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Take Me Out To 8-twelve

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

The pop and snap of tightly-woven leather gloves. The crack of fresh-spun wooden bats. Newly-cut grass and sizzling bratwurst. Cheerful crowds toasting cold brews. And smiling children, lots of smiling children. It’s almost time. Spring training has begun. Baseball is almost here. Almost.

No matter the season, you need to experience 8-twelve, the historic venture between MVPs Ryan Braun (bats third for the Brewers, pretty good hitter) and Aaron Rodgers (chucks the football for the Packers, likes belts). Together with the SURG Restaurant Group and Hidden Creek Farm, 8-twelve brings a “farm-to-table concept to Brookfield, dedicated to giving guests the best of the best.”

A recent visit to 8-twelve showed our MVPs and the SURG Restaurant Group stand behind their mission – it was the best of the best. A home run. A touchdown. A definite crowd pleaser from beginning to end.

First up was drinks: Braunie's True Blue - Smirnoff blueberry vodka, lemonade, and blue Curacao for my wife was a definite hit (she thought it’d be funny/apropos to have a double – I put on the stop sign). I called up a Polish Moon - keeping it local with a Milwaukee Brewing Company favorite. For starters, we went with everyone’s fan favorite (according to our server) – housemade cheddar and Gouda tater tots.

“They’re like eating potato pillows," she explained.

I frowned a bit (inside, not outwardly, as not to offend), skeptical of such metaphoric propositions. She was categorically metaphorically spot on. If one were to indulge in a potato pillow or two, one would eat lots of these tots, especially when they’re served with chipotle bacon ketchup and cayenne ranch dipping sauces.

Next up in the lineup was an 8-twelve Waldorf salad, a new item on the menu. Baby Tuscan greens, Granny Smith apples, red grapes and toasted walnuts combined with a creamy herb dressing: score! An even bigger score comes this spring (yes, spring will come…I hope) when 8-twelve begins producing fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden in front of the restaurant.

Lobster crab cakes on a bed of spinach (Maine lobster and super lump crab, spinach and apples, Tarragon crème fraiche and waffle chips) were soon front and center and these may have been the MVPs of the entire dinner (shhh, don’t tell the tots). I felt bad for the salmon that followed – what pressure following an MVP.

The second half of our meal began and the cedar-planked salmon didn’t flinch. Neither did the house smoked baby back ribs glazed in special 8-twelve sauce. I strongly considered never washing the ribs and sauce from my fingertips to savor the moment and my wife was supportive.

Alas, the moment had come for our last at-bat: Chocola8. We dug in and took our best swing at a gorgeous plate filled from rim to rim with: fudge brownie, white and dark chocolate mousse, hazelnut crunch, chocolate ganache, chocolate crumble and milk chocolate ice cream. We had just one word after tasting all of the above: gr8.

And I think that one word, while pretty great, doesn’t quite do 8-twelve justice. It’s an awesome sports bar with happy hour specials like a burger and beer for $10. It’s an exceptional farm-to-table dining experience. It’s comfortable and laid back with its photographs of local farms adorning the walls. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic dinner, a family celebration in a private dining room or night out with pals.

Or, that special someone who doesn’t mind perma-ribs on your fingertips.

8-twelve MVP Bar & Grill
17800 W. Bluemound Rd., Brookfield


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Arrrrrrre You Ready For Pirates?

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by Guest Blogger Maxwell Zupke

The Real Pirates exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum is a wonderful experience for all ages, sure to delight wide-eyed grade schoolers as well as their history buff parents. As museum guests meander through the familiar halls of the special exhibit wing, they're treated to several treasure chests worth of pirate facts plastered across era-accurate posters. The thorough exploration is presented in a wealth of minutiae that serves to dispel false myths about pirates. Apart from the sheer depth of the experience, the exhibit is a phenomenal learning experience. Families can discuss the role slavery played in the legend of piracy and the journey of a young crewmate named John King is touched upon from room to room.

