Ribs & Biscuits

Photos by Meghan Horvath

Photos by Meghan Horvath

By Amelia Chen

Sometimes the satisfying thing about eating is not just the food itself but the primal nature of eating with your hands, gnawing on bones and just making a huge mess. Wings and drumsticks are perfect meat lollipops for casual Friday nights around the television. Chops are meant to be licked clean at the end of a comforting dinner. But what really satisfies that primal urge for me is a sticky, juicy and tender rack of ribs.

Barbeque can mean different things for different people and, hailing from North Carolina, that usually means pork for me, whether it’s just the shoulder or the entire hog. Or a sticky, juicy and tender rack of ribs.

Like any low and slow meat dish, ribs are incredibly low maintenance. They require a watchful eye once they go in the oven, but the next time you have big plans to study while doing laundry, maybe make some ribs instead. Somehow, I think taking down a rack of ribs is the perfect reward after a couple hours of productive work.

And if you’re a scavenger like myself, save and freeze the bones for a good homemade stock down the road.

Spicy Date Dr Pepper Ribs adapted from Pioneer Woman

6 ounces dates
½ cup sugar
1 can Dr Pepper
5 ounces chipotle peppers in adobo
⅓ cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon distilled vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 packages baby back ribs

Bring all ingredients except ribs to a gentle boil for about 20 minutes or until dates break down and sauce is reduced and thick. Allow to cool completely before blending sauce until smooth. Divide into two portions.

Brush half the sauce on ribs, wrap with foil and refrigerate for eight hours or overnight to marinate.

Preheat oven to 275°F. Place covered ribs on pan and roast for two hours. Remove foil and brush more sauce onto ribs. Increase temperature to 300°F to finish cooking another 30 to 40 minutes. Remove when fork tender and ready to fall off the bone. Serve as with pear walnut biscuits.


Pear Walnut Biscuits

1 ½ cup milk
1 ½ tablespoon distilled vinegar
1 large pear, peeled and cubed
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup shortening
1 cup roasted walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 475 °F.

Simmer milk with pear chunks until softened. Remove from heat and blend until smooth. Add vinegar and let sit a couple minutes to curdle.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening until coarse crumbs form. Add in walnuts. Slowly pour in milk until it comes together.

Turn out dough on floured surface and lightly knead before rolling out into a rectangle. Cut out rounds with biscuit cutter, being careful not the twist cutter. Bake 10 to 12 minutes.

Honey Trout Gravalax

Photo by Libby Geboy

Photo by Libby Geboy

By Libby Geboy

Gravlax is a salty, sweet way to prepare fish, specifically salmon or trout. Originally from Sweden, the traditional way to prepare a whole side of fish involves wrapping the fillet in dill or pine needles (neither of which I used in this recipe out of personal preference). Feel free to wrap the fish with them and let it marinate in the greenery.

This recipe can be modified in many ways, using whatever spices you have on hand, like bay leaves, coriander, dill, caraway, fennel seeds (add about one tablespoon per filet of each spice) and brown or white sugar.

Only use the freshest of fish, as the fillet isn’t fully “cooked” but rather it is cured. I find my fish at the local farmer’s market, where I can count on the fish being clean and healthy up to its harvest. The vendor had told me that the fish I was purchasing had been swimming in fresh water until the day before it was caught, so I bought it!

The fish can marinate for up to 48 hours, but needs to be marinating for at least eight. It can be stored for a few days, but if it starts to smell funny before then, just get rid of it. It’s easy to eat on toast with sour cream, dill sprigs and a squeeze of lemon, so I bet it’ll be gone in no time!

1 medium-large filet of trout (or salmon)
1/3 cup natural honey
1/3 cup coarse grain salt
2 tablespoons cracked black or white pepper
1 tablespoon white sugar

Remove any pin bones that are along the thick side of the fish, careful not to disrupt the flesh as much as possible. Trim any fins or excess skin that might be on the sides of the filet. Place into a sheet of plastic wrap that will be big enough to wrap the fish in.

In a bowl, mix together the honey, salt, pepper, sugar and any other spices you are using. Rub onto the fish, massaging it gently. Place the fish onto the plastic wrap, skin side down. If using dill/pine, place a mass of it on top of the fish flesh. Tightly wrap the fish in plastic wrap, using another layer to fully wrap the fish. Put the wrapped fish into a shallow baking pan (I used a bread pan, as it fit the length of my fish), or a plate. This is so any liquid that escapes is caught in your drip pan.

Let the fish marinate for at least eight hours (but up to 48) in your refrigerator. When ready, open the wrapping, and remove the fillet. If desired, wash off the fillet to remove excess honey/salt. Using a sharp knife, thinly slice the fish, avoiding the skin.

Serve chilled, on top of toast with sour cream, more dill, a squeeze of lemon, with chives, or with oranges in a salad.

