Category: Madison

Breastfeeding in a restaurant? Shocking!

Photo by Flickr user Jared Klett, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Thanks to HuffPost, I recently read Tony Posnanski’s essay titled, “You Can Breastfeed in My Restaurant Anytime.” An assistant restaurant manager, he describes a recent Valentine’s Day dinner rush when a customer complained about bad service, bad drinks, and bad food, and then went one step further: He complained about a breastfeeding patron nearby, who had the audacity not to hide her feeding child under a blanket. As Posnanski describes,

let’s forget the fact that breastfeeding (or feeding a child for that matter) is important for the development of a child. Let’s forget the fact that Florida has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in America. Let’s forget the fact that it is a law that mothers can breastfeed their children in any public location in Florida without any ridicule, covered or not…

Do you think I would ask a mom to go to her car or somewhere away from her family because a man or woman is offended by a breast and nipple? A nipple and breast designed for feeding a child, not for pornography or the satisfaction of admiring them?

I would never make a scene about it nor would I ever allow anyone I work with to do so…. A mom has every right to feed her child anywhere public in Florida. Most people do not know that. Everyone should. It is a law. Moms should know that as well.

I was reminded of a similar story here in Madison that caused a bit of an uproar last summer when a well-meaning-but-in-the-wrong staff member at a just-opened restaurant didn’t respond in quite the same way. As Jessica Vanegeren reported for The Capital Times,

A breastfeeding mother dining at a new pizzeria in one of Madison’s most progressive neighborhoods was asked to leave her table and move to an area free of customers [after another patron complained], setting off a backlash against the owners that continues to spread on social media….

According to 2009 Wisconsin Act 148, or the right to breast-feed law that took effect in March 2010:

“A mother may breast-feed her child in any public or private location where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be. In such a location, no person may prohibit a mother from breast-feeding her child, direct a mother to move to a different location to breast-feed her child, direct a mother to cover her child or breast while breast-feeding, or otherwise restrict a mother from breast-feeding her child as provided in this section.”

In other words, the restaurant patron who is uncomfortable should be asked to move, not the mother and child.

The Madison incident is detailed in full here, the owners’ apology here, and photos of their “free pizza for moms and kids” peace offering here. (For the record, the Grampa’s Pizza is apparently well-worth a visit, despite the early law-breaking.)

UW-Madison yields bounty of organic ag research

Three colour carrots

Photo by Flickr user Thom Wong [The Sunday Best], used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A new report [PDF] highlights research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that’s meant to contribute to the success of organic farming in our state (and beyond). As Bob Mitchell writes for UW-Madison News,

The report, published by the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, summarizes 23 studies conducted by researchers in the university’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) in partnership with farmers across the state. The scientists are evaluating production practices for many of the state’s main agricultural products — dairy forages and pasture, soybeans, potatoes, vegetables and fruits, among others — as well as farm management and marketing.

The report also takes a more in-depth look at how some of the organic research projects have benefited the state’s farmers.

The study summaries make for pretty interesting reading. For example, Mitchell highlights efforts to develop an organic, no-till system that’s been 8 years in the making. Another that caught my eye in the report is an ongoing USDA-funded program to develop better organic carrots; as its summary explains,

Significant progress has been made in carrot breeding for conventional production systems, such as breeding for nutritionally superior varieties across multiple color classes including orange, red, purple and yellow. While these high-value carrot varieties are in demand, much of this germplasm has not been improved for organic systems. Organic producers need varieties that germinate rapidly with good seedling vigor, compete with weeds, resist pests, take up nutrients efficiently and are broadly adapted to organic growing conditions.

For more, check out Mitchell’s overview and the full report [PDF].

Locally sourced and produced drinking vinegar now available in Madison

Last month André Darlington of Isthmus wrote about a mini-boom in alternative beverages here in the Madison, Wisconsin area. His piece mentions Wisco Pop‘s successful Kickstarter campaign to begin bottling their all-natural sodas (which I posted about when the campaign was still ongoing). He also notes NessAlla Kombucha‘s continued expansion, including into the Chicago market.

