Friday, April 27, 2012

INdustri Cafe gets a new look.

The boys at INdustri Cafe have been very busy getting ready for a complete redesign to their dining space. The idea was to separate the main dining area from the bar to give diners a more intimate experience and to make the bar feel like it has its own space. They contracted with Flux Designs and well, just take a look...


I think they pulled that off in record time!  I'm excited to go check it out and see the new space first hand. I'm also looking forward to the new spring menu and spring cocktail list so stay tuned for an update on that.

Go Eat.

524 S 2nd St
Milwaukee, WI 53204   

INdustri Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fun Behind Bars with Dy Mixes : Bitters

Bitters: Complexity's Secret Weapon

Next in this series featuring what's hot in Wisconsin, I am excited about the accomplishments of Nicholas Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz, founders of Bittercube Bitters. Now, most people don't think much about bitters except when they grab the quotidian bottle of Angostura or Peychaud's for a Manhattan or a Sazerac.  This is a terrible injustice to the palate.

Bitters have been around for so long that they predate cocktails.  They were originally sold as patent medicines, particularly for the treatment of stomach maladies.  It can be difficult to know exactly who originated what in the history of cocktails, possibly because of the cocktails, but credit for the invention of bitters is generally given to Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, the surgeon-general of Simon Bolivar's Venezuelan Revolutionary Army.  Dr. Siegert formed the House of Angostura, and sold his medicine to sailors for the treatment of seasickness.  Thus, the spread of bitters began. The Royal Navy, you recall, gave its sailors gin.  Bitters and gin made a drink called Pink Gin which was popular at the time.  You remember that this was an era when the sun never set on the British Navy, and bitters went everywhere the Navy did, especially America and the Caribbean. 

Here in America, Peychaud's bitters sold so well that an innovative Louisiana bartender incorporated them into America's First Cocktail: The Sazerac. This visionary was Aaron Bird, and for many years a cocktail wasn't a cocktail unless it included bitters.  Remember when Nana said her afternoon tipple was "purely medicinal?"

Flash forward about 200 years... The paths of two more game-changing American bartenders were about to merge.  Nick Kosevich was chewing up the scenery in Minneapolis, winning practically every bartending award the city had to offer including Iron Bartender.  It was, however, his commitment to the locavore philosophy that truly cemented his future.  He honed his skills in the creation of house-made syrups and liqueurs and began making his own bitters.  Meanwhile, Ira Koplowitz was managing a Chicago bar that Details magazine called "ground zero for cocktail culture."  He, too, was crafting small batch additives like tonics, syrups and bitters, and was making a name for himself, even being published in the Rogue Cocktails book. 

They met in the middle and began working together in Milwaukee, ultimately producing six varieties that form the backbone of their enterprise.  Any loss suffered by Minneapolis and Chicago is surely our gain.  Their work is shining a light on our city, as the accolades come pouring in.  The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has featured them, but Bittercube's profile has grown at a rate which speaks volumes about the quality of their work. The duo has found an audience with Playboy, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food, Bloomberg Business Week -- but any list I make here will be outdated in a week as this company continues to expand its influence, so let's leave it here for now.

The Bittercube bitters are sufficiently different from each other that even the casual mixologist will find a use for them all, and your favorite will change with the season and your mood.  The Jamaican #2 and Cherry Bark Vanilla combine to add depth and dimension to my Rum Punch, and I'll be using Bolivar to generate added excitement to my champagne cocktails for Mother's Day.  You can add them to your arsenal by ordering them online at

If you like to get your hands in like I do, you might start a batch of your own bitters.  I recommend choosing which drink you wish to complement, and modify it to suit your palate.  The rules are simple: 2 c. grain alcohol combined with your flavoring agents and sweetened to taste.  For the first timer, I recommend a rum-based drink, not only because we're coming into summer, but also because its soft sweetness is easy to mix.  Here's a basic recipe that can be modified for this project:

Basic Bitters

2 cups grain alcohol, like Everclear
Zest of 9 oranges
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp coriander
3 c. water
.75 c.sugar

Combine the ingredients in a clean Mason jar and give them a good, hard shake everyday for 15 days.  Strain out the solids and put them in a pan with 3 c. water, saving the alcohol for a future step. Simmer the solids for 8 minutes and then strain, combining them with the alcohol.  Put the sugar in a pan over low heat and caramelize it, then let it cool before you add this to the mixture.  Strain it one last time and move it to its final bottle.  Cut it by adding an amount of water equal to half the amount of the mixture.  Your bitters can be stored for 12 months, and are suitable for holiday gift-giving.

