Advertise on contributor and former Hotel Metro chef Justin Johnson has a new gig. contributor and former Hotel Metro chef Justin Johnson has a new gig. (Photo: Whitney Teska)

Chef Johnson takes new position

Chef Justin Johnson – who we first profiled when he ran the kitchen and brought big changes to Tosa's Harwood Place residential community – and who later ran the food operations at Hotel Metro has taken a new position.

"I'm going to be taking over chef duties at the UW Health Partners Regional Medical Center in Watertown," Johnson tells me.

"They have a very progressive vision for what they want to do with food service from sourcing locally to even growing some of our own produce."

Johnson, who left Hotel Metro in December and is now a contributor to begins his new job, "bright and early Monday morning," he says.

Field Report, back in the old Conrad Plymouth days.
Field Report, back in the old Conrad Plymouth days. (Photo: CJ Foeckler)

America is reading our Field Report

A few weeks after Counting Crows' Adam Duritz was singing praises of Milwaukee's Field Report (formerly Conrad Plymouth) all over Twitter, the Milwaukee group is hitting the road for a West Coast and down South tour with Megafaun, and takes a couple tracks national via Spin Magazine.

Releasing an EP on Ryan Mattison's Ten Atoms label in 2010 as Conrad Plymouth, the band finished its full-length in December at Justin Vernon's studio and it's due out in July.

Some more big news is that no less than Paul Kolderie (Radiohead, Warren Zevon, The Pixies, Uncle Tupelo) has also become smitten by Field Report and offered to mix the record, which he did last month.

A slew of SXSW lovin' followed earlier this month.

While you await the record, you can hear two tracks – "Fergus Falls" and "I Am Not Waiting Anymore" – on

In case you find yourself out and about in the next couple weeks, here are the band's upcoming dates – with Megafaun:

03/30/12 - Seattle, WA @ Tractor Tavern
03/31/12 - Portland, OR @ Doug Fir
04/03/12 - San Francisco, CA @ Cafe Du Nord
04/04/12 - Santa Cruz, CA @ The Crepe Place
04/05/12 - Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theater
04/06/12 - Tempe, AZ @ The Sail Inn
04/08/12 - Santa Fe, NM @ Sol Santa Fe
04/10/12 - Austin, TX @ Mohawk
04/12/12 - Birmingham, AL @ Bottletree
04/14/12 - Saxapahaw, NC @ Haw River Ballroom

Now, that's a lot of meatballs!
Now, that's a lot of meatballs!
The winning team from Calderone Club.
The winning team from Calderone Club.
Joe Bartolotta shows off his meatballs.
Joe Bartolotta shows off his meatballs.

Now THAT'S a spicy meatball!

The Milwaukee County Historical Society held its first ever Milwaukee Meatball Challenge on Saturday, pitting 15 restaurants and caterers in a contest to, well, find Milwaukee's best meatball.

"The event was a huge success," says MCHS' Michael Reuter. "We had 140 people."

The winners were, Calderone Club, which is located directly across the street from MCHS on 3rd and Kilbourn, in first place; Tall Guy & A Grill Catering in second; and The Pfister Hotel in third place.

Tall Guy & A Grill Catering also took the people's choice award, which was chosen by the event's attendees. A panel of three judges selected the first-third place winners.

As the big winner, Calderone Club gets a $2,000 stipend to use as airfare to Rome, Italy, booked through Bayside Travel, Inc.Tall Guy & A Grill Catering's second place finish earned "A Night In Sanford's Kitchen," a $500 value. Third place winner The Pfister got a $250 Milwaukee Public Market gift card.

As the People's Choice winner, Tall Guy also earned a Milwaukee County Historical Society gift basket, which included several of the MCHS publications, including John Gurda's "The Making of Milwaukee" and a free MCHS Family membership.

Usinger's is a timeless Milwaukee tradition.
Usinger's is a timeless Milwaukee tradition.

A free wiener is the icing on the sausage cake

It doesn't even need to be said that Usinger's is a Milwaukee tradition, does it?

I didn't even grow up in Brew City and I have fond memories of visiting the store at 1030 N. Old World 3rd St., as a child with my grandparents. I love that nearly 40 years later, it still smells and looks exactly the same as I remember it from my youth.

When my eldest was born, I made it a point to take him there. We went on a few occasions and he was always happy to look at the tiny houses in the window, the old world murals of the elves making sausages and to take a number and wait for it to be called. Oh, the suspense.

That the women working behind the counter would always give him a free wiener was the icing on the sausage cake.

On a recent weekend I realized during a visit to Milwaukee Public Museum, that my second child has never experienced Usinger's. So, we hopped in the car and made a stop on our way home.

On a Saturday morning, the shop was bustling and we had to wait for about a dozen numbers to be called before ours came up. The kids checked out the wee village houses in the meantime and then I stocked up on goodies off the imperfect table.

I got a package of "mis-sliced" bacon, another of "mis-sliced ham," half a roll of liver sausage and three packages of "imperfect" wieners for $20. The deal of the week! It reminded me that I need to stop at Usinger's more often, not only to create memories for the kids, but to stock up on some great Milwaukee sausage at unbeatable prices.

Of course, the kids got their free wieners, too, and we all left happy.