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Alcuin

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

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heidih   

Can you share your habanero sauce recipe? My freezer is packed with beautiful bright orange bags of them from my bush.

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Zeemanb   

That pasta looks absolutely fantastic, rock star world class!

Oh, and I am also a big fan of braunschweiger. I grew up eating the cheap stuff in the yellow/orange tube on plain white bread with mustard. These days I'm very fortunate to have a local producer who makes a high quality version of my favorite "poor man's torchon".

Enjoying the blog very much!

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Alcuin   

Can you share your habanero sauce recipe? My freezer is packed with beautiful bright orange bags of them from my bush.

Take about a 1/4 to 1/2 lb of habaneros (I like 1/2lb, because it mellows a bit in the fridge), a carrot, a few cloves of garlic (I'd say 3-4) and a small onion. Clean the habaneros, cut the carrot into thin disks, and slice the onion. Put that into a saucepan with 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup water. You can use distilled or apple cider, but I prefer the clean sharpness of distilled here b/c the fermented flavor of the apple cider makes the pepper sauce taste overripe, but of course a chacun son gout. Cook until everything's nice and soft, then add a touch of sugar (I like a pretty small pinch in mine, just enough to bring out the fruitiness of the habaneros) and salt (I like a lot of salt in mine) to taste. Then you puree it in a blender as smoothly as possible, and bottle. I use an old bitters bottle that I bought in a gas station driving back from Milwaukee(people love their bitters here), but they weren't worth much so I dumped them and saved the bottle, knowing it would be perfect for something.

Here's the finished product

habanero sauce.JPG

I'm not sure where I got the idea from, or what the recipe looked like before I got my hand riffling through its inner workings to make it how I want it. It makes for a fruity, very hot sauce though, better than anything I could buy.

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Alcuin   

That pasta looks absolutely fantastic, rock star world class!

Oh, and I am also a big fan of braunschweiger. I grew up eating the cheap stuff in the yellow/orange tube on plain white bread with mustard. These days I'm very fortunate to have a local producer who makes a high quality version of my favorite "poor man's torchon".

Enjoying the blog very much!

Thanks. "Poor man's torchon": awesome.

Braunschweiger can be really great if its made with care, or it can be full of additives and lengtheners and who know's what.

I was talking to somebody the other day about headcheese and he said he didn't really like it, but could stomach it when he had to if his parents fed it to him. I started talking about how delicious it was, and he mentioned he was eating Oscar Mayer headcheese! That's all he knew of headcheese. I tried to preach the gospel but he wasn't interested.

Then again, Oscar Mayer is pretty local to these parts. Their headquarters is right down the street from my house, and the family mansion is about equidistant the other way. The wienermobile is a very common sight around here.

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heidih   

Thanks for the hot sauce recipe. Sounds like it would bring out the habanero well without masking it. I will be giving it a try. Going to keep my eyes open for a suitable bottle.

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Anna N   

Thanks for the hot sauce recipe. Sounds like it would bring out the habanero well without masking it. I will be giving it a try. Going to keep my eyes open for a suitable bottle.

Soya sauce or Worcestershire sauce bottles work really well if you can get the smaller sizes. Don't make pepper sauce but never toss one of these bottles as I find many uses for them.

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ambra   

You're killing me. the thing I miss the most from the US, is Cheddar. I miss Cheeseburgers, Cheese sandwiches, standing in front of the fridge stealing slices.....

Great blog so far!!

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Alcuin   

I just got back from the Willy St coop, where I buy most of my food. The place is irresistible to me, which is a problem because it's very expensive since every thing is organic and as local as possible, etc. But they have the best products, the best fish (the only worth buying in the whole town), the best cheese aisle, the best bulk aisle, etc.

Warning: be prepared for some blurry and otherwise lame photos.

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Here's what it looks like when you walk in, right into the fruits and vegetables section. The store is pretty small, but everything in there seems to be thoughtfully selected. The great majority of it is good.

