In the process of assessing the 2010 restaurant openings and closings around Madison, I inevitably began thinking about some of the standout dishes of the year -- the polenta fries at Underground Kitchen, say, or the beet and walnut burger at Graze -- and also started wondering what kind of impact one dish among the many makes in the wide world of Google searching.
The end of the year is always a good time to visit Google Zeitgeist anyway. And while I did not find that polenta fries made a dent, I did gain some insight into how Madison fits into the wider food picture. And that was satisfying all the same.
The number one search term from Madison in Google's Food & Drink category for 2010 is recipes -- and this is not an unusual return; it's the top search term for most places in the U.S.
"Vegan recipes" is number one in Madison's rising recipe searches; up 110% in 2010, and this is not a common result for other places in the U.S. "Vegan recipes" is followed in rising searches by "easy dinner recipes", "banana recipes," "easy chicken recipes" and "Paula Deen recipes." (Note: about half the time when I would check back, the top result would be "cheesecake recipes.")
The second most popular search term from Madison under Food & Drink is pizza. The top Madison search is for "Pizza Hut," but first in rising searches for 2010 is "Falbo," followed by "Glass Nickel," "Roman Candle," and "Falbo Brothers." 2010 was a Falbo-ulous year, apparently.
The third most popular food & Drink search term from Madison is food, which takes us down a path of redundancy. Let's skip to the fourth most popular search term from Madison, cheese, with the top three rising searches being "Monroe Cheese Days," "Cheese Days" and "Monroe WI." Congratulations, Monroe! Maybe you should have that Green County Cheese Days celebration every year (hint, hint) instead of every other year. No Pleasant Ridges, no Bleu Monts, no Carr Valleys show up -- no artisanal cheesemaker names occur in "most searched for" at all; they're beaten by such standards as "cream cheese," "macaroni and cheese," and "Chuck E Cheese."
The fifth most searched-for term from Madison is bread
The most popular rising search overall from Madison under the entire Google Food & Drink rubric was Scott Walker, (+ 900%) which shows that all of this should be taken with a grain of salt -- unless there's a bar in Wauwatosa that's named a very popular sandwich after the Governor-elect. Scott Walker was followed by Woodmans Grocery
How does Madison stack up against other Zeitgeist trends nationally, and against other places in Wisconsin?
The breakout Food & Drink search term in New York City, and in large metro areas across the U.S., is "blue waffle," which turns out to be not a food at all, but a particular bit of hoaxy Internet nastiness we don't want to get into, especially in a post about food. (Pity the poor diner operator who decided to call his/her breakfast bistro "The Blue Waffle.") (Additional warning -- do not Google this term if you are squeamish.)
Closer to home, Milwaukee's top rising search is for Jimmy Johns, followed by Woodmans at both second and third (as "Woodmans" and "Woodmans Grocery"). Milwaukee is also looking for a good enchilada recipe, followed by recipes for pesto and pie crust, all of which feels rather homespun and reassuring.
In Wausau, the top five rising searches are for Culver's, Olive Garden, Taco Bell, Domino's, and Jimmy Johns, whereas the top five rising searches from LaCrosse/Eau Claire are for chicken breast recipes, Panera Bread, healthy recipes, Panera, and cupcakes.
Chicago, meanwhile, is most curious about the Georgia-based fast food chain Chick-fil-A coming to town, opening first in Aurora last fall, and coming to Water Tower Place in the spring of 2011. Having eaten at a Chick-fil-A in suburban Atlanta over this past Thanksgiving holiday, I will say that you could do a lot worse.
What is the whole world looking for, I wonder? It turns out that the world is looking for a minestrone soup recipe, followed by ones for shepherd's pie, jello shots, snickerdoodles and cupcakes. The United States is looking for a recipe for something called "Oreo balls" -- how us. That's followed by shepherd's pie, jello shots, minestrone, and snickerdoodles.
It could make for an interesting New Year's Eve buffet.