We meet again, Madison.
Epic Systems, headquartered in Verona, Wisconsin, had their annual XGM (Expert Group Meetings) conference this year. I went for half of it - one week, more than enough time to enjoy local food. We usually stay at the Hampton Inn in downtown Madison, which affords access to plenty of restaurants within walking distance as well as the vibrant UW-Madison campus.
We begin with Sunday night dinner at Ian's Pizza
, reputedly a student favorite. It's not hard to see why.
Presented with all those choices, I settled on slices of mac-and-cheese and penne-topped pizza. It was impossible to eat these carb-slabs without wondering what they would be like after several, several drinks.
The conferences didn't actually start until Tuesday, so I had a free day. I therefore rented a car and sought out something I've been wanting to try for a few years now, a rather different sort of pizza than what I had last night:
As for the pizza itself, the slice I got wasn't the freshest, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. With its sweet sauce, pan-style crust, and plentiful sausage, it was exactly
what I would have gone crazy for as a kid, and if I lived in the Madison area, I'd be going here far more than was good for me.
I'd not had any breakfast, and one slice of pizza - even a Rocky Rococo Super Slice - does not a full stomach make, so I ended up with two lunches. My follow-up was an overly salty gyro from Parthenon Gyro
on the main downtown strip.
In the course of all this, I'd managed to get a speeding ticket (a Connecticut leadfoot in a Midwestern court, I guess), so to numb my anger at that, I had a few drinks at the hotel and then got some chicken biryani from Madistan
(ha!), a Pakistani place just around the corner from the hotel. Good stuff. The rice at Middle Eastern places is usually pretty addictive.
Lunch during conference days was at Epic, but, as always, they had vendors with tables of mustard, cheese, and chocolate. I'd been meaning to hit Brennan's Cellars
for some of their really, really old cheddar, but they had tables set up at Epic, so I was saved a trip!
That block there was $22.
My next dinner was at a place called Paul's Pel'meni
, which had come highly recommended from one of my foodie coworkers that had attended XGM last year.
Pel'meni are Russian dumplings
. I'd never been to any sort of Russian restaurant before.
I got mixed dumplings with "the works" along with a slice of rye (from Stalzy's Deli!).
What can I say, except that I wanted to forget all my other dinner options and come back here
every single night. I hope they stay around a nice long time.
The following morning, I pledged to do better for breakfast than the expectedly-awful fare at the hotel, so I went to the Short Stack Eatery
just up the street.
I'm not much of a pancake guy, but it turned out they did a good Eggs Benedict. Well, Egg
Benedict, as I didn't want to fall asleep during the conferences. They charged an extra fifty cents for the onions with the potatoes, but let me tell you, those were fifty cents well spent.
Underneath the glass surfaces of the tables were assorted vintage postcards and letters.
Look at that handwriting. Talk about a lost art.
When dinnertime came around again, I fought indecision for a solid hour before settling on Ramen Kid
Note the anime decor. Cliched, I guess, but as long as the food was good, who cared?
Spicy hakata tonktosu garlic ramen. Rich, strong, savory; not as complex as some that I've had, but nevertheless very satisfying.
Pork belly as tender as it's supposed to be.
There are a few different ramen joints in Madison, and it seems like they're here to stay. I'm glad to see that ramen isn't just some passing fad. It shouldn't be. It's too good.
The trip was capped nicely with an indulgent dinner on Epic's dime at the upscale Heritage Tavern
That there is the Bad Blood: "Edinburgh Frakincense, Myrrh gin, Cocchi Rosa, Yellow Chartreuse, blood orange-cranberry shrub, thyme, lemon, soda water." You smell the shrub as you sip. Brilliant!
Appetizers included Heritage's signature deviled eggs (this one is an "everything bagel" egg) ...
... and tempura-fried cheese curds.
On my last visit here two years ago
, I'd had the pork schnitzel with knockwurst, spaetzle, pickled beets, cabbage, and (aronia?) berries.
They still had schnitzel on the menu, but I resolved to try something different: beef striploin. This is what they called "medium rare", ha!
There were two chunks of potato carved to resemble bone. One was filled with braised pork, the other with cheese.
Heritage has not yet been kicked off its #1 perch on my list of Madison restaurants. If you're here only for a little while, and money isn't an option, I honestly can't recommend anywhere better.
My final meal of the trip was... this. Better than an airport sandwich would have been thirty years ago, at least.
Luckily, I had snagged some Sterzing's
chips at Hy-Vee before I left.
It's not, unfortunately, a guarantee that I'll get to attend Epic XGM every year, but I've a few places on my list for whenever my next visit is, including The Old Fashioned, Stalzy's Deli, Quivey's Grove,
and The Curve
. Ella's Deli would be as well, but sadly, they appear to have closed.
post edited by Ketteract - 2018/04/30 21:59:33