Every year in Madison there are a few welcome restaurant openings, some regrettable closings, and a circus of jockeying national trends that intersect with this city's dining expectations and level of culinary sophistication.
But sometimes a phenomenon appears that fundamentally reshapes how we approach our food, gives us new options, and changes both how we consume and what we consume. Two examples of this are food carts and community-supported agriculture (CSAs); both of these scenes have matured enough over the last decade to radically alter Madison's eating landscape.
We are now on the verge of yet another tipping point: The rise of the new bakeries. If there is a big food story of 2012, this is it.
After years of limited options, there are finally perfectly flaky croissants, oozy morning buns and fresh artisanal loaves in neighborhoods that have never had them. They're coming not from Panera or Le Pain Quotidien, as in many cities, but from local, intimate bakeries that in some cases are using organic flour milled right here in Wisconsin.
Baking in Madison is experiencing a second wave. The first wave loosely includes the Ovens of Brittany, Odessa Piper at L'Etoile, Sophia's, Jane Capito at Lazy Jane's, and La Brioche. Other bread pioneers came from Cam Ramsey's Madison Sourdough and Jeff Ford's Cress Spring Bakery. These bakers helped push for quality and furthered a movement now being taken up by a passionate new generation.
It is a generational shift - and in some cases, gen 2 is the understudy of gen 1. But it also is a deepening and an expansion. Most of the group took a tour through L'Etoile, for instance, or apprenticed with Jeff Ford, and are now popping up with their own places.