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A Good Land That Keeps Giving

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November 25, 2014

By Kyle Cherek
Host of Wisconsin Foodie


There was a time when the best way to taste the highlights of a region was to dine at one of its grand hotels. They combined cosmopolitan sophistication and regional flair. Though much of how and why we travel has changed, a few of Milwaukee’s better hotels have kept this tradition alive, offering a sense of place through food.

A fine hotel nestled in one of the most fertile places on earth ought to deliver special dishes that reflect gifts of the soil.  Chef Aaron Miles at Milwaukee’s Intercontinental Hotel does just that.  It is true that ingredients available to chefs with seasonal acumen do narrow by November, but for an accomplished chef, that is where the fun begins. Chef Miles has a “no butternut squash policy” in his kitchen. “The stuff is ubiquitous,” he told me.  Instead he populates the late-season Kilow@t fall menu with Minnesota wild rice cakes, root vegetable blends colored with rutabaga, winter carrots and parsnips, with enough autumn vibrato to hold their own against a lamb shank brined in IPA from Lakefront Brewery. He cooks with an eye toward the season, without falling back on old standards or the overwrought crutch of “comfort food,” heavily sauced and bereft of spirit.

Just a dozen blocks to the South, Chef Bradford Shovlin’s menu for Smyth at the Iron Horse Hotel evinces his Midwest heritage and accomplished training. After stints with Chef Bruce Sherman of Chicago’s North Pond (a 5-time James Beard Best Chef Award nominee and 2012 winner) and time in other esteemed kitchens, Shovlin brings a delicate, culinary inventiveness to the hotel that Condé Nast Traveler Magazine listed among the 100 best in the country.

My favorite of Shovlin’s opening dishes takes lush Beluga lentils which give way to locally -sourced kale, cauliflower, hazelnuts and Pleasant Ridge Reserve (one of the rock stars of Wisconsin cheese). Another dish that reveals his poised, seasonal sensibilities, is the bison tartar from nearby New Belgium, Wisconsin. The farm, called Lake View Buffalo, is helmed by a fifth generation farming family. I filmed a Wisconsin Foodie at the farm in 2011, and the majestic animals and the family that raises them were highlights of the whole season. Eschewing the standard tartar preparation, he pairs it with a horseradish-cured egg yolk, caper berries and Sarvecchio (a Wisconsin Cheese that beat the parmesan-making Italians at their own game when blind tasted at an International Cheese composition in 2012 as “Best in Class.”) 

This deep into the season, the natural predilection is to hunker down, to find a place that offers the warmth the soul seeks as the days get that much shorter.  Milwaukee, to its credit, has always been known as one of the more friendly places; an honest city, in the sense that, when you visit, we are genuinely glad you did.  As autumn rolls into winter, I am glad that my city remains a place where one can tuck-in and savor the memorable cooking and hospitality of a good land that keeps giving.


The Holiday Shuffle: 5 Things to Do When They’re STILL Here

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

By Jennifer Posh
Content & Copywriting Specialist
VISIT Milwaukee

So you’ve carved the turkey and decked the halls. You’ve exchanged hugs and learned all about Cousin Susie’s new job and Uncle John’s broken toe. You’ve done everything that the holidays require…and your out-of-town guests are still in your house. Luckily, Milwaukee is full of seasonal delights to get you out of the house and all back into the ho-ho-holiday spirit.

A performance of A Christmas Carol by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Try one of these foolproof methods for forgetting whoever it is that keeps leaving their wet towel on the bathroom floor and remembering that you’re family and you love each other.