More from DY at her blog: Fun Behind Bars

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Gettin a buzz from Sorbet?

Normally we try and bring you a drink that you could attempt to make at home but this week I found something so special I had to share it even if most of you will not have the tools to make it. If you do have the necessary equipment in your home bar, well you sir are doing very well for yourself. My hat is off to you.

Bourbon Cherry Sorbet


Simple Syrup
Cherry Sauce
Maker's Mark

I hear you saying it already. "Hey I have all that stuff why can't I make it at home?"
Well you could probably create a bastard version of it with a blender and letting it set in your fridge but it's not going to be the same unless you have this bad boy.


No, not Chef Mitch from Beta by Sabor, although it would probably help to have him show you how to use this machine. I'm guessing most of you don't have a mixer with a liquid nitrogen tank attached to it.

Why is it so good? It has to do with the speed that the water freezes. The water isn't given enough time to do its normal snowflake crystallization thing. It freezes so fast that rather then tasting icy it tastes creamy like an ice cream. The quick freeze also keeps the flavors separated. You get the bite and warmth from the bourbon before you taste the cold cherry flavor of the sorbet and the contrast is amazing. It also looks really cool when you make one.

Go get yourself one as soon as possible.
Beta by Sabor
777 N Water St
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Look forward to seeing more from Mitch and Beta coming up soon!

Beta By Sabor on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Eating Out: Downtown Delafield

I had to dog sit this past week. It was pretty sweet, I got to stay out in Delafield in a pretty nice house with a well stocked fridge. The downside was that I was responsible for 2 golden retrievers, a boxer, and a viszla. On top of that these people have one of those giant white birds that can say "I love you" but more often it likes to make a screeching noise that can pretty much drive you insane. I love my pets but 4 dogs running playing and barking on top of that screeching bird... I needed a drink. So I ventured out into Delafield... this is an account of that trip.
Revere's Wells Street Tavern
505 Wells St
Delafield Wi 53018

I thought I would start off with a beer and eat something that would soak up some of the booze I planned to be drinking later. I headed over to Revere's... and look at this.

No this isn't a special order, this is actually on the menu. It's called the Double Revere Extraordinaire. Two grilled cheese sandwiches make up the bun of this monster bacon cowboy burger. It probably has enough calories to fuel the average human for 2 days. It is the only burger I've ever had to eat with a knife and fork. Be warned you may need a nap after this one.

Revere's Wells Street Tavern on Urbanspoon

601 Milwaukee Street
Delafield, WI 53018

I didn't take a nap. I kept going for better or worse and I wandered up to this little Mexican cantina.

I wanted to order food, it smelled good... but I was full from Revere's. I decided on a small margarita and some chips instead. Yep a small margarita is roughly 24 ounces. This is one of those places that you could come on a sunny afternoon and waste all day sitting on the patio sampling tequilas until closing time. I plan to do just that soon as the weather gets better.

Mazatlan on Urbanspoon

Zin “Uncommon Cal Italian”
629 Main Street
Delafield, WI 53018

After that I did need to go home and catch a nap but when I woke up I got right back on the horse in search of more local eats and drinks. Next on the list was Zin. Its a cute place right off the main drag of downtown. The wine list is pretty good so I started working my way through the by the glass selection and ordered up a BBQ chicken flat bread and some ahi tuna skewers. The flat bread was really good. It was nice and soft and the skewers weren't bad either. The decor of this place is very cool and colorful with lit stain glass panels covering the walls. Glad I stopped in and I need to make a note to come back and try an entree next time I'm in town.

