Archive for April 2012

A Visit to Fountain Prairie Farm

April 19th, 2012 — 7:32am

april-2012-028The highlight of last weekend was visiting Farmers John and Dorothy Priske at Fountain Prairie Farm, located outside Madison, just six miles west of Columbus. Larry and I made the trip with Slow Food UW. The Priskes generously opened their hearts and home to the group for a tour of the farm, dinner, conversation about local sustainable foods, and a bonfire and music.

John and Dorothy are wonderful people who I’m lucky to call friends. Larry had already been out to the farm (last year he filmed a short documentary there with his class that ultimately played in the kid’s division of the Wisconsin Film Festival), but I couldn’t wait to get there to experience it myself. Not only are the Priskes exemplary in their commitment to sustainable farming and environmental stewardship, they’re just very kind, hard-working, down-to-earth people. And, their grass-fed Highland beef truly is the best! (You can purchase it at the Dane County Farmers’ Market, which by the way, begins its outdoor season on the square this Saturday!)

It was an incredible day and experience. Here are a few pictures from our visit:












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Roasted Beet and Fennel Soup

April 18th, 2012 — 4:42am

april-2012-092Last night I made Roasted Beet and Fennel Soup with a recipe I found at Turntable Kitchen, a fantastic Website I recently discovered that features recipes with a focus on fresh and local ingredients paired with hand-picked musical selections. Since I have a turntable in my kitchen, the site provides me with the perfect mix of inspiration!

Beets are a new interest of mine. I definitely didn’t eat them growing up, and have only in recent years been opened to their possibilities. Roasted beets are my favorite—so darn tasty, and perfect in salads and sides. Yesterday was the first time I’ve ever cooked beets—it was a new experience. april-2012-095

This soup recipe is a little time consuming, but not difficult, and is definitely time well spent. It takes about an hour to roast the beets and a bit of patience with an immersion blender for the soup to reach a “velvety smooth” consistency. The flavors, consistency, and color are unique and wonderful. The toasted hazelnuts and grated Pecorino Romano cheese sprinkled on top are a perfect way to finish the dish.

And the musical pairing for Roasted Beet and Fennel Soup? That would be Rhine Gold, the sophomore album from Denmark’s Choir of Young Believers.

Roasted Beet and Fennel Soup (from Turntable Kitchen)

5-8 red beets (depending on their size), greens removed
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds
handful of hazelnuts
3-4 cups of vegetable stock
1/4- 1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Trim the beets and toss them, unpeeled, with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste. Prick each beet with a fork a few times. Individually wrap the beets in foil, place in a baking dish or on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for approximately one hour (until they can easily be pierced with a fork). Remove from the oven and let cool.

2. In a small skillet, briefly toast the fennel seeds over medium heat until they release an aroma. Transfer the fennel seeds to a mortar and pestle and grind them.

3. Add the hazelnuts to the same skillet you used to toast the fennel seeds and briefly toast them over medium heat until they release an aroma. Transfer nuts to a cutting board and chop roughly.

4. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them and slice them into 1 inch thick slices. Combine the beets, ground fennel, 3 cups of vegetable stock, salt and pepper in a medium pot and puree with a hand blender until velvety smooth. Add more stock to thin out the soup, if you’d like. Bring the soup to a slow boil, then remove from the heat and stir in the cream (use more or less, to taste). Add more salt and pepper, if needed.

5. Serve soup topped with toasted hazelnuts and grated Pecorino Romano cheese.april-2012-087

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Wisconsin Film Festival Picks

April 17th, 2012 — 11:44am

Tomorrow is the start of the Wisconsin Film Festival, featuring 150 films shown at venues around campus and downtown Madison over the course of five days. Genres include experimental, foreign, documentary, and independent. Larry and I have tickets to six (make that eight) films and are hoping to get into at least one other that is sold out—Goodbye First Love (Un Amour de Jeunesse). Luckily it’s possible to see a “sold out” show by waiting in a rush-ticket line shortly before the show—we’re keeping our fingers crossed. Following is the list of films we’ll definitely be seeing:

The Bad Intentions (Las Malas Intenciones)
Chekhov for Children
Little Matador
Monsieur Lazhar
We’re Not Broke

After reading the synopses and watching a few trailers, I’m so excited to see these films—each one sounds incredibly interesting. In case you’d like to check it out, I’ve included a link above to the Director’s Cut festival preview with film fest organizers, presenting directors and host Charles Monroe-Kane. There’s still plenty of time to purchase tickets!

