Season's eatings! The weather may be getting colder, but Dining Month on OnMilwaukee is just cooking up, dishing out your winning picks in this year's Best of Dining poll. Dining Month is brought to you by Fein Brothers, your premier food service equipment and supply dealer in Wisconsin since 1929. Congratulations to all of the winners, and happy eating for all those who voted! See all the winners for the month so far here.
What's in a restaurant? In this series, we ask chefs around the city to describe their restaurants in their own words and recommend three dishes that embody the best of what they offer. In this edition, we talk with Chef Andrew Althoff of North Shore Boulangerie.
North Shore Boulangerie
4401 N. Oakland Ave., Shorewood
Andrew Althoff, a chef whose career has included work at Lake Park Bistro, Mason Street Grill and Eddie Martini’s, took the reins at North Shore Boulangerie late this summer. So we sat down with him to get a sense of his style and approach to food.
"I pull so much from my past experiences, things that stick out in my memory," Althoff says. "And I’m always taking things that are old and making them new again. Comforting things are really my forte, but I like giving dishes playful twists. And presentation is always important, since people eat with their eyes."
Like so many chefs, Althoff also enjoys cooking with the seasons, gathering goods from the Shorewood farmers market and keeping his eye on the freshest and best from vendors.
"It gives me a good deal of opportunity to play with ingredients, to bring back classic dishes and to create some things that are new," he says. "Seasonality always plays a part in what I do, and it’s fun. It’s really nice to highlight items when they’re at their best. And it’s ever changing, so there’s always something new to share with guests.
"We have some staples that remain on the menu; guests can always get their tomato soup and their country omelette. But, I’m excited to really bring some new things to the menu. In the end, I’m here to make good food and make people happy."
1. Short ribs
Red wine demiglace, roasted root smash, onion strings ($14.95)
"I’ve always really loved shortribs. And braised meats … there’s a real art to it. This is the sort of dish that my chef mentors would love, and I think about them when I make it. You’re taking things slowly, and it relies so much on the fundamentals of cooking."
"In the end, the preparation here is very classic; we’re braising the short ribs with mirepoix and lots of red wine. Root vegetables are coming in now – the potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips – and they’re tasting good and sweet. So we’re taking advantage of the season with those, giving them a rough smash ... and then we add texture with the onion strings."
2. Duck confit
Cheddar polenta, maple bourbon glaze, baby carrots ($15.25)
"There was duck confit on the menu here at another point, and I thought brunch would be a nice time to bring it back. We’re serving it on the bone, both the thigh and the leg. So the interior is tender and succulent, and we crisp up the skin so you get that beautiful contrast in textures."
"I'm from the South, and I love cheesy grits. So, when I was contemplating what to serve for brunch, hearty polenta came to mind. The polenta is creamy and cheesy and we've added a maple glaze with a bit of bourbon and apple cider to the chicken; so together it has a really nice autumnal flavor. Meanwhile, both the maple and grits conjure that morning brunch element."
3. Special: Pan seared halibut
Maitake mushroom risotto, mushroom sauce, carrots, French beans ($15)
"This halibut dish is one of the first fish specials I ran since starting at North Shore Boulangerie, and it’s one that people really loved. Halibut is really like the new sea bass. You don’t need to do a ton to it to make it taste really great. You can always put a crust on it of some sort, but I really like the approach of a simple sear. This is really just salted and peppered; it gives you a great textural element, and it lets the fish really speak for itself.
"For the risotto, I used hen of the woods mushrooms. They’re just coming into their season and they're tasting really beautiful and woodsy. I take the thick stems and anythings we're not using to present the dish and I use it to make a really rich, earthy stock for the risotto. We add sauteed mushrooms and parmesan and present it with a creamy mushroom sauce. So people are really getting a triple dose of that mushroom flavor. We finish off the dish with some beautiful vegetables; they give a nice color contrast and they really taste good with the dish.
"I’m going every week to the Shorewood farmers market and really looking at what’s beautiful and fresh. So right now we’re running a special with grilled Coho salmon, grilled asparagus and a saute with red lentils, bacon and potatoes. The arugula was beautiful at the market, so we’re putting it together as a salad with a bit of herbed vinaigrette, which gives you a pop of flavor and a bit of acid."
Food for thought
On Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 5:30 p.m., Althoff will host a "Food for Thought at the Boulangerie" event exploring the techniques behind classic French sauces. The event will feature a cooking demonstration and introduction to five classic French sauces: béchamel, hollandaise, velouté, espagnole and tomat.
During the event, Althoff will share secrets to preparing each sauce and using it to elevate simple homemade dishes. The cost for the class and discussion is $5. Reservations can be made by visiting northshoreboulangerie.com.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.