Amy Verhey grew up in a small town outside of San Francisco. She's currently a senior at UW-Madison, and involved in the food scene in more than a casual way. She cooks at home, supports local sustainable agriculture, is on the board at Slow Food UW, coordinates social media for Nostrano, blogs at All Hail Honeybees and tweets @amynicoleverhey. Her tastes are wide ranging; we're impressed.
Mad Town Lunch: Amy Verhey.
Occupation: Full-time Badger (student) until May 2013; avid foodie on the hunt.
Where do you work?: UW-Madison campus.
Foods you love: Any that is crafted with well-thought-out plans and high quality ingredients. I am far from picky when it comes to good food. Vegetables cooked uniquely always please my palate and whenever a menu has pork belly I find it hard to turn away.
Foods you prefer to avoid or won't eat: I do not like fast food, I have a sensitive stomach when it comes to the high processed "ingredients."
Favorite places to eat lunch in Madison:My all-time favorite place to grab a seat at the bar and enjoy the late night specials is Forequarter. I can't express how happy I am that the Hunter boys and the UFC crew opened two outstanding food establishments last year (the other being Underground Butcher). 2012 was a good year. Throughout the five years I have been here, Mediterranean Café has never failed me and the food carts during the warm months always hit the spot, especially Dandelion and Banzo. It's kind of cheating since I work with the UW-Madison chapter of Slow Food and at Nostrano on the Capitol Square, but the weekly SFUW Café and "family dinners" at Nostrano definitely make my list and always keep me fed throughout the busy weeks.
Fallback -"go-to" lunch place: I really enjoy Himal Chuli. It's hard to even say they are a "fallback" as they are always one of my go-to lunch spots. Ian's Pizza, as well as the new S2pizzabar, are also great fallbacks with their seasonal and locally sourced toppings. There is also a very small and slightly deserted Mexican restaurant all the way down Park Street and off the Beltline (on Perry Street), called Lucky Seven. It doesn't have a website, yet Eating in Madison A to Z wrote about it in 2008. Lucky Seven serves a mean pork taco ("el pastor"). The pork is marinated in pineapple, caramelizing the meat and adding a punch of flavor.
Favorite lunch dishes:The "Side of Vegetables" used to be my favorite at the Dandelion food cart, however with the revamped menu it's been replaced with some great newbies. Dandelion's Sweet Potato Wrap, which manages to stay on the menu year after year, is a great choice and definitely filling. Whenever I grab lunch at Banzo, I absolutely love the Harvest; it reminds me of my very first falafel in the Jewish Quarter of Paris with the fried and grilled eggplant. I highly recommend it.
Now-defunct Madison restaurant(s) you long to eat at again: Bakers' Window. Granted, I am biased because I was a baking apprentice there. However the bread produced by Brian Martinez and the sweet, or surprisingly savory, baked goods crafted by the talented Karin Huelsmann truly enhanced the Madison food culture. I remember the first time I went in and grabbed a piping hot cranberry almond scone, and my mind was blown. Their baguettes with the pristine crisp crust and a chewy, airy inside haunt me. Another is the Haze, the Korean barbecue spot on King Street back in 2010. There will always be a soft spot in my heart for Korean barbecue. Mi San Juanito, the Mexican grocery store which briefly graced South Park Street.
If you could eat only on one side of town, which would you pick?: I would hands-down, no questions asked, pick the east side. Forequarter, Weary Traveler, Lazy Jane's Cafe, Johnson Public House, Sophia's, Sardine... I could continue all the way through the east side and be satisfied for years.
What's your # 1 food desire yet-to-be-fulfilled? Eating at Chez Panisse... and maybe having the chance to meet Alice Waters. I'd also love to sit inside Charlie Trotter's kitchen and consume the high quality cuisine, while having the chance to truly experience a good meal.
Finally... pupusas, or arepas?: Pupusas. I am eager to run out and conduct a true comparison test. However, the typical production of a pupusa won me over.
Do you have a question to Isthmus readers about food? My question is, where is the best Bloody Mary in Madison? I play around with my own food blog and have wanted to dive into this question. Now as a Wisconsinite, I've come to realize that we tend to do Bloody Marys a bit differently, in a good way. I would love to hear others' experiences on what's hot and what is not!