Tag Archives: restaurants

Reducing food waste is good for the Earth AND your wallet

Remember how it was when you were a kid sitting at the kitchen table and your mother served up a healthy helping of rutabagas? Gross, right?

You slipped them to the family dog or spooned them into a napkin to get them out of sight. But there was no fooling Mom. Your failed sleight-of-hand resulted in a guilt trip and membership in the Clean Your Plate Club.

Fast-forward to today and you’ll find that wasting food has costly consequences extending well beyond your plate.

“Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The environmental advocacy group says that cutting food waste by just 15 percent would help feed more than 25 million people a year “at a time when 1 in 6 Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables.”

Alice Henneman, an extension educator with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, puts it another way: “Food tossed is money lost.”

Food rots when dumped in a landfill, and produces methane, a greenhouse gas said to contribute to climate change. Food wasted in stores and restaurants cuts into profits.

But incentives have been introduced to reduce food waste, many of them financial.

“Tax benefits are available for restaurants and stores for donating food,” Henneman said. “People are buying ‘ugly food and vegetables,’ or produce that is misshapen in appearance, in stores because stores are offering them at a discount.”

Michigan State University has been aggressive about fighting food waste in its 10 dining halls, where more than 30,000 meals are served daily.

“Food is expensive,” said Carla Iansiti, sustainability projects manager for MSU’s Culinary Services. “We train our staff members to get the most volume out of their product, only cut what you need for a recipe and be creative about using all the products.”

The university remodeled several of its dining halls to be trayless and stocked them with smaller dishes. “It makes a difference with smaller plates and fewer plates, and people always have the option to come back for more,” Iansiti said.

Additional tips for minimizing food waste:

• Think landfill diversion. Compost your leftovers for better crop or garden production, or mix them with animal feed. Freeze or can surplus garden produce or donate it to a food bank.

• There is value in sizing. Buy things that won’t spoil in quantity.

• Check your garbage. Cook dishes that have proven popular and don’t end up being thrown out.

• Buy often and buy fresh, eating as much as you can before it goes bad. Shop your refrigerator before purchasing more.

• Practice portion control. Share rather than discard leftovers. Ask for a sample when dining out if you’re uncertain about ordering something. Don’t rush through meals.

• Plan “cook-it-up” menus. Check expiration dates and move older food products toward the front of your shelves so they can be used first.

On the Web

For more about reducing food waste, see this Natural Resources Defense Council issue paper.

Gourmet ganja? Marijuana dining is growing up, slowly

How to set a tone of woodsy chic at a four-course candlelight dinner served under the stars in the Colorado foothills:

Live musicians and flowers, check.

Award-winning cuisine, check.

Beer and wine pairings with each course, check.

Marijuana pairings? Oh, yes.

The 100 diners at this $200-a-plate dinner smoked a citrus-smelling marijuana strain to go with a fall salad with apples, dates and bacon, followed by a darker, sweeter strain of pot to accompany a main course of slow-roasted pork shoulder in a mole sauce with charred root vegetables and rice.

And with dessert? Marijuana-infused chocolate, of course, grated over salted caramel ice cream and paired with coffee infused with non-intoxicating hemp oil.

The diners received small glass pieces and lighters to smoke the pairings, or they could have their marijuana rolled into joints by professional rollers set up next to a bartender pouring wine.

Welcome to fine dining in Weed Country.

The marijuana industry is trying to move away from its pizza-and-Doritos roots as folks explore how to safely serve marijuana and food. Chefs are working with marijuana growers to chart the still-very-unscientific world of pairing food and weed. And a proliferation of mass-market cheap pot is driving professional growers to develop distinctive flavors and aromas to distinguish themselves in a crowded market.

“We talk with the (marijuana) grower to understand what traits they saw in the marijuana … whether it’s earthy notes, citrus notes, herbal notes, things that we could play off,” said Corey Buck, head of catering for Blackbelly Restaurant, a top-rated farm-to-table restaurant that provided the meal.

The grower of one of the pot strains served at the dinner, Alex Perry, said it won’t be long until marijuana’s flavors and effects are parsed as intently as wine profiles. But that’s in the future, he conceded.

“It’s still looked down upon as a not-very-sophisticated thing,” said Perry, who grew a strain called Black Cherry Soda for his company, Headquarters Cannabis.

