Missing those Milwaukee summer joys of grabbing a beer and sausage at a baseball game or festival? If you want a taste of those happier days – plus a whole lot more to chew on – take a bite out of Hulu's new show "Taste the Nation."
Debuting on the streaming service last Thursday, the food docu-series follows author and "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi as she tours the country discovering the immigrant stories and dishes that truly make American cuisine – a trip that includes an early episode-long stop in Milwaukee to explore (what else?!) sausage and beer.
During the half-hour episode, titled "The All-American Weiner," Lakshmi reminisces about her love of hot dogs as a young immigrant girl (even before trying them), touring the streets of Downtown Milwaukee with local food expert Christina Ward aboard the famous Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Sure, that's a Chicago-based company, but we'll let that slide since, come on, who doesn't love the Wienermobile.
We'll also let it slide because the episode is great, taking a fun but also informative dive into some of Brew City's most iconic and beloved German institutions – from a tour of Usinger's with owner Fritz Usinger, complete with his preferred bratwurst preparation, to a trip to Kegel's Inn to learn about the historic restaurant's origins and ability to maintain its authentic German menu throughout time, to a jaunt around German Fest for a Milwaukee Pretzel Company treat. There's even a visit to a Milwaukeean's garage to home-brew some authentic German lager and discuss burping techniques.
Along the way, Mader's and Lakefront Brewery each get a speaking role as well, filling in viewers on culinary history and culture in Milwaukee, and even a few of the hot dog slingers in front of the Chase Tower on the corner of Wisconsin and Water get some airtime talking about their sausage specialties. The only thing the episode is missing is an appearance from the racing sausages – though Lakshmi and company do open up the show with a classic ballpark hot dog at a Milwaukee Milkmen game (which you'll hopefully be able to enjoy safely soon too).
The episode does cover a lot of the usual staples food shows and writers love to hit when talking Milwaukee's culinary scene. Lakshmi's nuanced and personable approach, however, makes this particular visit more insightful, interesting and entertaining than most, discussing these touchstones as immigrants' tales and talking about how these plates and places maintain their German roots when American culture has assimilated foods like sausage and hamburgers so much to the point of their history and heritage disappearing.
And, best of all for Milwaukeeans, it'll remind you of what life was like when summer festivals weren't cancelled, baseball existed and you could cheers a beer with someone without having to disinfect the glass immediately after. It's almost as refreshing as one of the tasty lagers Lakshmi downs while in town.
All ten nation-trekking episodes of "Taste the Nation" are currently available to stream on Hulu – and for a little appetizer, the fourth episode on the food traditions of the Gullah Geechee people of South Carolina is available to watch for free on YouTube.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.