Zin Uncommon Cal Italian on Urbanspoon

Kurt's Steak House
22 West Main Street
Delafield WI 53018

It's dark, its an old place, it's walls are covered with rustic wood, it's one of those places a person could order a bold red wine and disappear into the shadows to have a shady conversation about illegal activities... you know "take care of business". Ok maybe that's just because I watch Boardwalk Empire and there are pictures of Charlie "Lucky" Luciano on the walls. The menu isn't new and contemporary, it's filled with old classics. Your grandmother would like you to take her here so she could show you what food should taste like. I had some crab stuffed mushrooms and some chicken liver. Left full once again, and satisfied.

Kurt's Steak House on Urbanspoon

Fishbone's Cajun & Creole
1704 Milwaukee Street
Delafield, WI 53018

I'm full again, second time today that I have no room in me for anything solid. I headed down to the lake front and stumbled into Fishbone's. The bartender was awesome. He poured me a generous helping of scotch, and a key lime martini for dessert. He insisted we try some food so to appease him we got some ceviche. It was good, later he brought out some guacamole to go with it. This is another place I need to come back to with an empty stomach because I'm very interested in finding out what the chef was apparently burning in the kitchen. Every few minutes I saw a tower of flames rise up off his grill. I will be coming back.

Fishbone's Cajun & Creole on Urbanspoon

The story ends with me going home, letting the dogs outside, getting screamed at by the bird, and passing out with the TV on.  Best day ever? Maybe not, but still pretty good.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Fun Behind Bars with Dy Mixes

Some Like it Hot!~

The hottest trends in beverage alcohol reflect the hottest trends in the kitchen. As the bar and the kitchen become ever-closer entwined, it is no surprise that the National Restaurant Association's annual report gives strong indicators that this trend continues through the current year (and I predict, beyond). Bartenders are reaching into the back of the house for ingredients and techniques that enhance the uniqueness and quality of our work.

According to the National Restaurant Association (, the single hottest trend in beverage alcohol today is the use of artisinal and micro-distilled spirits. A micro-distilled spirit is what it sounds like: small batch spirit, slowly sold in small quantities, similar to the micro-brewery. Artisinal spirits are slightly different. They are made in larger quantities, but are still smaller than the industrial spirit production of say, a giant like Bacardi USA. Great care is given to the selection of base ingredients, and to the fermentation and distillation processes. All effort is made to produce a spirit of the finest possible quality.

In Milwaukee, this movement is being served by Guy Rehorst, whose Great Lakes Distillery is quietly producing high-quality spirits that are making big noise at national competitions. The Distillery's vodkas (Citrus Honey and Classic), gin, and Pumpkin seasonal spirit are all award-winners. The newest champion is Kinnickinnick Whiskey. "KK" as it is affectionately shorthanded, won the coveted gold medal at this year's San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Other spirits, including up-and-comer Roaring Dan's Rum, have yet to achieve the accolades of their siblings, but it seems that exceptional quality runs in the family.

Another smoking-hot trend, noted by the National Restaurant Association, is the culinary cocktail. Behind the bar, we call it a craft cocktail, and it is a natural fit for these locally-produced, small-batch spirits. Locally-sourced ingredients are a big part of this movement, and although Rehorst's products don't suffer from travelling great distances, we are ever mindful of impact of shipping on the environment. Keeping close to home reduces the carbon footprint of the cocktail, and the flavors of Kinnickinnic Whiskey are particularly suited to this style of mixology, according to the Beverage Testing Institute's tasting notes:
"Minutely hazy light amber color. Light grainy, husky aromas are suggestive of buttery nut brittle, brown spices and chocolate oatmeal cereal with a silky, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a hint of mocha, mossy stone and pink pepper on the zesty finish. A nice choice for craft cocktails

Growing herbs on-premise is a similar practice that supports "clean" cocktails. Growing the herbs ourselves guarantees that they are fresh and free from pesticides. We can source our own mint for Mojitos, Chamomile for Tea-tinis, and Lavender for Lavender Lemondrops. For a slightly adventurous twist on a cocktail you know and love, try the Orange Basil Mojito.

