Football and Me Part XVII-A

This is the seventeenth (and final, for this season, maybe) post in a series in which I will document this football season. It will broadly be about the Badgers and Packers but will more specifically be about myself in it. Football season does not just happen on the field. It is about great friends, foods, drinks, and merriment. My hope is that it will be interesting for readers but at the very least it will serve as a journal to look back on. I wish I had done this last year.

Man. Whirlwind of a weekend. So much fun with such great old friends, new friends, and food but such a devastating end to the Packers season. Weekend photo diary will be on this entry and a retro-diary of yesterday’s Packers game (this is going to be extremely painful to write but I want to try to figure out how and why they were beaten so badly) here.

Friday

10:00 PM – I Arrive the Econolodge in Green Bay with Raffi, Matt, Scott, and Hisham. About two months ago, when the Packers were 10-0, I figured out that they needed to go 3-3 while both the Saints and 49ers went 6-0 in order for there NOT to be a game at Lambeau Field this weekend. I checked hotel room rates on Priceline, and this, a 2-star hotel a little more than two miles from Lambeau, was going for $46/night + tax. If for some reason the previously described nightmare scenario played out, the room was cancelable until this past Wednesday. Essentially, I value-invested in a hotel room with no risk. When we check in, the clerk looks at my rate in disbelief and asks “How long ago did you book this??” before telling us that the day after I booked the room, the rate went up to $199/night. Win.

We’re at the hotel for long enough to quickly get in a glass of Jack on the rocks. CHEERS TO RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW. This weekend’s gonna be a good, good weekend.

10:30 – We get to Kroll’s West with healthy appetites. Matt, who had gotten to Green Bay a little ahead of us, could not stand to wait and got a butterburger and cheese curds at Culver’s (he’s spent countless hours over the past four years eating at EVERY franchise location in Wisconsin) but did not let this impact his performance at Kroll’s. This meal could really be its own entry. Hope you’re hungry.

Cheese curds, inferno wings at Kroll's
White cheese curds, yellow cheese curds, inferno wings. The white were better than the yellow, the wings had really good flavor but weren’t served piping hot. The best is yet to come.
Butter Burger @ Kroll's

My main course, a Butter bacon cheeseburger. This burger was on Man vs. Food (the part where they show dank restaurants in town before the challenge) and it was stunningly exquisite. I think it’s one of the top five burgers I’ve ever had in a restaurant (definitely surpassed by Kuma’s Corner in Chicago and Anchor Bar in Superior, WI). Would need to have it again to definitively evaluate some others to round out the top five.

Ribs, Mashed Potatoes, and Mac and Cheese at Kroll's

Matt’s order (remember that he was splitting all the communal appetizers with the rest of us and had already eaten a full dinner at Culver’s). I didn’t get to try any of the ribs, but that mac and cheese and oh my God those mashed potatoes were good. Dialogue with our server Sara (who I promise remembered me/us fondly when I went back to Kroll’s two nights later):

Matt: I’ll get the ribs.

Sara: That comes with two sides.

Matt: Hmm…I’ll go with the mac and cheese and mashed potatoes.

Sara: Would you like butter or gravy on those mashed potatoes?

Matt: Yes.

Sara: Beef gravy or chicken gravy?

Matt: Yes.

When they arrived, Matt took a bite, his eyes widened as his posture noticeably changed like everyone’s in the Seinfeld Soup Nazi episode and he forced a murmur: “Oh my God.” He passes the mashed potatoes to Raffi. Same reaction. Raffi passes them to me. I normally don’t like mashed potatoes and have had time to brace myself and adjust expectations accordingly after seeing two friends express amazement slink down in their seats. Same reaction. I pass to Hisham. “Oh my God.” Hisham passes to Scott. Same thing.

It turns out that these mashed potatoes, which had achieved heights that I didn’t know mashed potatoes were capable of, were just instant and the gravy was bought wholesale from Custom Culinary. I don’t even want to know how much butter they put in it (we asked, Sara said that it was just the size of the cheese curd, this cannot possibly be true). Sorry for those three minutes I just wasted of your time in which I salivated about mashed potatoes but the picture really doesn’t do them justice. Man those were some exceptional mashed potatoes.

PS – When the mac and cheese was finished, Matt chugged the remaining cheese/butter like it was the leftover milk in a bowl of Cocoa Puffs. Video evidence may or may not exist.

Butterscotch milkshake @ Kroll's

Butterscotch milkshake. I think it was the best milkshake I’ve ever had, Raffi thought it was his second best (My second and his first are Delta Diner in Delta, WI – either way, the two are both outstanding and very close).

Final order tally: Four butter cheeseburgers, ribs (with two sides), inferno wings, two orders of cheese curds, a milkshake, seven Spotted Cows, and (not pictured) one order each of chili and cheesy garlic bread. Total tab? $95.08. I love Wisconsin.

