Recently, I wrote about a unique evening I hosted with Pfister artist Stephanie Barenz and the hotel’s executive chef, Brian Frakes, called “The Gathering Of The Senses.”
The event invited the public to sign up for an evening of paint instruction, travel stories and a five-course, travel-inspired meal. The intimacy of the event and the connection between the nine guests who attended and us was fun and, at times, even inspirational.
And last week, the story continued.
Stephanie and I – along with our partners – traveled to Ononomowoc to visit the restaurant of one of the attendees. Lori Schwefel, who owns Schwefel’s with her husband, Dan – attended “Gathering of the Senses” with her daughter, Hannah.
It was fun (and oh so filling) to check out their turf in the quaint town of Oconomowoc. Even though it’s only 40 minutes from Milwaukee, after a few minutes in the restaurant, I felt like I was on vacation.
After our visit, I wrote a lengthy piece for OnMilwaukee.com about the restaurant – which is a delicious German bar and eatery that the couple has owned and operated since 1989.
As an experience junkie, I was excited to eat my first schnitzel (delicious) and enjoyed every last scrap on my plate, from the cooked red cabbage, to the beef soup, to the decadent strawberry dessert.
Look, my first schnitzel:
But the best part of the evening – and I think Stephanie would agree – was discovering that Lori and Dan value people and storytelling as much as we do. The couple shared funny, sad, challenging, even some “off the record” stories about their lives.
And we gobbled their stories up like dumplings.
I particularly enjoyed the stories about their kids growing up in the restaurant. Lori recalled a tiny Hannah who loved bar tending even when she wasn’t tall enough for customers to see her on the other side. And their son, Austin, was passed around the restaurant long ago like a hot potato in Pampers.
I also loved the stories about their early days at the restaurant, including when they had to fire their chef on their very first day open because he arrived five hours late for work.
It is so enriching to have friends who come from a different place from you – who have different insights and experiences and views – and yet, some of the very same valued aspects of human existence.
The Schwefels’ generosity with their food was incredible, but their generosity with their words was absolutely priceless. That night, comfort food took on a whole new meaning for me.