dirty little secret

Confession time. I have a deep, dark secret that many foodies out there may not appreciate it. Perhaps you may have guessed at it when you happened upon my blog – but didn’t realize what it actually meant. Under EAT Milwaukee it indicates “Equal Opportunity Food Consumption” and gosh darn it, I am all about the equal opportunity food baby. So my confession – I am not a person who you will find touting “Local” or “Sustainable” when it comes to my choices in places to eat or food that is consumed.

I feel this is a tenuous line lately in the food world and I find that it also puts me at odds with other foodies who may exist at this time. I totally dig local and I can appreciate the next Mom and Pop start-up more than anyone – it’s how I grew up, but I know it’s not the only way to enjoy food. Once I attempted to traverse down that long and winding road of local/sustainable food, it was on a date actually. Or not a date….Perhaps not a date cause I left 15 minutes into it. But during that 15 minutes the dude actually gave me some words of wisdom that I keep with me to this day. Amazing, right? He was a local guy who owned a chain pizza place – I indicated that I was trying to only eat local. *Gasp* Really, and why didn’t this date go well? He proceeded to tell me that most of the chains that exist are actually owned by local people, too, so it actually does help to support the community if that is what the original goal is, by supporting these “chains” as well.

Regardless of the length of said date or that it didn’t turn into anything with pizza man – it kinda struck me at that moment. I was being a SNOB! ugh! All those years spent trying to be a special snowflake did nothing but turn me into a food elitist. It had me thinking…and since then, I’ve made a point of eating food that looks good, or sometimes doesn’t even look good. It doesn’t matter where it’s from to me, I’m going to give it a chance. It deserves to given a chance! Plus this mindset has changed the way I look at food and the local economy. Not that this blog will completely give into the Wally World’s of the food kingdom – but I will admit to loving the rehydrated onions on a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Something about it. I know….a lifetime of hail mary’s and a few of our father’s and maybe I’ll get back into food heaven.

So that’s my dirty little secret – I’m not a local foodie or even a sustainable foodie. Lovely vernacular in today’s food world that you won’t often hear me tout, well, often at least. I think it’s great and seriously most weekends you will find me plundering the local farmer’s markets in search of whatever goods the earth has given forth that week. I actually grew up eating whatever my Grandparent’s grew or shot. Seriously! Family photo albums are filled with many a dead thing next to a pretty flower.

My Grandpa had his own beehives and let me tell you – that’s where I’m a snob, on honey or all things fresh. I know what things straight from the ground taste like and not with organic monikers or pesticides to make them beautiful. It was good ole’ 50’s music and a scarecrow scaring away the raccoons to make those babies grow. Honey on pancakes is the next best thing to…(fill in the blank) use your imagination people. Fresh berries picked right off the plant, or homemade grape juice straight from the grapes you grew on the vines. He even had his own special brand of nutcracker he built to crack through the dense black walnut shells. That to me is truly local – grow it, build it, make it yourself.

Grandma who grows all the things.

Grandma who grows all the things.

Food exists as a language and it can be a local language but more than not it’s a universal one. I choose to think of my food as something that can be obtained from all over rather than just locally. Maybe it’s a chain – maybe it’s not. Just like Cooper’s Hawk out in Brookfield has some awesome short ribs – but it’s a chain. I try as often as possible to support all things local, cause it’s your friends and neighbors and you don’t want to look them in the face if you don’t eat their goods. That’s when the arsenic is broken out in your morning coffee.

So there, now you know my dirty little secret. But I beg you – give food a chance, don’t discriminate, it has feelings, too.

I grew these!!

I grew these!!

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State of Affairs

Hmmmmm delicious bunny.

Hmmmmm delicious bunny.

There are so many things I love about the State Fair every August. Perhaps it’s because growing up it was where we always went for my birthday, so my memories of state fair are saturated with corn dogs and happiness. Or maybe it’s that I like to pretend that I’m in Charlotte’s Web and love singing “Oh wow look at him now, Zuckerman’s famous pig!”. Yes, I know the entire song. And if you don’t you need to go watch Charlotte’s Web right now. The animated one. Sigh. Something about talking pigs….that don’t turn into bacon. But it makes me wax nostalgic and I can almost forget the fashion faux pas that abound there during the 11 days. Really ladies? I don’t need to see that much of you.

