Christmas with the Tamscins

I think most people who’ve hosted a large gathering will agree that not having to cook on Christmas is a gift in itself. Being able to celebrate with your family, minus the grocery shopping, prep work and dishes leaves you a lot more time for holiday cheer.

One thing was also particularly evident this Christmas day at the Pfister – the hospitality industry never sleeps. Staff was bustling around through the crowd to accommodate each and every guest –  over 500 for Christmas brunch in the ballroom alone. The lobby and the cafe were also busting at the seams with guests.

The Tamscin family spread out one of the plush velvet couches in the lobby, digesting after brunch. They looked right out of a J Crew catalogue – gorgeous, blonde, neatly groomed and amiable. Mr. and Mrs. Tamscin grew up in Wisconsin, but have been living in Arizona for the past decade or so. They  came back to see their parents and agreed that a Wisconsin Christmas feels much more normal than Christmas in the dessert.

“What was the most delectable thing you ate?” I inquired. In case you missed it, I went on about the brunch menu here. “Pork roast, leg of lamb and gluten-free desserts” they chimed back in unison.

I snapped a few family photos in front of the Christmas tree for them and talked journalism with their daughter, a college student, before they were on their way.

No matter how you celebrated your holiday season, I hope it was merry and bright. And may 2013 bring you and your family much health and prosperity!

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The Menu of Holiday Past and Present

There are all kinds of relics to uncover here at the Pfister Hotel. With the holidays in full swing, food comes to my mind right away.  In my home, food for any celebration is always given the utmost care and attention, like a newborn baby. As I was poking around last week, I hopscotched my way up the wide, coral marble steps in the lobby guarded by Dick and Harry (the bronze lions). Displayed inconspicuously, was the china used at Thanksgiving dinner in 1899 at the Pfister Hotel, complete with the dinner menu. DSC_0046

Blue point oysters, Little Neck clams; followed by consomme, whitefish, salmon, leg of lamb, filet mignon, young chicken, young turkey and haunch of antelope. I’m not quite sure about that last entree, but overall, that sounds like a way better spread than turkey, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.

Luckily, this tradition of elegance and fine dining continues today with both Thanksgiving and Christmas brunch here at the Pfister. When I first arrived back in November, I marveled at the Sunday brunch service. Now, I see that truly, no one does the holidays like the Pfister.

Pfister menu

Only one other holiday tops the decadence of Thanksgiving, and that  is Christmas. At The Pfister, food is paramount.  I made a special trip on Christmas morning just to see the spread for myself. A runway of tables split the grand ballroom in two, piled high with every kind of delicacy you could imagine. It was a sight for the eyes, as much as a treat for the stomach. The tables intersected another horizontal row of smiling, white-coated chefs eager and willing to prepare you a fresh omelet or a stack of malted Belgian waffles.

Features from this year’s menu were: juniper berry grilled quail with sun-dried fruit wild rice, traditional rosemary leg of lamb with mint pan jam,  sea salt and herb crusted prime rib with thyme-garlic jus, Scottish salmon en croute with fennel, snow crab claws, shucked cold water oysters and lemongrass poached jumbo shrimp with cognac infused cocktail sauce.

(Is your mouth watering yet?)

Caramelized onion broth with parmesan croutons, citrus roasted chicken with rosemary polenta cakes, melted arugula, smoked tomato cream and winter squash ratatouille. I could go on all day…

The ballroom was packed with families smiling, laughing and enjoying their time together. I realized that although the food was spectacular, the more important function of it was bringing families together to share a meal and make memories on this most sacred holiday.

 

 

Making Connections and Building Community

There are certain advantages to being from a small town. “Connection really matters in small towns,” says Phil Gerbyshak. Phil is from Crivitz, a popular summer destination with a rustic charm in Northwest Wisconsin.  He’s built his own robust community and is passionate about helping people connect.

Phil was the featured speaker at an event Monday night for the Working Writers of Wisconsin. He is known for his no-nonsense approach to communication. He’s written five books (the first when he was only 26) and insists that good communication is always the differentiator in the room.

