The geography blog Floatingsheep has done a magnificent job of dramatically illustrating something that I learned first-hand while growing up in south-central Wisconsin--the Badger State is the epicenter of drinking in the country, if not this branch of the spiral galaxy known as the Milky Way.
Casual drinking, professional drinking, irresponsible drinking, jolly drinking, stopping by the gas station to buy some beers for later before going to the bar drinking--it's all part of the state's folkways. A Floatingsheep map depicts red dots featuring places where bars outnumber grocery stores and Wisconsin cleans up. (No disrespect is intended toward northern Illinois and northern Iowa, nor parts of Minnesota and the other plains states, since they do OK.) It's gotta be some sort of perfect storm of Germanic heritage and six-month-long winters.
An Oshkosh resident chimes in on the comments section to add a bit of cultural clarity:
"It is someplace warm to go hang out and relax with your friends, neighbors, and coworkers and it has always been that way. I guess other places have coffee shops?"
Mofongo is a classic Dominican/Puerto Rican dish that elbev reverently calls "king of them all." It's not mangu, a gooey mash of boiled green plantains, and it's not a canoa, a plantain split down the middle, filled with spiced beef and cheese, and then fried. Instead, mofongo starts with deep-fried plantains, which are then mashed with garlic, broth, olive oil, and, when the lily is being gilded, pork cracklings. Then, "if someone is being extra fancy," says StriperGuy, they can make canoas de mofongo, patting the mofongo into a canoe shape, deep-frying it again, and filling it with meat or seafood. Yow!
Where can you get this paragon of fried meat and starch? Hounds suggest the mofongo offerings of Izzy's, Cafe Latino, and Rincon Macorisano.
Izzy's Restaurant & Sub Shop [Cambridge]
169 Harvard Street, Cambridge
Cafe Latino [Downtown]
2 Center Plaza, Boston
Rincon Macorisano [North Shore]
350 Washington Street, Lynn
Discuss: Puerto Rican? Mofongo?
"Unbelievable. One of the best calzones I've ever had. Not only were all of the flavors bright and rich, but keeping the (fresh) tomato sauce on the side prevents the calzone from getting soggy." - TroyOLeary on the calzones at Picco
"Kickass Cupcakes in Somerville offers a side of frosting for $1." - maillard on where to find a "frosting shot"
"If every tofu tasted like that from Siam Taste of Asia, we'd see an immediate surge in soy bean futures," says elmomonster about the deep-fried tofu candy, "tricked out with a coating of a sticky, spicy, sugary-sweet glaze that might as well be, as I mentioned, a Willy Wonka confection."
Trust the server, heed her warning. Leave these alone for a minute when they come out. Because they will burn you. "I say this because even after thumb-twiddling a few beats, and blowing it like it was on fire, a friend bit into one and out sloshed a scalding torrent of soy-curd napalm. Ouch!" says elmomonster.
"The custardy, milky lava hides beneath the craggly surface of its crust—a crunchy shell with the same DNA as a tater tot—which is solid enough to make a hollow sound when you rap on it with a spoon," says elmomonster.
Besides the tofu, there's lots of other great stuff: spinach with golden shards of garlic; great pad see ew with meticulously thin-sliced Chinese broccoli. Tom kha gai soup "has a surplus of flavor and elegance," says elmomonster.
Siam Taste of Asia [Little Saigon]
3520 West First Street, Santa Ana
In an unscientific survey that never really happened, we found that about 85 percent of the people reading this website have fantasized about quitting a job and making pickles, going to work as a line chef in a restaurant, or opening a neighborhood specialty food store. The forthcoming book Culinary Careers (available May 4) is for those who want to take the leap, or at least become familiar with how quixotic it is. About two-thirds of the book is a voyeuristic peek into a broad variety of jobs in the food industry (88 profiles in all, including a few famous people like Thomas Keller). The rest is dedicated to surveys and info about getting into the professional food world. We spoke to author Rick Smilow, president of the Institute of Culinary Education, about what it takes to start a food career, how low the pay really is, and why business skills are probably more important than culinary skills. READ MORE
"This might be my new favorite brunch spot, and that's saying something because brunch is one of my favorite meals of the day," says mollyomormon. She's talking about The Mercantile, a new Hollywood star.
First off, they have a fantastic bloody Mary, one of the best in town, says mollyomormon, "with just enough of a peppery kick and none of that sweetness that you get with commercial mixes."
Gingersnap pancakes are served with vanilla-soaked prunes, mascarpone, and Marcona almonds. All mixed together, a perfect bite, says mollyomormon. Maple-glazed pork belly and southern eggs Benedict are "ridiculously good," says mollyomormon. The Benedict involves tasso ham and crab ragout, mixed with Tabasco Hollandaise. There's also a great selection of charcuterie, cheese, and pastries.
The Mercantile [Mid-City]
6600 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles
Discuss: Brunch at the Mercantile
A classic drink that deserves its due. ... WATCH THE VIDEO
Manoushee is really excellent, with fresh-made, delicious food all around, says LisaN. "When I go, I end up bringing home grape leaves, hummus, pita, tabouleh, or this fantastic chickpea salad to eat for lunch for the next couple of days." Cheese and spinach turnovers heat up nicely the day after, too.
But best of all is the chicken wrap: chicken, tomatoes, garlic sauce, and turnip pickles, all served on pita bread. And they bake that pita bread right before they serve it to you—you can't get much fresher than that, says LisaN.
The sweets are all awesome, too—with baklava and lots of other cookies.
Manoushee [North of Los Angeles]
27131 Sierra Highway #100, Canyon Country
Discuss: Manoushee —Santa Clarita = Excellent
What do you call yourself if you're really into liquor? CRAFT liquor, that is. Small-batch spirits. The good stuff. Quality, not quantity. Lou Bustamante, craft liquor aficionado and former marketing manager for St. George Spirits, asks the question in San Francisco's Drink Me Magazine, and comes up with a term we predict is going to go big: liquorist. Seems like a perfect descriptor for today's cocktail nerds, many of whom seem to dress in 19th-century garb. Lou, can your next article delve into why that is?