The Livingston Inn | Madison, Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast

The Best Spot Around

We don’t normally write restaurant reviews, mostly because there are so many reviews out there plus an abundance of fabulous restaurants in Madison. However, this week we’d like to make an exception because we have become so fond of a neighborhood restaurant. More than anything, a local establishment you can walk to for a great meal from a place you call home is really something special.

524c5efff363e.preview-620The Spot, a restaurant at 827 East Johnson Street, opened just a couple years ago. It took the place of Mildred’s, a sandwich shop in business there since the early 1970s. From the beginning, we’ve enjoyed The Spot because it goes about its business without pretention, offering excellent food at reasonable prices. It’s simple but with an eye toward the palate of our “foodie” nation. Week by week and month by month, The Spot becomes more inviting the longer it’s there. After all, the restaurant survived the nightmarish Johnson Street re-construction, emerging last fall as one of the places to be when the street re-opened. The street re-reconstruction now allows The Spot to have front patio dining in addition to its delightfully cozy back patio. The interior is equally inviting with a neighborhood feel – a small but functional bar in the back and tables nestled around an open kitchen. But let’s get to the food.

IB-Sandwich-TheSpot-jpgThere has been some turnover in chefs at The Spot but we’ve not seen it affect the quality of its food. The menu still features a broad range of items starting with its already famous saltimbocca-wich – a chicken sandwich with prosciutto, sage, arugula, mozzarella and aioli. There’s also the gorgonzola chips as a tasty way to start a meal along with well-prepared salmon, pasta, and sirloin entrees. Everything is made with fresh ingredients for both the meat-eater and vegetarian along with homemade desserts and a nice selection of cocktails, wine, and beer.

lsJust this week, Peggy and I went for dinner, a welcome date after a busy fall at the inn. The cioppino is some of the best you can find anywhere, and I was happy to discover it as delicious as ever. We started our meal with the vegetarian trio, which Peggy had the week prior. Served with pickled green beans, each spread of sweet pea hummus, spinach saag, and muhammara was perfectly seasoned and light, ideal as an appetizer. While I savored my cioppino, Peggy enjoyed an impeccably cooked salmon fillet with mashed potatoes and green beans. It was the ideal comfort food on a cold, snowy evening in Madison. We each complemented our meal with a very nice, and reasonably priced, glass of Pinot Noir. To finish, I tried The Spot’s homemade citrus sorbet. I’m not a big chocolate fan when it comes to dessert, and the sorbet was a superb way to end the meal, refreshing my palate with something not too sweet or heavy.

There are a lot of restaurants in Madison and many new ones making a splash lately. It’s exciting to see, but when it comes down to it, we are so happy to have a place like The Spot just a couple blocks from The Livingston Inn. Even though the restaurant is still in its first few years, it’s somewhat like its predecessor, Mildred’s. It’s a place you can count on despite so many changes around you. The Spot has found the simple things you need in a great restaurant: excellent food with friendly service and a place that welcomes everyone. Whether you live here in Madison or visit us sometime soon, we highly recommend you include The Spot in your dining plans.


Leitch House History Highlights

As several established Madisonians know, The Livingston Inn is identified more formally as the William T. Leitch House.  This is the name given to the house when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.  William T. Leitch was the original owner of the house, overseeing its construction in the 1850s.  The Livingston Inn was the name given to the house when it became a B&B in the mid-1990s.  In its history, our home was also called the Harman House, named after the long tenure of Gordon and Dolly Harman at 752 East Gorham from the mid-1950s to 1990s.  To this day, some Madisonians still refer to the house as the Harman House.

Since we bought the house in 2011, we have been so fortunate to become close acquaintances with Gail and Jacqui Harman, daughters who grew up in the house while their parents owned it.  It’s a treasure to us each time they stop by to visit, and they have been so generous sharing memories and little saved mementos from their years living here.  We sometimes go around the house with them, and they tell us cherished details about how the house was arranged many years ago, so different now that its rooms are re-designed for a B&B.

Recently, we were pleased to welcome Jacqui Harman back to the house along with Gail’s daughters and their children.  Gail was not here for that visit, but following it, she sent along some items she had held onto as a memory of this house, and we’d like to share a couple of them with you.

First, Gail sent a newspaper clipping from the Wisconsin State Journal on Sunday, September 16, 1979.  The article featured owners of three homes on the National Register of Historic Places, one set of owners being Gordon and Dolly Harman.  The article emphasized the trade-off of not having every modern-day convenience in order to live in a historic home.  Items like amount of space were noted as an advantage while challenges focused on heating and cooling.

