–submitted by Joyce Bromley; photos by Keith Baumgartner & Steve Wallman
Instead of following the yellow brick road to get to a magical destination, we drove through some beautiful Dane County roads on February 5 that led us to Vignette where a candle-lighted long table filled the length of the room. The house was soon filled by Rotarians and that means the sounds of conversation and laughter everywhere. Chef Mark Wroczynski prepared us for a journey with him along the ancient spice route sampling various spices and surprising us with a variety of techniques he used to make each morsel seem one mile further on the path.
We came to love the succulent descriptions along with the food and Chef Mark’s principle of beginning and ending each meal with a dessert. His method of blending sweet with savory in each course made each initial taste a springboard of surprises. Loretta Himmelsbach worked with Chef Mark to perfect the 4-course meal and mother nature perfected the ambiance. Through the windows that extended along the entire dining hall wall, we enjoyed the snow reflecting light from the ground and the sparkle of diamonds in the air. The best party is the one anyone who did not attend would regret, and this was that kind of party.
Photo 1: from left: Haley Saalsaa, Ted Ballweg & Joan Ballweg; Photo 2: from left: Al Goedken, Brian Hellmer, Annete Hellmer, Carol Goedken & Loretta Himmelsbach; Photo 3: Betsy & Charles Wallman
We began with a red wine & star anise poached pear, orange coriander chocolate sauce, brandied caramel cream and for the savory—pepper candied almonds. Course 2: We were served a Szechuan pepper marshmallow wrapped in a crispy wonton in a bowl and then the soup was added—sweet potato bisque with 5-spice roasted pumpkin seeds. He warned us that it would numb our lips, but not interfere with our further enjoyment. Course 3: resting on orange gastrique was a roll of beef wrapped around roasted Chinese broccoli, roasted ginger sesame carrots, with the star of the evening—cashew fried rice arancini (ball) made from creamy risotto rice with mixed vegetables, formed into balls, breaded, and fried. Course 4: Our last stop on the spice route was Key lime & matcha mousse torte with raspberry sauce. The pretzel and ginger snaps crust as promised made it both sweet and savory.
Thank you Loretta, Chef Mark, and his sous-chef Brian for giving us such a memorable evening!