But as a lover of all things tart, tangy, and sour, what most intrigued me was the arrival of a locally made drinking vinegar. As Darlington describes,

Mad Maiden Shrub is the newest beverage to hit the Madison market. Janet Chen started making a “shrub,” or drinking vinegar, focusing on its health aspects. Chen sources apples for her base vinegar from Turkey Ridge Organic Orchard in Gays Mills and buys honey from Gentle Breeze in Mount Horeb.

Shrubs have been linked to the national cocktail boom. A syrupy mixture of macerated fruit and vinegar, shrubs were a kind of precursor to modern-day sodas and were popular in colonial times. Just add spirits and carbonated water, and you had a fine cocktail….

The most famous drinking vinegar in the U.S. is Som, produced by chef Andy Ricker of Portland’s Pok Pok restaurant, who was inspired by these Asian digestives. [Check out my earlier post when I tried ginger Som in Portland.]

Chen currently makes a potent honey ginger version.

Yum! I can’t wait to give it a try. For details on where to purchase this delicious sounding treat, check out the full post here. And for a few recipes, head to Mad Maiden Shrub’s website.

Home-cooked meals, CSA style

One of the two dishes on last week’s menu: grilled pizza with roasted potato, kale, leek & 3 cheeses. Photo and description via the website of 608 Community Supported Kitchen.

Linda Falkenstein recently profiled an interesting business operating here in the Madison area. As she describes,

Let’s say you’re coming home from work and you’re frazzled — it’s late and although you have plenty of food in the fridge, you have no energy to cook. So you pop a frozen pizza in the oven or stop at the local take-out joint, and your vows to eat more vegetables and whole grains, and to support local farmers, are down the drain for the day. Sound familiar?

Enter 608 Community Supported Kitchen, a meal-delivery service. Subscribers have two freshly-made meals a week delivered to their door with instructions for re-heating. Food is sourced from local farms and markets; meat primarily from Black Earth Meats.

Chef Benjamin Lubchansky and his wife Kate run the business out of their home in Mazomanie, which includes a certified kitchen. For the full story, including links, head here.

Black Earth Meats in squabble with neighbors and Village

Lee and Bartlett Durand

Black Earth Meats owner Bartlett Durand, at right. Photo by Flickr user Peter Durand [ChimpLearnGood], used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Linda Falkenstein recently had a great piece in Isthmus, in which she examines bad blood between Black Earth Meats on one side and some of their neighbors, as well as the Village of Black Earth, on the other.

I’ve long been a fan of Black Earth Meats, and I still am, given their commitment to promoting and distributing sustainably and humanely raised and processed meat. (Madisonians should check out their new shop, the Conscious Carnivore.) That said, Falkenstein deftly details some of the complexities of operating a slaughterhouse in a residential area. She opens her article this way:

Mary Mickelson lives two houses away from Black Earth Meats, a butcher shop and slaughterhouse right in the center of the town that gives it its name. She’s lived in her home for 40 years, during which time the building has always been a butcher shop and meat market.

But in the early days slaughter was one day a week, and the meat was all sold in the store in front, says Mickelson. “It was a mom-and-pop butcher shop.”

“The problems started about three and a half years ago,” Mickelson says, when Black Earth Meats’ business started to take off. Volume increased, says Mickelson. Problems she cites include noise from animals waiting for long periods in trucks, before being led into the slaughterhouse; animal parts remaining after slaughter or being poured into trucks; remnant pieces falling in the street; blood dripping from trucks or bins; and odors, especially in warm weather.

Falkenstein notes other occasional problems that have cropped up in the last 5+ years, but points out that

[Black Earth Meats owner Bartlett] Durand took over in 2008 and emphasized antibiotic- and hormone-free organic and grass-fed meats. The facility is considered suitable to slaughter animals from Wisconsin’s two farms certified by the Animal Welfare Approved program.

The area is currently zoned for grocery-retail, but the slaughtering operation has been allowed, as long as the physical footprint of the business does not grow.

The Village is trying to get the slaughter operation moved out of town. As Falkenstein details, Durand responded with a claim for damages against the Village, alleging that “‘frequent…and unsupportable complaints’ were made ‘with the stated intent of harassing BE Meats and impeding its business activities'; and that the village board directed deputies ‘to engage in selective and harassing enforcement actions with respect to any violation of Village Ordinances.'”

