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Take a SPiN in Milwaukee

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Monday, February 27, 2012

By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

Late February and early March in Milwaukee usually equal bitter cold, mounds of snow and gray skies. If we’re lucky, we only have slush and wintry gusts to navigate through. This year, winter’s acted more like spring’s distant cousin, but no matter the weather, it’s the perfect time to take Milwaukee for a SPiN!

First gear: SPiN Milwaukee

SPiN Milwaukee is part of SPiN Galactic. Only two other cities in the world - New York and Toronto - boast one of these “ping-pong social clubs.” An exclusive galaxy of ping pong, awesome food and superb drinks that includes Milwaukee? How cool is that, I rhetorically ask? Pretty darn, I reply.

Any way you SPiN it, SPiN will keep you entertained and well fed from a casual lunch to an evening group outing. I visited with a co-worker for a wind-down lunch on a Friday. The baked crab dip, served with toast points, kept us warm until the BLT (marinated cherry tomatoes and arugula) and salmon sandwich (cold smoked with red onion, wasabi-caper aioli and mixed greens) arrived. 

Dinner the next night with the fam included a private, street-side room with our own table (man, ping pong’s SOOO much more fun when someone else is chasing after all the ping pong balls for you!), huge projection-screen TV and plenty of seating – the perfect spot to camp out with a large or small group. As with lunch the day before, SPiN put their spin on the familiar and it was delicious.

My son went with SPiN’s mac and cheese - bow tie pasta smothered in cheddar and gouda. “What’s gouda?” he asked. “Don’t worry, it’s gouda,” I assured him. He didn’t like the joke, but he loved the dish - it was gone before I could spell “paddle.”

My tenderly-cooked cheeseburger was accompanied by a thirst-quenching tap of Naked SPiN by Sprecher Brewery and the tastiest sweet potato chips I’ve ever had - the kind that seriously make you consider eating with both hands. My wife also had a confession, telling our waitress, “This is the best pomegranate martini I’ve ever had.”

And when you find the best, you have two, not one. A third was to be saved for another night as we had not one, but two stops on our Milwaukee spin. So, we left SPiN and jumped in the car…to go see other cars!

Second Gear: The Greater Milwaukee Auto Show

I don’t think you fully realize how important cars have become to our society and how engrained they are in our history until you walk through the doors of the Frontier Airlines Center and step into the Greater Milwaukee Auto Show. It’s electric. Polished chrome. Supple leather seats. Co-pilot computers that practically drive your automobile for you.  

If kids have their candy shop, this is as close as it gets for adults. All the latest makes and models sans any high-pressure sales environment. We tried on more than 20 cars until my wife found her next new car. Then she found her next, next new car. Then she REALLY found the one she wants. Lucky for me, you can’t actually purchase any of the cars she sat in.

But, show goers are invited to keep testing out cars all week – the show runs through March 4 – and take advantage of special events like Girls Night Out, which includes drink specials and a fashion show. There’s also a cool Harley-Davidson Museum display, pro wrestling, exotic vehicles showcase and must-see cars from “Bonnie & Clyde,” “Grease” and “Transformers.”

Third gear: homeward bound

As we downshifted on the drive home, I thought about a night that included world-class car shopping and a ping pong club that counts Milwaukee as one of just three members on the planet. And I thought, “who cares about the weather?”

It’s always a great time to take Milwaukee for a SPiN…especially this week.


Greater Milwaukee Auto Show
February 25 - March 4
Frontier Airlines Center

400 West Wisconsin Ave.

SPiN Milwaukee
233 East Chicago Street


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Three Milwaukee chefs nominated for James Beard Awards

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

By Bill Prange
Web Marketing Specialist
VISIT Milwaukee

We're always telling our visitors that Milwaukee is a culinary hotspot. Now we have more proof to back up our claims!

We're thrilled to announce that three Milwaukee chefs have been named semifinalists for 2012 James Beard Foundation Awards! Dan Van Rite, of Hinterland, Justin Aprahamian, of Sanford, and Jan Kelly, of Meritage, have each been nominated in the "Best Chef: Midwest" category.

This is the third year in a row that Van Rite has been named as a "Best Chef: Midwest" award semifinalist, being nominated in 2011 and 2010. Aprahamian was also a semifinalist in 2011, and was named as one of five finalists for the award. Aprahamian also was named as a semifinalist for the 2011 and 2010 "Rising Star Chef of the Year" award.

Covering all aspects of the industry—from chefs and restaurateurs to cookbook authors and food journalists to restaurant designers and architects and more—the Beard Awards are the highest honor for food and beverage professionals working in North America. The awards are presented each spring at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. Nominees and winners are fêted at a weekend of events in New York City that has become the social and gastronomic highlight of the year. 


