Locally Sourced Burgers & Brew, Oh My!

There’s no better way to celebrate the return of warm weather than a good ol’ fashioned grilling.  It’s a time-honored tradition here in Wisconsin.  The second it gets above 40 degrees, get your shorts, flip-flops and ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron ready…  you’re grilling!  Lucky for us, the Reap Food Group set this all in motion this past weekend with their 10th annual Burgers & Brew event held at the Capital Brewery in Middleton, WI.  

If you haven’t heard of REAP yet, now is the time to learn.  REAP is a non-profit organization committed to building and sustaining a local food system throughout Southern Wisconsin.  They are dedicated to supporting local businesses and small family farms and connecting them with the rest of the community to ensure access to sustainable and healthy food.  If you are looking to get involved with the REAP organization, CLICK HERE and find out how!

The weather could not have been more perfect, and the tented outdoor location was much appreciated.  There was a dedicated parking area for guests, and of course, Capital Brewery to continue the merriment.  

Just Coffee was in the house providing regular drip AND Cold Brew for those needing a caffeine pick-me-up.

Wisco Pop gave everyone the opportunity to sample their Certified Organic sodas and sparkles.  We were immediately drawn to the vintage feel of their booth.  Not only did everything we try taste great, but the packaging looked fantastic! Well done guys!

NessAlla was also in attendance providing samples of their line of local organic Kombucha beverages. 

Bloom Bake Shop provided tasty desserts for those looking to satisfy their sweet tooth, while Sassy Cow Creamery provided the ice cream sidekicks.

We were in dessert heaven!

Sadly, we were only able to attend one day (Sunday), and were only able to try the burgers and brew from the Sunday Menu, but in true Epicurean Chronicles style, we were still able to choose our top picks!

So let’s get to it, shall we?

Let’s get down to our Top 3 Burgers AND Brews!

Top 3 Burgers

3. The Oyster Rocket (The Cooper’s Tavern)

Fox Heritage waygu beef on a pretzel bun with Roth Van Gogh Gouda, Vitruvian Farms arugula, and oyster mushrooms. 

2. Galangal Burger (Merchant)

Marr’s Valley View Farms beef burger with lemongrass aioli, napa cabbage, pickled Thai chili, and micro cilantro on a Hawaiian roll.

1. Fun-Guy Grilled Cheese Burger (The Vintage)

Knoche’s beef and wild mushroom infused slider, Roth Gorgonzola and swiss grilled cheese, roasted tomato, and Jones Dairy peppered candied bacon.

It was worth attending this event for this burger alone.   A perfectly cooked Knoche’s Beef patty served in between grilled sandwiches?!?!?  We’re definitely in Wisconsin folks!!! This burger is worthy of a post on your Instagram, and the #1 spot on our list. Unlike the hype around the Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino, this camera-ready burger is the bomb! However, just like the elusive unicorn, It’ll be hard to find this burger on The Vintage’s regular menu since they don’t currently have it listed. Here’s hoping that a little bit of rainbows and magic will make this a permanent addition to their menu.

Just LOOK at it!!!!

*Honorable Mention – The Runnelstone Burger (Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry)

Wisconsin Meadows beef burger with Roth Butterkäse cheese, house-made English garlic sauce, and a pickle spear.

This one deserves an honorable mention.  The classic burger got dressed up a bit with a house-made English garlic sauce.  Think of it as ‘business casual’ if there was a burger dress code. Yum!

 

Top 3 Brews

3. Fatty Boomblatty (Furthermore)

2. Toy Boat Double IPA (Vintage Brewery

1. Rift IPA (Central Waters)

 

This was an incredibly fun AND tasty event.  We left satisfied and full… like REALY full!

Would we do it again? Most definitely, and we can’t wait to see which Burgers and Brew will make the coveted list next year!

Check out how much fun you could have had at this year’s Burgers & Brew in this slideshow, and we hope to see you there next time!

