Jeffrey Merlot
Mr. and Mrs. M

TCD’s first class Christmas soirée

By - Dec 20th, 2011 04:00 am
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ThirdCoast Digest’s Christmas party for its staff, writers and special guests on December 15 was quite a nice affair, and we want to share what we think was most special about it this year with our readers!

It was held in the art-filled, former home of Harry and Peg Bradley on the expansive grounds of the Lynden Sculpture Garden in Brown Deer. We knew this was going to be a very special gathering of the TCD family this year because normally, we have more of an informal atmosphere featuring tasty pizza, sandwiches, etc., in more modest places for our staff events. Though it’s not often one is able to partake in wine and fancy nibblies next to original works by such famous artists as Miró, for us, the star of this annual affair was not the beautiful and historically-significant venue – it was the food that we enjoyed amongst all that fabulous art!

Of course, it’s always about the food with Mr. & Mrs. M. This year we were treated to first class catering by Milwaukee’s InterContinental, presided over personally by none other than the hotel’s executive chef, David Zakroczymski. Having received his culinary training in classic French cuisine at the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts in Evanston, Illinois (ranked this year as the #1 Chicago program for preparing students for culinary arts careers by Michelin Guide Restaurants), Chef David has been with the InterContinental in Milwaukee for nine years. His first-class culinary training and experience were well evidenced by the first class fare that came out of that kitchen!

So, let us start at the beginning, on entering the house: Lights, camera, steak-carver station!

After being warmly greeted with a big hug by TCD Editor-in-Chief and co-Publisher, Jon Anne Willow, we were welcomed on entering the house to enjoy succulent slices of just-right, pink-in-the-center slivers of flatiron steak (so nicely crusted on the outside!) with gourmet whipped potatoes served up whimsically in martini glasses, which we trimmed to our heart’s content with cheese shreds, freshly-chopped scallions, bacon bits, sour cream, butter and an assortment of other goodies (Mr. M. swears he gained five pounds just by looking at it).

And what to behold across from our steak carver? Salad, of course! This was not a typical house salad presented on large, rustic wooden platters, but a salad adorned with such a savory, silky dressing, tangy white-cheese crumbles, fried onions and other tantalizing touches. Platters of a variety of teacakes and dainty, frosting-painted cupcakes were also given a home on the salad bar.

So far, you might be thinking that it sounds like the food at our party this year was mundane – steak, mashed potatoes, salad, cupcakes. But this was a disguised prelude to round two (and three and four – oy!) of Chef David’s skills and classic training. Served from a large, warm tureen was a delicate, creamy soup made from acorn squash with just the slightest hint of curry and other exotic notes (Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!). And then it was really on with a parade of finely-crafted, edible works of art.

Your classic duo of grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup got a five-star makeover with the soup served in posh little cocktail flutes with perfectly trimmed, grilled-cheese-sandwich squares dramatically suspended on top of the glass with a crystal-clear spear. The soup had a remarkable flavor and texture. It was more like Spanish gazpacho than what we normally expect of a tomato soup. ¡Olé!

Following simple but elegant skewers of dressed tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil came classic roumaki – crispy bacon wrapped around roasted chestnuts – on a bed of zesty sauce. And then a culinary coup: delicate, herb-laced wedges of deep-fried macaroni and cheese adorably presented in porcelain, Asian spoons. Finally (and we’re sure we missed something), there were crispy-fried, little balls of browned goodness stuffed with tangy artichoke heart in creamy sauce.

And then there was more and more and more of Chef David’s trip around the culinary world for us as we visited, laughed, debated and otherwise enjoyed each other’s company. Helping it all along was a nice selection of red and white wine and beer from Milwaukee Brewing Company (good choice, guys!).

We’ve hired awesome caterers for private events of our own and, of course, we’ve had the pleasure of sampling other caterers’ work in the past at other peoples’ events. But we have to give the InterContinental’s service best marks for catering in Milwaukee. At $28 per head, it’s not cheap. But it’s well worth considering when seeking to hire the best.

Thanks, TCD (and Chef David), for a wonderful experience – we’re really hoping we can follow this up with an encore next year!

InterContinental Milwaukee
139 East Kilbourn Ave.
(414) 291-4773

Puerto Rican Eggnog – an exotic recipe for holiday cheer to get things going at your next party!

Coquito (pronounced “ko-key-toe”) is Puerto Rico’s Christmas eggnog and it
is delicious. The eggs are optional and, in Puerto Rico, it is called “Ponche”
(pronounced “poan-chay”) when made with eggs.

Ingredients:

One 15-ounce can sweetened cream of coconut (we like Coco Lopez)
1½ cups white rum (optional, but we love to include it!)
One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
One 12-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend at low speed until smooth. Serve in
small glasses with a little nutmeg sprinkled over the top.

NOTE: If you are concerned with eating raw eggs, you can use egg substitute with
wonderful results.

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