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Thursday, September 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 51.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Madison's best chefs bake fall's fave dessert for Pie Palooza
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Credit:Bill Lubing

Gooey pecan, homemade pumpkin, apple made with a mix of tart and sweet fruit. "There's something about the fall that just says 'pie,'" says Miriam Grunes, executive director of Madison's REAP Food Group. "I'm really craving pie right now." So it only makes sense that the annual REAP benefit, Pie Palooza, has moved this year from July to November, in part to take full advantage of our collective unconscious' association of autumn with flaky crust and luscious filling. (Also, REAP wanted to move the event further away from its spring Burgers and Brew event.)

This fifth incarnation of Pie Palooza will take place Sunday, Nov. 8, at the Goodman Community Center; tickets ($16 advance, $18 at the door) include a choice of two slices of pie (sweet and savory), a fresh salad and beverage.

This year's bakers include Crema Cafe, Daisy Cafe and Cupcakery, The Dardanelles, Dayton Street Grille, Fresco, Grace Cheesecakes, Harvest Restaurant, Hubbard Avenue Diner, Inka Heritage, Ironworks Cafe, jacs, Jordandal Farms, L'Etoile, Lombardino's, the Madison Club, Market Street Bakery, Mermaid Cafe, Monty's Blue Plate, Porchlight, RP's Pasta, School Woods Supper Club, Silly Yak Bakery, Sophia's, Tornado Club and the Willy Street Co-op.

Savory pie selections so far boast a Napoli cheese prosciutto (from Lombardino's) and a savory root vegetable (from Sophia's). Sweets include a poached pear (from Fresco) and an apple crisp cheesecake (from Grace Cheesecakes).

New this year: Whole apple or pumpkin pies baked by a variety of local chefs using fresh local ingredients can be ordered in advance for carryout.

REAP is also working with 17 Madison schools on the Wisconsin Homegrown Holiday Fundraiser, which packages local foods as holiday gifts with 40% of the profits staying with the schools. Or profits can be earmarked to Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch directly, to fund the Classroom Snack and Chef in the Classroom programs. The multitude of goodies includes Ela Orchard apples, maple syrup from Bauer Valley Maples, Potter's Crackers, Gentle Breeze Honey and more. Orders will taken through Nov. 12 and can be picked up in early December.

For orders and more info, see reapfoodgroup.org.

The buzz about Coopers Tavern, a gastropub coming to the Square, has been around for months now, but with seemingly no change to the 20 W. Mifflin space. Co-owner Peter McElvanna says all the permits are finalized and construction on the space will start very soon. So far, the plan is for a soft opening on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, with lunch and dinner service beginning Dec. 2. Coopers Tavern will be open until midnight seven days a week, says McElvanna, with an emphasis on global beers and high-quality comfort foods. It will look, he says, "nothing like Sucre."

Sucre, the short-lived boutique pastry bistro with a moderne, minimalist sheen to its interior design, was the previous occupant of the West Mifflin Street storefront, which prior to that was the Square's McDonald's. The new incarnation will look "rustic" and be a quarter larger than Sucre, says McElvanna. The dining room will have room for 50, a bar for 20, outside seating for a dozen and a European-style pub "snug," or private room, for a handful more.

McElvanna and his wife, co-owner Amy Marsmann, came to Madison from Manhattan two and a half years ago. McElvanna is originally from Ireland, though he's lived in the U.S. since 1992. The traditions of the Irish pub, like the snug, will inform Coopers, making it the kind of gathering place the Square sorely needs more of, McElvanna suggests.

Kushi Bar Muramoto, the most casual of the three local restaurants of chef Shinji Muramoto, closed at 106 King St. at the end of August, but this week the revamped space reopened as a new casual Asian American concept restaurant. The Haze - named more or less with the intention of evoking the smoke that comes out of a barbecue smoker - opened for lunch and dinner on Tuesday, Oct. 20.

The actual smoker in question was custom-made in Prairie du Sac by Simply Manufacturing for the restaurant, says Daniel Momont, manager of the Muramoto restaurants.

The restaurant focuses on barbecue styles from around the globe. Diners pick a meat, choose eastern or western style, and decide on two sides.

Meats include half- and full-rack ribs, brisket, chicken, pulled pork, duck or sausage. Ordering "brisket-eastern" will net you a Korean-style plate, while "brisket-western" is a Texas dry rub. Meats will be Wisconsin-sourced, as will seasonal vegetables. Sides appear more "western": slaw, beans, fries, potato salad, corn pudding and tomato/broccoli salad, with extras like cornbread, soup and chili.

Lunch specials are sandwiches - pulled pork, chopped brisket, sausage or bahn mi made with pulled pork. A handful of salads round out the menu. The beer menu is decidedly populist - Bud, Schlitz, Pabst, High Life, Lite, Molson and Point.

The Haze is owned by Justin and Cory Carlisle, Daniel Almquist and Shinji Muramoto.

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