Category: Madtown Lovin’

Sunday Snack Ride

November 24th, 2015 — 12:19pm

Before the snow came and covered most of the state, there was one last perfect, unseasonably warm fall Sunday. With the day wide open, a 9-month old to entertain and empty bellies, we hit the road on our bikes with the Burley in tow in search of adventure and good food. We called it our “Sunday Snack Ride,” a 3-hour bike tour of Madison during which we pedaled around sampling food from various food establishments. There was a cheesy-cauliflower soup from Lakeside St. Coffee House, a Spanish chorizo from the Underground Butcher, the ridiculously good Ham and Jam sandwich from Crema Cafe, and various sweet treats from Batch Bakery, including an intensely flavorful and delicious gingerbread muffin. Eventually the sun set on our perfect Sunday, but we returned home with full bellies and a sense of accomplishment of having taken full advantage of the last hurrah of fall.

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Slow Food UW Chilly Chili 5k

November 7th, 2014 — 7:50am

DSC05160Last night I participated in Slow Food UW’s Chilly Chili Run. It was a fundraising event for Slow Food UW—an organization I’m always more than happy to support. I was excited to be part of the inaugural event, especially because it combined two of my favorite things—running and chili.

My friend Claire also signed up, and together we toed the start line for the 5k. There were probably less than 30 participants, so it was easily one of the smallest races I’ve ever done. Claire and I both liked the laid back vibe of the race—the planning team didn’t over-think things or make it too serious. Just the lakeshore path, a stop watch, a fun t-shirt and a great post-race meal. The route followed the lakeshore path from North Charter to the start of picnic point and back. It was dark by the time the race started shortly after 5 p.m. I chuckled when one of the race organizers admitted that they hadn’t factored in daylight saving time back in the initial planning stages of the event. Most of the racers didn’t have lights, but Claire and I were prepared—Claire, with her heavy duty blinking/glowing vest and me, with my trusty head lamp. I’m sure we could be seen a mile away! Claire set a great pace—we were working hard, but still able to carry on a conversation. About 27 minutes later, we crossed the finish line.

Shortly after our finish, we met up with our friends Aronne and Kate, who walked the route, and together, we all headed to the Crossing, where dinner was eventually served. The chili had great flavor (though the beans were slightly undercooked), but the best part of the meal was the cornbread, which was wonderfully moist and delicious. The organizers invited everyone back for seconds, and we happily obliged.



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Science of Supper Clubs

October 21st, 2014 — 10:33am

DSC04962On Friday night, we attended a unique event at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery devoted to celebrating Wisconsin supper clubs. The activities were jointly hosted by the Wisconsin Science Festival and the Wisconsin Book Festival.

Starting with a tasting event, we sampled a variety of supper club fare like wedge salad, relish tray components, baked mac-n-cheese, fried fish, and maraschino cherries. Interspersed among the food stations were representatives from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), who talked and provided demonstrations about the “science” behind supper clubs—like meat processing, wild yeasts vs. beer yeasts, and cheese production. There were also samples of Happy Cranniversary ice cream made by Babcock Hall Dairy Plant in celebration of the 125th Anniversary of CALS.

After the tasting portion of the evening, we made our way to the featured presentation with Wisconsin writers Terese Allen, Ron Faiola and Robin Shepherd, who shared their thoughts on the history, definition of, and importance of supper clubs. Terese is a notable Wisconsin author and culinary enthusiast who writes about regional foods, sustainable cooking and culinary folklore. And also a friend of ours. Rob is the author of “Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old Fashioned Experience,” a wonderful book that showcases the most notable Wisconsin supper clubs. And finally, Robin is a beer expert and Beer Here columnist for the Isthmus. Because what would a supper club be without beer?

It was an interesting evening. I enjoyed good food and learned a lot in the process. It was fitting that it all went down on a Friday night. But I’d gladly celebrate Wisconsin supper clubs any night of the week.

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Sh*tty Barn Sessions

September 25th, 2014 — 10:52am

DSC04776Last week we headed to the Sh*tty Barn in Spring Green to see S. Carey and Asumaya. It was my first time out to the Sh*tty Barn, an intimate performance space nestled in the hills of southwest Wisconsin that has featured emerging artists from a variety of genres since opening its doors in 2011.

