“Wine-ing” about Winter

Heather Kanter-Kowal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Maybe, Wisconsin winters aren’t so bad after all…

Cheers,

Heather Kanter-Kowal

Bubblegum, Bananas & Wine, Oh My!

Heather Kanter-Kowal

Every year on the third Thursday of November, health no matter where I work or what I do, the same thing happens every year.  Everyone in the world wants to know where we are hiding the Beaujolais Nouveau on our list.  Often, I will feature Beaujolais but never a Beaujolais Nouveau.   Inevitably, we must talk about why these are not, in fact, the same thing.

Beaujolais (Bo-zho-lay) is technically a sub-region found at the southern foot of larger region of Burgundy in France.  Most of the wine produced within Burgundy will either be Pinot Noir (some of the finest you can drink on planet Earth) or Chardonnay (white wines that can make a grown man weep).  Beaujolaisis known for something else entirely- Gamay.  Gamay produces a light bodied, high acid red wine with soft, fruity flavors such as cherry, raspberry and strawberry with some notes on the nose of flowers like roses or violets.  The delicate nature and high acid of wines produced from this grape can be really fantastic for food pairing possibilities…roasted turkey, chicken, guinea hen, rabbit, ham, funky French cheeses (think Camembert or Brie) and even some hearty fish entrees.  The best Beaujolais will be found with these names of villages (or windmills) prominently featured on the label: Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly.  These are wines that can be enjoyed for several years past the vintage date.

And now, for something completely different:  The Nouveau.  This is the wine that is made from Gamay grapes from the same region (but never the villages listed above) that are handled in a very similar fashion.  When the hand-harvested grapes come back to winery from the field, they are thrown in vats as whole clusters, allowing only gravity to crush the juice out the grapes at the bottom.  The uncrushed grapes will begin to ferment within their own skins, rather than the usual process of juice and grape skins being mashed together over time.  In short, this process called Carbonic maceration, reduces the amount of oxygen in a tank, increases carbon dioxide, naturally occurring yeasts react to the sugar in the grapes, and VOILA- the magic of fermentation!  Big difference between BoJo Novo and Cru Beaujolais besides the actual plot of land the grapes lived at…how long it sits in the fermentation state.  The process can take as few as four days in the production of Beaujolais Nouveau, which is not much time for the finished wine to gain tannins or color from the grape skins.  The wine is then pasteurized, bottled and ready to drink only 6-8 weeks after harvest.

Now the party is ready to start.  What began as a simple marketing gimmick by Georges Duboeuf to move some inexpensive wine with a “Race to Paris” between other Beaujolais producers and his own company has become a worldwide event.  Beaujolais Nouveau is a huge sales event in the United States, Asia and still, Paris.  Boxes of Nouveau sit around the world with tape sealing them shut, declaring that it would be illegal to sell this vino until the third Thursday of November.   Many are shipped over via air freight (quite uncommon for wine to be sent this way) just to ensure that it arrives at the destination in time.  Air freight adds a few dollars to the price of this non-expensive bottle, so if you were wondering why the same bottle costs $15 on Beaujolais Nouveau day, but only $12 on December 17th, the rest of the shipments come over on boats.  The Beaujolais celebration is noted with balloons and banners that declare “Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!”  Many restaurants and wine shops will be pouring wines from producers such as Drouhin, Bouchard, and of course, Duboeuf.  Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau will be stacked in every grocery and bottle shop across the land, adorned with a fresh new abstract label to denote a fresh new year.

To put things quite simply now, this is wine that was rushed from the field to your table.  It was intended for near immediate consumption, it is low in alcohol, has the tannic structure of a white wine, tastes like cherries, bananas, bubblegum, and cotton candy.  It should be served chilled, and quaffed like punch as this is not a wine to sit and ponder the complexities of vitis vinifera.  Beaujolais Nouveau is a fun wine for Thanksgiving dinner (such a soft fruity wine is great for a drier bird like turkey) and can be served with flair throughout the holidays.  A word to the wise, do not try to cellar this wine, or hoard it past Valentine’s Day.  No added benefit will come of aging this particular Beaujolais.  Don’t try to wax cerebral over this one, just kick back on that Thursday night and chug wine like a real Parisian.  à votre santé!

