Forget sweet — try these savory sippers

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 17 April 2014 10:44

Savory cocktails embrace an entirely different flavor palette. In a collision of Foodie Nation and cocktail culture, mixologists are experimenting with a wider range of ingredients. The results of those efforts have generated a new generation of savvy savory sippers.

New flavor combinations emphasize the entire palate rather than just the sweet tooth. Here are a few you can try at home:

Asparagus: The most popular spring veggie

Written by By Michael Muckian Contributing writer Saturday, 05 April 2014 10:59

In our house, the two sure signs of spring are daffodils and asparagus. But this is a food article, and daffodils are not edible. In fact, they’re poisonous.

So let’s concentrate on asparagus, one of our favorite early spring vegetables and the one most easily found in neighborhood supermarkets. Whenever possible, we prefer to eat fresh and eat seasonal, and this time of year asparagus is one of our few choices.

Sauvignon blanc is a splash of sunshine

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Saturday, 05 April 2014 10:50

Sun-kissed with the flavor of tropical fruit, sauvignon blanc can also impart a hint of green peppers, gooseberries or essence of nettles — all crushed together with black currant leaves. 

Those flavor traits have been used to describe the fresh, bright flavors of a French wine grape that has grown bolder and more distinctive through its worldly travels. Its vines can now be found in Chile, South Africa, Australia and the United States. They carry with them hints of their origins, adding unique dimensions to the grape’s already distinctive character.

Skylight's fundraiser is a tasty Third Ward event

Written by Anne Siegel,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 20 March 2014 11:57

Guests enjoy wine tastings at last year’s inaugural event of 'Taste of the Ward.' -Photo: Courtesy

The performances at Skylight Music Theater are aimed at audiences’ hearts and minds. When it comes to fundraisers, however, Skylight aims to hit donors in the stomach.

The Third Ward theater group has been serving up top-notch musicals and operas for more than half a century. During its second annual Taste of the Ward on March 27, the theater will serve up homemade macaroni and cheese, sushi, gourmet ice cream and many other culinary delights produced by the ward’s sophisticated eateries.

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.”