Sunday, April 18, 2010

Eating Our Way through the Wisconsin Film Festival, Day Four: Sardine

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A pet belief of mine holds that a good restaurant and its kitchen needs to be located in an old building -- old enough so there might be attendant ghosts -- or at least plenty of memories. Sardine is located in part of Madison's old Fauerbach Brewery dating from the mid-nineteenth century. For all its beautifully updated interior -- white painted brick walls,high ceilings, elegant lighting, white tablecloths -- the room has a deep sense of history and brewery-worker stories untold. We had a table at the back next to the windows where (typical of Madison somehow) lovely Lake Monona gets no respect; you have a perfect view of it, but over the rows of car tops out in the parking lot. The lake was doing its night-time thing -- a modest bit of glimmering -- and the cheerful row of lights on the opposite shore twinkled far enough away to suggest there might be something other than big box stores and mini malls over there. A gorgeous moody set of old Blues music came on over the sound system -- it was after 8 P.M. and it was time to eat.

CSC_0068-Negronis-smWe each had a Negroni cocktail -- a perfect balance of sweet, bitter, citrus that combines 4 forms of alcohol (gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, Grand Marnier) -- and threw caution to the wind. P decided to have fried smelt as an appetizer. The smelt (enough of them to be a light entree) were nicely fried in a light oil, with a buttermilk dipping sauce and a small side of pickled cabbage. I chose the house salad -- one of my favorite salads in Madison -- a glistening heap of the freshest local lettuces, lightly dressed with tarragon vinaigrette, topped with roasted beets, crispy chickpeas and a bit of sieved egg.

CSC_0059-Skatewing-smFor my entree, I chose the Skatewing with broccoli rabe and fingerling potatoes. I asked the server if I could switch out the broccoli for the sauteed spinach which was on the menu with other entrees -- "no problem" she replied, smiling. An ample portion of Skatewing arrived, deftly pan-seared in butter -- with a pepper, lemon caper sauce -- and the sautéed spinach with fingerling potatoes. Skatewing really does taste like scallops.

For his entree, P ordered the mussels and frites. The mussels were cooked perfectly in a broth of wine, a touch of Pernod, cream, onion and fresh thyme sprigs, And what a pile of succulent bi-valves it was -- enough for a Belgian Army! And enough frites to share with them, and house-made mayonnaise.

After this meal, we decided, it will be salads and soup throughout the summer (goodbye, potatoes; farewell, cocktails). But first, a dessert menu was offered and P could not resist the siren song of the flourless chocolate cake with a tiny scoop of fresh berry sorbet and a dab of cream adorned with an edible mint leaf.

CSC_0061-Tulips-smWhen we finally left the table, we passed the seasonal bouquet that set the stage near the lake entrance of the restaurant -- on a dark wood rail a tall glass column vase filled with river stones and an explosion of yellow tulips. Spring at last! It was a perfect dinner.

Guest post by T, the Letter from Here resident food correspondent and amazing dinner companion. For the Wisconsin Film Festival movie that preceded this celebration, click here.

3 comments:

Cybergabi said...

T, this is so delightfully written. Now it's not only a flickr account which I wish you had, but also a blog. Don't waste any more time - get yourself out there into the limelight!

M. said...

You two make a marvelous food and photo blogging (and film-going) team but Cybergabi is absolutely right!!!

T. said...

M. and Cybergabi, Such kind words! Thanks for the encouragement -- it means a lot to me.