Live Auction Excitement Mounts

The heated competition of the silent auction is always a highlight of Food Slam. This year, the big man himself, Mr. Tom Crawford, will be stationed in the Grohmann Museum foyer to host a live auction while attendees line the balconies above. A Thunder Dome of charity auctions, if you will. TC will be feeding you updates on the auction throughout the Food Slam and up-to-the-minute prior to the close of bidding at 8:45 pm. Two amazing packages are on the block:

First, our good friend and internationally renowned artist, Charles Dwyer, has made the single biggest charity donation of his career to WMSE this year.  Behold; this breathtaking oil and gold and silver leaf on canvas figurative painting is 57″ X 69″. The ethereal female figure is surrounded by icons of Dwyer’s dreams floating in and out of a storm of colors.  Dwyer is a long-standing supporter of WMSE. The beauty and generosity of this donation are as grand as his belief in and support of the mission of community-powered Frontier Radio.

The ethereal brilliance of Charles Dwyer

The ethereal brilliance of Charles Dwyer

Next up, you may have heard of a little shindig known as the Milwaukee Film Festival. Well, we’ve got your pass to the whole dang thing and more.  Our gracious friends at Milwaukee Film have donated an exclusive package to the WMSE Food Slam auction featuring Dual Movie Mogul Memberships to Milwaukee Film that includes:

  • 2 all access VIP Film Festival Passes,
  • 2 invites to a Filmmaker Brunch,
  • 6 pack of festival vouchers,
  • 6 month membership to a DVD of the month club,
  • 2 Milwaukee Film t-shirts,
  • 12 members only film screenings (monthly at the Oriental)
  • the best discounts on all MFF merch/tickets

Not enough for ya? Milwaukee Film sweetened the deal with 2 invitations to the Red Carpet Experience of Opening Night including:

  • Valet Parking on Opening Night Movie & Party, and a special Red Carpet ticket holder section of Opening Night Party that includes hor d’oeuvres and an open bar in addition to the full Opening Night Party

Finally, they tossed in a messenger bag and a screen printed poster to top this whole thing off.

MFF Marketing Director, Blyth Meier, had this to say: “I can’t tell you how many times I go to a WMSE event and run into MFF volunteers or vice-versa. It just warms my heart. So when WMSE was looking for a donation for this year’s Food Slam, we said HELL YES and put together this incredible package. Thankfully, the Slam is not during the festival this year so we can be there to fortify ourselves before we enter popcorn season.” It’s nice to know we’ll all have something to look forward to after Food Slam.

The auction is open now so do not waste any time bidding on these incredible items. Just  click here to register and you’re on your way.  Here’s how the bidding works:

  1. By text - Text the 3-digit item number and amount to the welcome message you receive, e.g., 101 500, no dollar signs or decimals are needed.
  2. By smartphone - Click the link in your registration text. It will take you to a personal bidding page. Click on an item and place a bid; it’s that simple.
  3. By computer - click on an item and place a bid.
  4. By “personal shopper” on event night - Find an Auctions By Cellular (ABC) staff in a RED shirt and they will be happy to place your bids for you.

Of course, even if you cannot make it, you can still bid on these thanks to ABC, but your chances are better if you’re in the room.  Lucky for you, there are still some will-call tickets available to the event on Friday.   Click here to purchase your ticket and join the party! We can’t wait to see you!

Chef Ballet at Centro Cafe

Butternut squash lasagna

Butternut squash lasagna

See this butternut squash lasagna? Looks good, doesn’t it? Ooh, it was! Layers of noodles, cream sauce laced with rosemary and roasted butternut squash from the chef’s own garden. It’s a customer favorite at Centro Café, back on the menu this fall by popular demand. Come to Food Slam Friday night and you will get to taste this delight from yourself!

Chef Josh Unser's culinary ballet

Chef Josh Unser’s culinary ballet

Centro Café is an unassuming gem tucked into Center Street in Riverwest. Just inside the door, a counter, where my husband and I had the pleasure of dining, faces a row of burners and a grill where Chef Josh Unser does his culinary ballet. We watched him grill calamari and scallops, and choreograph pan after pan of Italian pasta dishes of seafood, fresh veg and classic sauces. In addition to the butternut squash lasagna, Josh made us a bowl of Arancia, a dish he created for the menu consisting of cavatappi, chicken, olives, capers and artichokes draped in an orange tomato sauce and topped with shaved parmesan. The brininess of the ingredients give this dish a nice tang and it may have changed my mind about capers for the better. Centro offer many gluten-free options, including the butternut squash lasagna and other pastas, making it a treat for those avoiding the wheat.

mmmm, arancia!

mmmm, arancia!

