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.

Cooking with Chef Ash: Bacon Wrapped Medjool Dates

This dish is a stunning appetizer that can be served at every occasion. The plump, buy delicious dates are wrapped in thick, smokey bacon then gently sauteed in a savory sauce. Creamy goat cheese is delicately placed in the center of the sweet, chewy date helping to enhance its rich flavor. This is an elegant and satisfying dish that your guests will request at every gathering.

Ingredients

  • 20 pieces pitted medjool dates
  • 20 pieces of smoked bacon strips
  • Toothpicks

Directions

  • Stuff each date with the almond cheese and wrap with one slice of bacon and secure with a plain toothpick.
  • Bake in a 375F oven for 10- 15 minutes until bacon is crispy.
  • Place on top of a plate lined with roasted piquillo rouille.

Almond Cheese Ingredients

  • 1 log of fresh goats cheese (room temp)
  • ½ cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

  • In a mixer with a paddle attachment combine the cheese, almonds, extract and parsley mix until just combined and season with fresh ground black pepper.

Roasted Piquillo Rouille Ingredients

  • 4-5 pcs roasted piquillo pepper
  • ½ cup sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 ½ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Directions

  • Place all ingredients except the olive oil into a bar blender and puree then slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream.
  • Mix until thoroughly incorporated.

A World Away (or, just down the hall)

"Classic American..."

While the lobby bar hosts an array of Monday night businessmen having a casual beer and some mixed nuts with colleagues, buoyed by a soundtrack of classical and jazz piano tunes, just down the hall and through a set of doors is the entrance to the Mason Street Grill. It’s an entirely different world, and easy to forget it’s a part of the hotel at all, were it not for the high-class service and ability to charge your meal back to your room.

Camel leather and stools and high-backed bar chairs with milk chocolate wood legs, dotted with brass rivets, ring several tall tables and line the bar.  There are red leather couches and an easy chair in a half-circle by a fireplace, next to walls with built-in bookshelves lined with jacket-less tomes.  Interspersed among the tiles are vases, decorative boxes, glass votives that vary in shape/height/color, and even a worn leather lunchbox.  Dark wood walls and ceilings are adorned with rectangular light fixtures to provide an ambient lighting that is warm and glowing.  All this evokes an executive dining room or perhaps the Chicago office of a corporate attorney.  But the crowd is clearly there for varying reasons.

Two guys in shorts and golf shirts keenly pay attention to the Yankees vs. Reds game on the TV above the bar (4 to 1, Yanks, top of the 3rd), while Nicholas the bartender, smoothly pours them wine refills using that classic one-handed style of thumb placed neatly in the groove at the bottom of the bottle that indicates someone who knows how to pour wine.  A woman practices the art of maneuvering through a crowd, avoiding a stray barstool, while tapping urgently on her Blackberry and never once looking up.  A father-daughter duo plays catch-up over martinis.  Another woman sets down on the bar a giant binder, stuffed to 4″ thick, while post-its and labeled tabs stick out in a way that appears haphazard but is methodical and deliberate, indicating serious business.

Meanwhile, near the apex of sitting area and wall of windows, there stands a black grand piano.  Placed on top of the piano’s closed lid is an enormous martini glass – the kind I used to see a guy holding as he wandered around East Town’s Jazz in the Park, the glass filled to the brim with some sort of aqualescent cocktail.  The tips in this particular glass show appreciation for each evening’s featured musicians.  Currently a lone guitarist stands, strumming out a finger-style tune that sounds like a popular jazz tune, but is clearly styled in the classical Spanish way.

Soon, a singer joins him.  The sound shifts to something more Bossa Nova, a la João Gilberto and Antonio Carlos (“Tom”) Jobim.  Her voice is pure jazz: rounded and full, with her words clearly enunciated as she rolls around the tones of a soft horn of bass, spiked with occasional flute-like sopranic rises.  Her shoulders shrug in time with the beats of the soft mallets she wields on a set of bongo-type drums, eliciting a quiet “conk,” reminiscent of tapping two hollow coconuts together and reinforcing the musical ambiance of a Caribbean seaside patio or Latin beach cabana bar.

The duo turns out to be Pam Duronio and Tim Stemper.  A married couple who originally met at a rehearsal while Pam was in town from Buffalo doing some contract voice work, they have often performed as “Pam and the Players” with various other Milwaukee jazz musicians, such as smooth jazz master Warren Wiegratz.  Pam particularly enjoys putting the Latin flair to the classic jazz tunes she was trained to sing classically years ago, working with Mark Murphy out of San Francisco.  Doing this to Norah Jones’ “I Don’t Know Why” creates a toe-tapping, upbeat, and catchy rendition of a song that is generally a little more melancholic and wistful.  It’s at home with “Besame Mucho” but then creates a near-unrecognizable, yet wonderfully unique, ” ‘Deed I do.”