Beforehand, we enjoyed dinner outside served by Enos Farms—an incredibly tasty beef Burgundy stew, an heirloom tomato salad, a blue cheese and caramelized onion graham flour scone, plum tart with ginger pastry cream and salted caramel frozen custard. We couldn’t help but order just about everything on the menu, and it was all as amazing as it sounds.

I loved the concert venue and how intimate it felt. Most people brought lawn chairs (and claimed spots as soon as they arrived). Since we didn’t bring chairs, we were thankfully able to snag a few movie-style seats on the side of the floor. Both performances were great, though I wish we would have been able to stay for more of the S. Carey show. For $15 a piece, the tickets were a steal, and I would definitely head back to the Sh*tty Barn for another show. It’s a really special place.





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A Bike Ride to Festa Italia

June 5th, 2014 — 7:55am

DSC03291Last Friday night, we were racking our brains for something to do that would incorporate a bike ride and dinner. For inspiration, I turned to Isthmus’ “critic’s choice” event listing, always included in the middle of the weekly newspaper. Of the Friday options, Festa Italia in Fitchburg stood out to me because a) I’d never been before, b) the event’s location was very close to one of our regular bike routes, and c) the advertised spaghetti dinner with meatballs.

So we took a leisurely ride out the Seminole bike path toward Paoli, and turned back toward Festa Italia just as soon as our stomachs started to grumble. Upon arriving, we locked up our bikes and Larry asked a few men in newsboy-style caps smoking stogies and holding court at the entrance (clearly the old guard of the Italian Workmen’s Club) where we could find the spaghetti dinner. They pointed toward the back of the park near the shelter and said, “Oh, you’ll see the line.”

Needless to say, we found the line for the spaghetti dinner. I think we stuck out a little  in our spandex bike kits—I noticed a few stares. But more than anything, I was focused on our progress in line. Eventually, we were rewarded with heaping styrofoam plates of spaghetti with marinara sauce, meatballs, and salad. All for $7. We plopped down in a patch of grass and began feasting. With the Italian Workmen’s Club involved, I had high expectations for the meal. The marinara sauce was especially flavorful, and despite its appearance, the iceberg lettuce salad was tasty. I also really enjoyed the meatballs. They were nearly the size of baseballs. And of course, we needed dessert afterward. It’s been way too long since I’ve had cannoli. I savored every bite of the crunchy, fried pastry dough exterior and the rich, smooth ricotta cheese punctuated by mini chocolate chips. Not too sweet, just right.

And with bellies full of Italian goodness, we got back on our bikes and rode home. DSC03289



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DLS Presents Alice Waters

March 28th, 2014 — 5:39am

DSC02373Last night I went to see Alice Waters speak as part of UW’s Distinguished Lecture Series. I was surprised and pleased to find myself surrounded by hundreds of other people who seemed to prefer the lecture over watching the big Badger basketball game. Alice Waters seemed surprised, too.

Alice waters is known as the mother of the farm to table movement. She is the owner of Chez Panisse, the famous restaurant in Berkley, California that pioneered the locally grown, organic food movement. She’s a chef, author, food activist, and vice president of Slow Food International.

Waters recounted the incredible meals she enjoyed in Madison during the day. I was especially pleased that she gave students from Slow Food UW accolades for a delicious dinner they had prepared for her that evening. People say it all the time, that Madison is the Berkley of the Midwest. It really is, said Waters. She also gave props to Madison’s farmers’ market, which is known as the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the United States. While she is pleased with the growth of the Ferry Plaza farmers’ market in San Francisco, we don’t have 300 vendors like you do!

Waters then launched into her prepared remarks, opening with a quote from Gloria Steinem: public education is our last truly democratic institution. She then built a case for how all of the issues in our lives are an outgrowth of one bigger thing—a deeper, systemic problem: our fast food nation. Waters explained how it dominates the way people eat in this country, and it’s not only bad food, it also affects our culture, behaviors, expressions, work, architecture, politics, and the way we interact with each other (or don’t). Fast food nation degrades our human experience and produces uniformity—everyone is the same everywhere.

