BIRCH+ BUTCHER

Milwaukee Magazine - - INSIDER -

459 E. Pleas­ant St., 414-323-7372

Main dishes $17-$49

Ayear has passed and the brand-spank­ing-new lus­ter may have worn off of Birch + Butcher, but “pol­ish­ing and hon­ing” are as im­por­tant as ever, owner Miles Borgh­graef ex­plains. “Ev­ery two months we have a ma­jor epiphany” about the hearth, the wood-fu­eled cook­ing ap­pa­ra­tus that dic­tates a ma­jor­ity of what goes on the plate – breads and veg­eta­bles to meats and fish. One of the lat­est rev­e­la­tions Borgh­graef names is how he and his cooks start the hearth fire. With a hair dryer. The first few months, they would blow on the em­bers. That changed when they moved to fans that emit fresh oxy­gen. “At seven months,” says Borgh­graef, “It was, ‘For­get those silly fans! Let’s do the blow dryer.’” And that was that.

The hearth also is the ve­hi­cle for dis­cov­ery. “I’ve been dig­ging deep,” he says of his ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, even us­ing a “red-hot” poker to fin­ish off an ap­ple brandy cock­tail. Briefly insert­ing it into the drink “causes it to boil vi­o­lently, carameliz­ing the su­gar . ... We see [the hearth] as a tool that al­lows us to grow.” Heartier plates have come to the menu this fall, dishes that keep a meat or veg­etable as the fo­cal point, ac­com­pa­nied by a bright, defin­ing sauce or rub and the spark com­ing from fresh herbs and a fin­ish­ing oil. Noth­ing is crazy hard. They let the in­gre­di­ents speak. Such as: co­rian­der spare ribs with or­ange and chile, wild hare ril­lette with ap­ple and fen­nel, and beef tartare with mus­tards and shoe­string pota­toes.

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