That BBQ Joint

Photos by Meghan Horvath

Photos by Meghan Horvath

By Joshua Bartels

It was a blisteringly cold day in February. The kind of day where you just want to sit down next to a fireplace with a warm cup of hot chocolate and a book. However, I was craving some good ole’ fashioned barbecue. So, after class I headed straight towards That BBQ Joint.

That BBQ Joint is located at 901 Williamson Street, about two-and-a-half miles away from campus. Is the walk worth it? In a word: Frick yes! Okay, that was two words, but you get the idea. I was immediately welcomed to the restaurant with very friendly service. The eatery itself is on the smaller side, as it holds only about five tables, but it is very cozy with BBQ-themed art along the walls. After taking an embarrassingly long time to decide what to eat, I asked the clerk what he recommended, and he responded with the Rib Sammie, their rib sandwich.

Photos by Meghan Horvath

Photos by Meghan Horvath

After about a five minute wait, I got my warm Sammie along with sides of potato salad and brisket chili. The sandwich itself was very delicious; filled with extremely tender BBQ, lightly covered with their signature Mo’ Sauce, next to crisp onions and sliced pickles.  At first, it seemed a little lacking of sauce, but thankfully they give more for those who want it. With the added sauce, the sandwich was like a BBQ lovers dream come true, especially on such a cold evening. Their three options for BBQ sauce were all good, but I’d have to say that the Mo’ Spicy sauce was by far the best, as it left the perfect amount of that spicy tingling sensation of the tongue that the best sauces always do.

As for the sides themselves, they don’t quite compare to the greatness of the actual BBQ. The chili and the potato salad tasted like your generic chili and potato salad that a distant relative brings to a reunion. They were both good, just not great. Another negative to the restaurant is that it keeps odd hours. It is closed on both Monday and Tuesday, along with breaks between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays.

So would I recommend That BBQ Joint? Why yes, yes I would. Even though the hours might not always be the most convenient, it’s located a bit farther away and the sides may not be outstanding, the BBQ itself is amazing, and if you’re going to That BBQ Joint for the BBQ, then it’s perfect. Not only that, it’s amazing. I know I’ll be returning there shortly to get another fix of some of the best BBQ Madison has to offer.


Photo by Meghan Horvath

Robinia Courtyard Trio

Photos by Molly Wallace

Photos by Molly Wallace

By Annaleigh Wetzel

East Washington Avenue is the site of a food revival in Madison. New restaurants, a grocery store and several bars are popping up all along the street, begging to be visited. Among the many additions to the area is Robinia Courtyard. The Courtyard is made up of Julep restaurant, A-OK coffeehouse and Barolo wine bar: a seemingly odd concoction of establishments that somehow make complete sense together on the taste buds.

Hip Julep

Photos by Molly Wallace

Photos by Molly Wallace

Julep is the grouping’s full-fledged restaurant featuring Southern-inspired snacks, little plates and dinners on its concise, one-page menu. The interior is fresh and hip, with exposed white brick and a sleek wooden bar. The menu builds steam and impressiveness as diners peruse it from start to finish. That said, ordering from it in stages is the way to go; be sure to give its three parts each a little bit of love. And don’t forget about selecting a cocktail or two (the Mendoza is a fun treat) to sip on while enjoying this down-home feast.

The Buttermilk Biscuit, Cast Iron Cornbread and Smoked Ham Hock Terrine are some of the snack stand-outs. Arriving at the table still warm, the biscuit is fluffy and moist on the inside, but deliciously crumbly on the outside. It’s a great starter to share with a pal:  half is a nice portion to stifle the rumbling of your stomach. Skip the lackluster jam and butter that comes with; it doesn’t need any accouterments anyway. The cornbread offers what the biscuit does not: a touch of added sugar. Both carbs are equally tasty, but eating them side-by-side clearly marks the biscuit as savory and the cornbread as sweet, making them the perfect pair. The terrine is perhaps the biggest nod to the restaurant’s novel take on traditional Southern cooking. The cold, pâté-esque ham spread is plated with a few pieces of Texas toast, chilled, pickled green beans and a grainy mustard that gives the dish a subtle kick.

Next, don’t be dissuaded by the presence of pig ears in the Nashville Salad. Think ‘bacon bits,’ and munch on. Or spring for the Mississippi Delta Tamales with roasted pork and a dark chocolate mole sauce. Then comes the fireworks finale: the dinner section. Farro Risotto and the Brisket Pot Roast act as happy complements to one another, both with warm winter veggies and rich flavor profiles. The Perlou is another killer choice with smoked white fish, oysters and Andouille sausage atop crispy grits.

Next time you find yourself in this budding food-friendly neighborhood, take a spin through the Courtyard. Grab a few small plates and imbibe in a Mint Julep, as the name of the restaurant begs.

