Crazy For Cranberries

By Barbara Sanford

Many know Wisconsin as the Dairy State, however, few realize that it holds another title — the largest producer of cranberries in the world! Each year, the state grows 600 million pounds of cranberries and supplies the U.S. with two-thirds of the cranberries consumed annually.


Central Wisconsin is the epicenter of this thriving industry and that’s where we start our tour of this once seasonal staple that has been gracing thanksgiving tables for generations.

Our cranberry tour begins in Stevens Point where we travel Wisconsin’s Cranberry Highway, a 50-mile-long sea of bright red cranberries, to Glacial Lake Cranberries in Wisconsin Rapids, one of the oldest cranberry marshes in central Wisconsin. There we learn about the geography of the region and the history of the cranberry industry at their historic visitor Center. From here we hop aboard the berry bus with third-generation cranberry growers Phil and Mary Brown for a cranberry harvest tour around the marsh.

It’s mid-October, and the cranberries have reached their peak of color and are ready for harvesting. the dry marshes (or bogs) of low running vines have been flooded with eight to 10 inches of water, and we watch as a picking machine is driven through the bed. Its tines comb through the vines and pick the fruit off. the berries float to the surface and are corralled into one area of the marsh and removed by a pumping system onto a conveyor and into a bin.

These berries will be processed into juice, sauce and sweetened dried cranberries. They will be delivered by truck to a receiving station, where they will be graded, cleaned and frozen for later use. “Our family has been in one place doing the same thing for 140 years,” says Mary. “It’s a way of life.” Tours are offered Monday through Friday and on select Saturdays during harvest season. After the tour, we buy cranberry wine and berries at the Visitor Center shop.

Then it’s off to lunch at the Elm Lake Cranberry Company in Wisconsin Rapids, owned by third-generation growers Mike and Diane Wirtz, whose family started the business in 1901. Our catered lunch is all things cranberry — pork loin in a Merlot cranberry demi-glace; chicken smoked and glazed with cranberry BBQ sauce; spinach salad topped with candied walnuts, Bleu cheese and sweetened dried cranberries tossed in a cranberry vinaigrette; green beans with almonds and sweetened dried cranberries; wild rice with fresh cranberries; and cranberry walnut tart.IMG_0254

Our next stop is Gardner Trucking & Cold Storage in Pittsville, the largest independent receiving station in the country. Here we watch the berries being cleaned, binned and frozen before they are processed. They store 50 percent of Wisconsin’s cranberry crop — 250 million pounds. It is also the home of Badger State Fruit Processing, a state-of-the-art sweetened dried cranberry facility. The plant processes 25 million pounds of sweetened dried cranberries annually. We watch as the fruit is transported from the freezer to the staging room, where it is sliced and sorted, infused with liquid sugar, dried and declumped before being packaged. With advance notice so that a tour guide can be scheduled, the public is welcome to visit the facility.

Cranberry juice concentrate and juice are made in the juice plant across the street. It’s very likely that the cranberry juice you drink is made from cranberries grown, stored and processed here in the heart of Wisconsin’s cranberry country.

Additional cranberry marsh tours are available in the Tomah area.

Celebrate the Wisconsin Cranberry Harvest this fall at the Warrens Cranberry Festival, the world’s largest cranberry festival, complete with tours, a parade, demonstrations and markets. Don’t miss the Cranberry Public Harvest Day marsh tour at the Wetherby Cranberry Company in Warrens, where you can put on waders and walk right out into the marsh. Then visit the Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center in Warrens.

In northern Wisconsin, enjoy the world’s largest cranberry cheesecake, along with a run/walk and arts and crafts fair, at the Eagle River Cranberry Fest, and the pancake breakfast, pie social and flea market at the Stone Lake Cranberry Festival.

Now that we’ve seen how cranberries are harvested and processed, we decide to experience firsthand how cranberries can enhance our lives. So it’s off to the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake for a soothing cranberry citrus anti-aging facial at the Aspira spa. The facial consists of an apricot cleanser, exfoliant, calm skin chamomile cleanser, apricot calendula nourishing cream, cranberry pomegranate sugar scrub, cranberry masque and wash, and calm skin moisturizer. Afterwards, I enjoy a refreshing cranberry smoothie in the spa café.

