March 30, 2013

Boelter & Simple Cafe

Today I visited two places in Milwaukee for the first time - Boelter SuperStore and Simple Cafe.  Boelter is a restaurant supply store which is open to the public and also offers cooking classes.  After class, three of us (including Lisa) had lunch at Simple Cafe, which just opened this year.

I took a photo of Boelter outside today, but the current muddy March weather makes their website photo look so much better, so that's the one I'm sharing.  The cooking classes are held within the store pictured below.
The classes are taught by Chef Michael Feker of Il Mito in Wauwatosa and the new Il Mito East in Milwaukee.  I've never dined at Il Mito but have seen Chef Feker several times on the local morning news doing cooking segments and he's just as hilarious in person.

Chef Feker prepared one recipe in class which was quick pickled radishes & cabbage with arugula salad.  The salad was good but left me wishing that I liked the taste of arugula.  Eating grilled asparagus today was a great reminder that local asparagus will soon be available!

There are several more classes in April, May and June which are listed on Boelter's website, but must be registered for via phone at 414-967-4333.  Today's class sold out a couple weeks ago, so I recommend registering soon if you're interested.

Classes are $35 but the fees includes a $25 gift certificate for the SuperStore.  I found several items I've been wanting to buy and listed both the Boelter and Amazon prices below to give you an idea as to how their prices compare. 

I first heard of Simple Cafe from Erica who blogged about their restaurant in Lake Geneva and it sounded like the type of restaurant I would love, so I was excited when I saw a JSOnline article about a Milwaukee location which opened this year.

Simple serves breakfast until 3pm, so I ordered pumpkin pancakes which were outstanding!  They are buttermilk pancakes made with roasted pumpkin and topped with toasted pumpkin seed crumble and cinnamon powdered sugar.

Boelter SuperStore
Location: 4200 N Port Washington Rd - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Hours: M-F 8:30am-5:00pm, Sat 9am-3pm

Simple Cafe
Location: 2124 N Farwell - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Hours: M-F 6am-3pm, Sat 7am-3pm, Sun 8am-3pm is listed on their menu, but it's not up and running yet

Friday Five

Do you think juicing is a fad or does it having staying power?  It seems like everyone I talk to lately is now juicing.  I tried to ignore the hype but this past week I caved and bought a Cuisinart Juice Extractor.  I blame Kohl's for offering a 35% employee discount that can be combined with coupons. 

The sheer size of the box caused me to rethink my purchase a few times as I made my way to the checkouts.  Merlot was kind enough to provide a size reference in the photo.  Keep in my mind that he's a 20 pound cat and the box dwarfs him.

I didn't wait long to get it out of the package and I couldn't believe how many parts there were to wash!  However I got it back together pretty quickly and immediately started juicing carrots, apples and oranges, which was pretty tasty combination.  Can anyone recommend a good source for juicing recipes?  I'm looking forward to trying more variations!

The weather has warmed up here in Wisconsin and it's finally starting to feel like spring.  I recently made cake pops with my dad that we sprinkled in pastel spring colors. 

We also dipped some pretzel rods in the leftover chocolate which I had to take into work because they were way too tempting at home.  My favorite was white chocolate with coconut and chopped almonds.

Meal planning last week for my dad's visit was so easy.  He just recently stopped eating meat, so the recipes on this blog were the perfect starting point.  One meal my dad chose was three sisters chili, which he loved and then recommended to his brother by texting a photo (on the right).

My uncle cracked me up by sending a text a few days later with the picture on the left and the following message "Three Sisters Chili and a glass of red for sup tonight.  We may turn into vegans...God forbid."

Chris and I had dinner at Juniper 61 this past week, which I chose because I love their lemon drop martinis and I wanted to use my CityTin coupon.  I ordered one of their specials which was an avocado spring roll with sesame seeds, spring greens, carrots, red pepper and cucumber served with a Thai peanut dipping sauce.

Are you a fan of Nigella Lawson?  I hadn't heard of her until Molly mentioned how excited she was to meet her at a recent Milwaukee event.  Related to the event, Lori got the opportunity to interview Nigella and it was Lori's post that convinced me I needed to read Nigella's book How to Eat.
It's a fantastic book, with a lot of great advice.   I jotted down a few things I liked in particular related to freezing food (Chris and I are currently debating getting a second freezer), convenience foods and eating locally.

Freezers -
"The freezer can easily become a culinary graveyard, a place where good food goes to die.  If no one, including you, liked the soup the first time round (and that's why you've got so much leftover) there is no point in freezing it."

Convenience Foods -
"Trimmed vegetables and packaged salads are pandering to laziness and inviting extravagance on a ludicrous scale, but be grateful for them.  If they taste good, don't worry about it.  No one has to be made miserable over cooking."