 

 

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Nothing is Impossible with Chef Robert Irvine!

You may recognize Chef Robert Irvine from popular Food Network shows such as Restaurant Impossible and Dinner Impossible, and may have seen him battle it out with other notable chefs on The Next Iron Chef.  It shouldn’t surprise all of you how incredibly honored we are to be able to take some time to get to know such an acclaimed Chef of this caliber. 

As busy as Chef Irvine is, he was kind enough to find some time to squeeze in a bit of Q&A with us before his SOLD OUT show at Ho-Chunk Gaming at the Wisconsin Dells this Saturday.

So let’s not dilly-dally any more.

Let’s get to know Chef Robert Irvine.

EC:  Thank you Chef Irvine for taking the time to do a Q&A session with us today, before your upcoming show at the Ho-Chunk Gaming Casino at the Wisconsin Dells, which, by the way, we are super excited to attend.  Tell me, what should we expect at a Robert Irvine Live Show?

RI:  Expect the unexpected. It’s not a cooking demo or a scripted event – and don’t think for one minute that you’ll be sitting down the whole time. Audience members choose the challenges, ingredients and more – anything and everything can and likely will happen and only the live audience will get to experience it!

EC:  You’ve established quite a name for yourself as a world-class chef and also as an incredibly fit individual.  How do you keep yourself balanced and in-check with all the food that you prepare and ultimately have to (at least) taste and still stay in such enviable shape?

RI:  Everything in moderation and learning the difference between what foods are filling and chock-full of nutrients and which consist of empty calories. 

EC:  You’ve been more visible in the Fitness Industry lately, and even trained with 5x Mr. Olympia winner Phil Heath. Would you ever consider competing in a bodybuilding show?  

RI:  I’ll leave the heavy lifting to the pros. I’m very excited to have recently opened a Gold’s Gym in Largo, FL. 

EC:  You recently released a book, ‘Fit Fuel’ that marries your expertise in the gym and as a chef.  Can you tell us a little bit about what readers can expect and where they can purchase it?

RI:  Fit Fuel is my tough love approach to the everyday person looking to reach their fitness goals and needing that extra bit of motivation. We focus on setting those goals, transforming healthy changes into habits and then maintaining it for the long-term. You’ll also find some of my recipes inside the book that show you even comfort foods aren’t off limits when trying to get in shape.  Fit Fuel can be purchased through my website – chefirvine.com – and Amazon.com.

EC:  You also have The Robert Irvine Magazine.  Is this an extension of your book?  What do you cover in your monthly issues?

RI:  Like Fit Fuel, Robert Irvine Magazine also focuses on healthy living. Users will find recipes as well as detailed workouts but it also goes further with in-depth celebrity interviews and a panel of experts answering YOUR questions. Each month focuses on a different theme and is guaranteed to surprise and engage readers.

EC:  Tell us about Robert Irvine Foods products and what makes the products and its purpose unique.

RI:  You shouldn’t have to sacrifice great taste to live a healthy lifestyle. We use restaurant-quality recipes that call for top-notch ingredients but can be prepared right in the comfort of your own home with minimal effort. A portion of the proceeds from all of the Robert Irvine Foods products support military members and their families so you can eat right and do right at the same time.

EC:  We hear you’re opening a restaurant at the Tropicana in Las Vegas this July.  Tell us a bit about it.  What will we be on the menu?

RI:  That’s right! Robert Irvine Public House will open at the end of July. We’re keeping the menu under wraps for the time being but we can’t wait for everyone to have a sensational Vegas dining experience.

EC:  I’m a big fan of your Fit Crunch protein bars.  Did you come up with the recipes yourself, and do you have a favorite?

RI:  Thank you! Fit Crunch bars aren’t your standard, boring, tasteless meal replacement bars – and that’s why I created them. I teamed up with Sean Perich, founder of FortiFX Products to manufacture and produce my protein baked bars and brownies. I would have to say my favorite is Birthday Cake because it’s always great to celebrate being in good health.

