Grazing Madison’s Freshest

Graze is probably one of my most favorite restaurants in Madison for the simplest reason – they serve from the freshest source in town. Their food has never disappoint so far and I keep coming back to try everything on the menu.

The decor could well be the most unique and classy in town, the glass walls allows a lot of natural light into the restaurant making foodies photographer like me extremely happy and the view of the state capitol wouldn’t hurt either, high ceilings opens up a lot of space and although some people would choose to utilize the space to build an additional floor, they decided to keep it wide open, while utilizing those space for high rise wine and liquor cabinet (first picture below), and their unique ‘special of the day’ chalk board (third pictures below). Their clever use of steel chairs brings a modern edge to the concept of fresh local produce. All of this sets you right in the mood for a fusion fun.

 You can definitely pick up some elements of fusion going on in Graze, as you can spot oriental dishes like pork buns and bibimbap on their menu, and red lanterns too (pictured below).

The chalkboard as you can see has all the daily specials written. A very clever way of utilizing space on empty walls, don’t you think?

Now we proceed to the best part of Graze, the food!

Appetizers

Pork Buns

Pork belly is cooked to perfection (reminds me of how my dad used to cook them), pickled vegetables, hoisin in a bun! Absolutely delicious. Definitely something one can try to make at home.

Cheese Curds

These are to die for! Crispy on the outside, an explosion of Wisconsin cheese on the inside.

Seafood

Seafood Stew

Seafood Stew

Shrimp, scallop, mussels, clams, market fish with chorizo, cannellini beans & braised greens in lobster broth. The seafood is fresh, there’s a generous amount of mussel and the scallop is perfectly cooked.

Fried Chicken and Waffle

Soul food from South! I told you they serve up everything from everywhere. This was a split meal between two person by the way, which explains half the waffles and half the chicken.

And now, my favorite most part – Desserts!

Lemon Meringue Pie

Chocolate Mousse Parfait

Pound Cake, Vanilla Ice Cream topped with Cherry Sauce and Whipped Cream

Chocolate Mousse Parfait & Pound Cake, Vanilla Ice Cream topped with Cherry Sauce and Whipped Cream

The desserts are absolutely delicious, they offer different types of selection from pie du Jour to cookies with milk, whatever that tickles your fancy.

Some other pictures.

Magic Coffee and Sprecher Root Reer

L'Etoile Restaurant

Water Is Served

I hope you enjoy this visual gastronomic tour of Graze! This will be my last post before embarking on a trip to the world’s busiest city – New York!

Desserts Galore

Desserts, ah..those sweet sensations which put a perfect ending to your dining experience. Do I always have desserts? No. But some places are begging for desserts and here are some of my favorites!

Cannoli

My first piece of Cannoli from Tutto Pasta. Can’t say I hate it, it’s just very different but since this photo is visually appetizing I thought it is only fair to share.

Tempura Fried Green Tea Ice-cream

Takara Japanese Restaurant serves one of the best Tempura Fried Ice-creams in town. They have all the regular flavors like vanilla and chocolate but my favorite is still green tea! They’re generous with the whipped cream so if you’re on weight-watcher better lay your hands off the cream.

Vanilla Almond Cheesecake with Peach Compote

Tried this out during Restaurant Week in Dayton Street Grille. I like the touch of shredded almond in the cheesecake as it gives a good amount of crunch when you bite into the familiar texture of a regular cheesecake.

Tiramisu

Mmmm. Gives me the foodgasm every single time. This was from Tutto Pasta.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Graze has the most comforting desserts in town if I may say so myself. They have cookies and milk I mean c’mon! There’s nothing more homely than that. I love this pie. It’s sweet, lemony and creamy – all the good stuff altogether. They don’t always have it and that’s what I love about Graze, surprises every single day!

Assorted Custards

Michael’s Frozen Custard has awesome custards. They are unlike regular ice-creams which are too sweet and they have a better consistency in texture. It really reminds me of an ice-cream parlor back home.

