As I continue to re-discover my home culture and my home city, I’m sure it is quite obvious that it’s been awhile since I’ve last written a blurb or two. This is mainly due to the fact that I’ve been hunting down apartments in the city to which I will be moving at the end of the summer: Milwaukee.
I may have mentioned a time or two about the fact that I will be starting graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee studying French and Linguistics this Fall. For those whom were not aware, now you know, and unfortunately, that is the main reason as to why my second love of writing has been put on the back-burner.
If you are like I was before this past weekend, you may not really know that much about this wonderful city. It might very well be a mystery to you. My two-day adventure in one of the biggest cities in Wisconsin was primarily to seek out housing for when I move. However, I made sure that it was about discovery as well.
Now, because Milwaukee will be my home for the next two years, I set out to discover it in the little bits of times in-between all of the apartment hunting, and I must say that Milwaukee vibes well with me. I’m pretty sure that I’m meant to be there, if not for the beer and the coffee, then for the amazing restaurants, the bookstores, the diversity, the presence of university students, and the lake.
I’m currently working at a brewery over the summer, because a girl has to make money somehow, even for just three months, and it just so happens that one of my co-workers is originally from Milwaukee. So, he was able to give me some pointers on some things to see and some things to do in my down time.
I have an obsession with books. I also have an obsession with cats. I knew that Milwaukee is definitely my city when I walked into Downtown books, a used bookstore in Downtown Milwaukee, between the lower end of the Lower East Side and the Historic Third Ward. It’s placement is quite odd, as it is surrounded by business buildings, but it is a place of magic. I heard the rumors of this bookstore being the home of one fur baby. So, I’m not going to lie. I did go into the bookstore hoping beyond hope that I would find a fur friend there. Alas, I definitely did, or should I say that he found me? As I was perusing the travel memoir section, because you know me, this very fuzzy fur baby paid me a visit, greeting me with snuggles and purring. I was in heaven. I was very excited that my hopes were not in vain.
I’m pretty sure that I fell in love with Milwaukee at that moment. I was very pleased with my experience at this point in my perusal, however, I was in for a real treat. I turned the corner just to see another fur friend lurking amongst the books, who also greeted me pleasantly. I’m pretty sure I was smiling from ear to ear when I said to my boyfriend: ”Babe, I found friends. I’m pretty sure I’m meant to live here.”
I wish that I knew his name. What a cutie.
Milwaukee is also home to a plethora of coffee shops, which for a huge coffee drinker much like myself also makes it a great place to call home. Unfortunately, I was only able to check out two local coffee shops, but I was still very pleased with both of my experiences.
Collectivo Coffee, formerly Alterra coffee, is a rustic looking coffee shop located in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee that allows an open view of the bean roasters and grounders that they have on site, which is fantastic because it means they definitely blend their own beans somehow. Unfortunately, I was not able to learn where they get their beans from, though I’m sure that you can read about it on their website. Other than the feel of the coffee shop, that which I loved most about this particular one was the fact that I saw people of all ages, from all different backgrounds, all different races, coming together to enjoy their everyday cup of joe. It was amazing. I absolutely loved seeing the diversity, and the coffee was delicious as well, not to mention the heavenly coffee cake muffin that I had the pleasure of uniting with my taste buds. You’ll be sure to to fit in well here.
Also, I’m very much in love with this artwork.
The other coffee shop that I chose to try is entitled Kickapoo Coffee. If the name itself is not enough to peak your interest, then the atmosphere, the freshness of the coffee, and the delicious pastries will convince you. Firstly who doesn’t love that name? I wish I would’ve found out more info about where the name came from. Secondly, the feel of this coffee shop, located in the Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee, is unlike most coffee shops. Don’t get me wrong, I love the warmth and comfy atmosphere of most coffee shops. That vibes really well with me, but the openness and simplicity of this coffee shop was just as relaxing and enjoyable as any other coffee shop that I’ve been to. Sometimes, simplicity is best as not to overwhelm the senses. Another fantastic part of this coffee shop is where they get their milk from. The milk they use in all of their coffees is dairy from local farmers. I’m all about supporting local. Local means unique and fresher. Plus, again, it’s like if you are a coffee shop in Milwaukee you have to have heavenly pastries. I had the most amazing mixed berry coffee cake muffin of my life. It was on point, my friends. I wish more coffee shops made coffee cake muffins.
Did I mention the beautiful orchids sitting on the tables? It’s refreshing.
My other choice of liquor of life is, of course, beer. Working in a microbrewery has made me come to not only appreciate but to love the world of beer. One of my most favorite things about beer is that the choices are endless. Beer is so flexible. You can experiment to no end with flavors and styles. So, of course, I had to check out what Milwaukee has to offer.