EC:  As a culinary ambassador for JetSmarter, what is your process in curating all the in-flight catering?

RI:  I’ve partnered with JetSmarter to help design handcrafted meals for members – ensuring access to a healthy meal even in the middle of traveling when many people seem to eat whatever is most convenient. Each meal is prepared just hours before takeoff, made fresh to order in Manhattan’s Great Performances catering kitchen.

EC:  You’re a big supporter of the men and women of the military as well as their families and recently partnered with Sodexo, how did you get involved and what role do you play?

RI:  Supporting the military and their families has always been one of the causes that is nearest to my heart. By partnering with Sodexo, we are able to extend our reach together and redefine what traditional military food looks like. Sodexo provides over 125,000 military-related meals each day and together, we can make sure they’re made of the most nutritious ingredients to properly prepare troops for their active lifestyles.

EC:  Can you tell us about the Robert Irvine Foundation and why you started it?

RI:  I wanted a way to directly give back to those who serve our country as well as first responders and many other heroes in our lives. The Foundation has become the backbone of everything I do – with my sole mission through all of my partnerships, shows, products and more directed toward it. We support our heroes through morale and welfare programs as well as provide financial assistance. My main goal is to raise awareness about the sacrifices that these men and women make each and every single day to defend our freedom.

EC:  Being once part of a military family myself, I thank you for all that you’ve done to support the military and their families.  Have you visited the Veteran’s Museum in Madison, WI?  If not, we’d love to show you around when you’re back in town.

RI:  No, but let’s keep it in mind for next time I’m back! 

EC:  Our final question.  If you were to create a dish that embodies quintessential Wisconsin, what would it be and what would you call it?

RI:  It has to be about the cheese! I’m thinking a special cheese dip – with a secret recipe that just melts in your mouth and is perfect for crudites. Let’s call it the ‘Wisconsin Cheese Surprise’.

EC:  Thank you again Chef Irvine for your time, and we hope to see you back in Wisconsin soon!  Perhaps over a good meal?

RI:  You got it!

Canteen – The New Kid on the Square has the Taco Game on Lock!

Food Fight Restaurant Group in Madison, Wisconsin has managed to pump out yet another eatery that, based on what we experienced during it’s Grand Opening, is sure to be a downtown fave. 

Canteen, a Taqueria and Tequila Bar opened it’s doors for the first time yesterday and is conveniently located on the Capitol Square where Nostrano Restaurant previously occupied the space. 

As you can see, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house, and all the standing pub-table areas were at max gathering capacity.

We arrived at precisely 6:21pm (with no reservations) and were seated immediately to what appeared to be the only available table left.

Everything on the food menu is under $15 with the Grilled Flank Steak and Ceviche at the top of the list, which we plan to try at another visit.

Tacos are à la carte so you can mix and match, and have as many as your heart (and bellies) desire.

So lets get right to it folks.  

The reason why you’re reading this.

The food.

We ate Freshly Fried Corn Tortilla Chips, Guacamole, & Duritos

The Tortilla Chips were served warm and fresh and the Guacamole was perfectly seasoned and topped with cotija cheese. 

The Duritos are puffed wheat wagon wheels with chile, lime and tajín spice.  Your first bag is on the house, and it’s a $1 a bag after that.  

We had 2 bags, but could have easily had a few more.

They were incredibly light and flavorful.  The dusting of spice and tang from the lime complimented each other beautifully.  

We dare you to only have 1 bag.

It’ll be nearly impossible.

Check out how airy this puffed snack is!!

We ate the Street Corn side

Yellow corn with chile-lime butter, chile-lime aioli, cotija cheese, tajín spice, grilled scallion, and serrano chile.

This was served off-the-cob, making it much easier to eat so you don’t end up with a face full of butter and seasoning.

We definitely recommend this as a must-eat side.  

This one’s a winner!

