Bonus book bit: Babcock Hall, & an event

Hey! Saturday afternoon, 5/7/2016, come to a reading from Madison Food: a History of Capital Cuisine - 2pm at Spring Green Community Library, 230 E. Monroe St., Spring Green. Now, a bonus post.

Lots of words didn't fit into Madison Food. Here are some more of our favorites that we didn't want to be missed. Our writeup of our A to Z visit to Babcock Hall Dairy Store was posted back in 2005.

No discussion of the UW-Agricultural program would be complete without mentioning Babcock Hall. Babcock Hall is the home of the University’s dairy plant. For a school as focused on life sciences as this one, it is not hard to imagine such a thing. Of course, what has has happened there since 1951 is amazing.

Let’s start with that name: Who was Babcock? Stephen Moulton Babcock was a chemist who came to the University in 1887. The market for wheat, Wisconsin's former cash crop, had cratered, and the state was looking to increase its milk and butter production as a needed boost to the economy. Pasteurization for milk was still a new idea in the mid-1880's, at which time there were few methods of preserving dairy products. So getting Wisconsin's fresh dairy products safely to the rest of the country looked like an impossible task. Babcock helped change all that.

His first discovery was that it was possible to determine the butterfat content of milk merely by dissolving it in sulfuric acid. (It is not recommended that one drink a glass of milk that has received this treatment.) The result of this process is that everything but the butterfat dissolves. Through a simple laboratory preparation, the fat content could be determined. As a result of this test, the quality of a batch of milk could be easily assessed, and therefore producers could be paid more fairly. Shipping would also be simplified, and most importantly, the standardized milk could be efficiently converted into longer-lasting dairy products such as butter and cheese.

Babcock Hall itself was built in the early 1950s as a modern update to UW’s dairy program. Part of this was a continuation of the school’s program of selling products to locals in an effort to test new methods of flavoring and production. While butter and milk are commonplace, the real secret of the University's dairy program is the ice cream. While consistent favorites dominate, there are a multitude of short-term and experimental flavors that tickle the taste buds while teaching a new generation how to craft quiescent dessert for both large and small scale operations. Babcock Hall dairy products are proudly sold at several Madison grocery stores and no summer trip to campus (whether for SOAR, the student orientation program, or just on a road trip) is complete with stopping in for a scoop.

The location itself was kept small in order to not compete with local dairy interests and has been updated and renovated multiple times over its 60 years. In 2001, John and Donna Hansen gave the university $350,000 to redecorate the space back into its classic "dairy bar" look.

Madison continues to be blessed with many fine types of frozen dessert. There’s everything from the decadent Chocolate Shoppe to the delicious creamy farm-fresh flavors of Sassy Cow, from the housemade gelato at Java Cat to the miles of smiles from Culver’s and Michael’s Custard. Yet no frozen treat joint quite says “Madison” like Babcock.

Source: Laursen, Bethany. “Standing in Line, Standing in a Legacy: An Environmental History of the Babcock Hall Dairy Store.” Wisconsin Magazine of History, Spring 2004.

Papino's

In a word: Far out, man.

The specs: #01005  
6601 Traveler Trail, Windsor 53598
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook

Latest Papino's news and reviews

JM and Nichole ate the Papino's special (sausage, ham, bacon, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, oregano) on hand-tossed crust.
The bill was $28, or $14/person, plus tip.
JM gave Papino's a B+; Nichole gave Papino's a B (see our grading rubric).

First of all, Windsor is a good distance from the city. Our trip to Papino's felt like a series of jokes being played on us city slickers by our GPS. On the way home, we discovered it had indeed gotten us a couple of times. If getting to Papino's has the feel of a snipe hunt, the good news is that their pizza is solid. And their connections to other esteemed northside eateries - Pat O'Malley's Jet Room and Café la Bellitalia, specifically - only add to the charm.

Slice at Papino's

Papino's Northwoodsy dining room was a little crowded, and was also doing a brisk carry-out trade. It was a Saturday night, after all. In addition to the pizza, pasta and sandwiches were on offer. We were in a touch of a hurry and decided to split a Papino's special, which came to our table reasonably quickly. The staff, it should be said, was very warm and high energy, and were very accommodating to our request for a box right after the pizza arrived. The 'za was in the standard American pizza family - very crowd-pleasing, which explains the crowd. The only variation we saw from standard pizza fare was a Nutella pizza that we'd have gotten had we had enough time.

Every small town needs its own pizzeria. JM grew up with Jocko's on Hwy 10 in Osseo - which he recalls for Hogan's Alley, and their sponsorship of his dad's softball team, as often as he remembers it for the pizza. If this is Windsor's hometown pizzeria, then Windsor is doing fine. And if you feel like getting lost in northern Dane County and you'd like to know a decent slice lies at the end of the road but you can't let go, Papino's is a natural. 

