Madison Eats, part 2

Seriously, Madison has too much good food to limit it to just one post. Which isn’t to say that everything we ate was wonderful – we had some downright lousy coffee, for example, and tried to get drinks at a couple of places that turned out to be too upscale (while also smelling really weird) or too dive-y – but there were plenty of places that were just right.

Breakfast, day 2: Marigold Kitchen

Veggie Scrambler

French Toast

Photos by beautifulcataya

There are two things I would like you to notice in these photos: the breakfast potatoes in the first, and the exceptionally decadent French toast in the second. We ate all of these things. My scramble of the day was kind of wet and disappointing, but the incredibly flavorful breakfast potatoes more than made up for it. I don’t often want potatoes – they can be really hit or miss – but these were worth the risk: crispy and salty, fried up with onions and a lot of rosemary. Amazingly good. Shane had a different French toast than is pictured here, but it was no less wonderful.

Lunch, day 2: Chautara

Chautara - sunny spot on a cold day

Photo by humbletree

Tofu Buff at Chautara restaurant

Photo by John Kannenberg

Max had his first samosa, and I had the ridiculously flavorful seitan buff. I have fond memories of this place, even moreso now that I’ve shared it with Shane, Jenn, Bill, and Max.

Dinner, day 2: Natt Spil

lively up yo'self

Photo by mkebbe

We had planned on having a really nice dinner while in Madison, but neither of us were particularly hungry or decisive when it came to making a plan on our last night in town. While Shane moved the car, I decided on Natt Spil, which was supposed to be sort of dive-y and intimate while also having good food and music. The cuisine is somewhere between Chinese and Italian – really, I’m not sure what you’d call it. Not fusion, as that suggests a melding of the two flavor sets. Really, it’s a place where you can get dim sum and also pizza and also cocktails. I like all of those things. We were a little underwhelmed by the food and definitely by the service, but that didn’t stop us from devouring a small pizza and a plate of shrimp cakes. My cocktail was delicious, though I couldn’t tell you what it was. It seemed like the sort of place we’d definitely go with friends – like the Galaxy Hut, except completely different.

Drinks, day 2: Merchant Madison

Merchant cocktail list

Photo by jumbledpile

I spotted Merchant while we were walking around the first night in Madison. We didn’t love their food menu, but decided to stop in for a cocktail as a majorly scary storm rolled in over the lake. You’ve gotta love a cocktail bar where the menu is reputable enough that you’re happy to go with the “bartender’s choice” option. There were so many good things, but I’d already started down the bourbon road, so it seemed like folly to stray.

I was right. And the drink the bartender made me was even more right but unfortunately I will never know what it was because when I went to order another, he was gone! I know that it had at least five ingredients, one of them bourbon, another absinthe, and that I really shouldn’t have had another after that. I also know that Shane had two delicious cocktails, perhaps made with gin, perhaps citrussy? I don’t know.

What I do know is that we ordered toast with lardo – another good idea – and then I ate all of the toasts. OK, not all the toasts. But most of the toasts. And they were good.


Photo by jumbledpile


Madison Eats, part 1

Madison has a lot going for it, that’s for sure. In addition to the zoo, you have the State Capitol, site of massive protests earlier in the year and ongoing protests by what appears to be a group of homeless men who have nothing to do other than yell RE-CALL-WALK-ER as loudly as possible at passers-by. There’s the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin system, complete with 42,000+ students who had not quite returned to campus when we were there.

Sandwiched between these two institutions is State Street, a pedestrian mall, hippie haven, and pretty much the coolest place I could possibly imagine when I was 18. Two Himalayan/Nepali restaurants on one block – and Afghani, South African, and Turkish restaurants a few blocks away. Half a dozen bookstores, including one that formerly had a Canterbury Tales-themed bed and breakfast. A fabulous farmers’ market surrounding the Capitol on Saturday mornings. The fantastically crunchy Community Pharmacy. At least half a dozen little boutiques selling anything a hippie or hipster girl might want.

We were lucky enough to find an airbnb spot right on State Street – inconvenient for parking, but pretty much perfect for everything else – especially eating. I’m realizing as I write this that I have more food memories and photos than I really should put in just one post. Stay tuned for the rest – I promise you won’t have to wait long.

Dinner, day 1: Coopers Tavern

The Coopers Tavern

Photo by Josh Puetz

Excellent beer list, decent food. Our server was new and overly enthusiastic about taking our drink order before we’d even picked up our menus. I really enjoyed the Irish Cobb salad – house-cured corned beef, oven-dried tomatoes, asparagus, hard-boiled egg, Dubliner, and scallion-mustard dressing – but we were disappointed in the beer cheese pretzels, as the “dip” was more like soup. If we lived in Madison, we’d definitely give this place another shot.

Drinks, day 1: Great Dane Pub

Chocolate and Beer

Pretty underwhelming, though I did have a delicious beer and chocolate pairing.

After dinner and drinks, we walked down to Monona Terrace and looked at the water for a while. Good views make for good digestion, I think.

Monona Terrace

Photo by Aine D

Day 6: A Trip to the Zoo

I grew up an hour from Madison, and have many fond memories of Saturday daytrips there with my family.  We’d go to a children’s play at the Civic Center and get lunch at Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry.  We’d pick up wee cinnamon rolls at Ovens of Brittany or bagels from Bagels Forever.  We’d have lunch at Ella’s Deli and go to the zoo.