Holding his nose to a small jar of marijuana, Perry said, “If I asked my mom or my dad what they smell, they’re going to say, ‘skunk,’ or, ‘It smells like marijuana.’ But it’s like wine or anything else. There’s more flavor profile there.”

But chefs and pot growers trying to explore fine dining with weed face a legal gauntlet to make pot dinners a reality, even where the drug is as legal as beer.

Colorado’s marijuana retailers can’t also sell food, so guests at this dinner had to buy a separate $25 “goodie bag” from a dispensary for the pot pairings.

The bags came with tiny graters for diners to shave the pot chocolate onto their ice cream themselves; the wait staff could not legally serve a dish containing pot, even though the event was private and limited to people over 21. Diners were shuttled to and from the event by private bus, to avoid potentially stoned drivers leaving the dinner.

Marijuana dining may become more accessible in coming months, though.

Denver voters this fall will consider a proposal to allow marijuana use at some bars and restaurants as long as the drug isn’t smoked, with the potential for new outdoor marijuana smoking areas.

And two of the five states considering recreational marijuana in November _ California and Maine _ would allow some “social use” of the drug, leaving the potential for pot clubs or cafes.

Currently, Alaska is the only legal weed state that allows on-site marijuana use, with “tasting rooms” possible in commercial dispensaries. But that state is still working on rules for how those consumption areas would work.

For now, marijuana dining is limited to folks who hire private chefs to craft infused foods for meals served in their homes, or to special events like this one, limited to adults and set outside to avoid violating smoke-free air laws.

Guests at the Colorado dinner were admittedly experimenting with pairing weed and food, many giggling as they toked between bites. It became apparent late in the evening that a rich meal doesn’t counteract marijuana’s effects.

“What was I just saying?” one diner wondered aloud before dessert. “Oh, yeah. About my dog. No, your dog. Somebody’s dog.”

The man trailed off, not finishing his thought. His neighbor patted him on the back and handed him a fresh spoon for the ice cream.

Diners seemed genuinely curious about how to properly pair marijuana and food without getting too intoxicated.

“I am not a savant with this,” said Tamara Haddad of Lyons, who was waiting to have one of her pot samples professionally rolled into a joint. “I enjoy (marijuana) occasionally. I enjoy it with friends. I’m learning more about it.”

She laughed when asked whether marijuana can really move beyond its association with junk-food cravings.

“I have also munched out after being at the bar and drinking martinis and thinking, ‘Taco Bell sounds great,”” she said.

Coffee culture: Cuppings, glitzy grinders and ‘no cream’ please

Get ready for the next wave of coffee culture. Consumers are learning more about coffee — how it’s grown, roasted and prepared.

They’re attending tastings called cuppings and they’re being asked to drink fine coffee black to experience its true flavors.

They’re also spending more for gourmet beans and fancy grinders.

“Coffee in many ways is now being treated as a very fine ingredient that requires a tremendous amount of care and stewardship from seed to cup,” said Nick Brown, editor of Roast magazine’s Daily Coffee News, noting “tremendous growth in the high-end, upscale, specialty coffee segment.”

While some say the trend is part of the farm-to-table movement, others compare the shift in coffee to wine and beer consumption. Wine tastings were once mocked as the province of snobbish elites, while beer brewery tours were a novelty.

But now wine bars, trails and tasting rooms are ubiquitous, as are brew pubs, microbreweries and craft beer.

“The more varieties consumers become aware of, the more they want,” said National Coffee Association spokesman Joe DeRupo. “People are eager for anything and everything new. They are accumulating the knowledge and sophisticated tastes that come with that knowledge.”

While coffee consumption overall has declined slightly in the U.S. in recent years, 31 percent of Americans say they drink specialty coffee daily, and 45 percent drink it each week, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

 

CREAM IN YOUR COFFEE? NOT SO FAST!

Semilla is an 18-seat restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, known for its adventurous, “vegetable-forward” $85 tasting menu. As each dish is served, the staff provides information about ingredients and preparation. What they don’t provide is milk and sugar for coffee, unless guests ask.

“If somebody of their own volition asks, ‘Could I get milk and sugar?’ of course we provide it,” said Gabriela Acero, Semilla’s maetre d’. “That’s their personal preference. But generally the way I phrase it is, ‘If you’re willing, I’d ask you to try the coffee without that and let me know what you think.’ I would say 90 to 95 percent find they don’t need milk and sugar.”

