Category Archives: Food for THOUGHT

Our Resident Food Critics, Marie and Joe Review Restaurants Throughout Wisconsin and Around the World

Members of the Wedding


RAY—F.O.B.: (Father of the Bride): Hi, Herb. How’s the Father of that
handsome Groom?

HERB—F.O.G: (Father of the Groom) Pretty good, Ray. Glad you could
meet me here. How’s the Father of the Blushing Bride?

RAY—F.O.B.: Great, though I don’t think that girl has blushed since she
was 16. She still says things that make me turn red.

HERB—F.O.G: Kids today.

RAY—F.O.B.: I’ll say. Name your poison.

Herb—F.O.G: Brandy.

RAY—F.O.B.: Brandy and what?

Herb—F.O.G.: Brandy and anything I’m from Wisconsin.

RAY—F.O.B.: Well, bumps, Herb. What did you want to talk about? I
thought we had all the expenses assigned. I got hit the hardest.

HERB—F.O.G: Yeah, but in the old days, the Father of the Groom only had
to pay for the booze. Now, I’ve had to dig down for the flowers, the
rehearsal dinner, marriage license, clergy, corsages, boutonnieres, the bride’s
bouquet, groomsmen gifts, AND the liquor—whatever happened to “cash

RAY—F.O.B.: Don’t forget the band. You agreed to that.

HERB—F.O.G.: (SIGHS) Oh, yeah, I forgot. Who are those people,

RAY—F.O.B.: The Screaming Alewives.

HERB—F.O.G.: What do they sound like?

RAY—F.O.B.: Let’s just say they’re aptly named. So what else?

HERB—F.O.G: Well, the subject of the Wedding Plaque came up, and…

RAY—F.O.B.: Say no more, we’d be glad to pay for it. That will save you
another expense.

HERB—Well, that’s just it; we don’t mind picking up the tab for a beautiful
plaque that commemorates this wonderful occasion.

carved initials hanging tree silver nickel

RAY—F.O.B.: Nothin’ doing. Paying for the boutonnieres probably put you in hock. I
saw some wonderful plaques on the Atlas website.

HERB—F.O.G: We did too, and we know the kids will think of us whenever they see
the thoughts expressed on their Wedding Plaque.

RAY—F.O.B.: Well, what if we went halfsies?

HERB: Done and done. I’m glad we could agree. Say, old buddy, you
wouldn’t consider doing the same thing on the booze, would you?

RAY—F.O.B.: Not a chance in hell.



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Out Damn Gredients


STOP and think about what you are eating.


I’ve noticed over the past few years that the importance of what’s in a product has taken a back seat to what’s not in a product—the outgredients triumph the ingredients in the buyer’s decisions.

It hit me hard in the grocery store yesterday. I went to get a bottle filled with water that had been purified beyond belief by reverse osmosis, infra red rays, charcoal filtration, and love, sweet love; there was a new label on the bottle, stating that it, the bottle itself, not the water, was BPA-Free. I wish it had just stated, “Free”— do you know what bottled water costs nowadays?

But this label proudly announced that the purchaser would be safe from the dangers of bisphenol-a, something I hadn’t even been aware of, much less been able to pronounce.

I first realized this phenomenon some years back when many laundry detergents started bragging about the fact that they did not contain chlorine bleach. Then they upped the ante with “phosphate-free.”

I think it started when learned that our paint should be lead free, and our insulation asbestos free.

Then when we learned what we had long suspected, that sugar wasn’t always the best thing for everybody, “sugar free” products starting jostling each other for space on the supermarket shelves.

Unforeseen, but inevitably, sweeteners came along, proclaiming proudly they did not contain whichever sugar alternative had most recently fallen into popular disfavor…only to be doomed eventfully to similar fates.

Certain mouthwashes proclaim they’re alcohol-free. If you ask, me, if you’re ordering the latest chi chi fashionable designer cocktail, it would be helpful to be able to identify one that will taste like it’s mouthwash-free.

Sodium free foods, at first of interest only to those on cardiac diets, became a selling point to all consumers, even those who did not need to drastically reduce their salt intake.

