Showing posts from April, 2011

Restaurant Muramoto

After pot-lucking, enjoying a homemade cookbook, and working on a farm, my birthday came to an end (at least the day itself, if not the birthday week) at one of my favorite restaurants in town, Restaurant Muramoto. In fact, after this dinner, I went so far as to call it "my favorite restaurant in Madison" (not just "one of"), though, in retrospect, that may have been a little rash.

Nonetheless, the food was so full of flavor and body that I'm dreaming of it still.

Asian slaw with sesame vinaigrette:

Avocado roll with sesame seeds:

Grilled Naan bread, with an edamame tabouli:

Tofu, deep fried, sautéed with red onion, bell peppers, and peanuts in a spicy coconut sauce:

And finally, lime granita with almond shortbread and huckleberry pure 

Despite sounding kind of boring, the Asian slaw is what keeps us coming back, again and again. I don't know if it's clear from the photo above, but this is one giant mound of slaw--probably at least 9" high, an…

Mobbing Sprouting Acres

For weeks, I'd been complaining about how this would be the first year when it wouldn't be warm on my birthday, and that birthday joy and good weather were so integrally wrapped up with one another in my mind that I didn't know how to celebrate a birthday without the sun on my skin.

Well, it turns out that even with clouds and temperatures not much above 60 degrees, the outdoors can still bring birthday joy--this year specifically in the form of a Farm Mob at Sprouting Acres in Stoughton, WI. The scene:

Although there was no 96 foot long greenhouse to move this time around, and although the ground was too wet for the onion-planting we were supposed to do, we had plenty of work: weeding greens (left), moving huge tomato cages from one field to another (middle), and constructing a small hoophouse frame (right):

We also go to stop and smell the flowers (and the parsley and basil!):

And to pet some dogs, and see some cool farm design--in the form of small hoophouses and a comp…

Flavors of Madison

Central among the many joys of this birthday of 2011 was this beautiful home-made cookbook that Justin, along with the help of two of my favorite Madison ladies, compiled from the recipes of my Wisconsin nearest and dearest:

The whole cookbook was a joy to behold, and left me crying  (literally) from pleasure and emotion and the recognition that I'm one lucky lady.  Happy sigh.

The recipes included in this collection run the gamut from savory to sweet, and include recipes for some of the delicious dishes from my birthday surprise potluck: roasted beet salad, MaPa tofu, carrot halva!

I can't wait to try them all.

One idea Justin and I came up with is to try to recreate many of these dishes over the course of the next year, documenting them and sharing the photos and stories with the friends who served as the inspiration. Which ones should we start with first?!

In addition to the delicious food that was part of this cookbook's bounty, parts of it were also rife with humor, of…

Potluck Birthday Love

After months of planning, the big wedding catering extravaganza is happening later this week, so I'll definitely be reporting back from the trenches next week, with a full recap and as many how-tos as possible.

This week, though, in preparation for the wedding and in the spirit of celebration, I'm going to be devoting my remaining posts to the wonderful ways in which I celebrated my birthday this past weekend, so that we can all relive the warmth and love and good food together, in bloggy form.

The weekend started out with a surprise birthday potluck the day before my actual birthday (Justin said doing it early was the only way he could really surprise me) at our friends' co-op.  Loved ones gathered there, bearing some of Madison's finest culinary delights, and showered me with hugs and conversation and a round of Roses and Thorns (turns out the Obamas also know the value of this tradition!), some attempts at Time's Up (the best game ever), some bad Youtube video-w…

Soy vey!

A few readers and friends (NB and MBS among them) have asked me to write a bit about my thoughts on soy, and the general health benefits/costs associated with the food itself, rather than only with the “meat substitutes” that are sometimes made from soy, and which I’ve written about previously.
A year or so ago, one of my good friends SF asked me for my views about soy, and this is what I wrote at the time: “As for soy, I guess I generally like to follow the Michael Pollan approach to food: if it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t. So, although I know there's lots of uncertainties about the health benefits/harms of soy, I guess I think that minimally processed, organic, non-GMO soy products are fine in moderation, until I get further evidence that I should stop eating them. But I have started trying to stay away from things like TVP, soy nuggets, and other super-processed sorts of soy foods (though locally-made soy milk and tofu stay on my good list). My go…

Food on Earth Day

So, I know I promised a post on soy this week, and there really is one in the works, but today it just seemed like I couldn't get by without mentioning Earth Day, and wishing you all a Happy Earth Day!

 Image from

Even though my favorite blogger Sharon Astyk hates Earth Day (and I totally understand why),* we here in Wisconsin have a particular attachment to the holiday because it was started by our very own Senator Gaylord Nelson.  In September 1969, he "proposed a national teach-in on the environment to send a message to Washington that public opinion was solidly behind a bold political agenda on environmental problems." And this grew into the first Earth Day, observed across the country on April 22, 1970, which historians continue to view as a watershed moment in the history of environmental politics.  The quote above, as well as lots more historical goodness, is from a website that my oh-so-impressive friend Brian Hamilton cre…

Slow Food Farm Fundraiser

After helping to move Scotch Hill Farm's hoophouse a few weeks ago (read about that here), we got to taste the results of some of the fruits (vegetables!) of our labor this week, at a Slow Food UW Family Dinner Night that featured lasagna made with spinach and goat cheese ricotta from Scotch Hill Farm.