Chocolate Mousse Parfait & Sugar Crusted Pound Cake with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream topped with Door County Cherry Sauce and Whipped Cream

These two are specials when I visited Graze one night, unfortunately I could not recall their names verbatim…but I tried my best to recall what was on the plate. They are really good though! I hope I’ll get a chance to savor them again.

Assorted Pastries and Cakes from Bellagio Buffet

Best buffet in my life was at Bellagio’s, Las Vegas. Food couldn’t be more gourmet, services are top notch (I actually felt bad that an elderly was cleaning up after our plates on Christmas Day! She was such a nice lady though). Just by looking at those delicately crafted desserts you can tell that these people take food seriously.

White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle

Look at the amount of whipped cream on that cheesecake! That’s from Cheesecake Factory in Chicago and they are really good for a reason. I just love everything about that place.

They’re certainly not very diet-friendly looking from the amount of whipped cream, baking powder and cream cheese used to construct this gastronomic explosion of goodies. But so what? It makes me really happy each time. What was your favorite dessert moment? Share in the comment section!

Those Leafy, Aromatic Wonders

And no, I’m not talking about weed.

I’ve always been a huge fan of tea. I love all sorts of tea – green, black, white, you name it, I love it.

My favorite type of tea beverage growing up is Teh Tarik, which is essentially translated into ‘pulled tea’ due to the action of ”pulling” the tea during preparation. If you find that hard to imagine, picture this: the tea mixture consisting of black tea, sugar (lots of them) and condensed milk, will be poured back and forth from one vessel to another at a reasonable height (pictured below) until it’s all foamy on top (second picture below). This process allows all flavors to mingle and cools down the temperature of the tea. It’s absolutely delicious and I miss it terribly.

'Teh Tarik' - Asian Cappucino

Photo credit: s1m0ne|flickr

Teh Tarik Foam

Photo credit: Jiar|flickr

However, they are known to be overly sweeten so it’s not something you should drink every single day. The one type of tea I find that resembles Teh Tarik would be Thai Ice Tea, which I find to love very much while I’m studying here in the states.

Sadly none of those tea is very healthy because 1) condensed milk and sugar are nothing but the culprit behind my love handles. 2) research showed that while tea can reduce the risk of heart disease and other goodies, adding milk to it essentially ‘kills’ off the component that help keeps your heart healthy. So next time if you’re thinking of drinking tea for the sake of staying healthy, skip the milk!

Fortunately I enjoy unsweetened and tea at its natural state and my favorite tea place to go in Madison is none other than…Dobra Tea!

I’ve been a frequent visitor since my freshmen year, but the funny thing is I almost always drink the same things: Memories of Prague or Jasmine Tea.

Memories of Prague.

Memories of Prague is a variation of black tea, served with honey, milk and a cookie. I love it because it’s very refreshing and the whole DIY experience never goes old.

Jasmine Tea

Jasmine Tea is my all time favorite. The fragrant exudes natural sweetness plus it’s super healthy since it’s unsweetened. Dobra Tea has an excellent selection of tea leafs and they constantly have additions from different places around the world – how can I possibly try them all? I wonder all the time.

Recently they started serving up pastries, which is a nice touch. Daily offers vary from scones to croissants.

Blueberry Scone

Dobra Tea Interior

The atmosphere in Dobra Tea is very calming and I feel extremely zen-like every time I visit this place. It’s a great place to relax, hang out with friends, have heart-to-heart conversations over the fragrance of tea and indie music playing softly in the background. I love the platform seating areas (pictured above), and if you’re in the mood for hookah they have patio seats and hookahs available. It’s a place for everyone really.

My favorite tea place in Madison, Dobra Tea

What’s your favorite tea place? Do you have a tea story to share? Let me know in the comment section!

A Feast!

