1127 University Avenue

I have avoided blogging about the Slow Food UW Cafe because it is my stomping grounds and makes me a bit biased. However, that also allows me to give a good insight of what is worth stopping by and can give that insider heads up. The SFUW Cafe is now a year old and my involvement is coming up on a year as well. We have grown enormously and are finally a group of scrappy students that are able to get the good, clean, fair food down pat.

The Cafe is made up of a group of dedicated and incredibly creative students that enjoy working with foods, farmers, and the Madison community. We are a project within the larger Slow Food UW organization that strives to change the way people view food through a cafe, a set meal, outreach events, csa type baskets and volunteer work with children. We all strive to promote food advocacy and transparency along with food justice through simply chowing down on a divinely delectable dish.

The SFUW Cafe, for now, is once a week changing the menu to reflect the local produce and meat products. The semester is half over and the summer is slow for the SFUW interns so take a study break and head over during the 11:30 a.m. till 2:00 p.m. service. It’s an a la carte menu that let’s you pick and choose to enjoy an affordable lunch.

Feast your eyes above to visually enjoy the white bean and zucchini vegetable burger with cucumber tomatoes and carrot sticks. The burger was served over Snug Haven spinach and the side salad was mixed greens with walnuts, raspberries and a house made raspberry vinaigrette. This sando kicked off the 2011 fall semester and is still wildly raved about.

The bison burger that changed my life. One thing that the SFUW Cafe tries to do is offer a meal that our customers would not make on their own or be able to experience elsewhere. The meat is something our suppliers research to offer the cleanest and purest meat. I have grown to find myself a vegetarian except for while under the Slow Food UW roof and am not finding myself the only one making that claim.

The entrees in the Slow Food UW Cafe are always mouthwatering but we don’t stop there. Our group of student chefs know how to satisfy every sweet tooth that comes into our cafe. These are a vegan approach to dessert which helps give a new twist and pleases our growing number of vegan customers. The cake is topped with a lavender frosting and berry vegan anglaise.

This upcoming week will feature a duck prosciutto with mustard greens sando on our own rosemary, fig and olive bread. The second sando is following suit with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes with homemade mozz on the rosemary, fig and olive bread. To accompany or for a small snack there is a roasted fennel salad with olive tapenade and a balsamic glaze or a grain, feta and Russian red kale salad. This week we are trying a fish soup as well as a white bean soup. And finally we invite you to end with a semolina cake with orange whipped cream and as always will offer our Just Coffee regular roast and a selection of teas.

Beyond offering good food we also have our customers help make the food and make a difference. Follow our social activity and join the movement.

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Bon appetit.

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The to-do list of a foodie.

I have been accepted into my major and have one year that ties me to Madison, after that the possibilities are endless but if anything may buy me more time to accomplish the ultimate to do list. I came across this on André Darlington’s blog and have made a few additions. With a family full of foodies and always looking for an excuse to consume good food, I doubt this will take long at all!

1) Sunday Chicken Dinner at Tornado Club
2) Bloody Mary at Sardine
3) Roti, Tarkara, and Dal at Himal Chuli
4) Fetalicious at Glass Nickel Pizza
5) The Roman Candle pizza at The Roman Candle Pizzeria
6) Orange Chocolate Chip Babcock Hall ice cream at the Memorial Union
7) Charcuterie at Osteria Papavero
8) Lunch at Le Baguette
9) ‘Das Boot’ at the Essen Haus
10) Pork Buns at Umami Ramen & Dumpling Bar
11) High Tea at Natt Spil
12) Bell’s seasonal beer and a cigar at Maduro
13) A Lazy Susan at The Old Fashioned
14) Farmer’s Market omelette at the Shamrock Bar
15) Walnut Burger at the Harmony Bar
16) Bakers’ Window Pie
17) Breakfast Biscuit at Ingrid’s Lunch Box (cart)
18) Picnic from Fromagination
19) Weekday lunch at The Paradise Lounge
20) Build-your-own-sandwich at The Willy St Co-op
21) Lunch at Mediterranean Café
22) The Corso at Stalzy’s Deli
23) A ‘Boo Burger (while doing laundry) at The Caribou Tavern
24) The Big Cheesy at Teddywedgers
25) Affogato at Nostrano
26) Fish Fry at Toby’s Supper Club
27) Mustard tasting at the National Mustard Museum
28) An “Aero” omelette at Pat O’Malley’s Jet Room
29) Mi Rancho at Taqueria Guadalajara
30) Cumin Lamb at Fugu
31) Seasonal cocktail at Merchant
32) Goi Cuon Cha Gio (AP10) at Ha Long Bay
33) Mac ‘n Cheese pizza at Ian’s Pizza
34) Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes at Sophia’s (New York Times 36 hours in madison)
35) Brandy Old Fashioned cocktail at Le Tigre
36) The ‘V’ and ‘G’ breakfast bagels at Gotham Bagels
37) Mighty Isis at Mermaid Café
38) Grey Salt Caramel at Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier
39) Nostrano’s brunch!!
40) 4 am breakfast at Willalby’s
41) Waffles at Indie Coffee
42) Crab Rangoon at Lao Laan-Xang (preferably at an East Side outdoor festival)
43) Chicken sandwich at JD’s Chicago Maxwell Polish Sausage & Steak Burger (cart)
44) Pho at Saigon Noodles
45) Macaroons at Marigold Kitchen — Marigold’s recipe in 2002 Bon Apétite Magazine
46) Eldorado Eggs at Eldorado Grill
47) Fleuri from Fantome Farm
48) UFC pop up bar
49) Miche from Madison Sourdough
50) Sophia’s Dinner

