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

She Let Me Eat Cake

Debbie Pagel loves to make a fish dinner, pizza, sushi rolls, hot dog and fries, and a whole roast pig… out of cake. The fact that she tells me this while I’m eating coconut cake with curry frosting makes it clear Debbie is not your average baker. She is the owner of Eat Cake, the place folks go when they want an out-of-the-ordinary way to celebrate a special occasion.

Debbie Pagel serendipitously sporting the team colors

Debbie Pagel serendipitously sporting the team colors

Confession: I usually pass on cake. However, if the cake is from Eat Cake, you’ll have to watch your fingers I’ll be grabbing it up so fast. Debbie’s cakes are so delicate they barely have the weight to stay on the fork, luckily there is frosting to help with that. This is not just whipped up sugar glopped on top, but subtly and beautifully flavored buttercream and cream cheese frostings.  Of course she makes the standard white, yellow and chocolate cakes. The chocolate in particular brings out the yummy noises, with a flavor that is more deep coco than “chocolaty.” The day I was there, a couple had been in to talk wedding cake. They make their own honey mead, and Debbie worked it into a cake and frosting. It is divine. A little sweet, a little yeasty, like sour dough bread and cake had a baby. Her lavender cake with passion fruit frosting is a lovely pairing. The way both flavors are just hinted at make it somehow refreshing. The coconut and curry combo is a perfect sweet and savory balance that you may have to taste to believe, and you just may have the chance as Debbie is considering it for the Food Slam. She likes playing around with the savory/sweet combo and once made a ginger cake with wasabi frosting in the shape of a blue fin tuna.

chocolate, white, coconut curry, lavender & passionfruit, and honey mead. Oh my!

chocolate, white, coconut curry, lavender & passionfruit, and honey mead. Oh my!

When I say “in the shape of” a blue fin tuna, I don’t mean the outline, I mean 3-D, just like the sushi roll, pizza, hot dog and fries, whole roast pig, etc.  “I love recreating food items,” Debbie said. “I once recreated some man’s favorite fish dinner from his favorite restaurant. It looked like a piece of salmon, red beans and rice and mixed vegetables in a Styrofoam container.”

You might think making cakes almost every day for ten years, Debbie would be sick of eating it. You’d be wrong. “I eat it every day. If I’m away I start to crave it after a day.” Her favorites: Chocolate with peanut butter frosting, yellow with fruity frosting and banana cake. “When I make banana, I always have to have some,” she said. Proving that indeed, you can make your cake and eat it too.

My musical pairing: Dead or Alive – “Cake and Eat It” Obviously, there’s the title, but there’s something about the rhythm that makes me think of stirring cake batter and anything Dead or Alive is so…sprinkly. Plus, during my musical awakening, I would call WMSE and request Dead or Alive and I couldn’t believe there was a station that would actually play it.

by Food Slam blogger Steph Kilen

Mixing It Up with Martita’s Guiltless® Margaritas

Guiltless ® sangria and  cucumber margarita

Guiltless ® sangria and cucumber margarita

Martha Manske has a passion for margaritas, but not for calories. Of course, she is not alone. But rather than denying herself her cocktail of choice or foregoing the food that goes with the drink (not a good idea), Martha took matters into her own hands and started Martita’s Guiltless® Margarita Mix. With just 10 calories per 5 ounces of mix, when you add tequila, a 6 ounce margarita is just 85 calories. According to the authority Oprah.com, a regular margarita can run you 168-504 calories. A girl who suddenly finds herself eating burgers, BBQ samplers and a dish called “fat boy” on a regular basis appreciates such a thing. Martita’s Mixers contain natural sweeteners (and no sugar), flavorings and coloring and are gluten-free. And just in case you have fear of scurvy, each serving also contains 2720% of your daily value of vitamin C. You can up your vitamin intake even more if you, as Martha often does, throw some fruit in the blender with the mix and tequila. She likes to add mango and papaya and once even tried red pepper that she said was fun to try and “interesting,” but not destined to become a favorite. When I visited Martha, she made me a cucumber margarita that she will be featuring at the Food Slam. It was light and refreshing and perfect for a day when summer finally decides to show up in Milwaukee like it has something to prove. She was happy to share the recipe:

Guiltless Cucumber Margarita_edited-5

Joining the cucumber margarita in the lighten-up-in-taste-and-calories department is Martita’s Guiltless® Sangria. Equal parts Martita’s mix and red wine with some slices of fruit thrown in, it is more refreshing than a full glass of red. Stop by and see Martha at the Food Slam, she’s sure to be the one “guiltless” indulgence in the room.

My musical pairing: Peter Allen – “I Go to Rio”

When I have a margarita in my hand, it is hard for me not to dance and get a little cheeky. This tune has all the bounce, joy and fruitiness required. (Plus the performance featured in this video is 9000 kinds of fantastic.)

by Food Slam blogger Steph Kilen

Gettin’ Our Motor Bar and Restaurant Run In

There I was, at Motor® Bar and Restaurant at the Harley Davidson Museum, about to dig into a dish called “The Fat Boy,” a bit of an undertaking as the name implies. Everyone was talking about the upcoming 110th anniversary celebration, and then it happened; the phrase “gearing up” slipped past my lips and I was a little horrified. Luckily, I had WMSE Volunteer Coordinator, Chris DeMay as my dining partner because A) he is very amenable to sharing dishes, and B) before I could apologize for my pun transgression, Chris said, seriously and sincerely, “It’s okay. I’ll forget it.”

It was not my first transgression of the night; as I walked in wearing all primary colors, not a stitch of black or bad-ass on me, I had flashes of those scenes in movies when Joe Civilian walks into a biker bar and burly men sporting beards and leather make him aware of his mistake. Instead, I was greeted by a friendly hostess with a warm smile who immediately made me feel at home. She even stopped by during our meal to chat. The thing is, most biker folk are as friendly of folk as you’ll ever meet, and it seems Motor has drawn on that when staffing the restaurant. After all, it’s not just a “biker bar,” but a place for all of us to celebrate the legacy of Harley Davidson in Milwaukee.

The Fat Boy

The Fat Boy

So, transgressions out of the way, it was easy to settle in to enjoy the beautiful space, food and company. Chris, who once worked on a trout farm, FYI, ordered a cup of the velvety smoked trout bisque. It had nice chunks of fish and a complexity of flavor that made me believe any other soup they make is probably pretty damn good too. The aforementioned “Fat Boy” is a plate of crispy fries topped with cheddar, mozzarella, pico de gallo , cilantro, sour cream, BBQ sauce and house smoked pulled pork. Pulled pork is ubiquitous on menus these days, but this pulled pork… well, I guess I should not be surprised that Motor takes “hog” seriously. (Damn! I did it again! Sorrysorrysorry.) It was juicy, tender and tasted both like pork and smoke. They didn’t put it on the menu just because it is popular, but because they knew how to do it well. Seems they did some serious dialing in to get the BBQ sauce just right too. Since Chris helped me with the Fat Boy, I helped him with the fish tacos; a nice big piece of lightly battered cod with napa cabbage, chipotle cream, pico de gallo and chunks of queso fresco. Chris liked how he got a little bit of all the ingredients in every bite.