Eating Locally -
"Don't believe everything you're told about the greater good of eating foods only when they are in season.  The purists may be right, but being right isn't everything.  If you live in the Tuscan hills, you may find different lovely things to eat every month of the year, but for us it would mean having to subsist half the time on a diet of tubers and cabbage, so why shouldn't we be grateful that we live in an age of jet transportation and extensive culinary imports?  More smug goff is spoken on this subject than almost anything else."

March 25, 2013

Corn, Kale & Potato Chowder

Although it's now officially spring, our current Wisconsin weather still begs for hearty, warm soups.  This chowder recipe is one that I adapted from Eats Well With Others turned out to be a hit with me, my dad and Chris.

This is one of those great recipes that can easily be made non-vegetarian for Chris who added minced clams to his portion in order to create clam chowder.

I used my last bag of Alsum's frozen sweet corn in the recipe and I'm hoping to buy more at the winter farmers' market before it ends in April. This soup is delicious on its own, but becomes even tastier when a little shredded Gruyere cheese is added to it!

Corn, Kale & Potato Chowder

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2" chunks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups / 6 oz chopped kale (from 1 bunch)
  • 2 cups frozen sweet corn
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 oz shredded Gruyere cheese
  • In a dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; saute for 5 minutes.
  • Add broth, potatoes, salt and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
  • Stir in the kale, corn and basil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes until the kale is tender. Discard the bay leaf and stir in the half-and-half. Season with salt to taste and top each bowl with cheese before serving.

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March 20, 2013

Jackrabbit Cookies

Are you into March Madness or could you care less?  Chris changed our plans tomorrow night, so he could be home to watch his alma mater, South Dakota State University.  I could care less about basketball, but as my dad and I made spring-themed cookies this week, I loved his suggestion to make jackrabbit cookies :)

This was my second attempt at stamping words onto cookies and while they were a little more legible this time around, it still didn't work very well, so I'm giving up on the idea.

Chris got a real kick of the jackrabbit cookies we made.  He's very proud of his South Dakota heritage and the fact that SDSU made it to "The Dance."

While it's fun to make cutout cookies, it can also be a real pain in the ass.  I was thankful my dad enjoys making them as much as I do because it's a much easier process with a buddy.

We setup pastry mats on opposite sides of the table with cookie sheets between us and cranked through the cookies in no time.

I got my pastel dyes out to color frosting for our spring shaped cookies.  Multiple colors always seems like a good idea until you realize you only have two offset spatulas and you like to switch colors with each cookie :)

These cookies are now tucked away in my freezer for safe keeping.  My grandma always kept cutout Christmas cookies in an unheated room of the house and I could never quite wait long enough for them to warm up, so to this day I find frozen sugar cookies to be the most delicious.

Both the sugar cookie recipe and vanilla buttercream recipe that I prefer come from my Betty Crocker cookbook.  They're the gold standard as far as I'm concerned when it comes to making holiday cutout cookies.

March 17, 2013

Beet, Feta & Kale Pizza

Do pickled beets, feta cheese and kale sound like a strange combination for pizza toppings?  I promise, they are delicious together!  This is a recipe from The Scrumptious Pantry and was demonstrated in the cooking class I attended last weekend.

My dad is visiting this week and he and I quickly devoured this pizza for dinner last night, then decided we definitely need to make it again before he leaves, that's how much we both liked it.  Chris doesn't care for beets, so you can guess what his opinion was on this pizza.

Beet, Feta & Kale Pizza

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes

Ingredients (12" pizza)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 5 oz) chopped pickled beets
  • 3 oz feta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh kale, finely torn
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • Heat oven to 450 degrees with pizza stone in it for 30 minutes.
  • Roll out dough into a 12" circle, then brush with olive oil and evenly distribute beets and feta. Transfer to pizza stone and bake for 7 minutes.
  • Top pizza with kale and sprinkle with thyme. Bake for another 5 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
Recipe Source: The Scrumptious Pantry
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March 16, 2013

Super Spinach Salad {Trader Joe's}

When traveling, I love buying prepared salads from grocery stores, but when I'm home they just serve as inspiration.  I was shopping at Trader Joe's the other day and liked the look of their Super Spinach Salad, so I quickly pulled out my phone to snap a photo of the ingredient list so I could recreate it.

From the Fearless Flyer - "Trader Joe’s Super Spinach Salad is a super-delicious, super-nutritious blend of fresh baby spinach, shredded carrots, dried cranberries, quinoa, shelled edamame, grape tomatoes, chickpeas and pumpkin seeds."

The components of this salad are fairly standard, but it's one of those things where I wouldn't necessarily think to combine them. 

