Kyle Ate Here - In the pink

Enjoy yourself, the song says. An old song -- though the Guy Lombardo version was recorded when my grandparents had already been married for a couple years, so I guess old is a matter of perspective.

My grandfather, Don, passed away on June 9, and on the next day my body decided to saddle me with conjunctivitis. It wasn't a banner month, exactly. It's hard to be with family and support them physically and emotionally when you worry about having an infectious shoulder to cry on.

But summer comes all the same, and does its best to reinvigorate; there were big plans in June that helped to clear away some of the clouds. June marked something of a turning point, a new degree investment in experiencing...life, just a little more.


The first half

Burgers and Brew! The second food festival of my summer's calendar, and our first trip back since 2009. In the intervening years, organizers added an all-encompassing tent (good for both excessive rain and shine), as well as what felt like faster-moving lines. Two of my three tickets went to burgers that I'd happily pay full-sized price for: the Weary Traveler Iron Horse burger (topped with whipped blue cheese, pickles and pepperoncini), and Fresco's Bluecy in the Sky with Bacon (annoyingly named, but stuffed with blue cheese and bacon, and incredibly juicy).

Maharani and Lao Laan Xang (Atwood) both served up what would have been great plates; unfortunately, the former's chicken madras deployed some poorly prepped and cooked chicken (gristly, rubbery), and the kitchen at the latter failed to intercept a long strip of metal in my otherwise delicious chicken khua mee. And if you missed it, my review of Dickey's Barbecue Pit ran in June; it's linked over there on the right.

Wedl's bacon cheeseburger. Worth the mileage.
The second half

June ended strong; an aggressively mundane shopping trip to Johnson Creek became a handy excuse to try Wedl's Hamburger Stand in Jefferson. The burgers are thin and slicked with delicious grease; there's no "but" to this sentence. If you're in the area, go. If you're not, get there. Closer to home, Manna Cafe's hefty oatcakes impressed, but maybe not enough to make them a regular draw. Buck's Pizza on Cottage Grove begs for a little less cheese and a little more oregano, but its lo-tech oiliness pleases the lizard brain. The banh mi at Kim's Noodles could use a more charismatic bread, but the fillings are sweet, funky, terrific. Set some time aside for (sllllllooooowww) takeout, or pull up to a table.

Ample. For $16, it better be.But we're working backwards from the end of June to what was without question the highlight of the whole month: beersball. The announcement of a Target Field exclusive Surly beer variety brought together three guys with disparate baseball interests, and over a weekend in mid-June, we made some gustatory magic happen. Buffalo chicken mac and cheese and a bacon sloppy joe from the Food Network stall. An excellent (and Pat LaFrieda-stamped) burger overlooking what might have been an escort service transaction -- or possibly a gypsy speed date -- at Brit's Pub. And on Sunday, a highly idiomatic but extraordinary breakfast at James Beard Award winner Al's Breakfast in Dinkytown. The beer was tremendous, and there was even a baseball game! My grandpa would have preferred the Cubs, but I'm sure he would have loved Al's.


Proudly displayed at Al's. Don might have found this silly.The best thing I ate

Madison had a tough hill to climb considering the serious game that the Twin Cities brought in June. The bacon sloppy joe was full of caramelized, smoky bacon, but as good as that was, the buffalo chicken mac and cheese was even better. Fresco's Burgers and Brew entry was something special. But if it were to come down to, say, the four piece mix that turned me around 180 degrees on Harold's Chicken Shack, and the pancakes at Al's...well, this month, I've got to go with what old Donnie would have picked. The atmosphere is severely intimate, the seating regimen (there are only 14 stools) is sympathetically autocratic, and those pancakes have an interior so soft and so hot it's almost molten. The edges are perfectly crisped, and they're neither puny nor wastefully massive.

That song's chorus goes like this.

Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you're still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it's later than you think

I don't think pinkeye was what the songwriter had in mind -- neither was a medium-rare burger -- but hey, it works. Enjoy yourself.

Kyle Ate Here - Down, and out

January was a banner month, a bumper crop of dining experiences to write about. In February, things cooled off -- culinarily, at least. Our absurdly mild winter continued last month (he writes while wearing shorts on St. Patrick's Day weekend), and that probably led to spending more time at home. The spring cleaning bug bit.

So down as written in the title of this post can stand for the quantity of meals out. Down also refers to some less than exemplary experiences out there; there were some dropped balls in February, and surprising ones. (By contrast, the dishes sampled during my review of Crema Cafe were terrific, as the food so often is in that spot.) And the "out"? What's that all about? For that, you'll have to stay tuned to the Isthmus Dining magazine that comes out later this spring. I'll have a story there that I had a lot of fun writing.


Fail

In a short month (and with fewer restaurant trips than days, at that), the stumbles stand out. Takumi -- once again packed to the, ahem, gills -- had a rare screw-up; the role of Kristine's beloved spicy tuna roll was played by an unrequested California roll instead. The gyoza were something of a letdown as well, lacking the usual punchy flavor and crispy sear.

The house-made sausage and goat cheese pie at Salvatore's wasn't quite up to its initial performance; the crust was doughier, and the sausage seemed wanting for a little Maillard. But a step down from a great pizza is still a pretty solid pizza effort. Nothing could have been more disappointing than Inka Heritage. We returned after some time away, with a friend whose only previous visit had been negative. This did not persuade her otherwise, and certainly hurt my estimation of the restaurant.

Entering an empty -- and I mean empty -- restaurant and still having to wait for service is one thing. The apparent removal of the addictively delicious fried corn amuse bouche from the menu would be reason enough to drop a star from your Yelp review. But our service remained slow, almost vacant, throughout the meal. One dish was completely wrong, and another (mine, the mar pacifico) featured overcooked and really dirty prawns--you know what I mean. The aji de gallina was superb, but one out of three is really only acceptable in baseball.


Win

A rare (for us) whole-pizza takeout order from Ian's Pizza on Frances started February off on a cartoonishly huge foot. But the half mac and cheese, half Italian sausage and penne pie hit the spot. A couple wonderful trips to Papa Bear's BBQ can be generally accepted as mandatory at this point. And Tipsy Cow's revision of the PBR fish taco has finally come very nearly up to the standard set by King & Mane. (And the service has been shored up, at last!)

The end of the month was where the action was at. These successes, coincidentally, owe their finding to my good friend Alex of Mighty Distractible; one was enjoyed with her, and the other was enjoyed at her full-throated recommendation. I'm going to skip right ahead to the next section, because that's just how good they were.


