Saturday, February 22, 2014

Kegel's Inn

What: Kegel’s Inn Fish Fry
When: Friday, January 31, 2013
Cost: $11 - $13

Go ahead and get it out of your system.  Yes, the restaurant is called Kegel’s.  There’s an apostrophe.  This restaurant can call itself anything it wants because their food is absurdly delicious.  

Kegel’s Inn is a German beer hall, touting themselves as the most authentic German beer hall in Milwaukee. I wouldn’t doubt it.  The beer hall and restaurant was opened in 1924 and I don’t believe it’s changed a bit since then.  The ambiance is second to none.  Thick, dark wooden tables.  Murals of drunken peasants lining the walls.  We had a late reservation (well, late for us old folks) at 8:00.  There was a line of people waiting to be seated.  Luckily, my husband had made a reservation.  When he called to make the reservation, Jim Kegel, the owner kindly took the reservation, as well as the follow up calls to change our reservation. Twice.  When we walked in, we were immediately guided to our table.  
Kegel's: A place for friends.

John G, Jess, John W and Kathleen joined us for this amazing meal.  For fish, we had the options of the basic fish fry, which was haddock, perch or walleye.  Jess, Kathleen and I tried the perch, Adam had the haddock, and the Johns had the walleye.  While I didn’t get to try the walleye, the perch and the haddock were outstanding.  Contrary to many of the fish fries we’ve been to, the fish was “lightly breaded”.  The breading was tasty, yet gave you the opportunity to really taste the fresh fish.  There were a number of potato options to accompany the fish fry and most of us went with the handmade potato pancakes, which came with the obligatory apple sauce.  Those who ordered the fries were slightly jealous of those of us who ordered the potato pancakes.  Kegel’s was absolutely a delight and received two thumbs up from everyone at our table.  This may be in the top running for best fish fry.  Look at me.  Obviously the food was good if I haven’t even mentioned the beer yet!  Kegel’s Inn has a wonderful assortment of German style beers.  Jess and I had the Spaten Lager, which was served in a super classy beer glass and went refreshingly well with the fish.  John G had a mug of a German lager, natch.  If you’re looking for a satisfying fish fry in Milwaukee, this is it!  Kegel’s: Racy name, delicious food.

Sampson Stomp

What: Sampson Stomp 5k at the Milwaukee Zoo
When: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Cost: $25

When I look at my list of “Things I Want to Do During The Winter Months In Wisconsin”, I think of things like drinking hot chocolate, curling up in multiple blankets on my couch, wearing cute scarves and hats, and ice skating. Running a 5k is not at the top, middle, or even the bottom of that list. But for the last few years, Adam’s sister, Sarah, has run a 5k in January at the Milwaukee zoo and has sworn it is super fun. This year I was able, and happy, to join her. I talked Jess into running with us, which wasn’t difficult as she is a marathon champ and a running goddess.  The weeks leading up to the run were laden with arctic temps which led me to question why I would want to run in mid-January in Milwaukee. Then, the day of the race, the temps shot up to the 20’s and the sun shined as it hadn’t in weeks. I felt really good about this race. 

The Sampson Stomp is a 5k/fun run which honors one of the most famous members of the Milwaukee Zoo, Sampson, a silverback gorilla who lived from 1950-1981. The proceeds go to help with all of the animals at the zoo.  For those who don’t know me very well, I have always been a huge animal lover.  As a small child, I did not want dolls or Barbie’s, but rather stuffed animals.  I always loved visiting the National Zoo in DC when I would visit my dad growing up.  This was my first trip to the Milwaukee Zoo.  Between the panting and the gulps of air, I was able to enjoy a few brave animals who stuck their heads out to see what all the commotion was about.  There were penguins, mountain goats, and two humped camels (called Bactrian camels)! I fully intend to return to the zoo during the warmer months to visit the wide array of animals, not just the ones who are comfortable in below freezing temps!

We met Sampson!

