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

Stuffing or Dressing?

11/14/10

Stuffing or Dressing?

 To begin with, I’m talking turkey.  Technically, stuffing goes inside the bird and dressing is baked separately.  The two terms are often used interchangeably—it has more to do with where you live than grammar, since “dressing” is favored in the South and “stuffing” elsewhere.    Seemingly the idea of stuffing poultry has been around forever.  It’s as much a part of our thanksgiving feast as turkey.  In this country, bread and sage stuffing has always been the most popular, though cornbread is nearly always added in the South, and the Pennsylvania Dutch are very fond of what they call potato stuffing.  Depending upon your taste and heritage, sausage, rice and fruit may be familiar...

Posted at 10:39 AM | Permalink | Comments

Dueling Chefs 2010

10/24/10

Dueling Chefs 2010

Congratulation to this year's Culinary Conqueror, Chef Bee Khang from Sushi Muramoto.  In the final round at the Madison Food & Wine Show, Sunday, October 24  Khang cooked off against Chef Jesse Matz from Bunky's.  The secret ingredient was tomatoes and each chef prepared two dishes for the judges.  Scorring was on flavor, presentation and use of the secret ingredient.  Sushi Muramoto Dish #1Bunky's Dish #1Sushi Muramoto Dish #2Bunky's Dish #2

Posted at 04:53 PM | Permalink | Comments

Fire and Smoke

10/17/10

Fire and Smoke

For me at least, outdoor barbecuing season is over.  I know there’s a cult in Wisconsin that likes to grill out when the snow blows and it’s 20 below.  But when I can no longer tend the Weber in my shorts and flipflops or light the charcoal because of the howling wind (No, I don’t use gas!), it’s time to hang up my tongs for the year.  Furthermore, the directions that came with my smoker say it should only be used when the outside temperature is 50 degrees or above.  That doesn’t mean I intend to forsake grilled and smoked foods until next spring.  I have thought about buying a stovetop smoker—a clever smoking device that works indoors.  As a gadget it fascinates me, but ultimately seems like a make do effort....

Posted at 04:29 PM | Permalink | Comments

Apple of My Eye

10/10/10

Apple of My Eye

Apples are probably the most common fruit of all.  They’re always available at the grocery, but can come from as far away as New Zealand. Too often they’ve been held in cold storage way past their prime. In this country, most come from Washington—about 55%, but are commercially grown in 35 other states including Wisconsin which ranks 12th in production. Regardless, locally grown apples are best and now is the time to enjoy them! The number of varieties is staggering—more than 7,500. In the United States, though, only about 50 are seriously marketed.   They all start out green, but when ripe, their skin can turn red, pink, yellow, orange, brown or just remain green. Apples vary enormously in tartness, sweetness and flavor from one species to...

Posted at 08:50 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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