Critiques, Cravings and Conundrums From the Madison Food and Dining Scene
Small Dishes
Farro? Far Out!

11/09/11

Farro? Far Out!

First of all, what is it?  That was my reaction when farro first popped up on a menu I was pursuing as my panting palate looking over my shoulder.  It’s a grain in its whole form to be sure, but exactly what kind is contentious. It’s especially popular in Italy where emmer wheat is most commonly used, but the choice of grain varies regionally. In other countries, grains such as spelt and barley are sometimes called farro.  The most common substitute listed in recipes is wheat berries.   Like quinoa that suddenly became a foodie favorite a decade ago, farro really isn’t new but only new around here. It’s one of the five grains mentioned in ancient Jewish literature used during Passover to make matzo.  I learned a long time ago...

Posted at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments: 2

TONY

10/31/11

TONY

Posted at 08:21 AM | Permalink | Comments

Adventures in Good Eating

10/19/11

Adventures in Good Eating

That was the name of Duncan Hines’ restaurant guide in 1950s.  He was the Tim and Nina Zagat of his day and the leading authority on dining out.  Today, most people only recognize his name as that of a popular cake mix.  Fame as a restaurant critic is fleeting and taste in food fickle.   Just like what we eat, much has changed about the restaurant business in the last 50 years.  For one thing, “adventure” and “good eating” are rarely associated with each other anymore.   The success of chains like McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken were built on uniformity and no surprises.  Now, a restaurant adventure has become a pejorative.  Even Duncan Hines admitted, “I've run more risk eating...

Posted at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments: 3

Counter Culture

10/05/11

Counter Culture

It seems way too early to be thinking about Christmas, but it’s difficult not to, going to Target and Costco and seeing all the holiday glitter already on display. Like many, thinking about Christmas takes me back to when I was a little kid, because that’s when it was the most alive and real. Then shopping was an adventure, special from the start because I wore my best clothes even though it wasn’t Sunday.  It was an essential ingredient in the anticipation of Christmas that never came fast enough.  I still remember the thrill of squandering the $20 fortune that Aunt Bertie Louise gave me each year—much better than the Savings Bond I got on my birthday. I especially miss going to the five and dime, stores like S. S. Kresge and F. W. Woolworth....

Posted at 01:02 PM | Permalink | Comments

Dining & Drinking Down Under

09/21/11

Dining & Drinking Down Under

No, I don’t have Australian cuisine on my mind.  I’m not even sure I know what that is; surely not what they serve at Outback Steakhouse.  I’ve been thinking about basement restaurants and why inexplicably they can be appealing.  It flies in the face of logic that anyone over the age of 12 would relish the idea of dining, or even drinking for that matter, in a cellar! What makes for atmosphere, however, cannot easily be defined. My first experience of dining below street level was in Greenwich Village.  I was in high school and with a friend and her rather eccentric aunt who lived there.  She reminded me of Aunty Mame and took us to a little Italian restaurant, obviously her favorite.  Just like in the movies, the tables had red...

Posted at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments

By the Side of the Road

09/05/11

By the Side of the Road

 In the chaotic clutter and too often ticky-tacky of modern life, it’s still possible to find treasure and sometime when least expected. After all, television shows such as Antiques Roadshow and American Pickers wouldn’t be so popular otherwise.  I recently made my I-hate-to-admit-it first trip to Door County and thought I’d share a few of the places on and off the road that gave me pleasure. I’m not much for traveling any distance in the car—perhaps that explains why I’d never gone to Door County before—so any excuse to stop is welcome and Ardy and Ed’s Drive-In in Oshkosh is a good one.  The first time I came upon this place it was at night after traveling some distance down a very dark highway, and seeing its bright...

Posted at 12:23 PM | Permalink | Comments

Seeing More Seafood

08/27/11

Seeing More Seafood

 No doubt you’ve heard the joke, “I’m on the seafood diet … I see food and I eat it.  Actually, I could very well subsist on a seafood diet—fresh fish and shellfish.  I’m known to go on the lobster roll diet when I go to Cape Cod and the oyster diet when I go to New Orleans.  I just can’t get enough, but I should start at the beginning.Growing up, in the center of the country far away from the bounty of the ocean was limiting to say the least.  When I lived in Kentucky, I enjoyed fried catfish and fried oysters and still do to this day.  Moving to Wisconsin, local lake fish—perch and walleye most likely—at the Friday night fish fry were a weekly rendezvous.  I also remember occasionally seeing...

Posted at 07:06 AM | Permalink | Comments

Loving the Love Apple

08/14/11

Loving the Love Apple

 La Pomme D'Amour—the love apple)—is the name the French adoringly gave the tomato back in the 16th Century.  As things go, tomatoes, a native to South America, came to the European table relatively recently.  It’s unclear as to who brought back the first tomato from the New World:  maybe the Spanish explorer Cortez after he conquered the Aztecs in Mexico, but possibly even Columbus as early as 1493. Surprisingly, considering their national fondness for tomatoes, they were only used as ornamental table decorations in Italy until the late 17th or early 18th centuries.  This was because at worse they wore thought to be poisonous (the plant belongs to the deadly nightshade family) and at best unsuitable for eating. Even though the tomato...

Posted at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments

Summer:  Drink It Up!

07/22/11

Summer: Drink It Up!

 It’s time to put away the dark whiskey, martini glasses and olives.  Instead, bring out the ice and lots of it.  It’s hard to imagine summer without a margarita, mojito or caipirinha at some point; not to mention a gin and tonic. Gin and tonic is the classic summer libation.  Like most good things, it has a history.  Tonic water made with quinine was originally serious medicine, drunk in India by the British to ward off malaria.  Some smart person figured out that adding gin masked the bitter quinine and made this remedy downright enjoyable.  The Brits brought their taste for gin and tonic back home with them.  Tonic water there is still called “India Tonic”, and when mixed with gin, affectionately referred to as a...

Posted at 04:14 PM | Permalink | Comments

Fantasy Feast

07/13/11

Fantasy Feast

 It’s that time again.  Restaurant week approaches: July 24 - 29.  I always regret that I have to pick which of the many participating restaurants I will be able to go to for great food that’s a great deal--$25 for three courses.  It would be nice to think I could go out for lunch and dinner each of the six days, but that’s not going to happen. (My diet is challenged enough as it is.)  What I would really like is to pick and choose between all the choices—most places offer at least three different three-course menus—at all 37 restaurants participating.  And, then have this perfect meal delivered and served to me at my house.  Okay, that’s not going to happen either, but here would be my eight-course fantasy...

Posted at 09:27 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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