Cheese curds and Bloody Marys: An exhaustive and exhausting GlutWalk rundown

If you follow me on Twitter, you saw me tweeting quite a bit a couple weeks ago with the somewhat obnoxious hashtag of #glutwalk. (And if you don't follow me on Twitter, what's your deal, anyway? There's a little button up top that'll take you right to my twitterstream. Don't cost nothin'.)

I say obnoxious because it's a slight diminishment of the more meaningful SlutWalk phenomenon, by which protesters seek to take back womens' right to express themselves without fear of being shamed. But "GlutWalk" was a conscious choice, made to demonstrate that the participants were aware that what we were doing was, on its own, an act of gluttony we needed to reconcile.

What were we doing? Eating fried cheese curds and drinking Bloody Marys at four different downtown Madison establishments on one day, for the purpose of determining which was best. But! To attach a bit of virtue to our gluttony, the four of us who came up with the idea also agreed that we'd make a donation to a Madison-area charity afterwards.

The GlutWalk crew started with friends Chris, Elliot, Eric, and Jenni (poor dear, the only girl and not entirely impressed with the name of the event; she selected #boysbrunch as her hashtag, and aptly). By the second station of the tour, our buddy (and Hunger Danes artist) John also joined up. At the closing stop, Elliot's wife Sherry and their kiddo  arrived to see GlutWalk to its successful conclusion.

Graze. The Old Fashioned. The Fountain. AJ Bombers. Restaurants of varying fame and accolades, but all with strong cases to make for the supremacy of their fried curds and Bloodies.

Old Fashioned curds

Graze's curds are big -- maybe too big? -- and wrapped in the crunchiest, tempura-iest batter of the four (vodka batter!). The Old Fashioned gives you a hot mess of smallish curds for your order, and the exceptional Tiger Blue sauce, but the curds themselves are indeed messy; the batter is almost nominal.

The Fountain was a last-minute addition, largely on the merits of John's advocacy, and curds there have a panko-esque crust, with an aroma reminiscent of KFC extra-crispy. AJ Bombers deploys a spicy batter and a spicy dipping sauce over again, though offers one of the smaller orders.

I offer the following rankings for the fried cheese curd portion of the competition.

Bombers curds

  1. The Fountain
  2. Graze
  3. AJ Bombers
  4. The Old Fashioned

Elliot's rankings:

  1. Graze
  2. The Fountain
  3. AJ Bombers
  4. The Old Fashioned

Fountain curds

Eric's rankings:

  1. Graze
  2. The Old Fashioned
  3. AJ Bombers
  4. The Fountain

Jenni's rankings (averaged between her grades with and without dipping sauce; she's so diplomatic):

Graze curds

  1. AJ Bombers
  2. Graze
  3. The Fountain
  4. The Old Fashioned

Chris' rankings:

  1. Graze
  2. The Fountain
  3. The Old Fashioned
  4. AJ Bombers

Original Graze Bloody

The Bloody Mary judging was complicated by the fact that over time, Bloody Marys hamper your ability for sober evaluation, if you will. Graze offers a standard spicy Bloody, as well as a special Spicy Pickle Bloody, ample decoration. The Old Fashioned offers three Bloodies, including a spicy and an all-Wisconsin; the latter comes with a pickled egg and a plank of beef jerky. The Fountain's Bloody was the only to lack a beer back, and included minimal dressing -- but it was $5. The basic AJ Bombers Bloody is a mere $5.50 (add $2 for a Rhinelander shorty), but includes about a third of a bacon cheeseburger, plus olives, pickle, and citrus.

My Bloody Mary rankings are:

Old Fashioned Bloody

  1. Graze (overall; the Spicy Pickle is underwhelming, but the basic excels -- I may have had two)
  2. AJ Bombers
  3. The Fountain
  4. The Old Fashioned (All-Wisconsin only; the spicy version was much better)

Elliot's:

  1. Graze
  2. AJ Bombers
  3. The Old Fashioned
  4. The Fountain

Fountain Bloody, and curds

Jenni's:

  1. AJ Bombers
  2. Graze
  3. The Old Fashioned
  4. The Fountain

Eric's:

  1. Graze
  2. AJ Bombers
  3. The Old Fashioned
  4. The Fountain

Chris':

Bombers Bloody

  1. AJ Bombers
  2. Graze
  3. The Old Fashioned
  4. The Fountain

Gotta say, there's a pretty clear pattern here, especially with the Bloodies. The Old Fashioned's Bloodies have some ground to make up on the competition; the All-Wisconsin was oddly sweet, and gained no flavor from the (admittedly amusing) jerky, while the spicy version was indeed spicy, but lacked depth. And those at The Fountain are too thin for my Bloody. Graze and AJ Bombers are clearly dominant.

Consensus faltered slightly on the curds. With the exception of Eric's ranking, everyone found the Old Fashioned curds too lightly breaded, too messy, and too oily (yes, even for fried curds). Most folks found the mediocre dipping sauce at Graze a liability for their excellently battered and high-quality curds. And Jenni herself will admit to being fully in the bag for Bombers.

And let's not kid ourselves, the really valuable part of all this is that some Madison charities got a little boost of cash money. For my part, I decided to give my donation to the Goodman Community Center's Fritz Food Pantry. I think the GCC is a jewel, from its rehabilitation of an old industrial space, to Ironworks Cafe (staffed by high school kids looking for a path to restaurant careers), and all the other community activities the center performs.

Other groups receiving donations include Porchlight and the Dane County Rape Crisis Center.

We're all kind of hooked on the concept, so don't be surprised if we roll into your hood for another GlutWalk, celebrating who knows what food and drink combination.