Madison has quickly become a top food destination. It’s no wonder. Lake views, parks, festivals, and of course the top-notch cuisine. And as we move into summer our opportunities to eat and drink just grow. Included here are a few fun food facts, and some of my favorite food to-do’s in and around Madison.
- Madison boasts the largest “producer-only” farmers’ market in the country! All items are produced by the members behind the tables. No resale is allowed! That means your money goes directly to the farmer!
- By WI law, margarine may not be substituted for butter in restaurants unless it is requested by the customer.
- Wisconsin produces about 2.5 billion pounds of cheese/year; Wisconsin is #1 in cheese production in the US.
- Known for its dairy production, Wisconsin actually leads the nation in exports of cranberries, whey, ginseng root and sweet corn!
Fab five under $15: I am raving about these five, affordable dishes right now!
Graze’s tofu bimbimbap, Chef Miller’s twist on the hearty Korean rice dish; Crostini’s California Chicken sandwich with seasoned chicken, fresh tomato, spinach spread, apple-wood bacon, avocado, and provolone and cheddar cheeses, grilled on a panini; Alchemy Cafe’s tacos, whatever they have on special, grab ‘em; Lao Laan Xang’s larp, a spicy, savory combo of beef minced with so many spices and flavors, served in a cool lettuce wrap with sticky rice; Batch Bakehouse’s sea salt caramel brownie with iced coffee.
UW Memorial Union Terrace
A cider and brat on UW Terrace. Okay fine, make it a beer and brat. Regardless, what better way to spend an afternoon and evening than on the UW Terrace overlooking the lake, listening to live music, watching the sailboats and SUP-ers (or perhaps if you are lucky – enjoying a ride on one)? I can think of none.
Madison summers are all about being outside, hanging with friends and family, and enjoying food. Here are a few of my favorite fests where there is sure to be great food. Have an occasion to bring people together? Create your own food fest by inviting food carts!
Yum Yum Fest: Founded by MACN (Madison Area Chefs Network), this is your annual chance to sample great food and crafty beverages from all of your favorite Madison chefs and mixologists, while listening to music and enjoying the sun.
Central Park Sessions: The diversity of music at the sessions brings out a diverse food line-up, from local restaurants, and well-known carts, to community members who just know how to make dynamite dishes.
Food Cart Fests: Create your own food festival by inviting some of the food carts to your next function such as a wedding, graduation party or school fundraiser, or join an existing public function.
In the mood for a drink? Why choose just one? A flight is a great way to sample a few different drinks. When served with food, fights are a great way to learn about pairings, or can be enjoyed simply by themselves. A few of my favorite stops for flights are Table Wine, where you can bring a bite to eat and sit on the comfy couch with a friend or on the back patio; BOS Meadery, where there is often music to compliment the dry, delicious mead; and Next Door Brewing where trivia and cheese curds round out the beer sipping experience.
Serve Your Community
Both the River Pantry and the Goodman Center offer free community meals. Whether you are in need or want to help, bringing the community together around a meal is healing and nourishing. The Goodman Center evening community meal is cooked by a slew of volunteers who have a passion for great food. Using both products from the pantry and donations from Willy Street coop, the meals are cooked with love, and served weekly on Wednesdays at 6:30, give or take a few minutes. The River Pantry also offers a community meal Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 5 pm.
Those are the things I do most when at any of our area farmers’ markets. As I meander around the market, I talk to the vendors and friends I may see, and shop – purchasing fresh home-grown goodies direct from farmers. With markets open almost everyday around the city, it’s easy!