A Squared: 48 Hours in Wisconsin: Let's Talk About Cheese

Friday, November 29, 2013

48 Hours in Wisconsin: Let's Talk About Cheese

A trip to Wisconsin would not be complete (at least, in my book) without some serious cheese eating. This is America's Dairyland, after all. So, to finish up this 48 Hours in Wisconsin series I wanted to share a little info about... what else? What we ate!

First, I'd like to tell you about a fabulous dinner we had in downtown Milwaukee. Having already enjoyed a more sophisticated (read: expensive) tasting dinner at The Immigrant on Friday night in Kohler, our plan for Saturday was to find something in Milwaukee that was fun, different, and delicious without totally bankrupting us. We found that at Millioke.

Millioke's tagline is "Meat. Cheese. Beer." That's really all you could ask for at a dinner in Milwaukee, right? Well, it was certainly more than that.

The atmosphere of the restaurant was great-- a perfect combo of sleek modern decor with comfortable rustic elements and the menu followed suit. Local products and traditional Midwestern dishes were heavily featured on the menu, but each with an updated more upscale feel. The restaurant reminded me a lot of some of our favorite Chicago restaurants like Farmhouse or TWO that have similar menus and concepts.

Alex and I had been drinking beer all afternoon (see this post for more info on our Lakefront Brewery tour) so when we sat down and saw a beer cheese fondue with soft pretzel bites on the menu we were pretty much sold on an appetizer. The fondue was creamy with that delicious sharp flavor of cheddar and beer. It was so good that our watier (who was super sweet, by the way) had to bring us a second basket of pretzel bites to finish it off.

Selecting an entree was also very easy for me. As soon as I saw two of my favorite ingredients in one dish-- Brussels sprouts and bacon-- my mind was made up. The pan-roasted chicken breast with bacon Brussels sprouts and old fashioned mashed potatoes was delicious. Everything was flavorful and cooked perfectly-- I love chunks of potatoes in my mash (just like mom made them!) and the thick dice of chewy bacon on roasted Brussels sprouts were so good I could have simply eaten a bowl of those for my dinner!

Two notes on entrees: 1. Apologies for that awful photo of my chicken. 2. Alex ordered the Baby Back Ribs and ate the entire thing.

Millioke's dessert concept is something that more restaurants should offer: shooters! Because after eating a bowl of cheese with pretzels and what seemed like half a chicken, I definitely needed something sweet but an entire slice of dessert would be a bit excessive. These little shooters were the perfect size: one Door County cherry cobbler and one strawberry cheesecake to share.
Millioke on Urbanspoon

Before we headed out of town on Sunday, we stopped for some authentic Milwaukee pizza. Didn't know that was a thing? Neither did I. Well, in my last post about things to do in Milwaukee I referenced a great guide to the city that the New York Times put together. One of the article's recommendations was to check out Zaffiro's, home of Milwaukee-style pizza. Alex considers himself a bit of a pizza aficionado so we stopped in for a quick lunch.

According to the NYT, Zaffiro's pizza is quintessential Milwaukee-style: a tangy tomato sauce on thin crust topped with high quality cheese (it always comes back to the cheese in this state) sliced up in their signature "party-style" squares.

Zaffiro's is a no frills almost divey bar and pizza joint, but it's clearly a favorite with the locals. Our waitress seemed to know everyone in there, but us! And for good reason-- the prices were reasonable, the portions huge, and the pizza really tasty. I love a good thin crust and this was the perfect kind: crispy, but not cracker-thin and hearty enough to support some toppings. I ordered a plain cheese (to go along with their enormous Zaffiro's salad. Alex went with one of their most popular: the EBF or "Everything But Fish," (a.k.a. anchovies).

We both really enjoyed our lunch here and I would totally recommend stopping in during your trip. I'm always looking for more authentic places to eat when traveling to new places and this certainly felt like an authentic neighborhood place. And the pizza was delicious!
Zaffiro's on Urbanspoon

Last, but certainly not least, we made a stop in Kenosha (just over the Wisconsin border, straight north of Chicago) at the famous Mars Cheese Castle. Locals and food lovers alike have told me about this place several times, but this being only my second trip to Wisconsin it was also my first opportunity to check it out... and I didn't want to miss it.

This place is kind of unbelievable. It's right off the highway and is, in fact, a castle. They carry a wide variety of local beer, wine, meats, candies, and specialty foods and even have a bar, cafe, and bakery on the premises as well. And of course, they have a completely overwhelming selection of cheeses available too. I was not only impressed by the variety here, but also by how knowledgeable the staff was about all of the products too.

We walked out of Mars Cheese Castle with several kinds of cheese: smoked mozzarella, cherry cheddar, pepper jack, pepper cheddar, Applewood smoked cheddar, and a light cheddar that came highly recommended by one of the ladies working in the cheese section. Additionally, we picked up some fun beer, local Wisconsin honey, Neuske's Applewood smoked bacon (in my opinion, the best kind), and we even found some Usinger's sausage, which made me pretty happy since we missed out on visiting their shop in Milwaukee.

If you're a food lover and you find yourself in or near Kenosha, make sure you stop into Mars Cheese Castle!
Mars Cheese Castle on Urbanspoon

And speaking of restaurants, don't forget to enter my $25 Zagat Dining Card giveaway!

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