The first, upon recommendation by a friend, was Lakefront Brewery. It is very apparent that this brewery is well-known and a local favorite. Built into an old warehouse that they revamped, this brewery is one of the largest microbreweries I’ve seen. It was overwhelmed by crowds of people, some going on tours, others just looking to grab a beer or two. With lines and lines of tables, it was very clear that this brewery attracts a lot of visitors. We chose a flight. 5 five-ounce pours for $8 was not too shabby for us, and we quickly made our choice.
We attempted to get a range, as to get a good feel for their style of brewing, the quality of their beer, and of the local flavor. For you fellow beer nerds out there, here were our choices:
- Eastside Dark – Dunkel Munich, a type of slightly darker/maltier German-style lager. Though I’m not usually too keen on lagers, I found this one quite tasty.
- Fuel Cafe – American-style coffee stout made with organic products. Though I’m not much of a stout person, coffee and beer, that’s all you need to know. It’s definitely a great choice for the Fall. Plus, I will always be a supporter of organic products.
- Growing Power – Organic Farmhouse Pale Ale. I’m not one much for hops, but this is the first time that I’d every tried a Farmhouse Pale Ale. The back end of this beer, aka the aftertaste, really gives you a hint of that Farmhouse style, and I really enjoyed that. Plus, the hops weren’t overpowering in the least bit.
- Rendezvous – A Bière de Garde. My favorite. A French style blond/amber/brown. Bière de gardes aren’t hoppy at all. They are malty but not to the point of reds, porters, stouts. They fall on the malty side of the middle. However, though they seem to be in the middle of beer styles, you really get lots of flavor from the type of malts used, and they usually have a slight sweetness to them.
- Riverwest Stein Beer – An American amber – a pretty solid beer. Though I was not overly impressed by this beer, it was still pretty good.
The downside of my experience of Lakefront brewery is that due to the fact that it calls an old warehouse home and due to its popularity, it was quite loud. I could barely hear my boyfriend talk as we were trying to have a conversation. I didn’t really find the atmosphere akin to sticking around for too long.Their beer is definitely the type of beer that I would love to enjoy at home. I had an overall good experience with this place, though.
I found amusement in these statues.
The hunt for good beer in the city continued. We decided that a much more chill brewery with a broader menu would be a much better option for dinner. Thanks to the recommendation by our Airbnb host, Company Brewing was a fantastic choice. If you really want good beer and food that will overwhelm your senses in the best way possible, this place is definitely the place you should be. Having only opened a year ago in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee, this place is not yet well known, but it’s youth does not reflect it’s quality. With an extensive menu and a slightly rustic atmosphere, this was the perfect dinner spot.
I decided to partake in mussels with lime butter sauce and jalapenos. My senses were definitely overwhelmed and the slightly burnt toast dipped in that sauce was like gold. The beer also delighted my taste buds. Unfortunately, flights were not an option, so I decided on Blitz, a Belgian Saison. A style similar to bière de garde, this style of beer is basically a Belgian style farmhouse ale, having originated during Belgian summers, which makes sense since saison means season in French. It’s quite light drinking, but you also can enjoy some flavor that you will get form the malts and the Belgian yeast, which tends to give a slight sweetness to the flavor. Again, another favorite. Plus, mussels and a Belgian Saison seemed much like a wonderful pairing to me. Being a foodie, I was in heaven. I’m definitely going back there many times once I move to Milwaukee. Plus, they have a very impressive list of beers on tap for only having two brewers. Good feels all around.
I also, my dear friends, have an obsession with tacos. My love for tacos really got me down every now and then while I was living in France because tacos aren’t really a thing there. So, since the moment I got home from France, my search for tacos has been never-ending. I not only wanted but needed to hunt out a taco spot in Milwaukee. Thanks to a recommendation from our Airbnb host, we were successful in discovering the tacos at Bel Air Cantina, located in the Lower East Side close to the river, this California-style Mexican restaurant is known for their tacos having a vast menu of varying choices of à la carte tacos. The best part? Not only did they have amazing tacos, but you receive free beans and rice when you order three or more tacos. Beautiful. The margaritas were pretty tasty as well. All the noms.
Unfortunately two days will only offer you a taste of any city, but I took off a big enough bite with a powerful amount of flavor to know that I will love living in Milwaukee. I cannot wait for all of the adventures that I will have there as I complete my journey as a graduate student.
The few things that I experienced were amplified by the fact that our airbnb host was a native French speaker, as his mother is from France. J’avais de la chance! So, I was able to greatly nerd out and speak French with him and his mother. I’ll be good here.
Though I’m terrified of all the changes that will occur, I’m feeling very positive about this new adventure. In a way, it will be much like when I first moved to France to teach English: new environment, new people, new job, new way of life, but without the language difference. Here’s to another adventure.
And also, for those whom are interested, I was successful in the apartment search. I will say hello to my new home on August 1st.
Look forward to more blurbs about Milwaukee starting in August.
Much love and grand bisous…
A plus mes amis…