It’ll be A-OK

Photos by Molly Wallace

Photos by Molly Wallace

A-OK Sunshine & Spirits screams just that, plus some more. It’s fashioned after an old-school diner with a new-age flare. A rounded bar counter is accompanied by spinning stools, high top tables and wooden booths, all set atop blue and yellow geometric-checkered linoleum floor. Tough to picture? Now to complicate things even further: A-OK is a coffee shop, bar, lunch break spot and burger joint. Still confused? Well, that’s just part of its charm.

At its most basic level, A-OK is defined by the time of day you’re visiting. Kick-start your day there with a cup of Kin-Kin coffee or nibble on a midday meal. Orders depend on whatever gem options (such as a bacon cheddar quiche or red beet and shallot soup) are listed on the ever changing daily special board or on a favorite from their traditional food menu. Maybe you’re in need of more than just lunch, though. Then you’ll grab a burger and fries and a shake, all available until close at 9 p.m. And, of course, you’d be remiss to not explore the full bar, with beer and booze galore.

If you are indeed in search of a beverage, look no further than the black and bold-lettered, 11-item drink menu painted on the white brick wall immediately upon walking inside. From brewed coffee to kombucha to espresso, soda and tea, the options needn’t have descriptions. Say you’re in the mood for a milkshake. That requires a conversation with the bartender-server-cashier (there is typically only one staffer per shift), as there aren’t any flavors to choose from in plain view. They might recommend the espresso shake with a whopping four shots in it, or the bourbon shake that tastes as good as any cocktail.

The same “what you see is what you get” philosophy is applied to the burgers and fries at A-OK. It’s actually exactly what it sounds like—a burger (topped with “dijonaise,” onions and pickles, as you’d find out once biting into it) with a side of crispy, addicting fries.

With ties to Johnson Public House (JPH), you could say A-OK is JPH’s wacky younger cousin. There’s no doubt this place is all over, but only in the best way possible.

Wine Time
After a meal at Julep or a cup of coffee at A-OK, you may be tempted to stroll on over to Barolo to wine—ahem, we mean—wind down for the night. Since it’s conveniently located right next-door, that’s definitely an idea worth exploring.

Photos by Molly Wallace

Photos by Molly Wallace

The bar is dimly lit by overhead light fixtures reminiscent of the bulbous Capitol just up the street. With too many tables packed like sardines, presumably in an attempt to create ample guest seating, the space is rendered a little cramped. There is a long wooden bar and several smaller tables lined up along the opposite wall, as well as an awkward side room, separate from the rest and with larger lounge booths. But looking at this from the bright side, it may strike you as “intimate.”

And so is the wine list itself. The short menu is marked at the top with the date, indicating what’s on the shelf, or in your glass, for the night. Wine is available by the glass and by the bottle, with the larger selection being the latter. Cabernet-sauvignons, merlots, rosés, zinfandels and so on are presented for pouring.

Photos by Molly Wallace

Photos by Molly Wallace

In keeping with its small but mighty theme, Barolo has a few food options to accompany their drinks, and even offer a palate cleanser between sips. Try one of the savory flatbreads, and don’t be shy about asking your bartender for recs on what to nosh on that will go best with your wine.

If red and white beverages aren’t your thing, but you want to check out Barolo regardless, you’re in luck. The bar has a brief list of beers on tap and cocktails to choose from for those who are less wine-inclined.

Barolo is a natural end to an evening spent meandering the Courtyard. And what’s even better—you can look forward to relishing its food and drink offerings on the outdoor patio during the summer months as well.

Pickle Jar

Photos by Claire Grummon

Photos by Claire Grummon

By Claire Grummon

Snow or shine, the food trucks ubiquitously line Library Mall in perfect uniform rows waiting for hungry students to approach. The options are plentiful, ethnic and inspired. These are food trucks that could be seen in major cosmopolitan cities. The Pickle Jar truck, especially, is a work of art. Its southern charm and quirky trinkets make it stand out amongst the crowd. The truck’s wood is 150 years old and recycled from the owner’s grandfather’s farm, bringing a sense of authenticity and tradition to the food that is unparalleled by any other truck. The rule, “don’t judge the food by its truck,” did not apply in this situation.  

When I walked up to the window, two smiling and enthusiastic faces greeted me. John Pickle (hence the name) and Jennifer StCyr, husband and wife, opened their truck in the spring of 2015 after many years of their neighbors telling them it was time to let Madison experience their barbeque. They have no formal training; they’re just a couple looking to share their passion for modern, southern-style cuisine.IMG_9768-2

John’s whole family is from the South, and many of the recipes featured on their menu are inspired by the delicious, traditional meals his grandmother would make. The menu offers everything from BBQ sandwiches, to collard greens, to various pies that change with the seasons. Since they are his grandmother’s recipes, John and Jennifer take pride in their work and will happily engage in any conversation about their food and how it’s crafted. This is especially true for their meats, which are made in small batches and seasoned with care.