Cheers!

Heather Kanter-Kowal

How I Stopped Loathing, and Started Loving the Screwcap

Heather Kanter-Kowal

I am a sommelier, decease and my most important job is to recommend the right wine for the right meal for the right guest at the right price.  After a thoughtful question and answer session with my diners, I will go to my cellar and produce a bottle that has been agreed to meet their specific parameters and desires.  Some nights, recipe the bottle is sealed with a screwcap….oh, the horror!  The husband looks nervously at his wife…she looks with scorn at the bottle.  “We don’t drink cheap wine”…”I like the romance of a cork being pulled”…”Is this really going to be any good?”…

I’m ready and braced for this level of distaste and realize that they are now questioning my sanity as a lady in fine dining restaurant that have the audacity to recommend this plonk to enjoy with their delightful dinner.   I like to take that  time to share this story, and it was a tragic one.

A few years ago, I went on a lengthy tour of Europe with my family, thanks to my Riesling loving Mom.  I was already a student of all things vino and was excited that I would have the chance to collect some bottles that I could not buy in Milwaukee.  Mind you, this was in the olden days when you could still fly with luggage stuffed with liquids.  Shampoo, contact solution, Absinthe, Bordeaux, who cares?  I loaded up my backpack (and that of my siblings) with every bottle that I could afford to bring back.  I treated these wines like treasures when I was back home.  They were stored in the coolest darkest places, gently resting on their sides, and absolutely not disturbed until the evenings that I had declared that this was the right year to open this bottle.

A few delightful bottles and then….the duds.  The  soul-crushing experience of pulling that cork and having the smell of musty cardboard waft up at my face.  These bottles were  affected by Trichloroanisole (TCA for short or “cork taint”) and I would never be able to enjoy them.  TCA is a nasty fungal metabolite that won’t harm a wine drinker, but destroys the taste of anything that resembles wine.  Funny thing is, is has a keen attraction to natural cork, and is quite rarely found in bottles that are sealed with a screwcap.  I had brought from overseas, and cherished three bottles ofBordeauxthat were rendered useless simply because of the way the bottle had been sealed.

My mind was open to trying something new.  I had also turned my nose up at bottles with screwcap tops for years, for the same reasons that people give me funny looks when I bring it to the table now…”Gee, this must be garbage”.   I discovered that quite a few top Aussie wineries were sending their wine over sans cork. New Zealand was on-board, sending fresh, clean and crisp Sauvignon  Blancs. California“Cult” Cabernet Sauvignon producers like Plumpjack  got in the game. Washington & Oregon are sending out gorgeous high-end juice without natural corks.  Lately, even Europe, the root of my sorrows on this topic, has started to send over selections capped with screwcaps.  I am not going to hold my breath and expect Chateau Petrus to change their ways, but I applaud the move to send out less funky, musty wine to the consumers.    Vive le screwcap, you aren’t just for plonk anymore!

Cheers!

Wine Swirls…at the Joseph Phelps Wine Dinner

Heather Kanter-Kowal

It was a cold, click rainy and miserable night in Milwaukee. Not so long ago, we had been basking in sunshine of an Indian summer…but this had clearly come to an end. A bowl of tomato soup with a grilled cheese enjoyed while snuggled up in a blanket while watching a funny movie seemed to be the only cure for such a gloomy day.