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4th Annual KY Derby Party Invites

April 17th, 2012 — 6:05am


Spring is in the air…which can only mean one thing. Derby day is near!

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Austin & TX Hill Country – Day Two

April 16th, 2012 — 9:35am

texas-2012-053On day two, we hit the road for the Texas Hill Country. Instead of the more commonly traveled highway route via 290 West, Larry suggested a longer, scenic path on “Farm to Market” roads. The route took us through the small towns of Buda, Dripping Springs, Johnson City, and Stonewall, and to our final destination—Fredericksburg, a small, heavily German-influenced town about 75 miles west of Austin that serves as a popular weekend destination for Texans.photo1

Just outside of Austin, in Buda, Texas, we stopped for breakfast at Tako Taco—located in an Airstream trailer parked alongside the road. Sadly they were out of cheese (nor did they have coffee on the menu), but I ordered an egg and bacon taco, and Larry ordered two tacos—one with eggs and potatoes and one with eggs and chorizo. They were simple, but satisfying. We ate at a picnic table alongside the road. photo2

Back on our way, we soon came upon an elementary school that had two giant rain water collection barrels in front. Larry is a teacher at a environmental and sustainability-focused elementary school and is in the midst of a water unit, so he was interested in stopping to check  out their system. We ended up in the school office chatting with teachers and staff about the project. Interestingly, not much further down the road, we stumbled upon Tank Town, a rain water collection utopia of sorts. We didn’t stop long, but were given a DVD and two bottles of drinking water.texas-2012-072

When we finally arrived in Fredericksburg, we were hungry for lunch. Guided by a friend’s recommendation, we hit up Bejas Grill on Main Street. The atmosphere was great, but the food was disappointing. I ordered the BLTA sandwich (bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado) and Larry went with the Chicken Tortilla Soup. The soup was especially bad—watery and bland.

Shortly after lunch, Larry struck up a conversation with Lupe and Genaro from Weslaco, Texas. It’s one of the things I love most about Larry—his curiosity and desire to connect with other people and learn more about their life experience—that you can only truly experience a place through its people. By the end of the conversation, it was like Lupe, Genaro and Larry were old friends. texas-2012-073

Next, it was on to Hill Country Bicycle Works to pick up the road bikes we had reserved for our visit. Luckily, the shop had just purchased a new fleet of rental bikes, so we enjoyed practically new bikes. After that, we checked in at our bed and breakfast and made a quick trip to the grocery store.

Our B & B, the aptly names Cyclismo, is a beautiful Victorian house just a few blocks off Main Street that was renovated several years ago by owner Frank Floyd, a colorful character and cycling enthusiast who lives in one of the three meticulously decorated units. In addition to the fabulously curated book and DVD selection (not to mention a fridge already stocked with beer), our unit had a great patio overlooking a gorgeous backyard and creek. We were also given keys to the garage to store our bikes. And Frank’s garage was like nothing I’ve ever seen—the ultimate man cave.texas-2012-087

Frank invited us to join him for an evening ride and we gladly accepted. We headed north toward Mason. Within a short time, we were in cycling paradise—smooth roads, rolling hills and beautiful Texas scenery. While we rode, Frank filled us in on the history of the area—most notably, its strong German influences. He also boasted that Fredericksburg lays claim to the only American Indian peace treaty (with the Comanche Indians) not broken in the state.

After the ride, Larry and I enjoyed a relaxing dinner on the back porch back at our B & B. Dinner included salad, bread, Manchego cheese, Chorizo, cheese ravioli, and Cabernet–Syrah from nearby Becker Vineyards. It was the perfect finish to our first day in the Hill Country.texas-2012-0821

Ready for an evening ride with Frank


Kristin and Larry at Cyclismo B & B


Post-ride dinner on the porch

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Bob’s Bad Breath Pizza at Ian’s

April 13th, 2012 — 8:04am

april-2012-017When I first heard about this week’s special at Ian’s Pizza, my jaw dropped. My favorite burger on a pizza? Say no more, I’m there.