Milk and sugar, she added, are used to “mask coffee that’s bitter or over-extracted.” Semilla’s coffee is “sweeter, more delicate, more floral” than ordinary coffee. “It’s about the purity of the product,” she said.

Semilla’s coffee comes from a small Brooklyn roaster called Parlor Coffee. Parlor’s business is mostly wholesale, but the company also hosts cuppings for the public: twice-weekly free tastings featuring a half-dozen coffees, served black with spoons for slurping and spit cups for those worried about caffeine. At a recent cupping, tasting room manager Peter Higgins pointed out hints of “candied peaches and raspberries” in Kenyan coffee; “floral, like black tea or bergamot” flavors in an Ethiopian brew; and “dense, chocolatey” notes in a Guatemalan blend.

Parlor’s founder, Dillon Edwards, says the “niche world of micro roasters” to which Parlor belongs is viable thanks to what came before: the Starbucks boom in the 1990s followed by artisanal retailers like Blue Bottle, now a small chain, “supporting and celebrating the coffee producers.” Those waves paved the way for a marketplace where some consumers are “willing to spend $5 on a cup of coffee or $20 on a bag of coffee.”

 

GRINDER GLITZ AND THE COFFEE JOURNEY

Are you proud of grinding beans fresh each morning at home? If you’re using a $10 or $20 electric grinder, experts say you’re better off using a bag of coffee ground at the store. That’s because inexpensive blade grinders don’t grind beans evenly. You end up with different size particles, resulting in an uneven extraction that damages subtle flavors.

Industry mavens recommend burr grinders instead. Burrs are rough metal parts that crush beans uniformly. But even gourmet coffee lovers may be taken aback by the price tag. Popular burr grinders include the Capresso Infinity Die-Cast, $150, and the Baratza Encore, $130, while Baratza’s vaunted Virtuoso model runs $220.

“People are upping their game,” said Baratza co-founder Kyra Kennedy. “They want to taste the flavors and learn about that. Our growth really matches with what I would call the manual brew craze — the pour-overs, the AeroPresses, the press pots. People need a grinder if they’re going to do that stuff at home and get the same flavor they’re getting from a really good independent store.”

Baratza has been growing about 30 percent a year for the past five years and sold 80,000 grinders last year. But the challenge for Baratza and others riding this latest wave of coffee culture is to make sure the focus on quality _ whether it’s eschewing milk and sugar or recommending a $200 machine _ doesn’t come off as effete or snobby.

“Coffee is a journey,” said Kennedy. “The baristas and the specialty coffee world have been made fun of for being elitists. So we are very sensitive.”

Boston, long a BYOB holdout, says ‘cheers’ to the concept

For years, diners in many major U.S. cities have brought their own bottles of beer or wine to restaurants lacking liquor licenses. But not in Boston, long a BYOB buzzkill.

By year’s end, all that will change, now that a decades-old prohibition of the “bring your own booze” concept has been lifted.

The city known for its tight controls on alcohol — happy hour drink discounts are against the law, and liquor stores can’t operate on Memorial Day, Thanksgiving or Christmas — is easing up. Last week, the Boston Licensing Board overturned a ban on the popular trend, which started in the 1920s as a way for restaurants to sidestep Prohibition-era laws. The trend again surged in 2008 in the U.S. when the economy crashed and people looked for cheaper ways to enjoy themselves.

Michelle Wu, president of the Boston City Council and a former restaurant owner, led the move to overturn the BYOB ban so small restaurants could proliferate.

“We’re a very old city and we have many regulations, permits and licenses that have been added over time,” Wu said. “While it’s really important to protect health and safety, it’s also really important to recognize the vitality that small businesses bring to Boston.”

Boston joins the likes of Philadelphia, Washington and Chicago, all of which have thriving BYOB cultures despite the corkage fees some restaurants impose for the privilege of walking in with a bottle.

The BYOB phenomenon has flourished most in the East, where liquor licenses are expensive and the number of permits issued is capped by local governments, said David Kincheloe, president of National Restaurants Consultants, a Denver-based advising business.

In Boston, a full liquor license can cost a restaurateur about $450,000 — a price that’s out of the reach of most of the smaller establishments Wu wants to help. By comparison, liquor licenses in Denver average around $3,300, Kincheloe said.

