Sunday, May 10, 2009

Black Roses and Red Tomatoes

Our ghost-like rehaunting of the Greater Milwaukee metro area continues as we seek out new worlds and new life forms in our erstwhile city. On a whim, we decided on Oakland Trattoria, one of our favorite roosting spots and eateries from back in the day, and found that the owner has recently subdivided more than half of its space into a new Irish pub, the Black Rose. The Gaelification of Milwaukee, host city of North America's largest Irish music and culture festival every August, continues unabated.

Never ones to pass up a new culinary experience involving corned beef, we seated ourselves on the newly painted, black-green side of the joint. I mourned the loss of the wall murals depicting brightly-colored garden tomatoes and potatoes -- duly captioned using Dan Quayle's spelling primer -- while wondering about the decision to create a faux-aged, cracked paint look on the Irish half. Surface prep is essential for avoiding that result, I had always been taught. There is also a hint of theme park artificiality due to the shared premises and close juxtaposition to the restaurant's Italian half. ("Dublin or Palermo tonight, folks? This way.") Nonetheless, the overall effect of the remodeling within its own context is mood-enhancing, and we enjoyed our hour-plus in one of the Black Rose's arch-top open booths.

The server offered us two menus apiece, useful for those considering a melting-pot meal. This could make for some interesting combinations: say, a light California Trio pizza with sun-dried tomatoes and a Guinness, or Wood-roasted Vegetable Lasagne and a Smithwicks. Beloved spousal unit was relieved that her favorite portabella mushroom soup was available on either side of the establishment. Truth be told, however, we made prosaic selections for lunch -- a Reuben and a burger -- in keeping with the basic, black decor. Essentials, like the compulsories in figure skating. We can now proceed to Level Two.

While it will be a challenge for the Black Rose's cuisine to match, say, the root soup at Milwaukee's County Clare -- even with the help of the Oakland Trattoria's portabella soup -- we look forward to testing this theory. You can never have too much Irish.

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