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Guest Blogger Kyle Cherek Talks Milwaukee Food Scene

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

By Kyle Cherek
Host of Wisconsin Foodie

There was a time, many decades ago, in Milwaukee's culinary history, when—much like America’s culinary reputation at-large—a comment about its depth and relevance would elicit a smirk. (Mind you, though the classics weren't always classics, Milwaukee did them well. It was a man from Milwaukee who invented the supper club; this unassuming city gave the world the fish fry as a Friday institution; and it “pioneered” beer pairings—wink, wink.) However, aside from a few high-style dining options, courtesy of its grand hotels and its strong German heritage, Milwaukee didn't paint too far outside the lines when it came to gastronomic variety, interest, or excellence.  

That all changed as the 1980s became the 1990s, when three nice Italian boys opened their eponymous restaurants. Sandy D' Amato (former chef/owner of Sanford) as well as Joe and Paul Bartolotta (brothers/owners of Ristorante Bartolotta) gave Milwaukee the spark which, in the course of a generation, has encouraged an inferno of creative cooking and transformed this city into an epicurean destination. 

Summer is one of my favorite times as a foodie to engage every corner of our city and its delicious fare—from elegant French to BBQ. The summer of 2014 heralded a “Best Chef: Midwest” James Beard Award-win by the current chef/owner of Sanford, Justin Aprahamian. To be lauded nationally, just as the summer season began, is simply more evidence of Milwaukee's ascendant dining scene. 

With the exception of Los Angeles and New York City, Milwaukee has opened more successful restaurants per capita during the recent economic downturn than any other city. The national press has become aware of our heat. It seems that every other week, friends from my favorite restaurants or bars tell me that the New York Times, Travel Channel, or Esquire has paid them visit and a compliment.  

Of course we have known just how good the eating is here for a long time. As good Midwesterners, I think we are apt not to brag much. My adage is that we don't wear our hearts on our sleeves, as other folks do; we just roll them up and go to work. And now the ‘other folks’ are noticing. 

With this kind of momentum, no doubt, the dining scene is only going to get better. There are more than a dozen interesting new restaurants slated to open in the next six months alone. Our neighborhoods are enlivened with great boutique chef/owner restaurants, and the fabric of our city is becoming ever more colorful. We are glad that the world at-large is catching on, but we are going to keep doing it here, for us, and make the rest of the world feel welcome when they come.


Raise a glass to Gemuetlichkeit at German Fest

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

By Jennifer Posh
Content & Copywriting Specialist

This weekend is my favorite weekend of the whole summer – it’s time for Milwaukee’s Original Haus Party: German Fest!

German Fest has been a tradition in my family since the very beginning – my parents got engaged at the third German Fest in 1983, so I guess it’s my family’s very first tradition! They’ve gone every year since, except for the year I was born (my birthday falls on or around the festival dates) – not a bad track record! I grew up loving German Fest, and even though I’ve since experienced a variety of other local festivals, this is still the one that holds my heart.

First, let’s talk about the food. Every year, German Fest fans chow down on more than 20,000 Usinger’s Brats, 5,000 chickens, 10,000 pounds of sauerkraut and five tons of potatoes made into delicious potato pancakes. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to delicious traditional foods! My top pick is always and forever spanferkel. When you see whole pigs roasting in a tent just outside the stand, you know that’s the place you have to stop. I only ever get my spanferkel fix at German Fest, so it’s the treat I go back to year after year.

German Fest Group of Friends Eating

Oh right – there’s also bier! Grab a boot and enjoy the special German Fest Bavarian Weiss Beer or an assortment of Miller on draft. If you’re not a beer fan, there’s also Schlink Haus wines, specialty liqueurs from Niche Wine & Spirits and freshly brewed European-style Kaffee (coffee). Whatever you choose, make sure you have a glass in hand to wave for a rousing rendition of “Ein Prosit”!

If you’re a polka fan, this is your moment to get up and join the dancing crowd (watch your step – some of these people look like polka professionals, and they can really move!). There’s nothing quite like a polka or some yodeling while at German Fest (I myself happen to be a proud third prize winner in the German Fest yodeling contest), but you’ll also hear a fun mix of fan favorites and modern cover songs from German “party band” Chikeria. New this year is the Jams on Tap concert series  – your ticket to see Three Dog Night ($15), Bret Michaels ($20) or Plain White T’s ($15) headline the BMO Harris Pavilion Stage also includes admission to German Fest.

German Fest Dachsund

Music and food aren’t enough for you? Get ready to say “awww” at the Dachshund Derby und Wiener Dog Costume Contest. Adorable dachshunds racing on their stubby little legs? Too cute. For those interested in German culture, the options are, unsurprisingly, vast. The Glockenspiel is a live performance that brings a German cuckoo clock to life – you won’t want to miss this crowd favorite. The Mardi Gras Royalty are also a highlight; you can catch them in the German Fest Parade or the Mardi Gras Show (both on Saturday) or just enjoy the stunning costumes as they wander the grounds. Plus, enjoy shows of traditional clothing and handcrafts, a genealogy exhibit and more.

