There have been some slightly absurd discussions between me and my wife about how we're going to handle various peculiarities of the month of new. Does a pour from a big batch of Graze's Magic Coffee really have to count as a made-to-order menu item if grocery store ready-to-eat sandwiches made in big batches don't? What's the policy on out-of-town venues like the smelt fry at the North Bristol Sports Club, or Mikey's in Plover? Would going to a new place more than once this month violate the rule if we'd never been to it prior to this month?
(The answers are: Yes, really, unfortunately; The boundary of Month of New enforcement is the Dane County line; and Stay tuned for more on that next week.)
But there are the unexpected twists that really make this project challenging. For one, morning coffee runs. Boy, is it tough to find a coffee spot when you've hit everything that's even close to sitting on your commute. Or pizza. Pizza! There are so few we haven't had! This near-embargo almost ensured that we'd have to go out somewhere to watch the NCAA championship game.
Thank god for a little convenient fudging of the rules in light of the historic nature of the game. Forequarter, excluded from standard Month of New consideration, put on a semi-popup sports bar menu just for the Badger game -- up to and including a projector screen and an informal name-change to The Fourth Quarter. Good lord, a $7 portion of four chicken wings has never been more satisfying or more delicious. And nachos. And cheap canned beer. Amazing.
A pretty spring Sunday spent on State Street -- and yeah, it was Easter -- resulted in a visit to Nick's. My wife has been, and she was sure I had too, but I assure you all I haven't. I'd remember that wallpaper. A fine Reuben and a fairly plain turkey melt hit the spot, and a slice of warm, thin-crusted cherry pie a la mode didn't hurt either.
Speaking of spots, The Spot had escaped our attentions until this month, despite an alluring Madison Magazine cover photo of the Saltimbocca-wich. I couldn't resist, and it's as hefty and juicy and sage-y as you'd hope from that picture. I wasn't as crazy about the brown rice and barley risotto, which was a fine rice dish but too far from what I'd expect from a risotto. Dining on the back patio, though, was a balm for just about any quibble. The late-running happy hour was a welcome touch, too.
On Fridays at Jordan's Big 10 Pub, every hour is basically happy hour. The bluegill is lauded, the beer list is ambitious, and the crowd is bustling. Luckily, we arrived just before the crowd and got some prime bar seats. The lightly breaded bluegill is appropriately fishy, though I wouldn't mind a less gummy, chewy skin. Kristine had a grilled salmon sandwich, and we were both honestly amazed at the size and quality of the piece of fish. Great grill char, but still moist. If there's a problem with the BTP, it's the tap work. Overruns on almost every pour we saw, and some off flavors in the IPAs that probably comes from tap lines that could use cleaning or replacing.
While the first week of the Month of New didn't start off completely auspiciously -- Ofroyo in Oregon doesn't deliver much in the way of flavor even if the selection is as wide as it is at chain frozen yogurt operations -- it rounded into fine shape by Tuesday. And now that college basketball is over, I can more calmly and deliberately consider the important Month of New issues, like where I'm going to get my damned pizzas.
Don't forget to check out my annotated map of the Month of New, clickable right here. Follow along on Twitter at @kylenabilcy, or with the hashtag #monthofnew. Three more weekly updates to come later this month.