Monday, May 26, 2008

got MILK?


As I mentioned previously, MILK has entered into a partnership with the "got milk?" folks, and to kick off the introduction of the partnership, food bloggers and media were invited to an open house held at MILK on May 20 to sample some of the treats available at MILK as well as to learn more about the partnership in general and the "got milk?" campaign specifically. I was fortunate to have been one of those invited.

the event begins

We arrived just before the 5pm start time, and everything was already set up. MILK was closed to regular customers for the duration of the two-hour event, and a sign-in table was in place at the restaurant's entrance.

We checked in and were given name badges and a little packet that had a "got milk?" logoed pencil as well as an electronic press kit. We were invited inside, and we saw that the restaurant was decorated with balloons labeled for the event.

We had also each been given a raffle ticket, and there was a table displaying some of the prizes to be raffled off later in the evening.

As more invitees arrived, the restaurant was filled with people mingling and chatting and enjoying the treats.

Shortly thereafter, our attention was called by Tatum Wan, a representative of RL Public Relations, who welcomed us to the event.

She also introduced the two special guests for the evening, Chef Bret Thompson, owner of MILK, and Steve James, Executive Director of the CMPB (California Milk Processor Board).

Both Bret and Steve welcomed us to the event, with Bret talking a little about MILK (all of the treats are hand-made there, but Bret joked that they did not grow the fruit that was available on the counter) as well as his love of milk, and Steve talked about his involvement with the "got milk?" program.

After the introductions, the rest of the evening was spent sampling the goodies and getting a chance to talk to Bret and Steve.

the treats

A menu of seven items had been prepared for the evening for everyone to sample, all of the items with milk as an ingredient, of course.

Each of the items was brought around on trays by MILK employees, and people were able to help themselves.

My first treat was the cornbread with raspberry jelly.

I'm not a particular fan of cornbread, mostly because I generally find it to be very hard, crunchy and chalky. I have only on rare occasions found cornbread that I like, that's of the right consistency and flavor to suit my tastes. This version was like a cornbread muffin with raspberry filling. Whereas cornbread muffins can be very hard, I found this to be very light and fluffy and moist, thanks partly to the fact that the muffin was very fresh and still warm. I actually liked the muffin a lot. I did find that the added raspberry jelly made it sweeter than I would normally prefer, but others seemed to like it.

As I was enjoying the cornbread (yes, my friends who know me well have just fallen over because they never thought they'd ever see me write such a thing), I was thinking that having some liquid with it would be very nice. And what should come along but little glasses of milk on a tray!

Well, how perfect was that! (Yes, there was bottled water available as well.)

Next up was the savory butternut squash soup. While I have friends who adore butternut squash, it's never been something I've particularly been interested in or cared much for when I have tried it, but hey, I'm at MILK, so of course I'm going to try it. It was nicely presented as well, in a little champagne glass.

Wow! I can't tell you how much I loved that soup. It was really smooth and had a really nice flavor. I can't tell you what specific taste got to me, but I think it was a similiar kind of spice that you might find in pumpkin pie, which I love. I told the husband and a friend that if this is what butternut squash soup always tasted like, then I was now a fan. Sadly, they informed me that this was not typical for butternut squash soup. I have decided to have a taste the next time the husband or a friend orders it, but I have a feeling that I am going to be sorely disappointed because it won't begin to be as delicious as this was. Yes, I had a second glass of the soup later in the evening. This was one of my favorite items of the evening.

By the way, there was no particular order that I chose to try any particular item. It was really a matter of what was next available if I wasn't talking to someone or doing something else.

Next was the banana dulce de leche ice cream. They had made cute little ice cream cones and they were being served from glass dishes nestled on top of what looked like white chocolate and caramel chips.

The ice cream was quite tasty as you'd imagine, and the little cone was just the right tasting size.

Next up was the arroz con leche ice cream sandwich.

This was the only item that I had which I didn't really care about. It was cute and kind of crunchy, but otherwise, it didn't make much of an impression on me. It may be that because of the small size, the cookie overpowered the ice cream, so in a regular portion, the flavors might be more distinctive.

My other favorite item of the evening was the milkie way malt.

It was just incredibly delicious. The funny thing is that after I took a glass and had a sip and tasted how amazing it was, I noticed that the server had gone over to Steve James, and I watched as he picked up a glass and sipped himself - and then this look of total bliss just came over him as he closed his eyes for a second, savoring the flavor. I had spoken to him a bit earlier in the evening, so we shared a laugh about how you just can't help physically reacting to something so delicious.

Last up for me was the ice-blended green tea.

It was tasty and refreshing.

The only thing on the menu that I didn't have was the berry tres leches. I had seen it on a tray going by, but by then, I'd had plenty of sugar, and while it looked nice, it wasn't appealing enough to me to want to have any more. There was plenty of everything to go around, so there was definitely enough for seconds for anyone who wanted them. People were also arriving at different times during the two-hour event, so it was nice that the different items kept rotating around so people coming a bit later didn't miss out on anything.

the special guests

In between tasting all the wonderful various treats, I had a chance to speak to both Bret and Steve individually.

