Kyle Ate Here - Event-full

May is the first half of a two-month stretch that, in my household, tests our schedules and drops us all over the map of Wisconsin. My birthday's in May, my niece's birthday is in May, Mother's Day is in May -- heck, even one of our dogs has a May birthday.

It's not just the personal stuff that filled up this particular May. Kristine and I put some good hours into celebrating the best of good beer during Madison Craft Beer Week. The inaugural Isthmus Ala Carts festival put us in the line of fire of 20-some food carts that normally set up shop all over town; I'll post a little more about that soon. I waited in line for most of a rainy Saturday morning to get tickets to Great Taste of the Midwest with a couple friends. And a local legend shut its doors for the last time.


Craft Beer Week kicked off with a rare beer tapping at Alchemy; Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Central Waters Peruvian Morning, and Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree IPA were on offer. KBS and Peruvian Morning are thick enough to drink like a meal (and both delicious), but the barbecue pork sandwich was quite nice, too. Topped with a crisp, almost candied bacon, the sandwich had a kind of Southeast Asian-esque flavor. At Johnson Public House, the Sunday Morning Breakfast Sandwich was just the right fuel for sitting on my butt waiting to buy Great Taste tickets. (Good on JPH for opening extra-early at 5 A.M. for the line-sitters.)

2012 cranked out a pretty exemplary birthday weekend, too. A lunch trip to Stalzy's with my parents came first; stepdad's foot was in a hard boot and the staff were very accommodating to his need for an extra chair. The Corso sandwich was something to behold, with all its meaty goodness. The parsley oil is a nice touch. Kristine humored me with a magic coffee and brat from the Graze market stand, and that evening we introduced my in-laws to the Great Dane East. A fine view, and a tasty bowl of French onion soup, salty and rich. My birthday-proper was observed with Kristine at Brasserie V, where her beloved waterzooi was back on the menu as a special. My crispy sablefish was cooked expertly, and the white truffle puree, grilled asparagus, and pickled ramps gave the entire plate a sort of forest floor, musky character -- in the best way.

A final note of farewell to Nifty 50's, the Odana Road loose meat shop whose twenty-year run came to an end on Memorial Day weekend. The loose meat sandwich is a throwback kind of menu item, a niche bite that calls Iowa home. Dick and Connie Schrock decided to hang it up and enjoy their retirement; I'll miss the peanut butter shakes, cherry phosphates, and the Schrock's unique brand of customer engagement.

Just kind of, y'know

At last, I gave in and ordered the chicken and waffles from the Graze brunch menu. The waffle came out a little cool, but the steamin'-hot chicken -- with its crunchy and well-seasoned exterior -- balanced out the temperatures. It's pretty much worth its $16 price tag. An otherwise-lovely lunch with Kristine at Sushi Muramoto was marred by a bone-filled piece of black cod; the server seemed more terrified that I was going to raise hell than apologetic that such a poorly-prepped piece of fish left the kitchen. (It would have been perfect otherwise, seared skin, tender flesh and all.) My Big Texan brunch plate at Eldorado Grill was hearty and satisfying, but the star of that meal was the impressive panko-crusted banana french toast.

For the first time in nearly a decade, my wife and I visited Quivey's Grove over in the Madison/Fitchburg borderlands. The cheese curds were oblong and almost tempura-battered, with a mustard-based dipping sauce -- different, but enjoyable. With the news that Monroe's Roth Käse has had to cease use of the word "gruyere" following Swiss pressure, I felt compelled to order the Roth Käse gruyere-topped Stable's Best burger. It is billed as a Kobe beef burger (that with its own nomenclature controversy), and it was all right. But ground is no way to eat any kind of wagyu beef, to say nothing of slightly overcooked. Tread carefully.

The best thing I ate

I've developed a bit of a crush on the Great Dane's brown ale (French) onion soup lately, and it is quite good -- but probably not Best Thing-caliber. The Corso at Stalzy's was a pleasant surprise in that it was served on a roll soft enough to allow for a big bite without launching the insides outward. (And the verdant parsley oil was emphasized but not overly emphatic, as a great sandwich dressing should be.) Best Thing, though, is Brasserie V's sablefish. A little over a year ago, I had a similar meal at Brasserie V; I think it's safe to say that the kitchen there can work a mid-spring menu to excellent results. As popular as Brasserie V already is, there should be a line out the door every night. Eating there is some kind of event.