New Bar Added – Stubby’s Gastrogrub and Beer Bar, Milwaukee, WI

“We’re kind of like your favorite local dive bar — but with a killer craft beers and a robust menu packed with locally-sourced offerings.” – Stubby’s Gastrogrub and Beer Bar website

Yeah, that about covers it. Stubby’s has a great selection of draft beers with healthy selection of local Wisconsin brews, an equally healthy selection of some of the best Great Lakes brews, all supplemented with a number of world beers which are high-end representatives of their style. It took me ten minutes to select my first beer because I knew I was limited to only having a few. I’m glad I started with Karben4 Fantasy Factory.

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Karben4, out of Madison, WI, has created a beautifully balanced IPA which leans towards the citrus end of the hop spectrum, but the English malted barley adds plenty of body. Stubby’s is located on the Milwaukee River, on the edge of a newly revitalized neighborhood. It was a sunny, breezy, happy hour kind of night. We ordered a selection of appetizers for the group – fried mac-n-cheese, fried cheese curds, and nachos topped with pulled pork.

Stubby's

Apart from the obvious artery destroying power of this display, it was ton of fun. The fried mac-n-cheese were lusciously creamy and complemented with a spicy marinara-style sauce. The nachos were topped with pulled pork and a ridiculous amount on cheese, guacamole, and sour cream. This is not subtle folks, this is a full-on bar food binge. And yes, those barrels are painted with the Central Waters logo. So what do you pair with deep fried cheddar cheese cords with a Parmesan bacon dipping sauce?

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Well, the Black Husky Pale Ale was exceptionally nice as the bright hop flavor cut through the richness of the deep-fried cheese and bacon sauce. Then you slip slowly and blissfully off into a food coma. Oh, it’s so worth it. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend it. We’re happy to add Stubby’s Gastrogrub & Beer Bar to our Restaurant page as another representative of Great Lakes Cuisine.

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A Celebration of Wisconsin Cheeses

Due to a fortuitous turn of events, we found ourselves with an overabundance of beautiful, Wisconsin cheeses. A quick consult of the composed cheese courses Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook provided inspiration as well as past courses created with my good friend, Tom. In sequence of how they were served, here they are:

Cheese Course1

Oven roasted beets with Milwaukee Craft Brew Vinegar’s American Amber vinegar and buckwheat honey vinaigrette served on Growing Power sunflower sprouts with chèvre and a malt vinegar glaze.

Cheese Course2

Farmers’ market shredded carrots over a golden raisin puree with Saxony Alpine Style from Saxon Creamery, inspired by a recipe from Thomas Keller.

Cheese Course3

Roasted tomato tartar, salami-wrapped grilled asparagus, chive oil, Parmesan crisp. This owed inspiration to a Thomas Keller dish which he serves with dressed haricot vert.

Cheese Course4

Stuffed and grill-smoked Cremini mushrooms on micro-greens with Great Midwest Morel & Leek Jack cheese. We served the greens dressed with a play on warm bacon dressing – We used our bacon-wash technique on the vinegar to transfer the bacon flavor and then make a standard olive oil vinaigrette with crumbles of bacon added.

Cheese Course5

Grilled cheese with goat cheddar from Carr Valley and caramelized onions with a tomato “soup”, which was a puree of oven-roasted tomatoes and red onions. Tom and I have made a version of this in the past, though that past version benefited from an amazing onion and fennel jam Tom had created.

Cheese Course6

“Au gratin” potatoes – thin sliced Yukon gold potatoes were stacked with a blend of shredded Carr Valley Mobay and Menage between each slice, then oven roasted until crisp. The oils released in cooking were used to wilt arugula, used as the bed of the dish. Topped with a poached egg, the dish is then topped with another strip of Mobay.

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We finished the meal with individual chocolate chip cheese cakes, courtesy of my daughter.

Cooking over the Campfire: Re-creating Tin Dins

A few summers ago, my children introduced me to a camp tradition – Tin Dins. They prepare them at Camp Batawagama in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with a layer of cabbage leaves topped with diced potatoes and onions with a hamburger patty on top. A bit of salt and pepper, then wrap the whole package in foil and place them over the embers of a campfire. And when you have been away from home for a few days and you’re camping out under the stars, these apparently are like heaven when the come off the fire, all slathered in ranch dressing.

Now, we can’t re-create the feeling of camping with friends, under the star-lit skies of Upper Michigan, but we decided to make a stepped-up version of the classic camp dinner. There are a couple of issues with the classic tin din – the cabbage typically burns, the potatoes are often underdone, and ranch dressing is not my personal preference for a sauce for hamburger. We decided to shred the potatoes and then par-cook them with onions and cremini mushrooms with a bit of thick-cut bacon from Angeli Foods in Iron River.

Tin Dins

 

Bacon is never a bad idea…unless you’re worried about bears. If you were looking to stay true to the backpacking nature of this dinner, you could par-cook this and then freeze it in proper portion sizes. We were cooking over the campfire, but not hiking into a campsite, so we had a bit of flexibility. Our packet was a two to three cabbage leaves, a pile of our shredded potatoes with bacon and mushrooms, and then we combined beef with ground pork. Salt, pepper, and dried thyme sprinkled over the top, and then folded in a double layer of foil.

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The campfire had burned for about an hour before we decided to add the tin dins. Knocking down the fire and then layering a grate across a couple of logs allowed us to keep the packets up off the direct embers to cook the packets a bit slower and keep our cabbage from burning.

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As they cooked, we prepared a simple bechamel sauce with blue cheese to stand in for the ranch dressing. Cook times are very uncertain over a campfire. These cooked as long as it took to leisurely sip on two old Ore Dock Scotch Ales from Keweenaw Brewing Company, based in Houghton, Michigan, while looking out on the lake.

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The cabbage leaves were browned but not burnt and lent a beautiful flavor to the potatoes. The bacon and pork added extra flavor and a bit of fat to the cooking ground beef. It may not be pretty, but it was certainly tasty. And we timed it perfectly to allow us to get back out on the water for some evening fishing. It was a perfect finish to a wonderful day on the lake.

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