musings about food, travel, creativity and life

“On Wisconsin”

We spent a lot of time this last week around Capitol Square in Madison, Wisconsin, a wonderful hub for all kinds of activities. We tasted, and bought, cheese at one of our favorite cheese shops anywhere–Fromagination, a great source of Wisconsin cheese gifts ( We went to an Irish pub to listen to a group play traditional Irish music. And we experienced my kind of “political” activity in the Rotunda of the Madison State Capitol –200 tubas and euphoniums playing Christmas carols.

It’s called TubaChristmas and it was a hoot–literally! We went equipped with ear plugs but surprisingly didn’t need them. Perhaps the large sound had enough space to roam around to be just full and pleasant. Some of the tubas were painted red and green, some of the players wore red felt reindeer antlers, some were teenagers, some were in their eighties. All wore bright colors. Many players had played with local high school bands or in the University of Wisconsin Marching Band. They played all the classic Christmas songs–Jingle Bells, Joy to the World, Hark the Herald Angels, even Silent Night–kind of a paradox, since it was played by tubas! It was all a delightful surprise and a part of a long tradition. Apparently, the first TubaChristmas occurred 45 years ago in New York City at the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink and there are many TubaChristmas events around the country. For a list, check out

Another night, we went to a classic Wisconsin bar-restaurant on the square called The Old Fashioned ( whose signature cocktail is–you guessed it– The Old Fashioned. We went there with a friend who was visiting Madison for the first time; we thought the classic vintage menu would give him a “taste” of Wisconsin at its broadest. After all, the restaurant’s motto is “Where Wisconsin Is King.”

A few of the traditional food items on the menu include: Wisconsin beer cheese soup “garnished with popcorn,” beer-battered cheese curds, beer-battered Walleye sandwich, Mac’ ‘n’ Cheese with Ringed Bologna, “Wisconsin’s Best Wurst Platter,” cheese boards with all kinds of Wisconsin cheese combinations, and on Fridays, the requisite Wisconsin fish fry, with three choices of fish. Luckily for salad lovers, there are also many creative and robust salad bowls with unique Wisconsin additions such as Door County dried cherries.

To drink? Old Fashioneds, of course, including one for “non-natives,” which does not have the brandy that most of their classic Old Fashioneds do. To add to the bar menu, there are about 50 Wisconsin beers on tap and another 100 Wisconsin bottled beers.

The Old Fashioned restaurant is truly a Wisconsin traditional culinary and beverage oasis and the view out the holiday-decorated window toward the Capitol, shown above, is an upper.

So there you have it. A beginning primer on some of what this vital Midwestern city and state have to offer. “On Wisconsin.”




8 thoughts on ““On Wisconsin””

  • Oh my! Your description makes me want to be there in the biggest way! Christmas lights, tubas and Wisconsin cuisine are very tempting!

  • I love the square at Christmas time! Isn’t the Wisconsin Capitol magical? Though I cannot imagine the sound of 200 tubas in one space. It seems like a must-see in Madison. Is there a giant Christmas tree with lights? Do you have snow? It’s really winter when you can x-c ski from the capitol to the Wisconsin Union for a beer! Happy Holidays to you in one of my Top 10 favorite places! U-Rah-Rah!

    • Oh, yes there is a giant tree with ornaments and lights in the Rotunda, and there was light snow for a few days, and now
      clear blue sky and “warmer” temperatures just perfect for viewing all the swans and geese and ducks nestled on the lake
      which is starting to freeze. A gift of a place to be no matter the season.

  • I am forwarding this to Bob who’s favorite drink is…you guessed it….an old fashioned! I love imaging you two enjoying your midwestern haven at Christmas time! ❤️💚❤️💚

  • A tuba band – now there is something unique-makes me smile. Those eighty year olds must have healthy lungs. Play on – octogenarians! Do tubas come in different varieties and sizes – like bass, tenor, baritone? Thank you for sharing your Holiday travels with us. You two certainly know how to have a great time. “The Old Fashion” sounds like a place my beer loving hubby would love. With all those beer choices he’d be a happy traveler. Cheese soup with a popcorn crunch who knew such a thing existed. Keep writing. I am traveling and dreaming right along with you. It is a beautiful day here in Carmel Valley – crisp, sunny and the sky is blue. Happy Holidays! b

    • I think each of you would find something to enjoy at The Old Fashioned! Glad you’re vicariously coming along
      on our trip…and I’m glad to hear that Carmel Valley is loverly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *