones that aren’t eaten will go home with the guests in cute little gift bags.
Of course, you don’t have to bake cookies and have them delivered in order to enjoy something sweet at the Pfister. The wonderful thing about the kitchen here is the presence of highly trained pastry chefs who are always turning out delicious treats. A devoted fan of their mathematically-perfect Fresh Fruit Tart, I also enjoy the Pain au Chocolat. They follow the true Parisian style of flaky croissant, with dried chocolate directly in the center (not too much, not creamy) and dusted with powdered sugar.
Then there are the seasonal pastries – those decadent items that can be here for days, weeks, or months, but need to be tasted before they disappear:
At present, the seasonal cupcake is a beautiful, white frosted thing sporting what appears to be a carnation-pink sugar-crystal coated cornflake. It turns out to be, not a cornflake, some color-enhanced frosted flake, but a candied rose petal. The sugar crystals are also sprinkled over the top. When I unwrap the cupcake, it actually topples over on its side from all the frosting. Yet, when I taste it, it is remarkably light in density, like a vanilla-flavored air puff. The candied rose petal, however, is the real treat. The first bite tastes how a rose smells. The experience is reminiscent of the Rose Drop Martini in Blu that tastes, truly, exactly – like a rose.
The current seasonal tart is Lemon Meringue and is the gastronomical complement to a summer’s day. A bright, sunny yellow filling is nestled in a sandy crust, bordered on one side with sails of whipped cream that are burnished bronze along their trimming. The taste is just as refreshing as a dip in a lake after an hour laid out on a towel at the water’s edge, trying to catch a tan.
Meanwhile, a Sendik’s delivery boy pops through the lobby, adorned with signature apron, and delivers two gift baskets to the Concierge desk – for passage on to guests. Each one is several meals in and of their plastic wrapped basket selves: various cheeses, crackers, fruits, spreads and even sparkling pink lemonade.
A See’s Candies bag dangles from a brass luggage cart, alone and unguarded. I can’t help but wonder if there are Scotch Kisses inside it, perhaps alongside the See’s signature chocolate and toffee pops. A gooey, gritty caramel temptation with marshmallow at its center, Scotch Kisses were an in-store-only childhood favorite of mine. My mind (and tastebuds) wander off to the land of foodie nostalgia and I consider stalking the See’s bag, perhaps charming its owner into sharing the contents. Alas, the next time I look up – the bag is gone.
With a love of stories and storytelling, Stacie Williams has worked at a local Milwaukee bookstore for six years, and has experience in travel writing and blogging. In 1998, she moved from California to study theater at University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, and stayed.
A writer, actor, director and raconteur, West has written for various arts and architecture publications, been a commentator for WUWMs Lake Effect, and shares his opinions and insights on culture and the art of everyday life on his blog Artsy Schmartsy. He served as Head Writer for Wisconsin Public Radios Hotel Milwaukee, and his book Milwaukees Live Theater was published in 2009 by Arcadia Publishing as part of their Images of America Series. He most recently served as Director of Communications for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. West has been an active theatre professional for more than 20 years.
Along with his wife, opera director Paula Suozzi, and two daughters, Dorothea and Carmela, West lives in a cozy bungalow in Bay View, which he refers to as “the finest neighborhood in the world for beer gardens in lush parks, coffee joints, barbershops, record stores and pizzerias.” He can be identified by his signature bow tie.