It really only dawned on me a day or two ago that I turned 35 in May. I don't think it's out of a sense of avoidance, but for the last 7 years or so, I just haven't been able to feel my age. Sometimes I feel like there's more than 35 years on these tires, but more often I wonder where it all went, and why I wasn't paying better attention.
That's a big reason for these monthly recap posts, really. I like to put the word out about what's new, what's good, and what's surprising, but just as much, I need to keep myself sharp on what was. Not every month is full of annual occurrences, coat hooks on which to hang recollections of time gone by. But May, as I've discussed before, is indeed a busy month on the dining calendar.
The most wonderful time of the year
There was Isthmus A La Carts, which I've covered before. Some carts I didn't mention: Reedsburg's Wormfarm Institute laid down some pretty legit beer jellies -- I especially liked the cream ale version -- alongside its excellent pickled root vegetables. Fortune Cafe is a new food cart, one that offers Indonesian fare and a strange sweet drink called cendol : coconut milk, jelly noodles colored green by pandan leaves, and plenty of sugar. It's kind of like bubble tea and horchata had a baby and taught it to speak Esperanto.
I've also discussed Madison Craft Beer Week quite a bit, but didn't really offer a post-script. Forequarter's Karben-ated negroni, made with Karben4's Silk Scorpion black IPA, gin, campari, and a house raspberry cordial, was perfect with a gorgeous platter of tender, smoky Montreal-style pastrami. The trip to Tex Tubb's Taco Palace for the House of Brews Death Star Agave Ale launch party was fun, but the fried chicken for my "Southern Comfort" taco ended up served to the toddler at our table, leaving me with a bland lump of sweet potato hash. Not awesome.
And of course, my birthday. A road trip south with my wife resulted in a heapin' helpin' of Limburger, as well as some excellent chili, at the legendary Baumgartner's Tavern in Monroe; this was bracketed by a semi-official birthday steak at Smoky's for Hunger Danes before, and a burger night trip to The Old Fashioned after. I'd take this over the Stevi B's/Cherryberry doubleheader I experienced for my niece's birthday the week prior any damn day, but hey, it wasn't my party, and she had a blast.
The (other) days of our lives
I very nearly hit coffeeshop critical mass in May, reviewing Alterra, researching a review for Cortadito Express, and regaling in the nice weather mid-month with a streak of cold-press coffees. Madison Sourdough continues to turn out some of my favorite cold-press, though as someone who stops during the AM work commute, I'd love to be able to grab something savory and quick, rather than just sweet pastries. Still, heck of a chocolate croissant.
Hit Mickey's Tavern for the first time in a while in May; I had a mediocre brunch experience a few years back, but this one was much better. My order was a pretty respectable order of biscuits and gravy; my companions shared an appreciation for Mickey's offering of half-orders. The Japanese pan curry at Curry in the Box had a great mild curry flavor, as a Japanese curry should, with big hunks of potato and crunchy chicken katsu. I continue to love that place.
The best thing I ate
All due appreciation goes to Underground's Jonny Hunter, who knows of my affinity for Montreal dining, and who gave me the heads-up about the smoked meat Forequarter would be firing up. The combination of meat, mustard, olive, and buttery crouton was really something. But 4 & 20 Bakery and Cafe took spring's most popular foraged ingredient -- ramps, natch -- and nestled them into its already-tasty breakfast sandwich no. 2. With bacon and cheddar, that sandwich still managed to exceed my expectations. May was absent a lot of stand-out dishes, and these two really duked it out in my notes. Ultimately, due to both the delicious meal I ate in the moment, and the warm memories of past experience in Montreal, the Forequarter pastrami earns highest honors. I hope the Underground team does another run with this dish, because its time was all too brief.