It’s March 1st, a wonderful month to start chowing down since the weather is warming up and midterms leave you high and dry, what better than to feast!

1201 Williamson Street

On the corner of Williamson Street and South Few Street is home to one of Madison’s best local eats. The group of friends operating this eclectically decorated establishment stocks the kitchen and walls with local ingredients and items allowing them to support a long list of farmers and food purveyors. Their breads are crafted in the lower level allowing them to provide the freshest accompaniments to their outstanding sandwiches. If ordered a few days in advance Chef Joey may even let you take a loaf home, as I have gotten away with a couple of times.

Madison Magazine named one of their burgers, Bob’s Bad Breath Burger, as one of the best in 2011 Burger Madness competition. The pairing of cream cheese, caramelized onions, garlic along with green goddess dressing and a mild pickapeppa sauce sounds intimidating but upon your first bit you wont want to turn back. The pan-fried Yukon gold potatoes as a side to any dish are coated in garlic that give it a bit of a kick and make it hard to share, with anyone!

Beyond the award winning burger the rest of the menu is nothing but well crafted pairings of amazingly fresh ingredients. A few more recommendations for any traveler stumbling through the doors is the West of the Andes sandwich, with tuna! I, myself, am not a huge fan of tuna but the combination of the other flavors strike gold.

There is also a large variety of vegetarian or vegan options that would satisfy any tastebuds and all menu options are available for a reasonable price. When dining at Weary Traveler you are among the best Madison has to offer an in the heart of our local scene located in the middle of Willy Street. Just a block away is Willy Street Co-op if you dare to eat anymore and the couple of blocks that make up this neighborhood are perfect for a summer, spring, fall and even brisk winter stroll.

Try not to get too lightheaded and weary when you sample the food but rather grab a seat and bon appétit with the best.

923 Williamson Street

Upon first appearance you may be worried you pulled up to someone’s quaint summer home but notice that the added cars and pairs of customers meaning you have reached your destination. Umami Ramen and Dumpling Bar opened this fall and has had great success minus a small kitchen fire that postponed business for five days. But have no fear they are again up and running and ready for you!

After venturing through China this summer and sampling each cities delicacy I was craving some good asian cuisine that was hopefully nothing like the endless supply of Chinese buffets scattered all over the U.S. My first experience at Umami was with my father who like me has a craving for good food, especially ethnic foods that truly follow their roots. A few of our favorites that had me back weeks later with my summer traveling friends were the pork buns, traditional miso and the green tea crème brulee. The chef offers specials and alters the menu every few weeks to keep up with the local seasons but it is rare you will leave disappointed.

The pork buns are like tender cuts of pork on sweet pillows that do not come close to comparing to an average “bun”. The pickled vegetables also add a nice crunch. The miso is stocked full with vegetables and traditional ingredients that is not as salty as many other ramens found in the U.S. Finally the green tea crème brulee is absolutely outstanding. Like many other crème brulees it is not overly sweet and the green tea adds an earthy flavor that isn’t found in most deserts.

The rest of the menu is very good and there is a well crafted selection of beer and cocktails. Just a few blocks from the Capital square so head over to enjoy its unique flare any season, bon appétit.

Kombucha lucha, nature’s cocktail.

