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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

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The tuna harissa sounded too good to pass up.
The tuna harissa sounded too good to pass up.
The chicken panini.
The chicken panini.
Buckley's makes a solid corned beef sandwich.
Buckley's makes a solid corned beef sandwich.

A bite at Buckley's

Milwaukee is one of those cities with amazing restaurants at every turn. It doesn't matter if you're Downtown, on the South Side, in the 'burbs, wherever – there's great food all around us. I've been trying to eat at new places rather than my favorite standbys every weekend. Favorite places are usually reliable, comfortable, good places to take out-of-towners, but it's too easy to get stuck in a restaurant rut and miss out on something new and incredible.

I'd been to Buckley's, located at 801 N. Cass St., just once before for brunch, so I figured it didn't really count as a repeat if I was going for dinner. With a different meal you get a new atmosphere, crowd and most importantly, menu options.

By the way, if you stop in for brunch, I highly recommend the habanero Bloody Mary. It's the first Bloody I've had that I didn't feel needed any Tabasco or black pepper added. It's got great spicy flavor without the eye watering and sweating of a truly over-the-top hot Bloody.

For dinner, the four of us shared the parmesan artichoke dip – artichokes with lemon mayonnaise topped with a parmesan breadcrumb accompanied with toasted Italian bread. Despite the mayonnaise, it was rich but not overly heavy. I didn't feel the need to take a nap afterwards – just eat more.

Now, I don't usually share this, but there is something about really rare tuna that I have a hard time saying no to. I don't eat meat and I know a lot of people don't count fish as meat, but it's not a vegetable or a mineral, so what else could it be?

It pained my heart a little to do it, but I ordered the tuna harissa – harissa-rubbed tuna with green beans, fava beans, mesclun greens, eight-minute egg, roma tomatoes, red onions, capers and balsamic vinaigrette. The tuna and the egg were filling enough that I wasn't hungry afterward, but it was nice and light without a lot of dressing clouding up the flavor. I added a little fresh pepper and yum, it was gone.

My meat-eating dinner companion, Brian, ch…

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Everything on Blue's Egg's menu, including the drinks, has a creative twist on it.
Everything on Blue's Egg's menu, including the drinks, has a creative twist on it.
Consisting of 44 North Huckleberry Vodka, X Rated blood orange liqueur and fresh squeezed orange juice, the JP's O.J. is like citrus candy.
Consisting of 44 North Huckleberry Vodka, X Rated blood orange liqueur and fresh squeezed orange juice, the JP's O.J. is like citrus candy.

Brunching at Blue's Egg

I met some friends at Blue's Egg last Sunday for my favorite meal: brunch. They'd been before, but I was a first timer and the place lived up to every bit of hype I'd heard. After two cups of complimentary coffee – a nice touch since the wait was over an hour at that point – we were seated and starving.

The entire place, inside and out, was packed despite the fact that it was hotter than hell outside. When it comes to brunch, we Wisconsinites will brave minus 30-degree wind chills and 110-degree heat indexes. And we'll do it while drinking roasting-hot, free coffee.

There's a nice, quaint feel to the place, a mom and pop vibe from the diner décor and extremely friendly staff. The food, however, is something entirely different – in a good way. If you're looking for the same old thing, this probably isn't your best bet. Everything on the menu, including the drinks, has a creative twist on it.

Usually I'm a predictably Bloody Mary brunch gal, but when I'm somewhere new I feel the need to branch out, plus, both of my friends ordered the bloody (with bacon in them, of course) so, for the sake of being different, a JP's O.J. it is! Consisting of 44 North Huckleberry Vodka, X Rated blood orange liqueur and fresh squeezed orange juice, it's like citrus candy in a glass and I highly recommend it.

I'd been warned not to concentrate too much on my carb intake at this particular establishment. The hash browns are known far and wide as simply to die for. My friends and I shared a heaping plate of them with roasted mushrooms, creamy leeks and herb crème fraiche folded inside. Those hash browns could've been baked grubs for all I cared; they were, for lack of a more eloquent term, awesome. If you're not into mushrooms there are eight other options, including anything from plain browns to chicken chorizo.

