By Mary Boyle
For the fifth year, Port Washington's farm-to-table restaurant, Twisted Willow, hosted their Harvest Dinner, a six-course extravaganza featuring food from local producers, as well as Twisted Willow's own farm, benefiting the Ozaukee Family Sharing Food Pantry.
The restaurant was closed on Saturday, October 21st, to accommodate this special meal, which has grown so much in popularity that two seatings were offered: one at 5 p.m. and one at 7:45 p.m. The dinner is served over a leisurely pace, and guests may choose whether to include a pairing.
The First Course was a Gorgonzola Dome; a blend of gorgonzola and mascarpone cheeses served with pears, Little Mountain Apiaries honey, crushed hazelnuts, dried cherries, and a housemade rosemary cracker paired with Cynar Spritz, a bitter Italian liqueur made from artichokes that was complex, but still light and refreshing.
The Second Course was an excellent Wild Mushroom Chowder, featuring locally foraged wild mushrooms and TW Farm's rainbow chard, as well as fingerling potatoes, brandy cream, and a topping of walnut gremolata paired with a Pozi Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
A Grilled Plum Salad with frisee, arugula, baby spinach, local dried honey crisp apples, roasted pecans with a sherry vinaigrette and topped with local Marieke young gouda, from Thorpe, WI, made for a sweet and delicious Third Course, paired with a New Glarus Staghorn Octoberfest.
A seared Alaskan halibut was served with TW Farm's roasted poblano creamed corn and delicata squash puree, carrot top, parsley oil, local bacon, and micro-cilantro, and paired with an Alain Normand Macon La Roche Vineuse for the Fourth Course.
A refreshing Palette Cleanser of Lemon Italian Ice with lavender and orange zest was made by The Amazing Ice Cream Co. in Port Washington, which is a recent venture by the owners of the Chocolate Chisel.
The Fifth Course was a roasted red deer loin, served with parsnip and yukon potato puree and a lingonberry demi-glaze. A little formed mound of locally foraged miatake mushroom bread pudding, which was reminiscent of turkey stuffing, and brown sugar baby carrots were served alongside, and this dish was paired with M. Chapoulier Petite Ruche - a sharp, peppery red.
Finally, the dessert: a warm TW Farm kabocha squash and olive oil cake, which was similar to a pumpkin bread, topped with The Amazing Ice Cream Co.'s Ginger Ice Cream and candied pumpkin seeds - the combination of which can only be described as "amazing." This was paired with a Mocha Manhattan, which had a wonderful chocolaty scent, but was quite strong.
As usual, Chef Dan Wiken and the team are masters at combining flavors, and the attention to detail - from food to drinks to decor - is outstanding. The staff are so inviting, and the restaurant has such a warm, indulgent ambiance, particularly with these large community dinners. If you missed your chance at the Harvest Dinner this year, I strongly encourage you to make your reservations for the next one. My advice: arrive hungry, or you will definitely run out of room before you hit dessert!
By Mary Boyle
To say that Mequon resident Steve Shapson is a fan of mushrooms is an understatement: he loves them so much that he is the President of the Wisconsin Mycological Society, a group that provides education in identification of edible and poisonous mushrooms, and an outlet for fungal-focused hobbies, including cooking and preservation, home cultivation, artistic endeavors, and more.
Dan Wiken, Executive Chef and Owner at the Twisted Willow restaurant in Port Washington, is also a fan of fungus, and has bartered mushrooms with Shapson on several occasions. This mutual appreciation led to their collaboration on the 5 Course Mushroom Dinner, held at the Twisted Willow on March 5th, which served to illustrate the versatility of this forage-able food, as well as the ability for Ozaukee's favorite farm-to-table restaurant to show what could be done with them.
Over 60 people attended the dinner, where nearly everything -- from the drinks to the dessert -- was graced with mushrooms, beginning with a Sweet Potato Waffle. This take on a Southern dish utilized fried oyster mushrooms, instead of chicken. A bourbon sorghum syrup and roasted hazelnuts tied the dish together beautifully.
Each course was paired with a drink, created by Twisted Willow Bar Manager, Joe Buth, beginning with a Porcini Manhattan. This was an adventurous concoction for a true mushroom lover, but it did pair well with the dish.
The Shaved Mushroom Salad was my favorite of the evening, not only for the beautiful presentation, but for the amazing combination of flavors. A variety of exotic mushrooms, including crimini, lion's mane, king trumpet, and enoki, were utilized in this dish, which was served over a smear of honey mascarpone. This was paired with a Mushroom Flip; a fizzy, sweet beverage with a delicious head of foam.
Paired with an interesting Portabella Shrub, the third course was Seared Scallop over a forest mushroom whole wheat couscous, and oyster, crimini, and shiitake mushroom raisin goulash with baby greens, which was simply delicious.
The main course featured Porcini-Crusted Veal Loin with kabocha squash and shiitake mushroom ravioli and broccolini. The Rioja Bordón" Gran Reserva 2005 paired with this dish was also used in the demi glace on the veal, which made a lovely combination.
