Early review - surprise!
Started the weekend by attending special party at my favorite bike store, Cronometro; they had a bit of a customer appreciation/new product line introduction gala, and it sounded interesting, so it was over to Willy Street to check out the party and to check out the Ridley line of bicycles.
Ridley reps were there, which was cool, because Ridley has a great line of "Cyclocross" bikes that have caught my eye. I'd love to get another bike to use for commuting to and from work, riding on trails, and using on the trainer during the winter. I really liked this model, the X-Fire:
Unfortunately, that bike is quite a bit out of my price range. As shown above, that bike runs right about $6,000. Yikes!! Thankfully, there are some that are a bit more affordable, like this interesting Crossbow model, shown here with a fender kit and the latest Ultegra components.
After spending about 30 minutes oggling the new bikes, chatting with folks, and sampling some Belgian beverages (Ridley is based in Belgium), it was time to head out for the fish fry.
The crew decided to hit Toby's Supper Club, which is located just outside of Madison, on Stoughton Road. The place received stellar reviews from several web sites, although some of the folks from work warned us that it might be a bit "local" or "townie."
The place is tiny - hardly bigger than an average living room - and as such, was absolutely PACKED full of people. We arrived at around 7:30pm, and the place was jumping - we could barely find a place to stand while waiting for a table. And while there were obviously a bunch of "locals" there, the crowd was friendly and enjoyable, and thank goodness for that - check out how packed the bar was:
The entire time that we sat at the bar, the bartenders literally flew around, multitasking like crazy. It was nothing for them to be filling two drink orders (mixing several drinks at the same time), while making change for someone at the bar, and taking a new drink order from someone in line. And they never once missed a beat - it was pretty fun to watch them work their magic.
Toby's has a unique ordering system - while seated or standing at the bar, one of the bartenders somehow notifies a waitress that you'd like to order food. Out of nowhere will appear a waitress, who takes your order, and tells you that she'll get you once the table and food are ready. With so many people stacked in the place, we found it hard to believe that this would actually work, but it did.
Our wait was long - about 2.5 hours - but well worth it! While sitting at the bar, we started off with the customary cheese curds, which were solid. Top 3 rank for curds, for sure:
We generally prefer a battered curd to a breaded curd, but the cheese in these curds was so good that it made up for the non-battered-nature. The ranch was also spectacular. Curds = WIN.
And before we knew it (the clock had struck 10:00pm), our table and fish were ready. The table was outfitted with the customary Supper Club fare: a veggie bowl and a bread bowl.
And then came the fish. Toby's offers: Baby Pike, Cod, and Lake Perch. And the prices are more than reasonable - no more than $13 for a plate. Here's the cod:
It was superb. Unbelievably good - easily Top 2 fish. Why so good? Once again, the fish is breaded, which is normally not a point-scorer for us. But, the breading is light, the fish is fried perfectly (not a hint of grease anywhere), and it's served piping hot. The flavor is unreal - the fish is the actual star of the plate; it's not overwhelmed by breading or spices, or anything unusual. Simple = good, and Toby's cod is GREAT.
Here's the combo plate (Lake Perch on the left, Baby Pike on the right):
Just like the Cod, these two offerings were stellar and beyond compare, and for the same reasons as the Cod. Lightly and perfectly breaded, expertly fried, and packed with wonderful, yet delicate fish flavor. Well worth any wait, plain and simple.
And the service was equally fantastic - our server, Rhonda, was great - super fun, helpful, and tolerant of our boisterous crew. Here's me and Rhonda:
We called it a night and left Toby's content, happy, and raving about how incredible the fish was. We'll definitely be back!
Saturday morning came much too early, especially given there was a 54-mile bike race in Fort Atkinson that I had entered. It's called "Ride the Rock" and it benefits the local literacy council (I think). The race started at 8:30am from Jones Park in Fort Atkinson. Here we are leaving as a group to start the race:
The race went horribly. I've discovered that I absolutely hate bike racers - they're some of the most self-centered, inconsiderate, unnecessarily aggressive riders on the planet. I was basically run off the road within the first few miles of the race by the "teams," all of which were trying to jockey for position by literally elbowing and bumping people out of the way... all within the first 3-4 miles of a 54-mile race. Really?
Factor in that the race wasn't a sanctioned event and that it was basically a charity ride, and it's just all the more silly to risk crashing and wrecking your bike, breaking bones, or causing harm to other people. Yet these guys don't apparently care... you'd think they were trying to qualify for the Olympics or something. To heck with that. After I hit the gravel, I let the group get ahead of me, and I rode out the "race" without worry of getting in a wreck.
Unfortunately, the group will always ride faster than a solo rider, by a pace of around 4-5mph. So, within the first lap (18 miles), I had completely lost site of the pack. That was fine by me. Here I am passing through a little town on my second lap:
And here I am at the finish line, giving a solid "thumbs down" to the group. The race was generally well organized, the course was well marked, and the support crews were good, I just wish my "fellow riders" shared some of those qualities.
So, yeah - no more bike races (or more specifically, bike racers) for me. I'll just enjoy my triathlons, where the emphasis is on the individual's effort, and not impacted/driven by mob mentality.