Some of the most interesting locally inspired recipes, restaurant reviews and travelogues can be found on Madison's many food blogs, as we detailed a year ago this week in a 77 Square cover story. A few things have changed — MadTable is no more, and the Eating in Madison A to Z team finished the alphabet.
But local food lovers can still find multi-tasking salsa on Kimberly Aime's Learn to Cook Badger Girl (now with baby in tow), read Brian Lee's lukewarm review of Blair Street Brew & BBQ on EatDrinkMadison.com and follow Andre Darlington's wine-soaked tour of Portugal on his eponymous blog.
Now, add to the mix a fresh new voice with a fantastic lineup of cocktail recipes and a sharp eye for photography. Since moving to Madison's near west side in August, food blogger Bowen Close has spent Wednesday and Saturday mornings picking up Asian vegetables, among "way too many" other things, at the downtown farmers' markets.
"I was really excited to find produce I hadn't seen before," said Close, who moved to Madison from the Los Angeles area. "At the Saturday market we found cilantro with roots on it, so we could use that to make curry paste. There's lemongrass ... all of this stuff we never saw in southern California."
Close teaches cooking classes and writes the beautifully illustrated food blog Bowen Appetit, which she started in 2007.
The blog began as a kind of public, online recipe binder, a way to document those watermelon-prosciutto bites with mint and goat cheese that everyone liked, or how she makes an old fashioned cocktail (similar to the Wisconsin way, with bourbon and a cherry-orange garnish).
"I would make recipes and forget what book they were in or what alterations I had made to them," said Close. "People were asking for recipes.
"I make what I put on the blog things I want to remember, keeper recipes in our house."
In 2011 and 2012, Close set yearly goals for herself on the blog, items like "make sushi," "bake a good rustic seeded bread," "can something" and "make one thing out of every cookbook we own." The last one was the hardest, Close said, but she made it through 40 books.
Close moved to Madison with her husband Brett, a PhD student in applied economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, after a year of traveling the world (documented by both of them at brettandbowen.wordpress.com). She was attracted, in part, by the food scene, and by the fact that her family is nearby in Minnesota.
Close quickly found a job working at The Kitchen Gallery on King Street, staffing the counter and writing promotional copy. She has also scheduled a series of classes at Orange Tree Imports and Willy Street Co-op West, the latter with Otehlia Cassidy of Madison Eats. Classes start Sept. 26 and topics include Spanish tapas, Italian classics, brunch dishes and holiday appetizers.
At the end of the month, Close starts a new job at REAP Food Group, a Madison nonprofit that aims to get more local produce into Madison schools and pair chefs with farmers (read the Cap Times story about farm/chef collaborations here).
Close hasn't had much time for eating out, but she is excited to make her writing more locally focused, aided by a winter "veggie lovers" CSA share from Driftless Organics (new from the Soldiers Grove farm this year).
"I want my blog to be accessible and have information for anyone, but I also really want to have a Madison element to it," she said. "I'm excited to put more of a local flavor into what I'm doing."