The best thing I ate

Two dishes, alike in dignity, vie for February's Best Thing recognition. They are, simply, the Haus Beef from Dumpling Haus and the smoked pork tenderloin sandwich from Stalzy's Deli. During my trip to Dumpling Haus, Alex and I sampled the seafood shaomai (a daily special, pretty good), the shrimp dumplings (yes), the tart cabbage and pork noodle soup (really, yes), and the remarkable Haus Beef. Tiger-striped with melt-in-your-mouth layers of fat, this meat was cooked in truly amazing fashion, an almost-rare texture with gorgeous color and seasoning. A luxurious portion for only nine dollars.

The smoked pork sandwich at Stalzy's was ordered at Alex's suggestion, but there's little persuading that needs to be done there. Kristine got the double-smoked brisket sandwich (mentioned in this section back in December), and I went pork as I so often do. It's actually a variant on their Rachel sandwich, topped with coleslaw, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing. It was juicy, it was tender, it was subtly smoky. When Stalzy's gets the smoker firing, they're batting 1.000. (That's good.)

But I've got to give this month's kudos to the Haus Beef. Beef just doesn't do what it does in that dish without a lot of love, and I was most definitely feeling it.


Post-script.

If you hadn't heard me talk about it, or seen the links on Facebook or Twitter, or aren't a regular reader of Isthmus, a story I wrote with Laurie Stark of Your Ill-Fitting Overcoat was featured as the cover story of last week's print edition. My part of the piece is about Shopbop, the online fashion retailer that started as a little denim shop in Madison. Obviously, the subject matter is a departure for me; I hope you'll give it a look. (It's linked way up at the top of the page.) I'm happy with how both halves turned out.

Kyle Ate Here - The 2011 in review edition

Here we are, at the end of this year-long experiment in journaling -- something I've never been good at doing, and didn't always attend to properly throughout 2011. But I've filled two notebooks with this year's dining notes, and a little retrospection is only fair.

And there is, of course, the matter of December. It was a pretty slow month, what with Christmas shopping and travel and what-have-you. So many other gifts and bounty, I'm sure December won't mind if it gets a little short shrift.

December dining

The defining social movement  of 2011, I'm sure.

The defining social movement

of 2011, I'm sure.

Even a mild winter gets me all cozy for the coffee shop experience: leisurely mugs and pressed sandwiches. Redamté on State and Firefly in Oregon did a fine job of scratching that itch. (Though, I found it odd that Firefly doesn't offer hot breakfast options, only house-made baked goods. The lemon cream scone wasn't Lazy Jane's-caliber, but satisfied nonetheless.) And Barriques' BLT wrap is just so perfect. Papa Bear's BBQ amazed once again with a luscious BBQ pork po'boy, topped with crisp cabbage and spicy ranch. On the flip side, Brickhouse BBQ was a major letdown from our last trip; a meal full of off flavors and poor finish made me glad we used a gift certificate and didn't pay full price. Odd flavors also marred what would have otherwise been a nice sandwich at Carmella's, a very popular bistro in Appleton; my shaved prime rib panini was pleasant but for a burnt-tasting fried caper and fennel aioli.

Even for a slightly abbreviated month of dining out, exemplary dishes shone forth. A late-month trip to Tipsy Cow saw my beloved PBR tacos return to form. I finally visited Ian's Pizza on State in its remodeled...state, and a sausage alfredo slice left nothing to be desired. That Papa Bear's po'boy would have won any other month, but the best present I unwrapped outside of Christmas morning was the double-smoked brisket sandwich at Stalzy's Deli. Gloriously smoky, perfectly cooked, just fatty enough -- everything you want from a piece of smoked meat.

It's 2012, and 2011's check has come

So, kids, what have we learned? I can tell you what learned through these posts.

-I learned that Papa Bear's BBQ is more than just quick-n-easy barbecue; it has to be considered as one of the best 'cue joints in Madison.

-I learned that throughout all the protest crowds, all the social media chatter, and even a closure and re-opening, Tipsy Cow still hasn't figured out how to either offer anything more than the minimum level of service, or even build a basic website. (But feel free to peruse the defunct King and Mane branch of the Lombardino's site.)

-I learned that Madison's Bakery Row (Willy/Atwood area) has probably reached saturation. RIP Bea's Bonnet, but glad to see you're still buzzing at Victory.

-I learned that shelling out for food at Michael's or Java Cat (gelato excluded, as I still haven't tried it) is almost never worth the cost.

-I learned that getting to the Library Mall lunch cart corridor -- even if you have to drive there -- is absolutely worth it.

-I learned just how wonderful San Francisco is for a guy who loves to eat, and only scratched the surface.

-I learned that I still have a lot to experience in the world of Madison restaurants -- and 2012 is going to be a great year to discover more.

The best things

January - Chicken francaise, jacs Dining and Taphouse

February - PBR-battered tilapia tacos, King and Mane

March - Brussels sprouts with lemon, Merchant

April - Montrachet goat cheese tart, Brasserie V

May - Roast beef sandwich, Johnson Public House

June - Bananas flambé chocolate, DB Infusion Chocolates

July - Drunken shrimp with XO and ale butter sauce, L'Etoile

August - Krupuk udang (shrimp chips), Bandung

September - Blueberry pie, Graze

October - The Bada Bing pizza, Luigi's

November  - The G breakfast sandwich, Gotham New York Bagels

December - Double-smoked brisket sandwich, Stalzy's Deli

Whaddaya say: wanna do this again in four weeks?

Low-brow foodie heaven, and the best day ever

There are few things better than for-no-good-reason days off. Kristine and I are fortunate enough to have leave time to spare, and decided to take a day trip to the northern reaches of Chicagoland. A little retail therapy at IKEA and Mitsuwa seemed in order.

And on the way down, my lovely and brilliant wife asked if we needed to look for a Chick-fil-A while we were in the Chicago area. (Chick-fil-A doesn't get any closer to Wisconsin, and neither of us had ever experienced the phenomenon.) With Swedish meatballs and Japanese candy already on the menu, this was looking like a pretty solid outing.

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We hit IKEA at about 10:30, and wouldn't you know it? The restaurant is on the third floor, exactly where we started our shopping. Meatballs for me, mac and cheese for her, and I'm kind of blissing out. I don't think IKEA meatballs are a guilty pleasure, exactly, but they are definitely buffet-style junk food. Still, a great combination of sweet and savory.

A bag full of goodies later, we disembarked from the blue mothership and consulted the internet for the closest Chick-fil-A. Turns out, it's right down the road from IKEA. "I don't care if I just ate, I'm eating again," said the discerning food critic.

