Weekend Where, What, and Why

Where? Our family room
What? A lot is going on: JP relaxing, Bridget making faces at Callie, and Scoop feeding his son Mason
Why? We had just gotten back from lunch at Graze and the boys were hanging out before going on a private brewery tour at Karben4

Where? On the couch in our family room
What? Mason (Booger Face) and me
Why? Because he’s so darn cute (even with the green snot) and I need practice with babies


Where? Ale Asylum
What? Private brewery tour (which was very special because they don’t officially start offering tours until February)
Why? This was a late Christmas present for Brody (as was the tour at Karben4) – it was awesome and we learned a lot

Where? Ale Asylum tasting room for dinner
What? Vegetable quesadillas
Why? I needed some veggies – it hit the spot

Where? Orpheum
What? Trampled By Turtles performing
Why? Our friends from MN (Scoop and Reagan) are neighbors with the lead singer and they make “crunchy” tunes

Where? Orpheum for the Trampled By Turtles concert
What? Bridget and I unsuccessfully taking a picture
Why? Because we’re friends and we wanted proof we hung out this weekend


Where? Our kitchen
What? Making a lemon loaf (aka fat loaf) with Bridget
Why? Because we obviously hadn’t consumed enough calories (although mine didn’t come from alcohol) – there were four sticks of melted butter and eight eggs in two loaves this recipe made

Where? Our kitchen stovetop
What? Dinner (a Wine and Recipe recipe) for JP, Bridget, Brody and me
Why? We like to eat…a lot – especially when hungover and/or tired

Jam Packed Weekend

Hi there! How are you all? Have a good weekend? A productive Monday? I hope so.

Once again, it’s a self fulfilling prophecy: I post about my weekends. I promise my posts will get more interesting in the future.

I did have a great weekend, though, and I did a lot! It was all fun stuff and left little room for grading. While this does mean I will be scrambling a little to get the last batch of personal narrative essays graded by tomorrow night, it was worth it.

Friday Night
Two teacher friends (from when I worked at a different school) and I still get together. We made plans to grab dinner and then see Jersey Boys at the Overture.

We met at Graze as Nicki had never been. After Lindsay and I gushed about it, she had to agree.

This map of Wisconsin in the lobby shows all of the farms they use ingredients from. I love how so many Madison restaurants support local businesses and buy local.

We had drinks at the bar and shared an order of cheese curds. They have some of the best in Madison, up there with those from The Old Fashioned.

For dinner, I knew what I was going to order before I had even walked in the door: the bibimbap. This delicious concoction includes a fried rice block, shredded raw vegetables, green onions, tofu or pork (I chose tofu), a runny egg, and chili sauce. You mix it all up and dig in.

Not the prettiest meal, but the flavors and textures all meld perfectly together.

Lindsay and Nicki both got the pub burger which comes on a homemade English muffin as the bun and with double-fried French fries. Like the cheese curds, these are contenders for the best fries in Madison. I believe they are cooked in duck fat, which explains it.

With about fifteen minutes until show time, we headed to the Overture and found our seats. We were in the top balcony but only a few rows up and in the very center.

It was an amazing show, and I was surprised how many songs I knew (however, I am not the type to sing along). The story line covered a lengthy span of time, but it was really the music and amazing singers who made this musical what it was. Even though it was incredible, I still enjoyed Wicked more. I’m not sure why – maybe a stronger plot? That’s probably the English teacher in me thinking that way.

Towards the last half an hour, I got sleepy. If I had my druthers (Brody used this expression on Saturday, and I thought I should use it too), I’d be in bed by 9:30pm on a Friday. Yup, I’m a grandma. But, I had so much fun catching up with Lindsay and Nicki at dinner and getting all cultured (ironic diction there), it was worth the late night.

Saturday Morning
Mel asked if I was interested in volunteering with her for the Girls On the Run 5K in Waunakee.

I ran this last year with my sister-in-law and thought its be fun to help out and run again. Mel and I arrived at 8am and helped people register for the run. The time flew by, and before we knew it, we were listening to the National Anthem.

We all had the same bib numbers! We are all winners.

Picture courtesy of Mel

The run was fun, and SO cute! All of these little girls running with their moms, dads, and mentors. It was a hilly course, and due to the volume of people and walkers, Mel and I didn’t break any records. At the end, we did see and hear the overly supportive/forceful parent yelling for his kid to sprint to the end. As she passed us, I heard her say, “This hurts Dad.”

Saturday Afternoon
Three major events happened: I took the dogs to the park, I napped, and I went shopping. It was epic.

Saturday Evening
Brody and I were invited to the annual DAIS (Domestic Abuse Intervention Services) Gala. It was a swanky, black tie optional event at The Madison Club. There was a silent auction (we lost out on some photos of New York) and a live auction after dinner (Brody put his number up once).

