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It's National Mac and Cheese Day - Let's Get Cheesy!

Today, July 14th, is National Macaroni and Cheese Day! Also known as mac and cheese, this dish has long been considered one of America’s top comfort foods and has been enjoyed in almost every household since the early 19th century.

Do you see those cheese commercials for California cheese? Well, did you know that Wisconsin produces the most cheese of all the states, and produces more than double than that of California? Sure, we’re not France, but Wisconsin still produces 600 varieties of cheese.

Probably the easiest and the most popular way Americans enjoy their cheese is through the comfort dish, macaroni and cheese. Noodles, cheese, maybe some milk and seasonings – but there are countless ways of making macaroni and cheese and Wisconsin does just that.

Milwaukee has the privilege of hosting many restaurants that serve mac and cheese as a side, or put it on pizza, or even specialize in creating signature mac and cheese concoctions. Some of these include, Comet Café, Noodles and Co., Ian’s Pizza, Triskele’s, East Town Kitchen and Bar, and Grate Modern Mac and Cheese who works with Renard’s Cheese and Sassy Cow Creamery.

At Grate Modern Mac and Cheese, if you come in on National Mac and Cheese Day, you will get the chance to enter to win a free catering bar experience from Grate Catering. Some of Grate’s mac and cheese dishes include a cheesy twice baked potato mac, a buffalo, a Nacho mac, a pizza mac, the Wisconsin and more. They supply also their classic mac and cheese along with a Mexican street corn mac, which are both vegetarian, and also offers a gluten free mac dish.

Comet Café’s social media manager, Ed Subias, says, “Our Mac and Cheese is made to order and covered with so much cheese, it nearly creates a cheese shortage in Wisconsin!” Comet Café is located on Milwaukee East side at 1947 N. Farwell Avenue.

At Triskele’s, their classic mac and cheese is always on the menu. You can choose from any combination of Wisconsin Cheddar, Goat Cheese and/or Gorgonzola. “The most popular is the Mac and all 3 Cheeses,” says Lynn Winter, co-owmner and manager. “Our mac is a bit unique in that each dish is prepared individually and finished off in the oven. Folks can also add Roasted Chicken Thigh or Grilled Polish Sausage. We also do different Mac preparations for specials. One of those, which is one of Head Chef and co-owner JoLinda’s favorites is Mac and Cheese with Gorgonzola, Fresh Rosemary and Cabernet Reduction.” This one isn’t always on the menu, but if requested, Jo will always do it if she can.

Show your love of cheese today by grabbing some comforting mac and cheese at any of these restaurant. Or, you can simply make grandma’s signature baked mac and cheese that’s been past down. Either way, let’s get cheesy. Take a selfie with your mac and say CHEESE!

 

Downtown Dining Week In Milwaukee

Downtown Dining Week is underway. It kicked off Thursday night, May 30 and goes until June 6. This means you get a whole week to try new restaurants you may not have heard of or thought to try before. New restaurants on the scene will also be participating like Char'd and Oak and Shield.

There are over 30 different restaurants participating in Downtown Dining Week. Some restaurants have both a lunch and dinner menu, some have one or the other, both of which will have either a two or three course meal. The lunch will run you $12.50 and the dinners will be either $25 or $35. You do have the pleasure of choosing your appetizer, entrée and dessert (if offered) because there are at least two options per course. You basically create your own meal, it’s great!

Cantina Tequilla and Taco Bar - 1110 N Old World Third St.

I was eager to get out there and try some new restaurants I haven’t before. I decided to start with lunch and went to Cantina on Old World Third Street. This restaurant is one of the ones offering a three course lunch.

First, it was between the Guacamole and the Queso Fundido. I chose the Queso, simply because I’m a cheese fan and really like spiciness. Needless to say, this had the perfect amount of heat and the queso wasn’t too thick to where it broke my chip; it was actually a great consistency.

For the entrée, the options were: a Queso Smothered Burrito, a plate with two chicken tacos, or a vegetarian taco plate. Bring me more queso please! Yes, I chose the Queso Smothered Burrito. You have the option of steak or roasted veggie; it’s nice they give you the vegetarian option but I was surprised it wasn’t offered with chicken.