Let me tell you: it’s really hard to conceive of paying for a zoo after living in close proximity to the National Zoo in DC and after growing up an hour away from a perfectly lovely – if small – zoo in Madison.  I went there with my friends after prom instead of going to Great America like the rest of our class. Shane and I went there together in the first few months we were dating. It’s a special place for me.

You know what’s even better than going to the zoo? Going to the zoo with a very excited toddler, especially one who happens to be quite cute and also related to you. Jenn and Bill met us at the zoo between thunderstorms – our timing was impeccable! – and we had a great time catching up and watching Max point and squeal.



There he is!

Uncle Shane didn’t want to be upstaged when silly photos were involved.

Grumpy Bear

Highly Suspicious Chicken

Cheer up, Uncle Shane!

Happy Penguin!

A great morning, followed by a great lunch at Chautara and a totally indulgent, absolutely diet-busting trip to Campus Candy, where you can get delicious frozen yogurt topped with ANYTHING IN THE STORE.  Kids in the candy store indeed.

I don’t feel like talking about the “I’m a real grown up” things that are going on right now, so I’ll just say that we had a lovely weekend in Rockford visiting my family, playing mini golf, going to the zoo with my sister, and generally relaxing. Every time we go somewhere new, I come up with a new fantastic fabulous life plan. The current one is for us to quit library school and move to Madison, where we can rent one of the cute apartments near the zoo. I can work at the little cafe right around the corner, and Shane can feed the tamarins. I don’t know how realistic that is, what with two almost MLSes between us, but it’s nice to think about.


My ebay auctions have ended. Total amount earned = $35.98. Total costs (shipping, confirmation, ebay fees) = 28.56 (approx). Net gain = $7.42. Hmm, that was almost worth it. Oh well, that’s $7.42 I didn’t have yesterday.

Sometimes Madison seems like another world. Nate and I sat at a window table at the Nepali restaurant, watching passersby, people on bikes and skates in the middle of the street, other diners eating at tables out on the sidewalk. It was just – I don’t know. It’s the sort of thing I miss about London, about Paris, about Europe in general. Being able to sit there and watch life go by, so to speak. I’ve been thinking about Spain a lot, thanks to the Picasso book. Don’t know where I’m going with that – I’ve just been thinking about it.

Somehow I ended up with a bizarre sunburn. We went to this car show with Nate’s parents yesterday – my top had a keyhole neckline, and I was wearing a big pendant. It now looks like I’m wearing a sunburn necklace. Good times. Just wish my shoulders would stop burning. At least we got a swim in with my parents.

Not much else to report. I’m working Saturday, so I have to work longer hours today – 8-6. Blah. I’m anxious to get out of here and just go home.

harebrained scheme

In preparation for our latested harebrained scheme, we went bike shopping today at Erik’s Bike Shop in Madison. Why do I need an entry level race bike? Because Nate and I have decided to do the RAGBRAI next July and need to start training. Part of the preparation involves getting gear, as neither of us have bikes. We picked up a $20 bike for Nate at a garage sale today – it’s not the best, but it’s something to train on until we get his bike. I’m getting a Specialized Allez Sport. Pretty incredible. I rode it around the parking lot, scraped my shin up, and didn’t fall off – a good start! Tomorrow I’m borrowing a street bike from my parents so I can train until the real thing arrives in a few months. I’m wicked excited – and wicked out of shape. I’m looking forward to the changes in my body that miles and miles of riding will bring.

After Erik’s, we went to the zoo. I haven’t been there in at least a year – it was a lot of fun, despite the fact that by the time we got to the big cats and monkeys were already back inside as the zoo as closing. We went down to State Street and wandered around for a while. I bought a dress and a skirt for $10 at Ragstock, then we had dinner at this Nepali restaurant. Yum. I haven’t been there in years – and it was every bit as good as I remembered. Now we’re just having a mellow evening at home, which is totally cool with me. Happy Saturday!

kid stuff

I love summertime. I love it. I’m not so good with the heat, but I love the sun and water and flowers and wearing dresses all the time WITHOUT tights or sweaters. I love that it’s 7:02pm and my apartment is still full of light. I have The Doors on – LOUD. My apartment smells like incense and fresh air. Tomorrow we’re going to Madison to go to the zoo. We’ll eat Nepali food and window shop on State Street – maybe it’ll be another magical clothes day – and I’m to get fitted for a bike at Erik The Bikeman’s place.

Tonight, however, I’m waiting for Nate to get home so we can have dinner at Old Chicago and then go see “Finding Nemo.” I’m wicked excited. Would be more excited if he were already here – but that’s OK. I’ve got stuff to do.

Still no sign of the damned W2s. I got a copy of ours from 2002 and mine from 2001 – but no sign of Nate’s. ugh.

Last chance on my ebay stuff. I think the auctions end tomorrow afternoon. Make me some money!
Spent all week talking about curvy girls and thinking improper thoughts. And how did I end up with “Pleasure Slave”? Ahh, summertime, when a young girl’s thoughts turn to, well, all kinds of scandalous things. mmm.