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Some fruit. It's apple season, as you can clearly see...

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Some vegetables

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Squashes and pumpkins

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The juice bar and bakery

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Frozen meat and fish

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The meat section. This used to be about half the size, and it was clear the store did not care about meat. But as smaller local producers started getting bigger and more able to get their products out by riding the wave of the local, organic, green movement and/or starting coops to compete with bigger operations in terms of distribution, the coop caught notice and expanded their meat selection to include them.

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The selection is still small, and as you can see, there are times between shipments when some things aren't there. I was looking for some pork chops today, but they didn't have any. That's just the price you pay dealing with small producers I think and I'm really very happy they bring their meats here in the first place. When I get them at the farmer's market, they tend to be frozen but you can get them fresh and ready to go here.

Here's the fish section

willy 11.JPG

It's also small, and it's very expensive, but the fish is good quality. It is actually an offshoot of another store, the Seafood Center that's on the Westside of town, so they are somewhat separate from the coop itself. The fishmonger's there are great though. They'll get you what you want, tell you when things are coming in, and they aren't stingy about giving away bits for stock even though they sell it already made. I asked for fish heads once and they gave me a 5lb rack of halibut, still full of meat. I made fish stew out of it, and it was plenty meaty, plus I was able to put some good fume in the freezer.

willy 2.JPG

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Alcuin   

Here's some more co-op stuff.

They have a very well outfitted bulk aisle of course

This is only one side, I forgot to take a pic of the other side, but it looks pretty much the same!

bulk aisle.JPG

Bulk oils, syrups, soy sauces

bulk.JPG

Spices

bulk spices.JPG

They also have a really good deli and salad bar. I get ideas from their salads all the time; they're very inventive not to mention delicious. And the best thing about the salad bar is that they put their composed salads alongside the greens and vegetables, so you get a lot of good variety.

willy 12.JPG

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Here's a shot of the deli

willy 13.JPG

When I first saw the Southern Fried Tofu they have, I was skeptical. Actually, it went beyond that: I bought a square just so I could deride it. It turned out to be delicious, with a very flavorful fried crust. I get a square sometimes now as a treat for myself on the walk home from the store.

Cheese!

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The coop's cheese selection is one of, if not the very best, in town.

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Curds. There is a sign up when they are especially fresh (i.e. made that day). That's when you want them. An old cheese curd is halfway between pasty string cheese and the deliciousness that was.

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And here's some limburger. The Chalet Cheese Co-op in Monroe, WI (a little more than an hour south of Madison) is supposedly the last maker of limburger in the US. You can go visit (must call in advance), see the cheesemaking process, then get a limburger sandwich (dark rye, mustard, limburger, thick slices of onion) to eat. They're good.

limburger.JPG

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Alcuin   

This is what I picked up for dinner tonight. I wanted pork chops, but a loin roast will have to do.

for tonight.JPG

That's grade b maple syrup that I'm going to use to glaze the pork. Apple rings and lemony greens on the size. Not sure about the potatoes yet. Maybe a potato cake of some sort?

Off to get some lunch and do a bit of work.

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Alcuin   

I had to pick up some lunch today, so I went to the library mall where the foodcarts congregate.

carts.JPG

There are all manner of foodcarts. There are generic "Asian" foodcarts where you can get fried rice and eggrolls, there's a vegan cart that I haven't yet tried, several sandwich carts, a Louisiana themed cart, a Peruvian cart, a Jamaican one, etc. This is one of my favorites

carts 2.JPG

I like a dish they do there, I can't remember what it's called, that's just fried tofu over a bed of salad greens, dressed in kecap manis and peanuts. You can get rice on the side gratis.