Waters also talked about how our expectations are warped—we want things now. But the best things in life take time. Like cooking, learning, getting to know someone. Furthermore, she talked about how we have a very twisted idea of availability—you can buy a tomato in the middle of winter in Switzerland, or a papaya in the Midwest. Seasons stop mattering. The local culture, and what’s happening here, becomes devalued.

One of her biggest pet peeves, she shared, is the the confusion between affordability and cheapness. A discounted price is artificial—there is a cost somewhere, whether it be our health, livestock, the environment, human rights, international relations, etc. Things can be affordable, but they can never be cheap. The deals cost us so much more.

Waters also talked about words that have become elusive—like organic, local, natural, fair trade, and fresh. They’ve been used and misused. What do these words really mean anymore? Words that once had meaning have been highjacked and used for presentation and marketing. She used the example of how you can feed cattle grass for two weeks and call them “grass fed.”

Underneath every problem, we have fast food culture, Waters summarized. She recounted a bumper sticker she had seen a while back: If we are what we eat, I’m fast, cheap and easy.

So if that’s fast food nation, then slow food culture is the complete opposite. Waters painted the picture of how slow food is richer, deeper. It’s not flashy. It’s involves customs, it’s connected to nature, and it’s traditional. Slow food has it’s own set of values like ripeness, integrity, community, friendship, and honesty. It’s enduring, enriching, and joyful. Pleasureful and meaningful. Slow food values are inside each of us—we’re just waiting for them to be awakened. All it takes is a spark for that part of us to come alive, for behaviors to shift.

Waters then shared several of the transformational edible education projects she’s either been part of or initiated—like The Edible Schoolyard at a middle school in Berkely that has inspired a movement and thousands of similar programs around the world, or The Garden Project at the San Francisco Jail. Education has to be the number one priority. We have to lift up the teacher and the farmer. Once our senses are stimulated and opened, we’re empowered.

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REAP Chef in the Classroom Benefit Breakfast

February 22nd, 2014 — 6:55am

DSC01813This morning was the annual REAP Chef in the Classroom Benefit Breakfast at the Dane County winter farmers’ market. It’s always a much-anticipated event because of James Beard Award-winning Chef Tory Miller’s involvement (L’Etoile and Graze). Honestly, I wasn’t intending to go. But then I saw the menu…

Banh xeo – sizzling rice crepe filled with kohlrabi, daikon, carrots, apples, roasted lemongrass pork, and fried eggs with spicy nuoc cham

Kimchi potato pancakes

Oats steamed with coconut milk in lotus leaves, topped with cherries, apples, and toasted hickory nuts

“Chinese five spice girls” from Graze (mini croissant)

And then I couldn’t stop thinking about those Kimchi potato pancakes, or any of it for that matter. And, I figured, it all supports a good cause—not only local producers, but the Chef in the Classroom program, which “brings local chefs into classrooms to teach engaging, hands-on cooking lessons that utilize local ingredients and that cultivate healthy eating and cooking habits that students can take home to their families.”DSC01817

The breakfast was prepared and served by Chef Tory Miller and Chef Lisa Jacobson of Mermaid Café, along with students from Sherman Middle School and East High School.

We arrived to get in line for breakfast at about 8:15. Which worked out well because by 8:30 (when they began serving), the line had grown much longer and was snaking toward the door. Thankfully, one of the volunteers made his way through the line offering cups of coffee—so you could say I was very content in line. We were also happy to run into Larry’s Aunt Ellen, who was impressively the very first person in line.DSC01815

The meal was fantastic. Although the kimchi pancakes didn’t stay intact and were more like potatoes in consistency, they were delicious. I loved the banh zeo—an eggy crepe filled with colorful shredded vegetables, thin slices of lemongrass-flavored pork and a fried egg. The thick, coconut-milk oatmeal was topped with crunchy walnuts and Door County cherries bursting with flavor. And finally, the mini croissant had a very unique anise flavor. I always love how during the market breakfasts, I can enjoy a little sample of several things (both sweet and savory), instead of committing to just one thing.