Their brisket sandwich is their claim to fame, and rightfully so. Their brisket is slow cooked, at low temperatures, for 18 hours. The brisket is sliced and seasoned with care, combined with their house-made barbeque sauce and pickles; it’s true southern comfort food. The pickles and sauce balance each other out beautifully and do not overpower the natural flavors of the meat, which are the real stars of the show. There’s no doubt about it: this is real southern food.IMG_9783

John and Jennifer pride themselves off of their small batches and fresh ingredients; many of which come from local farms and co-ops. Because of this, they take the proper measures to make sure that excess ingredients are incorporated with the intention to bring out the flavors of the main ingredient.  Jennifer prides herself on her collard greens side dish. She combines these fresh greens with onions, bacon, vinegar, Tabasco, red pepper flakes and brown sugar. These ingredients bring out the perfect mix of sweet and spicy and accentuate each other nicely. Warm and home-cooked, this is the perfect snack if you’re running to class.

John and Jen do it all, including delicious seasonal pies. Monday’s pies were strawberry rhubarb, sweet potato and apple. I opted for the apple pie and was not disappointed in the slightest. I found myself amazed at the perfectly baked sugary crust and finely glazed cinnamon-sugar apples. Good pie is one thing I had yet to find in Madison, and I knew I found it the second I laid eyes on The Pickle Jar’s. For a reasonable price, you can essentially have a piece of heaven.IMG_9765

The couple had new and adventurous plans for the spring. First, they moved to the Capitol Square in April, which has them excited about the different people who will be exposed to their passion for cooking. They also want to start pickling more and selling their pickles along with three different kinds of sauerkraut and pickled, ginger carrots.

Ultimately, while the food was delectable, comforting and made me nostalgic for summer barbeques, John and Jennifer are truly what make their food so special. They are eager to share their story with everyone, and are hopeful their customers will walk away with a smile on their face. If you’re looking for savory barbeque and a smile, look no further.

New Orleans Take-Out

Photo by Madison Fortman

Photo by Madison Fortman

By Madison Fortman

Good food often comes in the most unexpected places. Restaurants on the side of the road in a random strip mall are usually the ones that end up leaving the greatest impression on both your heart and your stomach. New Orleans Take-Out is no different. Pulling up to the storefront on Monroe Street is pretty anticlimactic. There is no frill, no fancy sign, and had I not been looking for it I probably would have walked right past.

Upon entering the restaurant, there continues to be no pizzazz. You can tell that New Orleans Take-Out is here for one purpose and one purpose only: making amazing food. With counters lining the walls, there is very limited seating. While the possibility to dine-in exists, ordering to go is not uncommon, as the name of the restaurant strongly suggests.

I stepped up to the to the counter to look at a menu, which was rather overwhelming. Dishes of New Orleans specialties range from jambalaya, shrimp creole and blackened catfish to fried cod sandwiches and oysters. As someone who has never been to Louisiana and experienced traditional Louisiana dining, I was torn over what to order. I relied on the expertise of the helpful worker at the counter who advised ordering the Mardi Gras combo. This plate has a little of everything with a sampling of jambalaya, red beans, rice and shrimp creole. My friends who tagged along ordered Deb’s Barbeque Shrimp, which is simply shrimp sautéed in butter, lemon juice and other spices. All dishes can be ordered in either a half size or full and come with a side of cornbread or French bread. I opted for a half order with corn bread. I also had to order a side of potato salad because there was a little “try me” sign next to it on the menu, and I couldn’t resist.

My friends and I were going to dine-in so we took a seat at one of the counters and waited for our meal. It was only a matter of minutes until the food was brought out to us. Again, there was nothing fancy about food presentation, because at New Orleans Take- Out, the food speaks for itself. Taking a fork full of red beans, I was sold. While beans and rice are pretty hard to mess up, they are even harder to make memorable. New Orleans Take-Out did just that, though. The beans slowly cooked and creamy were great. The white rice soaked up the juices from the shrimp creole, which added additional flavor. The creole, which is rather hot, had my nose running but my fork coming back for more. The shrimp was fresh and the vegetables a lovely touch, especially the sweet tomatoes, which juxtaposed the heat of the overall dish.

The jambalaya was able to hold its own among the plate with its tender chunks of chicken. It was seasoned to perfection, leaving it plenty flavorful, but not overpowering. I should admit that the jambalaya dish and rice made for a little too much rice for my liking. However, when it comes down to the dish as a whole, I would not change a thing. It was a great way to taste some of the best things New Orleans Take-Out has to offer.   

