Thursday, July 31, 2008

Grazing Where the Grass Is Greener

Here is more information about the businesses and farmers’ markets mentioned in this article in the August issue of Madison Magazine.

Specialty Foods and Restaurants:

1855 Saloon & Grill
218 S. Main Street, Cottage Grove

Bavaria Sausage
6317 Nesbitt Road, Fitchburg

Bean Sprouts Café
6719 Frank Lloyd Wright Avenue, Middleton

Bistro 101
101 E. Main Street, Mt. Horeb

Candinas Chocolatier
2435 Old Highway PB, Verona

Door Creek Orchard
3252 Vilas Road, Cottage Grove

Fosdal Home Bakery
243 E. Main Street, Stoughton

La Concha Bakery
3054 Fish Hatchery Road, Fitchburg

Mustard Museum
100 W. Main Street, Mt. Horeb

55th Annual Sun Prairie Sweet Corn Festival
August 14 - 17
Angel Park, Sun Prairie

The Continental
2784 Fish Hatchery Road, Fitchburg

Farmers’ Markets:

May 3 to November 1, Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon
Library Park, downtown Belleville

May through October, Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Intersection of Fish Hatchery Road and East Cheryl Parkway

May 1 through October 30, Thursdays, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
5100 Farwell Street in McFarland Centre

May 8 through October, Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Greenway Station Shopping Center

May through October, Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Ahuska Park

Mt. Horeb
May 8th through
September, Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Heritage Park

May through October, Tuesdays, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

May through October, Fridays, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Stoughton Plaza Shopping Center

Sun Prairie
May 2 through October 31, Saturdays, 7 a.m. to noon
300 East Main Street

May through October, Wednesdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Waun-A-Bowl parking lot

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Burger Doodle

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times wrote about how hamburgers were now chic in Paris. The French have always had hamburger of sorts, what they call haché. It’s likely served sauced but never on a bun. When I first traveled in Europe as a student in 1969 McDonald’s had yet to appear on the scene. That’s not to say there weren’t hamburgers there back then. The name itself after all derives from a German city, though in Hamburg it was originally a budget dish of cheap shredded beef eaten both cooked and raw. The UK had Wimpys, their own Anglicized version of our celebrated American sandwich. In Belgium, there was the Grand Cuckoo, a kind of pre-Big Mac topped with a fried egg. In most big European cities there were restaurants that tried to allure American tourist with a taste of home: hamburger and iced beverages, both oddities there during that era. Most of the burgers weren’t worth writing home about.

But it was some years later that McDonald’s really popularized burgers on the Continent. I don’t think it a surprise that Europeans would embrace this sandwich nor that they would try to improve upon it. In this country it’s still very much a work in progress.

The invention of the true American-style, meat-patty-on-a bun hamburger is contentious despite the fact that the Wisconsin legislature last year officially declared Seymour its home town. Supposedly, Charlie Nagreen at age 15 went to the Outagamie County Fair to sell meatballs. Business was bad. He hit upon the idea of flattening the meatballs, slipping them between two slices of bread and, voila! Hamburger Charlie as he became known continued to sell his creation at the county fair until his death in 1951. Today, Seymour honors him with a statue and the annual Burger Fest (August 8-9, 2008).

I can’t profess to remember when or where I ate my first hamburger … they always seemed to be around. There is no food I enjoyed so much as a child that I still crave today. There’s just something enormously satisfying and reassuring about a burger.

What have evolved are basically two types of hamburgers. The thin patty that is cooked on a grill, inherent to the success of so many fast food franchises. In my opinion, the California In-N-Out Burger chain has taken this form to the state of the art. Sonic, another popular burgerteria that started in Oklahoma in 1953 recently announced it would soon be opening locations around Madison.

The other burger is the fat, hand-formed patty cooked over an open flame. This is my kind of burger. This is the type of burger I’d expect to find at a good restaurant or bar, but my favorite ones are made at home.

Having eaten and made who knows how many hamburgers during my life, I’ve learned one thing. Excluding the actual meat, it’s more important what goes on top of the burger than what goes in it. Mixing too much stuff in the ground meat gives it a meatloaf-like texture. On the other hand, when it comes to toppings almost anything is fair game.

