We find ourselves in a much-appreciated post-holiday lull. The university is at low ebb, lots of folks are still on holiday-related sojourns, and much of local industry, such as the Legislature, is on hiatus. It's an opportunity to slow down and appreciate some of the oft-overlooked, finer things in life. Such as art. And drink.
Maybe we had you at the cover. It features "Still Life: Pitahayas" by Frida Kahlo (also the namesake of the popular State Street Mexican restaurant). It's one of the works of art used to illustrate contributor Jaqueline West's article, "Madison's Most Valuable Paintings." Objects of fine art can command considerable money in the marketplace. Some of it is available to see, for free, at Madison's publicly accessible institutions like the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the Wisconsin Union and the Chazen Museum. The pieces mentioned could command serious dollars on the open market, but their value to the public and the institutions charged with their stewardship from generation to generation far exceeds monetary estimation.
Or perhaps you, like I, have sat at the bar of a favorite watering hole, eyeing the tall, practically luminescent green bottle on the back shelf, and wondered, "What must that taste like? They used to paint '56 Buicks that color."
Well, I stand corrected, specfically by Anne Strainchamps, whose column this week reveals the pleasures of Chartreuse V.E.P. (the abbreviation stands for an exceptionally long French phrase that means very old). It turns out the mysterious liquid has an intriguing history and a potent flavor to boot, according to Strainchamps, who enlightens us with her third drink column appearing in to Isthmus in recent months.
And yes, she is the same Anne Strainchamps you hear on the popular Wisconsin Public Radio show "To The Best of Our Knowledge." Besides being an accomplished radio journalist, Strainchamps qualifies as a legit foodie, with a cookbook library of hundreds of volumes and a history of writing and editing material about food, including restaurant criticism.
A quick check of the Isthmus archives lists a contribution from the '82 Bryn Mawr graduate titled "Revolutionary Postmodern Cooking" in our Aug. 31, 1990, issue. (The article included a recipe for ancho chile flourless chocolate cake, so we know it was a serious enterprise.) This would have been shortly after she relocated to Madison from the East and before the debut of TTBOOK, which ended the early phase of her contributions to Isthmus. We're glad she has found time for us again.