The side of potato salad, definitely worth trying, was fresh, creamy and not too heavy. The dish was a great way to cool down my mouth from the hot creole. The cornbread, dense and moist, topped off the meal, leaving me full and content. I should also note, my friends who ordered Deb’s Barbeque Shrimp licked their plates clean. A sign that Deb’s Shrimp is also a force to be reckoned with on the New Orleans Take-Out Menu.

New Orleans Take-Out, while not over the top, does food right. It sticks to the basics of making quality dishes that will leave you satisfied and coming back for more.

Macha Tea Company resurfaces

Photos by Yusi Liu

Photos by Yusi Liu

By Meghan Horvath

The deep green, frothy liquid runs towards the rim of the porcelain mug as swirls of milk add more color to the tea, the white pattern contrasting with the deep matcha tones. Following a year long hiatus, Macha Tea Company is back.

After serving Monroe Street for seven years, Ma Cha Teahouse and Art Gallery closed its doors at the end of 2014. With an expiring lease and anticipated construction on Monroe, owners Anthony Verbrick and Rachel Fox decided to close the neighborhood’s beloved tea shop.

Just over a year later, on Feb. 12 Macha reopened under the same owners, this time on the city’s east side.  

“After we closed our Monroe Street location in 2014, we didn’t have plans to reopen at that time,” Fox said. “But a few months later we came across a space we were familiar with that was only a few blocks from where we live. It felt serendipitous, so we had to take the leap.”

Now located at 823 East Johnson Street, Macha Tea Company offers an inviting space to relax and travel the world through tea.

Photos by Yusi Liu

Photos by Yusi Liu

“The renovation process was challenging since the building we are in is 100 years old, but with that age comes a lot of character, which was appealing,” Fox said.

Macha held a grand opening event in their new space, which was publicized via social media and drew nearly 800 people to express interest in the event on Facebook.

“I started following them on Instagram when they were doing renovations last summer,” UW student Yusi Liu said, “When they posted they were opening in the new location on Johnson, I knew I had to try it.”

Liu, a sophomore in Art History, is from Beijing, where tea is integral part of her daily routine. When far from home, tea provides a sense of comfort. That familiarity, however, also means high standards for Liu in terms of what makes it quality.

“I’m from China and I cannot accept the lower quality powder of tea bags,” Liu said, “There’s no comparison to real leaf tea and Macha has real leaf tea.”

Macha Tea Company 2 - Yusi Liu

Photos by Yusi Liu

Fox is half Chinese and grew up around tea as well. Jasmine and oolong were originally her main staples, and it wasn’t until college that she gained exposure to the immense variety of teas out there.

“We both feel Madison is a great place for a small business, but particularly for tea because the market isn’t overly saturated yet,” Fox said, “It’s exciting to have the opportunity to offer something new and different to a city we love.”

Both Fox and Verbrick have been drinking tea for quite some time, and with the opening of Macha, they hope to share their passion with locals.

“Ultimately we want to remove the intimidation and pretension from tea drinking, and make it fun and easy for people to learn more and build their own knowledge base,” Fox said, “Some of the stereotypes that exist around tea drive us crazy, and we’re going to do our best to abolish them completely.”

The atmosphere of the new shop is indeed conducive to relaxed imbibing over studying or conversation. Sunlight floods in from Johnson Street as Macha’s floor-length windows illuminate the space. The walls are painted a matcha-esque shade of green and lit lanterns hang from the ceiling through the center of the room.

“I’ve been to almost every coffee shop on State Street and they all kind of have the same feel,” UW student Ibstisam Haq said. “The interior at Macha is much different, very Japanese and minimalistic.”

For Haq, a sophomore in Fashion Design and originally from Pakistan, tea is also central to his lifestyle.

“I’m from a former British colony so yes tea is huge,” Haq said, “and I love tea, I do. I drink it on a regular basis. It’s a cultural thing.”

Elaborate tea sets are available for purchase, as well as a variety of teas hand-selected by Verbrick and Fox. A world map decorates the wall above the assortment of teas, displaying the global fondness for the drink and how deeply ingrained tea is in various world cultures.

“We really dove in to more intensive research and plenty of tea drinking to continue expanding our base knowledge,” Fox said, “Over the years we’ve developed meaningful relationships with people in the industry, which is tremendously important in continuing to learn more.”

Macha offers a varied mix of seating arrangements. A cozy alcove of cushioned chairs is set up in the front of the shop, where guests can experience a more comfortable, intimate space. Then in front of the counter is a communal table ideal for studying sessions and larger groups. The back portion of Macha also houses a tea bar, which reimagines norms in terms of coffee and tea shop seating.

“The focal point of the new space is the tea bar, which is allowing us to interact with customers in an entirely different way,” Fox said, “We want people to be comfortable dropping by for a pot of tea, and while they are enjoying that we might pour them a sample of something else.”