I stopped buying pre-ground beef several years ago. It’s really not that much trouble to grind my own (I use the attachment on my Kitchen Aid mixer) and it’s well worth the trouble. To say the least, it’s fresher, has more flavor and I prefer the coarser texture. My favorite burger is made from half chuck and half brisket but all chuck is more than acceptable. Ideally, the mixture should contain about 20% fat.

Sometime when you want a burger you just have to have it … now. So …

Madison’s Best Burgers. And, the winners are…

Best Gourmet Burger: V Burger at Brasserie V. A big burger (2/3 pound) made from Prairie Farm’s dry aged ground beef, topped with Munster cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and aioli.

Best Upscale Restaurant Burger: Build Your Own Burger at the Capitol Chophouse. Half a pound of fine Allen Brothers beef dressed with your choice of bacon, mushrooms, Cheddar, Swiss or blue cheese.

Best Classic Burger: Original Hamburger at Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry. Six ounces of ground chuck, grilled, and served with your choice of toppings. This is simply all a burger should be.

Best Double Decker Burger: The Big Gritt at The Nitty Gritty. This has so much more soul than a Big Mac. Two all beef patties, with Wisconsin Cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onion and secret Gritty Sauce served on a dark, seeded bun.

Best Unusual Burger: The Old Fashioned House Burger. Grilled over a wood fire, it’s topped with fried onions, aged Cheddar, garlic sauce and a soft-cooked egg; nestled in a butter-toasted bun.

Best Bar Burger: Mickey Burger at Mickey’s Tavern. One-third a pound ground beef mixed with spicy Italian giardiniera, finished with sliced tomato, fried onions and chili aioli; wrapped in a nice roll.

Best Bar Burger, Runner-Up: Bad Breath Burger at Weary Traveler. Ground Black Angus beef patty slathered in cream cheese, lots of garlic (of course), and caramelized onions.

Best Vegetarian Burger: Walnut Burger at the Harmony Bar. Ingredients include ground walnuts, various cheeses, spices and herbs. It’s much yummier than the average veggie burger made from texturized vegetable protein.

Best Nostalgia Burger: Bistro Burger at the Wilson Street Grill. Alas, this ground-breaking restaurant run by Nancy Christy and Andrea Craig is no more and their delicious wine-sauced burger a fading but delicious memory.

Traditionally, burgers are beef but they can successfully made from ground chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, salmon, tuna, shrimp and dried legumes.

Pork Burgers

2 pounds fatty pork shoulder, in chunks
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon white pepper

Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill.

Put meat, fennel seeds, garlic salt and pepper in food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Handling the meat as little as possible, lightly shape the mixture into four burgers. Chill burgers, covered, until cooking time.

When the fire is hot—you should barely be able to hold your hand over grilling rack for 3 to 4 seconds. Grill burgers about 5 minutes on each side, turning once, or until medium well. Top with mozzarella cheese if desired and serve on bun with a little marinara sauce and grilled peppers.

Makes 4 Large Burgers.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Yet another Indian restaurant is opening on the square: Flavors of India (on Mifflin near State). Plaka (410 E. Wilson St., formerly Cleveland’s Diner) FINALLY opens tomorrow (July 22) for breakfast and lunch. It will be another few weeks before they start serving dinner. Great Deal: Woofs (114 King Street) Monday thru Friday Happy Hour… sit outside and enjoy full-size, half-price drinks from 4 to 7 p.m. Another real deal is Madison Magazine Restaurant Week which begins this Sunday, July 27. If you’ve never participated in a past Restaurant Week, you’ve definitely missed some great menus at ridiculously low prices. More info about this even can be found here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Food Phobias & Faux Pas

Last week thinking about all the best of Wisconsin food, it was only natural that some of the bad stuff would come to mind. Granted, we all have food fears. Reptiles, rodents and insects aside, there are very few things I won’t eat or at least try. Many of these prejudices are cultural, including mine: I’ll eat the body fluid from a bee but I won’t eat the bee. Sometimes our dislike is based on bad experience: I would have liked squash more if I my mother hadn’t made it to taste like its name.

My number one food phobia is ice cubes made in a home freezer. Okay, ice cubes aren’t food per see but it’s hard to enjoy a meal where they don’t make an appearance. It’s not just that homemade ice cubes are ugly, milky white and leave some mystery residue in you glass. They’re bad because too often they’re stored in open containers and end up tasting like everything in the refrigerator. I always buy ice.

