Friday, July 10, 2015

Disrupting gender norms

​STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — continue to skew overwhelmingly male. But some Madison area educators and professionals are fighting the stereotypes. more »
JUL 9, 2015 NEWS

Hangin’ around

Hydro Street Brewing Company in Columbus is more than just beer. It’s an eclectic menu, a fun place to lounge with a large group and spend some time. more »
JUN 11, 2015 REVIEWS

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bonefish Grill scores with Bang Bang Shrimp, Hand-Helds and more

Bonefish Grill scores with Bang Bang Shrimp, Hand-Helds and more

The short, ascendant history of Bonefish Grill is a triumph of the art of matching a specific dining experience to an economically potent demographic: In this case, wood-grilled American food for people who have plenty o ...

One serving is plenty for three to four people to share.

The new New Seoul

The new New Seoul

Elements of the Korean aesthetic have been surfacing in dining contexts all over the nation since David Chang began working marinated barbecue and kimchi into the menus of his chowhound-destination Momofuku restaurants i ...

Mixing the egg in with the rest of the ingredients is the secret to the beef bibimbap.

The return of Kabul on State Street

The return of Kabul on State Street

Back in the early 1970s, Madison restaurants typically served staunchly Midwestern fare: sausages, steaks, fish fry. There were few other options.

The menu is deep and wide.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

If You Like Klieg Lights and Cops, You'll Love Freakfest

Here comes another lame Freakfest. Kids who don't know better or newcomers to Madison may not have a problem with the current sad setup, but that is perhaps because they've bought the revisionist history, or they simply aren't thinking about it very hard.
So think about it: do you actually like blinding Klieg lights and dozens of armed cops at parties? Can you think of other parties you attend that feature guys with Tasers, truncheons, and mace? Did you know that the police film every part of the event and monitor your actions remotely from a media station?
Freakfest is social engineering. The authorities have, amazingly, convinced people that this is a cool scene. That's quite a feat, when you look objectively at what it is: an open air temporary prison with the dubious merits of mid-tier acts like OK Go or Third Eye Blind there to distract you.
But it used to be epic!
A little history. Back in the late '70s and '80s, the Halloween party didn't have a name. It wasn't branded. There were no fences, there were no Klieg lights, and the cops were pretty chill about the whole thing, by necessity.
It was a dangerous affair -- you didn't go down to State Street if you weren't ready for heavy weirdness from devils and superheroes tripping balls, for cops that weren't actually cops, for people climbing on rooftops and throwing candy from on high (or in one memorable case, doughnuts).

Photo credit: UW Alumni
But there were no riots. And even as late as 2001, more than 60,000 people attended. Some estimates are as high as 120,000. There were 0 arrests.
It was a wild scene back in the '80s, and not for the faint of heart, but in wasn't until 2003 that frat boys started burning and smashing stuff. The mayor and other authorities were justified in trying to turn the party into something more controlled, and I respect that as a reaction to a situation that had gotten out of control. They had to do something, right? So they put fences up, began charging admission, and moved all those Klieg lights in.
Enter "Freakfest" with its lights, tickets, and cops, in 2006. 32,000 people attended.
In 2011 25,000 attended.
The real Halloween Madison tradition is dead.
The revisionist history around this event is the most troubling thing. The implementation of this boring version of the evening was never to protect citizens, who could obviously just avoid the whole thing. It was always about public relations for the mayor. (I concede that business owners in the area benefit from less chaos.) In the old days, everyone understood that State Street was a place to stay far away from if you weren't ready for a wild night, and most Madison residents simply stayed away. But for those who attended, it was an unforgettable party of the highest order.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Isthmus Gallery: 2008-2014

Helping your kids stick with music lessons

Some clever-clogs is playing Rachmaninoff on the piano at a party, and there it is again, that oft-heard adult lament of lost opportunity from a dejected onlooker: "I wish I could play. I wish my parents hadn't let me quit music lessons. I was just a kid -- how was I to know?" It's a reasonable complaint. >More
 Playtime unplugged: Madison designers help reinvent the board game

Once upon a wintry eve, before the advent of Netflix, DVDs, television and radio, families would gather around a piano to sing songs, or around a board game to pass the time. This was largely a function of not having a whole lot else to do. Before electricity, even reading a book was a bit challenging after sunset, and people mostly just ate dinner and went to bed after a bit of crocheting or cribbage. >More
 Doesn't Madison's bike polo team deserve a real court?