My mom’s most recent fix this summer is Kombucha, a fermented tea with health qualities and a fizzy kick. She first fell upon this in Fish Creek, Door County at the Getaway Car Juice Bar. Mary of Getaway Car has became quick friends with my mother and soon me, after our day trip to Door County. I have Mary to thank for starting this rapid forming crush on Kombucha in both my mom and me, as well as our close friends. The Getaway Car Juice Bar is the epitome of my dream café, tucked away between tall trees providing shade along the lake shore as well as tasty juices and smoothies to accompany her all natural baked goods. Beyond Fish Creek the upper peninsula of Wisconsin is where various Door-delis and cherry picking farms reside becoming a home of good, fair and natural foods or products for Wisconsin and other travelers.

  

The weeks after tasting the first sip of Ginger Kombucha in Door County now created a search for more homemade Kombucha. After research we discovered Willy Street Co-op is the proud seller of NessAlla’s Kombucha made in the basement of The Weary Traveler. Willy Street, properly known as Williamson Street in Madison, is the few block district that is home to many uniquely local establishments that know how to deliver good coffee, great food and fun art plus much more!

  

On my way back to Sheboygan this weekend my mother had me stock up big time on some of my new favorite flavors. If you’re trying it for the first time I recommend going for a ginger mix as most places will supply something along these lines. Although various Kombucha brewers will get creative so feel free to try what looks pleasing.

NessAlla is a Kombucha making company that has five fermenting locations in Wisconsin and six in Illinois. The NessAlla company started with two friends, Vanessa and Alla, who brought their knowledge and love together to start a thriving health company. They host events along with having a wealth of facts on their website. Follow them on Twitter, check out their Facebook page or do whatever to get involved, I know I have. This stuff tastes great, does great things and is sweeping the nation at a great speed.

Beyond NessAlla there are ways to search out your own source of Kombucha or get creative and make it yourself? Fun fact you start with a scoby but the rest is history for me, hopefully I’ll be able to update you all on my Kombucha making adventures someday.

Bon appetit to nature’s cocktail.

111 South Hamilton Street

This post is a bit delayed because after my wonderful meal at Nostrano I hopped on a plane off to Beijing to start my month of traveling around China. However, that does not deter from how this post may leave you wanting to run as fast as you can directly to Nostrano’s matre’d asking for a table!

I first heard about Nostrano from my sister who lives in Chicago. She has had the privilege of dining at Tim Dahl’s Chicago restaurant, Blackbird and also follows the extremely helpful, Tasting Table, an online food blog. Tasting Table did an article about the brand new Nostrano that Tim and Elizabeth Dahl planned to open in the culturally thriving Madison, a place to start a family but still have customers in their restaurant who truly enjoyed good food. This article started my love for Tasting Table as I now have “To-Do Lists” under each category but also left me eager to try Nostrano.

The perfect opportunity arose when my mom and I were trekking through Madison gathering last minute supplies for my trip abroad and also hoping to end the day with a belated Mother’s Day meal… therefore time to dine at Nostrano, and explaining the title of this post. Along with my beliefs on local sustainable foods I also like to think everything happens for a reason. Thanks to my sister living in Chicago and eating at great restaurants along with reading Tasting Table and sending it my way, I was now able to feast like a God.

Since this had been a long day and we had a two hour drive ahead of us we both ordered coffee as soon as we were seated. To this day I am searching high and low for the Guatemalan blend of Ancora’s coffee we were served. This past semester has transformed me into a coffee drinker as apparent in one of my past posts about how I enjoy a cup of joe. Although I have grown to depend on it from time to time I still am not the wildest fan, until now!! My mom and I both had three cups each and were left wide awake and ready for anything but also so satisfied before we even received our menus, oopsy 🙂

The menu is small, which is how I prefer it, and it was filled with extravagant options that allowed me to realize the chefs must LOVE cooking under the Nostrano roof. We started with the Marinated Olives with Sourdough Focaccia bread that was great to dip in the olives’ oil. There was also a butter lettuce salad that my mother enjoyed so much she almost licked the plate after. The amazing flavors combined had a freshness in each bite.

For the main meal I choose to splurge with the Pork Shoulder Agrodolce that was served with cannellini beans, cavolo nero or kale, and a piece of grilled ciabatta resting on top. My mom was surprised that an ex-vegan would choose a pork shoulder entrée but I am so unbelievably glad I did, and so was she!! The meat was cooked to perfection as it fell to pieces with the poke of my fork allowing all the other ingredients and flavors to mix in the bowl. I was reluctant to share but with the friendly portion served I wouldn’t of been able to clean the plate on my own.