Chris DeMay in the "lime light" with fish tacos

Chris DeMay in the “lime light” with fish tacos

While Chris and I leaned south of the border on our food choices, Motor features mostly traditional American fare. They are particularly known for their house-breaded cheese curds, for which, Executive Sous Chef Tom Long says, folks go crazy, and the Stuffed Motor Burger, which is stuffed with bacon and cheddar and topped with that great BBQ sauce. Our waitress called it “a 10-napkin burger.”

inside Motor

inside Motor

The indoor space is open, comfortable, industrial and classy with glass walls all around and an artful metal work screen separating the bar and dining area. I imagine whoever designed it was thinking of the experience of being on a motorcycle on the open road – a tight, cozy space would feel too confined after a day with the wind in your hair. It feels pretty good if you’ve spent the day in the office too; there’s space to breathe. The outdoor space offers plenty of that too, butting up to the river, offering a nice view of the riverwalk landscaping and, if you are lucky, as Chris and I were, fireworks from the Summerfest grounds.

outside Motor (See the fireworks?)

outside Motor (See the fireworks?)

After this week’s 110th celebration, you may just catch a little Harley-Davidson fever. Motor is a great place to engage in that spirit of friendliness paired with a job-well-done that distinguishes the motorcycle legend and our fair city. It’s a pretty good place to forget your transgressions with good food and a friend, too.

Chris’s musical pairing: Blue Oyster Cult – “True Confessions” 

Chris says, “When I think of Harley-Davidson I think of Blue Oyster Cult … not entirely sure why, but the two are forever linked in my mind. Which brings me to the recent death of Blue Oyster Cult keyboard and guitar player, Allen Lanier, who shook off his mortal coil on August 14th. Lanier’s contributions to the band’s songwriting and sound are essential—as well as his work with Patti Smith, The Clash and Jim Carroll. For all those reasons, I roll out “True Confessions” from BOC’s classic 1976 album, Agents of Fortune. The song was written by Lanier and features his fine piano playing and lead vocal. See also Patti Smith’s “Elegie” and The Clash’s “Julie’s Been Working for the Drug Squad,” which also feature Lanier’s piano work. Get your motor runnin’…”

by Food Slam blogger Steph Kilen

Burger with a View at Milwaukee Ale House

Milwaukee may not have the most impressive skyline (Milwaukeeans are really not folks to boast) but around town you can find dozens of really lovely views of the city that show you what she’s made of. One such view can be found on the deck at Milwaukee Ale House. To the north, the business of the city, to the south the industrial buildings of the third ward. The river flows past connecting the old and the new and across the way, so does the rail line. It makes you feel at home and connected to a past Milwaukee – a port city, a brewery town, an industry hub. It makes you feel good…and hungry, and maybe like it might be a good time for a beer.

The view from Milwaukee Ale House deck

The view from Milwaukee Ale House deck

Milwaukee Ale House popped up in the Third Ward in the late ‘90s at the beginning of the district’s renaissance and has been serving up their Milwaukee Brewing Company beer, straight-forward American food and good times to the ever-changing and growing population of workers and inhabitants of the neighborhood (and even folks from out in the suburbs) ever since. It can be a hoppin’ place at night, especially when there is live music, but the deck is a beautiful respite from the office on a weekday afternoon, as WMSE Development Director Justin Shoman and I can attest.

Justin is pretty excited about this burger

Justin is pretty excited about this burger

It felt like a burger kind of day. Justin ordered the North Star Burger with gorgonzola, bacon and his own special addition: “You gotta have fried onions on a blue cheese burger. Everybody knows that,” he said. I pretended to know nothing of cholesterol and ordered the farmhouse burger special with applewood-smoked Carr Valley cheddar cheese, bacon and a fried egg. They were so good Justin managed to sign into The Clean Plate Club even though his burger was a hand length tall. (I had the good sense to leave a little on my plate.) This is clearly the place when you have a hankering for a really good version of a classic dish like spinach and artichoke dip, blackened chicken sandwich, tenderloin steak sandwich or pot roast, among many others. The menu features nine salads; that’s a bonus for when you are feeling the opposite of a farmhouse burger.

oh yes I did.

oh yes I did.

Plates cleared, I knew what Justin was thinking. “No, we can not sit here all afternoon and drink beer,” I said.

He groaned and wrinkled his nose. “But can we sit and enjoy the view a little longer?”

“You bet.”

Justin’s musical pairing: Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys – Orange Blossom Special

Here’s why in his own words: “A beautiful summer day with a beer and a burger on a riverside patio watching trains go by is about as an American experience as apple pie so I had to pick a bluegrass tune. Who better than the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe.  I’ve always loved trains, and the countless country and bluegrass songs about boxcars and ramblers make me want to hop the rails every time I see one.  If you don’t see me at the Food Slam, I’ll be living a hobo’s dream.”

by Food Slam blogger Steph Kilen

MKE Brewing Love Fest

MKE Brewing/WMSE love fest

MKE Brewing/WMSE love fest

I believe taking brewery tours is a civic duty if you are a Milwaukeean. I used to think they were just something to do when friends came from out of town, but here’s the thing; If you’re from Milwaukee, it just seems like you should be able to tell anyone who might stop you on the street how beer is made. It’s a matter of pride and history and the evolution of the city. Plus, you can get a buzz while you’re learning. Milwaukee Brewing Company  is a fun place to do just that.

WMSE Development Director Justin Shoman and I grabbed a few friends and joined the crowd gathered at the 2nd Street brewery to learn about the operation that has been bringing us Louise’s Demise  and Pull Chain Ale  since 1997. Upon arrival we were handed a MKE Brewing pint glass and asked with what we would like it filled. Then, after a charming introductory video, Jeremy, our tour guide,  gave us the agenda for the rest of the tour. “I blather at you, we go get beer. I blather at you some more, we go get more beer, etc.,” he said. The group seemed pretty amenable to this plan.

Justin Shoman and gang ready to take on civic responsibility

Justin Shoman and gang ready to take on civic responsibility

I will not lie, I seem to remember the stuff from the beginning of the tour a little better, as one might imagine, like all the great ways MKE Brewing uses green technology to make their product including solar energy, sending the used mash to Growing Power for use in compost, and water conservation. They are so committed to recycling, if a bottle is not filled properly, instead of dumping the beer out, they drink it.

Jeremy Stern gives us the brewing lowdown

Jeremy Stern gives us the brewing lowdown

I’m not going to tell you all we learned on anyway, because the brewery tour is your civic duty, too. In fact, when you take the tour, find the answers to these questions to prove your devotion to the industry that made Milwaukee famous:

1)    From what 70s TV icon  did the brewery purchase equipment?