The local flavor of the meal was further accentuated by salad greens from Sprouting Acres, bread from Madison Sourdough, lasagna noodles from RP's Pasta, and ice cream from Sassy Cow, which were all donated by these awesome local businesses so that the $5 everyone paid for dinner would be able to serve as a fundraiser for Scotch Hill's legal costs in their fight against the Larson Acres CAFO. 

Xavi Curtis, a UW student who organized this event and was the head chef for the meal, and Tony Ends, of Scotch Hill Farm, spoke eloquently about how our eating such delicious food at this dinner could help to protect clean water in Wisconsin against the nitrate-filled manure runoff f…

A Makeshift Seder

It's Passover this week, and even as we should be taking time to think about existing forms of human (and animal!) bondage and to break [unleavened] bread with friends and family, we here in the twenty-first century of Madison-grad-student lives somehow only managed to squeeze in a little makeshift seder at a local pub before seeing our favorite "baroque, anti-war, liberal, Portlandian, eastern-European, Shakespearian, English romantic"-influenced American band.

In addition to enjoying some Great Dane IPA, we also had a seder plate made up of a combination of items that Justin and I smuggled in separately and some of the things that we ordered. Clockwise from the top of the plate:

Cracker-like unleavened bread, from our dinner order, which we decided to use in place of the matzah that Justin had smuggled in. Jews eat Matzah on Passover to remember the story of exodus, when the Israelites had to flee Egypt so quickly that they couldn't wait for their dough to rise,…

FH King's Spring Kickoff

Even though the weather's been downright awful around here lately (wintry mix in mid-April!), we had one brief, glorious day last weekend when the sun was shining, the birds were singing, the bike lanes were overflowing, and that happy Madison vibe was all around.

I managed to get outside and spend a few hours in the sun at the garden site for the F. H. King Students for Sustainable Agriculture, for their spring kickoff event. I first encountered FH King (the organization, not the man himself) three summers ago, when I was walking through the Library Mall on campus on a warm July day, flustered and in a hurry to teach a class, and was greeted by a table covered in carrots, earthy and with the greens still attached. The table had a sign reading "Free Local Produce Grown by Students! Take Some!" I did a double-take, paused, filled my arms up with bright crunchy sweet carrots and rushed off to class, feeling like I had landed in some sort of secular agricultural h…

Not Moving to Alaska

I spend a lot of time writing for or thinking about this blog. And I also spend a lot of time wondering exactly why I devote this time to Dining & Opining. And although I haven’t yet figured out all the answers to this question, one resounding reminder of an answer came in the form of the comments on Friday’s blog post: because it feels damn good to start a conversation with thoughtful, smart, intellectually-honest folks even when there doesn’t always seem to be space for that kind of conversation in real-life interactions. 

I felt so stimulated by the responses to my meat substitutes post that I’ve been thinking about it all weekend, with the wheels in the brain turning more fluidly than they have in a while. Which isn’t to say that I have lots of answers to the puzzles posed during that e-conversation, but that my mind feels active and dynamic in the all the ways one could hope for. So, for that, I thank all of you who read and engaged with the thoughts I posted on Friday.
In …

Another Response

Another great comment, from my friend Gregory, which was too long for Blogger's tastes!  My thoughts tomorrow...

Anna: Kudos for a thought-provoking post. As an off-and-on vegan for the past ten years myself, I rooted you on and clapped my hands pretty much throughout reading your arguments denouncing synthetic meat substitutes. That is because I myself have always found such meat substitutes to be somewhat sickening. Actually, the best I have ever had were in China at the Buddhist temples where they would make the best fake beef, pork, or even seafood, and in really great vegetarian Chinese restaurants in the U.S. you can get the same stuff. But like most Chinese food - especially in the U.S. - I am absolutely certain that I am chugging down all kinds of chemicals with names I do not understand, whether expressed in Mandarin or in English. My parents here in the U.S. are big fans of boca-this and boca-that, but I have never been able to see much nutritional value in eating boca pr…

Responses to "Meat Substitutes"

Because I want to make sure people read them, I'm re-posting the super-thoughtful and provocative comments that three readers posted in response to yesterday's post, and that I hope to respond to in some fashion soon:

Megan said: 
Great post. From a practical standpoint, I'd say I solve the problem by almost always making my own "meat substitutes" from less objectionable ingredients. And by not relying on meat substitutes most of the time. (Caveat, I am only mostly vegetarian: I sometimes eat fish that are on the Monteray Bay Seafood Watch green list--though I know that's not a perfect source.)

