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?

Soups for cold days

Written by Mike
and Jean Muckian,
Contributing writers
Saturday, 11 January 2014 17:09

Few foods have the restorative power of soup. We’re not talking about the canned heat-and-eat variety, many of which lean too heavily on sodium as a key ingredient. We prefer to make our own soups and, thanks to our participation in a community-supported agriculture program, we always enter the new year with a cornucopia of root vegetables just waiting for some broth.

This time of year we prefer hot, thick soups chock-full of ingredients (mostly vegetables) to fill our stomachs and warm our souls.

In creating a soup, professional cooks start with one or two specific ingredients and add contents they regard as complementary. Our choice is often determined by what’s been sitting for the longest time in the vegetable bin. For instance, three or four leftover turnips cry out for a batch of booyah, an extra chunky chicken-noodle-vegetable soup that’s a local favorite.

Ready to stash the Campbell’s and try making your own soup from scratch? Here are a couple of recipes to get you started.


In producing the traditional northeastern Wisconsin soup-stew, our Kewaunee County grandmothers started with a big stewing hen cut into pieces and set to boil. Everything — including the skin, bones, neck and vital organs — were included along with the meat.

The resulting soups were rich with layers of chicken fat, vegetables and homemade noodles. As much as we loved the chicken booyah, we’ve modified the recipe to be more heart-healthy and appealing.


2 lbs. chicken breasts, bone-in

5 quarts water

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 medium onion, chopped

4 carrots, sliced

3 stalks celery, diced

(We also add turnips, parsnips, rutabagas or celeriac from our CSA)

2 cups frozen corn 

5 oz. Harrington’s Amish Style Handmade Noodles


Remove skin from chicken breasts and place them in a large stockpot. Add 5 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours. 

Remove the chicken breasts from the stockpot and place on a plate to cool. Allow the stock to cool and remove any congealed fat. Strain the stock and return it to the pot. Heat to boiling, add the vegetables and noodles and simmer for 30–45 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, remove the meat from the bones and cut it into small pieces. When the vegetables are soft, add the breast meat to the stock and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes. Enjoy!


We’re fans of vegetarian soups and of anything using squash. Blogger Kaylen Denny’s low-fat adaptation of the following Bon Apetit recipe for Azteca Squash Soup is a delicious, meat-free alternative. 


1 large butternut squash (about 1.5 lbs.)

Salt and fresh ground black pepper 

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cups finely chopped onion

2 cups finely chopped celery

6 cloves garlic, finely minced 

6 cups vegetable stock or canned vegetable broth 

2 teaspoons ground cumin 

1 15-oz. can of black beans

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped small

1/2 cup chopped cilantro (plus more to garnish soup if desired)

1–2 tablespoons of jalapeño hot sauce 

Low-fat sour cream or plain Greek yogurt to garnish soup (if desired)

Crushed tortilla chips to sprinkle in the soup (if desired)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the butternut squash in half and use a sharp spoon to scoop out seeds. Place the squash on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and roast until slightly brown and soft enough to pierce with a fork (about 50-60 minutes).  Let the squash cool enough to handle.

While the squash is roasting, chop the onion and celery and mince the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick soup pot and sauté the onions and celery until soft (about 7 minutes).  Add minced garlic and cook 2–3 minutes more.  Add 2 cups of vegetable broth and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes.

Once the squash has cooled, scrape the flesh from the skin and mix it with the other 4 cups of broth and the ground cumin.  Add this mixture to the soup pot and simmer about 20 minutes; then use an immersion blender or food processor to purée the soup.  

While the soup simmers, rinse the black beans with cold water. Chop the cilantro and red bell pepper.  Add the beans, red bell pepper and cilantro to the soup mixture and simmer for 15–20 minutes more, adding a little more vegetable stock if desired.  Stir in the jalapeño sauce to taste and serve the soup hot, garnished with low-fat sour cream or plain Greek yogurt and tortilla chips.