Eat Local Milwaukee Dinner

Kate Oscarson


The Eat Local Milwaukee Challenge is coming to an end, and I certainly used it as an opportunity to try some of Milwaukee’s locally sourced restaurants.  In two weeks I visited more restaurants that I usually would in twice that long.  Both I and my budget are on an eat at home diet for a little bit, but I feel the Challenge is worth supporting!

But, even after all that eating out, the best meal was still the one that kicked it all off: The Slow Foods WISE Eat Local Milwaukee Challenge kick off dinner at Braise.

If you read Home Grown Homemade, you will know that I am not much of a restaurant reviewer.  (If you don’t, head on over and check me out).  The reason for this is pretty clear cut: I like food too much.  A good restaurant is a good restaurant, which means they’re probably going to serve good food.  Which means I’m going to like it.  A lot.  And I’m sure my “mmm… everything is so good!” reviews might get old.

But this is going to be one of them.  There was, literally, nothing to complain about at this meal.

On Thursday, August 23rd, Slow Foods WISE hosted the Eat Local Milwaukee Kick Off Dinner at Braise.  If you have not yet been to Braise, which is located on 2nd street in the Third Ward, you should go.  I have been there twice now, and it is easily my favorite restaurant in Milwaukee right now.  With a constantly changing menu (depending on what’s in season locally), it doesn’t seem like a place you could get bored.

The Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge is a pretty big deal to me.  It is the first two weeks of September, and it is the reason that I am currently a locavore.  In 2010, I participated in the Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge, and it wasn’t that hard.  I learned some new things, I cooked some good food, and it wasn’t really a challenge.  Of course, the first two weeks of September are basically the peak of harvest season in Wisconsin, but I didn’t have this in mind when, six months later, I began my year long locavore challenge.  And the rest, as they say, is poorly documented, ranty history.

If you didn’t participate in this year’s challenge, I encourage you keep in in mind for next year.  Or to set your own challenge now.  We are still in the throws of harvest season in Milwaukee, and starting your challenge now would still fall into the rules of the Eat Local Milwaukee challenge.  According to the Eat Local Milwaukee Website:

The Rules

The rules are that there are no rules. Create your own. We encourage you to set a goal that includes eating more local food than you do now. For some people that might look like “I will eat 100% locally, with the exception of salt & pepper.” And for others it will be more like “I will try one local vegetable from my farmer’s market each week.” More is a step in the right direction. Let us know what you’re doing! Send us a message

For those of you who don’t know Braise, it is a restaurant in Milwaukee which utilizes exclusively local ingredients.  It’s the kind of place that I would want to open if I had any desire to open a restaurant.  Which I don’t.  I would much rather just eat and leave the hard sweaty work to some other poor sap.  Braise also has a culinary school, which I look forward to attending once they get their classes in full swing, and an RSA (Restaurant Supported Agriculture.  It’s like a CSA, except the C for community is replaced with an R for restaurant.  They work with multiple farms, and you can order your produce directly from them – getting more of what you want than the randomness you might get in your CSA box. )
They treated us like family, with three courses served family style.  Which, of course added to the “eat it before your husband steals it” panic, even though it really shouldn’t have because there was far more food than we all could eat.  I was lucky enough to also get sent home with some of the leftovers – another benefit of always being/looking hungry.

This is what I like to see when walking into a restaurant

Our first course was Panzanella with herbed quark:  Quark (from the clock shadow creamery) is a soft cheese and has completely replaced cream cheese in my diet.  I make a panzanella, but it’s nothing compared to this.  The bread was firmer, which I’m not sure how they did.  It seemed to not get soggy, even though it was soaked in the flavorful panzanella liquid.  They do bake their own bread in house, so this may have had something to do with it.  Perhaps they have their own “panzanella bread” recipe, designed not to get soggy.

This picture is carefully positioned to try to hide the fact that we’ve already eaten two thirds of this plate…


The second course was chicken with roasted potatoes and “eggplant caviar.”  I guess if there was one complaint about the whole meal it was that I couldn’t find the eggplant so I’m not sure what eggplant caviar means.  The flip side of this is that I don’t like eggplant at all, so perhaps I “couldn’t find it” only because I was looking for the thing on the plate that I didn’t like and there wasn’t one.  So that’s not really a complaint, is it?

We managed to take a picture of the chicken before digging in. I say “we,” because our host was right next to me, and she reminded me to take the picture before I could take a great big scoop. I take no credit.

Dessert was individual peach tarts with whipped cream and local honey.  I have a general “if it’s not chocolate, it’s not worth my time” policy when it comes to dessert, but this was very much the exception to that rule.  I think the fact that there were only two bites left by the time I thought to take a picture gives me away.

This is about when you try to trick the waitress into believing that you never got one…

A note on beverages at Braise.  The New Glarus Raspberry Tart is not highly overpriced.  It is the whole big bottle.  Be careful ordering it, because if your friends are real beer drinkers they may not help you finish it, and you will be stuck drinking the whole thing by yourself to not let it go to waste… which is what I do at home anyway so… I guess it’s all good.

So on your next date night, swing by Braise and give them a try.  With fall in the air, I am anxious to see what kind of magic their chefs can do with a winter squash!

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