The Livingston Inn | Madison, Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast

A French Cafe to Call Home

 

14370184_526749524197862_3460531701552715854_nThis past Thursday evening, we had the opportunity to try one of Madison’s latest restaurants, La Kitchenette. Located at 805 Williamson Street, La Kitchenette is a French cafe serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the former location of Chez Nanou. One of our French-speaking friends recently started working there and encouraged us to stop in soon for a meal. We were very glad we did!

The menu seems small at La Kitchenette but everything they serve is nearly a meal in itself. So there is much more variety as you start to sample everything. Plus there were a number of specials when we went there. We started with an appetizer special called a Cake Provencal. If you’ve never heard of Cake Provencal, like we hadn’t, it’s a delightful little bread baked with some tasty vegetables and herbs. Ours was made with tomatoes and was an excellent choice to split among three people to start a meal.

We followed the Cake Provencal by ordering the Tartine Florentine, Tartine Acidule, and the French onion soup. Of course, you’d expect really good French onion soup at a French restaurant, but the soup at La Kitchenette was out of this world. It was the perfect amount of cheese, bread, onions, and broth, and then broiled just enough to get that little crust on top. It’s one of those things you eat and keep thinking about the next time you can get there to order it again.

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French Onion Soup and Tartine Acidule at La Kitchenette

The tartines were outstanding as well. Both were very generous portions that also came with a fresh green salad. The Tartine Florentine is served warmed and a great vegetarian option with spinach, shallots, tomatoes, sauce, and Swiss cheese. The Tartine Acidule is served cold and features smoked salmon, radish pickle, cucumber, and mayonnaise. The radish pickle was particularly tasty and an ideal complement to the salmon.

For entrees, we tried the quiche entrée special, a tomato tarte entrée special, and the Poulet a la Normande. The quiche and tarte were delightful and everything you’d expect and more from a French bakery. But, the Poulet a la Normande stole the show. The dish features chicken legs cooked with cider and mustard served with persilllade potatoes and a very nice green salad. The chicken was so tender and flavorful that we savored every bite not wishing for it to end. Again, the portions on everything were generous but not over the top.

We came to La Kitchenette partially to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Our server became aware of this, so we received for dessert three small, finger-sized cakes with raspberries along with enjoying the French version of singing “Happy Birthday”. A couple of appropriately-sized and delicious cappuccinos wrapped up the evening for the perfect end to our meal.

Before we left, we had the opportunity to meet the owner Virginie Ok. She was charming and gracious with her French accent – someone perfectly suited to this cozy restaurant. It was like she was welcoming us into her home and sharing the joy of what she was making in her kitchen.  We will definitely be back both for her hospitality as well as for all of the delicious food she offers patrons at La Kitchenette.

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New Year’s Resolutions Solved

Every year we hear about how many people make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get fit. Just as I’m writing these opening sentences, two separate commercials have appeared on TV about weight loss programs. Yet, every year we hear about how many people don’t keep their resolutions. Despite the odds against us, human nature prevails and we keep up the tradition of resolutions, many with good intentions such as losing weight and exercising more. And even if a small fraction of people stick with a resolution, it’s certainly not a bad thing that a few more people have found their way to a healthier lifestyle.

With that in mind, I thought it would be fun and a source of encouragement to provide some ways residents and visitors in Madison can stay committed to a New Year’s resolution to get healthy and exercise more. My suggestions focus mostly on these darker and colder days of winter when the resolve to stay fit can sometimes be a challenge.

south_cherokee_ski_5Cross country skiing. Madison has a number of groomed trails at golf courses like Odana Hills and Yahara Hills. One of my personal favorites is Glenway Golf Course. This nine-hole course is tucked away in a near-westside neighborhood between a cemetery and the Southwest Bike Path. As you ski toward the back of the course, it’s very secluded with many beautiful old trees. Since it’s not groomed, be sure to be respectful of the golf course and only ski when conditions permit. Beyond the golf courses, I’d also recommend Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Middleton, another beautiful and secluded area in the midst of our city. If you need skis, rentals are available at Odana Hills or at our local sporting goods store, Fontana Sports.