As Tim takes up the guitar again, solo, the patrons’ murmuring dissipates to a background purr, or soft rumbling, that could be the surf crashing over pebbles if you closed your eyes.  I enjoy my glass of white wine – a 2009 Fred Loimer Grüner Veltliner out of Austria, titled “Lois.”  The peachy, citrusy aromas are not too fruity, dry or crisp, simply airy and light.  It perfectly complements my Tuna Tartar Tacos (only $5 at Happy Hour, an incredible bargain!!) with their fat chunks of tuna, boasting a sliver of avocado, artfully lain atop each tiny taco, over mixed greens and a spicy mayo.

Pam steps up to the mic, says “This one’s for Maureen and Chris,” and like breathy, whistling reeds, she softly launches into a Patsy Cline tune instantly recognizable to all: “I’m crazy, crazy for feeling so lonely…”

The Pfister Recommends: Lakefront Brewery

In 1987, the Klisch brothers rolled out their first barrel of beer and in the process Lakefront Brewery was born. Lakefront currently brews a specialty amber for Mason Street Grill and who better to lead us on a tour of the  Milwaukee beer making institution than the Pfister’s Chef Concierge Peter Mortensen!

What’s your favorite Lakefront Brewery beer?

To find out more about Lakefront Brewery and get your advanced tour tickets, visit their website at www.lakefrontbrewery.com.

Cooking with Chef Ash: Vanilla Creme Brulee

This recipe will surprise you! It’s incredibly delicious, but it’s also very easy to make. With a few simple ingredients you’ll be able to create this creamy, rich custard base coated with a decadent caramelized layer in minimal time. This is a one recipe you’ll turn to again and again.

Ingredients

  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 10 each egg yolks
  • 2 each vanilla beans

Directions

  • Split the vanilla beans in half and scrap the seeds place the whole bean and the seeds in a medium pot with the heavy cream.
  • Combine the granulated sugar and the egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl, slowly incorporate the warm cream by tempering it into the egg/sugar mixture.
  • Strain the mixture.
  • In a shallow baking pan place bake proof ceramic dishes around 8 oz capacity.
  • Fill the dishes 3/4 of the way with the strained cream mixture.
  • Place into a 300°F oven, then fill the pan with warm water until it reaches half way up the side of the dish, cover pan with aluminum foil.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes until set may take longer or shorter depending on the size of the baking dish.
  • Dust the top with sugar in the raw and caramelize with a butane torch or under a oven broiler.
  • Serve with fresh berries.

 

 

Marcus Chefs at East Town Market

The East Town Market is celebrating its 15th summer at Cathedral Square Park and the Cafe Pfister and the Chefs of the Pfister, seek Intercontinental, Hilton, and Mason Street Grill are a part of this year’s live entertainment and food.  On Saturday mornings, from 9am – 1pm, The Cafe Pfister is proudly serving its Starbucks Coffee, Pfister Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas, cold drinks, pastries, and ice cream.  On Tuesday evenings from 3pm – 7pm the Café Pfister will sell sangria, assorted beers, wine, pastries and snacks.

The Chefs of Mason Street Grill, Pfister Hotel, Intercontinental, and Hilton will also be featured on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings at the Chef’s Series.  Each chef will demonstrate a recipe and offer free tastings of the recipe that they have prepared. Chef Mark Weber was on center stage on Tuesday evening and wowed the crowd with a delicious summer vegetable gazpacho with shrimp.

Over 100 Wisconsin farmers, craftsmen, bakers, entertainers, and chefs will be a part of the market with fresh produce, crafts, food, and activities.

EAST TOWN MARKET HOURS

Saturdays         June 4 – October 29                 9 AM – 1 PM

Tuesdays          June 7 – September 27             3 – 7 PM

MARCUS HOTELS CHEFS DEMONSTRATIONS AT EAST TOWN MARKET

Tuesday, June 7                     Chef Mark Weber – 6:00 PM

Tuesday, June 14                   Chef David Zakroczymski – 6:00 PM

Tuesday, June 28                   Chef Thomas Hauk – 6:00 PM

Saturday, July 9                     Chef David Zakroczymski – 10:00 AM

Tuesday, July 19                    Chef Robert Ash – 6:00PM

Tuesday, July 26                    Chef Mark Weber – 6:00PM

Tuesday, August 2                 Chef Thomas Hauk – 6:00PM

Tuesday, August 9                 Chef Robert Ash – 6:00PM

Tuesday, August 16               Chef David Zakroczymski – 6:00PM

Saturday, August 27              Chef Robert Ash – 10:00AM

Tuesday, August 30               Chef Brian Frakes – 6:00PM

Tuesday, September 6           Chef Robert Ash – 6:00PM

Tuesday, September 13         Chef David Zakroczymski – 6:00PM

Tuesday, September 20         Chef Mark Weber – 6:00PM

Tuesday, September 27         Chef Thomas Hauk – 6:00PM

Saturday, October 8              Chef Robert Ash – 10:00AM

Saturday, October 29            Chef Robert Ash – 10:00AM

Chef Weber of Mason Street Grill