When is an annual meeting not an annual meeting? When it's an annual gathering. So says Susan Boldt, leader of Slow Food Madison. The group is staging its yearly conclave at Madison Area Technical College next Wednesday, and Boldt wants potential visitors to know it will be a rewarding combination of eating and talking.
'If I say 'meeting,' people don't want to come,' she frets.
The seven-year-old group is the local outpost ' convivium, in the parlance ' of the international Slow Food organization, which was founded in Italy just over 20 years ago. 'It's a movement to embrace and preserve the specialness of eating meals together,' says Boldt. 'It's also an educational movement to get people to recognize the importance of supporting our local producers, so that we are able to maintain our local food identity.'
Slow Food Madison, which encourages local-food initiatives like Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch Program, organizes events for fans of local food ' including, last year, a pig roast at Crawford farm in New Glarus and a trek to the Krause farms in Highland during maple syrup season. At the MATC gathering, chapter members will discuss their trip last fall to Turin for Tierra Madre, an international Slow Food conference.
So what makes slow food slow? The movement began, says Boldt, 'as a reaction to what fast food is doing, to make us stop and think about what happens if we continue down this pattern of fast food, fast life.'
As you would expect of a Slow Food gathering, this one will have tasty grub: a buffet featuring locally produced ingredients, to be prepared by MATC staff and students.
Note: The food may be slow, but don't dawdle in signing up. Space, and food, are limited at the event, which begins at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 24 at MATC's Truax campus, 3550 Anderson St., room 120 A and B. The cost is $10 for the public, $8 for members. For more information, contact Christine Schelshorn at 239-7583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can taste an entire region at Bamboo Hut, 1318 S. Midvale Blvd., a restaurant that opened Nov. 1 and features the food of Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
'You'll find pineapple chicken curry ' very Thai,' says owner Tou Vue. 'Also some very good pho, a Vietnamese soup, and steak salad, very Lao.'
Vue was born in Laos and grew up in Thailand. 'I've been cooking in festivals throughout the Midwest for the last five years,' he says. Coming soon to Bamboo Hut, he notes, are menu items from Malaysia, Burma and Singapore.
'What we want to do ultimately,' he says, 'is to have a couple of dishes from every Southeast Asian country.'
Shed a tear for the now-departed State Street location of La Bamba, until recently a source of burritos as big as, but hopefully not the shape of, your head.
Say hello to the new restaurant in the old storefront at 449 State St., Jeff and Jim's Pizza. It is the Madison garrison of a small chain owned by Jeff Uetz and Jim Verdon; other outlets are in the college towns of Menomonie, Eau Claire and La Crosse.
In addition to your traditional pies, the menu includes pizzas topped with gyro meat, Philly steak and roasted potatoes. And, says manager Rich Zais, 'We have our signature Smotherella Sticks.'
Also new on the scene: Bab's French Quarter Kitchen at 1353 Williamson St., the old RP's Pastas site; and, as of Jan. 10, Madeleine's Patisserie, a bakery in the building at 3724 Speedway Rd. that used to house Michael's Bike & Ski.
'People are beginning to trickle in,' says Madeleine's co-owner Nancy Vincent. 'And we're having fun.'
With Valentine's Day just around the corner, here's one option for you and your sweetie: a champagne dinner Feb. 11 at Ocean Grill. The five-course meal will pair champagne and seafood offerings like sashimi, prawns and scallops; certified wine educator Gary Binter will speak.
The wine servings will be 'a progression from light and easy, to sweet at the end,' says Greg Huber of the wine distributor General Beverage. Champagne offerings will include the insouciant new Pop, from Pommery. This little bubbly ' 'runway models in New York have made it famous,' says Huber ' comes in a tiny 100 milliliter bottle, complete with a straw for sipping.