 Not only was this my first trip to the Milwaukee Zoo, this was my first official 5k. In Charleston, I had participated in a Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics.  It was between 3.5 and 4 miles, but was not a race. We all stayed behind the torch, so perhaps there was less incentive to run fast.  Although I struggled quite more than I would have liked, I was able to finish the race while jogging/running the entire 5k.  I don’t think I would have been able to say that without Sarah and Jess running with me and encouraging me!  Overall, the race was enjoyable, family friendly, and through some unique scenery! Thanks, Sampson, for encouraging us to get out and stomp our January blues away!

Koppa's Fulbeli Deli

When: Saturday, January 18, 2014

What: Koppa’s Fulbeli Deli Atari

Cost: Free!

After spending a laid back Saturday running errands around town, Adam and I decided it was time to head downtown to fill our bellies!  It had been years since I had visited Comet Café, so we enjoyed some delicious, warm food that snowy evening.  Comet Café is a lovely restaurant on Milwaukee’s East Side.  On Sundays, they will serve you a basket of bacon with your Bloody Mary.  I also had an exciting moment in Charleston once as I was exiting a grocery store and on a pole in front of my car covered in bumper stickers, there was a Comet Café sticker.  So cool!  As we were chatting over dinner, Adam mentioned we could hit up Koppa’s.  It sounded like a fantastic idea.  After our meal, we walked across the street and explored this unique, small grocery store.  

Koppa’s Fulbeli Deli has been on Milwaukee’s East Side for about 25 years.  It had been family owned up until last year.  One of the unique aspects of Koppa’s is that they have an old Atari anyone can play for free!  

I played a game of Pac Man (slightly remembering why I don’t play video games: I’m bad and get bored easily) and bought a few groceries we needed.  While our visit was short, I would love to go back sometime and try one of their amazing sounding sandwiches!  Check out their website here:  Koppa’s

Fritz's Pub

What: Fritz’s Fish Fry

When: Friday, January 17, 2013

Cost: $9 - $11

For this week’s Fish Fry, we decided to try one that had been recommended by a number of people: Fritz’s Pub.  Fritz’s Pub was opened in 1978 by Dragoslav (Fritz), who had relocated his family to Milwaukee from his homeland of Germany.  Today, Fritz’s three children continue to run his pub.  The pub is only open on Fridays and Saturdays and the typical fare is Serbian and American food.  But their fish fry is what has made Fritz’s popular.  Adam, John, Jess and I arrived shortly after 7pm and there was not a single table available.  Lucky for us, there happened to be four seats opening up at the bar.  John stealthily moved to procure said seats and we were on our way to a delicious meal.  We split a delicious pitcher of Miller Genuine Draft while we waited for our fish.  For the fish fry, you have the option of ordering 2, 3, or 4 pieces.  The boys thought they could handle four, I though three would be just right, and Jess smartly ordered two.  
 Big Fish. Delicious Spuds.

Word of advice:  Order two.  They do not skimp on the size of the fish.  I was stuffed to the gills (ha! Get it?) with three pieces and the boys looked pained after forcing four.  We believe the fish was battered, fried, battered, and then fried again.  There was definitely a thick breading around the fried fish.  While delicious, my arteries were not too thrilled with me afterwards.  I would definitely recommend Fritz’s to others.  But what I would say is this: Go for the fish, stay for the fries.  I will go back and just order a plate of fries.  They serve wedge fries, which are the perfect crispiness on the outside, and a soft, mashed-potato delightfulness on the inside.  You can’t go wrong with delicious supds!  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Groppi's and Highbury

What: Groppi’s
Where: 1441 E. Russell Ave, Bay View
When: Saturday, January 11, 2013