Macha Tea Company 11 - Yusi Liu

Photos by Yusi Liu

Fresh baked goods are also offered. Gluten free sweet potato cake, chocolate zucchini cupcakes, ginger scones and a traditional matcha chiffon cake are all baked in house. Each can be paired with a select tea that compliments the flavors of the dessert, and owners Verbrick and Fox are more than willing to help you choose.

“We’re going to show everyone what you can do with tea, including cooking and making cocktails, to give a few examples,” Fox said, “We are always experimenting with tea blends and trying new things in the kitchen, so the new space is about continuing to challenge ourselves.” 

Though the shop was out of commission for a year, it continues to attract customers new and old. With its appeal to international students and locals alike, Macha doesn’t seem to have lost its charm.

“And now that we’re open, running a business in our own neighborhood feels very comfortable and like we were always meant to be here,” Fox said, “The energy in the East Johnson Street area is wonderful to be a part of.”

Photos by Yusi Liu

Photos by Yusi Liu

Insomnia Cookies

Photos by Molly O'Brien

Photos by Molly O’Brien

By Molly O’Brien

Insomnia Cookies has found a home on countless college campuses from the East Coast to the Midwest. So, it’s no surprise their newest installment recently popped up on State Street. With their sweet treats and late night hours, the new Insomnia is bound to be a hit.

This is the second time Insomnia has made an appearance at UW, the first time closing due to illegal activity in 2009. According to an article from The Badger Herald, Insomnia had a food truck on Library Mall that did not comply with city size restrictions and some employees also reported never being paid.

Luckily, the new Insomnia seems to be on the right track. Walking into the small bakery, the smell of sugar is overwhelming. There isn’t much to it: a counter to place your order and a short bar with four stools looking out onto State. Of course, there doesn’t need to be much, as Insomnia is known for their delivery, which comes hot to your door at late hours of the night.

At the register, there’s one of each of their twelve different cookies on display. The rest appear to be stored in a low-heat oven, with even more baking in the back. Meaning, when they are served, the cookies come out toasty.

Served in a cardboard pizza-like box, the “Deluxe Cookiewich,” two large cookies with ice cream smashed between, came out slightly melted. I ordered mine with a triple chocolate chunk cookie on one side and chocolate peanut butter cup on the other, held together by scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The taste makes up for the lack of visual appeal. Mmm, the taste.

Unlike a traditional ice cream sandwich, this was not to be eaten with your hands. The triple chocolate chunk cookie dripped milk chocolate from my spoon as I dipped it into the vanilla ice cream. The tastes melted into one another.  It was a quick, college-style take on an old favorite. With crisp outer edges and a soft middle, the cookie truly was baked to perfection.DSCF1546

The chocolate peanut butter cup cookie making up the other half of the Cookiewich was also far from disappointment. This cookie, topped with gigantic chunks of Reese’s, was recommended to me by an employee. It had a strong peanut butter taste that would probably dry out a person’s mouth if not warm. This matched perfectly with the chocolate ice cream.

Although it complimented the warm cookies well, the ice cream was not what I, a Wisconsin-dairy-loving girl, would eat by choice. It could best be described as heavy on the ice, light on the cream.

Perhaps the most enticing thing about Insomnia is their late night delivery. Bringing cookies to students, every night of the week until 3 a.m., is a surefire path to success. The cookies, with clever names such as “Major Rager” and “B.M.O.C.,” come in packs ranging from six to 24. These can also be prepared as a cookie cake with frosting and served with ice cream. And I repeat: the cookies still come hot and fresh.

Overall, Insomnia was devilishly tasty. It took until my stomach felt stiff and heart was racing on a sugar rush to put the spoon away. I would definitely eat this again, although I doubt my doctor would recommend.

Graft-ing a masterpiece

Photos by Katie Holiber

Photos by Katie Holiber

By Mia Shehadi

I cannot emphasize the word “mixed” enough when it comes to my feelings about Valentine’s Day. My grandpa used to tell me that is was a dumb holiday because you should make your love feel special every day; you don’t need a company to tell you to do that. While I wholeheartedly believe that, I have come to think of it as an excuse to get dressed up and get my significant other off the couch. This holiday, I made a reservation at Graft.

Graft is a special gem located right on Capitol Square. This location is stellar because of one incredible thing: parking. Just a block or so down from the restaurant is the Carroll Street parking ramp. This is key because usually the parking on the Capitol is either non-existent or very limited. This also allows for a nice romantic stroll in the Square’s lights right before and after your meal.

