Friday, February 15, 2013

My Latest Obsessions



PFC + I chilling in the Iron Horse Hotel's lobby 2 weekends ago in Milwaukee.
Cozy perfection = Sunday New York Times read front to back (an extreme rarity these days), cups of Alterra Coffee in hand (need I say more), lounging on the comfortable couch (and forgetting that it wasn't our own living room).
Pure bliss.

The two of us at the old school time-warp steakhouse (Coerper's 5 O'Clock Steakhouse) that 5 yrs ago kicked off
what has now become our annual wknd trip to Milwaukee in February.

Happy Friday! I feel like it has been a SUPER long couple of weeks. Maybe part of that feeling is due to the immediate "re-entry shock" factor you experience after returning from a very different paced weekend than your usual norm. Two weekends ago we were in Milwaukee for a weekend (sans kiddos) and then this past weekend my Dad was in town for 3 nights and we hosted him at our place.

PFC and I almost had to laugh the Sunday we returned from Milwaukee. We high fived one another while pulling in to our driveway - "BAM" = reality (and unfortunately, the "BAM" didn't involve Chef Emeril Lagasse preparing dinner for us that evening). Our chill and rejuvenating weekend had quickly come to an end. I had a brief moment of mourning the quiet (come on now, just 5 more minutes please...) and the idea that our day was our own. And then "BAM" reality appeared, yet a good reality. Those giant hugs from the kiddos transitioned us back to reality. Game on!

I have to say I LOVE Milwaukee. Honestly do. People sometimes laugh when PFC/I tell them that every February we head up to Milwaukee for a weekend get away. Milwaukee, really?! Honest to goodness I totally and utterly dig that town. Love it.We have been heading up there for 5 years now. The first trip up there was Marquette related (PFC's alma mater) but we ended up turning that weekend in to a tradition, but one where we head to Milwaukee by ourselves with an agenda that is entirely our own. For us, that is quite a novelty and really a novelty for anyone these days w/ young kids at home. While both of us have the luxury and the wonderful benefits of being physically surrounded by so many family members (immediate and extended) and many dear friends it is nice and equally important for us to step outside of all of that and just BE. Be alone w/ one another. Just ask PFC about my momentary panic the first day of our honeymoon = OMG, ummm, PFC, I honestly don't think we have spent this much time ALONE (w/o kids, w/o friends, w/o family or w/o an itinerary) EVER. Will we survive this?! I was kidding (kind of!) but for us we had never truly had that "dating/courting" period of time where one gets to spend time w/ that person (w/o too many distractions or variables) or that simple idea of waking up and deciding what we wanted to do for that day (just because). Kind of a humorous thought on your honeymoon, right?! We definitely survived and even discovered our own version of how we enjoy to travel (as a couple) vs visiting my family (that is mostly out of town) or traveling w/ our kiddos. I laugh as sometimes when we wake up on a normal day we look at one another and say, "so, whatcha want to do today?" And we then rattle off our imaginary list (slightly different from the current day ahead, ha). A quick "high five," a mutual wink and a shared laugh together and then we begin our usual day. And that so called usual day ain't so bad!

PFC and I think we have finally perfected our Milwaukee weekend - w/ just the right balance of what I deem "anchors" (solidified items on our itinerary). Anyone that knows me (even just a wee bit) knows that I'm a bit of a calendar and details wh*re. Call it what you may - but calendars, details and research soothe me. They are my zen. So, for me personally, driving up to Milwaukee and having dinner reservations secured for both Friday and Saturday nights "anchored" me so to speak. I was zen. And then the rest of the weekend unfolded organically - which I so love. I love when one thing leads to another and then to another. For instance, we had this lovely conversation w/ a couple next to us at the counter of the Cafe at The Plaza Saturday morning. The couple also happens to live in a western suburb of Chicago and in true small world fashion we knew several people in common. We chatted and laughed w/ them as they were a window to our future. Most of their children have been launched so to speak and they were visiting their youngest son at Marquette. They too shared our affection and love for Milwaukee. One sentiment really struck a chord w/ me during our conversation w/ them = "We truly put our time and energy in when the kids were little and now have the time to enjoy things on a different timeline." We laughed as that timeline didn't involve 5 or 10 minute increments that parents w/ young children know so well. And that same sentiment led me to revisit an article entitled, The Last Time. The article reminded me to really hold on to some of those moments that I sometimes now take for granted w/ the kids.

