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Season With a Reason My wilting tomato plants are not long for this world, and it makes me sad. But, you know, it’s time for a change. I know others think so, too. Scott Sebastian, co-owner of Sebastian’s Fine Food & Spirits, has done a major menu overhaul (6025 Douglas Ave., Caledonia, 262-681-5465). The new […]

Season With a Reason

My wilting tomato plants are not long for
this world, and it makes me sad. But, you know, it’s time for a change. I know
others think so, too. Scott Sebastian, co-owner of Sebastian’s Fine Food
& Spirits
, has done a major menu overhaul (6025 Douglas Ave., Caledonia,
262-681-5465). The new lineup made its debut this week. The emphasis is even
more focused on quality ingredients – 20-year-aged balsamic vinegar, Grana
Padano cheese (similar to Parmigiano Reggiano). Soup and salad are now à la
carte. When the soup/salad course is included in a restaurant meal, how often
have you ordered an appetizer? Not that often, I bet. Sebastian’s menu is
divided into “small plates” and entrées. The smaller items include house-smoked
salmon, jumbo lump crab fritters, grilled asparagus with lemon cream sauce, tuna
tartare, walnut/pear/Gorgonzola salad and pan-seared scallops with smoked tomato
beurre blanc. A few entrées: wild sockeye salmon in smoked mushroom-thyme nage,
apricot-stuffed pork tenderloin with mustard sauce (Sebastian’s mom’s recipe for
the sauce), coq au vin and a rack of lamb Mediterranean rubbed, roasted and
drizzled with white truffle oil. More changes are in the wind, too. “More”
means, in a few months, a new dessert menu and upgraded wine list with more
selections from Spain, Italy and France.

Med in Milwaukee

Change is also afoot Downtown at Yaffa
Restaurant & Lounge
(106 W. Wells St., 223-0101). Owner/chef John Chitko
is dropping lunch service at the end of this month to concentrate on dinner. He
also just started serving a new menu at his Mediterranean place that focuses
more on entrées, though there’s still a page of tapas. Chitko retired the rabbit
tagine (a Moroccan stew), replacing it with a rabbit confit (in a confit, the
meat is cooked in its own fat). I was psyched to see tagine on a menu, period.
Tagine is a Moroccan stew with – when prepared well – beautifully nuanced
flavors. Chitko still has lamb and vegan versions on the menu. He has a Moroccan
spice-rubbed salmon with saffron-lemon minted chickpea purée and Spanish roasted
potatoes. The venison tenderloin is rubbed with Turkish coffee and pan-seared,
served with a pomegranate veal sauce. This weekend’s special sounds like fall
comfort – braised pork shank with gnocchi. And wines are plentiful in the
by-the-glass category. There are 38 options from Argentina, Chile, Spain and
France.

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Mein Sustenance

The Milwaukee Art Museum is opening a big exhibit
of paintings, furniture, et cetera this weekend – “Biedermeier: The Invention of
Simplicity.” What does this have to do with food? There is a connection, I
promise you. Outside the exhibit, in the Galleria, you will find a Viennese
Cafe.
The menu is simple: “Meinl Kaffee” (Viennese coffee) and pastries.
Hours are Mon-Wed, Fri-Sun 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thurs 10 a.m.-7 p.m. On certain
dates, it will also employ minstrels to entertain. In the Museum Cafe,
the menu will take on a Biedermeier flavor in the form of Flammenkuchen (pizza)
and Strauss veal bratwurst with sauerkraut and German potato salad. They have a
liquor license in there, so you can lean toward the Germanic with your wine or
beer choices, too. Cafe hours: daily 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 700 N. Art Museum Dr.,
224-3200.

Hot Tamales

Have you ever been to a Mexican market and noticed a
Nesco with a sign on it advertising warm tamales? If not, you are missing a
treat. Today I finally stopped in at the new El Rey Cafe on 27th and
National. It’s in a small red-brick building in the corner of a Walgreen’s
parking lot. They sell Mexican pastries and cakes, whip up coffee drinks (yes,
cappuccino at El Rey) and, my co-worker pointed out as I waited for my hot cup,
they have tamales in the obligatory Nesco behind the counter. Score! Flavors are
chicken, pork or bean – a half-dozen wrapped snugly in foil for about $3. Today
was a good day.

Can’t get enough dining? I chat about restaurants every Friday with Jane
Matenaer and Kidd O’Shea on “The Mix.” Listen between 8 and 9 a.m. on September
15. That’s 99.1 WMYX-FM.

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