I had one of the best meals of my life in the midwest.
In a signless, 18-seat restaurant called Forequarter in Madison, Wisconsin, every plate evinces epicurean talent: sautéed rainbow trout, pan-roasted quail, pork terrine. But there's no head chef at this place, which recently landed on Bon Appétit's best new restaurants list. The restaurant doesn't even have an owner.
In a chef-obsessed dining culture, Forequarter works as a collective.
The idea might sound contrived. Did this group come together just to make a statement and go against fads? It's possible. But while most chefs yearn for TV spots and endorsement deals, Forequarter chose collaborations and anonymity. And after dining at the restaurant, you won't be too preoccupied with the concept or alternative ways. You'll be talking about the food instead.
Some of the success can be attributed to the city's growing culture. Every Saturday, Madison's farmers' market wraps around the capitol. Stands proffer organic greens and zebra tomatoes. Forequarter's cooking highlights the vegetables of its surrounding farms.
Preparations such as roasted green beans -- tangled with smoked pork, sauerkraut, and pickled mustard seeds -- play up the produce and not the meat. Sure, they cook a fine sausage plate, which is made by their charcuterie team named Underground Meats. (You can score some of their stuff online.) But Forequarter's cooking is simple, not simplistic.
The cuisine reflects the trends of the moment: whole animal cookery, superior butchery, preservation through curing and pickling, and vegetable-driven plates.
At the end of the evening, you can't ask anyone in the kitchen for an autograph. All you can do is enjoy your meal. And that's a good thing.
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.