My mom opted for something a little lighter as she ordered another butter lettuce salad to go along with the Sunchoke soup. They brought over a bowl with a small jar and pouring the piping hot soup right in front of us and added a small garnish of sunflower sprouts. I must admit this was the most elaborate presentation of soup, and the flavor fell in line as being smooth and exquisite.

  

We were beyond full at this point but as dessert was being explained to us I magically made room for some good chocolate lovin’! We sampled the Crema which is explained on the menu as milk chocolate cremeux, malted barley pizzelle, brandied cherries and lambic gelato but I would state it simply as heaven on earth!

Three hours had now passed, the restaurant was full and our waiter was our new best friend. As one last meal before leaving the country I was beyond satisfied with our choice.

A fun fact to go along with the great meal is that Nostrano actually means local allowing each employee to pride them-self on promoting the slow food idea by serving uniquely amazing meals.

Bon appetit and hurry over to the corner of South Hamilton and Main Street on the Capitol Square in Madison.

Dining as Venecian Goddesses.

As my last night in lovely Sheboygan my mom and I walked along the river front to dine at Lino’s Ristorante Italiano. This is one of the newest additions to the South Pier located with the Sheboygan River and Lake Michigan on either side of the peninsula. When we moved to Sheboygan this peninsula was covered with weeds and wild bushes. Today it has a breezy pathway outlining the whole peninsula and decorated with various boutiques and restaurants. Lino Autiero and Marco Rossi are long time friends who have landed in Sheboygan in order to help establish the restaurant scene and add flare to what was once a deserted piece of land. With the summer sun setting we decided to sit outside and enjoy our meal only a few feet from the calm Sheboygan River. The scenic views with the lake in the background made the environment divine and as if we were nestled in Venice itself.

We started off with a bottle Lino’s choice of wine, a Ripassa, and after only a few glasses we were fully enjoying our time in bliss. Our choice of appetizer was of course a basket of homemade bread, accompanied for dipping was an aged olive oil and balsamic vinegar, my absolute favorite start to a meal. After exploring the menu and hearing the specials I choose the cheese and spinach tortellini with lobster and a light cream sauce. It was a bit rich but was just perfect for a splurging type of night.

My mom sampled the special Venice which was a chop and unfortunately not what she intended to order but covered in the most delectable mushrooms and a tasty pasta as the side.

Next up was desert after much convincing by our new best friend, or waitress. We opted for something light and shared the mandarin orange sorbet imported from Italy and served in the rind of the orange. It was divine but I must contest that I feel that it would have tasted the same or better had it been grow and assembled on this side of the pond. As much as I love Italian food much of the good meals have their produce and various endless ingredients imported from Italy, making the meal incomparable but the allowing the carbon foot print to sky rocket. Although sometimes, just sometimes I allow myself the ability to justify indulging in the fine foods, regardless of when they are carted from. My Slow Foodies wouldn’t appreciate this as much but we will keep that on the hush hush.

Our meal was now approaching three hours long and we were close acquaintances with Lino as we learned about his amazing adventures and the Italian lemons. This lead to a sample of his special Limoncello, imported from Italy, made with the purest and largest lemons that are only found covering the streets of his home town in Italy. I am able and strong enough to take a shot but this was sweet like desert with a punch in the face that gave me goosebumps.

We were now satisfied with fully bellies and a buzzing head. The atmosphere and company made this a special night and I am eager to explore the rest of the menu.

Bon Appetit.

 

823 Michigan Avenue

Where else would you rather enjoy a summer sunset than on top of the new and improved El Camino! A bunch of us decided to head downtown Shevegas for margs and delectable Mexican food. El Camino once upon a time was only big enough for three tables with a capacity of maybe 75 people. Now the renovated restaurant has two full bars with enough room for seating down stairs, up stairs and outside on the brand new patio. Half of us sat around catching up and sipping on divine lime margaritas during happy hour enjoying them at two for only six dollars!

The expansion of the restaurant has not allowed the quality of service or food to falter as we all enjoyed our meals and I even explored authentic Mexican cuisine with a lengua taco, TONGUE! I attempted to find out where their meat came from before ordering so I could make a somewhat wise decision. Our waiter explained that it is from a “store” in Milwaukee, allowing me to justify that it is kind of local. This is not ideal when choosing to eat an unusual part of the animal, but when choosing something as bizarre as tongue off a menu it usually indicates that the restaurant purchases full animals. This is pushing them to explore the chefs culinary skills by cooking all odds and ends of the animal and usually, not always, but usually full animals are purchased from local farms. With Milwaukee roughly an hour away I made the executive decision that this was considered local and there for ordered one tongue taco with a corn tortilla.