As always with Milwaukee Public Museum exhibits, the artifacts on display for arrrrr viewing pleasure are both exquisitely restored and finely presented. There's a wonderful moment early in the exhibition when an introductory video tells onlookers about the lost bell of a famous pirate ship and at the close of the film the screen lifts to reveal the recovered bell itself. All of the artifacts are from the wreck of the Whydah, a prolific pirate ship burgeoning with adventure and danger. Everything you could possibly plunder about pirate ships and more is carefully laid out, from the selection of crew members and daily life on the ship, to stolen booty and the fierce final fate of the Whydah.

The exhibit is also enormously fun, with enough gold and weaponry on display to make any middle-school boy envious. One of the show's highlights is a room filled with cannons of all sizes and shapes. The cannons are quickly followed by a veritable armory of antique pistols. Visitors also get to walk through a replica pirate ship, complete with captain's cabin and hold, while meeting pirate "re-enactors" sure to get all kids and most adults parroting pirate accents and aphorisms for days to come. In our brief conversation with the re-enactors, the topics pin balled from the proper technique of pirate handshakes to swashbuckling with swords, finally circling back to the Latin plural of the word 'pancreas,’ apparently a vulnerable organ when one is dueling on deck.

The jolliest of Jolly Rogers may be the section in which we are invited to explore the processes by which researchers found the wrecks of the Whydah, taking painstaking care to restore the sunken artifacts to their previous luster. It's a fantastic world to escape to, for an hour or two, as kids and adults alike are wowed by the mythic tales of the famous high seas criminals and the scientists telling their story.

Real Pirates at the Milwaukee Public Museum
800 West Wells Street
Through May 27


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Valentine’s DON’Ts and DO’s in MKE

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by Guest Blogger Carrie Woods

There’s more than just the same old chocolates and champagne routine going on in Milwaukee this Valentine’s Day. Here are a few tips on what to do to make your celebration in 2013 one to remember.

DON’T: Do the same old thing.

DO: Consult this list for ideas on something new and exciting to do in Milwaukee.
[WARNING] Choosing the perfect combination of activities below will produce side effects of smiling, hand holding and may open the door for a kiss goodnight.

Enjoy an out-of-this-world date night at the Milwaukee Public Museum’s Daniel M. Soref Planetarium where you’ll gaze at “constellations of love.” The “Romancing the Stars” evening includes a rose and chocolates for each stargazing duo. 

BOTTOMS UP (This is Milwaukee after all):
Put the LOVE in your beer lover’s life at a “Tapas and Beer” tasting at Sprecher Brewery. Enjoy samples of more than a dozen microbrews paired with small plate flavors designed to highlight each brew.

WHAT A VIEW (…of the city AND your date):
Dine at the Harbor House, Milwaukee’s only restaurant on Lake Michigan with breathtaking views of the city and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Heat things up with the “Harbor-disiac” – a platter of 12 oysters and a half-bottle of Henriot Souverain Champagne.

Take the “Naughty Bits” tour at the Milwaukee Art Museum and see Adam and Eve on the brink of sin, the best stone-cold derriere in Milwaukee and a birds and bees look at why Noah brought two of each animal on the ark.

Milwaukee has been named in the “Top 25 Most Romantic Cities” by diner’s choice polls on Choose one of the most romantic restaurants that brought Milwaukee to the top. OpenTable lists Milwaukee ChopHouse, Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro (oui, oui!), Carnevor, Dream Dance Steak at Potawatomi Bingo Casino and more here.

End your evening with a night cap at Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, a Milwaukee institution since 1938 that is still making headlines, including a nod in Esquire Magazine’s “Top 10 Bars in America.” Order up your classic cocktail by describing your mood and head upstairs to the Velvet Lounge where the lush red walls will have you cozying up in no time.

Have something planned already? Let us know what your Milwaukee Valentine’s plans include in the comments section!


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Take No Chances – Take Her to Mr. B’s

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

I think most self-professed “foodies” simply fall into the category 100 percent of the world’s population also occupies: people who really like food. Some really like it more than others and some certainly are more knowledgeable about its complexities. What I enjoy are restaurants that cater to 100 percent of their customers, making the dining experience as complex or as simple as is desired. And there’s no greater day to desire a simply wonderful experience than Valentine’s Day.

