A recent visit to Ethiopian Cottage, which I reviewed earlier this week, made me think of one of my favorite aspects of dining out: intimacy, and no, I’m not speaking on the wavelength of “’9 1/2 Weeks,” although Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger certainly accelerated many heartbeats experimenting with olives, ice cubes and maraschino cherries.
The sensual aspect of food for me is magnified when eating ethnic foods, in part due to the intense textures and flavors that come with trying these different cuisines. I think this is likely one of the reasons why I enjoy sushi as much as I do, since texture comes heavily into play in enjoying makis and nigiris. But, too often we are programmed to eat and run, and as a result I think we sometimes lose sight of how romantic and sensual a dining experience can be, especially when you are sharing wonderful food from the same plate.
And of course, sharing food in itself is also an American wedding tradition, with bride and groom feeding each other cake as a symbol of both their becoming one and their commitment to provide for each other for the duration of their marriage. So the symbolism, sensuality and romance of dining and sharing together are well steeped in a broad array of cultures, but one in which can be happily found in many Milwaukee restaurants.
Milwaukeeans have been blessed in recent years with a crop of new ethnic restaurants that bring not only fabulous flavors and textures to the dining scene, but in many cases, lovely, intimate surroundings as well.
At places like Seoul (formerly Han Kuk Kwan) where you split tiny appetizers, and specialty tapas restaurants like Yaffa, La Merenda or Don Quijote, where you can specifically order small plates to share with your dining companion, eating together can be a wholly private and bonding experience. I also love restaurants like Abu’s Jerusalem of the Gold or the aforementioned Ethiopian Cottage where you can order a plate specifically made for two, or tiny holes-in-the-wall like West Bank Café where you feel like you are eating in someone’s house.
How can you not have a wonderful dining experience when you are sharing unique food in a warm, friendly environment with someone you care about? There is little more satisfying than two happy stomachs and two happy souls.
Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.
The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.
Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.