We recently had the pleasure of attending the Black Truffle Dinner at the Lake Park Bistro in Milwaukee. The dinner is an annual tradition of theirs, made all the more special this year because the week after the dinner in Milwaukee, they were recreating the meal for the James Beard House. Even more special (for us, anyway), was that we went with our friends Andy and Caitlin. Food can only make a meal good, it is the company that makes it memorable. Andy had been invited to the dinner because he is the man behind Rush Creek Reserve, which was the centerpiece of the cheese course.
Now, a seven course meal (plus hors d’oeuvres) is a fairly decadent to begin with. Add to that black truffles with every course and you’ve got a meal that would make Beau Brummell blush. Plus, being sensible people of moderation, we took a trip to the Milwaukee Public Market for a couple dozen oysters before dinner.
Despite the pig pictured on the menu, we have it on good authority the truffles were found by dogs.
Continue reading Decadence of the (Mid)West
Sjolinds (pronounced “shoo-linds”) makes me think about the scrumptious cottage in the forest in Hansel & Gretel minus the evil witch and minus the forest. Sitting along Main St. in Mt. Horeb (known for their troll statues), it is a friendly and bright space. The best part of the chocolate house are the many drawers filled with chocolate bars! I remember going there for the first time a few years ago and opening every single one. There are the classic Toblerones, Milka, Kinder, as well as some of Sjolinds own brand. I was pleasantly surprised to see a single origin bar from Davao City in the Philippines. My grandparents in the Philippines actually have several cacao trees. Whenever the come to the states they smuggle in some chocolate tablets for the family. So you could say we have our own single origin brand as well.
Continue reading Sjolinds Chocolate House
Great news there is now a Japanese restaurant in Mineral Point. Hiroko and Chris Messer have recently opened Kusaka, meaning “under the sun”, named after Hiroko’s grandmother. The couple made a big move from Sendai, Japan (where an earthquake triggered tsunami caused much devastation last year) to Dodgeville. Now closer to Chris’ side of the family, they are slowly but surely adjusting to life in the states. The food industry is nothing new to Chris and Hiroko. Hiroko had been working in food even before the couple met. Teaching English as a Second Language brought Chris from Cuba City to Japan. Hiroko worked as a waitress in the same building where he taught. They met, fell in love, and eventually operated a hamburger joint; no doubt to share some American love to the Japanese. Now they are here sharing Hiroko’s Japanese home cooking.
Hiroko & Chris
Continue reading Kusaka: Under the Sun
Last year, my mom took my brother and I to my favorite city in the world. With London serving as the world’s stage right now for the summer Olympics, I thought I might show you a tasty kaleidoscope that is the Borough Market. Hands down, it is the finest market I’ve visited so far. I remember descending down some steps and being greeted by the strong aroma of fried spicy meat coming from a giant size paella pan, sizzling with paprika red Spanish chorizo. Up ahead, a woman sold at least 30 different kinds of Turkish delights, the colors and the flavors were equally enchanting. I picked up some raspberry, lemon, pistachio, coconut, and the classic rosewater. Even more impressive was the selection of nuts, which was double the amount of the candy selection. To the right, the briny and clean smell of the packed oyster stand. Each oyster so big, you could barely fit one in your mouth. There was a German pastry stand, the homeliest fish I’ve ever seen, a guy that sold whatever type of fruit smoothie you could dream up, and the Thai curry stand, oh I just had to stop. The man had three huge vats (red, green, and white) that he was watching and stirring once in awhile. I watched as he added some chicken into the white one.
Continue reading “Drifted” Appetite: London’s Borough Market
A few months ago, we went to visit my brother and his girlfriend in West Palm Beach. Our friend, farmer Rink said that we might be interested in meeting up with his friend Eric who had just moved to the area. Eric Hahn has been in the local food distribution business for many years. He helped set up networks in Michigan and Illinois with the purpose to establish the first Farm to School campaigns for both Detroit and Chicago public schools. This time, he is in Florida doing the same for the Palm Beach and Pinellas County Public Schools. Florida is one of the lowest ranked states when in comes to providing nutritious meals using locally sourced produce in school lunches. That will not be the case soon however. I heard news from Eric just last night of an incredible contract award announcement. It will make Palm Beach County Schools the largest and most diverse Farm to School Program in the United States! Currenty, there are 48 states with operational farm to school programs and about 2,500 schools involved. With about 100,000 public schools in the country, there are still a lot of kids to reach out to.
West Palm Beach Farmers’ Market
Continue reading “Drifted” Appetite: West Palm Beach
Happy St. Patrick’s Day weekend everyone. Let’s go to Ireland! Last spring, my mom, my brother, and I went on our first trip to Ireland. Mostly we stayed and explored Dublin and its surrounding area. For a couple of days we drove up the east coast and ended up exploring some parts of Northern Ireland as well. The main impression I have of Ireland was that the everyone we met was extremely nice. (Maybe even nicer than my family.) The first thing we did when we arrived was to find the kitchiest pub, listen to some music, eat oysters, and drink some Guinness. It is true that the best Guinness is in Ireland. Guinness in America just doesn’t compare. The same goes for it’s oysters. They were the fattest, most succulent, and cleanest tasting oysters I’ve ever had.
