Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Wrap-Up

It's been a while since I wrote so I need to recap the past few days. Yesterday was Christmas. Mike and I exchanged our gifts in the morning (which I will talk about later) and then went to Chris and Jeremy's for a family get-together. This was the first year that we didn't go up to Green Bay to spend the holiday with Mike's mom. Kind of a change in tradition if you want to call it that. With a new little baby in the family, it makes it a bit more difficult to travel and spend time in a small apartment with 6 adults, 1 newborn and 3 dogs. Plus Mike had to work today - sucks to travel on a holiday. We'll spend time with Mike's mom on our way up to my family's Christmas later this week. Mosley is all decked out in his Christmas wear in the pictures here. Even brought his Santa belly!
On Christmas eve, Mike and I went to see a movie - Enchanted - a nice, light-hearted Disney flick about a fairytale princess who ends up in New York City. It was such a nice change over the blood and guts dark movies we've been seeing lately. After the movie, we had our Christmas Eve dinner at Hui's Chinese Restaurant in Wauwatosa. We weren't expecting them to be very busy - which was wrong. There were quite a few people and their families having dinner. We were probably the only people there that didn't have close ties with the owners. Everyone knew them and there was alot of hugging, good wishes and gifts. Was really nice to see. I am always amazed at Chinese restaurants how a single family can make the whole thing work. Coming from a restaurant background where waitresses used to bitch if more than one table was sat at the same time and how they were always "in the weeds", I take my hat off to Hui's and their ability to have one person handle the whole restaurant as well as bartending needs. Their son was acting as host as well as take-out orders and bussing tables. I am guessing there was just one or two people handling the kitchen. And they never show any stress. Sure they were a bit hurried, but they still managed to get everything to us without any problem or delay and did it with a smile. And the food was great. I ordered the Kung Pao Chicken a little hotter than I should have - knocked out my tastebuds! But still really good.
Earlier in the day we went to the Milwaukee Art Museum. We are now members so look forward to shorter visits with particular interests in mind. We were planning to check out the Dutch Masters because we just saw a story about Rembrandt and other Dutch painters on CBS Sunday Morning. The museum has an impressive collection. While at the museum, we also checked out the Modern Art exhibit area as they have made some changes recently. Absolutely stunned by David Lenz 's Sam and the Perfect World. David Lenz has the ability to paint people to a point where you think it is a photograph - it is truly amazing. We have been awed by his work for quite a few years now.
The weekend had gone by pretty quickly. Friday night we saw the movie, I Am Legend, at The Times Cinema - we really like this little theater. They have been doing a nice job of having first run movies along with the classics. And you can have a beer or wine in the theater - bonus! We had a couple of beers before and after the movie across the street at Meritage. Nice place. We'll have to check out the dining soon as everything coming out of the kitchen looked great. Mike ate at the bar one night when they first opened and it looked really good + he said it was!
Other than that we did some Christmas shopping and just hanging out - very relaxed.
Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Little Cry Baby

I visited with little Mosley and his mom today. It's not fair that I put this picture up as he was a good boy up to this point. He is five weeks old and wieghs in at 12 pounds. A real cutie!

White Truffle Dinner

Last night Mike and I went to Ristorante Bartolotta in Wauwatosa for dinner. On Monday and Tuesday nights they offer half-price wines. This is a great opportunity to try a wine that we would not normally order due to the price. Not a bad idea for them because people will probably do what we did and order a $90 bottle of wine (good deal at $45). They were also offering white truffle dinner specials. We opted to go for the White Truffle 4-course prix-fixe menu. Luckily for us, our waitress, Michele, was kind enough to let us know that it could easily be shared as the portion sizes were fairly large. As the price was $120.00, that was a fantastic suggestion. We started with beef tenderloin tartar with shaved celery root and white truffle, followed by ravioli stuffed with spinach and Paul Bartolotta's trademark egg yolk baked inside. It was outstanding. Our next course was Veal Cheeks (I know, it is kind of sad) and Sweetbreads with wild mushrooms - unbelievably rich. This was the point where we knew sharing the meal was a good idea. Our dessert was a nice Panna Cotta with strawberries. Beautiful. Excellent meal. Service was outstanding, as usual. And we love the atmosphere of the restaurant - a real gem.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Santa is a biker?