Bret Thompson

I've been acquainted with Bret for some time now, since I first met him when he was executive chef of Catal Restaurant. We've had the pleasure of seeing him at various events as well as when visiting MILK. When I asked him how he came to be partnered with "got milk?", he said that they had actually approached him. RL Public Relations, which is one of the firms that represent "got milk?", was made aware of MILK, and upon further investigation and a meeting, it seemed like the perfect partnership. Bret is also going to be appearing in a few media shows in various places in California as well as some possible television spots to further promote the partnership.

In addition, there is information on the "got milk?" website about the new partnership, from which there is also a link to a recipe book, which includes recipes for everything available for tasting this night (including the delicious butternut squash soup) as well as a few other treats.

Here's a picture and short bio of Bret.

Steve James

Steve James is the Executive Director of the California Milk Processor Board, and Steve explained that the CMPB was established in 1993, and in the last 15 years, the Board has worked to "promote the consumption of milk", as described on the got milk? website, as well as to educate the public about the benefits of milk.

I asked Steve about the various companies that comprise CMPB, and while he obviously couldn't tell me if one brand of milk was better than another, I asked him if there really was a difference between brands. He explained that the processing of milk is pretty much uniform across the board, but while there are minimum requirements for what must be done to pasteurize milk with regard to time and temperature, different companies choose to tweak their product in slightly minute ways. One company might like the taste of the milk better if it's heated for a few degrees above minimum or for a few seconds longer than minimum, both of which can vary the taste of the finished milk. It's not really a matter of "better", but more a matter of preference.

We also discussed the different containers that milk can come in (glass, plastic, carton), and how that can also affect the taste of milk. I'm one of those who prefers my milk to be ice cold. Just "cold" isn't nearly as good, and tepid/room temperature is nasty. I've never been a fan of warm milk, but I understand the appeal it might have for some.

I also mentioned to Steve that I was finding that even with as successful as the "got milk?" campaign has been and how many people positively react to the humour in the ads, there still seems to be a strong feeling in the public that milk is for kids, that once you're an adult, you don't really drink milk anymore. Sure, lots of adults use milk for their cereal or in their coffee, but I actually find it rare for adults to just drink milk as a beverage. On the occasions that I've had milk at a restaurant, or when I've purchased milk at the store and it happens to come out that I'm not buying it for any children, just myself or the husband, I sometimes come across odd reactions of people who don't understand why I would be drinking milk as an adult, especially if I'm not pregnant. I've heard people talk about how they've not had milk in 10 or 20 years since they're adults, and they almost treat milk like baby food. Personally, I find this to be an extremely odd viewpoint. Oh, yeah, I know, they tell you milk is good for you growing up, so once you're grown up, you don't need it anymore, right? Wrong. As an adult, you still have bones that need calcium, moreso if you're a woman. I take a daily calcium supplement, but having the extra calcium from having milk on a regular basis is good too. And the calcium benefits aside, I really just like the taste of milk - cold, of course. I asked Steve if the milk mustache and other campaigns had had an effect on the adult population, and he said that while they didn't necessarily have hard numbers or percentages since it's hard to measure the direct correlation between ad awareness and actual product use, they have charted a marked increase in consumption attributable to certain specific campaigns.


As the event was nearing a close, we were thanked for attending that evening, and raffle numbers were chosen to award various prizes, including gift certificates to MILK. Overall, I thought it was a very nice event, and to me, appealing to food bloggers was a great idea. Sure, the regular media is a definite necessary outlet, but nowadays, many people are avid followers of certain blogs, and you get the personal opinion from blogs that you don't necessarily get from a corporate media company. I know that some of the people there had already been previously aware of MILK, but I'm glad that new people were introduced to the place as well.

press release

Here is the press release issued to announce the partnership.

Chef Bret Thompson Partners with GOT MILK?;
Reveals Secret for Velvety Shakes and Creamy Comfort Foods

San Clemente, Calif., May 20, 2008 – MILK, the way-hot ice cream parlor and cafe in Los Angeles, brings food lovers and plenty of enamored critics to the Archie and Veronica days when diners and neighborhood parlors dominated American society. MILK's homemade ice cream, malts, breads, cakes and soups bring delight (not to mention the inner child!) to those who enjoy nothing but the best. Bret Thompson, former Corporate Executive Chef of the Patina Restaurant Group and now owner and executive chef of MILK, relies on his talent and expertise to create delicious recipes, while staying true to the star of his shop: good old-fashioned milk. Taking his passion for milk to another level, Thompson has partnered with GOT MILK? to show food enthusiasts at home his secrets. Everyone can use a simple ingredient like milk to create out-of-this-world gourmet treats.

