Sip some zesty zinfandel

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 26 February 2015 13:40

California winemakers often like to crow about their cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay and moon over their merlot and malbec as if they were California grapes of their very own. But they’re not. 

All four of the Golden State’s most popular wine grapes are French classics that had their origins in Bordeaux or Burgundy. California winemakers have done wonderful things with them, but the grapes are immigrant varietals.

Have it your way with a mix and match take on mac and cheese

Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, 18 February 2015 09:10

Do you love macaroni and cheese? Stupid question, right? OK, so let’s try this one: How could you love macaroni and cheese even more?

Now we’re talking. Because there are all sorts of simple ways to doctor an already awesome pan of basic mac and cheese to take our love of this dish to a whole new level. But let’s start with the basics — our classic take on macaroni and cheese. Since everyone is pressed for time, we kept it simple with a stovetop version that will have you ready to eat in about 20 minutes.

Death of the bake sale: New rules mean healthier fundraisers

Associated Press
Tuesday, 17 February 2015 13:04

When it comes to school fundraisers, bake sale tables loaded with sugary goodies are out. Fun runs, auctions and sales of healthier treats are in.

Government rules requiring schools to hold more nutritious fundraisers, along with a trend toward healthier eating in schools, could mean trouble for the long-beloved bake sale. In response, schools are selling everything from fruit to kid-friendly shoe laces.

Many schools say they have been successful in ditching the unhealthier models.

The art of tasting artisan chocolates

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 12 February 2015 12:32

Madison Chocolate Co.'s chocolates.
— Photo: Megan Hile

Sweets for the sweet is a time-honored Valentine’s Day tradition, and no sweet is more beloved than chocolate. And when you’re buying for Feb. 14, there’s all the more incentive to buy the best.

So remember to take time and savor the chocolates you receive. The very best of the breed are more than mere commodity.

With quality chocolates, there’s as much an art to tasting as there is to wine. The more you know before popping that first truffle into your mouth, the more fully you will enjoy the experience, according to Madison chocolatier Gail Ambrosius.

Bos makes mead modern, not medieval

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 12 February 2015 12:24

Bos Meadery produces four varieties of mead at its Washington Avenue location.
—Photo: Jason Hendricks

Is the next big trend in craft beer not a beer at all?

That’s what Colleen Bos is counting on. The veteran homebrewer is putting her money on mead, and she’s not content to wait for Madison to stumble across the drink at someone else’s establishment.

Since 2012, Bos has been brewing mead, a beverage made by fermenting honey, at her tiny Bos Meadery in a former industrial building in downtown Madison. But the suite of back rooms on Washington Avenue, full of fermenting tanks, isn’t exactly the sort of venue where one can try out her wares.

Salvatore’s brings tomato pies to Madison

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 29 January 2015 10:30

One of Salvatore's Pies. — PHOTO: Danielle Chaviano

A young Bob Dylan, passing through Madison in the late 1960s, is rumored to have said that the best things about Wisconsin’s capital city were its pizza and its Quaaludes.

We have no insights into the pharmaceutical side of Dylan’s statement, but were he to stop in today at Salvatore’s Tomato Pies, he might wonder just how such a good pizza scene has gotten so much better.

The original Salvatore’s was launched in Sun Prairie by former Dane County Supervisor Patrick DePula in October 2011 to rave reviews. His new restaurant at 912 E. Johnson St. barely opened its doors in December 2014 before area residents were waiting up to 90 minutes for DePula’s “tomato pies” — as they call pizzas in Chambersburg, the Italian neighborhood of Trenton, New Jersey, where DePula grew up.

Tender trend
As prices drop, home cooks get immersed in sous vide cooking

Associated Press writer
Wednesday, 21 January 2015 12:32

Call it the tender trend. Sous vide cooking, once strictly the province of professionals, is spreading to home kitchens as cheaper equipment puts the once avant-garde technique within reach.

Sous vide, which means “under vacuum” in French, is a so-called modernist method of cooking in which food is sealed in plastic bags (often vacuum sealed, though that’s not mandatory) and submerged in hot (but not boiling) water for long, slow cooking. The result is juicer food because no moisture is lost and cooking temperatures can be maintained within tenths of a degree.

