MACN Week – Celebrating Madison’s Web of Foodie Love
MACN (Madison Area Chef’s Network) Week was a full seven days of chef-on-chef action, and it was hard to keep up. From March 9- 15, the events were a local foodie’s dream. I (hang my head in shame) admittedly only made it to three events. The Taco Challenge with Shinji Muramoto and Patrick DePula at Salvatore’s Tomato Pies – Madison, the Banzo meets Grampa’s late night menu at Grampa’s Pizzeria and the Industry Brunch at A Pig in a Fur Coat (PIFC). They were great events, and you could literally taste the positive spirit of collaboration and fun. The tacos were pure heaven, Shinji making short ribs tacos with slaw and Patrick creating a rabbit confit taco with winter squash.
My friend and I ordered Patrick’s homemade burrata, too, just because it is so good and tacos go with everything, right? (Taco pictures didn’t turn out well, unfortunately, which is a bummer because they were delicious, but I blame it on the wine.) Banzo’s pizza creations were equally dynamite–the hummus, cucumber, olive and feta pizza was light and refreshing, while the lamb with fingerlings and tzatziki was a bit more hearty, and perfectly combined sweet, spicy and savory flavors.
The industry brunch was held at the beginning of the week in the intimate dining room at PIFC. The doors opened at 11 am on a Monday, and the restaurant filled quickly with folks excited for the kick-off event of the MACN Week–a collaborative industry brunch brought to you by chefs Dan Bonanno of PIFC fame and Francesco Mangano of the acclaimed Osteria Papavero. Chef Anna Dickson from Merchant sat at a table enjoying a seafood platter with smoked trout, tuna salami, cured opah, sardines and citrus lox. Other folks from the community and some I recognized from the food industry–food writers, butchers, bakers and wait staff–were seated around the room, the early spring sunlight casting a luscious glow across the table tops.
I ordered the potato pave, layers of thinly sliced potatoes filled with smoked ricotta salata, topped with a spicy nduja sauce. Succulent greens and a sunny-side up egg accentuate the already voluptuous dish. My table companion ordered the foie gras, remarking “When else will I have a chance to have foie gras and scrambled egg with a veal demi glace for brunch?” Well put. All of the brunch choices seemed unusual yet perfectly approachable at the same time. The dessert, a spherical donut filled with custard and adorned with fresh berries, really did top off the meal perfectly. The crisp-fried (in duck fat, no less) outer layer of the donut was coated in sugar and yielded to a soft center that was further soothed by the creamy, light custard filling.
While my meal was being prepared, I sipped on a mimosa (it may have been Monday, but brunch is brunch, right?) and asked the chefs a few questions.
What MACN event are you excited to attend?
DB: The Magnus dinner and the Forequarter dinner at Layla’s. Those would be really nice to see.
FM: I agree with that.
What do you like most about working with each other?
FM: He’s very fuzzy.
DB: We have fun together. We joke around. We have kind of the same background–both Italian. But he was born there. We also have fun, and have the same type of philosophy in food.
FM: If you can joke with a colleague that’s all I need.
What is your favorite menu item that you collaborated on for the brunch?
DB: I like the seafood platter and the head cheese. But this brunch is not a low-fat affair.
FM: I like the wood fire oven. In fact I’m going to steal it at the end of the day.
Anything else you want folks to know about these event?
FM: I’m single. No, not really. I hope everyone comes out to these events. It’s really nice.
DB: These collaborations are all about fun. We try not to take each other too seriously.
Though the events have passed, the sentiment remains. I can tell these chefs enjoy working together, and after chatting with them and enjoying the mash-up brunch, taco challenge and Banzo-Grampa’s late night menu, there was a clear take home message: MACN Week, and Madison’s community of chefs, is all about fun–and seriously good food–all year long.