2491 S Superior St
Wisconsin set a record for milk production in 2015, at just over 29 billion pounds, according to the USDA. Folks come from all over the world to indulge in it’s most famous food, cheese. But, cheese isn’t the only product that the Badger State’s herd of more than 1 million dairy cows produce. It’s Wisconsin butter and buttermilk which hold the key to Palomino’s biscuits.
Located along Lake Michigan shoreline in the Milwaukee neighborhood of Bay View, Palomino is the third expression for sister and brother restaurateur team, Valeri (Val) and Adam Lucks. The siblings are excellent chefs in their own right. While Val is a self-taught pastry chef, Adam is classically trained and leads the savory side of things at Palomino. In true sibling form, the two once duked it out in a biscuit showdown. “He’s an excellent chef, and such a good cook. I’m not good at that. But, I was like, ‘nope, you can’t beat me at biscuits.’ I won,” Val laughs with a bit of side-eyed smirk. “There’s a reason I don’t make biscuits anymore, because Val’s biscuits are that good,” Adam exclaims.
Without giving away her biscuit recipe, she says it’s a pretty basic one. Flour, a lot of baking powder, salt, but really the key is European-style Wisconsin butter from a local farm called Freis Von Kiel Butter, buttermilk, “and that’s it, but lots of butter.” Baker, Gabrielle Lewin takes us back to the kitchen to give us the scoop…
Val started developing the biscuit recipe at their sister restaurant, Honeypie, and worked on it a long time. “They’re not as ubiquitous as they are in the South, and they’re often not as good. I’m really proud of that recipe. I love making biscuits,” she smiles. Her brother, Adam couldn’t agree more. “It’s this warm, butter, fluffy thing that no matter what you put on top of it, it can really make you smile.” Speaking of toppings, Palomino biscuits are large enough for sandwich making, but the house-made seasonal jams were plenty to put a smile on our face.
Actually, there’s several keys to Palomino biscuits, and they’re all steeped in the foundations of comfort food.
Relative in nature, comfort food is “made with a lot of care, a lot of love, and has a sense of place,” Val explains. Adam adds that it’s “rooted in simple food made with great ingredients that have been simply prepared and doesn’t need to be overdone,” he continues that comfort “means its all about knowing that food is coming from a good place, and that it’s been cared for every step along the way.”
By using techniques their grandparents might have used, these two are not about short cuts. While Adam and his team grinds locally-sourced brisket daily for the Palomino Brisket Burger, Val and her bakers are busy baking an assortment of daily pies. There’s “Pie Grams” that are 6-inch pies mailed anywhere in the U.S., accompanied by a hand-written card designed by Milwaukee artists. Then, there’s Pie Class. Students can learn everything from Crust 101, Fruit Fillings to Thickeners and Streusel Toppings. Because it’s Wisconsin, you get a drink token from the bar for class. Val smiles, “We like to drink beer when we do things.”
Val and Adam travel South, often. Along the way, they’ve picked up more than just biscuit cred. These two are true blues when it comes to Bourbon as it’s “also rooted in comfort, family secrets and family recipes that have been passed down…the process has been the same through generations much like a biscuit,” Adam explains. It’s a Palomino goal to be one of the best bourbon bars in Milwaukee, the Midwest, and perhaps the country. “If Pappy shows up, we arm wrestle for it,” Val smiles, “the art and craft of it is really cool, but it’s just delicious.”
As the aromas of fresh biscuits and strawberry jam waft the room, we peruse Palomino’s art deco bar of bourbon, and notice a horse lamp at the bar’s corner. The “Magical Horse Lamp of Love” is a permanent Palomino fixture, who’s powers even Val could not escape. Will you be next?
Can’t make one of Val’s pie classes? Never fear. Try this Val original at home:
PEACH CRUMBLEBERRY PIE
By Valeri Lucks,Co-Owner & Chief Executive Pie Maker
Palomino & Honeypie Cafe Milwaukee, WI
One unbaked, single pie crust
5 fresh, ripe Georgia peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
3c Wisconsin or Michigan blueberries
1T fresh lemon juice
3/4c white sugar
1/4c all-purpose flour
1t sea salt
3/4c all-purpose flour
1/2c brown sugar
1t sea salt
1/2c cold Wisconsin butter, cut into 1/2” pieces
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare yoursingle pie crust in a deep 9-10” pie pan.
Mix all the fresh fruit and lemon juicein a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix together sugar, flour and sea salt. Mix into the fruit bowl to coat all the fruit. Pour fruit mixture into the pie crust. Place pie onto a foil covered baking sheet or stone and bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. While pie is baking, in a small bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.Scatter cold butter pieces over top of dry mixture. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut butter into the flour mixture until small pea-sized pieces are formed (don’t cut the butter down too small). Use your fingers a bit to bring clumps together to create a crumble. Set aside in the freezer until ready to use. After 35 minutes have passed, remove pie from the oven. Sprinkle the cold crumble over the top of the pie. Return to oven and lower temperature to350 degrees. Bake for another 25-35 minutes or until the pie filling begins to bubble and thicken around the edges and in the center (it’s ok if it takes a little longer if your peaches were juicy).Remove from oven and allow the pie to cool for at least four more hours. Serve at room temperature or warmed with some ice cream (it’s also delicious cold from the fridge!)Pie will be good at room temp for up to 4 days – if it lasts that long. The center (it’s ok if it takes alittle longer if your peaches were juicy.) Remove from oven and allow the pie to cool for at least four more hours. Serve at room temperature or warmed with some ice cream (it’s also delicious cold from the fridge!) Pie will be good at room temp for up to 4 days – if it lasts that long.
Written by Melissa D. Corbin- A Nashville- based freelance food and travel journalist. Corbin is also the founder of Corbin In The Dell, a consulting company connecting those who care about where their food comes from. Continue the conversation with her on instagram @melcorbin, twitter @mdcorbin or visit her website at corbininthedell.com.