Orange Basil Mojito
1.5 oz. Light Rum
2 Orange Wedges
6-8 Fresh Basil Leaves, plus 2 for garnish
1 tsp. Fine Baking Sugar
Ginger Ale and Club Soda

Fill your glass most of the way with ice. Muddle the Orange Wedges, Basil Leaves and Sugar, and put atop the ice. Add the Rum and fill the glass with equal parts Ginger Ale and Club Soda. Spank the remaining Basil Leaves (lay them in the palm of one hand and slap them with the other to release their fragrance) and float them atop the drink. Enjoy!

More From Dy at her Blog: Fun Behind Bars

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Engine Room: An Evening at Hinterland

Written by Guest Blogger: Chef Justin Johnson
Check out his Blog "Blog de Cuisine"

It’s an unnerving time inside the world of food. With restaurants closing at a record clip and the beleaguered economy still gasping for air, I’ve had to accept– with bemused resignation– the need for restaurants to lower the bar to turn a profit.

Out of this bankruptcy of innovation has sprouted a reductive fad that threatens to strap working class communities firmly in the back seat to finer dining utopias like Chicago, New York and San Francisco. The fad is a concept known as “classic with a twist”.

The idea is that you take a throwback that everyone knows and loves and you put a modern spin on it. It makes sense and is sometimes profitable but often lacks the actual “twist.” And let’s be honest; restaurateurs are loath to consider being on the cutting edge before revenue. While the intention may be self preservation, Milwaukeans as a result, sometimes find themselves eating a suspiciously twist-less mac n’ cheese while the rest of America’s metro areas enjoy the spry and invigorating cuisine of the 21st century.

One of the fine fettled saplings of this push for the classics is the modern American gastropub. The gastropub tag has been dubiously worn by many. Without staging a war on the definition of the popular concept, let’s just agree that nachos and Buffalo wings do not a gastropub make.

For my continuing series, “The Engine Room”, I paid a visit to another 2012 James Beard nominee and marquee Milwaukee gastropub, Hinterland– home to Chef Dan Van Rite. Here, classic dishes get worked over like dusty rummage wear into chic designer threads.

Hinterland entrance.

The concept was first opened in Green Bay, Chef Dan’s hometown, where it continues to do a solid business. The Hinterland owners are long time compadres of Chef Dan who was the opening chef behind their first venture. After a drifting odyssey that took Chef Dan through places like Portland, Minnesota, Nantucket and Colorado to name a few, the Hinterland owners looked to open Hinterland-Milwaukee and felt that they already had their man.

I arrive at the Erie Street Gastropub at 4pm on a lovely, almost hot, clear-skied Wednesday afternoon. I’m led by bartender Russell (still in his civvies) down a long corridor to a back bar and dining room I had previously not known existed and into the rear entrance of the open-ended kitchen. Music from a local rock station blares as black-coat-attired men dance the dance of prep and set-up before service.

I say men because these are not wide-eyed, wet-behind-the-ear, recent culinary grads dipping their toes into the deep end. These are grizzled vets. Whether the bearded and bandana’d Dan T. looking like Hemingway or the dark-rim bespectacled New Yorker Micah looking like Ginsberg, these guys have been and seen and done. It’s amusingly appropriate that the witty and wry brigade of, one-time head chefs in their own right, are led into battle by Chef Dan who is a dead-ringer for Chuck Norris. However, it’s at looks alone, where the “Walker Texas Ranger” likeness dissolves. Chef Dan is a man of few words and unlike most ego-driven artists, he isn’t entirely comfortable sitting down and talking about himself.