Bob’s Bad Breath Burger Pizza pays homage to the Weary Traveler’s legendary burger. The thin-crust slice is topped with beef, cream cheese, green goddess dressing, caramelized onions, garlic, tomatoes, and Piackapeppa sauce. The flavors were spot-on. It’s no Bad Breath Burger, but it’s a damn good slice of pizza. april-2012-016

Apparently Ian’s has devoted their specials for the month of April to celebrating Madison’s “most inspired” burgers.  The pizza recipes were developed by chefs at the featured restaurants and are made with beef from Fountain Prairie Farm (only the best). The first week was the V Burger (Brasserie V), and next up are Stable’s Best (4/16-20, Quivey’s Grove) and Black Bean Burger (4/23-27, Bluephies).

There’s still time to get your slice of Bob’s Bad Breath Burger Pizza—but it’s only on special through the end of today. The Bad Breath Burger on pizza—this, my friends, may never happen again. Get it while it’s hot!


The original (and much beloved) Bob’s Bad Breath Burger

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Slow Food UW Cafe Lunch – 4/11

April 12th, 2012 — 4:18am

april-2012-009I enjoyed another great lunch at yesterday’s Slow Food UW Cafe. I picked the following options from the menu:

-Pesto, sun-dried tomato and homemade mozzarella on rosemary, fig and olive bread
-Grain, feta and Russian red kale salad
-White bean soup
-Semolina cake with orange whipped cream

I probably say this every time, but it was one of the best lunches I’ve had yet. All dishes were fantastic. And I met and dined with two new friends—a post-doc Entomology student from Pennsylvania and a BMES graduate student from Colombia. We talked gardening, Madison, and the trouble with organic labeling and certification. Always an interesting meal and conversation!

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Austin & TX Hill Country – Day One

April 11th, 2012 — 11:34am

texas-2012-013And now for the full version of our trip…

Larry and I arrived in Austin around 2 a.m. on Monday morning (after a two hour delay out of Chicago). We picked up our rental car—a shiny, new Jeep Liberty, an interesting choice for the two of us, but by far the best deal we could find. We found our hotel—the Omni at Southpark, crashed, and slept until late morning.

When we finally did get going, we were ready for food. We picked Polvos—a Mexican restaurant recommended by a colleague of mine who had eaten there last month. He summed it up as “The Best Mexican Food I’ve Eaten. Ever.” Larry loves Mexican food but was skeptical of the claim. Still, we were eager to give it a try.texas-2012-014

Polvos is located on South 1st Street. It’s a small restaurant, a bit of a hole in the wall, with a sizable outdoor patio, which is where we grabbed seats. With a recommendation from our server, Larry decided on the Chilaquiles (a traditional Mexican dish)  for breakfast, while I jumped to lunch with the Chicken Enchiladas de la Casa. We also ordered a Lime Agua Fresca, a Strawberry Licuados, and a basket of chips with a selection of original salsas from the salsa bar.  The food was phenomenal. Larry remarked, this is some of the best Mexican food I’ve eaten outside of Mexico. The prices were great and the portions were huge—almost wastefully so. The service was excellent, too.barton

With very full bellies, we ventured to check out Barton Springs (a spring-fed pool that serves as a popular recreational destination in Austin) and hiked a bit of the Barton Creek Greenbelt, enjoying the beauty and interesting people watching along the way.

From there we went to explore South Congress Avenue (aka the trendy SoCo neighborhood). Although Larry isn’t much of a shopper, and I didn’t want to press my luck, we made a few stops—Tesoros Trading Company (folk art and crafts from over 20 countries), uncommon OBJECTS (purveyor of “antiques, oddities and curious goods”), Allens Boots (more cowboy boots than I’ve ever seen with price tags that blew me away), and St. Vincent de Paul (where Larry proposed we try to find outfits for the evening…an offer I momentarily considered, but ultimately declined).texas-2012-033

Then it was, of course, time for more food. I needed sugar. So we headed over to Gordough’s (“Big. Fat. Doughnuts.”), which is located in a big, silver airstream trailer (ala Austin style) on South 1st Street. Gordough’s menu includes options like the Cherry Bomb, Blue Balls, Son of a Peach, and the Mother Clucker. I opted for the Funky Monkey, an unbelievably delicious combination of grilled bananas and cream cheese icing with brown sugar. Absolutely the most rich and best-tasting doughnut I’ve ever had.

