A Knock at the Door

Knocking once, Blake calmly sings out, “Rooooom ser-vice.”

Silence.  Through the door, we can hear the sound of a television.  Blake raises his hand slightly, the one that isn’t balancing a tray, considers knocking again when a voice comes from within, “Just a minute.”

The door opens.  “Evening Ms. ——, how are you?”

One hand on the door handle, the other removing an earring, she replies, “tired, and very hungry.  I’m so happy to see you,” moving aside to allow entrance.

A moment later, he reappears, backing up and closing the door behind him as he grants the guest a good stay.  We step back onto the service elevator, the colorful halls and warm lighting giving way to the humming machines, humid corridors, back halls and fluorescent lights that make up the halls below ground.

We make our way past the tables draped in white cloth, hiding warmers underneath while prepped on top with small bud vases and tiny salt and pepper shakers.  Blake removes his jacket, hanging it on a doorknob in order to keep it clean, and turns in his tip.  Tips are split among all the servers working a particular shift.  Deanna, parked on a stool in front of the phone and computer where orders come in, waves a slip of paper in the air, indicating another order has just come through.  Blake immediately begins setting up a tray for the delivery, snatching miniature jars of ketchup and mustard from the small shelves where they reside next to other, equally miniature, jellies, jams and A-1 Sauce.

“I started out waiting tables at the Radisson,” he tells me as he arranges silverware, “I like this better than waiting tables, it streamlines the service work.”  He picks up a dish from Freddy, the chef currently on duty.  “I like to cook, so watching the chefs down here has been great.  If you observe and study, you can catch on and learn.  I’ve learned a lot about reduction sauces, how to use butter and wine for fish – stuff like that.”

You can’t pass through the halls of the Pfister’s lower levels without coming across Freddy.  Born in Belize, he lived in Louisiana for two years at age 11, before his family moved on to Chicago.  Through helping his family of nine siblings, and on to five years in the Navy, he always loved cooking for people. After signing up to work for the U.S. Post Office, a chance encounter in the halls of a community college made him drop everything and go to culinary school.  “I followed a pretty girl in a culinary uniform who said to me, ‘What do you got to lose?’ and so I signed up right away.”  He proudly shows off his red pepper coulis, chorizo and gives me a sample of creme brulee.  “I have fun doing this,” he says, gesturing over his entire work area, his domain for the last 15 years.

We walk up a ramp and into a different elevator to make a stop on the historic side, delivering a meal to a businessman on his first visit from Charlotte, NC.  As we walk, Blake explains the basic order of operations: first, a call comes in to the order taker.  A time quote is offered, based on the order, though the average time is 30 minutes.

Next, the order goes to one of six chefs who work in the department.  In addition to Freddy, there’s also Darin, a quiet chef who is doing mostly prep work during these third shift hours.  And Zachary, a line cook for the last year and a half, who came over from Fratello’s.  Originally he was hoping to learn pastry work, but the only opening was in room service dining.  “My mom was a stay-at-home, I cooked for friends in college, eventually going to work at a friend’s restaurant.  I worked at Bartolotta’s for awhile and loved learning how to make gnocchi pasta.” I ask for a hint.  “If you mash the potatoes too much, it makes it glue-y.”

In between orders, the servers chat while cleaning and organizing supplies, pre-setting trays and carts.  I meet Miguel who transferred from Lake Geneva, where he did “a little bit of everything – bakery, banquets, coffee service, everything.”  Originally from Guanajuato, he loves Wisconsin, especially its seasons.  Fall is his favorite, but he’s partial to the beauty of the snowy days and nights, and enjoyed helping decorate the resort every year for Christmas.  Now in Milwaukee for two years, he’s found he likes doing room service for its consistent schedule and personal, face-to-face interactions with guests.  He smiles big, his eyes crinkly a little around the edges, when he says, “I really love serving people.”  I believe him.

So, what happens when they receive a strange or unexpected request?  The information is noted by the order taker, who politely responds with something along the lines of, “XYZ department usually takes care of that, but I’ll be sure to pass it on for you.”  This achieves a two-fold purpose — the guest now knows who to contact the next time that particular request needs to be made and service is also provided right away.  It’s very rare for even the most unusual requests to go unfulfilled, as proven by Chef Concierge Peter Mortenson when he once had to track down a sugar maple sapling for a Russian ambassador.

