Dining & Drink

Rib Bit

I wish I could say I've eaten and cooked ribs for as long as I can remember but it wouldn't be true.

What's in a Menu

Michelle Wildgen sets out to discover what makes a menu, quizzing local chefs about Madison's tastes and the business of menu writing - all so you can discover your most exciting and satisfying meal. She even gets chefs and restaurateurs to dream up their ideal Madison menu. Dig in!

From Cheese to Soap—A Tour of Scotch Hill Farm

h, that's the dog soap," Dela Ends says from behind the refrigerator. The mottled bars are drying in the factory off the family's machine shed and have been imprinted with the likenesses of English Bulldogs and Great Danes. Today, she's searching for a bar of soap (they make soap for people, too) as she rifles past the translucent brown bottles labeled sandalwood vanilla and lavender. She tells me the tea tree with comfrey bar will be "just the thing" for my sensitive skin.Ends and her husband, Tony, make the soap from the milk of the goats that can be heard bleating on the other end of Scotch Hill Farm. The lip balm, lotion butter and bar soap business is one of the ways that the Ends supplement their income at their community supported agriculture (CSA) farm on the outskirts of Brodhead, Wisconsin.Prior to their life in the country, Tony worked as a journalist and Dela went to school to become a teacher. Their shared passion for healthy living brought them to Scotch Hill Farm, where the two work from sunup to sundown delivering produce, farming, making soap and keeping books for the business."CSA farming is very hard manual physical work. It is long hours, and it's a lot more than the twenty weeks that you get vegetables for," Tony says. "It's a good forty weeks of planning and preparing and building and repairing and getting land rented and financed and cared for and tended, then tending all these crops and delivering them for twenty weeks. It's a year-round job."Over one hundred different varieties of vegetables are grown at Scotch Hill Farm each year, which are then distributed to customers through the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (MACSAC). The Ends have been members of the coalition for fifteen years, and Dela serves on the board. As part of the program, the couple delivers boxes of assorted produce to drop-off sites both in their area and in Chicago where subscribers pick up the produce.

Cool and Fresh

Fresco is both. Sleek and stunning, the small dining room sits comfortably atop the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Its goldfish bowl lounge provides a fish-eye's view of the ever-changing State Street tableau.

A Perfect Pair

ll of this emphasis on cows in Wisconsin obscures the fact that we also produce some of the finest goat cheeses in the U.S. Goat cheeses tend to taste less rich than cow's cheeses; yet, are generally higher in acidity—sometimes with that characteristic "goaty" flavor that folks seem to either love or hate.

An Old-Fashioned Fourth of July

hat is it about the Fourth of July that evokes thoughts of past Independence Day celebrations? Perhaps it's the sounds, smells and warmth of midsummer mixed with memories of Grandma's German potato salad and Dad's special burgers.

Spring Fling

s I write this, the promise of spring looms on the calendar and in the air. I wore long underwear and fleece for so many days this winter I lost count. It is time to put away the heavy clothes—and the heavy dishes of winter as well. April means serving lighter flavors and fewer calories. This salmon with vegetables and dill is easy to prepare, good for you and flavorful. The ingredients are listed without amounts so this dish can be sized with as many vegetables or ounces of salmon as desired.

Spring Greens

oon our local salad greensare at their purest and best and will be popping up at farmers' markets. Spring greens like arugula, watercress and mizuna are tender and sweet with delicate but pronounced flavors.

C'est la V

True to its name, Brasserie V is a restaurant that pays homage to beer. The long list of those available on tap or by the bottle is staggering—many are unique to our area. The food also mimics the European brasserie tradition of simple and hearty fare. A seasonal menu makes good use of local meat, produce and dairy. The specialty of the house is frites, Belgian-style fried potatoes classically paired with steak, moules or à la carte. The ambiance is intimate, mellowed by wood and warmed with color. Brasserie V aims to bring a little French joie de vivre to the Monroe Street village. Vive la V!

Signs of the Times

e had dinner at Lombardino's recently with six old friends, a leisurely meal we had all been eagerly anticipating. That weekend night, the restaurant was busy as usual with a lively and loud crowd that made conversation a challenge. But we were enjoying ourselves. Too much perhaps? Or, rather, too long? Apparently for somebody.

Get Souped

Lots of places make a good Soup of the Day to be sure—but these restaurants have soup specialties so good they're on the menu regularly.

Sip the City

Last year Absolut vodka came out with a limited-edition vodka called Absolut New Orleans. Only 35,000 cases of the mango and black pepper flavored vodka were made and one hundred percent of the sales was donated to charities associated with Katrina relief. Absolut New Orleans was a big hit, especially with me—I still have a couple of bottles squirreled away that I'm saving for a hurricane. In fact, I concocted my own cocktail: a mixture of Absolut New Orleans, X-Rated Fusion liqueur and Cointreau. It was on the drink menu at the Capitol ChopHouse for several months. This summer, Absolut came out with its second limited edition vodka honoring a city: Absolut Los Angeles. Flavored with acai, acerola cherry, pomegranate and blueberry, it was inspired by L.A.'s healthy lifestyles and fitness culture. A portion of the sales were donated to Green Way L.A. Now, Absolut is asking you to nominate the next city to be honored with a limited edition vodka—and not only the city, but what it should taste like! I'm thinking, Absolut Madison! Very fruity, a few nuts, a hint of tofu and definitely served over ice? This is the beginning of my campaign to nominate Madison. Please vote for Madison and its flavor at

Green Day

Long an LGBT Hangout at night, drop in any weekday lunch and you'll find bigwigs, bureaucrats, barristers and a residual barfly or two. The setting is post-twentieth-century Wisconsin tavern and the fare a similar farrago. But they all come here for the cheeseburgers and fries. There is nothing particularly Irish about the Shamrock Bar except for its name. That is, until St. Patrick's Day. Downtown becomes Dublin and the Shamrock as merry as any pub on O'Connell Street. Revelers pack the place to savor a holiday ritual … corned beef and cabbage. The Shamrock also does brunch on weekends, one of the best deals in town.

The Other Cabernet

Appreciating Cabernet Franc requires patience—to discover the wonderful inherent qualities of the grape that include dark cherries, fresh herbs and olives.

Chocolate Fun-due

group of friends gathered around the table for our daughter's birthday. After Abby opened gifts—new ski poles were a hit—we all ate a tasty dinner and shared the highlight of the evening: chocolate fondue.

Pop-Star Treatment

Bluephies' Pop Star Martini is fruit-tinged martini with a surprising garnish that really makes it pop!