When Hong Gao was growing up in Taigu, a county in China’s Shanxi province, she never ate rice.
“I remember noodles, dumplings, pancakes from my mother and grandmother,” she recalls. “But were we lived, you never ate rice. It was all noodles. Like our ‘cat ear’ noodles, [which] look like the shape of a cat’s ear.”
So imagine her surprise when she moved to the United States 23 years ago and saw the menus as the “Chinese” restaurants that populate the country. The ubiquitous dishes – things like General Tso’s chicken and pork fried rice – had no connection to her homeland’s delicious fare.
That’s why Hong and her family decided to take over the former Orient Express at 7610 Elmwood Avenue in the City of Middleton late last year. They changed the name to “Taigu,” a nod to their hometown and its food, introduced elegant decorations and Hong’s joyful paintings of everything from flowers to noodles, and revamped the menu.
Whether it’s the persistent rumors about Underground Railroad tunnels beneath its floors, or gleefully bawdy tales of rum running during prohibition, the Stamm House has always been steeped in Middleton lore.
That’s why, when one of the area’s oldest restaurants gradually fell into a state of disrepair, re-opening and closing without notice while the business foundered, the people of the Good Neighbor City were concerned they might lose one of their most iconic landmarks.
Those fears will be dispelled when the establishment re-opens its doors on Tuesday, May 26. Completely renovated, rebuilt, palpably loved and slightly renamed as “1847 at the Stamm House,” the restaurant looks like it could be on the verge of its heyday.
A young woman, her swarthy arms taught as she hoists two pails of hog feed, her t-shirt stretched thin by a belly in which a baby spends its final weeks before entering the world.
A bearded man, his eyes shaded by an askew baseball cap, picking spinach with astounding dexterity, shoulder to shoulder with field hands who range from college freshmen to retirees, from hipsters to grandmothers.
An old barn floor, nodding buoyantly as families stomp their feet to live bluegrass music.
A flaxen-haired toddler, tumbling again and again, then taking her first steps on the wooden porch one sweltering afternoon.
This is work. This is home. This is everything in between.
It’s hard to imagine Middleton without the Lumani family. They’ve been here for nearly a quarter century, and their eateries have been the scene of so many local conversations, get-togethers and, obviously, delicious meals.
It was in 2006, with 16 years in the restaurant business already under their respective belts, that they decided to open a contemporary Italian café. A place where diners could take their time and lounge in stylish comfort, all while enjoying authentic pizzas, fresh gelato, and delectable dishes from across the Mediterranean. It was a surprising marriage of sophistication and casual dining.
Thus, Villa Dolce was born.
They chose a historic building, located at 1828 Parmenter Street – right in the heart of downtown Middleton. They filled it with color, cozy seating, and class. And the rest, as they say, is history.
This article marks the start of a new Middleton Times-Tribune series profiling local eateries. While Middleton is by no means a large city, the dining options here rival those in much bigger urban hubs. Citizens can taste recipes from across the globe without leaving their area code. The series begins with a trip to Dhaba Indian Bistro, which opened three years ago and is thriving today.
When Dhaba Indian Bistro opened at 8333 Greenway Blvd. back in 2012, it was an immediate hit with area diners. This locally owned eatery boasts a wide array of dishes from northern India. (Proprietor Sumanjit Singh grew up in Punjab.)
Samosas, which are spicy turnovers filled with vegetables and cheese or spice and lamb. Seventeen types of Indian breads, ranging from ginger naan to whole wheat roti. Chicken, beef, lamb and goat curries, along with seafood and an abundance of lentils, eggplant, spinach and other vegetable dishes round out the menu.
“When I made my first beer here, a lot of people asked me if I was doing it to empower women,” says Ashley Kinart. “My answer was no, I was doing it to brew a beer. I happen to be a woman.”
But Kinart, who at only 30 years old was recently named brewmaster at one of the most lauded craft beer companies in the country, might be using her tall rubber brewing boots to stomp on a variety of barriers in an industry historically dominated by men, whether she means to or not.
Clad in flannel, with a glint visible in her eyes even through thick-rimmed glasses, she says she loves many things. The tranquility that comes with yoga. The companionship of her two dogs. And the sights, smells and sounds of a bustling brew house.
If you want to ruin a dinner party, just bring up Monsanto. Like politics and religion before it, the world’s largest seed company is a topic notorious for starting arguments.
To critics of Monsanto and the genetically modified (GMO) crops it develops, the company is a money-grubbing force for evil, poisoning the food supply and stomping on small farmers and environmentalists who get in its way.
To defenders, Monsanto is well on the way to wiping out world hunger, working to usher in an age in which, for the first time in mankind’s 200,000-year history, everyone has enough to eat. (The company’s chief technology officer, Robert Fraley, won the coveted World Food Prize last year.)
Those two camps are firmly entrenched, thanks in large part to the Internet’s bunker system. Those who believe the ethical and practical questions raised by GMOs are a bit more nuanced have been largely silent on issue, at least online.
You might say beer is in Brian Destree’s blood. Not literally – he’s sober and bright-eyed on a busy Wednesday morning – but in a deep, ancestral way.
His family emigrated from Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, the birthplace of the ubiquitous “pilsner” style of beer, in 1863. As if that weren’t a strong enough link, they ended up in northern Wisconsin, in a town with the same name.
That heritage gave him two things: the ability to swear in Bohemian, and inspiration to take up a career in brewing.
At 36 years of age, Destree is director of operations at Capital Brewery, making him the face of a beer producer that is synonymous with the Good Neighbor City. Destree, who took over for longtime brewmaster Kirby Nelson when Nelson departed to found Wisconsin Brewing Company in Verona, brought with him a new outlook on brewing and a new slate of recipes. But he also has respect for those who laid the foundation before him.
Terrence Wall has a well-known reputation as a fierce competitor and an ambitious capitalist. But sitting in his modest office in downtown Middleton, speaking with earnest enthusiasm in a soft-spoken voice, there is a hint of dreamy, boyish sentiment in the way he talks about Bishops Bay, the uber-development that is once again under his control.
Surrounded by a noticeably youthful staff, the veteran developer pauses for a moment when asked if it is gratifying to have his hands back in the sprawling, multi-use project’s nuts and bolts.
“Yes,” he acknowledges, but not for the reason one might suspect.
“It’s not about wanting to be in charge,” Wall states. “It’s about once again having the ability to execute on the vision and quality of the development. It’s about re-establishing credibility with builders and realtors.”
Both his critics and his supporters agree, Wall simply doesn’t do small.
Submitted by MTT News Desk on Wed, 11/06/2013 - 14:48
Spectrum Brands Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPB) announced Tuesday its world headquarters, several North American divisional operations and its technology center, in all totaling more than 500 full-time employees, have moved into a newly built and more economical and energy-efficient facility in the Discovery Springs area of Middleton. In January 2012 the company announced plans to move to the new facility before the end of 2013.
The company, which considered moving its world headquarters (relocated from Atlanta in 2010) and North American Remington(R) personal care operations to Miramar, Florida, where its Russell Hobbs home appliances subsidiary acquired in June 2010 already occupied a suitably sized building, decided to stay in the greater Madison area due to major space efficiencies and other cost savings, as well as Tax Increment Financing from the City of Middleton. The new building can accommodate as many as 675 full-time employees.