Eating Milwaukee

MilwaukeeI was in Milwaukee last week on a business trip. While most of the breakfasts and lunches were catered, dinner was up to us. I must say, I was very gastronomically pleased with Milwaukee. It was my first trip to the Midwest, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. No matter where I went for the evening’s cuisine, I left satisfied — with many the food coma to prove that I enjoyed my meal to the fullest.

Here are my top five eateries from my week in Milwaukee:

1. Wolf Peach
This was a can’t miss experience. I’m still reeling from the wonders of the evening, and it’s been a week and a half! Wolf Peach focuses on European dishes with a communal dining experience. Our party of ten was urged to order two dishes each and then share with the group. Everything was delectable in the extreme. Dishes of note: smoked bone marrow, the mixed charcuterie board, slow-poached egg pizza, deviled duck eggs, and roasted broccoli. I also enjoyed a Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout from New Holland Brewing while I waited for the rest of the party to arrive at the restaurant. It was amazing.

2. Umami Moto
Lovely sushi, and really tasty dessert, too! Dishes of note: tuna roll, the best unagi nigiri I’ve had in a long time (unagi is one of my most favorite things in the world), and their salmon roll.

3. Kil@wat
Located in the hotel, not only was this a welcome respite after a day of travel, the food was also fantastic. I ordered the rosemary polenta cake dinner. The slightly smoky polenta on top of a bed of baby arugula with goat cheese and a raspberry-balsamic reduction was divine. The waiter recommended a South African wine, Protea. Its black fruit and espresso flavors were balanced by lovely minerals and a bit of smokiness. It was perfect with dinner.

4. Water Buffalo
Recommended because it carries local ingredients, Water Buffalo made for a terrific last dinner in the city. I ordered the grilled Berkshire pork loin. The combination of the tarragon mashed potatoes with the apricot Dijon glaze that was drizzled on the pork — OMG delicious. They also served up the largest crème brûlée I have ever seen. Make sure to share it with a friend.

5. Café Calatrava
Found inside the Milwaukee Art Museum, this restaurant is surrounded by gorgeousness. After filling your soul with the museum’s great collections, sit in the cafe that’s situated right on the waterfront. I slowly savored a light lunch of fresh fish paired with ramps and a roasted wedge of polenta while hungrily gazing out at Lake Michigan.

Looking for more of my travel “Eating” blogs? Check out Winchester, Portland, Anderson Valley, and Healdsburg.

Falling in Love with Healdsburg

vineyardsI got to do something really special for my birthday – I got to visit Healdsburg, California.

It’s a vibrant wine town. Charles and I felt immediately at home as we walked through the town center, a lovely plaza shaded by mature trees. Studded with shops, bookstores, and wineries, it felt like Arcata’s – the place we called home for most of our adult lives – older sister.

We spent our first afternoon in town walking from winery to winery, and brought home wonderful creations from Rosenblum Cellars, Roadhouse Winery, and our favorite of the day, Selby Winery. Our evening was spent at Dry Creek Kitchen where we partook of a beautiful birthday dinner. We achieved gastronomic heights as we experienced the many courses the kitchen had to offer. It was both a meal and a glorious adventure.

The next morning we enjoyed a lovely breakfast at Costeaux French Bakery. In fact, we enjoyed our meal so much, we returned there the next morning, both for breakfast and for pastries for the trip back to Nevada County.
Pezzi KingAfter breakfast, we went on some tours of the local wineries, beginning with Pezzi King. The Pezzi King estate is one of the most breathtaking vineyards I have ever seen. Set high on a hill, it has astoundingly gorgeous views, and the marine-influence was felt by the soft caress of the breeze. We could have stayed there all day, enjoying their amazing wines. Their Cabernet Sauvignon will make you grateful to be alive.

But onward we went, next stopping at Mazzocco Sonoma. Their wines were also splendid. In fact, they were Charles’ favorites. My favorite, Wilson Winery, is part of Wilson Artisan Wineries, a group that Pezzi King and Mazzocco also belong to. While the wines may have all been of Sonoma County, their talented winemakers’ hands were evident in the styles from each winery. It was amazing to try such similar – and yet distinct – Zinfandels, Cabernets, and Chardonnays.
Dry CreekAs the day was still young, we hit up a few more wineries including Preston (Organic), Quivira (Biodynamic), and Dry Creek. Each tasting room was staffed by extremely nice and knowledgeable people, and every spot had wine we were more than willing to take home.

We ended with some substantial grub and tasty beers at Bear Republic Brewing Company and called it a day, wishing that our weekend could extend into the weeks and months to follow. We realized that we had fallen in love with Healdsburg, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
vineyards and trees

The International Alsace Varietals Festival

Alsace FestivalLast weekend, we attended the International Alsace Varietals Festival in Anderson Valley, California. It was our second year attending, and something we plan to repeat each year. As I’ve mentioned a few times, Anderson Valley is one of our favorite areas in the world. It’s one of those places that feels like home, and the festival is a great reason to visit.