At the time, the Harmans were dedicated to living in the house as true to the history as possible.  Dolly explained, “Our kitchen sink has legs.  We have no Formica or any of the conveniences that everyone takes for granted.  This includes an automatic dishwasher, though we do have a freezer in the basement so I don’t have to shop for food every day.”

The Wisconsin State Journal article also featured several photos that we thoroughly enjoyed.  Anyone who has used our west stairwell will recognize a photograph of a chandelier still hanging there as you proceed up the stairs.Light by West Staircase

Guests who have stayed in the General Pickering room might recognize this photograph from the bathroom.  Someday we’d love to bring back a pull chain toilet to this bathroom, and we were so happy to see that’s what the Harmans had in place.General Pickering Bathroom

There was also a photo of Dolly Harman at what must be the dining room window as those windows are the only floor-to-ceiling ones in the house.  The Harmans loved the shutters on their windows, and we are sad to say they were gone when we arrived.  The radiator, though, remains in the same spot, maybe considered more decorative over the years but still serving its purpose.Dolly Harman

Finally, there is a photo of the exterior of the house looking through the wrought-iron fence that still is a prominent feature of this house.  Back then, the trim was painted white, which gave much more emphasis to the “gingerbread” look of the house.  Gone are the vines, which nowadays masons and landscape architects advise are not healthy for the long-term health of the sandstone structure.Exterior Photo 1979

Planning Profile 31In addition to the article on the William T. Leitch House, Gail sent along a City of Madison 1973 edition of the Planning Profile.  The profile has many interesting facts about the city in 1972.  Among them, it notes the area of the city is 50.8 square miles.  Today it’s considered around 77 square miles.  Gail sent us the Planning Profile because it also notes 1972 was the year that our house was designated on the National Register of Historic Places.  You’ll also see a photo and reference to the “House of Harman” on this page.Plannig Profile 31 - Harman House

There were several other little treasures in Gail’s packages, but I’ll end with a striking photo inside the front cover of a 1992 Wisconsin Historical Calendar.  While 1992 is recent history, the photo shows a view in 1898 from one end of UW-Madison looking toward the State Capitol.   The iconic Red Gym is on the left and the State Historical Society building is just under construction.  But what is stunning about the photo is the grandeur and size of the State Capitol building looming on the horizon.  To this day, guests are so impressed with our Capitol building, but back in 1898, this must have been an architectural marvel to city dwellers and visitors alike.Capitol View 1898

We hope you enjoyed these history highlights of The Livingston Inn, also known as the William T. Leitch House, also known as the Harman House, provided by one of its former residents.  We regularly research and receive information about the history of the house and hope to share more stories with our readers and guests in the near future.

Tis the Season (Not the Holiday One)

Don’t worry. With Halloween wrapping up, we’re not immediately turning to thoughts about the holiday season. However, before winter is upon us, we want to write about another season that got underway a couple months ago. Typically beginning in the fall, our many music and theater groups embark on their season of concerts and productions. Groups like Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Opera, Madison Ballet, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Forward Theater Company, University Theatre, and several other groups stay very busy with an ongoing array of excellent music and theater. Similar to our restaurant scene and sporting events, a small city like Madison has so much to choose from when it comes to the performing arts scene. With that in mind, we’d thought we’d give you a few of our recommendations for the upcoming season so you don’t miss out on some excellent shows and concerts.

MSOMadison Symphony Orchestra. The annual MSO Christmas concert is not to be missed and definitely gets us in the holiday spirit. This year’s concert is coming up on the weekend of December 4. Beyond that, they have an excellent set of concerts from now through April. We particularly recommend the Emanuel Ax concert from March 11-13 because we enjoy piano performances. Plus the concert features the lively (and not so long) Mahler Symphony No. 4, a departure from his more typical dramatic style. The MSO website allows you to listen to the music of any concert and read program notes, so you can decide which concert might best suit your musical interests.

Forward TheaterForward Theater Company. Once again, Forward Theater has put together an exciting and ambitious season of theater here in Madison. The season opens this week with the Midwest premiere of Silent Sky. On the top of our list as well is the production of Mr. Burns (A Post-Electric Play) running April 7-24. We’re not die-hard fans of the Simpsons (and you don’t need to be to enjoy the play), but we like our dose of dark comedy with some music added in. In its review, The New York Times described the play by asking, “When was the last time you met a new play that was so smart it made your head spin?”  We’re sure this will be a fun and thought-provoking play along with an outstanding season overall with Forward Theater Company.