Papa Jimmy's Pizzeria

In a word: Fatherly without being paternalistic.

The specs: #01004   
224 W. Cottage Grove Rd., Cottage Grove 53527
Details at Yelp, official web site

Latest Papa Jimmy's Pizzeria news and reviews

JM and Nichole ate the 12" Hawaiian with BBQ on hand tossed crust, a side salad, and one soda.
The bill was $25, or $12ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave Papa Jimmy's Pizzeria a B; Nichole gave Papa Jimmy's Pizzeria a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Every little town needs its own pizzeria, and while Sun Prairie seems to have nailed down the best ones east of Madison's downtown, Papa Jimmy's in Cottage Grove is completely satisfactory. They even have a pizza drive-thru for pick-up orders, and it is nice to buy local rather than going down the street to Pizza Hut.

Our Hawaiian pizza was about average with an above-average crust. That said, Hawaiian pizza can always be quite wet, given how both Canadian bacon and pineapple are stored before use, and this pie was juicy.  Adding tomatoes to this did not make things any better. At least the cheese had some crispiness to its char, which was perfectly done.

Pizza

Nichole had a run at the salad bar, which is one of those things that one either finds necessary or silly. She was in the mood for an iceberg salad with Italian dressing on a glass plate, and that's just what the buffet offered.

Salad

It would be nice to say that this pizza is worth a special trip, but we've been to Cottage Grove a lot lately and we've found some even larger diamonds in the rough, which, when coupled with Sun Prairie's pizza dominance makes a return to trip to Papa Jimmy's unlikely. But keep in mind, it was a good slice of pizza and one can do much worse.

Palenque

In a word: Tikaled our fancy.

The specs: #01003   
5906 Hwy 51, McFarland 53558
Details at Yelp

Latest Palenque news and reviews

JM ate the combo plate 11 (burrito, taco, enchilada with queso) and a lemonade.
Nichole ate the carnitas with an horchata.
The bill was $25, or $12ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave Palenque an A; Nichole gave Palenque an A- (see our grading rubric).

This location in McFarland has been home to some very unfortunate Mexican places. So let's say that our hopes were not high as we walked in. After perusing the menu, we thought the fare seemed to be fairly standard Mexican-American with a couple of twists. 

Now, briefly, the negatives of Palenque:

  1. There is no anteroom to catch cold air, so if you sit by the door during winter you get to feel cold every 4 minutes.
  2. There's a salon next door, and their scents are noticeable.

There was nothing not to like about the food, which was all at the top of the comfort food game.

Nichole got a carnitas plate which was like movie popcorn in a good way, buttery and tender.  This dish was served with the standard fajita sides of tortillas, rice & beans and a guac salad. The horchata was about the best version of it she's had in town. Not too watery nor too milky, it was loaded with cinnamon.

Carnitas

JM's smothered enchilada and burrito were tasty and filling, while the taco was a smallish letdown. The cheese sauce really was the star here and it's incorporated into many plates. The ground beef fillings were not larded with potatoes or needlessly heavy. 

Combo plate

Palenque's most notable Madison competition is the venerable (and venal) Laredo's (boo). Even if we're boycotting L's for a time, it is hard to imagine we'd end up at Palenque instead of Cuco's or Los Gemelos on account of distance, which explains the minus behind Nichole's A. But in its category, Palenque is great on a warm day.

PaintBar

In a word: Creative adjacent.

The specs: #01002  
1224 Williamson St., 53703
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest PaintBar news and reviews

JM ate a pizza with a lemonade.
Nichole ate a panino and chips.
The bill was $21, or $10ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave PaintBar a C+; Nichole gave PaintBar a B- (see our grading rubric).

First things first: we didn't paint at PaintBar. So this is even less of a full picture than we usually draw. There are two canvasses of PaintBar - the first in Delafield, and the one on Williamson. They may be completely different, but we only tried the Willy St. spot, early on a weeknight during which the place hosted a couple tables of quiet painters, as well as what looked like a post-work happy hour full of young people with a co-worker vibe who were far too well put-together to be government employees.

Panino

Let's get down to the food since it is primarily what we consumed.  Nichole's panino was clearly the better of the two meals we received.  The sandwich boasted a good flavor blend of salty meat, sweet rich cheese, sharp arugula, bright tomatoes pressed hard between slices of good bread.  The chips were fine but not awesome.

Pizza

JM's pizza, on the other hand, did not really please.  It had a common pizza problem of being too damp to really be described as much else.  The flavors that should accompanying a ham pizza ended up falling into either the blah bucket or the salt lick.  Hoo boy, was this some salty ham.