We ran into Santa bikers on Saturday afternoon in The Third Ward. Not sure where they were or where they were going, but it was a funny sight to see. Another snowy day in Milwaukee. I have become a superb shoveler. We did a little bit of shopping (lots of looking) and had lunch at the Milwaukee Public Market - love the gumbo at St Paul Fish Market -before heading out into the snowy, slushy world. And we finally got our tree!
It's getting down to crunch time for xmas shopping. I've been picking up a few things here and there and so far am happy with my choices. I always prefer the "giving" to the "receiving" at xmas time.
Yesterday Brett Favre broke Dan Marino's record for career passing yards - he's thrown an equivalent to like 35 miles! Packers are 12-2 and have played well enough to get a bye in the playoffs. Very exciting times for Packer Nation. Earlier in the day, we checked out the movie, No Country for Old Men. As usual, I bought into the incredible hype to be somewhat disappointed. I think I am going to stop reading movie reviews and go with my own gut feeling. I thought it was good, but not "unbelievably incredible, best movie ever" like some of the reviews.
I decorated the tree last night and now need to start the wrapping!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Catching Up

I need to catch up on what's happening here in my world.
My little Brewers snowman is sitting on my window ledge. He is melting just a little bit, but is hanging in there.
The beautiful house is on the eastside of Milwaukee, known as "The Lion House" - currently home of The Bradley Foundation. You can't tell very well because of the snow, but the lions are decked out in Santa caps and scarves. This house is on Franklin & Prospect.

Friday, I took a ride down to Racine with a business associate to drop off a Christmas present at SC Johnson (Johnson Wax). I've seen alot of pictures of the SC Johnson headquarters designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but it as been a while since I was looking right at it. Very funky considering it was built in 1939. Racine is an interesting place - it is home to some major industry players, SC Johnson and Case as well as home to some incredible Danish bakeries and their specialty pastry called kringle. The architecture in downtown Racine is really remarkable - lots of Federal style buildings. Its harborfront is really nice and the beaches are noted as some of the cleanest beaches in the US year after year. I was looking for a certain restaurant downtown, but got turned around a bit and ended up going to The Ivanhoe - a nice pub/restaurant in a historic building. The building was built in 1891 as a tavern serving beer from The Bohemian Brewery in Chicago. It eventually became a Pabst Tavern and made several changes throughout the years. I am glad to see it is still a pub and has lots of character. Many of the original fixtures, etc. are still intact. And the burger was good too!

Thursday night Mike and I went to the Milwaukee Art Museum to see the Martin Ramirez exhibit. We had seen this exhibit highlighted on CBS Sunday Morning and just had to check it out while it is still in Milwaukee. Martin Ramirez came to the US from Mexico in 1925 during hard times to try to make some money to support his wife & children. He was found homeless on the streets in 1931 and diagnosed as a catatonic schizophrenic. He spent the rest of his life in mental institutions where he drew amazing pieces of art on paper with crayon that he made himself from paper bags, newspapers, cups, etc. that he glued together with his own saliva, flour and bread dough. Remarkable stuff - makes you think... The exhibit goes on through mid-January.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Snowy Tuesday

It's a snow day! All of the schools are closed today. The kids across the street got busy right away and built a snowman. I shoveled early this morning before Mike went to work - it was probably 2-3 inches. Now it just keeps coming down - a mix of big flakes of snow and icy hail as we're right at 32 degrees. I'll most likely have 2-3 more inches to shovel this afternoon. It's pretty and I don't have to go anywhere so I really don't mind.
I had a photo shoot this morning for my headshot photo. Sarah from I Do Photography came to the house. She did a really nice job. Even took a few shots of Bailey. She was very professional and made me feel comfortable. Would certainly recommend her to others.
Last night we went to Bacchus for a wine tasting. There were several wine purveyors from around town who each selected five wines and champagnes to sample. For the most part we were underwhelmed with the selections but there were a couple of shining stars. It was a nice experience and good for the Bartolotta Group to put on an event like this. After the wine tasting we went to Buckley's Kiskeam Inn- a new owner has taken over the quaint little cafe on the corner of Cass and Wells that used to be Benjamin's Inn. We used to go here quite a bit when we lived downtown. We had a holiday party here when I was with the GMCVB. And I liked to go here for lunch when you needed a nice quiet spot. I think they will do okay as they have put a large bar in what used to be the dining room. It looks like they are going more towards an Irish Inn feel. There used to be around 3 or 4 rooms upstairs that Diane used to rent out for the night. I don't think the new owners will use this as an inn.
This past weekend was kind of a loss due to Mike waking up with the flu on Friday. He slept all day Friday and Saturday. I had a city tour on Saturday from 1:30pm-5:30pm which included a stop at Miller Brewing for a tour. The group I toured were in town for a board meeting and looking at the city for hosting their 2010 convention. It's been a while since I did the brewery tour so it was nice to get myself reacquainted with it again. I met the group at the Hotel Intercontinental which used to be the Wyndham Milwaukee City Center. Since the Marcus Corporation bought the hotel, the changes have been fantastic. The lobby is now a nice place to sit and enjoy a cocktail or coffee and some conversation. It used to be such a boring ill-used lobby. Also, to note - the Christmas tree in the Milwaukee Center lobby area is awesome! One of the best dressed real trees I've seen in a long time. Very pretty!!
Sunday, we enjoyed another Packer win. We took the Raiders down!
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Holiday Shindig

