2011 Pfister Tree Lighting Ceremony

We kicked off the holiday season with our annual tree lighting ceremony on Friday, Nov. 25th.

This year’s event featured cupcake and cookie decorating, complimentary holiday drinks and much more. And as always, Santa and Ms. Claus made a special appearance.

Thanks to everyone who came out. It’s one of our favorite events of the year.

Holiday Season Begins

Last year I took a seasonal job selling Christmas trees in Florida. Why Christmas trees? Why Florida? Because it’s seasonal and the job is over soon. It’s nice to spend a month in the warmth. They paid for my travel, a house we shared on the beach, and all my meals while in the FLA. There exist customers who are glad to pay healthy prices to take their time selecting a special tree. They also enjoy that healthy Wisconsin farm boys, for a fee, deliver their chosen tree to their house and set it up. (Wherever, however, turn left, keep going, keep going, YES! No, back a little. Yeah, yeah, that’s it. What do you think honey, is it crooked now? Maybe a little farther…)

My employer in the Christmas tree trade was a gentleman I met briefly before he excused himself to answer a telephone call. I went back to my eggs and speaking with the person seated on my other side. We were all grabbing breakfast at a restaurant with a counter, “counter culture” as my poet friend Louisa Loveridge Gallas likes to say. The guy walked back in from his phone call to announce one of the most preposterous things I’ve ever heard come out of a person’s mouth, “Well, one of our guys hurt his back and can’t come sell Christmas trees in Florida this year.” He started querying healthy young men in earshot. “Frank; Ed- any of you guys want to, um, come sell Christmas trees in Clearwater?” It sounded too strange to be fictional, so of course I jumped at the chance. Working as a poet/bartender/artist it’s nice to do some real physical work every now and then. We opened up our enormous tent on Thanksgiving and it was the first time in my life someone said to me, “Happy Thanksgiving!” on a 70+ degree day. I’d probably be in Florida right now if I hadn’t landed this fantastical job titled Narrator.

Accompany of Kids serenades our guests from stairs leading to the second floor.

I wonder what my dad would say if he could hear me tell him about the duties of the Narrator. My tool and tie maker father was the king of 60 hour work weeks before retiring earlier than he would have liked. “Let me get this straight…your job is to hang out and talk to people and write about it? Where’s the work in that?” Don’t worry dad, I’m still working a couple other jobs, it’s not all hanging out and glasses of water, room for cream in my coffee, shooting the breeze…

Yesterday was the Black Friday dreaded by folks in retail. Personally, I didn’t step foot in a store. We joined all the families who came to the hotel to participate in celebrating the tree lighting ceremony. To quote an Australian gentleman I met here last week the event had me, “Absolutely Gobsmacked!” Milwaukee area families and visiting guests enjoyed complimentary champagne, egg nog, build your own cookies and cupcakes for the kids (ok– adults too, I confess). Accompany of Kids was on-hand to serenade all with holiday songs. To top it all off the Milwaukee Fire Department safely escorted Santa and Ms. Claus for a meet and greet with small a city of excited children.

Grrr, baby. Very grrrrrrr. Even our cats dress up in their seasonal best.

As I look at this lovely holiday display in the lobby, which I did not deliver or set up, there are Milwaukee area families dressed in their best to come downtown and share laughs and pictures with people they may not have seen since a tree stood this time last year. It’s Saturday now and it’s no longer a chorus, rather, Lou Cucunato is playing piano next to the marble sculpture of Guido Pfister. Last year this time I had work selling and delivering Fraser, Douglas, and Noble fir trees after meeting a guy at the local breakfast counter. This winter my “work” is lounging with a tree in my periphery while speaking with guests enjoying a cocktail or a meal at the counter. The piano player just got done with Sway by Dean Martin. People often say the holidays are stressful. I suppose. But why focus on that? Now Louie’s piano is on to My Way by Sinatra. Good. I’ll keep in line with the man. To quote a letter from Frank, “Loosen up. Swing, man. Dust off those gossamer wings and fly yourself to the moon of your choice…”