The meal was incredible: mushroom soup with a small salad; fried braised short ribs, a piece of steak, puréed rutabaga, and fall vegetables; and a chocolate mound with cake, peanut butter mousse, drizzled with a raspberry caramel sauce. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the time or place to take photos, so you’ll just have to imagine this three-course meal.

DAIS is in the midst of a Capital Campaign, as they are raising money to build a new facility. It is an amazing cause to support and there is a great need for a larger space. It is heartbreaking to hear how many women and children they have to turn away because their beds are filled. If you live in Dane County, I highly encourage you to look at their website and consider donating.

I could’ve used a rest day after all of that activity, but we had more plans. I made it to the park early with the dogs and did a little grading before heading to Fredonia. My sister, the music teacher, directed her district’s musical. We saw the matinee of The Wizard of Oz, and she did a great job. It sounds like it’s A LOT of work with choreographing, coordinating practices, dealing with kids from elementary school through high school, etc. Ugh, I am exhausted just thinking about it. Good work Laura!

Happy Monday!

What’d you do this weekend?
Did you run or have a race this weekend?
What’s the best musical you’ve ever seen?

Out to Dinner: Tipsy Cow, Cafe Porta Alba, and Graze

Going out to dinner happened very rarely in my household as a child. Once a year, to celebrate my mom and grandpa’s birthday, we’d go to Victoria’s, an amazing Italian place in Appleton (and Green Bay now). Every so often, we’d pick up fast food, either at Burger King for Whoppers or a local burger place in Appleton.

I definitely don’t feel like I missed out on anything; plus, it made going out so much more special. My mom was amazing about making dinners every single night for the family – we’re talking a meat, a starch, a vegetable, and often a light dessert. We ate as a family at 5:00pm because that’s when my dad got home from work. Also, to amaze you even further, my mom worked full-time once my younger sister was out of elementary school. Pretty impressive. Back then I didn’t realize how much time planning and cooking takes.

But back to eating out. It is something I enjoy doing with my husband and friends, and during the summer, it tends to happen more often. For example, I went out to eat on Monday for dinner with teacher friends, last night for dinner with Brody, and breakfast this morning after a four mile run with friends. In a couple hours, Brody and I are meeting another couple for dinner.

In case you’re a local Wisconsinite or will be traveling to the Madison area, I thought I’d share my meals, drinks, and opinions with you about the restaurants I visited this week (not including dinner tonight because it hasn’t happened yet). And because I’m a teacher and used to giving out grades, I’ll assess (teacher lingo) various aspects of these dining establishments.

Tipsy Cow

Service: B+
Our server was younger, kind, and checked on us just the right about of times.

Atmosphere: A-
When we arrived, it was still pretty hot and humid, but we got a table outside that looked right on to the Capitol. I love eating outside even if it means the backs of my knees sweat a little.

Drinks: A-
I ordered the Gin-Ger Spritzer ($8), which came with gin, ginger-lime syrup, and club soda. I asked for light on the gin (I had to drive home); the drink was light, refreshing, and perfect for a summer night.

Food: B+
Fries and wings were half off the night we were there, so we started with a basket of truffle fries ($8 but $4 for us). I had tried these before and eaten so many I made myself sick to my stomach (i.e. They are good). On an episode of No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain balks at truffle oil, as it is not really made from truffles. I guess I don’t understand why he is so annoyed with the use of truffle oil; it is delicious and not everyone can afford to eat real truffles.

For my entree, I ordered the Truffled Portabello Mushroom sandwich ($7) without the aioli. Instead of one mushroom cap, the sandwich had smaller pieces of portabello; this was fine but made eating a little messy as the pieces kept falling out of the sandwich. The mushrooms had been sauteed in oil or butter, and the sandwich was grilled on a flattop with more oil or butter. Needless to say, it was greasy…maybe a little too greasy. But as Brody said, when you go to Tipsy Cow, you should not expect a healthy meal. My teacher friends wanted to try Tipsy Cow’s cheese curds ($7), so we had an order of those in the middle of the table as well.

Cafe Porta Alba

Service: A-
Our waiter was an energetic man with a beard (Bridget – similar to JP’s). He had lots of energy and enthusiasm; you can tell he loves his job. Because the pizzas only cook in the wood-burning oven for ninety seconds, the food normally comes very quickly. We hadn’t been waiting for our food for too long when he stopped by to apologize for the wait.

Atmosphere: B
While their current location in Hilldale mall is definitely a step up from the building off of East Washington, the decor doesn’t wow me, and that’s okay. The food speaks for itself. We were seated at two-top with one person sitting on a long bench along the wall and the other at a chair. Brody finds the chairs to be uncomfortable, so I got the chair (it’s fine for me – he’s not being a jerk).

Drinks: A-

The wine at the top of the list was a red that was served chilled, so we ordered a bottle ($28). It was actually a frizzante and was slightly carbonated – quite different from a normal red wine. At first I thought it was okay, but as I drank more of it and then paired it with the pizza, I liked it even more.

