On Wisconsin!


Last summer I got married in the grand state of Wisconsin,  the land of cheese, home of brew masters, and makers of brats. The weather was beautiful. It was supposed to rain, but it stayed partially sunny in the upper 70s all day. The best part of the day that didn’t involve people (husband, friends or family) was the location and the food! This is my (late) ode to the beautiful city of Madison in the context of food. I hope you come visit soon!

Madison hosts one of the most beautiful state capitals and best farmer's markets in the US. On Saturday mornings, you can see both at the same time! (c) Patratacus

The morning before the big event, my partner, two of my bridesmaids, their dates and I ate our way around the Madison Farmers’ Market. Saturdays around the Capitol, you can spend your morning eating fresh fruits and veggies, cheese (especially cheese curds!), salsas and dips, baked goods and meat sticks, then bring home eggs, meats (everything from beef to venison to ostrich). Travel Magazine voted it the best farmers’ market in the country! All items are produced locally by the vendor behind the table.

The Market boasts 4 solid blocks of vendors! (c) Patratacus

In college, I used to wake up early with my foodie roommate and grab breakfast around the square. You have to pace yourself, I’m talking 4 solid blocks of vendors. I always brought back beef sticks for my boyfriend (now husband). Even in cold or inclement weather, it’s always a good time (and less crowded!).

If it's a nice day, you'll get to see all kinds of entertainers! (c) Patratacus

The UW Madison Memorial Union is an amazing place! The Union, with its seat on Lake Mendota, is one of the few student unions in the country that serves beer. There is a beautiful terrace overlooking the lake with fun orange, yellow, and green chairs.

It's not perspective, this chair is huge! The rest are regular sized. This is a rare moment when kids aren't climbing all over it. (c) Patratacus

Weddings at the Union, are a sight to see! The rooms are spectacular.  Plus, the food is mighty tasty, which was a pleasant surprise. Our wedding photographers, Miranda and Adam at Reminisce Photography and Design, were gracious enough to let us share their beautiful shots of food and fun at the wedding! If you’re determined, you might even catch a glimpse of the Matzo wedding on their blog, Reminisce’s Blog.

Surprisingly, the food at the student union was good! Who knew!? During the cocktail hour, we had a delicious array of appetizers and snacks.

The pot stickers were tasty and well-presented. (c) Reminisce Photography and Design

I didn’t get to taste them, but I heard the spinach wraps were delicious.

Spinach Wraps with a yummy dipping sauce. (c) Reminisce Photography and Design

One of our friends made our two-flavor cake – coconut and cinnamon. We like strong flavors, so the cakes packed quite the coconut or cinnamon punch! And thanks to my geeky husband, Hon Solo and Princess Leia topped the cakes.

Geekalicious. (c) Reminisce Photography and Design

Unfortunately, we got so swept up in the eventing that we only got to taste what we shoved in each others mouths. Sad. Thankfully, she baked us a smaller version and shipped it a month later.

Anyway, back to Madison! Rice hails from the great city, and I lived there for 4 glorious years. We both hope you take a trip there soon! It’s less expensive than bigger cities like Chicago, but has a lot of amazing culinary surprises!  Take a visit to some of Matzo and Rice favorites like:

Walking through the front door at Mickie’s Dairy Bar is like walking out of a time machine. This great breakfast diner still has their original 1950s menu posted, counters with stools, excellent malts, and portions that would be large even when your parents were born. They’re only open until the afternoon, so go early and be prepared to wait. Trust me, it’s worth it. Mickies Dairy Bar on Urbanspoon

The Capital Brewery is one of the best breweries in the US. It’s worth a visit even though it’s just outside of Madison, in Middleton, but really, if you have a car it’s only about 5-10 minutes away. The joy of going to the brewery itself is the spacious beer garden and friendly (and helpful) staff. The brews are cheap, they allow dogs, and you bring a picnic or order your favorite pizza delivered to your table! The brewery tour is worth your time. Fun fact: The brew tanks are named after Frank Zappa songs! You can learn more about their delicious brews at their website or right here on Matzo and Rice! We recommend their Capital Amber, Autumnal Fire, Supper Club, and Island Wheat, but really I haven’t had a beer from there that I didn’t like.

My husband spent part of his bachelor party at the Capital Brewery. (c) Patratacus

The Great Dane Pub brews their own! Definitely try the Stone of Scone Scotch Ale, Chocolate Cherry Stout, or their Crop Circle Wheat. All of their burgers are good, soups are excellent, beer bread & honey butter is a great starter, and their pretzels are perfect to share. Portions are huge, so come hungry! It can get loud on the weekends, but you can still hear your table mates. Come early and nab a spot on the pool table.  Great Dane Brew Pub on Urbanspoon

The Essen Haus has over 200 beers, with 17 German imports on tap! Grab a boot to share (or a 3 or 5 liter stein) and pass that puppy around. Be sure not to set it down, or you’ll be the one to buy the next round! The food can be hit or miss (German fare is a bit heavy), but the sampler plate is always good to share. A trip is a MUST on days when the Polka band is in.  Essen Haus on Urbanspoon

Pork AND bacon wrapped pickles?! AMAZING! (c) Patratacus

Ian’s Pizza is the mecca for late-night eating. Their thin crust slices and pies have great tooth to them – nice give in the dough paired with a solid crust. Personally, my favorites are their famous mac and cheese and the awesome BBQ steak and fries pizza! They have a fun selection of seasonal slices, too, including: tomato pesto, chicken pot pie, farmers’ market grilled veggie, smores, and chili cheese fritos (yes, you read correctly). Their innovative flavor combos make your tongue dance for joy! While I’ve had a few slices that weren’t my favorite, I’ve never been disappointed with a selection. That said, I always order at least one slice of mac and cheese. They also have locations in Chicago and Milwaukee, if you’re going to be in those areas. The food is the same, delicious and creative! Ian's Pizza by the Slice on Urbanspoon

*drool* Ian's Pizza's glorious Mac and Cheese slice. Thanks to Rice for snapping a pic with her camera phone. Whenever I'm there, the last thing I'm thinking about is taking a picture of my food - quite the feat, Ian's. Kudos to you!

