May 18, 2013

Miami and More

Up until two weeks ago, I had never pondered the possibility of living in Miami but that's exactly where Chris and I are moving this summer.  As you can imagine it put a kibosh on our Vermont road trip, so instead of blogging about Niagara Falls and King Arthur, I'm going to catch up on the past month.

April 20 - Madison Farmers Market and Lunch at Merchant

Chris and I attended opening day of the Dane County farmers market.  I'm biased because I lived in Madison from 1985-2006 but it's a fantastic farmers market in a great city.  Due to a cold, wet spring the capitol square was only half-filled with vendors yet people still packed the market!

We browsed while chatting with my former co-worker and his family.  Mark and I both left Famous Footwear in 2006, and I'm sad to be leaving Wisconsin just as he has returned.  Typically the tulips are up for opening day, but I still love the photo below.

After two trips around the square, I headed to Merchant to have brunch with my best friend Tracy.  It was our first time and I will definitely dine there again!  Just off the square, it's the perfect location for brunch after the farmers market...and if Merchant is too busy, I recommend heading across the street to Marigold Kitchen, which is my previous favorite.

At Merchant, I enjoyed a mimosa made with fresh orange juice, champagne, Death's Door gin and Bittercube Jamaican Bitters #2, along with a homemade donut.  Their brunch menu is unique each week and I selected the market omelet with red peppers, chevre and spinach served with potatoes and greens.
April 28 - Asparagus!

As soon as asparagus became available, I went a little crazy ensuring that I always had at least a pound in the fridge.  Over the course of a week, I made soup, pizza and risotto with asparagus.

My favorite was a shaved asparagus pizza I made with a pesto base which is a recipe adapted from Kitchen Konfidence and inspired by the homemade pizza demo I attended at Sur La Table.

Please ignore the large air bubbles in my dough, apparently I didn't dock the dough enough, which was just one of the lessons in the pizza demo.  We also covered par-baking (not necessary) and pizza stone tips, such as never using detergent and washing with hot water only.

Also placing the stone in a cold oven, so the stone and oven heat together, and using parchment paper to move pizza dough to the hot stone.  I really liked the demo and the $5 cost can't be beat, especially compared to the cost of typical Sur La Table classes!

April 30 - The Ruby Tap and Firefly in Wauwatosa

We celebrated two blogger birthdays at the end of April with both Alysha and Molly turning 27.  You can't go wrong by starting a night out at The Ruby Tap.  I was the only one who had been there before, but the ladies quickly grew to love it as much as me.  

From there we moved onto Firefly for dinner, where we were shown to a private room which was perfect for the occasion!

May 2 - Braise Cooking Demo with Chef Dave Swanson

Have you been to Braise restaurant in Walker's Point yet?  If not, you're missing out.  I really enjoyed the Sunday Supper I attended there last fall and a pastry cooking class this spring.

Chef Dave Swanson recently came to work for a cooking demonstration during Wellness Week.  He made risotto with pickled rutabaga and mint oil, giving several tips on cooking risotto. 
  • Vegetable stock is used because it's more of a neutral base, chicken stock would overwhelm the risotto. 
  • Italian grandmothers would slap him for adding cream.
  • Add salt throughout for seasoned rice.  If you add it at the end, you'll just have salt on top.
  • Toast the arborio rice to set the starch, less for a spring risotto, more for an autumn risotto.

I was inspired to make risotto and of course had asparagus on hand, so I opted for spring risotto made with asparagus, edamame, spinach and green onions.  I love risotto, I love asparagus and the combination can't be beat.

May 4 - Organic Food Expo in Oshkosh

When I heard the lineup of speakers for the Natural Product & Organic Food Expo I knew I needed to attend.  I was particularly interested to hear Joel Salatin, Will Allen and Aaron Woolf who were all great.  Below is a photo of the entire panel of speakers, moderated by Kyle Cherek of Wisconsin Foodie.

It was a well-run expo and one that I would attend again.  I loved hearing the speakers and the food was fantastic but the product booths were just ok. 

Between Chris and I, we tried nearly every food vendor and were impressed with everything we got.  If you happen to see the Kangaroostaurant truck or the Chubby Cheese Truck at an event you should definitely buy something!

Also cooking up delicious food was Dan Fox, who I met last year at The Madison Club as part of a Wisconsin Cheese Tour.  Chef Fox has since left The Madison Club and now runs Fox Heritage Farms Catering and will open Heritage Tavern mid-June in Madison.

May 5 - Cinco de Mayo

Cliché as it is, we enjoyed margaritas on Cinco de Mayo along with lentil tacos, which is a meatless meal that even Chris the carnivore enjoys.  Tacos are one of Chris' favorite meals, so I'm happy to have found a vegetarian version that I can enjoy. 

Since May 5, when we were faced with the possibility of moving, my life has pretty much been chaos.  We leave for Florida in two weeks and there's still so much to do.
Chris will be driving a moving truck, while I get the pleasure of driving 1,500 miles with two cats.  Wish me luck!  If anyone has any tips on living in Miami or traveling with pets, please let me know.


  1. While I can't speak towards cats, we drive down to Texas with the dogs once a year and it can create some anxiety. I would suggest talking to your vet. They've had great ideas on supplements/techniques to help ease it :) Once you're there and settled in you're going to have a blast! Very jealous of the warm weather and culture you're headed to :)

  2. We are going to check out the Dane County Farmers Market in a few weekends and spend the day in Madison. It seems every time we have been to Madison it is for a specific event, so I want to just be able to explore it for once. I've forgotten about it over the years! I will have to keep Merchant and Marigold Kitchen in mind. I also want to sit outside at the Union, of course. Let me know of any other good finds, restaurants, hotels or otherwise! Also, your risotto always looks amazing, wish mine would turn out better.

    1. Happy to hear you're planning a trip to Madison, I'll send you an email with a list of my favorite spots.

    2. Hotel Red is a great new-ish hotel. Union South on the UW campus also has a great hotel.

  3. Yes, I need to catch up on my blog too. I am looking forward to visiting Madison more this fall when my daughter is there and will need to remember your dining recommendations. Sorry the Vermont trip got canceled--perhaps next year.

  4. Just wanted to mention that my daughter and I visited Merchant for lunch while we are checking out housing. Enjoyed it very much--thanks for the recommendation!

    1. Happy to hear that you enjoyed Merchant! I hope your daughter loves her time in Madison as much as I did.

  5. I love the recap posts. You have been a busy lady!