  1. Ride the Jingle Bus – Seeing all the beautiful holiday lights downtown is easy. For just $1 per person, you can take a 40 minute tour on a comfy Coach USA bus and marvel in the festive panorama on display. With each tour led by a helpful Milwaukee Downtown Public Service Ambassador, this is a great option for first-time visitors who’d also like to get to know the city. You’ll also get to enjoy complimentary cookies and cocoa in the “Warming House” while waiting to board the bus, along with a holiday coloring book for the kids.
  2. Check out a holiday show – From stone-cold classics like the Milwaukee Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s “A Christmas Carol” to kid-friendly fun like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical” at First Stage and irreverent laughs at “A Cudahy Caroler Christmas” at In Tandem Theatre, everyone in the family will find something to spark some holiday cheer.
  3. Get active in North Pole style – After too much turkey, pie and all the other stuff in between, you’re probably ready to get a jump start on your New Year’s resolution to start exercising. Milwaukee is home to both the Santa Rampage, a merry cycling pub crawl where both riders and cycles are decked out in their holiday finest, and the Santa Hustle 5K. The Rampage is BYO-Costume, but signing up for Santa Hustle will get you a jolly sweatshirt along with your own Santa hat and beard.
  4. Visit the Kooky Cooky House – A beloved Milwaukee holiday tradition from the 1960s and 70s is being revived this year at Discovery World. A visit to this whimsical automated cookie factory is free with museum admission. Any long-time Milwaukee residents in your family? Give them the opportunity to introduce the new generation to this wacky classic.
  5. Take a brewery tour – So this isn’t exactly holiday related. So what? You’re in Milwaukee, and brewery tours are a great way to entertain a big group. Anyone who’s still in a sour mood after the hilarious tour at Lakefront Brewery, meeting the hologram of Frederick Miller at MillerCoors, sipping a delicious root beer alongside German-style brews at Sprecher Brewing or facing off with the brewery scoundrels of Milwaukee Brewing Company is nothing but a straight-up Scrooge.

Don’t let close quarters and overly-strong ‘nog ruin your magical holiday memories. It’s the season of good cheer, after all – let the city bring fun and festivity back to your holiday visit this year.

(Five wasn't enough for you? Find more local holiday events here!)


Milwaukee Halloween Costume Ideas

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Monday, October 20, 2014

By Jennifer Posh
Content & Copywriting Specialist
VISIT Milwaukee

Here we are, barely two weeks away from Halloween, and you still don’t have a costume. Never fear!  You are not doomed to pick a cliché or obvious costume and see yourself coming and going all night. I am here to provide you with quick Milwaukee-themed costumes GUARANTEED* to make you the hit of every party.

*Results may vary.

A sculpture of the Fonz from Happy Days on the Milwaukee RiverWalk

This could be you!

Bronze Fonz (w/ optional fan) – Ayy! All you need to transform into the RiverWalk’s #1 selfie destination is a pair of jeans, a leather jacket and two thumbs. Varsity costume-wearers might want to dip into some bronze face paint to take this look to the next level. This is easily transformed into a couples’ costume: just have your partner ready with a cellphone and their best thumbs-up to complete the pairing as a selfie-taking fan.

Hank the Dog – This is the cutest possible option. Get yourself some Brewers gear (which you probably already own), make dog ears out of felt and you’re good to go! A little creative face painting will go a long way with this one. Everyone is going to want to take pictures with you and buy things with your face on them.

The Calling – Want to stir up some drama at your Halloween shindig? Just dress up as Milwaukee’s most controversial sculpture, The Calling, aka the sunburst, aka the big orange metal asterisk at the end of Wisconsin Avenue. Dress all in orange, and be prepared to stand with your arms and legs outstretched as wide as possible whenever someone asks who you are.

Frederick Miller – Show your historical chops by dressing up as one of the icons of Milwaukee’s brewing heritage.  If you’ve seen his hologram, you know all you need is a convincingly old-timey suit and a sweet goatee. Carry around a bottle of beer for additional verisimilitude (you’d be doing that anyway, right?). This costume could also easily be “zombiefied,” if you want to show off your gorey makeup skills.

Racing Sausages – The perfect group costume! Getting the full gang together would be great, but if you don’t have the full five, it’s easy enough to act like your missing sausages are seriously losing this race. This could easily be a very in-depth DIY project if you choose to manufacture yourself a sausage costume, but you could also dress up in each sausage’s relatively simple outfit. I don’t think anyone would blame you.