At that point it was pretty much time for dinner, so we headed to East Side King, another food cart recommended to me by a co-worker. Apparently it’s one of Austin’s most popular food carts (now with three locations) and has been visited by nearly every food show, like Travel Channel’s “Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.” It was a bit difficult to actually find the cart—it’s hidden in the back patio of the Liberty Bar (a dive and hipster magnet). We ordered the Brussel Sprout Salad, the Poor Qui’s Buns, and Ginger Jasmine Garlic Rice (disappointingly they were out of beets for the beet fries). The food was good, but nothing to rave about. The Brussel Sprout Salad was my favorite.texas-2012-0421

Next on the agenda was to see Bob Schneider and the Lonleylands at the Saxon Pub, a wonderfully intimate, no-frills bar. Bob is one of my old favorites. Introduced to me by a college boyfriend, I’ve seen Bob play in Madison, Milwaukee, and Austin. Although often crass, Bob is very talented and an unbelievably prolific song writer. I honestly didn’t recognize more than two of the songs he played during his set. During the show, we also struck up a conversation with a local—Kyle from nearby Cedar Park. We enjoyed talking with him and getting his take on Austin hot-spots and how the city has changed over the years.

It was definitely a full day. Lots done, but there’s always so much more to discover!


uncommon OBJECTS


Employee dusting a feathered friend at uncommon OBJECTS


Allens Boots




Funky Monkey


Saxon Pub


Bob Schneider’s Lonleyland

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Austin & Hill Country Trip Itinerary

April 10th, 2012 — 8:04am

The Cliff Notes version of our trip:

Sunday (4/1)
• Dinner at Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera at O’Hare Airport
• Depart from Chicago at 10 p.m.

Monday (4/2)
• Arrive in Austin at 2 a.m. and pick up rental car
• Brunch at Polvos Mexican Restaurant
• Visit Barton Springs and hike the Barton Creek Greenbelt
• Walk South Congress Avenue (visit uncommon OBJECTS, Tesoros Trading Company, and Allens Boots)
• Funky Monkey Doughnut at Gordough’s
• Dinner at East Side King (at The Liberty)
Bob Schneider’s Lonleyland at Saxon Pub

Tuesday (4/3)
• Breakfast tacos at Tako Taco (Buda, Texas)
• Road trip to Fredericksburg (via the Farm to Market roads scenic route)
• Stop at Carpenter Hill Elementary School and Tank Town for Larry to examine rainwater collection strategies for his class’s water unit
• Lunch at Bejas Grill
• Meet new friends on Main Street (boot-wearing Lupe Sosa and Genaro from Weslaco, TX)
• Pick up reserved road bikes at Hill Country Bicycle Works, check in at the B & B Cyclismo, and grocery shopping
• Evening bike ride with Frank Floyd, owner of B & B Cyclismo (20-mile route north toward Mason)
• Quiet dinner on back porch (bread, Manchego cheese, chorizo, salad, cheese ravioli, and Becker Vineyards Res Cabernet–Syrah 2010)

Wednesday (4/4)
• Breakfast on back porch
• 60-mile bike ride through the Hill Country to Comfort, TX (passed many cattle ranches and fields of blooming wildflowers)
• Lunch at 7th Heaven Café in Comfort
• Visit Luckenbach, TX and drink a Lone Star while listening to live music from Vintage Country/Americana singer/songwriter Jeremy Steding
• Dinner at Hill Top Café and live music

Thursday (4/5)
• Short run around town
• Breakfast on back porch
• Return road bikes and depart for return trip to Austin
• Visit Luckenbach, TX (round two) – Larry shoots video singing Waylon Jennings’ Luckenbach, Texas on stage of the dance hall
• Visit Becker Vineyards and sample ’11 Viognier, ’10 Roussanne, ’11 Provencal, ’10 Reserve Grenache, ’09 Malbec, ’10 Reserve Merlot, and ’10 Reserve Cabernet-Syrah
• Lunch at The Salt Lick BBQ (Driftwood, TX)
• Arrive back in Austin
• Dinner at Torchy’s Tacos (South Austin Trailer Park)
• Texas Two-Step lessons at the Broken Spoke and live music from Americana singer/songwriter Jesse Dayton