Snowshoeing on the lakes. While this winter has been abnormal where ice hasn’t formed, Madison lakes are often a great option for snowshoeing. Similar to going out on a lake in the summer, the views of the city are stunning, and a day or evening snowshoeing in the winter is a very peaceful experience as well. Guests at The Livingston Inn can enjoy a fun snowshoeing excursion from our lake access across to the UW campus and the union. If you need snowshoes during a visit, Fontana Sports is again a great option.

yogaJoin a health club. Similar to those weight loss commercials, health clubs heavily solicit new members this time of year. So why not take advantage of some of the special offers and make it the year join a health club? Madison has so many options from the nationwide chains to large and small local clubs. Close to The Livingston Inn are two great local options: Capital Fitness and Pinnacle Health and Fitness. If you’re a guest here and have joined a health club at home, remember The Livingston Inn offers free health club access to Pinnacle Health so you can maintain your workout schedule during your visit.

Schedule yourself on a walking tour or two. When the weather doesn’t cooperate with winter sports, like skiing and snowshoeing, running and walking are good alternatives. Walking is a great exercise, and if you’d like it to be more interesting, add in something like an architectural walking tour. While the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation has guided tours in warmer weather, the City of Madison has a very nice list of tours you can do on your own like the Old Market Place, Tenney-Lapham, and Mansion Hill tours in our neighborhood.

Exercise your brain. A New Year’s resolution to get healthy should include body AND mind. No matter what your age, the benefits of exercising your brain, or intellect, go far for a long and healthy life. With that in mind, I would recommend regular trips to the Madison Public Library. Our downtown library was re-modeled just a few years ago, and it is such a fun place to visit. Just from its exterior, the building draws you in and makes it very inviting to spend an afternoon reading books and periodicals, perhaps bringing something home until your next library visit. If you’re staying at our B&B and want to incorporate a little physical exercise, the downtown library is an enjoyable 20-minute walk from our inn.Madison Public Library Central Branch

Eat and drink well, locally. Madison features several companies dedicated to nutritious food as part of a commitment to health and well-being. One of my favorites is nut butter offered by the local company, Yumbutter. Yumbutter’s nut butters are an organic superfood made from nuts and seeds offering an ideal source for proteins and antioxidants. Available in peanut, almond, and sunflower, they all taste great, too. If you’re looking for something healthy to drink, many Madison residents have discovered the benefits of kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented tea drink made with living cultures of bacteria and yeast. While that may not sound appealing at first, kombucha has a very nice flavor similar to iced teas. The drink’s history stretches back to East Asian cultures where it’s believed to cure many diseases and afflictions. Today, fans of kombucha drink it to improve digestion and provide antioxidants to the body. While science has yet to support these claims, I’ll take a bottle of kombucha over a soda or sugar-intense energy drink any day. Here in Madison, NessAlla has been a local producer of kombucha for years and knows what it’s doing to make an excellent, quality product. You can find it in most stores and several restaurants throughout Madison.nessalla

If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution of some type related to your health, I want to be the first to say you can do it. Don’t let any naysayers tell you resolutions are meant to be broken. But if you need a little support, hopefully the list above will inspire you to discover fun, creative, and sustaining ways to make 2016 a great year for your health!

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.

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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: http://www.cityofmadison.com/live-work/neighborhoods/farmers-markets. 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.

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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!

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Summer Time Fun

Last week I really enjoyed a supplement to our weekly newspaper, The Isthmus, called “Summer Times”.  It reminded me of all the wonderful things Madison has to offer this time of year.  Certainly we have our time-honored events like Concerts on the Square, Opera in the Park, Art Fair on the Square, and Paddle and Portage.  But The Isthmus supplement was well done because it also featured things to do and see that are less familiar, either because they typically attract a smaller crowd or perhaps still have not been discovered by most residents and visitors.  Of those, the following are ones I would recommend checking out for summer 2015:

index1.    Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) Rooftop Cinema. The Isthmus dedicates a whole section to outdoor movie watching.  This has been a summer tradition in our family for years, and we love it.  While there are options around town for drive-ins and outdoor venues featuring major films, MMoCA makes it extra special with avant-garde short films, including a Canadian precursor to sketches from one of my favorite TV shows, Kids in the Hall.  MMoCA shows the films on top of the Overture Center on State Street, adding to the appeal of this film-watching experience.   Movies screenings are Friday nights in June and on August 21.  www.mmoca.org

