Meet The Bloody Mary Elf

I have recently written about my encounters with innocent children at the finest Santa breakfast in the land, thumb a meal that helped remind me that Christmas is all about kids. Today I would like to slightly amend that statement because the holidays are also a particularly special time when adults are filled with the spirit.

Take the spirit vodka for instance. You can’t make a good Bloody without it.

During my visit to the breakfast to end all Santalands at the Pfister this past weekend, sovaldi sale I witnessed a delightful phenomenon occur involving the parents and guardians of many of the exuberant tikes who had come to give Santa the straight dope on their wants and needs. In the midst of the scrambled egg and pastry feeding frenzy, I noticed a solo middle aged man saunter through the crowds to his family’s breakfast table carrying precious cargo in his hands. He was not balancing a buffet plate with sausage links stacked like cord wood as you might expect of that sort of a dad type. Instead he had hunted down his own Yuletide treat – a towering Bloody Mary.

As the smartest adult in the room settled in to crunch on a celery stick slick with spicy, boozy tomato juice, the eyes of others in the room whose height is measured in feet rather than inches looked dreamily at his better alternative to grapefruit juice. Then slowly, one by one, many of the elders in the room started to disappear and then reappear minutes later with their own fully stuffed Bloody Marys. Soon the ratio of hot chocolate to vodka-based drinks in the room was balanced and both kids and adults had their own distinct reasons to call this “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Watching this silent Bloody Mary train chug along, I thought of the busy bar staff in the Lobby Lounge who I imagined were mixing and fixing these elaborate cocktails as fast as you can say “a little moderate day drinking will always jingle my bells.” It certainly was a tall order for a Saturday morning, what with the secret hotsy totsy mix needing plenty of celery, pickle and other delish garnish.

A short time after leaving Breakfast with Santa, I found myself down in the Lobby Lounge. Val was indeed busy behind the bar mixing Bloody Marys and pouring short beer backs. Two folks in red running gear had a place at the bar and were enjoying some refreshing Mimosas. The female of the pair noticed a woman across the lobby, and shouted to her.

“Did you make it upstairs in one piece with the Bloody Mary?”

The woman gave a thumbs up and waved a show of thanks. And then it hit me. A Bloody Mary train needs its own conductor, and this lady in the red tracksuit was it.

I introduced myself, shook her hand and explained the phenomenon of the sudden appearance of happy adults holding classic brunch drinks at Breakfast with Santa. I asked her if she had had something to do with that drink dance. The lady admitted that she had given a hand with the stacking of garnish and had offered an assist to the woman she had just checked in with as she had teetered across the lobby with a full drink.

Now here’s the part of the story that I would very much like you to believe is magic. When I talk to folks at the Pfister, I ask permission to tell about our encounter, and I always, without fail, write down their names in a small notebook I keep tucked in the breast pocket of my suit jacket. When I went back to that notebook to get the woman’s name so I could insert it in this story and give some attribution to this good soul who had shown herself to be a true believer in enabling a little light morning buzz, the page that had contained her name was missing from my notebook.

You might think that I lost the page after having a few pre-noon nips myself, but the only sauce that goes in my gullet is black, steamy, and java jiving all the way. I call “Christmas Miracle!” on this one (allowing of course for the possibility that maybe, just maybe, that page had been ripped from my notebook and wrapped around a piece of chewed gum that had lost its flavor).

The lady in question and her male companion had come from a morning fun run downtown and were relaxing with their champagne cocktails in true holiday decompression mode. I would like to give credit where credit is due, but I’ll simply accept the magical Christmas moment and crown this service-oriented woman as The Bloody Mary Elf. And believe me, Elf on the Shelf ain’t got anything on this sister.

Follow me on Twitter @jonathantwest for more smart remarks and snappy retorts.

Look Away If You Can’t Stand a Love Story

I would like to warn all you cold-hearted pragmatists out there that I’m about to tell you a love story about people taking their time to find one another. You can cease reading now if you need to iron or sort your recycling.

But if you have even half a heart, treat then you should rush to the nearest window, throw it open and shout, “I believe in love!” And you should keep reading (or listening), of course.