Alsace varietals that are focused on for the festival are Riesling, Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris. (Also in the Alsace varietals are Pinot Noir and Sylvaner as well as Auxxerois, Chasselas, and Chardonnay, via WineFolly. Anderson Valley has a separate Pinot Noir Festival in the spring.)

Last year’s focus was a bit more farm-oriented, and we learned a lot of interesting things about the challenges of growing grapes. This year was a bit more varietal focused. The first panel was about Riesling and the second about Gewurtztraminer. That meant we got to start sampling wines right away – score! – as well as learn about farming those specific varietals, environmental effects, bottling and closure choices, and fermentation practices. I loved it and took copious notes. The wine geek in me rejoiced.
food pairingThe third panel brought even more fun, focusing on food pairings from frog legs to stinky cheese. Flammekueche, Salad Truite Fumee, Terrine de Cuisses (frogs legs), Charcuterie et Moutarde, Goose Liver Pate, and Alsace Munster Cheese with Caraway Seeds and Sugared Walnut created a meal unto itself. Chef Lars Kronmark made excellent choices for the pairings, and all of the wines were amazing. Maybe because of my Super Taster-ness, maybe because I’ve never been a liver lover, but as beautiful as the chef made the goose liver sound, I couldn’t enjoy it. It was way too strong, but I enjoyed everything else, especially the smoked trout (Truite Fumee) and the Munster/sugared walnut pairings – delectable!

After filling our bellies with amazing food and wine, it was on to a cooking demonstration. Chef Francois de Melogue showed how to make Moroccan Sea Scallops to pair with Gewurztraminer. It was a gorgeous plate, and he was quite entertaining. If I’m ever in La Quinta, I’ll be visiting FIGUE, the restaurant where he’s the Executive Chef.

Then it was on to the Grand Tasting in which we enjoyed the craft of many wineries and continued to eat awesome things like pork belly and pizza. I love me some Anderson Valley Alsace wines, but there were also awesome options from Michigan and the Finger Lakes region of New York. Charles and I were quite taken with the wines of Fox Run Vineyards from Penn Yan, NY.
Husch VineyardsTo top off the weekend in extraordinary fashion, Sunday was spent traveling from winery to winery. We started with our absolute favorites, all three of which we’re wine club members: Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, and Navarro Vineyards. From there we ventured to Balo Vineyards, Esterlina, Phillips Hill Winery (At Phillips Hill I also learned that 1)my One Pan Meal is actually a traditional Alsatian meal and 2)it pairs amazingly with Alsace whites), and finished with a visit to Brutocao Cellars. We have never gone to so many wineries in a day, but it was so worth it. Everything we tried was terrific, proving once again that Anderson Valley wines are a force to be reckoned with. Man, I love them! If you’re a wine lover, especially of Alsace varieties, and have never had Anderson Valley wines, what are you waiting for? You won’t be disappointed, and you will be quite pleased to add another region to your go-to list for great wines.

We ended our final evening in the valley with a dinner at Aquarelle. I had a sumptuous swordfish that was absolutely delightful. The vibe was rustic/modern and like all good Anderson Valley things, casual and comfortable. The food was gourmet and very reasonably priced and was the perfect way to top off the weekend. We fell into bed that night quite satisfied with our festival experience and vowed to visit more regularly. We really do love it.

Other don’t-miss places while you’re in the valley besides the ones already listed:
Mexican food at Libby’s
Booneville General Store for an amazing breakfast or lunch
Mosswood Market and Café for great coffee and amazing empanadas
Coq Au Vin for lovely French Country cuisine
Lauren’s Café for an awesome home-style dinner (and the owner is SO NICE.)
Lemon’s Market and Deli for a quick but very tasty sandwich
Anderson Valley Brewing Company for some of the best beer anywhere (I had an ESB this trip — OMG!)
and where we always stay:
Anderson Valley Inn (the owners are awesome and do so much for the community)

Eating Winchester

Avebury

The skies were dreary and overcast. My wool pea coat was a must and was destined to be drenched multiple times. A pub and a pint by a crackling fire beckoned, but I was on a gastronomic mission – to eat at as many great restaurants in Winchester as possible.

We were visiting my sister, a recent Masters graduate from the Winchester School of Art. People had made fun of our culinary pursuits while in England – don’t they boil everything? – but we persevered and were rewarded with a week’s worth of wonderful meals. Winchester is actually a hub of a town with a teeming culture.

To begin our eatery extravaganza, we did in fact choose a pub. We were in England after all! At the Royal Oak, I opted for the Fish & Chips, and I was not disappointed. The haddock had wonderful flavor, the batter light and crunchy. The serving was huge – too much to consume in one sitting. The only unfortunate aspect was that it was presented on a wooden tray that had obviously been abused with frequent washing. (I was also not a fan of mushy peas, sorry!)

Trying Indian food was a must. I grew up in Yuba City (it’s often referred to as “Little India” because of the large Sikh population), which means that I also grew up with Indian cuisine, and I was curious to experience the differences – if any – from across the pond. The waiter didn’t believe that I could handle the spice in my meal, I ordered madras, but I could have handled more. We shared some lovely garlic naan and a bottle of Riesling for a very satisfying meal.

