Archive for March 2011

Iron Chef Mardi Gras Recipes

March 30th, 2011 — 6:21pm

dscn1040Following are the much anticipated menu and recipes from last month’s Iron Chef Mardi Gras dinner. Matt and Julie hosted. As you can see, we really covered our bases with everything from hurricanes to red beans and rice. It was truly a Fat Tuesday sort of feast…but on a Friday. Amazing how it felt like I traveled to New Orleans and back during the course of a single night. Oh, how I love New Orleans. Such a great city—just bursting at the seams with great food, music, and culture. I’d love to get back; but in the meantime, I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit for a night. dscn1039

Hurricane Cocktails
Abita Mardi Gras Bock
BBQ Shrimp (below)
Muffuletta Sandwich
Red Beans and Rice
Crabmeat Cheesecake
Praline Brownies
Cafe Du Monde Beignets and Chicory Coffee

Grandma’s Favorite BBQ Shrimp Recipe
(thanks to Julie for sharing her family’s secret recipe!)

6 lbs. medium to large shrimp (heads off, unpeeled)
4 sticks Imperial Margarine
1/4 cup Worcestershire  Sauce
1 tbsp. chopped garlic (2 or 3 cloves)
1/2 lemon
Plenty of black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. oregano

Rinse shrimp and drain in colander. Melt butter and pour over shrimp. Add salt, Worcestershire, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, and black pepper. Grill over high heat for five minutes, then stir and cook five more minutes. Check for doneness by holding shrimp to light to see if it separates from shell. Cooks in about 15 minutes depending on size of shrimp. Remove from grill and cover with foil. Let cool about 10 minutes. Shrimp will continue to cook in butter after they are off the grill.

Comment » | Iron Chef Dinners

A Visit to Toby’s Supper Club

March 30th, 2011 — 5:34pm

There’s no place I’d rather be on a Friday night than a cozy Wisconsin supper club enjoying a traditional fish fry. And so I was excited when the March issue of Madison Magazine included a short feature entitled “Four Fabulously Frugal Fish Fries.” According to the author, the four best fish deals in Madison can be found at Toby’s Supper Club, The Old Fashioned, Avenue Bar, and Esquire Club. The author provided a brief synopsis on each and then ranked them between one and four fish based on overall dining experience and value.

The clear winner—and only restaurant to be awarded the coveted four fish rating—was Toby’s Supper Club. Located just south of the Beltline and family owned and operated for more than 40 years, Toby’s is described as a “hole-in-the-wall place [that] is more bar than restaurant. On Friday nights, Toby’s is packed tighter than a can of sardines; everyone’s there for the fish specials. Dinner orders are taken while standing at the bar, but incredibly cheap drinks should ease the pain of an inevitably long wait.”

Well, I for one had never been to Toby’s. And as a self-proclaimed fish fry connoisseur, that obviously had to change. I made my way to Toby’s on a Friday night in early March. Precisely as the article had explained, the restaurant was the ultimate hole-in-the-wall. Although the vibe was inviting and neighborhoodly, it was still fairly intimidating to walk into an unfamiliar bar packed with townies, with no hostess in sight. After a standing around for a few awkward moments, we located a server who took our dinner order and let us know that it would be about an hour and forty-five minutes until we’d be seated.

I’m sure the recent exposure in the Madison Magazine didn’t help, but were relatively unfazed as we had no other place we needed to be that particular Friday night. We mozied up to the bar and ordered drinks—a New Glarus Spotted Cow for me, and an Old Fashioned for my dining mate. We met new friends, ran into colleagues—dare I say I enjoyed the hour plus wait. But that’s just the way of the Wisconsin supper club.

Finally we were seated, and dinner was well worth the wait. I ordered the cod, which was lightly breaded and deep fried, along with coleslaw and french fries. My dining mate opted for the more refined lake perch with a salad and baked potato. And then, of course, there was the requisite bread basket and assortment of crackers and bread sticks. Everything was delicious. It was all I’d ever wanted in a supper club and fish fry. And the kind of place that makes me proud to call myself a Wisconsinite.

Comment » | Madtown Lovin', Restaurant Reviews

Olbrich Wine & Chocolate Tasting

March 28th, 2011 — 2:40pm

dscn1048I’m all about chocolate and wine. So it didn’t take much convincing by my friend Julie to get me to purchase tickets for this year’s Indulgence Wine and Chocolate Tasting at Madison’s Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Last year was my first time at the event—and indulge did Julie and I ever. We were looking forward to another year of carefully evaluating—oh, who am I kidding—filling ourselves to the brim with local chocolates and wines.

The event again included local chocolatiers such as Candinas, Maurie’s, David Bacco, and TerraSource, as well as wineries such as Botham, Wollersehim, and Weggy. But there were noticeable absences and certainly fewer exhibitors than last year. Perhaps that contributed to the surprisingly rude behavior from several attendees—we were shocked and appalled each time we patiently waited in line, only to be skipped or mauled over by a over-indulgent chocolate eater.

