Marcel Proust's madeleine reminded him of his aunt's house, as well as the parish church and little dwellings and water lilies on the Vivonne. Madison's Rhonda Shapiro and Dan Almquist do not yet claim that kind of evocative power for their madeleine ' or more precisely, Madeleine's Patisserie, the bakery they are opening at 3742 Speedway Rd. ' but they do hope people will stop in for some cake.
On a cool Tuesday afternoon, the pair are hard at work in the bakery's future home, which is kitty-corner to the Village Bar. Not long ago, their storefront housed Michael's Bike & Ski, and the walls outside still bear bike-themed murals. This day, though, there is fresh sawdust on the floor, and Shapiro and Almquist are readying the site for a late-November opening. Wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, Shapiro prepares walls for stucco as she describes the narrowly defined goals of the team (which also includes co-owner Nancy Kolberg): 'We just want to get open, and see if the oven works.'
The three met at Madison Area Technical Institute. That is where Shapiro and Kolberg studied pastry-making under Almquist, who raises bees for his honey and until recently was pastry chef at Lombardino's. They plan to sell cake by the slice, as well as puff pastry, croissants, quiche and, soon, sandwiches and soup.
'People want a neighborhood bakery,' says Almquist.
'Our motto is, 'A Midwest bakery in a European tradition,'' says Shapiro, troweling mud.
Not far from Madeleine's Patisserie, the Froth House coffee shop, at 11 N. Allen St., has been open for nearly two weeks. Co-owner Erik Thebert took a moment at a busy lunchtime to talk about the cafe on the site of the old Dancing Grounds coffee shop, a block east of Madison West High School.
'A few years ago we looked at this building as a possible coffee shop,' he says. 'When Dancing Grounds closed down, we decided we weren't going to let the opportunity go by us.'
Froth House serves Ancora coffee and tea, and baked goods from La Brioche. For the lunch crowd there are sandwiches including the Bengali ' a curried tuna salad sandwich ' as well as a smoked turkey sandwich called the Ben Franklin. Thebert mischievously asks a reporter to guess why the sandwich is called that, and the reporter guesses correctly: Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird, not the bald eagle.
A native of Green Bay, Thebert worked at restaurants for three years in Door County, and then for five years at the late, lamented Coyote Capers. 'That doesn't mean I'm a fine-dining chef,' he says.
As in years past, the Madison Food and Wine Show will feature a Dueling Chefs competition. Restaurant Muramoto's Shinji Muramoto will be on hand to defend last year's title, along with six other chefs from prominent local kitchens.
'It's pretty much like the 'Iron Chef' show on TV,' he says. 'We have 30 minutes to cook a dish with secret ingredients.' In the past, he says, secret ingredients have included wild mushrooms, duck breast with chorizo, and a Wisconsin-themed challenge of walleye plus venison.
Before last year's competition, Muramoto anticipated possible secret ingredients and made preemptive lists of dishes he could prepare. This year, though, he will enter the competition cold. 'I burned out after last year,' he says.
So what's the secret to winning the Dueling Chefs contest? 'We have an open kitchen, so we cook in front of people all the time,' he says.
The Madison Food and Wine Show (www.madisonfoodandwineshow.com) is at Alliant Energy Center Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Mercy, but a lot of restaurants have opened, or will soon. If Italian is your bag, check out Osteria Papavero (128 E. Wilson St.), Cafe La Bellitalia (1026 N. Sherman Ave.), or Cafe Porta Alba (15 N. Butler St.), as well as the newly relocated Paisan's (131 W. Wilson St.). As for chains: there is Cosi at 250 State St.; opening Oct. 20 is leming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar (750 N. Midvale Blvd.); Texas Roadhouse is up and running at 4841 Annamark Dr., near East Towne Mall; and a local outlet of the Melting Pot chain of fondue restaurants is slated to open at 6816 Odana Rd. by the end of the year. And you oughta know that the outlet of Ancora Coffee Roasters at 3310 University Ave. is soon to move across the street, to 2871 University Ave., where Steep & Brew was.