Matovich Mastera originally planned to open a food truck. But when
she went to scout kitchen space owned by a pal in West Allis, she
knew her plan had changed. Sixty-six is Masteraís lucky number, so
when the locale she was eyeing happened to be on 66th and Mitchell
and was only a block-and-a-half from the farmers market she loved,
she rethought her mission and opened the cozy eatery she called The
Farmerís Wife. Mastera talks to MKE Lifestyle about her menu
inspirations, her penchant for using fresh, local ingredients and
her affection for her neighborhood.
How did you come
up with the name ďThe Farmerís Wife?Ē
Well, I married a guy that was born on a
fifth-generation dairy farm. And it kinda suits my personality. Ö I
always just believed feeding people was a good thing and that there
is always room for one more at the table. Getting people around a
table nowadays is so important.
Tell me about
your commitment to bringing farm-to-table dining to West Allis.
I was raised in a natural setting. My mom was the
daughter of a corn farmer, so she taught me about canning and
preserves from early on, and ďthe fresher, the better.Ē We would
walk to the farmers market and bring home bushels of berries and
make jam. Nothing she ever made came from a box. So, I just feel
that itís all the more important these days to have a pure, clean
product. Iím allergic to soy, so to try and buy something that
[doesnít have] soy in it that comes from a box? Fresh is best. And I
think this area really needs that. The people in the community are
moving forward and they want it too. Iím filling a need.
Your meats are
Absolutely. The Farmerís Wife proudly serves Kettle
Range Meat, so theyíre a huge part of what I offer here and I try to
make sure I get the best of the best. If Iím going to serve chicken
or I want to do duck, thereís local farmers that are producing them
in a natural way and Iím going to work with them. I use a lot of the
farmers from the farmers market. If I canít get [some meats] from
Kettle Range, thereís a little lady there that does the most amazing
grass-fed, grass-finished meats.
exclusively tailor your menu around whatever is freshest and most
I have a staple menu, but the way I prepare the
dishes will reflect what I can get, so it may not be exactly the
same. My seasoning blends that I make are always the same, but you
might have butternut squash in the shepherdís pie or something else,
because I like to keep with the fresh product and the seasonal
product. It makes the dish a little more interesting, I think. I try
to do a very ďclassicĒ spin on my menu. Where everybody is trying to
do the new twist on everything, I want to give people things they
probably havenít seen, because itís the way it was done 60 years
What type of
customers do you see coming through your doors?
We have everybody walking through the door. One of my
regular customers is a judge from Milwaukee. I have doctors. Iíve
got people from the commercial properties right around here that are
coming in. And a lot of the neighborhood families. I did raise my
kids in this area; weíve been in West Allis for 32 years now. All my
kids went to West Allis schools, and lot of people from the
community coming in are people that Iíve known forever, it seems.
Itís so diverse.
You said your
husband was a farmer, but I read on your website that he had also
been a sailor on the East Coast.
Heís from New Bedford, Mass. [His family] actually
lost the dairy farm to a hurricane and his generation decided not to
rebuild. So he was in the Navy when we met. He was stationed here in
the Great Lakes. Youíll see a lot of influence from the Gulf Coast
in my menu and thatís because of where we were stationed. Ö My clam
chowder, I learned how to make that from my mother-in-law. Stuffed
quahogs, I have them from time to time. Very much home cooking for
him. And when I do Portuguese dishes, itís because it was such a big
influence in the area where he was from. So Iíll have Linguica
[Portuguese sausage] and things like that, from time to time too.
So both of your
backgrounds combined inspire the menu here?
Yeah, and our love for the Gulf and all the Southern
food. Iíve been told that we have a really good gumbo and I think
thatís because Iíve eaten it from Galveston, Texas, all the way
through to Orange Beach, Ala. I kinda picked my favorite little
points from each one that Iíve had.
heartier, comfort-food fare. Whatís the idea behind that?
I like to serve Sunday dinner, and thatís what I want
to offer people. I want you to come here and I want you to be
comfortable in my environment. I want my food to make you feel good.
I do have a couple of light side dishes, but mostly it is hearty
comfort food. I want to take people ďback home,Ē mentally; I want to