Deanna, who has worked in restaurants since she was 16, spending 7 years at one family restaurant where she still works part-time, said her strangest request so far was the call she got where the guest said, frantically, “I don’t have a microwave in my room!”  Deanna calmly replied, “I’m not sure why that is, but I’ll take care of it for you,” and within ten minutes, the guest had a microwave.  And you thought all room service did was bring you food.

YOUR TURN:  Do you order food to your room when you travel?  What’s your favorite thing to have arrive at your door?

Wine Swirls again, with the Pfister Sommelier

A Case for Riesling

I have a confession to make.  I used to drink Moscato d’Asti, ask Riesling, Muscat from California on ice, wine coolers, and Stoli Raspberry with lemonade.  This is a pretty typical roster of beverages that any 21 year old female would enjoy.  I could not stomach a pilsner beer or a glass of Chardonnay, I only wanted to imbibe something that had the sugar content of a can of Pepsi.  No dry wines for me, sovaldi not ever.

Or so I thought.  One night, I found myself at a gathering with some other servers from a neighboring steakhouse.  The grand finale to this soiree was the popping of a bottle of Opus One 2001 to denote the host’s birthday which was the reason for celebration that evening.  The host insisted that I try a small glass, to which I initially  resisted, “I DO NOT drink dry or red wines!  Don’t waste your fancy wine on me!”  The second that delightful blend of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot hit my palate. I was a changed young wine drinker.  The lush and complex layers of chocolate, blackberry, vanilla, and cassis hit me like waves and I knew what it was really like to have a “Eureka!” moment.  I was a big, bad red drinker now, and only the boldest wines in the world would sway me.

It seems that many of us who become aficionados of the California Cabernet Cults start to get a bit snobbish when confronted with sweeter wines at some point.  Yes, of course we give a pass to Dolce and Chateau d’Yquem, but snooty when at Mom’s house and she pops open a bottle of Riesling that she proudly picked up at the grocery store.  Mom, I was wrong.  A few years ago, a great mentor of mine dropped by the wine shop that I was working for at the time.  She had a bag full of German Riesling from Dr. Loosen for me to taste that day.  I groaned, rolled my eyes, huffed and said “Fine.  I guess that I need to learn more about this swill”.

She patiently poured me the samples and tried to plead with me to have an open mind.  While she talked, I admired the way the rich golden juice stuck to the sides of my wine glass, what viscosity!  I inhaled and a wall of late summer flowers came to mind, along with fresh peach and apricot.  On the palate, the current of electric acidity cut right through the rich tropical and honeyed notes, leaving a clean yet intense sensation.  That acidity- just WOW! I could thought of a million things that this delight should be paired with: some sushi, a salad with a fruit component, Thai food, African peanut stew…the list was endless.

I had judged a grape in error for so many years because I had only sampled a few.  My mind was open now!  I learned that Riesling could be picked at different degrees of sweetness, truly expanding the possibilities for food and wine pairings.  Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein, and finally Trockenbeerenauslese from driest to sweetest.   The names J.J. Prum, Dr. Loosen, and Donnhoff are three that I always know that I can expect consistant excellence from.  Yes, some of the finest Auslese in the world may cost nearly the same as that bottle of Opus One, but there is a plethora of delicious Riesling coming from Germany, Washington State, Australia, France, New Zealand, and Austria that is more than affordable.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love the big & bad red, but now I have an appreciation and adoration for something a little more graceful.

-Heather Kanter-Kowal

Heather Kanter-Kowal

 

Joseph Phelps Wine Dinner in Mason Street Grill

Join Chris St. Marie, National Sales Manager for Joseph Phelps Vineyards, as he guides you through an exquisitely prepared six-course dinner. The meal will be carefully paired with six elegant wines, including Insignia, from the vineyard. Throughout each course, guests are educated about these delectable, complementary pairings that bring out the distinct, delicious flavors in each culinary creation.