Just look at how amazingly tasty this looks!!!!

You know you want it!

We ate Pork Belly, Tecate Fish, Fried Cauliflower, & Carne Asada tacos.

Pork Belllyguajillo chile sauce, cotija cheese, onion & cilantro

Tecate Fishbeer-battered cod, tajín spice, pickled morita crema, green cabbage, citrus salsa & cilantro

Fried Cauliflowertecate-battered cauliflower, guajillo chile sauce, crema, tomatillo-radish-red onion slaw & cilantro

Carne Asada: morita salsa negra, avocado ad tomatillo purée, cotija cheese, onion & cilantro

We recommend the Fried Cauliflower Taco as a must-eat even if you’re not a vegetarian.  The flavor housed in this taco is outstanding!  

We ate Churros!

These were only $3 a bag.  All of their desserts were at this price point, so how could we turn them down?!

These were surprisingly light and airy, and not the typical soft and chewy ones that we’ve all grown accustomed to from our visits to several theme parks and music festivals.

We ate Choco Tacos!

We couldn’t have been more excited about this.  

This is made in house by Canteen and are served individually wrapped in case you want to take it to go and eat it on your way to the next bar, or to your car.  Don’t worry.  You don’t have to bite or rip the packages open. They’ve done that for you.

To our delight, the Choco Taco’s bittersweet chocolate coating has a layer of sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds which gave this desert taco what it needed to be different, and quite frankly…

Tasty AF!

This is another must-eat off their menu.  Eat one while you’re there and take one for the road!

So our final verdict?

The quality of ingredients used, the flavor packed into every single taco and the incredibly reasonable price point is what makes Canteen an immediate contender in Madison’s taqueria scene.

There’s a new Taco master in town, and they’re coming for you!

We will be back again for more!

Graze has a New Burger, and It’s a SMASH!

O.M.G. Everyone!

We finally got to eat the newest burger added to the Graze menu in Madison, WI this past weekend!

Like whoa!

This was so good that we couldn’t wait to share our experience with all of you.

After 7 years of being a staple on their menu, Graze’s Pub Burger was honorably discharged and replaced by the Double Cheese Smash Burger.

So what’s the big deal you may ask?

2 beef patties, American Cheese, burger sauce and bread & butter pickles served on a…..

DUCK FAT BUN!!!!

For $13, you can indulge on this spectacular burger reminiscent of the classic greasy spoon diner burger, but slightly elevated with its Duck Fat Bun & burger sauce.  This is, after all, a Chef Tory Miller burger we’re talking about.

It’s served  with your choice of fries or mixed greens, or you can substitute with soup or curds for an additional $2.

Just look at how amazing this burger looks.

LOOK AT IT!!!!!!!!

Don’t you wish you could just snatch it right out of your screen?!?!?!?!

That perfect bun… the perfectly melted American cheese… the perfectly smashed juicy beef patties….. The….

Allright.

Focus.

Lets talk ‘burger sauce‘ for a sec. 

It’s not that ‘well-known’ sauce from that fast-food joint we all know of under those golden arches, but heck, would you really want that on this burger?  Whatever the burger sauce is,  we love it.  We’re guessing it’s a mustard and ketchup mixture, but we’re not entirely sure.  If anyone has any idea on what it could be, please comment below. Inquiring minds want to know.

So what’s the final verdict?

It was LOVE at first bite!

This is definitely on our list of must have burgers here in Madison, WI, and it will likely achieve the longevity it’s predecessor attained.

The Double Smash Burger is here to stay.

Feed The Need – A Foodie Smorgasbord for a Good Cause

 Mini-Chefs Charlie and Liliana of Charlie's on Main and Liliana's Restaurant
Mini-Chefs Charlie and Liliana of Charlie’s on Main and Liliana’s Restaurant

Feed The Need is a fundraising event held to raise money for The River Food Pantry, a non-profit organization in Wisconsin that provide necessities such as meals, clothing, groceries, and everyday household items to families in Dane County that are in need.  