2)    Before prohibition, Wisconsin led the country in production of what?

3)    How is the brewery kept at a reasonable temperature?

4)    Beer tastes better out of a (fill in the blank).

Milwaukee Brewing offers several year-round and seasonal beers fitting the varied palates of our party members. Justin and I were particularly fond of Black Iron, an India Black Ale. Somebody did not bother trying the other beers and stuck to refills of this black beauty.

WMSE has a mutual love fest with Milwaukee Brewing. They have been long-time sponsors of both the Food Slam and Chili Cook-off, donating a significant portion of the beer for both events. As further proof of the fine pairing of brewery and radio station, while we were there we ran into WMSE Music Director Erin Wolf and Brandon Malacara who happened to be sporting some WMSE swag.

two-fisted WMSE Music Director Erin Wolf

two-fisted WMSE Music Director Erin Wolf

more love fest

more love fest

Milwaukee may be the butt of jokes and the holder of certain reputations because of its brewing foundation (possibly, of course, because of one debatably hilarious/corny TV show ), and while perhaps we are sometimes deserving of said jokes and reputation, a tour at Milwaukee Brewing Company can bring out a certain pride of living in a city that, like the folks at the brewery, is innovative, hard working, committed to craft and, of course, fun-loving.

Justin’s musical pairing: “Drunk Girls” LCD Sound-system

by Food Slam blogger Steph Kilen

Milwaukee Pizza Party

Last week, the WMSE conference room turned into a vulture den as the staff and I circled a couple of pizza ovens where Erik Bugos of Milwaukee Pizza Company was preparing lunch. Erick was very patient and we took turns stepping up beside him as if somehow that would make the pizzas cook faster.

It was hard to hold everyone back from the pizza long enough to take this photo

It was hard to hold everyone back from the pizza long enough to take this photo

Milwaukee Pizza Company got started almost by accident. Erik and partner Nick Smith were running batting cages and decided to make their own pizzas for the birthday parties they hosted. The pizzas were a big, er, hit, and soon they were being served at Art Bar and stocked in a couple corner stores. Two years later, you can find them at grocery stores all around town. Thank goodness.

Milwaukee Pizza Company pizzas are, as you’d expect, Milwaukee style pizza; thin, crispy, flaky crust. But it’s not just the crust that takes its inspiration from our hometown. They honor the city with pizzas called Milwaukee Beer Brat and Lakeside Deluxe, and by using locally made toppings whenever possible.

When the timer on the ovens finally went off, we descended. First up was Milwaukee Beer Brat topped with a cheddar ale base, Usingers brat slices, green and white onion and more cheddar. A general moan moved through the room as everyone took a bite. Brat pizza sounds like a gimmick, but the cheddar ale base gives it complex flavor. Two bites in and I was making plans to stock the freezer with these.

Milwaukee Beer Brat pizza

Milwaukee Beer Brat pizza

Having had our first taste, we were a little more patient in waiting for the Lakeside Deluxe, which was good because even after it came out of the oven we had to wait a bit; hot pepperoni juice is dangerous. Along with the all-beef pepperoni, this one features sausage, mushroom, green pepper and onion. This “traditional” pizza particularly pleased Tom Crawford, a pizza purist.

The Herbivore is definitely not a “traditional” pizza. Ryan Schleicher drew funny looks when he said it tasted like a really good vegetable soup, but somehow he was right on. Artichoke hearts, arugula, cilantro, onion, red pepper, cheddar and garlic infused olive oil come together atop this pizza in a well-balanced, fresh tasting blend of flavors. No wonder; Erik said that toppings on all the pizzas go on fresh, and then they freeze the pizzas themselves. Each one is shaped and topped by hand and I swear you can taste that.

I am of the belief that the frozen pizza is the most perfect convenience food; easy to make, easy to eat and gets your belly full. But when was the last time you took a bite of a frozen pizza and made yummy noises? It’s pretty cool that these guys have elevated it to a meal to actually look forward to. We’re certainly looking forward to seeing them at the Food Slam. There’s a good chance you’ll see someone from the WMSE staff circling their table.

by Food Slam blogger Steph Kilen

Red Rockin’ BBQ

Should you find yourself on Water Street for the kind of fun Water Street is known for, you would do well to start out the evening (or finish it) at Red Rock Saloon. Nothing sets you up for a night on the town like a belly full of BBQ.

Though WMSE Station Manager Tom Crawford and I were planning a more subdued evening, we dropped into Red Rock and were treated to a sampler platter covering all the major meat groups (pulled pork, brisket and chicken wings) as well as two representatives from classic BBQ sides (cowboy beans and chipotle mac-n-cheese) and a representative of the bar food group (shoe string onion rings). The brisket, pork and wings gave us plenty of opportunities to explore Red Rock’s sauces. The KC Jones sauce is full of smoke and molasses, the RR Signature sauce is a sweet traditional BBQ sauce, and the Outlaw sauce – well, Tom said you could put a little of that on a shoe and it would taste good. It’s got a great kick, and Tom did, in fact, put it on everything but his shoes.

Southern delight in downtown MKE

Southern delight in downtown MKE

Tom also said the beans were about as good as any homemade beans you’re going to get. You can taste the bacon in these beans, giving them a nice smoky flavor. Mac-n-cheese is almost always fun; throw chipotle in there and it’s electric bull riding kind of fun. (Yup, they have one at Red Rock. Though you should probably wait a while after eating before riding it.)

Now, perhaps you are worried about our nutrition. “Where are the veg?” you might ask. Don’t worry, Mama, there was also a nice big plate of deep fried pickles with southwest ranch sauce. Tom said I needed to fess up and tell y’all this was my first experience with fried pickles. All I can say is, what took me so long? If there was ever a perfect bar food, it would have to be deep fried pickles. I hogged the ranch sauce while Tom pinstriped his with the Outlaw sauce. Being a deep friend pickle virgin, Tom schooled me in the delicacy explaining that Red Rock does them the right way; sliced long and thick. I appreciated the fact that the breading was crispy and not greasy, helping me pretend these gorgeous little suckers were actually good for me.

The veg group: deep fried pickles

The veg group: deep fried pickles

Red Rock has been a frequent participant in both the WMSE Chili Cook-off and The Food Slam. When you drop in to get yourself all full of BBQ, you’ll see their awards from the events displayed on the wall.

Tom suggests these musical pairings to go with Red Rock’s messy finger food fun: “Consumption” by ZZ Top  and “Thunder Chucker” by Raging Slab.

by Food Slam blogger Steph Kilen

Anticipation Burger Task Force

The countdown to Food Slam has begun, and the anticipation is killing you. Nearly 30 local food vendors, a building full of cool people, plus paintings of gemologists, rope weavers and a guy performing surgery on himself – Come on! Of course you’re excited. But, a month’s a long time to dance around like a kid waiting for Santa. Never fear! Anticipation Burger Task Force is here to get you through until the big day.

