These cities of the Rust Belt, which edges around the Great Lakes from Buffalo to Detroit, are linked in many ways: by a shared history of industry, by a network of defunct canals and decaying railroads, and by thousands of acres of farmland.
Now, the region is linked by a group of educated, ambitious chefs who are building a new kind of network. Its scale is tiny compared with the steel and shipbuilding empires of the region’s past. But they are nonetheless convinced that an interdependent web of chefs, butchers, farmers, millers, bakers and brewers will help bring the local landscape back into balance.
To that end, they are cooking sustainably, supporting agriculture and raising families — all while making world-class food with a strong sense of place.
Featured in the piece is “proud Clevelander” Jonathon Sawyer of The Greenhouse Tavern. As Moskin describes,
At his restaurant, Mr. Sawyer acts as a career counselor and culinary educator as much as a chef; all the 60-plus staff members are listed by name on the menu, and he encourages them to pursue their own ventures.
Cooperation among chefs — not the competition that is the norm elsewhere — is central to a thriving food scene, he said. “These cities have to be places where people want to live and work after graduation, and one of the things they want is good food,” he said. “Otherwise, the brain drain to the coasts will just go on.”
Although nobody in this verdant region much likes the label “Rust Belt,” Mr. Sawyer has adopted “Rust Belt Revival” as shorthand for what he’s trying to do there. (It’s also a Twitter hashtag he uses often: #rustbeltrevival.)
He was nurturing that revival on a recent spring morning in the farmland south of Cleveland, tramping through fields, listening to experienced farmers and offering advice to new ones.
Take it from this former Ohioan (born and raised in Greater Cleveland): though it has a dash of East Coast condescension, the full article is really worth a read, so check it out here.
Linda Falkenstein of Isthmus has some great news, Madison lovers of Pelmeni (aka Pel”meni):
Pel’meni, the Russian dumpling shop that operated out of 505 State Street in the mid-’00s, is coming back to downtown in mid-June at 201 W. Gorham St., a space next to AJ Bombers.
After the State Street storefront closed, Paul Schwoerer started serving his handmade pelmeni out of the Oasis Café, his coffee shop in at 2690 Research Park Dr. in Fitchburg. In the in-between time when the dumplings were not available at all, what might reasonably be called a cult following only deepened. And after the re-appearance, not all devotees could make the trek out to Fitchburg.
My earlier post about rediscovering the delicious dumplings (now featuring local produce) in Fitchburg has garnered hundreds and hundreds of hits, so I think Schwoerer will find continued success when he makes his triumphant return to the State Street neighborhood. Check out Falkenstein’s full piece for all the details.
On our recent West coast trip, J, I and the friends who hosted us in the Bay Area (thanks again, V & E!) had lunch at LYFE Kitchen. I first learned about the restaurant from an article by Mark Bittman that I blogged about as our trip got underway. In his piece on whether good fast food might be possible, Bittman describes the LYFE Kitchen concept and team:
In Culver City, I visited Lyfe Kitchen (that’s “Love Your Food Everyday”; I know, but please keep reading). Lyfe has the pedigree, menu, financing, plan and ambition to take on the major chains. The company is trying to build 250 locations in the next five years, and [industry trade magazine] QSR has already wondered whether it will become the “Whole Foods of fast food.”
At Lyfe, the cookies are dairy-free; the beef comes from grass-fed, humanely raised cows; nothing weighs in at more than 600 calories; and there’s no butter, cream, white sugar, white flour, high-fructose corn syrup or trans fats. The concept was the brainchild of the former Gardein executive and investment banker Stephen Sidwell, who quickly enlisted Mike Roberts, the former global president of McDonald’s, and Mike Donahue, McDonald’s U.S.A.’s chief of corporate communications. These three teamed up with Art Smith, Oprah’s former chef, and Tal Ronnen, who I believe to be among the most ambitious and talented vegan chefs in the country.