I’m a creature of habit, I admit it. Every year there are very specific places I need to eat at the fair. Being newly married this year and not wanting to come across as completely OCD to my husband, I stepped completely outside of my comfort zone and tried new things. Except a couple tried and true’s that I couldn’t pass up even at gunpoint. Here’s my hit list of “things you should absolutely eat at the fair screw everyone else”.

1. Omelette – OMG so freaking good! Perhaps it’s because this lady cooks hundreds of omelets during the 11 days of fair that she has it down to a science. Or it’s just that good. I don’t care – these omelets are like crack and I could eat them every day. I dunno, maybe they feed the chickens crack or something and that is why they taste so good.

Crack Egg Omelette

Crack Egg Omelette

2. Grilled Cheese – there’s just something about bread, cheese and butter that makes me shut up and make funny noises while masticating the combo. Cause you know it’s the simple things that are best and they turn these things out like nobodies business. One of the best deals at the fair, too.

3. Brad and Harry’s Cheese Curds – I dont’ care what anyone else says – go here. Plus they have a giant mouse that looks like Jerry from Tom and Jerry. Yes, that’s probably a play on “Brad and Harry”. Yep, clever chaps them. But the cheese curds – they are lightly, LIGHTLY, battered (not breaded cause those suck eggs, and not the good crack eggs) and they offer up a side of pizza sauce if you like to dip. And dip I do!

4. MILK!!!!!! I’m realizing I have a dairy theme going here….overall. Who am I kidding. I love the lactose. This is not yo mama’s milk. This is double fisting it strolling down the main drag milk. Well, at least I did. I double fisted the banana and the root beer this year. Generally I go with strawberry but thought hey, lets live dangerously and go with banana this year. Nah, going back for the good ole’ strawberry milk next year. Lets talk about the root beer milk though, shall we? In Roman times, according to my history professor in college, they would have “vomitoriums” where they would indulge to the point of being sick and then go back for more. It was total binge and purge. Root Beer milk actually makes me consider it. I said consider….it’s that good. It’s like a root beer float that’s melted and still cold. Did I mention it’s only 25 cents a glass?

5. Pitch’s BBQ – Dude. Seriously. I’ve mentioned pickles before, right? Yes, yes I have. These guys GET IT! They put pickles on the side for the BBQ! Plus it’s so stupid delicious. I know there’s a Pitch’s around town and I’ve never eaten there – cause I don’t want to ruin the experience I have at the fair.

Now I will tell you the one food to absolutely avoid no matter what, come fair time. Ugh, it is seriously disgusting. I’m an adventurous eater, by my own definition. There’s not much I am not willing to try at least once. The day my husband proposed to me I actually was gnawing on a bunch of veal sweet breads. That’s love people. At the fair this year we made a point of trying out the Machine Shed’s Krispy Kreme chocolate covered bacon cheeseburger.

If there is one thing in this world you need to avoid it is this. It’s making me gag just thinking of it. You couldn’t even taste the bacon!!! What crime against nature is this??? Why cover up the delicious, smokey, heaven-sent flavor of bacon? Injustice!

You kiss your wife with that mouth?

You kiss your wife with that mouth?

It wasn’t even a good cheeseburger – nor freshly made. It was ready in 2 seconds from the time we ordered to delivery. If you’re going to go outside of the box – at least make it out of quality products. I probably have a bias against the Machine Shed though due to moldy pie episodes in the past. Just ignore the Machine Shed all around, m’kay?

Gag reflex

Gag reflex

So here are the highlights in pictures – imagine a moving montage reel in your mind if you would. Enjoy!

Keep on Truckin’

In the world of comfort food there isn’t any greater comfort to me than a delicious sandwich. Especially when I have a cold or else am feeling bluesy and want to listen to Joni Mitchell all day long. While sounding like a method of torture to some, this is my absolute cure-all – angsty female music and the perfect meat sandwiched in some great bread. I’m also someone who always needs pickles on a good sandwich, too. The more the merrier! If at a sandwich shop and there is a pickle option, their amount of “too much” is my “too little”. Bring on the pickles, baby!

