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It's OK that these scallops are super rich and delicious. It's not like you'll eat them every day, though I admit I could.
It's OK that these scallops are super rich and delicious. It's not like you'll eat them every day, though I admit I could.
The half-pound Wisconsin Burger benefits from a nice blend of cheese and a pretzel bun.
The half-pound Wisconsin Burger benefits from a nice blend of cheese and a pretzel bun.
Truffle lovers will adore the pungent truffle fries.
Truffle lovers will adore the pungent truffle fries.
Port of Call will launch a Sunday brunch in May.
Port of Call will launch a Sunday brunch in May.

Sumptuous scallops highlight new Port of Call menu

Not long after moving Downtown, I visited Port of Call for lunch and had a good experience. Fast forward a couple years, after interviewing Chef Adam Pawlak, I headed back over to try some items on the new menu. (In related news, Port of Call will begin serving Sunday brunch in May.)

While the dinner menu has been almost entirely overhauled, retaining just a couple perennial favorites, the lunch menu has gotten a lighter makeover, with mostly some new appetizers and a couple salad, sandwich and burger updates.

Because Andy Tarnoff enjoyed his burger last time, and because I was in the mood for one, I had a Wisconsin Burger, which is new to the menu. It’s pretty simple, but hearty.

A half-pound burger on a pretzel bun with bacon, white and mild cheddar, and lettuce, sliced red onion and tomato, served with fries and a pickle for $12. I decided to dig further into the changes by replacing the standard fries with the new truffle fries from the appetizer menu, which you can do for an upcharge.

The burger was more than I could finish, which is saying something, and the blend of cheeses gave it a nice flavor profile. The pretzel bun was a real deal sweetener.

I enjoyed the truffle fries, too. They’re parmesan crusted and doused with truffle oil. But, beware, they’re super pungent. If you like truffle flavor and scent, as I do, you’ll be thrilled. But a truffle-wary dining companion may not be as thrilled. They're served with an herbed cream dip, but I liked them better plain.

Part-way through my meal, Pawlak – knowing I’m a fan of seafood – took it upon himself to whip up some seared scallops for me. This three-sea scallop platter is listed as an appetizer for $13, but it’s quite filling, so you could easily order it with a side salad and be more than satisfied at lunch.

The scallops were perfectly seared and topped with crumbled bacon and microgreens and served atop a spicy horseradish peppercorn sauce.

If you’ve ever tried to get the bacon and th…

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Nearly all second graders in MPS took the Cognitive Abilities Test this school year. Fifty-three of them turned out to be Mensa material.
Nearly all second graders in MPS took the Cognitive Abilities Test this school year. Fifty-three of them turned out to be Mensa material. (Photo: Milwaukee Public Schools)

What's a CogAT? Your second grader knows

The push back against testing in schools is all over the news lately, with protests across the country by parents and educators who believe schools are spending way too much time not only testing, but prepping for tests, to the exclusion of all subjects other than the few that are tested.

Among the tests kids take at MPS are three rounds of computerized MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) testing, which is given soon after the school year begins to benchmark kids' abilities and again in winter and spring to map progress.

Starting at third grade (through eighth, and then again in 10th), there is the state test, which until this year has been the WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations). That will be replaced next year with online Smarter Balanced Testing. These are the tests the Feds look at to rate what it deems to be progress.

This year, nearly all second graders in the district took a Cognitive Abilities Test, dubbed CogAT, that was mandated to ensure that kids at the highest levels are receiving a sufficiently challenging education.

Here is what an MPS Power Point says of the CogAT:

CogAT is a norm referenced assessment that measures "learned reasoning abilities"

  • Verbal Battery: assesses ability to use search, retrieval and comparison processes
  • Quantitative Battery: assesses ability to reason about patterns and relationships
  • Non Verbal Battery: assesses ability to reason with novel questions that use spatial and figural content

Let's be honest, it's basically an IQ test, even if it's not called that or scored the same way.

Just under 6,000 kids at 109 of MPS' 110 elementary schools took part in the testing (103 using paper and pencil and six online). I wonder not only which school was exempted – and why – but if kids in other gifted and talented programs, like the one at Victory School, for example, were tested.

And why kids at schools like the seven Montessoris, which already differentiate for all kids, had to take it is unclear.

