BEYOND CHEESE AND BEER, THERE'S A SMORGABORD OF LOCALLY GROWN FOODSTUFFS
BY KRISTINE HANSEN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAN BISHOP
Naturally, the Dairy State is known for putting out quality fromage and craft beer. Fresh produce is also at a premium, with Wisconsin ranking No. 2 in the nation in its number of organic farms (second only to California). But beyond the expected are pantry staples, frozen foods, sweeteners, sauces and more that are produced within 100 miles of Milwaukee. As a bonus you don’t have to hunt these products down during farmers markets seasons only, then spend all winter wishing you’d splurged on more. They are available year-round at select retailers. Good Harvest Market, Outpost Natural Foods, Beans & Barley, Whole Foods Market stock the majority of local products featured here.
[SAUCES] Condiments will often seal the deal on tasty foods. Fortunately you don’t have to pick up the national brands when you shop for groceries. Kallas Honey Farm makes a BBQ sauce and mustard, both good options for dressing up burgers and other grilled meats. Used at Miller Park for Milwaukee Brewers games, Secret Stadium sauce (combining barbecue, sweetened tomatoes and clam-juice flavors) turns a hot dog or brat from good to fabulous. To fold into cooked noodles or pasta, DiSalvo’s marinara sauce, from Stoughton, and home to a restaurant of the same name, is a local option. Crank up the heat on grilled meats with Saz’s barbecue sauces (Sassy, Original and Vidalia Onion), as well as a gluten-free sauce. Saz’s is based on Milwaukee’s West Side. For even more kick, try Man’s Best Friend Hot Sauce, prepared in small batches and by hand in a kitchen on the city’s Northwest Side. Playing off of the dog theme, you can choose from a dozen signature flavors named for dogs, like Dalmatian or French Mastiff. And when you bring out the chips, also bring out a jar of Tomato Mountain salsa, which is produced at a farm in Brooklyn, Wis., with tomatoes grown on the property.
[SWEETENERS] Sometimes toast and bread need a little bit of sugar. For a savory approach, Tomato Mountain Farm’s tomato jam, containing tomatoes grown in Brooklyn, does the job well. Traditional fruit-based jams are made by Madam J’s Sticky Fingers, Milwaukee. Wisconsin is abundant with honey producers and many are just a few miles from Milwaukee. Third-generation honey producer Kallas Honey Farm is based on Milwaukee’s Northwest Side and the honey procured from all over the U.S. East Troy Honey’s honey is an example of all-natural honey, with no additives. Some other local honey producers: Gentle Breeze in Mount Horeb, the honey from Wisconsin family owned dairy farms, and Wisconsin Natural Acres in Chilton, making all-natural honey and a raw-honey spread. Drizzle local maple syrup on top of pancakes or waffles, relying on either Kallas Honey Farm maple syrup, sourced from the North Woods of Wisconsin, or Drewry Farms maple syrup, which is tapped near Plymouth. Wittgreve’s Rolling Meadows Natural Sorghum Syrup, based in Elkhart Lake, has the consistency of molasses and is a throwback to pre-World War II when it was plentiful, especially in the South. To top ice cream, two companies have you covered: 3G Organics hot fudge and caramel sauces (Fontana) and Becky’s Blissful Bakery’s caramel sauce (Pewaukee).
[GRAINS] You could make your own granola. Or you could support local granola makers by purchasing theirs. Kallas Honey Farm, based in Milwaukee and well-known for its bottled honey, takes a detour with its granola, which is fantastic and comes in four varieties, including honey-nut and cranberry. Madison’s Nature’s Bakery Cooperative, which operates as a collective business model, and doesn’t stop with two or three flavors. Expect seven or eight selections, such as peanut butter and cinnamon apple. Celebrated soy producer Simple Soyman in Milwaukee also makes granola, as does a Madison company called Back to Nature. Local bakeries are not the only spot to score delicious breads — you can also choose from Natural Ovens’ in Manitowoc, with a dozen or so varieties of hearty, good-for-you loaves as well as bagels; La Campagne Bakery in Mequon bakes rustic rounds of sourdough, whole wheat and more; Great Harvest Bread locations, as well as Wild Flour Bakery in Bay View, turn out so many varieties it makes your head spin (and is probably better to consult that day’s offerings). Similarly, Cybros The Sprouted Bakehouse in Waukesha offers a local bread option, only it’s not just loaves for sandwiches but hot dog and hamburger buns too. If it’s wraps, burritos or enchiladas you crave, El Rey tortillas are found at El Rey stores and other retailers. Kangaroo Brands, on Milwaukee’s Northwest Side, has made pita pockets since the 1970s, perfect for preparing Mediterranean-style meals.
