When Sarah, Vicky, and I started Whisk, one of the projects we were most excited about was connecting our member blogs with Wisconsin-based artisan producers – providing opportunities for our members to expand their work and challenge themselves with new projects, and providing opportunities for local companies to showcase their products and grow their businesses. We’ve loved watching this part of our organization grow, and we each personally have loved getting to know local businesses and working with their products.
I am incredibly excited to be working with Top Note Tonics, out of Milwaukee. I generally hesitate to share recipes here that require specific products, but Top Note’s concept – boldly-flavored, non-alcoholic tonic concentrates made from whole botanicals and cane sugar – was a hard one to pass up, especially given how much I miss the pre-Aldo fun we used to have with testing and tweaking new cocktail recipes. I was excited about the potential for use in classic gin and tonics or other similar drinks, but I was also interested to see if they could be used in place of bitter liqueurs like Campari or Aperol, and for their potential as non-alcoholic apertifs that don’t just rely on sweetness, like most non-alcoholic mixed drinks tend to do. They sent samples of all five concentrates – four with a tonic-like bitter profile (Bitter Lemon, Bitter Orange, Gentian Lime, and Indian Tonic) and one Ginger Beer concentrate. I tasted each on their own and got to work putting together a recipe testing plan (which I’ve learned is very important when it comes to cocktail testing, unless you’re willing to let things get away from you a bit.)
It will surprise no one who has ever parented or spent much time taking care of a toddler that coffee is now a significant and important part of my life. I’ve long loved it – the smell, the flavor, the heady ritual of it – but for years caffeinated coffee gave me migraines (yes, you’re right, it really was the worst). Whatever divine spirits there may be in the world appear to have taken pity on me, however, because pregnancy changed something in my brain chemistry and I am now once again able to partake. And partake I do, in volume some days, generally with breakfast and again during Aldo’s midday nap.
So I was particularly excited when Cadence Cold Brew, a new Madison company, expressed an interest in new recipes and ways to use their canned nitro cold brew coffee. We generally make our coffee at home (okay, Brett generally makes our coffee at home – what a guy), but when I treat myself to a coffee drink out in the world, I often seek out nitro cold brew. Cold brew in general is more easy-drinking than regular brewed coffee, and the addition of nitrogen makes it even smoother and silkier, with a slight effervescence akin to beer.
After tasting the three varieties that Cadence offers in cans, I knew immediately what I wanted to do – create a twist on café de olla, a rich, spiced coffee drink traditional to Mexico.
Remember way back in February when I announced my official collaboration with Things I Made Today and Wisconsin From Scratch? We’re back with more developments. Developments that might even include you! We’ve been gradually working on this behind the scenes for over half a year now, and today we’re excited to make some major new announcements! Together the three of us have formed Whisk, a collaborative project for Wisconsin-based food bloggers and other media folks. We have a lot of long-term plans to grow this community, helping us support each other and build new skills and offering opportunities to partner with local producers and businesses.
For now? The most exciting part of this announcement is that we are accepting member blogs as of TODAY! If you’re interested, head over to our website, see what we’re offering, submit your info, and we’ll be in touch soon. Whether you send us your info or not, we’re also hosting our first meet-up on Thursday, September 3 from 5-7 p.m. (location tbd). Join us to chat with other local food bloggers and hear what Whisk is all about! (The sad news it that it’s fairly unlikely that I’ll actually be there, since that’s nearly two weeks after my due date … but Vicky and Sarah will host you excellently.) We’ll post more details on our website and on our respective social media sites as more details come together.
In celebration of this launch, we recently hosted a little picnic for ourselves featuring a collaborative summer menu perfect for all your remaining summer picnic plans (even our amazing intern Alice got in on the action – that’s her delicious kale salad with crispy chickpeas you see in some of the photos).
Want to picnic with Whisk? Here’s what you’re in for:
Fava bean falafel w. mint-yogurt sauce
Lebanese-style falafel, packed with chickpeas and fava beans, and paired with a cooling mint-yogurt sauce.
Cucumber mint agua fresca
A pitcher-worthy cooler packed with garden-fresh cucumber and mint.
See recipe below
Mini peach almond cakes
Handheld sweets packed with fresh peaches make sharing easy!
I chose to contribute a beverage for the event as somewhat of a challenge to myself, struggling to get excited about fun summery beverages that are non-alcoholic. As cucumbers flood into gardens and farmers’ markets this time of year, this is a perfect one to bring to your next picnic or party or to have stashed in a big jug in the fridge. (And if you wanted to add a splash of gin or vodka, heavens knows I wouldn’t stop you … I have it on good authority that it’s delicious.) Read more
We’ve been in Madison for just over a year now, an anniversary also nicely marked by the start of Brett’s second year of graduate school and by my 30th birthday, and lest you think those three occasions don’t lead to a fair bit of introspective life evaluation, let me tell you that they suuuuure do. But it all turns out pretty rosy, in this case – I’m happier each and every day about being back in the Midwest and not upset in the least by entering this new decade of life (in fact, I’m welcoming it with open arms). Read more
My cooking in the summer becomes a lot more like assembling than really cooking. Assembling, and laying things on the grill, and tossing together vinaigrettes, and washing fruit to eat it straight out of the bowl. That’s one reason, among others, that I haven’t said much around here lately, but the important point here is to note that now I am here, with something that deserves your attention, especially as this long weekend approaches. (Not that you need a long weekend to make it – really, you need about five minutes.)
This recipe is a doozy, and boozy – a boozy doozy? – and if you’re a person, like me, who actually likes flavored alcohol when it tastes like flavors of actual, real-life ingredients, this one’s for you. Get yourself a couple of pounds of rhubarb, abundant at our markets these days and perhaps abundant in your yard, your neighbor’s yard, your grandmother’s yard, etc. etc., then submerge it in alcohol with a bit of sugar and orange and in a few weeks, you’ll be set for summer host gifts and picnic contributions and those evenings that require just one more sip of summer before heading to bed.