Breweries big and small go gluten-free

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 15 January 2015 16:38

Greenview’s Alt Brew label makes gluten-free beer. — Photo: Greenview Brewing

In Madison, as elsewhere, the craft beer movement is booming, and Trevor Easton is one more veteran homebrewer who’s decided to go commercial.

But Easton’s tiny Greenview Brewing, one of several located in the House of Brews facility on Madison’s east side, has one distinct difference from its competition. Bottling under the “Alt Brew” label, Greenview is the only area brewery — and one of only a few in the country — to exclusively brew gluten-free beer.

Kohler Co. launches new, locally focused foodie event

Written by Anne Siegel,
Contributing writer
Friday, 16 January 2015 03:35

Kohler presents Wisconsin Food Favorites. — Photo: Kohler Co.

When Wisconsin’s needle-sharp winds start to pierce the parka, it’s time for a midwinter getaway. But if you’re a foodie, don’t head south this January — try looking in a more northerly direction, toward a new culinary event in Kohler, Wisconsin.

In response to the growing farm-to-table movement, The American Club, a luxury spa and resort run by the Kohler Company, is hosting a new event, Wisconsin Food Favorites. The event, to be held Jan. 23-24, will focus on Wisconsin cuisine of all sorts, kicking off with the most elaborate Friday fish fry you’ll probably find anywhere and ending Saturday with a cook-off featuring area brews and Johnsonville brats. Several chefs from the Kohler kitchens, including the famed Immigrant Room, will demonstrate their skills.

Seek the savory side of chocolate in the new year

Written by By MELISSA D’ARABIAN for The AP Sunday, 28 December 2014 11:23

While I still pay attention to what I eat during the holidays, I nonetheless allow plenty of small splurges. And those splurges mostly can be summed up in one word: chocolate!

Trouble is, the holidays eventually pass, but my cravings for the deep flavor of a perfectly-roasted cocoa bean linger. Even more than the sweetness that accompanies most chocolate desserts, I miss the unctuous coating cocoa leaves on the palate. But who says healthy eating must mean the end of that deliciousness? Enter unsweetened chocolate! All the richness of the flavor without the sugar.

Say ‘cheese’ when holiday entertaining

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 11 December 2014 12:57

In Wisconsin, cheese isn’t merely a food — it’s part of the lifestyle. As such, a well-considered cheese platter should be a staple of your holiday entertaining.

California may produce more milk than America’s Dairyland, but Wisconsin still outpaces it in cheese production. In 2013, Wisconsin produced 2.8 billion pounds of cheese, or about 25 percent of total U.S. production, according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Wisconsin also is home to the largest number of artisan cheese makers in the United States.

Here a few guidelines to help you design the perfect cheese board for holiday entertaining. 

French vs. American wines? Vive la différence!

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 11 December 2014 21:52

In 1976, a handful of California winemakers entered a wine competition in Paris hoping to gain attention from the elites who governed the European wine trade. No one was more shocked than the French judges themselves when the series of blind tastings resulted in overwhelming wins for American viticulture.

The so-called “Judgment of Paris” had immediate and enormous ramifications for the global wine industry. American producers continue to win awards worldwide and have never looked back.

As you schedule your parties this holiday season, consider hosting your own “judgment,” pairing U.S. wines with their French counterparts. Your goal should not be to find one wine better than the other, but to look for complementary pairings that expand your tasting horizons as well as those of your guests.

Pot-dining in Colorado pits chefs against law

Written by Kristen Wyatt,
Associated Press writer
Friday, 12 December 2014 17:49

Acclaimed chef Chris Lanter is talking a crowd of eager foodies through a demo on cooking with marijuana. As he prepares steak au poivre, he describes how to deglaze the pan with pot-infused brandy. How to pair marijuana with fine foods. How to make marijuana’s skunky tang work for a dish, not ruin it.

One catch — there’s no actual weed at his demonstration.

Marijuana aficionados paid $250 for a weekend-long celebration of marijuana and food, yet state and city regulations prohibit any “open and public” use of the drug, even at licensed businesses holding private events.