Regardless of cost, Kincheloe tells his clients: “If you’re going to be a serious restaurateur and want to make money, get the license.”

Wine and beer outlets stand to profit from the advent of BYOB in Boston, since even a cheap bottle can cost 80 percent more on a restaurant menu.

“BYOB is going to be great for us for sales,” said Juan Boria, manager of The Wine Emporium in Boston, which carries an expansive selection of wines and microbrews.

For oenophiles and beer enthusiasts, BYOB will open up more options.

“It’s a good option when you don’t have a lot of money but want to enjoy a night out,” said Kyle Wilson, a 38-year-old accountant and BYOB enthusiast who lives in Boston. “It offers more flexibility as to where you can go.”

But others say they’re perfectly content to leave their bottles at home and entrust their drinking experience to a waiter or sommelier.

“Part of the fun of dining out is trying new drinks that I may not already know about,” said Krista Nygaard, 37, a Boston software developer.

“The only time I could imagine myself taking advantage of this law was if I was celebrating something and had been saving up a great bottle of wine for the occasion,” she said.

Beer fans to get their bocks blessed

On March 8, Jim Klisch will once again don his monk’s habit and oversee the Blessing of the Bock, an annual event in which a Catholic priest — or in this case, someone dressed like one — imparts the grace of the Lord on the spring batch of bock beer.

This year’s blessing will be given at 6:30 p.m. at The Gig, a tavern located at 1132 E. Wright St. in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood. The penitent will have from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to indulge in unlimited bock beer samples from more than a dozen breweries, for just $10.

Jim Klisch, who with brother Russ Klisch, is cofounder and co-owner of Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery, started the blessing ceremony in 1988, two years after his brewery opened. 

In previous years, the event was large enough to attract the services of ordained Catholic priests. It’s only been recently that the event has scaled back, forcing Klisch to develop the “habit habit.”

Although at first frivolous-seeming in a frat-boy sort of way, Klisch says the blessing is based on historical precedent. 

“Monks have a long history of brewing beer,” says Klisch, noting that Belgian Trappist monks still produce some of the world’s most compelling brews. “During the Lenten fast, that was all many of them would consume.”

According to tradition, 17th-century Catholic monks often gave up solid food in a 40-day fast as a Lenten sacrifice. In its place, the monks consumed only water and dopplebock, a “double bock” beer with a heavier malt bill to fill the belly and a higher alcoholic content to, we assume, provide balm for the soul.

The practice explains the now-common reference to beer as “liquid bread.” Given the monks’ other deprivations, one can hardy argue with that.

Hence the blessing, which comes from the Sancta Missa Rituale Romanum, a Roman Catholic checklist that includes a wide array of blessings for everyday objects. In addition to beer, there are blessings for lard, salt and oats for animals, fire engines, seismographs and other assorted items.

Bock beer, a strong German beer generally produced in the spring, deserves to be blessed. It was first developed by 14th-century brewers in the town of Einbeck, then adapted to the new style of lager brewing then popular in Munich. In their strong Bavarian accents, Munich citizens referred to the beer as ein bock, German for “billy goat.” The name stuck, as did the frequent image of goats on bock beer labels.

In addition to traditional bocks and dopplebocks, many brewers also produce maibocks, a Helles-style lager brewed to bock beer strength and served at spring festivals. Some German brewers also brewed eisbocks, produced by partially freezing a dopplebock and removing the excess water to concentrate both the flavors and the alcohol.

Bock and dopplebock beers weigh in at 7-9 percent alcohol by volume. Eisbocks, on the other hand, can carry as much as 13 percent ABV, and one brand, Schorschbrau, holds the current world’s record with an eisbock weighing in at 57 percent ABV. 

There likely won’t be any Schorschbrau on hand at this year’s blessing, according to “Whispering Jeff” Platt, head of the Riverwest Beer Appreciation Society and event coordinator. But bock beers from a host of local, regional and international brewers will be available for sampling.

At press time, the lineup contained traditional and innovative spins on the brand, including maibocks from Wisconsin Brewing Co., O’So Brewery, St. Francis Brewery, Sprecher Brewery and Capital Brewing Co. Bocks from Water Street Brewing Co., Milwaukee Brewing Co. and Potosi Brewery, and dopplebocks from Leinenkeugel’s and Andechs Brewing Co. also will be poured.