Bird Wines, The All-American Way

Heather Kanter-Kowal

Oh yes, viagra the most gluttonous, diet-busting, football-watching, truly American holiday of the year is upon us once again…Thanksgiving.  An extravaganza of traditional autumn foods in heaping excess, from the cranberry sauce, the candied yams, unhealthy the fluffy mashed potatoes, the pecan pies, the apple pies, the pumpkin pies, to the centerpiece of it all- the turkey (or tofurkey, however you choose to celebrate).  With so many varied culinary flavors at work, finding wines to enjoy with the feast is truly a pleasure.  Here are a few of my personal favorites, and keeping with the reason for the season, this list is just as all American as baseball:

  • Pinot Noir- The soft and silky texture of Pinot Noir backed by juicy cranberry, cherry and spice flavors makes it a slam dunk for something to sip with a drier bird like turkey.   Some of my favorites are from California, such as Sea Smoke, Steele, Au Bon Climat, Folk Machine and Belle Glos.  A few stunners from Oregon would be Argyle, Domaine Serene, Ken Wright, and Beaux Freres.
  • Riesling- Because it tastes better than white zin and you just might be able to convince your Great Aunt Hilda to try it.  The bright apricot and peach notes balanced by zesty acidity are a natural match to many of the sweeter flavors at the table, and prove to be thirst-quenching to the more savory dishes.  Try “Eroica” (think Beethoven) by Dr. Loosen & Château Ste. Michelle, Kung Fu Girl by Charles Smith, or Hogue Family Cellars, all of which are from Washington State.  For something closer to Milwaukee, Stone Throw Cellars from Door County also bottles a delightful Riesling.
  • Gewurztraminer- Think of Riesling, and then throw some exotic spices and a bouquet of dried flowers at it.  A fun alternative that is a tongue-twister to boot.  Say “GUH-vertz-trah-meener”.  Now you even sound German.  Don’t let the wine snobs tell you that the only good stuff is from Deutschland and France…Covey Run and Chateau Ste. Michelle from Washington State make Gewurztraminer that is terrifyingly affordable and delicious.
  • Zinfandel- Yes, the RED one.  Juicy, jammy red raspberry and cherry tumbling over holiday spices.  Pick up Seghesio, Turley (if you can find it), Rosenblum, Ridge, or Four Vines…all from the Golden State.  This grape may have had Italian or Croatian origins, but this expression has been pure Americana since the Pre-Prohibition years.

Enjoy your holiday and please comment with any tasty pairings that you have come across!

Cheers!

Heather Kanter-Kowal

Generations of Serendipity Swirl Through the Pfister

It’s not every day a person informs you the place you work probably had a hand in their family escaping the Holocaust.

This past weekend the Pfister was blessed to host the wedding of Mr. Wiley Norden and Ms. Marissa Mullen. Marissa recently followed her career to Chicago but left her heart in Milwaukee. With the man willing she decided not only to marry in Milwaukee but wanted their big day to contain components specific to the city. Area beer, wines, and cheeses were par for their course and Marissa wanted them to be encompassed within a prominent Milwaukee landmark. When looking at potential locations the Pfister surfaced as a viable option and once dates were nailed down schedules meshed. But Marissa had yet to discover the deep connection her family had with the Pfister Hotel.

The postcard Marissa's great-grandfather sent home in 1938. The Mason Street tower behind the 1893 structure wasn't added until the 1960's.

In the interim Marissa’s mother, Sharon, inherited a treasure trove of family letters and correspondence, some of which were sent to and from the “Old Country.” In their case Sharon’s family were German speakers native to Czechoslovakia. Sharon has yet to learn German so the text itself didn’t tell much of a story. Except, however, one postcard contained an old photograph of the Pfister Hotel, dated 1938. This immediately piqued Sharon’s curiosity, given that her daughter had decided to hold her wedding at the Pfister.

Sharon’s grandfather, Ernest Prager, (therefore the bride’s great-grandfather) owned a wool coat and glove lining company in Czechoslovakia and in the 1930’s began branching the family business beyond Europe. No one is certain why he was in Milwaukee but at the time Milwaukee created more leather garments than anywhere else in the world. It’s likely Mr. Prager was meeting with the Pfister and Vogel Tanning Company to discuss business and stayed in Charles Pfister’s flagship hotel.

As history has revealed the 1930’s in Europe was shaping up to be a bad time and place for those of Jewish heritage to continue to safely raise their families. Mr. Prager could foresee the political winds and started looking for a place to relocate his family. Ernest came to the United States to establish business contacts and begin the process of gradually moving his family to the States. They ended up moving to Gloversville in Upstate New York, and, yes, the town’s name is quite literal. The Prager family moved to where there was an ample supply of gloves requiring imported leather, which became Ernest’s new line of business.