But this may be too harsh for a place that is selling a fun atmosphere and mostly delivers.  Their calendar is laden with special events and small private parties, but the Bar part of their name comes honestly.  That is to say, don't bring the kids.  And without getting all gender studies on it, JM felt that it would be hard to see a strongly mixed gender group doing this without kids in tow. (The clientele, work party notwithstanding, was north of 80% female.) Nichole indicated she would return if and only if it were for a party of some kind. 

Which maybe gets into Madison's next phase of restaurants, now that we're closer to peak ethnic: places where you can drink & ______. 

Outpost Bar and Grill

In a word: Grovers rejoice; a decent bar!

The specs: #01001   
227 S. Main St., Cottage Grove, 53527
Details at Yelp, Facebook

Latest Outpost Bar and Grill news and reviews

JM ate the Haystack Burger with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the Reuben.
The bill was $17, or $8.5/person, plus tip.
JM gave Outpost Bar and Grill an A-; Nichole gave Outpost Bar and Grill a B (see our grading rubric).

We've eaten in Cottage Grove a lot recently, just because of the way the old Isthmus and the alphabet conspired to make trips there frequent. This was both a blessing and a curse for Outpost Bar and Grill. Our general disposition toward Cottage Grove was waxing due to Olde Town Coffee Shop, but Outpost would now be held to a higher standard as well, because we could always go to Olde Town Coffee Shop (unless it was dinner time, which it was).

The good news is that Outpost is a pretty standard Sconnie bar with an nicer than average menu. Outpost is in an historic building that used to be a hotel and became the Outpost in 1997. 

Nichole got a Reuben on grilled rye that was amply buttered with a good ratio of kraut, dressing and corned beef. It was very good and none too dry. 

Reuben

JM had good luck with his Haystack Burger, which was cooked to a beautiful medium rare with a pink drips mixed in with the clear ones. The fried onion straws were also perfectly done, though a tangy barbecue sauce may have sealed the deal. The thick-cut fries were also enjoyed by all with ample table sauces.

Burger

If you are in a Cottage Grove rotation, Outpost seems like it would be picked to click especially given the uneven outcomes of Cottage Grove bars. Be sure to check out the pictures on the walls, too - we appreciated them, since for some reason we have become local history buffs.

OSS

OSSIn a word: Outstanding sausage selection.

The specs: #01000  
910 Regent St., Madison 53715
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest OSS news and reviews

JM ate the Mac dog with one sugary soda.
Nichole ate the Korean BBQ dog with a soda.
We obligingly split some curds.
The bill was $20 with an offered savings slip, or $10/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole both gave OSS an A (see our grading rubric).

This is a milestone in our sustenance stunt.  We got to eat at OSS which carries overall stunning sausage. Plus, we got to eat our 1000th restaurant which is one singular success.

OSS (an acronym of sempiternal suppleness) looks pretty plain from the outward super structure.  The place gives off suitable status of a futurism and of stark simplicity that offers something straightforward. Fortunately, the oblong sandwich selection more than makes up for any misplaced ornamentation selection sentiment.

Korean BBQ brat

Nichole's Korean BBQ dog was outstanding, spicy superiority.  The kimchi made her lips burn in an obligingly satisfying stroke.  The dog was fresh and delicious without being overtly self satisfied or super steep. JM's Mac dog was overstuffed, still so tasty with one savory stratum of chili and Fritos and an onion scattering smothering the already outlandish schmaltzy snack. 

Chili mac brat

We also got ourselves starting samples of cheese curds that are gifts from Olympus: seared sensation.  These curds are pillows of hot oil, steam, skin and gooey cheese. The honey mustard dip is perfect for overlaying sauce specifically, but these curds don't need any help (SOS).  They are otherwise simply some of Madison's best curds, beating most of Capitol Square's and of State Street's competition.    

Curds

One summer sooner, JM stopped at OSS for lunch every Friday due to an occupational schedule shift.  In that time, he obviously sampled substantially from the menu and found that everything was at least good and most of it was of substantial significance.  

Plus every Tuesday night, there is obtuse shared socialization with board and card games like Orleans, Splendor, Samurai, or South Seas Carca-sso-nne. You can also observe some scenes related to food from Munchkin Quest (drawn by our sectional sketcher John Kovalic) which is an overtly silly  scramble among many that you can play while you eat.

Cards

We cannot think of a better place to close out the first 1000 restaurants in our sanctuary sector and we'll be back to sample OSS' sausages soon.

Orange Leaf

In a word: Top this!

The specs: #00999   
8426 Old Sauk Rd., 53562
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook

Latest Orange Leaf news and reviews at pinboard

JM and Nichole ate the frozen yogurt with various toppings. 
The bill was $9.98 (for #999), or $5/person, plus tip.
JM gave Orange Leaf a B-; Nichole gave Orange Leaf an A- (see our grading rubric).

