Dining

Good gourd almighty! Pumpkin beers proliferate

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 02 October 2014 14:34
closeup.pumpkins

Autumn arrives with abundance — the fall harvest, colorful foliage and pumpkin beer, for instance. And with each passing season, the pumpkin beer patch continues to grow.

With all the major brands, craft brewers and brewpubs to consider, there’s no shortage of varieties. Beeradvocate.com recently published its list of the top 50 pumpkin beers, a clear indicator that the seasonal pints are multiplying at an impressive pace.

Skeptics who believe pumpkin beer is simply a seasonal novelty could use a history lesson. Brewers have been making pumpkin beer since Colonial times, when the native North American gourd was thought to have medicinal qualities and was often more plentiful than the grain required to brew more traditional varieties of beer. Some early beer recipes replaced the grain entirely with the meat of the pumpkin.

‘Wines by northwest’ pour excellence

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 18 September 2014 09:55

Wines by NxNW Winery. — Photo: NxNW Winery

California gets all the attention when it comes to wine produced in the United States. With wineries concentrated mostly in regions such as Napa and Sonoma, the state produces almost 90 percent of  the wine made in the nation.

But turn your western gaze a little more northwesterly. Washington and Oregon have winemaking legacies nearly as long as California’s, and those states’ pinot noir, chardonnay and excellent vintages are pushing them further into the limelight. The states rank as the third and fourth highest-producing states in the nation behind California and New York.

Go For the Food: Bourbon in Louisville

Written by BRUCE SCHREINER,
AP writer
Thursday, 11 September 2014 15:00

In Kentucky’s bourbon country, the classic American whiskey isn’t just for sipping anymore.

Restaurants stretching along the Urban Bourbon Trail in Louisville are creating bourbon-inspired sauces and glazes to jazz up main courses, side dishes and desserts. The 6-year-old bourbon cocktail and culinary experience has grown to 34 establishments, adding more zest to the city’s nightlife.

Milwaukee restaurant groups offer menu of choices

Written by Matthew Reddin,
Staff writer
Thursday, 04 September 2014 11:29

Milwaukee's basic food groups …

Milwaukee’s dining scene isn’t as well-known as Chicago’s or New York’s, but Brew City is far from starving for quality culinary options. The metro area hosts a feast of high-quality, creative food and drink options that cater to big spenders and average Joes alike.

The originality of the city’s dining venues is so impressive that it’s surprising to learn how many of them are operated by the same ownership groups. Just three of those groups — Bartolotta, Mojofuco and SURG — manage more than 30 restaurants, bars and eateries among them. There’s an obvious financial benefit available to owners who can pull it off, no easy task in the current economy.

But the real accomplishment is not in having a successful portfolio of restaurants. It’s in pleasing the palates of Milwaukee — and elevating the dining scene in the process.

Oktoberfest begins September — are you ready to pour?

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 04 September 2014 11:19

Octoberfest. It begins in September!

As you’re reading this, there’s probably enough time left to catch a flight to Munich for the annual opportunity to drink copious amounts of hearty German beer from 1-liter tankards with 6 million of your closest friends. Ach du lieber!

On the other hand, if you don’t have the opportunity to stagger across the Theresienwiese (“Therese’s meadow,” where Munich pitches 14 mammoth beer tents) with the rest of the bierleichen (“beer corpses,” a popular German term for those who overindulge), you can still celebrate the Bavarian festival of Oktoberfest in Wisconsin. 

The misnamed annual beer celebration begins on Sept. 20, at the moment Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter pounds the first spigot into the first keg and announces “O’zapt is!” — “It’s tapped!” Reiter’s stroke of the mallet will launch more than two weeks of malt-headed, well-hopped consumption that doesn’t conclude until the last drops are drained on Oct. 5.

Cannabis cuisine rises in wake of legalization

Written by The Associated Press Tuesday, 02 September 2014 08:39

There are books about cooking with herbs. And then there are books about cooking with herb.

Yes, we're talking cannabis cuisine, a small niche in the culinary world but one that is drawing more interest as the legalization movement moves pot closer to the mainstream.

Portuguese wines an excellent, overlooked value

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 21 August 2014 09:30

In this issue of Dish it Out!

It pours light, bright and floral, with clean transparency, tropical fruit notes and a slight effervescence as subtle as it is necessary.

Meet vinho verde. Although it hails from northern Portugal, a country known for its rich, complex ports, vinho verde (literally “green wine,” but usually translated “young wine”) is anything but. Its vibrant, youthful sparkle is the perfect way to stretch the pleasures of the season as summer winds down.

