Pork Roast? For Thanksgiving?

Reprieved.

Yes I heard that a lot. Pork Roast? Whose idea was that? Some people I told responded as if it was heresy.

Well, it was Curt’s idea. He decided to go rogue this year. It began when he asked me if my mother would mind if we didn’t have turkey. She is 92 and can be set in her ways on what she likes to eat. I said, “I’ll ask her.” Her response was simple, “As long as you have dressing and mashed potatoes and gravy I don’t care what you have.” Then she amended that and said, “No ham!” So, except for the protein, everything else was pretty much familiar turkey day fare. We had the mashed potatoes and gravy, the dressing (a new recipe with butternut squash and apples), brussels sprouts w/ maple syrup and bacon, cranberry relish, and a pumpkin dessert with pecan crust topping (courtesy of the another invited guest). There were just four of us at the feast.

Why the change? Well Curt always does the meat and he was just tired of doing turkey. Not that we eat turkey more than once or twice a year but he just wanted to change things up. I only remember one time in our 40 some Thanksgivings that we didn’t have turkey and that was a duck.

The recipe Curt chose was for Pernil, a Puerto Rican preparation most often served at celebrations and festivals. I’ll let him tell you how it was prepared.

Curt. This recipe is a mash-up of several I found on the interweb, hewing most closely to one by Mark Bittman, published in the NY Times.

Pernil

1 pork shoulder, 4 – 5 pounds, boneless
4 or more large cloves of garlic, peeled
1 medium onion, quartered
1 Tbs. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. Ancho chili powder
1 Tbs. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 pkt. Sazon seasoning
1 tsp. achiote, ground (optional)
1 Tbs. piloncillo or dark brown sugar
Juice of 2 oranges
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbs. parsley
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (optional)

Puree everything, except the pork, in a blender, until smooth.

Blended marinade

Pierce the pork all over with a small paring knife or carving fork to encourage penetration of the marinade.  Put the pork in a large zipper bag and pour the puree over the pork.  Squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can and place the bag in a pan or bowl large enough for the pork to lie flat.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours up to 24 hours.  Turn the bag over periodically to encourage even marination. ( I ran out to the garage every two hours until bedtime to turn it. It was below freezing here in Wisconsin so the garage served as a proper cooler).To roast, Preheat your oven to 300˚ degrees.  Remove the pork from the bag and shake off as much puree as will easily come off.  Put the pork in a roasting pan, fatty side up.  Place a piece of parchment paper over the meat and then a piece of aluminum foil over the parchment.  Seal the foil tightly around the edges of the roaster.  Roast the meat at 300˚ for 1 hour.  Lower the temperature in the oven to 275˚ and continue roasting for 2 more hours.  Raise the oven temperature to 375˚ and roast an additional 30 minutes or until the meat is nicely browned.  Rest the meat for 15 minutes before slicing.  Bittman says the meat will be so tender that slicing it will be nearly impossible so, as he says, just whack it up into chunks and serve without apology. Ours sliced pretty well.

Sliced

Jeanne here again. It was pretty tasty and it went remarkably well with dressing and cranberry sauce. What is different is what you do with the leftovers. Two nights later we had a wonderful spicy pork chili. And there is still plenty left for tacos, hash or maybe pork fried rice.

Pork chili with corn and black beans

Bon Appetit!

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Another Turn of the Page: Into the Winter Reading Season

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
Edith Sitwell

Isn’t November 1st the official beginning of the Winter Reading Season? Here in Wisconsin we went off Daylight Savings Time on November 4, so it gets dark early. Our library had their huge book sale Nov 5 – 10, so I’m all stocked up on books. I’ve dug out my sweaters, sweatshirts and big thick socks so when I curl up with a book I will be warm and cozy. And I’m retired so the only place I have to be is home. Sounds like Winter Reading Season to me, sounds like Heaven. My pile of books includes, The Library Book by Susan Orlean, Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness, North on the Wing by Bruce Beehler and one from this month’s list, Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. What’s on your list? How about some of these?1. Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore (2017) 374 pages. Milo has lived 9,995 lives and is still trying to achieve what is known as Perfection. With each new life Milo is sure that this time he will finally figure out the secret yet he inevitably messes it up again and again. He realizes this has to change when he is informed that every soul has in fact only 10,000 lives to get it right or it will be erased.

2. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver (2018) 480 pages. Kingsolver puts environmental issues at the heart of this book, but takes a different angle from her previous novel, Flight Behavior. The novel has two storylines woven together in alternating chapters that switch  between the years 1871 and 2016. Both stories are set within the same house in the community of Vineland. We follow the people who inhabit this plot of land in different centuries as they struggle with financial worries, reactionary politics and fractious family life.

3. Red Alert, (NYPD Red series #5) by James Patterson and Marshall Karp (2018) 338 pages. NYPD Red is an elite, investigative task force called in only for New York City’s most high-profile crimes. This is the fifth in the series featuring Detective Zach Gordon and his partner, Kylie MacDonald. You need to read these in order. The first is called NYPD Red.

4. Vox by Christina Dalcher (2018) 326 pages. One day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words daily. Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. This is a 2018 version of The Handmaid’s Tale. No, it can’t happen here, or can it?

5. The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother by James McBride (1996) 291 pages. Who is Ruth McBride Jordan? She is, from all outside appearances, a self-declared “light-skinned” woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her twelve black children. James McBride, journalist, musician and son, explores his mother’s past, as well as his own upbringing and heritage.

6. Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard (2017) 348 pages. British comedian and actor Eddie Izzard details his childhood, his first performances on the streets of London and his ascent to worldwide success on stage and screen.

7. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb (1992) 465 pages. This novel is the story of a troubled teenage girl growing into a woman. It chronicles her struggles with her weight, her parents, her friends, and the ways in which she decides to cope with them.

8. The Poet by Michael Connelly (1996) 434 pages. Jack McEvoy is a newspaper reporter in Denver. When his twin brother, Sean, a homicide detective, is found dead in his car by what’s ruled a self-inflicted gunshot, Jack decides he wants to write his story. But, the more he probes, his suspicions grow that it possibly might be murder.

9. Winter Sea by Susannah Kearsley (2008) 527 pages. Carrie, a historical fiction writer, wants to tell the story of James Stewart, his Jacobite supporters and the Uprising of 1708. She’s been attempting to write in France at the palace of St. Germain where Stewart lived in exile, but finds no inspiration there. On a chance visit to her agent in Scotland, she stumbles upon Slains Castle, and hears the voices of her characters finally come to life.

10. We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (2017) 416 pages. Set in Radom, Poland in 1939, this is the story of a Jewish family, The Kurcs.  We follow the parents and their five children through the years just prior to, and during World War ll, one of them sent to Siberia, and others fleeing to different locations in Europe. Though fiction, this is based on the author’s real family.

11. Lethal White, Cormoran Strike #4 by Robert Galbraith (pseud. J.K. Rowling) (2018) 656 pages. There is a lot going on in this one. Two main cases, some side cases and many characters to keep track of. While the mysteries eventually come together sometimes I needed a scorecard to keep track. But the best part was there was finally some forward movement with Comoran and Robin’s relationship. It remains to be seen how things will progress.

 

 

More Eating in Berlin

My continuing tale of food. It’s a good thing we walked alot.

The rest of the week in Berlin was a flurry of lunches, dinners and simple breakfasts. The best morning coffee and pastry was at Zeit für Brot. This bakery, with great coffee and seating, was a half a block away. If you didn’t get there early you had to join the line that snaked out the door and into the street. This was true on the Sunday we were there.

Pastry counter at Zeit fur Brot

For our other meals we did very little planning. The only time we ever made a reservation was on our last night together. For lunches, we just looked around at what was available in the area. There was never a lack of choices. The only time we were restricted to one choice was the day we did a day trip to Potsdam. Potsdam is the home of the Sanssouci, which was the summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia.