Klisch plans to have Lakefront maibock on hand for the faithful to try. He anticipates 50 to 75 participants for the event.

“This is designed to recognize the importance of bock beer to the Lenten season,” says Klisch. “It’s become a pretty laid-back event.”

If you choose to go, then go in peace. And bring a designated driver.

Traditional Catholic Beer Blessing

Priest: Our help is in the name of the Lord.

All: Who made heaven and earth.

Priest: The Lord be with you.

All: May He also be with you.

Priest: Let us pray.
Lord, bless this creature, beer, which by your kindness and power has been produced from kernels of grain and let it be a healthful drink for mankind. Grant whoever drinks it with thanksgiving to your holy name may find it a help in body and in soul; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

— from the Sancta Missa Rituale Romanum

ON TAP

The annual Blessing of the Bock will be March 8 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at The Gig, 1132 E. Wright St., Milwaukee. Call 414-562-0219 for more details.

Madison chefs shine in week of culinary collaboration

The idea of two popular chefs collaborating in the same kitchen may seem a little like two famous artists sharing the same canvas. The clash of content, style and occasionally — OK, maybe often — egos could be enough to scuttle even the most well-intended entrees.

The chefs involved with the Madison Area Chefs Network think differently. MACN’s Chef Week, scheduled for March 4-13 at restaurants throughout the Madison area, will highlight the individual culinary skills of more than 30 chefs while offering a mashup of tastes, textures and styles of food, much of which will be created under collaborative circumstances.

The returning event, inaugurated last year by the 2-year-old group, is designed to put a public face on MACN. The organization’s mission is to improve the performance of Madison chefs through alliances and cooperation, according to MACN executive director Theresa Feiner.

Chef Week also is very different from Madison Restaurant Week, held twice a year during traditionally slow restaurant months in winter and summer, she says.

“Restaurant Week highlights the restaurants, while Chef Week highlights the chefs,” says Feiner, who also works as a business development consultant for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “Each of the 35 events has at least two chefs participating.”

Chef Week’s collaborative nature reflects the organization’s purposes to promote cooperation in an otherwise highly competitive industry and provide a network for chefs to share common concerns and resources, according to MACN board member Patrick DePula, owner of Salvatore’s Tomato Pies.

“We’re also devoted to improving and showcasing Madison’s culinary scene,” says DePula, a former Dane County supervisor who decided to tap into his family’s Italian culinary roots in 2011 and now owns and operates two highly successful pizza joints patterned after those he grew up with in Trenton, New Jersey. “Madisonians already know we have something pretty special here, and part of our mission is to elevate that perspective and let others outside the area know, too.”

MACN invites participants — the organization does not have members, Feiner stresses — from any brick-and-mortar establishments that are locally owned and operated and have the independent capacity to make their own purchasing and marketing decisions (that’s a polite way of disinviting the local Olive Gardens, Red Lobsters and Chili’s).

This year’s Chef Week events run the gamut from a March 5 “Bourbon Brunch” at Julep, featuring the culinary teams from Merchant joining those from that relatively new and notable Southern-style restaurant, to “My Big Fake Persian Jewish Wedding,” a March 12 festival of food, drinks and dancing at the LGBT nightclub Plan B and featuring the culinary teams from Layla’s and Banzo Shük.

DePula also will be collaborating throughout the week, most notably with Shinji Muramoto, the city’s top sushi chef and owner of Sushi Muramoto, Restaurant Muramoto and 43 North.

On March 5, Muramoto will bring izakaya — Japanese tavern-style small plates — to DePula’s Sun Prairie-located Salvatore’s, preparing them alongside the restaurant’s pizza-twirling staff. On March 7, DePula will reciprocate, commandeering the kitchen at 43 North for one of the restaurant’s monthly Monday wine dinners.

The experience will be good training for DePula, who recently purchased a building in Sun Prairie and will expand his pizza enterprise into a full-service Italian restaurant. He also enjoys working with Muramoto, with whom he collaborated during last year’s Chef Week.

“I love working with (Muramoto) because of what he brings to the table from his native Japanese culture,” DePula says. “There is a Japanese ethos of feeding people with food from the local area that I really admire.”

Muramoto, too, appreciates what DePula contributes in terms of insight and cooking styles to which he previously had not been exposed. In fact, the sushi chef sees DePula’s techniques as opening new doors in his own culinary career.

