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.

You go, grill: Tips for firing up the grill

Contributing writer
Thursday, 26 June 2014 13:19

Time to fire up the Weber.

With the harsh winter behind us, it’s time to get outside, fire up the Weber and enjoy the primitive allure of cooking and dining in the fresh air. Tender cuts of meats, savory fish and crisp, fresh fruits and vegetables taste better grilled al fresco, whether over gas or charcoal.

There’s much more involved in successful grilling than throwing food on a grill over an open flame. As with all other forms of cooking, planning and preparation are a must if you expect perfection.

Here are some tips and reminders that will improve your output, even if you’re not new to the apron and spatula.

Ain’t no pour like the summertime brews

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 26 June 2014 15:15

Cheers to summertime.

Dan Carey, co-owner and brewmaster of New Glarus Brewing Co., would like you to enjoy his beer Totally Naked.

Depending on circumstances — and the temperature — you can, of course, enjoy any beer totally naked. But only Carey produces a brand of beer called Totally Naked that can be enjoyed virtually anywhere, regardless of the weather. It’s also a perfect beer to add to your list of summertime brews.

A lager brewed with two-row barley malt and Noble Hop varieties from Germany and the Czech Republic, Totally Naked pours with a bright white head and a light golden color that literally sparkles in the summer sun. The beer’s flavor is light, but creates a significant, yet subtle impression on the palate. It finishes very cleanly, with barely a whisper of aftertaste.

The perfect summer beer is, of course, the beer you enjoy the most. But warmer temperatures generally call for lighter, more refreshing fare. Just like food, there are beers that suit the season, and here are a few for your summer six-pack.

Wanna whole gelato love?

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Saturday, 14 June 2014 13:16

The display case of gelato flavors was overwhelming in its variety and volume. But it still wasn’t sufficient to prepare me for my first taste at the La Coppa Artisan Gelato stand in the food court at Madison’s West Towne Mall.

“Try the Wedding Cake,” suggested the helpful clerk. “People like that one.”

Drink the rainbow: Colorful cocktails

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Saturday, 14 June 2014 13:07

Time to get your Pride on! To help you celebrate Pride Month, we’ve researched a number of rainbow cocktails suitable for June — or all summer long. These quenchers have been designed to refresh — and their bright color bars will remind you and your guests of all that we have to celebrate.

Outpost opens its first ‘green’ certified market in Mequon

Written by Anne Siegel,
Contributing writer
Friday, 30 May 2014 14:17

Although its grand opening was less than a month ago, Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative in Mequon — the cooperative’s fourth store in the greater Milwaukee area — is already getting a lot of attention.

“The response has been overwhelming (and) we are delighted,” said one of the store’s 80 new employees.

Located at 7590 Mequon Road, the juncture of Mequon and Wauwatosa roads, the stunning, 16,700-square-foot building is comparable in size to Outpost’s stores on Capitol Drive in Glendale, Kinnickinic Avenue in Bay View and State Street in Wauwatosa.

Chicago vs. NYC foodie smackdown: Who eats better?

Written by J.M. HIRSCH,
AP writer
Thursday, 22 May 2014 06:03

The James Beard Foundation recently announced that its awards ceremony honoring the best chefs and restaurants is moving to Chicago after 24 years in New York City.

It's more proof that Chicago is home to one of the country's hottest restaurant scenes.

But who's got the better eats?