Chef Dan graduated from Western Culinary in Portland– now a Le Cordon Bleu School– after losing interest in a career in architecture twenty-three credits short of graduating from UW Milwaukee. I got the impression that Chef Dan could’ve easily ended up as a roadie for the Alman Brother’s Band (who he was getting ready to see in New York the next day) and been perfectly happy with that.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Chef Dan began to cultivate an interest in food somewhere around the time he worked a prep station at the pre-fire Beans and Barley on the Eastside. He did his internship out west, cutting his teeth at the renowned Caribou Club in Apsen, an exclusive celebrity-affiliated members-only club. He also worked as a private chef for the former COO of Goldman Sachs, Jon Winkelried who left the firm in 2010. (“before all the [stuff] went down”, Chef Dan explicates).

The Hinterland menu is tweaked nightly.

The Hinterland menu, by Chef Dan’s own admission, is influenced mostly by his varied travels. The fish of Nantucket. The elk and game of Colorado. So organically realized is Chef Dan’s style of cuisine that he was stumped, when asked to define it. His menus are about what he’s seen, where he’s been and what he’s done. Not about what Food & Wine magazine tells him are the ingredients or dishes that are currently “trending.”

His homage to his roots and what he likes to cook has served him well as he is now a three-time James Beard nominee. However, if you ask him what the accolades mean to him, his answer is precious little. “It’s good for business” he tells me. He admits that he has little control over it and that, with or without acclaim, he and his team would do little, if anything, different.

As we begin to talk food, Chef Dan is all too eager to share his culinary process. His kitchen is one of trial and error. He and his team love to research and experiment with techniques and ideas to see how they’ll be received by their surprisingly adventurous diners. We talk about veal versus pork brains and a clever dish on the menu that, in concept, is pasta bolognese. But, instead of pasta, they slice strips of pig skin into “noodles” and simmer them, finishing them to order with a bolognese and marissa cheese.

"There's something about wood fire that I love." - Chef Dan Van Rite

The most prized piece on the service line is a wood-burning grill. “There’s something about wood fire I love.” Chef Dan tells me, further explaining that it’s a challenge to control and maintain but the results are worth it. Rounding out the team of cooks on this mid-week night is, charcuterie maven, Paul Funk who is pictured prominently on the cover of a the Food section of the Journal Sentinel on this day which sits, crinkled from handling, at the pick up window.

The team is diffidently mortified to be caught reading their own press but I conciliate them by sharing that plaques of my past exploits line the walls of my home office. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your work. And these fellas ought to be. I comment to Chef Dan that it’s interesting to see a recognizable and well-reputed chef deferring press to a member of his team. He shrugs unassumingly, “I could care less.”

Funk is grinding brisket in the back for their house burger which is served with house cured bacon and, obviously, house-cut fries. But the menu is highly diverse. In addition to an extensive charcuterie menu that includes a trio of spreads, smoked kielbasa (smoked in-house of course), Hungarian sausage, and Luna Stout ham butter, the menu, that is tweaked nightly, includes spot prawns served with a vinaigrette made from a bourbon barrel-aged fish sauce that packs a punch and depth of flavor I’ve never before found in any standard fish sauce.

The line.

Other off-beat dishes include grilled octopus which I found surprisingly soft and tender with a pleasant crunch along the edges where it had kissed the grill and the ricotta gnudi which is a mixture of house-made ricotta, mascarpone, & Pleasant Ridge reserve cheese that is piped into a bowl of semolina flour where the dollops are gently tossed to coat. Then, they are dropped in hot water and cooked like ravioli. The result is a creamy trio of cheeses encapsulated by a paper thin pasta shell. It’s fun to eat and a brilliant idea executed perfectly.

Sublime ingredients reside throughout the kitchen and coolers. Live Taylor Bay scallops (which I’ve never seen in person) still in their beautiful coral and grey shells. Live Washington Kusshi oysters. Swordfish. Sturgeon. Striped Bass. All fresh and the best from whence they came. Chef Dan admits that the profit margins on some of these dishes are slim but concedes that “If it sells, great. If not, we take it off.” Foodies should know that many Milwaukee chefs whom I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with really want you to order their offal. Pronounced awful; these are things like the thymus gland (or sweetbreads), brain, heart, stomach, tripe and so on. Most people are turned off by the very idea but prepared properly, these items can make for some incredible dishes.