“Fat free.” That’s a huge seller now. However if you look closely at the ingredients listing on the label, things like sodium and sugar might increase their percentages to make up for the taste loss inherent in fat free products.

Oh, and then there’s cholesterol free. That’s good. But nobody can tell me which is better—cholesterol-free or fat free, and which one impacts on the other.

How Low Can You Go
When they couldn’t do the free part, they went to “low,” as in low fat, low sugar, low sodium. We love compromises, thinking that 2% Milk, while not entirely fat free, is at least better for one than fat, fatty fat, milk.

Even some tobacco companies trumpeted that their cigarettes were low tar, blithely ignoring the fact that they still had nicotine and all the carcinogens.

Lately, anti-biotics-free and hormone-free chicken, pork, and beef have become the fastest growing segment of the meat market, while pesticide-free produce is certainly more appealing to the average customer than the oh-so-trendy, “organic.”

Buying local supposedly helps consumers be assured that the missing toxins are really missing.

And all this is just the beginning

Let’s take a peek at what’s on the horizon:


CEO: Well, Farnswold, I understand you marketing fellows, oh, sorry Betsy, “you marketing folks” have come up with something that will kick a little life into many of our stagnant products.

FARNSWORTH: Yessir, Betsy show him the new label for our cookies.


CEO: Ta da?


CEO: What does that say?—“Arsenic Free?” What are you, nuts? Why would our cookies contain arsenic?

FARNSWOLD: That’s just it, sir. They don’t. And we’re telling the people that. It will kick our sales through the roof.

CEO: Well, the other baking companies’ cookies don’t contain arsenic either.

FARNSWOLD: We’re not saying they do. But the average consumer will not see anything about that on the other cookie packages. If they’re concerned, let those guys put that on their labels. By the time they do, we will have cornered the market.


There you have it. If you have any questions, call me. Feel free.
But I really must leave now. There’s a big sale down the street on tires for my smart car. And they’re gluten free.


By Joel Habush

About Atlas Signs—They’re free everything, except for the price.

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What is Objectivism? Finding Happiness

Atlas Objectist

Atlas Has Grown Into the Symbol of Objectivism

Have you ever sat down and thought about what the meaning of your life is? Go ahead; take a minute to come up with your answer. If you said to serve God, then you’re probably a Christian. If you said to reach enlightenment then you’re definitely a Buddhist. If you said to lead a happy and fulfilling life then not only are you wise, but an objectivist.

What is objectivism? Objectivism is the idea that man is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life. In short, according to objectivism—it is your personal responsibility to make yourself happy in life. Naturally, there is a subjective cloud hanging over any given human’s definition of personal happiness. That’s why objectivists believe in an objective set of morals, universally true for all mankind. This ethic is to have full, rational respect for others’ rights. In essence, this means that each individual must have respect for each other while going about their own path to happiness. Continue reading

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Local Food Has Benefits Beyond the Locavores and Localvores

Friendly Madison WI farmers selling produce

Buyers shopping at the Dane County farmer's market

In recent years, people have started questioning the wisdom of the international agricultural business.

After seeing crops devastated and the growing problem of fertilizer run-off, they began clamoring for organic foods. Once these farms started up, a new food movement was close behind. Locavore or Localvores attempt to limit their diet to locally produced foods.

Eating local has quite a few benefits. One, it’s better for the environment. This is because the food doesn’t have to be shipped as far, so the carbon footprint is much smaller. Two, it supports local farmers. Buying local goods helps revitalize local communities economically. For every 10 dollars spent at a community business, nearly $7 returns to the community, as opposed to approximately $4 for a big box business. Three, you have more control over the quality of goods. Most local stores place a high emphasis on quality or organic foods.

As a business that supports local growth, Atlas Signs and Plaques is happy with the locavore movement. Every dollar that we can keep in our communities is a huge help. Support your local businesses and try having a meal sourced only from local producers. It might seem tough, but accept the challenge and make it a beneficial game for you and your family. The exercise will be a great leaning and teaching experience.

Its always good to know where your food comes from. Buy local, support your friendly farmers, eat well, and be healthy.


