There’s no shortage of articles and television shows that showcase the dishes that chefs love to cook at their restaurants. But what do they love to eat at the end of their exhausting 16-hour days? Or on their days off?
In this series, we ask Milwaukee area chefs to share their favorite dishes – both from area restaurants and for eating at home. In this edition, we talked with Chef Ana Docta of Great Lakes Distillery. Docta will be among eight featured chefs at the upcoming 3rd Annual Moveable Feast event at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
Ana Docta notes that, for her, "Food is religion. It’s community. It’s family." She grew up on the countryside in Argentina, where her father often spent his time hunting small game, including doves, rabbits, quail, pheasants and frogs, all of which he’d bring home for dinner. Sundays were a time for cooking and spending time with friends and family. To mark the occasion, the family would indulge in pachamanca, meats cooked over hardwood in an underground pit.
When it came time to choose her career, Docta trained in Spain, where she honed her culinary skills and learned the art of true hospitality, a value system which became central to her goals as a chef. Docta gained experience in a variety of settings, including country clubs and hotels before opening her first restaurant, La Cubana, in Brazil. She also became the first female member of the Porto Alegre Chefs Fraternity, an organization which developed a program to donate soup to organizations to feed the hungry. In 2000, Docta moved to Milwaukee where she launched her catering company and restaurant, KASANA.
Docta says her tastes gravitate toward simple, well-prepared foods, which she loves to explore with family and friends.
Bone marrow at All Purpose
"My husband loves sandwiches, so he often gets the hamburger at AP. Even that is so simple, but it’s the elegance with which it’s put together that makes it special. For me, it’s the bone marrow. It comes simply with a bit of sugar caramelized on top and crostini on the side. And that takes skill to prepare. It’s delicious when prepared correctly, but horrible when it’s undercooked. And if it’s overcooked, it’s just oil. And theirs is simplicity at its best."
Carpaccio and ravioli at Ristorante Bartolotta
"Do you know how many places can make a good carpaccio? The meat has to be sliced just right, and you have to be so careful with the ingredients so that you don’t overpower the meat. Ristorante makes a very good one. Another thing I love is the house-made ravioli. At my house growing up, my dad was a chef, and he made his own pasta. At Ristorante, the lightness of it, the skill with which it’s made, it’s just delicious."
Desserts at Le Reve
"When I go to Le Reve with my husband, we always get two desserts to share. And there’s two that I love. One is a raspberry dome. It has a layer of raspberry gelee and a very soft light pound cake in the bottom. And it’s coated in a layer of chocolate. I think the combination is fantastic. It has a nice tart flavor, and the bitterness from the chocolate is delicious. It’s also so moist. And it’s about the experience, it’s so playful. When you crack the dome, there’s a surprise waiting for you.
"The other is a layered caramel dessert with layers of pound cake, chocolate and vanilla. What I love about it is that when you think about caramel, you think of something very sweet. And this is not. It’s just beautiful. And it has so much harmony in the way that it’s constructed."
Ultimate comfort food
"At home, comfort food is a ridiculous potato casserole. It will not help you to lose any weight. But it’s one of those dishes that you can’t stop eating. It’s layers and layers of thinly sliced organic Idaho potatoes with garlic puree, heavy cream and a light white cheese. And then you wrap it up and put it into the oven until the potatoes are soft. And then you remove the cover and allow it to brown. And then you eat it with a spoon ... until you die. So delicious.
"On a day when I’m really not wanting to cook, I ask my husband to get really good quality Indian food from places like Cafe India. The curries are so flavorful. And they’re saucy, so it’s like a heavy, hearty soup. I love vegetarian curries. There’s something about them that makes me want to keep eating, even when I’m full. It’s like the spices release endorphins. And it’s so comforting to me."
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.