“Madison and my hometown of Sapporo, Japan, are located on the same latitude — 43 North,” Muramota says. “My home province of Hokkaido is known as Japan’s ‘Milkland.’ I am dreaming about the day I can bring Patrick’s style of pizza to Sapporo.”

DePula emphasizes all fresh ingredients in his pies and draws heavily on local producers. Hokkaido offers similar resources, which would enable Muramoto to replicate the style of pizza in a country mostly dependent on takeout varieties.

“Working with Patrick inspired me to think about this,” Muramoto says. “It would be pretty cool.”

On the menu

The Madison Area Chefs Network 2016 Chef Week runs March 4-13 at multiple restaurants throughout the Madison area. For complete information, visit isthmus.com/chefweek.

 

 

 

Bill introduced to reduce food waste, create energy

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine is calling for a comprehensive plan to reduce food waste.

The Democrat says her proposal will help farms, retailers, restaurants and schools waste less food. She says it will also divert high-quality food to food banks and turn non-edible scraps into energy or compost.

Pingree says she formally submitted the bill earlier this month. The Portland Press Herald reports the bill would also standardize the “best by” date labeling that manufacturers use on food.

Pingree’s office says 40 percent of food produced in the country is wasted and uneaten food costs $161 billion annually.

Madison’s malls offer quirks and character

A community’s shopping destinations reveal a lot about a community’s character. Madison, the state’s second-largest city and the home to Wisconsin’s largest university, boasts stores that pack a lot of variety into a little bit of real estate.

Consider State Street, the mile-long pedestrian mall that connects the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to the Capitol. The many shops along State Street reflect the quirkiness of the city’s academic, political and hipster influences.

Monroe Street runs southwest from Camp Randall Stadium, threading several older west side neighborhoods. The stores and galleries offer more upscale fare, but all are colored with Madison character.

In Madison, even the shopping malls, often the bane of urban existence, put a unique spin or two on the retail experience. Several warrant a visit as you complete your holiday gift list this season.

Hilldale Shopping Center, 426 N. Midvale Blvd., on the city’s near west side, may be one of Madison’s most emblematic malls — thanks to the nature of its tenants and the history of its founding and development.

Originally part of the Hillfarms neighborhood development that enabled Madison to continue its 1960s-era westward expansion, Hilldale sits on land that was once part of the UW School of Agriculture. A 1961 legal tussle between shopping center developers and the UW Board of Regents reached the U.S. Supreme Court, but the justices declined to hear the case. An agreement was reached and the shopping center finally opened on Oct. 25, 1962.

Fast forward 50-plus years to a new and vastly improved Hilldale, characterized by a bright new “street scene” shopping and dining experience to complement an adjoining enclosed mall. 

The space features cleverly designed parking structures and a row of private residence townhouses facing Midvale Boulevard, creating traffic and density issues significant enough to concern the mall’s residential neighbors.

Macy’s anchors Hilldale, occupying space formerly filled by Marshall Field’s and, originally, Gimbels. The upscale department store and its vast array of goods set the tone for the rest of the shopping community.

Sundance Cinemas 608, another anchor tenant that opened in 2007, was the first theater in Robert Redford’s Sundance Group to open in the United States. The six-screen cinema, named for the Madison area code, shows independent, foreign and first-run films with the feature of being able to reserve specific seats.

The smaller stores make Hilldale even more attractive.

Shopping for someone with a sweet tooth? Gigi’s Cupcakes offers creative and delicious baked goods. Specials through Nov. 29 include Apple Pie and Mama’s Butterscotch Bacon cupcakes.

Just down the “street,” DB Infusion Chocolates offers artisanal truffles. Our favorites include the Pomegranate-Malbec, made with pomegranate molasses, Malbec wine and rich dark chocolate. We also like Caribbean Fire, a mashup of Ecuadoran chocolate laced with chipotle peppers, nutmeg, allspice and jerk seasoning.

Upscale clothing is one of Hilldale’s hallmarks and there are few better places for men’s and women’s shoes and accessories than Cornblooms. Locally owned since the 1970s, the store offers one-stop shopping for footwear, handbags, jewelry, wallets, belts and novelty socks. Look for top brands, including Birkenstock, Frye, Dansko, Pikolinos, V Italia and Kanna.

Hilldale also is home to one of only two Anthropologie stores in Wisconsin. The company sells upscale clothing, shoes and home goods — and is a good place to start whether you’re looking for something boho-chic or suiting up for the next wedding.