Enamored with the beautiful Napa Valley and contemplating a career change, Joseph Phelps bought the 600-acre Connolly cattle ranch in Spring Valley, and began planting vineyards in 1973. The winery was completed in 1974 and that same year the first Syrah was made, the first grapes were crushed at the new facility and the first Insignia was produced. Nearly four decades later, the flagship wine, Insignia, is recognized as one of the world’s great wines.

MENU

Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Reception: 6:00 p.m.
Dinner: 6:30 p.m.

$95.00 per person (tax and gratuity not included)

Please RSVP by calling 414.298.3131 or email host@masonstreetgrill.com before october 13. And let us know you’re coming on Facebook.

Wine Swirls again, with the Pfister Sommelier

My name is Heather Kanter-Kowal and I am the Certified Sommelier and Assistant Manager of the Mason Street Grill in the Historic Pfister Hotel.  This is the first post in a series about wine that I will be sharing with the Pfister community.  We will discuss different wine regions of the world, patient how to taste & evaluate wine, wine & food pairings, how to open a bottle of Champagne (safely!), and many other fun wine related topics.

A little bit of background about me… I started my career in hospitality twelve years ago here at the Pfister Hotel.  While working in Blu as a bartender when it first opened, nurse I realized that I would really need to learn a thing or two about wine if I was going to succeed in dazzling my guests on a nightly basis.  I ran out to pick up a few basic books about wine (and quite a few bottles!), doctor and spent my free hours teaching myself how to understand the wide world of wine.  My career took me to restaurants such as Osteria del Mondo, where Italian vino ruled the list, and Trocadero, which had an entirely French collection.  Along the way, I realized how much I truly enjoyed sharing the information that I had learned with my friends, colleagues, and most of all- my guests.

I studied for the Court of Master Sommeliers tests, which were an intense set of written, practical wine service and the most daunting of them all, the blind tasting tests.  I passed the introductory exam in Traverse City, MI and passed the Certified Exam four months later in Orlando, FL.  Becoming a Certified Sommelier opened the doors for me to work at the Immigrant Restaurant in the American Club of Kohler, WI, where I spent several years managing a vast international collection of lovely wines.

This past February, I was quite delighted to return “home” to the Pfister Hotel, and join the team at the Mason Street Grill.  I am excited to talk to our guests about wineries that they have been to, what wines would taste great with their meals, and to recommend where they can find their new favorite wines.  We are also hosting seasonal wine events, such as the Blackbird Vineyards Launch Party this September 26th and the Joseph Phelps Vineyards dinner on October 20th.

I look forward to sharing some unpretentious and useful wine advice with you!

Cheers!

Heather Kanter-Kowal

Heather Kanter-Kowal

 

Made in Milwaukee, Found in the Pfister

Made in Milwaukee!

A foursome of guests was querying Roc, the concierge, about what to check out nearby the Pfister today.  He shared with them a few restaurants and then suggested they check out a little festival in its third year, called “Made in Milwaukee.”  Featuring local bands, local food and libations, as well as local arts and local businesses, Made in Milwaukee was taking place all day today in Cathedral Square Park, just a few blocks from the Pfister.

Meanwhile, in the lobby, I met someone from New York who was visiting Milwaukee for his first time and wanted to know what he and his wife should check out before they attend a wedding tomorrow afternoon.  They’d already gone to the zoo earlier in the day and had the rehearsal dinner yet this evening, so they only had the morning.  The suggestion that seemed to click for him was simply walking down Wisconsin Avenue to the lakefront and meandering northwards along the shore to Alterra at the Lake for coffee and baked treats or a fresh wrap.

Of course, if it’s a stormy day and you’re stuck inside the hotel because you forgot your umbrella, or you miss out on any one of the city’s numerous outdoor shindigs that go on all summer long that feature local wares, you don’t need to look much further than the halls, bars and cafe of the Pfister, for a sample of the city.

Beyond the history that is contained within the walls themselves, the employees are a bastion of Milwaukee knowledge, trivia and historical anecdote.  Concierges Peter and Roc will be thrilled if you ask them to tell you about actress Sarah Bernhardt’s involvement on the Milwaukee stage or about The Basilica of St. Josaphat.  They will happily take you on a story-fueled tour of the city, if you have a few minutes (or an hour) to engage their encyclopedic minds on the topic.  Of course, there’s the work by local artists as displayed in, or on the walls outside, of the artist-in-residence’s studio.

