Category Archives: Culinary Arts

Culinary Arts Fellowship Enjoys a Spanish-Inspired Feast

submitted by Annette Hellmer; photos by Charles McLimans & Steve Wallman

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Chef Tory Miller’s latest restaurant, Estrellon, opened its doors to the Culinary Arts Fellowship on Monday April 23rd.  Nearly 40 Rotarians enjoyed an array of Spanish-influenced dishes made with an abundance of locally-sourced ingredients accented by delicacies imported from Spain.

The restaurant is stylish and sophisticated with a white interior and dark exposed beams.  The open kitchen allows guests to watch as the chefs masterfully prepare the food.

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Chef Miller was unable to join us because he and his wife are expecting a new baby imminently.  Not to worry…the rest of the Estrellon team, led by Executive Sous Chef Kyle Thomas, had things covered.  The preparation and presentation of our meal was flawless.  We enjoyed a wide assortment of tapas, all of which were served family-style.

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Words cannot do the flavors justice.  The feast included tastings of 4 flavorful small plates, 5 delicious large plates, 2 varieties of Paella, and was capped off by the restaurant’s signature Basque cake.  The flavors ranged from delicate to bold, from simple to complex.  The meal, which featured twelve separate dishes in total, was downright amazing.

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Thank you to Glenda Noel-Ney and Loretta Himmelsbach who planned this great event.  We hope to see even more Rotarians join us for the next outing!

Visit our club’s Facebook page for more photos.

Culinary Arts Takes a Tour on the Spice Route

–submitted by Joyce Bromley; photos by Keith Baumgartner & Steve Wallman

IMG_0192Instead 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.

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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

IMG_2849We 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!


Culinary Arts Fellowship Group Enjoys Harvest Meal at The Madison Club

–submitted by Patty Struck; photos by Paul Hoffmann

Madison Club’s Chef Andrew Wilson gives a demonstration in preparing trout piperade for Rotarians and their guests.

Madison Club’s Chef Andrew Wilson gives a demonstration in preparing trout piperade for Rotarians and their guests.

A group of 25 Rotarians and guests gathered at The Madison Club for a Rotary Club Harvest Menu dinner organized by the Culinary Arts Fellowship Group on Monday, November 3.

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Following some time for socializing, we enjoyed a cooking demo by Chef Andrew Wilson in the Madison Club kitchen. Chef Wilson demonstrated his knife-wielding skills in the preparation of the fish course, trout piperade.



The evening concluded with a four-course meal – with appropriate wine pairings –  featuring sunchoke soup, trout piperade, gnocchi with beef, and brown butter cake with poached pear slices. Delicious!

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(Photo 1: Cindy Durham & Cathy Durham; Photo 2: Martha & Chuck Casey; Photo 3: Valerie & Andreas Kazamias)

To wrap up the evening, we toasted Valerie Kazamias for planning this delightful event!

Culinary Arts Low Country Shrimp Boil at Nakoma on August 5

–submitted by Patty Struck; photos by Stan Kitson, Gayle Langer & Rob Stroud

From left: Nakoma Chef Gabor, Mike Casey, Phil Levy and Patty Struck

From left: Nakoma Chef Gabor, Mike Casey, Phil Levy and Patty Struck

A group of 50 Rotarian foodies gathered along with their friends and significant others on a perfect summer evening at Nakoma Country Club for a Low Country Shrimp Boil organized by Rotarian Phil Levy on Tuesday, August 5.

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Photo 1: from left: Lynne Judd, Ken Yuska, Ginny Yuska & Mary Stroud; Photo 2: from left: Larry Bechler, Rob Stroud & Roth Judd; Photo 3: from left: Paul Hoffmann, Tom DeChant & Paul Gibler

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Following an hour of conversation, drinks and hors d’oeuvres, we enjoyed a cooking demo by Chef Gabor (above) within view of the fire pits on Nakoma’s new back patio. Chef Gabor explained the difference between the Cajun preparation which he was demonstrating and the New England preparation as he added herbs and spices, andouille, potatoes and shrimp to the pot. Following the cooking demo, we feasted on the shrimp and vegetables. The evening concluded with hot fudge sundaes and coffee.