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Maxie’s: The Place for Food, Drinks and Fat Tuesday Fun

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Friday, February 17, 2012

By Bill Prange
Web Marketing Specialist
VISIT Milwaukee

If you’re like me, you have a handful of local places you’ve been meaning to visit, but for whatever reason, you just haven’t done it. Maxie’s Southern Comfort was one of those places for me. I’ve always heard great things and it’s been on my list of restaurants to try. I decided that enough was enough – I had to make it happen.

Maxie’s was nice enough to invite us in for a tasting, to see for ourselves how they perform their southern blend of food magic. It took me about three seconds to nail the date and make it official.

The minute we walked in the door we were greeted by a very friendly hostess. It might be a small detail, but those are the types of things you remember from a good restaurant experience.

Right away, I noticed that the joint was jumpin’! There seemed to be a good mix of happy hour minglers and those seated for dinner.

Maxie’s is a celebration of all food southern. The menu includes lots of regional variations. Their approach is to do things as authentically as possible. They achieve this by traveling around the country four times a year to find regionally-inspired ideas to bring back to us. (They also throw pretty awesome parties for Mardi Gras and the Kentucky Derby!)

We took our seats and ordered a few drinks. (Speaking of which, make sure you check out the Libations menu for some interesting southern-themed drinks like the “N’awlins Sazerac” or their version of the celebrated Kentucky Derby drink – the mint julep.)

We began perusing the menu when our waitress delivered a surprise by telling us that they had a few things picked out for us to try. “Perfect!” I thought. It was going to be near impossible to narrow down the menu to just one choice anyway. We were treated to a basket of cornbread to start things off.

This was some gooood cornbread. It was fluffy, without being too dry and crumbly, and included a delicious butter spread made with orange and honey. What a way to start the meal. It was like dessert before dinner!

Our first course began with an array of appetizers well-known in southern cuisine – fried green tomatoes, New Orleans barbecued shrimp, and chicken fritters – along with cracker-crusted oysters and ahi tuna. Included was a variety of tasty dipping sauces.

Just as I had expected – it was all great! I have quite the fondness for shrimp, so I was particularly happy to polish those off (I may have even used the bread to soak up the remaining barbecue sauce!). The ahi tuna was delightfully tender and had a nice smoky hint to it. The chicken fritters reminded me of munching on conch fritters in Key West during past vacations. And anytime a restaurant reminds me of Key West, that’s a big plus!

We were told – again – that they had some more items from the menu for us to sample. Round two included shrimp & grits and jambalaya, pulled pork and barbecue beef ribs, and a side of white cheddar mac ‘n cheese.

The shrimp & grits, prepared with gulf shrimp with a tasso sauce over yellow grits, was another favorite. The thick jambalaya was a nice combination of sweet and spicy – very satisfying. The pulled pork was very well prepared. It didn’t come with sauce, as you often see it prepared around here; the flavor came simply from the preparation of the meat. The barbecued beef ribs were tender, sweet and smoky – Kansas City style.

But that’s not all! We were also given samples of the hickory-smoked wings and the Cajun-seared ahi tuna. The wings were big and meaty, with a zesty sauce that had a nice kick. Like the appetizer, the ahi tuna was extremely well prepared and was as soft as butter. It was almost as if I didn’t have to chew it.

Last, but of course not least, was dessert. Apparently worried that we hadn’t gotten enough to eat, we were presented with two enormous treats: the banana chocolate coconut cream pie and chocolate marquise cake. To steal the words of my dining partner, “OH MY GOD THIS IS SO GOOD BILL.” Spot on. The banana chocolate coconut cream pie was made from fresh bananas stacked side by side, with a chocolate mousse and coconut cream.

The chocolate marquise cake was prepared with devil’s food cake, chocolate glaze and a wonderful raspberry sauce. To top it off, both were adorned with a fun fish cookie. It was the perfect way to cap off a terrific meal.

Not only was it a terrific meal, it was a terrific dining experience. That was my first visit to Maxie’s, but from the moment we walked through the door we were treated like friends. That’s exactly the kind of treatment that will get me back through the doors.

I’m already counting down the days until then.

Mardi Gras fans – make sure you head to Maxie’s to celebrate Fat Tuesday on February 21! Doors open at 2:00, with live music beginning at 3:00 and the parade starting around 5:30. Beads, masks, drink specials, a New Orleans-inspired menu – everything you look for in a Mardi Gras party – will be there. All proceeds benefit the Hunger Task Force.

Come back on May 5 for entertainment surrounding the Kentucky Derby – the most exciting two minutes in sports! Live music, prizes for best hat and best dressed, mint juleps and of course live coverage leading up to and during the race. All proceeds benefit the Hunger Task Force.

Maxie's Southern Comfort
6732 West Fairview Ave.


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Witness the Passion of Marquette Basketball

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Monday, February 13, 2012

By Bill Prange
Web Marketing Specialist
VISIT Milwaukee

The pep band. The frenzied students. The school colors. The passion on the court. For sports fans, there are few things like the atmosphere and excitement of attending a big-time college basketball game.

Milwaukee’s Marquette University has been host to high profile college basketball games since 1916. The program’s highlights include winning the 1977 NCAA Tournament and more recently making a run to the Final Four, led by current NBA star Dwyane Wade in 2003.

I recently decided that it was time to rediscover the joy of the college hoops atmosphere. So with my fellow blogger, Zack, as my partner in crime, we headed to the Bradley Center (home to the Milwaukee Bucks and the Marquette University Golden Eagles men’s basketball teams) to watch Marquette take on Seton Hall in a Big East Conference clash.

But wait! You can’t do a college basketball game without the appropriate pre-game preparations. We needed to find the right place for some nourishment before joining the Marquette faithful at the arena. It had to be a place close to the Bradley Center that we could count on for great food and drinks.

Luckily for us, Tutto, an upscale, yet casual Italian lounge on Old World Third Street, fit the bill. With TVs in every booth and classic sports icon artwork on the walls, Tutto combines sports bar with classic Italian cuisine. Located just a block from the Bradley Center, it was the perfect spot to start our game-day festivities.

We ordered a few beverages and set our sights on the menu. Despite my proposal that we try one of everything, Zack was more restrained and suggested a few dishes. We decided on the Mozzarella Marinara, the Trio of Bambino Burgers and the Gio's Home veal sandwich.

We ate and ate and ate some more. The mozzarella was warm and stretchy. The sliders were juicy and flavorful. The veal sandwich was tender and boosted by peppers and marinara sauce. And the fries! You can tell a lot about a place by how they approach their fries. These were crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and seasoned with parmesan and parsley seasoning. It was nearly impossible not to eat just one more after every bite.

It was the perfect base before a night of clapping, cheering and jumping around like a 19-year-old.

We finished up at Tutto and joined the masses heading to the Bradley Center. We found our seats and the action got underway. We noticed some big names in attendance – NBA stars LeBron James and Marquette’s own Dwyane Wade were sitting courtside! Apparently we weren’t the only ones who were hoping for a good show.

Marquette struggled out of the gate, missing some shots and falling behind Seton Hall early. They went into halftime losing 30-26.

Marquette came out in the second half ready to make their move. The turning point in the game was a monster alley-oop dunk by Vander Blue. The play was part of a 16-2 Marquette run which put the Golden Eagles ahead for good. Some clutch free throw shooting and tough defense sealed the game. The final score: Marquette 66 – Seton Hall 59. A win for the good guys!

The thing that I really love about college basketball, which was so evident while watching the game, is the passion on display, both on the court and in the stands. The players aren’t (yet) professionals – their source of motivation is to play hard for their school, their fans and themselves. And the supporters are equally passionate. Thousands of hyped-up students with their crazy signs and giant face cutouts, wearing the school colors, bouncing up and down, screaming from start to finish, makes for quite an electric atmosphere.

From Tennessee fans singing “Rocky Top” to Kansas fans chanting “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk!” and Marquette dedicating a game every year to legendary head coach Al McGuire, the traditions of college sports make the experience that much more memorable.

Next time you have the chance, head to the Bradley Center and experience the excitement of Marquette basketball yourself. I’m sure you’ll walk away with memories of your own.


Marquette University Golden Eagles men's basketball
The Bradley Center
1001 North Fourth Street


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QT at Dave & Buster’s

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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

Winter. The only thing good about it is it’s occasionally fun, what with all our snowy Wisconsin activities. But this year, we've had two minutes of the fluff (opposed to last year's 24/7 flurry) and now we don’t have enough to do. Alas, we're never happy and continually blame Mother Nature.

Luckily, it's always the same inside Dave & Buster's on North Mayfair Road in Wauwatosa. Always bright. Warm in the winter. Cool during summer. Ding-ding-dinging with bells and whistles no matter the season. Full sports bar. Complete restaurant. Games galore. Plus, meeting spaces. There's no place like it.

I knew my teenager would like it, so I took him for some quality time (he calls it free lunch and games) over his holiday break and we actually did have a quality, fun time. It's hard not to, no matter who you go with. Plus, the "Eat & Play Combo" makes it pretty easy on your wallet, which is always fun. For $15.99, you get your choice of nine entrees PLUS a $10 Power card (no more quarters or tokens) for games.

I chose the build-your-own shrimp tacos. It was the perfect amount of each ingredient including skewered seasoned shrimp, spicy rice, guacamole and black beans. A festive way to start our fun and games. The teen had Goldfingers - crispy battered chicken tenders served with French fries and a side of country gravy. It was gone before I designed my second taco.

He semi-patiently watched me consume tacos two and three, then we were off. It was his first time at Dave & Buster's (I had been there for two work-related meetings), so he was like a kid in a Dave & Buster's. We had a blast. And great quality time.

Meetings, QT with family…now I just have to go back with the guys for some sports-bar time. Hmmmm, I think there's a football game on this weekend…ah, I love winter.

Dave & Buster's
2201 N. Mayfair Road, Wauwatosa


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