Yeah, I know–this post is getting put up on a Sunday…but hey, better later than never, right?
Here in Madison, we’re rounding up a pretty rough March (mostly in the 20s and 30s) with some relatively nice weather. The two-inch thick ice at our backdoor is finally melting away and I can even see the concrete below! Yesterday, it was 55 degrees and made for a perfect day for my first bike ride of spring. 6.5 short miles later and covered in salt, I was questioning my decision. Verdict? Worth it.
I usually get very excited this time of year–in mid-April, the farmers’ market moves back outdoors and is held around the capitol. Ale Asylum debut’s its seasonal spring/summer beer, the always outstanding Bedlam. And, around Easter time, the butchers in Madison have some fantastic specials.
Specials like that steak you see pictured above (it was only $5!). It’s a good picture, isn’t it? Well, that’s because I convinced my roommate to take the picture by trading him some brownies for his photography expertise. This dish–bacon-wrapped filet mignon and roasted asparagus–is incredibly easy to make and is sure to impress anyone who tries it.
As a sidenote: That beer is Bedlam, right off the production line from Ale Asylum (it was bottled on March 26th). It’s got a big, hoppy nose from all the citra hops and a wonderful sweetness from the Belgian yeast. A stellar example of a Belgian IPA.
So anyways, how do you make this dish? Guess you’ll have to click the link for the recipe!
Well, it’s that time of the year again–NPR is off and running with their annual winter campaign for funding. After listening to the prompts all week, I finally broke down and bought a “sustaining membership” for $12.50/month. It goes to a good cause and I get a sweet mug so I can walk around Madison and act like the pretentious East Coast ass I know I am. It’ll be great!
Anyways, last week on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show, renowned food critic Corby Kummer talked extensively about the tasting menus offered by chefs throughout the country at high end dining venues. In the segment, Kummer spoke about how he felt that chefs were becoming increasingly tyrannical with their cooking by offering their way (the tasting menu) or no way at all. What happened, he argued, to trying to please the customer?
You can listen to the segment right here (don’t forget to donate!).
On a personal level, I love tasting menus. If I’m ever feeling particularly spend-happy, I’ll get the tasting menu rather than a specific entree. It gives the chef an opportunity to really showcase their skills, and the consumer gets to experience some pretty spectacular flavors and dishes they otherwise wouldn’t be able to have.
How does this relate to venison and my blog title? Well, I used to think that wild game was food reserved for uncultured yokels who hunted in their backyard and then roasted the animal over a makeshift fire with a stick. However, higher end restaurants are increasingly turning out spectacular dishes made with wild game–whether it’s an incredible rabbit terrine or braised venison shank, wild game is becoming more and more a part of the fine dining scene in the US.
So, last semester I went with my roommate to Madison’s excellent Forequarter, a rather pretentious new hipster restaurant that serves unbelievable food. They’ve also been nominated for a James Beard award–and I hope they win! When I went there, I had a delicious veal meatball with escarole. My thinking with this recipe was that, with a pound of venison to kill, I could make something similar. Needless to say, it was a success. Recipe after the break!
We’re pretty fanatical about our tacos here in Madison. As a city with a fairly large Mexican population (% wise), finding authentic tacos is pretty easy. Finding authentic ingredients for authentic tacos is also, not surprisingly, fairly easy. So naturally, when I decided to set out to make authentic (running theme, in case you couldn’t tell) tacos al pastor, I knew I had to do it right.
Al pastor tacos are relatively simple and comprised of only a few ingredients–pork, a couple kinds of chilies, onion, various spices, and the hallmark of any legit pastor–pineapple. The fruit adds a wonderful sweetness to the slight heat from the chilies, giving the meat an incredible one-two punch in the flavor department. For step-by-step instructions on making your own pastor, click to read more!
Every year, my parents ask me where I’d like to go for my birthday, and every year, I usually suggest someplace I know will be rejected–previous denials have included Maze and Nobu (3 years in a row before it happened!). After reading reviews from the Times, NY Mag, and absolute raves from Bon Appetit, I asked for Battersby, in Carroll Gardens–to my surprise…they agreed!
Battersby is a tiny restaurant that only holds 18 people. We arrived promptly at 5:30…to a line. After being informed that the wait would be roughly 2 hours, we put in our name and went to a nearby bar (Battersby texts you when your table is good to go). After getting the text–and feeling like I had won the lottery–we were seated around 8pm.
Let’s start this review!
Admittedly, I tend to give Wisconsin a lot of shit. People here are slow, they can’t drive, there’s no diversity, and I can’t get halfway-decent sushi anywhere in this state. But really, that’s simply not fair–people are also painfully friendly, booze and food are dirt cheap, and they have one of the best–and somewhat unknown–cocktails in the country.
My curiosity surrounding the old fashioned (cocktail) was originally piqued after watching an episode of AMC’s outstanding series, Mad Men. You should all watch it if you haven’t had the opportunity. Now. Anyways–Don Draper was drinking an old fashioned. He seemed to be enjoying it. When I moved to Madison, the first bar here that caught my eye was, not surprisingly, The Old Fashioned. It’s located right on the capitol square, and has one of the best tap lists and food in all of Madison. But that’s not really what this is about, is it?
Wisconsin is famous for the “Brandy Old Fashioned.” It’s sweet instead of sour, and made with brandy (duh) instead of whiskey. The first time I tasted one, I was hooked. The cocktail was fantastic, and the flavors simply blended so well together. I’ve had many a brandy old fashioned since that first week in Madison, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I first attempted to make one. My roommate really wanted to make cocktails, and we thought this would be the best place to start. So, without any delay, here’s the recipe–
Brandy Old Fashioned
- 3oz Korbel brandy (2 shots-worth)
- 1 spoonful raw/turbinado sugar
- 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- 2 orange wedges
- 2 cherries
- In the bottom of the glass (before you put the ice in), muddle together the sugar, 1 orange wedge, and 1 cherry.