Orange Leaf is another of the frozen yogurt plus toppings by the pound place (though they went to a fixed-price model between out visit and this post).  The location is a little spare, with orange plastic chairs and a cushy couch that we availed ourselves of. The mood was cheerful and not overlit, with crayons (which were very helpful to JM in doing a Denver Omelet themed crossword puzzle). The server was reasonably chipper and the whole storefront was clean and tidy in harsh contrast to some of the stickier types of these outlets we've been to.

Orange Leaf

Nichole was able to create herself a Melba experience, going with a dusting of graham cracker crumbs and nuts, then some pistachio, mild vanilla, and peach blackberry Greek yogurt swirl. It was a'ight.

JM went down the "what would makes sense with chocolate and peanut butter," which ended up including whipped cream and marshmallow as well, such that it came out "Peanut Butter S'more." Tasty? Certainly. But he'd've had some other ideas if about half of the dispensers weren't empty or non-functioning.  Maybe it was the time and day of the week we went, but there were a lot of outages.

It's always hard to grade a place like this, since it is predominantly build-your-own and that makes these desserts more like Hometown Buffet than, say, Forequarter. Still, it was delicious and sometimes you need a fix.  We'd probably not drive past this to go to CherryBerry or Menchie's. Plus, their novel bases give them a leg up if you're looking for something between Culver's and Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, but with moar sPrInKlEs.

Open Book Cafe

In a word: Open and shut.

The specs: #00998   
In the Helen C. White Library, Goon Park, Madison 53706
Details at Yelp, official web site

Latest Open Book Cafe news and reviews at pinboard

JM ate the sweet roll and a lemonade.
Nichole had an almond steamer.
The bill was $5, or $2.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Open Book Café a C-; Nichole gave Open Book Café a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Snack

Open Book Café is the foodservice outlet in the College Library part of Helen C. White Hall. Often open 24 hours, it fuels undergrads and others in the vicinity with Badger Market grab and go snacks, and lots of coffee. We went late at night (for us - 9pm!) and it was hopping. Lucky for us, we blend in well enough - maybe double the typical age, but harmless enough to pass and place and order and sit looking out the spiderweb-bedecked windows at a dark lake.

Their take on the college eatery was a little bit same-old-same-old (Nantucket drinks represent the smallest improvement over convenience store beverages, and the sweet roll was more brick than bakery) and a little bit above average (Nichole ordered an almond steamer [it was past bedtime, remember], which wasn't on the menu, but they made it for her anyway, and it was good.

On a pass fail rubric - though Nichole does in fact often stop here for coffee when in the area - for outings together we'd probably give this place a pass.

One Barrel

In a word: Roll out the apps.

The specs: #00997   
2001 Atwood Ave., 53704
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest One Barrel news and reviews

JM, Nichole and Nino split a pretzel, pizza, and a sausage and cheese plate. 
The bill was $30, or $10/person, plus tip.
JM and Nino gave One Barrel a B+; Nichole gave One Barrel a B (see our grading rubric).

There's a new brewing place on the near east side that serves light repasts with their beer. (What do you mean that's not enough information?)

It is easy to say that the extremely local brewpub that makes its own beers is a little too Madison for the mid-teens, but it is kind of true. The number of times we mixed up Next Door and One Barrel in our memory only underscores the problem. That said, One Barrel does a nice job curating other local foods rather than trying to reinvent the wheel by having its own chef and kitchen.

Nino did try the beer which meant getting a Behemoth which was a nice beer. He'd have liked to have tried the coffee beer, but knew that high caffeine content would not sit well, and sadly no one could tell him how much caffeine might be in the brew. Nichole and JM stuck with water, as One Barrel is so beer focused that they don't really have anything else to drink.

On to the food... the pizza is prepped at Fraboni's, and is a pretty nice balance while being very traditional. There was a penguin pizza on the menu, but since there was no info about the 'berg the bird grew up on, we just got a tasty sausage pie.

Pizza hands

The pretzel was served with a couple of kinds of proper mustard which were very nice and complemented the beer and pretzels atmosphere quite well.

Pretzel

The cheese and sausage were fancier than what we'd just had at Olive Lounge, though the sausages were difficult to cut, even with a sharp knife provided. This added some tabletop drama.

Cheese and sausage

Since the kitchen mostly consists of a pizza oven and a microwave, the whole aesthetic here is more laid-back and low-key with an emphasis on gemütlichkeit. That said, the place was the opposite of busy. As Nino put it, "I wanted to like it more, but it felt like they were still getting used to being open." There's nothing wrong with One Barrel, but being in the hot zone of places we'd rather hit, it seems like give our druthers we'd probably stop somewheres else.

NEWS

Madison Food coverOur book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine is out. More updates here, and some bonus bits on Porchlight, Argus, Sunshine Supper, and Babcock.


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