Charles Prager, son of Ernest and Valerie, met his wife Harriet in Gloversville. After marrying in 1947 the couple moved to Milwaukee where they gave birth to three lovely daughters; Sharon (Marissa’s mother), Renee, and Diane. No one quite knows whether Charles realized his father had spent time in our city.

The Pfister of 2011, complete with the rear tower and parking structure installed in the 1960's. The Milwaukee Club sits across Jefferson and behind the photographer is the Federal Building.

So…fast forward to 2011. Ernest Prager’s great-grand daughter Marissa meets Wiley. Wiley is an absolutely suitable suitor and the two decide to marry. Wiley and Marissa choose the Pfister Hotel for the place to invite their families to join together. But they make the decision without being aware that her great-grandfather stayed here decades previous to moving to the U.S. while beginning the process toward citizenship.

Before I get too mired in kismet let me say Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

L’Chaim!

Thanks to Wiley Norden and Marissa Mullen for allowing us to share in their special day and to Sharon Mullen for telling us her family’s connection with the Grand Dame of the West. Please give a listen on the player below to hear Sharon Mullen tell her family’s story.

 

Serendipity swirls around the Pfister by Ed Makowski

The Pfister’s Annual Tree Lighting Event

We will kick off the holiday season with our annual tree lighting ceremony on Friday, treatment Nov. 25, 2011, from 5 – 6:30 pm.

Our tree lighting ceremony is a magical experience for the whole family. This year’s event will include cupcake decorating, decease complimentary holiday treats and much more. While the actual tree lighting will take place at 5:30pm, additional activities will extend to 6:30pm.

Parents are invited to bring their cameras, as Santa will be making an appearance for photo opportunities. Guests will be encouraged to write down their holiday wishes and drop them in a special wish mailbox that will be presented to Santa at the end of the evening. Additionally, Accompany of Kids, a non-profit group made up of gifted singers and dancers, will be performing throughout the event.

While the event and parking is complimentary to visitors and guests, we will be collecting food for Hunger Task Force to distribute to those in need within the local community. Guests are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items for donation to the event.

Hope to see you all there.

Photo by Christine Butt

The Unexpectedness of Travel


We're all a-blur of inertia coming from and going...

One can plan all the details of a trip but one can never plan the end result. I spoke with this fella in the Pfister’s Lobby Lounge. His name is Joon and he’s a Chicago native who moonlighted in Milwaukee before moving back home to th’Windy.

This past summer Joon was able to travel all over Europe including a stop in Denmark. Once  in Copenhagen with a friend they roamed around the city, finding the Copenhagen they’d always heard about. But they also stumbled into the Copenhagen where drug dealers protect their turf regardless of how many cuddly green bicycles are parked nearby. Joon lived, without bodily harm, to tell the tale and even kept his beloved camera safe. But why hear me re-tell the story? Click the player below to hear for yourself!

 

 

 

 

Joon Kim at the Lunch Counter by Ed Makowski

A Message from Joe Kurth, General Manager

At this special time of year looking ahead to the holiday season we are especially thankful for the overwhelming support for the Pfister in our Brand Madness final four run.  It is a true privilege to have been voted as not only Milwaukee’s number one hotel brand within the contest, viagra but also as one hotel to have reached the final 4 of the 64 other outstanding partners within the community.  Your public support and votes are appreciated, and our entire team is humbled and appreciative of you taking time in multiple voting rounds to show how much this special hotel means to so many.

For over 118 years the Pfister has been proud to continue Charles Pfister’s original vision as a “Palace for the People”, ask and also our founder, Ben Marcus’ tradition of “People Pleasing People”.  These traditions are alive and well based on the comments and support received from: our many past guests that have stayed overnight, enjoyed a meal or spa appointment, or simply walked through the hotel for family photos during the holidays; our friends across the country at Historic Hotels of America and Preferred Hotels; our statewide supporters within the Department of Tourism and Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association; the many college students helping champion the message of travel led by our friends at UW Stout and other campuses; the thousands of you joining in the campaign through our social media connections; our friends at Marcus Theaters; and certainly the overwhelming pride shown by our associates and their families over these past weeks.