I find that I'm more likely to eat salads when all the ingredients are prepped and ready in my fridge.  I like using Ziploc glass containers for that purpose, in fact I often find myself wishing I had more because they're handy little containers.  I bought mine at Woodman's, if you're looking to get some.

I like leaf lettuce salads, but I'm not a huge fan of spinach salads, so for round two I tried the salad sans spinach and it was great!

March 10, 2013

Glorioso's & The Scrumptious Pantry

I really enjoyed my first cooking class at Glorioso's Italian Market yesterday.  I don't get to the Brady Street area very often, so the class was a great excuse to shop at one of my favorite stores. 

The class was called The Scrumptious Pantry: Cooking Seasonally & Locally in Winter and showed that it's possible to eat local foods in the winter by cooking with pickled vegetables, which isn't something I had considered before.  Inger also attended the class, which made it even more fun.

The class began by Michael Gloriso giving us a brief history of his family's store.  Three generations of Glorioso family members currently work in the store, including the three founding brothers who are 90, 88 and 82 years-old.

Glorioso's opened on February 14, 1946 and remained in the same 3,100 sq ft space for 64 years, until relocating to its current 20,000 sq ft home in December 2010.

Lee Greene, owner of The Scrumptious Pantry, taught us how to make three delicious dishes with pickled vegetables.  The pasta had pickled lemon cucumbers, the pizza had pickled beets and the quiche had pickled Beaver Dam peppers.
Michael Matousek of Hinterland Brewery presented the beer paired with each dish.  Although I generally don't like beer, the Maple Bock was very good.  Hinterland makes their own maple syrup, which lends a subtle maple flavor to the beer, and it also has a slight smokiness from boiling the sap over an open flame.

Prior to the class, I didn't think I liked quiche, but I have a feeling that I never had a "market quiche" as Lee called it, which is a lot of vegetables with just a little egg to hold it together. 

The Beaver Dam pepper was a main quiche ingredient and a pepper I hadn't heard of until I saw news of a Centennial Celebration this past fall.  Seeds for the pepper were brought over from the Austrian-Hungarian empire in 1912 and it's currently considered an endangered food because so few farmers are growing the peppers.

After class, Inger and I stocked up on the ingredients needed to make the recipes that Lee demonstrated, including several Scrumptious Pantry items.  I'm hoping to make all three dishes this week...we'll see how that goes :)  I also picked up my favorite Glorioso's frozen ravioli, which is such a tasty, quick meal.

I really like The Scrumptious Pantry labeling, which has photos and names of the farmers that grow the ingredients.  For example, Carlo in Italy who grows the wheat for the pasta, Alison & Alex in Illinois who grow beets, John in Wisconsin who grows Beaver Dam peppers and Jenny & Rink in Wisconsin who grow lemon cucumbers.

I could see people experiencing sticker shock when shopping at Glorioso's, but I think Joe Glorioso said it best in a Journal Sentinel article - "Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten."

March 09, 2013

Three Sisters Chili

I really like this recipe, as in ate it for both lunch and dinner every day this week.  Seriously, it's that good.  The best part is that once you get the sweet potatoes chopped up, it's very easy to make.

The recipe comes from the 2013 Wisconsin Local Foods Journal and was submitted by Downtown Grocery in Wausau.  The calendar timing was perfect because I flipped to the recipe shortly after buying frozen sweet corn from Alsum's Sweet Corn at the winter farmers' market.

I had never heard of "Three Sisters Chili" prior to seeing the Local Foods Journal version, but a quick google search revealed that it's a popular recipe with many variations.  Apparently, it was inspired by the three companion plants of Native American agriculture - beans, corn & squash.

Since I didn't have any butternut squash on hand, I substituted sweet potatoes.  I also added tomatoes, which only seemed right for a chili recipe, but other than that I followed the original recipe pretty closely.

Three Sisters Chili

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients (8-10 servings)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 pounds (3 medium) sweet potatoes, chopped into 1/2" pieces
  • 2 cups sweet corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 15 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with chiles
  • 3 (15 oz) cans black beans
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • In a stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and bell peppers. Saute for 4 minutes. Stir in chili powder and cook for another minute.
  • Stir in sweet potatoes, corn, tomatoes with chiles, black beans, broth and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Stir in lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Recipe adapted from: 2013 Wisconsin Local Foods Journal
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March 07, 2013

Ruby Tap & Ristorante Bartolotta

The Ruby Tap has quickly become one of my favorite places to grab a drink after work...or on the weekend, or anytime really :) 

Last night I met Chris there and he was already at the wine machines selecting his first glass when I arrived.  It was his first visit and he now likes The Ruby Tap as much as I do.

