December 29, 2006

21 favorite dishes, eaten in Madison this year.

The Isthmus has a nice list. Let me see which ones I've had:
Cocoliquot -- Braised short ribs

Framed by velvety smoked potato purée, the whole dish comes delicately flavored by bacon, mushrooms and pearl onions....
I just has this a few days ago. If I had to limit myself to one restaurant dish in town and had to eat it every night of the year, it would be this. Here's an old post showing the restaurant. And here's a new photo, from last week, showing a dessert that's made to look like sushi:

Dessert that looks like sushi

I've also had this:
Fresco -- Gnocchi

Surprisingly big, they have a perfect, pillowy bite and pick up layers of subtle flavors from shiitake mushrooms, brown herb butter, shaved Parmesan and sautéed asparagus tips and carrots...
I always like Fresco, the restaurant atop the Overture Center. Here's an old post about it, with pictures. And another.

I haven't had this next one, though I've eaten at the restaurant many times. I've always gotten that salad with all the bacon in it. But I'm just going to flag this one because sounds like something that people traveling through ought to eat if they're looking to understand Wisconsin:
The Old-Fashioned -- Baked potato

Slathered with sour cream and a nest of matchstick fries, just to make sure you get your double order of starch. The nice thing about going old-fashioned is that none of this demands any apology. In Wisconsin tradition, a baked potato that doesn't come piled with butter and sour cream is one pretentious, empty vessel.
And this is one I'd travel out of the city to get to:
The Old Feed Mill, Mazomanie -- Pot roast
Ever-so-slowly cooked beef yields easily to the fork. Unsullied by seasonings but graced by dark, rich brown pan gravy, this is indeed a pot roast for the gods.
I love the slow-cooked beef. And isn't it cool that there's a town called "Mazomanie." It sounds sounds like a form of insanity. A cute and amazing mania.


Anonymous said...

Mazomanie is also home to Wisconsin's only nude beach!

Dave said...

I'm glad to hear they have real food* in the Midwest.

*By which I mean, stuff other than McDonald's, the Olive Garden and other "foods."

Richard Dolan said...

This list is an eclectic mix of something old, something new. The dishes highlighted here are undoubtedly all quite tasty, but it's a taste that veers towards the fringes of culinary life -- the old favorites are of the homey variety (pot roast, baked potato Wisconsin style), while the new are all about layers of differing tastes and textures. It's also always amazing to me to see more Japanese or Japanese-inspired dishes on lists like this, rather than Chinese. In terms of the range and sophistication of the cooking, Chinese cuisine offers far more. Perhaps the difference comes from a lack of talented Chinese chefs, or (more likely) a certain familiarity that has bred a degree of contempt: Americans have just gotten accustomed to thinking of Chinese cuisine as inexpensive, something at the opposite end from haute cuisine. Whatever. Even in NYC, it's rare to see a Chinese restaurant on one of these lists, while it's quite common to see Japanese exemplars.

Looking at your favorites, and the paper's list, what struck me is the lack of any exemplars of the cuisines usually considered the world's greatest. I have in mind classic Cantonese and French cooking. Perhaps that is inevitable in a list that intentionally celebrates the "new" rather than the "best." As in other areas of life, the "new" (however good it may be) often serves mainly to point up how much better is the classic. In contrast to dishes on the paper's list, many of which seem to have been fussed over perhaps a bit too much, it's hard to top a perfectly steamed fish, Cantonese style. Of course, classic cuisine of that sort is all about the freshness of the ingredients -- if that's what you're cooking with, there's a lot to be said for just getting out of the way so that they can carry the dish. Madison doesn't sound like a place where the best chefs focus on highlighting the natural tastes and textures in that way.

MadisonMan said...

I've eaten at 4 of the restaurants on the list, but haven't had any of the favorite dishes. They should include the fried calamari appetizer at Lombardino's. Yum!

Joe Giles said...

I'm finding that "Olive Garden" is a great punchline for numerous conversations.

Still surprised we haven't gone to war with Italy over that business.

And have you seen the commercials? Kitchens obviously staffed by blind people.

Hazy Dave said...

Whoa, got a little NYC Superiority Complex thing* going on there, dave?

*By which I mean we're mostly fat, stupid, Wal-Mart shoppers out here, too.

Peter Hoh said...

I love my local food writers, and I enjoy their version of this sort of column.