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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

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Who wants pesto?
Who wants pesto?

Experimenting with frozen basil

This abnormally chilly weekend has inadvertently reminded me that with summer's end also comes the end to my garden's growing season.

I know we probably still have a good month left before our rows of vegetables start to die off and the pots of herbs can no longer withstand the elements, but this morning's temperature reading on the Allen-Bradley Clock Tower, a surprising 58 degrees, was enough to get me thinking about how to handle my end-of-season harvest.

Some herbs, like sage, rosemary and oregano can actually survive the winter inside ... if my cats' curiosity doesn't get the better of them. Others, like thyme and cilantro, are perennial and will likely wilt when they are ready to hibernate and resurface vibrant as ever next May (or June, as has been the pattern the past couple of years).

And then there's my favorite herb, the mighty and versatile basil. I have seven hearty plants going and can find culinary excuses to pluck from each of them on a regular basis. That's the beauty part of this plant; the more you pick at it, the more it grows.

But, there's only so much I can do with the yield before it can't stand the shorter days and cooler nights. I've tried keeping basil alive indoors until the following summer, but again, my pets are way too fascinated with its fresh aroma and taste to leave it alone. I can't say I blame them.

So, this year I'm going to attempt freezing my fresh basil for the first time. I've Googled around looking for various techniques and I think I've settled on this one.

It seems simple enough. But does anyone have another way of doing it, or other scathingly brilliant ideas for making our precious basil last us until the weather warms again?

Last year it was pizza; now it's burgers. What are your thoughts on Milwaukee's popular dining trends?
Last year it was pizza; now it's burgers. What are your thoughts on Milwaukee's popular dining trends?

Tracing Milwaukee's dining trends

One of the most interesting, and beneficial, aspects of my job at OnMilwaukee.com is how in tune I feel with my city, whether it's access to inside tips on new attractions (which we, of course, share with all of you), or just being hyper-conscious of the trends as they cycle through over the years.

I often wonder if I'd be so in tune to the constant transition around me if I weren't paid to do so? I'd like to think so, but as I mentioned in a blog earlier this summer, tracking turnover can be a full-time job.

The city is in perpetual change and one of my favorite things to do is look back on the landscape and gauge how far we've come.

A recent reader Talkback to Maureen Post's review of Stack'd got me again thinking about trends. The Stack'd comment slammed the new burger bar as being more of the same in a city that already had enough beef patty players.

It reminded me of a blog I penned almost exactly one year ago expressing my thoughts about the sudden influx of pizza places, specifically south of Downtown on or near Water / 1st Street.

Unlike this Talkbacker, I wasn't specifically complaining that there were too many pizza options -- in his comment he compared Milwaukee to Hollywood saying there were "no good ideas left." My blog just explained that while I adored all the new additions, I was curious to see what the community thought about gaining five pizza restaurants in a year?

I then asked what other types of eateries everyone wished to see.

A few mentioned Asian, others mentioned sit-down Greek, even Russian.

Well, it's been a year since then. What's changed? And, are we happy with it?

All those pizza restaurants -- Rustico, Transfer, Olive Pit, Classic Slice and Times Square Pizza -- are still going strong. Plus, Brick 3 was welcomed to the mix, albeit in a different neighborhood.

Someone's call for Asian was answered with the opening of Lucky Liu's (watch for a review from Amy Schubert on Monday.) A…

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Congrats, Streetza!
Congrats, Streetza!

GQ hails one of Milwaukee's meals on wheels

Remember back in June when I told you about Streetza, a giant pizza oven on wheels from which proprietors Scott Baitinger and Steve Mai sell it by the slice at bar time?

Well, it turns out that OnMilwaukee.com wasn't the only media source that thought this venture to be noteworthy.

GQ magazine recently released its list of "The 10 Best Food Trucks" from around the country and Streetza made the cut at No. 10 (though, to be fair, I can't really tell if the various trucks are ranked in any special order, or if it's just a random slideshow of the winners?)

Here is the link to the piece; you tell me if you think the editorial staff at GQ thought the likes of San Francisco's Spencer on the Go!, New York City's Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream and L.A.'s Kogi BBQ were better than or equal to Streetza.

I've inadvertently been on the "Milwaukee mobile meal" beat this summer, first covering Stree-za in June, followed by Pita Brothers in mid-July and American Euros (a portable gyro cart) in late-July.

Of course, there have been Downtown hot dog stands, the Old World Third Street sausage guys, the Old Type Popcorn wagons, taco trucks and Satellite Crepes long before these new additions.

GQ thinks Streetza is tops, but who do you think own the streets when it comes to curbside cuisine in Milwaukee?

Would you buy a random stranger a Coke if they didn't have the money?
Would you buy a random stranger a Coke if they didn't have the money?

Inspired by the kindness of a stranger

The other day I had a headache that wouldn't quit. I'm no stranger to migraines and usually know how to combat them when they pull a sneak attack, but this one was different. It was a tension headache that was fully committed to running its course and no about of Excedrin was going to stop it.

I tried everything I could think of. I focused on my breathing. I massaged my temples and neck. I applied pressure to the pressure points in my hand. I hydrated myself. I took some vitamins. I ate something. I took a walk around the block for some fresh air. I even took a little catnap on a park bench during my lunch break. I took more Excedrin.

Nothing.

On my way back from the park, I saw a gas station and remembered that sometimes caffeine can be a cure-all. I normally don't drink soda, but I needed a Coke, stat. I was desperate.

With the message of a recent commercial I'd seen telling me that plastic bottles sit in a landfill forever lingering in my head, I opted for the classic can. It was 80 cents.

When I got to the check out, I got out my debit card. The cashier looked at it and shook his head. He wasn't about to let me pay for an 80-cent can of soda with plastic. I rifled through my purse and yielded little more than two nickels and, for some reason, a black guitar pick (I don't even play?)

"Never mind," I said as I walked back to the cooler to return the can.

As I headed for the door, the cashier stopped me.

"You pay me next time."

"Excuse me?"

"You take the soda and you pay me back next time."

"Are you serious?"

"It's a hot one out there. You look like you need it."

"I'll pay you back," I promised. "Thank you."

The next day I came back with $5 and told him to keep it. He wouldn't. He insisted he take the 80 cents I owed him and give me my change. Not wanting to insult him, I accepted the $4.20 back. All he said was, "Just come back and say hi every once and a while."

Wow, I thought as I left…

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