BY BRITTANY SEEMUTH
With a name like Wolf Peach, prospective diners are lured into the restaurant. From the restaurant’s interior, views of the Milwaukee city line can be seen that would make any native proud and any outsider wish she had grown up here.
The first few words out of our waiter’s mouth were “the pork from tonight’s special is from the chef’s family’s farm.”
I was sold on Wolf Peach.
To start, my guest and I ordered an item under “Breads + Spreads.” This was sourdough bruschetta with a layer of goat cheese, raw and roasted beets, and drizzled with dill oil. The goat cheese and beets contrasted one another, yet created a perfect earthy taste.
Next we ordered an item under the “Fish” portion of the menu. This was smoked rushing waters trout, mizuna (a Japanese mustard green), honeycomb, radish, a deep-fried baguette and coal-roasted lemon puree. This item is dairy-free and comes out looking like a salad more than a fish dish.
This is when I realized the implied challenge that Wolf Peach presents to the diner: control your own bite. The restaurant’s challenge to the diner is to think about food and the flavors of each bite. This is because you are not plated a heaping pile of food; instead, each key element of the dish is separated on the plate, forcing you to think about what you want on your palate. In this dish, the honeycomb was isolated from the fish and greens, so you choose the ratio of honey to fish and to greens.
Who would have thought honey pairs well with fish? The honey in this dish balances the flavor of the trout perfectly. The pepper was also a nice element, cutting through some of the noise of the honey and wild fish.
For the main course, we ordered under the “Meat” portion of the menu: Seared duck breast with gnocchi, parsnip, apple-pork rind crumble and finished in an apple cider gastrique. The duck was amazing, although the gnocchi seemed overcooked. I think gnocchi should have a slight bite to it, but my dining companion mistook the gnocchi for mashed potatoes. The gnocchi did not make or break the dish though – the duck was perfectly cooked.
Wolf Peach is located in Brewer’s Hill, which is one of two residential areas from Milwaukee’s original settlement in the 1830s. The area is modern, yet has a quaint feel. It is described on the National Registrar as “ … the most remarkable assemblage of architecture of its type remaining from Milwaukee’s early years,” so you should visit the area if you have not already – it’s quite remarkable.
As I walked into Wolf Peach, my attention was divided twice by the chandeliers and atmosphere – at one table there was a family with three young children celebrating the mother’s birthday and at another, two women in their early 20s having cocktails. This is a place where diverse age groups gather under one roof to dine, separated by tables, united by food.
According to the menu, tomatoes were once the “poor man’s food” of Europe because the acid in tomatoes reacted with the pewter aristocrats dined on. This caused lead poisoning. Peasants ate on wooden plates so they were not affected by this reaction.
In European folklore, it is said witches used tomatoes to conjure werewolves. The Latin genus name for wild tomatoes is Lycopersicon, meaning “Wolf Peach.” The restaurant “pays homage to rustic European cuisine that draws inspiration from regional ingredients.”
Instead of dividing the meal up by courses like the typical service style of restaurants, Wolf Peach’s style is called “como viene,” meaning, “as it comes.” As soon as a dish has been cooked, it comes out. It does not sit under heat lamps, waiting for the diner to complete a soup course. This is done to ensure the dishes are as fresh as possible.
I find that many people eat with little enjoyment. As a college student, sometimes I have to force myself to sit at a table for 15 minutes to eat, not on my laptop responding to emails, and not consuming a microwaveable meal. Wolf Peach gives the diner this challenge: Eat to savor. When you think about each bite you take and understand that it is coming to you from local farms and purveyors, well, I can’t think of a better way to eat than that. We all should do that more.