Wines to flatter your grilled food

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 15 May 2014 10:58

Red, white and grilled. - PHOTO: Courtesy

Does anything say summer dining more than grilled burgers and cold beer, with maybe a little potato salad on the side?

Of course not, but beer packs on the calories, as do burgers — which, unless you’re an experienced griller, can wind up dried out or underdone. And leaving mayonnaise-based potato salad in the sun too long can create more problems that most stomachs can handle.

It’s time to upgrade your grilling with more sophisticated fare and replace those tall, cool ones with wines that operate in concert with your menu. That principle works indoors, so why not carry it over to your al fresco dining?

James Beard Foundation's cookbook of the year features old-English recipes

Written by J.M. Hirsch,
AP writer
Monday, 12 May 2014 12:38

Anyone with a hankering for hash of snails or powdered duck or a host of other centuries-old British cookery should be plenty pleased with this year's James Beard Foundation cookbook of the year.

But for the rest of us — by which I mean, virtually every last one of us — the selection of Heston Blumenthal's "Historic Heston," a $200, 431-page epic exploration of mostly antiquated recipes, will be a head-scratcher. It's one of those books so fabulously out of touch with any cook who doesn't have an army of sous chefs at his side, one has to ask for whom this book was written.

Beer here!
A guide to Wisconsin's craft-brewing festivals

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Friday, 02 May 2014 13:09

Russ Klisch, co-owner of Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery, the state's second largest craft-brewing company. -PHOTO: Courtesy

With Milwaukee Beer Week (isn’t that every week?) winding to a close on May 3 and Madison Craft Beer Week firing up on May 2, one thing is perfectly clear: Beer season is upon us.

Wisconsin’s brewing heritage is celebrated with outdoor festivals throughout summer and fall. As a public service to the state’s storied beer drinkers everywhere, WiG offers below a list of many of the events on tap. Have your designated driver ready — he or she gets a discounted entry fee at most festivals — and prepare to celebrate with beers of the region and the season.

Madison Craft Beer Week, Madison, May 2–11

The more accurate title for this event would be “Madison Craft Beer Ten Days.” The citywide celebration features special beers from across the state and around the nation and involves most of the Capital City’s bars, brewpubs and restaurants. Unique to this festival is “Common Thread,” a special beer jointly created by area breweries. This year, 12 different brewers participated in production of a Bohemian pilsner that’s sure to be memorable. For more information, go to www.madbeerweek.com.

Waterford’s Brewfest IV, Waterford, May 2

Area businesses located in this Racine County village have come together with the local Lions Club to sponsor this one-day event. For more, go to www.waterfordbrewfest.com.

Belle City Brewfest, Racine,  May 10

Belle City, held at the Racine Civic Center, offers a 28-brewer lineup that includes Public Craft Brewing Co. and Rustic Road Brewing Co., both from nearby Kenosha. Entry is $25 through May 2, $35 thereafter. Info at www.racinebeerfest.com.

Small fruits pack nutritional punch

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Friday, 02 May 2014 11:34

The word “berry” conjures pleasant images: sweet, ripe strawberries, perfectly round little blueberries, succulent raspberries — summer’s tastiest and most nutritious gifts. For botanists, however, the word brings a slightly different image to mind.

The botanical definition of “berry” is a fleshy fruit produced by a single plant ovary. Grapes, blueberries and cranberries fall into this category, but so do tomatoes, avocados, bananas and watermelons.

Hard-boiled: Making the most of leftover Easter eggs

Written by Michael Muckian,
Contributing writer
Thursday, 17 April 2014 10:55

Planning to hide brightly colored hard-boiled eggs around the house for Easter Sunday? Make sure to remember where you hid them. Otherwise, come June they’ll emit not-so-gentle reminders.

The practice of decorating eggs predates the Christian holiday of Easter. Engraved ostrich eggs estimated to be 60,000 years old have been discovered in Africa, and it was common practice to include decorated ostrich eggs in the graves of wealthy Egyptians and Sumerians some 5,000 year ago.

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.