Chef Gilbert Altschul of Grampa's Pizzeria prepares farm fresh chilaquiles.
It’s been a successful year for the Dane County Farmers’ Market “Taste of the Market” breakfast series. Attendance dipped a few years ago, after some free advertising dried up. But over the past couple seasons, the breakfast has become an attraction for top area chefs, who volunteer their time and bring staff to cook meals using ingredients sourced directly from the market. Turnouts for these farmer-to-table meals ($8.50, $5 for half portions), have been strong.
In general, the chefs plan for 300 meals, says coordinator Heather Dominick. Sometimes, they sell more — and can actually make more, if they can source more ingredients from the available vendors. But a recent meal from Patrick DePula of Salvatore’s Tomato Pies sold out by 10:15 a.m. “Next year, we’ll plan for 400 meals for Patrick’s breakfast,” says Dominick.
The morning breakfast is not only a way to showcase local products, but an opportunity for volunteers to work with chefs and their teams in the kitchen.
The Taste of the Market is now in its 13th year. Since taking over the coordinator job this season, Dominick has deepened the breakfast’s farm-to-table connection with local chefs. “My goal is to get farm-to-table chefs coming in to highlight ingredients, and bring farmers and chefs together,” she says. “I think MACN [Madison Area Chefs Network] has been a great engine for bringing chefs to the market breakfast, to experience cooking here.”
This season chefs who have taken on the Taste of the Market challenge include Anna Dickson (recently departed from Merchant), Dan Fox from Heritage Tavern, Andrew Wilson from the Madison Club and DePula.
A recent breakfast also featured Gilbert Altschul of Grampa’s Pizzeria. Altschul and his team offered delicious versions of fried chicken and waffles with jalapeño butter, as well as a vegetarian entrée of chilaquiles (think breakfast nachos).
“Sometimes there can be a bit of a line,” says Dominick, “as there was with Andrew Wilson’s meal of white cheddar biscuits topped with bacon and smoked onion gravy.”
Another highlight of the season was James Beard semifinalist Dan Fox’s meal, where he introduced the lamb breakfast sausage he will be selling retail through his label Fox Heritage Foods. The maple-flavored sausage was prepared with a sumac-merguez cream sauce, pickled carrots and turnips, an aged goat cheese rösti (think hashbrowns) and market greens. This was served with a maple-glazed cinnamon roll.
“It was epic,” says Dominick, “and Fox was able to source directly from our vendors, as at all our breakfasts.” That included Black Earth Valley spinach and yellow onions, Blue Valley Gardens russet potatoes, Butter Mountain Farm russet potatoes, Capri Cheese goat cheese, Cherokee Bison Farms maple syrup, Don’s Produce mixed greens, Driftless Organics beauty heart radishes and garlic, Future Fruit Farm pear-apple cider, Gitto Farm n Kitchen carrots, Jordandal Farms ham, Pecatonica Valley Farm eggs, and Sylvan Meadows Farm lamb.
There are still two weekends left before the market moves outside and the breakfasts end. The two remaining meals will be by Angelika Matthews, kitchen manager and chef at the Willy Street Co-op, on April 4, and Carrie Johnson of Jordandal Cookhouse on April 11. Breakfast is served from 8:30 a.m. to around 11 a.m. — or until the food runs out.
For updates and info, see the Taste of the Market Breakfast Facebook page.