Thursday, March 20, 2014


We don't get out much in Madison. It's a universal story. You see more of a city you vacation in than the one you live in, but last Saturday night was an exception. Rick had just driven back from Milwaukee after having flown in from New York. It was around 4:30 when his car pulled in the driveway, too late to start dinner (neither of us had the energy or inclination) yet early enough to be able to look at menus online and decide we weren't too old to want to try a new trick. We've been on an eat local, eat fresh kick. Rick found a listing for a relatively new restaurant located on East Mifflin, Heritage Tavern that touts itself as a farm to table venue. The building is right off the Square, a four story building the son and girlfriend of close friends had lived in until a fire in June of 2011 gutted the building destroying all their possessions. Rather than tear the building down it was resurrected and that's when the Heritage Tavern was reimagined from the ashes as the first floor cornerstone of the building.
The restaurant is the inspiration of Chef Dan Fox. Originally from Kenosha and Chicago trained, Dan got his cooking feet wet working in France and Austria before returning to Chicago and working at Spring, an established Chicago institution. From there Dan made his way to Madison and the Madison Club. It was while at the Madison Club that his interest in local sustainable food led him to getting involved in the pig raising business. He partnered with Micah Nicholes and began slopping away with Hampshire-Yorkshires, Mangalitsas, Swabian Halls, Red Wattles, and Tamworth-Herefords.
Now with a name in the pig industry Dan was able to initiate an event titled, SloPig where chefs from as close as Madison and as far away as Chicago are invited to the Madison Club to compete in an annual pig based food contest using Dan's heritage pigs.
Having established his culinary credentials it was a natural progression to finally open his own restaurant, Heritage Tavern. You should plan ahead for a reservation but they keep a bank of tables along the bar for walk-ins, our timing was right on. We were the first walk-ins to arrive that evening and were escorted to our pick of  tables with the bank completely open. Neither of us are drinkers so I settled on a Wisco Pop ginger beer and Rick went for a German non-alcoholic beer. From there it was on to the appetizers. The menu isn't huge which is a plus in my book but the selection is hard to narrow down, everything sounds worthy of a taste. Not being able to settle on just one to share we decided to choose two to pass between us.
We went for the deviled eggs that you order by the half dozen although you can add their signature truffled eggs at an extra charge. We added two. We've kinda had an obsession with deviled eggs lately and this combination of deep-fried and marinated whites topped with an array of imaginative combinations was worth every bite.
Our second choice was a crisp pork belly and blackfin tuna sashimi with foie gras swimming on a pond of mango-pineapple-Thai chili compote. As good as the deviled eggs were the pork and tuna was a worthy of making a comeback reservation right then.
For entrees we stuck with the same plan. We'd order two and trade plates halfway through the course. We settled on the bouillabaisse and Wagyu beef, a prized local breed raised in Mineral Point served with mashed potatoes on a bed of kale and root vegetables.
As a sidebar, last night's Modern Family was a rerun about the Pritchards getting together for a meal at an exclusive restaurant where Jay had been waiting for months to get a reservation so he could finally order their Wagyu beef. He could have just walked into our Madison Heritage Tavern, grabbed a table at the bar, no reservation needed, and ordered his Wagyu.
The bouillabaisse was a little thin on content and flavor but the roast was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Jay would have loved it.
I'll always look at a dessert menu, Rick is never as interested as I am but he indulged me this time and we settled on made-on-site berry ice cream filled profiteroles topped with Wisconsin sweet cream placed on a base of caramel. I was so eager to dive in I forgot to take a picture. You're just going to have to imagine this one.
Beyond the food the architecture of the space is worthy of many a New York venue.
The listed architect was a young man we had been introduced to on one of our first attempts at getting into the Madison design market. Jacob Morrison was the designer of record. Jacob transformed the blank space

Ice Skating Waiter, St. Moritz, 1932
Alfred Eisenstaedt, photographer
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