It was inevitable that I would make my way to Groppi’s before too long.  I’ve visited all of the surrounding establishments: Palomino, Cactus Club, Garibaldi’s.  It was a lazy Saturday afternoon.  Adam and I had just left the Highbury.  The Highbury is another fine pub with a special place in our hearts.  The Highbury is a soccer bar.  If you have never been to a soccer bar, you are missing out one of life’s sweetest feelings.  My most memorable Highbury experience was when we lived in Tosa in 2009.  Adam’s team, Manchester United, was playing on a Saturday morning.  Mind you, the games are shown live, from England.  With the time zone difference, the game started around 6:00am.  Adam and I didn’t have a car at the time, so we crawled out of bed earlier than one should on a weekend morning.  We got dressed in our Man U gear and headed to the bus stop.  We took the 10 Bus to downtown, walked to where we would pick up the 15 and waited.  It’s approximately 5:30 in the morning.  We’re standing on a corner in downtown Milwaukee, and it starts snowing.  There is nobody out on the streets.  No traffic.  It was one of those magical life moments that warms your soul when recalled.  The bus arrives and we snuggle together while travelling down KK.  We get off the bus across the street from the Highbury.  The snow is falling and it’s eerily silent.  As we open the doors to the Highbury, we’re met with a deafening roar.  

A typical soccer game at the Highbury

The bar is packed with fans in soccer jerseys, drunk with excitement.  The warmth of the room warms our cheeks, as we belly up to the bar for a Bloody Mary.  The next 90 minutes are filled with an electricity only soccer fans can produce.  The game ends, we leave the bar and it’s an interesting feeling being a little tipsy at 8am.  

Friends gather at the Highbury

Highbury Buds

The sense of community to be felt by a bar full of soccer fans at 6am is so special.  This Saturday was not quite as exciting as that first trip to the Highbury, but now there is a familiarity when we go.  We watched Barcelona play an exciting game, then headed out to pick up some food for dinner.   We headed to Groppi’s to see what options we could find there.

The G. Groppi Food Market was opened in 1913 by an Italian family who lived in Bay View.  Local historian, John Manke, has a very insightful description of the Groppi family history.  You can find more information here.

The small market is quite packed with an assortment of delicious local and fresh food.  There are fresh meats, fresh baked goods, a deli, beautiful produce, and a great cheese selection.  I also have to mention that their beer selection was exquisite and had a fantastic selection of Wisconsin beers, including some of my favorites from O’so, Hinterland and Central Waters Breweries.  After browsing the food selections, we picked out some local honey and a Milwaukee Pizza Company frozen pizza.  

Delicious Pizza. Nom. Nom.

As I mentioned, there is an array of local products.  The only complaint I have heard about Groppi’s is that the prices can be a little steep.  There’s no denying that prices are higher than the chain grocery stores, but an occasional trip for high quality local products to support a community establishment is definitely a must.  I look forward to discovering what treasures I can find at Groppi’s over time!

County Clare Fish Fry

What: County Clare Fish Fry
When: Friday, January 10, 2013
Cost: $13

The County Clare has been at the top of my Fish Fry list since I visited Adam in September and we went for dinner on a Friday night.  We didn't order the fish fry, but saw the scrumptious plates of fellow patrons that night.  The County Clare is an Irish Pub, Restaurant and Inn located in downtown Milwaukee.  This is one of our favorite restaurants in Milwaukee.  Adam used to live across the street, in an apartment at the Astor Hotel.  When he was in grad school, he would go to the County Clare and sit in the Saint’s Snug, next to the fire, and sip on a Guinness as he studied his books.  After I moved to Wisconsin in 2009, one of our first outings was to the County Clare.  We ordered the curry fries and a shepherd’s pie.  In the numerous times since then that I have been to the County Clare, I refuse to order anything else.  The shepherd’s pie is not made with the typical ground beef.  Instead, they use the juiciest, tastiest shredded beef.  The mashed potatoes on top bring tears to my eyes they’re so delicious!  That, paired with the curry fries and a perfectly poured Guinness, is such a satisfying meal.  It was difficult for me to go to the Clare and not order this, but I did in the name of my research of fish fries.  

I was not disappointed.  The plate included 10 ounces of Smithwick’s hand battered fried cod, rye bread, coleslaw, tartar sauce and mashed potatoes. (One could choose fries over mashed potatoes, but I don’t know that you would after having their mashed potatoes).  The meal did not disappoint.  The fish was perfectly battered and had a fantastic flavor.  It wasn't too dry.  It was not too crispy, nor too soft.  The County Clare has catapulted itself to the top of my list of my favorite fish fry.  The experience was topped off by enjoying this amazing meal in a cozy Irish pub, surrounded by great friends!  This shall be difficult to beat!