In his feature on LYFE for Wired magazine, Frederick Kaufman briefly describes some of Roberts’s work at Mickey D’s before he left:
[T]he young Roberts launched himself into a 29-year career at McDonald’s, culminating in three years as president of American operations and then two more as president of the whole corporation. During his years as a top executive, Roberts often tried to push the chain toward healthier fare, such as mango strips, slinky-shaped carrots, and yogurt. At one point he even explored the possibility of a vegan McNugget. (“People would look at him like he was a Cyclops,” Donahue says.) …
On the journey that Roberts wants to take, organic food producers and Lyfe Kitchen will travel toward a realm of financial and foodie triumph. Success will be based on the strict market discipline that made fast food possible in the first place, a drill that can now extend beyond commodity beef, commodity wheat, commodity soybean oil, commodity sugar, and commodity potatoes. Market research Roberts did at McDonald’s convinced him that mothers, the dominant decisionmakers about mealtimes, are more focused than ever on healthy food. So this time around, brussels sprouts and quinoa will enter the picture. This time around, the end result—the food—will look and smell and taste more like an entré from some bistro in Brooklyn than a 30-second stop along Fast-Food Alley. But the process will be roughly the same, in that the problems of enormous scale can be solved through similar uses of technology, efficiency, and experience. “I would say that the pattern of this mosaic is very familiar,” Roberts says. “The strategy of the rollout, the people and their skill sets, the systems of training and hiring and finance and accounting and supply chain, the development of the property and real estate system—they are all very similar.”
In other words, Roberts will take all the tricks he learned from old-style fast food and apply them to the next phase of American eating.
Kaufman’s full piece is worth a read: check it out here.
The Culver City restaurant that Mark Bittman visited was the company’s second; the Palo Alto store I visited was the very first. They’re building company-owned stores and also pursing a McDonald’s-like franchise model. Franchisees will be glad for company support, since outfitting these restaurants isn’t cheap. (Kaufman’s article provides a good overview of the computer-choreographed system in the LYFE Kitchen kitchen.) As Lisa Jennings reports for the trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News,
The estimated buildout cost for a LYFE Kitchen unit is about $1.5 million, including kitchen equipment.
LYFE Kitchen is known for its use of state-of-the-art energy-efficient equipment, which is a key component of the systems that allow for the cooking of fresh food in house consistently. A turbo combine oven, for example, allows operators to turn out the concept’s signature Brussels sprouts the same way every time, [Donahue] said.
While Chicago — where LYFE Kitchen is based — will be home to the first franchise location, Donahue said the company is eager to line up operators in Colorado, in particular, where they feel the brand will be embraced by diners in cities like Denver and Boulder.
The company is also working to develop relationships with farmers in the territories targeted so restaurants can deliver on the promise to use local ingredients where possible.
Interesting to see efforts to extend the McDonald’s model into fresh veggies, no?
But enough about the business side of things. How’s the food, and what are the prices like? Let’s start with Bittman’s take:
I sampled across the menu and came away impressed. There are four small, creative flatbread pizzas under $10; one is vegan, two are vegetarian and one was done with chicken. I tasted terrific salads, like a beet-and-farro one ($9) that could easily pass for a starter at a good restaurant, and breakfast selections, like steel-cut oatmeal with yogurt and real maple syrup ($5) and a tofu wrap ($6.50), were actually delicious.
Lyfe, not unlike life, isn’t cheap. The owners claim that an average check is “around $15” but one entree (roast salmon, bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, miso, etc.) costs exactly $15. An “ancient grain” bowl with Gardein “beef tips” costs $12, which seems too much. Still, the salmon is good and the bowl is delicious, as is a squash risotto made with farro that costs $9 — or the price of a “chickin” sandwich at Veggie Grill or a couple of Tendercrisp sandwiches at Burger King….
Lyfe isn’t vegan, so much as protein-agnostic. You can get a Gardein burger or a grass-fed beef burger, “unfried” chicken or Gardein “chickin.” You can also get wine (biodynamic), beer (organic) or a better-than-it-sounds banana-kale smoothie. However, I fear that Lyfe’s ambition, and its diverse menu, will drive up equipment and labor costs, and that those costs are going to keep the chain from appealing to less-affluent Americans. You can get a lot done in a franchise system, but its main virtues are locating the most popular dishes, focusing on their preparation and streamlining the process. My hope is that Lyfe will evolve, as all businesses do, by a process of trial and error, and be successful enough that they have a real impact on the way we think of fast food.
