Thursday, February 19, 2009


Cafe Continental, once Madison's favorite spot for lunch downtown (until they quit doing lunch) is open for lunch again!

Monday, February 16, 2009

It's All About the Beer

Beer dinners seem to be the rage. There are two coming up that sound great.

Sardine will host a family-style beer dinner, Mondy March 1. Mix and mingle at 5:30 p.m., dinner served at 5:15 p.m. It includes appetizers, French country dinner and dessert for $40 per person (reservations required). You need to call Sardine for the menu details and to make reservations: 441-1600

The other is a joint effort by Chef Robert Miller of The Old Fashioned and Chef Derek Rowe of Harvest--a Wisconsin Craft Beer Dinner--on March 8 at 6 p.m. at Harvest (tickets required). The dinner will feature 5 beer creations of Brewmaster Kevin Eichelberger, Red Eye Brewing Company, Wausau (who will be on hand for the dinner). Price for the 4-course menu with beer is $55. Call Harvest to purchase tickets: 255-6075. Here is the menu:

Event Menu:

Course #1: Curried mussels with coriander, frisee and citrus
Beer: Bloom

Course #2: Duck confit wwith North African spices
Beer: Thrust

Course #3: Slow roasted pork shoulder with fig molasses and hazelnuts
Beer: Scarlet 7

Course #4: Date almond cake with malted chocolate
Beer: Veruca Stout

Then, moving over to The Old Fashioned to enjoy "IMPERIUM"--a quadrupel dry-hopped double rye IPA. This limited release, super-premium beer will showcase Kevin's ability to masterfully blend unique ingredients, his unusual brewing techiniques and innovation.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Best Chococolate Chip Cookie

I know what most people think about on Valentine’s Day. I think about chocolate chip cookies, all warm and gooey, warm from the oven. It was love at first bite. My grandmother use to bring them every time she came to visit. My mother didn’t made cookies—much too tedious—and only bought Chips Ahoy (which I ate).
The chocolate chip cookie was result of the most serendipitous and profitable culinary accident in history. Actually, laziness was at the root of its origins. In 1930, Ruth Wakefield and her husband had purchased a restaurant located in a circa 1709 Massachusetts toll house. Ruth was committed to serving traditional New England meals but got tired of grinding up chocolate bars to make “Butter Drop Do” cookies. So she decided to chop the chocolate instead, assuming it would melt during baking. Obviously, it didn’t and the Toll House cookie was born and it was an instant hit.
Ruth approached Nestlés and they came to an agreement: They got to print the recipe on their packages and she got a lifetime supply of their chocolate. The sales of Nestlés semisweet chocolate skyrocketed and the company started including a small chopper with each bar. In 1939 they introduced small pieces of chocolate dubbed morsels which the public embraced as chocikate chips.

From the beginning, everyone has been trying to improve on the chocolate chip cookie. Probably the first e-mail hoax I ever received was in 1994. It was reputedly a recipe for chocolate chip cookies from Neiman Marcus for which a customer had unwittingly paid $250. Ironically, Neiman Marcus didn’t even make chocolate cookies at that time. (They do now!) The recipe is okay, but they’re not my favorite—the secret is a ground up Hershey bar.
Admittedly, everyone has his or her own idea about the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Recipes that call for a larger proportion of butter to flour produce thin, lumpy cookie and those with more flour produce a more cakelike cookie. If you like your cookies soft and chewy, bake them for a shorter period of time. If you like them crisp, obviously the converse applies. Always bake your cooked on thin, bright metal cookie sheets lined with baking parchment—if use dark metal/coated pans you’ll need to reduce the baking temperature.
The longer you leave the cookies on the baking sheets after taking them out of oven and transferring to cooling racks, the crisper the bottoms will be. If you prefer a very firm cookie substitute ½ cup semolina for an equal amount of flour.

Always chill the dough for about an hour before baking—it will give them a nicer shape.
Regardless of your favorite, the best are always homemade. Here is my favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie

2½ cups all-purpose unbleached flour 1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted (optional)

Preheat oven 325 degrees.

Combine the flour, soda and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Cream the butter, brown sugar and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla to combine.

Using the mixer at low speed, gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips and pecans (if used) until well combined.

Drop golf ball-size balls of dough two inches apart onto baking sheets lined with baking parchment.

Bake for 16 to 19 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for a minute or so, then remove to a wire rack and cool.

Makes approximately 24 4-inch cookies

Okay, so you don’t have time to make chocolate chip cookies but gotta have one right now. Some of my favorite store-bought options are no longer with us, but here are the Best of Madison already baked chocolate chip cookies.



The Natural (La Campagne Bakery), Meqon


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dining Out on Valentine's Day

There is no shortage of restaurants to choose from whether you are looking for love, in love, lovelorn or loveless. Pick the place. Set the mood. Pay the bill. Here’s my list. They rate on the Romance Meter from the truly torrid to not so hot.

Magnus if you’re going to pop the question

Lombardino’s if you actually look forward to Valentines Day

Restaurant Muramoto if you just got back from your Maui vacation

Samba if you’re worried there might be drama (the servers are armed)

Tornado if it’s all about the meat and bigger is better

Harvest if food is really your one-and-only

Liliana’s if the kids are home with the babysitter

Kennedy Manor Dining Room if you’re having an affair

Sardine if it’s your first date

Capitol Chophouse if you’re alone—eat at the bar and make a new friend

Café Continental if you’re gay

Fleming’s if your first three marriages failed

Del Bar if you begin every sentence “I remember when …”

Johnny Delmonico’s if you were suppose to go to Chicago but didn’t

The Icon if Overture is your next stop

Osteria Papavero if you’re single and with you best friend

Quivey’s Grove if you’re taking out your mom

Le Chardonay if you’re an afterboomer

Kushi Muramoto is you’re a twentysomething

Porto Bella if you’re just there to grope under the table

Madison Club if it’s really just an excuse to talk business

Kabul if you are a college student

Café Montmartre if you are a graduate student

Bon Appetit if you’re a confirmed eastside eccentric

La Rocca if 101 Dalmations is your favorite moive

Michael’s Frozen Custard if you like heart-shaped, “Be Mine” candies that taste like chalk

Ella’s Deli if Elmo is your heartthrob

Esquire Club if your squeeze drinks brandy old fashioned sweets and actually says “you betcha”

The Elk’s Club if you like to dine at 5

Himal Chuli if you’re broke and your girlfriend is a vegetarian

Quaker Steak & Lube if you’d rather be watching NASCAR

Essen Haus if you have a beer belly fetish and polka music turns you on

Gail Abrosius Chocolates if you’re skipping dinner and going straight to number one

Mickey’s if you’re just trying to hook up

Madison Marriot West room service if your date gets paid by the hour

Old Country Buffet if you’re trying to break up

Falbo’s Pizza if you think Valintine’s Day is stupid, a delivered pizza and your TiVo suit you just fine (but check out the delivery boy)