Despite what people may prefer, corn tortillas in my opinion are the obvious choice when choosing to eat Mexican cuisine. If you are going to go as far as to situation yourself in an ethnic restaurant and sample food other than American then whey wouldn’t you do so fully. Flour tortillas are the western (American) influence on authentic Mexican cuisine, and mask many flavors. The corn tortillas, on the other hand, compliment the other ingredients the way they are meant to be enjoyed. Allergies aside, there really is no excuse for ordering flour, just saying!

Bon appetit to having adventurous taste buds.

504 Broadway

All Hail Honeybees decides to dine fully clothed but ultimately with naked foods. This narrow restaurant with a counter and one table is located right on the edge of North Beach and the name of the restaurant, Naked Lunch, is based off the book Naked Lunch written by William S. Burroughs. William S. Burroughs was a writer that filled the pages of his books while exploring an intense drug trip. There are no drugs tucked in the food but it is so good you may imagine yourself slipping away to a better place, jokes of course… but is it that good!

My sister and I decided to take a day off to enjoy fun in the sun and catch a quick lunch since we were lucky enough to know one of the head chefs. The menu is small and changes everyday so we decided to sample almost everything, seeing as we couldn’t make our minds up. First up was a chilled English cucumber gazpacho with tarragon and creme fraiche and the last two cups full of cinnamon sweet tea.

The second course was a salad to share made of mixed greens, pea shoots, avocado mousse, grapefruit wedges with a lemon vinaigrette and toasted almonds on top.

By now we were getting full but the best was yet to come. I sampled the grilled asparagus sandwich with roasted carrots, fennel compote, mint, radishes and pea shoots!! My oh my this was absolutely amazing!! A close second, in my opinion, was my sisters Trumer braised short rib sandwich with oven dried tomatoes, basil, crispy onions and arugula.

The only thing we did not sample was a foie gras torchon and duck proscutto sandwich with tomatoes, butter lettuce and black truffle salt. This sandwich cost close to everything else we ate combined so we decided to take our chances and wait for it to reappear on the menu another day.

Unfortunately we did not make it to this corner of heaven until close to the end of my stay in San Francisco so we were only able to experience the true skill of the cooks once, but mark my words I am dreaming about my return.

Bon appetit.

All Hail Darn Good Bread.

As a foodie my one weakness tends to be good bread. In my family we are aware we tend to be snobs when it comes to bread, orange juice and chocolate. There are some other things we are picky about but that is only because we plain and simply love good food.

Upon deciding to spend the summer hanging out in SF I looked into some options of working with food. After getting an email from my favorite foodie website, Tasting Table, I read about Josey Baker, a cool guy that was doing what he loves, baking GREAT bread! I contacted him in hopes of helping him out but my summer in SF ended up being a few weeks, so we will save that adventure for when I live on the California Coast. This, however, didn’t stop me from sampling his raved about bread.

From what I understand, his whole approach to baking bread started as word of mouth from his friends and others who fell in love with his talent of crafting amazing breads. He now has a blog, http://joseybakerbread.blogspot.com/, that supports his CSB, Community Supported Bread! He sells the bread fresh and hot in various locations around the city and when it is gone, it’s gone. Wednesdays and Thursdays the bread arrives at Bi-Rite Market at 5pm and usually lasts until 7pm, if you’re lucky! Bi-Rite is a quick ride from Cow Hollow, so last Thursday my sister and I decided to venture out for good, hot bread, and that is exactly what we returned with.

Bi-Rite is a narrow grocery store filled with exquisite foods including a deli, bakery, organic and local produce, as well as all jams, jellies and spreads you could imagine. Their chocolate section was also mouth-watering as you are waiting in a line as long as the store itself. Upon arrival at approximately 5:15pm there were three different kinds of Josey’s bread piping hot and ready to be purchased. We choose the recommended walnut bread which was a great decision. As a kid I never liked sourdough breads and always opted for the stained white “french” bread that is not always the healthiest choice. This sourdough however, was addicting and had us both at its mercy the whole way home where we arrived with only half a loaf, oopsy!

The next morning we toasted the bread and smothered it in our favorite spreads like Peach Butter or Fig Preserve with Ginger from the California staple, Arcangeli Grocery Co. in Pescadero. Unfortunately and embarrassingly this loaf only lasted us two days after adding it to all of our meals. Wednesday is only two days away and I know where I will be when 5pm rolls around!

Bon appetit to darn good bread!