See you on the lakefront for German Fest, 7/25-27. Prost!


Get your pong on at Evolution Milwaukee Gastro Pong!

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Tuesday, July 11, 2014

By Stephanie Castillo
PR Intern

For being born and raised in Milwaukee, I feel like I’ve experienced a lot of what the Cream City has to offer. I’ve been to the Domes. I’ve tailgated at Brewer games. I’ve even danced up on stage at Irish Fest. But Milwaukee, being the quirky city that it is, always has a way of surprising me with hidden gems. For example, Evolution Milwaukee Gastro Pong – Evo for short – a table tennis facility, bar and restaurant located in the city’s trendy Third Ward, 233 E. Chicago St.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to see what Evo is all about, when my boyfriend and friend were in town. The unique artwork on the building’s exterior immediately grabs your attention from the street and fits seamlessly with the artsy, stylish vibe of the Third Ward.

Evolution Milwaukee Gastro Pong

Upon arrival, I was seriously impressed by the sheer size – Evo has nearly 17,000 square feet of space, featuring 13 top-notch table-tennis courts, two bars, three private rooms, a pro shop, lounge and a full-service restaurant.

Evo Milwaukee Gastro Pong table

If this all sounds a bit familiar, you’re probably remember Evo under its former name, SPiN Milwaukee, which was part of the New York-based SPiN franchise. Evo changed its name back in February, when owners Scott and Susanne Mayer decided to take the business independent, so it could evolve with the community and become more Milwaukee-focused.

If you loved SPiN, don’t be alarmed – much of Evo’s offerings have remained the same. But now, they’ve amped up the menu to include more local food, and changed the walls to warmer colors to make it a bit less New York club-like.

Pro tip: you absolutely must check out the Wild Boar Rueben sandwich. Or, if you’re feeling something lighter, the Matzo Ball soup is also a fantastic dish.

Evo Milwaukee Gastro Pong jenga

My friends and I had a great time checking out the ping pong action, as well as playing with the giant Jenga set. We were also super pumped to find out that they have live music/DJs weekly – major bonus!

Evo Milwaukee Gastro Pong ping pong

Whether you’re a hardcore pong enthusiast, recreational basement player, foodie or just looking for a less awkward place to take that girl you met at the bar on a date, Evo’s got you covered. What are you waiting for, Milwaukee? Get your pong on!


9 Reasons why you need to visit Kandinsky: A Retrospective, today.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

By Chelsie Layman
Communications & Social Media Assistant

The Milwaukee Art Museum has opened its latest feature exhibition, “Kandinsky: A Retrospective”, which runs through Sept. 1, 2014. This exhibition features many works seen for the first time in the United States, including the massive Juryfreie Murals on display.  I had the pleasure of seeing the exhibition (five times, but who’s counting?) and here are the nine reasons why you need to visit today.

Pro tip: If you are tight on cash, or just looking to save some money the museum offers free admission the first Thursday of each month, thanks to Target.


9 Reasons why you need to visit Kandinsky: A Retrospective, today.

Buzzfeed has proven that everyone loves a good list, so here you go.

  1. “Kandinsky: A Retrospective” is an in-depth look at the career and life of Wassily Kandinsky, in addition to the works of some of his contemporaries.

    Wassily Kandinsky

    Wassily Kandinsky’s staff identification card from the Bauhaus, Dessau, 1926
    Photograph on board
    4 3/4 × 3 1/2 in.
    Centre Pompidou - MnamCci - Bibliothèque Kandinsky

  2. The exhibition features Kandinsky’s massive Juryfreie Murals for the first time in the United States. These murals were brought in on massive canvases and then unrolled and pulled to fit the walls of the room in the exhibition.

  3. Fun Fact: Kansinsky was said to have Synesthesia, meaning he heard colors. Many of his abstract works were inspired by symphonies and the colors he heard within them.

  4. COLORS! All of the colors

    Wassily Kandinsky art

    Wassily Kandinsky
    (Russian, 1866 – 1944)
    Small Worlds I (Kleine Welten I), 1922
    Color lithograph
    9 3/4 × 8 9/16 in.
    Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne, Paris
    Bequest of Mrs. Nina Kandinsky in 1981
    AM 81-65-714
    © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/ Philippe Migeat / Dist.RMN-GP
    © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

  5. Wassily Kansdinsky is credited with creating the first purely abstract works.

  6. Let’s be honest, you’ve probably heard Kandinsky’s name at least once in that required art appreciation class. Well, now is the time to go see his works up close and personal. While you’re at it, make it a guided tour and refresh your knowledge so you can school your friends on art.

  7. The exhibition includes a video of Kandinsky painting, which is a treat to watch (tip: try to imagine the colors if the video had been filmed in color)

  8. After taking in all of the amazing artwork, you are bound to be hungry. That means it’s time to head downstairs to the Cafe Calatrava to check out the menu coordinated to the exhibition, this food is almost too pretty to eat, almost.

    Cafe Calatrava

    © Milwaukee Art Museum