Madison Opera's 2007 production of La Boheme

Madison Opera’s 2007 production of La Boheme

Madison Opera. This year La Boheme returns to the Madison Opera season. The opera is coming up soon on November 13 and 15, so you need to act soon to get tickets. We recommend La Boheme for a couple reasons. First, as Madison Opera notes, it is the greatest love story in opera, and opera is made for great love stories. Second, if you don’t normally attend the opera, La Boheme draws in anyone with its beautiful music, arias, and duets. The final scene has to be one of the most moving in all of theater. If you can’t make it to La Boheme, Madison Opera has two more operas this season, and they consistently offer top-notch performances in all that they do.

Mad MenMajestic Theater / Orpheum Theater. While both the Majestic and the Orpheum have shows year-round, it’s worth mentioning a couple of upcoming events at each venue. Glen Hansard will be playing at the Orpheum on November 19. The Irish singer and songwriter has an impressive resume of musical accomplishments. He is most widely known for the music behind the movie Once, which also became a hit Broadway musical. On December 5th, the Mad Men Soiree returns to the Majestic Theater. Called the “swankiest holiday party”, this evening of 60s era music and dress has been a huge hit over the past four years and we’re glad to see this event keeps going even after the series finale.

University Theatre. Part of the UW Department of Theatre and Drama, University Theatre is well into its 2015-16 season with two plays already completing their run. But there is plenty more coming. If you’re in the Madison area during late winter, we recommend Smart People by leading female playwright Lydia Diamond. Four stories within the play examine issues important especially to our up and coming generation, such as racism, intelligence, and human connections. The play runs from February 25 to March 13 at the UW Mitchell Theatre.

Peter PanMadison Ballet and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. Two of Madison’s renowned performing arts groups come together to present the story of Peter Pan for three shows on March 19 and 20 at Overture Hall. A show for both adults and children, Peter Pan will feature the choreography of long-time Madison Ballet Artistic Director, W. Earle Smith along with a contemporary score played by WCO. A timeless and magical story, we’re certain this production will not disappoint.

We are so grateful for the many opportunities for performing arts and entertainment in Madison, and we hope this sampling of music and theatre gets you in the mood of the season before that other “holiday” season takes over.

The Farm-to-Table Economy

In our last blog, we celebrated the many successful farmers’ markets around Madison and their foundation to the growth of organic and sustainable farming. Now that farmers’ markets are the norm for the daily and weekly needs of a household, we are starting to see other industries develop and succeed as part of the farm-to-table movement. In Madison, restaurants have really hit their stride in this area, and recently at The Livingston Inn, we have also found a new grocery delivery service that is doing an incredible job at bringing local products to our doorstep.

There are many fantastic restaurants in Madison that support local, organic producers and farmers. Many of them shop directly at the farmers’ markets mentioned in last week’s post, reducing trucks bringing in product and keeping “food miles” to a minimum. It would require a very long list to describe all of them, so we’ll feature just a few that are near our B&B and frequent spots for our guests.

Heritage Tavern3Heritage Tavern. Opened in 2013 by Chef Dan Fox, Heritage Tavern has quickly become a favorite spot among locals and visitors. The essence of this restaurant starts with Dan’s involvement in raising heritage pigs at his Fox Heritage Farms, becoming part of a growing movement away from factory pig farms. With his colleagues, he also orchestrates the annual Slo-Pig festival, an event that celebrates a better and closer relationship to the food we eat. Dan’s commitment to heritage pigs has led to many local restaurants purchasing pork from him such as Hamilton’s on the Square and The Madison Club. But his restaurant is more than just about the meat. Many of his dishes also feature the local produce at our farmers’ markets. Recently, Peggy and I went there for dinner and ate incredibly tasty beets and tomatoes, fresh and full of flavor since they came from Dane County and not halfway around the world. We have never had a guest disappointed with Heritage Tavern and highly recommend it to anyone looking for an excellent farm-to-table dining experience.

