New discoveries are such inspiration, and a recent trip to the Tasting Room at Pilot Project Brewing in Milwaukee was no exception. We’ve added them to our Restaurants page. There is a bit of a bittersweet feel to our visit, as the space has been re-purposed from the former Milwaukee Brewing Company. MKE Brewing sold there trademark and recipes to Eagle Park Brewing, a fantastically creative brewery that is growing by leaps and bounds. The potential return of the gin-barrel-aged OGii will be highly anticipated.
The space that MKE Brewing formerly occupied in downtown Milwaukee has now been re-configured and given a minimalistic renovation. Pilot Project is a brilliant collaborative, incubator-style brewery, originally conceived and executed in Chicago. The ever-changing line-up will be driven by the collaboration with start-up brewers across the Midwest. On our visit we enjoyed this line-up:
From left to right – Brewer’s Kitchen “Green Mountains Only” (a double IPA) and “Mañana de Mallorca” (a Spanish Tea IPA) then Funkytown Brewery’s “New Year, Who Dis” (oatmeal milk stout) and Azadi Brewing’s “Chai Stout + Milk Sugar” (well…pretty self-explanatory). Did we get the Spanish Tea IPA specifically thinking about the O-Gii? Yes, yes we did. And we very much enjoyed it.
The surprise, and ultimate inspiration for us here at Great Lakes Cuisine, was the menu of chef Tony Quartaro. Chef Quartaro is the founder of Gemma Foods based in Chicago, and thankfully a number of his pastas make it on to the menu. But our inspiration on this visit came from a few dishes that hew closely to our notion of Great Lakes Cuisine. We opened with a set of Smoked Trout Devilled Eggs. Longtime readers may recall one of our favorite inventions – The Devil’s Playthings – Smoked Devilled Eggs. Chef Quartaro adds smoked trout, crispy garlic chips, and chervil to the devilled eggs and then tops them with trout roe (fish eggs squared!).
A great bite to start off the meal. We then ordered the Fonduta with Pretzel Bites which had caramelized onions swirled into what was essentially a thick fondue, adding richness and sweetness. Por Tip: Get at least two extra orders of pretzel bites. We also enjoyed a Squash Flatbread with crispy kale and a Porchetta Flatbread.
We’ve covered Porchetta (or Porketta!) in our post here, and this was an excellent alternative to a full pork roast.
The uniqueness of the smoked trout eggs, as many of you are aware of our fondness for the jewel of the Midwest rivers. But what we had on hand our ever-reliable smoked whitefish from Lake Superior. More specifically, we had a Smoked Whitefish Dip that we had put together with a base of mayonnaise, cream cheese, lemon, and lemon thyme. We thinned that with a bit more mayo and a touch of mustard, then added our hard-boiled egg yolks. Back into the egg whites and topped with crisped shallots.
Some how inspired dishes taste more delicious. Golden Whitefish Roe would truly have added another dimension to both the appearance and the taste. Gets us wondering about a smoked bluegill or smoked pike as additions. Maybe go with duck eggs and explore an indigenous angle. Lots to love in this approach.
The Fonduta inspired us in a slightly different direction. We had a TomaTruffle from Point Reyes on hand and some recently acquired venison sausage from family. Perfect time to revisit our love of Hoppel Poppel. Quick primer for those unacquainted is available here. The basic approach is just leftover potatoes and onions simmered with a cured sausage then topped with scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese. Well, lets elevate that a bit.
Our venison sausage flavors Wisconsin yellow potatoes and red onions. Our sunny side up egg is cooked in wild leek butter we prepared this spring. Our “fonduta” here is the TomaTruffle melted over some caramelized onions and buttermilk we had on hand. The buttermilk was a bit of a gamble, but we all loved the tang it added to the cheese sauce. We then drizzled the melted ramp butter from the egg over the top.
Again, inspiration meets deliciousness. We made a batch of pretzel bites as well, but the hoppel poppel was the clear favorite. We used the California based Point Reyes cheese because we had it on hand (hey, we have to research these things!), but we could easily have gone with the Black Sheep Truffle from Carr Valley or the Black Truffle Cheddar Gruyere from Wood River Creamery if we were staying truly Great Lakes on this one.