part of Sanssouci Palace

The closest eatery was a short walk from the palace. Our other choice was to get the bus and go back into Potsdam but this place looked very promising. It was The Drachenhaus (Dragon House). There are a total of 16 dragons on the corners of the roofs.It was built by King Frederick the Great of Prussia in 1772 for the winegrowers of the area to inhabit but they never did. Since 1934 it has served as a restaurant. Beautiful dining rooms inside and wonderful outdoor terraces. Since it was sunny and in the 70’s we chose al fresco.The service proved to be very slow but the weather was beautiful and we really didn’t need to be anywhere so if they didn’t want to turn the table we were fine. For an out-of-the-way place the food was fresh and beautiful. Everything came with baguettes but curiously no butter unless you asked. We found that true in all of the restaurants in Berlin. On the right below was my lunch. This was Roasted Chicken Breast, Pickled Vegetables, Mango Chutney and a Salad Bouquet. Yes, there were flowers in the salad. Curt had Seawater King Prawns in Herbal Sauce, Salad and three dips: mango chili, aioli horseradish and sweet mustard. Both were excellent.Our friends had some wonderful dishes as well with equally long names. On the left Kenn had Euro Prussian Soup with Marinated Leeks. His salad was described as Salad Leaves of the Season with Lots of Healthy Stuff (That’s the German translation). As close as I can tell the other dish was Chicken with White Wine Risotto & Caponata.

Once we were back in our neighborhood, we stopped for coffee. We did this often after a long day. Here is one such stop. I must say, the Germans do coffee quite well. But sometimes instead of coffee we would stop for a beer, the Germans do beer equally well.We wanted to make our final dinner in Berlin special and through an accidental circumstance it was. The night before we decided to go to Gugelhof. This is a restaurant made popular in 2000 when President Bill Clinton and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had dinner there together. Once we arrived we were told they only took reservations, no walk-ins. So we reserved our table for Sunday evening, our last time together in Berlin. When we arrived the following evening we had the choice of outdoor or indoor dining. The weather was mild but the inside had a warm glow and a cozy atmosphere so inside we went. Our waiter was a wonderful young man who knew a lot about the wine choices and answered all our questions about the food. Gugelhof features Alsatian and Southern German dishes. The lighting in the restaurant was low so I apologize for my rosy photographs. We began with appetizers. Below, Curt’s Creme Brulee of Duck Liver and my Alsatian Onion Soup w/ a Cheese Crouton. Similar choices for others except Michael had the Escargot.For our mains we chose Rosti dishes which when described we realized were potato pancakes. Mine was Rosti with a Veal Ragout in Zurich Style Cream. I really don’t know what that means but it was very good. Curt had Rosti au Gratin (Raclette cheese which is Swiss-like), Black Forest Ham and Salad. We knew Kenn (Mr. Duck Tongues and Chicken Feet) was going to have the pig knuckle and we were right, Crispy Knuckle of Suckling Pig in Black Beer Sauce w/ Sauerkraut Dumplings. Pam was hoping for the Beef Burgundy ( which they were out of!) but went with the Coq au Vin. The pork was a success but the chicken was not as flavorful as she had hoped.But taken all together it was a wonderful. A fitting meal for the old “Gourmet group.” Now here is the kicker to this story. When they brought the bill Pam inquired if she could purchase a tureen like the one her Coq au Vin came in (It also had a lid). Yes, was the answer, 20 Euros. Such a deal and what a great souvenir! Her carry-on just became a lot heavier.

Guten Appetit!

Eating Asian in Berlin

If you are new to this blog you will soon find out that we are “foodies”. My husband especially loves to cook and experiment with recipes. We enjoy eating out and we were part of a long-standing “Gourmet” (too pretentious), rather “Foodie” Group. This group goes back 30 years. We had a bit of an intermission when one couple moved to Bellingham, Washington but we all kept cooking and enjoying food with other friends. However this month the stars aligned and the original eaters got together in, wait for it….Berlin, Germany. There we spent a week of being tourists: walking, laughing, discussing and EATING! This will be the first of two posts about our restaurant adventures in Berlin.

While in Berlin we stayed at Flower’s Boardinghouse in the Mitte section of Berlin. This area is the most central borough of Berlin and comprises former West and East Berlin districts. It is the historic core. It seems to be an up and coming area with lots of young people moving in and…a lot of restaurants. Most notably in our area, a lot of Asian restaurants. In just a 5 block area I counted eight so how could we not enjoy the local cuisine.

Our first night we all decided to just go a half a block from our apartment to Monsieur Vuong. Beautiful, warm, great colors and gorgeous Japanese Maples around the outdoor seating area. We fortunately were seated right away since we were a party of six and the parties ahead of us were all twos. At that moment they only had a large table open.

Monsieur Vuong

Once seated our waitress came right up with menus. We put in our drink order and started to check out the dishes. The group started out with two orders each of Satay and Crispy Spring Rolls for our appetizers. We also ordered the appetizer special which was an eggplant dish.

