Roadtrip: Madison, Wisconsin

I’m down to the last twelve or so states on my quest to visit all fifty U.S. states, which means that the remaining ones are either geographically awkward, or are testing my creativity in coming up with reasons to go.  Wisconsin falls into both categories: no direct flights on my preferred airline, and I have no personal connections to the place.  It is, however, within driving distance of my parents’ place, and it is full of cheese, which I eat with glee.  Added to the fact that I am allergic to cats, and spending the holidays with my parents puts me in close proximity to two felines for several days, and you have the makings of a quick post-Christmas trip (non-allergic entropyenator babysat the cats with glee).  Cheese, some exploring, and a couple days off the antihistamines.  Sounds fun.

Well, except first you have to drive through Indiana.  I’ve done this a lot over the years.  It’s still quite boring, although the wind farms are new.

Wind turbines, Indiana

Wind turbines, Indiana

Madison is the state capital and the center of University of Wisconsin.  Typical college town, it was pretty bare and sleepy during a student break.  It was also unexpectedly ugly in a very functional way, all drab concrete blocks and slab walls.  In my experience, college towns and state capitals both tend to have more “statement” architecture, which may or may not be your kind of statement, but which at least are interesting.  Madison, you’re lucky if you even find an overwrought Victorian brick tower.

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Still, there was cheese at quirky gourmet shop Fromagination (half the non-cheese stock seemed to be out of Brooklyn, which amused me to no end), and slightly upscaled pub food at the Great Dane Pub and Brewery, whose menu had some delicious African flourishes in the Inner Warmth peanut stew (squash and peanut base, yummy nutty winter heartiness).  The house brews ranged from mediocre to good; I wish brewers would get that dark beer doesn’t have to mean an anvil to the taste buds.  Lighter beers were better, and I imagine it’s a hot place in the summer.

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Plates: Charcuterie

 Plate 1 chiaroscuro

Lunch plate I put together for myself the other day: Finnish rye bread with brie (wedge) and a dollop of spreadable, spiced pork fat (stop gagging and think about it–incredibly delicious and better than butter), pickled green beans, and loukanika, a Mediterranean-flavored salami with cumin, orange and garlic (the cumin is pleasantly restrained, so it’s not like eating a citrus curry).  No need to hit a pricy restaurant for a gorgeous, tasty plate.