There was an open seat next to Justin at the bar. When I shook his hand as I introduced myself, I felt a surge of power rush up my arm. He immediately struck me as a man of great character, pharm someone you want on your side. His smile and easy, polite way made me want to spend time talking about the meaning of life, or maybe just arm wrestling. He’d probably beat me with that strong grip, but Justin struck me as the sort of guy who makes you feel good about having your hand pressed to the mat.

As a group of folks sipped Val’s zippy Bloody Mary’s at the Lobby Lounge bar, sick the world seemed to circulate around Justin. Though the bar sitters all seemed to be strangers to one another, occasionally someone would look at Justin, softly seeking his approval, wanting some sort of acknowledgement of good deed from the positive force sitting with them all.

Justin explained to me that he had come back to his old Milwaukee stomping grounds from his new home in San Jose, CA. When I asked him what his favorite thing about coming back to Milwaukee was, he was quick to answer.

“It’s gotta be staying at the Pfister.”

I checked…Justin doesn’t work for the hotel’s marketing staff. He’s just a guy who likes to be treated well.

It makes sense. Justin treats people well himself. He excused himself for a moment to help a group of young ladies dealing with a frustrating Uber encounter, a knight in shining armor behind a Bloody Mary.

Somehow the attractive woman seated next to Justin had escaped my view while we had been chatting. But as he made his quick chivalrous trip, I spotted a lady who seemed in every way to be a part of Justin’s world.

Christina was her name, and I had guessed right, she was Justin’s better half. Christina certainly added to the reason that Justin felt a stay at the Pfister was a highlight of his hometown trip. Sharing the experience with a lovely lady surely adds to the charm.

Justin returned, and all had been handled without incident. He told me the Uber driver was a decent guy, but it was good that he had been on hand. Better safe than sorry. I kind of wished I had had a parking ticket to contest so I could take Justin along with me to make my case.

With his sweetheart by his side, Justin explained that he and Christina had a warm and lovey story of how they had come together as a couple. The two had grown up together, been great friends in high school, and then went their own ways and created their own families. After each of them had separated from their spouses, they reconnected and took their friendship to a new level.

The fact that it had taken two decades for their hearts to entwine kind of took my breath away. They seemed so right, so suited to each other. And so happy to be sharing their time together at the Pfister.

Now with a mix of children between them, Justin and Christina put family first. But celebrating together for a weekend of romance and fun was a series of their own moments. It had been a 20-year burn, but by the look of Justin and Christina hunkered together, the wait had been worth the while.

Conversing with Joe about Latin American music, Playboy Bunnies and the days of yore

“I’ve learned a lot from people, thumb ” says Joseph Charney, who has been a regular at the Pfister since the ‘50s and still visits at least three times a week.

Charney, who is semi-retired from the real estate business, is usually at the Lobby Bar, drinking a coffee and reading his paper. But the drink and the news are just time-fillers between conversations.

“Wisdom does not come easily and wise people always look for good conversation,” says Charney. “When you’re living, pharm you’re always learning. It doesn’t stop in college or after college.”

If the Pfister awarded honorary degrees in conversation, Charney would deserve a doctorate. He has clearly met many, many people over the years inside the hotel and has forged long-term friendships with the concierge and bartenders.

“Have you seen her plaque?” he asks me, nodding at the bartender.

“What plaque?” I ask.

“Valerie,” he says. “Where’s your plaque?”

“It’s over there,” she says, pointing to a corner.

“It’s no good over there. Show her your plaque,” he says.

I look at the plaque. It’s a Best Bloody Mary In The City type plaque.

“Nice plaque,” I say, then turn to Charney. “You ever drink cocktails?”

“I’m not interested in drinking,” he says. “Until after 6 o’clock.”

“What are your favorite cocktails?” I ask.

“In essence, it could be anything from an Old Fashioned to a mint julep in summer. It varies so much. It’s what hits you at the time. I’m not one of those people that has a set way of eating. ‘It’s Tuesday and therefore I’m eating chicken.’ No, I’m not that way. Whatever comes up, comes up,” he says.

Charney is the same way with people. Whoever sits next to him at the bar is a candidate for conversation. He tells me about a couple who were at the hotel waiting on the completion of a railroad car they purchased.