Monsiuer Vuong prides itself with changing up its menu nightly so I can’t promise that anything we had would be on the menu next week. But what we had was good. They was lots of Pho and some great looking salads for the mains.

Beef Pho, Chicken and Vegetables, Won-Ton Pho

I had the Won-Ton Pho and it was excellent. One of our party had the vegetable and chicken dish. Very fresh and very good was the verdict. If we had more time in Berlin we would have returned to Monsiuer Vuong but we had too many other places to try.

For breakfasts we were pretty much on our own. Some mornings we just grabbed coffee and a croissant in the lobby of the boardinghouse. One morning Curt and I went across the street to Qua Phe for breakfast. This Vietnamese restaurant had a nice selection of Bao. Bao are steamed buns that usually have some sort of filling. I chose a bao studded with chocolate bits but Curt went savory for his and had a Bao with shredded pork and vegetables. Add Vietnamese coffee and a latte and we were happy.

Chocolate Bao, Coffees, Shredded Pork Bao

Our final Asian restaurant was also Vietnamese. This was District Mot: Saigon Street Food. The restaurant is literally out in the street. They set up tents, picnic tables, run electrical cords everywhere for the lighting  and heaters and there you are. If you have to go to the bathroom the actual storefront is across the road. In there was a table or two, a cash register, a kitchen and a long dark staircase down to the bathrooms.

District Mot

Billed as Saigon Street Food this place had a lot of dishes, many quite unusual. My husband is a very adventurous eater and Kenn, one of our friends, is also; so the two of them had a great time ordering Duck tongues and Chicken feet.

Yum, duck tongues!

The rest of us ordered baos, spring rolls and chicken legs. These all were very much like tapas, a lot of dishes that we shared around the table. The guys pretty much had the feet and tongues to themselves.

From upper left clockwise: Sweet & Spicy Squid, Green Mango Salad w/ Rice Crisps, BBQ Chicken legs, Chicken Feet.

We asked the waiter if Chicken Feet got ordered very much, maybe twice a week…mostly tourists (mostly crazy tourists as far as I’m concerned). All in all, the food was fun, the beer was good and the company great. Let me leave you with Curt “enjoying” chicken feet. He said they were a bit tough.

Berlin’s Spirits

We were in Berlin, Germany last week. We joined two other couples, members of our original Foodie group. We ate very well in Berlin, some meals memorable for a lot of reasons, but that is for a later post. The last night together Michael, who has spent a lot of time in Berlin, asked us what our expectations were and if they had changed once we toured the city. At the time I didn’t really have an answer. I of course knew of Germany’s history and what role Berlin played but I usually embark on trips to other countries and cities with an open mind. That has served me well as I am usually pleasantly surprised by the people and culture I have encountered.

That night I couldn’t answer Michael’s question but yesterday I started going through the photographs of the places we visited and the city we walked and I realized I do have an answer. Before arriving I didn’t realize how strongly history permeates the city. And it is a sad history that the people of Berlin acknowledge and seem determined to learn from.

My first encounters were with miniature memorials literally in the sidewalks. These are small, square brass bricks, each one inscribed with the name — and details about the death of — people who once lived in the apartment houses. Sometimes those apartments don’t even exist anymore, they are bakeries or clothing stores or restaurants but the plaques remind us of what was there and what occurred. The very shiny ones are in high traffic areas.

plaques2

Deportiert = deportation, Ermordet = murdered, Interniert = interned

On one of our days we visited the Berlin Wall Memorial. It is located in the middle of the capital, situated at the historic site on Bernauer Strasse. It extends along 1.4 kilometers of the former border strip. The memorial contains the last piece of Berlin Wall with the preserved grounds behind it. Extending from this pieces are steel bars to indicate where the actual wall was  and how it divided the city. On the grounds is an interactive exhibit containing information on how the wall came to be, how it was built and maintained, and a memorial to the over 80 people who died trying to escape from East Berlin. Even subway stations that were located in the East along the line of the wall were closed and guarded by armed soldiers. Trains passing through these areas slowed down but never stopped. Today when you go into these stations there is documentation on the walls about these “ghost stations.”wall area

Even the buildings in the area become part of the exhibit with huge photographs on their walls depicting scenes from the year the wall went up (construction started in August 1961).buldings

And there are plaques under your feet. These mark escapes (flucht). These two are escape with a car and escape by two persons.markers

The final area I want to note is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial. It consists of 2,711 columns that form a vast maze-like area. It is situated on an uneven base so as you walk through sometimes the blocks are above your head and sometimes you can peer over the blocks. I found its minimalism very moving, much like the Vietnam Wall.