But even that couldn’t stop me from enjoying my chocolate. My favorite sampling was David Bacco’s Drinking Chocolates. I think we tried the Mayan variety (deliciously spiced ancho, chipotle, and pasilla chiles blended with cinnamon, muscovado sugar, corn meal and 65% bittersweet chocolate). Hands down the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.

Although the chocolate was great, my favorite part of the evening had nothing to do with chocolate at all. The best part was listening to a great Latin jazz band while relaxing in the refreshingly humid and candlelit conservatory amongst exotic plants. Instantly, I was transported from reality (February in Wisconsin with too many over-indulgent chocolate eaters on the loose) to a hot topical paradise where each and every piece of chocolate in sight had my name on it. Because, really, it all comes back to chocolate.

Comment » | Madtown Lovin'

2011 Point Bock Run

March 23rd, 2011 — 6:40pm

Over the years I’ve spoken extensively of my love for the Point Bock Run, a 5-mile race that takes place each March at the Stevens Point Brewery. It’s one of my all-time favorites and truly offers many elements of a top-notch event—cheap registration fees, a well-marked course, overwhelming community support, great t-shirts, free beer, and respite from the long Wisconsin winter and the promise of spring.

For the fourth year I road-tripped to Stevens Point with my best friend. Since the race didn’t start until noon, we had plenty of time to make the two-hour drive north. The best part was that I convinced my parents to sign up for this year’s race. I was excited for them to finally experience the race I had talked up for years.

We met up with my parents in Stevens Point shortly before noon. There wasn’t much time to catch up before we were instructed to line up for the start. Unfortunately, my dad was nursing a bad cold leading up to the race—so it was all he could do to try to finish. And although my mom claimed she hadn’t been training much, she surprised herself by running the entire distance—and in nearly PR fashion. Karen and I ran together and humored ourselves by targeting other runners to chase down. For example, when Karen spotted a man a few strides ahead wearing the trademark blue Boston marathon finishers shirt, she said, “Let’s go get Boston.” And so we did. Then a woman in pink. Slowly we reeled ’em in, one-by-one. Er, like four people anyway.

After the race, we joined back up with my parents for post-race festivities. Huddled in a covered tent with thousands of other runners, we shimmied up to the bar for mid-day beers and toasted to family, friends, and good running.

1 comment » | Racing and Training

Peanut Butter Brownie Cups

March 23rd, 2011 — 5:29pm

dscn0950A while back, my friend and former colleague Eric shared the following recipe for Peanut Butter Brownie Cups, a recipe he used to win a brownie bake-off at work. After just one bite of chocolate-peanut-buttery goodness, I marked my vote for Eric (sorry, Kim!) and begged to have a copy of the recipe for myself. Luckily Eric was gracious enough to share his secrets.  It’s taken me a while (as in a few years) to re-create these brownies in my own kitchen, but they’re certainly worth the wait. And guaranteed to make a strong showing at your workplace potluck or snack counter.

Peanut Butter Brownie Cups
From Nestle Toll House
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 2/3 cup (divided) mini peanut butter cup baking chips
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease 12 muffin cups.

Combine sugar, butter and water in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high (100%) power for 1 minute or until butter is melted. Add semi-sweet morsels; stir until melted. Add egg and vanilla extract and stir well. Add flour and baking soda and stir until blended. Allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in 1 cup Swirled morsels. Spoon a heaping tablespoon batter into each prepared muffin cup.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top is set and wooden pick inserted center comes out still slightly wet. Place muffin pan on wire rack. Centers of brownies will fall upon cooling. If some do not, with back of teaspoon, tap center to make a hole.

Place peanut butter in small, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high (100%) power for 45 seconds; stir. While brownies are still hot, spoon a scant tablespoon peanut butter into center of each brownie. Top with remaining Swirled morsels. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Run a knife around edge and carefully remove from pan.

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Willy Porter at Thrasher

March 17th, 2011 — 6:03pm

dscn1078A few Saturdays ago, I saw Willy Porter play at the Thrasher Opera House in Green Lake. I first began listening to the Milwaukee guitarist/singer-songwriter during college and have since seen him in concert several times—everywhere from a small music club in Ann Arbor to the Wisconsin state fairgrounds. But nothing beats Willy Porter’s annual show at the Thrasher Opera House.

The concert always sells out quickly—which I’m sure is a combination of the venue and the talent. Thrasher is a fully-restored and charmingly small town venue. It’s the perfect, intimate space for a night with Willy—a stunningly talented guitarist whose rhythms Tori Amos once described as enchanting enough to “make me want to crawl inside his guitar and sleep there forever.”