Having a front row seat for Josh’s work made us plan for several more trips back to try the other dishes. It seems you couldn’t go wrong with any of them. The room is lively and not too loud making it a great place for a meal that also lets you appreciate your company. There’s something classically romantic about it too, without being all candles-and-roses cliché.

tiramisoooo good

tiramisoooo good

You can argue with me, but I think tiramisu is the perfect dessert and Centro’s is quite perfect at that, all lightness and coffee served in a sweet little glass. Do yourself a favor and save room for it. It’s the perfect last bite of a meal… and for this year’s blog.

last bite.

last bite.

My musical pairing: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – “Cheek to Cheek”  It’s sweet and romantic as a dinner at Centro. Like the food, every note is clear and uplifting and that bit of swing reminds me of Josh tossing pans of pasta and sauce over the burners with such grace. When Ella and Louis come together at the end, you get that lovely warm feeling of the last sip of wine and last bite of tiramisu.

by Food Slam blogger Steph Kilen

Magical Beans and Barley

Matt Schoeffler, happy at Beans

Matt Schoeffler, happy at Beans

WMSE’s Underwriting Director, Matt Schoeffler, joined the staff just a week after last year’s Food Slam.  Since then, he has eaten “many, many” chicken burritos at Beans and Barley. When I asked him what he liked about them so much, the man-of-few words spoke an enthusiastic “everything.” Prodded a bit more, his face lit up as he told of the perfectly-melted-every-time cheese and the addition of olives, so often missing in most burritos. Though tempted to order his stand-by, Matt decided on one of the evening’s specials, a spinach and feta lasagna, with which he was very pleased. I took a cue from Matt and had the roast tomato and smoked provolone sandwich with spinach and pesto mayo. I ate the whole thing. I could not stop. Every bite begged to be followed by another. The melted cheese wilted the spinach perfectly, and the roasted tomatoes added a delightful sweetness. Its gooey goodness made it feel like one of the more indulgent things on the menu considering Beans and Barley is known as the go-to place for healthy, vegan and vegetarian options. Still, I felt I had done something good for myself when I was done. I always do at Beans. A nice amble through the adjoining store helps digestion. Even on a full stomach, it’s hard not to ooh-and-ahh over the desserts, baked goods, salads, deli items and cheeses in the store’s cases. I usually find a unique gift for a friend (or myself) and take advantage of their fantastic magazine and card offerings. The food, the service and the space are a breath of fresh air; everything feels so healthy and kind. Inside Beans, it’s easy to feel you don’t have a care in the world. No wonder it has been a Milwaukee staple for more than 30 years.

Smoked provolone and roast tomato sammich...mmmm

Smoked provolone and roast tomato sammich…mmmm

Matt’s musical pairing: Temper Temper – “Trust Me”

Matt says, “Eating at Beans & Barley always reminds me of driving up to Milwaukee during my college years to go to shows at such wonderful venues as The Globe East, Mad Planet, Onopa Brewing etc. No matter what, I always took the time to stop at Beans & Barley to eat before a show. The food was, and still is, top notch. This is one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands of Milwaukee’s past, Temper Temper. Their guitar player, Jim Neumeyer, is now co-owner of Beans and Barley. Things come full circle. Even though so many great Milwaukee bands have come and gone over the years, it’s great knowing that Beans is still here.”

by Food Slam blogger Steph Kilen

Maxie’s Southern Hospitality

The sign says, “Get some south in your mouth.” It’s a very good directive. Maxie’s broad menu of southern comfort foods and warm hospitality can make a person yearn for lower latitudes where everything moves a little slower and summer lasts a little longer, where you have a little more time to enjoy it all. WMSE Station Manager, Tom Crawford, and I did, indeed, enjoy it all at Maxie’s and took all the time we needed to properly savor the experience.

Deep fried pickles, y'all!

