There's a rhyming thing that's been going on up on the 23rd floor of The Pfister Hotel. That's where you'll find Blu, which offers perhaps Downtown's best view and where the snack of choice was, until recently, the cashew.
So, naturally, when the folks at Blu, wanted to bring you something new, they settled on fondue.
Fondue in Blu is available Tuesdays through Saturdays, from happy hour (which begins when the lounge opens at 5 p.m.) until 11 p.m. A Sprecher Amber beer cheese fondue runs $18 and dark chocolate (54 percent cacao) fondue is $14.
"Fondue is fun, sexy, something to be shared," says hotel assistant manager Joshua Wolter. "When people go out, they want something different, something exciting. If people wanted to do the same thing, or something boring, they would sit down with 'War and Peace' and enjoy a light beer.
"Trends in restaurants and bars are an ever-evolving entity. Everything old has a tendency to become new again. Whether it be vintage craft cocktails, that are currently all the rage, or the type of music or environment that people are looking for. Fondue had its surge of popularity in the '70s; it's time has come again. The generation that might have sat around enjoying fondues at their parents kitchen table knows how fun and conversation engaging fondue can be."
Fondue is fun and enjoying it with Downtown right outside your window adds to the experience. On a recent visit a special guest and I shared a plate of each.
The cheese fondue is smooth and rich, with the slightest hint of the Sprecher Amber. For dipping, there was salted rye, sliced Gala apples, celery hearts, thin breadsticks. There's also a tender fire-salt tenderloin that is the highlight of the plate, with its peppery seasoning and perfect medium-rare finish.
The surprises of the plate are the popcorn garnish – which tastes great dipped in the melted cheese – and, perhaps surprisingly, the chunks of aged Wisconsin cheddar. Dipping cheese into cheese seems so wrong, yet tastes so very right.
With the Callebaut chocolate fondue – which my guest rightly pointed out is "drippier" than its cheese counterpart – comes with halved toffee cookies made onsite, fresh strawberries, cheesecake bites, sliced bananas, dried pineapple, mango and apricot, and two long, crispy strips of Nuekske's bacon.
Especially delicious are the homemade marshmallows. The day of our visit they were flavored with Elderflower.
While both plates were on the table together, we took the opportunity to "cross-reference," as it were.
The cookies in cheese? Not so good. The celery in chocolate also not a revelation. But some dippers – like the breadsticks, the bacon, the apples and the popcorn – work well with either dip.
"The Wisconsin beer cheese fondue is my personal favorite," says Wolter. "I am a Wisconsin boy, born and raised, there is no way you can take me away from a good Sprecher Amber and Wisconsin cheese. This one can be played with the most I feel; you can dip almost anything into it, my vote goes for the celery and fire salted steak, though, who needs bearnaise!"
But, like me and, likely you, too, Wolter can't resist the Callebaut, either.
"The chocolate fondue is amazing, not too sweet, great 54% cacao. We make the most amazing marshmallows in house by our pastry department (but) my favorite partner to the chocolate fondue is the bacon."
In addition to fondue, Blu offers chocolate dipped strawberries and a charcuterie plate, too. However, a couple months back, the lounge stopped offering cashews as a nosh. They've been replaced by a spicy cranberry mix that has wasabi peas, pretzel nuggets and other tangy tidbits.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.