Saturday

8:00 AM – After closing Anduzzi’s the night before and getting a less-than-ideal three hours of sleep, I gotta do the two-mile walk from Scott’s hotel (he had an extra bed Friday night because his sister wasn’t getting there till Saturday). The painful 45-minute walk down Oneida really feels like the calm before a storm. The streets are empty but there’s a discernible buzz in the air that 70,000 people are about to descend upon the city.

9:00 – I actually force myself to work out (I am, after all, trying to watch my figure) and it is even more excruciating than you would imagine. For more reasons than just the three hours of sleep and subsequent walk-of-shame-without-having-gotten-to-have-the-good-part-first, this was exquisite torture: the exercise room was 80 degrees, there was no remote for the TV, the elliptical wasn’t plugged in so I couldn’t chart my time or change the resistance (although the resistance on the base mode was right around where I would have set it to), I didn’t have a water bottle, the water fountain had warm water which triggered a gag reflex (so it was that or extreme dehydration), my towel kept falling off the handle bars, and the sweat gushing out of me tasted and felt like normal sweat combined with the recycled red meat, dairy, Spotted Cow, and Maker’s Mark that I was trying to at least partly purge from my body (it wasn’t as enjoyable the second time through).

Noon: Curly’s Pub inside Lambeau. Had a bad experience with our pulled buffalo chicken sandwiches (there was either too much hot sauce or it had gone bad) but they comped that part of the meal and were very apologetic (Raffi and I NEVER complain about food but these were egregious). The below, though, more than made up for it:

Cheese Curds @ Curly's Pub

Cheese curds. ‘Nuff said. Best of the weekend, beating out the curds at Kroll’s, Stadium View, and inside Lambeau. I stilllll think the cheese curds at Will’s Northwoods Inn are better but it’s splitting hairs.

Pretzel Bites @ Curly's Pub

Soft, buttery, oven-fresh pretzel bites accompanied by a warm homemade beer cheese dipping sauce. Third collective “Oh my God” moment (after the mashed potatoes and milk shake) of the weekend so far. I would need to be a FAR better writer to describe with words how exceptional these were. Not pictured: the six or seven (who’s counting when there’s free refills?) Diet Cokes that transformed me from a zombie into a person during this meal.

1:00 PM – Packers Hall of Fame. Deserves its own entry and will likely get it on a future trip. Unbelievable to see video, pictoral, and written evidence as well as memorabilia take us extensively through Packers history. Not that I needed it or wasn’t already, but the inspiration drawn from walking through these halls made me PSYCHED to head into Lambeau for the Giants game. All football fans need to carve out a few hours for this if they ever make it to Green Bay and every Packers fan needs to put it on his/her IMMEDIATE to-do list. A small sample of the awesomeness below:

JFK

Letter from JFK to Vince Lombardi.

Lambeau Leap

Simulating the Lambeau Leap with Matt and Raffi. Mine was, um, not graceful. We were able to get the picture in JUST before the guard asked us to get down (if you enlarge the picture, we were in flagrant violation of the sign to the right of Matt).

Lombardi Trophies

With Matt, Raffi, and Hisham in front of the Packers’ four Lombardi trophies. Not something you get to see every day.

3:00 – Now additionally joined by my friend Nicole, the next 11 hours of our lives will be spent at Stadium View. Crowd was cheering loud for 49ers-Saints which was an unbelievable game, Patriots-Broncos was very meh. Redefining consumer surplus, 100 oz. towers of Spotted Cow were $17.50. Still mostly full from lunch, we split an appetizer sampler (in order of awesomeness: chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, cheese curds, jalapeño poppers, french fries) and chili with extra, extra cheese (as you can see below, it was made-to-order – our server Lindsey hooked us up).

Sampler platter @ Stadium View
Chili @ Stadium View

7:00 – Jerry Kramer is signing autographs in the adjacent room. I had written a review of his amazing book, Instant Replay, about a month ago and introduced myself. He and his daughter immediately recognized me from it when I introduced myself and were extremely thankful and complimentary. Writing is a pretty solitary undertaking and there are untold amounts of self-doubt when I’m struggling for ideas so being praised effusively by a Packers legend who co-wrote an incredible diary that was one of the best-selling sports books of all-time means more to me than I can say. I’m approaching transcendent levels of happiness at this point but the night is only going to get better.

11:00  – Been at Stadium View for eight hours but closing it is an inevitability. The DJ in the main room shamefully panders to Giants fans by playing “New York, New York” (there’s a fine line between hospitality and traitorous behavior…) and it’s time to check out the band playing in the other room. And this band is AWESOME. Called Shaker and the Egg, it is a swing/funk band that is playing a great mix of original music and flawlessly executed covers. Although the band has been playing for a little while, Nicole and I are the first out on the dance floor and we’re conspicuously alone out there for a few songs. They play Superstition, Play that Funky Music, Billie Jean, and Come on Eileen as the dance floor starts to fill in.

