Monday, November 29, 2010

The Underground Dinner

Everyone was sad when Cafe Montmatre on E. Mifflin closed. My relationship with the restaurant was short and sweet. Having been introduced at my brother-in-law and sister's wedding brunch, I liked the atmosphere and the food.

Flash forward to 2008 and I was new to Madison and invited to hear some music there on a Saturday night. As fun, young people came in and everyone danced the night away, I liked the venue.

I met friends there during several snowy storms and it felt cozy. And of course, what's not bad about being able to walk there? They had this great $5 pizza night. The bar was great. I guess things just got tough and then they closed.

Now we always heard of Underground Kitchen. The "collective" group who have catered numerous events around town. No owner. No head chef. They cooked up wonderful breakfasts at the indoor farmer's market. Well, now they are in Cafe Montmatre's space. And it is good.

Having checked it out through the windows numerous nights as I walk by with my dog, I have been very anxious to try it out. It always appeared busy as I peaked through the glass, everyone inside looked like someone I would be friends with (yes, there are also older people who dine there. I would want to be their friend, too)and the bar looked happening.

So, last Tuesday night, I did my walk by and it was busy. So I texted my bf and met him there. The only table they could give us was right by the door and it was cold. But we didn't care. I think they are working on getting something to prevent the cold air from coming in (actually, I believe the host said they are changing the entrance to the other door), but really, it was a non issue. It was busy.

I will note here that my dad taught us when we were young to always try and prevent cold air from blowing into a restaurant. For example, if there is a breezeway between two doors, wait until the first door is closed before you open the second. I think this is very thoughtful.

Back to Underground.... Our server was not your typical server. She was not outgoing. No extrovert here. She seemed more like a scientist than a sociologist. But she did know the menu quite well. We decided to try the polenta fries with homemade squash ketchup, romanesco & leeks in cream and the orecchiette as an entree. The appetizers were absolutely tasteful. I highly recommend the romanesco and leeks in the creamy stuff. I believe they also had some breadcrumbs. Romanesco is in the broccoli family, so you should be open to that type of vegetable. The dipping sauce (squash stuff) with the polenta fries was excellent. And the entree was our least favorite, but we were pretty stuffed. We each had a drink (I had a red blend, he had a beer). Our total was about $34.00 and the desserts sounded delicious, we were just too stuffed.

The atmosphere is great. I like the wood floors, the nice tables, it's brighter than it used to be, but still has that warm feel. The festive large squash decorations by the front door helped.

One thing I read before going there is that because they have an open kitchen (yeah -you can see them doing everything), your clothes smell. This is somewhat true, but it didn't bother me. Also, I think there is a communal table there, but we didn't sit on that side of the restaurant.

All in all, I loved the food (the usual - local and sustainable) and I loved the atmosphere. So I will be spending some more time there. I am very excited for the first big snow fall so I can get all of my friends there on a stormy night for some good food and drink.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gender Identity

And here is my latest argument. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about gender identification. I know there have been a lot of experiments and research performed on this topic.

I could go on about this for a while. But, my main issue right now is the color coding. If I currently had a little boy or girl, I would love to do my own little experiment.

Dress your toddler in some gender neutral clothes (say a little girl in some brown/black/green) and they are automatically called "he."

Our mother was pretty much against the pink for girls and blue for boys rule. There are a few people she made exceptions for. And that's how we were raised.

A friend of the family raised her two daughters quite differently. Daughter A was during the hippie movement. She was dressed in gender neutral clothes. She is an engineer who doesn't shave her legs. Daughter B was after the hippie movement. Mom started wearing make-up, watching her figure and maintaining her own appearance. Daughter B is a make-up wearing, nail polishing, skinny, little, feminine and sexy thing.

It is interesting, isn't it?

I am not sure where the color coding came from. Looking at art, I presume it started centuries ago.

But why not let your kids decide how masculine or feminine they want to be? My niece wears a lot of boy hand-me-downs. And I think Americans are over consuming in their need to buy more and more things (like clothes for younger children of a different gender, when their older sibling of the opposite sex has perfectly fine used clothes). And so, little niece doesn't want to wear anything in her hair. And when offered to wear a barrette to pull back some hair from her face, she rejects. Well, how about if her role model, the older brother wears it? Ok, now she will gladly wear one, too! And see, it's not about what is for a boy or what is for a girl. She wants to be just like him.

And with that being said, it is fine with me if my son wants to wear his hair in a clip because the girl down the street is doing it. He will figure out what is "masculine." And I always liked that my little cousin (although quite macho) would wear a dress during playtime. He is from Madison. How many boys will do that?

And the last thing I will say is if I have a baby (although I always sit with the laptop on my lap, which supposedly reduces your chances, so it's unlikely), please do NOT buy me blue things with sports logos on it for my son or pink ruffled things for my daughter. It's sexist!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Newest Restaurant Review in Madison.....

I recently went to a new restaurant off the square, called Nostranos. It is located in the old Peppino's across from Gennas. Nostranos was delicious.

Opened by a young couple from Chicago, the restaurant is not cheap. The atmosphere is lovely. My boyfriend took me here for a celebration dinner, which was very nice of him. We ordered an appetizer salad, (called Farm Egg Salad - not what you are thinking), entrees (I had the Delicata Squash Cannelloni and it was fabulous) and a dessert. Nothing is large enough or filling enough, but the food is excellent. No surprise, the food is prepared with local ingredients, etc, etc. The menu is on the Italian side.

We waited a really long time for our food. Fortunately, having just been to Paris, where you can wait an eternity for any service, we didn't mind at all. In fact, I don't think a lot of Madisonians mind waiting.

The portions were just too small. The entrees are served on large plates. They either need to:
A) Use smaller plates or
B) Add some big side dish to fill their plates. This is easy to do with a cheap vegetable (potatoes or kale?) with some good seasoning.

Now, as I note some vegetables, it seems the only local vegetables you can get right now are squashes, which is fine. Tonight, I am going to prepare a parsnip and apple mash. (From a recipe I got out of Martha's magazine when I was having my gray hair colored). I recently bought delicata squash from the market and it was one of the tastiest squashes I have had.

The next restaurant I would like to try to is Underground Kitchen in the old Montmatre space. I have done several walk bys with my dog and it looks fun in there. I hear they change their menu a lot and there are several community tables. Underground was known as a catering business. It has a locally sourced menu, blah, blah, blah.

We have too many good restaurants here. I am so spoiled. (And glad I moved here). Especially because I can walk to a lot of them.