We had a very exciting opportunity this past week. Eat MKE was invited to attend a wine dinner at the North Star American Bistro featuring wines from the Brassfield Estate vineyard. Now I know you're picturing us kicking back and hanging out enjoying an amazing five course meal, tasting wines, and talking about soils and climates. Although that would have been a great time, we decided to hang out and watch the action in the kitchen. When you're seated out in a calm dining room its easy to forget that on the other side of the wall there is a room buzzing with action and people working their collective tails off to bring you the best meal and experience possible. That was definitely the case this particular night.
The wine dinner was held on a Thursday night. Now that might not mean anything to you if you've never been to the North Star on a Thursday night but if you have, you know that Thursdays mean happy hour. Starting at 4pm they offer house wine, domestic beer and well drinks for 1 dollar, at 5pm the prices increase to 2 dollars, then at 6pm the prices go up to a whopping 3 dollars a drink. On top of the drinks, they also offer some Thursday only appetizers for 4 bucks. As you can imagine, the bar is packed by 4:05. The only advice I can give about happy hour is show up early, and plan to share any open seats at your table with strangers. The whole show is run by three bartenders who absolutely rock it out, so don't forget to show your appreciation and tip (To Insure Prompt Service)!
With that going on in the bar, and the North Star's normally buzzing dining room filling up you can imagine the pressure building up in the kitchen. Now add a private room and fill it with 50 guests expecting an exceptional five course meal. I'm not exaggerating at all folks. That was the scene this past Thursday at the North Star. What kind of masochist would set all this up? Well there are two that spring to mind Mike Stoner and Duffy O'Neil the owners. These guys are not the sit at home and let the money roll in kind of owners. They were right there rolling up their sleeves and prepping the food with their team.
If you've never been back stage at an event like this you'd be surprised at how intense it can get. These guys had maybe five minutes to make 50 empty plates become beautiful works of art and of course, great tasting food. They were moving at full speed rushing against the clock to make sure the food went out looking great and still hot. At the start of the event everyone in the kitchen was so focused that there was a muscle tightening tense atmosphere. You could read everyone's mind by their faces, "don't mess this up, don't mess this up, don't mess this up..." and "only get one shot at this..." and "I'm gonna need a drink after this one..."
The first course was plated and out the door to the tables as the kitchen changed gears to start preparing the 2nd course. It was pretty quiet for a kitchen at this point. That's when the first reviews were brought in by servers with empty plates from the dining room. "everyone is loving it!". With that statement, the tense atmosphere broke, smiles lit up on everyone's face and the staff started joking around while plating the second course. At this point, the staff really kicked into gear and started showing off.
The next three courses all went out without a hitch. We even got a chance to taste them. Let me say that the cost to attend the wine dinner was 65 dollars and it was worth every cent. Now it was time to serve the dessert. The cheesecake was pulled out of the cooler and of course, they looked odd. The cakes didn't set correctly, and were all shaped differently. This problem took Chef Duffy O'Neil roughly 20 seconds to correct. "How about we creme brulee the tops and re-cut them?" And with that audible called out the staff went to work. Taking a blow torch to your final course at the last minute is a risky call at best, at worst it could have ruined the cheesecake and left a bad final impression with the guests. However, it worked, and the desserts looked amazing.
I was impressed with everything and was glad to have been a part of it. If you haven't had the chance to try the North Star American Bistro you should, it's well worth the trip. Check them out.
414-964-4663 • 4518 N. Oakland Avenue, Shorewood, 53211
262-754-1515 • 19115 W. Capitol Dr. Ste 100, Brookfield, WI 53045
For more pictures of the event check out the Eat MKE Facebook page by visiting http://www.eatmke.com/ and clicking the Facebook link. Give us a like if you like!