So needless to say due to family sadness in recent months and a subsequent cold because of that – I found myself in need of said comfort food while at work one day. Since curling up ala George Costanza under my cubicle wasn’t an option, food truck Tuesday at work provided me with a much more positive alternative. Jeppa Joes!

As much as I try to find my perfect pairings of meat, vegetables, cheese and bread at home, sometimes you just need to go out and find someone else’s absolute genius with those mechanics. Jeppa Joe has truly done that with his pork bahn mi (pronounced bon me) by being an absolute party in your mouth with every single bite. You will not want to put it down, but you must! Take a breath! This is a marathon not a sprint.

pork bahn mi food porn

pork bahn mi food porn

Between the delicious, succulent pieces of pork that he is NOT stingy on, fresh cilantro and his delicately pickled vegetables – followed up with the spicy bite of freshly sliced jalapeno and sriracha mayo, I cannot imagine adding anything else to this sandwich to make it better. Except he does! Cause if there is one thing that I am so crazy picky about, it’s my bread. I honestly do not know what type he uses, except it’s the perfect vehicle to soak up the juices from the pork and gently carries all of the ingredients into the warm, welcoming embrace of my mouth.

It’s Tuesday now and while I am working from home – my heart is down on Cherry St. in Milwaukee thinking of that sandwich being created for so many others right now. In the hallowed halls of Jeppa Joe’s trailer – it’s a one man show feeding the masses who come every Tuesday to feast on the food truck happiness that gathers ’round. But I only want to go to Jeppa’s – to sooth my soul and keep on truckin’. And if I’m lucky – listen to a little bit of Joni while I bite into my pork bahn mi.

Getting his food groove on.

Getting his food groove on.

A Whiskey Drink

purple door 2It’s not a great secret to anybody who knows me that ice cream has been my longest and most loved relationship to date. My husband has come to understand that I will always have a love affair with this creamy, delicious vice. Perhaps it comes from growing up in a city that has indulged me in custard since my youth – to you custard novices – ice cream ain’t got nuttin’ on custard. Until recently. Perhaps it’s my special fondness for all things dairy based – cheese, cheese….cheese, milk, but mostly cheese. Or the fact that I grew up in a family that seemed to have highly developed olefactory senses when related to anything dairy based. Or again, that my family once owned a dairy in a past life. Seriously. You are probably wondering why I brought cheese into this conversation or what it has to do with my hot, dirty affair with ice cream – it’s because it’s what brought me to Purple Door Ice cream.

Residing just south of Downtown in The Clockshadow Creamery-, a newly renovated area, mostly with bars, restaurants and one of my favorites, Milwaukee Brewing Company, it’s hard to find your place amongst so much awesome – but they have done just that. Mostly because I don’t have to go into the fifth ward to get their pints of awesomeness. They distribute to local stores like Sendik’s that allow me to purchase ice cream at 8 a.m. if I so choose – and in my pajamas. It’s a win, win situation! What brought me back to the dark side of ice cream, rather than the cool creaminess of the blue collar custard? Whiskey.

Whiskey and I go back a ways, we have a lot of secrets we have kept for each other, mostly they involve the third party of Coke (as in cola dorks). But Whiskey and I have never shared ice cream before and holy cow man, we were missing out! The Purple Door people have done an amazing job of preserving the true integrity of the whiskey flavor in their ice cream without sacrificing the quality of their ice cream. It’s the perfect marriage between one of the smoothest ice creams I’ve ever had and a shot of local Great Lakes Distillery Kinnickinnic Whiskey

Living in a city that is manic about their custard flavors, and always trying to one up each other in the flavor race, it’s hard to find a flavor you haven’t had before. But I can say that during my 30+ years in this city that I have never had a whiskey custard or ice cream. Perhaps Milwaukee wasn’t ready for it and it needed a pioneer like Purple Door to push the proverbial whiskey envelope. Maybe we would have all gone nuts with our amature taste buds and not been able to accept them for the pure flavors that they have developed. Or maybe it’s that Milwaukee has matured with their culinary palates over the years. Milwaukee really has seen a surge in unique restaurants that offer more extreme flavors in the last decade and maybe it took that eye opening experience in order to appreciate the flavor pairings a place like Purple Door creates. Who else would have thought to marry quark cheese with blackberries? Or figs and black tea?

