Unofficial Taste of Madison

To celebrate our anniversary, R and I took a trip to Madison, Wisconsin this past weekend. We both graduated from UW-Madison, so it was a little getaway without being too expensive. And when we sat down to plan out our time there, we found we had a very long list of favorite restaurants and very little else. I have a lot of yummy food stories to share, but I’ll start off with one of the highlights.

Having spent the whole two hours in the car with only almonds to munch on, I was starving (and admittedly grumpy) when we pulled into town. Not that I didn’t get the familiar chills when we drove in along Lake Monona with the perfect view of the state capitol and the glorious downtown Madison… but I was a hungry girl and some things just take precedence.

First on our list was a sandwich at Fair Trade Coffee House on State Street. Most students stop by this local joint to pick up a quick cup of coffee or they sit by the fireplace to crank out a caffeine-induced term paper. But the big secret about Fair Trade is their grilled sandwiches! Made fresh daily, they have choices like turkey and provolone with a pesto mayo, veggies and hummus and portabello mushroom with Swiss cheese. It’s cheap, it’s fresh and it’s delicious. Why would anyone ever go to Subway when they could have this??? My love for paninis is well documented, but Fair Trade has one of the best. Simple, uncomplicated and fantastically satisfying. Here’s R enjoying his turkey, spinach and Swiss cheese panini:

panini

A trip to Madison (and the whole state of Wisconsin, for that matter) would not be complete without a healthy sampling of some of the country’s best dairy. And while UW Babcock Hall Ice Cream cannot be beat, we opted for a more global fare with which to cool down: gelato! I’m a picky gelato eater, having sampled my way through Italy with at least two flavors a day. Most of the time American gelato is a creamier form of ice cream that doesn’t bear resemblance to smooth Italian flavors. But I must say, Paciugo – a newer addition to State Street in Madison – was mighty impressive.

gelato

In a small cup, you can choose up three flavors (a medium cup gets 4 flavors and a large gets 5). They even make it look pretty! We had mint, chocolate chocolate chip and creamy mixed berry. It was every bit as good as it sounds. Paciugo is apparently a franchise with locations around the country, unfortunately none in Chicago thus far.

More to come this week about Madison Farmer’s Market and a hugely disappointing walleye dish.

- Max, trying to decide which panini she should have tonight…

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