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Photo 1: Jane & John Wegenke; Photo 2: Fred Kauffeld & Christine Beatty; Photo 3: Paul & Sharon Hoffmann with Jeff Levy

Many thanks to Phil Levy for organizing this delightful event!

Rotarians Share in St. Patrick’s Day Celebration at Fresco on March 17 2014

–submitted by Wendy Wink; photos and video by Mike McKay

Two of the most Irish Ladies: Valerie Kazamias and Wendy Wink

Two of the most Irish Ladies: Valerie Kazamias and Wendy Wink

Sure ‘n begorrah (shure-en-bah-gora), honorary Irishwomen and Irishmen – Downtown Rotarians all – pledged their fealty to “service above self” at the March 17 Rotary Culinary Arts fete at Fresco’s.  St. Patty’s Day couldn’t ‘a been finer.  Tellin’ tales galore, no one gave a thought to countries of origin other than that green land ‘o ours.  ‘Twas a grand eve ta be alive, Irish (or a fibbin’ facsimile), and a member of The Fellowship O’ the Culinartarian.

Fibbing is acceptable on St. Patrick’s Day; di’ ya’ know that?  If truth be told (and it was, sometimes, at least), there could never have been a finer meal in all of this green (snow-laden, though it be) land.  Suspend one part ‘o the four-way test – Is it the Truth?  Sure ‘n the rest outweigh that ‘n for a few hours of joviality– fair to all, build goodwill and better friendships, beneficial to all—practiced to the finest extent by this little band of Fellows, the Fellowship of the Culinartarian,  17 o’ us on the 17th, that’s the truth, told by all in attendance and every leprechaun in the land, or at least those on State Street.

Cathy O'Durham

Cathy O’Durham

Launched by those leprechauns, Cathy O’ Durham and Valerie
O’ Kazamias
, the Fellowship O’ the Culinartarian joined hands and sang “When Irish Eyes are Shining”.  (No, actually, we didn’t, but we could have if asked.  What really happened was truth tellin’ over cocktails of either Champagne or a delicious wine blend and hors d’oeuvres of tender flank steak rolls covering fresh arugula and globe-shaped green risotto cakes covered with crispy bacon strips sitting on a mound of creamy Ireland.  Yes, Ireland.)

All the Fellowship (or, almost all) wore colorful bowler hats, some green, some shamrock-covered and were seated, followed by a stirring welcome from O’ Durham and her introduction of Chef John, a tall, smiling fellow, recognizable because he was the only soul not wearing green.  He was charming, explaining his approach to the meal and the feast awaiting Culinartarians.  He admitted he loved the challenge – a traditional meal, but not.  He accomplished a marvel.

The feast and festivities launched with three songs from Steve O’ Goldberg, the resident Culinartarian troubadour (say that a couple of times over a wine cocktail).  So glorious was his voice, no Irish pipe nor drums were needed.  Our bard, 20 years a’singin’ in Irish pubs with fellows, O’ Goldberg leapt onto a chair (yes, he did) to regale the Fellowship with the tale of the rationale for Irish tunes – three categories be they: nonsense, drinking, and rebel.  We were in for all three!  The titles of the songs were never given, but the gist of them was: “Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder”, “Irish Jubilee and Cassidy” (we were delighted we were in for less than the full 25 verses), and “Johnson’s Motor Car”.  More later.

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The Culinartarians were served by sweet, lively, and fully-green hatted wait staff, pleasant and delighted, also, that there were less than 25 verses, commenting on O’ Goldberg’s superb voice, memory and rendition.


“And so,” you say, “how was the food and drink?”  Absolutely out of this Ol’ Irish world.  Beginning with an amuse bouche (yes, even the French are Irish on St. Patrick’s Day) that was a superb, creamy veloute of potato soup topped with what Chef John described as a “potato chip”, but really was a lovely floating, crispy topping to the soup.  Apparently, Irish are allowed to lick their soup cup because many among the Fellowship were caught tongues a’lickin’.

