Tag Archives | Joe Laedtke


Happy New Year!

Rice Cake. This cake takes many forms, but the key ingredient is glutinous (sweet) rice, pounded and made into a cake. Ours were sliced and topped with toasted sesame seeds.

Celebrating Chinese New Year

Story and photography by Joe Laedtke

2017 ushers in the year of the Fire Rooster, and January 28 will mark the changing of the guard—out with 2016’s Fire Monkey, and in with the crow of everyone’s favorite feathered alarm clock.

Last year, we were invited to a Chinese New Year dinner at Meiji Cuisine in Waukesha and treated to an astounding spread of delectable Chinese delicacies, hospitality in abundance and a lesson in Chinese culture, to boot. Despite the fact that Meiji is a Japanesestyle steakhouse, owners Cai and Amy are Fujian, hailing from China’s Southeast coast, about 500 miles south of Shanghai.

Chinese traditionally return home for the New Year festivities—these are typically the busiest travel days of the year. Nomads from around the globe come in throngs to the dense ordered chaos of Beijing and Guangzhou, and to countless villages and communities in this country of 1.4 billion. The holiday revolves around reunion, the themes of wealth, good fortune, health and ancestry. Elaborate decorations festoon … Read More

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The Base of Cooking Local

Wisconsin-Made Kitchenware

Story by Erika Janik
Photography by Joe Laedtke

In 1939, the Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Company of Manitowoc tempted new brides with a 22-piece set of its finest cookware: “The grandest gift of all—(or the grandest equipment for your own kitchen)—is this new set of MIRRO—the Finest Aluminum.” Another ad promised women that they had “a right to feel self-satisfied when you know that a midnight raid on your kitchen will reveal, not disreputable old relics of pots and pans, but ware that’s Mirro-fine.” Beyond utility, cookware had become a status symbol.

We may not think much about the pots and pans in our cupboards, but the archaeological record is literally littered with kitchenware. It is these vessels and the changes in them archaeologists often use to mark the passage of time and changes in cultures. The same could be said of our own cookware.

“Cookware used to be handmade,” says Sara Dahmen, owner of Port Washington-based Housekeeper Crockery. “It was made to last a lifetime, maybe several lifetimes. That isn’t true anymore.”

Today, it’s easy to find a skillet made halfway around the world for less than $20. But in the 19th century, cookware was just as … Read More

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Decor, Inspired by Nature

’Tis the Season to Display Local Bounty

Story by Taylor Patton
Photography by Joe Laedtke

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but they can be the pieces de resistance in your holiday floral arrangement—if you’re willing to think outside the flower box. Whereas many regular florists have a standard recipe for arrangements, Emily Watson, owner of Stems Cut Flowers and Wood Violet, likes things to come together a little more organically. “I like everything to look like it came from the same season. It’s definitely more difficult this way, but I think it looks more natural,” she says. Watson is the creator of the stunning mantle display in picture above. While working, she shared her tips with us on how to expand our idea of buying local beyond food—to rethinking how we source the items we use to adorn our homes. The holidays are a perfect time to find inspiration.

Wood Violet, Watson’s floral design studio, sets itself apart with a nontraditional, elegant aesthetic. About half the flowers she uses there come from her own flower farm, Stems Cut Flowers, which she started in 2008. The rest Watson tries to buy from Wisconsin growers. An abundant source of … Read More

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Out and About on Bikes

With Brews and Food to Fuel

Story by Nick Rasmussen
Photography by Joe Laedtke

Long before the term, “craft beer” originated, before carbon fiber bike frames, and before our food sources started calling out the words, “organic” and “local,” there were simply beer, bikes and food. While we generally think of these three things as separate elements of our culture, their synergistic relationship actually dates back over a century. These days, in Wisconsin, it turns out that our cultural DNA fuses our American identity by way of our European heritage.

