Archive for January, 2013


It's January in Wisconsin and the snow is falling.....and falling.....and falling.  Snow days are terrible for the restaurant and retail business, but owners should not be so caught off guard. Let me tell you why..... Owners and managers need to be clever about getting customers in the door on days like today or other inclement weather days. They need to think about their winter plans and promotions well in advance.  When cool weather arrives in fall, plans should be made for “Winter Warmer” bar specials, additional soup offerings, snow day discounts and social media scrambling. Pictures of your restaurant or bar full of customers having a great time, should be taken so you can pull them out, post them to Facebook and say, “Hey, you should be here, it’s awesome!” If you build a reputation as a place that’s a warm, welcoming and fun hangout during the storm, they will come.  If you serve amazing soup and comfort food that appeals to your region, they will come. If you build a social media following and invite your tweeps over, again, they will come. One of the best examples I’ve seen this season is a


Day 5 of Restaurant Week-Graze

Graze chose to not take reservations during Restaurant Week and instead was on a first come, first serve basis.  This is smart because it still gets people in their door and to the bars at both Graze and L'etoile (which they  opened for overflow).  They also chose to charge $30 for dinner, not $25.  The service at Graze was warmer than I'm used to and very attentive-which is definitely the norm.  I was happy to see more smiles and a lightened up mood. Here were our RW choices and what here's what we picked... First Coarse Choices: Beet "Steak"  & Cod Cakes  The cod cakes were a substantial portion of two thin and crispy cakes held together by egg and very little if no breading.  They were served with sautéed shoots, a lightly spicy aioli and sundried tomato relish studded with a few nicoise olives. The aioli left me wanting more spice and the relish fell flat and didn’t really pair with the cod. The beet “steak” was so named because  it ...


Day 4 of Restaurant Week- Brocach

Monroe Street has become a great place to eat and shop again after many years of multiple vacancies and poor fits.  On a cold day or night, there’s nothing better than slipping into a cozy little pub or coffee shop to sit and sip with friends and eat comfort food. Brocach on Monroe serves up warm service, a welcoming atmosphere and hearty portions. I was lucky enough to join seasoned blogger and expert, Brian Lee, the creator of Eat,Drink,, for lunch. I consistently use his website as my resource for coming up with where to go and what to do in Madison-very comprehensive and super easy to navigate. These were our Restaurant Week Choices at Brocach.   We chose the Fire Roasted Prince Edward Island Mussels & Duck Fat Fried Fingerling Potatoes for our first course. The mussels came with a Beurre (butter) fondue for dipping and garlicky sourdough toast. Yum!  Usually mussels are swimming in the sauce, but this time it was on the side and made the dish less messy and more ...


Day 3 of Restaurant Week- Nostrano

People always ask me what my favorite restaurant is. Being a restaurant consultant and former health inspector, I understand the question, but it is rarely a simple answer. Recommendations depend on what you're in the mood for...ethnic, vegetarian, breakfast, fine dining, etc.  Since Nostrano arrived on the Madison scene in 2010, they have consistently been at the top of my list when I recommend fine dining, desserts and cocktails.  What Nostrano really excels at is obsessing over the details.  I love that because it's I obsess about with my clients. Nostrano gets almost everything right........ Here were our RW options. First Course: Squash Soup (with Cocoa Spätzli, Pumpkin Seeds, Smoked Maple & Sage) Bleu Mont Cheese Salad (Winter Greens, Willi's Bandaged Cheddar, Pickled Pears, Cipollini, Mostarda, Walnut Sourdough). If you are wondering what half of this is, that's half the fun of Nostrano...they are always introducing their guests to new and interesting food (a lot of it local or house made).  My favorite first coarse item was the additive Mostarda , an Italian born spread made of candied fruit and mustard in a thick syrup.  The salad was lightly dressed, ...


Forget that it was 5 degrees outside in Madison today. Forget that it was Monday, a holiday and the inauguration was on TV.  My girlfriend had the day off from her busy job and that was the only reason I needed to take her out for a stylish lunch. We chose HotelRED's restaurant, The Wise. The Wise has creative cocktails, appetizers and entrees to go with it's hip and minimalist decor.  We ordered this strawberry, black pepper tequila cocktail and settled into our cushy chairs...unfortunately they were the kind of cushy that's just too cushy and you can't get comfortable or close enough. Service was a bit slow, as I've experienced at The Wise before, even though they were not busy. We ordered the Spiced Butternut Squash Soup with Hazelnut Cappuccino Cream, Pork Cassoulet Soup, a Wisconsin Grilled Cheese with Arugula Pesto and the Pulled Pork shoulder with Slaw Sandwich. The squash soup was our favorite. Rich,smooth and creamy, with a light touch of sweetness and hazelnut.  No ingredient ...


Day 1 of Restaurant Week- Quivey’s Grove

Well it's that time again...January in Wisconsin.  The holidays are over and so is Green Bay Packer football. It was 7 degrees out today.  That's almost too cold to go outside. We're bored. Let's eat! Restaurant Week is a great excuse to get out of the house and try a few new restaurants in Madison.  You get three courses so it's a great way to sample the restaurants offerings and decide if you want to go back again.  I'll be blogging everyday this week so continue to tune in. Day 1- Lunch at Quivey's Grove.  Quivey's is pretty quintessential Wisconsin. I mean you get to eat comfort food and drink beer in a stable.  Fun, but those stone walls aren't insulated very was chilly where we were sitting.   Here are the menu options we had.  We chose the Parmesan Potato Puffs and the Chopped Romaine Salad for our 1st course. The Potato Puffs were average and needed to be a bit more done in the center. The Truffle aioli was a delicious touch. The Chopped Romaine Salad tasted just like a summer ...


Proper Food Cooling

The best and quickest way to cool your food is using an ice water bath. If you don't have access or room in your food prep sink, use ice wands...and LOTS of them!  Stir your food frequently and check the temperature every hour.  You need to get your food out of the "Danger Zone" as quick as possible to prevent bacterial growth. Your food must reach 70 degrees within 2 hours (once it dips below the  "hot holding" temperature of 135 degrees). You then have an additional 4 hours to get the food down to 41 degrees.   Once you get a system down and know how long it takes to cool your food just use that system every time and you will avoid dangerous slow cooling procedures and bacterial growth.