The following day, I learn the art of cooking with cranberries at L’ecole de la Maison cooking school also located on the resort’s grounds. Our class features a french bistro menu with a cranberry twist. We cook mushroom veloute (soup) with duxelles, chevre and cranberry croutons; fennel, cranberry and orange salad; salmon en papillote with apple cranberry compote; cranberry cheddar polenta; swiss chard with cranberries and toasted pine nuts; crepes suzettes with cranberries; and fougasse (bread) with cranberry, rosemary and walnuts.

This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.


Wisconsin Wineries

By Kristine Hansen

This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Three girls touring the cellars at Wollersheim WineryOn a sunny Saturday I’m seated with a girlfriend next to the gleaming stainless steel tanks at the two-year-old Vines & Rushes Winery in rural Ripon. A singer-songwriter’s raw vocals fill the space, packed with wine sippers and music fans alike. This was meant to be a stop on our way home to Milwaukee but a few minutes into a flight of wine samples we quickly realize there is reason to stay.

Outside, past the tasting room where wines are poured in small samples, against a backdrop of furniture, walls and flooring all salvaged from barns, and beyond shelves filled with edible souvenirs of Wisconsin (from cheese to chocolate), farmland buffers the winery’s four-acre vineyards. This is where cold-hardy wine grapes like St. Pepin, Marquette and Petite Pearl flourish. It’s a sweet story about coming home. Co-owner Ryan Prellwitz grew up on the farm with his family and, with wife Megan, transformed the land into a vineyard. Just down the road, the Prellwitz family continues its homesteading today with Prellwitz Produce, a strawberry farm and Al n Rae Farms, specializing in soybeans and corn.

Every Wednesday night during summer and through the end of September, this winery adopts a modern vibe: visitors can do sun salutations and downward dogs between the vines. After shavasana, participants can taste wine for free and kick back with snacks (cheese and crackers, plus popcorn and chocolates). During some classes, Dennis Hawk — a singer-songwriter who refers to himself as a yoga musician — provides soul-stirring tunage.

At many dairy state wineries, the main focus is not solely the grapes. Activities and events designed to stimulate the senses, whether it’s yoga, listening to live music or painting, also entice visitors. Just like at vines & rushes, Elmaro Vineyard in Trempealeau hosts a packed roster of non-wine events, including jazz sessions and Easter egg-dying, painting and various yoga classes (from candlelight to sunset yoga, plus yoga & brunch). And at Staller Estate Winery’s vineyard and tasting room in Delavan, a young couple with a science background have followed their dream to launch a winery. By 2013, six years into their endeavor, they had garnered 50 awards for their wines, mostly crafted from Wisconsin- and Illinois-grown grapes. Just a few rely upon wine grapes sourced from New York’s Finger Lakes region. Visitors are treated to more than a wine tasting. They can dig into a picnic platter to enjoy on the grounds, and activities such as creating a trivet from recycled wine corks, for example. All of this happens inside a former dairy barn that’s cute as a button.

That said, wine doesn’t always take a backseat. Plenty of Wisconsin wineries offer immersive experiences to get wine geeks knee-deep in viticulture or oenology. One can stomp grapes and tour the vineyard at Parallel 44 vineyard & Winery in Kewaunee during its Fall Harvest Fest on September 12. (Curious what Parallel 44 means? It’s a reference to the 44 degrees north latitude in this region, which is the same as in Tuscany, Italy and Bordeaux, France.) Located 15 miles east of Green Bay and just south of the Bateway City to Door County (Sturgeon Bay), the 10-year-old winery has a coveted spot in Wisconsin’s newest American viticultural area, the Wisconsin ledge, and grows five cold-climate wine grapes.