Last night we went to Visit Milwaukee's Holiday Mixer at the Mitchell Park Horticultural Domes. I was happy to see that they have hired someone who is going to bring the Domes back to a high quality attraction as well as a great place for special events. I felt that Milwaukee County really did a disservice to the Domes a couple of years ago with their budget cuts in the Parks Dept. - i.e. the fountains had not been fixed, the floor wasn't properly cleaned and waxed, etc. It seemed like they were only doing enough to keep the doors open. It sounds like with a bit of work and good leadership that we'll have something to be proud of again very soon. It is such a unique attraction. There are three domes each with a different climate - Arid, Tropical and Seasonal. I just booked a tour which will be going to the Domes in July yesterday. And my cab driver from Nigeria who dropped me off last night said he'd like to go there with some friends and a camera. Nice fella.

After the Domes, we went with some friends to Fourth Base. I love this place. It is one of the first places I checked out when I moved to Milwaukee. (My firsts: Water Street Brewery, Saz's and Fourth Base) Fourth Base is a great sports bar with fantastic food. They don't have a menu, basically the menu changes daily. You just look in the glass case to find out what's fresh and what you might want to order - shrimp, scallops, lobster, steak....yum! The bar became locally famous in the movie, Major League. The memorabilia throughout the bar is really interesting - lots of old football helmets, great old photos, newspapers, uniforms, etc. We found out that some people from Chicago tried to steal the big pig that used to be in the front window. Somehow they got it out on a crowded Brewer game day, however it broke. They haven't been able to find someone to fix it yet. Our waitress was very nice - she told us the story of the "hog heist" - still can't figure out how they got it out the door without anyone noticing. Good times.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Holiday Spirit

We have our winter wonderland now since the snowfall on Tuesday night. We are expecting a few more inches tonight as well. It was quite the traffic mess on Wednesday morning as the plows didn't get out early enough and they hadn't done a good job of cleaning up the icy mess we had over the weekend. Basically the icy, slushy mess now turned into solid ice and was covered with a fluffy blanket of new snow - not a good combo. The freeways were really messy and had quite a few spinouts. I blame that not only on the weather, but from people not knowing how to drive in the snow. We go through it every year when the snow first comes down. Most people are cautious, but then there are the nutballs who think they are invincible and just fly down the road and don't leave enough room between cars for sudden stops, etc. Makes it ugly for everyone. Unfortunately my niece was a victim of a slippery country road in the middle of the state and ended up rolling her car. Luckily she is fine, but the car is totalled. Pretty scary stuff.
I had a meeting in the morning at Mocha's downtown and had no problem getting from Tosa to downtown Mil. Downtown looked very pretty with a nice coating of the fluffy stuff. I brought my camera to take a few shots but the batteries died. Aargh.
I had a lunch meeting at The Cheesecake Factory in Wauwatosa. I remember when I traveled alot that people used to freak out over having to eat at The Cheesecake Factory - it happened in Chicago, Kansas City, etc. They would wait so long to get in there even when there were so many other restaurant choices because "we just have to eat at The Cheesecake Factory". Well, the same thing happened here when it opened next to Mayfair Mall - people will wait over an's good, but honestly people. Mike and I went once on a Saturday afternoon around 3pm thinking "this is a good time - mid-afternoon, shouldn't be a problem" - we were sadly mistaken. I think we still waited 45 minutes+ - we cheated and left the restaurant with the "table ready buzzer" and walked over to the mall. It's not like they have a big waiting area to get relax in or get cocktails, etc because people are eating all over the bar area as well. So anyhow...I had a noon meeting and when I got there at 11:50am the place was already packed. Luckily we were seated right away, but I am sure the waitlist started soon after we got our table. The food and service is good - that's about all I'll say. I prefer to patronize our independent restaurants.
Last night I checked out a new salon in Wauwatosa - Harwood Hair Company. Jody did a nice job on my 'do. What I found most interesting was the building that houses the salon - it is the old Underwood Hotel and the salon is in what used to be the dining room. Very cool. I don't know much about Tosa history and did not know of the Underwood Hotel prior to last night. I'll have to see what I can dig up on it.
Tuesday night I took Mike to the Northern Lights Theater in Potawatomi Bingo Casino to see The Brian Setzer Orchestra Holiday Extravaganza. It was awesome. I really like the theater in the casino. I always knew there wasn't a bad seat in the house, but I think I got the worst of the pickings. We were up in the balcony so had to sit on the edge of our seats and a part of the stage was obstructed. I am still not going to complain because the show was great, the view - even though obstructed - of the band and Brian Setzer was still one of the best in the concert going world. He played some Christmas tunes, some Stray Cat stuff and some good old rockabilly. Great show!
Prior to the show we had dinner at Friday's at Miller Park. What an awesome scene - snow falling on the baseball field with the roof wide open. Makes me anxious for baseball already! Friday's always does a great job - a very unique place to enjoy a nice dinner or some cocktails.

