Monday, December 21, 2015

Diary of a World Traveler

Madison, Wisconsin

Call me crazy--or just call me out--but I have never been to the great capital city of my home state. Despite the giant university sports atmosphere, a stellar food scene, and the nearest location of an Urban Outfitters, I had never been closer than around Madison. That all changed this spring, when the family and I decided to spend Mother's Day in the (other) big city. 

Nothing quite compares to seeing a capitol dome rise out of a cityscape. I've experienced DC, Texas, Illinois, and even domed buildings in Europe, but I had never been to the one closest to home before now. The angled streets frame the shot, which I took multiple times over the weekend. It makes vehicular navigation terrible, but it sure boasts a great look.

Our first stop in the city was the Great Dane Pub and Brewery, where we had lunch. I admired the eclectic atmosphere, the newspaper menus laden with locally sourced dishes, and the abundance of vegetarian options. I'm not a full-blown vegetarian, but I tend to stray from red meat and don't really like the taste of any meat, so the falafel made me smile. My brother, opposite to me, ordered a double burger called the Brat & Pretzel burger. It features a bratwurst patty, a regular beef patty, and bacon, all on a pretzel bun. The thing was huge! Either way, we both enjoyed our meals. Everything from the spinach and artichoke dip to the sweet potato fries was delicious, and I would highly recommend a trip there for any meal. They did some of the best falafel I've had in a long time.

Next up was a stop to a few shops on State Street, where I sadly did not take many pictures but did have a great time. My brother wanted to go to Game Stop, so I let him do that whilst exploring the giant Urban Outfitters and a little bookstore called Paul's. This location of UO was typical, though they did have more space than the shops I've been to in Kansas and Chicago. I picked up two pairs of Mary Janes and spent the rest of the time browsing the hilarious gifts. Paul's reminded me of the bookstore we visited in New Orleans, though not quite as interesting. They had a great selection of books, though, and I ended up buying a set of prints with a horseback fox hunting party. They're pretty neat, and the owner was incredibly sweet. It's worth a stop in if you're in the area.

We then drove through UW Madison's campus, since none of my family had ever been there. It did impress me, though I would have been completely out of my element actually attending a school like that. The buildings, though, were the kind of cool academic buildings that I would imagine being in a college movie. On the sunny day we went, it surely was picturesque.

The next day, my mom decided to take us a few minutes outside of Madison toward the cute little town of Middleton--another hotspot for Wisconsin tourism that my family has since now evaded. I don't see why we would do this, considering it has bakeries, restaurants, shopping centers, and markets. We only went for one meal, but we also got to sample some delicious pastries from the family-owned Clasen's Bakery that might just make me go back.

For dinner, we chose to go to Sofra, a Mediterranean restaurant specializing in Albanian dishes. We started with the bruschetta, which was wonderful. For my meal, I decided to be adventurous and ordered the chicken Apolonia, which had chicken skewers, rice, spanakopita, and dolmas. The dolmas--grape leaves stuffed with rice and feta--weren't my favorite, but I was happy to try something new. Overall, the experience was great and the meal was very good--both at the table and later, because it was too much to eat all at once!

Our final day in Madison was Mother's Day (right after the big basketball win for UWMadison, I might add). We had trouble getting into a brunch, since everyone was pre-booked, but we finally settled on a great place called Merchant Madison. Merchant specializes in simple ingredients, artisan liquor sales, and bartending. Not only did the decor outshine anything we'd been at, but the food hit the spot. Though we usually go to buffet brunches, the breakfast menu had a lot of locally-sourced, wholesome options that changes to accommodate the season. First, I ordered a Bloody Mary, because that's what one does at brunch. After a lot of debate, I chose the eggs Benedict, my mother chose the omelet, my dad got biscuits and gravy, and my brother got the french toast. Never in my life have I seen a thicket French toast! We ordered another one just so that everyone could try it, and it certainly did not disappoint. I loved my entree as well, and no one had anything bad to say. Another great place to go for breakfast, and I would want to go back again to see what they offer for dinner.

At the end of the weekend, I'm glad to say that I have now been to Madison, and I would love to go back. Though we stay around Madison a lot, I think we have enough knowledge now to head into the city and try some different places to eat and enjoy. Clearly, lots of businesses there focus on local sustainability and making not only delicious, but healthy food for people and the planet. Certainly, I have a lot more exploring to do, but I'm happy I finally got to roam around some neat places as my introduction to the state capital!

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