He also spoke of a man who had recently switched careers.

“He had been working for a great diamond conglomerate, and they were always watching everyone. They would watch the person sent out to do the job and another person was watching that person. It was a very secretive corporation and they were rather stringent, always checking everyone all the time, and it got on his nerves and he finally left the company,” says Charney.

The man went to work for a large beer company and told Joe he had just returned from Russia, where he bought some breweries.

“Beer? In Russia? I thought they only made vodka,” says Charney, chuckling. “But even more interesting is he told me the hairs on the back of his neck weren’t raised up anymore because there wasn’t anyone watching him all the time.”

Charney grew up in Whitefish Bay and Shorewood. After he graduated from high school he went on a work study program overseas and traveled through Europe where he developed a deep appreciation for art and architecture.

He started coming to the Pfister in his twenties.

“I enjoyed the place immensely. They had real musicians rather than DJs. The Crown Room was on top of the hotel. I saw an up-and-coming Joan Rivers. And Jack Jones. So many great singers and performers. It was glorious,” he says.

Charney got married in the later sixties – his wife is now deceased – and the two often ate in the English Tea Room. Charney has one son who was married at the Pfister’s Imperial Room a few years ago.

“It was beautifully done. It was impeccable,” he says.

A couple hundred guests came from all over the country and they were surprised by the sophistication of Milwaukee, the beauty of the Pfister Hotel and the size of Lake Michigan.

“‘I thought you lived on a lake?’ a guest said. “But you live on an ocean!’ They couldn’t get over that they couldn’t see the other side of the lake from the shoreline,” says Charney.

Before Ben Marcus bought the Pfister Hotel in 1962, Joe tells me it was operated by a couple of businessmen from New York. Apparently they asked Joe, who was known for his savvy business practices, for entertainment ideas.

“The winter was terrible that year and I got a call from them and the snow was coming down and they said, ‘what can we do to bring people into this hotel and to liven it up?’”

Because Latin American music was very popular at the time, Joe suggested they go to Mexico and hire a great band with a dynamic lead singer and bring them back to the hotel. So they did.

“The group came here and the biggest snow storm hit the city you ever saw and nobody came to the first show,” he says.

A week later he got another call from the owners.

“We don’t have enough waitresses! We don’t have enough bartenders! The place is mobbed!” they said.

At one point in his life, Charney says he was offered the job as head of entertainment at a hotel in the Bahamas. He declined because he already had a successful real estate business as well as a family.

“It turns out they then sold that hotel in the Bahamas to a man. His name was Hugh Hefner. That was the time of the Playboy plane and the bunnies and he would take his staff and clientele and fly them down to his hotel in the Bahamas. Guess I missed out on that,” Charney says, smiling.

Then he stops talking and looks at me for a few seconds.

“You are going to be awed by the people who show up in this place,” he says.

I look at him for a few seconds. “I already am,” I say.

Jackie and Jim’s last hurrah

The Pfister has always served a special role in Jackie and Jim Green’s life. Mainly, pilule as a place for them to escape their kids.

The Greens live in Arlington Heights, a suburb just outside Chicago, and they have four children – two girls and two boys – ages 22, 21, 20 and 19. They are all in college – or about to attend college – in the Midwest.

I ask them what it was like when they were all teenagers.

“It was horrible, cialis ” she says. “The girls suck up a lot, they know how to play it. Actually, our two nicest kids are the ones we never hear from. Well, unless they need money. And our youngest – we can’t wait until she leaves. She’s a real pain in the neck.”

I tell her my kids are 10, 10 and 9 and I’m starting to feel a little unsettled about the years ahead.

“I wish I could tell you it’s going to be great,” she says, sipping her drink. “Sorry.”

“It’s refreshing to talk to someone who’s honest about parenting,” I say. “And I’m officially terrified.”

“I’m pretty realistic,” she says, laughing. “We’re actually here because they’re all coming home for the summer on Wednesday. This is our last hurrah.”

The Greens plan to go on a family vacation to Florida this summer. But they’re leaving two days before them to get in some kid-free time first.

Jackie and Jim first heard about the Pfister from friends who had their wedding reception in the Rouge Ballroom.

“How long ago was that?” Jackie asks Jim.

