Wining and Dining Milwaukee style
Wine and Dine Wisconsin is definitely an event worth planning for. The main room at the Frontier Airlines Center was filled with wine, food, liquor vendors, chef demonstrations, beer gardens, and “The Club,” a full bar staffed with talented mixologists ready to mix a specialty cocktail to the beat of the DJ.
The amount of displays was a little overwhelming at first, but having experienced the event last year, I decided to get a good feel for the layout of the room before sampling anything.
Around the room, a variety of stages were set up, including The Culinary Stage, the MATC Stage, the Cook’s stage and the Chef’s stage. In addition to the stages were two beer gardens: The Leinenkugel’s Lodge and the Best of Belgium Café. The Leinie Lodge freely poured their Wisconsin-made brews, while the Best of Belgium Café handed out samples of Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, and Leffe Blonde Ale.
Finally, there was a separate area that featured the cuisine of some of Milwaukee’s best culinary institutions including Sanford, Hinterland, and La Merenda. Some of Milwaukee’s food trucks, Fast Foodie, The Gouda Girls, (formerly known as the Chubby Cheese Truck), and Tigerbite were parked along the back wall.
After getting my lay of the land, I sought out my favorite booth from last year: Maxie’s Southern Comfort, and found exactly what I was looking for. The friendly ladies behind the table spooned out generous samples of a “best of” line up of the Maxie’s menu. Guests were treated to grits with tasso ham gravy, vegetarian jambalaya, Carolina pulled pork, corned beef hash with hollandaise and their homemade cornbread.
In addition to the booth, Maxie’s Southern Comfort was also represented at the MATC stage by chef Rachel Crouch who, along with the help of her husband, taught the audience how to create a butter squash risotto with pancetta, sage and toasted pecans, paired with the latest Miller Coors product: Batch 19. Crouch pointed out the keys of making good risotto; picking the right rice (Arborio), using an ample amount of aromatic base flavors (celery, onions, and garlic), and using a good quality stock that will complement the flavors of your dish.
Crouch’s risotto featured squash that was both blended into the rice as well as large cubes that had been roasted and then folded into the finished product. Her pancetta was baked in the oven to caramelize it’s sugar and an aromatic mixture of sage, pecans, and olive oil was toasted in the oven and then used to finish the dish. The rustic meal was paired with Batch 19, a pre-prohibition style lager, because of the shared caramel notes present in both the meal and the beer.
The two Cheese Islands featured a variety of Wisconsin produced cheeses. From aged sharp cheddars to gooey frying cheeses, nearly every cheese you could imagine was represented and ready to be sampled. The beer gardens provided a perfect spot to rest after standing in line for the salty cheeses.
The Critic’s Choice corner of the Wine and Dine held booths for some of Milwaukee’s finest dining institutions. For an additional $20, Wine and Dine attendees could sample dishes and ask questions of the talented chefs.