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.

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.

Stop and take in the Pfister

Yesterday, while walking through the lobby of the hotel, we took a second to stop and take it in.

The Pfister Hotel is filled to the brim with history and stories waiting to be told. It makes you think, “If only those walls could talk.”

After this brief moment of reflection, we thought, “When was the last time you got to sit in the lobby of the Pfister Hotel and really take it in?”

Here are some of the comments we received on Facebook and Twitter.

Ardith Richter: For the last 25 years, there are 5 times in a year that I have sat and just watched the spirits of the past. Miss my dear friend, Miss Betty.

Scott Heun: About 3 months ago I enjoyed a shakers martini at Blu with Mike Smith and a great pizza and a Spotted Cow from New Glarus in the lobby bar. The best lobby in the country!

Christine Butt: We love the Pfister lobby bar. We have a tradition of coming and watching the Christmas decorations go up in the hotel. Then we love to come for your Christmas Open house when Santa & Mrs. Claus are there.

Chrissy Jaworski: As a little girl, I used to come with my school music group and perform on the steps of the staircase in the Pfister lobby. Now I’m an event planner and I do business with you frequently!

What is your connection with the Pfister Hotel?

Photo by Christine Butt