An e-zine for happenings of local culture in Milwaukee and elsewhere

Food

‘Tis Gift Season, Local Fashion, Last Ditch Effort, Zen Dragonfly

A smorgasbord of makers will fill Zen Dragonfly’s 3rd Annual Last Ditch Effort. Created by local fashion designer Angela Smith, Zen Dragonfly carries a suite of skirt and dress designs derived from re-purposed fabrics, along with hats, knit tams and beanies and other hand sewn accessories.

Every year she teams up with other local artists and crafts people to have a year-end vendor market. This year the Last Ditch effort will convene at the Body and Soul Healing and Arts Center in Sherman Park’s Good Shepard Lutheran Church on 48th and Roosevelt Boulevard.

Past vendors at the Last Ditch Effort included bookbinders, visual artists, screen printers, jewelery artists, natural soaps and beauty products. In a stroke of luck for sweet teeth, several local bakers will also be in residence to help you spoil your appetite a little early, with a variety of tantalizing goodies.

The Last Ditch Effort will go down on Saturday December 21, 2013 from 12:00p to 6:00p at Good Shepard Lutheran Church, 3617 N. 48th Street. Like the Zen Dragonfly page for the latest updates on this event.

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Connoisseur Culture, Roaster, Valentine Coffee

Valentine

When you’re incoherently ambling around ready for that crucial first sip of the day, though taste and quality does matter, hard pressed coffee enthusiasts know that how you prep the brew rarely has consequence. Contrary to conventional habits, the crude, yet noble, preparation technique of hand drip has gained popularity in cupping communities in recent years, bringing a whole new meaning to delayed gratification to coffee drinkers. In a fortunate twist of enterprise, the hand drip mavins of Valentine Coffee give us a new cause to care.

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Washington Heights’, Valentine Coffee has shared its own distinctive, globally sourced crop and small batch roasts geared toward discerning tastes for about a year now. You won’t find any large plastic buttons pumping coffee through a thermos, Valentine Coffee employs the hand drip method to every regular cup, without exception.

Dressed in stylishly rough finished interior design, located in a modest storefront on Vliet Street just east of 60th Street, Valentine Coffee offers a contemplative atmosphere for casual conversation or task mastering. Although hand dripped, optimally scalding temperature water awaits its chance to run over carefully measured coffee grounds, awakening the full character of the coffee within three minutes.

Valentine’s current selection stretches vast for a roastery its size and arrives from Brazil, Indonesia, New Guinea, Peru, and Uganda, each with their own unique flavor profiles. Sweet and savory light baked goods present themselves for the taking courtesy of Blue’s Egg and other local establishments.

Valentine Coffee now opens daily from 6am to 2pm.

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Connoisseur Culture, Roaster, Anodyne Coffee

Anodyne

Drawing a lot of cool from the fact that it was literally a neighborhood of burned out buildings 15 years ago, Fifth Ward can boast another foodie destination right off of Bruce and Second Street. That’s right. Across the street from Clock Shadow Creamery and Purple Door Ice Cream, and behind Milwaukee Brewing Company, sits Anodyne Coffee’s new roasting factory and cafe.

F- the Bar

It has hit the soft spot between Stone Creek’s Fifth Street facility downtown and the mega-Colectivo on KK. Having multiple full bore, fair trade, exclusive batch coffee roasters in town is an absolute luxury and distinguishing factor Milwaukee has over even its largest peers. It was astounding just how bad, or hard to find, good coffee was in cities I traveled recently. I actually can’t imagine the same isn’t true in nearly every American town. Especially, Louisville, Hiene Brother’s should just say its a murky hot water shop. I guess we’re spoiled.

Humble, Humble Better

Anodyne‘s red brick one-and-half story warehouse, takes up a low-key corner and has a low key footprint to match. It barely looks touched, other than a little pressure washing and red trimmed large framed hybrid-sash box windows. A heavy wood stained door looks respectably salvaged, above it a three dimensional iron decal blazes Anodyne complete with its signature capital “A” and red banner.

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High Design

Pacing a couple stair walk up, or ascending by accessibility lift, you’re greeted by exceedingly spacious and thoughtfully designed common space. From floor, to the vaulted ceiling must span twenty feet.

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Looking as though sliced from recently felled trees, wooden conventional camp cabin and bar height tables glazed with a hard glossy lacquer, cover the deck of the matching wood floor. Tucked beneath the table surfaces, custom manufactured aluminum chairs sit light and sturdy, with an “A” for Anodyne branded on the seat.

Lights hung in domed clear glass utility fixtures, appear like they could run on argon gas. The shaded lamp stands lean back casually, both powered with intensely red cords.

Anodyne’s uniqueness even shows through its service counter, which more resembles the ultimate Irish pub bar. It reaches at least 70 feet from the register to the wall, used both for service and patrons.

Brewed Awakenings, Unwindings

Anodyne’s current roasts traveled from Costa Rica, Kenya, El Salvador and Tanzania, some roasted in completely original small batches like the signature Snake Oil Espresso Batch No. 2 blend. When its past coffee time, Anodyne also offers a few taps of Milwaukee Brewing Company brews.

Anodyne is a remarkable coffee destination and open daily.


Brewers Opening Day ’13, Tailgate Smelt Fry

SmeltFry

Growing up, I had a shit kicking, High Life drinking, roof laying, neighbor next door. He was also the first person I ever saw grilling in the rain under an umbrella, with a beer can and Marlboro smoking in one hand, turning brats with a serving fork in the other.