The Gaslight Building – This one is simple with a show-stopping accessory. Any outfit (ideally one that’s orange-y brown in color) becomes an instant costume when topped with that awesome flame. You could easily adapt a tutorial for creating the classic Sims plumbob (the floating green diamond) into this shape. Choose which weather you’d like to forecast, and you’re ready to go! (If you really wanted to go for it, this would be the perfect time to deploy a color-changing LED light.)


Milwaukee’s Culinary Scene: Gearing Up for Greatness

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Monday, September 22, 2014

By Kyle Cherek
Host of Wisconsin Foodie

As autumn transitions from knocking on the calendar's door to making itself at home, and produce variety starts to taper off, it’s easy to think that things might cool down on Milwaukee's dining front. Far from it. 

Richness abounds, and our great restaurants, craft brewers and cocktail-mixing folks are kicking into high gear as they switch menus and embrace the season. There is still, in fact, plenty coming from farmers’ fields at this time of year, and the cooler weather’s bounty is making its way into many of Milwaukee's culinary offerings.

One could happily wear themselves out, working their way across Milwaukee, sampling the exquisite cocktails made with Great Lakes Distillery's silver medal-winning Pumpkin Spirit. Hi-Hat, Black Sheep, and Café Lulu are some of my favorite imbibing spots around the city, whose cocktails do justice to Great Lakes’ seasonal spirit. 

If your penchant leans toward beer, order a cheekily named Sasquatch from Milwaukee Brewing Co., easily found on tap handles across the city. What began as a home brew by one of Milwaukee Brewing Co.'s team now takes shape by way of700 pounds of pumpkins and 400 pounds of sweet potatoes, plus a variety of specialty malts. Flavor notes of pumpkin and cinnamon make it a great fall brew. 

Should you wish to stay on the beer bent, swing into Benelux Café or any of the other Lowland's cafés or restaurants. Take a moment to raise a glass to the owners, both of whom have been knighted (yes, knighted) by the Belgian Knighthood of the Brewers’ Mashstaff and just recently returned from their trip to Amsterdam. The knighthood is an honor bestowed by one of the oldest professional organizations in history, and something akin to a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize for brewers.  

Le Rêve Patisserie and Café

As any good Belgian knows, another of the world’s favorite indulgences is chocolate.  Milwaukee hosts two renowned master pastry chefs in October. Le Rêve Patisserie and Café in downtown Wauwatosa hosts a seven-course Pour l'amour du chocolat dinner on Oct 21. Visiting chef Jerome Landrieu, director of the Chocolate Academy in Chicago and listed as one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America, will be partnering chocolate, course by course, with Le Rêve's superlative French cuisine. 

Not to be outdone at the hands of chocolate, Shorewood's North Shore Boulangerie has a vanilla event planned a few days earlier, on Oct 19, with World Pastry Championship-winner Patrice Caillot and Dr. Ken Cameron, author of Vanilla Orchids. An engaging discussion between the professor and master chef on the history of the world’s most popular fragrance and flavor will be moderated by yours truly, followed by a cooking demonstration and samples. 

If October is a precursor to the culinary escapades of the winter holiday season, I would estimate that—as a city—Milwaukee is gearing up for greatness.



Bublrs Around Town

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Friday, October 10, 2014

By Kevin Hardman
Launch Director at Bublr Bikes

You may have noticed the bright blue bike stations popping up around downtown or have seen news reports about “Bublr Bikes” bicycle sharing coming to Milwaukee. But you might not know this project has actually been nearly three years in the making.

City of Milwaukee leaders and a group of citizen advocates have seen and experienced bike sharing around the country and the world. Inspired by the international bike sharing evolution, our team set out to bring this innovative urban transportation option to Milwaukee. (In case you’re interested, here’s a list of bike share systems around the world.)