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The reason this location of Chick-fil-A, while appearing on the company website, didn't show up on Google Maps is that it just opened on September 15. As a result, those red-and-blue flashing lights and cops directing traffic weren't so much there for accident recovery as they were for crowd control. Yes, there were two lanes of drive-thru and both were packed. The pedestrian line poured out the door. (Shades of SONIC's debut in the Madison area.)

Nevertheless, we managed to get into the line, and in short order, two chicken sandwiches were ours. Finally, I have perspective on what Wendy's and McDonald's are taking on with their less-processed chicken breast sandwiches. These things actually tasted, looked, and felt like chicken. Good chicken, not dry, stringy chicken. I'm ready for a Wisconsin location, thank you.

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It turns out that Schaumburg has become a little slice of low-brow foodie heaven, because IKEA, Chick-fil-A, and the all-in-one Japanese market Mitsuwa are in a line, more or less--like an Orion's Belt of "I really shouldn't eat like this".

Our radar at Mitsuwa is still tuned primarily to the candy and sweets section. This used to be true because we were in over our heads with the rest of the grocery offerings (unless our Japanese friend Emily was there to guide us). It's still true now, but not because of culture shock. It's because we know we can get most of Mitsuwa's core offerings at markets in Madison. So we're magnetically drawn to the candy that we can't find anywhere but the internet.

With three packages of HI-CHEW in our pockets (actually two HI-CHEW and one Kanro), we made a quick exit from the bustling Mitsuwa. This, along with a stop at the slightly absurd but irresistible Belvidere Oasis, would have been a pretty good day. A great day, even.

But then we got back to Madison. And, after a few errands, we discovered the best part.

[EDIT: Holy crap. I was in such a hurry to finish this post before the delivery guy got here, I completely forgot about the bag of meat! For a mere $35, I made two pounds of locally-produced charcuterie my very own, thanks to the Underground Food Collective. Stay tuned for another 2-pound meat CSA offering next month. Can't tell you how jazzed I am about the nduja. Now, on to the thrilling climax!]

The skimpy, crowded bit of Sprecher Road that runs under the Interstate, that's been under construction forever and will be forever--that's a nightmare to navigate in the winter--has finally been remedied. In an email a few months ago, I told our alder (council president Lauren Cnare) that what I really wanted was a temporary blacktop lane to spread traffic out. Just a little loop off to the other side of the support columns, to give people some breathing room.

And now it's there.

LOOK, MADISON, AT WHAT I HAVE DONE FOR YOU.

I'm serious, this is the best day ever. I'm gonna go eat some more candy.

Kyle Ate Here - The second anniversary edition

Two years ago, July turned into perhaps the most important month of my year. My birthday's in May, and October holds a lot of value for Kristine and I (her birthday, and our dating anniversary). But July 18th, 2009, was the day July trumped them all. We married after 11 years of dating, and suddenly July was anchored in our own little firmament as a Big Deal.

This July's dining calendar was dominated in one respect by Jimmy's American Tavern, my most recent review for Isthmus--it's linked in the sidebar to the right. But while some new experiences in Madison and beyond certainly made July noteworthy, there was one dining experience that quite simply destroys the curve.


L'Etoile

Five years ago, there's no way I'd have guessed that Kristine and I would be one of the couples who returns to L'Etoile for an anniversary dinner each year. But after last year's amazing experience at the end of 25 North Pinckney, we couldn't resist. Four courses later, we're hooked for sure.

An amuse bouche of slightly deconstructed gazpacho was playful and vibrant--it's always nice to start a meal with a laugh. Salade Lyonnaise for her (the smoked mushrooms a pleasant surprise), beef carpaccio with pea vine and equally outspoken pickled mushrooms for me. The midcourse was an easy choice for Kristine; a delicious reprise of her favorite dish from our honeymoon, tempura-battered squash blossoms. I loved the drunken Gulf shrimp in a Tyranena Three Beaches Blonde Ale and XO butter sauce; the hunk of soft pretzel was an absurdly glorious addition.

The fruits of the seas/oceans/lakes were the order of the day on this particular menu. Corvina done in a Mediterranean style and a bucatini di mare both sounded tremendous, but Kristine chose the rockfish with two treatments of cauliflower (truffled purée and caramelized); it was lovely, atop garlic-braised collards. I continued my roughly Asian through-line with a Chinese takeout-style feast: rare seared duck breast, radish pods, broccoli, snow peas, sweet onion fried rice topped with a hen egg, braised bok choy, and a tart cherry sweet-and-sour sauce. It was unparalleled in the world of Column A/Column B Chinese food, and yet entirely reminiscent. Every bite was another little celebration of Chef Miller's imagination.

Three courses of professionally unimpeachable wine pairings were the icing on the cake, and the desserts, coffee, and complimentary petit fours wound the meal down in all the right ways. Whenever we think of this meal, we wonder if it would cheapen the anniversary experience to find other reasons to treat ourselves. We're beginning to think it'd be a shame not to.


The rest of July

Barbecue at Papa Bear's on Independence Day (glad to discover they were open on maybe the perfect holiday for BBQ), and first visits to Bea's Bonnet (holy sandwich cookie!), Harold's Chicken Shack (an over-cooked letdown), Restaurant El Pastor (acceptable), Habanero's (will likely replace 60-80% of my Chipotle trips), and China Inn (forgettable but for the fried sweet biscuits) made for a very educational July. The pulled pork at Brickhouse was an imposing mountain of meat; it generated three meals. The Old Fashioned has a couple new burgers since our last visit; the spicy burger is indeed hot, and any burger from the Old Fashioned kitchen will satisfy, ultimately.

Venturing out of state for the first time in a long while, Kristine and I visited friends and took in a couple meals in the Windy City. Sunday brunch at Kitsch'n was crowded (though not as much as previous visits to Toast were); the bloody Mary was far blander than a chipotle bloody Mary has any right to be, and my chicken and waffles (appropriate for a diner on Roscoe) were okay, but that's about it. Dinner at the recently-reviewed Owen & Engine (three stars from the Tribune's Phil Vettel) was much more successful. Reminiscent of the charms of Underground Kitchen, O&E's British-tinged pub fare was dark and hearty, the ginger beered house Pimm's Cup bright and enlivening. There was a funeral home next door with a truly gorgeous front door; I wanted to open a lounge in there just to sop off Owen & Engine's happy excesses.