I use to have a phobia about tap water, too, until I realized how much money I was spending on bottled water, how ecologically unsound the bottles were and how dubious the provenance of the water could be. I did buy a water filter.

Second on my feared food list is Jell-O. I was force-fed way too much of this stuff as a kid—it may be “America’s Favorite Dessert” but it was the only salad my aunt ever made. It comes in bright, pretty colors but what IS in that little box? Gelatin (which is made from animal bones, hooves, cartilage, tendons and intestines). Sugar. Artificial flavor and artificial coloring. If Jell-O were banned tomorrow I’m sure the consumption of canned fruit cocktail, pears and cling peaches would decline dramatically and we’d all be so much the better off for it.

Next on my list of foods I don’t like is something that often appears on top of Jell-O: Cool Whip. This is not a product born in someone’s kitchen. It was invented by a chemist in a laboratory. It’s mostly air and water … for what you’re getting it’s twice as cheap to buy real cream and whip it yourself. Cool Whip also contains sugar (lots of sugar) and hydrogenated coconut and palm kernel oil (much worse for you than the saturated fat in real cream). My favorite ingredients, though, are polysorbate 60 (a major ingredient in some sexual lubricants) and sorbitan monostearate (also used as a hemorrhoid cream).

In general I avoid products that have ingredients whose names I can’t pronounce, and worse yet, I don’t know what they are. I avoid ready-to-eat foods mass produced in factories. I avoid items with encoded expiration dates and things shipped in from afar that are produced locally.

Avoid is the key word here. It’s not always possible to get what I want especially, when eating out, especially at airports or a friend’s house. That brings me to my other topic: faux pas or meals that should never have been. I’m always surprised that people seemingly are a lot more interested in what I have to say when it’s a criticism as opposed to a compliment. It sure is a lot more fun to write about.

Most often asked question: “What is the worse meal you ever had?”

That covers a lot of territory. For the most part, memorable meals are just that and bad ones are soon forgotten. However, sometime an experience can be so awful it borders on traumatic and appallingly remembered forever.

Numero Uno. It was a formal dinner party with a picture-perfect table set with fine silver and china. The first course was cold soup as thick as chip dip. In fact it tasted and looked like Dean’s French Onion Dip. Unfortunately there were no chips … only a spoon and a watching host. Next was a salad … yes … lemon-flavored Jell-O containing anchovies and capers; molded in the shape of a little fish with a slice of pimento-stuffed olive for an eye. The entrée was a casserole made of fish, canned smoked oysters and condensed mushroom soup. It was very muddy, murky and fishy to say the least. For dessert a picked-over box of Russell Stover candy passed around the table, leftover from Christmas three months prior. I noticed someone had stuck his finger in the bottom of each of the remaining chocolates obviously to check its contents. He obviously didn’t like caramels.

The worse meal I ever had in a restaurant was here in Madison in the 1980s. Perhaps I remember it being so bad because I had such high expectations. It was a new place, a gourmet restaurant right in my neighborhood on Willy Street … Bohm’s. I had heard nothing but glowing things about the place. I was actually taking a friend (another foodie) out for his birthday. I ordered lamb curry, something you didn’t find in Madison often at that time. It wasn’t a disaster but it wasn’t good. The pieces of lamb had been cooked separately from the sauce and were tough and gristly. The sauce (which I had the inclination appeared frequently in many of their other dishes) was thin and watery with the barest hint of curry. But why I even remember this meal at all is my friend’s fish. It was a whole catfish (something you don’t see to often) prepared in a very exotic fashion … highly touted on the menu and by our server. What appeared was a very large fish with a maraschino cherry covering the eye. The problem was the fish was bloody raw … not like sushi, but catfish nasty. My friend tried to send the fish back. The server grudgingly took it back only after a considerable and heated argument, insisting it was properly cooked and my friend just didn’t know better.

I normally end with a recipe and this was the only thing that seemed appropriate.

Aunt Louise’s Sunday Jell-O

1 12-ounce can apricot nectar
1 3-ounce package peach-flavored Jell-O
1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened and mashed with a fork
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple with syrup
1 cup pecan, toasted and chopped

Miracle Whip
Maraschino cherries

Heat the apricot nectar until hot but not boiling. Dissolve the gelatin in the hot liquid, stirring. Add the cream cheese and stir to combine (it will not be completely smooth but a little lumpy). Add the pineapple with its syrup. Stir in the chopped pecan. Separate between individual molds and refrigerate until completely firm. Unmold the Jell-O on to salad plates lined with lettuce. Top each with a dollop of Miracle Whip and a maraschino cherry.

