Kim and I went to Madison for a couple of days to unwind after a particularly high tension two or three weeks of work. Haven't been to Madison for a while. It was a fun and mighty rejuvenating little trip, even with a drizzly rain day on Monday. Here are the highlights.
Sunday night Sunday night at Maduro Cigar Bar on E. Main. This is a fantastic place, very cool ambiance...dark brown or burgundy decorative tin ceiling; exposed brick on one side & golden-hued wall with big poster art on the other; rustic wood, ceramic inlaid bar; requisite heavy padded leather couches; an awesome selection of spirits and some mighty fine beers; and best of all, cigar smoking allowed and encouraged! I am very distressed over the current proposed legislation to ban smoking in all businesses. There are no exemptions for cigar lounges like Maduro in the legislation as it stands now. This nonsense is a direct infringement on entrepreneurial freedom and will adversely affect or even put out of business places like Maduro and Lakeshore Cigar Company in Manitowoc. It's wrong, folks, just plain wrong. Even my wife, Kim, who is not a cigar smoker, is very upset over this infringement on our rights. She had a great time at Maduro with me, enjoying a couple of fine ports while I had a Samichlaus Dopplebock followed by a La Chouffe Golden Ale. Both were outstanding.
We took a break from Maduro to grab a quick bite around the corner at Natt Spil at Lucas', the bartender's, recommendation. It's a funky little space that's so hip it hurts (yeah, they know it, but I kinda like that). A yummy little greek pizza did the trick and it was back to Maduro for another stick and a couple final libations. The place filled up for an hour or two then quieted down for a very fine end to the evening.
Hit Café Soleil next to the capital in the morning for espresso and cappuccino. Outstanding espresso (tasty enough that I had two marked dopios) and Kim's cappuccino was mighty good too (I tasted it). I feel bad that I don't recall the barista's name (I did ask her...I want to say Mandy, but I'm not sure) because she was doing a wonderful job keeping up with a steady line of customers at both the register and espresso machine, and her drink prep was consistent and smooth.
It was a little drizzly with rain outside, but still nice for walking. We left Soleil and headed across the square to Fromagination, a wonderfully interesting and friendly artisinal cheese shop. This place fired us both up to get into the artisan cheese thing a bit more seriously at the Stump. We got so carried away with sampling and looking and chatting that I forgot to take any pictures (check out their website link above). Met a fine fellow by the name of Patrick who gave us the "tour" and let us sample a bunch of different cheeses (which caused me to spend way more than I should have, but what the heck, it was dang good cheese and I was in the moment). Also chatted with the owner/head cheese monger, Ken, who appears to have a well-defined aesthetic and vision for his business and really knows cheese.
After getting to know Patrick a little bit he suggested we have dinner that night around the corner at the Tornado Club Steak House, as he was the sous chef there. We ended up doing just that, arriving at the Tornado at around 7:30. The Tornado used to be Crandall's, a place that had the absolutely best Friday night fish fry ever. Well, the place looks exactly the same as it did then, and probably the same as it did when it first opened back who-knows-when? (late 50s/early 60s maybe?). Which is to say that it looks awesome, with an effortless retro vibe that comes from the various owners maintaining what was there.
We sat at the bar for a while before being seated, which was perfectly fine by me as it gave us a chance to check out the bar layout, discuss which of their menu and drink ideas we could co-opt for the Stump, and try a few drinks.
Kim had escargot, which she loves and which always reminds me of that scene in Trading Places where the rich snob tells Eddie Murphy the "S-car go" joke at the restaurant table while Dan Akroyd looks on woefully from outside in the pouring rain. I had frog's legs, a treat I've always liked since I was a little shaver and my Dad and I would regularly go bullfrog gigging and bring back a couple gunny sacks full each time. This dish, however, was no ordinary crispy fried frog's legs dish. They were indeed breaded and crispy fried but they were also lying in a pool of the most exquisite, sticky sweet, garlicky sauce. I finished the legs and when our waitress (maybe her name was Mandy?) tried to remove my plate that still held the golden nectar I covered it with my arm like Dracula covers his face with his cape. "No way!" says I, "Please just bring me some bread, coz this is gonna be my dessert." Oh so good. Next up, a spinach and bacon dressing salad for Kim and a wedge salad for me. I've never much card for french dressing...it always tastes like I'm putting a vinegary ketchup on my salad. But I asked the waitress which salad she liked best and went with her suggestion. It too was awesome. A big chunk of lettuce cut off the head, set upon the plate like a little building, over which blue cheese, carrot slices and french dressing were added. Fresh, succulent and crunchy.
Patrick came out to say 'hello and nice meeting' you before the main courses arrived, which we appreciated...we were impressed with his friendliness and confidence. Kim had duck with cranberries and it was buttery smooth and tender, and looked like a breast fillet spread out on the plate. I had a big honkin' steak that was charred and smokey on the outside and bloody rare on the inside, just like I like it. Had to be two inches thick and nicely marbled. It was the best, most delicious and enjoyable meal we have had in quite a while. Everything was simply fabulous, from the food and drinks to the people to the atmosphere. We both left comfortably full and feeling like the king and queen...at least for a day or two.
Back to bizness now.