By and large, I wholeheartedly agree. Some of the food was super tasty. I ordered the beet-and-farro salad that Bittman enjoyed so much, and it was probably the best thing on the table. I’d happily order it again; drop the price by a dollar or two and I’d probably eat it weekly. Runner up? Those signature Brussels sprouts and butternut squash, garnished with craisins. J also enjoyed his meatless-sausage and mozzarella ravioli, though at $12, it was overpriced and too dainty a portion for a guy who was trying to put away some fuel for an impending squash game. Alas, the sweet corn chowder ($4) was generic, and everyone else hated the cardboard-like crust on the flatbread so much that I didn’t even bother trying it. I liked the banana-kale smoothie more than J and E, but it too was pricey at $5, and the $3 baby kale salad also needs to come down a bit in price if this model is to catch on. I thought the nicest surprise was the LYFE Chia water for just $1: a tasty, refreshing treat comprising “Filtered Water with Chia Seeds, Strawberries, Ginger, Mint, and Lime” and only 63 calories. Here in Madison we’ve long been home to a number of stores from Noodles and Company, the very successful and (compared to LYFE Kitchen) very affordable quick-casual restaurant. No doubt building a menu off cheap, processed grains helps Noodles keeps costs down, but it strikes me that LYFE Kitchen would do well to figure out what Noodles is doing right and apply some of that to their own model to help ensure their success.
I used to dine out regularly someone who has a service dog, so my ears perked up when I overheard a conversation in which someone who seemed to be a restaurant manager was questioning whether service dogs are allowed in restaurants, whether only animals with proof of certification are permissible, and the like. This person seemed like a jerk, and I wasn’t confident enough in all the details to butt in, so — even though my impulse was to defend service animal users — I stayed out of that exchange. Next time I will interrupt, since now I am well informed. At a minimum, when I encounter a similar situation, I will suggest that the person Google “service dog restaurant” and go to the #1 search result, the ADA FAQ document that answers all these questions and more.
If you’re wondering, “Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed…. [D]ocumentation generally may not be required as a condition for providing service to an individual accompanied by a service animal.” Also, “no pets” policies don’t apply because service animals are NOT pets per the ADA; and if there are local codes against animals on premises, they get preempted by federal ADA protections.
Also, remember not to assume that what you see isn’t a service animal if it doesn’t fit your preconceived notions of what it should look like. “Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities.” Service animals come in all shapes and sizes and provide a wide range of assistance to their human companions.
Lastly, keep in mind that it’s rude and intrusive to ask someone why they have a service animal. To quote one service dog user, “no matter how POLITELY you ask a question about a disability or an assistive animal or device, you are unintentionally requiring someone to either disclose personal information OR explain why they don’t want to respond. Ask someone you know WELL who uses a wheelchair, or a service dog, or has a ‘hidden/invisible disability’ about how many times we have to become ‘spokespeople’ when we are in public! Many curious people are POLITE, but they don’t understand the situation they put us in.” You wouldn’t ask a complete stranger what it’s like to be a woman, or a senior citizen, or a redhead … so don’t ask why someone has a service animal. To put it bluntly, it’s none of your business, and asking politely doesn’t entitle you to be nosy. It’s good to be curious, but that’s what the internet is for!
The Conscientious Omnivore is away this week. This is an encore presentation of a post that originally appeared in slightly edited form on May 3, 2012.
“Oh Red Lobster. You are a delicious treat!” So said an acquaintance once in my Facebook feed. Since I was having a hard time understanding this statement in the absence of any winky irony, I decided to take some time to consider the appeal of chain dining by way of Dead Lobster (as I suspect some folks still snarkily call it).
In this piece from the Toronto Standard, John Semley examines what some find to be the reassuring comfort of the Red Lobster dining experience. (USA-folk, don’t be scared off by his Canadian references — the writing, save a few grammatical clunkers, is worth it, even if you aren’t entirely sure what Jack Astor’s is.) As he puts it,
Tacky, faux-faded plaques with names for businesses like the AMES BOATWORKS deck out the wood-paneled walls, alongside replica oil paintings of mighty Maine lighthouses, which seem so essential to the idea of eating at a Red Lobster that they’re practically conceptually loadbearing. The result is weird, but fitting considering the marginalized place of chain restaurants like Red Lobster: the restaurant seems to exhibit a sense of nostalgia for itself…. Imagine, driving out with your best gal to the Bar Habror [sic] Bar in Kennebunkport, circa 1968, to enjoy one of those not-yet-patented Red Lobster Shrimp Caesars with a side of homemade biscuits, cheese sifted straight from Cheddar Bay! The idea itself is phantasmal, referring to something that never even really existed. But this desperately nostalgic Red Lobster restaurant concept breeds a weird sense of urgency, like you’re eating in a restaurant that’s on the verge of extinction. (The cheesy dated signage certifies this feeling, collapsing time into space, like when people talk about dying and your life flashing before your eyes instantaneously.) And while a sense of necessity may help you scarf down a pound of reliable-but-ultimately-mediocre crab legs, it also undermines what’s supposed to be, above all else, a comforting experience. Because it’s dependably delicious [a]nd because the uniform sameness of the chain itself proves reassuring….