I didn't go there today though. Instead I went to my favorite foodcart, Buraka

carts 3.JPG

They do East African, mainly Ethiopian. I got a half-portion of Dorowat over injera bread.

carts 4.JPG

I think the injera might be my favorite part. It's a very sour and spongy flatbread that makes a perfect foil for the stewed chicken and deep pepper flavor (it's not hot though, so as not to alienate more tender palates). And they do a good lentil salad to boot. I could probably eat just that and be happy enough.

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Alcuin   

I went to the coffee shop at the end of my block to do a little work. It's called

evp 1.JPG

It's the French equivalent of "ready set go" that the owner chose because of her background in competitive rowing. Here's the entrance a little sitting garden

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I got a cup of Tanzanian Peaberry coffee and a blueberry scone. It was a decent scone, though I'm not sure where it came from (EVP only does coffee and soup in house). (The best scones in town can be had at Lazy Jane's Cafe in case you're interested: they are incredible, especially the lemon.) Back to EVP: this is the inside, a standard coffee shop where people meet to talk business, politics, books, do work, read the paper, etc

evp 4.JPG

The best part about EVP is that they roast their own beans there, daily. That means that the beans are rarely more than a few days since they were roasted when you drink them.

The fact that they roast their own at this location is a good and a bad thing actually, because if you go there you will without fail smell like roasting beans the rest of the day. But they really know how to roast beans. It was through EVP that I was introduced to my favorites, like intensely caffeinated and high acidity light-roasted Rwandan and Tanzanian Peaberry, or smooth medium light roasts like Ethiopian. I've had intensely fruity coffee there from Bali that had balance of fruit and acidity like a wine (I really like wine, but I didn't really like this coffee). I'm not a big coffee aficionado; I only use a drip machine. But I've learned a lot about good coffee through their beans. And they have the friendliest barristas in town bar none.

evp 3.JPG

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Alcuin   

A great drink to drink while cooking dinner: The Americano. Flavorful, bitter, bubbly and importantly, low-test (because you don't want to get drunk before dinner, unless you do).

americano.JPG

I like mine a bit more fullthroated, so I use 1 1/2oz Campari, 1 1/2oz Carpano Antica Formula, stir to dilute, then top with soda. I used to go 1-1-1, but I like a bit more Campari and vermouth these days.

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Loving the blog so far! I haven't been to Madison since my college days (I went to UW-Milwaukee but I had lots of friends in Madison) and it's amazing how much it's changed and grown in the last, ahem, few years, not to make myself seem TOO old :laugh:...

I need to get myself one of those chitarra dealies...because if there's one thing I need, it's another kitchen gadget!

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LindaK   

Great cheese porn. But that's not what has me salivating. You have a food cart that sells Ethiopian food? Injera for lunch? My envy is complete.

My only real food shock when I moved from the east coast to the midwest was the minimalist seafood selection. I did learn to love freshwater fish such as trout, which I'd never had before. But the local fruit and vegetables were the best I've ever had access to. I still miss them, along with my old neighborhood bakery and the excellent microbrewery nearby.

Thanks for blogging, I'm looking forward to more.

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Alcuin   

Dinner was roast glazed pork loin, braised kale with lemon, potato cake, and seared apples

dinner.JPG

This picture was taken by my girlfriend, who wields the superior camera.

The glaze is maple syrup, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, shallot, and mustard, slightly reduced and painted on during the roasting process. The pork was roasted to 140F.

The potato cake is thin slices of potato glued together with parmesan, cooked in duck fat. The kale is simple: olive oil to soften some shallots, kale braised in its own liquid until tender, then finished with half a lemon, salt and pepper. The apples where honeycrisp caramelized in butter.

With it we drank a favorite of mine

wine 1.JPG

This is an Alsatian pinot noir. It's got plenty of fruit and it's medium to light bodied. What's great about it is that at this point (it's a 2006) it's got great tannins that are just right (maybe you'd call them "matte" in texture?) but it's also got good acidity. So it plays perfectly with a wide range of what food can throw at it, from the sourness of the lemon to the richness of pork fat to the caramelly sugar of apples. It's a great food wine. Certainly not cheap, but I still think its' a good value, mainly because in the vast majority of occasions it will not disappoint.