As far as having a taste of Milwaukee, start in Mason Street Grill, where you can sample the Mason Street Amber, brewed specifically for the restaurant by Lakefront Brewery (home of the country’s best brewery tour).  The lobby bar also features Lakefront’s most popular beer, Riverwest Stein, on tap.  Both of these watering holes, plus Blu, offer Rehorst vodka and gin, made by the Great Lakes Distillery.  Their vodka won a silver medal in the 2007 San Francisco World Spirits competition, so you know it must be good!

Want a little more?  Step into the cafe and check out the items on display, just inside the entrance.  In addition to small bottles of Rehorst spirits, you can pick up a six-pack of Lakefront Brewery’s Riverwest Stein, or their Organic E.S.B (Extra Special Bitter) – a refreshing ale styled after the British pours.  Stock up on Sprecher: known for their Root Beer, Sprecher also makes the kid-friendly Cream Soda and Orange Dream, plus adults-only Special Amber and Black Bavarian (my favorite).  Need a snack to go with all your beverages?  Pick up chocolates from Indulgence Chocolatiers, or organic Vanilla caramels with dark chocolate and sea salt made by Becky’s Blissful Bakery.

Of course, you can always just stay in your room.  First, tune your radio to local music stations WMSE (91.7) or 88Nine (88.9) for some great sounds (some by local bands, of course); then pick up the phone and dial room service to have a meal made by Milwaukee chefs, in Milwaukee’s historic hotel, delivered to your door by a Milwaukee employee.*  It doesn’t get any more local than that.

 

 

*Don’t forget to tip!

Blackbird Vineyards: Wisconsin Launch Wine Tasting

Prepare yourself for an extraordinary evening at Mason Street Grill with wines from one of the most prestigious wineries in Napa Valley, cialis Blackbird Vineyards. Mason Street Grill welcomes the vineyard for its first Wisconsin visit, and invites you to an exclusive wine tasting on Monday, September 26, 2011.

Guest of Honor Paul Leary, Blackbird Vineyard President, will amaze you with his expertise in wine as you dine on exquisite hors d’oeuvres and passed appetizers created by our talented chefs. Guests will be treated to generous pours of specialty wines including Blackbird Rose ‘Arriviste’ 2010 and Blackbird ‘Illustration’ 2008. Individual wine bottles will also be available to purchase at retail pricing.

More about Blackbird Vineyard.
Founded in 2003, Blackbird Vineyards is an artisanal producer of Pomerol-inspired wines from the Napa Valley. Planted in 1997, the estate vineyard is located in the heart of the Oak Knoll District–a region appreciated for its moderate climate and deep, gravelly soils. Limited quantities are available through an allocated mailing list direct from the winery and in the finer restaurants and hotels around the world.

Monday, September 26, 2011
Reception: 6:00 p.m.
Presentation: 6:30 p.m.

$40.00 per person (tax and gratuity not included)

Please RSVP on Facebook and by calling 414.298.3131 or email host@masonstreetgrill.com before September 19, 2011

Something Old, Something New

Grand Old Chandelier

I recently got to get acquainted with a freelance marketer, seek sports journalist and travel blogger from Texas named Jayme Lamm, who I met at the Pfister because Jayme was connected with the Astros and had heard about how wonderful it was from both the tour and booking managers for the team. Referred to me by the marketing director at Travaasa Hana in Maui, where she’d recently stayed, prescription Jayme was described as “a fun, bubbly blonde who looks stereotypically Texan, but then she opens her mouth and what comes out doesn’t match, at all.”  I’d nosed around on her website, read a few of her blog posts and began following her on Twitter, and was quickly convinced we could have some fun and I could probably learn a lot from her.

When she arrives, there’s an instant affinity: petite like me, she has sunny blonde hair, big brown eyes, is highly energetic, and reminds me of my younger sister.  We start chatting right away about what brings her to Milwaukee (a family reunion up North), and how she’s looking forward to spending a night out and about.  I warn her that on Wednesdays not much is going on, but I had an idea that would allow for a quick survey of Milwaukee: something old, something new, and something unique.