Serves 6.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Looking for a Really Good Dessert?

My good friend Mary Ward who is a bartender at Capitol Chophouse says the pineapple upside-down cake at Tornado Steak House is fabulous. I've got to try it ... have always been a fan of this home-style dessert.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Wisconsin Food Hall of Fame

This is my tribute to food- and drink-related people, places and things that have defined Wisconsin’s cuisine. For the most part, I have only included businesses and products that are still around today. Some of the people, however, are no longer with us. Please submit your own nominees by clicking on the comment button at the end of the article.

Bavaria Sausage, Madison. The best of the wurst. Especially noteworthy are the Nürnberger bratwurst and Braunschweiger.

Bendsten's Bakery Kringle, Racine. Bendsten’s has been hand-making their sumptuous coffee cakes in Kringletown since 1934.

Beernsten’s Candy Store, Manitowoc. The family started making hand-dipped chocolates back in 1932 but the star attraction is the old-fashioned soda fountain that still dishes out ice cream treats like sundaes and sodas.

Brandy Old Fashioned. The unofficial state drink, in Wisconsin an Old Fashioned has to be made with brandy in Wisconsin (elsewhere, whiskey—bourbon or rye).

Brownberry Ovens, Oconomowoc. Begun in 1946 by Catherine Clark her line of breads became the first premium grocery store brand. The enormously successful company was sold in 1972 to the Peavey Company in Minneapolis and is now part of the giant George Weston Bakeries group.

Candidas Chocolatier, Verona. Swiss-trained chocolate maker Markus Candinas creates world-class confections in a small Wisconsin town.

Carr Valley Cheese, LaValle. Award-winning artisan cheesemakers with over 50 varieties, many are one-of-a-kind and outstanding.

Cheese Curds. Only in Wisconsin could this byproduct of cheese making have such a cult-like following.

Coffee Break, Stoughton. The custom is said to have originated here in the late 1800s by women who worked at the local wagon company.

Cranberries. Since 1995 Wisconsin has claimed the title as the country’s leading cranberry producer, beating out Massachusetts.

Culvers, Prairie du Sac. Wisconsin’s own little drive-in that became a national success. Today there are over 370 locations in 17 states.

Dane County Farmer’s Market, Madison. Come warm weather, it’s a Saturday ritual for thousands and claims to be the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country.

Door County Cherries. Outside of the upper Midwest, it’s rare to find fresh sour cherries at the market. The good news is Door County produces lots of them. The bad news is this year’s crop is down 30% from last year—the lowest since 2002.

Elegant Farmer Apple Pie, Mukwonago. Baked in a paper bag, all gooey with caramel, you’ll never find another apple pie this good in the grocery store.

Fall Church Suppers: Lutefisk and Lefse. Unless you’re Norwegian you’ll probably never acquire a taste for this “delicacy” of gelatinous, dried, lye-cured and reconstituted cod served with bland potato flatbread.

Friday Night Fish Fry. What began as a Prohibition era marketing ploy by taverns to stir up business is today an institution. Originally beer-battered lake perch and walleye were the fish of choice but as they became more expensive, cod and blue gill grew in popularity.

Grassland Dairy Products Unsalted Butter, Greenwood. For the serious baker, they also make Wuthrich brand unsalted European-style (82% fat) butter.

Carson Gulley, Madison. An African-American Chef and cookbook author who along with his wife Beatrice had a local TV show, “What’s Cookin” in the 1950s, long before Julia Child hit the airwaves. Carson Gulley Commons on the UW-Madison campus where he worked for many years bears his name.

Harmony Valley Farms, Viroqua. They’ve been growing quality organic vegetables for over 30 years.

Heavy Whipping Cream. It has to have at least 36% butterfat and shouldn’t be ULTRA-pasteurized.

Honey. Wisconsin ranks 14th in honey production but it’s considered some of the finest produced anywhere thanks to our Italian honey bees brought into the state in the 1860s.