Yes, even the dessert featured mushrooms: in this case, a Maitake & Nameko Forest Mushroom Bread Pudding served with vanilla bean ice cream and saffron milk cap salted caramel, which was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and just the right amount of sweetness. This was paired with a Wild Mushroom Cortado; a warm espresso and milk beverage that went quite well with the dessert.
Near the end of the evening, Shapson presented Chef Wiken, Buth, and Chef James Flatley with a Lifetime Membership to the Wisconsin Mycological Society. "The folks at Twister Willow are so nice," Shapson said, "and we wanted to support them by starting the mushroom dinner."
With any luck, this will become one of Twisted Willow's annual dinners, as it exemplifies their ability to showcase local ingredients, as well as their mastery of flavor combinations. In the meantime, learn how to forage for, and even grow your own, mushrooms, as well as how to identify the poisonous ones, by attending one of the many lectures, workshops and forays hosted by the WMS. Learn more at their website: http://www.wisconsinmycologicalsociety.org/
By Mary Boyle
Ozaukee County is constantly rated as one of the wealthiest and healthiest places to live, and this designation is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it gives residents pride in their community; on the other, it may make one believe that nobody struggles here, and that is far from the truth. That is why the Family Enrichment Center is so important to our community.
Located in Grafton, the FEC is an amazing collaboration between multiple non-profits housed under one roof. This unique arrangement helps organizations such as COPE, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ozaukee, Energy Services, Ozaukee Family Services, Interfaith Caregivers of Ozaukee, and the Alzheimer's Association share resources, which enables them to afford more services for families all over the community.
Since 2014, the FEC has hosted the Gourmet Gala: a wonderful fundraiser that not only allows the community to learn more about the services the FEC provides, but also gives them the opportunity to try food and beverages from several local restaurants and win fabulous raffle and auction prizes, all while supporting the FEC non-profits.
For the first three years, the Gala was held at the FEC, but had grown so popular, that more space was needed for the event. This year was the Gala's first time at the Ozaukee Pavilion, where there was plenty of room for everyone to spread out.
Upon arrival, guests were encouraged to grab a beverage and view the many raffle baskets, participate in the Wine & Whiskey Pull, or get their photos taken on the "red carpet."
One of the benefits of the Ozaukee Pavilion was the ability for sit-down dining. Guests simply dropped their drinks off at one of the many beautifully set tables, and then proceeded to the corners of the room, where four different restaurants were busy making small plates of appetizers, entrees, and desserts.
Appetizers were covered by The Cheel, who served a delightful Burmese dish called Tohu Thoke (a cold chickpea salad, tossed with garlic, onion, ginger, cilantro, and peanuts) and Twisted Willow, who contributed a delicious Roasted Beet Salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts.
All four restaurants served an entree on small plates. From Scratch Catering made an amazing Pork Tenderloin with a Cherry Cashew Wild Rice, while Yellowbellies offered up a dainty version of one of their most popular sandwiches, the O.G. (flatbread topped with bacon aioli, organic mixed greens, Bernie's bacon, Cedar Valley 2 year cheddar, pulled rotisserie chicken, and roasted tomato). Twisted Willow served Marinated Flank Steak with Cauliflower Puree, Chimichurri, and Micro Greens, and The Cheel did Sandheko Sukuti, which was crispy Nepalese spiced pork served with crispy flattened rice. Vegetarian options were also offered at the stations, upon request.
For dessert, Yellowbellies served two different mini-cheesecakes, and From Scratch offered a spice cake with caramel sauce and whipped cream.
Tom Wachs of Fox 6 News was the Emcee for the event, introducing two videos about the FEC, and moving the evening along. The live auction was a particularly fun part of the evening, featuring two items: the Baird Suite at Miller Park for 20 Guests, and "The Cheel in your Ville," in which Executive Chef and Owner of The Cheel, Chef Barkha Limbu Daily and her husband, Jesse, offer a hands-on, in-home culinary experience for 10. Bidding for both items was fast and competitive, but when Chef Barkha, who returned for her third year at the Gala, manned the mic, she managed to drive up the bidding for her item even further than the Miller Park package.
"[The FEC] core values are very near and dear to my heart," Chef Barkha said in a recent FEC video. "They believe in fostering and enriching connections, community growth, and the well-being of the community -- that was one of the big reason I started my own restaurant. This is why I'm coming back."
Aside from being a wonderful evening, the Gourmet Gala truly highlighted the love, support, and appreciation for the Family Enrichment Center and all that they do for Ozaukee County. This is absolutely an event you'll want to mark on your calendar for 2018!
By Al Luening
Representatives from all walks of life populated the halls of the Ozaukee County Family Enrichment Center facility this past Saturday. A gathering of donors and providers paced about, introducing themselves to one another, shaking hands and thanking each other for the work they do, two very important jobs to the families of Ozaukee County that utilize the center for the much needed services they provide: Birth to 3 services, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ozaukee, and Interfaith Ozaukee, to name a few. Walking through the door, I was greeted with warmth, kindness and a simple request of “enjoy yourself.” Probably not hard to do with an evening of food and wine sampling planned.
