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Monday, December 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 35.0° F  Overcast with Haze
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In the past couple of decades, the act of dining out has achieved a central focus in our popular culture. It's the meal as theater, classic art or sporting event. Or perhaps it's more mundane than that; we're busier and we eat more meals out of the house. Regardless, we know you like to read about it.

So here it is with this issue of Isthmus, the 2009 version of Dining, our annual excursion into the world of Madison restaurants. There was a time when this would have been a very short journey. Up until, oh, the early '70s, Italian was about as exotic as cuisine got in this decidedly Midwestern town. Sorry, I forgot Paco's, a Mexican-type restaurant at the top of State Street right off the Square. I do not recall any actual Mexicans working there.

Things, of course, have changed. Madison is replete with ethnic restaurants - just about any type you might think of. (You can also encounter almost any type of kitchen in Madison - nouveau, comfort, various fusions - but, strangely, no vegetarian.) Restaurants come and go at a rapid pace, and it takes some effort to keep track. That is one of the things we do for you at Isthmus, and Dining is one of the ways we do it.

Another way we do it is online, with a complete roster of Madison restaurants, and the ability for you to review and rate the restaurants you go to. Just visit TheDailyPage.com/eats and you'll see. But I digress.

In Dining, you'll find a crash course in wine, written by Adam Powell; a compilation of memorable meals from the pages of Isthmus over the past year; and Rosemary Zurlo-Cuva writing on healthy desserts. Kyle Nabilcy profiles some of the Madison restaurant scene's bigger players; Raphael Kadushin visits "Sandwich City"; and Linda Falkenstein writes on "Price Fixing" - a good thing when it refers to the prix fixe meal. We also have a calendar of food events and a listing of the particulars of every restaurant mentioned in any way in Dining.

Enjoy.

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