Food: A

I have never had a bad meal here. Brody and I started out with a salad to share of mixed greens, parmesan shavings, and an olive oil dressing. Then we ate pizza. This time I chose one with cheese, prosciutto, and arugula ($12, I think). It had lots of flavor, and I loved the different textures (melt-in-your-mouth prosciutto and cheese vs. crisp arugula) and temperature (everything warm except the arugula). Brody had something with smoked mozzarella and meat; obviously I was too busy eating mine to care about his. He did say that kind was the best he’s ever had at Porta Alba.


Service: B

The group of DailyMilers I ran with
It unfortunately took a while for us to be seated because we wanted to sit outside (after running four miles in 75 degrees, we didn’t want to subject diners to our sweatiness). By the time we were seated, we were dry and hungry. We had a waitress who was kind and prompt.

Atmosphere: A
As mentioned in the Tipsy Cow review, I love to sit outside, and Graze has an outdoor space right on the square. Saturday mornings are bumpin’ downtown because of the farmers market. Our four-top table sat the three of us comfortably and had a cute umbrella to shade us from the sun.

Drinks: N/A

I had water because we stopped by Starbucks after the run once we realized there was a wait for a table.

Food: A

The Loaded Breakfast Sandwich ($11) sounded perfect after a run, and it hit the spot. I ordered it without the swiss cheese (seemed excessive to me since it also had brick cheese) and ate the greens and half of the sandwich. The saltiness of the ham and bacon were just what I needed. Mel saw the word Nutella on the menu and decidedly immediately she had to have the Nutella-stuffed French Toast ($9) while our friend Jess had the Eggs Benedict ($12). We all loved our food and would highly recommend this restaurant for Saturday mornings.

Either I’m a really easy grader or the restaurants in Madison just rock. I think it’s the latter of the two. Many people do not give Wisconsin any credit; they think we’re a bunch of football-obsessed cheeseheads who drink beer and eat brats. Well, I guess that’s pretty true for many of us, but Wisconsin, especially Madison and Milwaukee, has so many fantastic, unique restaurants. I do not take for granted living so close to Madison and all the superb food it has to offer.

Good Eats from the Weekend

Welcome to Monday (evening) people! (Do you ever wish there was a punctuation mark of the intensity between a period and an exclamation mark? I do.)

My day felt a little off today because I took off of work on Friday. If you are a teacher, you understand the disarray you can come back to after a sub, even if the sub is great, the lesson plans go accordingly, and the kids behave. When I first started teaching, I would think about school the whole day; I would even call or email teacher-friends to check in on my room. Now I am able to let go and trust that everything will be fine.

Thinking back over my weekend, I realized how much amazing (and kind of unhealthy) food I ate. With friends in town and it being my birthday weekend, I didn’t show much restraint. Plus, running gives me good reason to take in a few more calories.

1. Dairy Queen Butterfinger Blizzard
Once my friend Rena, her mom, and her sister were all in town, I suggested Dairy Queen. Luckily, they all agreed! I saw Kathleen’s Butterfinger Blizzard sometime last week and it stayed with me. It was the perfect birthday treat.

*still not good about bringing my camera places…will get better, I swear

2. Scrambler at Bluephies
After Crazylegs, my grumpiness was soon cured with a coffee, a horseradish Bloody Mary, and an egg scrambler. I ordered the Popeye (spinach, tomato, and feta) with Egg Beaters; it came with wheat toast and shredded potatoes. They let me in despite all of my sweatiness, stinkiness, and saltiness (although I did have a wardrobe change in the bathroom of the vodkatorium).

3. Bibimbap at Graze
Brody has gotten this dish many times before and raves about it. It includes crispy rice, sautéed spinach, winter vegetables, bean sprouts, sunny-side up egg, chili paste, and marinated tofu or pork. Mmmm…this was so good! I ate it all but saved room for dessert. My friend Rena and I chose the chocolate peanut butter cheesecake for the table to split, but after everyone else (four other people) took a bite, Rena and I polished it off. Oh, and my drink! While I don’t drink a lot of liquor, I do enjoy anything with gin and grapefruit juice. I ordered the Marquez Collins which obviously had those two liquids but then topped with red wine, all over ice. It was a lovely dinner experience, as it always is at Graze.

4. Steak and pie at home
Brody was MIA for most of the weekend eating due a hockey tournament, but he made up for it Sunday night. I requested steak for my birthday dinner and the best place around us is Jacobson Bros (they also make killer potato salad). We picked up two bacon-wrapped filets before swinging by Market Street Diner for a sweet treat (Brody doesn’t bake). I chose a slice of turtle pie and Brody got carrot cake. When we ate around 7:30, we accompanied the steak with roasted veggies (potatoes, sweet potato, onion, and fennel).


After a weekend of indulgences, it is time to clean things up a little. Fortunately I have frozen mango in the freezer, which as I’ve said, helps me avoid chocolate at night.

See you again soon!

What were some of your yummy eats from this weekend?
What tricks or strategies do you have for cleaning up after an indulgent weekend?