Imports Made Local

If you live in or near Milwaukee, Mequon or Madison, chances are that you’ve heard of the Lowlands Group. Lowlands is behind some grand cafes: Cafe Hollander, Cafe Centraal, Cafe Bavaria and Cafe Benelux. If you’ve visited any of these eateries, you’ve likely noticed a consistent theme: European-inspired fare, a Belgian-tilted beer list … and bikes. In Western Europe, the intersection of these three seemingly unrelated interests all converge and coalesce into one societal ideology. This construct served as the philosophical inspiration for Lowlands as they began to build their brand.

Dan Herwig, Director of Brand and Marketing for Lowlands, says that their … Read More

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Port Washington

Guided by Sara Dahmen
Photographed by Joe Laedtke

Recently someone asked me how long I’ve lived in Port Washington (“Port,” the locals call it) and I gave my canned response: “Oh … maybe six years. Since 2007.”

Math has never been my strongest talent, and it took me a moment to realize I’ve been a resident of “Port” for almost a decade now. Somewhere along the way, I’ve had the fortune to meet and befriend many of the downtown business owners, cafe managers and local entrepreneurs. It’s an immense pleasure to show off to friends this little slice of New England-y heaven along our Southeastern Wisconsin lakeshore. Drive up, enjoy the weekend and visit some of the places below. The Saturday Farmer’s Market is on the doorstep of the Port Hotel, which is a block from the marina. You might never want to drive the 25 minutes back to Milwaukee come Sunday afternoon.

Bernie’s Fine Meats & European Market

I always adore the meat store. Not only is the produce fresh and it reminds a body of a vintage meat market, but the ingredients are fresh, usually raised on a local farm, and the owner/operator, Steve Bennett, learned the trade … Read More

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Knowing Your Farmers

Finding Your Food at the Fondy Feast

Story and Photography by Joe Laedtke

“Be careful not to step on Kermit. If you’re lucky, you might see Miss Piggy.” Young Kim, former executive director of Fondy Food Center, snarked, sloshing along under the tent covering what could easily double as the rice paddies a stone’s throw across the dirt ruts standing in for a road. Frogs representing every color of a Wisconsin rainbow darted, croaked, and swam through six inches of starkly clear water, below a sparse mat of crab grass and ground ivy.

Last year, rains from the day prior soaked the clay-laden soil, and the soiree was hitched up and moved to higher ground, with no storms in sight. While a humid August mist draped across a lazy August day’s sun, chefs darted between massive gas grills to prep stations, coolers and impromptu sinks. Thus, the preparations for the Fondy Farm Feast were marked.

There is something breathtaking, electric, addictive about a group of chefs—friends— moving about in a semi-synchronized interpretive dance of food. Today, the food is about the guests, about the farm, about the land. There are no James Beard Awards at stake, no newspaper accolades … Read More

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What’s in Season – Summer 2016

Special thanks to Chef Jarvis Williams of Carnevor and SURG Restaurant Group, for this beautiful grilled watermelon salad.

Late June through Early September

List by Francie Szostak
Photography by Joe Laedtke

While most Wisconsinites begin to relax at the arrival of summer weather, I enter full-on panic mode. Seeing gardens and farmers markets brimming with produce sets off my “so-much-produce-but-so-little-time” syndrome as I recognize the short window we have to enjoy these seasonal treats. So, what do I do to lower my blood pressure? I make a plan.

I focus on enjoying early summer delicacies like sugar snap peas and strawberries before hot-weather showstoppers like raspberries, sweet corn and tomatoes, ripen up. I also make double batches of soups and salsas, and freeze extra veggies at each stage of the summer season, lest any of its bounty slip through my fingers. This strategy not only alleviates my stressful symptoms, but allows me to savor summer produce at my pace.