As an unofficial followup to that essay, The Onion AV Club (Toronto) ran a piece by Semley [no longer available online] that reports his annual participation in Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp promotion. He mentions aspects of the restaurant that draw him in regardless of the current promo (“As usual, the server was friendly, attentive, and helpful, ensuring a steady rotation of shrimp, beer, and fresh-baked Cheddar Bay Biscuits. The restaurant is an absolute joy.”), but never-ending shrimp take center stage. Where his earlier essay paid homage to the comfort of chain predictability, this one revels in the gluttonous, painful pleasure of overindulgence.
Because shrimp are slight, fairly insubstantial things on their own, it’s easy to take down a whole bunch of them before the feeling of satiation begins to bear on you in any real way. (Unless you’re one of those people who sensibly knows when to stop eating, instead of just waiting, counting on your body’s disapproving reproach to tell you, “Put the fork down, fatso.”) Personally, I took down in excess of 70 shrimp, which was on the high end for our party, but not earth-shattering or anything. Just enough to get full in a way that makes you feel both proud and ashamed—the Janus-face of crapulence itself. It’s when you get home, and the overload of shrimp and garlic-butter begins churning through your disgusting gut that the Red Lobster avenges itself on your hubris.
Red Lobster’s appeal seems to be fading for some, though, as its parent company reported weak performance in 2012. As CNBC notes, “unsuccessful promotions led to a decline in sales at its Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and LongHorn Steakhouse chains…. The decline in traffic comes despite the company’s efforts to revamp the menus and marketing for its flagship chains…. At Red Lobster, it added options for people who don’t like seafood.” Things haven’t improved much in 2013. As USA Today reports, “Darden Restaurants’ third-quarter net income dropped 18%, as it dealt with soft sales at Red Lobster…. Darden Restaurants (DRI) has been struggling to make its brands relevant again as diners increasingly head to chains like Chipotle and Panera, where they feel they’re getting restaurant-quality food without paying as much.”
I haven’t joined the (apparently shrinking) camp of Red Lobster fans, but familiarity and plenty are two quintessential American values, so I think I understand the appeal a little better. Competition from Chipotle and Panera notwithstanding, Red Lobster in particular seems to have succeeded in part by marketing itself as a “fancy casual” place. Prices aren’t cheap — at $17.25 (here in Madison), the pick-two Create Your Own Feast is on the lowish end of their prices, and doesn’t include beverage, tax, or tip — but they aren’t approaching the nosebleed heights of high-end places. Folks can splurge on a night out without making a reservation or getting dressed up, without worrying about which fork to use, and without wondering what skate wing, beurre blanc, or almond foam are. No one will look down on you for ordering a Diet Coke with your baskets and plates full of (superficially) satisfying salt, fats, and carbs, and your car is conveniently waiting for you in the parking lot to whisk you home at the end of your meal.
The Conscientious Omnivore is away this week. This is an encore presentation of a post that originally appeared in slightly edited form on December 17, 2011.
I’ve finally gotten around to reading some of the recent “Food and Drink Issue” of The New York Times Magazine. I especially enjoyed Mark Bittman’s piece titled “Yes, Healthful Fast Food Is Possible. But Edible?” He writes,
Numbers are tricky to pin down for more healthful options because the fast food industry doesn’t yet have a category for “healthful.” The industry refers to McDonald’s and Burger King as “quick-serve restaurants”; Chipotle is “fast casual”; and restaurants where you order at the counter and the food is brought to you are sometimes called “premium fast casual.” Restaurants from these various sectors often deny these distinctions, but QSR, an industry trade magazine — “Limited-Service, Unlimited Possibilities” — spends a good deal of space dissecting them.
