On Saturday, October 4, we braved the cold and were treated to a tour of one of Madison’s newer Asian markets, A Mart in the Whitney Square Shopping Center. Our tour guide, Vu, took us down every aisle and explained what many of the products are used for, and pointed out many of his favorite brands. I was curious what brand of fish sauce he recommended—his personal preference is for the Squid brand—but said that many choose the Three Crabs brand as well.
Vu himself drives down to Chicago early Friday morning to bring back a wide variety of produce, including Thai bananas, purple yams, durian, and green mangos. Fresh seafood comes in on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Not only does A Mart have a wide assortment of Asian groceries, but also a good selection of kitchen and housewares, and well stocked African and Middle Eastern sections.
If you make it to A Mart, don’t leave without visiting the dessert and deli section—just past the checkout counters on the front wall—where they keep a stack of freshly made Bahn Mi sandwiches everyday, and several house-made desserts on weekends. The sandwiches are not quite ready to eat however; they should be warmed in an oven until crisp and warm throughout.
If you missed the tour, don’t despair. Vu and his co-workers are on hand and willing to answer questions about products and how to cook with them.
On February 9th, 14 people gathered at the Conscious Carnivore (http://www.conscious-carnivore.com/) on University Avenue in Madison to learn about the history and practices of the business from owner Bartlett Durand.
We were greeted at the large community table, next to a sunny window, with fruit, croissants, coffee, and seasonal cheddar cheese (Spring and Winter) from Otter Creek Organic Farm (http://www.ottercreekorganicfarm.com/).
The cheeses started off the discussion. Otter Creek is owned and operated by Bartlett’s father-in-law, Gary Zimmer. It is a sustainable, organic, pastured dairy farm. We discussed the nuances of flavor that change with the seasons, the grasses, the fat content of the milk.
The philosophy behind Conscious Carnivore is “Respect for every animal, on four feet or two”. CC sources meat from small Wisconsin and Iowa farms. They are rated as Organic, Grass fed, or Grandpa’s Way—relating back to how family farms were run before industrialization. Bartlett doesn’t shy away from any questions or discussions. Many regular customers stopped in during our visit. It is a convivial atmosphere that harkens back to when shopkeepers knew all their customers by name. The large table serves as a gathering space as well. Beer and wine are available, as is coffee. You can sit and sip and talk with friends. There are baskets of toys and coloring books for children as well.
Another tenet of the business is that nothing goes to waste. A popular sausage from Black Earth Meats (http://www.blackearthmeats.com/), the Offal Tasty is also available at the shop. There are meats brined and ready for crockpots as well, but no prepared foods. The shop offers a variety of classes, and always has recipes on hand or advice on how to prepare the different cuts of meat.
On Saturday, January 11th, Urban Market Forage visited The African and American Market on East Johnson Street. Madison Eats founder and African dance teacher Otehlia Cassidy was our guide for this wonderful outing.
The shop seems smaller from the outside, but inside, 2 rooms are filled to the brim: canned goods from several African countries, beans, pulses, grains, pots and pans, halal meats, imported snacks and sodas, beauty products, woven bags, traditional African clothing, colorful shoes and jewelry.
Owner Miriam Diallo hails from Guinea, West Africa, but ran a shop in Brooklyn, NY for many years before settling in Madison about a decade ago. She and her equally charming husband, Mohammad, have customers from all over the African continent, but also others who have traveled in Africa and are looking to reconnect. For anyone with no connection, but an interest in learning more, they are more than happy to share their knowledge with all who walk through the door. P.S. fight off that dry Wisconsin winter skin with a tub of pure shea butter!
Thank you to Otehlia for her time and experience, and also for providing us with this classic West African recipe. Enjoy!
On Saturday, June 22, UMF started its field trip at Underground Meats production
facility at 931 Main Street. Both Underground Meats and Underground Butcher are part
of a food collective which also includes a catering service and Forequarters Restaurant
on E. Johnson Street. We met Jerry, a mechanical engineer who learned of sausage-
making and now is a member of the collective. He gave us a butcher’s eye view of
salami and salumi (other cured meats). Jerry told us that the pork they use is from
heirloom hogs that are pastured-raised locally on small family farms. They also use local
lamb and goat as well.
Jerry explained the process of making salami from the pork– mixing it with fat, spice
blends, lactose and a nitrite/nitrate blend to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and
mold. The meat is extruded into casings and painted with an edible mold which further
prevents the growth of unwanted organisms. The mold gives the casings a white
Next the sausage is hung in a locker which is controlled for humidity and temperature.
The pH is monitored frequently to assure food safety. The meat is then transferred to
another locker where it is cured. This process can take 4-6 weeks for the salami and up
to 6-9 months for the prosciutto and other cuts.
Underground Meat offers classes on sausage-making, etc. and collaborates with other
aspiring butchers and meat producers. They provide meat to many of Madison’s
restaurants and to their affiliates, Underground Butcher and Forequarters Restaurant.
They are a regular presence at the DOT Farmers Market on Saturday AM’s and venture
down to Chicago to sell their products at a farmer’s markets there.
After sampling some delicious salami and chorizo, we walked to Underground Butcher
at 811 Williamson where we met Michael and Casey who told us about their part of the
collective. Here they offer cuts of locally raised grass-fed beef and other meats. Michael
explained that usually the meat from grass-fed animals looks different with the fat being
more yellow in color. Besides selling the dried and cured meat from Underground Meat,
they also make fresh sausage from rabbit, chicken, pork and beef. Both facilities
welcome special orders and are happy to share information on preparing their delicious
Underground Butcher also sells cheeses, wines, beer and other gourmet foods and
products. They offer a sandwich menu with a daily special.
We’d like to thank the people of Underground Meats and Underground Butcher for
sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm for their craft and their delicious products. We
enjoyed the tours and the wonderful sausage that we brought home with us! Night Train
Sausage made with smoked beer, anyone?