This post was created in partnership with Sub-Zero and Wolf. All opinions are our own.
Wandering around a massive garden affectionately named “Harvest Haven” with a storybook white barn is the last thing I’d imagine at an appliance manufacturer’s corporate HQ. But that’s where I found myself in Madison, Wisconsin. There were waving rows of purple kale, dozens of orange squashes, fruit trees, and hives buzzing with bees. Inside the barn, a spread of local cheeses awaited, with pickled garden vegetables and fresh honey from the bees. The resident chef guided us around the rows, letting us sample bites of tart blackberries and bitter fennel seeds as we went. Was I really at a manufacturer’s corporate HQ? Why would appliance brands like Sub-Zero and Wolf invest in such an idyllic setting?
While in Madison, I had some incredible food and spirited conversation about the value of cooking with fresh, nourishing produce. It’s not just for the eco-nerd or the yuppie or the foodie. It’s for everyone, and that’s part of what we were there to discover. Here’s a short recap of my trip to Sub-Zero and Wolf ‘s HQ and the extra day I spent exploring Madison, Wisconsin. My travel buddies were dear friends of the best kind: Jack and Jeanine of Love & Lemons, Melissa of The Fauxmartha, and Elizabeth of Brooklyn Supper.
The unique thing about Sub-Zero and Wolf is that beyond just making top-of-the-line refrigerators and cooking appliances, they’re committed to inspiring everyday people to cook more using fresh ingredients. This, you may know, is also the mission behind why Alex and I started A Couple Cooks over seven years ago! Due to our similar missions, we’ve paired with the brand to create several recipes and a few podcasts to highlight our shared love of the value of cooking and eating the freshest ingredients. Last year, we created this Italian Gnocchi Soup and this year our popular Raw Falafel Buddha Bowls. We also recorded this this podcast from the kitchen of Love & Lemons where Jeanine and I cooked up a meal from what was on hand in her refrigerator. So I was thrilled to have the chance to see where all the magic happens.
Maybe it’s because I grew up watching Mr. Rodgers, but I love factory tours! Learning about the way things are made is endlessly fascinating to me, be it at a local honey maker or a car manufacturer. Our group toured the factory floors for both Sub-Zero refrigerators (swoon) and Wolf ranges (major swoon), and it was incredible to see the amount of detail and precision that goes into each appliance. I was impressed by the rigor and emphasis on quality, with many different quality assurance steps during the manufacturing process. After hearing I toured the plant, a friend of mine told me she has a Sub-Zero refrigerator that has lasted for 20 years with no service calls! It’s a testament to the quality and care put into the manufacturing.
A Wolf range (kitchen goals, right?)
Another highlight was spending time with the resident chef and getting our hands dirty in the demo kitchens. Chef Joel is a walking encyclopedia of food science tidbits, and he spews recipe ideas left and right. For lunch, he made us a top notch spread: seared scallops with crispy lentils and preserved lemon, locally-raised beef tenderloin with chimichurri, and cream puffs with caramel sauce. (In case you’re wondering, as a flexitarian I had one bite of the beef and it was quite possibly the most tender, delicious beef I’ve tasted.) Along the way, I was surprised to learn he relies heavily on produce from the garden when he feeds guests that are at the Westye F. Bakke Center for training and other events. He uses the honey from his bees, herbs, and several veggies in his menus. The flowers on our dining tables were grown in the garden, and they even make hot sauce onsite.
Chef Joel in his element
This is not at all what I expected from a corporate center, and that’s another thing that differentiates Sub-Zero and Wolf. They truly care about good food, which is why they built the farm and gardens. They’re practicing their values and investing in things that they believe in, even if it might not have an immediate return.
Of course, one of the best parts was spending time on the farm surrounded by beautiful, local-as-it-gets produce! Here’s a selection of photos from the space.
The farm, complete with vineyard
Hoop house tomatoes
Melissa, always documenting
The flower of an okra plant
The lovely barn interior
And the spread that awaited! Pickled garden veg of all kinds
A special Pisco sour, one of my favorite drinks
After bidding Sub-Zero and Wolf goodbye, I spent the following day exploring their hometown, Madison with my parents and our son Larson! We were pleasantly surprised: the town is charming, with lovely historic buildings and lots of good food. It’s right on the water, so this was the view from my hotel (the Edgewater), which almost felt like the ocean.
Everyone I talked with said when in Madison, get cheese curds! Translation: chow down some warm, fried balls of cheesy goodness. Ours came with a smoked paprika aioli sauce. We got them at The Old Fashioned, but there are several other cheese curd recommendations below.
Cheese curds at The Old Fashioned
We strolled around the historic downtown, then trekked over to Madison Sourdough, a restaurant and bakery with some incredible sourdough bread. The eggs diablo was incredible: poached eggs and toasted sourdough in a spicy ancho tomato sauce with cilantro cream. The bakery is located in a sweet neighborhood with some quaint historic buildings.
Eggs diablo at Madison Sourdough
From there, we walked back across town to the University. Almost everyone we talked to said to get a beer on the Memorial Union Terrace. When we arrived there, I saw why. It’s incredible, right on the water with a lovely view. We grabbed a beer and popcorn and relaxed by the water; it has almost a European vibe. The walk over to the University is a great neighborhood as well; it’s full of fun restaurants and colorful characters.
At Memorial Union Terrace
Since we had Larson out all day, we cooked dinner back at our Airbnb–a bit easier when travelling with a baby! However, we had one more foodie stop: brunch the next day at Short Stack. It’s got a line out the door, which always signifies a tasty spot. I ordered a breakfast sandwich: egg, tomato, caramelized onions, and rhubarb jam on a cheesy roll. It hit the spot, though the pulled pork and grits and huge pancake stack ordered others at my table also looked fabulous. For our meal, we met up with a recipe tester from our Pretty Simple Cooking cookbook who lives in Madison, Rochelle. Where most testers made 2 to 3 items from our book, she’s made 90 so far! It was wonderful to meet in person and thank her for her incredible support of the book.
Brunch at Short Stack
All in all, Madison is as charming as it gets. I’d absolutely love to return, especially for some more fall foliage. I’ve included a list of additional recommendations below that we’ve gathered from friends and readers. Let us know if you have any questions or additional recommendations in the comments below!
What to Eat in Madison
- Cheese curds: The Old Fashioned, Craftsman, The Vintage
- For dinner: Merchant (farm to table), Heritage Tavern, Estrellon, Coopers Tavern
- For lunch: Madison Sourdough, Graze
- For breakfast: Short Stack, Marigold
- Pizza: Salvatore’s Tomato Pies (also homemade burrata), Granpa’s, Ian’s
- Cocktails: The Robin Room (near Sal’s), Gibbs (near Granpa’s), Merchant
- For wine: Square Wine
- For anytime: beers at the Memorial Union terrace (a must!)
- Ice cream: Babcock Creamery (also at the Union)
- Ramen: Umami
- Tacos: Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace
For more on Sub-Zero and Wolf, head over to their website .
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.