THWACK! In Minneapolis, a bicyclist in shockproof gear fighting through the North American Bike Polo Championship 2013 slams a polyvinyl chloride ball into the net with a customized fiberglass mallet, then skids to a halt. In Madison, bike polo players are riveted, watching the aspiring champions of this nascent sport on BikePoloTV. >More
 Madison Vines: The new mini-video platform already has its stars

What's a Vine? It's a six-second video that lives mostly in the world of mobile devices like iPhones. Download and open the free app, touch the screen to start recording a video " a cat stretching in a sunbeam, a friend dunking a basketball, a stupendous steel drummer " then publish with a push of a button. >More
 West Madison's changing grocery landscape

When I was growing up on the near west side of Madison, summer days meant riding dirt bikes around in a pack to Hoyt Park, Quarry Park and Picnic Point. After a day of adventuring, we would be hot and thirsty. Time to hit the main grocery store of the area at the time, El Rancho on University and Farley.>More
 An introduction to Madison billiards subculture

Bars from Madison to Sydney have pool tables. But you don't see many 10-by-5-foot carom billiards tables, the kind with no pockets. And these days you mostly won't, unless you're obsessed with the antique game of three-cushion carom billiards, an intensely challenging pool-like game from a distant era. It turns out that some Madison residents are carrying the billiards torch. >More
 Pork peaks in Madison restaurant culture

Pork has become incredibly popular, both locally and nationally. At the center of this pork renaissance is the class of animals referred to as heritage pigs: larger, purebred hogs with a mass of bristles, many inches of back fat, and a distinct lineage. >More
 Apple Apps from Madison: Meet eight local developers

Young men and women with Apple ear buds are packed into a room, intent on their work. Some are doing graphic design, some are writing code, some are writing marketing materials. Flannel, odd haircuts and freshly scrubbed faces abound. Ethernet cables spool into closely arranged desks stacked high with computer gear. A delivery guy is loading the break room table high with moo shu shrimp and mushroom egg foo yong. Is this San Francisco in 1998? No -- it's a gaming company on Madison's west side in 2012. What's going on here? >More
 Fresh beats, wondrous tales, a mindblowing circus: A preview of the kids' 2012-13 arts season 

The ancient performance arts of dance, music and theater face stiff competition from new digital unrealities -- Xbox, Netflix and the strobe of CGI. But our old traditions wield a primal, visceral punch; the sweat and immediacy of live performances provide a depth of experience that flat-screen pastimes cannot. Walk your kids away from the Wii and watch their synapses light up when they witness how good live entertainment with no digital effects can be. >More
 Madison gets its own producer of the fermented honey drink: Bos Meadery

With new Hobbit movies and the red-hot series Game of Thrones in the cultural consciousness, mead-swilling characters from medieval environs abound. So it is with admirable timing that Colleen Bos has just opened Madison's first facility dedicated solely to mead, combining her backgrounds as a homebrewer and medieval historian. Her Kickstarter project reached its goal in mid-August, and now a clean, professional meadery at 849 E. Washington Ave. is open for business. >More
 The next frontier for online community?

When Salon Media Group broke the news in late June that employees of ur-online community the WELL had been terminated and that assets were up for sale, a cadre of early Net adopters bristled, then rallied. Founded in 1985 by Larry Brilliant and Stewart Brand, the WELL is among the first and richest online communities. >More
 What makes a good olive oil?

What is extra virgin olive oil? It comes from virgin oil production where olives are not treated with chemicals, has no more than 0.8% acidity, and is not recommended for cooking. High temperatures distort the subtle taste qualities of extra virgin olive oil, so if you are sautéing vegetables for a marinara, you should use something less expensive, like plain old virgin olive oil. >More
 Milky way

When you're from Wisconsin, it's easy to take milk for granted. It's part of the landscape. Goes well with chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter sandwiches and blindingly hot Salvadoran peppers. In the grocery store, most of us grab a carton of our regular, whether whole, 2%, 1% or skim, and beyond that we probably don't have much of a handle on how different milks actually taste. >More
 Fitchburg's Thai Noodles offers worthy cheap eats

Thai cuisine is among the world's most exciting: It's colorful, dynamic, ebullient, in-your-face. It's a cuisine that doesn't shy away from intense flavors like chili paste and fermented fish sauce. Eating Thai is about trying centuries-old flavors of galanga, kaffir lime leaves and cilantro. >More
 Madison New Year's feasts to ring out 2009

Sure, you can go to the local tavern in boots and flannel to drink beer, eat peanuts, and sing "Auld Lang Syne" with your pals. But if you'd rather deck out in spectacular evening wear for New Year's Eve, many of Madison's finest restaurants are putting on ritzy dinners to anchor your evening and provide a stage to show off that finery. >More

 Hüsnü's daughters bring premium Turkish olive oil to Madison

The clan of Hüsnü Atis is deeply interwoven into the fabric of the Madison community. The name probably sounds familiar to any Madison resident on the strength of Hüsnü's restaurant: this State Street institution opened in 1979 and has served Turkish, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean food to a receptive Madison since. >More

