Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Friday we celebrated Valentine's Day with dinner at fresco on the top floor the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. It had a lovely view of the city and the snow, and I'm sure it will be wonderful to sit outside near the sculpture garden in the summer as well. We're also looking forward to dining this summer from a new seasonal menu.

We started by splitting an enormous salad of iceberg lettuce, topped with a zesty, garlicky buttermilk dressing and flanked by smoky bacon pieces, hard-boiled egg, cucumber, and a soft, mild feta.
Bibb Wedge Salad

Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of everything. I wasn't feeling great, so I just had a cup of creamy root vegetable soup with truffle-hazelnut compote butter. Our server told us that the vegetables were kept in cold cellar storage through the winter, so that they can serve some local produce year-round. The flavor of those root vegetables came through strongly to make a nice winter soup.

Matt had an entree of seared duck breast with fig jam and balsamic-fig reduction, served on roasted pears, fingerling potatoes, and shallot confit. He enjoyed the complement of flavors and textures very much, though I think the soft, sweet shallots might have been his favorite part.

Dessert was the highlight of the meal and hard to choose with many good-looking options on the menu. I went with the bananas foster creme brulee. It was a good choice. Rich, yet light banana-rum custard, sliced bananas, and a crust of burnt sugar on top. Mmmmm.

Bananas Foster Creme Brulee

Matt's dessert was even more decadent. Buttermilk beignets (basically fancy donut holes) were filled with melted milk chocolate and served alongside a creamy vanilla sauce. Imagine a light, fluffy cake donut hole encased in funnel cake batter. Matt was in fried food heaven (though they managed to avoid that junk food heaviness to some degree).

Buttermilk Beignets with Milk Chocolate Center and Vanilla Creme Anglaise

Also, here's the recipe for the soup I posted yesterday. I got it from a former coworker and I love to make it every winter. It's so hearty and healthy too.

Curried Lentil Soup

2 c dried lentils (preferably red, but any kind works)
4 c vegetable broth or 4 c water with a couple vegetable bouillon cubes
1 small onion
1 green pepper
carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes (I like fire-roasted)
2/3 c curry paste or powder (I used Maharajah)
1 tsp dried basil
1-2 small bay leaves
salt and pepper

Saute the onions, peppers, carrots, and garlic in a bit of olive oil until slightly softened. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for at least 45 minutes, until the lentils are soft. If the stew looks too thick, add more water and cook for another 30 minutes. If it's too thin, cook longer. It's not very scientific. Remove the bay leaves and enjoy. This freezes and reheats very well.

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