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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, April 19, 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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Deep-fried PB & J: Sweet, salty, gooey and delicious.
Deep-fried PB & J: Sweet, salty, gooey and delicious.
Pierogi: Cheese, potato and yum.
Pierogi: Cheese, potato and yum.
Our heaping plate of spiral-cut potato chips.
Our heaping plate of spiral-cut potato chips.
Deep-fried beer. Pass.
Deep-fried beer. Pass.
Wisconsin's own cheese curds.
Wisconsin's own cheese curds.
Sweet and delicious, a chocolate-covered banana could be the healthiest thing you eat all day.
Sweet and delicious, a chocolate-covered banana could be the healthiest thing you eat all day.

Grazin' through the State Fair

I try really hard to watch what I eat. But, once a year something comes along that is laden in unavoidable unhealthiness, and despite my best efforts my healthy eating habits go straight out the window.

We know it. We love it. It is the Wisconsin State Fair.

It's no secret that fried food is the crown jewel of the fair, with mullets coming in as a close second. Each year the items get more and more creative and more and more ridiculous, and this year some friends and I set out to try all the sweets, treats and fried fattiness we could stand in an afternoon.

So, strap on your feed bag and promise yourself you'll go to the gym ... tomorrow. Here's our list:

Grilled cheese – The grilled cheese is a staple of any well-balanced Wisconsin diet. I usually take mine with a large bowl of tomato soup and typically between the months of November and March, but hey, it's always a good time for cheese. A perfect balance between cheese and buttery toasted bread, it was a great item to break the fried food seal.

Honey ice cream with butterscotch coating – Chocolate will overrule butterscotch any day with me, but my friend Samantha dove right into this one. She didn't say much of anything for the next 15 minutes so we assumed it was probably pretty good. "Refreshing," was about all we could get out of her. The coating was nice and thick, so the ice cream stayed inside and she managed to eat the whole thing without it dripping all over her.

Fried beer – In theory, it sounds like a perfect marriage of two of the world's greatest creations. In reality, not so much. Even a dip in some hot cheese couldn't save this one. It was a fail all around, with each of us agreeing it tasted like stale, yeasty bread, but wet. Try it if you feel the need to say you did, otherwise, dip some bread in your beer instead.

Cheese and potato pierogi – Did I mention it's cheese and potatoes? Oh-so good. If you've never had pierogi, the best way to experience them is to make good friends with a …

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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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