However, after decades of eating the stuff, I have my own. First, there are those places that serve junk, no matter what kind of veneer they present. Subway, Taco Bell (I may be partial to them, but really…), McDonald’s and their ilk make up the Junk Food sector. One step up are places with better ambience and perhaps better ingredients — Shake Shack, Five Guys, Starbucks, Pret a Manger — that also peddle unhealthful food but succeed in making diners feel better about eating it, either because it tastes better, is surrounded by some healthful options, the setting is groovier or they use some organic or sustainable ingredients. This is the Nouveau Junk sector.
Chipotle combines the best aspects of Nouveau Junk to create a new category that we might call Improved Fast Food. At Chipotle, the food is fresher and tastes much better than traditional fast food. The sourcing, production and cooking is generally of a higher level; and the overall experience is more pleasant. The guacamole really is made on premises, and the chicken (however tasteless) is cooked before your eyes. It’s fairly easy to eat vegan there, but those burritos can pack on the calories….
Chipotle no longer stands alone in the Improved Fast Food world: Chop’t, Maoz, Freshii, Zoës Kitchen and several others all have their strong points. And — like Chipotle — they all have their limitations, starting with calories and fat….
Despite its flaws, Improved Fast Food is the transitional step to a new category of fast-food restaurant whose practices should be even closer to sustainable and whose meals should be reasonably healthful and good-tasting and inexpensive. (Maybe not McDonald’s-inexpensive, but under $10.) This new category is, or will be, Good Fast Food, and there are already a few emerging contenders.
The essay is thoughtful and interesting (as usual with Bittman), so I encourage you to check it out here.
Earlier this week, Helene Stapinski wrote a piece for The New York Times on how some restaurants are responding to the growing trend of diners taking photos of their meals. As she begins,
When it comes to people taking photographs of their meals, the chef David Bouley has seen it all. There are the foreign tourists who, despite their big cameras, tend to be very discreet. There are those who use a flash and annoy everyone around them. There are those who come equipped with gorillapods — those small, flexible tripods to use on their tables.
There are even those who stand on their chairs to shoot their plates from above.
“We get on top of those folks right away or else it’s like a circus,” Mr. Bouley said.
Bouley has a clever, generous solution (check out Stapinski’s article for details), but others aren’t so accommodating. For example,
Moe Issa, the owner of Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, said he banned photography several months after opening when it became too much of a distraction to the other diners at his 18-seat restaurant.
“Some people are arrogant about it,” he said. “They don’t understand why. But we explain that it’s one big table and we want the people around you to enjoy their meal. They pay a lot of money for this meal. It became even a distraction for the chef.”
Mr. Bouley said table photography “totally disrupts the ambience.”
“It’s a disaster in terms of momentum, settling into the meal, the great conversation that develops,” he said. “It’s hard to build a memorable evening when flashes are flying every six minutes.”
First world problems? Yes, but a photo prohibition seems like a choice a restauranteur should be able to make if she or he chooses, even it seems snooty.
I admit to a certain minor discomfort that I have when I find myself snapping photos for a blog post. I’m not one who relishes being an object of scrutiny, and however discreetly one manages to snap a pic (I’ve never stood on a chair!), the act does tend to draw a bit of attention. That said, I don’t generally find it that problematic when other diners feel compelled to document their dishes, though I’ve never seen anyone go quite as crazy as the Flickr junkies shown in the photo.
To hark back to yesterday’s post, I wonder whether the ban on photography, at least at high-end restaurants, is partly an attempt to speak a message about cultural capital, i.e., “If the occasion of your dining here is such a special event that you must memorialize it in photos, you are probably too low-brow to be dining in our fine establishment anyway.”
What say you, dear reader? Do you find your restaurant meals befouled by distracting food photogs at surrounding tables (or perhaps your own)? Or could you not care less? And is this just another of those occasional irritating examples of the NYT offering an article on a rather inane topic that might garner eyeballs on the web but makes little substantive contribution to social discourse? Please add your 2¢ in the comments.