There was no need to warm up the crowd. His effervescent presence, neon yellow glasses and jazzy hand gestures were enough to immediately command the group’s attention. He introduced the idea of human connectivity and preaches: “If you build a community, each one commits to its success. You have to make people feel welcome and give them the space to be a part of whatever it is you’re doing.”

Phil and WWW member Carla Ann Ernst.
Phil and WWW member Carla Ann Ernst.

Writers create niches and now more than ever, have the power of accessibility when it comes to building communities through social networks. If you contribute to something – like good content – then you’ll have amazing reach. His advice doesn’t just pertain  to writers though. Phil encourages everyone to cultivate their own community around whatever it is that you have to offer, and convert them by making them feel included. Give your community something they can’t get anywhere else.

This small-town concept of community has a very practical application in both business and communications. And  how novel an idea that in the digital age you do something as simple as reach out to someone face-to-face to share ideas, rather than just Tweeting or Facebooking (Yes, they’ve now become verbs) back and forth. We are all guilty of getting stuck behind our screens, but it’s always a nice reminder to leverage those digital tools for real connections.

 

The Bride in Repose

Annie was unlike any bride I’ve ever seen – totally relaxed. Before she endures an afternoon of coiffing and dressing tomorrow, she was getting polished down at the Well Spa. The pale pink polish on her hands and toes matched her demure personality. Annie has to run out to pick up a card box – “Who knew you needed a special box just for the cards?” she shrugs, but agrees to meet me in the lobby to catch up when she returns.

The pomp and circumstance of a wedding can often set even the coolest cucumber into a fine frenzy. Not Annie. Maybe she was blissfully ignorant since she didn’t really start planning for her December wedding until October.

Annie and her flower girl.
Annie and her flower girl.

Everything was put on hold until she finished graduate school though. At least she’s a girl who’s got her priorities in line.

Annie returned promptly with her mother, Fern, who also seemed relatively calm. “Chris and I drove the moms crazy, at least that’s what his mom said,” Annie admitted. “Oh, I am glad you were making her crazy, I thought it was just me,” Fern voluntarily chimes in.

Shortly after, her brother and sister, Jaime and Jeremy, showed up with their own entourage of curious and adorable kids. There was a chorus of questions and plans to accommodate last-minute needs before they dispersed to get ready for the rehearsal dinner. Annie’s dad also popped in to check up on everyone and then retreated to his room after he felt reassured (and relieved) that his help was not needed.

We had yet to talk about a major part of her wedding – the groom. Annie and Chris met in college in 2003 and dated for a while before she moved to Manhattan and he took off to Colorado. A few years later, they met up in Florida and agreed that they wanted to be together. They’ve been living in Chicago for the past five years, and plan to stay there while Chris finishes law school.

Annie did have one wedding detail on lock down. She and Chris booked MeatBute, a Meatloaf cover band, to make a special guest appearance and perform a few songs at the wedding – mainly, a rousing rendition of “I Will Do Anything for Love.” She was giddy with excitement, like a kid talking about Santa Claus, “We heard them in Chicago and were just blown away. But shh…don’t tell my mom, it’s a surprise and no one knows about it.” Nothing like a surprise cover band to kick things up a notch at a wedding.

Throughout our entire conversation, I continually comment, “You’re so calm, I can’t believe that you’re getting married tomorrow.” She looks at me point blank and replies, “What’s there to be nervous about?” Now that’s a blissful bride.

Annie and family getting ready for the big day.
Annie and family getting ready for the big day.

 

 

 

A Pfister Take on “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas”

Each year, on the day after Thanksgiving, the Pfister Hotel holds its annual tree lighting ceremony.  Featuring cookies and crafts for the kids, the fabulous carols of the Bel Canto Chorus, and a special appearance by the jolly ol’ man himself, this year’s ceremony was as memorable as those past. But did you know about the work that goes into setting up our tree?  For hours prior to the ceremony – starting on Thanksgiving day, the tree is tirelessly assembled by a fantastic group of people.  And just to give them their due, we’ve captured all of that work in a minute and a half.

Twas the night of Thanksgiving
And all throughout the hotel
Holiday magic was happening
Compliments of Santa’s Secret Decorating Elves

The Pfister tree went up overnight
To the amazement of staff and guests
The elves were frantically working
Scurrying back and forth I can attest.

