LuangprabangIn a word: Thai is on my side.

The specs: #00949   
Details at Yelp

Latest Luangprabang news and reviews at

JM ate the pad thai with tofu.
Nichole ate the larp.
The bill was $14, or $7/person, plus tip.
JM gave Luangprabang an A-; Nichole gave Luangprabang an A (see our grading rubric).

It was a sunny, springlike Friday the week before UW's spring break, and warm enough for us to eat out on Library Mall. So we used some vacation time to take a mini-vacation and have a rare workday date - and Luangprabang turned out to be a great lunch.

We'd heard of the massive, $2.50 veggie spring rolls here (and had similar at Fresh Cool Drinks), but today we got entrees which still made for a thrifty lunch. JM really dug the pad thai - and though he has a cautious relationship to bean curd, he said the tofu in this preparation was really tops, and (again) he doesn't even really like tofu.  Warm and fresh, it was worth the wait.

Pad thai

The larp was good enough to finish every bite - sliced instead of ground meat, lots of onions and spinach, hearty cucumber slices and generous scoops of sticky rice added up to a fine dish - but Nichole would probably try a different menu item next time. And with a baseline pad thai that good, and the promise of cheaply amazing spring rolls, there will be a next time for sure.  Enjoy them while the weather is warm.


Edible Book Festival 2015

The Edible Book Festival is coming to Memorial Library on April 13! Come see and vote for your favorites - and if so inclined, make your own edible book! The entry deadline is Friday, April 10. More details are on the event's website.

You can check out our reports of previous years here - 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 - and below, enjoy a brief history of the event that we wrote up for our book, but that sadly just didn't fit.

The Edible Book Festival is a free public event put on each April by UW-Madison Memorial Library in celebration of National Library Week and the International Edible Book Festival.

The Edible Book Festival first came to UW-Madison in 2006 for the centennial celebration of the University's School of Library & Information Studies. Two years later, Memorial Humanities & Social Sciences Library began hosting the event. Anyone can submit an entry, and past edible books have been made by a diverse assembly of community members, organizations, and University faculty, staff and students. The public is encouraged to attend and vote for their favorite entries. Figures from the Madison food community are also invited as guest judges to award prizes in categories such as "Most creative use of ingredients," "Best entry based on a children's/teen book," and “Funniest/punniest.”

Entries celebrate some aspect of books and reading. Some interpret the plot, characters, settings or themes from books in ingenious ways with fruits and vegetables, bread, pretzels, cookies, and candy. Others take the concept literally, crafting book-like objects from cake (a common format) or even using phyllo dough, matzoh, or custom-made bologna as "pages." Even ebook readers have appeared in recent years. Humor is often a part of the best entries, from the highbrow to groan-inducing wordplay.

The history of the "edible book" festival goes back to Thanksgiving 1999, when librarian Judith A. Hoffberg was at a dinner with some artists. Their common interest in book art fired their imaginations, and they started talking about making books out of real food. The themes of eating words, playing with food, and sharing stories inspired the idea of a loosely-organized festival, which grew into an international event. Edible books have been celebrated annually around April 1st since 2000; the date is both a wink at April Fool's Day and a nod to French gastronome and wit Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Béatrice Coron, a cut paper artist, was instrumental in creating an online home for sharing in the "ephemeral global banquet." Today edible books are created in dozens of countries and shared on the Books2Eat website and Facebook page.

LongHorn Steakhouse

In a word: Darden... my heart.

The specs: #00948   
418 S Gammon Rd., 53719
Details at Yelp, LongHorn Steakhouse on Urbanspoon
Official web site

Latest LongHorn Steakhouse news and reviews at

JM ate the prime rib sandwich.
John ate the filet.
Nichole ate the chicken.
Rose ate the shrimp.
The bill was about $60, or $15/person, plus tip.
JM gave LongHorn Steakhouse a B-; Nichole gave LongHorn Steakhouse a C+ (see our grading rubric).

The best steak houses (let's say, Tornado and Johnny Delmonico's) are so much about the steak that is hard to truly rate them on their 'restaurant-ness'.  Implicit in steak dining is good meat selection; once the meat selection is complete, only a real foul up can cause a steak to be done poorly.

Of course, LongHorn isn't really a steak restaurant.  It lives somewhere twixt Outback and Fleming's in chain steak land.  Nice enough for a meal on their own, but not so nice that napkin color is invoked by the servers.

The other thing that most steak places don't focus so much on is value.  You're going out for steak, but LongHorn does offer some higher end food at or near the lowest end of the pricing scale. But the Red Lobster-iness of a Darden place is still present, all the way up to and including the overdecorated walls.


Salads were included with three meals.  They offer garden and Caesar varieties and our group only got garden ones.  The lettuce was robustly green, but salad is mostly pretty water, and these were no exception.


Rose tried the shrimp skewers, which she had had before, and she liked the dish just as much this time. For a small price, you get twelve nicely grilled shrimp served over a bed of rice with choice of potato.  It was part of a 2-entree and a dessert meal deal which John fillet out with a filet. The filet was medium rare as ordered and was thick, juicy and delicious. 

Prime rib sandwichChicken

JM's prime rib sandwiches were greasy things that still tasted pretty darned good. His accompanying fries, however, seemed like a half portion at best.  He didn't use much of the dipping sauce either for the fries or sandwich as the horseradish flavor was a little one note for someone used to a mustard mix-in. Nichole's Parmesan crusted chicken more entombed than encrusted. Which, cheese, was not all bad, but was excessive. 

The chocolate stampede, though. This is worth it. It's about 2200 calories, though, so you may want to split it with several adjoining tables. Cake, mousse, ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce... the works. It is the only stampede we know of that cannot be helped even with a cattle dog; there's just too much chocolate. See?

Chocolate stampede

LongHorn is square in the middle of the diversity of dining options on the west side.  It seems to fill a need for people who steak dinner at a low price.  That said, there's about 25 places that are higher on the quality scale nearby, so that leaves this as the only reason to go.


Our book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine comes out this summer. Updates here.


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