A special thank you to the Business Journal for the campaign itself – allowing us a platform for increasing our engagement and sense of partnership with so many over these recent weeks.

After a tight voting battle in the recent victory for the Milwaukee Art Museum, let’s shift our support to them in their championship match with Associated Bank.  Vote via the link below and let’s close out this contest with the iconic Art Museum leading the way as the gateway for many future visitors to join us in downtown Milwaukee!

http://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/poll/poll/6719581

“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

A Concierge Favorite: “Sunday Afternoon”

By Keia Wegner, healing Assistant Manager at the Pfister Hotel                                                                         

Originally, sovaldi I was going to write about one of our paintings that are a bit more nationally known.  I had heard through the grapevine that one of our beloved concierges, Peter Mortensen, knew a great back story on the piece I wanted to blog about. After lingering around the lobby for a bit I finally caught Peter at a free moment to ask him about this infamous story.  His response was something along the lines of “Well…that one does have a good story, there but can I tell you about the Lorenz?”  Of course I was immediately intrigued.  Peter is a wealth of knowledge; having worked at the Pfister for 20 plus years, he knows this art collection like the back of his hand.  No matter if you are a guest, local or a random passerby coming to view the grandiose hotel lobby, if Peter has a free moment, stop by to pick his brain.

We went up to the 2nd floor mezzanine to a painting titled “Sunday Afternoon” by Richard Lorenz.  A picturesque scene of three people riding in a horse and buggy, dressed in their Sunday best enjoying the countryside; a painting I may have chose to blog about in the Spring.  From my research I knew Lorenz was recruited to come to America (Milwaukee specifically) from Germany as he was a proficient panorama artist.  When he came to the states, Milwaukee was known as the “Hollywood of Panoramas”.  Boasting two major studios, a fair number of famous American panoramas were created here.  Unlike most artists who were brought to America, Lorenz decided to stay.  He fell in love with the American West and is considered to be one of the most well known Western genre painters of his time.  He had is studio in the Mitchell Building on Michigan Ave from 1898 until his death in 1915.  Also, he often displayed his artwork at the famous Layton Art Gallery which was not too far from the Pfister.

What I did not know however was that half of the year he spent here in Milwaukee, teaching and mentoring students as well as taking on commissions.  The other half of the year he would spend out West sketching, painting and gathering inspiration.  Peter informed me that each year, he would hop on a train, take it as far West as he could and from their get a couple of pack mules and head out into the unknown.  Imagine, being able to explore the untouched landscape of the American West and having the ability to record it through artistic expression.

Unlike his more famous Western scenes, this particular painting was done locally, a little north of the city.  The two girls in the painting were daughters of the Memler Family.  Their parents ran a Gasthaus/Beer Garden in the city and their mother (in Peter’s words) was an unofficial “den mother” to new artists that were coming into the city.  The Memler’s would often times let them stay at their house until they could get on their feet find a place to live.  Another interesting fact is that one can most assuredly say that Charles Pfister and Richard Lorenz had some kind of personal interaction; he may have even commissioned the painting for the collection.  The story behind the story is what I love to learn about and I hope you enjoyed this snippet of Peter’s knowledge as much as I did.

Please stop by to see one of Peter’s best loved paintings in the Pfister!  The new self guided tour should be rolling out soon…keep checking back with us for updates.  In the meantime we still encourage guests and non-guests alike to come view or fabulous collection!

News Update: Familiar Voices rally behind the Pfister Hotel

Familiar Voices Rally Behind the Pfister Hotel

Transcript: 

My fellow Americans – and Marcus employees

I’m sue you are aware that I and other former leaders of the free world have had the honor of being a guest here at the fabulous Pfister Hotel. My honey bunch Hilary likes it too.

We see that there has been some in the entertainment industry who have tarnished the good name of our beloved Pfister, there claiming that Stubby is being held against his will.

I’d say that is not the case. Stubby remains a free American mascot, unhealthy able to make his own decisions because of this great democracy we call the United States of Marcus – er America.

Now you know that each of presidents know that the Pfister brand is unimpeachable. And yet, the Marcus Theaters division has targeted this landmark for demolition wishing to turn it into an Ultra Screen.

We cannot let this happen. I say Save the Pfister!

So my fellow Americans, ask not what the Pfister can do for you, ask what you can do to save the Pfister.

A vote for the Pfister is a vote for all that is good and just in this country.