The full article warrants a read, so check it out here. I’m hoping that the parties can find a way to reach a fair and reasonable solution. As factory farms explode and meat processing operations continue to consolidate into enormous, dangerous, and cruel conveyor-belt operations, our food systems desperately need small-scale, local companies like Black Earth Meats and they farms that they work with.

Locavore bloody marys come to Marigold Kitchen

Breakfast at Marigold Kitchen

The only thing missing from this Marigold Kitchen breakfast? The bloody mary! Photo by Flickr user Mark Danielson [mrbula], used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The fall issue of the REAP Reporter features a cool article about Marigold Kitchen‘s latest effort to serve its customers delicious produce from local farms. As the article describes,

Marigold doesn’t have the capacity to process and store enough tomatoes in-house, but Marigold Director of Operations Sam Mack hoped there might be a farmer nearby who could provide [tomato juice] for them. After a bit of research, [REAP’s Buy Fresh Buy Local Program Manager] Theresa [Feiner] successfully connected Marigold with Happy Valley Farms in Black Earth, 20 miles west of Madison.

Last fall, Happy Valley owner Kevin Lucey had an abundance of Mountain Fresh Plus tomato seconds – not quite good enough for retail, but perfect for processing or cooking. With this in mind, Kevin approached the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen, a shared commercial kitchen located in Mineral Point. Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen worked with Happy Valley Farms to prepare, process, and package the tomato seconds into vibrant, flavorful, ready-to-sell tomato juice. When REAP made the connection between Happy Valley and Marigold, it was win-win solution for the grower and the restaurant. Marigold Kitchen is proud to feature Happy Valley’s tomato juice in their bloody marys and hopes to continue this relationship.

You can find the full article and other locavore news from South-Central Wisconsin in the current REAP newsletter [PDF].

Lovin’ the lovage

Notrano's Lovage Martini 2.0. Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Notrano’s Lovage Martini 2.0. Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

I was lucky enough to enjoy dinner the other night at Nostrano, one of Madison’s top restaurants. Their local, seasonal approach to dining extends not just to the food but to the cocktails as well. After reading André Darlington’s recent feature on summery drinks around town, I was eager to give the Lovage Martini 2.0 a try, which he suggested “uses the celery-like plant to pleasant effect.” Here’s the description from Nostano’s menu:

Nolet’s Gin | Lovage Vermouth | Dimmi | Picholine Olives

If you’ve never had lovage before (I hadn’t), Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of The Guardian has a great description of the taste: “The flavour is like parsley and celery combined with a hint of aniseed and curry. And if you think that sounds intriguing, you’d be right.”

Follow the ingredient links above for details on the other components of this expertly balanced cocktail.

For more on leafy lovage, check out Fearnley-Whittingstall’s article and recipes, along with a 1979 (!) piece from Betty Laws for Mother Earth News and this post from the on “Acquiring a taste for lovage.”

Pelmeni returning to downtown Madison

Russian Dumplings--Pelmeni

Photo by gzap via Flickr

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.

UPDATED June 28, 2013: Good news! As reported by Samara Kalk Derby today, Paul’s Pe’meni (AKA Gorham Dumplings) is now open downtown. The bad news, though, is that owner Paul Schwoerer, “who also owns the Oasis Cafe and EVP coffee shop, 2690 Research Park Dr., in Fitchburg, has discontinued dumplings at that location because he doesn’t have the proper equipment or space there.”

More edible landscaping may be coming to Madison

ari tastes from the berry tree

Photo by Shira Golding Evergreen via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

As Linda Falkenstein reported for Isthmus earlier this week,

An ordinance will be introduced at [Tuesday, February 26th's] Common Council meeting making it easier for residents to plant edible landscaping on city land….

Right now, it’s not practically possible for people to plant edible perennials on city land, due to the high cost of insurance. A similar plan was okayed for master gardeners doing work in parks and for those who take care of neighborhood signs; they’re covered on the city’s insurance as volunteers.

Head here for Falkenstein’s full piece, which also mentions another proposed change that would “make it possible for residents to plant gardens in their terraces,” by which she means that patch of land between the curb and sidewalk—what my family in Cleveland, Ohio called the “tree lawn” when I was growing up.

