Monday, October 24, 2011

Wisconsin Wins

In August I was in a bit of a rut. It was too hot and humid to go anywhere, and I was more than a little tired of staying inside. I needed something to look forward to on the calendar to get me through the last hot weeks of summer, so I made good on a promise to visit Matt and Elisa in Wisconsin. I found a screamin' deal on plane tickets, and scheduled the visit for mid-October. Sure enough, it made those last weeks of summer fly by.
There were tornado warnings in DC the night I took off, and we were stuck on the tarmac for almost 2 hours before we were finally given the green light. Once in the air, we encountered some fairly terrifying turbulence. I've been on my share of bumpy flights, but nothing like this. Passengers were screaming, my neighbor offered to hold my hand, and it took a lot of self-control to keep my compsure (and, let's be honest, I'm not sure I succeeded). It resolved itself after several minutes, but it took the rest of the flight for my heart rate to return to normal.

Once I landed and met up with my welcome committee (Elisa, Matt, and Amanda), it was a non-stop party. There was a lot of Wisconsin-wooing, since they all work for a kind of incredible company in Madison, with mind-blowing facilities. (Hence the awesome pictures of me while taking a tour of the campus: on that rocking horse above and fighting Matt in the Dragon's Lair while he was on a conference call below.)

It was only fitting to eat a lot of amazing food, since the idea for this blog was born out of weekly dinners with Matt and Elisa when we all lived in Provo-- our friendship always revolved around food. Of note was the dinner at Graze, in downtown Madison. A soft pretzel served with a local soft cheese spread and three house mustards that changed my opinion of mustard. (from strong dislike to obsessive adoration.)

A cheese board which I failed to picture because we were all to eager to eat it, but which I devoured with my eyes closed (I didn't want any excess sensory stimulation to muddle the experience). A soft brie-like cheese with an ash rind, a cow-sheep-goat cheese that was my fave, a 10-year aged cheddar, and a blue cheese, all accompanied by a rustic house bread and apple butter rounded out my favorite-ever appetizer. I knew I should have taken the cheese list home just to remember the specifics of these show-stoppers.
Our entrees were all delightful, with Elisa's being the star. A gnocchi dish with butternut squash, brussels sprouts, goat cheese, sage (and more), in an aged balsamic brown butter.

Sunday was my last full day, so it was perfect to have a large meal with Matt, Elisa, Amanda, Kjerstin, and James. I felt so nostalgic cooking with everyone-- just like the good ol' days in Provo (though missing Katherine heartily!). I don't think any of us imagined we would be cooking together in Matt's apartment in Madison four years later. Our lives are all so different from what they were back then (and different from what we thought they would be now, I think). In whose kitchen and in what state will we be cooking dinner in another four years? ok. Enough navel gazing...
Matt really took charge on Sunday night and fed us well: two roasted chickens (with potatoes, carrots, and onions), acorn squash roasted with butter and brown sugar and stuffed with an incredible sausage stuffing. Kjerstin treated us to some delightful brussels sprouts, and I made a salad with craisins, candied pecans, pears, blue cheese, and a maple vinaigrette.

After gorging ourselves silly, we sat around chatting, sharing youtube videos, and watching the most recent Parks & Rec episode for the fourth time (treat yo self!), while eating M&E's pots de creme.

I flew home the next afternoon feeling so rejuvenated and happy. I was eager to see Sam and Bria, but really just wished they could come up to Madison to join in on the fun. I absolutely adored Wisconsin and could not have asked for better food (cheese!), better company, or a better autumn getaway.