The best thing I ate

This is a little unfair. Pitting China Inn's sweet fried biscuits--simple, but the Platonic ideal of fairgrounds-style fried bread, served at 10 for $4--against anything from one of the country's 50 best restaurants would be a challenge to even the judges at Westminster. And what of the No. 6 lazy Susan at The Old Fashioned? Braunschweiger, pickles, two Widmer's cheese spreads, smoked trout, creamed herring, and sausage? Ye gods, yes. Even the sausages from Brickhouse hold some electors in their sway. The compromise inherent in marriage tells me that I should choose L'Etoile's zucchini blossoms; Kristine loved them, and truthfully so did I. But dangit, I'm still my own man! I choose beer and pretzels! The drunken shrimp were rich, hot and even though there were no heads to suck, they were still a little naughty. Sopping one's plate with a piece of bread feels more than a little gauche at such a fine restaurant, but damned if I didn't do it anyway.

I'd Tap That: comparing the merits of four Twitter apps

I have something of a problem. I collect Twitter apps--and not the obvious, freebie ones like Seesmic and Echofon (though I have tried those as well). My collection of Twitter-related apps is made up of Tweetlogix, Tweetbot, Osfoora, and the official Twitter app, plus Trickle (a boutique app that only displays your timeline without allowing you to post) and Boxcar (a notification app for the unofficial apps that do not offer push notifications). I've been on the verge of buying Icebird, too, but have so far resisted.
 
I bought most of these in a short span of time at the beginning of the year, when the official app delivered a real flaming turd known as the Quickbar, aka Trending Topics Bar, aka Dickbar. (No one liked it, and I truly hated it.) I eventually settled on Tweetbot, but since all of them have updated multiple times since February, I thought a revisit was in order.
 
The four-day Independence Day holiday weekend provided a nice opportunity; I invested one 24-hour span to each app, and tried to be cognizant of the pros and cons of each app in relation to each other. Here are my thoughts, from worst to first. NOTE: these pros and cons are relative to the way I use Twitter apps. YMMV.
 
 
Osfoora
I had really high hopes for this app; it was the first one I turned to after breaking up with the official app. Its interface is stylish, its icon is simple and non-cute--not to mention reminiscent of the old Tweetie app icon. But not long into using Osfoora, I noticed that the developer was kind of MIA, despite a blog and a Twitter account designed to receive and respond to feedback.
 
Pros: Aesthetically pleasing; full landscape support; smart(ish) gestures distinguish a single click from a hold-down when tapping individual tweets.
 
Cons: Dates are only shown in generic relative time (old tweets read as "months", not even "months ago" or "x months ago"); no symbol in profile view for protected or blocked accounts; no tappable links in timeline view; Boxcar notifications point to a blank composition window rather than the notified message; not all @-replies are shaded differently in timeline view; color preferences for menu screen are still flip-flopped after multiple updates (selecting 'Pink' results in blue icons, and vice versa); no composition from one account into another; graphics refresh in a clunky and inelegant fashion when updating list timelines, and switching from landscape to portrait mode; accessing conversations is relatively user-unfriendly; trying to view what the Twitterverse is saying about Osfoora is almost impossible thanks to the self-aggrandizing #nowplaying feature that adds an Osfoora mention in every generated post--you have to weed out the Bieber and house music tweets to get to the user conversation.
 
Verdict: Can you tell I've become quite disillusioned from Osfoora? The developer emerged from his hidey-hole to remind everyone he's a grad student and doesn't have a lot of time for the app right now; he might as well have said "delete this app now, or learn to live with disappointment." Not only will I not use this app, but I'll probably delete it. (I'll still keep it on the MacBook, and apparently this new cloud functionality will preserve my purchase indefinitely, but still.)
 
 
Twitter
The official app of Twitter used to be Tweetie. It was the first Twitter app I purchased--the first one I used, in fact. I bought Tweetie 2 when it came out, even though rebuying kind of irked me. And when Twitter acquired it and rebranded it, I thought, "You go get 'em, little guy!" Even Facebook bit Tweetie's style with pull-to-refresh (they actually copied Tweetie's code wholesale for their iPhone app); now every Twitter app employs this how-did-we-live-without-it functionality. But now…now. Well, absolute power and all that.
 
Pros: Lateral swipe for a variety of functions (RT, star, reply, profile view); useful Profile view with an intuitive layout; built-in push notification; free.
 
Cons: Lateral swipe function doesn't always work when selecting multiple actions on the same tweet (say, starring, then RTing, then replying); extremely laggy and sluggish; DMs have proven buggy in the past, resistant to deletion or marking as read (I don't know if this is still the case, as the 24-hour window provided no chance to test); truly obnoxious Top Tweet window in the Search view; fun and occasionally useful third-party integration with Overlapr and Followcost has been removed with recent updates; visually boring; the tone-deafness of developers too far removed from the users they're serving (see: Quickbar).
 
Verdict: Barely worth it, but it's free, and it's got push. If you can deal with the ways this app panders to the silliest uses of Twitter, and the occasional slogging performance, then you could certainly tolerate this app overall. This is the kind of endorsement third place earns.
 
 
Tweetlogix
When Osfoora was hit with a case of the crashsies, I switched to Tweetlogix. It was stable, offered similar functionality relative to the official app, and the developers were acutely aware of their user base and replied quickly to Twitter questions. The icon kind of stands out on your iPhone's screen, but it's okay; apparently, the old one was worse. (One GIS later, I learn that it was at the very least uninspired, but by no means horrid.)
 
Pros: Lateral swipe function similar to the official app; tappable links in timeline view; responsive developers; truly useful organization of followers/followees.
 
Cons: Thumbnails in timeline view can take up a lot of real estate (like when @gachatz live-tweeted 25 pictures from his Thai menu practice dinner at Next); usernames the same color as links in timeline view makes things kind of melt together visually; either show the username of the retweeter, or the thumbnail profile pic overlay--but not both; bubble view of tweet detail doesn't wow me, nor does the amount of space the conversation view takes up; still no ability to compose for one account while in another, though the developers say this is coming in the next update.
 
Verdict: Tweetlogix takes second place over the official app almost solely on its size. By this, I mean both that it's slimmer and sleeker than the official app, and the developers actually pay attention to what their demographic wants in a Twitter app--this is due in large part to the size of the operation, and how much it needs to keep users happy. A responsive developer will always pay off; you can do much, much worse than Tweetlogix.
 
 
Tweetbot
This is the baby of the family, having only been officially launched in the App Store in April. It's pretty slick, utilizing smart gestures as well as a multi-tap functionality that is absent in the other apps in this test, if not every other Twitter app out there. There are cool, robotic sounds that accompany various functions in the app, and the icon is charming if cutesy.
 
