November is National Native American Heritage Month. And there are few places in the Milwaukee area where you can better gain insights into the history, culture and contributions of Native Americans – particularly in Wisconsin – than at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, which is owned and operated by the Forest County Potawatomi tribe.
The month’s festivities actually began in October, during the Hunting Moon Pow Wow, an annual event that brings together both Native and non-Native people to celebrate Native American traditions and cultures in a fun, family-friendly and educational environment.
And the celebration continues with the annual Native American Heritage Dinner, an event built for food lovers who wish to experience the oft-overlooked heritage of Native American cuisine.
This year’s dinner, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7 at Dream Dance Steak, will feature seven courses from Potawatomi’s excutive chef Michael Christensen who will share his passion for fusing classical French technique with traditional Ojibwe ingredients.
"After many years of culinary training and experience, I have learned two things," says Michael Christensen, executive chef at Potawatomi Hotel and Casino. "The best conversations take place over dinner; and Native American cuisine isn’t readily available within our community."
The dinner will showcase a variety of ingredients native to Northern Wisconsin, as well as the culinary influence brought by European fur traders in the 15th century. It will also highlight elements of Christensen’s background, not only as a classically trained French chef, but as a member of the Lac du Flambeau band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.
"This menu is especially near and dear to me as it’s made up of several distinct pieces of my culture, history and personal experience," he says. "I enjoy fusing ingredients, techniques and culturally relevant flavor combinations together in unique ways that both celebrate the old and embrace the new."
The evening’s menu includes an amuse bouche of corn blintzes served with huckleberry jam and crème fraîche, followed by seven courses including:
- Rabbit terrine: leek puree, frisee, pickled mustard seeds, mustard foam
- Fish consommé: walleye quenell, forest mushrooms
- Sorbet: strawberry and honey
- Venison medallions: Ojibwe succotash, wild rice pilaf, mushroom demi-glace
- Salad: petite greens, pine nuts, seasonal vegetables, cranberries, herb vinaigrette
- Cheese Plate: Wisconsin artisanal cheeses, dried berries, toasted black walnuts, crostini
- Dessert: wild rice orange pudding
Cost for the dinner is $85 per person (plus tax and gratuity), which includes seven courses and wine pairings. For reservations, call (414) 847-7883.
Can’t make the Native American Heritage Dinner?
Consider attending the Milwaukee Art Museum’s MAM After Dark event on Nov. 17. The event will highlight Native American culture through song, dance, story-telling and activities. There will also be a performance from Native American hip hop artist Supaman.
The event takes place from 7 to 11 p.m. and is free for Milwaukee Art Museum members and $12 for non-members. For more information, or to purchase discounted advance tickets for $10, visit mam.org.
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.