- Pour ice in the glass.
- Add the bitters, brandy, and Sprite, until the glass is full.
- Mix it all up
- Garnish with an orange wedge and cherry
It’s simple, really, and I’ll be honest–you can’t help but feel classy while you’re drinking this thing. I bought too many cherries, so I foresee numerous Old Fashioneds in my future. Onward!
Four months is a long time, isn’t it? Honestly, I have no excuses–I really need to start posting more. A lot more. And I will! So, in that four-month span, here are some new toys I got for my kitchen (they’ve all been utilized quite a bit, I might add):
- Clever Coffee Dripper (superior to the french press and easier than a pourover!)
- Pressure cooker – amazing. Absolutely amazing.
- Pizza cutter (I need to find it)
- Cast iron pan
- Various utensils
Alright, now that that’s over…I spent this summer in DC, where my aunt and uncle were very generous and allowed me to live with them for the better part of three months. Over that span, I did what most people would do when living in a new city for the first time–explored. And, by explored, I mean ate, drank, and spent too much money (hooray for sublettors!). As the summer was winding down, I had an opportunity to go eat at Mourayo, a Greek restaurant near Dupont Circle. I had the scallops, which were pan-seared and served over a thin slice of garlic with a dab of pistachio pesto on top, and then a side of unbelievable eggplant/cauliflower puree. The scallops were, to say the least, spectacular. I’d even venture out enough to call them orgasmic. Yes, really.
This experience–which I think about at least once a week–really turned me on to scallops. So, naturally, I had to make them myself! Not the exact dish, of course. I felt I should start pretty simple, so I turned to Mark Bittman’s superb How to Cook Everything for some guidance. Of course, I ended up putting my own twist on the dish, but I certainly can’t argue with the end result! Recipe after the break–
Wow…it’s been a while, hasn’t it? To be fair to me (and this isn’t much of an excuse), a lot has been going on. I’m currently dealing with the whole “moving halfway across the country” thing (for the next 3 months), so I’d say that’s a decent enough excuse, right? Sure. Regardless, I’m thrilled to be back on my home coast and out of the painfully slow Midwest. The alcohol prices, though, are sorely missed.
ANYWAYS, that’s beside the point. I’ve been putting off writing the final part of my Ethiopian food extravaganza, mainly because I knew this last post would be pretty massive. We have four recipes for this one and, despite the fact that the finished product looks like a cross between vomit and baby food, I can assure you that it all came out delicious. So, having said that–click below for the entire post!
Well, as usual, I’ve been behind on keeping this blog up-to-date. Personally, I blame finals and the three ungodly papers I have due. One left to go! Anyways, I’m here to talk about one thing:
Back in New Jersey, there isn’t too much authentic Mexican food. Sure, there are pockets here and there, but in comparison with what we can get in Madison? Well, it’s not even close. My friend and I have been traveling around Madison in search of the cheapest, most delicious, and the most authentic tacos. We’ve had a lot. Some places have been visited more than once. The quest, of course, still continues. However, we’ve found one place that really seems to stand above the rest (more on that later). So, without further ado, here are my Madison Tacos Rankings:
Ethnic foods. I love cooking them, but Ethiopian always seemed to be the one that managed to escape me. Going to an Ethiopian restaurant is a blast–the food is fantastic, they use a bevvy of spices, and most importantly–you get to eat with your hands! One of the hallmarks of Ethiopian food is injera, a spongy, sourdough flatbread that you use to pick up the food with. Personally, I find it delicious, and it absorbs the flavors of the various dishes.
So, anyways–injera. Injera is made mostly out of teff, a grass-like grain that is highly nutritious. This bag? Well, it was only $8 at Whole Foods! I know, madness. After doing a massive amount of research, one thing became clear–this would not be an easy undertaking. The “quick” version of injera takes five days to make. Normally, it takes at least a week. Those of you who know me know that I have the patience of a five year old…so the decision to go for five-day injera was an easy one.
Recipe after the break!
Last week, I posted about an awesome no-knead bread recipe that was incredibly easy and produced amazing results. Like I usually do, I posted it to one of my favorite websites on the internet–reddit. Specifically, I posted it to “r/cooking“, a portion of the site dedicated, not surprisingly, to cooking. Well, to say the least, my post did well. Very well. It received a ton of “upvotes” from reddit users, and then caught fire on some website called Pinterest. My website had barely been breaking double-digits in hits…until this post. Actually, I’ll just let the statistics do the talking:
On the day of my bread post, I received 3,008 hits. Now, for someone with a tiny blog that barely updates it, that’s an incredible number of visitors. As a sidenote, I hope everyone enjoyed making the bread!
Anyways, I digress–to show my gratitude to reddit for all of the hits, I decided that I’d make something. No, let me rephrase that: I decide that they could tell me what I should make. So, naturally, I posted again. The result? Well, the top comment suggested something from an underrepresented country. I asked, “What about Ethiopian food?” The response was positive.
So, where am I going with this? Next Wednesday, I’ll embark on Part 2 of this bizarre mini-series–my quest to make Ethiopian food, as requested by reddit. I’ll start by making the sourdough starter for injera, the excellent Ethiopian flatbread that accompanies most dishes. Then, for part 3, I’ll make the main course. Hell, maybe I’ll make two main courses. The only way to find out will be to check out the site!