In INFUSED, a weekly column, Elizabeth J. Musgrave connects spirits, wine, and beer with culinary and creative arts.
Summer time brings many enjoyable activities: swimming, picnics and family reunions. One of the main factors of pleasure at the relative catch-up is the food. Whether Grandma’s traditional dish, the newlywed’s epicurean attempts or Uncle Joe’s trusty barbecue, it is worth the drive to taste everyone’s culinary wizardry.
What if you could find a city that so closely resembles that same abundance of palate-pleasers that it would be worth the time to visit? Located less than a tank of gas away, Milwaukee is a reunion-style town filled with its culinary delights at every turn and – just as with a summer time’s ever growing, extended family reunion – all the relatives have shown up with their dishes of pride in this bordering-Lake Michigan town. A virtual smorgasbord of delights is tucked away in every corner of this revitalized family-reunion of a town. Without losing the family tree’s historical significance, Milwaukee embraces its younger, more energetic generation’s offerings.
Your mother’s Italian great uncle, Peter Sciortino’s Bakery, is there with delicious pastries like cannoli over on Brady Street.
A distant cousin’s French husband, Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro, shows off his European flair with Terrine de Canard Truffee, Cote d'Agneau Grillees and well-appointed wine from his upscale, picturesque restaurant.
Usinger’s, the sweet-tempered aunt, brings her famous summer sausage and bratwurst still made in Uncle Fred’s original Old World style from charming Old World Third Street. Also representing the German side of the family at this reunion is everyone’s favorite great uncle, Mader’s, who always brings a stein of beer and traditional Rheinischer Sauerbraten.
Not to be outdone, and always wanting to bring wonderful aromas to the table, is the family’s eccentric cousin, The Spice House, located in historic Third Ward District with its fresh and exotic spices.
Never much of a cook, that uber-cool brother-in-law, Great Lakes Distillery, Wisconsin’s first distillery since Prohibition, brings along adult beverages for the over-21 relatives, including Rehorst honey-flavored vodka. Of course at every reunion, is that well-traveled clan, Milwaukee Public Market, who always brings a surprise culinary treat. And, naturally, big sister, Milwaukee Food Tours, who always knows exactly where to go and what to try, is there giving locals and visitors alike the chance to nibble and sip their way around the buffet of gastro fare. Little brother and hip Harley rider, Iron Horse Hotel, shares smart cocktails and upscale nibblers from his outdoor lounge, The Yard.
Visiting Milwaukee is like walking along the pot luck family reunion food table. Whatever you can dream up, it is there. Midwest comfort food, Old World style, fine French cuisine and the latest contemporary dining options are ready to impress everyone and definitely worth the drive.
Bottom Line: With all its culinary options, you can skip the family reunion this year and, instead, head to Milwaukee. Heck, they practically dare you.
[Photo Credits: Elizabeth J. Musgrave; Izzy Evans]
Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer, performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her newest column, Infused at GottaGo.us and FoodandDrinkDigital.com, and as Indy’s Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook. Gotta Go is published on Gottago.us, BroadwayWorld.com, in M magazine and the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, New Palestine Reporter, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter.