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Madison Originals: And the Winner is …

April 22, 2013

If food is an art form, and to many it most surely is, then there was wide and impressive array of “canvases” on display Sunday at Madison’s Concourse Hotel for the second annual Flavors of Madison. Sponsored by Madison Originals, an association of the city’s locally owned and operated eateries, the evening event offered foods of all types prepared by some of the city’s best kitchens.

We ate our way through the hotel’s Grand Ballroom for nearly 90 minutes sampling salads, enjoying enchiladas, dining on desserts and grabbing all gustatory experiences in between. Our goal, like that of other visitors, was to take our “wooden nickel” token and drop it in the box of what we enjoyed most from the 27 restaurants represented in the show.

Our only problem? We only had one token apiece, and there were so many good options from which to choose.

We were pleased by Chef David Heide’s jambalaya from Liliana’s, the Fitchburg Cajun restaurant named for Heide’s young daughter, who also was in attendance. Nueske’s bacon joined with sausage, rice and all those other good ingredients for a semi-spicy version of the Cajun classic.

A bratwurst kabob and Reuben rollup demonstrated how clever the Essen Haus could be with standard German ingredients and a little creative thinking.

Clam chowder was once again on the menu from Captain Bill’s, a creamy smooth delight that we well remember from last year. Sister restaurants The Mariner’s Inn and Nau-Ti-Gal were also on hand with such a wide selection that a stop at those three stations alone could have constituted an entire meal.

The meat lovers in us thoroughly enjoyed the ribs with homemade bourbon sauce and pot roast from Bonfyre American Grille. We bellied up for the pulled pork sliders topped with seasoned chopped cabbage from Hawk’s Bar & Grill. And we simply couldn’t pass up the Original Gritty Burger served on a pretzel roll from The Nitty Gritty.

Our inner health nut appreciated the two different salads from Fit Fresh Cuisine and we enjoyed the culinary creativity of the vanilla bean and vodka-cured salmon served on a bed of mixed greens from Dayton Street Grille. The prevalence of greens from the two restaurants in what seemed to be a meat-heavy menu provided a delightful contrast to the evening’s dining experience.

There were many others, most of which met and exceeded our expectations. But we each only could make one choice, and after much deliberation cast our coins.

When our evenings call for pizza, we generally opt for a trip Roman Candle in Middleton, but for all our visits over the years we’ve failed to sample their full menu. The restaurant’s red peppers soup, which we were introduced to last night, received a big thumb’s up for its savory flavors and creamy texture. It also received one of our two coins.

For sheer creativity and satisfaction, however, we had to cast our other coin for the Daisy Café & Cupcakery’s roasted vegetable enchilada. The serving, dressed with romatillo-avocado salsa and pico de gallo with a goat cheese sauce, was both rich and subtle (and it didn’t hurt that the restaurant brought along mini-versions of six of its cupcakes for dessert.)

By then our food comas began to take hold and it was time to leave. But we’re happy to report that The Flavors of Madison was once again a success and we salute all the foodies who participated on both sides of the serving tables.

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