Grab your wet-naps and forget about your waistline because Palomino  joins Comet Café  and Honeypie  this year in serving up the love for WMSE. Each restaurant is featuring two different burgers; one carnivore, one veg. That means six different burgers waiting for you throughout the city. Two dollars from the purchase of every burger goes to WMSE. If you eat all six, you will be the proud owner of a special edition foam finger that you can use to point to your belly as further proof of your commitment to the cause.

Adam Lucks and the chefs of each restaurant really knocked it out of the park this year. While I found whatever burger I was eating at the moment was my favorite, I must admit, even though I am a meat lover, the veg burgers really made me swoon. Grab a friend, or a stranger, and go halfsies; best of both worlds, no other-plate-envy, no spontaneous wrestling in the restaurants.

The Juicy Details

Comet

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The Collections of Colonies of Beef burger is so great it doesn’t need bacon, but after all, it is Comet and well, you’ll be happy it’s on there. The patties are a mix of chorizo and beef. You could call it “berizo” or “choreef,” but either way, I call it delightful. Mild white cheddar, ancho ranch sauce and chimicurri add brightness and smoke and a little something to stick it all together. Musical pairing: “Lawn” Collections of Colonies of Bees

Smoked paprika feta. Like an earworm, these three words rolled around in my head for hours after eating the Def Farmonic burger. This veg burger is actually made of vegetables: roasted summer squashes, red pepper and onion mixed with chickpeas, cornmeal and carrot. Topped with heirloom tomato slices, sherry aioli and the aforementioned spiced cheese, the Def Farmonic is a delicious mess. Musical pairing: “My Own Devices” Def Harmonic

Honeypie

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Do not be scared by the chili con carne, fried jalapenos and pepperjack cheese on the Call Meat Lightning. The combo is super flavorful, but will not give you hot mouth. This burger represents everything we’ve come to love about Honeypie; comfort food that is just a bit over the top. “We couldn’t just do jalapenos,” said Honeypie chef Eli Murphy. “We had to deep fry them.” Excellent idea. Musical pairing: “Soft Skeletons” Call Me Lightning

The Chickpea Flambeau is proof that a burger can be refreshing. A falafel patty topped with tabouli and lemon tahini dressing is light, but not lightweight. It’s a really satisfying version of the classic Middle Eastern combo. Musical pairing: “I Don’t Want to Be an Eddy” Couch Flambeau

Palomino

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Welcome to the Anticipation Burger Task Force, Palomino! We’re so glad you joined us! The Compound Red Meat burger is all sorts of Southern spin goodness. You had me at fried green tomato and sealed the deal with the bacon, poblano relish and house made beer vinegar aioli. The toppings themselves would make a great sandwich, but they don’t over power the flavor of the grass-fed beef patty. Musical pairing: “J Hates Too” Compound Red

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If you have had a bad day, John the Sandwich will snuggle you up with its tasty walnut patty and distract you from your troubles with its collard green and summer vegetable kimchi and sriracha veganise. You should try it even if you’re in a good mood. It’s comfort food that’s also a mouth party. Musical pairing: “Jungle” John the Savage

There you have it; plenty of instant gratification for you while you cross off the days to September 13th.  Go forth and eat! (And get your Food Slam tickets!)

by Food Slam blogger, Steph Kilen

Beans & Barley: Tasty AND Good for You

There is a reason the restaurant at Beans & Barley is a Milwaukee institution: tasty, good for you food. Ideally, all our meals would be just that. But often they are one or the other, or neither, so eating at the affectionately nicknamed “Beans” is always a treat. Having lunch with the lone carrier of the xx chromosome on the WMSE staff, Music Director Erin Wolf, was a treat as well.

 

WMSE Music Director Erin Wolf presents black bean and sweet potato burrito

Fittingly, Beans is known for its burritos, so we ordered up a favorite of Erin’s mom and our server, sweet potato and black bean. It’s clear they know how to do a burrito. The elements and flavors are well balanced, it’s pretty hearty and all the stuff is tucked in tight so you can eat it by hand (though Erin and I went for the ladylike approach with utensils). Branching out was a hard decision as the menu is full of so many healthy and interesting options. We went with the fishcake sandwich which was all sorts of comfort food. What is it about beige colored foods that make you feel all snuggly? The tilapia fishcake was crispy on the outside, tender inside and served with a barley and veg salad that was a fantastic combo of nutty and fresh tasting.

Cozy little fishcake

Even on a rainy day and especially on a sunny one, that huge wall of window and lime green walls make Beans a cheery room. Cherry pie goes really well with a good mood so we had to wrap up the meal with a slice. We were pretty excited to find it of the sour/tart cherry variety. A little oatmeal crumble on top and a generous side of real whip cream put it over the top. This was damn. good. pie.

Happy girl with pie

“In a nutshell, this was really satisfying,” Erin said. “You really feel like you ate good food, like mom has cooked for you.” Erin who once lived on the East side says Beans is part of the perfect East side night trifecta: dinner at Beans, a movie at the Oriental and a drink and popcorn at Von Triers.

Erin’s musical pairing pays homage to the city that supports those great institutions, and local music: The local band, The Trusty Knife. “When I lived on the East side, I frequented Beans pretty often and got to know some of the Beans employees who were also involved in the local music scene. I’d notice the familiar faces from shows when I went in to grab groceries, a coffee or dinner. Past and present musicians who work (or worked) at Beans include Doom Buggy, The Scarring Party, Druome, Call Me Lightning, Jonathan Burks, Deprong Mori, Heavy Hand and The Trusty Knife (among more), but among those, Trusty Knife is one the one I’d highlight, for I think their music reflects the easygoing and upbeat energy of the establishment. Milwaukee food culture is heavily linked with its local music culture, and I think that’s a pretty cool realization in regards to the history/stories and community it builds and has been building for years.”

Yours, in cheery satisfaction,

Steph Kilen

Jownai Fouquet: Mouth Party

It was a mouth party at Jownai Fouquet. Everyone was there; crunchy, velvety, sweet, spicy, fresh and all the rest. WMSE Station Manager Tom Crawford and I were there too and boy, did we have fun.

As of last year’s Food Slam, Jownai Fouquet was not yet open in the space that was formerly Abu’s, but the curry they offered at the event had us pretty excited about the prospect. A year later they have made the space their own, a whole lot of gorgeous packed into that little building. Done in pastels and lovely wood inlay, the modern room is calming yet lively. The BBC’s Planet Earth is projected on a wall.

Fresh and happy veg in Cream of Awesome Soup

Our meal started with Thai ginger soup or as Tom calls it, “cream of awesome soup.” Big chunks of vegetable and chicken and many of sticks of fresh ginger float in a coconut broth that is so rich and velvety Tom calls it “sexy.” It is. It really is.