This week in particular was a very exciting meal, with proceeds supporting an equally exciting mission.DSC01812



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Sons of Norway Frokost & Bakesale

December 3rd, 2013 — 7:37am

DSC00958I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to attend the Sons of Norway Frokost & Bakesale this past Saturday. It’s a bi-annual smorgasboard-style brunch/fundraiser held at the Sons of Norway-Idun Lodge on Winnebago Street. I learned about the event a few years ago. When I tried to attend that year, I had the date mixed up and arrived a week late. Bummer. This past Saturday morning, I suddenly remembered the event and looked it up. Good thing, too, because it was that day. Larry and I had just started eating breakfast, but we cast aide our bowls of cereal and grabbed our coats.

We arrived about ten minutes before nine (the official start time), which was perfect. We were one of the first in line. Brunch was $12/person and included a variety of traditional Norwegian foods such as herring, lefse, lingonberry jam, cheeses (like geitost, a caramelized goat cheese) meatballs and sausages, cold fruit soup, and wonderful breads, pastries and cakes. It was great to have a small taste of so many things.

Afterward, we hit the bake sale, which featured dozens of homemade baked goods. I picked out a dense, round almond cake and Larry chose butterscotch cookies.

I loved this event and hope to make it an annual tradition (the fall frokost is always the Saturday after Thanksgiving). I’m sure the spring event (usually in early April) is also worth checking out.DSC00941



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A Night Out With My Girls

November 22nd, 2013 — 12:59pm

pic12When one of my friends first approached me about the idea of a bachelorette party, my response was more or less hell no. When I think of bachelorette parties, I immediately picture feather boas, tiny tees bejeweled with the word “bride,” and necklaces with plastic male appendages. Not my thing.

But eventually my friend convinced me that it would be different. And so I agreed. And over the course of a month or so, two of my friends put together plans for a post-wedding evening out with my closest friends. Aside from the date, they kept it all a secret from me. I was excited. DSC00806

Last Saturday was the big day. Earlier in the week, one of my  friends sent me a message letting me know that she’d pick me up at 3 p.m. She also provided vague instructions on how to dress. On Saturday, two friends picked me up at the appointed time and we drove downtown. Along the way, they presented me with a wine glass customized with my wedding date and a short poem on back. They told me that I might need the glass for the adventures ahead.pic10

It wasn’t until we arrived at the Monona Terrace that I finally learned the plan. My friends were there, along with a tour guide from Madison Food Explorers, a culinary walking tour that bills itself as a “sightseeing expedition for your taste buds.” I discovered that we’d be spending the next few hours together on the Downtown Lake to Lake Tour. I couldn’t believe how perfect that sounded. Friends, Madison, and good food—now that’s my idea of a bachelorette party.

Our tour included several stops as we made our way from downtown to the heart of campus. We enjoyed Cuban sandwiches and cocktails at The Merchant, a sampling of Wisconsin cheeses at Fromagination, an impromptu wine tasting at Square Wine Company, Mac and Cheese pizza at Ian’s, a Mango Lassi (a yogurt drink) at Himal Chuli, a grilled bratwurst and Spotted Cow at State Street Brats, a malt (actually I had two) from the UW Memorial Union, and a little Madison history and architecture thrown in along the way.pic14

It was such a fun and unique way to experience Madison. I loved the food. And most importantly, it was a great way  for all of my friends who hadn’t necessarily met before to interact and get to know each other better.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, I found out we had dinner reservations (as if we hadn’t eaten enough) at Harvest, in a private dining room on the second floor overlooking the state capitol. It was a beautiful, intimate setting with incredible food and great conversation. And instead of fancy lingerie, my friends gifted me vinyl for my record collection—everything from 1969 by Pink Martini and Saori Yuki to Willy Nelson and Wynton Marsalis’ Two Men with the Blues. Our dinner went on for hours, and before we knew it, it was nearly 11 p.m.

I’m so thankful to all of my friends who put together and were a part of such a special evening. I felt so celebrated and loved.

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Concerts on the Square

July 12th, 2013 — 4:31am


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