Heritage is more than a tavern

Madison is definitely a food-lovers paradise but most restaurants don’t get featured in two local publications (Madison Magazine, Isthmus) before it even opens. I don’t remember why Dan Fox’s new restaurant Heritage Tavern got so much pre-opening attention, but I was definitely excited about going when some friends suggested it as our dinner stop for the night!¬†Another reason I was excited about going to Heritage Tavern was because of the location. I went to Underground Kitchen before the apartment building above it caught fire and loved it. The atmosphere was awesome. The food was great. Needless to say, I was sad when Underground Kitchen decided not to reopen somewhere else (and yes, Forequarter, their new restaurant, is on my list!). So, I was also excited about getting to see how another restaurant would use the space.

heritage tuna app
tuna and escolar poke

The Heritage Tavern space is broken up into two dining rooms, mainly because of the large brick wall separating the two sides. I love that there are steps down into the dining room closest to the kitchen. I thought the bare brick wall, tile floors and wooden chairs with a fox cutout were perfectly industrial and homey at the same time. I also loved the little appetizer plates with the pink pigs on them!

I think the menu goes in two distinct directions: classic/savory and interesting/Asian. Those two flavor profiles also cross quite a bit on the menu. On my first visit my friends and I got the Tuna & Escolar Poke. I don’t usually do too well with raw fish but this was amazing. The tuna and escolar were not fishy at all, and they were a perfect marinated flakey texture. The marinade was not too salty but still had a great flavor. I was pleasantly surprised at how delicate the dish was considering the “tavern” in the name and my expectation of the restaurant to focus on meat, pork specifically. Along with our appetizer came a plate of bread, honey butter and house pickled vegetables. The bread and honey butter were not exceptional, but the house picked vegetables were fantastic! The pickle flavor was perfectly tart and had another level of flavor usually lacking in pickled things. I loved the pickle plate!

heritage white fish
great lakes whitefish

For my entree choice I decided to go with fish and got the Great Lakes Whitefish. The fish was cooked perfectly with crispy edges and a flakey center. The clams on top and creamy grits on the bottom added a richness that was perfectly cut by the vinaigrette. The spinach and haricots verts were good but nothing exceedingly special. I was very happy with my choice and felt everything on the plate complimented the entire dish very well.

heritage beet salad
roasted beet salad

One of my friends got the Sake Poached Mackerel. I didn’t try too much of it because it came with cilantro on it, but he loved it. My other friend got the Roasted Cauliflower Beer Cheese Soup (served, of course, with popcorn) and the Roasted Beet Salad. The soup was good but the standout, in my opinion, was the beet salad. It came with beets, pears, goat cheese, figs and dark chocolate. I was impressed by the size of this salad and how many of the premium toppings (beets, pears, figs) it had on top. I’m not usually a fan of sweet salads but this one was exceptional.

heritage choc dessert
chocolate tart

Time for dessert! They had three different options and of course the best one was the chocolate tart. It came with caramel sauce, a homemade chocolate nib and chocolate espresso ice cream. The amazingly buttery and flakey crust was filled with a fantastically smooth chocolate. The chocolate espresso ice cream had a fantastic flavor and actual ground espresso in it, which I loved! The little homemade cocoa nib was a great decorative addition but also stood out on its own with the unexpectedly crispy texture. I loved the dessert all together but the caramel sauce wouldn’t be missed if they took it off.

FOODNOTES: The prices are what you would expect from a restaurant that got the hype it did before it even opened its doors. I don’t think it will become one of my regular stops because of the prices, but I will definitely be back again! I love the Asian flare throughout the traditional high-end Wisconsin tavern food. I loved the Tuna and Escolar Poke, and was exceedingly impressed that they were able to keep it so delicate with all of that flavor. I have never had such a perfectly cooked piece of fish as the one in my entree, and loved that my dish was balanced with both heavy savory flavors and light fresh flavors. I’m not usually a sweets fan but that chocolate tart and chocolate espresso ice cream could convert me! I’m pretty sure I can speak for all three of us at the table and say we would all go back again (and probably will)!

Dessert pizza shines at Novanta

My favorite go-to place for lunch is Chipotle and the one I go to is in a small strip mall. The strip mall has a couple other places to eat but nothing great (a random Chinese place, Cousin subs and a coffee shop). There used to be a creepy seafood store/restaurant but it recently closed down and a pizza place opened up in it’s place. I’ve been waiting for another option in this strip mall and have been really excited to try Novanta, which dubs itself a Neapolitan pizza and mozzarella bar. The menu looked super promising and I read they bake the pizzas in big wood-burning oven!

novanta caserta pizza
Caserta pizza

I finally got to go this week for lunch with a friend! I’ve heard the salads are really good but after looking at the menu I didn’t think they were worth it or could be better than any of the pizzas on the menu. I got the Caserta pizza with tomato sauce (they offer pizzas with an olive oil sauce as well), roasted peppers, roasted onions and salame. The pizzas come in one size, which is a little bigger than a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut but the crust is thinner and a ton better. I loved the combo of toppings and the salame had a great flavor. I wish the roasted peppers and onions would have been chopped up into smaller pieces to make it easier to eat. I may be messier than the average diner but the huge pieces of peppers and onions kept falling off my pizza. The crust on the side of my pizza was perfectly charred and crunchy. The bottom crust was a little soggy. If it had been crunchier the large pieces of pepper and onions might not have fallen off the whole time!

