Madison, Wisconsin, November 15, 2010—WE FLY EARLY tomorrow; let's skip dinner tonight, since we're in a questionable airport hotel, and have a nice late lunch instead. So we stopped in Madison at a restaurant known to be good — or suspected to be, in any case, since we'd eaten there before, and respected its "values."
Odessa Piper opened her Etoile a number of years ago, soon after Chez Panisse opened I believe, with a similar dedication to local and organic; and though she sold her restaurant quite a while ago the new owner was her chef. Since then he's opened a brasserie-style place next door — across the street from the state capitol, near the original location. The restaurant alas does not serve lunch, but the brasserie, Graze, should do.
I had a favorite dish hereby promoted to the Hundred Plates: mussels cooked in white wine, flavored with butter, minced parsley, and tarragon. With them, a nice little mini-baguette made in house, and an enormous basket of perfect French fries, with a generous serving of excellent aïoli. You can't do much better.
Monferrato bianco, Canelli, "Villa Giada", 2009
Graze, 1 South Pinckney St., Madison