I arrived plenty early on the night of the concert and made my way to the second row. Willy Porter was accompanied by percussionist Dave Schoepke, who mesmerized the audience with his expressive beats over a wide variety of inanimate objects. Together they played many favorites—including “Breathe” and “How to Rob a Bank,” among a few numbers I didn’t recognize, which will apparently be included on a new record. As always, Willy lured in the crowd with his down-to-earth vibe and great sense of humor. He certainly entertained the crowd with his trademark on-the-spot creation of a song using word suggestions from the audience. He had plenty of good material—you may recall Wisconsin was pretty prominent in the news at the time.

After two wonderful sets and a two-song encore, I was content and ready to crawl into my bed and sleep there forever—with dreams of Willy serenading me with the gentle strum of his guitar.

Comment » | Books, Film, and Music

Iron Chef Mardi Gras

March 10th, 2011 — 5:51pm

A sampling of Mardi Gras-themed dishes from last month’s Iron Chef dinner…

Comment » | Iron Chef Dinners

Blood Orange Margaritas

March 6th, 2011 — 11:33am

dscn0923Rick Bayless is a big name in the culinary world, responsible for bringing a modern twist to traditional Mexican cuisine and making it accessible to everyday cooks. I finally had the opportunity to dine at one of his acclaimed restaurants, Frontera Grill, in Chicago this past December. It was a real treat. But more recently, I’ve been introduced to Rick Bayless’s lineup of great cookbooks. His recipes tend to be quite involved, but the resulting dishes feature an exquisite taste combination and ingredients that are both simple and fresh. One of my recent favorites is the following recipe for Blood Orange Margaritas. There’s no time like the present to tap into this seasonal fruit and mix up a unique and vibrantly flavored concoction. It’s like no other margarita you’ve ever tried. Enjoy!

Blood Orange Margarita (Margarita de Naranja Rosa)
Makes 9 12-ounce cocktails

2/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup 100% agave silver tequila
1/2 cup Cointreau (helps focus on the orange flavor in just the right way)
2 cups fresh blood orange juice (about 6 juicy blood oranges)
A lime half for moistening the glass rims
Coarse (Kosher) salt
Ice cubes (about 6 cups—small ones are best)

In a large pitcher, stir together the lime juice, sugar and 3/4 cup water until the sugar has dissolved. Add the tequila, Cointreau and blood orange juice. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Moisten the rims of three 6-ounce martini glasses with the cut side of a lime half. Spread coarse salt on a small plate, then upend the glasses into the salt to crust the rims. Fill a cocktail shaker about 3/4 full of ice and measure in 1 1/2 cups of the margarita for 3 drinks. Cover and shake for about 15 seconds to thoroughly chill the mixture. Strain into the prepared glasses and hand to your guests. When ready, finish the remaining margaritas in the same way.

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Taste of the Market

March 6th, 2011 — 11:03am

dscn1045Ahh…Taste of the Market – just about the only good thing to come out of the Dane County Farmers’ Market packing up for the winter and moving indoors. Accompanying the indoor market each Saturday from January through April, “Taste of the Market” features a local chef cooking up a gourmet breakfast using ingredients sourced from local farmers. You may recall my first experience partaking in the winter treat last year.

Last Saturday I headed to the market (at the Madison Senior Center) with my friends Jill and Ryan. The Underground Food Collective served as guest chefs, along with student volunteers from FH King and the UW Dietetics and Nutrition program. The menu included a slice of gluten free wheat bread topped with hard boiled eggs, pears flavored with bleu cheese, a side of buffalo and pork sausage, a salad of wheat berries served with spinach pesto and chorizo, along with organic fair trade coffee (Friends of the Dane County Farmers’ Market blend) and orange juice. Now that’s a breakfast worth waking up for.

Comment » | Madtown Lovin'

That’s My Brother!

March 4th, 2011 — 3:42pm

dailymilesidbar-firstchoice_525You know you’ve found some measure of success in life when you score a feature in the alumni magazine of your alma mater. But doing it within five years of graduating from college? Now that’s impressive.

My brother and his best friend Ben are featured in the spring edition of On Wisconsin, the alumni magazine for UW-Madison alumni and friends – a publication that boasts extremely impressive circulation numbers, mailing to 310,000 Badger households.

The article details Kelly and Ben’s partnership in the development of dailymile, a social-networking site for runners, cyclists, and triathletes. Although the article has been in the works for the past few months, my heart filled with overwhelming pride when I received a link to the article earlier today. I’m sure those feelings will magnify when I receive a copy of the magazine in the mail. That’s my brother, says proud big sister.

If you know Kelly and Ben, you know that they’ve given everything (their time, talents, and energy) to the single pursuit of a dream. Together, they’ve made it happen. And there’s no two people who are more deserving. Kelly and Ben are the most simple, down-to-earth, friendly, and hard-working guys you’ll meet. Congratulations, Kelly and Ben! And On Wisconsin.

1 comment » | Family Fun

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