Madison Food & Wine Show...

This past weekend was the Madison Food & Wine Show in Madison, Wisconsin. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the show, presented by Madison Magazine. The show hosted 150 vendors, 15 hands-on demonstrations and classes, 7 rounds of intense competition and more than 300 wine varieties.  

The weekend event began on Friday evening. I figured that if we went on Friday, right when the show opened, we would beat all the crowds... I was wrong. Apparently, Friday night is the busiest night, which was very apparent by the mildly intoxicated crowd and slow moving lines {especially the Stella Artois booth}.

My first goal for the show was to visit my sister, who works for Madison Magazine. She was manning the VIP Cabana section, and had tons of food and wine suggestions for me to start out with, including of course, the cupcakes!

Friday night's VIP area featured vodka pasta, caesar salad and tiramisu from the downtown Madison staple, Tutto Pasta. When I was in college, I would head up to UW-Madison for weekends with friends and we would very often make trips over to Tutto Pasta... but I don't remember it being this good! I cannot tell a lie, I had seconds of the vodka penne... it was phenomenal. They also dished out their tiramisu, which was delicious because it was a little more lemony than what I'm used to tasting in this coffee flavored dessert.

Along with Tutto Pasta, the VIP area was also home to a huge cupcake table full of champagne and grapefruit infused cupcakes from Cupcakes-A-Go-Go. I spent a significant amount of time at this table... Let's get serious, I can't just walk away from hundreds of delicious cupcakes.

After I left the VIP area, I headed over to the Voyant Chai booth for some chai liquer. They describe their liquer as 'A decadent combination of oak-aged rum, dutch cream, black and green tea, premium spirits, natural flavors, pure vanilla and a stimulating blend of real spices'. The liquer was extremely rich and tasted exactly like Bailey's Irish Cream mixed with chai and pumpkin. This stuff could be dangerous...

After tasting some liquers and wine, obviously I had to head over to the chocolate booths. First up was Indulgence Chocolatiers out of Waukesha, Wisconsin. Owner Julie Waterman's goal was to bring sophisticated artisan chocolate to Milwaukee's up-and-coming gourmet culinary scene. She creates classic chocolate combinations along with experimenting with globally inspired ingredients such as coconut curry, parmesan crisp and limoncello-espresso truffles. 

One of my favorite booths of the night, and unfortunately one of the longest lines, was that of Flambe Gourmet Catering. What I liked most about this booth was that you could see exactly how they prepared the food you were about to sample, which was pretty interesting. Along with meatballs and key lime pie squares, they offered up crostinis with whipped goat cheese, kalamata olive tapenade and topped with a seasoned tomato. It was delicious... not too salty and not too filling. 

Side note: I learned the hard way to pace myself at food and wine shows... Although I didn't cross the line with the wine and liquer tastings, I crossed the line with cupcakes. I crossed the line a few times. 

Although the flambe gourmet booth was one of my favorite food booths, my absolute favorite candy booth was Christine's gourmet toffees and caramels. According to owner Leanne Cordisco {who kindly slipped me take home samples of her ridiculously good bacon toffee... ridiculously good.... and I don't even like bacon}, her toffee was included in the 2011 Emmy celebrity swag bags! Along with the amazing bacon toffee, Christine's Toffees offers cashew, pecan, coffee and pistachio toffee. If you get the chance, check out her website and order some of the bacon toffee!

Halfway through the show, I had to take a break and hang out with my sister for a bit. Ok, honestly, I had to take a break because at that point, I had eaten two cupcakes, bacon toffee, numerous gourmet cheese samples, chai liquer, a key lime pie square, olive tampenade crostini, two different kinds of tutto pasta and maple candy... and I probably went into a food coma at one point and forgot about like 34 other cupcakes I may or may not have eaten... I'll never know. But as I took a break from tasting, I headed over to the Madison College Pastry Arts Pavillion to see all the amazing cake concepts the students had come up with. Ultimately, I voted for the ghost cake with the big purple bow... adorable, right? Post vote, came my food coma... so the following 30 minutes were a blur to me. 

Once I got back into the game, I stopped over by the Kickapoo Gold Organic Maple booth. I love all things honey and maple, so obviously I was the girl trying syrup straight off the spoon. Although the three syrups I tasted {I was surprised to learn that the taste in syrup comes from the age of the tree} were amazing, what really got me was their organic maple cream. It was a buttery type cream that I was assured is strictly just maple syrup in its evaporated and quick-cooled form. No dairy added, no sugar added, basically just 'dehydrated syrup'! Oh the things you can learn about syrup on a Friday night...

I have to be honest, but at this point in the night, I hadn't fully recovered from my food coma... It almost became difficult to be around so much food and wine, but I continued on...

As I made my way around the rest of the show, I visited Renard's Cheese, BelGioioso Cheese, Comstock Creamery, Gigi's Cupcakes, Bee Barf Honey, Great Lakes Distillery, SassyCow Creamery, VOM FASS and Weggy Winery. All these vendors had amazing products represented by amazing people and it was so much fun learning about all these local companies and products that I didn't even know existed!

Overall, the Madison Food & Wine show was a great time. The second I walked in the door, I received a Food & Wine Show wine glass, compliments of Wollersheim Winery and market bag full of vendor information and gift certificates that I have every intention of using in the upcoming weeks!

Word of the wise to event attendees for 2012, go early on Saturday or Sunday morning... you'll have enough time to actually talk to all of the vendors and find out exactly what it is they have to offer... Unfortunately, I missed out on a lot of exhibitors on Friday night due to the lines and crowds, but I had an amazing time none the less.


Dan said...

The Mayan spice from Indulgence is amazing. If you didn't get a chance to sample it, you should if you see it.

Loulou said...

Oh my goodness, that looks like it was an amazingly delicious time! Everything looks wonderful. I've never been to such a show but am now going to look into similar events in my city.

Loulou @ Loulou Downtown

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