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B1G 2021, Wisconsin Potluck #1: Can the Badgers keep climbing?

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Is the “Wisconsin Way” a happy plateau or self-satisfied settling?

You’re Going Where Madison Photo by Lauren Justice for The Washington Post via Getty Images

It’s Wisconsin Week and from the passive-aggressive use of the lowercase “w” to the inevitability of “Fuck Wisconsin,” we all know what that means.

Given such hostility, it shouldn’t surprise you that wisconsin fans/wisconsinites sconnies place a premium on feeling comfortable and untroubled. Now, we all want to feel comfortable, and that begs the question: if what makes you feel comfortable is a little different than usual, does that make you unique? Special? Weird?

Or is it maybe not that different after all?

Dining Experience: The Supper Club

Two nuggets from wikipedia:

A supper club is a traditional dining establishment that also functions as a social club. The term may describe different establishments depending on the region, but in general, supper clubs tend to present themselves as having a high-class image, even if the price is affordable to all.

And:

The first supper club in the United States was established in Beverly Hills, California, by Milwaukee, Wisconsin native Lawrence Frank.

In other words, you’re going to get a substantial meal centered around a large cut of meat and, if you don’t want the baked potato, you better say so. Friday is the fish fry and Saturday is for prime rib. What else do you need to know?

Oh, right, alcohol. If there is an official drink of the supper club it is the brandy old-fashioned. There are ridiculous stats out there about what % of brandy sold in the U.S. is sold in Wisconsin, but suffice it to say the answer is a lot.

Poll

Supper clubs?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Yeah, cool concept
    (59 votes)
  • 27%
    The 1940s called...
    (46 votes)
  • 15%
    Fuck off Wisconsin, this is a midwestern thing.
    (25 votes)
  • 21%
    American food in big portions? Yeah, real original. It’s called a restaurant.
    (35 votes)
165 votes total Vote Now

Poll

BRANDY old-fashioneds?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Sounds awesome
    (55 votes)
  • 22%
    Old-fashioned? Yes. Brandy? No.
    (35 votes)
  • 31%
    Drink what tastes good to you
    (49 votes)
  • 12%
    Fuck off you Sconnie freak. Fruit in your drink is bad enough.
    (19 votes)
158 votes total Vote Now

So, “writers:”

(1) Would you/have you dine(d) at a supper club? Would you/have you order a brandy old-fashioned?

(2) Is the concept of a “dining experience” worth pursuing? Does your state/area have anything to offer along these lines?

(3) What mixed drink (no beers!) do you enjoy that might leave others scratching their head?

HWAHSQB: The only thing I know of supper clubs is that John Cleese scene from the Great Muppet Caper. “Although it’s really more of a supper club.”

The central Iowa dining experience generally consists of bland food covered in gravy.

I’m much to simple and lazy to mix drinks with more than 2 things. In the last year, I can think of three mixed drinks I’ve made, gin and tonic, gin and grapefruit juice, and bourbon and water.

MNW: I have and I cannot wait to again. This is from the 5 O’Clock Steakhouse—formerly Coerper’s—famous for its food but also across State Street from the (former) apartment complex where Jeffrey Dahmer lived:

Buddy and I had 3-4 martinis each—you start standing, with cocktails, before being ushered to your seats—enjoyed a plate off the relish tray carted around to your table, and ohhhh the baked potato. Man, I miss that place. Same with Lakeside Club in Mahtomedi, though that one’s no longer open.

A supper club dining experience is worth pursuing, though I’m hesitant to give my thumbs-up to dining experiences generally. Maybe I’m too cynical (or poor—probably poor) to listen to how each course tells a story or whatever. Gimme my big-ass steak and another martini, thank you.

I like to mix Malort with crippling sadness, if that’s an answer.

Brandy old fashioneds are terrible, Wisconsin, and you should all feel awful for having “invented” that bullshit.

MaximumSam: I would love to dine at a supper club. They aren’t actually dead, but have been taken over by high class chefs. It is now super fancy to go to a place that just brings you out some courses that they choose as opposed to ordering off a 30 page menu.

I also know what killed it - spoiled rotten children. Like my children, who specialize in telling me that they aren’t going to eat anything that is in our fridge unless it starts with chicken and ends with nuggets.

But this is worth having. In fact, I’m hopeful that it arrives relatively soon. There isn’t any reason such a thing couldn’t be relatively affordable - the food doesn’t even have to be that great if each course comes with a drink, The local Mexican joint could do it in a flash—people already will pay to sit around and eat and drink, and a lot of people don’t really like making decisions. Let the restaurant make these decisions for you!

I rarely order mixed drinks. In fact, I thought I hated hard liquor until I realized I just hate it mixed with other things. So now any whiskey/brandy/rum that I drink is usually just by itself, at room temperature. Neat, as they say.

