Critiques, Cravings and Conundrums From the Madison Food and Dining Scene
Small Dishes
Peanut Butter: Fit for a King

12/02/12

Peanut Butter: Fit for a King

Tracing the world's favorite spread back to its roots

Posted at 12:41 PM | Permalink | Comments

No Baloney

11/18/12

No Baloney

The good and the bad of deli meats; Underground Butcher opens

Posted at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments

Bourbon:  Big & Bold!

10/28/12

Bourbon: Big & Bold!

Besides food, genealogy is probably my biggest passion.  My roots are deep in Kentucky, and not surprisingly, steeped in bourbon.  Both sides of my family settled in Kentucky before it became a state and include more than a few whiskey makers (both legal and otherwise) and a lot of whiskey drinkers.  That said, until recently I was not a bourbon fan, more inclined to favor gin and vodka as my tipple of choice.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like its taste, it was just so …so overbearing. I learned firsthand how bourbon was made in high school when I toured the now defunct Glenmore Distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky.  It all begins with the mash—mostly corn, but with wheat and sometime rye added as well—rye produces a heartier,...

Posted at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments

Pumpkin Eater

10/14/12

Pumpkin Eater

For many years, I was unequivocally convinced that there was but one worthwhile use for a pumpkin:  a jack-o’-lantern.  From my culinary point of view, it was nothing more than a big squash and bigger wasn’t better.  The only squash I liked were the summer varieties, green zucchinis and yellow crooknecks, the smaller the better.  The problem with all the fall varieties was they lived up to their name, being mushy and bland.  Back then, I wouldn’t even touch pumpkin pie.  I’d been forced to eat one-too-many Thanksgiving dinners where the most popular dessert for everyone else was forced on me.  My mother use to bake the life out of it—she had a propensity for making sure everything was done—yet, mysteriously her...

Posted at 09:31 AM | Permalink | Comments

Buttermilk: Misunderstood

09/30/12

Buttermilk: Misunderstood

I can still remember the first time I tasted it.  What a shock!  I mean with “butter” in the name it was not at all what I had expected.  It should have been a clue that where I lived then the other, more popular milk—the stuff I drank at school—was called “sweet milk.” Unpleasantly sour with a cloddy texture, I found it impossible to believe that anyone could actually like buttermilk and dismissed it for a long time.  As I learned to cook, I discovered it was a key ingredient in many southern specialties like biscuits and cornbread, because it softens the gluten and produces a tender texture. Buttermilk got its name because it was the liquid left in the churn after making butter.  However nearly all the buttermilk...

Posted at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments

Something Fishy

09/09/12

Something Fishy

When you say “Wisconsin” you probably don’t think seafood.  Obviously there is no ocean anywhere near here, but there are an awful lot of lakes and streams.  Considering the amount of salmon found locally on restaurant menus you might suppose it was our biggest catch.  Of course, it comes from Alaska and afar.  Lake whitefish, yellow perch, walleye and smelt are all found and commercially fished in the Great Lakes, though much of the fresh water fish sold here comes from Canada.  Additionally, stream trout, yellow perch and catfish are farm raised. Locally caught fish was once more popular.  It was the foundation for the Friday night fish fry, so plentiful and cheap that it was “all you can eat.”  Certainly its...

Posted at 11:14 AM | Permalink | Comments

State of Bliss

08/26/12

State of Bliss

I don’t think I’m that different from a lot of other people when I find myself wishing I was somewhere else.  Sometimes I yearn to be in a cosmopolitan city like London.  Often I fantasize about an escape to a tropical island like Tahiti.  I admit I don’t always appreciate literally what’s just outside my door.  I’ve lived on the lake for 25 years, but the view that never fails to wow guests has for me become a sort of visual Muzak.  Though I know I would sorely miss it if I moved.  To some extent, it’s only human nature to long for greener grass.  It’s true with regard to food, too. I probably spend way too much time thinking about lobster rolls and fried oysters and other things I’m probably not...

Posted at 11:35 AM | Permalink | Comments

In a Pickle

07/29/12

In a Pickle

 Stew’d in brine, Smarting in lingering pickle —William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra  Most of us don’t give them much thought.  Sure, we expect pickles to show up beside a sandwich, maybe on top of a burger, or perhaps chopped up in potato salad.  Say “pickle.” and for most of us the first thing that comes to mind is a cucumber.  But, just about every vegetable can be and is pickled, not to mention herring, eggs and even pigs feet. Pickling is one of the oldest forms of preserving food.  It’s accomplished in one of two ways:  either by using salt and water to produce lactic acid or by storing in an acetic solution, usually vinegar.  Pickled foods are prepared and popular the world over. I...

Posted at 11:02 AM | Permalink | Comments

Martini, Straight Up

07/08/12

Martini, Straight Up

 “'I had never tasted anything so cool and clean.  They made me feel civilized.” Ernest Hemingway, Farewell to Arms The mystique of the martini is monumental.  It’s simply a classic, the perfect marriage of gin and vermouth and recognized the world over by the shape of its glass.  Fittingly, its roots are a bit mysterious, but obviously born in the United States during the early part of the 19th-century, coming of age during Prohibition.  It was an era when bootleggers thrived but temperance did not.  Both illicitly made gin (known as “bath tub gin”) as well as the genuine article smuggled in from Canada fueled the country’s booming speakeasies.  Mixologists experimented with how to make the spirit...

Posted at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments

Ice Cream vs. Frozen Custard

06/17/12

Ice Cream vs. Frozen Custard

They can be one and the same, and then again, not.  Most ice cream made in this country is of two types depending upon the ingredients.  One is sometimes referred to as Philadelphia-style, made with cream, milk, sugar and flavorings.  The other as French-style, eggs added to the cream, milk and sugar and the mixture cooked to form a custard. From its inception in the 10th century ice cream has evolved from a delicacy to what we take for granted today.  A big advance was made by Nancy Johnson who invented the hand-crank freezer in 1843.  She sold the idea to William Young for $200 who patented and manufactured her invention as the “Johnson Patent Ice-Cream Freezer.”  It consisted of an outer wooden bucket with a metal cylinder to contain...

Posted at 08:44 AM | Permalink | Comments

About This Blog

Dan CurdI found my interest in writing by accident. My training and first job was as a graphic designer. Unemployed, the only employment I could find in advertising at that time was as a copywriter. Somehow, I convinced Richard Newman & Associates to hire me. Later I learned they were desperate. Madison has been my home off and on since 1957 (nonstop for the past 31 years). I write about food, which I love. – Dan Curd

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