Critiques, Cravings and Conundrums From the Madison Food and Dining Scene
Small Dishes
Missing New Orleans

03/06/11

Missing New Orleans

To paraphrase Creighton Bernette in the TV series Treme, it may be just another gray, sorry-assed Tuesday where you are, but it’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans. And, on most Fat Tuesdays I’d be there, but not this year. I’m not sure what I’ll do on March 8, other than try not to think about what I’m missing and missing it I will. Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans is the unofficial anthem of New Orleans and the lyrics suggest that the only thing one can miss more than the city is one’s true love. Unfortunately, my true love is New Orleans at Mardi Gras. As so often is the case with what we treasure most, it’s something I stumbled upon serendipitously. The first time I saw New Orleans was more than thirty-six years...

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Dipping and Grilling

02/20/11

Dipping and Grilling

 Most of us have enjoyed fondue at one time or another. It originated in the French-speaking region of Switzerland as a cheese dish eaten from a communal pot. In various forms it had long been popular there when in the 1930s the Swiss Cheese Union promoted it as the national dish.  Traditionally, fondue is made from Gruyère, Emmental or a blend of cheeses, white wine and kirsch.  Usually a small amount of cornstarch is added to prevent separation. It’s made in a small pot set over a flame and eaten by dipping cubes of bread on long forks directly into the pot. The specialty made its way here in the 1960s, soon reaching the fad status of the hula hoop. As its popularity spread, many variations like chocolate fondue soon followed. Much less known in the...

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A Red Letter Drink

02/13/11

A Red Letter Drink

 Red is always a popular color … and nowhere more so than in Badgerland and at no time more so than on Valentine’s Day.  Red is the color of blood and hearts and denotes love and passion, but also anger—as in "seeing red". I’m always looking for new red food and drinks to make for the holiday.  After all there are only three things people do to celebrate and two of them are eating and drinking. Not being able to resist anything new, I purchased a bottle of Absolut Wild Tea vodka.  It’s actually a tweaking of one of their limited editions venerating American cities—Absolut Boston.   The prominent flavors are tea and elderflowers.  I previously had bought a bottle of the Absolut Boston and liked...

Posted at 11:35 AM | Permalink | Comments

Smoke and Mirrors

02/05/11

Smoke and Mirrors

Recently a friend who had just lunched at Bonfyre commented about how good the place smelled.  Having been there myself, I knew what she meant:  The tantalizing aroma of food grilling over a wood fire was my first impression when I walked through the door.  I knew it would be a lasting one as well. It’s like magic how just the smell of food can send me off on—like the old song says—“…a sentimental journey to renew old memories.”  For example, the smell of hot dogs—the kind that spin around on a carousel in a glass case—and chopped onion and pickle relish always remind me of dime stores—S.S. Kresge and F.W. Woolworth. I picture myself sitting at the serpentine lunch counter with my chubby legs and shiny new...

Posted at 01:31 PM | Permalink | Comments

Restaurant Week Fantasy

01/16/11

Restaurant Week Fantasy

I love Restaurant Week.  It’s a chance to sample some great food—maybe at places quite honestly I might not go to otherwise—and it’s a great deal. The formula is simple: Twice a year, 35 popular restaurants offer a three-course menu (with at least three choices for each course) on six nights for $25.  It occurred to me that means there are over 315 possible dinner menus you could put together for the week!  I assure you, between January 23 and 28 I’ll be working on it. But here’s a compilation menu—my perfect meal—picked from winter 2011 offerings. My Eight Course Restaurant Week Fantasy MenuHors d’oeuvreGraze: Liverwurst Toast with pickled apples and mixed greens Soup43 North: Lobster Bisque with tarragon...

Posted at 12:50 PM | Permalink | Comments

Worst Recipes

01/05/11

Worst Recipes

 Recently a friend gave me a file box full of recipes that he found when he moved into a new house.  Of course, I had to have a look even though the likelihood of finding anything I’d actually make was minute.  Despite logic, we all seek serendipity if not treasure, hence the popularity of reality television like Antiques Road Show and American Pickers.  I’ve inexplicably sorted through stacks of three-by-five cards and many a spiral bound church cookbook with great expectations.  I can’t say I’ve ever unearthed anything that’s contributed to my extensive repertoire of recipes, but it was more fun than watching Paula Deen. When I heard that there was going to be a new TV show on the Food Network called Worst Cooks in America, I...

Posted at 08:07 PM | Permalink | Comments

Good Luck!

12/26/10

Good Luck!

 I’ve always been amazed by all the different foods one’s suppose to consume just to get the New Year off to a good start. (So much for dieting.)  When I grew up, it was all about black-eyed peas—I’m talking about the funky vegetable, not the hip hop group.  I hated them (the funky vegetable)—at best they tasted bland, but always had a hint of dirt.  I’ve heard two different stories as to why eating them is supposed to be lucky. One says they resemble coins. (Really?)  The other is that during the Civil War when Vicksburg was under siege the dried legumes saved its inhabitants from starvation. (Not much of a culinary recommendation though.)  Seemingly ‘bout the only thing one shouldn’t consume this time of...

Posted at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments

The Best and Worst of 2010

12/19/10

The Best and Worst of 2010

It’s that time of year.  Christmas not yet past and lists are springing up left and right.  But it’s difficult to face the year’s end without being nostalgic—it would be hard to move forward otherwise. Here are some of my food and drinking experiences that stood out during the past twelve months. Best New Restaurant: 43 North.  It was a difficult choice to make.  Oddly, despite the bad economy a slew of restaurants premiered this year—many of them downtown ... like Nostrano; Underground Food Collective; Merchant; and the reincarnation of L’Etoile and its new sister restaurant, Graze.  To be perfectly honest, I haven’t had time to try a couple that just opened. Regardless, I picked 43 North because it’s really...

Posted at 11:52 AM | Permalink | Comments

The Cosmopolitan Fruit

12/05/10

The Cosmopolitan Fruit

Cranberries, one way or another, got their name from cranes. Some think the flower of the plant looks a lot like the bird’s head; others suggest it’s simply because cranes are attracted to bogs where cranberries grow. Though the fruit grew in England and Scotland, they were a diminutive species of what the Pilgrims would encounter on Cape Cod. The climate and terrain of Cape Cod was ideal for cranberries that grew wild in the bogs there, especially in the Province Lands near Provincetown. It’s no coincidence that they were first cultivated there—in Dennis, Massachusetts in 1816.  Soon cranberries became a major export, first to the West Indies and then Europe. They were prized by sailors since they kept well on a long voyage and helped...

Posted at 02:25 PM | Permalink | Comments

The Ultimate Holiday Pie

11/21/10

The Ultimate Holiday Pie

 Be honest.  Holidays are all about excess.  Who can work up an appetite for sorbet at Thanksgiving?  Pie is “in” right now—not that it ever went out of fashion as far as I’m concerned.  Nothing could be more appropriate for this native holiday that’s all about food, either.  Two traditional favorites—pumpkin and pecan—are quintessentially American.  And as a famous TV-chef frequently reminds us, in New Orleans they like to kick it up a notch. This dessert does that to say the least and best of all, is easy to make. New Orleans-style Chocolate Pecan Pie  1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell, thoroughly chilled1½ cups pecans, lightly toasted½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips4 eggs, beatenPinch of...

Posted at 04:46 PM | 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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