So yes, I did leave Berlin with a stronger knowledge of it’s history and a respect for the people who won’t let the past go unnoticed.

Another Turn of the Page: Fall Into Books

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”
Lauren DeStefano, Wither

 stack-of-books

I have to quick put this post together before another Book Group meeting happens and then I will be two behind. I won’t be able to attend the next meeting as I will be traveling to Berlin, Germany but the group is keeping a list and will expect a posting once I return. September was packed we had some “vintage” authors ( Joseph Heller and Patrick McManus) some tried and true writers (Shreve, Flagg and Grisham) and some interesting non-fiction ( David Grann, Robert Fieseler). Yes, the usual eclectic mix. The next few months will be full of new reading before we lose a bunch of members to the siren song of warmer climates. But the reading never stops. So when I return…if I do…(frankly I wonder if a week will be enough to clear my head of the craziness we call our government)…I will have food stories and a new pile of books.

Sept2018

1.The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve (1997) 256 pages. A newspaper photographer, Jean, researches the lurid and sensational ax murder of two women in 1873 as an editorial tie-in with a brutal modern double murder.

2. The Gray Ghost by Clive Cussler & Robin Burcell , Fargo Adventures #10, (2018) 400 pages. In 1906, a groundbreaking Rolls-Royce prototype known as the Gray Ghost vanishes from the streets of Manchester, England, and it is only the lucky intervention of an American detective named Isaac Bell that prevents it from being lost forever.

3. Something Happened by Joseph Heller (1974) 569 pages. This is Joseph Heller’s first book after CATCH-22, it explores one man’s view of what has happened to the American dream.

4. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (2017) 309 pages. A novel about Christina Olson who later becomes the inspiration for Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World”.

5. Visionary Women: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall and Alice Waters Change Our World by Andrea Barnet (2018) 528 pages. This is the story of four visionaries who profoundly shaped the world we live in today.

6. Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship and Hope in an American Classroom by Helen Thorpe (2017) 416 pages. This book follows the lives of twenty-two immigrant teenagers throughout the course of the 2015-2016 school year at South High School in Denver, Colorado,

7. Sycamore Row by John Grisham (2013) 447 pages. Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten will in which he leaves his entire fortune to his Black maid.

8. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (2017) 338 pages. About corruption in Oklahoma and the start of the FBI, focusing on their first really big case involving the serial killings of Osage Indians in the 1920s. A true story of greed and murder.

9. All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg (2013) 347 pages. Wisconsin, 1941. With all the men off to war, Fritzi and her sisters must learn to run a gas station, from fixing flats to driving the tow truck. They add their own touches, too: neat little caps, short skirts and roller skates, and the All-Girl Filling Station is born. But soon skilled women are needed to fly planes for the war effort.

10. Ten Years Gone by Jonathon Dunsky (2017) 310 pages. Set in Israel, Adam Lapid, a Private Investigator, is drawn into a story which revolves around finding a missing child that was “given away” by his mother during the Holocaust, in order to spare his life. Now, ten years later, the biological mother has hired Lapid to find her son.

11. The President is Missing by Bill Clinton, James Patterson (2018) 513 pages. James Patterson has entered into his most interesting collaboration yet, taking second chair to former American president Bill Clinton in a story that is highly political and action packed from the opening paragraph through to the epilogue’s lingering final sentence. -Goodreads

12. Rubber Legs and White Tale-Hairs by Patrick F. McManus (1987) 198 pages. McManus  is the author of novels, plays, and more than a dozen collections of his humor columns from Outdoor Life and other magazines. This is one of those collections featuring some interesting characters and situations.

13. Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna (2018) 304 pages. When two young sisters disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated mother hires  Alice Vega, a tough bounty hunter whose specialty is finding missing children. She teams up with former cop turned private detective, Max Caplan.

14. Tinderbox: The Untold Story of Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler (2018) 384 pages. The author chronicles the tragic event that claimed the lives of thirty-one men and one woman on June 24, 1973, at a New Orleans bar, the largest mass murder of gays until 2016.