The server brought Tom a tall glass that looked like it was filled with the sunset pattern that graced household furnishings in the ‘70s. When I asked him what it was, Tom informed me it was “angel tears” and offered me a taste. How did I not know about Thai ice tea?! What joy! The creamy sweetness would certainly come in handy as the meal heated up.

A glass of “angel tears” watches over crunchy fried shrimp

The spring rolls were extremely fresh and included shrimp and chicken. The coconut shrimp were the most perfect example of fried food I’d ever had. The breading was super crunchy and delicate and not one bit greasy. There were big, happy sighs all around.

Fat noodle happiness

Could it get any better? Yes, indeed. For the main course we had fat noodles with shrimp and red curry with chicken. The noodles were that fun sort of squishy/gummy that they should be without crossing the line into goopy/pasty and the sauce offered up the salty/sweet/spicy trifecta of good Thai food in perfect balance. (Warning, I’m about to gush…)  The red curry was flat out amazing. Once again the vegetables were really fresh and the chicken was done really well. And, it was hot. Owner and cook Aom explained Jownai’s heat scale, which basically runs 1 to 3. The red curry is a 1. Tom and I both like our food quite spicy, ordering on the upper level of heat scale in most restaurants, and this did the trick and got us sweating toward the end. Aom said what passes for “medium” in other restaurants is half of their 1. At Jownai, 2 is “native” and 3, well, I don’t even want to think about it. One seemed perfect to us. Enough kick to get the endorphins up but not too much that you couldn’t taste how great the rest of the flavors in the dish were.

Tom says, “THAT, is amazing.” Red curry mouth party.

Having eaten all we could possibly fit into our bellies, Tom summed it up, “The food here is really top shelf. This is my new favorite Thai place. I’m not kidding.” The man does not kid about something like that.

Tom’s musical pairing: “Cataclysmic” and “Seaward Say” by Perfect Angel. He says, “They are an Indonesian post rock shoe gazer outfit. Like a warm south seas breeze. Their sounds would offset and subjugate all that was on my plate. All fragrances and spicy heat. The band sounds nothing like the traditional music of their country of origin. Some bands use their country’s musical  traditions and westernize them to make pop songs. This band does not do that overtly like so many bands would do. Yet there’s a just and sincere tone to the compositions that’s so subconsciously far east.  Ethereal Post Rock Shoe Gazer Red Curry Coconuts!”

Yours, eating like it’s 1999

Steph Kilen

Bike Raffle: Bike off the Food Slam Calories

Oh, Ben’s Cycle  you are so kind to once again donate a killer bike for the Food Slam raffle! It’s a white Bianchi Milano. Ain’t she a beaut? Your friends will be so jealous when you ride by and wave “Ciao!” Grazie mille, Ben’s Cycle. You guys are the best!

Steve at Ben’s Cycle musical pairing: “The Boogie Man” by Todd Rollins and his Orchestra. “On those late night fall rides, watch out for the Boogie Man!” Steve says.

SALA: Happy Meal

Volunteer Coordinator Chris DeMay sooo happy at SALA

Good food is a treat. But good company and good atmosphere really make the dining experience.  The WMSE Food Slam has all that in spades, do did my visit to SALA. WMSE Volunteer Coordinator Chris DeMay and I had one of those dinners that leaves you smiling until you fall asleep.

Run by Teresa Balistreri, a peach of a gal if ever there was one, and her brother Tony, SALA  (the restaurant formerly known as Sala da Pranzo) has recently been remodeled and its menu given a bit of new spin as well. It’s cozy, lively and friendly and the same can be said of its food. Everything about it has an energy that makes you comfortable and happy. It’s lovely to feel like something special is going on right at your table while something else special is going on in the room around you. One of the joys of eating out is being part of a convivial communion. SALA is the place for that.

You’ll find a menu full of Italian favorites, all sounding so good it’s hard to choose. Chris and I settled on classic bruschette, beet, arugula and goat cheese salad, saltinbocca and one of the night’s several specials, lasagna. If ever two things were happy together it’s tomatoes and bread. A crunchy and fresh combo is a great, if messy, way to get your appetite going. (Seriously, has anybody ever been able to eat bruschette gracefully?) Speaking of grace, the beet, goat cheese and arugula salad was all sorts of delicate, each element of great quality, making it a really good version of this favorite. The lasagna delighted in similar ways. “It’s exactly what you want from lasagna,” Chris said. “It’s really well layered and the ricotta is so creamy.” Each bite was a little different, showing off more quality ingredients, all playing so well together whatever combination came in the forkful.

The saltinbocca, chicken breasts topped with prosciutto and parmesan over angel hair pasta with a sage beurre blanc, well, I wanted to just snuggle right into the plate. “Velvety and fortifying,” Chris said. Perfectly done chicken breasts, a rarity when eating out, I find, made it even better.

By the time we were taking our lasts bites, I’m pretty sure we were glowing, prompting Chris to say, “They do it really well here; to create something special out of something people do (eat) several times a day.” Which brings us to Chris’s musical pairing: “Great meals, like great records, are journeys of the mind and senses. At best, something that takes the participant on a ride—not merely from point A to B—but to another place altogether new and original, a world unto its own. One record that comes to mind is Ghost of the Great Highway by Sun Kil Moon —Mark Kozelek’s masterpiece from 2003. It sustains as well as enriches the listener. It never fails to take me somewhere.”

yours on a convivial journey,

Steph Kilen

Terra: So Full

WMSE Development Director Justin Shoman and the beloved enchiladas verde

One of the best things about living in Milwaukee: numerous Mexican restaurants, each with its own specialties. The newest, Terra, which opened in May, just west of 6th Street on National Ave., well, they have the best enchiladas verde in the city. There. Said it. Mean it. WMSE Development Director Justin Shoman will back me up. Not too much tang and the perfect amount of heat in the sauce, fresh avocado and cream on the top, very tasty steak inside and enough of it to feed a small radio station staff.

Ceviche: shrimps love being tucked in under blankets of avocado

Bless Justin and his willingness to share dishes because we both got to try the chili rellenos and ceviche, also specialties, as well. The shrimp ceviche was beautiful, fresh and, Justin noted, “really citrusy – just the way I like it.” It was hard to pull away from it to try the other dishes. Like the verde, the rellenos sauce was well balanced with a lot of flavor layers, and the chilies were stuffed with a lot of cheese. And again, the spice level was right in the sweet spot. I made a fantastic mess of eating it but could not have cared less. Food messes are the best kind of messes. Justin and I kept trying to stop eating, but this was really one of those meals that while our stomachs were full, our mouths kept begging for one more bite.

Run by a small staff and in a small space, Terra is warm and lovely. Nibardo Sepulveda, our host for lunch said, “We didn’t want to have sombreros and Corona flags.” Indeed it feels very different from the other Mexican restaurants in the area. Done in earth tones, the dining room features mosaic tables and a bar made by Nibardo and his two partners and striking original art. The menu features around 100 items including American favorites and a few Greek dishes. They serve breakfast all day. That’s the kind of thought that makes one’s heart swell. Perhaps it will catch up with your stomach.