“And a salad?” you say.  Well, what a salad.  Some called this far more than a salad.  Sitting atop a grassy island (you knew I’d write this) of mixed greens delicately touched by sherry vinaigrette were scotch eggs (even the Scots are Irish on St. Patrick’s Day).  And, oh my, were those eggs out of this Irish world!  How the heck Chef John managed to cover eggs with shaved pork butt that tasted like superior sausage, cook the whole item, then slice them in half and place them onto the greens, is beyond us.  Of course, we were swooning and awing and drooling and downing these luscious items.  Served with the scotch eggs was an Adami Prosecco, bubbling away in Champaign glasses.  We said we might not have needed more, but more came to us, and more we ate, and laughed, and cheered.

The entree was thick slices of corned beef that had been roasted (yes, roasted and, yes, even the Corned are Irish on St. Patrick’s Day) beautifully hung over (cute, eh?) colcannon (potatoes mashed with roasted Brussels sprouts), a side of roasted carrots, and “house made 1000 island dressing” that doesn’t come close to describing the horseradish glory of this dipping sauce.  Some (moi) ate the whole thing; some took a bit home for the wee ones.  Accompanying this incredible main meal was a delicate Timbach pinot blanc.

“And, dessert?” you say.  Well, how can a tale-teller describe this?  Called a “Guinness chocolate cake” as stated on the menu simply does not do justice to this sculpture and taste extravaganza.  Follow me, if you dare: it looked like a slightly singed dahlia – a beautiful flower, with meringue petals lightly touched by flame to caramelize the peaks, under which was mint iced cream and a wafer of Guinness chocolate cake.  This had seated, at its side, a truly glorious (and lickable, if you dared) Irish whiskey caramel sauce.  Some Culinartarians asked for seconds.  Ask and ye shall receive replied the green-hatted wait staff.  A perfect port, Graham’s Six Grapes, was served to accompany this astonishing dessert.


But, there were two endings to draw the evening to a close: O’ Durham thanked the Fellowship of the Culinartarians, paying special tribute to the Fellowship for their joviality and to spouses and friends for their patience.  This was followed by… O’ Goldberg, who rose, literally to the top of a chair to sing us through to the end of the evening.  The last songs: “How did Ireland get its name?” (or something like that) and, as O’ Goldberg fibbed to the audience of happy Culinartarians, the “Only Irish Love Song” which started more like a wife-murder and ended happily.

This tale does not include the claim, so certain, that St. Patrick was Greek Orthodox and that St. Patrick’s Day started blue, not green, becoming green as it passed across the seas.  “Is it the truth?”  Only the Irish know.  And they know, all great evenings end happily with shamrocks, blarney, and joy.  Many, many thanks to O’ Kazamias, O’ Durham, Chef John, his crew, and our evening’s bard, O’ Goldberg.

Buon Appetito! A Tour of Italy at The Madison Club

–submitted by Kay Schwichtenberg; photos by Kris Ashe

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Buon Appetito!  That is how Chef Andrew Wilson greeted 38 Rotarians and their guests on Tuesday evening, November 5 at the Madison Club.    A tour of Italy through its cuisine was on tap for the evening.


Part of our tour allowed us some time in the kitchen with Chef Wilson.  He demonstrated making pasta from scratch as well as some delicious fillings.  The pasta was prepared with local eggs from a farm in McFarland, many with double yolks resulting in wonderfully rich tortellini.

From there we gathered in the dining room to begin the ‘official tour’ starting with a Sicilian first course of octopus, fennel and olives.   The Emilia-Romagna region was next with a wonderful tortellini en brodo.   The third course was a specialty from the Lombardy region, Osso bucco and polenta.  And if we had not had quite enough with the wine flights and food, we finished the evening with a Piedmont specialty, Gianduja chocolate tart, sea salt caramel gelato and candied hazelnuts.

When we left for the evening everyone was saying– complimenti alla cuoca!  Thank you to Culinary Arts Fellowship Group Chair Valerie Kazamias (pictured at left) for organizing this event for our group.