Deep fried pickles, y’all!

I’ve lived a life devoid of deep fried pickles and now, for the second time in a month, I was digging into a pile of them with Tom. The man loves his deep fried pickles, and when the waitress was about to place them in front of me, Tom redirected her to his end before the plate could hit the table. Juicy spears of lightly battered goodness were being dunked into creole sauce before you could say “fiddle-dee-dee.”  The space on my end of the table was filled by a plate of Redneck Rellenos; Anaheim peppers stuffed with pulled pork, goat cheese and grits, batter-fried and served with sour cream and salsa. They were kicky and brilliant and I was happy to have them on my side.

redneck rellenos

redneck rellenos

Tom ordered up beef ribs, hickory smoked with Kansas City style sauce, merrily joined by white cheddar mac-n-cheese and creamy fennel slaw. Tom licked his fingers and giggled over the ribs; smoky, tangy and with great bark. I snuck forkful after forkful of the mac-n-cheese, and he graciously encouraged it. The slaw rounded out the trio adding a cooling crunch to the meal.

"Goodie, goodie!" Ribs and mac-n-cheese

“Goodie, goodie!” Ribs and mac-n-cheese

I debated what to order for my entrée, but when I mentioned the frogmore stew, our waitress’s enthusiasm for the dish made the call. “I’ve been here since they opened six and a half years ago,” Tracey, our waitress, said. “This is my absolute favorite thing on the menu.” One bite and it was easy to see why. Shrimp, mussels, fish, house-smoked chicken sausage, onion and fresh corn swam in seasoned broth like happy kids in a pond. The mix of seafood, spice, smoke and sweetness common in many southern dishes is my favorite thing about southern food. Maxie’s has the balance dialed in, and each ingredient shines in its own right. My cup runneth over with thanks for the grilled bread to sop up the broth.

frogmore stew. soppin' up the goodness

frogmore stew. soppin’ up the goodness

Tracey convinced us to find room for dessert, and we were awfully glad we did. It was hard to choose from the varied offerings, but we settled on blueberry and white chocolate bread pudding with house-made vanilla bean ice cream, lemon crème anglais and the cutest cookie in the shape of Maxie’s signature fish. Refreshing and comforting at the same time, I wonder why bread pudding has not caught on up here. We couldn’t finish it all, and the next morning, the thought of it in my fridge made getting up a little easier.

blueberry and white chocolate bread pudding. A sweet, sweet ending.

blueberry and white chocolate bread pudding. A sweet, sweet ending.

Always friendly service, lively atmosphere and food that makes you moan with delight are great reasons to visit Maxie’s. Their support of public radio in Milwaukee is another one. “Dan Sidner (co-owner) openly, honestly and unselfishly supports all three radio stations,” Tom said. You can’t miss the signs for the darlings-of-the-low-end-of-the-dial at the front door. Paired with the smiling faces that greet you, you know you’re in a good place.

Tom’s musical pairing:  James Booker  - “Junco Partner” Tom says: “The meal was so good it felt illegal. I felt like we were committing a crime. Food can’t really taste this good. Like we were on the lamb and this might be the last meal  as our hustle gassed out and the cops were outside.  Down the road my junco partner!”

by Food Slam blogger Steph Kilen

Giving You the Finger

Eating all six burgers offered by Comet, Honeypie and Palomino is a reward in itself. Each one an homage to a Milwaukee band. Each one raising money for WMSE. Each one a mouth party.  But when you show real fortitude in the face of six amazing sandwiches and great commitment to the Mighty WMSE, it’s nice to have something to show for it…like a big foam finger. Eat all six, get your placemat stamped, get yourself a foam finger. What am I going to do with a foam finger? you may ask. The WMSE staff has some ideas for you:

Ask admittance to the station.

Ding-dong. Foam finger here to see you.

Ding-dong. Foam finger here to see you.

Say, “Hey! You! Tom! Yeah, you!”

Making a point of Tom Crawford.

Making a point of Tom Crawford.

Put a little extra ooph in your work day.

Ryan Schleicher, the six-finger typer.

Ryan Schleicher, the six-finger typer.

extra insulation

extra insulation

Thank goodness for autocorrect.

Thank goodness for autocorrect.

Decide what to listen to next.

The finger helps Erin Wolf select tunes for her next show.