Friday (4/6)
• Breakfast at Flip Happy Crepes
• Visit Lance Armstrong’s Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop
• Visit the Whole Foods’ flagship store on Lamar Street
• Record shopping at Waterloo Records
• Lunch at Polvos Mexican Restaurant
• Visit the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum (on UT campus)
• Visit the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
• Ice cream at Lick (all organic ingredients from Texas)
• Dinner with Kelly and Brad at Contigo

Saturday (4/7)
• Breakfast tacos at Maudie’s and coffee from Austin Java at the Austin-Bergstrom Int’l Airport
• Depart from Austin at 8 a.m. and arrive back in Chicago at 11 a.m.
• Tour of Rockford (childhood home and high school) and lunch at Beef-a-Roo on the drive back to Madison

1 comment » | Vacation and Travel

Mad City 50k Race Report

April 9th, 2012 — 11:57am

madJust over a week ago I toed the starting line for the Mad City 50k, joined by friends Krista, Matt and Marty—my dailymile buds. We’re all training for the Ice Age 50 on May 12, and figured the Mad City 50k would be a well-timed test of fitness, not to mention great fun. Krista and I also reasoned that the course was practically in our backyard—the UW Arboretum. Clearly we had to sign up.

In the weeks leading up to the race, I was pleasantly surprised by a constant flurry of e-mail updates from race director, Tim Yanacheck. “Timo” graciously invited racers to contact him directly by e-mail or work phone with any questions we might have. When I picked up my race packet Friday before the race, I was even more astonished by a personal greeting and welcome from Timo, not to mention a bag filled with more race swag than I’ve ever received—a 36-piece box of truffles, a hard-cover copy of the book Once a Runner, a long-sleeve tech tee, water bottle, and of course, string cheese. I had to restrain myself from popping too many truffles the night before the race…it was tough. texas-2012-004

Going into the race, I was feeling good about my fitness and training. The warm weather has certainly helped get me out early and more often. On at least a few occasions in the weeks leading up to the race, I ran consecutive loops of the Arboretum to prepare for the five loops I’d need to complete on race day. The only problem is that I had practiced running the loop clockwise, and quickly learned on race day that the course is counterclockwise. Oops. The climbs seemed just a little bit tougher that way.

We began running at 9 a.m. Although it was one of the latest race starts I’ve ever experienced, I was appreciative because it gave me time to both sleep in enjoy my requisite French  press coffee. I was one of 57 solo runners among many baton-carrying, uniform-wearing team members. The teams definitely brought a lot of enthusiasm and camaraderie to the race.

I ran slightly behind the two solo female race leaders for the first loop, and then dropped into fourth for the second loop. I didn’t feel terrible, but I didn’t feel all that great either. My legs felt heavy and sluggish. I realized I definitely needed a bathroom break on the third loop. After quickly ducking into a Porta Potty at one of the aid stations, I felt much better. After three loops (and 18 miles), I was finally hitting my stride. I grabbed my iPod at the next aid station, eager for some company in the form of a fast beat, and took off for the fourth loop feeling better than I’d felt all morning.phpdgwsyqam

It was great to see people I knew out on the course—Larry, friends from teams like Madison Multisport and BBMC, Nate and Jessica, and Matt, Lisa and Anna. Although it’s not the most spectator friendly course, even quick cheers from and glimpses of friends gave me energy that helped propel me for an entire loop.

Even though I felt like I was going so much faster during the fourth loop, I realized afterward in looking at my splits that I was just simply maintaining my pace (even slowing down a bit) on tired legs. At the end of the fourth loop, I passed the woman in third place. I just hoped I could hold the position for one more loop.

The first part of the fifth loop felt great (it’s always encouraging to begin the “last” loop of anything). But then I could feel cramps coming on and realized I had definitely made a mistake in not taking electrolyte pills during the race. I thought since the temperatures were so cool, I wouldn’t need any, but I was clearly suffering from a deficiency. It was too late to do much about it other than to back off the pace a bit and hope for the best. It was my biggest mistake of the day, but hopefully I’ll learn from it. And luckily, I was able to keep running through it. texas-2012-005

I finished the race in third place (12th overall) with a time of 4:17 (8:16 pace). I was happy with the result, but even more happy to be done running arb loops. It was great to watch my friends Krista and Marty finish—they did awesome. Afterward we all headed to the Great Dane for celebratory burgers and beers—the only way to cap off a great day of running.

And now it’s time to bid farewell to the arb loop and venture onto the trails and hills in preparation for next month’s Ice Age 50.

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