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Roots is open for Sunday brunch, too.
Roots is open for Sunday brunch, too.

Rapid review: Roots Restaurant & Cellar

October is the third annual Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delicious features, chef profiles, unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2009."

Roots Restaurant & Cellar
1818 N. Hubbard St., (414) 374-8480
www.rootsmilwaukee.com

Roots  makes all of its food from scratch and with seasonal ingredients. The owners are passionate supporters of sustainable agriculture and aquaculture, so all of the meats are naturally raised and the fish is sashimi grade, wild caught, flown in whole and filleted on site. Plus, most of the vegetables are locally grown.

Roots has a full bar featuring a good wine selection, and upon request will modify dishes to accommodate vegetarians. A couple of vegetarian dishes, including the praised tempura tofu, ($18), are on the menu.

Menu: Upscale American.

Price: Moderate.

When to go: Roots is no longer open for lunch, so evening is the time to go. Sunday brunch is served, too.

Dress: Casual is acceptable, but feel free to spruce up for a Roots experience. The well-dressed will feel comfortable here, too.

Don't miss: The amazing view of Downtown. Take a moment to gaze, even if your table is not near the massive windows.

Parking: Street parking is the only option, but it's not usually a problem because Roots is located in a quiet neighborhood.

My Day of the Dead altar. We have multiple hamsters to honor this year. RIP rodents.
My Day of the Dead altar. We have multiple hamsters to honor this year. RIP rodents.

Build an altar for Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday, celebrated Nov. 1 and 2, and it’s a time to honor the deceased. For the past few years, I created a Day of the Dead altar with my kids as a way to remember my four grandparents, none of whom my kids ever got to meet.

I took a small table, placed a box on top of it and covered the whole structure with a cloth so it has two tiers. Then, I decorated it with candles to represent faith and to help the spirits find their way, gourds, flowers (marigolds are traditionally used but any fall flower looks nice and reminds us of the impermanence of life), a glass of water that is said to quench the spirits’ thirst and serve as a symbol of purity, and photos.

I bought all of the items for my altar at El Rey, 1023 S. Cesar E. Chavez Dr., and Pueblo Supermarket, 2029 N. Holton St.

This year, we added the collar of our recently deceased dog, Clay, and my 6-year-old son wrote the names of the hamsters we lost on little slips of paper and added them to the altar: Lavender, Lavender 2, Cinnamon and Ginger. (It was a rough year for rodents in the ol’ Edler household.)

Also, I’ve seen altars adorned with bottles of tequila to offer the spirits a drink and /or a bar of soap for them to wash. Fruit and bread are commonly placed on the altar, too.

Some say the "veil" between the living and the dead disappears during this time of year, so the chance of communicating with the dead is more likely. Who knows, but if you don't have a Ouija board handy, you might want to build an altar and see if it’s true.

Rip Tide has a "crab shack" vibe.
Rip Tide has a "crab shack" vibe.

Rapid review: Rip Tide Seafood Bar & Grill

October is the third annual Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delicious features, chef profiles, unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2009."

Rip Tide Seafood Bar & Grill
649 E. Erie St., (414) 271-8433
getriptide.com

Rip Tide Seafood Bar & Grill offers, you guessed it, all of the water-based edibles, including salmon, crab, lobster, shrimp and more.

The Third Ward restaurant is located on Milwaukee's "inner harbor" and features a large deck that accommodates up to 130 people.

During the winter months, Rip Tide reduces its hours, but offers a variety of specials. Because of the lively, upbeat enviroment, Rip Tide is a kid-friendy restaurant.

Menu: Seafood.

Price: Moderate to expensive.

When to go: The outdoor seating is fantastic at Rip Tide, so going during the warm months is ideal. During the late fall and winter months, Rip Tide is closed Monday through Wednesday, but offers a Thursday night lobster special featuring a pound of lobster for $16.95.

Dress: Casual but nice.

Don’t miss: The Sunday brunch is $22.95 and features a buffet of snow crab legs, raw oysters, shrimp, crab cakes, scrambled eggs, chicken, fish, sliced meats, rice, salads,  pastries and muffins. Eggs Benedict and omelets are available to order, too.

Parking: There is a parking lot next to the building, and a second lot across the street.

Broken yet beautiful.
Broken yet beautiful.

Wabi-sabi

I spend a lot of time subtly reinforcing our family values to my kids, mostly big picture stuff like the significance of honesty, peace and art. This weekend, however, I had an unexpected teaching moment, and I got to introduce a concept to my son that’s not on the A-list of family values, but delivers an interesting and important message.

During a frantic cleaning session -- one of my famous feng shui freak outs -- I broke a small drinking glass on the bathroom floor. It cracked into about eight large shards, and my 7-year-old was fascinated by the sound, the shatter and the appearance. He crouched down and looked at the sharp clear pieces like he was observing a bug on a leaf in the garden.

"Be careful," I said, going into robotic mom mode. "Don’t cut yourself!"

"It looks really cool," he said. "Like the kaleidoscope."

I was already running for the broom and dust pan, but I stopped, turned around and went back into the bathroom. I asked him if he had heard the words "wabi-sabi," and he said no.

"It’s Japanese. It means sometimes things that are broken are still beautiful," I said. He looked at me, then blinked slowly which made me think he was really thinking about the concept.

I had never thought about "wabi-sabi" as something I wanted to teach my sons, but suddenly, I was glad to mention it, especially if they are perfectionists filled with expectation like so many of us.

Thanks to my busy, cross-it-off-the-list life, I probably miss many moments like this. Hence, I was glad to have been present enough to catch this opportunity, and I hope I learned from it.