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Annual chili cookoff seeks chefs

On Feb. 7 from 6-8 p.m., the Essen Haus, 514 E. Wilson St., will host its second annual Mad City Chili Cookoff.

As many as 20 cooks may enter for the chance to win cash prizes. Organizers said smell, taste, heat balance, texture/mouthfeel and appearance are among this year's judging criteria.

Up to $200 will be awarded to both the judge's top pick and to the people's choice award.

A chili recipe and $20 are needed to enter the competition.

If you would like to enter the contest, email chili.essenhaus@gmail.com.

Entry fee to the event is $10 for adults and free for children ages 10 and under.

Click here for complete details.

Nearly 50 restaurants offer fare for summer's 'Restaurant Week'

Nearly 50 area eateries will take part in a semi-annual area food event next week. 

Madison Magazine's summer season Restaurant Week runs July 20-25. Forty-seven restaurants from Madison, Middleton, Verona and Fitchburg will offer special menus during the week. Each menu features three courses for a fixed price that shows off the eatery's culinary specialty and offers diners the opportunity to sample new or favorite cuisines from local establishments. 

Executive Chef Charles Lazzareschi at Dayton Street Grille in downtown Madison previewed some of the restaurant's planned menu. Dayton Street Grille is offering House Cured Salmon Spring Rolls as one of three appetizer options on the dinner menu. 

Dobra's closure points to changes in Madison's tea, State St. business culture

Dobra's closure points to changes in Madison's tea, State St. business culture

On Dobra Tea’s last day in business, owner Adam Ernst invited the community to come visit the State Street shop to drink tea and shatter teapots from around the world.

The gesture offered him an opportunity to share some of the philosophies surrounding tea culture and to gain a sense of closure as the tea shop closed its doors Feb. 9 after five years in downtown Madison.

“Tea in general encourages us to embrace the imperfection in life, the impermanence in life, and thus smashing teaware is a kind of symbol to communicate to people,” Ernst said. “We need that sort of catalytic breaking, smashing and severing of all contacts in order to see and reunite them. Simply as a symbol of impermanence it seemed very effective.”

As a teenager, Ernst, a Madison native, discovered a passion for tea far from Wisconsin during a visit to the East Coast.

'Frankenfood' event participants could win spot on TV show

'Frankenfood' event participants could win spot on TV show

Madison-area folks are invited to take part in a funky food event next Friday with the chance to be part of a cooking reality TV show. 

Madison Area Technical College's Truax campus on Wright Street will host the "Frankenfood" event from noon to 4 p.m. in the gourmet dining room. Frankenfood is a new buzzword for a dish made up of many contrasting parts that would not normally be paired together but stitched together as one, makes sense and tastes good (or at least tastes good to you).

Tasty breakfast at north-side Manna Cafe & Bakery

Tasty breakfast at north-side Manna Cafe & Bakery

By Michelle Li

You'll likely upgrade your breakfast standard once you've devoured a creamy, custardy plate of eggs at Manna Cafe and Bakery. Egg cookery is a specialty here, inspired by the great Julia Child and applied daily by owners Barb and Mike Pratzel.

"Breakfast is a big deal here," says Barb, who's spent nearly forty years in Madison using the science of cooking and the love of family to fill local bellies and hearts.

And the eggs are just the beginning.

"People will drive two hours to get the oatmeal pancakes," she says.

You're guaranteed to get a knock-your-socks-off morning meal, but the core of the cafe centers on the wide array of made-from-scratch Jewish breads -- from bialys to challah to the corn tzitzel rye bread made so famously by Mike's family at the iconic Pratzel Bakery in St. Louis.

Try the food, not just beer, at Ale Asylum

Try the food, not just beer, at Ale Asylum

By Dan Curd

One expects beer at a brewpub to be a bit ingenious. To be sure, the menu at Ale Asylum depends on tried-and-true bar snacks like apps, sandwiches and pizza. But like the beer, the food flaunts fancy. Chips with audacious homemade salsa, goat cheese in a namesake salad that's panko-breaded and pan-fried, and a ham and Havarti sandwich piled high and slathered with aioli. Extraordinarily, vegetarian options abound. But it would be impossible to overlook the exceptional beer: four year-round house brews and another half dozen seasonal specials available on tap and in bottles, as well some taproom exclusives.

Ale Asylum
2002 Pankratz St.
663-3926, aleasylum.com

Read more Madison Magazine stories about local restaurantshere.

German-themed 'Brat und Brau' offers bratwurst, burgers, beer

German-themed 'Brat und Brau' offers bratwurst, burgers, beer

EatDrinkMadison.com reviews Brat und Brau  

I only have vague memories of Brat und Brau when it existed on the west side of Madison on Mineral Point Road, but I’m certain that at minimum, the decor and atmosphere are a lot different in its new incarnation on the north side of town at 2933 N. Sherman Ave. More on that in a bit.

The menu has a variety of items ranging from pork cutlets to fish fry to of course, brats.

Read more about the bratwurst, "Brauburger" and onion rings at EatDrinkMadison.com.