Starting at the Pfister (“something old”), we toured the hotel.  A fan of old hotels because of their character, Jayme has stayed at a lot of beautiful places, but is impressed by what she sees here.  Ending inside Mason Street Grill, we settle onto a pair of leather stools at the end of the bar, and our bartender, Micah, approaches with the menus.  As we decide on our drinks (champagne for Jayme, a glass of Kung Fu Girl Riesling for me), Micah guides us through the appetizers.  I know we’ll be definitely ordering my favorite (Tuna Tartar Tacos), but we aren’t sure what else to get.  Thanks to Micah’s guidance, we add Mason Street’s signature Rockefeller Dip and Fried Surf Clams.

Conversation turns from the week’s Brewers games (“It got so hot and muggy with the roof closed for the rain!”) to her blogging work.  Jayme relates how she always keeps an eye out for stories, though because she has bad luck, the story often ends up being about her.  Our appetizers arrive and are demolished before we even knew they were there.  Jayme, with her story-finder’s observant eye, notices Micah’s pin – a small square, featuring a butcher knife and the words “certified foodie.”  We both instantly jump on this new thing and inquire after its meaning.  We’re informed that it’s related to something at Mason Street Grill called “Counter Culture, “ which consists of a 7-course meal served with a chef as guide, at a special counter facing the kitchen, a la a chef’s table.

Sprecher on tap at SPiN

Jayme and I then head to our next destination (“something new”). SPiN Milwaukee is located in the Third Ward, a short jaunt from the Pfister, which gives me a chance to point out other fine destinations for food and drink.  A combination table tennis club and bar, SPiN features ping pong tables for rent by the half hour or the hour and a full-service bar with food.  It’s quiet when we arrive, but gives us a chance to talk to the bartender, after he serves us a couple pints of Milwaukee-made Sprecher beer.  He and Jayme hit it off when he mentions being a musician and she mentions she’s looking to hire someone to write a little jingle with her for her charity work.

By the time we’re finished with our pints, having met one of the for-hire table tennis coaches and practiced giving perfect high fives (secret: keep your eye on the other person’s elbow), it’s quite late.  Instead of going on to our “something unique” which was going to be At Random: Bay View’s swanky, orange-lighted, rat pack-music playing, liquorrific milkshake fountain shoppe – we decide to call it a night.  SPiN managed to be both new and unique; as did Jayme.

For Jayme, the Pfister was old, new and unique and she looks forward to returning to Milwaukee to stay there, in order to best explore more of what the city has to offer, like the Safe House and Bryant’s Lounge, which were both recommended by Micah (and endorsed by me).  Plus, At Random is waiting, as is a whole array of new places that have cropped up in the city over the last five years.  It’s a terrific thing to be in a city that has so many wonderful things to offer, but I also like knowing where my favorites can be found: like Tuna Tartar Tacos and Kung Fu Girl Riesling.

Things That Make You Go “Mmmm!”

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.

7-Course Nickel & Nickel Wine Dinner

Please join us for the Nickel & Nickel Wine Dinner at The Pfister on Wednesday, purchase July 20, 2011, in The Rouge Ballroom. $125.00  per person (inclusive of tax and gratuity).

Marcus Restaurants’ talented chefs – Robert Ash, buy viagra Mark Weber, David Zakroczymski and Brian Frakes – invite you to an exclusive wine dinner featuring celebrity vintner Beth Nickel. Together, the chefs will prepare a 7-course meal, paired with specially selected wines from the Nickel & Nickel winery in Napa Valley.

The reception begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m

View Menu

Reservations are limited, please call and reserve your space today!  800-558-8222 or email reservations@thepfisterhotel.com

Reservations are limited.  Based on availability.  Wine Dinner available on July 20, 2011 only.   Dinner is held in the Rouge Ballroom at the Pfister hotel.


Call 800-558-8222 for your reservation or email reservations@thepfisterhotel.com

Summer in the City. . . of Festivals

Patriotic Flowers

It’s summer in Milwaukee.  Finally.  We know the calendar has said it’s summer for some time now, but the weather simply hasn’t cooperated, as evidenced by the city’s wavering between the wet, cold of March and the hottest, most humid dog days of August.  Not only has the mercury risen and the sun come out to tan the hides of hundreds of folks cavorting on Bradford Beach, but the clearest sign of the season has begun: the fireworks have been shot off, PrideFest has passed, the festivals are here!