ForequarterForequarter. Amid the growing little business community around The Livingston Inn, Forequarter opened in 2012. Only one block away at 708 ¼ Johnson Street, the restaurant has also been a guest favorite for the phenomenal food, with the enjoyable walk to get there as an added bonus. Like Heritage Tavern, Forequarter’s roots are in its commitment to local produce and meats. The restaurant is one piece of the Underground Food Collective where the organization processes its own meats, sells its product in a butcher shop, and operates a catering service. A recent Madison Magazine article noted the Underground Food Collective business model has returned $1.5 million to local producers each year. The creativity of the menu at Forequarter and the intimate setting create a very special dining experience, and we are very happy to have them in the neighborhood.

Madison ClubThe Madison Club. Farm-to-table and support of organic products isn’t just for the new and up-and-coming in our city. The Madison Club, an inviting private club on Lake Monona, has been in existence since 1909, and Chef Andrew Wilson has beautifully incorporated local organic produce into the menu over the past couple of years. Besides purchasing from Fox Heritage Farms, The Madison Club regularly shops at the downtown farmers’ market just steps from its front door, creating fresh menu items incorporating the bounty of the seasons. The Madison Club also dedicates a page on their website to their Food Philosophy – fresh, local, incredible – and provides a list of all the local farms from which they purchase ingredients and products. We are always very impressed by how The Madison Club respectfully embraces giving back to the community, and its support of organic farming does so wonderfully while also creating an outstanding dining experience.

Square HarvestBeyond our excellent farm-to-table dining scene, we’d also like to mention a new business that has grown out of the local food movement. A few months ago, one of our fellow innkeepers mentioned a company she had been working with called Square Harvest. Square Harvest is a grocery delivery service with a focus on bringing local products to your house. We gave it a try, and with our first order, it has been an instant hit for us. While we have been able to purchase organic items such as dairy and eggs from the supermarket, we now have the ability, through Square Harvest, to get them delivered from local producers, reducing the food miles for our business and household. We’ve enjoyed quality and affordable products such as eggs, milk, half and half, cheese, vegetables, and fruit – all critical menu items for a B&B. We’ve also bought bread, tortillas, meat, pasta, and veggies burgers for our family’s lunches and dinners. It’s easy to order online with Square Harvest and their deliveries are always timely (even getting through Saturday Badger games around here). And every week it seems they have new items added to their selection. We are thrilled to include them as part of our operations at The Livingston Inn and hope they enjoy many successful years supporting our local farmers and businesses.

We hope you enjoyed our recognition of all that is organic and sustainable in Madison over the past thirty years. It is quite an accomplishment when you see how far we’ve come. It seems just a few years ago that organic food was something found in the far corner of the grocery store, but we are happy to see it has taken center stage among the many markets and restaurants in the community.


Farm-to-Table Abundance

farmersmarket2As we head toward next month where we celebrate harvest and are thankful for all that we have in our lives, we want to step back and recognize how far our communities have come with organic and sustainable farming. Without a doubt, the farm-to-table movement has grown tremendously nationwide, but we’re particularly proud of Madison’s accomplishments over the past decades.

To start, we must commend our iconic Dane County Farmers’ Market. Started in 1972, DCFM or “the Market” has undertaken ongoing positive steps to support local and organic farmers and producers, and today the Market is stronger than ever. Its flagship market day, Saturdays on the Capitol Square, continues to attract throngs of community members and visitors. It’s always the top attraction among our guests at The Livingston Inn, something they hear about whether coming from a neighboring state or halfway around the world. After an impressive forty years, you’ll find anything at the Market from the regulars at 6am zipping quickly to their normal vendors for items like honey and fresh produce to the leisurely mid-morning strollers sampling cheese bread while people watching on the counter-clockwise circuit.

561598817e394.imageThe phenomenon of the Market has led to its expansion as well as the growth of other farmers’ markets. DCFM successfully added a Wednesday market from 8:30am to 2:00pm a few years ago, attracting downtown workers on their lunch hours. Realizing a farmer’s market is more than fresh produce, the Market has also expanded into indoor winter markets at the Monona Terrace and the Madison Senior Center. Those markets can still feature the sought-after cheeses, breads, and tasty treats but then offer preserves and jarred products that extend the life of seasonal market products.

Beyond the Market, farmers and other vendors have enjoyed the opening of other markets stretching to all points of the compass across the isthmus and beyond. This list alone on the City of Madison’s website points to the incredible growth: In addition, many of Madison’s local restaurants now purchase their ingredients and menu items from the many markets throughout town.

