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In Dining

Milwaukee Art Museum's Cafe Calatrava has new menu items inspired by the upcoming Impressionism show.

In Dining

The basil gnocchi with mushrooms, squash and red peppers is an explosion of color and flavor.

In Dining

The gnocchi at Il Mito Enoteca has veal meatballs, roasted broccolini and caramelized onions in a creamy roasted garlic sauce.

In Dining

Capital Grille's lobster roll and truffle fries from the $15 "Plates" menu.

Impressionists' use of color fuels new Cafe Calatrava menu

For the fifth straight year, October is Dining Month on, 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 2011."

In a few days "Impressionism: Masterworks on Paper" opens at Milwaukee Art Museum and runs through Jan. 8, 2012.

But you can get an early taste of Impressionism already at the museum's Cafe Calatrava, which recently unveiled new entrees inspired by the show.

Josh Stefanko, who stepped into the role of executive chef at Cafe Calatrava in March, says more than anything, the dishes are inspired by the Impressionists' use of color.

"My inspiration for this menu was based partially on artistic and historical perspectives, but color and flavor trumped all in our final decisions," he says.

"Virtually all of the works in this collection are French – only one is from Italy. My first chef was a French-trained saucier and rotisseure, so it was very natural for me to incorporate some twists on my favorite French classics.

"I used my knowledge of French cuisine and dear love for painters such as Van Gogh and Monet to put together a menu with as many beautiful, natural and healthy dishes as possible. I'd love for visitors to feel as though they've had a chance to step back through time a little to some cozy French bistro surrounded by the arts and by solid chefs practicing their craft."

His basil gnocchi, which I sampled last week, fits the bill. The white gnocchi are dolloped with color thanks to the addition of red peppers, green basil and sage, brown mushrooms and yellow butternut squash.

"The gnocchi dish, for example, is sautéed in a sage and brown butter sauce to impart a lovely nuttiness to both the dumplings and the butternut squash," says Stefanko.

"The French have always been masters of incorporating interesting ingredients and techniques from other cultures into their national milieu, and this sautéed gnocchi dish is a perfect example of something that was Italian becoming French. This dish also pleases the eye with an array of red, orange, brown and green which reminds me vividly of an autumn tree in full color."

Other sections of the menu have changed, too, but don't worry, says Stefanko, many favorites are still available.

"The 'Bang Bang' chicken salad, for example, because of its healthfulness and popularity – and great color scheme – it was a very simple decision to carry it over to the current menu," he says.

'Tis the season of the fall menu and a number of restaurants are currently unveiling new ones. Here are a few...

The Capital Grille, 310 W. Wisconsin Ave., has autumn-ized its popular $15 "Plates" lunch menu. The three-course, fixed-price menu was launched earlier in the year and some of the more summery items – like a watermelon salad and a mahi mahi sandwich – have been replaced.

The new items are a porcini bisque, a "Knife and Fork BLT" and roasted butternut squash with cranberry chutney.

"Our new Knife and Fork BLT adds a signature twist to this classic sandwich favorite," said Chef Michael Meinzer.

The sandwich layers bacon, Grana Padano and heirloom tomatoes and lettuce and has a black pepper and chive aioli. Page 1 of 2 (view all on one page)

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