Whoopsie Daisy, I ate it all!

Whoopsie Daisy, I ate it all!

I recommend to anyone who loves ice cream and wants to take that experience to another level or even if you just want a scoop of ice cream on a hot day – check it out. Go to Purple Door first for the experience – if only to see an urban cheese factory – or if you’re lucky you can see Purple Door actually making their ice cream in front of you. It’s worth it not only to support such a unique and worthwhile business like this but to indulge in Wisconsin roots – embrace our dairy history, eat more ice cream! But make sure that Purple Door ice cream is part of the history going foward.

Food for the Soul

To say that food is a passion of mine is an understatement. It truly has defined who I am as a person, to some extent. My joy at family dinners was unrivaled, when I was a child, as many of my fondest memories of family are surrounded by food, specific ones at that. My Grandma always made these amazing, from scratch pancakes, with the perfect browning on each side. To top them, we always had homemade jam made from fruit straight out of the enormous garden she and my grandfather maintained. Food is my mnemonic device. Pancakes=grandma, chocolate chip cookies=other grandma, fresh baked bread=mom.

In recent weeks I have lost someone close to me in my family, my Uncle. For my childhood and formative years, he was my father. My life with him was always surrounding food, we would constantly try out new restaurants or buck tradition on holidays and have bbq for Thanksgiving instead of turkey. He was the first person I knew who deep fried a turkey in his backyard before it became popular. My life with him was surrounded by delicious memories that I won’t ever forget. One of the most humorous memories was of him eating this hamburger from a place called Chubby’s in Racine, Wisconsin. http://chubbiesracine.com/

They have burgers the size of the freakin dinner plate. He not only ordered a double – with cheese, but he finished it. With a side of fries. He was officially my hero.

Every year he would host a garden party to celebrate his love of gardening and the peak of his flowers – it was always the 2nd weekend in September. Not only was it in celebration of his hard work through-out the year, but also the food that he served. Hot beef from TG’s in Kenosha http://www.tgskenosha.com/ and salmon that he would smoke himself, from when he would travel to Alabama years ago, Gulf Shore’s smoked yellowfin tuna spread. He had the biggest heart of anyone I knew and he wanted to share his love through food and friends. I know that I was a recipient of it for nearly 35 years and were it not for this love, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. I wouldn’t be sharing my love of food with all of you who read this.

So this is why I’ve been absent and it took me a while to put into words what my head and heart were feeling. Perhaps not an update on eating Milwaukee, but it’s an update of where my love of food came from. Knowing that everything I post here ultimately goes back to a man who deserves just as much recognition as any restaurant or bakery I will feature.

Food is it’s own language – it’s family and life and love. Just as much as you can sit around a table with people, it’s that much more enjoyable when there’s something delicious to be shared. If only each other’s company.

I post this in honor of Ronald Jilk – 1958-2013.

Whats sports got to do, got to do with it.

First I caveat this post. This is the most sports you will ever see me write/speak/communicate about and only because it serves a purpose related to food.

For many years now, even before his recent shenanigans, I’ve called Ryan Braun a walking STD. He’s akin to what I call, male and female alike, “looks like their hair smells”. That’s usually me speak for “ewe”. Imagine my surprise when I wasn’t that far from the truth. All that aside – I think that Aaron Rodgers is the exact opposite. He looks like he would smell wonderful, like a warm summer rain around dusk. I’d totally lean over and sniff him if he was in close proximity.

Braun has contributed to our Milwaukee culture by opening a few restaurants with the SURG Restaurant Group and I can’t help but think that he somehow blackmailed Rodgers into doing this with him. What did you do to bring this black cloud over your head Aaron Rodgers?!?!

Tonight the husband and I ate at their love child 8-Twelve and now I will tell you why we won’t go back. Unless we win the $50 gift card because I submitted my commentary on the restaurant stationery solicited by them. Even then…I think we’d pick another SURG restaurant that isn’t 8-Twelve.

So the price of Shitake.