As Friday dawned bright and early
The lobby was full of holiday decorations
The garland, the bows, and the ornaments,
The last minute preparations.

For soon the lobby would be full
With children squealing in glee.
Santa would soon be arriving
To officially light the Pfister tree.

The Bel Canto Chorus began signing
Their voices in perfect tune
The carols they were lovely
And they helped set the right mood

The radio then buzzed
“JOE TO OMAR COME IN”
“OUR SPECIAL VIP HAS ARRIVED”
“WITH MILWAUKEE’S FINEST FIREMEN”

Omar than made the announcement,
The crowd hushed to hear him say
“BOYS AND GIRLS I HAVE A SANTA SIGHTING”
“AND HE’S COMING ON A FIREMAN’S SLEIGH”

The doors then burst open
Santa marched down the lobby aisle
Up to Omar he strode,
With a jolly laugh and big smile

“THIS TREE IS JUST LOVELY”
Santa said with a grin,
“BUT I THINK WE NEED TO LIGHT IT UP”
“TO LET THIS CELEBRATION BEGIN”

“10-9-8-7”
The crowd and Santa cheered with great glee.
“6-5-4-3-2-1”
“NOW LIGHT UP THAT TREE”

The she was aglow
As were many the faces
Santa visited with each child
Sticky hands and sticky faces

The day it was grand
The Pfister tree shines so bright
Merry Christmas to all
And to all a good night.

By Michelle McCarragher

Santa Has Arrived

This just in from Milwaukee, Wisconsin – there has been a Santa sighting at the historic Pfister Hotel. As far as we know, this has been the first sighting of the season. He and Mrs. Claus hitched a ride with some helpful firemen to do the honors of illuminating the colossal tree decorating the lobby.

Hundreds of families gathered as the Bel Canto Chorus serenaded with traditional carols.

Kids were going crazy – some crying, some laughing. They sat on his lap, wrote wish lists to North Pole, decorated cookies and sipped cocoa. It was a sight to be seen!

Santa and Mrs. Claus will reportedly retreat to the workshop to finish up some last minute gifts and double check the naughty/nice list.

There is no denying that the Christmas season is officially here.

You can find more pictures of of the Pfister’s Holiday Tree Lighting on their Facebook page here.

Santa and Mrs. Claus light up the tree

Steampunk Society Invades the Pfister

Just in case you had any preconceived notions about the Pfister clientele, allow me to challenge those. First, watch this slideshow:



These are steampunkers. What is a steampunker? Good question – I was also unaware of this counterculture until the Steampunk Society Milwaukee held their first Maker’s Fair last Saturday at the Pfister, organized in part by the gregarious Timothy Westbrook, Pfister’s Artist in Residence.

The group emulates the culture and costumes of the late nineteenth century and Victorian era. There is also a fascination with sci-fi elements and gadgets. Most people I talked with couldn’t exactly explain what a steampunker was, but described what drew them in.

Allizarin Crimson a.k.a. Kristin Poehls is a new member whose goal was to make just one sale at the fair. Jim Best has been involved for two years and started going to events something to do in his free time. For him, it was something more productive to do than playing video games. He uses old watch pieces to create pins and jewelry.

Clinger, adorned in a metal top hat and metal tie, calls it “A classy looking way to rebel.” He rode 10 miles to get to the Pfister on his ordinary bicycle. It’s his primary mode of transportation when the weather is agreeable. Anna Rodriguez sees it as a way to express herself. She loves the creative element and the costuming that goes along with it.

Bridget Sharon started the society in Milwaukee after seeing many of the same people from Milwaukee at the Chicago events. “I saw a lot of potential in it,” she said. “We used to do ‘invasions’ where we’d all decide to go someplace and show up in costume. Now, we hold monthly events to get together and grab drinks or socialize.” There are no requirements to be a member. Events attract anywhere from 20-40 people, but there must have been at least 100 steampunkers at the Maker’s Fair.

Bridget encourages everyone to check out a Steampunk Society gathering. I agree, you have to see this for yourself. For more information, click here.