We were lucky enough to be able to attend this event held at the Madison Technical College’s brand new culinary space, which was the perfect venue.  It was a large open space, with plenty of tables and seating for the attendees, plenty of parking, and a complimentary shuttle provided by Union Cab, which came in handy due to the rain.  A nice touch.

 Chris Attaway, Founder of Epicurean Chronicles with Kyle CHerek, Host of Wisconsin Foodie
Chris Attaway, Founder of Epicurean Chronicles with Kyle CHerek, Host of Wisconsin Foodie

Kyle Cherek, a Wisconsinite to the core, and host of Emmy Award-winning TV series Wisconsin Foodie was also in attendance as a special guest, and did a fantastic job as an auctioneer for the live auction. A gift basket with a value of $900 scored a winning bid of over $1500!

Way to go Kyle, and thank you to the winning bidder!

There was a $20 Wine Pull and a 50/50 Cash Raffle that went on throughout the event, which gave foodies and philanthropists alike a chance to give back to such a deserving organization.

Sadly, we didn’t win, but The River Food Pantry certainly did.  The fundraiser was a successful event, raising $40,000 for the organization.

WOW!

It was quite inspiring to see everyone so willing to give back without a second thought and enjoying themselves surrounded by great Wisconsin food, fabulous drinks, and wonderful people.

Live music was provided by musician Cliff Frederiksen, and let’s not forget, TONS of food from the following Madison Originals restaurants:

  1. Banzo
  2. Bonfyre American Grille
  3. Brasserie V
  4. Charlie’s on Main
  5. Daisy Café
  6. Essen Haus
  7. Ian’s Pizza
  8. Imperial Garden
  9. J. Henry & Sons Wisconsin
  10. Straight Bourbon
  11. Liliana’s
  12. Lombardino’s
  13. Manna Café and Bakery
  14. Nitty Gritty
  15. Porta Bella Restaurant
  16. Sprecher’s Pub
  17. The Old Fashioned
  18. The Roman Candle
  19. Wollersheim Winery
  20. Yahara Bay Distillery

Wine and Spirits were also represented well at this venue with tasting booths ready to wet the whistles of beverage enthusiasts.

As always, you’re here to find out about the food!  

No need to worry, we have our usual top eats ready for all of you to devour.

Ready?

Here we go.

Our Top 5 Eats at Feed The Need 2017.

5. Jambalaya – Sprecher’s Pub

Chicken andouille sausage, Parmesan cheese, onions and peppers with creole sauce on rice pilaf.

4. Endive Boats – Liliana’s 

Stilton cheese, walnuts, and field greens in Belgian Endive Boats

3. Bananas Fosters Mini Milkshake – The Nitty Gritty

2. Belgian Meatball – Braserrie V

Highland Spring Farm Beef, Fox Heritage Farms Pork, Caramelized Onion, St. Bernardus Cream Sauce

1. Gorgonzola Stuffed Date – Lombardino’s

set on finocchiona salami with toasted pistachio, Garden to Be pea shoots and balsamic glaze

 

There were so many different food to try, and there were some that ran out before we got to it. Bummer.  Regardless, it was a blast.  

Good food for a good cause.  

Can’t beat that.

Take a look at all the other things we enjoyed and saw at this year’s Feed The Need, and we hope to see you there next time!

 

 

 

El Grito Taqueria Tacos Pop Up at Estrellón

Unless you’ve been living under a rock here in Madison, WI, you know that El Grito Taqueria is synonymous to ‘best tacos in town’.  Now put these tasty, elevated tacos in one of Chef Tory Miller’s restaurants, and you have yourself one hell of a successful pop-up!

And we were there!

Estrellón held their first pop-up dining event, hosting El Grito tacos at The Bar adjacent to the main dining room.  It was Tacos and Tequila from 8pm – 11pm.  $3 per taco,  and cash only of course.  The line was out the door! Thankfully it was a nice evening by Wisconsin standards. There were several that dropped off from the line, which only meant the rest of us were closer to fulfilling our taco destiny.  