As service nears, Micah calls out, “Where’s the veal heart?” A search ensues. The back burners of the line include a pot of duck stock, blanching water and boiling pig ears which will be a special on tomorrow’s menu. The process for slicing the pig skin “noodles” is proving to be laborious, so Paul and Micah are trying to work the thick flap of swine rind through a pasta machine. It’s not working. So, back to the tedious manual technique of rolling the skin as you would leaves of basil for a chiffonade and dragging a chef’s knife through them.

Tuna and Swordfish.

At 5:30, the first ticket rings in. It’s an order for tuna and swordfish. The line is bookended by Chef Dan on saute and Dan T., formerly the chef at Honey Pie in Bay View, who mans the grill. Tickets roll in slow and steady. Dan T. calls out “Really close to resting that pork if you want to drop those noodles.” Garde Manger is handled around the corner on the back line by Micah, former chef at Sheffield’s Smokehouse in Chicago.

As we wait for service to pick-up, I take the opportunity to find out where and what Chef Dan likes to eat on his time off. I find out that he’s a pizza junkie with a tickle for Zapphiro’s and Classic Slice. He also talks of a hidden Pakistani take-away joint he likes to stop at on his way to work in Cathedral Square. Beyond that, he tends to patronize the restaurants captained by chef-friends like Sanford, Umami Moto and the Rumpus Room.

A short time later, a bowl of the pig skin “noodles” returns to the kitchen. I’m certain that the diner in question has altogether recoiled at the realization of what pork skin “noodles” actually are. Not so. The bowl is minus the “noodles” as he has slurped them all up and is asking for more.

The simplest ideas are the best. Chef Dan tells me that the first dish he put on the menu was an andouille sausage crusted striped bass with a red hot butter sauce which is made by reducing Frank’s Red Hot to a paste and mounting in butter and finishing it with cream. It’s a decadent and unruly sauce.

It’s 7:30 now and hanging on the rail is 2 Hanger Steaks, 2 Bass, 4 Chorizo Tacos, Fish Tacos, Sturgeon, Tuna, Pork Belly, Quail and Veal Brains. Between Dan T. and his chef, there is little conversation. Chef Dan’s mind is a seemingly calm and peaceful place. There is an arrestingly cerebral element to his food yet, it somehow lacks any kind of pretense; butter sauce is butter sauce, not buerre blanc. Like Jerry Rice running pass patterns, there are no wasted motions as he pirouettes between his mice en place and a ten burner range which is now full throat.

Now 8 o’clock, new orders roll off the printer at a sped-up pace. Sensing that the line is becoming deluged by so many orders in at once, Paul Funk suddenly appears unprompted in the middle of the line to “wheel”– a term we use for calling out tickets and plating. An eight-top of first and second courses rings in and Dan T.’s grill is lined with 3 pork chops, 5 hanger steaks, lamb sausage and grilled romaine.

House spreads and pickled vegetables.

“Hanger medium sells!” says Paul to complete a four top including a sturgeon and two striped bass impeccably plated. Articulate presentations of hamachi, house spreads and pickled salad come to the pass from Micah around the corner. More plates to the window one of which is the wood-fire grilled octopus appetizer. There’s a trail of black powder garnishing the plate. I ask Dan T. “What’s the black stuff?” He responds, “It’s like a squid ink tapicoca.” Then, like only a good host would, he diverts from his grill laced with chops, steaks and now fish to offer me a tasting spoon of the mysterious looking concoction. It’s good. Sweet in the front– bitter in the back. A smart flourish to the octopus.

As the 9 o’clock hour approaches, Micah is plating desserts and the rush, as suddenly as it descended, begins to plane out. Chef Dan calls for a beer shot. It arrives almost before he finishes the sentence. Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting for a Sprite for the last half an hour– as if there was any doubt who’s king here.

