Well, as you probably noticed, I had to take a week off last week. It's been some kind of spring, with kinds of stress I didn't think I'd ever have coming. Gotta look out for number one sometimes, though, and I'm glad to say I'm back and feeling ready to review some reviews. This week, consider how we -- writers, restaurants, just, y'know, we -- go about being ourselves. Welcome back to Flyover Friday.Read More
Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, or maybe just a straight-up glutton, but I've gone and done it again. I've gathered a group of friends to do a full-immersion tour of one of Madison's food ecosystems. Last March, it was fried cheese curd and Bloody Mary research on the Capitol Square and State Street. This year? A Lenten assault on Friday fish fry and old fashioneds down the Monroe Street corridor: the Laurel Tavern, jacs Dining and Tap House, and Gates and Brovi. We called it Glutwalk 2: Fishpocalypse, and the results are in.Read More
Well, you can't fault me for being busy, what with the 2014 Wisconsin Film Festival in full swing, and me with five movies to see with my wife, over three days. Eight days of curated culture, laid out by folks who know a hell of a lot more about film than I do. But I betcha I got 'em when it comes to where to eat after the lights come back up. Let's all go to the lobby, it's a slightly late Flyover Friday.Read More
Eddie Huang, the firebrand restaurateur always willing to get into the debate over authenticity, just recently started up a podcast. Called "Monosodium Glutamate," its very first episode was all about authenticity. I'm inclined to give it a listen, because I will listen to just about every food podcast, but haven't yet because I don't want to start pulling my hair out over who's allowed to make what food and where. I'd just as soon we focused on the equation of quality + history, and stop double-checking the math to see if it = authenticity. This is your real-deal Flyover Friday.Read More
The idea behind Flyover Friday is, essentially, a desire to show that there's both interesting culinary activity in the Midwest, and also thoughtful, quality consideration of that food in the form of restaurant criticism. This is not to say that the equation is always balanced, or that the attempts are always successful. Whether it's a restaurant, or a review, there's always a lead balloon or two. Welcome to this week's Flyover Friday.Read More
Yesterday (March 14) was the 102nd anniversary of OREO's first trademark. The product name was first used back on March 6th of 1912, and it's been around ever since, a burr in Hydrox's saddle but a joy in everyone else's hearts.
Sure, I'm waxing rhapsodic over these sandwich cookies with waxy creme filling, but come on. There's something for everyone. Chocolate, frosting, crunch, sweet, guilt, indulgence, and now: collectibility. Yes, in the last few years, OREO has followed (some might say "led") the trend of variant flavors, seasonal flavors, weird-ass limited edition flavors. I've become something of a connoisseur.Read More
Remember how excited I was that last week's Phil Vettel review was on the free side of the Chicago Tribune's paywall? Well, Imma start calling him Punxsutawney, because he's back behind that paywall like a groundhog on February 3rd. I don't know how that paper gets away with doing that; I'd be pissed if my city's paper kept the general public from reading its restaurant reviews. But who am I to say what should work for Chicago? (And while I assure you this Chicago-heavy intro has nothing to do with my appearance on WBEZ's Strange Brews podcast this week, it certainly is a handy way to bring it up.) Anyway, on with this week's Flyover Friday.Read More
I've got the briefest of posts for you -- while I work up a couple for the weekend -- to announce that the Strange Brews podcast I appear on has just gone live on Soundcloud and iTunes. Hooray!
Click whichever link suits your needs, and check out my very enjoyable day and a half showing Tim Akimoff, Alison Cuddy, and Andrew Gill of Chicago's WBEZ all around Madison. (Or at least as much of it as we could reasonably fit into that window.)
You may be aware of my taxing weekend of sink installation. This actually started on Friday, which is as much excuse as I can offer for being late with another Flyover Friday. But this week -- today, in fact -- is the first birthday of ironyormayo.com, so I might as well cram a bunch of content into the week to celebrate. And this week will be a Madison-centric one in a lot of ways, as the Madison episode of WBEZ's Strange Brews podcast -- in which I appear -- is scheduled to come out by week's end. "How do you welcome newcomers to your city?" will be a key question. Here's Flyover Friday, with some welcomes of its own.Read More
I had a chat this morning with a freelance writer from Chicago, who mentioned she sometimes wishes she could be a restaurant critic there. Near the top of the list of reasons was the fact that there are so few female food critics in the Chicago area. It got me thinking about how many of the critics I've covered in this feature are women -- over half this week! Balance, duality, dichotomy: you should see a thread running through many of the reviews in this week's Flyover Friday.Read More
The end of the year is all about family -- giving gifts, traveling to visit, sending cards -- and so much so that by the time January rolls around, I'm ready for a break. Indeed, the traditional New Year's Eve celebration in my house is a night in with my wife, some takeout sushi, and beer/champagne. (I'm sure I've talked about this before.) No parties, no crowds, just us.
