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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Remembering the Titanic Through Food

Local restaurants serve the ship's last meal

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This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest maritime tragedies in history: the sinking of the RMS Titanic, a disaster that killed more than 1,500 people. To commemorate the anniversary, two Milwaukee restaurants are hosting dinners modeled after the indulgent final meal served to the Titanic's first-class passengers: Mader's, 1041 N. Old World Third St., and the Bartolotta restaurant group, which is catering a dinner at the Grain Exchange, 225 E. Michigan St.

Recreating the Titanic's last meal isn't an exact science. Though copies of the passenger liner's final 10-course dinner menu were discovered amid the wreckage, there's no way to know exactly how the ship's chefs prepared each dish, leaving the chefs at each restaurant plenty of artistic license.

Mader's dinner distills the ship's 10-course meal down to a still-decadent eight courses, which will include servings of seaweed-crusted shrimp, poached salmon with mousseline sauce, chicken lyonnaise, lamb with mint sauce, beef sirloin and punch romaine (a frothy citrus drink that has nothing to do with the lettuce). The meal culminates in a dessert course of French ice cream and peaches in chartreuse jelly. Priced at $49, or $69 with seven wine pairings, the dinner was originally scheduled as a one-off event on Saturday, April 14, but Mader's has added dinners on Friday, Sunday and Monday, as well as a second dinner on Saturday.

"We'll keep adding them as long as we keep getting reservations for them," says Mader's general manager Dan Hazard. "We've never seen a promotion with this kind of excitement."

This won't be the first time Mader's has honored the Titanic. The restaurant first served this ship's last meal in 1997, timed in conjunction with James Cameron's blockbuster film. Hazard says the restaurant is planning to host more event meals in the future.

"Our restaurant is so much more than German food these days," he says. "We're at Irish Fest and Polish Fest now, and we do the catering for the Marcus Amphitheater at Summerfest, so we have a level of chefs that allows us to branch out into other cuisines. It's fun for our chefs, since they cook German food nine months out of the year and are hungry for new challenges. Our plan is to spin this meal off into more wine-pairing dinners or beer-pairing dinners."menu.jpg

The Grain Exchange will host the Bartolotta catering company's interpretation of the Titanic's last meal on Sunday, April 15, at 5 p.m. To cut down on the length of the meal, the caterers are serving four of its 10 courses (including seared foie gras, potato leek soup and salmon rillettes) as butler-style passed appetizers. The staff will be dressed in period costume.

"There were many survivors on the Titanic that actually made the journey from London to the Midwest, and we'll hear some of their stories through some of their third- and fourth-generation relatives, who will speak during a small presentation," says Maria Bartolotta, Bartolotta's director of catering. "We'll also have an eight-piece band, so there will be dancing, and guests are welcome to wear costumes for the evening. It's going to be a fun event. We don't want it to be morbid or maudlin or anything like that; we just want to celebrate history."

Priced at $100, this gala marks the first event in Bartolotta's "Memorable Events" series. Future events will include meals commemorating Julia Child's 100th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise. Tickets can be purchased at www.bartolottas.com.