My Other Pen is a Hydro-cyclonic Ink Dispensing Thought Engine

I have never stopped going to the Pfister. I’m still there, buy cialis lurking among the new artists and writers and last night, I snuck in to lurk among the time-travelers and inventors. My confession is that I love the art/craft/clothing/mission/vision/literature that calls itself Steampunk. I’ve been known to lust after a pair of great goggles and as a renaissance faire actor in the summers, I’m no stranger to a good corset. I have long wished the hotel had airship parking.

So I dragged a friend out for a drink in the Lobby Bar—something she’s no stranger to as she was one of my partners in crime when I was the Pfister Narrator—and we looked at gears and hair fascinators and costumes. And we descended on the bar and had a Zaffiro’s cheese pizza, remembering my introduction to the family whose girls’ day out during the holidays included pizza in the lobby.

And there she was. I saw our new Narrator at the bar, watching the costumes stream out of the Steampunk party. She typed on her tablet, and I found that appropriate as Steampunk is about unique inventions and hodge podge creations and a tablet is the perfect contemporary hybrid to reflect that sensibility, even if it’s not from the Steam Age.

I’m curious if she spotted us, if she recognized me. I only knew her from her interview video and was happy to note that the energy that jumped off the screen and grabbed us in that conference room was pulling people toward her in the Lobby Bar last night as well.

The entire evening just reminded me (not that I needed reminding) that the Pfister captures more than just people. Seeing the turn of the century garb, met with visionary mechanical implements and jewelry, was surreal when the garb floated into the lobby. Our favorite may have been the gorgeous Victorian bustled dress with teal brocade that fit its bearer so perfectly we questioned whether her body, too, had traveled through time. My friend gasped when she looked up and saw the mistress being photographed by her captain on the glorious staircase. What better place to reconsider the turn of the century and the romantic lure of the past than a hotel that was created to capture the future the turn of the century would bring?

I’m so proud to be a part of the Pfister because the beauty and elegance of this place and its people lend themselves and open their doors to contemporary, unique events like the Steampunk ball. I was proud to see so many of the artists showcased at the event were not from Chicago, but rather right here in Milwaukee, proving again that we’re current, we’re cool and Milwaukee has its fair share of airship pirates.

If you pictured the art of Timothy Westbrook as textile manipulation and beautiful, you were correct. But if you’d never looked at his pieces in the gaslight of a Victorian evening or seen how their feel couples so wonderfully with an Oscillating Mechanical Stun Weapon particular to airships and rogue captains, the Pfister provided that for you. Again, I was amazed at how a place, rife with history and bursting with elegance is also a playful contemporary who is willing to embrace gears, gadgets and difference engines to prove how welcome we all are when we’re there.

Good luck, Jenna. I have not forgotten, nor abandoned my journey with time travel, facilitated by the Pfister and its staff; I crack the proverbial bottle of champagne over your airship for luck on your adventure.

October Gallery Night and “The Art of Marcus”

This October’s Gallery night was a particularly special one, not only for Timothy and The Pfister, but for associates across all three properties owned by our parent company, Marcus Hotels.

“The Art of Marcus”

Some incredibly talented artists from here at The Pfister Hotel, The InterContinental Milwaukee & The Hilton Milwaukee City Center gathered together on Friday, October 19th in the Rouge Ballroom for a special exhibit entitled “The Art of Marcus.” Featuring twelve artists, and over 40 pieces of work, this special exhibit curated by current Pfister-in-Artist, Timothy Westbrook.

Featuring work across numerous mediums from fabric, to ceramics to painting, photography and more – Associates had a chance to display an often hidden and unknown side of their talents beyond their roles as hotel employees and members of the Marcus Hotels family. We posted early about all of the participating associates here.

As part of the event, Timothy created 5 awards in the following categories that were announced by Marcus President & CEO, Greg Marcus towards the end of the post-Gallery Night reception:

  Viewers Choice –
 Best in Show, Pfister Hotel –
Best in Show, InterContinental Hotel –
Best in Show, Hilton Milwaukee City Center –
Best in Show, Overall –

Best in Show, Overall winner, Charles Nickles will have his own exhibit at Gallerie M in the Intercontinental Hotel in early 2013

Sponsors of the event included Utrect Art Supplies and Digital Edge Copy & Print Centers.  Prizes across the categories included a Utrect supply bag, gift certificates to Digital Edge, Profolio Art Portfolios and more.