 

Not Untouchable

Here in 2018 if I want to buy a book it is pretty much a no-brainer. I just go to Amazon. I look for my book, The Untouchables by Eliot Ness with Oscar Fraley published in 1957. The original hardcover isn’t available but there are paperbacks, 21 used copies starting at $12.99, 5 new copies from $59.94 and 1 collectible at $148.99. All I have to do is click on my choice and in about 2-5 days it is sitting on my doorstep.

But in 1972 it was very different. First of all the internet did not exist. If you wanted a book you tried your local used bookstore, if you had one. If they didn’t have your book, they could give you the name of other used bookstores that you could call. Or you probably could check the telephone directory for used bookstores. So you placed some calls and when you found a store that had your book you placed the order and then you waited.

The latter is what my mother had to do 46 years ago to get the book, The Untouchables. Here is the card the bookseller wrote out with her order. Note this was a first edition, hardcover for $4.50 including shipping. Ah, those were the days.

I don’t know how long my mother waited for her book but one day this card arrived. And here is the back of that card.I love that she has kept this card after all these years and I got a good laugh that The Untouchables was certainly touched and lifted. We can only guess the bookseller had assured her he had it before checking his shelves. After finding this card my mother still expressed an interest in reading it so I told her to interloan it through her library (not a common practice back in the 70’s).

As an aside, I checked to see if the Edgewater Book Store was still there. Nope. That address is now the home of Glamour Nails: Complete Nails Done by Professional Manicurist.

Vintage Wisconsin Dining – The Supper Club

Lately I have read a few recent articles on Supper Clubs. They are an institution in the Midwest. But this got me thinking that it might be a fun and interesting evening to go to dinner at one of the many supper clubs in the area. More on that later.

First, for the uninitiated, what the heck is a Supper Club? Well, if you don’t live in the Midwest, you might just think it is just a restaurant, which it is, but it has some peculiarities that make it different.  Basically in the U.S., a supper club is a dining establishment generally found in the Upper Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Iowa. It’s not a club and there are no dues. The odd fact is the first supper club opened in Beverly Hills, CA but by a Milwaukee, Wisconsin native so it maintains its Midwestern roots. Since I am in Wisconsin, what little I know will refer to my state. These establishments typically are located on the edge of town in rural areas. They are only open for dinner and they are independently owned so you won’t find Schwarz’s Supper Club in 6 cities in the state, you’ll only find it in St. Anna, WI, an unincorporated community near New Holstein, WI. The menu in supper clubs is fairly limited to steak, chicken and fish, with variations on all three. There is always a bar and the drink of choice is the brandy old-fashioned.*

We recently talked to some friends who really like supper clubs and since Curt and I may have gone to one a long time ago, we were ready to go again, especially since we had seen those recent articles. Our friends suggested the above mentioned Schwarz’s and they told us to meet at their house by 4:30pm. It was about a 45 minute drive and we had to get there early or we wouldn’t be eating till very late. When we arrived the place was already humming.

 

The front door practically opened right at the bar which had lots of people around it already. Tom said this was a pretty light night so far for a Friday, usually by now it would be three deep by the bar. We all decided what we wanted to drink and the guys jostled their way forward and ordered. After a few minutes of standing with our drinks we lucked out and one of the “waiting” tables near the bar opened up. We sat and talked for awhile until we were able to snag a waitress who dropped off the menus. Before she escaped we put in an order for St. Anna’s Onion Rings. Getting these also took longer than I expected; the place was really filling up and getting crowded. But we had a seat and some drinks and had fun people watching. Somewhere in all of this the onions arrived.

Onion Rings

By now we had decided what we were going to eat so we stood one of our menus up on the table ( a supper club signal that we were ready to order.)  A waitress noticed and took our order, a name and off she went. I’m not a great judge of time but by the time we finished off the onions and had another round of drinks our name was called (40 minutes?) So off we went to the hostess station at the other end of the bar. We were assigned Table 9. Upon arriving the table was completely set. Our salads were there, the 3 bowl salad dressing server, rolls and the relish tray ( with little ears of corn!) The relish tray is another sign that you are in a supper club. I read that some SC’s are eliminating these because too many don’t get eaten and are wasted ( they are being replaced by salad bars) but we had one! Some “relish trays” also include a liver pate, cheese spread and crackers.