Photos by Katie Holiber

Photos by Katie Holiber

A friendly hostess greeted us at the front door, asking for our reservation and offering to hang our coats. The restaurant is oriented more for bigger parties, all the tables and booths sit at least four people and could fit larger parties with ease. A stunning retro-inspired bar greets you when you walk in and to the left are the booths. Made to be subtly private in an open space, the semi-circular booths are sectioned by bundled curtains. The seclusion is further elevated by the slightly raised platform they each sit on.  In the middle of the room are four-person wooden tables, all situated on a distressed brick floor. An accent wall of dark wood captures the eye and your gaze lingers over the gorgeous, über-colorful painting right in the middle. A chrome open-air kitchen covers the very back wall of the restaurant filling the air with a subtle comforting warmth.

Our server was outstanding. Her sense of humor combined with her genuine desire to make us feel at home are what made Tracy one of the best parts about Graft. We mentioned this random Wednesday night meal was actually a make-up Valentine’s Day. She began to throw out stellar suggestions for appetizers, her favorite entrées and dessert. We ordered Fried Chévre, scallops, hanger steak and coffee ice cream in a puff pastry drizzled with caramel sauce.

First to the table was the Fried Chévre, three balls of goat cheese lightly fried and laid out over a black pepper and honey gastrique. The black pepper accentuated the honey, giving it a little kick without creating an overpowering flavor as using hot sauce or chili pepper might. This paired nicely with the salty, creamy cheese. Lightly frying the balls adds an array of textures, the slight crunch broke apart what would otherwise be an uncomfortable mouthful.

Photos by Katie Holiber

Photos by Katie Holiber

Next came the scallops. One thing that sparked a flame between my boyfriend and I is our mutual adoration of scallops. Three plump scallops sat side-by-side, dressed with braised fennel and parsley and a butternut square puree. My first reaction was excitement over the colors: the vegetables were an incredible dark green and the orange from the puree really stood out on the plate. Scallops are very easy to overcook and pretty difficult to tell if they’re undercooked unless cut in half, so practice is key when preparing this kind of seafood. Our scallops were perfectly cooked so our fork glided through them, and a slight grill at the top and bottom added a little texture to the dish.

The hanger steak was also cooked to perfection. This dish had a much richer flavor overall, from the meat, to the bread pudding, to the Gouda sauce covering the whole dish. The portion size of our dishes so far had been on the smaller side, and I’m glad this one was as well. Even though the steak’s natural flavor was able to cut through the sauce, the creaminess was very prominent. The parsnips were fantastic, adding a little bit of crunch and melding well with the gusto of the dish. The leek bread pudding helped lighten the flavor by adding a fluffy component to soak up and distribute the sauce over more items.

Last came our dessert, a cute, little trio of pastries in a large bowl. A small ball of coffee ice cream was cradled in between two halves of a light, crunchy pastry. A glorious drizzle of caramel was poured lightly over the whole dish adding visual cohesiveness and well as the perfect extra bit of sweetness.

The whole meal was fantastic: the atmosphere was incredibly friendly, yet elegant, and the staff was extremely attentive and fun. I would recommend Graft as more of a larger party restaurant, as in a birthday, meeting or corporate event. Although I went there on a date and had a spectacular time, it might be better suited for a grander celebration.

Photos by Katie Holiber

Photos by Katie Holiber


Photos by Haley Winckler

Photos by Haley Winckler

By Morgan Dorfman

Do you ever feel like escaping your current city for a night? Most of us do, but being a college student doesn’t usually allow for that. If you are in search of the big city life but you are situated in Madison, Wisconsin, reserve a window table at Francesca’s al lago located on Capitol Square.

From the low lighting to the dark woods and white walls, Francesca’s allows you to feel like you are having a night out in a big city, which is due to its big city roots. Francesca’s started as a quaint restaurant in Chicago by Scott Harris in 1992 and since then grew to 22 other locations with the same Chicago charm. Everything about the restaurant feels upscale. The bar is secluded from the dining room and there are big, round light fixtures that hang from the ceiling. The atmosphere is intimate, cozy and sophisticated. Perfect for meeting up with close friends or a loved one.

One of my favorite aspects about this restaurant is that every month they change a majority of the dishes on their menu. They hand write each new dish they add to the single page menu for a personalized touch. They keep certain dishes on their menu from month to month but when you return to dine there another time, the menu may offer completely different dishes to choose from. It keeps things fun and fresh.

Copy of IMG_0910

Photos by Haley Winckler

I dined at Francesca’s in the middle of the week and the amount of people surrounding me in the dining room remained pretty steady while I was there. Much to my surprise, the turn around time from ordering to receiving my dinner was noticeably fast. Prior to your meal, they give you warm Italian bread while you wait.

My first thought when I received my Rigatoni Con Mozzarella was about the colorfulness of the dish. Making a classic rigatoni and cheese dish creative is not easy, but the tomato basil was a sunset, orange-red with speckles of green from the basil with the white mozzarella sprinkled on top. The sauce and the cheese offered a very rich taste along with the noticeable freshness of the rigatoni. It was downright quality food.

