For the sixth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Concordia University. 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 2012."
As we bid adieu to the last of the succulent tomatoes of summer, developer Tim Dixon has announced the arrival of his newest restaurant concept. And it's coming to the location that formerly housed Roots.
Steeped in the same culture of storytelling as the Iron Horse Hotel, the restaurant at 1818 N. Hubbard, which will open Oct. 31, will be called Wolf Peach, an homage to the fruit we now know as the humble tomato.
Originally cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas, the tomato has a long, sordid history. Throughout northern Europe, tomatoes were long considered to be poisonous. The wealthy often ate the fruit from plates made of pewter; unfortunately, since the acid in the tomatoes leached lead from the metal, their tomato-laden meals often resulted in lead poisoning and death. Since the peasants, who more often ate their tomatoes from plates made from wood, didn't grow sick and die, the tomato became poor man's food.
Likewise, German folklore taught that tomatoes were used by witches to produce werewolves. This practice was known as lycanthropy – literally the making of wolves, not a far cry from the German word for tomato, which literally translates as "wolf peach."
Wolf Peach will celebrate not only the tomato, but also the local rustic cuisine that the introduction of the controversial fruit inspired in a wide variety of European cultures. Under the guiding hand of executive chef Dan Jacobs, it will also conjure the spirit – nay, the "Roots" – of the former Brewers Hill restaurant on which it rests, an eatery renowned for its expansive urban garden and fresh, locally grown ingredients.
"We find it interesting and appropriate that 'roots' is defined as 'something that is an origin or source,'" Dixon remarks. "We haven't forgotten the early farm to table style that Roots restaurant was known for. Wolf Peach is moving up the vine to the fruit. This is a new experience, a new venture, a new beginning."
The restaurant will feature kitchen bar seating that overlooks a new 6,000-pound wood-burning oven, as well as low seating at the windows that provides a bird's eye view of the incredible city views oft enjoyed by Roots' patrons. A large communal table, referred to as a "Stammtisch" or "table for regulars" will accommodate dining for small groups of friends ... or strangers.
When it comes to food, the menu will include house-made pickles, smoky shishito peppers and appetizers including wood-fired bone marrow with sea salt and parsley, and a squash, gorgonzola and saba spread. Salads will include fresh options such as arugula with pine nuts, mushrooms, Marissa cheese and lemon vinaigrette, as well as heartier options like wood-roasted cauliflower with pine nuts, capers and raisins.
Of course, a staple offering will be wood-fired pizza in a variety of flavors ranging from house-made sausage with onion, parmesan, fennel and fennel pollen to goat cheese pizza with leeks, fennel, scallion and lamb sausage – all available with gluten-free crust. Entrees will include fresh fish and vegan options, as well as carnivorous dishes like breaded pork loin with charred radicchio, cider and caper brown butter.
To ensure freshness and inspire conversational dining, Wolf Peach will practice a style of service called "como viene," or simply "as it comes." Dishes will be served in a casual, communal fashion, brought to the table as they are prepared – fresh, bright and ready to share.
It is said that some of the first tomatoes eaten in Italy were prompted by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who ordered that a basket of them be delivered from his Florentine estate on Oct. 31, 1548. Ironically, on that same day, some 464 years later, the Wolf Peach will open in Milwaukee.
Eager patrons can make reservations beginning Oct. 15 by calling (414) 374-8480.
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.