[COFFEE and TEA] Coffee beans are, of course, not grown anywhere near Milwaukee. (The closest locations would be Hawaii, or areas of Mexico.) However, many local companies roast the beans within a quick bicycle ride from downtown Milwaukee. Stone Creek Coffee Roaster’s roasting facility is across from the Amtrak train station. In Riverwest, inside its Humboldt Boulevard café, Alterra Coffee Roasters roasts its beans, and two Bay View roasters (Anodyne Coffee Roasting and Sven’s Coffee Roasters) help local coffee aficionados get their fix. Out in the ‘burbs, Wauwatosa’s Valentine Coffee Co., Fiddleheads Coffee Roasters in Thiensville and Cedarburg and Coffee Roastery in Cedarburg make just-roasted coffee beans readily available. Further out of the city center, in Madison, Just Coffee Co-Op delivers local orders via bicycle, but does manage to get its beans to Milwaukee by car. And while the tea itself is sourced from Asia, Milwaukee’s Rishi Tea visits with the plantations and estates, handling the production and packaging back here.
[NON-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES] Culled from a water source in Plymouth, Pristine Artesian Water’s bottled water is just as refreshing as any national brand — and you know it wasn’t shipped in from Fiji or Hawaii, or even the coasts. What’s not to love about colorful fizzy soda? Headquartered in Oak Creek today, but founded in St. Francis in 1920, Black Bear Soda flavors include orange blue raspberry and lime. Another local soda label is from Sprecher Brewery in Glendale, which produces orange soda, root beer, ginger ale and cream soda. Similarly, Lakefront Brewery dips into nonalcoholic drinks with its maple root beer. Need more of a jolt? Limelite drinks sprout from Appleton and contain natural energy boosters: ginseng, niacin, vitamins B-6 and B-12, and gingko biloba. And finally, one of the manufacturers of this year’s “It” drink — Kombucha, a chilled and fermented tea-based beverage — is a company in Madison called NessAlla.
[MEAT] Milwaukee is no stranger to the local-meat movement, with consumers more and more interested in traceability when it comes to their brats, chicken breasts, “snack” meats and beef. Antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken from Wilson Farm Meats, family owned and operated since the 1870s, is bred in Walworth County. A newer company, Bolzano Artisan Meats makes dry-cured salami, chorizo and pancetta with lots of love and care in its Riverwest facility. Brats are a high priority for Milwaukee carnivores and thank goodness there are options, from a boutique producer like Glenn’s Market in Watertown to bigger companies like Klement’s Sausage in Bay View, Usinger’s in downtown Milwaukee and Johnsonville in Sheboygan Falls.
[ FROZEN FOODS ] Who knew that the Milwaukee area is home to so many frozen-pizza brands? There is, of course, Palermo’s in the Menomonee Valley (from thin crust to a thicker “naturally rising” crust), which was born out of Palermo Villa on the East Side, but also lesser-known pizzas like Dino’s Pizza from Racine and Shoe & Sal’s from Beaver Dam. Pizza pies not your thing? Don’t worry. There is another local Italian-carb option. RP’s Pasta Co. ravioli, tortelloni, angel hair, fettucine, linguine and more made fresh and all-natural in a storefront in Madison’s Willy Street neighborhood since 1995, are sold in frozen-food aisles. Options include fresh roasted red pepper linguine and frozen ravioli smoked mozzarella, as well as gluten-free varieties. Vegetarians need not look to national brands for a mock burger. Another Madison company, Nature’s Bakery Co-op, crafts tofu-walnut burgers, Amazing Grain burgers and vegetarian burgers. Milwaukee’s own tofu specialist — The Simple Soyman — offers a tofu burger in addition to blocks of fresh tofu.