"Milk is just one of the best ingredients out there," says Thompson. "What better way to create velvety shakes, silky summer ice cream flavors or rich, buttery autumn breads! It's an honor to partner with GOT MILK? and share some of my recipes with food aficionados everywhere."

Distributed exclusively by GOT MILK? online on starting today, Thompson adapts some of his signature dishes and treats at MILK for food enthusiasts to recreate: from his mouth-watering MILKIE Way Malt to his kernel-popping cornbread to his pan-Latin inspired Berry Tres Leches.

"Thompson’s MILK recipes are just amazing," says Steve James, Executive Director of the California Milk Processor Board, the creators of GOT MILK?. "You can taste his passion for cooking in his food. And the line out his MILK shop is testament that many more people think so!"

About Bret Thompson & MILK
Before opening MILK in Los Angeles in 2007, Bret Thompson was the corporate executive chef of the Patina Restaurant Group. In the United States, he worked with renowned chefs like Roy Yamaguchi. In Europe, he trained under Michelin starred chefs like Martin Berasategui as well as Alain Passard of L’Arp├Ęge and Bernard Loiseau. MILK is located on 7290 Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles, where Thompson can be found delighting his clients daily.

About the CMPB
The California Milk Processor Board was established in 1993 to make milk more competitive and increase milk consumption in California. Awareness of GOT MILK? is over 90% nationally and it is considered one of the most successful campaigns in history. GOT MILK? is a federally registered trademark that has been licensed by the national dairy boards since 1995. GOT MILK? gifts and recipes can be viewed at The CMPB is funded by all California milk processors and administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.


There were a number of items that we saw at MILK that we had not seen on a prior visit, but the item I noticed most were the cupcakes.

I am not a particular cupcake fan, but I'd heard that MILK was now offering cupcakes. I found out that they've had them for several months now, and at first, they had the traditionally shaped cupcakes, but they then switched to their present incarnation, which they thought made much more sense and fit in much better given the focus on ice cream products in the restaurant.

We also noticed that MILK now has a gift card available, something that's very popular in many establishments, but we were amused by what the gift card was called.

The husband made a comment to Bret about the gift card, and Bret said that it just made sense, that he remembered getting milk money for school from his parents, a memory that I'm sure a lot of people have regarding their own parents, so this was just perfect. I know that if you've been reading my blog and website, you'll have gotten that I'm a huge fan of Bret's, but that kind of comment illustrates just one of the reasons for that.

We also had an opportunity to talk to pastry chef David, who joined MILK several months ago, and he expresses the same enthusiasm and passion for food and his creations that Bret does. In our interactions with other employees at MILK, they all seem to be excited to be working there and dedicated to their jobs, which definitely shows through in your dealings with them.

"got milk?"

One of the comments that Steve James made to me is that there are now generations of people growing up never knowing a world without "got milk?". More than just a branding for milk, the phrase has become a part of the public vernacular for all kinds of uses with minor tweaks. To me, a lot of why the campaign has worked so well is the appeal to humour of the ads. The "Who Shot Alexander Hamilton?" ad has been one of the most memorable and one of my favorites.

I also remember one where a dog is given some peanut butter, and he just continues to lick and lick and lick. Of course, everyone is aware of the multitude of celebrities who have sported milk mustaches over the years.

Well, they've recently launched a new campaign centered around White Gold, a fictitious rock band. Here is their official website. I have to say that this campaign does absolutely zero for me and to me, doesn't nearly have the appeal of prior campaigns, but then, since this campaign is apparently targeting the teen crowd, and I'm not in their demographic, maybe that's why it's not working on me. Also, I'm already a milk lover, so I don't really need more campaigns to entice me to drink more.

Here's an interesting article detailing the conception and development of the "got milk?" brand.


Dodie Castaldo said...

Thanks for your review. If I hadn't been there already, I would have felt like I was there. I always enjoy your reviews.

I was also at the event and, as this was my first trip to MILK, came away very impressed with those items that I ate.

My favorites were the Butternut Squash Soup (I'm a big fan of Butternut Squash) and the Milky Way Malt. The only item I was a little disappointed with was the Berry Tres Leches cake. It didn't quite have enough of a distinctive taste for me.

The regular menu of gourmet sandwiches and salads looks amazing and I'm definitely going to come back to try some of those.

The event itself was enjoyable and I think the pairing of MILK and the GOT MILK campaign is an excellent choice.

Sherry said...

Mmmm...I'm glad that your experience was yummiful.

I just advertised MILK on one of the blogs that I read. The blogger asked what was the best thing we ate this weekend, and mine happened to be the goodies that you brought me from Bret's place. THANK YOU!!!

Adrienne Krock said...

Oooooh, I love butternut squash soup. I'm glad you linked the recipes. I don't know if I'll make it but ooooh I like the idea of making it a lot.