In case you missed the 2010 brouhaha when the initial master-gardener plan was proposed (and eventually approved), head to the Madison Fruits and Nuts simple but informative website, which has lots of great links to local press coverage at the time.

FYI, according to the city’s website, the latest proposal was introduced at the Common Council meeting as expected and has been referred to various committees and such (like the Sustainable Madison Committee and the Board of Public Works) for their review.

Check out Roast Public House on State Street

J had a Friday-night special, the fish fry sandwich, with fries and coleslaw right on the sammy with the battered fish. Yum. Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

J had a Friday-night special fish fry sandwich, which included fries and coleslaw right on the sammy with the battered fish. Yum. Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Roast Public House is a welcome change on Madison’s State Street. As I noted previously, they’ve moved into the location formerly occupied by an underwhelming chicken-wing chain that moved to University Ave., giving us instead a lovely, locavore sandwich shop with a nice beer selection that doubles as a college bar on the weekends.

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

As Nick Brown writes for MadTable,

Co-owners Doug Hamaker and Henry Aschauer actually met six years ago at a fraternity event as incoming freshmen, and after graduation both were working in sales in the recycled metals industry when they began brainstorming.

“We just started talking every day about the idea of opening a sandwich shop,” says 24-year-old Hamaker, a New Jersey native (Aschauer is from Maine), adding that the original vision was more of a hole-in-the-wall-type take-out spot rather than a restaurant with a full bar. “But we found this space and we thought maybe we can find more of a mix.” The two enlisted the help of Hamaker’s father for the business end, and they signed on a childhood friend, Andrew Greenberg, to run the kitchen.

Isthmus hasn’t posted a review yet, but Lindsay Christians of 77 Square has had her say:

Among chef Andrew Greenberg’s 15-sandwich lineup are cult-worthy options like the turkey spinach dip panini ($8), made with juicy turkey and a generous layer of cheesy spinach dip on toasted sourdough. A succulent white cap roast beef ($9), topped with melted mozzarella and caramelized onions, needed no au jus to keep it juicy.

On both the roast beef and a hearty chicken francese ($8), crunchy/chewy baguette added texture and helped the sandwich travel well.

The California avocado ($8) with Swiss was creamy and filling enough to make even a devoted meat-eater forget it’s vegetarian. And salads, including the parmesan-topped Roast Caesar ($2 side/$3.50 small/$5 full), tasted fresh and well-dressed.

Ben Munson of The Onion’s AV Club Madison (not available online) also had lots of good things to say:

Aside from the extra TLC Roast instills into its food, the restaurant prides itself on sourcing locally whenever possible…

The “Roast” Beef and the Guiness Stout Beef Brisket were both elegant and tasty enough, but the Giambotta—with slow-roasted pork shoulder and cherry pepper pork gravy—really stood out. But all paled in presentation to the fantastic Grilled Chicken “BLT.” As beautiful as it looked, it tasted even better, representing the “B” with a bacon jam, a heavenly sauce sent to this planet to reward mere mortals with maximum bacon flavor.

For the undergrad view of this addition to the campus end of State, check out Niko Ivanovic’s take in Moda, the student-run UW style magazine. (And yes, the photo there is an uncredited lift from the MadTable page…. Kids these days and their loosey-goosey media habits.)

J and I have been there a few times and really enjoyed our meals, even though they were still sorting out minor kinks, e.g., upon entry as a novice, it’s not entirely clear what to do or where to go to get food. (Hint: head to the back for the counter that’s opposite the bar.) Chef Andrew spoke to us the first time about the delicious special we each had, a pork-belly reuben, comprised of Black Earth braised and crispy pork belly topped by bacon-and-sauerkraut Russian dressing. (Yes, it was as drippingly good as it sounds.) He then remembered and warmly greeted us when we made a repeat appearance the following week. The food is clearly made with love and care, and with ingredients as good as these, the prices seem quite fair. I’m looking forward to continued visits to explore the rest of the menu, along with the tasty and ever-changing specials.

Check out the MadTable and 77 Square links above for some nice pics, and take a look at Roast’s menu here.