One morning I was having breakfast in the lobby lounge and ended up speaking with a young lady. She was enjoying a Healthy Start Frittata and I’d ordered my favorite, The Vegetable Omelet. This young woman’s name was Jessica and we spoke about many things including art, cuisine, travel, music. Most of the topics you hope a new acquaintance will be able to discuss at length. Eventually we got to the topic of relationships and Jessica told me a story about a preposterous first date she had recently gone on. One might say say her experience was uncannily similar to painting immediately to the right. Listening to her story again I return to the conclusion: “Who would take a girl to the grocery store?”
This story is a part of The Lunch Counter storytelling series which I curate on Milwaukee’s NPR station 89.7 WUWM. The piece originally aired Thursday January 5th during the Lake Effect show. To be clear, her awful first date didn’t take place at the hotel, she merely recounted the story over breakfast in The Cafe at the Pfister.
Come to think of it, it’s been awhile since I’ve taken my lady out for dinner. The holidays have wound down and now it’s easier to get a table in most restaurants. Perhaps Mason Street Grill should be in our near future…
To listen to this comedy of modern love errors simply click the player below. If you’d like to hear past editions of The Lunch Counter storytelling series visit here.
The culinary fun isn’t over yet! Marcus Restaurants has extended its popular chef series through February 2012, cure after a successful autumn session. Each Saturday, Marcus Restaurants will host a special sequence of classes called Celebrated Chefs Winter 2012 Series. Guests will get to know some of the city’s culinary leaders, enjoy perfectly paired beverages and sample each chef’s preparations, while learning great tips. With classes limited to 18 guests, they’ll enjoy a close-up look at cooking techniques in an intimate setting.
The Winter Series will feature an array of classes from ‘The Best of Italy’ to ‘Aphrodisiacs for the Day of Love’ to ‘Cooking with Shellfish’—there really is something for everyone.
Each two-hour cooking showcase will be held at the Mason Street Grill Chef’s Counter, located adjacent to The Pfister Hotel, from 10:30am – 12:30pm. Tickets are $29/person or $49/couple. All guests will receive a $20 gift card to experience even more great eats with Marcus Restaurants. Plus, guests can extend their stay with a special overnight offer! They can upgrade their reservation to include an overnight stay in a deluxe king or deluxe double guest room at The Pfister, two tickets to the Saturday demo, and parking included, starting at $179.
For reservations, guests can call (414) 935-5942. More information on specific classes can be found at MarcusChefs.com.
Last weekend my grandma and I decided to go out for afternoon tea. I don’t believe anyone’s ever taken tea with my grandmother, aside from a bag she dropped in a mug above her stove. When my mom called to remind her, my grandma asked what she should wear for such an occasion, what is appropriate attire for tea? “We didn’t go out for tea when I was a girl. Am I supposed to wear her long white gloves? I would if I had them.” Fear not, we found that beautiful silver can be placed in front of you in an environment that isn’t stuffy.
My grandmother, Phyllis, grew up in rural North Dakota. People have asked for years why her skin looks so fantastic and she attributes this to never smoking or suntanning. Like everyone in her hometown she worked on the farm before and after school and despite the fact that all the kids worked on a farm they did their best to not look like farmers. She’d work in the field wearing a long dress or slacks (her word), a long sleeved shirt, gloves, and a big floppy hat. When Hollywood started producing suntanned movie stars the population of Minot, ND decided the west was a bunch of fools.
Our tea date happened on one of the last sunny days of autumn. I decided we should take our time and drive through the Miller Valley en route to the hotel. Somewhere near Hart Park I could feel her looking at the side of my face. After a few moments she announced, “Eddie- you’ve got white hairs in your beard. How old are you anyway?” We’ve reached ages where it’s now the younger person’s job to remember details. She’s 86 now and as a mother of 7 has recently acquired the title of great-great-grandmother.
A sidebar reason behind our afternoon date was to record my grandma recounting some of the stories our family has heard many times over. When I was offered the position of Pfister Hotel Narrator I immediately purchased the professional-grade audio recorder I’d been lusting after (Instead of replacing the clutch on the Subaru. What can I say, art uber alles) and I’m still getting acquainted with my new toy. Seemed like a perfect opportunity to record Grandma’s stories for our family archive.
After parking we rode the elevator to the 23rd floor. Straight out of the elevator my grandmother wrapped her arm inside of mine. This is not something often done by ladies of my generation. It caught my attention akin to aftershave.