Fellowship Groups are a Great Way to Meet Other Members

Hiking Fellowship Group Discovers “Secret” Spot

–submitted by Robyn Kitson

“It’s a secret spot we hope no one ever finds.”
So we won’t tell you where we hiked, at least not right now.

Saturday, September 22, was one of the few days in recent history that started as chilly, windy and threatening rain. Yet, there were 13 of us who braved the elements and showed up to hike.

As we waited in the parking lot for all to arrive, we hopped around to keep warm. Deb Raupp huddled in her car, wrapped in a blanket. We layered clothing. And finally, headed out from the trailhead.

This beautiful park in the driftless area that was never covered by glaciers – 15 miles southwest of Madison between Mt. Vernon and Mt. Horeb – unfolded for us with beautiful trails and a variety of scenery. Dave Schreiber is a member of the “Friends of Donald Park” (shhhh….now you know the name of the park) and we made him our park “docent” for the day.

Dave shared with us the stories behind the restoration of the “Foye Cabin” dating back to the 1850s.  He explained how the cold water in “Little Spring” and “Big Spring” is an excellent habitat for fish and had been a popular gathering spot for hundreds of years. Clovis points, dating back 13,000 years, have been found in this area. We heard the stories of the two women – Delma Donald Woodburn and Pat Hitchcock – who made their family land available to the county for this scenic park we now enjoy.

As we hiked, the clouds broke and the sun warmed things up…a lot.  Kurt Hochfeld claims he heard Patty Franson say, “We take clothes off. We put clothes on.” Although, Patty denies it and feels the quote all by itself is quite out of context. Regardless, it turned out to be a beautiful day.
We concluded our two-hour hike with lunch at the Grumpy Troll in Mt. Horeb.

Wine Fellowship Group Meets at UW Provisions

–submitted by Rich Leffler

On Thursday evening, October 4, twenty lucky people, members of the Wine Fellowship and guests, enjoyed an excellent dinner consisting of sirloin steak and Wisconsin artisanal cheeses, followed by a delicious selection of reasonably priced wines. Our wine master, as usual, was Mike Wilson, chair of the Fellowship, and our sommelier was Kelly Gilboy. The location may surprise you: it was at UW Provision’s “The Meat Market.” (UW Provision has no relationship with the university.) Kelly, formerly the owner of Middleton’s Wine Boutique, has joined UW Provision as a wine buyer for their Meat Market, which is open to the public. Needless to say, they have very good wines at reasonable prices, and they can order whatever they don’t have in stock.

The evening began at 6:00 with a bit of the bubbly, a very tasty California rosé from Laetitia ($24.99); there was just a hint of sweetness to this non-vintage Brut, Arroyo Grande. We then tasted eleven wines from different wine growing regions in California: Lake County, Russian River, and Napa Valley. We compared the same varietals from the different regions. The varietals were chardonnay, petite syrah, merlot, zinfandel, two red blends, and cabernet sauvignon.
   All of the wines were pleasing to palate and nose. Wines at the low “price-point” were a Castle Rock Russian River Chardonnay ($7.99), which my wife Joan and our wine master liked very much (also true for a $15.99 LaFond Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay), and an $8.99 Line 39 North Coast Petite Syrah that was quite good. The most expensive wine was a really delicious Hanna Winery, Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $29.99. If that is more than you want to spend, the Josh North Coast Cabernet was $12.99, and it was very close to the Hanna. In the mid-range in price were two merlots worth considering: a Wente Livermore Valley Merlot at $13.99, which actually had a better nose than the very similar Rutherford Napa Valley Merlot at $18.99. Also worth mentioning (because, again, Joan and the wine master liked them more than I did), were the two red blends: an Epiphany Santa Barbara Red Blend at $15.99, and, though not mid-range, a Markham Cellars Napa Valley Red Blend at $22.99. If you like Zinfandels, we tasted two good ones: a Zynthesis Lodi Red Zinfandel at $11.99, and a better Frank Family Napa Valley Zinfandel at $22.99.

Since Joan was driving, I had no hesitation about dutifully re-tasting wines just to make absolutely certain that I was reporting accurately for this blog and for those Rotarians not present. I can truly say that there was not a bad wine in the group, and that several of them were really delicious. With Kelly at UW Provision, it has now become a place worth our while to peruse when searching for good wine at a good price.

