Concerts on the Square, a weekly Madison summer favorite, is a chance to break out a bottle of wine, indulge in various cheeses and desserts, and enjoy a warm, breezy evening, all to a live orchestral soundtrack.
I was interested in what was inside concert-goers' picnic baskets, so I set out to discover what makes up Concerts on the Square cuisine. Video camera in hand, I attended the "Sweeping Soundtracks" performance on July 11, capturing the food and beverages I saw.
While many people simply brought takeout containers or pizza boxes from nearby restaurants, others had impressive spreads. Each week, the Capitol lawn is laden with loaves of French bread, fresh cherries, spinach salads, fresh mozzarella and goat cheese. There is an assortment of crackers, hummus, Johnsonville sausages, feta, Gouda, freshly caught salmon and fresh watermelon.
Russ and Chris Freber have been attending Concerts on the Square for about 15 years and often bring themed picnic basket to match the concert's music. This particular evening, the Frebers packed Harry Potter-themed refreshments in honor of the movie's soundtrack -- one of the featured pieces of the evening. Their selections included onion and cheese tarts made with thyme, onion, bleu cheese and heavy cream, and a bottle of red wine with a printed picture of the Hogwarts castle taped over the label.
Concert-themed food is certainly not unheard of. The Yelk and Tessmer families, who have enjoyed Concerts on the Square for 25 summers, said in the past they have brought a red, white and blue meal for patriotic music and Mexican food for Latin tunes.
Of course, the concert experience is not complete without some type of beverage in hand. I saw everything: vodka-infused juices stored in plastic water bottles, Lime-a-Ritas, Mike's Hard Lemonade, homemade sangrias, Wild Blue lager and Sierra Nevada Torpedo. Of course, there was a plethora of wines -- Burgess, Trader Joe's Seccola Frizzante, Caposaldo and Cupola Botham, to name a few. Some people sip their spirits in fine china, while others opt for Solo cups.
There is one more concert left this summer, "Across the Pond," on August 1, featuring cellist Elliot Yang.