Pumpkins are for more than carving

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Friday, 31 October 2014 02:21

Those who like to play with their food need look no further than the pumpkin, the most familiar and fun member of the gourd family.

Ranging from softball-sized “pie pumpkins” to the mammoth 2,032-pound, record-breaking gourd raised last year in California, pumpkins come in all sizes — as well as shapes and colors. You can carve them into jack-o-lanterns or simply let them sit around as part of your fall décor.

Celebrate Halloween with horror-themed beers

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 16 October 2014 14:47

Avery Brewing Company’s Mephistopheles Stout. — PHOTO: Courtesy

Joseph Hausmann’s Capital Brewery in Madison was a thriving enterprise in the late 19th century. The stocky German with the distinctive saber scar on his cheek was often seen stacking empties and pulling tap handles in the brewery’s adjoining saloon.

On Nov. 9, 1902, Hausmann died of a lingering illness. But numerous people claimed he continued working at the brewery even after his death. Patrons reported watching the deceased brewer stacking empties behind the bar,and workers swore they saw him leading draft horses. 

Hausmann’s Capital Brewery is long gone. Its mahogany bar is now used at UW Memorial Union’s Der Rathskeller. But the story of Hausmann’s ghost remains a fitting anecdote to introduce the subject of horror-themed beers for Halloween.

Pepsi launches 'craft soda' in effort to attract millennials

Written by The Associated Press Thursday, 09 October 2014 07:01

Pepsi is hoping to keep up with the times with a soda called "Caleb's Kola" that comes in glass bottles reminiscent of a bygone era.

The name is a nod to the pharmacist from North Carolina credited with creating with Pepsi's formula in the 1890s, Caleb Bradham.

Cento adds another knockout punch to Food Fight’s legacy

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 02 October 2014 14:37

On the menu at Cento. — PHOTO: Courtesy food fight

Like a fighter circling an opponent, Madison’s Food Fight Inc. knows when and where to strike. With the June opening of Cento Ristorante across the street from Overture Center for the Arts, the 24-year-old restaurant development company has scored another knockout.

Cento — pronounced “chento” — is Italian for 100. Diners might be inclined to give chef Michael Pruett’s stylish take on Italian cuisine a score of 100, if his performance is always as perfect as it was the night we visited.

Located in the newly built, rehabilitated block designed to provide Overture Center with a more elegant neighborhood ambience, Cento is all clean lines, wood floors and an open kitchen — from which Pruett seems to almost endlessly wander. But whatever is going on behind the scenes in his absence seems to work well.

Good gourd almighty! Pumpkin beers proliferate

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 02 October 2014 14:34

Autumn arrives with abundance — the fall harvest, colorful foliage and pumpkin beer, for instance. And with each passing season, the pumpkin beer patch continues to grow.

With all the major brands, craft brewers and brewpubs to consider, there’s no shortage of varieties. Beeradvocate.com recently published its list of the top 50 pumpkin beers, a clear indicator that the seasonal pints are multiplying at an impressive pace.

Skeptics who believe pumpkin beer is simply a seasonal novelty could use a history lesson. Brewers have been making pumpkin beer since Colonial times, when the native North American gourd was thought to have medicinal qualities and was often more plentiful than the grain required to brew more traditional varieties of beer. Some early beer recipes replaced the grain entirely with the meat of the pumpkin.

‘Wines by northwest’ pour excellence

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 18 September 2014 09:55

Wines by NxNW Winery. — Photo: NxNW Winery

California gets all the attention when it comes to wine produced in the United States. With wineries concentrated mostly in regions such as Napa and Sonoma, the state produces almost 90 percent of  the wine made in the nation.

But turn your western gaze a little more northwesterly. Washington and Oregon have winemaking legacies nearly as long as California’s, and those states’ pinot noir, chardonnay and excellent vintages are pushing them further into the limelight. The states rank as the third and fourth highest-producing states in the nation behind California and New York.

Go For the Food: Bourbon in Louisville

AP writer
Thursday, 11 September 2014 15:00

In Kentucky’s bourbon country, the classic American whiskey isn’t just for sipping anymore.