Hook’s Cheese Company, Mineral Point. Small, family-run cheese factory famous for their aged 1- to 10-year-old Cheddar as well as blue cheese.

Ice Cream Sundae, The first ice cream sundae was concocted in Two Rivers in 1881.

Ishnala, Wisconsin Dells. The Hoffman brothers of Madison open this restaurant in what was once the family summer home. In the 1950s, its North Woods idyllic setting on Mirror Lake and kitschy Indian décor complete with costumed waitresses set a new standard for the state’s supper clubs.

Jim’s Blue Ribbon Summer Sausage, Oshkosh. Silver Creek Meat Specialties make many notable kinds of summer sauce but Jim’s Blue Ribbon is by far the most popular.

Karl Ratzsch’s, Milwaukee. So much of Milwaukee’s German heritage is gone but Karl Ratzsch’s continues on. Founded in 1904, today it remains not only one of the city’s premier restaurants but arguably the nation’s finest German eatery.

Konop's Meat Market Hot Dogs, Denmark. These natural case wieners are the best you’ll ever have. Period.

Kopp’s Frozen Custard, Milwaukee area. Since 1950 Kopp’s has been making quality frozen custard in many unusual and tempting flavors.

Madame Kunoy and The Postilion, Fond du Lac. Liane C. Kuony, born in Antwerp, Belgium, was known to her customers and culinary followers as “Madame” and brought classic French cooking to Wisconsin and the Midwest. She and her husband settled in Fond du Lac in 1939, opening a tea room and interior design shop called The Postilion. Paris Cordon Bleu trained, she opened a cooking school in 1965 and later a restaurant. She was passionate advocate for using only the freshest and finest ingredients, including organic produce. She passed away at the age of 90 in 2005.

Lakeside Horseradish, St. Francis. July is National Horseradish Month.

Tami Lax. Owner of Madison’s Harvest Restaurant which has received national acclaim as one the country’s best farm-to-table restaurants, she is a mover and shaker in both the slow food and sustainable farming movements.

Limberger Cheese. Only one factory in the entire country still makes the smelly stuff: Chalet Cheese Co-op in Monroe.

Ma Baensch Marinated Herring, Milwaukee. Before the salad bar, every supper club had a lazy Susan and none was complete without marinated herring. Ma has been a Milwaukee legend since 1932.

Madison Sourdough Company. Family bakery making traditional French bread and pastries.

Maple Syrup. Wisconsin ranks a distant 4th in maple syrup production behind Vermont, New York and Maine but the quality is on the par of that produced anywhere.

Miesfeld Market Bratwurst, Sheboygan. They make more than 20 varieties of bratwurst and all are exemplary.

Morning Buns. I don’t know who invented the morning bun but the first I ever encountered was in the early 1970s at the original Ovens of Britney on State Street in Madison. Today many croissant bakers (they’re made from the dough scraps) make these oversize, sugary cinnamon rolls.

Mustard Museum, Mount Horeb. The museum has over 500 varieties of this condiment popular worldwide; many varieties are for sale.

Neuske’s Bacon, Wittenberg. Their applewood-smoked meats, especially bacon have a national following. It’s one of the few brands of bacon that actually cook well in the microwave.

New Century Farms Organic Eggs, Shullsburg. Free-range brown eggs.

New Glarus Brewing Company. Wisconsin has many fine microbreweries but none have been as honored with so many awards for so many different types of beer.

Nikki’s Cookies, Milwaukee. Wonderful shortbread cookies, most notably key lime and Meyer lemon.

Norske Nook, Osseo. Homemade pie is alive and thriving at this small town diner.

Organic Valley Milk Products, LaFarge. Formed in 1988 it’s now nationwide and one of the largest agricultural coops and producers of organic dairy products.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, Milwaukee. PBR is really the beer that made Milwaukee famous; beginning operation in 1844 (Schlitz didn’t appear until 1856). Today, the company is owned by Miller Brewing and headquartered in Woodridge, Illinois. Ironically, after the Schlitz label disappeared it’s again being bottled by Pabst.

Penzeys Spices, Brookfield. The company distributes a dazzling array of spices, herbs and seasoning blends from its Wisconsin warehouse by mail order and at 39 retail stores nationwide.

Pinah’s Rye Chips, Waukesha. The family-run business started in 1913 and was recently sold to Racine Danish Kringle. It once made Gardetto’s snack mixes but that product line was sold to General Mills.