Scandinavian Style Chicken Dinner
half chicken on the bone rubbed with cinnamon, juniper and cardamom, grilled over a live fire and served with sausage & currant dressing, smashed red bliss potatoes, buttered parsnips and carrots (Old Fashioned, Downtown Madison)

This dish brought me memories from Medieval Times, a famous franchise in bringing Medieval alive with its elaborately staged show, costume, accent and barbaric table manners. When dinner’s served you are obligated to eat with your bare hands. But luckily we don’t have to in Old Fashioned – the size of the half chicken though has uncanny resemblance.

I love the rub on the chicken because it reminds me so much of a Chinese cuisine, the herbal chicken soup so I’m really surprised that Scandinavians have similar palettes to ours – it’s very aromatic and the use of herbs aren’t like those of Italian cuisine. I guess I’ll keep in mind and experiment with cinnamon, juniper and cardamom in the future if I feel like roasting chicken or turkey. Did I mention that the chicken was succulent and tender? It’s like magic in your mouth.

The sides are absolutely fantastic so in a whole it’s a great dish. It is also very affordable, priced at $13.95! Two parties could easily share this huge plate of gastronomical wonder!

Breakfast Essentials

I have to admit, I’m not crazy about breakfasts. When I was younger, my dad used to wake me up for school and make breakfast for me. I remember it being the same every morning for almost eleven years. It would be two hard boiled sometimes half boiled eggs, hot cocoa beverage, soupy noodle or rice vermicelli dish and occasionally leftover from dinner the night before. They were hearty and sometimes too heavy for breakfast but kept me full throughout the day at school.

Since I left high school for college I’ve been deprived of proper breakfast because I didn’t pack my dad with me (laughs). Most of the time I skip them because a) I was too lazy to prepare breakfast or b) I overslept. Instead I opted for big lunch and end up feeling very sleepy for the rest of the evening. I’m getting sick of this lifestyle so this Summer I made a deal with myself to start eating healthy again.

I recently developed a love for oatmeal with raisins. The sweetness from raisins really complements the blandness of oatmeal, and it’s also a great substitute for sugar which is never good for one’s health. I try to eat this every morning before I head out because it keeps me full for very long hours, I don’t even eat that much for lunch anymore.

How about you? What’s your breakfast favorites?

Steak Obsession

Peppercorn Crusted Flat Iron Steak

Peppercorn Crusted Flat Iron Steak
served with horseradish mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and cabernet reduction (Dayton Street Grille at The Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club, Downtown Madison)

Steak has always been one of my food kryptonite.

Whenever I walk into an western-themed restaurant, whether it’s American, English or French, I would look out for a steak dish in the the entrée menu and study it. They are almost always the same prime cuts, served with similar to almost identical side dishes ie. mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, sautéed greens, chips, fries, or coleslaw etc. Most of the time I won’t even order it because they are always super pricey, ranging from $20 and beyond, but sometimes when my tummy rules over my head I won’t hesitate to splurge just a little.

It was my very first visit to the Dayton Street Grille at The Madison Concourse Hotel and Governer’s Club. The place sounds and looks fancy since it is housed inside a hotel, however the place is pretty down to earth because even though I was casually dressed, so did the rest of the patrons around me, I did not feel out of place at all. The menu is simple but this particular item caught my attention. First, I’ve never had flat iron steak before, it essentially means a cut of steak from the shoulder of the beef animal. The Wagyu, possibly the world’s most expensive beef, is cut using this method too.

When the steak was served I was quite surprised by the size of the cut, for $19 it was a generous portion. The plating is simple – the steak sits on top on the horseradish mashed potatoes, then topped with the sautéed mushroom and cabernet reduction. I requested for a medium rare steak and it was cooked to the perfect temperature, just the way I liked it.

I have never been a huge fan of horseradish but it did not overwhelm the mashed potato in this dish, in fact I liked the tanginess and it works magically with the slight bitterness from the cabernet reduction. In many ways it tasted quite like Steak Diane since they both used alcohol as part of the reduction, however the cabernet was much stronger in this dish.

All in all, the dish did not disappoint and for $19, you are getting a bang for your buck. I would definitely revisit Dayton Street Grille again!