6.11.2012

Monday Foodie Porn: Madison, WI


As I mentioned last week, I spent most of my free time during my senior year of college (oh so many years ago) exploring everything that Madison had to offer. I went to a very small school about an hour outside of the city and while I got a fantastic education and really loved so many things about the environment, it wasn't exactly the epicenter of culture. To me, Madison was bright and shiny - it was diverse and had yummy restaurants & a funky vibe that was lacking at my school. I fell in love with that city and considered it to be one of my top choices to live once I was finished with school.



That all changed once I moved to Chicago post-graduation in order to complete my student teaching semester. I realized then that while Madison is a fun town, it couldn't even begin to compare to Chicago (however, London still trumps all). While I don't find Madison quite as exciting as I once did, it's still one of those places that holds a special place in my heart. The city is like an old relationship - it was a perfect fit at the time and you look back at it with fondness, but you absolutely know it's just not something that would work for you now.

I hadn't been back to Madison in eight-ish years, so I was really excited to have the opportunity two weekends ago to visit some of my old favorites places and explore everything that's popped up since my last visit. Of course, being the good little planner and foodie that I am, I made a list of everything I wanted to visit, including several new restaurants and cupcake joints. While we did make it to a few of the places I had in mind, we ended up changing some of our plans after a session with some rum punch and a drunken slightly tipsy visit to Ragstock (alcohol + used clothing fumes = a crazy giggly high that left us unsuitable to visit anywhere fancy). :-)

Hüsnü's: Hüsnü's opened in 1979 and is one of the restaurants that helped put the State Street dining scene on the map. It's a charming little restaurant and a great place to visit during the summer because it offers the perfect outdoor patio from which to people watch (and you definitely want to indulge in that activity when on State Street - there's nothing quite like the constant stream of stereotypical Wisconsinites mixed with the hippies, artists, and random dudes dressed like Pinocchio).     
         
Warm bread & olive oil at Hüsnü's: The bread was soft with a mild spice and the olive oil was... absolutely amazingly pure, smooth, and flavorful. It's a non-blended Turkish olive oil that is quite light and slightly sweet - it's so delicious! I really cannot say enough good things about this oil. In fact, I loved it so much that I ended up buying a bottle for myself and another for Diana.

Asmali Tavuk at Hüsnü's: Chicken breast simmered in a light orange sauce with Turkish apricots and artichoke hearts. I'm a huge fan of apricot chicken & Hüsnü's version did not disappoint.

The Capitol building towers over State Street and is really a lovely sight when it's all lit up at night.


Dane County Farmers' Market
:
This market takes place every Saturday on the Capitol Square (which is really a great place for it). It is the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country... and yes, it is HUGE. I've been to some big markets in Chicago, but none are as vast as this one. It was really an awesome experience!

The market stretches for blocks in every direction. Look at the huge crowd of people down State Street - it was seriously intense!


Bleu Mont Dairy
Cheese:
Amazing locally made artisan cheese (Willi Lehner is a cheese-making god!). His dairy is located in a really pretty part of WI and is a seriously cool place to visit.

Adorable mushroom stand - I love the little mushroom umbrella!

The Country Baker from Goose Gulch Farmstead: I picked up a mini loaf of orange chocolate chip bread... my only complaint is that I didn't know to buy more! Holy deliciousness. I also grabbed some some blueberry granola for Mario, which he proclaimed to be some of the best granola he's ever had.


The smell of the Stella's cheese bread was sooo tempting, but it was in the 90s and I had been walking around for a few hours before I encountered Stella's. I just couldn't handle any spicy food at that moment. :-(

Poor Elvis: I've seen them around Chicago, but never had the chance to check out any of their shows - I just so happened to catch them on the first day of their Rust Belt Tour that kicked off in Madison. I ended up watching them for much longer than I had planned - they have such a unique sound & are so much fun!