It’s also a good excuse to consider the wide array of exceptional Portuguese table wines. One of Europe’s oldest wine regions,  Portugal is home to dozens of varietals, many unfamiliar to the casual wine drinker. 

Although Portugal is the world’s fifth-largest wine exporting country, its wines are often hard to find. Here are a few vinhos verdes and ports well worth looking for.

7 sassy chardonnays to brighten your summer

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Wednesday, 06 August 2014 21:11

The adaptable chardonnay grape has flourished in cooler as well as warmer places.

We all know that summer and chilled white wines go together. And few whites are more reliable than chardonnay, one of the country’s top white choices.

The adaptable chardonnay grape has flourished in cooler as well as warmer places, such as its native southern France. When other countries discovered chardonnay, an unintended hybrid of the Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc grapes, its status and availability grew.

Once chardonnay crossed the Atlantic, the market exploded. Growers began to clear their slopes of many lesser-known varietals to plant chardonnay. Acres of historic vines and entire enological legacies were lost to make way for the upstart. The result was an eventual market glut that made chardonnay somewhat passé.

Tomayto, tomahto: Either way it’s a nutritious summer treat

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Wednesday, 06 August 2014 21:08

Let’s make one thing clear. A tomato, despite its uses, is botanically a fruit — specifically an ovary, together with its seeds, of a flowering plant.

However, a tomato has far less sugar than any other fruit, making it less suitable for all those tasty usages to which fruit is put. Yes, there are green tomato pies, but would you ever dollop chopped tomato over vanilla ice cream? 

Still, tomato — or “tomahto,” if you prefer the British pronunciation — is one of the botanical and culinary joys of late summer. Our garden is ready to burst with this year’s heirloom varieties, and we can’t wait to get them on our plates.

Tiny Bayfield has thriving restaurant scene

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Friday, 25 July 2014 04:01

Greunke’s Restaurant. — Photo: travelwisconsin.com

With just 487 permanent residents, Bayfield is one of Wisconsin’s smaller quaint towns, with a steeply sloping main street that ends at Lake Superior. But it’s also the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, consisting of 21 islands and 69,372 acres of shoreline, which makes Bayfield a year-around magnet for tourists throughout the Midwest.

With so many visitors, Bayfield has an unexpected abundance of restaurants for a town its size. These range from good to distinctly excellent.

Bayfield also has its own regional delicacy — whitefish livers.

If you’re heading to Bayfield, be sure to patronize the local culinary scene. Following are some recommendations.

Screaming Tuna offers sustainable seafood

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 10 July 2014 10:46

Sushi from Screaming Tuna. — PHOTO: Courtesy

Neither bluefin tuna, a sushi staple, nor the popular hamachi, a Japanese variety of amberjack, is on the menu at Screaming Tuna Sushi & Asian Bistro, 106 W. Seeboth St., in Milwaukee. Their absence is part of the restaurant owners’ effort to keep the two species, which have been severely overfished, from extinction.

The Walker’s Point restaurant is a committed participant in the growing ocean conservation movement, according to Jeff Bronstad, the restaurant’s co-owner and general manager.

“It started over a year ago with a customer who asked a lot of questions about the origin and sustainability of our seafood,” Bronstad says. “We knew where our seafood came from, but we had not given a lot of thought to sustainability, and we began to wonder why.”

Red Star offers craft cocktails in intimate setting

Written by Matthew Reddin,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 10 July 2014 19:43

The interior of Red Star Cocktail Club, above Trocadero at 1758 N. Water St. The bar opens at 8 p.m. Thursdays–Sundays. Call 414-272-0205 or visit redstarcocktailclub.com to make reservations or for additional information. — PHOTO: Courtesy

Red Star Cocktail Club faces an unusual conundrum. In order to be successful, the bar must draw clients. But drawing too large a crowd could distract from the desired ambiance of an exclusive and intimate craft-cocktail lounge.

Bar managers Lance Lanigan and Drew Cyr say they’re off to a good start in achieving the right balance. The classy bar’s historic speakeasy atmosphere, high-end service and complex seasonal concoctions have generated great word-of-mouth. Clientele has grown steadily since the bar opened in November 2013, they say, but it has not become overwhelming.

Red Star has the backing of its downstairs neighbor Trocadero, where Cyr serves as manager while Lanigan helms the upstairs bar. Much like the other restaurants owned by the Lowlands Group, including Cafe Centraal, Cafe Benelux and the two Cafe Hollanders, Red Star has European roots. Lanigan says co-owner Mike Eitel was inspired by upscale bars across the pond.