Patricia Kiefer from Oconomowoc knows what it’s like to walk among the fragrant lemon trees, olive groves and vineyards of Italy. She dined in Michelin starred restaurants in small towns in Portugal. She can find prime spots to picnic in the French countryside and recommend wines from a century-old South African vineyard.
And when she returns from her travels, Kiefer happily frequents independent restaurants owned by the region that remind her of the extraordinary experiences she has had on her travels around the world.
Hike through Provenence
On a National Geographic tour of Provence, Kiefer and a group of friends hiked Avignon and made their way to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where they raised glasses of Côtes du Rhône. Two guides provided salad, cheese and French wines for their daily picnics in the countryside. A highlight of the trip, she says, was exploring Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where Vincent Van Gogh was inspired to paint his iconic “Starry Night”.
One of Kiefer’s most memorable dinners on this trip was served by the owner of La Ferme de Gerbaud, a herbal farm in Provence. When the tour group arrived, the farmer was harvesting herbs wearing “a yellow raincoat, a nice scarf and rubber boots,” Kiefer recalls. “She cooked us a lemon chicken with herbs from Provence, then we were able to buy herbs in her store after we had finished eating. She was just lovely.
Kiefer says Bavette la Boucherie in Milwaukee’s third quarter, with its mouth-watering range of artisanal meats, cheeses and wines, brings back fond memories of his adventures in France. Like La Ferme de Gerbaud, Bavette is both a delicatessen and a restaurant. Owner Karen Bell’s menu reflects both her love for Milwaukee and her experiences living and working in the United States and Caracas, Paris and Madrid, where she owned and operated a successful restaurant.
An Italian feast
Italy is a favorite destination for Kiefer, and not just for pasta. Her first taste for Italy dates back to 2011, when a hike took her to Genoa, Pisa and Florence and she fell head over heels in love with Italian wines.
“I’m pretty picky about wine, but in Italy, I’ve never met a wine that I didn’t like, even table chianti,” she insists.
Back home, Ristorante Bartolotta in the village of Wauwatosa is one of his top picks for authentic Italian cuisine, especially since Paul Bartolotta has added an outdoor patio, La Terrazza, to his seating options. It also added a back-to-back series of four-course dinners, each highlighting regional dishes from regions such as Tuscany, Sicily and Campania. The food, as well as the atmosphere under the stars, brings Kiefer back to memories of his vacation in Italy.
“I love these quaint little restaurants, and a lot of them have added alfresco dining,” she continues.
Lago Su Bella on Lake La Belle is another Italian foodie destination that Kiefer recommends. “They have an excellent aubergine parmigiana and a nice selection of wines,” she notes.
Kiefer says Stone’s Throw Winery in Door County is a great source of Italian-inspired wines: “The owners, Russell and Lisa Turco, have a villa in Italy and are involved in the Italian scene, particularly in Florence. and in Tuscany, ”she says. The Turcoes import their grapes directly from California and use many of the same processes used by major Italian wineries, she adds.
Adventures in South Africa
In the wine region of South Africa, Kiefer enjoyed his stay at the historic Lanzerac Hotel in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town. “This wine estate was created in 1692,” she explains. “We had a great meal with wine pairings.”
The Manor Kitchen at Lanzerac offers bobotie, South Africa’s national dish. Bobotie is made with ground beef or lamb, seasoned with cinnamon and other spices, much like meatloaf. She says the Zesti restaurant in Hartland, which showcases dishes from around the world, sometimes offers “a good curry bobotie with fresh fruit on the side.”
The world on a plate
For a variety of international dishes, La Merenda at Walker’s Point offers small, global plates. You can try a taste of Italy, Spain or Argentina, for example, “and they have the wines to go with it,” she notes.
For flavors of Indonesia, discover sambal goreng udang, made with gulf shrimp, sambal chili paste, garlic, sesame, coconut milk and coconut mashed potatoes (a vegetarian option is also available). Curry lovers will swoon for the butter chicken, and vegetable lovers will not be able to resist the grilled parsnips with Moroccan spices.
Although the pandemic has interfered with travel plans in 2020 and 2021, Kiefer plans to visit Russia, Paris and Provence next year. In the meantime, she will recall her travels to Wisconsin’s unique bistros, sidewalk cafes and vineyards. MKE
Around the world in 80 bites
The ethnic diversity of Milwaukee has led to a wealth of authentic and tasty international dishes. Below are 80 additional recommended restaurants for adventurous palates to savor.
Do you have any favorites that you would like to suggest? We follow these hashtags on social media: # MKEin80bites, # MKE80bites, # Aroundtheworldin80bites, #worldlycuisine or the cuisine of your choice (for example #ethiopian, #africancuisine)
Island Jam, South Milwaukee
La Caribeña, Milwaukee
Uppa Yard, Milwaukee
Mexican, Cuban, Latin American, Puerto Rican
Cubanitas, Milwaukee and Oak Creek
Mara’s Grill, Milwaukee
La Borincana, Milwaukee
La Caribena, Milwaukee
Spanish traveler, Pewaukee
Tricicolo Peru, Milwaukee
Chef Paz, West Allis
A&J Polish Deli, Milwaukee
Polonez, Saint Francis
Kegel Inn, Milwaukee
County Clare, Milwaukee
Mo’s Irish Pub, Wauwatosa
Thistle and Clover, Milwaukee
Balistreri’s, Milwaukee and Wauwatosa
Baribiere’s, Milwaukee and South Milwaukee
Carrabba’s, Brookfield and Greenfield
Pasta tree, Milwaukee
Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro, Milwaukee
Le Rêve Patisserie & Café, Wauwatosa
Pastiche Bistro, Brown Deer
Mediterranean, Greek, Portuguese, Balkan, Serbian, Scandinavian
Apollo Cafe, Milwaukee
Eldr + Rime, Wauwatosa
Oakland Gyros, Milwaukee
Old Town Serbian Gourmet House, Milwaukee
Cafe Ouzo, Milwaukee
Pita Palace, Milwaukee
African, South African, Ethiopian
Ethiopian village of Alem, Milwaukee
Blue Star Cafe, Milwaukee
Ethiopian Cottage Restaurant, Milwaukee
Immy’s African Kitchen, Milwaukee
Middle East: Arabic, Pakistani, Indian, Persian, Iranian, Turkish
Anmol, MilwaukeeCasablanca, Milwaukee
Damascus Gate, Milwaukee
Shah Jee’s, Milwaukee
Shawarma House, Milwaukee and Brookfield
Asian: Vietnamese, Hmong, Thai, Korean
EE-Sane Thai-Lao Cuisine, Milwaukee
Hue, Milwaukee and Wauwatosa
Cafe Mekong, Milwaukee
Momo Mee, Milwaukee
Strange duck, Milwaukee
Phan’s Garden Restaurant, Milwaukee
Pho Saigon, West Allis
Seoul Korean, Milwaukee
Stone Bowl Grill, Milwaukee
Thai cuisine, Milwaukee
Thai restaurant in Bangkok, Milwaukee
Vientiane noodle shop, Milwaukee
Cheng Wong, Milwaukee
Golden Gate, Waukesha
Huan Xi, Milwaukee
Sze Chuan, West Allis
Japanese Kawa, Milwaukee
Japanese Cuisine Koi, Milwaukee
Maki Yaki, Milwaukee
Red light ramen, Milwaukee