Thursday, December 31, 2009

What Christmas Means to Me, My Love


Admittedly, it got a little out of hand this year. I've always enjoyed making holiday treats; cookies, candies, the occasional doughnut or rosette. However, my furvor in past years was always tempered by time constraints and the fact that I was a poor college student, with barely enough extra cash to scrape together for an extra bag of chocolate chips.

This year however, I spent the month of December with my parents, since my husband and I managed to find a subletter for our apartment in Madison (score!). Living with your parents again introduces all sorts of possibilities for regression, not the least of which for me turned out to be the forgotten euphoria of an endlessly stocked kitchen.

Its been a long time since I've experienced the joy of a full pantry, stocked with every baking supply I could need in duplicate and sometimes triplicate (just in case). I even rediscovered some old random kitchen gadgets from my fidgety days of baking. Check out these sweet cannoli forms.

If they look like they're just 4 inch metal tubes, well you're right. Kitchen Etc. really got me with that one.

And so, with so many resources at my hands, and a surprising amount of free time, I found myself baking at pretty much every given opportunity.

The problem with the holidays is that there is a ready made full repertoire of goodies that are waiting to be made all the time, so you're never at a loss for something to prepare. Chex Mix? Cut Out Cookies? Divinity? Also, I've gotten in the habit lately of making an assortment of candies for Christmas, so that I have something convenient to give out to people as gifts, and to take along to parties and holiday events.

Here's a few of the goodies I made this year, post holiday food massacre, so a lot is missing.

My full stats included:

Chex Mix
Meltaway Cookies
Cut Out Sugar Cookies
Whole Wheat Molasses Cookies
Peanut Butter Balls
Peppermint Bark
Peppermint Patties
Hot Cinnamon Candy
Candied Almonds
Chocolate Pecan Toffee
Vanilla Ice Cream
Coffee Ice Cream
Black and White Creme Brulee
Jello Jigglers

It was good to get that off my chest. We're all very fat now. Next, A New Years Vegetarian Feast!

Saturday, November 21, 2009


If you want to understand a city, there are a number of ways you can approach it. You could look at the hard statistics.

latitude/longitude: 43.13/89.33
population: 231,916 (as of July 2008)
median household income: $53,516

You could go on flickr and browse through images:

(photos by Allie Oop Photography)
You could google recent news stories about it.
DNR Deer Debate
17 Inches of Snow in Wisconsin
Madison Residents Must Recycle Plastic Bags

Or you could do what I do.
You could eat your way through a city.

Whenever I visit a place, there is nothing I like better than eating anything or at any place that is quintessentially---that place. The things I remember most about vacations are rarely exceptional vistas or or excellent theater, but instead things like really good bumbleberry pie and breakfast scramblers.Needless to say, in the 26 years that I have lived in Madison, I have eaten my way around it pretty respectably. I have strong opinions on the best places for burgers, fruity mixed drinks and sushi, as well as the preferred grocery stores for produce and spices. If you've lived anywhere for long enough, its probably impossible to NOT develop preferences, if not prejudices.

And I'll admit, I have some prejudices.

There are plenty of places in the midwest to find excellent food. What sets Madison apart, I think is the sheer concentration of restaurants and food based businesses per square mile. Madisonites love local, independent establishments--the more eclectic, and unlikely the location, the better.

Recently, there has been trend towards turning formerly skeezy dive bars into Euro-inspired pubs, with full organic and locally sourced food menus--available into the wee hours of the morning.

The Brasserie V on Monroe Street. This didn't used to look so nice.

Because of course, Madison not only loves her food, she also loves her fine beverages. On State Street leading up to the capitol building, one can barely walk 20 feet without running into either a coffee shop, bar, or on the very best of occasions, both at the same time. Whoever first thought to merge a coffee shop and a wine bar was a GENIUS as far as I am concerned.

Mmm delicious market strawberries. (photo by Allie Opp Photography)

Naturally, one cannot eat out all the time, and Madison also boasts its fair share of grocery stores, smaller specialty markets and a thriving network of organic farm food shares. Its very rare that somewhere between the Farmer's Market and Maharani's Indian Grocery Store , I can't in some way find what I am looking for.

I love the food here, I really do.

And now, I am moving.