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Alcuin

eG Foodblog: Alcuin (2011) - In the middle: Eating and Drinking on the

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Shelby   

Can't wait for this week!

I LOVE Braunschweiger.......seeing this reminds me that I don't buy it nearly as often as I should.

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Julie tells me that Leon's is the gold standard for frozen custard in Milwaukee( I found it to be pretty fantastic too). Do you have any great frozen custard in Madison?

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Alcuin   

I teach at 8:50am Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so on those days I usually have some bread and cheese with my coffee, or just grab something quick after class.

I've been meaning to get some ice cream from Babcock Dairy for a while now, and today seemed like a good time to do it. I don't eat it a lot, and my girlfriend loves ice cream but can't eat it without a measure of gastrointestinal distress. So I had a cone for breakfast today.

cone in holder.JPG

That's my Pumpkin Cream Pie cone resting in the cone holder conveniently provided for you so you can sort out your money with two hands.

This ice cream is the best I've ever had, by a longshot and that includes homemade. I think its the quality of the milk, which is rich in creamy texture. The flavor is always spot on too. Typically I would avoid ice cream that's trying to taste like pumpkin pie but I trust Babcock to do it right. The ice cream does really taste like a lightly spiced pumpkin pie, but not so much that you can't enjoy the core of what ice cream is, the dairy.

Here are the other ice creams on offer

ice cream.JPG

They had Orange Custard Chocolate Chip, Orange Sherbet, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Union Utopia, Cookies and Cream, Raspberry Swirl, and the Pumpkin Cream Pie.

During the summer, there is often a long line that snakes around and it can take a little while to get to the counter. And since it's their downtime, they have about 1/3 of the flavors they normally do. It is served year round and people eat it even when it's snowing outside. A testament to its perennial goodness.

I ate my cone in the Rathskeller, which is where a lot of people meet to eat lunch and drink beer during the day, or drink beer and watch movies and sports at night. It is in the style of a German downstairs pub, and has all kinds of German murals about loving to drink and to learn.

rathskeller 6.JPG

It says "who doesn't love wine, woman and song remains a fool his whole life long."

rathskeller 5.JPG

This one says "I don't count the hours unless they are happy."

They also have an extensive collection of old steins to encourage drinking.

rathskeller 1.JPG

rathskeller 3.JPG

Fireplaces complete with murals about the duties of learning to sit by in the winter as you eat and drink.

rathskeller 4.JPG

And here's where you buy your beer. In the summer months, you can buy it from several places just outside here on the Terrace that overlooks lake Mendota. It's a favorite spot to hang out and drink some pitchers; the scenery is beautiful and they have music too. A whole lot of beer is drunk there, and lucky for me my office is in the next building over. My teaser photo looking out on the lake was taken from the Terrace.

The beer list

rathskeller beer.JPG

You might not be able to make out all the beer, because the lighting inside the Rathskeller is very low and it's sunny outside so the conditions were not ideal for my tiny camera. But the beer list there is pretty good.

Here's the small cafeteria attached to the Rathskeller

rathskeller 7.JPG

"Chamber of Food"

There is another larger and more modern cafeteria one room over. I used to eat here a lot a couple of years ago, but these days I usually just buy food from the foodcarts on the library mall and bring it back here to eat if it's not nice enough outside. The food here is passably mediocre, and there's too much good stuff nearby, especially when the carts are out.

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Alcuin   

Julie tells me that Leon's is the gold standard for frozen custard in Milwaukee( I found it to be pretty fantastic too). Do you have any great frozen custard in Madison?

We do have frozen custard and it's quite good but I know of only one place: Michael's. It always has a long line. If you drive around Wisconsin, you'll find independent frozen custard places here and there. They seem to be all over the place.

Did you try the Leon's when you were in WI? I've never had theirs, but I've heard good things.

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Alcuin   

Hi Alcuin, great blog so far!

It seems that food texture is important to you (as it should be, IMO) so can I ask what your favourite texture combinations are? Any dishes that you really feel have a sublime texture or texture contrast to them?

Thanks Jenni. I like texture in almost every dish, but those that really stand out to my mind right now are Thai dishes that bring together a crazy amount of tastes and textures. I remember looking at a recipe for larb and thinking it would never work, there's too much going on there. But the interplay of meat and herbs bound by toasted rice powder (a crucial ingredient for texture) ends up working perfectly. I'm thinking of pasta dishes too where there's an interplay between pasta and sauce, but that may just be because I'm going to make pasta tonight.