I chose the steak – which I don’t normally lean toward but for 13 bucks with tax (and two other courses), I decided it’s a steal of a deal, why not. Turned out, it was a great decision. There were endless amounts of good sized chunks of steak surrounded by beans, rice, corn and shredded cheese. I was actually happy to see they left the lettuce out of the burrito. Together the ingredients worked perfectly together and the queso acted as the sauce that smoothed things out and helped add creaminess to the dish. Finally, the fresh cilantro sprinkled on top enhanced the steak's flavor. From this point forward, I feel like every steak I have needs to be accompanied by cilantro, no doubt.

Finally, the dessert. It was between a Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake or a Chocolate Brownie. If you know one thing about me, it’s that I can’t turn down cheesecake – no way. The cheesecake was delightfully decadent, to say the least. I appreciated the strawberry flavor throughout the cheesecake – it’s quite a big difference than just having it on top. The cheesecake itself was creamy but still had a nice fluffiness to it. I was splendidly shocked by the crust which reminded me of a cinnamon coffee cake – not the usual crust on a cheesecake, but this was warmly welcomed. Between the sweet strawberry flavor, the rich crust and creaming cheesecake with a little drizzle of chocolate sauce on top, this dessert should be enjoyed by everyone. .

Oak and Shield Gaming Pub - 600 E Ogden Ave.

During the third day of Downtown Dining Week, my boyfriend and I decided to check out Oak and Shield for their three course lunch menu. Oak and Shield had their grand opening last year, May 4. Oak and Shield is a gaming pub with nearly 100 board and card games to choose from to learn or play while eating and enjoying your time with friends. This is the restaurants first time participating in Downtown Dining Week and they are happy to be apart of it.

I originally went with the soup of the day that I overhead was a zucchini and yellow squash, cream based soup. After I ordered that and Justin ordered the house salad, I was informed they did not have the soup of the day. That’s OK I decided to go with one of their other appetizer options and ordered the Black Bean Chili. I’m glad they didn’t have the soup of the day – I was meant to have this chili. It was very filling, I probably should not have finished the whole thing. I had fresh diced tomatoes and plenty of black beans and the combination of both ground and chinks of beef was a great idea. The herbs they used enhanced the sauces flavor, which was a very creamy tomato base infused with the smoky essence of the meat.

For our entrée, we decided on the same thing – go big or go home. For you meat lovers out there, we chose the Return of the Briskwitch. This sandwich has brisket, bacon, Swiss and cheddar cheese on Texas toast. I was skeptical on how thick Texas toast is, but the toast turned out nice and buttery and lightly toasted so the bread could be easily be smashed into the cheese and meat.

The cheesiness wasn’t on point. I believe the abundant amount of meat over powered the cheese in this sandwich. But still, the flavors of the meat were superb; it had the great smoky flavor and the brisket wasn’t chewy. The bacon was nice and thick and provided a sturdy bite every time. In my opinion, if you ask for some BBQ sauce, this would be mans best sandwich friend.

Finally, the dessert – even though I was already full. I ordered the Cookie Dough with Vanilla Ice Cream and Justin ordered the Deep Fried Marshmallow drizzled with Caramel and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Once his dessert was served, immediately my mind went to our Wisconsin State Fair, where you can get almost anything deep-fried and on a stick. That’s exactly what this was – served to him was a deep fried marshmallow (or two) on a stick.

I began to eat my cookie dough and ice cream, which was delightful after a heavy,m substantial meal. I look over after my first two bites and his plate is empty. My eye’s widened and sarcastically I asked, “Well, did you like it?”

“I could have four more of these; they were so good,” Justin says. He couldn’t stop raving about it either, “I would have one of these everyday if I could,” he said, nodding his head, licking his lips and smiling.

DOWNTOWN DINING WEEK

If it weren’t for Downtown Dining Week, we wouldn’t have discovered a great new tequila and taco bar with huge burritos or a gaming pub with a State Fair look-a-like treat! I know I’ll be bringing my son here to play guess who and enjoy some cookie dough and deep fried marshmallows.

Please stay tuned for more updates on Downtown Dining Week and please feel free to leave a comment below or go to our forum page if you have advice or questions for Chow Down in Milwaukee.

37th Annual Taste of Milwaukee

Taste of Milwaukee celebrated its 37th year at the Italian Community Center featuring many of Milwaukee’s finest and famous restaurants. Hosted by Broadscope Disability Services, all of the proceeds went toward helping people with disabilities and their families.

Taste of Milwaukee invited 20 establishments, including restaurants, café’s, food trucks and wineries to showcase their signature items. Some of the restaurants included Saz’s, 9th Slice, the Bavarian Bierhaus, Valentine Café, Lovely and Tasty Walking Tacos, Get Them While Their Hot Tamales and two Bartolotta restaurants – just to name a few.

