RadioMilwaukee at Iron Horse
In a sold-out benefit for 88.9 Radio Milwaukee at the Iron Horse Hotel, nine chefs from some of Milwaukee’s top restaurants teamed up with the station’s DJs to create dishes paired with specific songs and ambiance to create a unique sensory experience. You can listen to the complete mixtape from that evening in the embedded player below.
To top it off, beverages from Wollersheim Winery, Great Lakes Distillery, Milwaukee Brewing Company, and Stone Creek Coffee were flowing to perfectly compliment the food. Not enough? Sail Loft made special little desserts for everybody — tropical key lime and banana creme pies.
Guests could also buy tickets raffle items ranging from autographed posters to a Time Warner Cable package valued at $2,100. Before opening speeches by 88Nine Board Chair Sarah Zimmerman and Wisconsin Foodie television host Kyle Cherek, there was champagne and a high-end cheese and charcuterie table open in the lush lobby of the Iron Horse. Jenna Kashou (J Kash) set the tone on the main turntable and laptop mixer, and tasting stations were set up on three levels of the hotel, and in this spirit, here are the dishes, personalities, and songs from this special night:
The dish: Fricassee of Rabbit Kidneys and Melted Leeks with Chevre Cavatelli
The chef: Dan Van Rite, Executive Chef at Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub
The song: “Scavenger Type,” by NOFX
The DJ: Stephen Kallao, co-host of AMKE
The dish was a similar item to what is on the menu at Hinterland, only there it is done with white bean agnolotti. Van Rite’s philosophy for his three-man station was “quick, easy, and good.” He recommends quaffing the plate with Hinterland’s own Pale Ale. Kallao admits to thinking a lot about his final song choice. He reflected on the story told within the NOFX song off their seminal Punk in Drublic album and knew that Van Rite was a big fan of the group. Compared to most of the band’s music, this one was acoustic._
This was one of two dishes offered by Sandroni (the other was a hearty Filipino Lamb Humba), but the featured one here is offered at the restaurant in both savory and sweet versions. The sultry effects of the door county cherries, walnuts, and truffle oil with the main ingredient reminded Moody of a few local vocalists. He decided both were versions of comfort food with a kick and spice, which sounds like Barrington and the Lijadu Sisters._
The dish: Roasted quail stuffed with duck confit and mushroom duxelle with fried quail egg, served with a port gastrique
The chef: Wil Borgstrom, Culinary Director at Trocadero Gastrobar
The song: “Love and Soul,” by the Wildbirds
The DJ: Kat Froelich, Saturday afternoons and around the horn
It was something else to watch this dish being created by a team of chefs at one table, starting from the colorful egg being fried to the swath of sour apple glaze being applied. I asked Borgstrom what he was thinking about when creating the recipe. “We listened to a lot of Jimi Hendrix,” he said. The quail dish was made special for the event, but there is something very similar on the weekend brunch menu, with duck instead of quail.
Carlisle, a one-man band behind the table, specifically thought of creating the simple, flavorful presentation that best reflected his restaurant. This play on a compressed shrimp toast was directly influenced by Doucette’s reflection on a “dim sum Asian theme.”
The dish: Buffalo Shrimp and Blue Cheese Penne with saute of Spinach and Cherry Tomato
The chef: Justin Schneider, Executive Chef at Firefly Urban Bar & Grill
The song: “Fire Away,” by Dawes
The DJ: Sarah Fierek, Saturdays at noon
This was the brightest, poppiest dish of the evening. Schneider chose something that has appeared on Firefly’s menu in the past year, after he met with Fierek about her song ideas. She chose Dawes because like the dish, they have kick but end creamy smooth. “All these innuendos working together was a natural fit for me,” said Fierek. Schneider also offered a dessert dish — a Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Tart — to be eaten while listening to “Got the Hunger” by Alice Russell.
The dish: Braised pork cheeks, dried sour cherries, cognac mustard, and upland cress
The chef: Todd Moore, Executive Sous Chef at Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro
The song: “Chez Les Ye-Ye” by Serge Gainsbourg
The DJ: Brianne O’Brien, Assistant Producer and co-host of AMKE
This offering was most decadent and rich of the evening. “There is a lot in there, but they all work together,” said Moore. “We like to take French traditional and apply updated techniques — along with great ingredients.” O’Brien easily decided on Serge Gainsbourg because as Moore notes: “Classic is always cool.”
The dish: Crispy Pork Belly with Harissa, Sweet Potato Puree and Gremolata
The chef: Andrew Ruiz, Executive Chef at The Rumpus Room
The song: “Goin’ Down South” by R.L. Burnside
The DJ: Mark Keefe, 88Nine Program Director
“We do a lot of pork, and we do pork belly well,” Ruiz said with confidence. While this specific dish is not on the menu, many similar preparations are available there. Keefe and Ruiz looked at the idea of a modern remix twist to go with the bright, citrusy gastrique, and then Keefe alighted on R.L. Burnside. The idea of a smooth backbeat meets sweet, spicy fatback was born.
The dish: Sauteed Bay Scallops with Mango and Jalapeno salsa with Jasmine rice
The chef: Michael Engel, Chef/Owner at Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar
The song: “Rebel Rebel,” cover of David Bowie by Seu Jorge
The DJ: Jordan Lee, afternoon drive and host of the Saturday Session
Lee and Engel’s long conversation was reflective of the feature Pastiche hosts called “the 5 o’clock shadow.” Engel took a leap away from the normally offered fare and created something that Lee said sounded like a long beach and sun. They chose a song from The Life Aquatic soundtrack with the Brazilian artist Seu Jorge.
The dish: Pistachio biscotti, foie gras torchon, smoked cherry gel
The chef: Dane Baldwin, Executive Chef at Ryan Braun’s Graffito
The song: “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” by Thievery Corporation (feat. David Byrne)
The DJ: Nate Imig, Sunday mornings
Baldwin knew he wanted to bring something easy to prepare, and yet brought a full reflection of what they are trying to do at Graffito. So he thought in textures, playing the old and known (foie gras) against the new and unusual (pistachio biscotti with smoked cherry gel). It was important to think of integrity and contemporary techniques.
TCD captured more of the happening scene along with loving photos of food and drink from this benefit event in our slideshow below or you can look for the whole set at our flickr pages found here. One of the guest stars spotted in photos was Paul Cebar, who will be the featured artist at this year’s Carnivale for Mardi Gras hosted by 88Nine Radio Milwaukee at Turner Ballroom on Feb. 21. For more on that Fat Tuesday food and music party, visit the Pabst Theater website for details.