Madison's dating pool notwithstanding, this town will never be more of a sausage fest than on Friday, September 12 when the inaugural Isthmus Wurst Oktoberfest takes over the new Central Park. This locavore take on a German culinary tradition will feature live music, beer, and, best of all, an incredible array of Wisconsin sausage products -- plus creative takes on sauerkraut, cheeses, and well-suited desserts to round out the meal.
Here's a closer look at some of the treats to be tasted at the fest.
This University Avenue retailer sources pork, poultry, lamb, and beef from small producers in Wisconsin, the greater Driftless region, and Pennsylvania. Conscious Carnovore will be bringing a Black Earth Meats "Oktoberfest brat," served with sauerkraut and German whole-grain beer mustard.
One of Madison's best places to be seen in lederhosen, Essen Haus plans to celebrate Oktoberfest with samples of weisswurst, a Bavarian sausage made with minced veal and pork back bacon, and veal and pork loin bratwurst. To accompany that, the restaurant will be sampling sauerkraut, soft pretzels, and a house spicy-hot mustard.
Co-owner Matthew Devan is a butcher from South Africa who creates the traditional South African farmers' sausage known as boerewors -- essentially the brat of South Africa -- in Milwaukee. SA Braai ("braai" is Afrikaans for a barbecue or grill), composed of Devan and his wife Wendi, is a Midwestern take on the South African specialty with beef and pork raised in Wisconsin. The Devans will also bring a homemade chutney with a vinegar base and peaches, apples, and apricots, which Wendi says "gives the sausage a sweet/savory kick with a tiny bit of heat at the end."
Macski's brings the joys of Scottish cuisine to Wisconsin, and takes on Celtic gastronomy's ultimate tough sell: haggis. This version of Scotland's national dish is a sausage made from lamb, onions, oatmeal, oil, and spices, and traditionally served with "neeps and tatties": boiled and mashed turnips, rutabaga, and potatoes.
Known for wild game processing and for sausages and snacks, Wisconsin River Meats hails from Mauston. Expect several kinds of summer sausage, beef jerky, and specialty landjaeger ("land hunter," a Swiss snack sausage). There will also be sample snack sticks, honey ham sticks, barbecue sticks, and wild game selections in sausage and snack form including buffalo, elk, and venison.
This Italian delicatessen offers pantry products, fine imported foods, and Italian deli cuisine. Fraboni's will offer samples of its double extra hot Italian sausages –– the star of its beloved Italian sausage sandwiches –– and brats.
Expect the National Mustard Museum to get invited to more parties after this weekend. In addition to sweet Bavarian mustard, spicy brown beer mustard with beer from Sprecher, Dusseldorf "Alstertor" mustard served in its traditional beer mug, a house mustard with sweet-hot habanero and maple peppercorn, and a horseradish mustard that curator Barry Levenson describes as "wicked," the museum has created a grainy beer mustard for the occasion.
Specializing in locally sourced fermented vegetables, Fizzeology will bring a much-needed "zing" to the Wurst Oktoberfest. Expect samples of four different kinds of raw fermented treats: Korean-style kimchi, German-style sauerkraut, Latin-style Cordito (with lime, cilantro and red chili peppers), and a seasonal ferment with a ginger kick.
Chef K. Clark uses local produce to create unique pickles and preserves. The top seller, beer jelly, uses local craft beer as a base for jellies to be used as accompaniments for cheese, charcuterie, as glazes, or as sandwich condiments. At this event, there will be samples of beer jelly made from local Oktoberfest beer (this will also be for sale). Also on offer will be unique pickles including Lebanese turnips pickled in beet juice, Santa Fe Sours made from Mexican sour gherkins, and spicy pickle flavors including Hot Yella Beans and Hot Carrot Supreme.
Based in the small town of Plain in Sauk County, Cedar Grove makes cheeses using dairy sourced from 30 Wisconsin farmers and containing no artificial growth hormones. For this event, Cedar Grove will showcase an alpine-style cheese, cheese curds, and quark, a fresh European cheese that's eaten in a way similar to cream cheese or yogurt.
The 2013 grand champion of the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest will grace the festivities with two of its famous gouda cheeses: Burning Melange, a creamy, herbaceous Gouda with garlic and parsley; and a plain young Gouda.
For those who need a sweet treat to counteract sausage overload, this iconic creamery will bring a very seasonally appropriate ice cream flavor, German Chocolate Cake, as well as their smash-hit Salted Caramel.
Isthmus Wurst Oktobefest kicks off at 4:30 p.m., and food service runs 5-9 p.m., with beer and live music also on the menu. Tickets can be purchased online and at the festival's entrance on Friday.