If sub-zero temps don’t keep you indoors, consider visiting the winery in late February for another annual event: the Frozen Tundra Wine Fest. Wines are uncorked and poured at a chilly ice bar, you can hop on a sleigh ride and there is food for purchase, along with the rare chance to tour the vineyards during a month when people rarely do.

For lovers of leaf peeping in the autumn, there’s no better place to point your car than a country road in Door County. A nice complement to that road trip is the Door County Wine Trail. Eight wineries are on the trail, including a sister winery to Parallel 44 (Door 44, inside a cute little red house in Sturgeon Bay). Near Egg Harbor at Stone’s Throw Winery — which sources its grapes from outside of Wisconsin but makes the wines inside the 90-year-old stone barn — are three different tours: the Essence of Wines (sip through a flight of five wines), daily tour (visit the barrel room and taste wines) and barrel tasting tour (an in-depth look at the wine making process, including barrel tastings). All tours include a logo wine glass to keep as a souvenir.

One unique angle to touring Door County wineries is the food. Right next door — 20 feet away, in fact — to Harbor Ridge Winery in Egg Harbor is a carefully curated cheese shop. All the fixings for pairing wine and food are in the same space, so close that you need not repark your car or bicycle (Door County’s winding country roads are the perfect spot for a two-wheeled winery tour). Tucked into a log cabin at Wisconsin Cheese Masters are 90-some different artisan cheeses made in Wisconsin. Many have earned awards and the variety spans selections such as Gouda, Cheddar, Havarti and Blue.

At the winery, each label features an artsy twist. Call Me a Cab is a Cabernet franc red wine with a rotary-dial image on each bottle and naughty Girl promises a taste on the palate that’s “racy” and with “curvaceous tannins,” just like the label’s silhouette of a woman.

On a visit to Harbor Ridge Winery you can walk up to the five-year-old vines, flush with Marquette grapes, or simply belly up to the bar and taste for yourself how unique Wisconsin’s wines are. In a state more recognized for its beer and cheese, it’s a refreshing angle to sampling just how rich the region’s terroir (wine-speak for the characteristics in soil and climate that contribute to overall taste) can be.

Perched along the Wisconsin river, just outside of Sauk City, is Wollersheim Winery, one of the state’s most well-known wineries, particularly for its Prairie Fumé, a semi-dry white wine crafted from seyval blanc grapes from New Hork. Owners Julie and Philippe Coquard — his roots go back to a wine making family in France’s beaujolais region while she is the Wollersheims’ oldest daughter — hit upon the idea for this wine in the late 1980s while dining out in Madison and craving a light, fruity white to drink with their meal. It’s also the state’s oldest winery dating back to the 1840s when Agoston Haraszthy planted wine grapes here.

Year-round, the winery’s event calendar is filled with events, including a vintage Christmas celebration the Saturday after thanksgiving and ruby Nouveau release day the third Thursday of November, inspired by the release of Beaujolais Nouveau on this date too. There are also daily opportunities to get an intimate glimpse at what it’s like to run a winery. You can sip through the winery’s portfolio under an umbrella while gazing out at the vineyards; tour the winery’s hillside caves; or experience the Wine sensory Garden that the late founder, Bob Wollersheim, planted. (Each of the plants is linked to an aroma found in wine.)

At this winery, and at others across the state, whether your palate screams for white or red, fruity or savory, or dry or sweet, there are plenty of options — complete with a look at the newest angle to Wisconsin’s burgeoning beverage industry.

This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.



By Holly Leitner

This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Cheese curds are to Wisconsin what Key Lime Pie is to Key West, crabs to Maine, pastrami to New York City and smoky barbecue to Texas. No matter where you trek throughout the state, there’s a good chance curds will top a menu.

Cheese curds are a by-product of the cheese-making process. Most often you will find they are cheddar, but they can be any kind of cheese. rubbery, salty, squeaky … these are all great traits of a delicious cheese curd! Connoisseurs will prefer their curds to be served at room temperature or even slightly warmer. Every cheese shop or grocery store in Wisconsin will have cheese curds, however, the key is to find fresh ones for maximum enjoyment!