2.    Music Theatre of Madison (MTM) at The Brink Lounge.  For a small city, Madison has an impressive number of theater groups.  MTM has earned an excellent reputation among vocal performers and will perform a show called Miscast 6.0.  This one-night only cabaret on July 31 features performers encouraged to bring to life songs from their favorite musicals, whether the performers are right for the part or not.  The result is entertaining mismatches that demonstrate vocal skills in funny and sometimes moving performances.  A further bonus is Miscast 6.0 will be held at one of my favorite music venues – The Brink Lounge, a casual yet elegant space just blocks from the Capitol Square and The Livingston Inn.  www.mtmadison.com

MTM

juneteenthmadison3.    Juneteenth.  One Madison tradition that has endured over the years is the annual Juneteenth celebration.  In its 15th year, the 2015 event features a parade at 4pm on June 19th at Brittingham Park followed by a celebration on June 20th from noon to 6pm at Olin Park.  From music to movies, literature to language, fashion to finance, Black America has a predominant influence on mainstream American culture.  Juneteenth is an ideal way to celebrate African-American heritage and emancipation as part of our urban community.  www.juneteenthmadison.wordpress.com

Radicals4.    Madison Radicals.  Have you heard about our ultimate disc (Frisbee) team?  They’re having another stellar year, leading the standings in the Midwest division.  Best of all, they play at Breese Stevens field, a beautifully restored old ballpark just blocks from The Livingston Inn.  The Radicals attract a nice-sized group of dedicated fans, and we sometimes enjoy an evening on our front porch just listening to the roar of the crowd when there’s a goal or spectacular play.  Remaining home games are 6/20, 7/12, and 7/17.  www.radicalsultimate.com

5.    Shake the Lake.  For many years our renowned summer fireworks event, Rhythm and Booms, attracted big crowds and was the fireworks show to see around town.  Unfortunately, lack of funding got the best of it.  Shake the Lake hopes to re-vive our fireworks tradition in Madison.  Set on Lake Monona and John Nolen Drive, the evening fun includes live bands plus performances from the UW Marching Band and our superb Mad City Rollin’ Dolls roller derby.  The event also offers fun for kids, a rooftop party on Monona Terrace, and a collaborative BBQ platter featuring our top restaurants through the Madison Area Chef’s Network.  Join the fun on June 27 starting at 5pm, fireworks at 10pm.  www.shakethelake.org

There are many other wonderful events, games, festivals, and fairs related to music, theater, sports, art, and so much more this summer in Madison.  It’s sure to be a time for great memories.  If you happen to be staying with us in the coming months, be sure to ask what’s going on around town.  We would be happy to tell you how you might work one or two extra special opportunities into your visit to Madison.

Happy Summer!

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Become Unhinged With Forward Theater

Last week, The Livingston Inn had the honor of hosting part of Feast Forward, an annual city-wide fundraiser benefiting Forward Theater Company. The theme for this year’s event was “Feed Me a Story”, aptly describing the excellent food and wonderful people who came together at our inn. “Feed Me a Story”, though, was inspired by Out of the Fire: Banned Books Monologue Festival coming up this season at Forward Theater. Feast Forward, therefore, was a celebration of “our freedom to consume stories of all sorts in delicious ways!”

dsc03429Among the dinner parties happening all over the city for this event, Forward Theater organized a party at The Livingston Inn featuring The Great Gatsby as the themed book. It’s hard to believe it’s been 90 years since the Roaring Twenties, but guests coming to the party looked the part, dressed in period attire expressing the decadence and freedom of this significant decade in American history. We were also thrilled to share our space with Dan Fox and Fox Heritage Farms, who provided food for the event. We have had an excellent partnership with Dan at previous Livingston Inn events, and his team did not disappoint again. The food was outstanding, adding all the more to this fun event.

dsc03402The evening wrapped up with all dinner party guests across Madison coming together at the Overture Center for a Vaudeville show. The fundraiser was certainly a success and it launches Forward Theater into its sixth season called “Unhinged”. The lineup of plays “features characters that tread a little too close to the edge – characters that are dangerously close to coming unhinged.” In our opinion, this is the essence of great drama, and Forward Theater embraces this with plays that range from mystery to family drama to comedy.