This year, the post-holiday shut-in phase seemed to run its course a little faster than usual. By the end of the month, we were jammed in to breweries and restaurants with friends and strangers alike, eating, drinking and celebrating. The world of food and beer is a whole different kind of family.Read More
As an inveterate fan of a good pun -- the writerly love that dare not speak its name -- I fully expected Chef Tory Miller (Graze, L'Etoile) to dip into that well in naming his forthcoming restaurant in the Constellation building on East Washington and Livingston. L'Etoile means 'the star,' Constellation: It was too obvious. So props to Miller for sticking to what the restaurant itself will be about, and not just the building.Read More
Good food writing is like that old legislator's line about spotting porn: You know it when you see it. But good food writing is definitively not like porn in that it should depict an experience that the audience can fairly easily replicate. The critic should have a palate and an eye for both detail and diversity, and the ability to communicate the dining experience to the reader, facilitating practical application. Do, and then describe. Limber up, it's Flyover Friday.Read More
I have to acknowledge that this edition of Flyover Friday is woefully, unforgivably late. I was trying to do about three different things at once this week; similarly, there's a number of restaurants reviewed in this week's batch of reviews that appear to be trying to get a handle on being more than one kind of thing. Peruvian-Wisconsinite, almost-new, tavern-and-restaurant, or in the case of one review (cringetastically), repeatedly-misspelled and slightly-racist. You'll just have to see for yourselves. It's Flyover Friday -- er, Friday-Wednesday.Read More
I'm not tooting my own horn here, but this feature isn't always easy. Tracking down restaurant reviews from 20-some newspapers throughout the Midwest -- sometimes the review isn't really a review but more of a snapshot or a first look, sometimes the websites are really awful, sometimes the publication date isn't easy to spot, or it's in relative mode and I have to count hours backwards in time to see if it was published under my deadline for inclusion. An RSS feed is a lot easier, but in setting mine up, I'm discovering how shoddy or unhelpful a lot of RSS work is. This includes two of three Madison publications I follow. RSS stands for "really simple syndication," and I'm not sure it's as simple as advertised if so many papers can't get a grasp of it. This week's Flyover Friday will only consider the publications whose RSS feeds are legitimately helpful for readers of restaurant criticism.Read More
Are you ready for some arancini? Because damn, they're happening. The Italian Power Bar. Like Scooby Snacks for foodies. These appetizers ball so hard motherfuckers wanna find 'em. Little fried spheres of, often, leftover risotto, remembrances of great meals past. You can't blame chefs for throwing them onto the menu, as they're practical, potent, and popular. But now, practically ubiquitous at both Italian and modern small-plate American joints. Really, truly, I don't blame restaurants for wanting to serve something popular, but it goes to show that, like convergent evolution, inspiration holds little loyalty toward those it touches. Don't let it get you down, it's Flyover Friday.Read More
There are a couple times a year when beer geeks from Wisconsin and beyond get all whipped into a frenzy: Craft Beer Week, the Great Taste of the Midwest, and a handful of smaller beer parties like Capital Brewery's Bockfest. This last weekend provided the dedicated, the dorked-out, and the drinker -- yes, those with a little disposable income -- with the perfect opportunity to block off three whole days for a little beer vacation. A beercation, if you will.Read More
Aside from being a little late, this week's Flyover Friday is all about timing, and money. Some of this is evident by those publications not represented here. The Chicago Tribune has Phil Vettel's reviews behind a paywall (money); the Cincinnati Enquirer got missed in the last post, and last week's review fell on a Friday, which means it'll be in next week's post (time). (The fact that the Indianpolis Star and NUVO, Indianapolis' alt-weekly, both basically reviewed Taste of Havana's Cuban sandwich doesn't fit thematically with their absence; it just didn't seem necessary to include 'em.) Add to that couple little guys going big-time, one thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, and the stabilizing influence of chain-restaurant money -- this is your slightly delayed Flyover Friday.Read More
Welcome to another Flyover Friday. This week we've got a couple breakfast-heavy reviews, a few steaks, as well as the alternating appearance and absence of accent marks on non-English words like jalapeno, banh mi, and creme brulee. So, with this week's rundown of Midwestern food criticism, a question for my readers: do you want publications to include accent marks on non-English words, or do they come off as pretentious, like an Anglo newscaster over-emphasizing Spanish words? Sound off in the comments section. The meat of this order continues after the jump.Read More
The food website Serious Eats does the occasional review of a hot restaurant, or posts a report from a city's dining scene. It's almost always New York, or somewhere in California, or maybe Chicago. Eater.com (as much as I love 'em for their affiliate and mini-affiliate local sites) does a weekly roundup of restaurant reviews from the past week or so (or did, anyway; Associate Editor Paula Forbes reminds me that Eater hasn't posted one in over a year), and it's all Wells and Sietsema and Gold and the occasional Vettel. Fat chance you'll see a restaurant critic from Minneapolis or Milwaukee or Madison -- and it's not that they all start with M. It's that they're in the middle.
Okay, that starts with an M, too, but that's really not my point.
The point is that they're all in the area of the country that sites like Serious Eats mysteriously fail to cover. There's still a food crit blind spot for the Midwest. But you guys travel, whether it's for work or fun, and if you didn't like to read about food, you wouldn't be here. So here it is, my Midwest-centric roundup of restaurant criticism, because yes, there is restaurant criticism here. Welcome to Flyover Friday.Read More