RockyMtnBlue: I would certainly try one. I’m not terribly interested in fancy food experiences, but good food and people to talk to appeals to me all day long. However, if they try to tell me the story of the food as MNW says, or it gets away from proper big meat and into ‘chef creations’ as MaximumSam alluded, I’m going to get cranky. Just give me a damned steak, medium rare as God intended. Don’t get fancy. Put your energy toward making sure it’s a good cut if you’re feeling energetic.

On the rare occasion that I drink mixed drinks, they’ll be some fru fru, vodka-based drink because I don’t like the taste of alcohol.

RU in VA: Doesn’t one of the Ivies call their Skull and Bones knockoff - supper clubs? Is it Princeton? I don’t remember. Maybe I just have The Social Network on the brain.

I am a stupid sucker for gated restaurants. Bring on the Michelin Stars, load me up with those reservations you have to hit F5 like a madman for on the Third Tuesday in May at 10:47 AM - I will purchase airfare specifically and only to go to Alinea if you provided me a spot.

2. Yeah, the The Inn at Little Washington is like an hour from my house. It’s okay. New Jersey really doesn’t have anything, unless you consider Chinese Buffets or the smoldering ruins of a Ponderosa a “dining experience”. I guess there’s probably a Benihana somewhere.

The Grease Trucks USED to be an experience, when they existed. Little known fact - about half the sandwiches had really nasty names to them which were forced to change in about 2005 or so. A real dining experience. I won’t go over what the bad names are, but one of the least bad resulted in a 50 year old Turkish man yelling into the 2 AM New Brunswick night: “Who’s got two Darrells and two B*tches?; Two Darrells, two b*tches”.

3. I will content that no drink is better than a mojito in a tall glass with 34 ice in the pool on a 90 degree day. NONE BETTER

WSR: Ah, the supper club. When you can’t call a “restaurant” a restaurant, because you want to go somewhere in wisconsin that isn’t a VFW, a bar with a kitchen, or fast food.

They’re fine, but they’re a restaurant. I probably need to go to one again, but I could also go to the restaurant at the country club I’m going to be joining instead.

Also, get the fuck out of here with brandy in an old fashioned. I know everything in that state is just insanely stupid, but that’s not an old fashioned. Sugar, water, bitters, bourbon, ice cube, orange slice, and a cherry. Come up with another name for whatever that trash drink is, because it’s not an old fashioned.

Zuzu: Never been to one, would be down to try because I like nice restaurants and good food. Supper Club to me has Country Club vibes which is what I picture in my head. Am I off there? I've eaten at a few Country Clubs, many associated with golf courses or high end living communities in Jersey.

And sure, a dining experience is worth pursuing. I mean ask yourself this, whenever you get excited over living in or passing through a place that has "stuff to do," stop and take a moment to realize how much of that "stuff to do" is eating at restaurants. I kinda hate that, so if I'm gonna eat somewhere now and find it interesting I want it to be "an experience."

Can't think of anything in Jersey off the top of my head, but it's Jersey... we're a 10/10 food state, I'm sure there's something.

Stew:

  1. I would, and have. I enjoy the hell out of comically large portions of meat. Anymore they’re just regular restaurants that wisconsin feels the need to call something dumb. I believe the history is it was used as a way to get around prohibition laws. But I’m not gonna look that up.
  2. I don’t really know how to answer this, but I’m gonna address an architectural/design pet peeve of mine. Way too many restaurants have high ceilings with hard surfaces and are very open. This creates an environment where sounds just bounce around making the restaurant have incredibly loud background noise and making it way too hard to have a conversation.
  3. All my alcohol opinions are correct.
If you can’t imagine this man with an old-fashioned at the supper club, the whole concept is lost on you.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Football: Happily sated or trying to jump up?

(Most) Wisconsin fans are not churlish enough to complain about the level of the football program. Bowls 24 of the last 25 years, including the last 19 (longest streak in B1G); Six division titles; eight 10-win seasons since 2009; clear identity; only FCS program in the state; etc. Wisconsin has built something pretty reliable and clearly sustainable.

But, as with many fan bases who think they’ve plateaued, you can hear creep in a sense of “Is this as good as it’s going to get?”

While you need to be pretty good to be in the “best program never to make the playoff” discussion, it still means you’re bumping up against a ceiling.

A recent Athletic article ($) has UW listed as the 3rd biggest overachiever in terms of record vs. recruiting rankings (behind Iowa State and Iowa). It only went back four years, but if you went back 10 years, UW would probably rank #1 or #2. Of course you’re happy over-achieving, but as a recent mailbag response put it: “You can win a lot of football games recruiting the way Iowa and Wisconsin do. You just can’t win a national title that way.”

AGAIN: Most UW fans are thrilled with where the program is at. Would be nice to win the B1G one year and/or win the Rose Bowl, but, yeah, 100 FBS programs would take the Badgers’ troubles in a heartbeat.