Forward Theater LogoThe Forward Theater season starts on November 6 and will continue through April. All Forward Theater plays are at The Playhouse in the Overture Center. The Playhouse is an excellent venue – intimate in its space tucked away in the Overture Center but still accessible and exciting as part of this downtown performing arts center.

One of the reasons we love Madison is that, although it gets dark and cold during the winter, the quality and range of theater and other performing arts is quite amazing this time of year. The Livingston Inn is pleased to offer packages for all plays during Forward Theater’s sixth season. Please check out the plays on the Forward Theater website and call us for more details about “unwinding” with a B&B stay after the thrill of becoming “unhinged” with outstanding theater in downtown Madison!

All photos courtesy of Stephanie Kluz.

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Summer’s Not Over Yet, But…

I read an article last week about summertime things to do with the implication that the season is almost over. Maybe some people plan so much in their summers that it feels that way by the beginning of July. Nevertheless, I and other readers replied to the article with exclamations not to wish summer away, and that for some of us, the season is just starting.

With that in mind, though, every summer around this time I have to tell myself there are a couple of happenings here in Madison that if you wait too long, you’ll miss them. So, while I won’t proclaim summer is almost over, here are three things you might miss out on if you don’t plan for them soon.

concerts-on-the-squareConcerts on the Square. This wildly popular event has been a Wednesday evening tradition in downtown Madison for over 30 years. Featuring musicians from the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Concerts on the Square offers free outdoor chamber music on the steps of our beautiful state Capitol. Concert goers bring a blanket and often a picnic dinner and sit on the Capitol lawn to enjoy a summer evening with beautiful music. The streets around the Capitol Square are closed, and as I’ve observed before, the vibe before, during, and after the concert is just amazing. It reminds me of those summer nights when I was a kid, hanging out with friends until the sun goes down late in the evening.

Whether you’re seeking to attend for the first time, or have joined the festivities in years past, the important thing to remember is that WCO only schedules concerts through the end of July. So be careful not to put it off too long or think you’ll see something in August. Get a date planned today!

madison-mallardsMadison Mallards. Madison’s collegiate summer baseball team has to be one of the most entertaining and fun activities around town. Whether watching the game or checking out the antics between innings, I have always enjoyed every minute of every game I’ve attended. Played at Warner Park on Madison’s northeast side, the Mallards offer a very accessible venue with plenty of great seats, always an entertaining announcer, and some equally amusing vendors selling their wares, including beef sticks (regulars will understand this reference…one of the team’s quirky traditions!).

Similar to Concerts on the Square, anyone interested in seeing the Mallards should be aware of their schedule. Because the team consists of college players, the season ends early so the students can return to school. The last home game this year is August 6, so get your tickets now to “Play Ball”!

madison-restaurant-weekRestaurant Week. Offered only in January and July, Restaurant Week allows food lovers to sample cuisine at many of Madison’s well-known independent restaurants. Organized by Madison Magazine, participating restaurants offer a special $25 prix-fixed menu with 3 courses and 3 options of each course. The summer Restaurant Week is July 20 to 25, and The Livingston Inn every year offers a $25 nightly room discount, essentially paying for one prix-fixed menu each night. So don’t let the opportunity pass you by this year for a memorable evening out on the town!

Madison is such an incredible place to spend a summer, and there are so many things to do and see all summer long, including sometimes simply sitting in a park and enjoying the lakes. There is still plenty of time to do all that you’ve planned, but if you intend on some outdoor chamber music, a ballgame, or sampling Madison’s food scene, get out your calendar and make your plans soon!