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


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

Martita’s Magnificent Margaritas

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I was feelin’ down about the demise of summer till I tried Martita’s Guiltless Margaritas. One sip and I sailed away to a tropical paradise where the sun was shining, the waves were calm, and the tequila was flowin’. Throw back one of these good, good, good, good libations and get transported to a land of palm trees, sandy beaches, and a peaceful, easy feelin’. And whether you’re counting calories or just wanting to avoid a sugar-spun spike in your blood sugar, the agave nectar in these mixers is the perfect sweetener since it comes from the same blue agave plant as tequila. Martita’s mixers are made with stevia as well, which, like agave, has a lower glycemic index than cane sugar. So one serving of Martita’s Guiltless Strawberry Margarita Mix has just 25 calories, and one serving of the regular Guiltless Margarita Mix has just 5 calories. And you’re gonna wanna go easy on the liquid thermal units cuz Hector’s on Delaware’ll be throwin’ down their tasty tacos, which are the perfect pairing to these magnificent margaritas.

The sun’ll be shining at 6 pm on October 7, Milwaukee, but only at the Grohmann, where the Slam’ll be rockin’ till 10 pm. So get two tickets to paradise right here.

And instead of posting that Eddie Money song, I’ll share with you my favorite feel-good song ’bout booze ‘n sunshine–His Name Is Alive’s “Lemon Ocean.” It ain’t local, but it sure is lovely.

–Erin Harris

Tonight! Eat to the Beat of WMSE! Whoooo!

Yokel Local Outlaw Big Sam Spurhog Saddlin' Up to the Grohmann for the Food Slam

Yee haw, Milwaukee! Food Slam tickets are SOLD OUT! and WMSE is thrilled that the ninth annual Slam is going to be the biggest, funnest, and successfulest Slam to date. I caught up with Yokel Local outlaw Big Sam Spurhog and asked him to nail down the answers to a few FAQs about the food event that’s gonna rock your taste buds this very night. As always, Big Sam was initially terse, surly, and reluctant as hell, but he started talkin’ freely once I lubed him up with some fat cigars and a couple bottles of whiskey.

EH: You excited for the Food Slam tonight, Big Sam?

BSS: [Lighting a cigar and throwing back a shot] I reckon it’ll be ’bout as good a time as when I met up with them Carson twins out on the ole Carson ranch. Old man Carson was gone a-speculatin’ ‘n I struck a little gold myself.

EH: That’s great, Big Sam. Hey, the Slam’s at the Grohmann Museum, right? What do you know about parking around there?

BSS: ‘Round those parts you pony up real quiet so no one hears you comin’. You keep your horse from brayin’ ‘n you take ’em by surprise ‘n show ’em who’s boss.

EH: That’s not the way I heard it. I heard there’s gonna be free parking in the MSOE lots located between Broadway and Milwaukee just north and east of the Grohmann.

BSS: [Pickin’ his teeth] Could be.

EH: What do you know about free drinks at the Slam?

BSS: That ‘un’s easy. Just smash your last bottle an’ start punchin’.

EH: That doesn’t sound right. What if you bring two or more nonperishable food items and donate ’em to the Hunger Task Force? I heard the fine folks at WMSE’ll give you a free beverage ticket.

BSS: That’ll work too, I reckon.

EH: You gonna do any bidding, Big Sam?

BSS: I got my eye on a couple ‘a things. I got my eye on that Annie down at The Establishment. I’m gonna win myself a good groomin’ with her.

EH: I think Annie’s service is a Brazilian wax, Big Sam. I’m not sure that’s what you had in mind. I bet Martita’s prize pack is more your speed. It’s two bottles of Martita’s Guiltless Margarita Mix, a bottle of tequila, and four margarita glasses.

BSS: Hoo-doggie! Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

EH: So you ready to do this thing, Big Sam? This Food Slam thing?

BSS: I’m riled up like a groom on his weddin’ night! I’m a-rearin’ to go!

EH: All right, Big Sam. Kick them spurs. I’ll see you at the Slam!

–Erin Harris

Spook Them Grits!

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Them good ol’ boys down at Maxie’s Southern Comfort set me up tonight with some of their famous Southern hospitality and a sweet spread of the three delicious dishes they’ll be servin’ up at the WMSE Food Slam next Friday, October 1 at the Grohmann Museum on the campus of MSOE. First up is the shrimp & grits, an outstanding fusion of buttery grits; deep, rich Cajun tasso sauce; and Gulf shrimp. I could say that the grits are what rock this dish–the way their creamy-smooth texture melts in your mouth–or I could say that the perfectly tender shrimp are what make this concoction taste like a million bucks–or I could say that the tasso sauce, that rich reduction of spices and cream and slow-cooked ham, is what makes you wanna yell yee-haw. But it’s the combination of all of the above that compels you to kick your heels. Next up is jambalaya, that classic medley of shrimp, andouille, chicken, and rice. The holy-trinity base of onions, bell peppers, and celery, together with a barrel o’ Creole seasonings such as cayenne and thyme, gives this dish its depth. And last but not least is the vegetarian jambalaya with red beans and tofu, which ain’t no slim pickin’ cuz the smoked tofu is dynamite. Yes, sir, there’s a lot to be said for smokin’. Whoo-wee, smoked food’s got flavor, and Maxie’s brings it way down home. So hey ya’ll, all you Earls ‘n Billy Bobs ‘n Wendy Sues ‘n Emmelines out there, get on down to the Food Slam and fill your plate with Maxie’s bevy of Southern delights!

–Erin Harris

Shuck It All, These Oysters Rock!

Fresh Oysters on the Half Shell

Hey, Casanova, strut into the Food Slam at MSOE’s Grohmann Museum on Friday, October 1 and set your senses ablaze with Molly Cool’s fresh oysters on the half shell. The Old World Third Street tavern’ll be settin’ Slammers up with two varieties of luscious oysters from Maryland and Dabob Bay. Drenched with fresh lemon, the magnificent mollusks ooze a briny sensuality that’ll light your fire as surely as a couple glasses of Trapiche’s wines’ll give you fever all through the night. Not only are the cats at Molly Cool’s gonna shuck oysters on site, they’re also dishin’ out their signature hot crab and spinach dip, which ain’t no slouch itself. Rich, creamy, salty, and succulent, it’s a pretty perfect pairing to the classic aphrodisiac known as the oyster.

Word on the street is that Food Slam tickets are just about half sold out, so if you’re not yet a proud ticket holder, you’re gonna wanna shoot over here and grab a pass to the food event that’s gonna rock your taste buds and maybe your whole night. Yeah, you can indulge in Molly Cool’s delights any night of the week–and hells yeah you should!–but if you bring two nonperishable food items to the Slam to support the Hunger Task Force, you can start the night off right with a free drink!

–Erin Harris

Heavenly Hot Crab and Spinach Dip

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