Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Perkins (Beltline)

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

erin says:  Brian and I have been wondering what is going in next to the Beltline Perkins, and today he forwarded me this article about the new Perkins that they’re building right next to the old one!  I’m glad to hear that Perkins will be staying, but I wonder if the new place or the parking lot will be smaller.  And will the new place just have a view of the Beltline ramps?  We’ll have to check it out in July.

February 14, 2012 – Valentine’s Day

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

erin says:  Talking to people about their plans for Valentine’s Day made me realize that many of us make plans at home to avoid the hype and bustle of one of the busiest nights of the year for local restaurants.  Wherever you ate this Valentine’s Day, I hope you got to spend time with the ones you love.

This Valentine’s Day, Brian and I made lasagna.  I don’t remember when it started or if we have missed a year, but making lasagna is our tradition on Valentine’s Day.  One year, when Valentine’s Day fell on the weekend, we went so far as to make the pasta from scratch.  That was fun, but far too much work for a Tuesday night this year.  Despite making lasagna for several years, we still don’t have what I would call the PERFECT recipe.

This year we went with the more typical oven-ready noodles approach.  We still made the sauce and filling.  No bake noodles, whole milk ricotta, and tomato puree (not crushed tomatoes) seem to contribute to a good structure (not too watery).  This year we used the hearty meat lasagna recipe from “The New Best Recipe” with some additions and modifications.  We have made that recipe before, and we find it far too boring with just beef or beef and veal.  This year, and at least once before, we put in half beef and half mild Italian sausage.  Still, when I tasted the sauce before assembly, it was boring.  This time I added some dried hot chili flakes to liven it up just a little.  I think next time we should do half mild, half hot Italian sausage.

A few years ago we made Marcella Hazan’s lasagna recipe from our borrowed copy of the “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”.  That was the time that we made spinach pasta from scratch.  It was delicious at dinner, but we did not like it as leftovers.  I don’t recall exactly why, but it’s a lot of work to go through when we didn’t enjoy every last bite.  I’m not necessarily blaming the recipe.  I know our pasta was too thick, so we may  have made other mistakes.  I have enjoyed other recipes from that cookbook – it revolutionized my Alfredo sauce.

This year I also made chocolate covered strawberries.  I ate FAR TOO MANY of those, but they were very good.  I make them with melted chocolate chips.  They’re best to eat on the day that I make them, so I don’t worry about tempering or anything fancy.

No more Bella Vita

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

Brian says: I hear Bella Vita has closed down.  During our last visit, we seemed to get bombarded by bread products (bread sticks, some sort of crunchy bread for spinach and artichoke dip, bread for eating with oil..) but the experience was reasonable, and it seemed like a good Italian restaurant for families (rather than the expensive or seemingly business meal-oriented places).

I’m trying to think of what other casual Italian restaurants there are on the west side:

  • We’ve had a couple good meals at Tutto Pasta (Middleton) but the place is quiet on nights when you’d think they’d be busy.
  • I can see Biaggi’s from my office and I tend to associate them with business lunches rather than a casual family dinner.
  • Avanti (Verona) has declared themselves a three-dollar-sign fancy “Italian Steakhouse” now.   Oh well.
  • We didn’t especially care for Benvenuto’s (Fitchburg) years ago when they opened that location, but we went there a couple months ago with Erin’s parents and it wasn’t bad.  I’d like to try them again sometime and see what I think.
  • What else am I not thinking of?
I get the feeling it’s hard to make money on a casual Italian restaurant.  If a chain like Romano’s can’t stay around, it’s probably even harder for the small independent places.
A lot of new places starting up seem to be “local food/craft beer” establishments, which is fine, but I still just want somewhere to have good lasagna, spaghetti with meatballs, fettucine alfredo, etc. and be able to invite friends with kids along, and I had hoped Bella Vita would be that place.
I wonder what will happen to that building.  TGI Friday’s apparently had the right idea when they left the West Towne outer ring for Greenway Station..

No Smashburger, at least not in Madison

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

erin says:  Brian investigated Smashburger, since they were on our “future places to go” list, but we’ve seen no sign of them.  Now, according to Brian, Smashburger’s facebook page says Madison isn’t on their radar, even though they submitted a proposal to the planning commission in 2009 that was detailed down to the bike parking.  Hmmm.

© Copyright 2008, Brian Ruppert