For the seventh straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by the restaurants of Potawatomi. 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 2013."
From the get-go I’ll admit that the concept of 8-Twelve held no allure for me. Because it was a SURG project, I’m sure it was executed tastefully and tastily, but a sports-themed restaurant on Bluemound Road simply never called my name.
When the change was announced, the website said the new place, "celebrates simple farm-to-table cuisine" and would draw inspiration from Wisconsin farmers markets, small growers, ranchers and local fisherman.
I visited this past weekend and was pleased with what I found. Outside the restaurant is attractive and welcoming – decorated that very day with pumpkins and other autumn ephemera, including cool swan gourds that are rightfully the pride and joy of the staff – with plenty of parking (a necessity out here).
Inside, the staff was as welcoming as the decor, which wedded warm earth tones with comfortable booths and art that celebrates the farm. I especially loved the large photographs of cows, though we did wonder if folks enjoying steaks would appreciate the one featuring a close-up of the face of an adorable bovine.
The word is out in Brookfield. We arrived relatively early – 6 p.m. – because we were dining with kids, and I was surprised to see HoM already doing a pretty good business. By the time our appetizers arrived, the dining room was basically full.
But it makes sense. There is very little fine dining to be had along the Bluemound strip, other than a couple chains. There is a demand for good, fresh cuisine out west. Especially in an atmosphere that is attractive and friendly. The HoM staff was also very good with kids.
But the food. Yes, we ate food!
After introducing herself our server reminded us of HoM’s commitment to locally sourced produce and meat.
From the list of eight appetizers, we selected bacon and waffles and pan seared Viking Village scallops.
The crisp and airy cornmeal waffles, cut on the diagonal, were topped with two slices of tangy maple and pepper glazed thick-cut Nueske’s bacon ($9). On the second plate, three medium scallops, perfectly seared, arrived atop a butternut squash puree and dotted with goat cheese and bacon ($15). While the adults enjoyed both, the kids were, perhaps unsurprisingly, more attracted to the waffles.
I also tried a roasted candy stripe beet salad ($9) – asking for, and getting, a half-portion since the salads are meant to be shared. Candied walnuts and goat cheese were added to mixed greens from Growing Power and topped with a sherry-walnut vinaigrette and a half-dozen roasted beets that were tender and earthy.
The kids ordered off a kids menu that includes grilled cheese, chicken tenders, mac ‘n’ cheese and a cheeseburger, all $5 and all served with fries. One child nearly finished the mac ‘n’ cheese while the other demolished the grilled cheese – made with thick-cut bread – and offered rare fawning praise, dubbing it "the best grilled cheese ever."
We opted for a pasta special with house-made spaghetti noodles tossed with shrimp and lobster and a creamy tomato sauce – the generous portion included healthy doses of both seafoods – and the lamb chops.
The Strauss lamp chops were grilled and served atop a chestnut lavender puree (I’m always sold when there’s chestnuts) and chanterelles sauteed in a pinor noir-mint jus. Laid across the top were two kale leaves fried crisp that were a fun touch and a (perhaps guilty, perhaps not) treat.
The lamp chops were cooked a perfect medium rare and the mushrooms were, to my surprise and delight, nearly as enjoyable as the dish’s star.
Though pastry chef Kurt Fogle wasn’t in the house the night we visited, we decided to pay him tribute by ordering nearly everything on the dessert menu. Well, we each ordered one dessert from a selection of seven.
I chose the spicy pumpkin creme brulee with a cinnamon cookie crumble in honor of our visit to a pumpkin farm earlier in the day. My better half opted for peach pie with Kinnickinnic Whiskey ice cream, and the kids chose the caramel apple bread pudding and campfire s’mores, which came layered in a jar.
Though I’d expect to enjoy the s’mores most, I heartily recommend the caramel apple bread pudding made with brioche, salted caramel and honeycrisp apples. It’s simply incredible.
The other desserts were good, too, certainly, but seriously: caramel apple bread pudding.
Though I wouldn’t wish for the kind of year Ryan Braun had, nor for the apparent crumbling of his friendship with Aaron Rodgers, I’m pretty pleased that HoM Wood Fired Grill is now part of the dining scene, especially in an area that already seems to be appreciating its presence.
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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.