Since arriving on the Madison restaurant scene in 2010 Nostrano has consistently impressed me, enlightened me about new food, wine and libations and held a place in my top 3 favorite restaurants in town. EVERYTHING they make is fresh, seasonal and hand-made with precision and delightful detail.  Nostrano is only open for "Apertivo" (their version of happy hour) and dinner. Although they are right off the square in a lovely historic building on Hamilton, they are still not on many people's radar (or at least not the people I'm telling).  It's smart of them to take part in Restaurant Week because it allows them to showcase what they do and guests can try them at both lunch (only this week) and dinner for a modest price. Another crazy smart move Nostrano makes during Restaurant Week is to create beer and wine pairings for all three lunch and dinner courses.  Beer pairings were an additional $12 and wine was an additional $15 at lunch. Nostrano also offers their popular marinated olives as a starter for $6.  Over the years, I've heard many restaurants complain about Restaurant Week.  There are various issues and reasons, but one of the big complaints of the higher end ...


Day 3 of Restaurant Week was a gloomy, misty one so I was happy to join my friend Phillip for lunch at one of my favorite Madison restaurants, Osteria Papavero.  I don't throw around the "favorite restaurant" phrase with abandon, but I do get asked the question a lot.  The answer depends on a few factors, but Osteria Papavero is always on the top of my special occasion list.  The quality of the food and quaintness of the space keep bringing me back. I have been to Osteria at least threes times in the past five years of Restaurant Week and the food never disappoints...unfortunately, this time, there was some disappointment. We started with a Farro and Pesto Salad and Wild Mushroom Soup for appetizers.  Farro is a grain similar to barley.  It was cooked to a slighty chewy al dente that pushes back just a touch when you eat it.  This is as it should be.  The farro was tossed with high quality, flavorful olive oil and pesto that was so bright it made me think of summer.


January in Wisconsin brings a bleak reality check for all of us...the holidays are truly over and the gray, cold days and depressing end to the Green Bay Packers season are here to stay.  Thankfully, Madison Magazine's Restaurant Week arrives at the same time and brings distraction. Today was Day 2 and what's better on a Monday than going out to lunch?  My companion and I chose Inca Heritage because of their interesting & adventurous menu options. We hadn't made reservations, as you often need, but when I called at 11:45 am they were gracious and happy to get us right in. Inca Heritage is located on the north end of Park Street and only street parking is available, but we found a spot right in the neighborhood with no problem (less than 1/2 blocks walk).  When you walk in the door you are greeted by the vivid marigold colored walls and the wonderfully warm and friendly staff.  Our service continued to be warm and gracious and was also prompt. For appetizers we chose the Spicy Tuna Causa


Valentine’s Day Best Kept Secret

For years now I’ve been faithfully going to a little chocolate & candy shop in Madison. I don’t remember how I discovered it, but I was hooked once I did.  It reminds me of old fashioned shops I went to as a kid and they still do things that old fashioned way here today. Their candies fill vintage jars all over my home year round and their dark chocolate nonpareils and divine pastel cherries were carefully tucked into brown craft paper boxes, tied with orange raffia and sent home with all the guests at our wedding 13 years ago. It is probably not the one you think.  And it's probably not your second guess either. It's James J Chocolate Shop. They are in a little unassuming spot squeezed between an acupuncture clinic and Mexican restaurant (what??) in a strip mall just off of HWY 12/18 as you exist onto Midvale. They are easy to miss, but should not be!  Madison is filled with wonderful chocolatiers, caramel, toffee and truffle makers for sure.  I love them all, but they get lots of attention. James J doesn’t seem to.  Maybe they are so busy they don't need to advertise? ...