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A dusty road from the up north Gilles.
A dusty road from the up north Gilles.

Dreaming of frozen custard

Despite the fact that it's cold outside, I wake up in the middle of the night a lot these days thinking about frozen custard. That's because I'm co-authoring a book about this delicacy at the moment and it's consuming me even more than I consume custard, which is saying something.

Everyone's first question when they hear about the project is: which is your favorite stand?

I'm an equally opportunity fan of custard.

Leon's? You bet.

Kopp's? Oh yes.

Gilles? Most certainly.

But also Oscar's, and Pop's in Menomonee Falls,and Out & Out in Cedarburg, and Shirl's in Kenosha, and Mickey's in Hartford, and Georgie Porgie's in Oak Creek or Mount Pleasant (though they have Custard King machine at the latter), and Murph's in Brookfield, and Toucan in West Bend.

I rarely get custard and am disappointed. Make that never, really. (I do admit, however, that I have a special fondness for Gilles' in Fond du Lac, which I've been to exactly once and which still has carhops, an amazing old stand with a neon-lit awning and great custard.)

But, other than my desire to eat it, I never really thought that much about custard in the past. I just ordered it, ate it and wanted more.

Now, whenever I walk into a place the first thing I do is look at the machine. I can spot a Carvel Custard King from 100 paces, even if the decorative crown-shaped nameplate has been removed. On a recent trip to Florida, I saw a listing for a custard place and wondered not what the flavor of the day was, but rather, "do they use a custard machine or are they running mix through a soft-serve machine?" (You'll have to wait for the book, due out by summer, for a deeper discussion of the science of that.)

Despite my newfound knowledge of butterfat levels for custard versus ice cream versus soft-serve and my ability to sound like I know what I'm talking about when discussing where the early Clark's Frozen Custard locations were in Milwaukee or how many stands Frozen Custard Inc. operated at the 1933 A Century of…

The Vermont was built in 1898. Architect unknown.
The Vermont was built in 1898. Architect unknown.

The Vermont will soon disappear from the Downtown landscape

Another remnant of old Milwaukee will soon disappear from the landscape as workers begin to deconstruct the four-story, 16-flat Vermont, 610 E. Mason St., to make way for Northwestern Mutual’s new 33-story, more than $100 million development that will occupy nearly the entire square block between Jackson, Van Buren, Mason and Wells Streets.

The Vermont block of flats – owned by Northwestern Mutual – will likely be gone by March, when construction will begin in earnest on the site. If you’ve passed by you’ve certainly noticed some preliminary work already underway.

Some details of the new project – expected to be complete in spring 2018 – can be found here.

The lovely Queen Anne block of flats called The Vermont was constructed in 1898 for Dr. Lewis Sherman, who lived in what the Milwaukee Journal later called a "square, dignified, dark green house" at 604 E. Mason St.

That house was built in 1840 by lawyer Charles Lynde for himself and new his bride, but when Lynde’s steamer went down in Lake Erie, the house sat empty for a year until his elder brother arrived from New York to occupy it.

Later, it was home to Abner Kirby, who owned Kirby House, one of the city’s oldest hotels, at Water and Mason, and then Michael Engelmann, who the paper described as "a Manistee lumberman."

William Sherman – co-owner of Jewett & Sherman coffee and spice purveyors – bought it in 1887 and his son, the above-mentioned Dr. Lewis Sherman, moved in with his wife Getrude, who was still living there as late as 1946.

It was the younger Sherman who erected the 41x75-foot apartment building that the Wisconsin Historical Society’s architectural inventory described as an "excellent example of a turn of the century apartment building with integrity of form and appearance."

"There was later discussion in 1963 about the building being razed when sold or a new buyer keeping it up for an extra year," says Carlen Hatala of the city's historic preservation office. "W…

Happy birthday, Rabbie!
Happy birthday, Rabbie!

Unplug and celebrate Burns Night

We're all connected 24/7 to computers, tablets, phones and television. But there's more to life than being online – even for a digital media company – so this week we're excited to show you ways to connect with family and friends, even when there's no signal. Steinhafels presents OnMilwaukee Unplugged Week, a celebration of all things analog. Sit back, log into these stories and then log into the real world.

Each year on Jan. 25, Scotland and Scot-o-philes and poetry fans celebrate Burns Night to mark the birthday of the legendary voice of Caledonia, Robert Burns.

Today, in the honor of old Rabbie, the Bard of Ayrshire, I might give a wave to his likeness when I pass it today on the lower East Side. When I get home, I’ll cue up some Tannahill Weavers – something especially heavy on the pipes, like "The Unicorn Set" ...

And, I’ll pour a dram of Heeland whisky. Maybe, I’ll dip into the nice, smoky, peaty bottle of 10-year-old Ardberg that my friend Nate Norfolk sold me last week at Ray’s Wine and Spirits in Tosa.

Or maybe another Islay treat, a 10-year Laphroaig, which would be perfect in one of these cocktails...

Feast Toddy

1 part Laphroaig 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
1/2 part ginger liqueur
3 parts hot apple cider
fresh ground cinnamon

Build in a pre-heated coffee mug. Garnish with a lemon wedge studded with cloves and a dash of fresh ground cinnamon.

Ode To Scotland

1 part Laphroaig 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
1/2 part maple whisky
1/2 part butterscotch liqueur
2 parts fresh pressed apple juice
flamed orange peel

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.

Then, it’ll be all "John Anderson my joe, John," and "There's nought but care on ev'ry han', in every hour that passes, Oh What signifies the life o'man, an ' 'twere na for the lasses, Oh."

Could another mayoral contender be emerging?
Could another mayoral contender be emerging?

Is a giant egg about to hatch in Red Arrow Park?

If you get Downtown regularly, you’ve likely already spotted the giant egg sitting atop a crate in Red Arrow Park, near the corner of Kilbourn and Water.

Curiously, the crate, which bears the hashtag #bigishere, is considerably smaller than the egg, which makes one wonder if the egg is actually growing.

And the placement of the egg across from City Hall... Hmmmm, could another mayoral contender be emerging?

MPM director Dennis Kois alerted me to the egg in a tweet...

Then, he said museum staff was looking into it, but, on Twitter, the museum's zoology department appeared as baffled as everyone else...

This morning, I contacted Milwaukee Public Museum to find out more.

"All I can say about the egg is that just like everyone else, we’re very interested in it, too," says MPM spokesperson Jennifer Tetzlaff. "Our scientists are keeping an eye on it and they say it will probably be hatching in early February."

Tetzlaff did say that the she found the timing of the appearance of the egg Downtown interesting because it coincides with the opening of a new dinosaur exhibit, "Ultimate Dinosaurs," at the museum on Feb. 7.