One never knows the location of his/her next excellent meal. Ours came at L'Etoile, 25 North Pinckney St, Madison WI 53703- phone 608-251-0500.
On our drive, from our home to Camp Nebagamon, in very Northwestern Wisconsin, we usually stop at Madison, about 500 miles. It's a good resting place after 8 or more hours in the car and leaves us about 300 miles for the next day.
Madison is a growing city and may someday surpass Milwaukee as Wisconsin largest. With both the state capitol and the main campus of the university it has plenty to keep it's economy humming. Madison also boast all kinds of food from the Campus fast food line up to several top flight restaurants. In the last few years we have sampled sea food, Italian, Bar-B-Que, Japanese and good old north woods American. None in our estimation comes close to L'Etoile.
L'Etoile has been in business over 30 year with 2 owners and several chefs but stays true to it calling; presenting local produces with simplicity and flair. The spirit is European but the meals sparkle with fresh ingredients, all of with are listed on the back of the menu along side their producers.
Because we had made a reservation, which did not seem necessary on the Thursday evening we were there, our menu was headed: "L'Etoile welcomes the Hirschhorn party". The menu had 6 First Courses, 5 Entrees and 24 Wisconsin Artisan Cheeses. Both First courses and Entrees had one or two specials also offered that evening. Diners wore in everything from Business attire( coats and ties) to shorts and sandals, an interesting mix. The dining room is up a flight of stairs, but there is an elevator. The walls are unfinished brick with painting and other art work, hanging in places.
After my usual "Bombay", Marilyn and I, after discussion with our excellent server, decided to split dishes, no problem.
We started with a Heirloom Tomato Sampler with a Basil Vinaigrette, 6 different type tomatoes, each type represented by either a large slice or a third of the whole tomato, $12.50. Next came a bowl of Sheep Milk Gnocchi with Maine Lobster Bolognese, many large lumps of lobster meat mixed with a light tomato sauce over the tender Gnocchi, the kitchen split the portion, for us, into two small bowls, $15.00. We had discussed with our server whether to split a steak, one of the specials, or have the vegetarian Entree; luckily we choose the latter. Our Entree, again split by the kitchen, was a Sweet Corn Pancake Napoleon with butter-roasted Cauliflower, Broccoli, Mushrooms, pencil thin Baby Carrots, Sweet Onions and Kale. The whole stack was topped with a maple Butter and Blueberry Zinfandel Gastrique( read, fresh Blueberry sauce with whole fresh Wisconsin Blueberries, cut by wine so it was only slightly sweet),$29.00. I had a glass of a lovely white wine, which I had ordered, augmented by a half glass the the Mater Dee wanted me to try. Who am I to refuse?
We ended our meal with, in house made, peach cobbler with a scoop of light Carmel ice cream and Marilyn's usual "decaf".
You can bet we will return and you should see if you agree, if and when you are in the Madison area.