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Unlike apparently everyone else, we weren't about to let a few raindrops dampen our desire to dine al fresco.
Unlike apparently everyone else, we weren't about to let a few raindrops dampen our desire to dine al fresco.
But the rain did come and we finished our final bites in the dining room.
But the rain did come and we finished our final bites in the dining room.
Of course, there's an extensive beer menu at a restaurant named for perhaps the world's greatest beer region.
Of course, there's an extensive beer menu at a restaurant named for perhaps the world's greatest beer region.
The pork schnitzel sandwich doesn't look like it would be especially challenging to the taste buds...
The pork schnitzel sandwich doesn't look like it would be especially challenging to the taste buds...
...until you get a bit of the sweet spicy relish and sweet hot mustard that hides beneath the bun.
...until you get a bit of the sweet spicy relish and sweet hot mustard that hides beneath the bun.
Kids love the hot bologna sandwich.
Kids love the hot bologna sandwich.

Lunch break: Cafe Bavaria

With the warmer weather comes a desire to dine al fresco. This week, despite a few drops of rain, we stopped at Cafe Bavaria, 7700 Harwood Ave., in Tosa village to try the lunch menu with a view overlooking ... Lowlands Group's other restaurant at this spot, Cafe Hollander.

Unlike apparently everyone else, we weren't about to let a few widely scattered raindrops dampen our desire to dine al fresco, so we grabbed a table alongside the building, not far from the fountain and ordered.

Of course, there's an extensive beer menu at a restaurant named for perhaps the world's greatest beer region, including some interesting looking options like a trio of smoky rauchbiers. I enjoyed a draught Radeberger pilsner ($5 for 400ml) and my dining companions chose milk.

The menu has a range of salads and burgers, as well as chili and a number of appetizer and sandwich options, and you can get entrées like pho, trout, veal-stuffed meatloaf and rotisserie chicken, among others, too, at lunchtime.

We went the sandwich route, and I figured at a place called Cafe Bavaria you can't really skip the schnitzel, can you? I chose pork over chicken and my dining companions each ordered the bologna sandwich off the kids menu ($5.95), which comes with fries, petite salad or roasted vegetables with dip.

The pork schnitzel – served with thick-cut fries and a pickle – runs $10.95 and is served on a potato roll.

The sandwich – which to my tastes would benefit from a crispier breading – doesn't look like it would be especially challenging to the palate, until you get a bit of the sweet spicy relish and sweet hot mustard that hides beneath the bun, which adds a nice little kick.

The kids' sandwiches were warm – the bologna lightly browned in a pan – and served with muenster and mayonnaise. I was worried they might scoff at warm bologna, but, in fact, they both loved it.

Our server was friendly and attentive and helpful when the rain did come and we had to hightail it inside for our…

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Italian pop star Zucchero is in town to play at Turner Hall Ballroom.
Italian pop star Zucchero is in town to play at Turner Hall Ballroom.

Wait?! Is that an Italian pop star in Milwaukee?

It's true, the appearance in Milwaukee of an Italian pop star is so rare that a blog post about the event warrants a headline like the one above.

When Zucchero Fornaciari, who is a towering figure in Italian pop music, arrives to perform at Turner Hall Ballroom tonight, it may well be the first appearance by an actual Italian pop star since Carmen Consoli played at the Miramar Theater in 2008.

Though an indie Italian band or two has swung through in the intervening years it would be a stretch to describe them as "pop stars." Two that perhaps come close – but in very, very genre-specific examples – were the 2010 Marcus Center performance by pianist Ludovico Einaudi and the 2013 appearance of prog legends Il Castello di Atlante at Club Garibaldi. Stars in their respective galaxies, but not pop by any measure.

Fornaciari, who has performed alongside Eric Clapton and Sting – which offers a clue not only to his stature but to his style of music – has toured the U.S. a number of times, having been signed to a few different record labels here across the years.

The Italian community here is buzzing about Zucchero's Milwaukee performance, which, if not his first, is surely his first in a long while.

But, why don't we get the likes of Subsonica and Negramaro in Milwaukee? Likely for the same reasons these bands – and, honestly, Zucchero, too – leave nary a trace in the wider American market. They sing in Italian.

Other than novelty hits, there is no real mainstream demand for foreign-language music – other than perhaps Spanish, but even that is a mostly separate market, aimed at and consumed by the Latino community.

Zucchero's latest disc, "La Sesion Cubana," was recorded with American producer Don Was in Havana with mostly Cuban musicians. The 13 tracks are sung almost entirely in Spanish and English.

All the same, Milwaukee's Italian ex-pat community – and some Italian-Americans – will be out to see the star shine bright upstairs at Turner Hall.

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