The finger helps Erin Wolf select tunes for her next show.

Make fun of your coworkers.

Poor Matt Schoeffler. Naughty Justin Shoman.

Poor Matt Schoeffler. Naughty Justin Shoman.

Rock out.

Tom Crawford at the last Yanni concert.

Tom Crawford at the last Yanni concert.

Recreate a scene from Reservoir Dogs.

All disagreements should be settled via foam finger.

All disagreements should be settled via foam finger.

Relieve boredom.

Chris DeMay searches for the big one.

Chris DeMay searches for the big one.

Silence your artwork.

Mark Winter auction sculpture, you be quiet.

Mark Winter auction sculpture, you be quiet.

Dance like no one’s watching.

Justin Shoman knows how to shake it.

Justin Shoman shows Miley how it’s done.

And in case that’s not enough motivation to go get your burger on, some food porn from Comet:

Def Farmonic burger

Def Farmonic burger

Collections of Colonies of Beef burger

Collections of Colonies of Beef burger

Comet is killin’ its Bay View brothers in the burger smack down. As of Monday Aug. 26th burger count stands:

Comet- 497

Honeypie – 291

Palomino – 174

Step up Southsiders! Get down to Honeypie and Palomino and show those fancy-pants Eastsiders what you’re made of!

You have until day of the Food Slam, Friday, September 13th, to gobble your way to foam finger fame. (If you do, be sure to post a photo on the WMSE Facebook page.)

by Food Slam blogger Steph Kilen

The Art of Man at Work

An enjoyable dining experience is not just about the food, but also the people you share it with and a setting that engages your senses. For this reason, the Food Slam takes place at the Grohmann Museum, among hundreds of works of great art featuring working men and women.

In 1968, Dr. Eckhart G. Grohmann acquired his first painting of a blacksmith’s forge while chairman and president of Milwaukee’s Aluminum Casting & Engineering. It now hangs behind the desk in his extraordinary top floor office. That painting was the start of a collection that now boasts more than 900 works depicting laborers of various crafts and trades, and marvels of industry. As you take in the paintings of mostly German and Dutch artists as well as Americans and other Europeans, you can see the marriage of hard work and art on which Milwaukee was built.

Every Food Slam I tell myself I will go back to the museum and spend some time, and so I was delighted to have the chance to visit with James Kieselburg, the museum’s director, and bask in the collection and his knowledge of it. An anthropologist by training, James can speak not only of the quality and history of the art, but of the ethnographic and historical information we can gain from its subjects; for this museum of art is also a museum of labor.

foyer mosaic

foyer mosaic

While you’re at the Food Slam (Because you’re going, right?) between nibbles, chatting with all the cool people that will be there and bidding on auction items, you’ll have a chance to spend some time with the works. Here are a few things that might enrich your experience:

The original and larger-than-life reproduction on the rooftop garden

The original and larger-than-life reproduction on the rooftop garden

  • The rooftop garden features 12 larger-than-life and 6 life-sized reproductions of works in the gallery. Start up there, assign each of your friends a figure, and see who finds the original work first. (Peek in the windows of Dr. Grohmann’s office before you head out to commune with the workers on the roof.)
  • The figures in the floor mosaic at the entrance also come from works in the gallery. You can play the same game here.
  • On the first floor you’ll find a charming video produced by John Sutherland for USSteel in 1959. In it you’ll see how excited they were about one day going to the moon and images drawn from works in the first floor collection. Can you spot them? (Other videos in the museum show contemporary process of the work in the surrounding art.)
  • Note the filing system and method of payment in “The Peasant Lawyer.” James tells us that lawyers of the time were really translators for a mostly illiterate public.
  • "Peasant Lawyer"

    “Peasant Lawyer”

  • Throughout the collection there are several pairings of paintings depicting the same kind of labor in Europe and America. Seaweed harvest is one of them (and one of my favorite pieces in the museum). Can you find others?
  • The museum holds the largest collection of 17th Century Dutch medical paintings in the world. They are terribly intriguing. Go ahead and make a diagnosis. Your guess is as good as the doctors depicted. (Probably a good idea to not to visit this area while eating.)
  • “Print Shop” by D. Heim is also, according to James, an historical document. It shows in great detail the first of a certain kind of printing press. Can you guess what makes the press special? You’ll also see the origin of “uppercase” and “lowercase” letters.
  • Finally, in accordance with German industrial art tradition, Dr. Grohmann appears in a painting on the first floor. Maybe you can find him.