Running Wild in the Yard

I added these pictures (taken by a neighbor) today because of a discovery we found this morning. We live in a major metropolitan area of 1.7 million people, yet the wildlife in our backyard is amazing. These pictures were taken in our backyard at the end of November. Now, of course, there is 5" of snow on the ground which brings me to today's unfortunate finding in our front yard - a severed rabbit head! Yuk - poor little bunny must have been the victim of either a fox or a coyote - as we have seen both in our yard. The rabbit must have been slowed down by the snow. I don't think it was a domestic animal attack.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Campaign Kickoff

Bailey is bundled up for the day!

Last night we went to the Campaign Kickoff for Mayor Tom Barrett. He is running for a second term and at this point it seems like there is not much opposition. The event was held at Lakefront Brewery's Palm Garden. While it is an awesome venue, they just don't have the parking space to handle a large gathering like this. It was a nice event, however I was very disappointed in the bad manners of the people who attended. They talked incessantly through the speeches, even the Mayor's. One man even had the balls to not stop yakking and he was in the front row! When everyone would applaud, all of a sudden he would...what a complete jerk.

I like the Mayor - he has a tough job, I hope with experience he gets tougher on some of the bs that goes on in City Hall.

After the shindig and a couple of good Lakefront Beers, we decided to join some friends to check out the new Irish Pub across the river. It looks very cool, however it was not open. I didn't catch the name, looks very much like the pubs we saw in Ireland. So within the Irish Pub theme, we hit the next Irish Pub that came to mind in the Third Ward - The Irish Pub. We had a couple of pints and shared some Nachos (Irish?) and Reuben Quesdilla's (Okay, somewhat Irish) Had a nice time with some old and new friends.

It's supposed to snow again today - perhaps up to 5" - but is supposed to be fluffy white stuff. We'll see. I don't mind as it will cover up the ugly slushy stuff that fell over the weekend.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

White Weekend

The snow is still on the ground however it is raining ice which makes it pretty messy outside. I don't know what we'll do today as it is a "Packer-free Sunday".

On Friday I went to check out the tour at Palermo's Pizza here in the valley. They built a new Italian Villa facility for their pizza making empire. I received a special tour as I was the only person touring and was just looking for information for further tours. It is pretty cool to see the assembly line making all kinds of pizza. Will be a good addition to some of my culinary based tours or Made in Milwaukee tours. Only drawback is the number of people who can tour at a time as they need to limit the tours to 20 people. I'll try to make it work.

After seeing all that pizza, I had a hankering for a Friday Fish Fry (???). So we went to an old favorite of ours, Water Street Brewery. They were swamped! Lots going on downtown with the Marquette vs UW-Milwaukee basketball game plus the usual theater and holiday theater crowd. Water Street Brewery was one of the first places I checked out when moving to Milwaukee. I love the decor with old photos of the big breweries in Milwaukee, a huge beer can collection and their own microbrewery. The food is always good and the beer isn't too bad either. They are celebrating 20 years in business. Good for them! Love to see businesses succeed in a difficult industry.

After dinner we decided to check out a few Water Street establishments. Some are old standbys like Rosie's, The Harp and McGillicuddy's and then there are the new "hotspots". We chose to have a few beers at a classic, Fitzgibbons Pub, a great old Irish bar with alot of character. Great old sports photos and old Milwaukee photos on the wall. We enjoyed good conversation with the bartender. We then moved on to a new bar, Sullivan's on Water, which recently took the place of Swig and at one time was home of Luke's Sports Spectacular, one of the bars that took Water Street to where it is now - a weekend night destination for people of all ages, but mostly the 21-30 year olds. Sullivan's was fairly dead when we arrived, but as the game (MU vs UWM) got to the point of a serious blow-out the college-age kids started to arrive in droves. We had a great spot for people watching. I guess I am too be considered old even though I still feel like I belong with the young crowd. However being the more mature ones (?), we left the "kids" to go on partying into the early hours.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

White Out!

Our first big snowstorm of the winter season got us on December 1. It started out as just fluffy white stuff but it is now ice. It's going to get ugly. Best bet is to just stay in and watch a movie.