If yesterday’s post was about dining in, today’s is about dining out. NPR’s food blog, The Salt, provides highlights from
a recent survey of 1,800 chefs across the nation. The survey, part of the National Restaurant Association’s latest Restaurant Industry Forecast, categorized 198 menu items as “hot trends,” “yesterday’s news” or “perennial favorites.” Meant to be an annual snapshot of the entire restaurant industry, the forecast also predicts trends in restaurant technologies and consumer attitudes in the coming year, says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research at the NRA.
Jessica Stoller-Conrad notes that
hot trends include house-cured meats, artisanal cheeses and gourmet lemonade. And in addition to locally grown organic produce, hyperlocal items, such as vegetables raised in restaurant gardens, are also expected to ramp up in 2013.
“Among Americans now, there is a heightened level of interest in food overall, and that runs the spectrum from farm to fork,” says Riehle. This interest could stem from the growing popularity of cooking shows and culinary school graduates, he says.
Head here for the full story, including links to the chef survey results and more.
“Resolve to eat local in 2013!!”
That’s the message Bloom Bake Shop posted on their Facebook page yesterday to kick off the new year. If you’re a resolution kind of person, eating more locally and seasonally would make for an awfully nice goal for the year! (Before you start resolving, though, consider leaning into change to increase your chance of success.)
I’ve posted about Bloom before, but they’re such a strong supporter of local and organic growers, producers, and purveyors that they deserve another featured shout out. As Susan Gloss describes in her cover article from the current issue of Edible Madison, Bloom
uses organic ingredients, and [owner Annemarie Spitznagle] sources the majority of those ingredients locally. Flour comes from Lonesome Stone Milling in Lone Rock. Eggs are from Pecatonica Valley Farm, and all dairy products come from Organic Valley, based in La Farge. By sourcing her ingredients locally and organically whenever possible, Annemarie hopes she can inspire other businesses to do the same.
“Organic and expensive don’t have to be synonymous,” she says.
Bloom’s commitment to local food extends beyond its doors and into the community. Extra products at the end of the day are donated to local charities, such as the Goodman Center and Gilda’s Club. The bakery also serves as a pick up location for two community supported agriculture (CSA) vegetable farms, as well as a honey CSA called Mad Urban Bees. A point of pride for Annemarie is that she helped Yumbutter, a local handmade peanut butter company, get off the ground by providing work space and incorporating its products into her menu.
Check out Gloss’s full piece (online or in print) along with my earlier post, and then stop by Bloom’s lovely shop in Middleton for some delicious baked goods. The offerings include plenty of vegan and/or gluten-free treats, plus some savory items, and you can order special-event cakes as well.
After many visits, my go-to staple has become the amazing salted caramel brownie whenever it’s available; my favorite seasonal special so far has been a vanilla-and-beet (!) cupcake that I had this fall. Don’t rely on my opinion, though; go check out the case and find your own favorites!
Continuing our recent series of posts that reflect on the year gone by, today we consider the ever-thriving restaurant scene in and around Madison.
By my own estimation, 2012 highlights include
- the arrival of the IGO VEGO veggie-burger food cart on the Capitol Square
- the return of the locally sourced, insanely delicious chicken wings at Alchemy
- Roast Public House’s replacement of Buffalo Wild Wings on State Street
- the opening of Jordandal Cookhouse in Verona
- and news that Brasserie V will soon be doubling its space on Monroe Street.
André Darlington at Isthmus takes a look back at a plethora of special-event meals. As he notes,
While themed events can be pricey — some can run well over a $100 — they are typically excellent value. Such dinners are when chefs often do their most creative work, and ingredients and libations can be expensive and rare.
At their best, special restaurant events explore a culinary theme at a depth you may not have ever have experienced before. They are also great opportunities to meet like-minded people. Guests leave changed — with new friends, minds blown, and palates expanded.
Find his full retrospective here.
While you’re at it, also head to Darlington’s blog for his recent post on “40 Madison Sandwiches to Eat Before You Die,” which serves as both an unofficial year-in-review and a nice to-do list for 2013. There are some great suggestions, including this one: “No list is complete without Natt Spil’s Pork Sandwich. Pulled pork piled hot and high straight from the wood-fired oven.” Mmmm…
Lastly, check out the “Best of 2012” from Lindsay Christians at 77 Square for seven of her food-and-drink favorites from the past year, and see Linda Falkenstein’s annual restaurant roundup for Isthmus.