Sometimes a restaurant can be just a little too hot to handle.
Such was the case with The Underground Kitchen, a Madison restaurant which lost its building in the Capitol Hill fire on June 30th in Madison. The restaurant was open for just one year before the fire.
The Kitchen was operated by The Underground Food Collective, a supremely cool nonhierarchical group of cooks founded by Jonny Hunter, his brother Ben, and five others committed to providing good food grown, cooked and prepared by good people. The Collective started as a catering business, specializing in pork-centric underground dinners in Wisconsin, Chicago and New York, but gradually expanded to include charcuterie production, a charcuterie CSA program, and finally, a restaurant.
Interestingly enough, two Milwaukee Chefs, Paul Zerkel and Lisa Kirkpatrick of Roots Restaurant and Cellar, began organizing a fundraiser as soon as they found out about the fire. In a spirit of solidarity and camaraderie, this husband-wife team gathered up a variety of other prominent restaurants, chefs, bartenders, and servers who were also willing to give of their time and talents.
“As chefs, Lisa and I have huge respect for The Underground Food Collective’s locally sourced and handmade meats and charcuterie. We share the same values about educating diners and supporting local farmers and purveyors to grow awareness and popularity of farm-to-table cooking,” says Chef and Event Organizer, Paul Zerkel. “UFC’s food and energy is fantastic and the loss of the restaurant is tremendous. It will take much more than renter’s insurance for them to recover and reopen. We are doing what we can to help them get back on their feet because we know they would do the same for us.”
Pulling out all the stops, Roots will be closing down its usual business for the fund-raiser on July 31st.
On the night of the event, the Roots’ kitchen will feature an all-star team consisting of Roots’ Kirkpatrick and Zerkel as well as Farmer-Owner John Raymond; UFC Owners and Chefs Johnny Hunter and Garin Fons; Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub’s Executive Chef Dan Van Rite and Chef Paul Funk; and The Pabst/Riverside’s Executive Chef Kevin Sloan. Together, they will collaborate on the menu, which will include all-you-can-enjoy BBQ brisket, ribs, a variety of hand-crafted sausages, and plenty of Underground Meats and Charcuterie.
For the price of a $30 ticket, patrons will enjoy sumptuous dishes, Hinterland beer, a Roots Garden Bartending competition, a cash bar, and music from Milwaukee DJ, Tom Julio.
Seriously, folks. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
Now, you may have noticed that Milwaukee is becoming increasingly well known on the national craft cocktail scene. Bartenders like Mathias Simonis, Katie Rose, Daniel Dufek, and Chad Doll are consistently winning national cocktail competitions, bringing great exposure to our lovely Cream City. Recent case in point: this past spring, Distil’s very own Mathias Simonis took first at the Nightclub & Bar Show Convention’s Shake It Up! 2011 ‘Creative Cocktail Challenge’ in Las Vegas.
That’s one of the reasons why the Roots’ Garden Bartending Competition is likely to be my favorite part of this event. Featuring the creative talent of Roots’ Bar Manager Blake Leinberger and Bartenders Greg Nadasdy and Eric Mackey, Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge’s Bartender Katie Rose, Hastings Cameron from Underground Kitchen, Hinterland’s General Manager and Bartender Dan Grenda, Distil’s Mathias Simonis, and other members of the Wisconsin Bartenders Guild. Participants will supply specialty liquors and hand-made ingredients, and will have to root through Roots’ bountiful flower and herb garden to create original cocktails.
Underground Kitchen Fund-Raiser
Sunday, July 31st, 2011
from 4 – 10PM
Roots Restaurant and Cellar
1818 North Hubbard Street
Milwaukee, WI, 53212
Tickets are $30.00 per person and can be purchased by phone at 414-374-8480 or in person; half of the value of each ticket sale will go directly to The Underground Food Collective. Donations can also be made directly to the UFC at www.wepay.com/donate/UndergroundKitchen