It was definitely standing room only once the tables were occupied, and The Bar was lit!!!!  It took an hour and a half of waiting for the acclaimed El Grito tacos, because… well… El Grito Tacos, that’s why.  

Was it worth the wait?

HELL YES!

To those that left the line.  We’re sorry, and thanks!

You totally missed out, but más tacos para nosotros!

 

Here were the 3 tacos on the pop up menu:

  1. Pineapple Pork Taco with red cabbage/mustard seed slaw
  2. 3-Chili Mole Chicken Taco with crema, sesame seed, an cilantro

And our favorite?

 

 

3. The Butternut Squash Taco

Served with almond arbol salsa topped with crema, cilantro and fried lentils. 

 

Let’s not forget the cocktails!  

It was Tacos & Tequila after all.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the special drinks menu.

 bartender Steve dawson with the 'Vampiros Mexicanos

 bartender chuckie brown with the 'cool hand cuke'

 

Resident bartender Steve Dawson is holding up one of the most readily available special cocktails of the evening, the Vampiros Mexicanos.

Made with Blanco tequila sangria, lime and picante salt, this one’s a bit on the sneaky side, so don’t let it fool you.

Sure there’s sangria, but there’s definitely a generous amount of tequila in this drink to make it dangerous.

It’s delicious, so be careful.  Unless your tolerance is on some next-level $#!t, stick to no more than 2 for this one.

Remember that old proverb?

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila… 

… you know the rest.

 

 

Chuckie Brown is proudly showcasing his cocktail creation, the Cool Hand Cuke.

Made with rum, cucumber, lime, chile flakes, and Cava, this cocktail was a refreshing libation that was light enough to be enjoyed over, and over, and over again.

Don’t let the chile flakes intimidate you.

It gives it just enough kick to give it that edge.

It’s named Cool Hand Cuke after all, and if you know the movie reference, this cocktail was on point because…

…what we have here was NOT a failure to communicate.

This drink is telling us that it’s here to stay…

…on the regular bar menu.  We hope.

 

So what are FIVE things we learned from this inaugural pop-up event?

  1. El Grito tacos are worth waiting in line for.
  2. El Grito tacos are worth waiting in line for.
  3. El Grito tacos are worth waiting in line for.
  4. El Grito and The Bar at Estrellon equals pop-up gold.
  5. El Grito tacos are worth waiting in line for.

You get the picture.

How To Make Easy Cheesy Tuna Casserole

You’re finally home from the daily grind and you’re exhausted, hungry, but not in the mood to leave the house and eat out.  This has happened on more than one occasion with us, and this recipe has been a lifesaver.  It’s easy, inexpensive, and chances are, you already have the ingredients in your pantry… at least we always do.

So if you want easy AND cheesy, this tuna casserole dish is for you!

 

 

Time: 30 minutes  |  Serves 6

  • 2 9oz cans of Chicken of the Sea Chunk Light Tuna in Water
  • 1  16 oz bag of egg noodles
  • 1  22.6 oz can of Cream of Mushroom soup 
  • 1  7 oz bag of grated Sharp Cheddar cheese (save a little bit to top the dish)
  • 1.5 cups of frozen peas
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

 

 

 

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cook the egg noodles based on the package instructions.  While the noodles are cooking, use a can opener to open up the cans of tuna and the can of Cream of Mushroom soup.  Once the noodles are cooked, drain and place inside a large mixing bowl. Pour the rest of the ingredients and mix throughly with a rubber spatula until the noodles are evenly coated and the tuna and peas are evenly distributed.  Transfer the mixture into a casserole dish and top with shredded cheese. Place on the middle rack for 20 minutes.  Serve immediately.  If you have fried onions lying around, feel free to top this dish with it.

Tada!  Dinner is served!