There is so much to learn and appreciate at the museum, you’ll certainly want to visit again when your mouth isn’t full.

My musical pairing: Richard Wagner –“The Mastersingers of Nuremberg – Overture”  The opera was inspired by the painting Master Martin the Cooper and his Journeymen, Cooper Shop, Old Germany in 1568 by Wilhelm Kolbe ca. 1816. You’ll find it on the third floor. Despite the title and the trade it depicts, the artist, by his use of light, shows us the real subjects of this story.

by Food Slam blogger Steph Kilen

A Noble Night Out

There’s something about The Noble that feels more like home than a restaurant, you know, if you had an awesome chef in your kitchen. The space is small (just six tables) and cozy, not cramped. It oozes warmth and casual charm. Roses made of book pages sit on the tables, the bar is lined with books, vintage illustrations grace the bathrooms and there’s a typewriter and croquet set keeping watch over it all. As soon as you sit down, you know you want to stay awhile.

The Noble wrapped in books

The Noble wrapped in books

While a few appetizer and salad items are always available, entrees change daily – the thing I happen to love most about this place. There are always “Hunter,” “Gatherer” and “Middle of the Road” options (meat, vegetarian and something else, often seafood, respectively). You never know what you’re going to be offered when you come in (unless you happened to check Facebook), but you know it’s going to be good – very, very good.

Promotions Director Ryan Schleicher and I were lucky to experience a wide range of what the fine folks at The Noble are capable of. Every soup I’ve had at The Noble has made me want to lick the bowl, and if you’ve been to the Rockabilly Chili Contest you may be familiar with the genius owner David Kressin puts into his chili. We started off with a little of both; a super fresh gazpacho with dill and a slice of avocado floating in it and a pork chili with big chunks of veg and a nice kick. God bless them, a perfect white-bread-and-American-cheese grilled cheese kept the soup company. Their food is always inventive, interesting and well executed, but damn! That grilled cheese! That is the kind of thing that can fix a really bad day. Ryan offered unheard apologies to the chef and dunked his in the chili, because that is a Ryan thing and he cannot help himself.

mussels luxuriating in a bath of curry

mussels luxuriating in a bath of curry

The curry mussels were served with grilled bread for which I was very thankful. What is the point of all that gorgeous sauce in the bottom of the bowl if you don’t have something to sop it up with. For the main course, Ryan had a flat iron steak with spinach truffle cream sauce, roasted root veg and kale. “I don’t often say this, but the kale is really good,” Ryan said. It was earthy and green with very little of the bitter that makes Ryan shy away from it. The steak was done perfectly, the veg were like candy and the sauce linked everything on the plate together with its spectrum of flavor.

Ryan contemplates his next bite

Ryan contemplates his next bite

I had the Asian noodle bowl, just the kind of thing to eat on a summer night bursting with heat and humidity. Tender and sweet shrimp, scallops and calamari steak were nestled in amongst the noodles, zucchini and cherry tomatoes, all of it wading in a light mushroom broth. It was so good we were wishing for a big tongs to feed ourselves, especially since there was some trouble getting the noodles to stay on the fork; the entertainment with the meal.

juicy seafood in an Asian noodle bowl, tongs not included

juicy seafood in an Asian noodle bowl, tongs not included

Once it is dark out, the place glows with low light and a certain tucked-in pleasure. The staff has the laid-back friendliness of people you’ve known forever, adding to that feeling of being at home. And though there are often folks waiting for a table, you are never rushed out; they know the value of taking a few minutes after a meal to bask in the satisfaction and joy of it. The Noble is the perfect place to do just that.

Ryan’s musical pairing: Belle and Sebastian – “Wrapped Up In Books” “I’m not one to constantly bemoan the loss of analog, but because physical books are not as ubiquitous as they once were, you don’t see design that incorporates books – shelves, nooks, cases – much anymore. Physical books, especially old ones, are beautiful objects and The Noble sets them perfectly within the restaurant design. We were indeed wrapped in books.”

by Frood Slam blogger Steph Kilen

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