Talk about pressure. Millions of people circle one day on the calendar to have THE special dinner and restaurants have to deliver – or else. “Or else” means not only will Valentine’s Day be marred (and possibly charred), but come next year, next anniversary or next birthday, the business may not return. And, in today’s social media-crazed society, one bad experience could get forwarded to thousands of other customers. That’s why this Valentine's Day, I’m not taking any chances. I’m taking my wife (shhh, it’s a surprise) back to Mr. B’s – A Bartolotta Steakhouse.

My wife and I have dined there before, when it was located in the Stonewood Village in Brookfield, and we’ve followed them to the new location just down the street - most recently for a special dinner over the holidays. Each time we go back, it’s as simple (or so they make it seem) and perfect as the last. 

The perfection on our recent visit to Mr. B’s started with a parking spot right outside the door and continued right inside the door when we were greeted and immediately seated by a hostess (as I was eyeing the cozy fireplace in the bar area – we’re definitely stopping there for a drink this week). Not a minute later, two servers were at our table with menus, water and fresh bread.

Just after our drinks arrived, our server stopped by to explain Mr. B’s special steak offerings – WITH the steaks. Wheeled to each table on a mini butcher’s rack cart, customers receive a mouth-watering marketplace offered right before their eyes. My wife was giddy (it was like shopping), yet decisive, and chose the petite filet mignon. I eyed the many unique options: dry-aged buffalo bone-in ribeye, pastured Berkshire pork porterhouse and Wagyu New York strip to name a few. I don’t think my English was even audible as I pointed and grunted at my choice – the classic filet mignon. My server suggested the filet and bacon-wrapped scallops combination (he could’ve suggested I purchase his bridge at that point) and I nodded in agreement. 

We also gave a nod to an appetizer - baked goat cheese in a rich tomato sauce with Tuscan bread. It was just the right amount for two before the main course. And my wife was all of two bites into it before swearing she was going to try and duplicate the recipe at home – a sure sign of success.

As we sipped our perfectly-concocted cocktails, we noticed tables filling up and the restaurant was abuzz. It was a comfortable yet festive vibe (couples, double dates, special family occasions) not usually associated with places that offer $70 steaks. It’s never about pretention, rather always about perfection, and that’s why we keep coming back to Mr. B’s.

Our server came back to refresh our cocktails, then soon delivered our entrees. We split a heaping side of steaming asparagus and each ordered potatoes - she had baked and I chose pureed. We proposed a toast, clinked our glasses over the candle-lit table and smiled at each other, all the while thinking “Oh man, do I wanna cut into that steak.” Knives (Mr. B’s steaks are so tender, the knife is just a formality) soon in hand, the cutting began. There’s nothing quite like it – it’s indescribable. All I can say is I’m not the most religious person, but if there is a heaven, they serve Mr. B’s steak – every night.

Another perfect night at Mr. B’s was over about 45 minutes later and as we were leaving, another couple was walking toward the entrance. I looked back as they entered and thought, “how lucky are they to go to Mr. B’s.” I had already wanted to go back. Thursday, I will. Shhhhh.

Mr B.'s - A Bartolotta Steakhouse
18380 West Capitol Drive


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Girls Night Out

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By Jeannine Sherman
Director of Public Relations
VISIT Milwaukee

PART I: Girls Just Want to Have Fun

There’s a time for mani-pedis and massages and sipping champagne while furtively evaluating the results of your best friend’s latest Botox injections. You could round up your perfectly-coiffed, miniature dogs and play dress up. Or why not go out to dinner and split a strawberry six ways?

OH WAIT! This isn’t the Rich Housewives of Beverly Hills. This is the Real Girls of Milwaukee. (Or Jeannine, Margaret and Carrie, as we’re known around the office).

And we put an entirely new twist on the classic idea of girls’ night out!