But given the choice you put up there, the hamburger is probably more environmentally sound in that instance. Back when I first stopped eating meat, I told myself that I would still eat it if traveling somewhere where vegetarianism was nearly impossible, or if I would seriously offend a host. And somewhere along the way I have come to feel that eating loca…

On the complexity of meat substitutes

Yesterday, I wrote about some of the thoughts I was having during a Vegetarian Global Food for Thought Meal (aptly-named, eh?!) about the place of meat-eating/vegetarianism in a global, environmental context. And today I’d like to follow up with some of those thoughts, reflecting a little on the kinds of thorny situations vegetarians sometimes get themselves into.
I guess it’s a little backwards for me to be writing about some of these challenges to the traditional views of vegetarianism before actually writing a post about my vegetarianism itself (it’s like when environmental historians try to undermine the idea of “nature” to people who aren’t environmentally-inclined in the first place*), but hopefully I will get back to the latter at some point and hopefully many of you are at least acquainted with the myriad reasons that a vegetarian diet often makes the most sense. (If not, read these 49 reasons** or Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Against Meat” essay as starting points).
Perhaps a good …

Global Vegetarian

Vegetarianism in America may be something for the left-wing or the hoity-toity, but in many parts of the world, "vegetarianism" just means not being able to afford to eat much meat.  This week's Global Food for Thought Meal took on this issue with a vegetarian meal showcasing a variety of meat substitutes borrowed from other cultural traditions. But we turned those "meat substitutes" into a top-notch, three-course meal, featuring a wealth of tofu, tempeh, and jackfruit:

The BBQ Jackfruit Sliders and the Keto Prak Salad:

The Oseng Oseng Tempeh and the Jackfruit, Tempeh, and Vegetable Curry:

And, finally, the vegan "cheese"cake:

The mash-up menu was a hit, as was the discussion with our guest chefs afterward. The conversation got me thinking deeply about lots of questions that I hope to tackle in tomorrow's post, such as:
How did the rise of vegetarianism in the U.S. shape the place of "meat substitutes" in other parts of the world?What are…

New Page: Recipes

In an effort to make this blog more usable, I'm planning on making a series of stand-alone pages in addition to "About Me" and "About this Blog" that I'll try to update regularly to provide quick links to some overview sections like Recipes, How-To Guides, and Ongoing Projects.

I've just begun by building the Recipes page, where you can find a collection of links to all the recipes I've posted on the blog so far. Please let me know if any are missing or if any of the links don't work!

And if you have any suggestions about the blog more broadly--types of posts you like best, recipes you'd like to see, questions you have, food topics you want to know more about--please do let me know!

Modifying a Legend

When Justin and I met, one of the first dishes he cooked for me was his favorite food, his Mom's Taco Salad. This was a dish she'd often made when Justin and his brother were little--something that was quick to make and that satisfied her two tortilla-loving boys.  It's remained a favorite ever since.

The traditional recipe was a mixture of ground beef (later, in the vegetarian days, Morningstar veggie crumbles) cooked with taco seasoning, kidney beans, lettuce, tomato, crumbled tortilla chips, cheese, and Kraft Catalina dressing. This would all be combined and then spooned into tortillas to be eaten burrito-style.

But after Justin introduced me to this Taco Salad, it took on some subtle changes in response to my veggie-loving ways, and came to look something like this:

Mom's Taco Salad 1 medium onion, chopped10-12 white mushrooms, slicedTo taste: garlic powder, chili powder, oregano, salt, cayenne pepper1 bag Morningstar veggie crumbles 1.5 cups cooked kidney beans1.5 c…

Sushi Night

After culinarily visiting Japan last month, the sushi-making tour made a stop at last week's GreenHouse MYO* Meal Night for an evening of seaweed wrapping and wasabi adventures.

And so a little sushi tutorial here at D&O seemed to be in order.  I first learned my sushi-making strategy and technique from my oldest friend KW in her childhood Arkansas home, before I had ever even eaten sushi in a restaurant, and it has carried me through all these years. I don't know how authentic it is, but it's what I've got to share with you all for now.

The building blocks for this particular sushi night: the nori (toasted seaweed wrappers) and some wasabi (a spicy Japanese green horseradish relative, which is delicious when added to soy sauce for sushi roll dipping). More details on my particular ingredients that merit further explanation:
Sushi Rice: Cook sushi rice (special short-grain sticky rice is best, but any rice or even another grain would work) with 1 part rice,…

A honey of a grocery store

It's likely that no amount of waxing poetic will allow me to fully describe my love for our local grocery store, the Willy St. Co-op, but let me begin with this small story (and I'm sure I will continue the love-fest at another time).

On a recent trip (on a night when there was still snow, by the likes of the photo below!) to pick up a few items, I went over to the bulk honey dispenser with my little glass jar for a refill. After carefully weighing the jar and labeling it with its tare weight (so I wouldn't end up paying for the weight of the jar), I turned to the honey dispenser only to find it empty. With sadness, I thought of all that baklava, all that sweetened tea, all that mead that would get unmade, as my honey jar sat unfilled [that's what she said?].

But then!  A kind co-op employee, apparently seeing my distress, turned to me and said I think the honey truck just pulled up, let me go and check. The honey truck?! Could there really bee [sic] such a delightful …