Beside the yelling, cursing, racist propagating and abusive familial relating going-on year round, this family can claim my first best friend, my first video game football touchdown (on Atari 5200), and also my appreciation for Bob Uecker’s voice crackling Brewer’s play-by-play through AM airwaves, and not surprisingly my taste for fried smelt.

Back then the crank nets would come out once a year, cast off of the McKinley Marina pier, snagging multitudes of mid sized bait fish. My neighbors would bequeath a 5 gallon bucket or so of smelt upon my family every summer.

Those days of smelt fishing on Milwaukee’s corner of Lake Michigan left long ago. Not to be forgotten, recently I noticed smelt popping up again in Pick N’ Save and even Whole Foods’ fresh seafood sections.

Get Ready to Play

I got a call from an old college buddy of mine, with a ticket to Brewer’s opening day 2013? I hadn’t been since I wasn’t supposed to be there legally boozing… An idea formed instantaneously. Needing only the occasion, I thought craftily to myself, “let the commiserating of old times begin!”

Some Old Charcoals

It’s like all the days at the Park that came before and all the days that will come after, this year the atmosphere spits crisp gusts of pre-spring air down on thousands of revelers in the mid-morning pale sun. Bumpers hold brews and bags of chips, buns and what-have-you fixings for the tailgating, my party’s got a special guest.

A hoard of headless smelt lay prone packed on top of each other, wrapped in a thin film of plastic and secured in stiff brown butcher shop wax paper. Unwrapped, they nonchalantly slide past each other looking for the nearest resistance to hold them from spilling everywhere.

Ten in the morning is too early for brats, and thats why these here smelt are here. Seasoned and ready the cast iron pan catches the match light flame, too hot for grill cooking, heating the oil to a boil. Old Bay’s and salt are already mixed in the cornmeal, waiting for the smelt to take a dip and shake. Prepped, the smelt go for a swim in the pan for a couple of minutes, out and ready to eat like fish french fries.

The commotion draws the attention of a few weathered tailgaters. They exclaim “Aw yeah, Smelt!” A new opening day tradition is born.

Opening Day Smelt Batter Recipe

Yellow Corn Meal (I use the Quaker round container. You may have to pour a little out to make shake room)
Old Bay’s Seasoning
Table Salt

Add to the Corn Meal
3 heaping Tbsp of Old Bay’s Seasoning
1 Tbsp of Table Salt
Shake to mix

Add 3-5 smelt at a time to the mix and shake to cover smelt
Drop in hot oil and fry for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes
Remove and let rest on a paper towel

Munch On…


Big and Stout, Stone Creek Coffee Factory Store

If you heard a rumor that there was a giant coffee cup being hoisted atop a building you can confirm that just by heading east down I-794. The giant rooftop cup, a beacon to all wayward coffee drinkers, signifies you can now sip Stone Creek Coffee slowly at their shining new Factory Store on 5th and St. Paul.

Stone Creek Coffee Factory Store serves up quality and well sourced grind all week, very early on weekdays opening at 5:30a, then 6:00a on Sat and 7:00a on Sun.

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Spacious, comfortable and modest, the Stone Creek Factory Store retained the old world charm of given by original building architects Burnham and Root, with vintage cabin completeness provided by Kubala Washakto (a slightly style-cramping choice of architects considering they also designed Alterra’s corporate headquarters). Not moments after entering Stone Creek’s vestibule, do you experience l0arge glass panels beckoning you to enter the cafe to see just how nice inside looks.

At the Factory Store opening, Stone Creek’s renewed industrial interior, formerly just their headquarters and roasting facility, provides a ideal setting for coffee consumption and bustles with activity. It feels like an unpretentious resort suitable for Stone Creek’s typical patronage, a pleasant and seemly crowd not quite spanning the cultural spectrum the way Alterra does. Friendly, knowledgeable Barristas have a marked presence, as well as ample seating at big tables suitable for accommodating feasts in ancient Saxony.

Method to the Cup

Stone Creek still has a Barrista school where its employees hone their craft of brewing and cupping. A kind fellow stands at the coffee bar practice area ready to demonstrate the traditional drip method of brewing. The mock Barrista station captures the intensity of a chemistry lab. Several glass vessels rest on top of digital scales consecutively, cradle ceramic drip cones in their openings. A tea kettle holding water heats up with a digital thermometer monitoring its temperature. In grave detail, the fellow explains that preparation of a single cup of coffee using the drip method suits his personal preference. An emphasis on the precise weight of beans and type of grind, ensures that what the vessel captures, when water brought just below a boil slowly soaks through the coffee and filter, impresses the pallet of those with discerning taste.

Baking, Kneaded

Further leaping into maturity, not that Stone Creek hadn’t outdone itself with the primary features of the remodel, baked goods now come in-sourced fresh from its newly christened commercial backing facility. Goodies make it from oven to plate, pipping fresh, and quicker than ever. Stone Creek’s coffee couldn’t be happier.

Stone Creek’s flagship store get tons of credit for adding a little commerce to an otherwise bleak area for retail business of any kind. Sitting at the footsteps of the Central Post Office and Intermodal Station, and a stones throw from We Energies, an obvious captive market will inevitablely tip their cups. Let’s hope that some spillover from the Third Ward Association’s innovations in pedestrian experience and attempts to heighten awareness of activating dead spaces like Brighten the Passage, can meet West Town and the City halfway and alleviate the bleak walking conditions from surrounding areas to make an even greater success story for Downtown.