An ice-cold beer and laid-back atmosphere made a perfect start at downtown’s Upper 90 Sports Pub. It had a great din and the kind of vibe that’s warm and welcoming and helps you shake off the midwinter chill. If you’re a sports fan, you’re going to love the seven huge, flat-screen TVs. But what really sets this place apart is its history. Built in 1889, it’s a former Schlitz Brewery saloon and history buffs will love the abundant Cream City brick, polished tin ceilings and the hanging lamps purchased at the Chicago World Fair/Columbia Exposition. Upper 90’s bartenders are still serving up what made Milwaukee famous from the original beer cooler behind the original wooden bar and a sweet collection of vintage sports memorabilia lines the walls.

Even the tables (made out of old doors) are a little out of the ordinary! We had fun checking out the hair on 70s-era Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount, Paul Moliter and Jim Gantner baseball cards tucked beneath a layer of protective glass.  

It may be a sports bar, but the TVs aren’t the only place you’ll see some action. Upper 90’s kitchen is out in the open and watching the chef made us feel a little like Ted Allen on Chopped. And the menu goes way beyond the typical nosh you’ll get at most sports bars.

It’s great Gastropub fare, starting with the unusual Louisiana Alligator Bites. I’ve had alligator before and it wasn’t my favorite, but these are really good. Upper 90 uses only the tenderloin resulting in a moist, flavorful morsel that’s Cajun battered and served with Creole aioli and Buffalo sauce.  “Milwaukee’s Biggest Pretzel” convinced us to throw caution to the wind and neglect the “never eat anything bigger than your head” rule. Goat Cheese Bruschetta served with sundried tomatoes, shredded parmesan and balsamic olive oil was rich, creamy and delicious. Those are just the starters.

I scarfed down some amazing wild Mushroom Ravioli and Margaret and Carrie went for the Bacon-Wrapped Scallops. There’s also a wide range of burgers, sandwiches and salads so nobody’s leaving hungry.

In fact, we didn’t want to leave at all, but we were on a mission to find fun…..little did we know the night held beer bottle mascots, an Evil Knievel impersonator and a drag show. Seriously. I can’t make this stuff up.


PART II : This Is How We Roll

The energy was high in the U.S. Cellular Arena and the crowd was ready to rumble when we got there. LMFAO was blasting from the sound system and we could barely contain ourselves as we looked down on the unexpected floor show leading up to the main event.

We were here to check out the Brewcity Bruisers, Milwaukee’s number one women’s roller derby league! The league is made up of four home teams: the Crazy 8’s, Maiden Milwaukee, the Rushin’ Rollettes and Shevil Knevils. The individual team members are known by creative and typically off-color pseudonyms that I’d love to share if this weren’t a PC blog. Let’s just say that when they were announced, it reduced us to sophomoric giggle fits.

Before the Bruisers took to the track and in between bouts there was plenty to keep us busy. Where do I start? Remember that dream where you were in a Salvador Dali painting?

The “Beerleaders” brought on their best cheers and beer bottle mascots ran around the track. There was a Sasquatch roaming the floor and a guy driving a very small tank and even an Evil Knievel wannabe doing wheelies. And if that’s not worth the price of admission, the night included a drag show that had everybody in the audience singing “It’s Raining Men”.

You might think it would be hard for the Bruisers to compete with so much entertainment, but when they get on the track it’s all business. It’s not too difficult to figure out the rules and scoring and we found ourselves quickly engaged and rooting for our favorite ladies. (Bruisers, I hope you don’t mind being called ladies).

They make it look easy to speed along the track while weaving around fellow team mates and yes, getting defensive on a pretty regular basis. We were impressed by the level of skill and athleticism and quite frankly, girl power by proxy.

In fact, we had such a good time we wandered over to Turner Hall to join in the Bruisers’ public after party and meet the teams. Old kid shows like Pee Wee’s Playhouse and Gumby played on a giant screen on one end of the hall while a DJ cranked out party tunes and people danced. The mood was chill and my friends and I agreed we had a serious jones for the uniforms and had a great time thinking up our derby alter-egos.

The Brewcity Bruisers' home season lasts January through May, with the next bout this Saturday, February 9, so there are plenty of chances to catch the action.

Upper 90 Sports Pub
322 W. State St.

Brewcity Bruisers
Home bouts are held at the U.S. Cellular Arena, 400 W. Kilbourn Ave.


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