To add to our bounty of markets, we learned more exciting news this fall about our enthusiastic support of local farming. Starting up just a few weeks ago, Madison’s downtown will now also offer a Sunday Farmers’ Market. This market is open from 6am to 2pm on Pinckney and Mifflin Streets. The focus of the market is to provide healthy food to consumers from all income levels and to educate about food sources, nutrition, and preparation.

556e2116b1d6a.imageWhat’s wonderful and amazing about these markets is almost all of them are busy. The Hilldale market, on the west side, always draws a big crowd and continues to grow as well. Beyond that, no matter if it’s the Northside markets or those in Madison Southside neighborhoods, the stalls have a regular stream of patrons looking for fresh, local produce and other products for their weekly menu planning. In fact, some of those markets operate in food deserts – generally lower-income neighborhoods without a nearby grocery store – thereby offering a healthy and community-based source of food for the local residents. (Also notable is that DCFM accepts federal food assistance dollars and is the largest market in Wisconsin accepting them.)

The growth of farmers’ markets and their support of organic and sustainable farming has resulted in some positive “secondary” markets. In our next blog, we’ll feature the restaurants and a food delivery service that have helped local businesses succeed in their commitment to the farm-to-table movement.


From Japan to Madison: The Tradition of a Thousand Paper Cranes

IMG_0526[1]For our guests, as well as family and friends who have visited our home, most know we have a number of paper cranes throughout The Livingston Inn. They appear here and there, changing places, all in a variety of colors, sizes, and styles. We always offer to guests the opportunity to adopt one for their journey home at the end of their stay with us. So, some of the cranes have now found new homes. A guest or two has also made one themselves with some paper they had with them (most anything will do), and we have been the fortunate recipients of their gifts.

If you’ve stayed with us, you may know the story behind our paper cranes, but perhaps not if our conversations never got around to the topic. For the sake of our past and future guests, as well as anyone else curious about this unusual part of our B&B, we thought a blog on the topic would interest many of you.

The paper cranes first appeared at the grand opening of our B&B back in September 2011. A very good friend of ours made us a small supply as a gift and a gesture to bring us good fortune in our new venture. Paper folding has a deep history in Chinese, Arab, and European cultures. But it has its strongest ties to the Japanese art of origami dating to the late sixth century. At the time, paper was an expensive item. As a result, origami from this period was used primarily for religious ceremonies including weddings. For centuries it was also an oral tradition with designs passed from mother to daughter. Legend says that anyone who folds one thousand paper cranes will have their heart’s desire come true.

IMG_0528[1]An interesting thing happened once our friend brought us those first paper cranes. She found it brought her a strong sense of inner peace, something we might call therapy in the 21st century, and so she has continued to make us paper cranes over the past four years. She enjoys making them, and we love it every time we receive a bag, thrilled to see what beautiful paper she found for her latest flock. So whether one calls it good fortune or a matter of the heart, we firmly believe our paper cranes have brought wonderful things to us and to our friend.

IMG_0554[1]Lately, we’ve received two very kind and generous gifts from guests related to the paper cranes in our home. First, one guest mailed us a delightful book with the story of Sadako Sasaki. Sadako was a Japanese girl who was exposed to the radiation of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Like other children during this time, she suffered from leukemia, and in 1955 she died at the age of twelve. When she found out about her condition, Sadako knew of the legend of folding one thousand paper cranes, so she set about doing so hoping it would save her from the suffering and death she saw among the other children around her. She only made it to 644 cranes. Due to Sadako’s spirit as a young child, though, the thousand paper cranes have now come to symbolize peace in Japanese and other cultures, and a statue of Sadako is part of Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan. We thoroughly enjoyed the book from our guest and were moved how it connected us to the feeling of peace from our friend and the paper cranes throughout the B&B.

Our second gift from a guest came from a captain in the U.S. Navy. He wrote, “During our stay we noticed you had origami around your lovely home, and it reminded me of a gift I received from a Japanese harbor pilot in Sasebo, Japan, which is a U.S. Navy base near Nagasaki.” The guest sent us over two dozen paper cranes from this pilot made from Japanese magazines and other paper. We were humbled by this generous gift and are honored to have them in the house.

IMG_0541[1]We’re certain our friend has folded over a thousand paper cranes for us. We like to think that her thousand and more paper cranes are not just now bringing us good fortune and peace, but since we live in home that we share with guests from around the world, every person in our B&B can benefit from this gift. Between the thousands of years of history to the mother-daughter tradition to the evolution as a symbol of peace, we are certain those paper cranes bring a lot of good things to The Livingston Inn.

