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Saturday, September 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 66.0° F  Overcast
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Willy Street's dilemma
A grocery co-op struggles with business planning

Voting is under way at the Willy Street Co-op (1221 Williamson St.), where members are deciding whether to support 'the expenditure of funds exceeding $50,000 to open one retail site in the Madison area within the next three years.' Ballots were mailed earlier this month, and they are due Monday.

What is at stake? If approved, the measure would free the co-op board to choose the site of a second store and spend what is necessary to develop it. Co-op members would have no further input.

The balloting is the latest development in the co-op's four-year effort to open another store. 'Our current site is stressed, from a sales standpoint,' says general manger Anya Firszt. A new store, she says, could serve new co-op customers, and also ease congestion at the existing site.

Not every co-op shopper is happy about the vote. 'I'm leery of the amount of trust you are asking members to accept,' wrote members Brian Mink and Monica Davis in comments published on the Willy Street Web site. 'Part of the democratic process is the right of the members to make the biggest decisions. So cut the crap with the big brother secrecy.'

'I understand your apprehension in voting yes, just because I said so,' says Firszt to skeptical members. But 'in this one instance,' the board ought to be able to work in confidence.

Otherwise, 'We'd be announcing our plans to our competitors,' she says. 'And acknowledging our plans to who we're negotiating with could hurt our ability to get the best deal.'

Some co-op members simply dislike change, she notes. 'In some people's minds, we should never have moved to 1221, because we were selling out and becoming too overly capitalistic,' she says. 'Yet it has proven to be a very successful move for us.'

Don't miss Isthmus' Big Eat, the culinary fiesta benefiting the Family Centers. It starts at 5:30 p.m. on April 23 at Monona Terrace. See the ad on page 25 for details.

Kudos to Madison author and publisher Joan Peterson, whose Eat Smart in Peru, which she wrote with Brook Soltvedt, snagged a gold medal in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Goodman collected the laurels April 7 in Beijing, where honors were presented in 36 categories by the Madrid-based awards association.

Eat Smart in Peru won in the category of culinary travel guide and bested an international field of nine books.

Published by Peterson's own Ginkgo Press, Eat Smart in Peru is the eighth book in her Eat Smart series of international food guides. Unlike many travel guides, these books focus on national cuisine rather than particular restaurants. Eat Smart in Peru, for example , documents the history of Peruvian cuisine and lists dishes travelers might find on menus in the Andean nation. The book also has recipes contributed by Peruvian chefs.

Kudos, also, to Mount Horeb's Grumpy Troll. Last month the restaurant and brewery got three nods in the World Beer Championships of the Chicago-based Beverage Tasting Institute. The awards: gold for the English brown ale, silver for the Curly Scottish ale and bronze for the Maggie imperial IPA.

By April 27, west-siders in need of a caffeine fix can stop by the Barriques that is opening at 8410 Old Sauk Rd. Co-owner Finn Berge says the new store will have the same format as Barriques Coffee Trader at 127 W. Washington Ave., where patrons can sip coffee or booze and eat light fare. (A liquor license at the new site is pending.)

'I'm putting the Barriques design spin' on the new cafe, says Berge. 'We're antiquing it out.'

Diners at the UW's Union South and Memorial Union can now enjoy their onion rings with a little less guilt. As of January, cooks at the student hangouts are frying food in oil that is free of trans fat.

The new oil costs no more than the old stuff, says Carl Korz, the union's acting assistant director of food and retail: 'The only difference is that it takes a little longer to brown.'

But how does it taste? 'I personally think the foods taste cleaner,' he says. 'A french fry tastes more like a potato.'

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