Rather than dive right into the evening’s fare, I felt it best to see what else was going on. Sauntering the halls, careful not to step on the upwardly turned floor lights that gave an elegant “gala” appearance to the whole building, I had no problem navigating the layout, as all areas were clearly labeled and politely frenzied with activity and a hum of commotion. After glancing through some of the raffle prizes and handsome silent auction items, the aromas had beckoned my palate enough.
The Cheel boasted flavors from the Himalayas to the Rockies; a great mix of uncommon flavors in familiar concoctions. The Eggplant Bharta was a deliciously spicy awakening of the senses, that could best be described as a chili, but far more complex than that. A rich combination of smashed and simmered eggplant, garlic and ginger, combined with tomato and cilantro. The dish paired very well with the smoky Chardonnay offered by The Glass Palette, which generously provided all the wine pairings for the event.
Casa Tequila was the next stop on the journey, where an unexpected side of Mexican food greeted the visitors. Surprising Banderillas (pork medallions, red pepper, potato and chipotle sauce) went very well with an Italian Toscana, as did the Chicken Bites with pecan sauce; both dishes were unexpected and very flavorful.
Shully’s Cuisine was the third room of food and wine sampling. I decided to skip the wine pairing here, since I was “saving room” for an IPA that I noticed as I walked past the Beer Pub room. Shully’s provided a vegetarian pasta dish that was light and rustic, with homemade flavor. I spoke to a couple donors here who managed a donor fund. They spoke about the increased necessity for support for these services and how Gala events like this help to support these very important facilities that are needed by more and more families every year. It was a conversation that exhibited the passion that many of these donors have toward this cause.
As I walked back to the Beer Pub room to sample that IPA, I engaged in conversation with one of the charming people from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ozaukee. Sipping the flowery IPA, we talked about the need for a program like BBBS. I shared a story of how much this organization has affected a friend of mine who recently took on a little sister; she seems to be just as fulfilled as her little sister does. What a wonderful notion that giving can actually be receiving in perhaps its most sincere form.
After another pass through the silent auction items, I was headed out the door into the waiting night. The combination of good food and good conversation, paired with a sense of purpose, made the evening certainly one worth looking forward to again.
"Strengthening Nonprofits for a better community, " the Family Enrichment Center, a 501 (c)(3), is a unique place where human service nonprofits share space, costs and passion for serving the community. Learn more at http://www.ozaukeefec.org.
"Big" Al Luening is no stranger in Oz. A husband to a great lady, a father to two great girls, a musician, and a graphic designer; Al may be a Milwaukee boy at heart, but now he calls Grafton home.
The Friday Fish Fry is a Wisconsin tradition but, historically, it is a Roman Catholic invention. Friday, because of Good Friday; Fish, because it is a time of sacrifice, so no meat; and Fry, because...well, because fried food is yummy, and it's easy to make a lot all at once!
Though there are plenty of local restaurants that serve up a good Friday Fish Fry, during this season, many of the area churches will be getting in on the action, and everyone in the community is invited.
St. Mary's Church opens their doors in the St. Mary's School cafeteria at 446 N. Johnson St. in Port Washington on Friday, January 29th, from 4:30-7:30. They offer beer battered haddock, shrimp or baked poor man's lobster for $11 for adults and $5/child. In a hurry? They even have a drive-thru option - just call ahead at (262) 284-2441. Should you choose to dine in, there are plenty of options for the non-fish lovers in your life, including a salad bar, baked potato, cheese pizza, and macaroni and cheese for just $5/adult and $3/child.
Port Catholic will host the remainder of the Fish Fry dates at the same location: February 19th, March 4th and March 18th.
Divine Savior Catholic School in Fredonia also hosts a Friday Fish Fry beginning January 29th from 4:30-8 p.m. at the Divine Savior Catholic School at 305 Fredonia Ave. Adults are $11, Seniors $10 and $6 for children. Carry out is available by calling (262) 692-2141, and includes 5 pieces of fish, potatoes, coleslaw and rye bread. Homemade desserts, coffee, and milk are available to those eating in. The remaining Fish Fry dates are: February 12th and 26th, and March 11th and 18th.
St. Joseph, 1619 Washington Street in Grafton, has their Fish Fry February 12th, 19th and 26th, and March 4th and 11th from 4:30-7:45. Traditional potato pancakes are served, and the public is welcome to dine in or carry out. A 3 piece baked Icelandic cod or beer battered cod is $10, or a 4 piece fried lake perch or 6 piece jumbo fried shrimp is available for $11. A 2 piece fried walleye is available for $12. Kids meals are available for $5, and all meals include cole slaw, potatoes, rye bread and butter, as well as coffee, milk, and desserts (while they last).