Pin-Oak Ridge Farms Lamb, Delavan. Organic fresh lamb and sausage.

Odessa Piper, Madison. The original chef-proprietor of L’Etoile restaurant she received national recognition for creating local cuisine using only regional ingredients.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Dodgeville. Made by the Uplands Cheese Company, this is probably the single most decorated cheese in the state.

Potter’s Crackers, Madison. Quality whole-wheat crackers with imaginative flavors.

Red Circle Inn, Nashotah. Since 1848, Wisconsin’s oldest restaurant.

Renaissance Farms Pesto, Spring Green. They take basil directly from the field to the table, making pesto, salad dressing and herb-infused sea salts.

RP’s Pastas, Madison. Founder and owner Peter Robinson learned all about pasta while touring Italy. Today his line of fresh pasta and sauces are sold at markets throughout the Midwest.

Roth Käse Cheese, Monroe. Another fine Wisconsin artisan cheesemaker.

Rushing Waters Fisheries, Palmyra. Fantastic fresh and smoke trout raised in artesian springs.

Salemville Amish Gorgonzola, Richfield. Made by the Salemville Cheese Coop, it was selected “Best American-Made Blue Cheese” at the 2000 World Championship Cheese Contest.

Sendik's Market, Wauwatosa. For over 80 years the same family has run this gourmet market, now in located in several Milwaukee suburbs.

Seymour Soda. Since 1883, they’ve been making soda pop the same way in Seymour, Wisconsin. The 17 flavors still come in 7-ounce returnable glass bottles.

Sibby’s Homestead Organic Ice Cream, Viroqua. The flavor combination of sweet cream and pure vanilla is angelic.

Simma’s Bakery, Milwaukee. This bakery is justly famous for its cakes.

Sprecher Root Beer, Glendale. Made by the Sprecher Brewery in small batches, this is one of the best root beers in the country.

State Fair Cream Puffs, West Allis. For more than 80 years a major attraction at the Wisconsin State Fair in August—over 355,000 sold!

Sub Zero Refrigerators, Madison. Since 1945, Sub Zero has made the Cadillac of home refrigerators and freezers.

Sun Prairie Sweet Corn Festival. An ode to the state’s favorite “vegetable.”

Supper Club. They’re the common man’s country club, seemingly have been around forever, and every true Sconnie as their own favorite.

Washington Island Hotel, Restaurant & Culinary School. Located in a century-old hotel on an island at the tip of Door County this place is the essence of Wisconsin.

Watt’s Tea Shop, Milwaukee. Every major department store had a tea room, but few remain. Located on the second floor of George Watts & Son, this historic tea room serves breakfast, lunch and, of course, afternoon tea.

Westons' Antique Apple Orchard, New Berlin. Ken Weston grows and sells over 100 wonderful varieties of apples, many rarely seen elsewhere any more.

Wild Rice. As most of us by now know, wild rice actually isn’t rice but an aquatic grass. It was a staple Ojibwa and Menominee people for centuries. Today, the Department of Natural Resources limits and regulates wild rice harvesting by those not members of Native American tribes. You must be a Wisconsin resident and cannot use any mechanical device in the water to gather the wild rice.

Willow Creek Farm, Loganville, Pasture-raised pork and pork products.

Woodman’s Food Markets, Janesville. A pioneer in the warehouse grocery concept, today the have13 stores in Wisconsin and Illinois.

Carson Gulley’s Fudge Bottom Pie

1 9-inch graham cracker crumb crust, baked and chilled

2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon gelatin softened in ¼ cup cold water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1½ ounces unsweetened chocolate
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Whipped cream.

In the top of a double boiler combine cold milk and cornstarch, stirring until dissolved. Add ½ cup sugar and set over simmering water. Cut, stirring until the mixture starts to thicken.
In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks until combined. Beat in a little of the hot milk mixture to warm the egg yolks, and then add to the double boiler, stirring constantly. Continue to cook, stirring, until the mixture is thick and smooth. Transfer the custard to a large mixing bowl and stir in the softened gelatin and vanilla. Set aside.

In the top of the double boiler set over simmering water, melt the chocolate. Add 1 cup of the vanilla custard. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the egg white with a pinch of salt until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until they hold their shape. Gradually beat in the remaining ½ cup sugar and continue beating until the meringue forms soft peaks.