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Marie and Joe Review Brunch at Madison’s Old Fashioned Restaurant

Another good “formula” restaurant with a large local following

Joe –  The Old Fashioned is just another of the burgeoning “quality comfort food” cafes and restaurants in the Madison area. On the plus side, the restaurant/pub does a great job of using local meats, produce, cheese, beer, and even liquor. It seems clean, the service is friendly and speedy, and the beer selection extensive (if you care). Their mission statement says they are inspired by Wisconsin taverns and supper clubs.

Marie – I found the atmosphere to be more tavern and less supper club. To me, supper club means a dinner menu of steak, prime rib, chicken, and, of course, a relish tray. When one of your claims to fame is a huge selection of tap beers, and your nightly specials include tacos and burgers, it is a tavern. Other than those trivial observations there is really not too much to say on the negative side that wouldn’t seem petty and personal, other than to caution about substituting mass quantities of food for quality. Overall, a fine experience that meets modest expectations. The owners are following a winning commercial formula and safely drawing a big crowd without pushing the envelope.

Joe – A few weeks after first visiting The Old Fashioned on Madison’s Capitol Square for an early lunch, a return trip was made on a recent Sunday morning for breakfast. In all honesty, the return for breakfast was prompted by the bloody mary being happily consumed by the person seated next to us during the previous  lunch. It was called The Wisconsin bloody mary, and is served with a side dish of snacks designed to appeal to the palate of a stereotypical Wisconsinite.

Arriving at a time that seemed to beat the rush, seating was immediately available at the bar. I started off by ordering the previously mentioned bloody mary and began cruising the brunch menu which has some interesting choices such as Walleye and Eggs, but mainly varied from Denny’s fare by the promised use of local fresh ingredients and flowery descriptions. My bloody mary arrived and it proved upon tasting to be a typical and non-inspired creation. The snack side plate was an interesting supper club type experience, but was pretty much, as expected, with a tender pickled egg, cheese curds, and a large portion of lean and tasty jerky. The curds were a bit of a disappointment both in number and size compared to portions I saw a couple of weeks earlier. For $8.50 this was probably a one-time experience.

Marie – I am so happy I didn’t blow eight bucks on a bloody mary. For my dining pleasure, I ordered the Chicken Fried Steak advertised as being a lightly breaded top-sirloin steak with sausage gravy. All I could think when it arrived was, what a huge hunk of meat that seemed to be. It was a monster covering most of a platter, but the illusion of size was accentuated by the very thick “lightly breaded” part. Actually the steak part was really good. The beef appeared to be high quality, and was was both flavorful and tender and wasn’t overly smothered by the gravy. The eggs were as ordered and, unlike yours, my roasted potatoes were hot in the center if not noteworthy in flavor. Although I won’t order this again unless I share it with someone, this was a meal that will bring me back to sample more of the menu.

Joe – I selected the Wisconsin Benedict with the bratwurst patty which turned out to be a great choice. The eggs were cooked as ordered, and the sausage had a pleasant mildly spiced taste that didn’t overwhelm the eggs or the english muffin. Rather than a standard hollandaise sauce, The Old Fashioned uses a mustard cream sauce that has a more robust flavor and pairs very nicely with the stronger flavor of the sausage. While many restaurants over apply hollandaise, this one left me wishing they would use a bit more. But, I will give this high marks for putting an interesting twist on standard fare.

The only real disappointment with my meal was the side of rosemary potatoes. They looked good with a nice crusty outside, but my order had some centers that were not quite done, and varied from having cold spots to being smoking hot. The non uniform temperature of the potato interiors combined with the very uniform exteriors leads me to believe that the potatoes are microwaved before plating which is certainly a shortcut that undermined an otherwise fine dish.

The Old Fashioned is one of the “in” places in town and you know that we are very happy for their success.

Marie – I guess this is one where we just can’t fight the  popular menu, great uptown location, mass quantities of food, and the instant camaraderie afforded by large crowds. So man-up Joe and admit that despite your whining, you will be back.

Joe – Count me in. I will return because this is an overall fine place, and a good fit for Madison.

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