At Rimjhim, we waited – and waited – for the bill. We had encountered the lovely, non-pushy restaurant culture in Great Britain. They’ll let you sit there for hours if you don’t tell them you’d like the bill that last time the waiter or waitress stops by and asks if you’d like anything else. (When we ended up wanting dessert at another place after our meal, we had to practically pounce on a member of the staff in order to procure our bill.) After being left alone for what seemed like an eternity, we finally walked up to the register.

With traditional pub food and Indian out of the way, the next stop on our culinary journey was, of course, Italian. Zizzi was a bit haughty, and they sat our riffraff selves in a corner behind a life-sized statue of a horse, but my Ravioli Di Capra was divine, and the Barbera De Asti Superiore 2010 D.O.C.G., Chiarlo Piemonte was quite lovely with the food. It did sport more than a touch of Brett, to which I’m very sensitive (I think it tastes like Band-Aids), so it wasn’t my favorite, though that Brettanomyces, along with its restrained mineral characteristics, made it very European.

On our last day, we kept it Mediterranean and headed to Spain. El Sabio had a wonderful assortment of tapas. My choice of three dishes, Croquetas De Setas y Queso de Cabrales, Ensalada Mixta, and Albóndigas en Salsa de Tomate were perfect and packed with flavor. We shared a bottle of Tempranillo, Marqués de Verdellano for a very easy-going, and very filling, lunch.

I think our favorite stop of all was The Black Bottle – not a restaurant, though they do offer food, but rather a wine bar. With a card that had been charged from money given at the register, you could choose wine by the glass in 125 ml, 175 ml, or taste sizes. I had a grand time skipping around and sampling various wines from the automated dispensers until I happened upon my favorite, Masseria Pietrosa Malvasia Nera, and had a glass. I love it and am hoping to find a distributor here in the States. Thank goodness I live with a wine buyer!

All in all, our gastronomic tour of Winchester was a rousing success. We had a wonderful experience, and with all of the walking we did, I managed not to gain any weight, so, WIN!

Put a Bird on It

I just got back from a business trip in Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately due to luggage restrictions/items I needed to bring, I had to leave the camera at home. Since I didn’t get any Portland photos, I did the next best thing — I’m sharing one of the awesome velvet paintings my friend, Chris, has created for me. Chris lives in Portland, ergo, Portland photo! Erm, sort-of, right? Anyway… let’s move on.

Portland is a foodie paradise, and even more, a beer-lover’s dream. I consumed way more beer than was good for me, but I had to pack so much consumption into such a short space of time, you really can’t blame me.

The first evening found us at Deschutes Brewery. There, I had the great presence of mind to order a Hop in the Dark. I was a bit skeptical — a dark ale with hops? The resiny flavor played nicely with the chocolate sweetness of the malt. Who knew the two could be such great friends?

My next stop was dinner. While I’ve been told the restaurant at Deschutes is dynamite, I was overruled by my group, so we moved on. After being disappointed that all of the food trucks were closed, we continued to what appeared to be (at least on the outside) a hole-in-the-wall eatery with some nice, outdoor seating. I have to say, the Dan & Louis Oyster Bar makes a spectacular salad. I enjoyed a half salad of the Dungeness Crab Louis with a marionberry vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was spectacular. I can’t recommend it enough. I’m going to need to replicate it, in fact. Dinner was washed down with a Fish Tale Organic Amber Ale, a beer I know quite well and just wanted to enjoy.

There was no hesitation when it came to our next stop, plus it was just down the street. It’s almost a requirement to get a unique concoction at Voodoo Doughnut when you’re visiting the City of Roses. I had their Bacon Maple Bar. It was… weird — keeping Portland as it should be, I guess. I ate the whole thing, odd or not.

Then it was on to a nightcap at Rogue. By this time my head was spinning, what with all of the, um, sugar and socialization, so I opted for an old favorite — Dead Guy Ale. I did indulge in a sample of Rogue’s ode to Voodoo Doughnut, its Bacon Maple Ale. I’m sad to admit that it was the first Rogue creation I haven’t enjoyed. The liquid smoke flavors coupled with the maple sugary-ness just weren’t my thing.

After a full day of learning, my next dinner excursion was at The Original. Holy mother of … really, there should be a special reward for places that make food this delectable. I intended to get the beef stroganoff and had ordered my beer accordingly, but I was wooed by the braised pork shank. I was completely under the spell of the so-tender-it-was-falling-off-the-bone meat drizzled in a brown butter sherry sauce. I have no words. Recalling how staggeringly good that meal was makes me want to weep. Fortunately, the sauce allowed my equally amazing beer to compliment the meal. The Original had Fort George Bourbon Barrel Cavatica Stout on tap. What a gorgeous beer! Black, malty, sweet, and smooth — I wish I had purchased a case.

And that was it, a short adventure filled with brewed and culinary pleasures. I gained a lot of knowledge on new, awesome techniques in social networking, gained some new friends and colleagues, and most definitely gained some pounds. It was great. Stay weird, Portland, and stay yummy!