Now if you have been following this blog you will know that I spent a serious amount of time in the great state of Wisconsin as an actor, both in regional theater as well as in touring shows. And I will state once again that the Dairy State boasts some amazing cheese and dairy oriented dishes. I mean come on, A State with a burger known as the butter burger is a little bit obsessed with cheese and dairy "Oh Yah, doon't Yah knowa! ".
So one of the things that I love about Wisconsin and the midwest in general is the fact that because they were settled by so many German immigrants they have a culture of what I would call the "gasthaus culture" In other words in Chicago and Milwaukee, in the older neighborhoods, you will find a pub on almost every corner. Now these are normally not just bars, although sometimes they are, but instead Gasthaus style pubs serving food and acting like the old school neighborhood restaurant. At dinner time you will see whole families for example, dining out and enjoying the local color. Sure beer and spirits are a large part of this culture, but food is as well. I mean some of these places have been around for a long time and have excellent reputations as eating establishments ( i.e. Joe's Inn in Richmond from my baked spaghetti blog).
Now today the food these places serves varies and certainly has different styles, ethnicities, and price ranges. Some modern gastopubs serve very pricey and upscale cuisine indeed. The corner bar might only serve bar food, and the corner pub might be Italian, but they are not just bars. They are gathering places for the neighborhoods and represent a drinking and eating culture that has it's roots reaching far back to the German, Irish and Scandinavian immigrants who moved into those places and made them what they are. Work hard, play hard that was the Midwesterner mantra. And culturally that play often involved stopping by the local bar on the way home or meeting up after social clubs or evening business league meetings. they were also the proving grounds for many of the meat and potato meals we enjoy in this nation and identify with good hearty midwestern cooking not to speak of many a "bar food" that came out of those establishments.
Now Aside from pubs something else Wisconsin had a plethora of back in the 70's, 80's and 90's even, was a lot of live theater venues. Even today there are many places which still have year round operating theaters or Summer seasonal venues. These were located in a variety of places but many of them were found in the various resort areas during the summers.
Summer stock as it is called, afforded young actors and musicians a chance get out of where ever they were all year long and travel some place for the summer months and enjoy the local color and working in their craft. It is sad that so many of these venues all over the country have been closing. Due in part to the economy for sure. But due in part as well to a lack of arts funding and a general lack of interest in theater from the younger generation.
Our story today ties in the Wisconsin neighborhood bar culture with working in summer stock in the summertime resort areas. Green Lake, WI. to be exact. Now one of the great joys of summer stock besides getting to work in your field, is the social life that comes with it. It is sort of an extended paid working vacation during which you work really hard all day and evening rehearsing and performing , and every night after the show comes down, you play really hard too! ( just like good midwesterners would) And often that playing hard involves going out the bar and having food and drinks after the show.
So in Green Lake the place for actors to go after the show was a bar called Stabadora's. It was a crazy old Irish pub with a barkeep named Luvern and a cast of regulars, some of whom had been there forever. Stabadora's had some great bar food and the drinks were cheap. Beer 2 dollars and 4 dollar premium liquor drinks. I mean who could beat that.
So one day my friend noticed that one of the regulars who was blind drunk sort of left the bar and proceeded to go out, get in his car, and then almost drive his car into the river across the street.
When my friend call this to Luvern's attention she responded " Oh Ya, I know it's too bad...Right!"
"Yah know, that's why I gave up driving yah know? Oh Ya, well after my second DUI...... I said enough is enough.!!!!"
My friend then asked her, when she was going to get a new sign for the bar.
She said "What are you talking about?"
He said "Well the sign out front says, Rielly's."
She answered " Yah, well what's wrong with that? The bar's name is Rielly's?"
He said " But it's called Stabadora's not Rielly's?"
"Oh" she replied " Everyone calls it that because Dora got stabbed here one night by her husband, but the bar is really Rielly's!!!!"
And that's the story of a Wisconsin bar in the land of resorts and summer stock and how it got it's name. Crazy!!! Right!!!
While in Wisconsin I discovered at various pubs the brocolli cheese soup was to die for. Also beer cheese soup was a favorite up there. I love them both so I decided to put them both together. And since we are still having winter I thought a little soup for the soul would do us all good. Enjoy Ya'll!!
Forrest's Wisconsin Style Broccoli Cheddar Beer Soup
(So I have included all the elements of the classic Beer soup and the classic Broccoli cheese soup here. I think Industrial Strength Proccessed Cheese Broccoli cheese soup has given it a bad rap! Try this one with both cheddar and swiss which gives it a nice flavor and see how good this classic recipe can be. It's classic for a reason.)
makes 6 servings
1 large white onion diced finely
2 lb broccoli florets chopped (can be frozen but thaw before using)
1 can beer ( Wisconsin lager if you please) at room temperature
2 cups chicken stock ( have some extra on hand in case it needs thinning out)
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup flour
1 stick butter
salt to taste
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup grated swiss cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese grated
Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy bottomed stock pot and add the onion.
Cook onion till soft but not brown.
Place milk in the microwave and heat till warm but not boiling.
Add flour to the onions and butter and cook until it is slightly browned.
Slowly whisk the milk into the onion butter mixture and let thicken
Heat chicken stock like milk and slowly add in.
Pour in the beer and stir to combine
Add in cheese a little at a time whisking till incorporated and smooth
Add in broccoli and cover.
Let simmer for about 20 mins until the broccoli is tender.
Add in spices and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Turn off heat. Let soup sit for 10 mins.
Then pour half the soup into a blender
With top on and holding with a towel blend the soup till pureed and smooth
Add back into the pot with the other half of the soup and stir to combine
Reheat to serve. Serve with crusty bread and top with a dollop of sour cream and a little more grated cheddar. Enjoy!!!