Better yet, how about a soul warming glass of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with seared elk loin? A little less traditional, but I promise that no one was thinking about the chilly weather anymore. Mason Street Grill invited Chris St. Marie, medical the National Sales Manager of Joseph Phelps Vineyards, to talk about this revered Californian estate to a sold-out room of food & wine lovers. The evening began with a crisp and refreshing glass of Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc and oysters as guests entered the room. Chris began his talk by asking the room “How many of you have been to Napa Valley?”, and shockingly the majority of the room raised their hand! He then went on to explain how the “Judgment of Paris” was possibly the moment in time that Napa Valley wines rocketed onto the world stage of wine. The “Judgment of Paris” refers to the tasting that Steven Spurrier hosted in 1976 with a panel of French wine experts. It was a blind tasting of very celebrated Bordeaux and some not yet celebrated Cabernet Sauvignon from California for the reds, nurse and high-level white Burgundy competing with Chardonnay from California. Mr. Spurrier was the owner of a not incredibly profitable wine shop in Paris, and was using this tasting as a stunt to demonstrate the superior quality of French wines. The winner of the white tasting was a Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena (sounds French, but this was from California!) while the highest score for a red went to Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. A reporter from Time Magazine was at this tasting and reported the news to the world that wine from California was worth taking seriously. The movie “Bottle Shock” was based on this story and is quite entertaining (there is even a shout-out to Milwaukee if you listen carefully!).

Joseph Phelps founded his family winery in 1973 and was a man in the right place at the right time. The first vintage of their Bordeaux-inspired blend (also known as a Meritage) was bottled in 1974 and bore the name “Insignia” and was truly the first of its kind. Before Opus One, Quintessa or Dominus, there was “Insignia”. Readers of Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator know “Insignia” as a perennial blue chip Meritage that ALWAYS garners a score in the 90-100 point range (which is tremendous) and has acquired a blue chip price tag that is well-deserved along the way. The Mason Steet Grill patrons had the privilege of enjoying the 2006 Insignia with some very tender Wagyu beef, candied shallots, and hay smoked potatoes. The smell of the hay smoke in the afternoon while Chef Weber and Chef Hauck prepared for the dinner gave a really delightful autumnal scent to the restaurant, like burning leaves in a bonfire. I almost forgot that I was sitting at my desk in a modern restaurant in bustling downtown Milwaukee.

Chris also talked to us about a newer project from Joseph Phelps that we poured that evening. In 1999, the family acquired a new piece of land in cooler Sonoma Coast AVA to pursue their dream of making Burgundy inspired Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This plot of land put them in Freestone, a quiet bohemian community which was not interested in being home to a big, wasteful, corporate winery. I believe the words “hippies” and “growing weed” may have been tossed around. The decision to be environmentally aware and utilize bio-dynamic farming practices have quelled these fears. We poured the Freestone Chardonnay with poached langostinos with compressed melon, keeping all of the flavors bright and clean. The Freestone Pinot Noir was a comforting match for a hearty bowl of garganelli pasta with roast pheasant in a rich marscapone sauce. After the aforementioned Cabernet Sauvignon and elk loin course, and the Insignia and Wagyu beef pairing, it was time for something sweet. We were fortunate to obtain a few bottles of the very allocated “Eisrebe”, a dessert wine made from the Scheurebe grape, a wine so intense with floral, peach and apricot notes it evoked a spring picnic. Chef Carlson baked a delightful apricot frangipan tart to highlight that sunshine trapped in a glass.

It was a cozy and delicious way to spend a bitter fall evening, and it was entertaining to hear Chris St. Marie’s anecdotes about the wine business. Quite honestly, any day at work that ends with a splash of something as beautiful like Insignia in my glass reaffirms why I have the best job in the world. I look forward to talking about our next events for the winter, which include a fun holiday sparkling wine & Champagne event in early December.

Cheers!

Heather Kanter-Kowal

   

 

Stone Crab Fishing with Chef Mark Weber

Mason Street Grill has always been committed to provided the freshest seafood possible. As a testament to Mason Street Grill’s commitment, Executive Chef Mark Weber was invited along on a stone crab fishing excursion in the Gulf of Mexico with our new crab distributor. Read along as Chef Weber tells us about his first day at sea.

Wow what a great day of fishing!

I was on the boat at Marina at 4 a.m. to help load bait and meet the crew. They ventured off to visit a few of their trap lines set close to shore as we waited for news of stone crabs via radio. The crab harvest was light near shore so the boat headed up to Clearwater to check traps up there. About 9 a.m. they started really hitting good crab traps and called us to come out. We hopped into a 1050 HP 35 foot Kingfishing boat and sped off to their location. We had a reporter from Newswatch channel 9 with us and our videographer.