So, if you are ever in our B&B, please ask if you see a crane you’d like for your home. They are a gift to us that we will happily share with any visitor, family member, or friend. We would hope it would bring you as much joy as it does for us.


“Digging” Our UW Badgers

Are you excited that we’re heading into fall with another Top 25 UW Badger team? While you might think I’m talking about football, I’m actually referring to our very talented UW women’s volleyball team. As of this weekend, the Badger football team is ranked 24th in the country, but even more impressive, our volleyball team is ranked 11th. While we love our fall football season around here, the team certainly gets its share of attention on sports media of all types, so we thought we’d highlight all the great things about our Badger volleyball team with a new season upon us.

11328797Volleyball at UW and in the Madison area is enjoying a wonderful resurgence in popularity, and the success of our Badger team is a big contributor. While ranked 11th right now, the Badger volleyball women actually have enjoyed back-to-back top 5 finishes nationally, ending up No. 2 in 2013 and No. 4 in 2014. The team won the 2014 Big Ten Championship, and their average attendance in 2014 of 4,973 fans was third best in the nation.

While the team lost eight players this year due to graduation, there are several returning players who have proven themselves as strong and capable in their roles on the team, including Lauren Carlini, Taylor Morey (a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year), Kelli Bates, and Haleigh Nelson. Head Coach Kelly Sheffield returns as well in his third season, part of the notable rise of the UW team. The excitement among these players and coaches for this season is palpable, many hoping to set more attendance records and to win big games against conference opponents. We certainly see them going far.

9235082Over the years, we have thoroughly enjoyed attending UW volleyball games. If you’ve never watched a game live, the action is always exciting and the talent of the women is amazing. There’s never a dull moment. My kids still laugh at me about one match we attended together a few years ago.  After a hard fought four games, I nearly knocked over one of the kids upon jumping up to cheer when UW won the match on the final point in one of those nail-biting two-point victory games.

An additional reason we enjoy going to games is to see them in the historic UW Field House. Similar to The Livingston Inn, the UW Field House is a local landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Home to UW volleyball and wrestling, construction on the building began in 1929 with an original capacity of 8,000. A balcony added in 1939 increased that number to 12,000. The Field House was home to UW Boxing from 1933-60, when it was a NCAA sport. In fact, the all-sport attendance record at the Field House was 15,200 for a boxing match in 1949. Despite its age, UW has regularly updated the facility. Among the work done for this volleyball season, patrons will enjoy 20 StadiumVision TVs in the concourse and free Badger WiFi throughout the Field House. The atmosphere of the Field House is also intimate and relaxing. It’s easy to walk around and find plenty of space for seats. Fans young and old can also line up outside of the locker room and cheer on the players as they come out at the beginning of the match.

UW_Field_House_HeaderBesides the talent of the athletes and the grandeur of the historic building, affordable tickets is one more reason many fans enjoy UW volleyball. While some college sporting events are becoming as expensive as professional sports, an outing for a volleyball match should fit the budget of almost any fan. General admission tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for youth. Many nights, you’ll see local high school teams attending thanks to free or reduced prices for their team. There are also ticket specials throughout the season, such as Ten Buck Wednesdays where $10 will get you four general admission tickets.

The UW volleyball season is just kicking into high gear with a couple of home games in October and many in November. We encourage you to get one on your calendar now and watch all those amazing digs, kills, and aces before the season passes you by. Fall sports are exciting in Madison, and we hope you find the opportunity to cheer on one of the top teams in the country right here at UW-Madison.


Fall Fitness

We’re thrilled to welcome again the Ironman athletes for this weekend’s race in Madison. Every year we meet such an inspiring and impressive group of people. It reminds us of all that a person can accomplish through dedication and hard work.EnduraPix_7694_120909GLG1841245D-635x421

With Ironman and other fall race events upon us, we thought it would be fun to offer some local running courses and routes around The Livingston Inn. Our daughter has become an avid runner since we opened our B&B, and she suggest the following for guests or anyone in the neighborhood seeking some training or exercise.