In all, four individuals were thrilled to have been recognized in the award categories, including the Pfister’s own Alison Barnick as Best in Show, Pfister Hotel and Charles W. Nickles as Viewers Choice and Best in Show, Overall.

As part of his Charles’ awesome honor (and probably the part we’re most excited about), Charles will have his own exhibit hosted at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel.

Joshua Hunt took the award for Best in Show, InterContinental Hotel and Daryl Stoll won Best in Show, Hilton Milwaukee City Center. 

Timothy Westbrook, Artist-in-Residence

All the while curating and coordinating the “Art of Marcus” event in the rouge, Timothy’s studio was jam packed through much of Gallery Night as visitors stopped in to see his progress to-date.

Featuring several of his dresses from the RunUp 2012 event at the Pritzlaff Building a few weeks earlier, and his in-progress unicorn costume for Halloween, there was really no shortage of conversation to be had for visitors to the Westbrook studio.

A personal highlight by many were the awesome PBR shoes that Timothy had made for a PBR Art Show that occurred on the same night as RunUp 2012.

 

All and all the evening made for a fantastic turnout, with arguably the best Gallery Night reception we’ve held at the Pfister yet.

You can check out our full gallery of photos from the “Art of Marcus” event over on our Facebook page (and you don’t need a Facebook account to see them). 

The Art of Marcus – Gallery Night Exhibit

 

We’re making this Gallery Night one of the most memorable ever as we feature our very own aspiring and inspiring artists, capsule in a very special Marcus associate exhibit.  Associates were invited to share the works of their artistic passion with their co-workers and the Milwaukee art community.

Associates were encouraged to submit their finest pieces for inclusion in this juried exhibit, curated by current Pfister Artist-in-Residence, Timothy Westbrook, with the Best of Show winner receiving a featured exhibit at Gallerie M at InterContinental Milwaukee in Spring of 2013.

Gallery Night: Friday, buy cialis October 19, 2012

  • The Art of Marcus Show opens in The Rouge at 9am. (Lobby Level of the Pfister hotel.)
  • Gallery Night is 5pm-9pm in The Rouge and the Artist in Residence studio.
  • Gallery Night Reception 9pm – 11:30pm in The Rouge with complimentary snacks and a cash bar.

Artist Awards
Five artist awards will be presented at 10:00pm on Friday, October 19th, during the Gallery Night Reception.

• Viewers Choice
• Hilton Milwaukee Best in Show
• InterContinental Milwaukee Best in Show
• The Pfister Hotel Best in Show
• Overall Best in Show

As prelude to this exciting exhibit, we wanted to take a moment to recognize each of the participating artists and members of the Marcus family by putting a face to their name.

Please note: Not yet pictured are artists Carol Kraco, Charles W. Nickles, Valerie Ryan-Cone & Amanda Walters.

 

 

Artist: Alison Barnick
Hotel: The Pfister Hotel
Department: Cafe
Title: Server

Artist: Jenny Cesar
Hotel: The Hilton Milwaukee City Center
Department: Hilton Cafe
Title: Server

Artist: Joshua Hunt
Hotel: The InterContinental Milwaukee
Department: Valet
Title: Bell/Valet

Artist: Shelly Liban
Hotel: The Pfister Hotel
Department: Mason Street Grill
Title: Server

Artist: Kevin Maille
Hotel: The InterContinental Milwaukee
Department: Catering
Title: Catering Event Manager

Artist: Rae Malecki
Hotel: The Pfister Hotel
Department: Front Desk
Title: PBX Operator

Artist: Michelle J. McCarragher
Hotel: The Pfister Hotel
Department: Executive Office
Title: Executive Assistant

Artist: Daryl Stoll
Hotel: The Hilton Milwaukee City Center
Department: Reservations
Title: Reservation Sales Agent