When we got to the boat, they were about 18 miles up the coast and a few miles off shore. The wind and the waves were very choppy and made it really hard to take photos. We got some really good action shots from our boat and then transferred over to the fishing boat.

The crabbing went well with lots of good sized claws and multiple crabs in most traps.

After lots of filming, playing with crabs, and pigs feet, we loaded up about 150 pounds of crab and headed back. That Kingfishing boat does about 75 mph on the water! We got in after about 40 minutes and unloaded the crab.

Back at the dock we took some more film and loaded up the crabs to take back to the processing plant for cooking

We got back to the processing plant and went through the HAACP process for handling the “green” claws from start to finish. Its crazy, the green claws are packed in sea water and they are still alive. If you touch them they will still close and try to pinch you! After a couple of hours of weighing, cooking, sorting, and re-weighing, the claws were ready for restaurant delivery. All of the claws we brought in were delivered to local restaurants.

I am going over to the processing plant this morning to see how things are going. They have crab lined up for processing all day and all night so I would like to see how they handle this volume.

Dinner for Books

“Life is a bunch of crazy!” interjects the young man seated across from me at a table in one of the back rooms of Mason Street Grill, as he shakes his head with slow acceptance of this fact.  Nate, 14, is the son of one of the dinner guests, herself the long-lost childhood friend of the guest of honor, Lisa McMann.  Lisa’s other guests are all fairly nondescript, which is not a surprise once you find out they’re all booksellers or librarians.  Book people aren’t known for their flamboyance, but they certainly get animated when you get them going, as Lisa has with a game she’s proposed to the group.  The premise of which is this: the group owns a 24hr television network and gets to decide on the programming.  Each person takes a turn saying what show(s) would be fun to share with the world.

As the appetizers arrive, a sampling of nearly everything on the menu, half the lineup is set, ranging from reality shows (Survivor and The Biggest Loser) to British classics (Dr. Who, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and Fawlty Towers) to contemporary sitcoms (Modern Family, and How I Met Your Mother).  By the time the entrees have been ordered and wine glasses have been refilled, the lineup has rounded out with some kids programming (Reading Rainbow, of course, and Phineas and Ferb), fun educational shows (Mythbusters), dramas (Deadwood and E.R.), and some “news” (Colbert Report and Daily Show).  Book people, it turns out, watch more T.V. than you might have thought.

Naturally, the conversation turns to the written word.  Lisa has been in in town for three days doing events at schools and libraries in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties while promoting her new kids’ novel, The Unwanteds.  Imagining a world where artistically inclined kids are separated out from society, Lisa was inspired to write it when her own creative kids (her daughter is into theater and music, while her son loves to draw) came home with letters saying their school’s arts programs had been cut.

Considering this, it’s an exceptionally wonderful thing for her to interact with middle grade students in a way that encourages them to take up the pen for themselves.  Lisa says she tells them, “You don’t have to be an adult to write a good story.  You don’t need a college degree.  You can be an inventor today.”

In fact, one of her visits was to Lincoln Avenue School, which supports a selection of artists-in-residence who get free use of studio space in exchange for helping out in classes.  As a result, there is art everywhere in the school, which enthralled Lisa to no end.

That same desire to connect and inspire is why Lisa arranged this dinner at Mason Street Grill.  When she was 19yrs old, working as a bookseller, and writing in her spare time, she watched a lot of authors pass through the bookstore.  One night, one of them invited her out to a dinner after a reading.  That author?  Madeleine L’Engle, author of the children’s classic, A Wrinkle in Time.  The ensuing conversation at dinner with such a literary superstar pushed Lisa to become the writer she is today, with an emphasis on reaching out to inspire others to write.

“This kind of setting is really important,” she says, with a big smile, as she passes the desserts around to the librarian at her elbow, “you never know when you might inadvertently encourage a fledgling writer.”  I smile back.

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

 

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.