My grandmother wore a lovely sequined blouse and pant combination and I had on some variety of tweed poet/1920’s iron worker juxtaposition. Once inside Blu we walked past the harpist, Mary Keppeler and sat across from the ceiling to floor windows overlooking Lake Michigan. Assistant Manager Juan Rodriguez brought over the tea cart to explain our tea options for the afternoon. Juan explained the ingredients and offered scent samples of all the teas. During his explanations we’d look at one another from time to time and grin. We’re announced simpletons when it comes to tea. Juan was patient and concise in explaining the origin and nuance of every leaf and spice and how flavors interact. Grandma went for Earl Grey and I opted for the same but with mango thrown in.
Our tea arrived and shortly after our food also arrived. Crab cakes, fresh baked scones with lemon curd and strawberry preserves, curried quail eggs, smoked salmon, herb roasted turkey. Oh, and there were just as many desserts too. Chocolate dipped strawberries, pumpkin muffins, opera torte, savory crepes.
My grandmother and I sat next to one another watching as Lake Michigan whitecaps tickled the breakwater. Cars the size of ants entered and exited 794, which was once “The Bridge to Nowhere.” Grandma told me about the tiny convertible that looked like it was smiling; the one her dad drove after all the kids were grown up. From time to time we’d raise our teacups and tilt the pot until our cup filled steaming once again. There was a table of young ladies seated with their mothers and aunts near us. My grandma told me about the aunt and uncle I’d never met, the twins whose monument she visits annually. She told me about her brother Kenny, who my brother Kenny is named after. How Kenny and my grandma and my great aunt Shirley were like the Three Musketeers. The skyscrapers began reflecting the west golden sunset. She talked about the time my uncle got sprayed by a skunk. The time her uncle was accused (Falsely, darn it all to heck!) of being a horse thief. We watched the sun fade while a woman played the harp. My grandma has the stomach of a bird, I finished both of our food trays. Suddenly the Wisconsin Gas Building’s blue light brightened the Milwaukee skyline sparkle. We kept talking and enjoying our remaining Earl Grey after the sun went to bed, even after the bartenders began pouring cocktails. She told me part of the reason she married my grandfather was because his father was such a nice man. I didn’t record any of it. Why interrupt a perfectly perfect afternoon?
Marcus Restaurants donates 500 cookies to Hope House
MILWAUKEE – December 22, 2011 – For the third year in a row, chefs from Marcus
Restaurants are helping to make this holiday season a little sweeter for those in need. This
morning, they donated 500 cookies to Hope House in Milwaukee. Hope House is an
emergency and transitional living facility serving those in need of food and shelter.
Hope House is sharing the treats with its residents and patrons of its food pantry. The
recipe for the White Chocolate Chip Chewy Gingerbread Cookies was provided by Anna
Baird-Luedke, winner of Milwaukee’s Favorite Cookie Contest, which was held by Marcus
Restaurants. For winning the contest, she will receive dinner and an overnight stay at one
of Milwaukee’s Marcus Hotels.
Marcus Restaurants Chef Brian Frakes and Pastry Chef Jennifer Carlson say their staff
sampled all of the recipes and the chewy gingerbread cookies came out on top. Frakes
says his favorite part of the contest is the chance to help others. “We took time to bake
and deliver these cookies not only because it was a really great recipe, but also because
they were going to an amazing organization,” says Frakes. “Hope House is a true
community supporter and we were honored to play a small part in helping to make the
season a little brighter for its guests.”
Marcus Restaurants would like to thank Roundy’s Supermarkets and ThirdCoast Digest
for co-sponsoring the cookie donation. For more information, please contact April Dart at
262.523.3900 ex. 29.
Congratulations to Anna Baird-Luedke, for winning the Cookie Crown!
Milwaukee’s favorite cookie is the White Chocolate Chip Chewy Gingerbread cookie.
The winning baker was chosen by culinary experts from Marcus Restaurants and received a special overnight stay and dinner for two at The Pfister, InterContinental Milwaukee or Hilton Milwaukee City Center. Plus, the winning cookie was donated to Hope House of Milwaukee.
Stop by Mason Street Grill, Kil@wat, or Milwaukee ChopHouse during the month of January to give the winning cookie a try.