If you really want to ramp things up, kate spade new york offers ultra chic clothing, shoes, handbags, housewares and gifts. One of only two kate spades in the state, the store’s motto is — “Buy what you love and you’ll never go wrong.” 

The shopping center features Madewell for great jeans — and everything that goes with them — and L’Occitane en Provence for skin and body care products.

On the far west side, commercial areas of Madison and Middleton blend seamlessly, offering a wealth of shopping options. High-end retail outlets tend to cluster at Greenway Station, an open-concept shopping mall at 1650 Deming Way in Middleton, where clothing, accessories and dining options dominate. But the shopping center is not without its economical stores, too.

Chico’s is a perennial favorite among women who want to look their best. The boutique’s artisan jackets and wrinkle-free Travellers collection have built a following.

A wide array of women’s clothing and accessories also can be found at J. Jill, Maurice’s and Soft Surroundings.

Nearby, Pendleton features enduring American style in its classic wool clothing and blankets. Featuring men’s and women’s fashions, the store offers goods woven in American mills for higher quality and that “made in America” cachet.

Athletes can get their game on at several Greenway stores. Total Hockey offers everything for the hockey and lacrosse players and fans in your life, including skate-sharpening and lacrosse stick-stringing services. 

Triathletes, runners and walkers will feel at home at Endurance House, which provides casual and serious athletes with shoes, gear and even a personalized movement profile that helps staff address a customer’s capabilities and needs.

Hunters and fly fishers can gear up at Orvis, home to the Distinctive Country Lifestyle line. Shoppers can find unique clothing and home furnishings while shopping for products for their dogs or even taking fly-fishing lessons.

Greenway Stations also offers Christopher & Banks and Marshalls for lower cost alternatives to chic designer togs and you can outfit your feet at DSW (aka Designer Shoe Warehouse) with the latest in discount fashion footwear.

Once you tire of shopping, you can top at Claddagh Irish Pub, Cold Stone Creamery or any other of Greenway Station’s many restaurants for a pick-me-up and chances to review your purchases.

Remember, if you buy what you love — even if it’s a pint of Guinness stout or two scoops of your favorite frozen confection mixed before your eyes on a frozen granite slab — you’ll never go wrong.

What’s cooking: Waste-free kitchen handbook

U.S. consumers are collectively responsible for more wasted food than farmers, grocery stores or any other part of the food-supply chain—a problem that costs the average family an average of about $1,500 every year — but a new book out later this month seeks to help change that, one meal at a time.

The Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook — out Sept. 29 from Chronicle Books — will offer simple consumer tips and tools to saving money and food, from the grocery store to the kitchen.

“Imagine walking out of the grocery store with four bags full of food, dropping one, and not bothering to pick it up—that’s essentially what American families are doing every day,” said Dana Gunders, author and scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Wasted food is wasted money, wasted energy and wasted water. Armed with simple tips and tools, families can make a major dent in what’s currently getting tossed out with the trash — and put a little cash back in their wallets at the same time.”

Americans are throwing away 40 percent of food in the U.S., the equivalent of $162 billion in wasted food each year. Until now, many well-intentioned home cooks have lacked the tools to change their food waste habits. 

Gunders’ handbook — packed with engaging checklists, simple recipes, practical strategies, educational infographics and custom kitchen audits — is the ultimate tool for reducing food waste at home. It dispels the illusion that cutting food waste requires significant time and money, with easy tips for how to:

• Cook with leftover ingredients

• Grocery shop smarter

• Plan meals better

• Decode expiration dates

• Store foods properly

• Use your fridge to its full potential

• Understand shelf-life, storage & usability for 85+ common groceries

The guide can help put more money back in consumers’ bank accounts and also reduce the strain on the environment.

When food is wasted, so are all the resources that went into producing it:

• 25 percent of the nation’s fresh water goes into producing food that is never eaten.

• If global food waste was a country, it would have the world’s largest greenhouse gas footprint after the U.S. and China—food

• Waste just in the U.S. is responsible for emissions equal to those from 33 million cars.

• Food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in U.S. landfills.

• 28 percent of the world’s agricultural land—an area larger than Canada—is used to grow food that gets wasted.