Restaurants stretching along the Urban Bourbon Trail in Louisville are creating bourbon-inspired sauces and glazes to jazz up main courses, side dishes and desserts. The 6-year-old bourbon cocktail and culinary experience has grown to 34 establishments, adding more zest to the city’s nightlife.

Milwaukee restaurant groups offer menu of choices

Written by Matthew Reddin,
Staff writer
Thursday, 04 September 2014 11:29

Milwaukee's basic food groups …

Milwaukee’s dining scene isn’t as well-known as Chicago’s or New York’s, but Brew City is far from starving for quality culinary options. The metro area hosts a feast of high-quality, creative food and drink options that cater to big spenders and average Joes alike.

The originality of the city’s dining venues is so impressive that it’s surprising to learn how many of them are operated by the same ownership groups. Just three of those groups — Bartolotta, Mojofuco and SURG — manage more than 30 restaurants, bars and eateries among them. There’s an obvious financial benefit available to owners who can pull it off, no easy task in the current economy.

But the real accomplishment is not in having a successful portfolio of restaurants. It’s in pleasing the palates of Milwaukee — and elevating the dining scene in the process.

Oktoberfest begins September — are you ready to pour?

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 04 September 2014 11:19

Octoberfest. It begins in September!

As you’re reading this, there’s probably enough time left to catch a flight to Munich for the annual opportunity to drink copious amounts of hearty German beer from 1-liter tankards with 6 million of your closest friends. Ach du lieber!

On the other hand, if you don’t have the opportunity to stagger across the Theresienwiese (“Therese’s meadow,” where Munich pitches 14 mammoth beer tents) with the rest of the bierleichen (“beer corpses,” a popular German term for those who overindulge), you can still celebrate the Bavarian festival of Oktoberfest in Wisconsin. 

The misnamed annual beer celebration begins on Sept. 20, at the moment Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter pounds the first spigot into the first keg and announces “O’zapt is!” — “It’s tapped!” Reiter’s stroke of the mallet will launch more than two weeks of malt-headed, well-hopped consumption that doesn’t conclude until the last drops are drained on Oct. 5.

Cannabis cuisine rises in wake of legalization

Written by The Associated Press Tuesday, 02 September 2014 08:39

There are books about cooking with herbs. And then there are books about cooking with herb.

Yes, we're talking cannabis cuisine, a small niche in the culinary world but one that is drawing more interest as the legalization movement moves pot closer to the mainstream.

Portuguese wines an excellent, overlooked value

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 21 August 2014 09:30

In this issue of Dish it Out!

It pours light, bright and floral, with clean transparency, tropical fruit notes and a slight effervescence as subtle as it is necessary.

Meet vinho verde. Although it hails from northern Portugal, a country known for its rich, complex ports, vinho verde (literally “green wine,” but usually translated “young wine”) is anything but. Its vibrant, youthful sparkle is the perfect way to stretch the pleasures of the season as summer winds down.

It’s also a good excuse to consider the wide array of exceptional Portuguese table wines. One of Europe’s oldest wine regions,  Portugal is home to dozens of varietals, many unfamiliar to the casual wine drinker. 

Although Portugal is the world’s fifth-largest wine exporting country, its wines are often hard to find. Here are a few vinhos verdes and ports well worth looking for.

7 sassy chardonnays to brighten your summer

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Wednesday, 06 August 2014 21:11

The adaptable chardonnay grape has flourished in cooler as well as warmer places.

We all know that summer and chilled white wines go together. And few whites are more reliable than chardonnay, one of the country’s top white choices.

The adaptable chardonnay grape has flourished in cooler as well as warmer places, such as its native southern France. When other countries discovered chardonnay, an unintended hybrid of the Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc grapes, its status and availability grew.

Once chardonnay crossed the Atlantic, the market exploded. Growers began to clear their slopes of many lesser-known varietals to plant chardonnay. Acres of historic vines and entire enological legacies were lost to make way for the upstart. The result was an eventual market glut that made chardonnay somewhat passé.