I am a geek for sparkling wines. This is one of my very favorite seasons as there are so MANY occasions to elegantly sip Champagne and share toasts with my friends and family. I cannot imagine a Christmas Eve dinner at my house without a few bottles of something bubbly chilling in my outdoor cellar (AKA-the snow drift on my patio), patient a Christmas morning without Mimosas and waffles, or a tiring but rewarding night at the restaurant on New Year’s Eve without toasting at midnight with my battle weary co-workers. Here are a few of my favorite brut Champagnes and few other international sparklers that make me feel festive!
Krug Grand Cuvee Brut of Reims, ampoule Champagne. As my pals at the American Club used to say, “No Krug? No thanks!” ( usually when being offered anything else bubbly). If a budget is of no concern to you, this is the real deal. This is the bottle for when you really have something fabulous to celebrate! The Grand Cuvee is made from all three permitted grapes of the Champagne region, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, but is predominately based on crazy good Chardonnay. This is a more full bodied and bold style of Champagne that screams for osetra caviar.
Heidsieck & Co. Monopole “Blue Top” Brut of Epernay, Champagne. I recently tasted this again for the first time in years at the sparkling wine event that we hosted at Mason Street Grill on Monday night. Really impressed with the depth and quality of this wine! Buttery, toasty, with baked bread, pear and apricot notes with hint of smokiness. Pinot Noir is the dominant grape in this cuvee. A dash easier to locate than Krug, and a great deal more affordable.
Argyle Brut of Willamette Valley, Oregon. Made from classic Champagne region grapes using classic Champagne production methods, this is a fun number from here in the States. Their entry level brut is bright and racy with flavors of apple, lemon, and more of that baked bread nose. Delightful and crisp, yet again, more budget friendly. If you want to try something really special, track down their “Extended Tirage”, and taste it side by side with your favorite vintage Champagne. Prepare to be shocked.
“Naked on Roller Skates” by Some Young Punks of South Australia. I wonder sometimes if that name were in French if it would still seem as naughty… This bubbly is made from Shiraz and Mataro grapes. Yes, this can happen. No, this is not a sweet wine. It has a darker reddish/pinkish color than you may imagine, and is dry yet balanced with flavors of red berries, spices and dark fruits. Bring this to a party as a hostess gift, I dare you. Your bottle will be an unwitting topic of conversation ALL NIGHT.
Last night I was able to listen to a concert with pianist Dr. Jeffrey Hollander. The good doctor plays every first Thursday of the month on the 23rd floor at Blu, the cocktail lounge which looks east over Lake Michigan. Patrons sat at tables which radiated from the piano. Couples sat close to one another in a piano-dangled warm quiet until the last few songs, at which point I began looking for a singer who appeared to my ears from of the middle of nowhere. I looked around the room to find someone now accompanying the piano. I then realized there wasn’t a singer who was sharing the floor with Jeffrey. The entire room had joined in song for the last few numbers in a way that happens often in black and white movies but rarely in color ones.
While listening to the concert I ended up speaking with a gentleman named Bill. Evidenced, I suppose, by his being seated next to me, Bill remarked that he preferred to enjoy a *ding-time* 6pm workday whistle cocktail in Blu. I asked where he was in town from and he chuckled that he worked a few blocks away and this was his nightly cool-down. No traveler was Bill at the moment, this was his customary place to relax once the office turned dim before heading home.
Prior to this position I’d never considered spending time in a hotel in my city (or any other city for that matter). I traveled for business when I was younger and that traveling amounted to seeing an airport, freeway, hotel, and identically designed retail location. Wash, rinse, repeat the process for 55-70 hours per week for a few years. The corporation who employed me had a very cost-conscious mindset so many of the hotels (er…often motels) I slept at were not the type of place one felt incredibly welcomed. After the first few trips I didn’t bother to pack a swimsuit and brought a book to read instead of assuming there might be cable television. The definition I’d learned a hotel to be was a bed and shower acting as the peanut butter and jelly sandwiched between 13 hour workdays.
I thought about the hotels I’d stayed at for business and they were never like this. Sitting in one’s room with a book felt like being sequestered in a hospital room. I’d walk downstairs to the lobby and they might have a couch but not the type of couch you’d ever sit on because you wanted to. The type of a couch you’d only sit on only if you were stuck waiting. I’d walk across the street, or a few blocks away, or to the other end of the strip mall where there was a chain restaurant and the meal tasted boringly identical to the meal they’d serve in Birmingham, or Seattle, or Hoboken. I’d try to strike up a conversation with the staff or neighboring patron but all of the 14 sports games on 72 televisions commanded the room’s entire attention. The staff seemed confused as to why you would want to engage them in conversation. They had no idea I’d come from Milwaukee to Brick Town, NJ, for four days and wanted to ask about their town. Aside from that, I’m a human and we’re social animals.
There are many reasons to like this bar: calming ambience, incredible view, the free concerts. But all that aside Bill said it was the people who attracted him to Blu. Both the clientele and the staff. The bartenders are social and their conversation stretches far beyond the weather. If there’s a game you’d like to watch they’ll turn on the TV but it’s not the mouth-gape focus of all the room’s energy. Neighboring patrons don’t find it strange when you ask how their day went, or if there’s a museum in walking distance, or what book you’re reading at the moment.
The funny thing is I started this blog post to write about the cocktail I had in Blu. The drink is called The Good Life. It’s an exquisitely simple combination of fresh lime, cucumber, mint, raw suger, and Veev Acai Berry Liquor. The sipper tastes every flavor all at once in an even, balanced manner. None of the flavors shout for your attention in a way that would seem obnoxious or out of place. Jason, the vested and Windsor knot necktied bartender, suggested I try this as my invitation to the drink menu. Then I had another one, which I suppose that’s the ultimate endorsement. But that cocktail is just one detail, seemingly unimportant by comparison, to the candlelight speckled chandelier city glow surrounding the miles around me.
This really is a preferable way to travel- even if you’re just a tourist in your own town. Bill is right. The drinks are well-poured, yes, the food is as advertised and requested, he says this and shrugs. Those are all great but it’s the people and the experience which resonate in one’s memory. It’s Milwaukee, you can have a drink nearly anywhere. Where else can one relax while the golden coast touching Lake Michigan gradually turns to a shimmering tapestry and the bartender asks if you’d like your usual? It’s that intangible combination of service, location, and amenities which combines to create this brilliant ambience.
I was about to click the Publish button on this blog entry but then there was a sudden bit of “ooohs” and “aaahhhhs” and brief applause which distracted me from the current task. I asked the bartender what had happened. Jason leaned in and explained that a man three tables over asked the woman sitting to his right if she’d marry him. I look over and the woman’s head is on the man’s shoulder. Her fingers take turns tracing the lashes underneath her eyes. She’s giggling and sniffling all at once. How can I write about just a cocktail?
Good grief. It has already snowed in Wisconsin. Yes, for sale I have lived here my entire life, but no- I won’t ever welcome the snow. I don’t ski, snowboard, snowshoe, sled, ice skate, or anything else wholesome and Nordic. I like to overdress for the cold, grumble, and hibernate. Here are a few of my favorite beverages that help me cope with the joys of living in the Midwest.
Hot Buttered Rum. The first thing that you are greeted with at our annual family Christmas gathering is a soul-warming mug of booze. Many aMilwaukeeblizzard was made far more entertaining by the buffering comfort of a Hot Buttered Rum. A stick of un-salted butter, no rx a cup of brown sugar, a pinch each of cinnamon, nutmeg, all-spice, and crushed cloves all mashed together are placed in the refrigerator to cool into a spoon-able texture. Find a generously sized coffee mug; add an ounce and a half of dark rum, diagnosis a heaping teaspoon of the sugar and spice mixture and top with piping hot water. Stir and enjoy!
Scotch. I love Scotch. One of my favorite wintertime sippers! I enjoy complex, layered, and viscous styles of Scotch such as any bottle that Balvenie has ever made (my heart really goes out to the 14 year Caribbean Cask Balvenie…aged in rum barrels!). Also a big fan of Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or, Bunnahabhain, and Bruichladdich. I’m looking for bolder flavors, whether it is from a smoky/peaty character or the more luscious notes that can be translated via barrel aging. Generally neat, but sometimes with one tiny cube of ice.
My Goodness, My Guinness. Rich, toasty stout enjoyed fireside in the “Saint’s Snug” at Co. Clare. I could watch snow fall all night! And no, I don’t think that Guinness is “too filling” or “too heavy”, it just looks naughty. It is actually a fairly low calorie & low alcohol brew.
Zinfandel & Syrah. So zesty, brambly, rugged, bold, and just plain spiked sometimes! But I can give the generally high alcohol nature of these grapes a pass in the colder months. Homemade pizzas, mushroom risotto, a filet with a Bordelaise sauce are delightful matches. Also, fond memories of enjoying a bottle of big, bad Syrah with an Artichoke ala Mode pizza at Pizza Man on theEast Side, watching the North Ave bar crowd trudge through the blizzard in their party dresses.