May 21, 2014

MADISON, WISCONSIN: Spotted cows and cheesy curds

Darling Elizabeth,

Greetings from America’s Dairyland! I’m coming at you live after spending three days partying with the inventors of Miller time and foam cheese heads. We’re in Madison, Wisconsin, where the people are blond, the ice cream is ever-flowing, and the cows are… everywhere. Sounds a lot like your sunny Roma, eh?

WisCOWsin cookies.
For some unexplainable reason, the University of Wisconsin has decided to let my little sister, Cogan, graduate from college. 'Tis a miracle, and to celebrate the end of her book learnin’ and such, we’ve been doing some drinking. Naturally. 

 I’ve actually grown pretty fond of Madison since the Cogster started going here. It’s a funky little town sandwiched smack dab between two lakes - Lake Menona and Lake Mendota (try and say that five times fast… now say it with a Wisconsin accent… now see if your boyfriend is still attracted to you). 

Mendota Menona Mendota Menona Mendota Minerva Medusa Winona GAHHH.
 Though most of the town’s amenities service the over 40,000 students enrolled here, it also happens to be the State Capitol. Madison comes complete with its own Capitol Hill, so I never have to feel too far from home:

It's even built to scale. Ain't she a beaut?
Madison is located only an hour away from Milwaukee, which is affectionately known as “Brew City” and serves as headquarters for MillerCoors, the giant beer conglomerate responsible for such classics as Natty Ice (the choice of d-bags the world over) and Miller High Life, the self-proclaimed “champagne of beers” (and Marley-proclaimed "water of beers").

However, outside of the frat house that is the Miller Coors LLC, Wisconsin actually has some serious beer swag. I tried two winners this time around. The first was this rascal from Capital Brewery: 

Capital Brewery is a little brewhouse located right outside of Madison in Middleton, WI. They have about eight different brews, all of which are delectable. This one was a nice German guy (so I imagine it would be right up your alley!). 

The second was the state beer of Wisconsin: Spotted Cow (I told you the cows were EVERYWHERE). It’s a velvet-y American ale that just tastes like the Midwest to me. As they say in Mad-town, “You know you're in Wisconsin when you see the Spotted Cow.” #truedat #moodat

Cheese for scale.
Since Madison is a college town, a lot of the bars have an ambiance that can be best described as “sticky” and there’s always at least one girl named Staci (with an i!) throwing up in the bathroom while another girl named Traci (with an i!) holds her hair back and insists on yelling that she is “not that dRuNk, guyzzz.” However, there are plenty of other, less contaminated delights to explore. Personal favorites include:

- DLUX: Madison’s "trendy" bar. It looks like a discarded set from a Gossip Girl episode, but the food is pretty yummy (fried pickles what what!?!) and the prices are pretty refreshing considering DCA charged me $4 for the small coffee I took on the plane. $8 for a burger, fries, and the faint echoes of electro music playing in the background? There’s a reason people live here.
- The Old Fashioned: A neighborhood favorite and fried cheese curd haven in a non-disgusting but comfy atmosphere.
- Merchant: Specializing in craft cocktails and old-timey menu fonts. Everything in here was probably bought on Etsy, and every glass they give you defies our society’s norms for what glassware is supposed to be shaped like.
- Colectivo Coffee: Fun, artsy coffee joint where the level of detail in the pastry case labels alone indicates that all of the baristas here have Master’s degrees in graphic design and are better than you. There’s also GIANT cinnamon rolls slathered in frosting.
- Sardine: Get ready to destroy some sea creatures, because seafood is a must at this bistro set in a former warehouse (three cheers for urban renewal). Set right on the shores of Lake Monona, this is the kind of place where you can order a trout fillet and watch them scoop it up bear paw-style right before your very eyes.*
- Memorial Union: Ok, hear me out. While this may be UW’s student union, there’s really no better place to experience all that Madison has to offer, and by that I mainly mean sitting by a lake in brightly colored chairs drinking pitchers of beer watching the drunk sailing team try to successfully set out to sea (shhh... they don't know that this is a lake). You can’t beat the prices, or the company (re: bros of every shape and size).

Since my one and only sibling hath graduated, I am headed back East, and I’m sure sorry to go. Yeah, you betcha (insert Wisconsin accent here). However, I can’t be too blue to leave the heartland, because next week I’ll be taking beersnbreads to the happiest place on Earth… DisneyWorld!!! Prepare to tour the many liquors of the world as I drink my way through Epcot’s eleven countries. Until then, fiat panis!



*No, they won’t do that. That would be disturbing. But they COULD. They could.


  1. Congrats to the Cogster, and grazie for the 'cheese to scale'. CHEESE CURDS ARE A WAY OF LIFE.

  2. Further proof of Wisconsin's obsession with bars:


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