  • Arugula
  • Basil
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli Carrots
  • Chard Cherries
  • Chokeberries
  • Cilantro
  • Cucumbers
  • Currants
  • Dill
  • Eggplant Fennel
  • Frisee
  • Garlic
  • Garlic scapes
  • Green onions
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Marjoram
  • Melons
  • Mushrooms
  • Napa cabbage
  • Parsley
  • Peas
  • Peaches
  • Peppers
  • Plums
  • Potatoes
  • Radicchio
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries
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Fungus Among Us

A Medley of Local Mushroom Growers

Story by Brett Kell
Photography by Joe Laedtke

With spring around the corner, visions of once again chopping and sauteing a broader swath of nature’s bounty have begun to dance furtively into the daydreams of Milwaukee chefs and home cooks alike. The scramble is on to plan menus around seasonal ingredients that are so frequently the star of a dish after winter’s thaw. Few of these are as captivating as the humble mushroom. Fewer still are those who have spent the winter growing them.

A handful of local mushroom growers are committed to providing a diverse variety of mushrooms both foraged and cultivated, with a keen eye toward quality and affordability.

Mushroom Mike, LLC

Mike Jozwik’s burgeoning eight-year-old business, Mushroom Mike, LLC, is an increasingly well-known example of this commitment. An expert forager, Jozwik could forget more about mushrooms and wild plants than most will ever know. He recently began growing them in a newly renovated, customized space in the National Warehouse building in Walker’s Point he affectionately dubs “the ’Shroom Factory.”

The facility includes a lab, an incubation room and a grow room, where Jozwik produces hen-of-the-woods, king trumpet, lion’s mane, oyster … Read More

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Sinking Your Teeth In

Local-Sourcing Lunch Spots

Roundup by Brett Kell
Photography by Joe Laedtke

Too frequently the domain of dry sandwiches, limp lettuce and vending machine staredowns, lunch is sorely overlooked as an important meal. However, an increasing number of local restaurants are turning their attention toward the lunch hour as a means of further expressing their commitment to inventive, high-quality and tasty dishes.

More than a few lunch menus reflect diversity of flavor, with a particular focus on locally-sourced ingredients. Below is a rundown of just some spots where the lunch game is strong.

Bavette La Boucherie

Part butcher shop, part lunch counter, part modern gastro-bar, Bavette sources whole animals responsibly raised on small, local farms. Chef/owner Karen Bell, a global traveler with a keen interest in sustainability, said she gets beef from Schmidt Farm in Juneau, pork from Kirschbaum Family Farm in Kewaskum, and lamb from Pinn-Oak Ridge Farms, LLC in Delevan, and Farm 45, LLC in Jackson.

Meats sourced by Bavette star in an impressively diverse selection of snacks, soups, salads, and sandwiches; among them a corned beef tongue reuben, pork meatball bahn mi, pressed Cuban, and BBQ pork. Bell said other hits include pate, rillette, and raw preparations. The … Read More

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South by Midwest

The MKE-NOLA Connection

Story and Photography by Joe Laedtke

There and Back, and There Again

Bon vivants, hedonists and wanderers agree—visit New Orleans and it’s all over. The city, the people and the joie de vivre, knock you over and then burrow so deeply inside your heart that, by the end, you get this feeling that you’re merely living between trips.

Your plane arrives. Your legs come back under you while you stroll through the French Quarter, in the company of buskers, hustlers, natives and tourists. The music draws you in, all jaunty and energetic in the daytime near Preservation Hall, and at night, sultry in a smoky 7th Ward neighborhood bar or at a bounce club [in the 9th]. You can’t help but move, even if you never had any rhythm to start with.

And then, there’s the food and drink: Po’ boys, grilled oysters, etouffee. Sazaracs at the Hotel Monteleone. Barbecue shrimp washed down with Abita. Powdered sugar-drenched beignets at 3 a.m., while sipping on chicory coffee and inevitably wearing black. Cajun, Creole and classic French stand proudly alongside newly-arrived and longstanding immigrant cuisines, making New Orleans a true American multicultural melting pot.

Like New Orleanians, Milwaukeeans, too, … Read More

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