Pros: Swiping one way to see conversations backward in time, or the other way to see conversations forward; tappable links in-timeline; compose to one account while in another; fairly smooth Boxcar interaction; updates have provided significant improvements.
 
Cons: Seems to use up API hits faster than other apps (quick-hitting Boxcar notifications won't always show up right away in the app, and while this is true of all four apps, it seems worse with Tweetbot); very occasionally crashes; notification lights in-app sometimes don't come on when new tweets appear in timeline; landscape has been slow in implementing--still not available in timeline view; drilling into Search function is both unnecessarily laborious, and sometimes slow due to all the audio/visual foofaraw; double-tap access to hashtags/links/mentions in timeline view can be a bit haphazard when a tweet is crowded with multiple tappable phrases.
 
Verdict: The winnah! There are things I like about other apps, like Tweetlogix's Contacts-style organization of followers and followees, but Tweetbot does everything I want it to do, at least reasonably well if not excellently. My complaints are fairly picayune compared to the major failings of Osfoora and the official app.

Kyle Ate Here - The old edition

So yeah, I turned another year older in May. I also did a boatload of work around the house--sanding and refinishing the deck rails, building a pergola, yard work, garage work--so the opportunities for going out to eat were diminished by both time, and a propensity to be sweaty and gross and not fit for public consuming.

I did manage a couple fine meals on the town, however, as well as two days in a row of pizza. (This is unprecedented.) And so, in honor of turning 33 years old, here are the top three and bottom three dining experiences of May.


The bottom three

I start with the disappointments because things always get better. And actually, the disappointments in May were rather trivial; no meal was a total letdown, and the missteps themselves were kind of minor. For example, Stalzy's Deli opened in May, in the former Africana space on Atwood Avenue--and to some acclaim. Their soft-open won praise, and I'll affirm the deliciousness of their corned beef Reuben. But the portions are a pinch uneven, and the $2.50 I paid for a whisker of mediocre potato salad needs to be remedied.

This post is probably the last time you'll see me write about Michael's Frozen Custard in a Kyle Ate Here setting; their food is fine, but they are criminally overpriced. I think I've finally learned my lesson, despite preaching it to others in the past: cherry floats and K9 custard only from here on out. There's a lesson coming on related to Madison Sourdough, too. I've had a number of bummer sandwiches here; their coffee, breads and bakery are terrific, but "fool me thrice" is kicking in.


The top three

As I said, the pros outweighed the cons in May, but three meals do indeed stand out. The first was in early May, in the throes of the complete overhaul of Williamson Street. Kristine and I finally made our way into a parking spot at Umami Ramen and Dumpling Bar for her first visit. We ate at the bar, tucked in the corner sipping on our drinks and sharing an order of pork buns. My miso ramen was terrific, and Kristine's tonkatsu ramen was as good for her as it was for me back in March. We bumped into friends on the way out, and exited to a gorgeous spring day.

The other two medal candidates occurred on my birthday weekend. I have made a promise to myself to never work on my birthday if I can help it, and the new Johnson Public House aided and abetted in my playing hooky. It was another beautiful day, only hotter, and the iced coffee was smooth and delicious. (The only complaint was a bit of iciness in the Sassy Cow ice cream in the generally lovely affogato.) The next day saw a trip to Underground Kitchen, which knocked not only my socks off, but off of my mom and stepdad. Goat seems to be a point of particular inspiration this season; in addition to some salami on the meat board, the cavatelli was perfectly soft and creamy.


The best thing I ate

Close friends may be wondering why I haven't mentioned the au revoir party for the extraordinary PBR-battered tilapia taco at King and Mane (now The Tipsy Cow); well, those close friends will probably also know why that meal had a specific black spot on it--I will say no more here. And an honorable mention goes to the fine purveyors of the bratly arts at Alt-Bratfest, turning a rainy day into a shining example of the intersection of food and politics. But the win, even over the goat cavatelli, goes to the pressed roast beef sandwich at Johnson Public House. Topped with caramelized onions and sriracha mayo, it is the perfect interpretation of a roast beef panino. I generally fly down Johnson Street without stopping, but I'm sure it won't be 34 before I stop by again.

Taste and memory

Another Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, with the usual summery temperatures and unpredictable precipitation. This year the political climate added a new dimension to the change in seasons, and what used to be an assumed visit or two to Bratfest turned into choosing between any of three protest events in Madison.

I was out of town on Saturday, so Wurst Times and The People's Bratfest were out. But I'd staked myself to attending Alt-Bratfest during my totally-unexpected radio appearance, and even though the weather conspired against an outdoor festival, Kristine and I made the trip.

It was completely and wholly worth it. For $15, we shared two ample brats (Underground Kitchen and Merchant, though others were available) and a brat-seasoned pulled pork sandwich (Alchemy). A few cups of flavored tea, and we were won over. (My hope is that Joey Dunscombe and his fellow organizers stick with this one for next year; the one-and-done tease that was the Pork-Off was hard enough to get over.) It wasn't a strident protest, but in the midst of its success we were reminded of why we were there, and what we opposed in the giant effort across town at Willow Island.

In keeping with the fundamental purpose of the holiday, we stopped at Madison's Memorial Mile and made a donation. The Mile is an extremely effective installation designed to deliver the full impact of the losses we have sustained in our continued involvement in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm proud of Madison for displaying it, and for respecting it.

On Monday, we invited a dear friend who had to endure a beer-less cookout to our comfy patio for some brats and burgers. It was the best possible way to embrace the weather, and our modest level of prosperity, and the time we've been given to appreciate the good that we have in this country in spite of--and occasionally, because of--the bad.

As we gear up for recall elections and a long hot summer, the holiday weekend we just finished was the perfect prologue to kick off a reinvigoration of the palate, the mind, and the heart.

This space NOT intentionally left blank

I just turned 33; it was no big deal. But mileposts are mileposts, and this one is as good as any to use as instigation to refresh my commitment to this blog. So I'm going to do my best, marshal my thoughts, and try to produce something worthwhile here again.
 
If you happen to follow me on Twitter--and also follow Wyndham Manning--you were treated to a far-too-long-for-the-medium conversation on Madison's bedeviled Overture Center for the Arts, the general arts scene in Madison, and how city government plays a role in fostering the growth of that scene. We ended the conversation with a friendly gauntlet-slap to produce a blog post on the subject in the near future. You'll find mine here; I have yet to determine where Wyndham does his blogging, but I'll be sure to give you a link once I do.
 
I'm sorry to say my time as a Top Chef recapper has probably come to a close. Not to say that I won't post thoughts on the empire as they come to me, but full recaps are a thing of the past, I suspect. It's just not an expenditure of time I can still support. But I'll see you all again soon, with something scintillating and fresh.
 
