New Restaurant Added – Storyhill BKC, Milwaukee, WI

We have discussed before the difficulty in parsing what fits and what does not in Great Lakes Cuisine. Hopefully, we have been clear this site is not a review of “The Best of the Great Lakes”, it is specifically not intended as a restaurant review site. We are not claiming an exhaustive list of the best restaurants. We are highlighting a few of the very best examples of an emerging trend in local traditions, local flavors, and local chefs – what we call Great Lakes Cuisine.

So, when we added Graze in Madison, WI, it was a praise of style and in no way should be seen as a slight to Tory Miller’s flagship restaurant L’Etoile, one of our all-time favorite restaurants in the Great Lakes area. But L’Etoile is French. Not just in name or in theme, but in the very heart of everything the restaurant does. It feels French, it tastes French. As a genre of restaurant it is most clearly French. A similar occasion arises once again with the addition of Storyhill BKC, in Milwaukee, WI.

Storryhill 1

The restaurant is the most recent collaborative effort between Joe & Meg Muench and Dan Sidner. We couldn’t be more pleased to have one of their restaurants listed on our site, as their two previous offerings are fantastic, though outside our scope. Maxie’s serves excellent low-country Carolina, Creole, and Cajun cuisine as well as one of the best fresh oyster bars in the city. One might make the argument their other offering, Blue’s Egg, already belongs on our list as they feature a current take on traditional immigrant breakfast and lunch. The food is excellent and the menu creative, but has always seemed more fully “American” diner than specifically Great Lakes.

Storyhill BKC is undeniably Great Lakes Cuisine. Here the breakfast can be simple. Perhaps just a nice latte and a danish filled with cheese and house marmalade.

Storhill BKC 2

 

The lunch menu changes constantly, though the breakfast entrees are served through lunch as well. The dinner offerings provide some wonderful examples of creativity, flavors, and tradition. We could start with recent offerings of Great Lakes Bisque or Steamed Walleye. Perhaps we’ll have the Whipped Clock Shadow Quark, served with pureed carrot, cranberries and spiced nuts. Quark is a unique creamy cheese produced at Milwaukee’s only urban cheese factory, Clock Shadow Creamery (Good story on it here). We can move to entrees such as Lake Superior Whitefish which is ham crusted, or Pork Country Spare Ribs served with sour cabbage, or perhaps Lake Trout with tomato jam. Maybe we should have them carve us a slice of Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin with a Founder’s Apple Rye sauce. Don’t forget to pair your entree with a regional brew such as recent offerings of O’SO Brewing (WI) Don’t Turn My Brown Eyes Blue IPA or Central Waters (WI)Le Petite Morts Bourbon Barrel Weizenbock. The current line-up also features Bell’s (MI), Founder’s (MI), Summit (MN), Potosi (WI), Capital (WI), Ale Asylum (WI), Hinterland (WI), Three Floyds (IN) and more.

Storyhill BKC 3

The space is divided into bar, restaurant, and store. Heavy on the re-claimed wood and friendly service. The menu changes often, but the focus thus far has been on local ingredients, creative presentations, and traditional flavors. We’re pleased to add Storyhill BKC to our Restaurant list at Great Lakes Cuisine.

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New Restaurant Added – The Old Fashioned, Madison, WI

When we add a new restaurant to our Restaurant page, we choose a representative dish which best captures the Great Lakes Cuisine concept on the currently offered menu.  With The Old Fashioned in Madison, WI, we could have easily listed the entire menu. This is an updated take on all that is best of the culinary traditions in the state of Wisconsin. Though we take a broader view of the cuisine on this site from a geographic perspective, the same passion for this cuisine is on display in everything done by the folks at The Old Fashioned. From their site:

“Inspired by the traditions of Wisconsin taverns and supper clubs, The Old Fashioned exists to pay tribute to the foods and spirits that make our state famous. That’s why we chose to highlight meats, cheeses, produce, and local specialties from small Wisconsin producers. It’s why we drive over 100 miles to Seymour to pick up a shipment of their world-famous soda (and of course, take back our empties). It’s why we don’t mind a jaunt to Sheboygan for brats and hard rolls. And it’s why it’s commonplace to find Willi Lehner from Bleu Mont Dairy sitting down with a cheese plate featuring a selection of his craft. These things are all as much a part of the Wisconsin culinary tradition as an ice-cold PBR paired with a spicy pickled egg, or Reuf’s Meat Market landjaeger sausages.”

