Madison's craft brewing industry takes crown

Written by By Michael Muckian Contributing writer Thursday, 06 March 2014 16:57

Move over Milwaukee. Madison has tapped into Wisconsin’s craft beer drinkers and currently wears the crown as the Badger State’s most vibrant craft beer producer.

That’s not to say that the Cream City doesn’t deserve kudos for its storied brewing history and for continuing to advance the beer industry. MillerCoors’ massive State Street facility is still the state’s largest brewery, although no longer the site of the company’s corporate headquarters. Milwaukee also is home to a fine craft brewing tradition that includes Sprecher Brewing Co., Lakefront Brewery and others.  In the past few seasons, the city and its neighboring communities have hosted a groundswell of new breweries. From Cedarburg to St. Francis and from Oconomowoc to Kenosha, kettles are boiling and bottles are capping. The beer is flowing.

But Madison may be even more vibrant, as well as more innovative its approach. With a population that’s little more than one-tenth of the Milwaukee metro area’s current 2 million-plus citizens, Madison’s craft brewing scene is pints ahead of Milwaukee from a per capita perspective, and the margin continues to increase.

What follows is an alphabetical field guide of sorts to Madison craft breweries and brewpubs. Drink responsibly, but enjoy the vast and varied craft beer options Mad City has to offer. 

Taking root: Wisconsin ginseng goes global

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Friday, 21 February 2014 12:05

Think of Wisconsin cash crops and a variety of products — cultivated and manufactured — come to mind. But ginseng?

Well, Wisconsin — specifically north-central Marathon County — produces 95 percent of the ginseng cultivated in the United States. More than 200 ginseng farms in the Dairy State grow the prized medicinal root. 

King Cab: The royal, robust red

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Friday, 21 February 2014 11:27

I resolved this year to drink more red wine — as much for the health value as for the complex flavors.

I make that same resolution every year, but this year I tried to articulate my desire more clearly by pledging to drink more cabernet sauvignon, arguably the world’s most robust and perhaps best red wine.

Go For the Food: The Admiral in Asheville

Associated Press writer
Sunday, 23 February 2014 10:04

In downtown Asheville, N.C., good restaurants are as handsomely conspicuous as the artsy boutiques and bodegas that give the Blue Ridge Mountain mecca its trendy, vibrant flair.

Across the French Broad River, in West Asheville?

Not so much. This is the funkier side of town, where families, artists and workers live in frame bungalows lining narrow, hilly side streets, and the main drag, Haywood Road, has an earthier, slightly gritty feel.

Making Mardi Gras taste a little more like home

Associated Press writer
Thursday, 20 February 2014 08:39

The sad fact of the matter is, most of us won't make it to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras. But that's no reason to forsake some of the city's classic cuisine.

This year, honor Mardi Gras by making jambalaya at home. It's the perfect dish for out-of-towners; it's easy, it's weeknight- and kid-friendly, and it's extremely versatile. Because while there are several basic approaches to jambalaya — Creole and Cajun among them — there really are endless variations on this dish of rice, meat and seafood.

Dishcrawl returns to Milwaukee

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Sunday, 09 February 2014 17:39

Tired of the same old restaurants and dining companions? How would you like to visit four different restaurants in one night with as many as 30 new friends?

Dishcrawl is returning to Milwaukee with a Feb. 11 whirlwind tour of four restaurants in the city’s Third Ward. For $45 (excluding beverages), as many as 30 people are expected to sample four different menus from eateries within a 10-minute walk of each other, according local Dishcrawl “ambassador” Justin Lockridge.

Wine and chocolate pairings for your sweetie

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Sunday, 09 February 2014 17:21

St. Valentine’s Day may not have been created by the chocolate industry, but it certainly helps support it. The day honoring one or more Christian saints named Valentinus ranks fourth in candy-giving holidays, making it a key contributor to the nation’s more than $19.5 billion in chocolate sales each year, according to the National Confectioners Association. That’s a ton of truffles and a king’s ransom in Hershey Kisses. A heart-shaped box of chocolates has become de rigueur for those who want to woo their ladies and gentlemen fair.

But what beverage is suitably romantic to wash down the fermented seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree? On Feb. 14, many romancers will choose Champagne and other sparklers. But if bubbly is not your beverage of love, other wines are even more complementary to the various types of chocolate. Following are some suggested pairings.

Chinese emigrants celebrate New Year with culinary fusions

Written by Michele Kayal,
AP writer
Friday, 24 January 2014 09:26

Chinese New Year shopping in Chengdu. PHOTO: © Hupeng | Dreamstime.com

Chinese New Year, celebrated this year on Jan. 31, involves a litany of symbolic foods. Noodles are eaten for long life. Clams, because they look like coins, are eaten for wealth. Fish, which sounds similar to the Chinese word for “abundance,” symbolizes prosperity.

“Food has always been very important for the Chinese, especially for the celebration of the New Year,” says Yong Chen, an associate history professor at the University of California in Irvine. “Food is one of those commonalities that holds us together as Chinese.”

Go For the Food: NJ options for Super Bowl foodies

Written by The Associated Press Monday, 20 January 2014 20:48

Buffalo wings and chicken fingers, take a breather. Crab dip and curly fries, sit this one out. For Super Bowl foodies, New Jersey offers a mash-up of delicacies representing just about every culture on the planet.

Those fortunate enough to have tickets to the game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., will be able to gorge on American, Mexican, Asian and Italian specialties, done with a local flair, in the “Home Food Advantage” food court. Club seat ticketholders will get an even more varied menu including sushi, sliced beef tenderloin and garlic shrimp with peppercorn demi-glace, blue crabcake with pickled baby bok choy and lemon aioli, to name a few of a host of offerings.

Most influential burger of all time: White Castle Slider

Written by WiG Friday, 17 January 2014 07:48

What's for lunch, cravers? Time magazine says White Castle's small, square sliders are "the most influential burger of all time."

The "now-iconic square patty" that debuted in 1921 in Wichita, Kan., was the first burger to spawn a fast-food empire, says Time.

Go For the Food: Fried crab in San Fran Chinatown

Written by The Associated Press Thursday, 16 January 2014 12:02

Crab and San Francisco go together like sour and dough, and you can find it here in just about every incarnation from basic cracked and steamed to meticulously plated in the mode of haute cuisine.

But if you like your crustaceans on the crispy side, you may want to check out the city’s Chinatown, the district that almost wasn’t. The original community was razed by the great earthquake and fire of 1906, and city leaders planned to relocate residents away from the valuable land next to the Financial District.

Brewing up some winter warmers

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Saturday, 11 January 2014 18:27

On cold winter nights, wine aficionados have luscious ports and sherries to sip by the fire. Spirits drinkers have elegant cognacs and smoky single-malt scotches.

But what is there for the beer drinker?