What started as a whirlwind of one-offs in March 2015 has evolved into what looks like the most exciting food festival of 2016. The Madison Area Chefs Network (MACN) has put together another slate of events for Chef Week 2016, which runs March 4-13 this year.
“I couldn’t be prouder of MACN and the chefs of Madison for how amazing the events have grown in just a year,” says Tory Miller, one of MACN’s principal organizers and chef at L’Etoile, Sujeo, Graze and Estrellón. “I did anticipate that bringing together some of the most talented and creative people in Madison would result in something awesome, but Chef Week is going well beyond expectations.”
Miller is juiced — because of Madison receiving several James Beard Award nominations over the past few years, the eyes of not just Chicago but both coasts are on Madison now.
Patrick DePula of Salvatore’s Tomato Pies, another MACN organizer, underscores that Chef Week will allow Madison chefs to “reach a broader audience, with the aim of further elevating the culinary scene here.”
The kick-off event, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. March 4, is a pop-up food truck by Miller and Jonny Hunter of Forequarter. It will incorporate the West Coast technique of announcing its locations via Twitter (@grazeletoile) and Instagram (@jonnydhunter), so you’ll have to be on point to find out what they have in store. (Hunter says the announcements should come a couple of days in advance.) So far, the menu is a secret.
From 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. on March 5, Francesco Mangano of Osteria Papavero will team with Dan Fox of Heritage Tavern on small plates at Heritage Tavern. Expect Andalusian, Italian and Spanish touches in twists on Mediterranean tapas. “The event at Heritage will allow people to socialize and have fun late at night with a few inexpensive and tasty bites,” says Mangano. “It’s part of the culture of bars/restaurants in Italy — almost as much as in Spain — to have bites before dinner time (“apertivo hour”) or late at night. And because Papavero is not open late, this is a chance for us to offer something we wouldn’t typically.”
Normally a bunch of chef-driven food events wouldn’t be kid-friendly, but Tory Miller and Laila Borokhim are both parents. They’re holding a French-themed brunch for families, with tykes or otherwise, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on March 6 at Layla’s Persian Food. “I’m going for a French style crêpe like I had in Paris once, folded like a cone and filled with yummy things,” says Miller. Hint: Get reservations.
Also on March 6, Noah Przybylski of the Madison Club and Abigail Zielke of Mezze will host a special brunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., at Mezze. Przybylski is concocting traditional Lebanese breakfast dishes like man’oushe, baked flatbread served with lebneh.
Monday brings a big “welcome home” dinner with Justin Carlisle, formerly of Harvest and 43 North and now chef-owner of Ardent in Milwaukee. He’ll collaborate with Elizabeth and Tim Dahl of Nostrano and Tory Miller on a multi-course dinner. Get reservations (608-395-3295) for this one early; dinner’s 5-10 p.m. at Nostrano.
The truffle takes over the menu at Osteria Papavero from 5 p.m. onward on March 9. Francesco Mangano and Matt Schieble of Harvest will serve specials showcasing black truffles — “think eggs and truffles, steak with truffled béarnaise, pasta with truffles,” says Mangano. “Winter truffles in March are great occasion for people to enjoy this gift of nature right before the season ends.”
They’re saving the wild stuff for March 10, when Gilbert Altschul of Grampa’s Pizzeria and Matt Schieble will unleash five courses of molecular plates. Menu plans include foie gras with Concord grape fluid gel, and tapioca maltodextrin. It’s at Harvest, where you should call for reservations, 608-255-6075.
Worth saving some of your appetite for is the week’s final event on March 13, Sunday Funday, with 20 MACN chefs dishing their favorite street foods alongside craft cocktails from Merchant, Heritage Tavern, L’Etoile, Mezze and Gib’s. It’s all-you-can-eat, and also a benefit for the Community Action Coalition’s Double Dollar program, which doubles (up to $25) food stamp users’ money at farmers’ markets. (Tickets, $100, are available via isthmustickets.com).
“We couldn’t think of a more deserving program than Double Dollar,” says Miller.
This article has been edited to reflect that the site of the Molecular Dinner is Harvest .