As my bad knees start to ache just from watching them, I say to Chef Dan “That was decent, hey?” “It was alright” he says, “I was expecting more.”

"Like Jerry Rice running pass patterns, there are no wasted motions."

Moments later, he gets his wish. “Firing, 2 oysters, 2 sashimi, 2 tartar, 2 scallops, 2 gnudi, 2 veal brains, 2 quail, 2 pork cheek.” Chef Dan and Dan T. rack em up and ready for another round. As the flames begin to spit back up through grates of the wood grill and the cast iron pans begin to sizzle, an almost made-for-t.v. button is fastened on the end of this stellar night. The gregarious– and not surprisingly bearded– bartender Russell arrives with my Sprite and a laugh confessing, “Here’s the Sprite you asked for a half an hour ago!” I down it in one uninterrupted swig and a short time later, I happily accept his offer of a Hinterland Pub Draft, a creamy English Ale infused with nitrogen. It’s a smooth home-brewed beer and before I know it, I’m enjoying a shot of Rehorst Kinnickinic Whiskey with him and recounting our hospitality industry adventures.

It has been from those weaving and unpredictable adventures of Dan Van Rite that this incredible restaurant has hit its pitch. But when I ask him “When are you going to write your book?” he smiles like all humble men and claims, “Never.”

Chef Dan Van Rite

Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fun Behind Bars with Dy Mixes

Something Great from Wisconsin...

We've got a lot to be proud of in Wisconsin, and our stock just went up again. Agave Loco Brands (based in Illinois) is producing (in Pewaukee) a liqueur of such storied quality that I can scarcely find a negative review of it, and for the fourth year in a row, its sales are up over 100%. For the second year in a row, RumChata is one of America's best-selling brands, according to statistics compiled by the Beverage Information Group, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

It is still possible that someone, somewhere is not yet familiar with this creamy spirit. My guests are almost unanimous in their description of its flavor as "the milk from a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch" breakfast cereal. A few things about its formula can be known: its base spirit is obviously rum, and the "Chata" refers to a centuries-old rice drink which is sweetened with sugar and flavored with any combination of fruits and spices. RumChata's formula is obviously a well-guarded secret, but they confess to Caribbean Rum, Wisconsin dairy cream and ingredients from six countries, including Madagascar (perhaps vanilla beans?) on their website.
While most creamy liqueurs have a mellow flavor that blends in, RumChata has a surprisingly bold cinnamon finish.

Although it has a very unique flavor that is delicious on its own, RumChata easily lends itself to mixology. As a general guideline, stick to complementary, confectionery spirits; think vanilla, butterscotch, and spice. One of the simplest applications is to mix it 1:1 with a spiced rum like Captain Morgan. Another popular drink is a variation of the Blind Russian that substitutes RumChata for Bailey's Irish Cream atop vodka and Kahlua. My own favorite involves chai-infused vanilla vodka; it takes a little work but I'm not the type to mind. Note that mixing this product with anything that has a high concentration of citric acid, like juice or soft drinks will cause it to curdle in an aesthetically-unpleasing (though not dangerous) way. One important exception is Dad's Root Beer, so the Root Beer Float experiment can proceed.

It has developed such an enthusiastic following that its fans are not just drinking it, we're eating it, too. The brand's website features numerous recipes, and a few of the most promising are RumChata Pumpkin Pie, RumChata Buttercream Frosting, and RumChata French Toast. I'm currently working on thickening it slightly to drizzle over Spicy Carrot Cake.

You might expect Agave Loco to stick to variations on their creamy sensation, the brand shakes things up with its pepper-cured tequila. For generations, Jalisco natives had been preserving their peppers in tequila, as such preservation produces a sweeter result than using vinegar. The resulting liquid, however, is too spicy to be comfortably consumed by mortals, so it is cut with additional tequila. In Agave Loco's Pepper Cured Tequila, 100% Agave, Reposado tequila is imbued with the flavors and oils of six different varieties of peppers by the brand's Founder and Master Blender, Tom Maas. It obviously blends well with savory drinks like a Tequila-based Bloody Mary (sometimes called a Bloody Mariachi or a Bloody Maria), but surprisingly well with the sweetness of fruit in a Strawberry Margarita. Such use combines three elements on the rise right now: Super-premium Tequila, the Margarita, and Specialty Peppers.