Jovian Taphaus tries to integrate beer hall and fine dining

The Jovian Taphaus tries to mash sports bar, beer hall and upscale restaurant into one entity and succeed as a community watering hole for the Grandview Commons neighborhood. Plus, the place needs to whisk away memories of its predecessor, Cloud 9 Grille, which flamed out last March. It's a tall order. >More
 Ha Long Bay Bistro serves Viet, Thai and Lao cuisines

Bright neon green curtains enhance the comfortable new space for Ha Long Bay Bistro, previously occupied by Bab's French Quarter Kitchen. Bamboo pagoda lamps, rice paddy hats and nautical and floral images create a pleasing visual flow. Tiny bamboo plants in faux-jade baby elephant planters rest on each table. Cuisine is derived from Vietnamese, Thai and Laotian recipes. >More
 Tagging along with Tory Miller

"The most important thing is the relationships." It's 6:45 on a sunny Saturday morning, and I'm walking around the Capitol Square discussing how fresh food from Wisconsin farms gets to Tory Miller's kitchen -- and finally to your plate. >More
 Wine with your meal?

There are real differences between wines, but there are no absolute standards. Once you realize this, wine tasting becomes a lot more fun. For once, it really is all about you! >More
 Ironworks Cafe shines at breakfast and lunch at Goodman

The Goodman Community Center's new Ironworks Café -- a gorgeously retrofitted space well suited to breakfast or lunch lounging -- is an asset to the Schenk-Atwood neighborhood. >More
 Bucatini Trattoria: Basta pasta in Middleton

In a college town, serving spaghetti and meatballs to carousing students is a solid business plan. It doesn't have to be high art. Nonetheless, I was hopeful that Enzo Amodeo's new Bucatini Trattoria in Middleton might be a step up from the plate-o'-bland-pasta approach. >More
 Oliva is a new bright spot in west-side dining

When the nomadic, horse-riding Seljuq Turks migrated from their ancestral homeland of Central Asia and crossed the Volga into the Black Sea steppes circa 1300 A.D., they brought a highly distinctive philosophy towards food with them: In austerity is great beauty. The Turks have long employed a deep restraint in their arts, a design esthetic that cuts through the opulence of Western Europe like a scythe through a hunk of warm ökelek. >More
 Vindaloo, my darling: Flavor of India

Flavor of India is the third Indian restaurant in Wisconsin by brothers / co-owners / chefs Devinder Singh Badwal and Sital Singh and the second in Madison, following their Taste of India on Monroe Street. This latest entry gives Madisonians an opportunity to study the nuances of north Indian cuisine (though major regional styles are all represented on the dinner menu). >More
 Kushi Bar completes the Muramoto triumvirate in Madison

Chef Shinji Muramoto has revamped his original stomping grounds on King Street -- the new Kushi Bar Muramoto inhabits the same narrow space that housed the original Sushi Muramoto. (If you're keeping track, that restaurant has moved down the block to the space that formerly hosted Cocoliquot.) >More
 Doug's Soul Food Cafe serves heavenly country-fried Southern comfort

When my mother was a little girl, her Alabama-bred mother used to cook up "a mess o' greens" on tough days. The recipe consisted of a slab of bacon, collard greens and turnip greens, all stewed up into a mass of nutritious and heavy gruel. >More
 Arty kids

Madison is justly famous for its bicycle paths, lakes and world-class university. If you ask parents why they love the city, chances are they will name the school system as a reason. But one aspect of Madison that is frequently, and unjustly, overlooked is the wealth of artistic opportunities for children of all ages. >More
 Madison Senior Scenester Potluck reflects on a bygone musical era

The mindset on State Street in the early '80s among a certain subculture was one of violent underground dissent against Reagan's America and an embrace of the DIY culture of 'zines, homemade flyer art and punk rock. Sunday, the Senior Scenesters Potluck at Tenney Park brought many of the members of that social scene together again. It was Bill Feeny's brainstorm. Feeny played with Appliances SFB, one of the better-know Madison acts of the early '80s. >More
 Dine with the kids at Bean Sprouts Cafe in Middleton

Bean Sprouts cafe in Middleton Hills is one of the successes of that community-based architectural gambit. Bean Sprouts caters to parents and grandparents with a cafe that's specifically designed for young children but makes all ages feel at home. >More
 Spectacular salads

The art of the salad is underappreciated. All too often, salads are just the quiet supplement to steak or fish or pasta. In Wisconsin, a lingering supper club mentality that views fish or steak as the "real food" means that the salad norm is a wedge of iceberg lettuce with a glob of dressing and a black olive. Salad is reduced to a condiment. But although we live in Wisconsin, we also live in Madison - historically, friend to the vegan, the vegetarian and the slow-food movement. The greens at the Farmers' Market on the Square come from a large network of independent and often organic farms, and the best restaurants harvest these and return them to us in excellent salads. Madison's top salads prove to be delightfully rich - and surprisingly sophisticated. >More