Sigh. :-(

2-for-1 Rum Punch at the Tiki Shack: Strong & cheap alcohol. Yum. :-)

Sprecher Cherry Cola: Door County cherry juice, raw honey, cola extract, and spices cooked in gas-fired brew kettles. This cola is insanely delicious (I've heard the same about their beers). It's full-bodied, creamy, and has just enough spice to set it apart from other cherry sodas. It's also caffeine free and very lightly carbonated, both of which are pluses. Unfortunately, it's also quite difficult to find, especially if you live outside of Wisconsin. 

Gelato at Pacuigo: Endless free tastings, light & creamy gelato, and wacky/amazing/interesting flavor combinations... oh, how I love thee. I could spend all day there tasting all of the flavors. The only downside is that everything is sooo delicious, so of course you want to eat more and more of it!

Left: Peanut Butter Raspberry Swirl
Right: Hazelnut:
Back: Black Pepper Olive Oil

I loved all of the flavors, but that BPOO? Wow. It completely made my weekend. I know it sounds like a weird combination for gelato, but trust me on this one - I was skeptical at first, but was hooked after one bite. The olive oil flavoring is very smooth & sweet (kind of like honey) and the light sprinkling of black pepper adds just the right amount of spice. The complex layers leave you craving more of that sweet/savory combination. Highly recommended!

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10 comments

  1. Madison is a great city! I haven't been there in years, but like you, I remember it fondly. I used to hang out at Husnu's back in the early 90's--it's amazing how little it has changed! :)

    That gelato does sound amazing. I've had many desserts made with olive oil and I'm always surprised by how sweet they are.

    Also you look so cute in that photo--I LOVE those sunglasses!!

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  2. I haven't been to madison but i really shiuld after seeing these pictures! It looks like a cozy place...

    It's so nice to meet anither foodie blogger from chicago :D

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  3. I go to school there (I'll be a senior!) and I LOVE the food. I'm trying to eat everywhere on State Street before I graduate. Also, the farmer's market is truly a must-see when you go. My mom and I take trips up during the summer just to do the farmer's market!

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  4. @weary prof: Madison is awesome. Like I mentioned, I couldn't imagine living there, but it's such a great place to hang out! Also, thanks! :-)

    @Cakewhiz: Yay! I'm glad to meet another Chicago foodie blogger, too! Thanks for finding me. :-)

    @Binomial Baker: I didn't realize you're in Madison! Nice! That farmers' market was amazing - I regularly visit the ones here, but none of them are as spread out as the one there.

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  5. I LOVE Madison. We're just over a hour away from there so we head to the farmer's market 2 a year and usually head over to Madison at least one other time.

    Husnu's is amazing! I believe that they make the olive oil there.

    There's a super awesome steak house called the Tornado Steak Alley that's there too. They have a local, grass-fed filet au pouive that is delicious. I tried escargot for the first time there which is also delicious. We're going back in 2 weeks for my and my sister-in-law's birthdays.

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  6. @Ruby: The farmers' market is so awesome - it's one of those markets that I would definitely hit up every weekend if I lived in the area! Thanks for the tip abut Tornado. I was a vegetarian when I lived in WI, so I didn't go to any of the more meat-focused restaurants in the area - I'll have to check it out the next time I'm up there!

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  7. So many delicious and tempting things here! Madison looks like a really fun place -- I've never been to Wisconsin, but I hope to get there in my quest to visit all 50 states. Your description of that cherry cola made my mouth water!

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  8. @Meg: If you're going to visit WI, Madison is definitely the place to go! However, you should probably avoid it during the winter... piles of ice & snow aren't nearly as fun as the farmers' market and gelato! :-)

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  9. Totally sweet blog, Starr...glad you caught some of our busking on State Street! Be sure to come out to our next show in Chicago! Just check our schedule at http://www.poorelvis.com/

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  10. @Poor Elvis: Thanks!! :-) I'm definitely planning to check out a show once you're back here!

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