City Neighborhood Course (easy): Tenney Neighborhood Loop

Head north on Gorham Street and turn left at Brearly after passing Christ Presbyterian Church on the lake. Proceed down Sherman Avenue and enjoy homes along Lake Mendota. Continue to Tenney Park and turn right into the parking lot along the Yahara River. Run along the river, onto the path going under Johnson Street and then turn right on Dayton Street. Continue on Dayton Street and enjoy the feel of our Tenney-Lapham neighborhood, passing homes and the school. You’ll finish your run by turning right on Blount, challenging yourself at the end taking the hill up to Gorham, and then a nice gradual downhill run back to Livingston and Gorham. Approximate distance: 2.5 milesClassic-Tenney-Park-bridge-2

City View Course (moderate): Capital City Bike Path/Monona Terrace/Olin Park

Head south on Livingston, crossing East Washington, and then turn right on the Capital City Bike Trail. Follow the bike trail toward downtown and the path will soon parallel Lake Monona. You’ll run under the striking Monona Terrace and continue along Lake Monona toward Olin Park. At Lakeside Street, do a U-turn so you can run back along the lake and view one on the most beautiful vistas of the Madison skyline and Lake Monona. When you come to the first light, cross Proudfit Street and proceed along Monona Bay and you’ll soon connect with the Southwest Bike Path. Turn right onto the bike path and when you reach West Washington, turn right again. Run up “West Wash” with another beautiful view of the Capitol along with the challenge of an uphill run. Run clockwise (left) around the Capitol Square and then proceed down Hamilton diagonally to Gorham. Turn right on Gorham and finish by returning to The Livingston Inn. Approximate distance: 5.25 milesCapital_City_State_Trail-001

People Watching (moderate): James Madison Park/State Street/Capitol Square

Head south on Gorham and turn into James Madison Park one house past The Livingston Inn. Run in the park along Lake Mendota, taking in the beach and park visitors. Follow the path up to Gilman (Gilman is one block north of Gorham). Take Gilman (a hill challenge) to Wisconsin Avenue, turn right, proceed one block and turn left on Langdon. Enjoy student life and the fraternity and sorority houses on Langdon and then the iconic Red Gym and Memorial Union. Turn left on Park and then your next left on to State Street. A pedestrian mall (albeit with bus traffic), run the length of State Street to the Capitol, again enjoying students and Madisonians of all types. Upon reaching the Capitol Square, run counter clockwise (right) and then proceed down Hamilton diagonally to Gorham. Turn right on Gorham and finish by returning to Livingston. Approximate distance: 3.3 milesfall-colors-of-madison-1

Nature Scenic (moderate to advanced): Lakeshore Path

Head south on Gorham running past James Madison Park. At the end of the park, turn right on Butler Street and then left on Gilman (a hill challenge). Take Gilman to Wisconsin Avenue, turn right, proceed one block and turn left on Langdon. Run on Langdon all the way to the UW Memorial Union. Pass the Union and turn right on Park Street and you’ll hook up with the Lakeshore Path. The Lakeshore Path is a beautiful route – both dirt and paved paths with fewer bikes – along Lake Mendota with views of some of the older UW campus buildings. Stay on the Lakeshore Path, passing the soccer fields and UW marching band field, until you reach the parking lot for Picnic Point. Take a U-turn here and return back to The Livingston Inn on the same route. Approximate distance: 7 miles

Late afternoon sunlight backlights people running along the Howard Temin Lakeshore Path at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during autumn on Oct. 13, 2010. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Late afternoon sunlight backlights people running along the Howard Temin Lakeshore Path at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during autumn on Oct. 13, 2010. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Nature Scenic (advanced): Lakeshore Path

Follow the same directions above except shortly after entering the Lakeshore Path turn left up the path going through Muir Woods and you’ll end up on Observatory Drive. Observatory Drive has amazing views of the lake and old UW buildings, including the observatory. Plus it has a number of hills for an extra challenge. When you reach Elm Street, turn right and you’ll connect with the Lakeshore Path. Turn left on the Lakeshore Path and when you arrive at the Picnic Point parking lot turn right. Run to the end of Picnic Point and then take a U-turn, coming back to the Lakeshore Path and then continue back on the same route to The Livingston Inn. Approximate distance: 9 miles

With the Ironman event kicking off the many fall festivities in Madison, we hope you find these suggested running routes helpful and motivating for your training and fitness goals. If you are staying with us, please let us know if we can explain anything further or help with a map.

Taste of Madison Top 10

4a18240c1edabb5fdfdefbdbe223eef9The Taste of Madison is upon us this weekend! Our restaurant culture in Madison is fabulous and what better way to celebrate it than by sampling food all weekend long.