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Alcuin   

I decided to treat myself to a burger for lunch today. Madison is a pretty decent town for burgers; you can get a very good one a four places, in descending order of greatness: Dotty Dumpling's Dowry, Cooper's Tavern, The Weary Traveller, and The Old Fashioned.

I actually don't usually eat the Old Fashioned burger for one reason: they season the meat with extraneous herbs. I don't like a beef sausage on my burger. But they do do a good thing in topping the burger with a perfectly cooked sunnyside egg and nice brioche-style bun.

The Weary Traveller only has one kind of burger too, called Bob's Bad Breath burger. It is called this because there is a preponderance of garlic mixed in with the meat (in fact, I'd say that there's a heavy-handed use of garlic in pretty much everything they serve...). It is topped with a ridiculously thick slab of cream cheese. It's a good burger, but I don't eat them but every so often.

Cooper's is good, but can be a bit inconsistent. They top their burger with crispy pork belly (uncured I think) which when it's good, it's good, but when it's not so good it can be a leathery heap of bun destroying madness. Still, I've had great burgers there.

That leaves us to Dotty's, where I went today.

The interior

dottys 5.JPG

The decor is "college" themed pretty much, with some weird twists here and there. It's ok, and they keep the lights nice and low at all times, with a little desk lamp at your table so even when its crowded (and it gets crowded) you don't feel like you're eating with the house. The service is also very good in my experience.

One thing that sets them apart, however, is the fact that every pint glass is chilled.

dottys 1.JPG

This is not a trivial detail. It makes for some very refreshingly cold beer that stays nice and cold for a while. And they have a good beer list. But more importantly for today, they have Sprecher's Root Beer, the best root beer in the world, on tap. Notice how the chilled glass actually freezes the head of the rootbeer. There's no ice in this glass, but it stayed nice and cold the whole time.

dottys 2.JPG

Here's the burger and some fries

dottys 3.JPG

The fries were just out of the fryer; I burnt my tongue a bit in haste to consume them. You'll also notice that there is a whole lot of salad on that burger. I like it this way, in fact, and always have, as long as the lettuce and onions are fairly watered down supermarket varieties it makes for a great contrast to the burger meat.

Dotty's serves their meat salted only on top, and if you ask for it medium rare or rare, that's what you get (medium, which is pink throughout, is their standard).

dottys 4.JPG

This picture doesn't quite do it justice, but this burger is not pink, it is red inside and grilled outside. Perfectly cooked, and they got it to me fast enough that the cheese hadn't quite melted yet. The key part of the burger though is that it tastes like beef, and it's not overshadowed by anything. Just a properly cooked burger with good condiments. The only real problem is that they don't toast their buns. That would put them in the highest echelons of burgerdom.

They have an extensive and expensive selection of specialty burgers and many of them are good (I particularly like the insanely messy Melting Pot), but they do a good standard burger and I likes my burgers standard.

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Anna N   

...

Dotty's serves their meat salted only on top, and if you ask for it medium rare or rare, that's what you get (medium, which is pink throughout, is their standard).

...

Lucky you. Here in Ontario you can order a burger cooked any way you want it so long as it is either well-done or carbonized! :angry:

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...

Dotty's serves their meat salted only on top, and if you ask for it medium rare or rare, that's what you get (medium, which is pink throughout, is their standard).

...

Lucky you. Here in Ontario you can order a burger cooked any way you want it so long as it is either well-done or carbonized! :angry:

Since I dont eat red meat, I had a turkey burger at Dotty's. It was very good.

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Alcuin   

Since I work at a winetasting over the weekend, I tend to have good wine around the house. This past weekend, I picked up this cremant de Bordeaux rose. It's an 80/20 Cab Franc/Merlot sparkler. I was having trouble thinking what to eat with it, and was thinking chicken. But that wasn't exciting me. I thought salmon too, maybe with butter sauce but wasn't really interested in that either. Then I thought Pad Thai, and though I thought the suggestion strange, I went with my gut instinct.

pad thai wine.JPG

Sometimes I have a hard time pairing wine with Thai and Chinese dishes, but I think my instincts were right about what this wine would be and how it might work. It's full bodied and fruity and has delicate acidity. Mainly about the fruit and bubbles, but still quite dry enough. I think it will play well with the pungent fruity-sour sweet pad thai sauce. And it will surely handle the garnishes easily enough. I'm thinking it will be good.

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heidih   

Looking forward to your rendition of Pad Thai. The wine sounds lovely.

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Alcuin   

The way I make Pad Thai is pretty standard. The sauce is equal parts fish sauce, tamarind extract, and palm sugar heated up until the sugar dissolves. Then you cook the garnishes

pad thai 1.JPG

That's egg, shrimp, preserved turnip, mung bean sprouts, pressed yellow tofu, and scallion. I would have used Chinese chives, but they looked terrible at the store, so scallions had to do.

pad thai 2.jpg

I like to cook the egg then remove it from the wok, then start with the tofu and work my way through the chive/scallion and preserved turnip, add about 2 t ground pepper, then go to the soaked rice noodles, then I add the sprouts (I blanched them this time, because it was easy and cuts down on the liquid they release, so it doesn't dilute the sauce), and the shrimp. I cook it all in the sauce until the noodles and shrimp are just done. Then top with roasted peanuts. Serve with lime and extra chili on the side

Served with chilled pea shoots with oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

pad thai 3.jpg

The wine worked, standing up well to all that the pad thai had to offer. I'll have to go with sparkling wines more often with things like this.

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barolo   

That Pad Thai looks great.

I think sparkling wines are a good match with lots of Asian dishes. They are very versatile.

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Alcuin   

Went to another very local (within a hail mary from the house) place for a drink, the Avenue. The Avenue is the kind of bar you're not likely to see outside of Wisconsin.

avenue.JPG]

The Avenue is old beer stein and old clock themed, as you can see. My pictures of the collections of steins didn't come out well, but you can just substitute the Rathskeller steins and you'll be there.

I drank a couple of Wisconsin brandy Old Fashioneds

old fashioned.JPG

I think it's easy to lose sight of the importance of the WI version of this drink. There was a time when I scorned it, believing my 2oz spirit, 2 dashes bitters, 1/2 t rich simple, swatch of citrus peel version to be the only thing worthy of the name Old Fashioned. But it's hard to deny the WI version as legitimate, and this is because of one simple fact. WI Old Fashioneds can be had in many many places across the state with a decent level of consistency. You can go to many places in Madison, ask for an OF sour and get a drink that tastes like you expect it to. When you go up north in the state, you will see signs on many many bars that advertise their cocktail hour (usually 4:30 or 5 o'clock). Wisconsin has a tradition of its own, and even if the drink that's served is not my vision of an Old Fashioned, it's still a traditional WI Old Fashioned and I know I can get a well made version in many places if I want one. One of the hallmarks of a revolution for cocktails must be a concern for consistency, and that's happening here (and been happening) with the Old Fashioned at least. So it gets my respect.

One thing to notice with the above drink is the lack of muddling of the fruit. Many people here will tell you that an Old Fashioned must involve muddling. I've mentioned my method for the drink and have been greeted with a blank stare of incredulity, and an insistence that there must be some muddling, with fruit, or it's not an Old Fashioned. But the Avenue does not muddle their old fashioneds. They use simple and bitters with brandy, then add the fruit as a garnish. This is what makes their WI Old Fashioneds the best in town too, so the muddle garnishes don't turn to sweetness emitting garbage at the bottom of the drink.

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