Taking in the Fall Colors:  Motorcycle-Style

–submitted by Jeff Bartell

The Rotary Motorcycle Fellowship Group, pictured here (L to R: Jeff and Angie Bartell, Baraboo Rotarian Tom Plager, John Bonsett-Veal and Pete Cavi), had lunch Sunday in Middleton followed by a fall colors ride on the back roads of Dane and Columbia Counties, through Prairie du Sac and Sauk City, along the Wisconsin River to Mazomanie, and back to Middleton.  What a great way to spend a beautiful, sunny October afternoon!

Bon Appetit Everyone!

–submitted by Wendy Wink

Fantastique; superb; incroyable!!!  With few discernible French accents present Monday, other than sighs of delight, that is, the Rotary Culinary Arts Fellowship Group reveled in an astounding evening of a French Fall Harvest menu and wines at the Madison Club.  Phil Levy, our hallowed leader, coordinated this marvelous networking event crowned by the creativity of Chef Andrew Wilson, and cheered on by drooling Rotarians and the guiding hand of Mary Gaffney-Ward of the Madison Club.

Jazz music wafting through the Club Room, a tinkling of glasses, and greetings among Rotarians  wove fellowship with hors d’oeuvres of bite-sized gougeres puff pastry filled with gruyere cheese, crispy oysters with lemon and herbs (an amazing thing, by the way), and lamb with pepper jelly. The fellowship was launched.


The group then formed (shorter folks in front, taller in back) in the kitchen to watch Chef Wilson lead us through the vagaries of handling, shaping and cooking foie gras.  Who knew that there is a legendary duck farm “over the river” in Minnesota; who knew about grade A (some did); who knew all the steps in preparation?  Now most of us know that one of the useful purposes for those handy vacuum-bag contraption thingies is in the preparation of foie gras.  In addition to this marvelous means of cooking duck livers, one could have leapt to a new solution to making cookie logs (but, this blogger digresses).

From left: Craig Christianson, Joan Collins, Beau Smithback & Kelly Baker

Following instructions and laughter in the kitchen, the first course, “soupe de poitron et poireaux au fois gras” – remember the foie gras lesson? – was consumed au table (white clothed, candle-lit, and muffled networking)  This pumpkin soup (served in “baby pumpkins”) with leeks, foie gras, and crispy duck confit was indescribable—amazing, luscious, velvety—well, you had to be there!   Second course, “ouefs en muerette,” followed—that’s poached eggs to most of us, but such poached eggs—in red wine sauce with wild mushrooms, bacon lardon (bacon, bacon), and baby onions.  Why don’t we eat this stuff all the time, you might ask?  Because it’s not acceptable to lick your plate, except among fellow Rotarians.  My, oh, my, this was delicious.

The third course (yes, we kept eating), “daube de bouef provencal,” braised beef short ribs with ratatouille, was literally fork-tender beef mellowed with a ratatouille of fall vegetables in a reduction sauce.  Why we had steak knives, no one knew.  One might gather that this is the way the French display their dinner ware while managing always to keep knives clean.  One simply didn’t need a knife.  Licking the plate was allowed, but secret and hidden at each table.

Valerie Kazamias and Mary Gaffney-Ward

Four?  Yes.  “Apple tarte tatin,” is not your father’s apple pie unless your father’s cooks a butter-luscious crust topped with thinly sliced apples and a brandy caramel sauce, nestled up to vanilla iced cream.  How is it the French invented this sinful dessert and not have it taste too sweet?  One can only wonder and revel in heavenly bliss.

The Chef couldn’t have been more delightful, instructive, and “on his game.”  The Madison Club servers and assistant chefs played key roles in ensuring the evening was fit for queens and kings of culinary delight (and gluttony, but who’s going to tell on us?).  Networking—telling stories, listening to old and new friends, giggling, laughing, sharing fellowship—all had a glorious time because of the handiwork of Phil Levy.  Thank you, Phil, Andrew, and Mary.