Unfortunately, this particular spirit is not for sale at this time in Wisconsin but can be ordered through If you'd like to try to make your own, start with a good, 100% Agave, Reposado or Anejo tequila. Well-begun is half-done. Then, choose a variety of peppers ranging from sweet to as spicy as your palate can handle. Decide whether your finished product should be mild or bold, and clean your peppers to produce that blend. Scrub and slice them, removing the seeds. Some recommend leaving the seeds in, but in my experience they are not necessary to achieve an enjoyable heat index, and leaving them in can impart a slightly bitter cast. Submerge the peppers in the tequila in a clean vessel and cap tightly. Shake it up once a day, which will speed your process along, and start tasting it at about three days. You will probably have a fresh-tasting blend of spirit and heat in just under a week, but it pays to taste it every couple of days.

I'll be drinking mine on the deck with a side of Sangrita on Cinco de Mayo....

Find more from Dy at: Fun Behind Bars

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Hendrick's Berry Fizz

"Do not cease to drink beer, to eat, to intoxicate thyself, to make love, and celebrate the good days."

Ancient Egyptian Proverb

Name: Dy

Bar: Waukesha Chancery

How: did you get your start bartending?

I started bartending years ago at a restaurant across the street, and have also bartended sporadically during banquets at the Delafield Hotel.

What is your favorite thing about bartending?

I love bartending for so many reasons; it is as complex an endeavor as a person wishes it to be. I love the variety, the way no 2 days are the same. Beverage alcohol is just barely younger than civilization itself, so I am a link in a very long chain between the distant past and the near future. I like making the world a better place, one great guest experience at a time. I absolutely love to learn and practice new techniques to uncover what works for me and this bar. I could go on and on.

What is the worst thing about bartending?

Realistically, everybody's got some part of their job that that aren't crazy about, but my life on my worst day is better for me than it would be for me in an office.

What is your craziest bartending story?

The base demographic of my bar is adults between their late 20's and 50's, so I don't have any crazy bartending stories - my people are adults who know how drink in a civilized way.

What is your favorite drink to make?

My favorite drink to make is the new one that helps move me forward as a mixologist. Last weekend I carbonated some margaritas, this week I'm excited about the drinks on our Spring Drinks menu, especially the Hendrick's Berry Fizz.

Hendrick's Berry Fizz

Hendrick's gin
muddled strawberries and cucumber
house-infused rose petal syrup
 topped with club soda.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a writer when I was child.

Have you ever been hit on while working?

Well... it's a very social environment and we interact with our guests on a personal level, so... there you are.

Have you ever had to cut someone off?

I have rarely had to cut a guest off, but when I have it comes from a place of sincere caring, which I think people sense.

Where is your favorite place to grab a drink on your day off?

I don't really have one favorite place to grab a drink, but I like one after work sometimes (our bar is scrupulously clean and that is important to me), I've had great drinks recently at a benefit held over at Blue's Egg and also at the Iron Horse Hotel....and I'm looking forward to drinks in my backyard this summer!

What is going on at your bar?

Right now at the Waukesha Chancery, we're rolling out our Spring Drinks menu, which is all about craft: fresh ingredients, quality spirits, unique additives, all expertly prepared by professional bartenders. I am very excited about helping our team make this forward-thinking transition. We have a strong spirit-infusion program, in addition to all "the basics" like Happy Hour M-F 3-6 and also T-Th 8-11, $5 Martinis on Saturdays, Half-Price bottles of wine on Thursdays... "Like" us on Facebook and check out all our specials.

Thirsty Thursdays is brought to you by Eat MKE, and by The Larry Miller Drinking Society, and by YOUR BAR HERE.

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