And not just any kind of pairing, but what I would call the new frontier of how ingredients and cuisines rub together. Though the foodies I have met during our filming embrace the tried and true pairings: cookies and milk, a full-bodied Bordeaux and a steak au poivre, bacon and… everything; For chefs or carefree cooks, the most common off-camera talk has got to be “have you tried this with that” kind of chatter.
For this week’s episode, we have our own Wisconsin Foodie pairing: Olympians and buffalo. As two completely different elements, at first, I didn’t see it either. But, that is why we – as Wisconsin Foodies – reach swifter, higher and stronger with all our pairings. Garrett Weber-Gale is of course Wisconsin’s very own 2008 Beijing Olympic star. He received 2 gold medals, one as a member of the 4×100 relay team, for winning a part of what has been labeled as best relay in swimming history. He received his second gold by proving he could swim the 100-meter faster than any American, ever. (Or in more humbling terms, he can swim 100 meters faster than most exceptionally healthy grown adults run 100 meters.)
All that aside for a moment, Weber-Gale is a noted “Athletic Foodie” too. He brought his recipes (one of which is for Bison) and great love for cooking, as well as the challenges of maintaining a low-sodium diet, to the Bacchus kitchen with a gold medal winner of another sort – Chef Adam Siegel of Bartolotta’s, the 2008 Midwest James Beard Award winner. Adam cooked, Garrett prepped. They posed for photos. Their respective gold medals gleamed. I bragged about a really, really difficult Cub Scout badge I got once.
The other half to our pairing was a bit more rustic. Open air, and 1,200-pound bison that, in short, like their space. These immense, gorgeous animals are mostly docile, but once we were inside their fence, it was clear we had left cow-county at the gate. Imagine over half a ton of a Holstein-like animal that sort of has a lion’s mane, sometimes-huge horns, and has clearly been doing “muscle beach” type bodybuilding for years. But best of all, bison are uber-protective of their young by an instinct developed across thousands of years of non-domestication. Lastly, we were told when the snowdrifts get high enough; they easily leap over the 6-foot fence around the corral. Let’s get a close up shot -right?
More seriously, to think just 40 minutes North from the state’s most populated city is a several hundred acre farm that sits right on the shores of Lake Michigan, full of some of North America’s largest beasts framed by an pristine landscape. It is all kind of cool. Our host, Al Wyker of Lakeview Buffalo Farm, could not have been warmer. He is authentic and sincere, through and through. Al is the 6th generation of a farming lineage that goes back the 1800s. He joked as I rode into the bison pasture on the forks of the Bobcat he was driving, that this was his daily commute. It was in fact, a perfect pairing. The pristine landscape, a farming family that loves what they do, and one of Wisconsin’s own, winning the highest achievement physical training can bring to bear for their county.
I felt ever bit the more a Wisconsin Foodie.
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Looking for the perfect Thanksgiving wine? Not an easy task given the wide range of flavors from salty and savory to sweet and sour – and all on the same plate! If you want a real challenge this year, try pairing your wine not only to the food, but also to this year’s Thanksgiving host.
The New York Times spends 36 hours in Milwaukee, see what they uncover.