I lose it when they cover my old summer camp’s “Wannado Night” song, It’s Your Thing. CHEERS TO RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!!!! The 2-mile walk back is more enjoyable than it had been 18 hours prior.

Sunday

Noon – Raffi and Hisham had headed back to Milwaukee on Saturday night so Nicole, Matt, and I head towards Lambeau. After a brief stop at Stadium View, we head to a small tailgate a block off Lombardi where Matt’s stepfather Lenny, Lenny’s friend Dave, and Dave’s son Nick–all in from Kenosha–have set up shop. “Don’t get me wrong. I love burgers and brats but I’m sick of them and wanted to do something a little different,” Lenny, who endearingly reminds me of The Dude because he has a thick beard, speaks with similar intonation and carries himself with a care-free, go-with-the-flow demeanor, says. If only he were wearing a robe. Here’s what he meant:
Venison!

Marinated, backstrap venison. Nick hunted and butchered the deer and had marinated the meat with Sweet Baby Ray’s, steak sauce, Frank’s Red Hot, and three or four other things that I’ve since forgotten (even though I asked him to repeat it two or three times expressly so I would remember right now) the night before. This was an especially special treat. Guns and hunting get a bad rap among people such as myself but this meal was an example of what many well-intentioned hunters fight so vociferously to preserve. On a weekend filled with gluttonous eating, this venison stood head and shoulders above all else in flavor, texture, and unique Wisconsin cultureness*.

*Not a real word but should be

We also ate seasoned flank steak fajitas from the grill.

2:30 – Very weirdly, tickets are available in abundance for face value outside. If you hold out, you could probably get into a home playoff game for the defending Super Bowl champions who went 15-1 for less than 100 bucks. It seems like this should be in more demand and I’m still struggling to figure out why this was the case, especially since there were at least 5,000 Giants fans inside (during the last five minutes of the game, they filled the lower level between the 25-yard lines on one side of the field and this was not all of them). As I said, very weird. Bad omen in retrospect. I head in with Nicole.

3:00 – Into Lambeau. Such a special privilege to be in the sacred grounds for my first home Packers playoff game. Incalculable amount of thanks to family friend and regular reader Rob for the gracious generosity; every time but two that I have ever been to Lambeau, it has been because of Rob. Bad results which I will detail extensively in a follow-up post but that doesn’t change how much I cherish every single moment spent in Lambeau Field. It’s one of two places (the other being my aforementioned summer camp) that makes me feel spiritually charged every moment I’m there.

Temperature: 34 degrees. Feels like: 70 (because of the layers, proximity to others, and strongly shining sun. View from the seats before kickoff.

Lambeau

6:30 – Heartbroken but I am able to maintain the perspective that this has been a wonderful two seasons. I’m struggling to make sense of how the Packers played so poorly and am mind-boggled as I continue to retroactively piece it all together. The drops, the fumbles, the missed tackles, the hail mary. As these keep compounding in my memory, it’s astonishing that the Packers were only down a touchdown with 10 minutes to play. I pick up a beef stick/colby jack cheese package and a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to eat away my sorrow with and we meet up with Matt, Lenny, Nick, and Dave for another steak fajita. We’re all shellshocked and still trying to figure out how and why.

7:30 – Head to Kroll’s with Nicole. The eating didn’t make me feel any better; I feel rudderless and am still in disbelief that there will not be another Packers game forever until mid-September. Eight months; an extended timeframe where I’m going to have to talk myself into the Olympics and baseball. Things start to look a little up, though. I find a $20 bill on the ground. Was that from Poppy and Granny as a small token to keep my head up? God? The bourbon fairy? Anyways, it’s the little things…

I ask one of the men behind the bar who looks like he’d know–I mean that nicely–where the best place in Green Bay to get breakfast tomorrow will be. “The Pancake Place on Military Ave.” he says confidently with less than a second of hesitation. Suffice to say that would happen and we would not be let down.

Breakfast with Nicole at The Pancake Place in Green Bay before a relatively painless 3.5-hour drive back to Chicago:
Breakfast @ The Pancake Place

 

Country fried steak (two extra large eggs with a breaded beef fritter smothered in sausage gravy), benedict stuffed hash browns (two eggs with grilled diced ham stuffed between hash browns and smothered with rich hollandaise sauce), and beer cheese soup. Everything was quite good but the country fried steak was exceptional.

Somehow, I only gained 2.3 pounds between when I left my house on Friday and returned Monday. Holler. The fun part of this is over, time to get deep into the misery.

 

 

 

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3 Responses to Football and Me Part XVII-A

  1. aattarw says:

    Sounds like a fun trip, sorry about the loss (but not really). To be fair, the Packers were only that close within 10 minutes because of a borderline egregious home job by the refs, but I won’t rub it in while you’re mourning.

  2. Stephen says:

    This made me hungry

  3. F. Weisburgh says:

    Loved reading BOTH blogs. Good work. Sorta sorry ’bout the Packers. Sorta. Glad you could eat your troubles away.

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