Are there any textural combinations you like that I might try? I'm up for anything.

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Julie tells me that Leon's is the gold standard for frozen custard in Milwaukee( I found it to be pretty fantastic too). Do you have any great frozen custard in Madison?

We do have frozen custard and it's quite good but I know of only one place: Michael's. It always has a long line. If you drive around Wisconsin, you'll find independent frozen custard places here and there. They seem to be all over the place.

Did you try the Leon's when you were in WI? I've never had theirs, but I've heard good things.

Yes, I tried it. I found it better in July than in November. Something about eating cold dessert when its cold out.....

The flavor we bought in November was cinnamon to have with pie. Julie used to work there when she was a teen so she is partial.

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Jenni   

Are there any textural combinations you like that I might try? I'm up for anything.

I like interesting mixtures of textures. So crunchy raw veggies (think onion, mooli, carrot, cucumber, etc.) to contrast with a meal of softer components (dal, rice, cooked vegetables, etc.). Toasted peanuts in yoghurt salads. Pumpkin and sesame seeds on top of cauliflower cheese (put it under the grill to toast the seeds).

Chaat dishes are particularly great for these texture contrasts, and they have great flavour contrasts too. For papri chaat, crisp, crunchy papri contrast with soft boiled potatoes, similarly soft yet differently textured boiled chickpeas, crunchy raw onion, smooth and creamy yoghurt, tangy yet smooth tamarind chutney, feathery fresh coriander leaves and crunchy sev.

And of course there is pani puri which is one of the greatest texture contrasts. A crisp poori is filled with some kind of filling. This can be seasoned boiled potatoes and chickpeas. Or seasoned mashed chickpeas. Or seasoned sprouted beans. All these are a texture contrast already. But then you dunk the poori in spicy pani (water) and eat it quickly. An explosion in your mouth! Crispy, soft, watery, spicy, tangy, sweet, pungent, salty...so many different experiences to savour all in one mouthful.

Another textural thing I like is slightly viscous texture. Okra and urad dal for instance have this. I've always wanted to try natto for this reason.

Anyway, won't hog your blog any longer. Was just very happy to see someone talking about their enjoyment of the textural elements of food. So easy to forget yet very important!

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Nice blog, Alcuin! I love all of the German things. Must you buy beer at a distributor in Wisco or is it for sale in shops and not just bars?

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Alcuin   

Are there any textural combinations you like that I might try? I'm up for anything.

I like interesting mixtures of textures. So crunchy raw veggies (think onion, mooli, carrot, cucumber, etc.) to contrast with a meal of softer components (dal, rice, cooked vegetables, etc.). Toasted peanuts in yoghurt salads. Pumpkin and sesame seeds on top of cauliflower cheese (put it under the grill to toast the seeds).

Chaat dishes are particularly great for these texture contrasts, and they have great flavour contrasts too. For papri chaat, crisp, crunchy papri contrast with soft boiled potatoes, similarly soft yet differently textured boiled chickpeas, crunchy raw onion, smooth and creamy yoghurt, tangy yet smooth tamarind chutney, feathery fresh coriander leaves and crunchy sev.

And of course there is pani puri which is one of the greatest texture contrasts. A crisp poori is filled with some kind of filling. This can be seasoned boiled potatoes and chickpeas. Or seasoned mashed chickpeas. Or seasoned sprouted beans. All these are a texture contrast already. But then you dunk the poori in spicy pani (water) and eat it quickly. An explosion in your mouth! Crispy, soft, watery, spicy, tangy, sweet, pungent, salty...so many different experiences to savour all in one mouthful.

Another textural thing I like is slightly viscous texture. Okra and urad dal for instance have this. I've always wanted to try natto for this reason.

Anyway, won't hog your blog any longer. Was just very happy to see someone talking about their enjoyment of the textural elements of food. So easy to forget yet very important!

Wow that sounds fantastic. I have to confess I know very little about Indian food. In fact, all I know about it is that it is delicious. I'm definitely going to have to try some of these things out. Maybe that will be my new winter food project...

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Alcuin   

Nice blog, Alcuin! I love all of the German things. Must you buy beer at a distributor in Wisco or is it for sale in shops and not just bars?