Probably the most well-known was Saz’s. I spoke with Jason Cornelius, the General Manager, and he says that after 43 years they have definitely established themselves here in the community. The restaurant gives back any time it can, including going to benefit events like Taste of Milwaukee and donating to charity. Cornelius says that Saz’s simply wants to support the people who have supported them all of these years.

Saz’s brought its signature flatbread with roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, fig jam, fontina and parmesan cheese with white truffle oil and chives, prepared by Chef Justin Verbanac.

The Bartolotta restaurants are also very active in the community. Not only have they attended Taste of Milwaukee in the past, many times a year the Bartolotta restaurants participate in events benefitting people in need and donates to various organizations including the Liver Foundation and the Performing Arts Center.

Joey Gerard’s served raw beef, onions and deviled eggs, while the Rumpus Room served their signature deviled eggs with Rumpus candied bacon, a fan favorite and an item that has been on the menu since they opened.

Fresh, fast and friendly is what’s happening at 9th Slice Pizza Co. Alycia Pogreba, Store Marketer, explained that every ingredient is fresh and the pizzas are made in-house and quick fired for just over 3 minutes. Not only is it fresh, it can be made healthy.

At Taste of Milwaukee, 9th Slice showcased their health-conscious pizza with a cauliflower crust and topped it with their signature artichoke dip. They also had to serve their famous 9th slice – a slice of hot chocolate chip cookie, a dessert everyone walking through the door gets at 9th Slice.

From Italian to Mexican, Taste of Milwaukee had a great variety of food for its guest to sample. Lovely and Tasty Walking Tacos is a local catering company offering Dorito flavored walking tacos. Taste of Milwaukee was Lovely and Tasty Walking Taco’s first charitable event, but Laquana Beverly and her partner say they would enjoy doing another event again like this. The duo served they’re signature walking tacos and their best seller, the Loaded Nachos.

Another Mexican establishment was not far away. Get Them While They’re Hot Tamales, a food cart and catering business, served their signature tamales, either spicy or not, along with nachos and a sliver of churro. Ran by Jann and Pedro, the ma and pa business started in 2010 and has recently launched a website that features fundraising catering – a way for Get Them While They’re Hot Tamales to give back to the community they’ve lived in for over 50 years.

Moving toward the drinks, we arrive at Valentine Café and Wine Bar, a fairly newer establishment to the area, celebrating it’s second year. Robb Kashevarof, Founder of the company, and his staff at Valentine Café enjoy giving back to the community so they try to attend as many benefit events as possible.

Valentine Café served an assortment of sweet and savory scones including Cranberry Orange, a blueberry Glaze, a Chocolate, Lemon Poppyseed, an Everything scone, as well as a Ham Cheddar and Chive.  Beside the scone, they served their signature Valentine coffee, roasted here in Milwaukee.

Finally, what is an event in Milwaukee without beer? German beer at that! The Bavarian Bierhaus attended Taste of Milwaukee to not only help and support people in need, but to also showcase their specialty beer. “The Bavarian Bierhaus has been 90 years in the making,” says Matt Prostek, Brand Ambassador. Full steam ahead, in the last three months, the bierhaus has revamped its menu and beer selection.

The beer selection offered by the Bavarian Bierhaus at Taste of Milwaukee included a Pilsner, a Dunkel, a Hefeweizen and a house choice for the evening which was the Night Marauder.

Other than coffee at Valentine and beer at the Bavarian, other places offered wine and typically was paired with the dish. These places included Fleming’s, Greige, and Lo Duca Wines. All the while, Soulboxer Cocktail Co. poured their signature brandy and bourbon old fashions.

Besides the restaurants mentioned, Café Benelux, The Gouda Girls, Rollin’ Dough Specialty Cookies, the Foxfire Food Truck, Thunder By Grille, Oberweis Dairy and Famous Dave’s also participated in the 37th annual Taste of Milwaukee.

SCJohnson was a major sponsor for Taste of Milwaukee; this event could not have taken place without their support along with the support of others, including Capital Trust Group, Infinity, and Miller Coors.

The 37th Annual Taste of Milwaukee offered a taste and a sip of some of Milwaukee’s finest and most deliciously versatile restaurants. Thank you Broadscope for hosting the event and thank you to the public and your interest in food and giving back to the community you live in.