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Celebration (part 1)

11 Jun

Christopher and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary Sunday.

First, let me tell you that it has been an incredible year. We’ve  had our ups and downs. We’ve shared lots of laughs and some tears. We’ve fallen deeper in love.

And now, let me show you how we celebrated one year of wedded bliss.

We spent the weekend in Milwaukee!



We started at the Milwaukee Art Museum—just in time to watch the daily closing and opening of the the Burke Brise Soleil, a moveable sunscreen with a 217-foot wingspan that is both art and a city icon.

Art museum collage

We perused the special exhibition, “Posters of Paris,” which features dozens of the ubiquitous posters of the late 19th century that advertised everything from theatre productions to bicycles. We really enjoyed learning the origins of these famous posters and dissecting the distinct styles of each poster artist. We wandered through the expressionist, impressionist and modern art exhibitions, too.



We got lunch at Apollo Café on Brady Street and ate outside to soak in the sunshine and people watch in the ultra-hip, über-eclectic neighborhood.

Christopher ordered the pastitsio, or Greek lasagna, which came with a side of spinach-tomato rice, and I ordered the falafel, which came with a Greek salad and pita bread.

Apollo Cafe collage

Apollo Café is a local favorite for its authentic Greek food and chic location. The restaurant offers big portions for reasonable prices. We both devoured our dishes; everything tasted homemade and cooked with love and care.

We then got frozen yogurt—our first-ever foray into the super trendy world of self-serve dairy delights—at the brand new Yo Factory on Farwell Avenue, near the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus. The shop was having its grand opening, and people who claimed an offer on Facebook got buy-one-get-one free froyo.

I got Dutch chocolate and cake batter froyo and topped it with dark chocolate sauce, peanuts, Heath bar pieces and mochi. Christopher got Dutch chocolate and mint froyo and topped it with dark chocolate sauce, chocolate-covered chocolate (Seriously…we think…) and Oreo pieces.

Froyo collage

Yo Factory was packed, in part because of the grand opening and in part because a local radio station was there for the festivities. The line was long and the shop was congested, but the staff were really friendly. The cashier weighed our yogurt and told us, because we had the Facebook offer, we could take either one off; I took the heavier one off, naturally. We both really enjoyed our dishes, although we also were really full after the last bite; the yogurt was tasty and refreshing, and the toppings were plentiful.

We headed out to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza, in Wauwatosa to check in, cool off in the pool and get ready for the night.

We then went to dinner at Balzac on Brady Street, right around the corner from where we had lunch.



We started with a couple cocktails—Christopher got the Arlington, Few whiskey and Sauci dessert wine served on the rocks with ginger beer and an orange twist, and I got the Zen Sangria, Wollersheim Winery Prairie Fume, Stirrings pomegranate liqueur, green tea vodka, pear purée and apricot nectar.

We decided to get the most out of our experience and share four small plates:

a twist on a classic; savory-sweet caramelized tomatoes and onions on a shortbread crust; served with fresh ricotta cheese and mixed greens

a French-fried blend of traditional white potatoes and sweet potatoes; served with chipotle aioli and jalapeno ketchup

eight plump chicken wings cooked in this classic French style with bacon and crisped on the grill

white tortilla chips topped with roasted duck, bacon, gruyere cheese blend, scallion crème fraîche and pico de gallo

Balzac collage

Balzac is another local gem known for its extensive wine list and one-of-a-kind small plates served in a casual, yet elegant atmosphere. The restaurant offers unique takes on typical bar food, and the small-plate concept allows diners to try a variety of items. We cleaned our plates! We especially loved the chicken wings—the meat literally fell off the bone—and the duck nachos; we also liked the jalapeno ketchup and chipotle aioli that came with the fries.

We were all dressed up (and sadly forgot to get a picture of the two of us) and went to Hot Water, a dance club in the Fifth Ward, just south of downtown. It was salsa night, so an instructor offered a brief salsa lesson and then the DJ spun Latin music. We arrived in time for most of the lesson and danced a few songs; we didn’t stay too long, though, because neither of us is very confident in our salsa skills, and we felt out of place.

We opted to go to At Random in Bay View—the place we celebrated our first dating anniversary three and a half years ago—for nightcaps.


At Random is a special place; it’s unlike any other bar. Dim lights, crooner music and cozy booths create a romantic atmosphere. Specialty drinks and ice-cream drinks are the only libations on the menu.

Christopher ordered an ice-cream drink with blue Curacao and crème de cacao, and I ordered one with amaretto and crème de cacao. We toasted to one year of marriage, stared lovingly into one another’s eyes and slurped down our dessert drinks.

We called it a night and headed back to the hotel; we were stuffed and exhausted and needed to rest up for another day of fun in the city.


Deutsche Fest

1 Aug

Milwaukee has a lot of nicknames, its most famous, “Brew City,” and its less dubious “City of Festivals.” I used to go to so many of the ethnic festivals held either downtown or down by the lake: Polish Fest, Bastille Days, Irish Fest, Festa Italiana, Indian Summer. I always loved and looked forward to German Fest the most.

Christopher and I were fortunate enough to be in town German Fest this past weekend. We roped my dad into going, too, and the three of us attended the German-centered Mass, complete with German hymns, German readings and German prayers (and the archbishop celebrating) and got into the festival for free.


We started the day like any three good German people would should: beer!

DSCN2297(A delicious weiss beer from the Water Street Brewery) 

We walked the festival grounds in search of food and settled on a sampler platter from Mader’s, the biggest and most well-known German restaurant in Milwaukee.

DSCN2300(A platter of knackwurst, bratwurst, sauerkraut, kasseler rippchen (smoked pork chop) and parsley red potatoes) 

We walked the grounds some more, watched a German dance group, watched the pigs roast and had another beer.


DSCN2303(A Summer Shandy from Leinenkugel’s) 


We walked the grounds a bit more, stopped for dessert, grabbed a pork schnitzel sandwich and had another beer (and a shot of Bärenjäger if you’re a man).

DSCN2305 (A slice of opera (mocha) torte)


We made our way toward the highlight of the festival: the glockenspiel, a live reenactment of a traditional German coo-coo clock in which five old guys dressed in lederhosen act out (and dance) a short skit to a song played on an accordion. It’s usually pretty comical.


(I found a video of the glockenspiel from 2011, and I believe it to be the same act we watched. Check it out here.)

We wandered just a bit more, and I had a hankering for potato pancakes, so I caved and got them—with applesauce. I even ran into an old friend from my freshman year of college while I was in line.


We had a lovely time, but then again, I always feel so happy when I’m back in Milwaukee doing some of the things that marked my formative years.

What marks summer in your city?