Lake Michigan and Hue

When I originally created my Lizt, I did so with the intention to experience all the wonderful things Milwaukee has to offer.  I’ve already learned that there is so much more to discover in this city than the measly list I came up with.  I moved to Milwaukee excited to be among friends in a fun city.  The one point I was a little let down about was that there are no mountains.  I am a mountain girl.  

Me and My Mountains 
(Asheville, 2007.  Photo cred to baby brother, Jason)

My family originated from the Basque Pyrenees, I went to school in the Appalachians, I married my husband in the Rockies, and skiing down any mountain is the only physical activity I seem to be coordinated enough to accomplish.  To permanently settle in a city with no mountains was a minor disappointment.  When looking for a house in Milwaukee, we were encouraged by friends to look at houses closer to the lake (incidentally, closer to them!)  We listened and the first few days in our house, we took the dogs on a walk to Lake Michigan.  What a beautiful site to look out across a serene lake, with downtown Milwaukee shinning behind it!  I continued to return every day of that first week in the fall, walking through Bay View Park or South Shore Park.  Once I permanently moved here in late December, walks were fewer and father between with icy sidewalks and the fantastic Warnimont Dog Park to exhaust Razza and Gabe’s energies.  Then last week happened.  Last week, we had wind-chills hitting near -50 for about 48 hours.  I like cold weather.  I do not like whatever that was.  Schools were closed, public offices were closed. The only reason for us to go outside was to run to our cars.  Cars that needed to be started and run every few hours so that it would start when you needed them to.  There were countless coworkers and friends who had cars that wouldn’t start.  We got a warning light on our car for low tire pressure (air shrinks in the cold).  After the “polar vortex” passed, it warmed up to the 20’s and I had never been so happy to see double digits in the forecast!  Two days after the brutal freeze had ended, it was warm enough for me to take a mid-morning walk with the dogs.  Bundled up, we headed down to the Lake for our normal walk.  As we approached Bay View Park, a kind gentleman stopped to pet the dogs.  He remarked that he had heard the lake was frozen to the breakers.  He said he didn’t remember the last time that had happened, but with the number of sub-zero days, it was inevitable.
Frozen Lake Michigan

We decided to take a closer look, so went down to the beach below the park.  The lake was absolutely stunning.  I never knew ice could be so beautiful! I never knew the LAKE could be so beautiful!  

Razza Loves Snow

Happy Gabe at Lake Michigan

We walked north along the beach and admired the wonders of nature.  At one point, I stopped to take a picture and take in the serene setting.  We were below the sounds of the street, all alone on the path.  As I was taking it all in, I heard a noise.  I had never heard it before, but immediately knew what it was.  Lake Michigan was melting.  The ice was cracking, shifting.  And just like that, I didn’t regret the lack of mountains.  I have a lake, a beautiful, majestic lake, whose ever changing face I can witness every day. 

Two days later, Adam and I took a walk to the lake with the dogs to heal from the Panther’s loss and watched miniature ice bergs crash into the banks of the beach.  The thaw had turned the solid frozen hunk of lake into hundreds of massive chunks of ice, dancing in the waves of the lake. 

Melted Lake

Since I have lived here, I have seen the lake numerous times, driving up and down Shore Drive or Superior.  Not once has it failed to take my breath away.  I never thought I could be so smitten with a lake.  I think “Lake Michigan Blue” is my new favorite color.

After my walk to the lake with the dogs, I rushed to meet a friend at a fantastic restaurant, Hue.  I’ve been here before, but I have to mention this place.  It’s a Vietnamese restaurant on Kinnickinnic.  The first time I went, the waitress recommended the Vegetarian Pho with the flash fried tofu.  I’ve never been a fan of tofu, but I am when it’s made this way!  The Pho has incredibly fresh veggies and herbs and the broth is outstanding.  I have never ordered any other dish at Hue because I can’t peel myself away from this one.  After a long walk on a cold winter’s day by the lake, the warmth rejuvenates your senses and makes your soul relax into a comfortable calm.  It makes me appreciate the winter and the cold, so I can experience the power of soup!