“Food waste is a global problem we can tackle in our own homes,” Gunders said. “When we throw out perfectly good food, we throw out all of the resources used to get it to our table—massive amounts of land, energy and water — along with it. Small, easy changes in our daily routine can add up to big benefits for the environment, and big savings in our pockets.”

Give rieslings another chance for summer sipping

Many wine lovers who grew up in Wisconsin cut their teeth on German riesling. Its bright fruit flavor made it easy to appreciate, and just as easy to abandon as those wine lovers’ palates became more sophisticated.

But if you haven’t sampled riesling lately, consider this: Many wine experts say riesling is their favorite grape, and not just because it’s the foundation of the German wine industry.

Riesling, better than any other grape, has the ability to reflect the conditions under which it is grown. Most experts respect riesling’s versatility, resiliency and the terroir that gives the wine its distinct character.

Terroir refers to the various elements that influence wine grapes, including soil, sunlight, climate, length of growing seasons and even the skill of the individual winemaker. Riesling grapes provide a rich, interpretive canvas, and the resulting wine’s transparency reflects more variations in terroir than wine produced by other grapes, yet without succumbing to those conditions.

As such, riesling wines can be as different as night and day, depending on the soil’s mineral content, the vineyard’s elevation and the winemaker’s intent. The resulting wine will well illustrate the grape’s interpretation of all those conditions, and how well they thrive under different growing regimens.

The classic German riesling, all bright fruit, perfumed nose and luscious mouth feel, has long been the grape’s benchmark wine. But the grapes produce excellent variants that can be sweet or dry, dinner or dessert variety, with no loss of integrity.

The nose can range from floral perfume to astringent petrol notes, and the wine’s body can be plump and fulsome, or lightly ethereal. The capability for both is contained in the fruit.

Rieslings historically have been produced in the cooler climates of Austria and Germany, some of which are now being outpaced by New World vineyards in the United States and Canada, not to mention New Zealand and South Africa. Australia’s Clare Valley is pushing the envelope, creating unusual rieslings that experts agree may be the first in some time to truly advance the art form.

Best yet, rieslings chill well and can brighten any outdoor event. Here are seven locally available selections to get you started:

A number of Wisconsin wineries offer riesling, but if you only try one make it the Botham Riesling ($11), from Botham Vineyards just outside of Barneveld. The riesling is crafted in the “Johannesburg style,” according to winemaker Peter Botham. Expect a wine with gentle sweetness and a soft mouthfeel that replicates the classic style and pairs well with cheeses and chocolates.

The Hugel et Fils Riesling ($20) from the Alsace region of France, by comparison, tends toward the dry side with significant depth and balance. A floral/petrol nose gives way to a palate dominated by pears, but with big character and quite a bit of polish. The winemaker’s craft has made this a notable showcase for the grape’s possibilities.

The Trefethen Estate Dry Riesling ($19), from the Trefethen Family Vineyards in Napa, California, has crept a little further down the semi-dry spectrum. Its slight petrol nose leads to a wine that’s well-balanced between fruit and acidity, with notes of white peach and citrus on the palate. 

Reilly’s Barking Mad Riesling ($12), from Australia’s Clare Valley, takes a turn distinct enough to raise eyebrows. However, its petrol nose, ripe citrus and sweet finish prove it can only be a riesling despite the area’s more rigorous and unusual growing conditions.

Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Noble House Riesling ($12), from Germany’s Mosel region, takes a turn back toward the familiar nose and flavor profiles, although lightly so. The wine’s fruit and acidity balance nicely, streaking across the palate with a fairly long finish. Peach, apricot and mineral characterize the bright, light-bodied wine.

Dr. Fischer Ockfenner Bockstein Kabinett ($19), also from Mosel, ratchets the elements of the two previous wines up a notch or two, adding brighter characteristics and greater depth. A hint of strawberries highlights a complex flavor palate in this exceptionally made wine.

One of the most delightful Rieslings on the market comes in a half-sized 355 ml bottle. King Estate’s NxNW Dessert Riesling ($15) from Washington is produced in “eiswein” (or “ice wine”) style from late-harvest grapes, meaning they contain significantly more residual sugars. The resulting wine is the perfect balance of luscious sweetness and plenty of acidity. Flavors of tangerine, papaya and honey abound in this refined choice. It’s perhaps too sweet to be a dinner wine, but as a twilight sipper at the end of a romantic picnic, it can work wonders.