Justin’s musical pairing for Terra is “Islero” by Crooked Fingers. He said, “It’s a beautiful song with this great Spanish guitar and slowly building trumpet part. I can remember the first time I heard this song, I listened to it 4 or 5 times in a row. I would do the same thing with this meal if I weren’t so damn full.”

It’s exciting to have such a new restaurant be part of the Food Slam. At the event – because you’re going, right? – be sure to wish them a warm welcome.

yours, rolling out the door and down the street

Steph Kilen

Burger Update

You’ve done a fine job of showing your love for WMSE and the great food at Honeypie and Comet Cafe so far:

Honeypie: 344 total - 253 atomic, 91 modern

Comet:  544 total - 340 atomic, 204 modern

If you are craving a second go at one of these burgers or haven’t yet gotten in on the action, you have just until Sunday to grab one (and they’re not sold during Sunday brunch). You don’t want to be pouting come Monday, do you?

Purple Door Ice Cream & Clock Shadow Creamery: Dairy Delight

Could there be a better way to start the day than with ice cream and cheese? A sunny Tuesday morning is a pretty great time to visit Purple Door Ice Cream  and Clock Shadow Creamery. But if you are the kind of Milwaukeean who has love of dairy in your blood, I can’t think of a bad time to visit.

Lauren Schultz, who owns and runs Purple Door with her husband Steve, is just the sort of person you want to see first thing in the morning, friendly and the right amount of cheerful, like a scoop of chocolate ice cream, which she quickly offers. Unbeknownst to Lauren, I’ve been on a search for a really good chocolate ice cream, and there it was, right in our own backyard. In addition to really, really good chocolate flavor, what makes it so good, and all of Purple Door ice cream for that matter, is that it is not just ice cream, or premium ice cream, but super premium ice cream, a distinction which means it is 14% or higher butterfat. Oh, yeah. Even the lemon sorbet is creamy, and yes, delicious, like I-want-to-drive-back-there-right-now delicious.

Testimonial: chocolate ice cream so good I ate it all before I could take a picture

So, there’s all that butterfat and almost all natural and/or local ingredients (chocolate don’t grow ‘round these parts and it’s hard to get a caramel that doesn’t freeze hard), but I’m inclined to believe part of the reason it tastes so good is that Lauren first conceived of the Purple Door in middle school. When she and her friends talked about what they wanted to do when they grew up, Lauren said she wanted to run an ice cream shop and call it the Purple Door. “Twenty years later, here I am,” she said.

Purple Door Ice Cream shares the space on the first floor of the Clock Shadow Building (which has its own fascinating story) with Clock Shadow Creamery. Clock Shadow Creamery is an offshoot of Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain, WI, but it has its own focus. “We really wanted to make cheese locally, right in the community” said Sarah Marcks, storefront, sales and outreach manager, “and to tread softly on the environment,” making them a perfect fit for the environmentally friendly, socially conscious, Clock Shadow Building.

With little room for storage, Clock Shadow Creamery focuses on making fresh cheese, an operation you can watch from the storefront.They currently offer juusto, cheddar cheese curds and quark (“like the sub-atomic particle,” Sarah said). Wheels of cheddar aging in the case still have some time before their ready. The creamery will be offering the Wisconsin favorite, curds, and a European favorite, quark, at the Food Slam.

Good morning! Would you like a cheese curd?

I don’t mind if I do. And while I can’t muster the restraint to wait long enough for it to warm up to the point of squeak, it is, indeed all that a curd should be and has real cheddar flavor, not like those curd-in-name-only kind of things you may have had about the state. Sarah said she recently took some home and ate the whole bag in bed. Her smile at revealing this betrays her bliss. They post their fresh curd days on Facebook and have folks who follow them just to jump on that info.

Squeak, squeak, squeak

Quark is as fun as the curd. (Say that a few times to prove it!) Sarah describes it as a cross between ricotta and cream cheese, very popular in Europe. The fun is in its versatility, it can be used in sweet or savory dishes and the creamery offers garlic and dill, and maple syrup varieties. Indeed, it is a taste shifter, giving different, but equally pleasing enjoyment when Sarah suggests drizzling honey on my second sample.

I left that little dairy heaven on 2nd and Bruce ready to face the day and so excited to see them again at the Food Slam. With a belly full of ice cream and cheese, I half expected a choir to greet me on the street to tell me it was going to be a good day. So, my musical pairing for Purple Door Ice Cream and Clock Shadow Creamery is “Light and Day” by Polyphonic Spree. This song is like rainbows and sparkles and the opening scene from Sound of Music (otherwise known as “the feeling of eating dairy products”) mixed with the collage of life and architecture in the 5th ward.

Presale for Food Slam tickets ends Friday, Sept 28 at 5 pm. If you want to ensure your feeling of spinning around on a mountain top with your arms stretched wide you better get on it!

Yours in dairy state pride,

Steph Kilen

Silent Auction Feature: Metal, Mark and Makin’ Stuff

Mark Winter and some of his minions

It’s an idyllic scene: A dozen wild turkeys waddle by, bees are busy at their hive, wild flowers envelope corpses of vehicles and machines, sparks fly and metal music blares. It’s the Menomonee Falls studio of artist Mark Winter and he is hard at work preparing for Plaza Art Fair in Kansas City, the prestigious SOFA Art and Design show and the WMSE Food Slam Silent Auction.

Amidst a collection of oil cans, a variety of metal objects and scraps (all organized neatly), animal skulls and things that shoot fire, Mark’s sculptures, charming and deviant at once, like their maker, hang out like a small army of misproportioned minions. Among others, there’s a slightly larger than life Billy goat, a sort of post apocalyptic minnie mouse with accessory weapons and Nodding Bob, for the silent auction, nodding agreement, understanding, impatience, to the beat of the music or just nodding off. You can see he has enough attitude to do whatever he wants.

Nodding Bob

Mark’s sculpture is just one of the many intriguing silent auction items awaiting your bid at at the Food Slam.

Mark is a long-time supporter of and volunteer for the radio station. “When I’m making art, music is very important to me,” he says, “There’s no other station in Milwaukee than WMSE that plays the music I need to make my art.” For example, Mark’s musical pairing: “The Soapmakers” by Clutch. “It’s got a good beat and when I hear it I jump up and down and I’m happy when I’m working. There’s no way you’d here that anywhere but WMSE.”

Time Square Bistro & Atomic Chocolate Company: Feel good food

Soup, pizza, bread, mac-n-cheese and chocolate. Sean Henninger of Times Square Bistro and Atomic Chocolate Company takes these comfort food classics to a new level; let’s call it “pamper food.” I say this not because there’s some decadent ingredient added to the classic or that it’s anything fancy-schmancy, but because they are done very, very well.