[ DAIRY ] It’s no surprise that Wisconsin produces award-winning dairy. One of the newest products in stores is Sunshine Farms goat milk, from Appleton. Red Barn Family Farms in Appleton produces milk sold at select retailers. Or, you can dial up LW Dairy in Ixonia, which offers home-delivery subscriptions of milk sourced from farms in Ashippun. Outside of milk, however, there are plenty of other dairy items to stock in the fridge for baking or farm-fresh breakfasts. Sugar River Dairy yogurts, with cream on top and fruit on the bottom (strawberry, raspberry, peach and blueberry), come from a farm in Albany, Wis. Plain and vanilla are available in 24-ounce sizes, perfect for smoothies or baking. Sassy Cow Creamery, a family owned farmstead milk-bottling business in Sun Prairie that opened in 2008, goes whole hog with its BGH-free yogurt and milk, but doesn’t stop there. Sassy Cow’s ice-cream pints and quarts come in indulgent flavors like Blueberry Cheesecake and Butter Pecan, as well as plain old chocolate and vanilla. Another state-bred frozen treat is right in our back yard: Purple Door ice cream — in offbeat flavors like bacon, salted caramel, green tea and goat-cheese, often relying upon local ingredients such as Anodyne coffee and Penzeys spices — is made in Milwaukee and sold by the pint. For baking or whipping up a soufflé, turn to brown eggs that are antibiotic- and hormone-free from Yuppie Hill Poultry, raised on a farm in Walworth County. Butter is one of those refrigerator necessities, and you can get super-fresh butter from Freis Von Kiel, in Kiel. Packaged in a large block, as opposed to quarters, you’ll have to do the measuring yourself, but the quality is worth it. At least six cheese makers are within 100 miles of Milwaukee: DCI Cheese in Richfield (most known for its Salemville blue cheese and Black River Blue), Beechwood Cheese Co. in Beechwood (cheese curds and delicious flavored cheeses, like Screamin’ Mimi Habanero and Uncle Charlie’s Chicken Soup Cheese), Crave Brothers in Waterloo (mascarpone and fresh mozzarella), Widmer’s Cheese Cellars in Theresa (cheddar), Braun Suisse Käse in Beloit (cheddar and Swiss) and Henning’s in Kiel (cheese curds, mozzarella whips, Colby, Monterey Jack and cheddar, even goat cheese).
[SNACKS] Wisconsinites like to snack at tailgates, picnics and holiday gatherings. Local food companies get that, which is why there are so many local munchies. Many are popcorn, but not the typical buttery kernels you might expect. Jane’s Simply Delicious in New Berlin takes a sweeter approach with bagged popped caramel corn. (There is also nonflavored popcorn from Jane’s.) Fireworks Popcorn, based out of Port Washington, sells only the kernels, but in enough flavors (from Autumn Blaze to Wisconsin White Birch) to rival a bubble-gum maker. If you’ve had enough of the salty and want to turn to sweet, try Matt’s Cookies. The Wheeling, Ill.-based manufacturer bakes thick chocolate-chip, oatmeal-raisin, peanut-butter, cranberry-raisin, peanut-butter chocolate chip and chocolate-chip pecan cookies that taste practically homemade. If you can’t get to any of the four El Rey stores, simply pick up a bag of El Rey handmade tortilla chips (plain or seasoned with lemon) at a number of retailers around town. To pair with homemade spreads, look to Back to Nature crackers — saltine, cheddar, classic rounds (like Ritz) and sesame tarragon just scratch the surface of your options — that are made in Madison.
[CANDY/CHOCOLATE] For sweet-tooths there is no shortage of choices when it comes to chocolate bars, caramels, chocolate-covered treats and more. Indulgence Chocolatiers is among the newest kids on the block. From Waukesha, the chocolatier unleashes several signature chocolate bars — with varying cacao percentages — including Coconut Curry, Mayan Spice and Vanilla Bean Malt. If you like a little buzz with your chocolate, there is a duo of chocolate-covered espresso beans (Crackheads and Crackheads2) — the brainchild of John Osmanski, of Milwaukee, who developed Crackheads in 2006 at the age of 30, the others shortly after. In Milwaukee’s city limits are three beloved chocolate makers: Northern Chocolate Co. in Brewers Hill (try the mint meltaways and you’ll feel as if you’ve gone to heaven), Burke Candy in Riverwest (wide variety of chocolates, including truffles and Green Bay Packers-themed chocolates) and Kehr’s Candies inside Milwaukee Public Market (strong focus on seasonal chocolates and around since 1930). Pewaukee’s Becky’s Blissful Bakery takes the cake when it comes to making soft, yet chewy, caramels.
Share some of your favorite locally made foodstuffs with our online community.
Alexander McQueen’s “Savage Beauty” book, available at Anthropologie and local bookstores, is the perfect gift for the fashionista on your Christmas list.
It’s the countdown to Christmas! Still haven’t bought a single gift? No sweat. Hit up these spots — some even offering specials for all you procrastinators.