No distributors here thankfully. I had enough of that in PA. You can get beer and wine pretty much anywhere: gas stations, markets, corner stores any day of the week. The only catch is that you're not allowed to buy beer to takeaway after 9pm, so you have to think ahead a bit.

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Alcuin   

I stopped by some markets to pick up a few things for dinner tonight. I usually shop at three markets: Midway which I've shown you, the Willy St Coop which I will show you, and the Jenny St Market which I'm going to show you right now.

Jenny st 1.JPG

This is a small, neighborhood market that is close enough to my house that on a good day I might be able to beat you on my bike even if you're driving a car. It carries mostly fairly regular grocery store items, though they will have things they get straight from farmers during the growing season. I like it because it can be less expensive than my other go-to the Willy St coop (which is as local and organic as possible, so expensive). I went to Jenny St today because I knew the peppers I wanted to use in tonight's dinner would be much cheaper there (I've spent $5 for a red pepper and I won't be fooled again).

The entrance to this very small store

jenny st 2.JPG

Apples are the fruit du jour

jenny st 3.JPG

Wisconsin peppers

jenny st 4.JPG

They also have a decent selection of meat at good prices, comparable to a supermarket.

jenny st 5.JPG

jenny st 6.JPG

And they always have at least one lobster, dwarfed by their oversized sparsely populated tank

jenny st 7.JPG

I've seen this tank with more than two lobsters in it, but I've also seen it with one lonely lobster huddled in the corner.

And of course, what market would be complete without a walkin beer cooler

Jenny st 8.JPG

Note the beer beer cooler attire: don't want to catch a cold trying to make your choices.

I came to the market for peppers, but I didn't buy those bell peppers above. I got some sweet banana peppers, mainly because they were a mix of red and yellow.

lamb and peppers.JPG

I'm going to make a ragu of lamb and peppers to serve with some maccheroni alla chitarra and I like to have a mix of red and yellow.

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Florida   

I've been to Madison a half dozen times and never knew of the Rathskeller. Looks like a very interesting spot (and so close to the lake where I take my daugther to look at the ducks).

I guess it's good to learn from the locals.

As for the Hopalicious, I think it's a pretty good beer, but would agree with you that Two Hearted is superior.

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I picked up some Pocky to give as prizes to some of my students: I sent them in teams through the UW library system on a competition scavenger hunt.

hope you interfaced with the librarians and use them to your student's best advantage (30 year librarian)

wanted to inhale that mopo tofu - didn't think about the silken tofu, though. ohh.... lamb

and johnnybird would love the walkin beer cooler


Edited by heidih Fix quote tags (log)

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Alcuin   

I picked up some Pocky to give as prizes to some of my students: I sent them in teams through the UW library system on a competition scavenger hunt.

hope you interfaced with the librarians and use them to your student's best advantage (30 year librarian)

wanted to inhale that mopo tofu - didn't think about the silken tofu, though. ohh.... lamb

and johnnybird would love the walkin beer cooler

I spend a lot of time talking to them about using the libraries and the librarians. They were amazed when I showed them that there were librarians specially focused for every topic they could think of. It was awesome.

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Alcuin   

Here's the mise en place for the lamb ragu.

mise for lamb ragu.JPG

It is as simple as possible really, with very little active time. Put it all together, let it cook about 2 hours, and it's done! Ideally I'd use white wine, but I don't have any around so red it is. It's a Chianti, which is also not exactly ideal. This dish is from Abruzzo, so you'd really like to pair a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo with it. And it really is a better pairing, flush with fruit and with soft tannins, the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo would pair better with the sweetness of the peppers and lamb.

No matter though; the Chianti will be good. As long as it has the acidity to stack up against the richness of the ragu, I'm happy.

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Alcuin:

Looking forward to this week. Great work so far!

Do you ever come back to Philly to visit family? Maybe you can make it for the Heartland Gathering next summer...

As for the Ransome, my cohorts and I have found it behaves a bit more like whiskey than gin in the glass in some applications. Try a Ransome Sazerac or Old Fashioned sometime. We just put a Ransome Martinez on the menu. It's tasty that way too...

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Alcuin   

Alcuin:

Looking forward to this week. Great work so far!

Do you ever come back to Philly to visit family? Maybe you can make it for the Heartland Gathering next summer...

