Bonus book bit: Porchlight Products

Lots of words didn't fit into Madison Food. Here are some of our favorites that we didn't want to be missed.

Porchlight is a nonprofit that provides solutions to the problem of homelessness in the Dane County area by providing people with emergency shelter, longer-term housing, counseling and other services. Food plays an important and unique role in Porchlight's mission. The Porchlight Products program, launched in 2006, makes jams, pickles, sauces and baking mixes in a kitchen on North Brooks Street near the UW campus. Program participants, formerly homeless men and women with mental illnesses or disabilities, receive employment opportunities and training while working closely with volunteers. Most work there for about a year, though some of the long-timers have been on staff for three to four years.

More than four-fifths of the ingredients are sourced from local farms. Nearly all the produce used is farmed with sustainable practices (though not all is certified organic). The kitchen’s production schedule follows the seasons, beginning with rhubarb jam and strawberry preserves in spring. Gentle Breeze Honey, not sugar, provides the sweetener for all the kitchen’s fruit preserves, which are made mostly from Carandale Farm berries. Dilly beans dominate in summer. In autumn, maple syrup from Roth’s Sugar Bush goes into apple butter, and is simmered with Weatherby Co-op’s cranberries. Winter sees Mammoth Produce’s prodigious cabbages turn into kraut, and Palm Mushroom Cellar contributes its morels for pickling.

Porchlight Products rhubarb jam

Local restaurants and retailers were enthusiastic about Porchlight Products from the beginning. Longtime Madison restaurant consultants Nancy Christy and Andrea Craig provided startup advice. Daisy Cafe and Cupcakery has been the most supportive restaurant, serving multigrain pancakes and orzo salad from the Porchlight line, as well as selling its canned products at the cafe. Coopers Tavern serves one of the best Reuben sandwiches in town, topped with Porchlight sauerkraut. They go through so much that they get it delivered fresh and direct from the Brooks Street kitchen. Great Dane and other local bars have used dilly beans and pickled mushrooms for Bloody Mary garnish; Lakeside St. Coffee House puts curtido (a spicy relish) on its turkey sandwiches; and Short Stack Eatery buys their apple butter by the quart.

The future for Porchlight Products includes more marketing, more partnerships, and plans for a new kitchen facility. In summer 2014, when we interviewed kitchen manager Jeff Stengel for Madison Food, he shared that Porchlight has been working with Madison Urban Ministry’s Just Bakery initiative, a vocational and employment program for men and women returning to the community after incarceration. A new marketing manager has been leading the push to get Porchlight Products into more groceries and retailers; Willy St. Coop, Regent Market, Metcalfe’s and Hy-Vee have long provided shelf space. The products are also available direct to the consumer via Porchlight Products' website.

Mercado Marimar

In a word: A Park place.

The specs: #00968  
2102 S Park St., 53713
Details at Yelp

Latest Mercado Marimar news and reviews at

JM ate the burrito with a Jarritos.
Nichole ate a chorizo taco and a steak taco.
The bill was about $14, or $7/person, plus tip.
JM gave Mercado Marimar a B-; Nichole gave Mercado Marimar a B+ (see our grading rubric).


Mercado Marimar is another Mexican restaurant tucked in the back of a Mexican grocery store. This time it's on South Park, which is a pretty great place to be. And, while this is no Taqueria Guadalajara, it does hold up its end pretty well for the cost. JM's burrito was full to busting with beans (not his favorite filler), rice, and delicious meat and veg. The sauces here were decent but some were just packaged salsas that had been opened for customers.

Nichole found her tacos pretty darn good, with a high cilantro-to-onion ratio and pleasing meats.

Mercado Marimar is near a lot of great taquerias and doesn't seem to match the high quality of La Rosita or Los Gemelos. As such, it is hard to imagine making a special trip JUST for these.  The best we can say is that its good to have more Mexican places of sufficient quality to keep the high quality places accountable.



Madison Food coverOur book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine is out. Updates here.


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