If you’ve ever stopped into Times Square you may have noticed an interesting pig related special. The day WMSE’s Promotion Director  Ryan Schleicher and I stopped in for lunch did not disappoint in this department (or any department for that matter). Soup of the day: roasted hog head. Yup, he roasted a hog’s head, pulled off the meat, threw in some cannellini beans and some other magic and came up with a soup I will dream about for years to come. Ryan said it was “succulent.” I’d say he’s about right. A warning about eating soup with Ryan. “I get mad when people don’t dunk their bread in their soup,” he said. Good to know, and good thing soup and pizza come with wonderful little hot buns covered in butter.

Roasted Hog Head Soup aka Hog Heaven

Ryan also said, “Sean is such an unassuming creative force.” He’s right about that too. Sean talks about his food with restrained joy and pride. You’d never guess a place tucked into a gas station strip mall could blow your socks off. But Honey, my feet are bare! As one might imagine, Times Square does New York style pizza; crust crisp then chewy, pie cut into triangles, not Milwaukee squares. (Though Sean jokes he’ll cut squares for a dollar extra.) It’s, frankly, pretty perfect.

And then the mac-n-cheese, which just may be making an appearance at a certain WMSE event in a couple of weeks. Yowza. Sean said he resisted putting it on the menu, first because “it’s one of those things you make at home that’s never as good at a restaurant,” and secondly because the Milwaukee restaurant where it was really good, Social, had been once up the street. Social closed and Sean decided to put it on the menu. Thank the Polish Moon he did! Until I had this mac-n-cheese I completely agreed with Sean about restaurant versions. “The pasta’s perfectly cooked!” Ryan said, “Look at that sauce! It’s so creamy! How’d he get it so creamy?”  Indeed the sauce is so tasty one imagines there is a certain amount of alchemy going on in there, but certainly the cheese blend is one of the many things it has going for it; provolone, cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella and monterey jack. For our visit, Sean tucked some home made garlic and sage sausage in with the pasta. There was so much making of yummy noises at our table it was almost obscene.

WMSE Promotions Director Ryan Schleicher and a big plate of cheesy goodness

Right in Times Square Bistro is Sean’s other brilliant baby, Atomic Chocolate Company, which will also be delighting us all at Food Slam. This is the kind of chocolate that should be eaten slowly. It’s crazy creamy. You owe it to yourself to spend time letting it linger in your mouth, you really do. Sean’s creativity come through in flavors such as cinnamon/lavender, pumpkin spice, whiskey macadamia nut and Ryan’s selection, mango/habanero – a combo he said was a perfect balance of tart, heat and coco. Like the pizza and mac-n-cheese, the raspberry and peanut butter classics are so, so good they will ruin you for all others.

Ryan’s Musical Pairing: “I Only Have Eyes for You” by The Complexions

“It was a feel-good meal in a feel good place so I chose a song that has a lot of feel-good associations.”

Of course there is the New York association with the song on the soundtrack to A Bronx Tale. “I think about blue collar stiffs sharing life with the mobster elite and how they all worship the ritual of food. Times Square and Sean care about the ritual of food and the care and thought required to not simply make and serve food, but to carefully craft and serve great food, food that is so good that if feels like it was cooked just for you.”

Ryan, who also hosts The Disclaimer on WMSE Wednesdays noon-12:30 and who you may have heard  filling in for Dick on The Richard Nice Show on Thursdays from noon – 3pm, suggests  pairing a Times Square meal with Terry Havel’s Doo Wop Corner, which airs at 4 pm every other Wednesday on WMSE. “You can not listen to the Doo Wop corner without feeling good. And in my experience, you can’t visit Times Square Pizza without feeling good. ‘I only have eyes for you’ is also a sentiment tied to when I’m eating there and experiencing what Sean creates, the rest of the world need not bother me.”

Tickets to the 11th Annual WMSE Food Slam are 50% sold. Advance ticket sales end September 28th. You better get yours soon; they’ve sold out the last three years and we wouldn’t want you to miss out on Times Square’s pamper food and all the other deliciousness.

Yours in a big fat cloud of food bliss,

Steph Kilen

Burger smack talk

I’m not naming names, but there’s been some smack talk regarding the Modern Milwaukee Family Burger (aka the veggie) and the Atomic Milwaukee Family Burger (aka the beef) and their gracious hosts Honeypie and Comet Cafe. It seems one venue and one burger are outdoing the others, and that one venue and one burger might be saying some stuff about the other burger and the other venue, but you didn’t hear it from me.

As of Sept 17:

Comet: 223 Atomic, 118 Modern

Honeypie: 115 Atomic, 76 Modern

So, you vegetarians in Bay View might want to up your game and you meat lovers on the East Side should not talk smack with your mouths full. Wherever you live and whatever you eat, you’ve got just until the end of the month to gobble up one of these treats for the love of WMSE.

Yours in the spirit of friendly competition,

Steph Kilen

 

Eat a burger, support WMSE

WMSE Development Director Justin Shoman at Comet Cafe

WMSE Development Director Justin Shoman at Comet Cafe

Once again the good folks at Comet Cafe and Honeypie  have created a couple delicious masterpieces to get us all geared up for the WMSE Food Slam. Two dollars from the sale of each burger will go to support WMSE, while all the calories will go to support your joie de vivre, some of which you may choose to exercise by coloring your placemat while you wait for your burger.

Someone is not so good at staying in the lines

Someone is not so good at staying in the lines

 

I admit, when I saw Hooks Creamery 5-year aged cheddar in the description of the Atomic Milwaukee Family Burger, my first reaction was to stop reading and just say, “Yup. Right there. Want that.” That is the cheese that would get me to give up State secrets if I had any. Throw in the Wisconsin grass-fed beef patty, compote made from Brightonwoods Orchards apples, bacon from Pritzlaff Wholesale Meats and, you know, the lettuce and you’ve got an ideal version of the classic withjust the right amount of sumthin’ extra. (Because every good atomic Milwaukee family has just enough crazy to make you love it just that much more.)

Every modern family needs a blue cat

Every modern family needs a blue cat

 

The no-animals-on-my-plate-please folks have something to be excited about too. The Modern Milwaukee Family burger knocks the meat-free patty on a bun thing out of the park. Even if you are the sort who tends to work around animal protein substitutes, that is to say the concept of “fieldroast” confounds you much the way a spork does, the Modern Family would be a great place to break new frontiers. I am so glad I was able to see through the pink cloud of food lust created by the Atomic to get on board with the Modern because I can’t honestly say which I prefer. Fieldroast hazelnut patty,  topped with pistachio relish – a condiment that gives ketchup and mustard a run for their money, veganaise and locally grown tomatoes and lettuce. It pretty much rocks and has changed the way I look at veggie burgers. Keeping with family theme, there is something very comfort food about this one, something Modern Mom or Dad would make you when you’ve had a rough day. So, if you are a carnivore who appreciates the full culinary spectrum, don’t choose just one; find a kindred spirit, order both burgers and split them. Thanks to WMSE Development Director Justin Shoman and Megan Daniels for getting on board with this plan and relieving me of the burden of having to make a painful decision.