Being a vegetarian (hear me out) I'm always curious to see what options restaurants will come up with and this particular menu did not disappoint. Now in my defense, …

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Just sharpen your pencil and the numbers will magically fall into place. Or not.
Just sharpen your pencil and the numbers will magically fall into place. Or not.

When tax forms make grown women cry

I have come to a point in my life where I feel like I should really have my "stuff" together. I'm not in college, I'm approaching 30, I have a full time job, a car loan, rent, etc. and I feel like I should really be on top of my game in all life's aspects. A small fraction of the time I do feel that way, but then tax season hits and I become a bumbling moron.

Actually, that's not true. I really become an expert procrastinator. I hate doing taxes. It's like my worst high school math class nightmare. I instantly break out in a cold sweat, biting my cuticles and wishing I had someone to cheat off of. I hated doing taxes when I only had one W2 to fill out and the whole process took no more than an hour, but 2010 was a whole new story.

I had a number of W2s from 2010 and a couple 1099 variations, that I'm now fairly certain were made up for the enjoyment of the IRS to keep track of how many times I Googled "how to file multiple versions of 1099 forms for Dummies." It's a joke. I've used Turbo Tax for years. They spell this stuff out exactly the way I need it, like I'm five years old. There are nice little pictures to help you with your word association. "Oh, there is a house by the part that asks about home ownership... That makes sense!"

I like that there are easy to answer questions. Like my taxes are doing the work to get to know me, not the other way around. "Come on, 1040, can't you at least buy me dinner before you totally screw me over?" But after realizing that Turbo Tax and its numerous copy cats are all a bunch of rip off (setting you up to think you can file for free, then hitting you with a ridiculous fee to complete your state return) I was highly motivated to do my own taxes this year. That's what strong, independent women like me do, right?

Upon discovering I had less than a week to complete said taxes, the first thing this strong, independent woman did was call her mom and dad. They seem to know how to fix almost everything else, why not this? Well, o…

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Riviera Maya is perfect for eating, drinking and lazing around.
Riviera Maya is perfect for eating, drinking and lazing around.
The resident iguanas are everywhere.
The resident iguanas are everywhere.
Not even sunburn can spoil a week of fun in the sun.
Not even sunburn can spoil a week of fun in the sun.

Mexico's Riviera Maya makes for a week of fun in the sun (and water)

I don't mean to brag, but I spent last week in Mexico. The Riviera Maya area to be more specific, and it was awesome. We flew out of chilly Chicago in the wee hours of the morning, had a quick layover in Atlanta (where we saw Fantasia from "American Idol" in the airport) and arrived at the Cancun airport by lunch.

It had just rained, which made me nervous. No one likes to come back from a foreign country known for its sun-drenched beaches with nothing to show for it. Luckily, the rain passed and by the time we were outside at the resort shuttle, it was hot and steamy.

The drive from the Cancun airport to the resorts is strewn with people living in complete squalor and the sad irony of that fact wasn't lost on me. As you pass into the security of your resort, it's odd to think just on the other side of the brick wall and well-manicured palms are people that have next to nothing.

Mile after mile, mangy dogs lie under laundry drying on a line running between the trunk of a tree and a pathetic excuse for shelter. It made me feel incredibly sad and incredibly lucky at the same time.

I made myself (and my mother) a promise not to get sunburned while I was there. I failed. The first day was great; we had all afternoon to lie in the sun and I was diligent about slathering myself in sunscreen.

The next day everyone else decided to get up and go to the gym. I wanted to see the rest of the resort and try to get some nice photos so I put on my walking shoes and my iPod and ventured out, camera in hand. There are iguanas everywhere down there so they figured highly in my photo shoot.

When I got back to the pool, which we had decided was our central location, I was ready to lie out and soak up some sun (after a healthy dose of SPF, of course). Before I had a chance to sit down, one of the resort workers forced me into doing some water aerobics; I figured this couldn't take more than 15 minutes and grudgingly obliged. Forty-five minutes of making an ass of myself in front of…

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