While sipping wine we enjoyed cheese from Carr Valley and Clock Shadow Creamery, and prosciutto and salami from Bolzano Artisan Meats and Underground Food Collective.  Everything tasted great and I would definitely order the same on another visit.

From The Ruby Tap we headed to Ristorante Bartolotta for our dinner reservation.  One of my favorite aspects of downtown Wauwatosa is how walkable the area is...unless you're trying to cross where Menomonee River Parkway turns into State Street at 6pm, in which case you will be risking your life. 

I waited several minutes at the "must stop for pedestrians" crossing and ended up just bolting across as fast I could because traffic wasn't stopping.  That area could really benefit by being permanently closed off from traffic, the way State Street is in Madison.

It was our first timing dining at Ristorante Bartolotta and we were both surprised by how small the space was.  Despite the tables being a little too close together for comfort, it was a very enjoyable evening and the high noise level was actually quite nice because it makes you feel less like you're a part of your neighbors conversations (which drives me crazy at Cafe Manna).

We both ordered pasta and hadn't planned to have more wine but were happy to receive two complimentary glasses from the "Wandering Wine Maker."  It was interesting to hear Lorenzo's story about how he got into wine making and I appreciated that he came to our table to talk with us.  Below is more information about San Martino Winery from Bartolotta's website.

March 04, 2013

Great Lakes Distillery & Wisconsin Cheese Mart

While eating lunch on Friday, a post on Facebook caught my attention - "Join the Uber Tap Room and Great Lakes Distillery, Milwaukee's first distillery, to sample a selection of locally made spirits which will be expertly paired with a selection of gourmet cheeses. We will be pairing 4 different Great Lakes Distillery spirits with 4 different Wisconsin cheeses."

I immediately emailed Chris to see if he was interested and he bought two tickets.  In the end, a couple of friends ending up joining us as well.  I love it when last minute plans come together well.  The evening started with a sample of tomato basil cheddar from Springside Cheese, paired with Rehorst Vodka and appropriately introduced by Guy Rehorst, the founder of Great Lakes Distillery.

 The three additional cheese & spirit pairings included -
The tasting was a fun event and reasonably priced at only $10.  Also included was an additional drink at the bar, either a tap beer or a cocktail made with a Great Lakes Distillery spirit that was sampled.
My friend Jen and I both commented that the addition of crackers would be nice, not only as a palate cleanser between tastings, but also because we badly needed some carbs to go along with our four shots.  As soon as the tasting ended, we went to the bar to order grilled cheese sandwiches (gruyere, 5-year cheddar, sun-dried tomatoes with garlic aioli) and they were delicious! 
Oh, the tasting is also a great value because we were given four opportunities to win blocks of the cheese we sampled.  Chris answered two questions correctly, and won both the tomato basil cheddar and muenster.
After the tasting, we hung out for awhile at the Uber Tap Room which is a nice little bar with a half dozen or so tables.  I took the photo below because I was amused by the guy in the "Powered By Cheese" shirt :)

March 03, 2013

Winter Farmers' Market

I've visited the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market quite a few times since my first visit last November.  There are only 6 weeks remaining in the season and it was encouraging to see greens available this weekend because it gives the feel that spring is near!

Over the past couple of weekends, I have picked up honey from Henry's Honey, soap and liniment from Soap of the Earth, sweet corn from Alsum Sweet Corn, cider from AEppelTreow, arugula and beets from JenEhr Farm, parsley and cilantro from Thymely Herbals, chard from Springdale Farm, cheese curds from Clock Shadow Creamery, and salsa from River Valley Kitchens.

I tried cider for the first time at the market this weekend and really liked a cran-apple variety which I am currently sipping :)  It was drier than I was expecting, which is a nice change from many ciders which tend to be too sweet and end up tasting just like juice.

AEppelTreow Winery & Distillery is located at Brightwoods Orchard in Burlington, Wisconsin (western Kenosha county).  The option to taste their ciders and spirits is unique to State Fair Park because alcohol consumption is not allowed at other farmers' markets.

AEppelTreow (pronounced Apple True) was recently featured on two episodes of Wisconsin Foodies, one focusing on Brightonwoods Orchard and the other on the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market.  I enjoyed both episodes and found the information on the 2012 apple season to be quite interesting.

Apples grow well in Wisconsin due to our temperate climate, with cool nights and warm days.  However, the crazy weather last year caused a 75% crop loss.  The warm March and cool April weather killed half the blooms, and the summer drought caused the trees to drop fruit and leaves.  Brightonwoods harvests about 7,000 bushels in a good year, and but only got 1,700 bushels in 2012. 

As I've said before my only complaint about the indoor winter market is how crowded it is, but on that same token I'm thankful that people in the Milwaukee area are crowding the Tommy Thompson building each Saturday to buy locally produced items.