16 July 2015
It was a long, long day meandering from Milwaukee to Madison, taking in some of the smaller towns south of the two major cities — without crossing into Illinois. I rolled into Madison mid-afternoon happily, revisiting a town I really came to love before. If it wasn’t such a hassle to get there (thank you Scott Walker), I would visit far more often. My last visit was very memorable, including a fine dinner at the top place in the region, L’Etoile. I was skipping it this time as there’s too many other places to visit, and not enough time!
Today was a melancholic day for me as it marked something very significant for me in my past, so I wanted a good meal (and lots of booze) to drown it all out. And I found the perfect place, a charming little eatery called A Pig in a Fur Coat. Now that is classy.
I walked the 20+ minutes from near the Capitol all the way in the terrible humidity and found A Pig in a Fur Coat. I chose to sit at the bar, which I was told was just recently built as an extention. This was my view, and I was a happy boy.
The night was graced with excellent cocktails, and I relaxed and tried to put my personal woes out of my head for a little while. The menu looked fantastic, and from what I heard the execution is perfect here — not like Braise in Milwaukee last night. I placed a few orders for small items and just played it by ear.
I enjoyed chatting with the staff over how the restaurant scene in Madison is developing and then the first item, recommended by the bartender, arrived — the lamb carpaccio.
Oh, these were excellent, fresh and tasted of lamb (not some neutral — or neutralised — version of “lamb” that is so often sold in the US), with a golden yolk that added to the appeal. But one of the stars on this dish were the corn shoots…so full of natural flavour. Fantastic! Now this is what Braise didn’t do, let the natural flavours shine. This is excellent. I am smiling so far.
I finished this excellent carpaccio dish and enjoyed more cocktails and chat, now with some fellow diners at the bar. Then the next item arrived, and this should easily put Braise to shame.
Beets, just good ol’ beets. I love beets, and this was just good. I had a quick flashback to that “marrow” dish from last night and shuddered… Fabulous stuff so far. Then the next item arrived, one of the day’s special.
Now this is some good pork, full of flavour from a well-cooked and well-sourced pig. Excellent on the outside, juicy on the inside. Once again, simple but damn good. Let the natural flavours shine, don’t screw with it if it don’t need screwing’ with! Awesome!
I chilled out and spent a bit of time imbibing as I needed a wee break. It’s interesting hearing about the Madison dining scene, especially in the summer when both the University of Wisconsin-Madison is out; plus the media is following the trainwreck that is Governor Scott Walker’s idiotic presidential caravan. Seriously, if you can’t manage your own state government what makes you think you can run the entire country? But the place also quietly got really full and the bar was standing-room-only by now.
At this point I decided to get one last dish to see me through the evening, and this was a big one that I had targetted earlier, and it smelled divine when it arrived.
Pork tripe, ’nuff said. Done in an Iberian fashion, with some pork belly to add richness and a healthy amount of white beans in the tasty sauce. I wish there was a little more tripe though, I like a lot of it in my dishes. But it was tasty nevertheless.
I finished up some after-dinner drinks and watched as the place slowly emptied out for now — until their late rush. I happily took my leave before then, to free up the much-envied space, thanking the staff for their excellent and friendly service, as well as the fabulous food.
When you let the natural flavours rule the day, that’s a kitchen that I truly respect. You rather take great ingredients and manipulate it so it loses its natural goodness? You can go do TV cooking and open up in Las Vegas. Madison gets some of the best products of Wisonsin’s amazing farms, and their ability to bring their flavours to the forte without overchef’ing something to death is something that’ll get me back in Madison — especially A Pig in a Fur Coat — far more often.
Excellent, not to be missed. You’ll love this place as much as I did.
A Pig in a Fur Coat
940 Williamson Street