“100 years ago?” he says.

“25 years ago,” she tells me. “They told us about it and said we should try it. By the way, your dress is really cute.”

“Thanks,” I say. “My coworker said it looked like something Mrs. Roper from ‘Three’s Company’ would wear.”

“Oh, no! I noticed it right away and thought it was cute. And then I saw your face and I thought, ‘How do I know that girl?’ and then I remembered you from my iPad! I read about you on the Pfister web page on the car ride up here and then: here you are,” she says.

The Greens come to the Pfister twice a year, usually in the spring and the fall, and they spend most of their time inside the hotel. However, one year they went to see Aerosmith, and the night of our interview they were going to Ward’s House of Prime because they had a Groupon.

But most of their weekends are centered around the on-site bars and restaurants.

“We plan our entire day around going to Blu. If you get there too late, you can’t get a seat. You need to get there when it opens. At 5,” she says.

“Go early, stay late?” I ask.

“Exactly!”

The Greens have a lot of Pfister memories. Jackie celebrated her 50th birthday at the hotel. They also came last January when a burst pipe led to flooding in some rooms, including theirs.

“So we hung out in this bar for six hours until we could get into our room. It was crazy. It was fun. We love this bar,” she says.

I ask her if she’s enjoying her sea breeze cocktail.

“It’s very good, but have you tried the Bloody Mary?” she asks me.

“No, but you are the second person today to tell me I have to,” I say.

“It’s amazing. Wait, I have a picture of it, on my phone. You have to see this,” she says, scrolling through the photo log on her cell phone. “Is it sad when you’re showing someone a picture of a drink on your phone?”

“Nah.”

“Oh, here it is!” she looks at it fondly. “The cheese. The pickles. The sausage!”

I like these people. They are easy to talk to; they are real. And I’m always happy when Chicagoans see beauty in Milwaukee. Certainly there are attractive old hotels in The Windy City: The Palmer House, The Drake. So why The Pfister?

“It’s the history. We love it here,” she say. “It’s the only reason we come to Milwaukee. Well, other than to get away from our kids.”

“Pfister Mary” Reigns Supreme

Valerie and the Pfister Mary

On Saturday October 15th the Pfister Hotel participated in the East Town Associations, ed “Heat It Up:Milwaukee’s Bloody Mary and Chili Challenge,” taking place during the Farmers Market inCathedral Square.  With over 20 local restaurants vying for the coveted award, participants took in all the different offerings during the crisp Saturday Morning.

In the Chili competition, awards were given out in two different categories.  “Best Veggie Chili” and “Best Beef Chili.”  Chef Andronico Guzman Rivera of the Pfister Café entered with his Signature White Bean Chili.  While his Chili was enjoyed by the masses, Chef Andronico took honorable mention.

In the coveted Bloody Mary competition, participants were judged by two specific criteria, “Bloody Mary Display,” and “Best Tasting,” both scores combined for one Grand Champion.  Taking that award was Valerie from the Pfister Lobby Lounge with her signature “Pfister Mary.”  Val had the longest line of all competitors with people actually getting a cocktail from other competitors, so that they could drink it while they wait in line for the Pfister Mary and it’s cornucopia of accoutrement.

We are very proud of our two participants. They were a great display of sportsmanship and healthy competition for theMilwaukeearea.  Congratulations again to Chef Andronico and Valerie on their Pfister Spirit!

Brunch at the Pfister [VIDEO]

Gather family and friends and hop into one of Milwaukee’s most loved dining destinations for a delicious Easter and Mother’s Day Brunch.  With chef-prepared favorite entrees, mouthwatering pastries and complimentary treasured memories.

$49.95 for adults
$24.95 for children 12 and under
Four (4) and under are FREE

Follow along as Joshua Wolter puts on another hat and takes a crack at making some egg omelets with Darin at the Pfister Hotel.

The Rouge is a Milwaukee classic, a historic dining room serving the finest Sunday Brunch. The brunch menu features over 40 unforgettable items including carving stations, made to order pasta and omelette stations, fresh fruits and cheeses, and a decadent dessert display. Mimosas and signature bloody mary bar also included.

To make reservations, please contact Café Rouge directly at 414-390-3830.