Fold the meringue into the cold custard.

Spread the chocolate custard evenly over the bottom of the graham cracker crust. Add the vanilla custard to the pie shell, using a rubber spatula to gently cover the chocolate and spread out evenly. Cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

At serving time, top with whipped cream.

Serves 6 to 8.

Monday, July 7, 2008


The new Restaurant Muramoto at 225 King Street (currently at 106 King Street) will open by the end of the month. Plaka (formerly Cleveland's Diner) at 410 E Wilson Street should open by the end of the week. Angelic Brewery at 322 W. Johnson Street is out of business.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Hot Diggity Dog

My mom never served hot dogs. Growing up there were plenty of backyard barbecues to be sure but for the most part they were all about burgers. I wasn’t prohibited from eating them, unlike wearing blue jeans. Hot dogs were just another one of her food prejudices … my mother’s list of foods she wouldn’t eat was very long. Perhaps that’s why my own taste is so eclectic?

When my parents were away and we were left in the care of a babysitter, my sister and I would cook hot dogs. Back then they were an improbable red color and hued their boiling water a bright cerise—my sister would refer to this byproduct as weenie water soup.
I cannot recall my childhood without thinking about trips to the dime store …

S.S. Kresge and F.W. Woolworth. I can still smell the hot dogs loaded with chopped onions and pickle relish featured at their lunch counters and snack bars. I also remember my Baptist grandmother calling them wieners, pronouncing the word in such a way that clearly implied disapproval. Our next door neighbor called them franks and, yes, served them with bean straight from the can. My first dabbling at gourmet cooking was stuffing hot dogs with olives and cubes of Velveeta cheese.

As I grew older I discovered the chili dog and literally would blackmail my sister’s high school boyfriend into taking me to the Dog n Suds. He’d buy me a Coney dog and frosty mug of orange drink (a better paring than root beer), then I’d turn over the Polaroids of him and my sister kissing on the couch, drinking my dad’s beer or something else that was considered licentious in the 1950s.

When my parents took me to a restaurant, I rarely ordered hot dogs since I gravitated to the high end of the menu. On road trips, however, it seems sooner or later we ended up at Howard Johnson’s. Back then, they proliferated along highways like the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I would always have the HoJo dog which came on a peculiar bun formed from a bent and toasted piece of bread. Later I would learn these were called Snuggles. The real attraction for me was the little brown pot of beans that came with the sandwich, beans that were quite unremarkable and only appealing because of their marketing.

As I matured, so did my taste in hot dogs. On a trip to New York I discovered the kosher frankfurter. Clearly here was a superior product, made from beef; bigger and juicier. In New York, the brand of choice—Hebrew National All-Beef Kosher Franks— is available at most of the city’s delis, grilled flat and smothered with sauerkraut and brown mustard, preferably Gulden’s. But they’re also sold from carts on the street.

It was in Chicago that I discovered all a hot dog could be. Here the Red Hot rocks and Vienna Beef rules. In Chicago a hot dog has to be served on a poppy seed roll, but what it should be topped with is up for grabs. Dogs “dragged through the garden” include yellow mustard, sweet relish and chopped onions and preferably even hot peppers, tomato and pickle wedges as well. A dash of celery salt is a Windy City hallmark. One thing you won’t find on a real Chicago hot dog is ketchup.

I’m sure I’ll be risking life and limb by putting forth my own favorite Chicago dog house. Admittedly, there are dozens deserving of praise. Murphy's Red Hots (1211 W. Belmont Ave., Lakeview; 773 935-2882) is special for me because I use to live in this neighborhood. Not only do they serve the quidessential Chicago-style hot dog with existential condiments, the hand cut fries are delightfully greasy and exceptional.

If you can’t make it down to Chicago, head over to Mad Dog’s Chicago-Style Eatery in Madison (309 Henry St., 608 251-0934). Their dogs should please the persnickety and purist alike.

Coney Island Chili Sauce

1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup water
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon ground cumin

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef using a spatula to break the meat into small pieces. Drain off any excess fat and season with salt and pepper. Add the water, tomato paste, sugar, yellow mustard, chili powder, Worcestershire, onion powder, celery seed and cumin. Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until the mixture thickens.

Enough for 4 jumbo size hot dogs.