Okay, so here are some of our faves from Milwaukee:
  • Iron Horse Hotel = LOVE the story. Love the design and decor. Appreciate the history. They honestly had me at hello upon arrival. I even love the fact that the owner Tim Dixon is a carpenter by trade as it is quite evident in all of the details of the hotel. Here is a little chat w/ Mr. Dixon. We have stopped by the IH a few times during past visits to check out The Yard or Smythe but this was our first time staying overnight. One of my fave times during the weekend stay at IH was enjoying a leisurely breakfast in The Library at one of the communal tables and then retiring to The Lobby (to relish in our last few hours before saying goodbye to Milwaukee). Oh, and lastly and quite frankly very important and key to me = the concierge Kathryn. She set the tone for our trip. I love that. She was super fun to chat w/ about Milwaukee and scored us a res at the always packed restaurant Odd Duck
  • Odd Duck = LOVE LOVE LOVED it. I'm a total atmosphere person and can sometimes get beyond not so great food when you are w/ fabulous company and in a spot that has just the right vibe. Odd Duck not only has an amazing vibe and feel to it the food was AMAZING. Enjoyed many small plates w/ PFC. Think Avec-esque (if thinking in Chicago terms). Speaking of Avec, I need me some Avec soonish. Oh, and the absolutely adorable co-owner and consummate hostess) Melissa was a doll and super helpful w/ suggesting some of her fave breakfast/brunch spots for us to try the next morning. And lastly, I was totally digging her turquoise tights. She had that vintage/bohemian/funky yet totally pulled together at the same time "look" that I so love. Kudos to both Melissa and her partner as they are getting rave reviews. And a special shout out to my HS friend who suggested we check it out!
  • After a lovely dinner at Odd Duck we stopped by Bryant's Cocktail Lounge. In some bizarrely similar way it reminded me a striped down, time warp / vintage cocktail bar version of The Aviary (minus Aviary's sexy decor and high prices). The bartenders at Bryant's are what we now have come to call mixologists. Here is a bit of history. PFC remembers being there back in his Marquette days but it was fun for him to head back there. They don't have a drink menu per se and you just tell the cocktail waitress (doesn't that in and of itself speak old school right there?!) what you fancy and she asks you a few questions and bingo - your drink arrives shortly thereafter. It is one of those spots you would drive by and wonder what is up w/ the random white house. Random, yes. But oh no, head inside and you'll see for yourself. Even Esquire mag's 2012 Best Bars of America list digs it! 
  • We had a great time at The Cafe at The Plaza. Melissa from the Odd Duck mentioned The Cafe as a great spot to have breakfast. We LOVED it. Think old school and cool 1920's era Art Deco decor yet with a very modern breakfast menu of fresh ingredients. And of course, they had me at "we serve Alterra coffee." I had one of the most unique breakfast items I've ever had = Sherried Black Truffle Eggs. They were FAB. Excellent menu. I still dream about my eggs. We chose to sit at the counter which was perfect. The newspaper was spread out between us (when does that ever happen?) and truly took in the leisurely pace of our morning. It was fun chatting w/ our waiter and then as we were leaving we starting talking w/ a couple that had just sat down next to us. Well, an hour later we were laughing and running through our Milwaukee faves and talking about life, kids and the pursuit of happiness. I was admiring the earrings of the lady we were chatting w/ and that led us to check out Lela Boutique (just outside of the Public Market in the Historic Third Ward). The owner of the boutique was expecting us as the couple we had spoken to at The Cafe gave her a heads up that we might be popping in. Love that kind of stuff! 
  • During past trips I've always wanted to check out the Milwaukee Public Market. This time we did and I think from now on we'll add it to our list of places to stop by. We enjoyed strolling (yes, I did say strolling and not RACING) through the market and checking out all of the great independent food merchants (many of whom have Wisconsin roots). LOVE that. I did buy a great hand knit one of a kind scarf that reminds me of our weekend = cozy. 
  • And last but not least we ALWAYS head to 5 O'Clock Steakhouse (formerly Coerper's) for dinner when in town. How can you not?! I mean once you dine at a place that has carpet on the walls you cannot NOT go back. Come on now?! Talk about time warp. Even Rachel Ray loves it! This was the restaurant that kicked off our now yearly tradition.
And here are a couple of places that I've added to our next weekend in Milwaukee. See you next February, Milwaukee!
And cheers to those of you who are looking forward to a long weekend. We certainly are taking advantage of the extra day off and heading up to Lake Geneva to what has now become an annual ski/waterpark weekend w/ some of our favorite local family friends.

1 comment:

Dory O'Brien said...

I love this post, Dee Dee! I think Joe and I may have to make a trip to Milwaukee a yearly tradition as well! Last May I bought Joe tickets to see Social Distortion in Milwaukee for his bday and we loved it! We went to a wine / beer / cheese bar (don't remember the name) that was so cute. We also dined at 5 O'Clock too and thought that was so much fun! Thanks for sharing!

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