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Makeover of the Season Osteria del Mondo chef/owner Marc Bianchini is awfully busy these days. On the Marc Restaurants, Bianchini’s restaurant consulting business, is working with the Wyndham Hotel on a new project – Kil@wat (139 E. Kilbourn Ave., 276-8686). The high-rise hotel is undergoing an extensive nip-tuck, and Kil@wat (referring to the Kilbourn at […]

Makeover of the Season

Osteria del Mondo chef/owner Marc Bianchini
is awfully busy these days. On the Marc Restaurants, Bianchini’s restaurant
consulting business, is working with the Wyndham Hotel on a new project –
Kil@wat (139 E. Kilbourn Ave., 276-8686). The high-rise hotel is
undergoing an extensive nip-tuck, and Kil@wat (referring to the Kilbourn at
Water location) replaces the second-floor Kilbourn Cafe, which is probably a
good thing since the Wyndham has never been a contender for standout dining.
Bianchini’s role is to get the restaurant off the ground. (By the way, a
kilowatt is a unit of electrical energy. Could that be a good sign?) The menu
will be New American, carried through a bit differently, says the chef. There
will be a section where diners choose their components – “slabs, sides and
sauces.” Other things Bianchini mentions are “sparks” (one-ingredient eats, like
fried baby artichokes) and a section of fried first-course edibles called
“sizzle.” That’s just the beginning. The revamped Wyndham will also have a
separate bar (called Clear) and a lounge where people hang out, listen to music,
chill. I don’t have a firm opening date, but if things go according to plans, it
sounds as though Kil@wat is just weeks away.

Easy, Breezy and Lazy

I was at the Madison Farmers’ Market last
Saturday at 7 a.m. But that’s unusual for me. I’d sooner have a slower start to
the morning. That’s why the Lazy Man’s Market on Saturday afternoons at
Roots Restaurant and Cellar has an appealing sound (1818 N. Hubbard St.,
374-8480). It’s not the definitive farmers’ market where you’ll pack sacks full
of ingredients to can for winter. It’s more of a social thing – buy foods you
want to use that very evening, have a drink, chat with the staff and take a
little stroll down Commerce Street. Roots co-owner Joe Schmidt is offering
produce from his Cedarburg farm. The market has had up to nine kinds of
tomatoes, pattypan squash, eggplant, flowers and herbs. In the weeks ahead, you
could see melons, late-season beans, pie pumpkins and winter squash. John
Raymond, Roots’ executive chef and co-owner, may offer you some surprises –
salmon filets or some Kobe steaks, perhaps; a bottle of wine or six-pack of
beer. The bar is open, which is a nice plus. Look for recipes to take home, too.
Saturdays 12-4 p.m. through (tentatively) the end of September.

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Latin Evolution

I’ve said this before about Taqueria Azteca.
Take a gander at the specials. Look at the printed menu, too, but fix your
eyes on the specials. Frank Sanchez, whose family is the driving force behind
the South Side restaurant (119 E. Oklahoma Ave., 486-9447), puts his heart into
the food here and says that since his return to the restaurant over a year ago
(he’d been on a sabbatical of sorts), he’s been spending a lot of time in the
kitchen cooking and developing recipes. He talks about doing more tacos and
moles (recently, there have been plum and pear varieties). He and his sister,
Iris, are working on a new menu for Sundays. Pastas are coming back. And a
weekly Cuban night – featuring Sanchez’ take on Cuban food, plus music and
perhaps costumed waitstaff – is in the works. If you stop in at Taqueria this
week for dinner, the board looks pretty good: pork tamales, pollo Espagnole
(grilled chicken with roasted tomato-basil sauce, Spanish sausage and goat
cheese), steak chipotle and a zucchini/corn dish called calabacitas. It’s close
to 5 p.m. as I write this. My stomach is talking up a storm.

Chefs of the Future

Besides the school buses that will be cruising
down suburban streets shortly, there’s another sign of fall: MATC’s
Cuisine is back in business (700 W. State St., Room M628). The restaurant
(open for lunch only during the fall and spring semesters) is where students in
the culinary arts program get practical training while they’re in school,
meaning they prepare the food and wait tables. Diners are real people like you
and me. You can be their guinea pig starting Thursday, August 31 – that’s the
first lunch of the season. Then it shifts into its usual Tuesday to Thursday
schedule next week, going on a few holiday breaks before semester’s end in
December. Every week, the menu will offer something different. This week, that
includes a charcuterie and cheese platter appetizer ($6), four entrées (hanger
steak with béarnaise sauce and chickpea fries, for example) and dessert. Call
297-6697 for reservations.

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Can’t get enough dining? I chat about restaurants every Friday with Jane
Matenaer and Kidd O’Shea on “The Mix.” Listen between 8 and 9 a.m. on September
1. That’s 99.1 WMYX-FM.

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