The concept is simple: once you purchase a Bublr Pass ($7 for 24 hours or $20 for a month) you can check out a bike at any kiosk to run an errand or visit an attraction. You simply leave the bike at another kiosk near your destination, and when you want to return or go somewhere else, you check out the same or another Bublr Bike. You can do this as often as you wish within the time frame of your pass. There are no additional expenses for any trip that is under 30 minutes. A trip over 30 minutes will incur small usage fees.

Bicycle sharing is simply another healthy and cost-effective transportation choice for residents and visitors to experience Milwaukee. It provides a great way for families or even a business traveler to get around in a fun and interesting way!

The Bublr Bikes kiosks are conveniently located all around Milwaukee. You can find stations at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, Red Arrow Park, Schlitz Park, Cathedral Square, Chase Plaza, the Public Market, the 411 East Wisconsin Building, U.S. Bank Center, the Wisconsin Center and Discovery World. If there isn’t a bike kiosk near you now, never fear, Bublr Bikes plans to expand into other neighborhoods in 2015.

Learn more at


Oktoberfest Interviews: Big Head Brewing

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Friday, September 26, 2014

By Katy Deardorff
Communications Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

Sometimes you just have to “spread the love” according to Steve Parkhill, the head brewer at Wauwatosa’s Big Head Brewing Company. When it takes the same amount of time to brew five gallons of beer at home for friends that it does to brew 100 gallons for an entire neighborhood, you choose the entire neighborhood.

The brewery, which opened in Sept. 2013, is located on a State St. corner and the welcoming picnic benches give you a comfortable view of the local crossfitters who are running by while you sip your beer. The location is prime, to say the least. If you’re not interested in watching people work out as you drink, you can turn your attention to the adorable man at the piano or any one of the large-screen TVs for a sports game.

What does a day in the life of a brew master look like? Sometimes your average 8-5 job just doesn’t seem to take enough energy, so Parkhill, who is an engineer at Rockwell Automation, spends two nights a week brewing beer from 6 p.m. to midnight. “I would be doing it anyway if I were at home,” Parkhill said. “So I might as well make more and get it in the hands of more people.”

How did you get started brewing beer? Parkhill moved to Milwaukee about five years ago for work, where he met a co-worker who was big into home brewing. Since that fateful first night spent brewing beer, Parkhill has been’s become a passion.

How does being an engineer translate into being a brewer? It should come as no surprise that brewing beer is hugely technical and scientific in nature (much like engineering). “You have to go into every batch with an intention for what you’d like the beer to be,” Parkhill said. While not at the brewery, Parkhill’s friends and family can find him testing pilot batches in his own kitchen, just like the old days.

What beers do you currently have on tap? “Our new Oktoberfest is like our version of liquid bread,” said Parkhill. The beers change seasonally, but Parkhill tries to make each patron’s time at the brewery a new and unique experience. Local beer enthusiasts can even come in and watch Parkhill brew while enjoying a new pumpkin beer and provide much encouraged feedback.

What’s with the name? “Our owner legitimately had a big head—and in grade school he was made fun of for it,” Parkhill explained. This is apparently an opportunity to get back at the bullies, and, luckily, it applies to beer as well. Nice pun! 


Milwaukee, the King of Cocktails: Part Two

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Monday, September 22, 2014

By Kyle Cherek
Host of Wisconsin Foodie

With such a distinctive place in cocktail history, it is no wonder that Milwaukee has been able to hold its own within a movement that had continued to ascend.  The “craft” aspect of cocktail making has claimed its place on cocktail lists and the palettes of American imbibers, and our city has been a part of it every step of the way. 

Great Lakes Distillery, Wisconsin's first since Prohibition, was founded in 2004 and has lead the charge with a cadre of award-winning spirits. Not the least of these are a gin (listed as one of America's Best in the New York Times) and a blended whiskey (winner of the gold medal at the 2013 World Whiskey Awards).