As for the Ransome, my cohorts and I have found it behaves a bit more like whiskey than gin in the glass in some applications. Try a Ransome Sazerac or Old Fashioned sometime. We just put a Ransome Martinez on the menu. It's tasty that way too...

Ransom Martinez' are the way I went through two bottles of the stuff. It's my favorite Martinez gin, though I like Junipero in a Martinez too. Good point about it behaving like whiskey. I never thought of a Sazerac or Old Fashioned so I'll definitely have to give that a shot.

I do come back that way every once in a while. I'll keep my a watch on the gathering to see if it coincides with a return home.

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Alcuin   

Tonight's dinner was maccheroni alla chitarra with lamb ragu and a green salad.

I use the Kitchenaid pasta attachments. They are great for me especially since I have no counterspace to speak of (literally) and I don't need to clamp anything down. It's also great because I have two hands to work with and the rollers make the thinnest pasta I've ever seen. I've never made better pasta before getting this; it was a dramatic increase in quality and consistency.

This time, I was (at least in part) kickin it old school using the chitarra

pasta alla chitarra.JPG

There's a real technique to having the right moisture in the pasta. Too dry and it won't press through the wires; too wet and the pasta will stick back together again after being cut. I'd say that figuring out how to gauge the proper wetness of dough for the chitarra has made me a better maker of pasta in general.

pasta.JPG

I forgot that I only like to take it to setting 3 on the rollers, but this was taken to 4. It has slightly less of a square shape than I like, but the unique texture of the chitarra made pasta is still there. It's got a very toothsome feel to it (no other way to describe it) and, because of the relatively limited surface area compared to interior volume of most fresh pastas, it tastes strongly and pleasantly of wheat.

Here's how it looked, dressed with the ragu, before the application of cheese.

pasta uncheesed.JPG

Here's how it looked with a generous sprinkling of pecorino. This is the traditional cheese to serve with the lamb ragu, and I have to say thinking of using anything else just doesn't make sense to me. The sharp saltiness of the cheese marries perfectly with the sweet richness of the lamb and peppers.

pasta cheesed.JPG

I love ragus like this. The sauce is not tomato based (the tomatoes are only there to add a bit of acidity and their juices); it's based on the fat that renders out of the meat and marries with the peppers and tomatoes to become a pleasantly orange condiment to the pasta. Delicious.

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I do come back that way every once in a while. I'll keep my a watch on the gathering to see if it coincides with a return home.

Well, even if you aren't coincidentally going to be here at the same time, drop me a PM next time you're heading this way. I think we need to go on a bar crawl together! The cocktail scene is flourishing quite nicely of late. I think you'd be surprised and impressed...

Back OT: That pasta and ragu look delicious!!! My favorite kind of pasta dish - rustic and yummy!


Edited by KatieLoeb (log)

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heidih   

Now I need a chitarra. I love pasta with that sort of chew. I appreciate your description of the ragu - makes sense and appeals as an earthy approach. You mentioned 2 hours earlier. Even with the use of ground meat did you simmer on extreme low heat for such a long time?

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Alcuin   

Now I need a chitarra. I love pasta with that sort of chew. I appreciate your description of the ragu - makes sense and appeals as an earthy approach. You mentioned 2 hours earlier. Even with the use of ground meat did you simmer on extreme low heat for such a long time?

Sometimes I let it go an hour, sometimes two. This time it probably ended up being an hour an a half. The reason for the amount of time is to break down the meat so that its as fine grained as possible. That way it spreads itself out over the pasta more consistently and really becomes a sauce rather than chunks of meat here and there. It's the same reason you cook a ragu bolognese so long I think.

And a chitarra's a great thing to have. It's become my go-to fresh pasta shape, along with tagliatelle. Most times, I'm happy with one of those two, unless the dish really calls for something else.

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Anna N   

Thanks for the demonstration. This is all new to me.

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Alcuin   

Breakfast today was an omelette with Hook's 5yr inside and some homemade Habanero hot sauce on top (and lots of it!)

omelette pic.JPG

The technique is far from perfect, but I can get the right texture down on the eggs (tender thin sheets of egg rolled up around a creamy interior). It just doesn't look as nice as I'd like. Then again, I used two eggs, not three, and I think three eggs make for a plumper, better looking shape.

The ooze is half runny egg, half just melted cheese, just how I like it.

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