Or, just something. One or the other.

Kyle Ate Here - The solidarity edition

IMG_1139.jpg

There just aren't enough hours in the day--there's so much to oppose, and so much to accomplish. The month started quietly, but by the end of the second week of February, it was clear this wasn't going to be like any other time in my life to date.

The new governor of the state of Wisconsin introduced a piece of shameful, cynical, vengeful legislation that promised to harm me and thousands like me, and wouldn't you know? That actually managed to turn my entire life upside down, eating habits included. My Arabic genes are screaming for me to call our protests a peoples' intifada -- just to throw the Fox Newsies into a tizzy--but I'll resist further temptation, and just call it an uprising.

Pre-uprising

My wife started February with a doozy of a cold. When she gets sick, she really feels it, and this required brothy countermeasures. Despite having lived a couple blocks away, we'd never been to Wah Kee Chinese Noodle and Restaurant until this month. Their noodle soups are terrific; American Chinese food staples like General Tso's, less so. I was also passive-aggressively schooled on pronunciation by our first visit server, which was particularly galling for two reasons. I normally try to be educated on basic pronunciation rules, and there was a typo in the menu that led me astray in one circumstance. Regardless, I recommend anything with BBQ pork--are you surprised?

A visit from an old friend brought us to Underground Kitchen again. Our server was a bit vacant, but the rabbit tagliatelle special (it was the night before Chinese New Year) was amazing, and the cocktails continue to impress. (A trip later in the month, unfortunately, featured some of the haughtiest and sloppiest service I've seen in Madison.) We also hit The Old Fashioned for their new weekday breakfast menu. Get there for it. Really. You can spend the money you're not spending at Ella's Deli there; I haven't ever been more unimpressed with a legend than I was with our meal of matzo noodle soup and hard salami sandwich.

The uprising

I'm certainly not going to say "post-uprising," because it's still happening, at this very minute on the grounds of the Capitol and all around the state. But on Valentine's Day was when everything really changed. And from that point forward, we've been protesting, and shouting, and paying attention to who supports us and who doesn't. We've enjoyed a couple meals at Mermaid Cafe, who has been donating coffee and other treats to the protesters (try the Erik the Red ham and Swiss). We've become familiar faces at The Old Fashioned. Hawk's Bar and Grill has been a great supporter and serves a heaping Mediterranean plate.

The Coopers Tavern is crowded and the service was iffy, but their Reuben is an all-star. They may not have the BL(F)T sandwich anymore, but the absence of fried tomatoes doesn't make Alchemy Cafe a bad choice; I'd never noticed their very promising cocktail menu before, but will give it more attention next time. And we did manage to eat off the isthmus once, meeting for a lunch date at Sushi Muramoto. It is seriously always good there; the fennel chutney was a new flourish on a familiar chicken katsu.

The best thing I ate

Sorry, pancakes at The Old Fashioned. Apologies, guong chow noodles at Wah Kee bibimbap at Graze (EDIT: whoops. you got a sneak preview of something from next month, and I didn't realize I'd omitted Graze). Maybe next month, steak torta at Antojitos El Toril. Even the now-emblematic Ian's mac and cheese pizza being donated from supporters worldwide can't beat out this month's best thing: the PBR-battered tilapia taco at King and Mane. They're fresh, they're satisfying, and they have pickled onions and chipotle mayo. I'm not lying--we've been there five times, almost exclusively for tacos (and beer), since the 22nd. My wife might love them more than me. We certainly love them more than Scott Walker, and we'll continue to fuel our chanting and fist-pumping with PBR tacos as long as we have to.

Show me what democracy looks like!

#wiunion

So, yeah. Love all you guys who come here for the food, but this blog started out political, and now the food is taking a back seat to political once again.

If you haven't been watching any other TV than Top Chef, you're missing a truly amazing event in Wisconsin. Workers public and private, union and non-union, adults and students, have been taking to the streets and the halls of the Capitol to protest the governor's proposed union-busting legislation.

I've been there in part for the past three days. I still haven't watched this week's Top Chef. I know I still haven't published last week's recap (Fabio bites it! Richard boosts someone else into the winner's circle!). I honestly don't know when I'm going to get back to recapping, and I'm not planning on recruiting any guest-bloggers because all my friends are as engaged with the rallies as I am.

So please--take a look at the news coverage of this event on MSNBC and BBC News. (You could see my flashlight in the crowd on The Ed Show last night!) When the time comes that I can return to food blogging, I will. Feel free to check out my latest review for Isthmus, on the new Great Dane Pub location; it'll be linked up to the right later today.

Solidarity!

What's opera, doc?

Get ready for something unprecedented at Irony or Mayo: Friday night live-blogging! That's right. I'm going to take a little time out of my busy schedule propping up the cultural and gastronomical significance of the McRib to cover something a little less intellectual.

I'm going to the opera.

I know, I know--you're thinking, Why is he wasting his time on something so trivial and insubstantial, when he could be telling us how much he loves pretzel M&Ms or something? Well, the short answer is: the Overture Center asked nicely, and offered wedding cake.

In all seriousness, I was invited to attend the Madison Opera's performance of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro for Blogger Night, and I couldn't resist. I like Mozart. I saw Amadeus. And while I've never attended an actual opera, I've seen the "Ride of the Valkyries" Bugs Bunny cartoon about a billion times. I even own a CD of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, which is pretty operatic.

Still, this will be a new experience. Taking in opera, a foreign mode of stage entertainment for me, and responding critically on the fly. I'm looking forward to it, but be prepared for a Homer Simpson-esque analysis: "That thing is really, really.. really.... good."

The live-blogging shall commence below, shortly before curtains-up. I'll be back to continue during each of the show's two intermissions, and then again after the close of the performance. If you're at Overture for the event, stop by the blogger station and say hi.

In the meantime, enjoy some of the aforementioned Bugs Bunny operatic shenanigans.

The namesake of this post, "What's Opera, Doc?".