We consumed the following:

2 beers

1 Hard Lemonade

1 order of cheese curds

1 order fried chicken/mac and cheese

1 order short ribs and grits

All for the low, low price of $92. I wish I could capitalize $92 more than it already is….so for more emphasis I shall repeat again, $92. For fried chicken and a short rib, yes A short rib, and a few greasy curds of cheese.

Now, if they were possibly the best of their food groups I would be willing to pay more than $92 but they were completely average. Not $92 worth of ecstacy inducing food.

The hard lemonade from Sand Creek was the highlight. The cheese curds were Clock Shadow Creamery cheese curds, which I love in and of their singular selves. But whatever they did to them to not make them the orgasmic dreams I was hoping they would be should be considered criminal. They needed salt. Really? Salt? Coming from Wisconsin and a long line of cheese lovers, including a great-grandfather somewhere in the family tree who owned a dairy, I consider myself a cheese whiz. That is one of your basic cheese tenets, salt!!!! Salt the damn cheese!

812b

So onto the main dishes – short ribs and fried chicken. The short ribs were good, but they already have to live up to the ones I love from Cooper’s Hawk in Brookfield, and they didn’t. They didn’t fall apart at the lightest touch of the fork like those do – and I didn’t want to lick the plate. Which is the universal sign for food love.

812c

Fried chicken – once again, needed salt. See a theme???? Still good, but nothing that made me want to continue shoving food into my face.

812

I did, however, like the mac and cheese accompaniment. Though that would be hard to screw up for me cause I dig shells and cheese. It’s not like I have super high falootin tastes when it comes to the pasta and cheese food combination. I mean, really, I love the blue box mac and cheese. I really don’t have standards when it comes to that.

Were it not for super crazy high price – I would recommend it if only for the semi-sports theme that Wisconsinites go nuts over. But I don’t because that is some seriously crazy money to pay for some of the cheapest cuts of meat out there and a small, paltry side order of cheese curds.

I didn’t even have the joy of Ryan Braun skulking around the restaurant to make fun of in my usual way. I did, however, have many pastoral scenes gracing the walls to raise my eyebrows at. I saw one jersey and then many of cows and landscapes. Good thing I like cows.

Cup O’ Cake

cupcakeIIWhile perhaps the sentiment isn’t the same – I can definitely relate to Marie Antoinette when she said “Let them eat cake!”. Of course, I don’t have a country full of starving french men, though seriously – if I’m starving, I wouldn’t say no to a cupcake. Who doesn’t want a cupcake? A cupcake is just that, a cup full o’ cake. It lends new credence to the whole cup theory of pessimism vs optimism. I want my cup half full…of cake! Specifically these. Aren’t they little balls of happiness???

So anyway, the point of this post.

The goodness that exists in the third ward of Milwaukee, The Milwaukee Cupcake Company. I discovered this place a few years ago courtesy of another post I’ll do another day, Coquette Cafe. A bit of advice for you men folk out there, if you have to go on a lunch date, I’m giving you the perfect trifecta right there; third ward, Coquette and the MCC. You want some serious sugar afterwards? And not just from a cupcake? I seriously recommend that….I know if my husband did that, I’d be slobbering all over him.

Ok! So back to the topic at hand. Cupcakes! This place has it all, for those of us who want to indulge in that perfect bite, vegans and the gluten-free folks alike, they have it. They have different flavors they make every weekend so you can always try something new. For us Milwaukeeans, too, they name them by popular geography around Milwaukee. My personal fave is the Shorewood, Vanilla Salted Caramel. Dude, I want to eat you right now just writing bout you. They also have my new favorite cupcake type, the mini! So you can have four little minis for the size of a regular cupcake, for you indecisive folks like me out there. Or I suppose you could also say if you wanted to watch what you were eating, like me, just have one little mini. Though, if you were eating these I would totally watch what you were eating, in a completely non-creepy way. I’d just be jealous that you were eating one and I wasn’t.

Look at these things….imagine they have little voices saying “eat me, I’m delicious!”. Which they are by the way. So there ya go, next time you’re in Milwaukee or already live here. Eat Milwaukee at MCC. Literally this time since they name them after Milwaukee places…..whew, I love literary nuance.

Minis!

Minis!