Bittercube—hand-made bitters made by a duo of Milwaukee bartenders—have gained national attention, and enjoy distribution to better cocktail bars around the country and space on the shelves of Whole Foods. Bittercube and a spate of new distilleries are located within blocks of Bryant's and Great Lakes Distillery in Milwaukee’s South Side. 

To wit, it only seems proper—with Milwaukee's cocktail history and current momentum—that the city host Milwaukee Cocktail Week, running September 21-27, 2014. Now in its second year, this ode to cocktails was founded by local food writers and the publishers of Milwaukee-based Alcoholmanac Magazine. It promises “distiller meet & greets, tastings, hands-on classes and all sorts of other events revolving around the art of the cocktail!” As the host of Wisconsin Foodie, I am excited about the fantastic cocktail dinners planned through the week, pairing Milwaukee's exceptional chef talent with menu-crafted cocktails.

On Sunday, September 21, 2014, I hosted the 2nd Annual Milwaukee Cocktail Week Tailgate Kick-off event, and on Wednesday, September 24th, I will host a special cocktail dinner at Bavette La Boucherie. Astute in the heritage and craft of traditional butchery styles is Karen Bell, chef/owner of Bavette. Her talents are the perfect complement to cocktails that will undoubtedly represent America's great craft tradition. 

On September 27th, “Cocktail College” will be hosted at the Iron Horse Hotel. There you can sample the distilled spirits that helped make Milwaukee Cocktail Week possible as well as meet distillery representatives and ply them with questions about their craft. Seminars throughout the evening will serve as a well-vetted source of information on Milwaukee's place within national imbibing culture and history. Diplomas that night, however, will be self-bestowed. 



Milwaukee, the King of Cocktails: Part One

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Friday, September 19, 2014

By Kyle Cherek
Host of Wisconsin Foodie

Milwaukee is unequivocally a cocktail town. Beyond its long-storied lineage in brewing, this city has a uniquely qualified stake in the ground regarding the art of spirits and the history of American drinks. In the past several years, this history has garnered newfound respect in the hearts of those who appreciate the poise and heritage of a perfectly mixed drink.

The first mention of the term “cocktail” in America appears in an 1806 Hudson, New York periodical, where the question “What is a cocktail?” was posed. The answer listed ingredients of spirits, sugar, water and bitters and described (in a way that charms me) a drink, which “renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head”. 

Forty to fifty years later, the cocktail really came into its own. That the version of a cocktail as the world recognizes it was pioneered in the mid-19th century America by bartender Jerry Thomas is beyond refute. And Milwaukee, to its credit, gave the world its first free-standing cocktail lounge, Bryant's Cocktail Lounge, in 1938. 

Imagine a time when the only place to get a cocktail was either at home, in the lobby of a nice hotel, at the bar on a better ocean liner or at a tavern that was not “tied” to a particular brewery (as they all once were)...  When Bryant Sharp bought the building that was destined to become Bryant's Cocktail Lounge on Milwaukee's near South Side, it was just that, a “tied house” serving only Miller Beer brews. It was a rough and bare place whose ambiance was defined by wooden walls and a cast iron stove.

Bryant and his wife Edna bought the property in 1936 and by 1938 had changed the paradigm of how Milwaukee customers drank. The jukebox only played classical music; Oster mixers were employed for the concoction of drinks; and, by the early 1940s, Bryant’s was swinging. The 1950s gave credence to iconic drinks like the Pink Squirrel, still made today, which originated at Bryant's. In 2012, Esquire Magazine's cocktail cognoscenti, David Wondrich, named Bryant's the Best Bar in America. 

The treasure of Bryant's is not lost on the historically- and architecturally-minded either. On September 20, 2014, as part of Historic Milwaukee's Doors Open annual event series, I will host a talk about Bryant's Cocktail Lounge. At the very bar where the Pink Squirrel first debuted, I will elaborate upon its place in American cocktail history.  (Note: seating is limited; this is a ticketed event through Doors Open.)


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