We will not often highlight current events, as the ambition of this website is to promote a larger understanding of an emergent culinary movement, not simply what is currently popular. Yet a number of events occurring the next few weeks are great opportunities to get out and experience the ethno-culinary inspiration that underpins Great Lakes Cuisine. The passion of those who organize these type of events and the experience of the thousands that attend, help build the common experience, the common touchstone, for culinary expectations and innovations.
September 18th – 20th at Daley Plaza in Chicago – The Wurst Festival
The City of Chicago is sponsoring a festival dedicated to the appreciation of the humble sausage. The European-influenced sausage making tradition in Chicago is not only incredibly strong, it is also deeply tied to the identity of the city itself. Of course, I cannot connect Chicago and the the sausage making tradition without recalling this classic scene from Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, but I was struck upon watching the movie again recently with my children that the restaurant they so cleverly lie their way into is French. How I long for the day when a French child has to lie to get into a classic Great Lakes Cuisine restaurant in Paris. Hey, a man can dream. *Hat tip to our new contributor, Jason Halm, who brought this festival to my attention.
Every weekend in September at Bavarian Soccer Park – Oktoberfest
The Oktoberfest put on by the Bavarian Soccer Club in Milwaukee is about as authentic as it gets outside of Germany. A classic beer-hall setting with 8 different imported German beers (and a classic version from Lakefront Brewing in Milwaukee), the full polka band experience and guests in lederhosen dancing. For me, this type of experience is all about understanding the traditions and then using those traditions as a launching point for innovation. Of course, there is little in the world more inspirational than a spit of roasting pigs. I’ve worked side-by-side with Gunther, the club’s pit boss, in stoking the fires with hardwood charcoal, testing the pigs for succulent completion, and hauling the roasted product into the onsite butchering room, before it goes out to waiting patrons. A pig’s head is often available for sale later in the evening for those that are familiar with such wonders. A wonderful experience, not to be missed.
September 22nd-28th – Milwaukee Cocktail Week
A new event in Milwaukee, centered around meals offered at local restaurants featuring pairings with cocktails. A number of the restaurants have presented great pairings, including one which features my personal vice – bourbon, but the one most relevant to our concept is the intriguing dinner to be put on by one of my favorite local restaurants – Honeypie. Two aspects of this dinner resonate with our concept of Great Lakes Cuisine. First, Honeypie has been doing an amazing job of playing with local offerings, while making all the components for the dishes in-house. So the buns for their stunning hamburgers are made in-house, and glisten with the egg wash finish. The flavors for each dish are clear and full, and innovation is at the service of taste. What makes this a must attend event is a second component of Great Lakes Cuisine, pairing the dishes with cocktails featuring AeppelTreow Winery offerings. AeppelTreow features apple and pear wines and brandies grown, picked, and fermented onsite at their farm in Burlington, WI. They are constantly innovating new offerings, while at the same time featuring the use of Heirloom varietals that they grow. Local ingredients, local craft, culinary traditions, and innovative ideas – the essence of Great Lakes Cuisine.
Go forth and festival. Have fun and be inspired.