They do have a mozzarella bar with a house-made mozzarella and two options imported from Italy. They also offer add-ons like prosciutto, vinegar, olive oil, tomatoes, salame and ham. We didn’t try the mozzarella bar but definitely wanted to!

novanta dessert
Nutella pizza

We decided to split the one thing on the dessert menu I’ve never seen before; a Nutella pizza. The menu says it is a pizza stuffed with Nutella, which is a completely accurate description. It is two thin pieces of pizza dough with gobs of Nutella in the middle. I had zero complaints about the pizza and will definitely be going back specifically for that. The pizza dough was great and balanced out the extremely sweet Nutella perfectly! We did have two small suggestions: offer whipped cream and raspberries or strawberries as toppings!

The atmosphere feels like a college pizzeria with soda in cans, self-serve water in Coca-Cola cups and an industrial feel. It is super laid back and the staff was really nice! It did take a little while to get our pizzas but they are so fresh it was totally worth it. Just take note of that if you’re on a time limit at lunch.

FOODNOTES: The pizza was fantastic but the crust could have been a little crunchier. I really want to go back for the mozzarella bar and include as many add-on options as possible! I will definitely be going back for the Nutella pizza and can see that becoming my go-to place for a great dessert! The prices were pretty decent for what we got but diners should take note the fresh pizzas take a little bit to be made (but it is totally worth it!).

There’s more than chocolate to this quaint cafe

choco menuA friend of mine got married Friday and the week before her nuptials we decided to have lunch. She is a bit chocolate and sweets fan so when I heard about this new cafe on the near east side I knew it would be perfect for us. I mean, it has chocolate in the name! Chocolaterian Cafe opened almost a year ago at its Atwood location. I’ve been frequenting Atwood for a couple of years and I’m really glad the building at 2004 Atwood Avenue finally has tenants. It’s a really neat old building and the cafe definitely took advantage of the building’s features. There are two entrances (because the building is on a pointed corner), there are a bunch of neat built-ins, and the color choices were unique and appropriately fun. The decor was modest but fun with the main wall behind the bakery counter filled with antique chocolate molds.

choco macaroonsThe cafe features bakery items but also offers lunch items. There are regular items that frequent the bakery case and daily specials. Recently I’ve been obsessed with french macaroons so when I saw them in the display I knew I had to get them. They had a decent amount of flavor options and for $5 you got three. That’s a pretty regular price but the size of the macaroons was smaller than normal. I got the lemon vanilla, raspberry and pistachio. All three were very tasty! My friend got a chocolate tart that I’m pretty sure she loved because it was 100% dense chocolate. She did recommend they edge the top of the tart with fresh whipped cream instead of chocolate cream to make it a little less rich. The bakery case was filled with two other flavors of tarts, a half dozen different types of cookies, and a couple other decadent desserts. The also had fondue on the menu!

choco tarteThey offer two types of quiche and paninis daily as well as a cheese plate, soups and salads. They also offered regular coffee and tea options. I got the grilled chicken Caesar salad. It was very fresh and there was the perfect amount of dressing on top. It came with a full chicken breast but I was a little disappointed in the size of the total salad for the price (it was $8.50 for a small plate a lettuce, a couple tomatoes, and the chicken). My friend got the cheese plate, which came with three Wisconsin cheeses, crackers and jam. The odd thing about the cheese plate is that it didn’t say on the menu or the plate what type of cheeses they were. She enjoyed the cheese plate and that’s probably what I’ll get next time I go. That is if I’m not interested in the panini or quiche combinations again.

FOODNOTES: The location is great and the decor/ambiance is even better! The macaroons were good but could have been larger. Ditto for my salad. The cheese plate needs labels but was very impressive. I definitely plan to go back for coffee and baked goods (and will hopefully bring some home)!

Pumpkin Pie in Spring

>I had an extra pie crust in my freezer and decided to make a pumpkin pie last night. However, because I can’t seem to perfectly follow a recipe I altered it. Instead of using cinnamon, ginger and cloves I only used cinnamon (partly because I don’t really like ginger and cloves, and partly because I didn’t want to buy the two spices I didn’t already have). Also the recipe called for a deep dish pie plate but I had a regular one so only half of the filling fit into the pie crust. So instead of throwing away the extra I poured it into my ramekins and baked it next to the pie on a cookie sheet.

Making Pumpkin Pie!

The pie and the ramekins turned out really well and were a great addition to a productive Saturday night (I also did a load of laundry and vacuumed my apartment!). 

Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin Ramekins before baking.
Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin Ramekins after baking!

The pumpkin desserts smelled great, were really easy to make and cost less than $5 to make! Such a great deal and great dessert option for the week!

Pumpkin Ramekin with whipped cream!

Pie

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I have an odd dislike and love for pie. I have never liked Apple pie (but I can eat it if I want something sweet and there’s nothing else around) and I really really dislike other types of fruit pies. I think it is the odd bitterness combined with the dry crust, not sure. However, I absolutely love pumpkin pie and pecan pie. I recently made a pumpkin pie from a can and it was pretty successful so I decided to try my hand at a more difficult pie and make ‘Tipsy Chocolate Pecan Pie.’ It is normal pecan pie but you put chocolate chips on the bottom of the pecans and you add whiskey to pecan mixture. Not many people know this about me but I absolutely love Whiskey and to be able to put it in a pie very so great!

I didn’t make the crust because I wasn’t feeling that ambitious so I just bought a frozen crust. All I had to do was sprinkle the chocolate chips in the bottom of the pie crust, mix together the ingredients [corn syrup, pecans, sugar, salt and whiskey] and then bake it for a little less than an hour. It was soo good! I am not sure why it bubbled over so bad (see picture) but I am glad I put it on a baking sheet just in case! It was really good with whipped cream and I could actually taste the whiskey in the gooey pecan middle! It was the perfect pie for the beginning of fall!