By Judy Frankel
Farm to Table is a decidedly modern food trend, but eating locally and seasonally is just a way of life in Wisconsin.
It’s not just fine dining establishments that pride themselves on farm-to-table fare; in Madison, you’ll find farm to table is a philosophy subscribed to widely from our food carts to our fine dining restaurants.
On the Capitol Square, classic farm-to-table offerings can be found at the renowned restaurant that pioneered the farm-to-restaurant movement: L'Etoile. This well-respected fine dining establishment has served local and seasonal offerings since it opened its doors more than 40 years ago. Also on the square you'll find Harvest, named one of America's top farm-to-table restaurants by Gourmet Magazine, and Graze, named after the grass-fed animals and rotational items that appear on the menu. At all locations, ingredients come from small farms in the region, and the menu changes with the availability of produce.
Throughout Greater Madison, you'll get a chance to enjoy seasonal and sustainable selections, from food carts on campus to traditional neighborhood spots like Lombardino's. Nestled near the University, Lombardino's is considered one of the top five Italian restaurants by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Fit Fresh Cuisine in Fitchburg emphasizes fresh, local, and healthy fare, and the menu was created by a registered dietician.
If you like local foods served in creative proportions, you'll love Crema Cafe in Monona. And you most certainly won't want to miss Charlie’s on Main in Oregon, where hyper-local cuisine is put forth in innovative ways. Try their Braised Highland Spring Farms short rib with Nueske's bacon cheddar mash, or the Shaved Epplegaarden Honeycrisp apple salad with candied pecans, red onion, Mont Chevre goat cheese, and an apricot vinaigrette!
On the Farm
One of our newest farm-to-table experiences can be found at Campo Di Bella Winery & Farm to Table in Mt. Horeb. Owners Marc & MaryAnn operate a 21-acre farm and vineyards that fuel their rustic Italian menu and host special events including Cenetta and Farm-to-Table dinners.
Located in a 1930’s historic building in New Glarus, Cow & Quince offers a farm-to-table experience surrounded by farms, many of which supply the restaurant. There is a small retail area that features Cow & Quince products as well as local meat, honey, eggs, cheese and grains. Be sure to try their popular Friday night burger wars, complete with local beer pairings.
Finding for the freshest ingredients straight from the farm is easy to do in Madison. Be sure to shop the Dane County Farmers’ Market—the nation’s largest producer only farmers’ market. The market takes place around the Capitol Square on Saturdays from mid-April through mid-November. Not only will you find the freshest herbs, produce and more, you’ll likely see many of the area’s most noted chefs shopping the market for their restaurants.
Madison offers many ways to shop green, as well. REAP Food Group works to grow a local food system that supports small family farms and locally-owned businesses. Look for the "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" emblem while shopping in town, and you'll know you're shopping locally. For more than 35 years, Willy Street Co-op East and Willy Street Co-op West have been Madison's largest consumer-owned natural food stores. There, you can find locally grown and prepared dishes and hundreds of fresh produce items daily.
Ride it Forward
You can also get your farm to table experience on two wheels. Bike the Barns is a quintessential Madison event because it combines biking, local farms and philanthropy. Held annually each Fall, riders cruise through rolling hills on country roads, and visit three sustainable farms along the way. Farm-fresh snacks and a plated lunch are provided, and the event ends with live music, beer and a foodie picnic. All proceeds from Bike the Barns go to FairShare, which brings fresh, organic food from local farms to low-income families in the Madison area.
For more information on farm to table dining and experiences, visit our website visitmadison.com