Salad with lots of goodies

Ranch, French and Blue Cheese dressings and THE Relish Tray

From here on it is all about the food and the conversation. Once our salads were done, the main dishes we ordered appeared. Curt went with walleye and I had the prime rib, petite cut. So glad I ordered just the petite because it was huge. It was also delicious.Our friends had duck and ribeye steak. The duck was on special because supper clubs are basically steak, chicken and fish. Three of us had broasted potatoes, I had baked but I noticed that Tom also got wild rice with his duck. Carbohydrates anyone? No side vegetable because you had your salad, what more do you need?

Half Roast Duck and Ribeye Steak

Needless to say we had no room for dessert. And except for Curt we all took food home that night. Bottomline, Supper Clubs are community gatherings even if the people come from all over the area. They are loud, they are crowded, they are a slice of Americana and they are great fun. Yes, everyone probably drinks more than they would normally, but the best part is you can forget the crazy world and crazy Washington and just enjoy yourself and have an evening with friends.

Table 9

*The brandy Old Fashioned is a solid Wisconsin drink. It has its origins from the Prohibition era, when people really couldn’t be too picky about their liquor choices. Some of the stuff being made wasn’t the best, so they started sugaring and adding soda and fruit to their cocktails. So that is kinda how the modern-day brandy Old Fashioned came to be. It’s got the sugar. It’s got the bitters. It’s got a cherry and an orange in it and the brandy and the soda.” –Holly De Ruyter, Old Fashioned: The Story of the Wisconsin Supper Club (documentary)

Another Turn of the Page: Books and now, Coffee

“I like my coffee with cream and my literature with optimism.”
Abigail Reynolds, Pemberley by the Sea

It has been a year since we moved our Whadda Ya Readin’? Book Group from The Attic Books and Coffee Shop. After a brief hiccup getting settled at the library, we have found a room with comfy seats that is quiet enough that we can hear everyone, even the people with soft voices. Our only regret at the time was, no readily available coffee. But a wonderful thing happened last month, a coffee shop opened its doors in the newly remodeled third floor of the library. This was an area that used to be offices but now has areas called Think Tanks that you can reserve AND it has The CURA Coffeehouse. So I think we may be complete now. Just before we meet, our members can zip up there, get their coffee or tea or hot chocolate, and be ready to join the group. Sweet. So go grab a cup and catch up on what we read this month.1. Fifty Fifty by James Patterson & Candice Fox (2017) 377 pages. #2 in the Detective Harriet Blue series. Sam Blue stands accused of the brutal murders of three young students, their bodies dumped near the Georges River. Only one person believes he is innocent: his sister, Detective Harriet Blue.

2. Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases and Finding Redemption by Shon Hopwood (2012) 320 pages. This is an improbable-but-true-memoir — the story of a young bank robber who became the greatest jailhouse lawyer in American history.

3. How to Make a Life: A Tibetan Refugee Family and the Midwestern Woman They Adopted by Madeline Uraneck (2018) 208 pages. A wonderful blend of personal stories of both the author and the Tibetan refugee members she writes about. Mixed in is background on the early conditions in Tibet that forced their migration across the Himalayas, their experiences in refugee camps, and their final arrival in America and Madison, Wisconsin.

4. We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (2017) 416 pages. This novel is based on the true story of a Polish Jewish family under Nazi occupation.

5. Love and Ruin by Paula McLain (2018) 389 pages. This novel chronicles the relationship between Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, a fiercely independent, ambitious young woman who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century.

6. The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton (2018) 272 pages. When he was 29, Anthony Ray Hinton was convicted of a murder he did not commit and was sentenced to Death Row in Alabama. It took thirty years before he was able to convince the US Supreme Court that his first trial was unfair and hadn’t allowed him to present clearly exculpatory evidence.

7. Miss Subways by David Duchovny (2018) 309 pages. Miss Subways is inspired by the Irish mythology of Cuchulain, a warrior who has the love of all women, but none of them is good enough for him, intellectually. Until, Emer. A darkly, funny novel that our reviewer loved. Don’t be put off that it is written by David Duchovny, he is a surprisingly good writer.

8. Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan (2017) 513 pages. This novel is based on a real life Italian teenager, who, in 1943 began guiding Jews over the mountain passes to Switzerland.

9. Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna (2018) 311 pages. When two young sisters disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated mother hires  Alice Vega, a tough bounty hunter whose specialty is finding missing children. She teams up with former cop turned private detective, Max Caplan. A really good thriller. I hope we see more of Alice and Max.

