Sunday, July 25, 2010

Milwaukee, WI: July 23rd - 25th, 2010

Hotel: The Hilton Milwaukee City Center
Dining and drinking: McBob's Pub & Grille, Benji's Deli, Jake's Delicatessen, AJ Bombers
Events and Places: GermanFest, Renaissance Book Shop

Next weekend's bachelor party may actually end up being good for me. Between the steak in South Dakota and the wonderful food in Milwaukee, I'm eating way too much. Milwaukee is a food town (or more appropriately, a drinking town with some good food). Sadly, most of the food is just outside the city proper.

After an amazing experience at McBob's on Friday night I spent the rest of the evening walking around GermanFest and enjoying the music and scene. Since the mid-1800s Milwaukee has had a substantial German population and the city shows it... if there's a place in the US for a German festival, Milwaukee fits the bill. The festival was pretty crowded at 8pm. Vendors sold German hats, pins and outfits... the food was amazing (donuts, strudel, spanerfekel and - of course - a ridiculous amount of tubed meat. People (including me were walking around with boots filled with Leinenkugel (I'm partial to the Honey Weiss). This festival is worth a repeat visit.

Saturday morning I set out to try the two delis with excellent reputations just north of the city: Benji's and Jake's. Benji's was first, tucked in the very back of a strip mall off of Oakland Ave. There was plenty of seating (a counter and some booths/table). I ordered a bagel with lox and the corned beef hash. The former was disappointing (cream cheese came in tubs - lox was a miss), the latter was pretty impressive. I much preferred the atmosphere in Jake's on North Ave. closer to the City. I picked up a corned-beef on rye to go, walked around the neighborhood for a bit and headed back to the hotel. Jake's is worth a stop, the hand carved corned beef is the consistency of good pot roast - it falls apart all over the place... don't try to eat one in the car.

By this time I think the volume of potassium nitrate in my system was starting to wear me down. I needed some exercise so I took a six mile hike through the outskirts and downtown of Milwaukee. A stroll through the desolate former Pabst Brewery grounds was probably the highlight... a very surreal place that looks as if it's about to get a face lift. I hope they stay true to the existing architecture.

I also stumbled upon a ridiculous book store. The Renaissance Book Shop on Plankinton. You need to see this place to believe it. The picture to the right was the cook book section... I found a gem: The 1966 Milwaukee Trinity Presbyterian Church Cookbook. There's a recipe for Rinderrouladen by Audrey Brickman that I will be trying next time I'm near a kitchen and other gems such as Edna Krautschneider's "Busy Day Chicken": Season two cut up chickens with barbecue spice, salt and pepper. Place in casserole and sprinkle with one pkg. dry onion soup mix, 1 cup diced green pepper and 1 cup diced pimento. Pour over 2 cans cream mushroom soup. Bake (covered) at 325 for 2 hrs. - THAT's a recipe.

My walk ended at AJ Bombers, a burger place on North Water St. featured on the Travel Channel's Food Wars and some other shows. The bomb devices pictured to the left are used to deploy peanut payloads to booths across the bar... pretty cool. The burger I tried was phenomenal... The "Milwaukee" burger prepared for the Travel Channel with onions and bacon (order a side of bomber sauce). The owner said they had been around for 18 months... I really like this place, it will do well.

This post's tip:
Old bookstores can be goldmines for really interesting reads... a lot of my cooking is inspired by typed recipes in old church cookbooks, the women who contribute frequently know their stuff. They also provide a window into a very, very different time where canned food and soup mixes were a staple. It's easy to take the availability of fresh, healthy meats and produce for granted. Distribution is an amazing thing.

As a side note, I also picked up the transcript from the 1906 Illinois Horticultural Society's annual meeting... it seems like they had so many more types of apple back then.

Things I learned this weekend:
  1. Milwaukee has the most bars and taverns per capita in the country (1 for every 1300 people) amongst major cities

  2. 10,000 pounds of sauerkraut are consumed annually at the German Fest

  3. The Hilton City Center, in spite of its outside facade is actually a really neat hotel with remnants of a past time (like mail chutes) all over the place

  4. The flame-shaped light on top of the Milwaukee Gas Company tower changes color to forecast the weather.

  5. Fried cheese curds need to become more popular in other towns...

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sad- I lived there 3 years and obviously missed so much.
    On a side note, try Abbs Vol1 bookstore at Broadway and Ridge here!