Groups visiting the Greater Madison area for a meeting or convention should leave some room in the schedule, and in their bellies, for a fun culinary outing.
The varied experiences available to groups in this simmering foodie destination include tasty tours, wonderful group-friendly restaurants, award-winning beer and one of the country’s most popular farmers’ markets.
Dane County Farmers’ Market (DCFM)
Established in 1972, DCFM is the largest producer-only farmer’s market in the U.S. It takes place year-round, running indoors from November to April, and from mid-April through early November it can be found each Saturday on the square surrounding the state capitol building.
“Being producer-only means that there is no resale of products,” says Bill Lubing, manager of DCFM. “The one who is selling is the one who grew or produced the item.”
Among the items visitors find at the market are honey, maple syrup, jams, salsas, fresh vegetables, baked goodies, pasta and more.
“As the largest source of locally produced ingredients in the region, DCFM attracts household menu planners and chefs looking for the finest ingredients,” Lubing says. “And there are ample small bottles or packages of spices, dried mushrooms, mixes and other products that tourists find as a perfect memento of Madison.”
Judy Frankel, director of public relations and communications for the Greater Madison CVB, adds DCFM is a popular Madison tourist attraction that on peak Saturdays during the summer welcomes some 20,000 people. She recommends planners either encourage meeting attendees to visit on their own or to facilitate a fun scavenger hunt so they can explore the market as a group.
Madison Food Explorers
“Our downtown tour is a 101 of the Madison culinary scene,” says Andrea Hughes, proprietor for Madison Food Explorers. “It provides everything from an upscale farm-to-table restaurant experience, to exquisite local cheese tastings, to a college favorite hot spot for a brat and a beer.”
Tastes along the way also include everything from food cart empanadas or falafels to beer cheese soup and mac and cheese pizza.
“Not only do guests learn about the food of the area, but they learn about the culture that goes with it,” Hughes says. “For example, our guests learn about the squeak of a cheese curd, the fact that Wisconsin is the No. 1 state in brandy consumption, and how to use a bubbler, just to name a few things.”
One of Madison’s popular breweries, Ale Asylum, features an industrial chic ambience, a spacious tasting room, a creative menu that includes beer-pairing suggestions, and an upstairs lounge that’s available for private events for up to 40 people.
Hathaway Dilba, director of promotions for the brewery, says the bar and dining area overlook a 40,000-square-foot brewery operation.
“Diners can observe our brewing process, bottling line and other brewery operations while drinking the beer produced right in front of them,” she says, adding patrons can custom-create sampler sets of six 6-ounce beers in the tasting room.
The flagship beer here is Hopalicious, an American Pale Ale that’s been hailed Madison’s Signature Beer by the Wisconsin State Journal, and Velveteen Habit, an India Pale Ale, was voted Wisconsin’s Best IPA in August 2015 by Milwaukee Magazine.
The Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned, which embraces Wisconsin tradition and delivers on the supper club experience, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2015.