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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Nov. 24, 2014

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Trying something new: A friend just bought me TJ's Himalayan pink salt crystals. She said the price is amazingly low and these crystals have health benefits.
Trying something new: A friend just bought me TJ's Himalayan pink salt crystals. She said the price is amazingly low and these crystals have health benefits.

What are your "must buy" items from Trader Joe's?

For the sixth straight year, October is Dining Month on, presented by Concordia University. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2012."

Recently, I engaged in a conversation with a few friends about what specific items we buy from Trader Joe's, 5600 N. Port Washington Rd.

No one, it seems, goes there for their main shopping experience of the week, but lots of folks seem to swing by frequently or occasionally to grab particular items – and whatever else happens to "jump" into their cart.

Here is a list of items I always buy (when available) at TJ's and will travel across town for. And feel free to share your favorite items via the Talkback feature.

1. Edamame. Trader Joe's frozen edamame is the most flavorful edamame I have ever eaten. It is so rich that it almost tastes like there's butter on it. I buy two or three bags at a time because this item has gotten so popular, it's sometimes out of stock.

2. Citrus body wash. For years, this was under $2 a bottle (it's now, I believe, just over $2). I love the wake-you-up zingyness of this stuff. Plus, it lathers well so you don't need to use very much per washing.

3. "Two Buck Chuck." It's actually "Three Buck Chuck" here in Wisconsin for a bottle of Charles Shaw wine. This is Trader Joe's house brand vino, and for the price, you can't beat it. Or maybe I've been drinking it for so long now my taste buds are dumbed down. It doesn't matter. At least two bottles of the Cab Sav wind up in my cart every time.

4. Tortilla chips. I love the selection, from flax seed to longboard shaped, and the TJ's chip aisle is now on my short list of happy places. I have tried so many different chips over the years, something I almost never buy at a "regular" grocery store. But this is both the beauty and the curse of TJ's: it makes me adventuresome and splurgey.

5. Speaking o…

Potlucks might be the leading cause of indigestion, but they sure are fun.
Potlucks might be the leading cause of indigestion, but they sure are fun.

How can I get potlucky?

I love a potluck. I love the word. I love the concept. I love (most of) the food.

The most amazing part to me, hence the "luck" part of the name, is that even though guests often do not communicate what they are bringing, there always seems to be a balanced mix of entrees, sides and desserts. (Except that one time when everyone was on the same "I think I'll make enchiladas" train of thought, but luckily the hostess had plenty of Corona to wash down all the cheesy goodness).

I did get invited to a potluck once when the hostess asked me what I was bringing ahead of time and then suggested I bring something else. That was a total potluck buzz kill.

However, most potlucks are a culinary leap of faith, but I am running out of ideas for dishes to bring. I used to have a few potluck staples, including taco dip. I firmly believe that a deep love for taco dip is one thing all Americans can agree on. Taco dip might be the missing link between humans and world peace. Taco dip should run for office.

At past potlucks, I have contributed chili, tater tot casserole, ants on a log (obviously a very kid-populated potluck), lasagna and homemade mac 'n' cheese. I want to make something different that shares well, is relatively easy to prepare and tastes good when it's not piping hot.

Got any ideas for me? And please, nobody suggest enchiladas. Or taco dip.

"Rock Of Ages" is an '80s musical / concert experience.
"Rock Of Ages" is an '80s musical / concert experience.

Tease your bangs and pin your jeans: "Rock Of Ages" is on the way

Whether or not they remember the ‘80s doesn’t seem to matter to most of the people who attend the musical "Rock Of Ages."

Some are simply too young to remember the original run of the hairband era whereas other people might not remember the indulgent decade for other reasons.

In any case, cast member Matt Ban says the show always ends with people on their feet, rocking out to the music.

The show, which the Tom Cruise film of the same name is based on, takes place on the Sunset Strip in 1987. Basically, it’s a love story told through the predominantly glam metal music of the ‘80s, including Journey, STYX, Foreigner, Whitesnake and REO Speedwagon.

"Rock of Ages," nominated for five Tony Awards, will run Nov. 13-18 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. It ran on Broadway in 2009.

I recently hand a phone conversation with Ban, who plays the character of Dennis Dupree, about his life and the show. So what is your character like and how did you prepare for the role?

Matt Ban: Dennis is an enigma in the ‘80s rock world. He’s more of a ‘70s leftover who owns the bar, The Bourbon Room, where the action takes place. He’s trying to hold onto the bar (even though times are changing). Dennis is a little bit of a hippie who smoked some funny cigarettes. He’s a little lost in the haze. So I prepared by listening to more ‘70s music like Alan Parsons Project and Led Zeppelin.

OMC: Were you alive in the ‘80s?

MB: (Laughing) I was born in 1987 (the year the show takes place) so I experienced the ‘80s in diapers. But I knew all of the music from the show already because the songs are so popular.

OMC: What kind of music did you grow up listening to? Where did you grow up?

MB: I grew up in New Jersey. I listened to a lot of ‘90s alt-rock, grunge. Nirvana is the soundtrack of my adolescence.

OMC: Did you want to be a professional actor when you were a kid?

MB: Acting was always a fun hobby for me. I played a lot of sports. My…

Fitzgibbons must close by Nov. 30, but the owner says it will happen a week or so earlier.
Fitzgibbons must close by Nov. 30, but the owner says it will happen a week or so earlier.

Fitzgibbons Pub will close soon

After 15 years of owning the bar, Dan Fitzgibbons says he will close Fitzgibbons Pub, 1127 N. Water St., sometime before Nov. 30. But Fitzgibbons says it will happen a week or so earlier.

He says he was losing money for the past four years and, quite honestly, just can't pay the rent anymore.

"I have worked and owned bars my entire adult life," says Fitzgibbons. "I'm not sure what I'll do next."

Fitzgibbons says he has options, but nothing that's "set in stone." He plans to throw a Thanksgiving/Christmas/closing party on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 20.

Fitzgibbons opened the Water Street bar in 1997.