MANHATTAN — There's more to Wisconsin cuisine than casseroles and deep-fried cheese curds.
The Joseph Leonard restaurant in Greenwich Village will pay tribute to its Midwestern roots this week with three nights of Wisconsin fare including rabbit schnitzel, bison jerky, venison carpaccio, Wisconsin wild rice and foraged herbs.
Executive chef James McDuffee, a Michigan native, said he wanted to spice up the 170 Waverly Place eatery's seasonal American menu with a taste of Wisconsin food prepared by a traveling band of chefs from the Badger state.
"We had been looking at something new and innovative to do at Joseph Leonard, so we said, 'Let's invite someone from the outside to come and take over for a few days,'" McDuffee said.
The "Ouisconsin" dinners will be prepared on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights by the Underground Food Collective of Madison, Wis.
"Wisconsin food is a mishmash of dishes that borrow from our German and French heritage," said UFC member Jonny Hunter. "People have taken traditions that are 100 years old and made them modern."
The five-course tasting menu, which runs $70 per person, will vary from night to night. The restaurant normally does not accept reservations, but has been booking half the seats in the restaurant for the dinners, which will be served from 5:30 p.m. to about midnight.
Some of the collective's members became friends with Gabriel Stulman, the owner of Joseph Leonard and its sister restaurants Jeffrey's Grocery and Fedora, while working in Madison Wis., McDuffee added.
Stulman's restaurants earned the nickname "Little Wisco" for their Midwestern-heavy staffing and hospitality.
McDuffee said the Wisconsin-New York City blend is a perfect mix of Midwestern ingredients and with New York sophistication.
"There's bountiful produce and game right in [Midwesterners'] backyards," he said. "If you take that and combine it with the technique level you get in New York, you reach a next level."