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Tuesday, October 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 40.0° F  A Few Clouds

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Order carefully at Las Islas Del Mar

When seafood is good, it can be divine: boiled crabs, raw oysters, fish chowder. And when it's bad, it's really bad: chewy mollusks, odiferous fish. Seafood rarely falls somewhere in the middle. It's either fresh or it's not, and I get it: We're in Wisconsin. A few topnotch restaurants fly in their seafood catch. Elsewhere, compromises must be made due to geography. >More
 Afterlife Antiques features enough oddities for this world and the next

I'm a sucker for strange, and there couldn't be a better place to fulfill my macabre window-shopping fantasies than Afterlife Antiques & Oddities, which opened at 2332 Atwood Ave. on April 5. Owner Nicole O'Connor's smile is bright. Still, I can't help but lock eyes with the mount of a two-headed calf bust behind her -- my two versus its four. >More
 Incorporate flowers into your cooking

Don't get too close; I may have spring fever. I've ditched my gloves before it's warm enough, and I feel like the Very Hungry Caterpillar, ready to mow down near-east-side vegetation. Even the flowers in my kitchen are looking good. >More
 High expectations for UW campus sub shop Cheba Hut

I'll admit that I was annoyed when I saw the sign for Cheba Hut's "toasted" subs go up in January. "'Toasted'"? I thought to myself. "Those quotation marks are totally unnecessary." And then I felt chagrined, and square, when I checked the place out and saw the menu. Oh. Ohhh. It clicked. Nugs, pinners and blunts (4", 8" and 12") are the sizes of the subs; they're named after the many incarnations of Mary Jane. >More
 Stuck at home & craving... good, clean food

Let's play a quick word-association game. I say "delivery." How many of you thought "pizza"? Or maybe a certain late-hour burrito joint? Delivered foods can often be too much of a good thing. I still have days when I resign myself to staying in my comfy pants, and I dial up my local pizza parlor for an order of cheese breadsticks with marinara and ranch. >More
 Roast Public House ups the ante on campus casual

Recent UW-Madison grads Doug Hamaker and Henry Aschauer are entering the area dining scene with what could be a wise concept: a convenient hangout for campus-area diners looking to eat from-scratch and local, yet on a student's budget. Roast Public House is the type of place anyone could go with friends or even a visiting mom or dad. Or to have dinner with a date, after a few rounds of ping-pong in the basement (one of my favorite surprises at Roast). >More
 Willow Creek Farm raises purebred heritage Berkshire hogs (recipe)

There's no question that not all pork is created equal. We're lucky in Wisconsin to have such a thriving commitment to heritage hogs. Willow Creek Farm stands out among the best. Sue and Tony Renger raise purebred Berkshire hogs on their land near Loganville in Sauk County. >More
 Soga Shabu Shabu is a lot of food and a lot of fun

Bring your appetite and a sense of adventure to Soga Shabu Shabu, a Chinese, Sichuan and Japanese restaurant in the cavernous upstairs space at 508 State St. that used to be Nadia's. From tame lo mein to fiery Sichuan cuisine to the namesake Japanese shabu shabu, the menu is ripe for playful palates. Try something new here, because why not? If you can dig a pork casing filled with spare bits (ahem, a brat), how much of a leap is a fish ball, really? >More
 Attention, Brussels sprouts fans: Instructions on taming the odiferous cruciferous orbs (recipe)

Brussels sprouts may be one of the most loved and most hated vegetables. I'm in the love camp, but I've met a number of people who abhor them. And I'm proud to say I've won a number of those people over. >More
 A newcomer's report from the North American Biodynamic Conference at Monona Terrace

The North American Biodynamic Conference on Sacred Agriculture: Creating a New Relationship with the Earth, hosted by the Biodynamic Farming and Garden Association, held at Monona Terrace last week showed all the signs of a traditional conference: name tags, visitors having traveled from New York to Hawaii and in between, and those like me who came from only a bus trip away. >More
 Think small: Tips for keeping your holiday entertaining within limits

I recently had dinner with a friend who lamented that she had just made "practice" turkey legs. She would have practiced with a whole bird, had one been available in October. Her turkey last year was a flop. The holidays are upon us. Along with the merriment of family, friends and food, there's a certain level of anxiety that sets in. Who's coming? What to make? Where is that sweater?! Take a deep breath. >More
 The North American Biodynamic Conference will focus on a sacred approach to agriculture

For those who have ever sensed the pulse of the Earth, or felt a sense of awe even in their own backyard, consider the 2012 North American Biodynamic Conference, Nov. 14-18 at Monona Terrace. This year's theme, "Sacred Agriculture: Creating a New Relationship with the Earth," centers on the idea that the Earth needs to heal from the effects of industrialized agriculture and that working with the land can be a sacred act. >More
 Middleton's Free House Pub dishes up impressive bar fare

A full house is a good sign. A packed patio on a late September night is even better. Welcome to the Free House Pub, which makes a convincing argument for being the place to be in Middleton. The Free House warmed me in many ways. I was already in love with the historic brick building when I walked up. A garrulous group of outdoor diners broke the ice. >More
 It's the season for an all-Wisco fondue from Fromagination (recipe)

I wait 11 months of the year to touch noses with October. There's nothing like the shiver of turning leaves and the chilling kiss of the air to reset my internal clock and draw me indoors to the literal autumnal fire: my hearth. I light candles, I rev up the stove. There's something inside that's urging me to shake off the old and prepare for new growth. It's the beginning of a season that brings many opportunities to hunker down indoors and entertain with close and comfy company. >More
 How green is your cookware?

It's fall, when many of us crank up our stoves and ovens as the weather cools down. Just as there are decisions to be made about what to put in this casserole or that pie -- is it local? is it organic? is it humane? did it really have free range -- there are certain ethical concerns edging into what we're cooking with. >More
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