When In Ireland
Continue reading “Drifted” Appetite: Ireland
I feel a bit guilty posting this since we just had such a picture perfect winter’s day. I happily shoveled some snow while clumps of fluffy snow showered me from high up the trees. Ollie dog and I went for a long ramble and took a few pictures along the way. After that, I took a long bath and had a late breakfast of fried eggs with a giant cup of latte made with my favorite Kickapoo Coffee and Sassy Cow milk. Today, I’m not so keen on winter again so let’s get some virtual apricity from San Diego, a place where you can barely tell one day from the other. Always sunny with blue skies and the temperature in the mid 70′s (at least during the week we spent there last August), it is a nice and relaxing place to be. My bags are packed, let’s go!
Blue San Diego
Continue reading “Drifted” Appetite: San Diego
Hello all, this post will start a short series called “Drifted” Appetite. We will be writing about food and travel away from the Driftless region. Come take a virtual vacation with us. First, let’s go to Chicago.
After waiting patiently for several months, we finally got to eat at Alinea, the premiere restaurant to experience molecular gastronomy in North America. Chef Grant Achatz is one of the experts in the field. The meal consisted of twenty artfully arranged courses, ten pairings of wine, and about four hours of pure pleasure. I decided not to take any pictures (except for the desserts using my cell phone) so I could be fully engaged with the entire presentation. If you know me, I’m very snap happy when holding a camera. It took a few days to get used to the idea but I thought it was a sound decision in the end. I have to admit, I did buy the 400 page Alinea cookbook online once we got back to our hotel room as a souvenir.
1723 North Halsted was a dimly lit two story brick building without indication that it was a public place. There was a small sign for valet parking nearby. We entered a dramatic purple lit hallway that felt as if we were walking through a lens. At the end, a sliding door opened up to a large room. It looked very sterile with the dominant color being white, accented with greys, browns, and green. There was a staircase to our left and the kitchen to our right. The hostess asked if we wanted to see the kitchen in action. The staff was busy, moving around precisely and quietly. It looked like a kitchen with invisible food. Like a mannequin, Chef Achatz stood at one end of an island, a hand at his chin, the other arm across his body supporting an elbow, while seriously staring at something. Keith whispered, “He kinda looks like one of those vampires from the Twilight movies.” I whispered back “I would probably let him suck my blood.” We laughed quietly then a man came by to take us to one of the upstairs dining rooms.
Entrance, Finale, City, Winter
Continue reading “Drifted” Appetite: Alinea
With the Driftless Film Festival going on this weekend and a recent trip to the Rural Route 1 popcorn store, I couldn’t help but think about why movies and popcorn are so intertwined in American culture. My research brought me to a man named Charles Cretor. Born in Ohio, he was a hard-working man who took whatever job he could get to earn a living. In the late 1800′s he built up enough money to purchase and manage a candy store. Prominently displayed in the store was a peanut roaster, a popular draw at the time. The roaster he had and other current models were not up to his standards so the bold businessman sold his shop to concentrate on building a better machine.
C. Cretors & Company was formed. To survive in the business he had to come up with other ways to use utilize his machines like roasting coffee and parching corn (gently cooking the kernels gently until it has expanded and softened a bit). The natural progression was making a better popcorn. Popcorn vendors at the time used a wire basket to pop corn over flame then melted butter was poured over it. The result was a soggy and unpopular snack food. In 1893, Charles patented the process and the machine for popping corn in a lard and seasoning mixture. The product was excellent. Its major debut was at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. No one wanted to buy it, the public didn’t want to pay for experimental food so Charles gave it away. Who doesn’t like free food? People couldn’t get enough of it ever since. Soon, popcorn vendors started setting up their carts outside of movie theaters. Noting its popularity, theater owners bought their own popcorn machine to set up inside the theaters so that they could generate more profit. So there you go, popcorn plus movies equals happy people and a happy house (except for the outside vendor I suppose).
Continue reading Popcorn & Movies
Familar with TED? It’s a non-profit which hosts conferences for short talks on a variety of subjects. They often make the news when the speaker is famous. Maybe you remember Jamie Oliver’s talk from 2010 about teaching kids about food. Or Macolm Gladwell back in 2004 talking about spagetti sauce. There have been a lot of other TED talks, given by less noted people, which are just as interesting. I recently watched a talk from Nigel Marsh on work/life balance. I have my own work/life/blog balance issues right now, so it was particularly interesting to me, but I imagine many of you are in the same boat. Now Nigel’s solution to his work/life balance problems seems to have been to write a book about the whole thing and make tons of money so he doesn’t need to work. Probably not a scalable solution, but still, at least he asks the right questions in his talk. Continue reading Paoli Bread & Brat Haus