With aerialist performers, live music, yard games and more than 20 food vendors offering $5 dishes, Breese Stevens Field busted out all kinds of fun for the sixth annual Yum Yum Fest, the city’s biggest foodie event of the summer. The sun was high and the breeze was low, and members of the Madison Area Chefs Network brought their A-game when it came to desserts.
“The frozen treats have definitely been the winners today,” said Amie Swanson, chef at Bernie’s Place and a member of the Culinary Ladies Collective. The CLC, a network of local female chefs, cooks, growers and artisans, was serving up homemade frozen s’mores, made with ginger graham cookies, chocolate ganache and Italian meringue marshmallow “fluff.” It was part ice cream sandwich, part campfire treat.
“It’s a fun and festive dessert we could put together ahead of time and be quick about serving,” Swanson said. “It’s very reminiscent of summer.”
In the booth next door, one of Madison’s popular sushi restaurants, RED, had a similar idea. They featured a half Italian, half Japanese dessert, a reflection of their sweet and sometimes fruity sushi rolls.
“We do a lot of fusion dishes at RED, mixing a lot of cultures and ethnicities,” said Jed Spink, RED’s executive chef. “I wanted to come up with an Italian dessert I liked while incorporating some Asian ingredients.”
Spink’s miso butterscotch budino tasted like a peanut butter cheesecake. The miso gave the dessert a salty element, with sesame seed and almond crumble bringing more traditional Asian textures. The thick ice cream is derived from a blueberry hibiscus tea from Rishi, a Milwaukee-based tea company.
“I was drinking the tea one day and was like, ‘I have to use this in a dish,’” Spink said. “So I turned it into an ice cream.
“I’m really glad we chose to do a dessert today.”
Festival guests seemed just as glad, with crowds quickly forming around the booths of Collective, RED and Harvest, whose special for the day was a “Flavors of Summer” shaved ice.
While there were plenty of hot and savory dishes — like Adamah Neighborhood Table’s "Ain’t No Challah Back Girl" sliders, Ha Long Bay’s Laotian crispy rice salad with coconut and A Pig in a Fur Coat’s overwhelmingly popular bone marrow sliders — summer sweets were definitely the theme for the day.
Sujeo went so far as to combine dinner and dessert with a Korean fried chicken and and ice cream in a waffle cone.
“We wanted to do something really creative and fun this year because it’s our last year at Yum Yum Fest,” said Sujeo’s executive sous chef, Jamie Hoang. “It’s really different so we’re going out with a bang.”
Sujeo is closing its doors on Aug. 24, so this summer’s food fest was the first and last time many would get a chance to try this spicy fried chicken and ice cream combo. It may have been one of the messiest dishes, the bourbon barrel aged maple syrup ice cream spilling out the sides of the cone under the saucy and sprinkle-covered chicken. It was the best of both flavors.
Another part sugary, part savory treat featured at this year’s Yum Yum Fest were “Foie-tons,” foie gras and cream cheese filled wontons served with a rich raspberry sauce. They were made by Lark, a restaurant in Janesville.
“My boss makes this raspberry liqueur and then she strains out all the raspberries and I made it into a sauce,” said Lark chef Olivia Eckert. “It’s sort of a raspberry merlot sauce. It’s been very popular. We made 1,800 wontons over the last three weeks and we’re on our third bucket out of four.”
While the cheesy fried wontons were a perfect dip-buddy for the sauce, the raspberry liquid concoction could have been sipped with a straw by itself, or poured atop Harvest’s shaved ice.
And what Wisconsin food celebration would be complete without cheese curds? Here, The Tin Fox’s cheese curds were fried, pancake battered desserts of their own.
“They’re like doughnuts pretty much,” said Kelsey Stison of Madison.
“They’re really good and really filling,” added her friend Mackenzie Croak. Croak’s personal favorite dish of the day were Pasture and Plenty’s mushroom croquettes, made with mushrooms from Vitruvian Farms in McFarland.
First time festival vendor Brandywine of Cedarburg also served up some sweet slices with their sage chicken sausage spiedini and grilled peaches. Sardine followed the trend with their house-made frites merguez and preserved lemon yogurt on a baguette.
Proceeds from this year’s Yum Yum Fest benefited the Sunshine Place and the Double Dollars program, run by the city of Madison and the Community Action Coalition (CAC) for South Central Wisconsin. Double Dollars allows food benefit recipients to double the value of their food stamps at local farmers' markets, up to $25. That program has high demand and high cost and was set to expire earlier this month. It will now expire in early September, according to city food policy director George Reistad.
Ultimately, that $10,000 Madison Area Chefs Network was able to donate added another level of sweetness for those who tried the daring desserts at another successful Yum Yum Fest.