Milwaukee | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

I arrived in Milwaukee with a lot of expectations. Being brought to tears by a bearded biker and a Harley was not one of them.

When I got the news from Navigate Media Group, I was night-before-Christmas excited:

Congratulations! I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into BlogHouse Milwaukee! We received a lot of applications, but you really stood out as someone with a great blog and a lot of potential. We are all really looking forward to having you in the “house”, and we have a great program planned.

Based on its stellar reputation alone, my expectations for Bloghouse were sky-high. As for Milwaukee, the only thing I knew about it was what I could recall from watching Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley in the ’70s  – so not much.

Here’s what I experienced at Bloghouse versus what I expected:

The House

What I Expected: Modern amenities and a comfortable bed

What I Experienced: A resort worthy of an address on the Las Vegas Strip 

Our home for the week was the recently opened 381-room, 19-story Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in the heart of Milwaukee. My room was as I expected (with an awesome king bed) but the rest of the property took me totally by surprise.

In the lobby, a complex lighting system featuring about 3,200 LED nodes, creates different patterns, movement and shows from the ceiling. It can simulate sun breaking through trees, thunderstorms, raging fires and more. In the elevators, the music changes depending on the direction of travel. If you’re going up to your room, melodies are soothing; relaxing. On the way down (presumably to the casino floor) tunes are up-tempo and energizing.

Also redolent of the Vegas experience are the multitude and variety of dining options including 7 restaurants, a food court, and a coffee shop.

I knew in advance there was a casino at Potawatomi (their Twitter handle is @PaysBig), but I didn’t expect it to have nearly 3,000 slots, all in the latest and greatest themes. I wish I had booked a few extra days to stay and play.

Potawatomi Hotel & Casino Lobby | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

Photo credit: Potawatomi Hotel & Casino

The Food

What I expected: Brats, beer and cheese

What I experienced: A newfound appreciation for the relationship between place and plate in Milwaukee

Yes there were plenty of brats, beer, and cheese (so many deep-fried cheese curds!) but that’s not all. We were treated to one of Milwaukee’s most cherished traditions, the Friday Fish Fry, prepared by the talented team at Locavore. Other regional flavours included Sprecher’s famous gourmet sodas (the best orange soda I’ve ever tasted), delicious sweets from Classy Girl Cupcakes, traditional Danish Kringles, and the city’s signature cocktail, the Manhattan.

Fish Fry at Locavore | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

Sprecher's Gourmet Sodas | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

Classy Girl Cupcakes | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

Kringles | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

Wisconsin Cheese

Small Plates at Potawatomi Resort | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

Summer Rolls | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

Chicken & Waffles | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

Relish Plate at Locavore | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

Cake | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

The Workshop

What I expected:  An intense, hands-on learning experience

What I experienced: An intense, hands-on learning experience and valuable connections within a positive, supportive community

I knew from the agenda that I’d be spending 4 days learning from members of Navigate Media Group on a huge variety of topics such as working with PR, website optimization, photography, social media, monetization and much more. What I didn’t know was how much I would value the friendships and connections I made there.

Many thanks to our talented and inspiring leaders:  Cailin O’Neil, Lisa Lubin, Stephanie YoderKate McCulley, and Michael Tieso. You guys are the best!

Bloghouse 2015 | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.comPhoto credit: LLWorldTour

The Swag

What I expected: “Please send me your ‘shorts’/bottom size as we have some goodies coming*…”

What I experienced: Tons of really great swag!

Besides all the cool stuff I found in my hotel room and goody bag (including a Carry-On Cocktail Kit just like the one available in our store), I was the lucky winner of the No Matter What™ Flatbed 22 Rolling Duffel from Eagle Creek! I had to get a little creative to get it home without paying Air Canada an extra bag fee, but I eventually figured out I could pack it, then squeeze it inside the suitcase I brought with me.

Huge thanks to our terrific sponsors Visit Milwaukee, Flipkey, Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, Travel Wisconsin and The Bartolotta Restaurants.

*Curious about the ‘shorts’? Find out more here.

The Activities

What I expected:  Milwaukee Tour and a visit to the Public Market

What I experienced:  A profoundly emotional moment in the unlikeliest of places

Bloghouse was intense. The days were long and jam-packed with information, and at times, I felt like my head was going to explode. But it wasn’t all work and no play.

We attended a fabulous welcome reception in the swanky penthouse suite at Potawatomi, and an Industry Night reception at The Rumpus Room where we practiced our networking skills. We also noshed on fresh artisanal products at the Milwaukee Public Market before trying out some of the photography tips we’d learned earlier that day.

The Rumpus Room Gastropub, Milwaukee | TheCulinaryTravelGuide

Milwaukee Public Market | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

Milwaukee Public Market | TheCulinaryTravelGuide

The Spice House, Milwaukee Public Market | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

The highlight, though, was the Milwaukee Legends Tour: Bikes Brats & Beer, a partnership between Milwaukee Food & City Tours® and the Harley-Davidson Museum®.

Combining Milwaukee staples with Harley-Davidson history, the 3½ hour excursion kicked off with a tour of the museum. Our bearded and bespeckled guide, John, highlighted the journey of the Harley-Davidson founders from creating a garage start-up to building an iconic, global brand. I have no interest in motorcycles, but John is a gifted storyteller. I suspect he could talk about the weather and keep his audience spellbound. At the last of the exhibits, he told us the tale of the Tsunami bike.

A Harley-Davidson® motorcycle was recovered in May on an isolated beach in British Columbia. The bike had drifted over 4,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean after being washed away in a storage container during the devastating tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. In accordance with the wishes of its owner, Ikuo Yokoyama, the remains of this 2004 Harley-Davidson® Night Train™ is on display at the Harley-Davidson Museum® as a memorial to the tragedy that claimed more than 15,000 lives.

The sense of loss was palpable.

I noticed I wasn’t the only one wiping tears from my eyes.

The Harley-Davidson Museum was full of surprises. Would you believe they host cooking classes and culinary events? On July 21, they’ll be holding the “Great Whiskey Debate” with Jim Beam’s grandson, Fred Noe. There’s also a “Cooking & Cocktail Class” on October 14. For more information, check their website.

At the Harley Davidson Museum, Milwaukee | TheCulinaryTravelGuide

At the Harley Davidson Museum, Milwaukee | TheCulinaryTravelGuide

At the Harley Davidson Museum, Milwaukee | TheCulinaryTravelGuide

TSUNAMI MOTORCYCLE DISPLAY

Tsunami Motorcycle Display at the Harley Davidson Museum, Milwaukee | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.comPhoto credit: Harley-Davidson Museum®

Once we’d pulled ourselves together, we boarded a bus and took a historical tour focused on Milwaukee’s legendary beer and sausage-making heritage. The narrated journey through the Menomonee and Miller Valleys, and downtown, highlighted the family mansions of Milwaukee beer barons, Pabst Brewery Complex, Schlitz Park and Usinger’s Famous Sausage Shop.

The tour included two memorable stops where we enjoyed more of the city’s culinary offerings. The sampling included authentic German brats and classic Wisconsin cheeses at Wisconsin Cheese Mart on Old World 3rd Street,  and beer tastings during a Lakefront Brewery tour.

Milwaukee | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

Wisconsin Cheese Mart | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

Bloghouse and the City of Milwaukee exceeded all my expectations, but having no expectations at all can leave you open to some amazing discoveries. Often its the unexpected moments that stay with you long after the trip is over.