"Long-Haired Hare"


"Rabbit of Seville"


~~~

7:10 PM

Having just completed the tour of the backstage area, I have to say it's a little surreal being in the guts of a theater again. The last time was a year ago July--for my wedding.

So, hey, Marriage of Figaro, at least on a titular level, is mighty appropriate.

We saw Figaro and his gang getting all made up (hello, kabuki faces!), and were warned that there could be boobage! Sadly, that was a false start. Madison Opera Communications Guru Brian Hinrichs gave us the rundown on the structure of this opera, at least--arias for emotional outbursts interspersed with sung dialogue (recitativo in the Italian) to move the plot along. So, kind of like porn!

I hope no one's lurking in the shrubbery, for this corset must come off!


We'll be clattering away here, like nerdy zoo exhibits, until the show starts. I'm trying to convince a dubious Laurie of Your Ill-fitting Overcoat that Leroy Anderson's "The Typewriter" is appropriate blogging music.

There's something strangely old-school about sitting at a desk with three other people, everyone typing, making faces ranging from studious (everyone else) to dorkily emotive (me). It's the Electronic Theatre Bureau! I gotta make t-shirts.

~~~

7:40 PM

Ah. Alcohol.

Unfortunately, no sippy cup. This is a dry performance.

Can I mention how absurd I feel, checking Wikipedia on the synopsis of Figaro. I'm terribly delinquent in my haute culture. I will say that I'm really looking foward to the harpsichord. Tiny little thing, it looks like a bar game version of a full piano.

We're getting a cool dissertation on ornamentation and ad libbing from A. Scott Parry (PARRY, Lindsay. Parry.), the stage director of the show. He's a cool guy, and much younger than I'd expect for the director of an opera. Pretty sweet gig.

Bell's about to ring, better go get cultured!

~~~

9:45 PM

Intermezzo!

"Thus the suspicious are condemned." A great line, and one that sums up the closing action of the first half of the opera.

Act One covers the interpersonal relationships well--Figaro and Susanna, servants set to wed; Dr. Bartolo and Marcellina, schemers set to ruin the nuptials; and a Count and Countess set at odds by varying degrees of infidelity.

But Act Two really cranks up the Benny Hill music. There's ducking, lying, hiding, jumping out of windows--you could almost see Scooby and the gang running from the villain of the week.

In my minimal ability to critique opera, I'll say that Susanna (Anya Matanovic) and the Countess Rosina (Melody Moore) are stealing the show for me. Their voices carry better than all the male performers, and their stage presence is both endearing and evocative. (There are many a moment of shoulder-to-shoulder girl power in Act Two, and these two ladies carry it off like Thelma and Louise.)

I will give a special shout-out to Emily Lorini, doing the yeo(wo)man's work of playing a pubescent young page boy, Cherubino. It takes a moment for unsophisticated me to figure out that it's a woman playing a man, in the old Globe Theatre tradition, but her lanky, awkward strides across the stage set her gender firmly in the adolescent male category. Lorini and Moore play well off of each other as well, with the former's affections for the latter forging an irrefusable tie between the two.

I'd say more, but what the hell do I know? Plus, they're gonging for us and everyone's fingers are FREAK. ING. OUT.

~~~

11:20 PM

And...scene.

The latter half provided the majority of the recognizable tunes, culminating with "Sul l'aria," the duet between "those two Italian ladies," Susanna and the Countess, that Andy plays over the loudspeaker in The Shawshank Redemption. I'm guessing that, from what I can tell, most comic operas end about as tritely as Figaro does, so I'm okay with the "everybody run and play!" exeunt.

I'll close with this thought. The Madison Opera is not an expensive night out. As my wife pointed out to me, tickets started at less than $20, and maxed out for this show at around $115 for the best of the best seats. I'm wearing jeans, for crying out loud; you don't need a monocle or tails for this.

So that's it, more or less. There's cake and champagne that isn't going to consume itself, and we're on the invite list.