Now I may quibble with the ice-cold PBR, and plead for an update to an ice-cold Spotted Cow from New Glarus Brewing. But anyone that is serving Willi Lehner’s beautifully cave-aged cheeses along with Bavaria Sausage Kitchen’s delightful offerings has our support. The Old Fashioned faithfully reproduces and updates many of the traditional dishes featured in supper clubs, restaurants, and dinner tables of Wisconsin through-out the years.  These food traditions are the touchstone, the taste foundation, from which Great Lakes Cuisine emerges. Let The Old Fashioned inspire you.

Underground Food Collective

Just off the main street headed towards the impressive capitol building in Madison, WI is a small store tucked back on a fairly quiet street.  The tiny store front is the retail location for the Underground Food Collective that also operates Forequarter in Madison. The inventory is an eclectic mix of artisan products, both fresh and preserved, with a focus on the products available within the Great Lakes Region.

The undisputed star of store is the meats. Upon entering the store, immediately right of the cashier is a butcher case with a set of house-cured sausages and the back of the space is dominated by another beautiful case of fresh cuts.  A tiny temple to the art of preparing meat.  The opposite walls are selections of artisan products from jams, to pickled vegetables, to cheeses, to spiced nuts. If you are sensing the ultimate charcuterie plate coming together here, you have the right idea. There are non-local artisan offerings such as olives, oils, and wines as well to round out the offering.

The cured sausages were the particular treasure I was seeking on this trip and I went home with their Sausaucion Sec, Kabaonosy, and Spruce Goat (tasting notes follow). There were probably another ten cured offerings such as pancetta and bresola that I will have to experience on another trip. An alpine-style sheep’s milk cheese from Bleau Mont Dairy and dried olives were chosen as accompaniments. Finding The Brinery’s offering of Jupiter’s Orbit Kraut was an unexpected addition for the smoked pork chops intended for dinner. The Driftless goat’s milk cheese was destined for a dessert offering later in the evening atop a crumble with plums and ground cherries.

Though pleasantly surprised by the unique, local offerings, I might have been able to anticipate such offerings simply based on the review of Forequarter by Lindsay Christians at 77 Square, which brought this group of chefs to my attention.  A review of their past offerings lists representative Great Lakes dishes such as modern takes on Pork Schnitzel or Smorgasbord. Even the dish pictured in Christians review is another representative sample of Great Lakes Cuisine, with housemade pork sausage served with sauerkraut and baby potatoes; classic traditional German fare updated with a modern, upscale take.

forequarter

We are pleased to add Forequarter to our Restaurants section while Underground Meats has already been added to our sources section. below are the tasting notes from the house-made sausages.  A longer discussion of the smoked pork chop and sauerkraut meal created from the other items is forthcoming.

Tasting Notes:

Sausiccion Sec – literally meaning simply “dried sausage”, this offering is an excellent example of the tradition. Very firm, with nice fat marbling through-out, the flavor is akin to a high-quality, very fresh salami with a fairly rough grind.

Kabanosy – A traditional, all-pork sausage in the Polish tradition. This a smoked sausage, rather than cured, and retains all the fresh pork flavors.  A very simple, well-executed offering which was a nice addition to the plate sliced ¼ inch thick on the bias. Just as easily could be a sausage that you’d simply bite into as a Bloody Mary accompaniment.

Spruce Goat – This is the seasonal offering version of the Goat sausage typically on offer in store and online for Underground Meats. In addition to the stronger meaty/gamey flavors of the goat (I’d say meaty, others would say gamey), the curing process adds the traditional cured overtones.  Some tasting the sausage felt it had too powerful a flavor, verging of the ammonia-like aromatics that you can get in well-aged cheeses. The texture was dense and the dried fats reminded me of an imported prosciutto.

These offerings and more are available on-line, but the retail location is definitely worth the visit.

Note: We are pleased that Forequarter was also recognized by Bon Appetit as one of the 50 Best New Restaurants for 2013.