My friend ordered the Tortellini Con Pollo. This dish was made up of cheese filled tortellini with grilled chicken, sautéed spinach and pine nuts in a light, basil cream sauce with fresh tomatoes. The freshness of the ingredients again impressed my taste buds, along with the oozy cheese of the tortellini against the crunchy pine nuts. It can be hard to find fresh produce in Wisconsin during the wintertime, so I was very impressed with the quality of the food.

The amount of food you receive is very comparable to the price you are paying. Most items on the menu were a little more expensive, but you received quality food and a good amount of it. Between the bread and the pasta, I really wish I would have saved room to try some of their desserts, like the tiramisu!

One of the main tests that I do when I try out a new restaurant is to check out their bathroom. A chef once told me that you are able to tell how clean a restaurant’s kitchen is by how clean their bathrooms are. And to my delight, Francesca’s bathrooms were spotless.

Francesca’s is a place that I will go back to when I feel the need to have a night out on the town or to have dinner with my family. You can’t go wrong, from the intimate atmosphere to the fresh and filling food.

Very Good Chocolate Chip Cookies


Photos by Emily Buck

By Kara Evenson

It’s safe to say most moms have a chocolate chip cookie recipe, but my mom’s is the best. She has yet to reveal the true origins of her recipe, but I have unconfirmed suspicions about the back of a chocolate chip package. Instead she likes to claim that it is a 200-year-old family secret. It’s not.

All throughout my life my mom has been making these cookies; from sporting events, hunting trips and work parties to whenever she just feels in the mood, chocolate chip cookies end up in the oven, and a recycled ice cream pail is ready to be filled with the most delicious cookies ever.

So I could tell all of you some sappy story from my childhood about coming home to the smell of chocolate chip cookies in my kitchen, I have a few. However, most of the time I wanted my mom to bake anything but chocolate chip cookies. We had them around a lot.

Photos by Emily Buck

Photos by Emily Buck

I am just now starting to appreciate exactly what these cookies mean. From elementary field trips and long bus rides for high school sports to moving away from home the first time and my first internship, my mom’s cookies have always made an appearance in everything I do.

That’s why, instead of a recipe that is more unconventional, I wanted to share my mom’s Very Good Chocolate Chip Cookies with all of you.

1 cup butter
½ cup olive oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
a dash of salt
3½ cups flour
2 cups chocolate chips


Photos by Emily Buck

Preheat oven at 350 °F.
Mix butter, olive oil, sugar, brown sugar and eggs in a large bowl until combined.
Add in vanilla, baking soda and salt and mix until fluffy. Add flour, mix until combined.
Fold in chocolate chips.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Sweet Potato Corn Cake Tamales

Photos by Ashley Truttschel

Photos by Ashley Truttschel

By Ashley Truttschel

Spring is the most inspiring time for me. New Year’s may be a fresh start for many, but to me, spring signifies new beginnings and opportunities. More sunshine, vibrant colors and shedding layers of clothes make me feel like a new person. I am always in a happier mood come spring and that happiness is reflected in the food I eat. These Sweet Potato Corn Cake Tamales are perfect for the transition from winter to spring. They are not only colorful and light, but they also offer a little bit of warmth for those days where winter just does not want to go away.

Adapted from Fools, Folks and Fun and Budget Bytes

Sweet Potato Corn Cakes
4 large sweet potatoes
1 cup corn
2 green onions
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Salsa Verde
2 small tomatoes
4 ounces diced green chilies
1 green onion
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (chopped)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Pico De Gallo
1 large Roma tomato
1 tablespoon red onion
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Southwest Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Prick each sweet potato and wrap in a paper towel. Microwave individually for 6 minutes or until soft in the middle. Once cool, remove skins and place into a large bowl.

Slice green onions and chop cilantro. Add green onions, cilantro, corn, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt and egg into the bowl. Stir until well combined.

Stir in cornmeal and breadcrumbs.

Cover and refrigerate for a half hour.

Add all of the Salsa Verde ingredients into a food processor and pulse until combined. Refrigerate.

Chop all of the ingredients for the Pico de Gallo. Mix with lime juice, salt and pepper.

Mix mayonnaise, white wine, water, sugar, chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper and garlic powder for Southwest Sauce. Refrigerate.

Once the sweet potatoes are chilled, heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Form the sweet potatoes into small patties and cook about two minutes or until golden brown. Place on paper towel to drain.

Spread Salsa Verde evenly on each plate. Place sweet potato and corn cakes on top of the salsa. Top with Pico de Gallo and Southwest sauce. Add optional toppings such as avocado, sour cream or cheese.

Makes 12-18 cakes depending on size.