Starting at 2pm on Saturday, restaurants, caterers, and other vendors will surround the Capitol Square for a fun two days of food, live music, and a festive finale to another beautiful Madison summer. To add to the fun, participants vote for their favorite food in a variety of categories with a chance to win a $100 gift certificate to a participating restaurant. The Taste of Madison supports local charities as well with volunteers working at over 26 4dd7b4d73a682b25735e8c200ec93507beverage stands.

With over 80 restaurants and caterers at this year’s event, with anything from tamales to RumChata cheesecake, there’s a lot to choose from. Reviving a tradition around here at The Livingston Inn, I’ve asked each family member to pick their top two restaurants that might help our readers narrow down their list.

Peggy’s Picks
Bonzo – menu: falafel, chicken skewer, beef skewer
Lombardino’s – menu: fried calamari, eggplant fries, butterscotch panna cotta

Dave’s Picks
Lao Laan-Xang – menu: crab rangoon, coconut shrimp, vegetable spring roll
Rare Steakhouse – menu: steak slider with horseradish cream, duckfat French fries with citrus aioli

Daniel’s Picks
Lombardino’s – menu: see above
Tipsy Cow – menu: truffle fries, beer battered cheese curds, PBR fish taco

Joanna’s Picks
Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream – menu: ice cream and root beer floats
b110a6e712f5717cdef2c463a9f8d3beSai Bai Thong – menu: pad thai, squash chicken curry, yum ta wai shrimp, pad chu chee catfish

Luke’s Picks
Taj India – menu: chicken tikka masala and rice, mixed veggie curry and rice, channa masala and rice, samosa
The Old Fashioned — menu: mac & cheese, beer battered cheese curds, Wisconsin ring bologna, spicy pickled egg, brandy old fashioned ice cream

Admission is free, and this year’s Taste of Madison features over 30 diverse music acts performing on three stages. The event ends on Sunday at 7pm, so you’ll still have plenty of time for that Labor Day barbeque on Monday.

We hope to see you out there at this weekend’s festivities!


Anniversary Gifts

Last week we marked our fourth anniversary at The Livingston Inn, also known on the National Register of Historic Places as the William T. Leitch House. On July 29, 2011, we opened our doors with excitement, and a little trepidation, for what would come. Looking back, I can say it’s pretty close to what we envisioned with a couple of small, but wise, adjustments along the way.

Nils Haugen Chair and Ottoman-Before

Nils Haugen Chair and Ottoman-Before

One wonderful gift that was finished and returned to the house in time for our fourth anniversary is a reupholstered chair and ottoman belonging to the third owner of the house, Nils Haugen. His great-granddaughter brought both items to us a few months after we moved in. It wasn’t until this year, though, that we had the opportunity to restore them as signature pieces of furniture at our B&B. The Nils Haugen chair and ottoman look right at home in front of the fireplace in the back parlor.


Nils Haugen Chair and Ottoman-After

Nils Haugen Chair and Ottoman-After

We can’t let an anniversary pass without thanking other previous owners for their gifts. This year, the owner prior to us stopped by with holiday decorations that used to adorn the lampposts and wrought-iron fence surrounding this historic home. We can’t wait to hang them this year and add to the beauty and majesty of The Livingston Inn during the holidays and winter months.

And of course we must also extended our warmest gratitude to the daughters of the fifth owners, Gordon and Dolly Harman, for all the photos, newspaper articles, note cards, plus the best stories they’ve shared on a regular basis. We very much look forward to another visit with these family members later this month.

Bible from original owner William T. Leitch, passed down from previous owners

Bible from original owner William T. Leitch, passed down from previous owners

To live in a house for four years is not long at all, and for a house this old, it could make the new owner feel a little disconnected from the home’s history. But these gifts from previous owners and descendants, plus the time we’ve spent with them, has given us an even more precious gift – the ability to reach both near and far back into the Leitch House’s past and feel like we’re part of a long and significant history in the City of Madison.

So, thank you guests, friends, neighbors, and family for helping us reach this small, but satisfying, anniversary! We hope our time here, too, will be long and fulfilling. Peggy and I work hard every day to ensure that happens. Because if we do, there’s so much to gain for anniversaries to come and for the story of this beautiful home in Madison.

Article by long-time Capital Newspapers writer, Doug Moe, about opening the inn - October 2, 2011.

Article by long-time Capital Newspapers writer, Doug Moe, about opening the inn – October 2, 2011.