Oh, and never, at any time, does anyone in this opera stand up and belt out, "FIIIGARO. Figarofigarofigaro!!" That's The Barber of Seville and a whole 'nother Blogger Night at the Opera.

~~~

12:20 AM

Back home. Making a frozen pizza. I can't take this much culture. (We had to spring our dogs, anyway, so skipped the afterparty.)

Can I say, though, that my caption for the above photo--meant as a riff on the porn joke--actually proved to be pretty accurate given what's happening in that scene? I'm, like, an opera savant or something. (The picture is credited to the Madison Opera, by the way.)

And lastly, sincere thanks to Brian Hinrichs, Manager of Communications and Community Outreach, for the invite and the hospitality. He's doing a great job bringing a younger demographic into what can be a tough sell sometimes. We got a lot of response from folks in the lobby, and Brian himself got specific praise from outgoing Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton before the show. He deserves it; thanks, Brian!

It gets better.

I'm straight. I've always known that, so I don't have quite the same perspective of feeling like there's something inside of me that needed to get out, to be expressed. But that doesn't mean that I don't know what gay-bashing bullying feels like, or how much it hurts.
 
It doesn't hurt because there's anything wrong with being gay. It hurts because when you get attacked because people think you're gay, or use homosexuality as an insult, you know that those people just don't care about you at all. They don't know you, they don't want to know you, and they want to hurt you based on their perceptions of you. And it does hurt.
 
And I've seen what being afraid, or being intimidated, or being shouted down can do to a person. My dad was gay. Sure, he did what many gay men do--he played the part. He dated women, got married, had a kid--but he never stopped being gay. Even though he was a smart man, and a confident man at times, he let his feeling of isolation drive him to make some pretty big mistakes.
 
He died almost 15 years ago, so I never really had the chance to engage him in an adult-to-adult way about whether he still felt as alone as he did in his younger days. My understanding of his mindset is admittedly speculative. I wonder if there was shame in his heart; I hope there wasn't, but I worry otherwise.
 
He was an independent guy, for better or worse, and he passed that on to me. I took flak for the clothes I wore, and the way I did my hair, and the way I spoke, throughout much of my pre-college days. People called me "fag," pushed me around, and tried their best to exclude me. Sometimes, they succeeded.
 
But you know what? I left those motherfuckers in my dust.
 
Their intellectual smallness keeps them doing shit that I got past--thanks to a good education, caring friends, loving family, and a strong sense of my own self-worth. It's not ego, and it's not bravado. I'm worth my successes, and I'm better than the ignorance that some people tried to inflict on me as a weapon. So are you.
 
If you're LGBT (or hell, even if you aren't) and struggling with aggressive ignorance around you, I'm telling you that it gets better. There's more support out there than ever, and the world is smaller than it's ever been thanks to technology and education. Finding someone who understands your pain and your isolation, and can help you overcome them, has never been easier.
 
Don't let the bozos win. Don't be pushed around. Put them in your rearview mirror and excel. It gets better because you can make it better by showing them how wrong they are.

An open letter of partial retraction and semi-apology to Vince O'Hern

Wherein the author maintains the Intergrity of his overall Objection

Dear Mr. O'Hern,

In reaction to recent comments made by you in the pages of Isthmus, I may have taken you to task too harshly. Please allow me to explain the offense I took to your statement, and clarify my remarks slightly.

My parents raised me in a dogma-free household. I appreciate that greatly, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. But if there was one spiritual concept instilled by my parents, and perhaps most explicitly by my mother, it is that music is the universal form of prayer.

Music uplifts, and can cause any one of us, regardless of creed, age, or ethnicity to rejoice in our own way. And it doesn't really matter what kind of music it is, so long as it speaks to that need for joy and expression within the listener.

So you must understand that when you made the following remarks, they flew in the face of how I was raised.

One of the traits that distinguish humans from other primates is our ability to create and enjoy classical music. (Rock 'n' roll, not so much.)

A friend posited (on Twitter) as to whether this was moronically offensive, or merely offensively moronic. I chose to co-opt this turn of phrase, without modification. As a writer for your publication, perhaps I would have been better off finding a different way of expressing my displeasure.

For throwing the term "moronic" your way, I apologize. For taking offense at your statement, I do not.

If you meant it as a joke, I'm sorry to say I didn't find it funny at all. If you meant it as the slight I interpreted it to be...well, I'd be very disappointed. I can only assume you meant for the statement to generate a response, or you wouldn't have gone out of your way to include it as a conspicuous aside.

I disagree with your characterization of classical music as apparently the only form of musical expression that elevates us. I meant to disagree with sarcasm, and slipped into verbal aggression.

My bad.

Tony Bourdain visits the Midwest...briefly.

If you caught Monday's episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, you saw Tony hit various spots in the Midwest and near West, all crammed unceremoniously into one episode. Bottom line: I wasn't too crazy about it.

Even if you didn't see the episode, but are passingly familiar with either chef Bourdain, or the stereotypical jabs frequently taken at the middle of the country's culinary offerings, head on over to The Daily Page to check out my commentary on "Heartland." There's a link over there on the right hand column, and looky here: another link!

Top Chef 7 kicks off tonight

To address a current problem: yes, I really fell off the Top Chef Masters wagon this last season. Honestly, I still haven't watched any of the last four episodes. I still don't know who won--and don't spoil it for me, they're all DVRed.

Tonight, the flagship sets sail once more, this time from Washington, D.C. I will watch, and I will probably live-tweet. But I have to warn you that the same issues that made recapping Top Chef Masters difficult will still be in effect for Top Chef DC. Plus, my buddy Carol Blymire will be recapping for The Washingtonian and she's got a few things going for her that I don't:

1) She's a Washingtonian herself, and more plugged into the local references that will populate the season.

2) She's much more literate on the national food scene than I am.

3) She's got the time, and the freedom to juggle writing assignments that I don't have.

4) She's quite a looker, if I might say so.

So I'm gonna try to stay on top of this season's recapping here at Irony or Mayo, but it's very possible that I will let you down again. Sorry--it's only fair to warn you. If I falter, please give Carol a read. Heck, even if I'm recapping, read her stuff too. She's great!

Honomership

I compose this post from our deck furniture, a stunning chocolate brown and lime green affair. I am here to tell you that you should ignore all the tools from HGTV Canada that don't know how to buy a house; buying a house is awesome.

Okay, maybe not everyone buys a house from a young family who had to be undiagnosed obsessive-compulsives. I mean, who takes down all their photos after the offer goes through, then patches the nail holes and paints over the patches? Our circumstance was as close to Better Homes and Gardens as you can get for the money.

And oh, the gardens. Our landscaping is pretty great. I was itching for a yard to play with as we neared the end of our last rental agreement, but I had no idea.




Even the dogs are getting into it.



Buying a house is awesome, because at the end of it, you get to have a house. And even if it's not a big house, it's a start.

Burgers, Brews, and Barb

Today is Burgers and Brew 2010, and I won't be there. Sad face!

I covered this event last year for The Daily Page, and it was a pretty fun event. This year, though, I'm in Appleton for my mom's birthday. It's a trade I'm willing to make, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to be thinking about little burgers around 4 this afternoon.

Those burgers sound, as usual, delicious. I turn once again to AV Madison for a preview of the menu, and once again I'm met with a surprisingly narrow view of the culinary offerings. Last year, Scott Gordon referred to the quail egg-topped burger from Lombardino's as "bizarre" and a "miniature bird abortion." Why the hate, Scott? And this year, Erika Janik calls it "infamous." I've seen the lines for that burger, Erika, and I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Erika also freaks out a bit over the Fresco burger, a little patty topped with black truffle aioli, radishes, and bone marrow-sauteed onions. Bone marrow isn't some new food concept, nor is it even new to Madison (the popular-like-gangbusters Coopers Tavern offers roasted veal marrow as a starter). That's not to say it isn't unusual, but to call it "crazy shit"--well, I'll just say that someone maybe needs to read Fringe Foods a little more.

But hey, that's AV Madison's (and AV Club's overall) schtick: look at how high we can raise our eyebrows at these cultural phenomena and pretend like we don't want or value them! It works most of the time; I'm certainly a regular visitor to both sites. But when it comes off as leading an unexamined life and being proud of it, it does a disservice to everyone involved.

Anyway, I wish everyone there great weather and an even better time. And someone save me a Brewbarb Burger!

It's either one or the other

It was November of 2009--remember it? The world was destroyed by the CERN Large Hadron Collider? Yeah, good times.

Anyway, I was in a discussion about the merits, or more specifically the demerits, of Miracle Whip and the lack of any mayo products at Nick's Restaurant in Madison. In that conversation, I posted the following comment:

Miracle Whip has a cozy place in my heart by virtue of leftover turkey sandwiches post-Thanksgiving at home. But at a restaurant? I'd expect either irony or mayo.


I'm not going to lie; I dug that closing phrase from the moment it left my fingertips. And with a blog in need of a little image refinement, it had the right mix of topicality and quirk that I wanted for a new blog title.


It doesn't hurt that the terms "irony" and "mayo" have been conjoined in the blog media lately, with the recent Miracle Whip ad campaign "Don't be so mayo." There have been some pretty humorous critiques of this fairly absurd campaign at Combat! and Slate.

My use of the phrase was to distinguish between old-school diners that serve mayo and eggs and mediocre coffee and new-school facsimiles that serve pork belly mac and cheese and deconstructed eggs Benedict. If a restaurant can't decide whether to be ironic or serve real mayo, then they're deserving of a little scorn.

Of course, irony and mayo aren't mutually exclusive. But the absence of both mayo and irony? That's indefensible.

Pull up a stool. Welcome to Irony or Mayo.