10. Intrepid’s Last Case: The Super Spy who Helped Take Down the Nazis by William Stevenson (2002) 352 pages. This book chronicles the post-World War II activities of Sir William Stephenson, whose role in helping to defeat the Nazis was the subject of the worldwide best-seller A Man Called Intrepid.

11. Robin by Dave Itzkoff (2018) 544 pages. You will have to decide if it is still too early to read about Robin William’s life but when you are ready this bittersweet biography portrays  him, not as a tormented soul who ends his own life, but more as a tender man desperate for talent validation.

12.  Never Go Back by Lee Child (2013) 400 pages. Jack Reacher #18.  While traveling through South Dakota in the last book ,61 Hours ( #17), ex-military cop Jack Reacher had occasion to call in to his old office in Washington, D.C, the headquarters of the 110th MP. Reacher once commanded the unit but it now belongs to Major Susan Turner and he is determined to meet her.

13. A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchey ( 2012) 464 pages. In this, her last novel before her death, Maeve takes her readers to the west coast of Ireland to the village of Stoneybridge where hometown girl Chicky Starr has returned home to open a holiday hotel.

14. Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Anderson (2015) 287 pages. An intimate account of the service staff of the White House, from the Kennedys to the Obamas.

15. The Island by Elin Hilderbrand (2010) 416 pages. The Island referred to in this novel, Tuckernuck, is a real honest to goodness island about 1/2 mile from Nantucket. It is there that 4 women, 2 sets of sisters go to relax, regenerate and resolve their own personal problems and those of their family.

 

Roll Out the Mattress

We have needed a new mattress for some time. The date on ours says it is 28 years old. I have priced mattresses and a decent queen size mattress will require a bank loan. Now the good thing is I won’t need a spring since we bought a platform bed frame about 7 years ago, but still.

Anyway last April I bought my son a “Bed in a Bag”, sometimes called “Bed in a Box”. He was still sleeping on a 30 year old futon which I think may have turned to dust. He didn’t open the bag right away because he was in the process of moving but once he got to his new place he unpacked it and in a matter of minutes it was filling out and becoming a twin size mattress. He though it quite comfortable and firm. Would this be an option for us?

After considerable discussion and debate we decided to take a chance. We went with Nectar because they offered a 365 day trial, $125.00 off and two free pillows. And it was the same mattress we had purchased for our son. Five days later the FedEx guy brought this big blue bag to our door.

Bed in a Bag (Queen Size)

Before doing anything we had to get it up to the bedroom on the 2nd floor. No pictures available because while I sat on my butt and pulled, Curt on the other end, pushed. Once in the room we took it out of the bag, well, bags.At this point we laid it on the floor and because once it is out of its tight bags, it starts to unroll.

mattressroll

At this point it slowed down a little because there were also two pillows smooshed in there so we gave it a nudge and it completely unrolled. Curt then opened the third bag it was in and it really started to inflate. *Please report to me if these videos do not play.

IMG_2306

Inflated to 11 inches

Here it is completely inflated. This is the underside, above. We propped it up while we removed the old mattress. This is the top of the new mattress, below.

One final goodbye to the old mattress. Since this new one came in at eleven inches I was curious what the depth of the old one was and I was really surprised that it was only four inches deep. Granted it was almost 30 years old so maybe it compressed over the years?

Montgomery Ward, circa 1990

So? How do I like my new mattress? Well initially I was worried. It seemed softer than I expected but a lot of that was due to the top layer which is similar to a pillow top and it does form to your body. So it took me about a week to ten days to really accommodate my body to the mattress. Now, I pretty much sleep like a rock. My husband got used to it sooner than I and seems to snooze away just fine. Are these for everyone? Probably not, but the price was right and so far it fits into our lifestyle.

PS:  Part of the reason I delayed so long was the problem of disposing of the old mattress. We don’t own a pickup truck and our bedroom is on the 2nd floor with a sharp right turn to the stairs.That old mattress weighed a ton and I was a lot younger when we dragged it up there. The charge for disposal at the recycle facility was $20 but you had to get it there. So on to the internet with a “mattress removal, Green Bay, Wisconsin” search. Wa-La!!! Mattress Disposal Plus! For $80.00 plus $20.recycle fee, a guy came, hauled it down the stairs, out to the truck and took it away. Worth every penny.