summer in the city, back of my neck getting burnt and grittyÖ
evening in the city, looking so fine and looking so
pretty." Lovin Spoonful, Iím sure, wasnít thinking about
Milwaukeeís summer dining and drinking options, but boy, are these
new options pretty and fine.
One of the
finest and wine-est options is the new Wine Maniacs on the River (106
W. Seeboth St., www.winemaniacs.com), which just opened in the space
previously occupied by 106 Seeboth and Cafť Luna. Tucked just across
the river from the Third Ward, this Walkerís Point establishment is
making a big splash among wine enthusiasts. "Our concept is less
of a cool kid restaurant and more of a cool kid bar with great
food," says Jeff Cox, co-owner and wine guy in residence. Right
now the bar offers a nice but limited offering of appetizers and small
plates, but the menu should expand as it gets its footing.
The cool factor
comes not just from the Maniacsí 50 wines-by-the-glass menu but in
the depth of that variety, and the tasting that goes on before you
settle on a glass. "We will make people try two or three wines
before we pour them a glass," Cox says.
Among the three
gems I tasted on opening night: a Cinsault patio-pounding red that
pairs well with everything from sushi to barbecued pork; a French
Malbec that was smoother and rounder and plusher than its more popular
Argentinian counterparts; and an Alexander Valley pinot noir,
Migration, made by Duckhorn, that was so smooth I almost cried. Then
Cox had me taste an Amarone, and it was all over. Amarone is an
Italian style wine thatís made by first drying the grapes on
palettes before pressing them, but the Amarone I tasted is made by an
Italian winemaker using French varietals in Argentina. Iím still
dreaming about it, it was that good.
doesnít stop at the edge of the Third Ward. Across town, Love Handle
Food & Drink opened on the East Side (2215 E. North Ave.). This
little cafť offers quickly made sandwiches and salads that come
assembled with a great deal of care.
featured Love Handle sandwich, made of pork belly, tomato jam,
dandelion greens and black garlic mayo. It oozes love and tenderness.
"We do different sandwiches all the time," says Ally Benedyk,
owner. While the restaurant doesnít serve gluten-free bread,
sandwiches can be converted to salads for those sensitive to wheat.
sandwiches, Love Handleís other mainstay is homemade ice cream and
treats. And itís not just plain vanilla. Think Taleggio ice cream
with roasted pistachios or homemade churros and chocolate.
light and all things good and cupcake-y is coming to Whitefish Bay
(308 E. Silver Spring Drive) with the August opening of the first
Wisconsin Grace and Shellyís Cupcakes (www.graceandshellyscupcakes.com).
Owners Shelly Stayer and Grace Bolen own a cadre of upscale cupcake
bakeries in Florida, but Stayer is originally from Wisconsin and has
family in the Milwaukee area. "When this space became available,
we thought it would be a great location for our store," Bolen
Bolen and Stayerís
creations have been featured on the "Cake Boss," among other
television shows. Their cupcake menu usually serves about 14 to 18
flavors at a time, but right now they have 35 flavors in their
repertoire. The two most popular cupcakes in Florida are the red
velvet and the brown sugar caramel ó a brown sugar cake, French
vanilla butter cream and caramel drizzle with sea salt. "Shellyís
favorite is the black and white cupcake, a classic chocolate cake with
vanilla frosting covered in chocolate sprinkles, and mine is the
Butterfinger, a vanilla cake filled with peanut butter, cream cheese
frosting and Butterfinger chunks," Bolen says.
awaited cake is the Port Washington Smith Brothers cheesecake. No, the
fish house isnít resurrected, but at the new bistro, Twisted Willow
(308 N. Franklin St.), the chef has his great-grandmotherís recipe,
(www.twistedwillowrestaurant.com). "My great-grandmother, Clara
Meyer, was one of the women in the kitchen at Smith Brothers in the
1900s," says Nicolas Keller. "Then, my grandmother Ruth
worked there, and taught me the recipe. Itís old school, heavy on
the eggs; you can obviously tell itís being made from scratch."
owner/chef Dan Wiken make a lot of things from scratch every day at
Twisted Willow. From the coconut Thai curry shrimp to the roasted root
vegetable salad to the planked fresh fish, itís all good and local.
Wiken gets nearly all of his produce from his own farm.
growing eight different heirloom tomatoes, three different kales and
three different broccolis," Wiken says. "Our farm is just
three miles from the restaurant."
Wiken and Kellerís
culinary creations are complemented by bar manager Jan Bruderís
mixology. All her simple syrups and infusions are made from scratch.
One of the best summer drinks is the Porch Swing, a gin and Pimmís
No. 1 drink made with lemonade and garnished with cucumbers. Bruder
also makes a mean martini, including the Apple Crisp with vodka,
Rumchatta and butterscotch schnapps, served with a cinnamon sugar rim.
margaritas and mojitos are also on Jason Neuís mind this summer. Neu,
previously of Great Lakes Distillery, was recently hired as the first
spirits specialist at Rayís Wine and Spirits (8930 W. North Ave.,
www.rayswine.com). "Iím like a curator of a booze museum, and
itís my job to help you find drinks you canít get anywhere
else," Neu says.
tastings, guides customers and teaches classes. Heís planning a
margarita class in July and a gin seminar in August. "Instead of
just coming in and staring at a wall of bourbons, let me show you whatís
good," Neu says.