Boasting large cultural fests like the Lakefront Festival of the Arts, Festa Italiana and Irish Fest, street festivals like Locust Street Days or Summer Soulstice, and numerous church festivals across the city and its suburbs, Milwaukee’s self-appointed (and well-earned) nickname is the “City of Festivals.”  And, currently in full swing right now, is the biggest festival of them all: Summerfest.

Centrally located to the Summerfest grounds means the Pfister is packed to the Jason-Mraz-fedora-brim with fest-goers.  They group together with friends, and the children tag along behind their moms.  Coolers are being dragged or carried, backpacks are stuffed with sunscreen.  The ladies are (mostly) tanned and adorned in skirts and heels, summer dresses and wedge sandals, capris and flip-flops with glittery sequins or earthy embroidery.  The men in tees and plaid board shorts, jeans and tanks, sunglasses (some still wearing them inside), but especially: hats.  Besides the numerous summer straw fedoras made popular by the aforementioned visiting musician, there are black glittery cowboy hats, jaunty leather types, paddlesport visors, and fitted baseball caps. The variety in fedoras, however, is particularly astounding, and those wanting in on this fashion can find some splendid samples at the Brass Rooster, newly opened in Bay View.

The abundance of exposed skin also results in a revelation of tattoos: colorful flowers on a lady’s back, a line of stars down the back arm of a man, a girl in a yellow dress with a variety of black & white/gray landscapes and portraits – one on her shoulder is a particularly stunning Marilyn Monroe.

There is a strong juxtaposition of summer attire with Roc’s tails and vest or Peter’s grand mustache and wide tie.  This only makes the traditional, formal dress of the concierges stand out even more, creating an air of elegance that is nearly theatrical, were it not for their easy-going laughter or kind directions on how to take the trolley loop around downtown.

“Gertie”

Of course, it’s also the Fourth of July weekend and guests have arrived from all over to spend their holiday here. There’s one guy who managed to bring all the summer fashions together.  He stands at the check-in desk wearing all of the above: the t-shirt, plaid shorts, flip-flops, straw fedora, backpack AND has a cooler!  I meet a fabulously flamboyant male ballet dancer from San Francisco who is here on a mini family reunion of sorts, a beautiful redhead from Tucson celebrating a hometown birthday with her longtime friend (and artist-in-residence) Shelby Keefe, and a couple from Illinois who has fled domestic festivities in favor of a holiday weekend away with their sweet, adorable 2.5yr old Basset Hound named Gertrude.

Gertrude is a charmer: her giant paws with exercise wristbands of wrinkled skin bunching around her ankles, pumpkin-fed soft fur, long and unbelievably silky ears, gorgeous tri-color markings, and those soulful eyes make a deadly combination.  Her “parents” are thrilled to be able to bring her with them on their getaway.  They even took her up to the seventh floor where, vacant of any conferences or group bookings, they found a veritable playground where they could play fetch with Gertie*, who normally would take off (as hounds are wont to do) and not come back as she followed a scent outdoors someplace.  They loved that employees would walk by and smile, nod, say hello, maybe give Gertie a belly rub and go on their way.  “It’s so wonderful to stay in a place where we can walk around with her inside, or play a little in a big, empty space and it’s okay!”  Gertie shows her gratitude by licking my bare toes.

Yummy!!

I think how it’s too bad that Gertie won’t be allowed in the one place everyone else is sure to be tonight between 11pm and 3am: in the Café at the Pfister, enjoying their inaugural ‘Summerfest Late Night Buffet’ for only $19.95.  Who am I kidding?  Gertie will be so tired from galloping around her new playground, she’ll be fast asleep on a big, fluffy bed next to a bigger, fluffier bed while the rest of Milwaukee listens to music, drinks, dances, and eats long into the holiday night.

 

*Gertrude has no idea how lucky she is, as she shares her nick-moniker with Milwaukee’s most famous animal: a duck, also named Gertie, whose bronze statue stands by the river, a symbol of hope.