Anthropologie (Third Ward) – There is always something unique here to wear or for the home. It’s boho-chic at its finest. I love the chunky necklaces (around $50), or for the avant-garde fashionista, pick up the new Alexander McQueen biography Savage Beauty ($45).
Faye’s (Brookfield and Mequon) – My pick from Faye’s? Hands down, a pair of Toms shoes (starting at $45). They are one of the only retailers in the area that carries them (shoo, in the Third Ward does, too). The black sequin, gold iridescent and burgundy houndstooth are chic and perfectly holiday appropriate. Members of the text club get 25 percent one item (regular priced or sale).
Five Hearts (Third Ward) – Find great apparel and unique jewelry for women on your list ages 21-61. All items in the store are 20 percent off until Christmas Eve! Pick up a cute clutch for all your holiday party hopping and give one as a useful and fashionable gift.
Laacke & Joys (Downtown) – If we must suffer through the cold, we need the right gear. There is a great selection of winter recreation equipment and clothing to choose from. The Patagonia Better Sweater fleece ($129) is soft and warm. Pair it with some wigwam wool socks ($12) and you’re ready to tackle the snow or just snuggle up in front of the fire. There is also a coupon on the website for 25 percent off your entire purchase.
Lela (Third Ward) – Give the gift of warmth with votivo candles ($28) and cashmere scarves ($36). Nice candles are worth the extra little bit. They last longer and the fragrance lingers. Grab a pair of boot socks with fur at the top ($48) to transform your look from ho-hum to hoppin.’
Lulu Lemon (Third Ward) – Splurge a bit for the athlete on your list. These high-quality duds are both comfy and stylish. My favorite is the reversible Wunder Under crop ($68). Go from yoga to lunch to shopping without having to change! Throw on some boots and a long sweater and you’re set.
A few more suggestions: If you are on Downer Avenue, grab something trendy at Gossip or a gift for the green-advocate at Olive Fine Organic Living. Or, if you happen to be shopping in Wauwatosa, two great boutiques, Salamander and Urban Laundry, always have something unique and special for the distinguished woman on your list. One other great go-to is Boston Store. There is one in every corner of the city (Bayshore, Brookfield, Southridge, Grand Avenue.) The possibilities are endless. Some nice makeup, perfume, PJ’s? Plus, it’s open 7 a.m.-midnight all week! (6 a.m.-6 p.m. on Christmas Eve).
Summer and Shine
Tunic/dress, $278, Sara Campbell, Boutique B’Lou, Wauwatosa, Milwaukee and Delafield
Stand out from the ho-hum crowd at your next holiday party in a chic, sparkling frock. Delicately tied around the neck, this tunic offers casual simplicity mixed with luster and gleam. Pair with opaque tights or skinny, ankle-grazing pants — and killer heels — for a show-stopping look.
Corso Como heels, $165, Shoo, Milwaukee
True style is ageless. This season, take a cue from footwear fashions of the past with these well-crafted and intricately detailed Mary Jane’s by Corso Como. These hot-to-trot yet ladylike heels will turn the volume up on any outfit — and make your shoes a favorable conversation piece among your friends. Try with a classic wrap dress or a pencil skirt-and-classic white shirt combo for winning vintage appeal.
The Historic Third Ward Association presents Christmas in the Ward Friday, Dec. 2, and Saturday, Dec. 3, in Catalano Square (corner of Broadway and Menomonee Street) to stir up your Christmas spirit.
Friday night from 5 to 8 p.m. see live reindeer, witness a Christmas tree lighting, sip hot cocoa and cocktails, hop on a horse-drawn carriage, enjoy live music and entertainment — and there will even be a little surprise visit from you-know-who. He wears a red suit, long white beard … you do know who, don’t you? Bartolotta’s caps off the evening with its signature fireworks spectacular to light up the night.
Be sure to shop and dine Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In the midst of all your Christmas shopping, don’t forget to pick up something sparkly for yourself to wear to all those holiday parties this month. A few of our favs? Lela, Five Hearts and shoo (a pair of sparkly TOMS is on the top of the list!)
There will also be Christmas trees for sale both Friday and Saturday, so no need to trek out to the country to adorn your abode.
Click here for more information and for a full schedule of events.
Also, while you are out and about in the Ward, tuck into Moct after 9 p.m. to celebrate the iconic Milwaukee club’s seven-year anniversary party with djs, food, prizes and more!