Go get your burger on and then get your tickets for the Food Slam where you’ll be wrapped in even more love of food and WMSE.

Yours in nomnomnom,

Steph Kilen, Food Slam Blogger

Good Times and Danke! Gracias! Cheers! Thanks! Ta! You Rock!

Good times were had by all at the 10th annual Food Slam this past Friday night. Thanks to all you spectacular Slammers for coming to eat, drink, bid, and support WMSE, making Friday’s fiesta the biggest, funnest, and successfullest Slam to date!

And hey, check out that sweet video up there expertly shot in a gritty, dizzying, hand-held style by yours truly, Food Slam blogger Erin Harris. I think I missed my calling, Milwaukee. Writing, schmiting. I was meant to be a cinematographer on classic films such as Saving Private Ryan, etc. JK. But do dig the tune by magnificent Milwaukee musician and musical mastermind Rick.

Oh and big, big thanks to the fine local establishments that provided the awesome auction items, and a special shout-out to the following delicious vendors for supplying the tasty vittles:

Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co., Atomic Chocolate Co., Ball ‘N Biscuit Catering, Beans & Barley, Blue’s Egg, Bolzano Artisan Meats, Centro Cafe, Chubby Cheese Truck, Eat Cake!, Hector’s On Delaware, Indulgence Chocolatiers, Jake’s Deli, Jow Nai Fouquet Thai, Kasana Concierge Gourmet, Martita’s Mixers, Maxie’s Southern Comfort, McBob’s Pub & Grill, Milwaukee Ale House, Molly Cool’s Seafood Tavern, The Noble, Outpost Natural Foods, Paciugo Gelato, Purple Door Ice Cream, Red Rock Saloon, Revolucion Mexican Restaurant, The Rumpus Room, Sala da Pranzo, SPiN Milwaukee, Times Square Bistro & Pizzeria, and The Wicked Hop

Nectarous! Cheers! See you next year!

–Erin Harris

Food Slam Sold Out

That’s all. If you got tickets, we’ll Slam with you tonight.

Oh, and you should all probably eat a light lunch. You’ll want your full appetite come tonight.

Food Slam! Tomorrow Night! Rock!

Hungry Slammers unite! A few things to keep in mind about the Food Slam that’s goin’ on tomorrow night from 6 till 10 p.m. at the Grohmann Museum on the campus of MSOE:

  1. There might be one or two tickets left. Sales stop tonight at six, so get down to the station before then if you want to get your taste buds rocked tomorrow night.
  2. Don’t forget that when you bring two or more nonperishable items to donate to the Hunger Task Force, you get a ticket for the free beverage of your choice.
  3. The Food Slam ain’t just about tasty vittles—it’s also a bidding slam for getting awesome deals on sweet stuff like such as the following for instance:
  • Starting at just fifty smackers is a makeup party for four, a unique experience that includes a one-on-one makeup application and lesson with Blush’s premier artists! Bring out the feather pillows, the Cyndi Lauper records, and the margarita mix, ladies, cuz the girls are gonna have some fun!
  • Two pairs of tickets to any of the Brew City Bruisers’ exciting home-season bouts! Get out the Band-Aids, the crutches, and the steaks for them black eyes! Wait . . . you’re just a spectator—no first aid kit necessary. Just bring the good times! OK—the Bruisers supply those too . . . and lots of ‘em. How ‘bout just bring your splendid self and your vigorous vocal chords for cheerin’?!!
  • You must be a luckystar cuz you shine on the opportunity to bid on this fabulous special-edition three-piece from Luckystar Studio’s Chimp Series. There’s a dude with a yellow background who’s gettin’ pretty chesty with the Superman thing, and then he’s over there regarding that banana peel, and I don’t know what he’s doing in that suit, but it’s definitely cool. Yeah, that chimp stuff’s definitely gots it goin’ on!
  • Holy supercool handcrafted handiwork, Batman—get down to the Slam and check out the wrought-iron “Squiggle” candle holder hand-forged by Bay View’s own Milwaukee Blacksmith. Ain’t nothin’ as cool as something that took fire and muscle and iron to make—this thing’s gonna floor ya.
  • Whoa, daddy, a two-hour experience aboard the Milwaukee Pedal Tavern! A 16-person bicycle-powered party on wheels! Whether you’ve got a pub crawl, a bachelor party, or a company event coming up, this is the travelling apparatus and terrific adventure for you. Bid starts at sixty bucks. SIXTY BUCKS? Pretty sweet for a super-fun segue to good times. Forget rotting away in dark bars—get some air with your booze, Milwaukee!
  • Itchin’ for some ink? Put the pedal to the metal and the needle to the skin and bid on a $250 gift certificate for a custom tattoo from Spencer at Zoe’s Vicious Circle in Bay View! When the bidding starts at $55 for Spencer’s spectacular work, we’re talkin’ pirate’s booty here, ladies and gents. You’re liftin’ the loot, pilferin’ the plenty, and you ain’t even gonna walk the plank for it.

And that ain’t even the half of it. There’s that, and more, and a ton of stuff galore. So sweet! Get stoked! And we’ll see ya at the Slam!

–Erin Harris

Centro Cafe’s Luscious Lasagna

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Riverwest’s smackdown, dynamite Centro Cafe is bringing its A game to the WMSE Food Slam this Friday at the Grohmann Museum on the campus of MSOE. For all you vegetarians who’ve had enough talk about salami and reubens and tuna and reubens and meat and meat and meat, chow down on Centro’s luscious lasagna layered with leeks, roasted butternut squash, garlic, and rosemary. It’s got this cream sauce, see, that makes you swoon, and the leeks are heaven, and the squash melts in your mouth, and it all comes together like the way a good band comes together, when everyone’s firing on all cylinders and you can believe in harmony and unity and perfection. And then there’s Centro’s vegan Caesar salad, which is cunningly creamy (how do they do it? Tahini and silken tofu, I think), fantastically fresh, and succulently snappy. These dishes are gonna shine as stars of the show come Friday night. You won’t be able to get enough.

And, while I was at Centro, I also tried their gluten-free pasta with marinara sauce, since I usually (except in anticipation of the Slam, when I get to write this blog) roll gluten free, and had shamefully not previously made it to Centro, though I had heard great things about their GF options. The pasta is good, you know, as good as gluten-free pasta can be, but what makes that dish is the well-balanced marinara sauce–bright, fresh, garlicky, rich, and neither too sweet nor too astringent. It hit the spot, I’m tellin’ ya–it was on the mark. I felt like Goldilocks, Slammers–the porridge was just right. Fo shizzle.

And regarding tickets, I really don’t know what to tell you. No, I’m kidding . . . I think there are a few left–maybe two–so if you ain’t got yours, hit up the station down at 820 N. Milwaukee Street during business hours (9 a.m. till 6 p.m.) through Thursday for a fix.

–Erin Harris

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