Still...the last few recruiting classes have been among the best for UW in recent history.

Maybe...maybe you can raise the program without risking the foundation? Is is worth the risk?

So, tell me...

(1) What would you rather have for your program: UW’s last 10 years or so, or MSU’s? Do you want to be at least pretty good every year with program continuity, or would a playoff berth/B1G title be worth a 3-9 season and a (likely) multi-year rebuild? [Ohio State fans can fuck off and ignore this question. Penn State fans can fuck off and reflect on 4th quarter play-calling foibles.]

(2) How do you feel about where your team is right now? What’s actually the realistic ceiling for your program? Does the likelihood of playoff expansion change your assessment?

HWAHSQB: Given that the last 10 years for Illinois has “peaked” at 6-6, I’d take either one of those scenarios in a fucking heartbeat. And Illinois doesn’t plummet to 3-9. When we do it, we don’t screw around. Illinois has failed to 3 games SEVEN times in the last 26 years. More than 14 of the time, 3-9 would’ve been an improvement.

As far as where my team is right now, unless you are rutger, losing to Illinois is an unmitigated disaster of season ruining proportions and I just show up for the off chance at dishing out some schadenfruede to a fanbase that has a team that isn’t an embarrassment. The playoff expansion? Ha, if the playoff expanded to 12 teams from the B1G, it still wouldn’t matter. Jeesus, thinking about these questions just makes me sad.

MNW: Northwestern’s probably as close to those salad days now as it’s ever been—decent almost every year, with continuity. There hasn’t been that sustained dip in results or a true “rebuild”, I guess. And, as someone on the record with accepting mediocrity, I’m very pleased with that.

For the cynicism that you can win a lot of games but not a natty the way wisconsin and Iowa recruit—I’ll be curious to see how the College Football Playoff changes that. Imagine an 11-2ish wisconsin coming out of the Big Ten Championship Game with a Top ~15 ranking.

In 2011, 2016, 2017, and maybe 2014 and 2019, wisconsin is in the CFP. In 2016 and 2017, they’re probably hosting a game.

That team can make a run now, and recruiting—which still will have a nasty habit of showing up against Ohio State, of course—can be mitigated in yet another one-off game.

MaximumSam: As an Ohio State fan, I am dutifully fucking off. [ed.—Thank you.]

RockyMtnBlue: For the first twenty or so years of my Michigan fandom, Michigan had pretty much exactly what Wisconsin has had the last ten years. It wasn’t quite the same because OSU wasn’t a death star back then so you could still get conference titles and Rose Bowl berths being what Wisconsin is today. As Michigan fans we railed against it and yelled to the heavens “We’re Michigan! We should be better than this!” The last 13 years have taught some of us how stupid we were. Give me 9-10 wins every year and I’m happy. But my fanbase won’t be.

Michigan is on fire right now. Not in a Dan Patrick “en fuego” kind of way, but rather in a New Jersey dumpster kind of way. I think the staff changes, particularly on defense, might be good in the medium term, but I expect Michigan is going to pay a short-term price for the massive direction change on defense. The offense will be expected to carry the team the year. Unfortunately for this plan, the offense is run by Josh Gattis, who has yet to demonstrate he should be an OC at any level, to say nothing of P5.

If Harbaugh can survive the rebuild of the staff and the realignment on type of players we’re recruiting on defense, Michigan could get back to being basically Wisconsin-with-a-harder-schedule. That’s our program ceiling. The 2021 season ceiling is much more depressing.

RU in VA: Well, having beat MSU at least once in the past 10 years, and having not beaten Wisco... this is an easy answer.

2. Rutgers is a hot fireball. I have absolutely no idea what to expect. No one does, really.

WSR: Jesus, neither. I’ll take Sparty+, please. This should be the recipe for 34 of the Quadrangle and Northwestern: 6-6 is the basement, and you take your turn losing to Ohio State once a cycle. (Yes, yes. I know. We need to make that last step this season.)

I love where we’re at. Recruiting isn’t just sifting through everyone’s trash, the team has an identity and likeable players, and we’re not Nebra shit. 2020 turned into ashes in our mouth, but let’s see what we can do in 2021 and have some fun in the process.

Zuzu: What RU in VA said. Definitely Wisconsin.

Our ceiling right now is a 6-6 bowl game within the next 2 seasons. With Playoff Expansion I do genuinely think our future ceiling is a once in a blue moon, maybe even once ever Playoff trip that coincides with one of these really down years for all the good teams. I think we're headed in a genuinely good direction with a competent coach who just gets Rutgers better than anyone.

Poll

Which would you rather?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    Wisconsin-levels of "always almost-there"
    (104 votes)
  • 23%
    MSU-levels of "boom, then bust"
    (32 votes)
136 votes total Vote Now