Whenever my parents would come visit me when I was living in Madison, I would have them take me to Bluphies for breakfast! While they bill themselves as a restaurant and vodkatorium (!), the real magic is in their brunch and lunches. I ate there once for dinner, and, while it was good, I’d rather eat their breakfasts and lunches. Their milkshakes, pancakes, french toast, and egg dishes are pretty amazing. They also serve a top notch tuna nicoise that my mom ordered EVERY TIME without fail (we’re talking 4 years, several times a year). If you’re there for lunch, save room for dessert. Their cakes are sky high and their pies are the right proportion of insides and crust.  The restaurant is fun, boisterous, and great for groups and kids (and groups of kids). While I haven’t tried the vodka they boast, go ahead and try it with your eggs and waffles. I don’t judge.  Bluephies on Urbanspoon

Visit the Bellini Italian Restaurant to see where Matzo had her rehearsal dinner. The owners were very willing to make a special menu for us and let us substitute sides. Instead of their traditional appetizers, we did an assortment of pizzas, cut up into smaller slices and bused around to the mingling guests. Pizzas are a great finger food, and it allowed us to have a nice array of veggie and meat options. For dinner, we ate family style, and they didn’t force us to order the same number of servings as guests. While we had a few extra servings left over, it wasn’t as ridiculous and wasteful as having the same number of chicken breasts as guests. The shrimp were tender and the chicken was juicy and flavorful. Their desserts are a little on the heavy side, so we asked to get gelatto instead. The main room is romantic and cozy, but able to support our party of 50 without us bothering the other guests. Bellini's on Urbanspoon

Stained glass at Belini's. (c) Patratacus

State St. Brats isn’t the greatest food in the world, but it’s one of the best places in the city to watch a Badger game. It’ll be crowded and the service might be slow, but you’ll be surrounded by several hundred of your new found Badger friends. As denoted in the name, they do make a mean brat. State Street Brats on Urbanspoon

The Plaza Tavern & Grill Incorporated, just off of State St, has a wide array of beers (Optimator on tap!) and pub fare. The Plaza’s secret burger sauce was written up by Maxim Magazine as the sauce they would add to create the greatest “Frankenburger” ever. The August 2008 (pg 94) issue said the sauce is “a savory white substance that tastes like a cross between mayo, sour cream, and angel tears.” On a side note, and not to get them into trouble, the Plaza was the first bar I drank at while under 21. At the time, they had the second greatest Juke Box in Madison sporting songs by the Pixies and King Missile. Plaza Tavern & Grill Incorporated on Urbanspoon

Babcock Hall’s Dairy Store is the go-to place for UW Madison’s homemade ice cream! We we like it so much, we served it at our wedding (see below). Our favorite flavors include chocolate peanut butter (salty and sweet!) and green tea. If you don’t make it to the store, you can also get cones at the Union.  Babcock Hall Dairy Store on Urbanspoon

The Union servers are scooping giant hunks of Babcock vanilla ice cream. (c) Patratacus

<a href=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/214/1344549/restaurant/Essen-Haus-Madison”><img alt=”Essen Haus on Urbanspoon” src=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/logo/1344549/minilogo.gif&#8221; style=”border:none;width:104px;height:15px” /></a>

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7 Responses to “On Wisconsin!”

  1. Leslie Says:

    I grew up in La Crosse, WI, and attended UW! I am now transplanted to FL so reading your foodie tour brought back some wonderful memories! Thanks so much! Fantastic post!

  2. Taylor Says:

    I saw your post on Madison. I am a Badger alum and live in Charlotte,NC. I am going back to Madison in 2 weeks to shoot stuff for my blog. Seeing you picture of Ian’s pizza made me even more excited for my trip! got to love Madison!

  3. Wandering Chopsticks Says:

    I spent a summer in Madison and this post brings back so many wonderful memories.

    What I loved was the diversity of restaurants on State Street. First time I tried Afghani and Tibetan food too.

  4. jclynes Says:

    Hey! My blog was one of the automatically generated related posts… and it is very related (well, that post anyway). It was a pleasure to read this post about foods in Madison as I think many here are into the “local” aspect of it all!
    I’m glad I found your blog (well, wordpress found me your blog)

  5. Michelle Says:

    Aww, makes me want to visit Madison again!

  6. Review Master List « matzo&rice Says:

    […] Babcock Hall Dairy Store, Madison […]

  7. Vivian Henoch Says:

    Searching — for the Brat Haus of my ancient memory of State Street, found your delightful post here. I just wandered back to Madison, my college town – just briefly- this past summer.

    You can find me — blogging about brats and beer (through my tears) on OPEN SALON . Later today.
    and thanks.

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