In Wisconsin we are proud of our deep-frying ingenuity (after all, we did tout our deep fried clumps of butter at the state fair in 2011), and so it was only a matter of time before our beloved cheese curd met a deep fryer creating an even more amazing delicacy!

In 2013, USA Today conducted a poll to discover the best regional foods in America. Our Wisconsin deep-fried cheese curd ranked third, only to be topped by Maryland crabs (second) and a green chile sauce from Albuquerque (first).

Many restaurants and bars claim to have perfected the simple marriage of the two — breading and cheese — concocting creative batters with Wisconsin beer and varying degrees of “crust.” However, all are not equal! The end result is dependent on several key steps. And don’t be afraid to ask a few questions!

  • Are they made from fresh, local cheese? (We recommend no older than two days.) you can measure this on the distance of the cheese stretch (from mouth to fingers) and by the melty, fluffy quality of cheese.
  • Are they lightly battered and hand dipped? the best curds have a simple, crispy crust, accentuating the curd without detracting from the main ingredient.
  • What kind of condiment? Ranch is the classic choice, but many restaurants are getting creative — serving side sauces from smoked paprika to garlic aioli, dill tartar to sriracha ranch.
  • How greasy are they? There is such a thing as too greasy.

While restaurants and bars across the state claim to have the best cheese curds, here are a few we consider to be tops.

The Old Fashioned, Madison
A consistent fan favorite on many lists. they nail it with a light batter, fresh curd and a variety of creative condiments from which to choose. not to mention you’re sure to get another great Wisconsin staple — the old fashioned.

Water Street Brewery, Milwaukee & Delafield
Small, tasty nuggets enveloped by an addictive salty crust. yum.

Craftsman Table & Tap, Middleton
Another artfully done curd. these Carr valley cheese curds are fried in a light tempura batter and paired with a thin ranch sauce to accentuate the curd. Well done.

Fill In Station, Chippewa Falls
These daily-fresh, hand-battered in local Leinenkugels beer curds have Wisconsin written all over them.

Rocky’s Supper Club, Stoddard
Enjoy a short drive south of La Crosse along the Great river road to find these freshly dipped curds.

Horse & Plow, Kohler
Situated in the American Club, this fine dining establishment shows that even curds are important enough to be on their menu. and they do it right.

Minocqua Brewing Co., Minocqua
Fresh beer and curds overlooking Lake Minocqua. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Titletown Brewing, Green Bay
White cheddar curds served with a side of marinara sauce are a perfect complement to a cold Canadeo Gold.

The Curd Girl Food Truck, Madison
This girl is known for her curds that have a deliciously thin, crispy batter and stretchy cheese.

Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee
With curds from local Clock Shadow Creamery, hand dipped in a batter using the brewery’s Beer Hall Wheat Ale and then served with house-made ranch dipping sauce, you can’t go wrong here!

So, when in Wisconsin, do as the Wisconsinites do … eat only the best curd and then go home and have a salad for dinner (with vinaigrette dressing).

This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.



Aged to Perfection

By Kristine Hansen

This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

You don’t have to board a plane to Napa or Bordeaux to get your wine fix.

Wisconsin’s reputation as a rich agricultural region doesn’t stop with cheese and organic vegetable farms. Forty-three wineries in the state — from Door County to the Driftless Region — produce wine from grapes either grown in estate vineyards or imported from other wine-growing regions. Each of the four wineries noted below provides a visiting experience that’s filled with gorgeous views, good wine and an excuse to take a road trip.

Chateau St. Croix Winery & Vineyard, St. Croix Falls
While living in Germany, Midwestern natives Laura and Troy Chamberlin tasted wines in the Rhine region. When they opened their winery in 2004, they strove to replicate not only the same quality in wine but a similar tasting-room experience. as you approach the winery’s 17th-century, European-style estate (housing an art gallery, horse stables, formal gardens and a fishing pond on its 55 acres), you’ll swear you’re miles away from Wisconsin. Six wine-grape varietals are grown on a 2.5- acre parcel, and when combined with fruit sourced from other domestic regions, it results in about a dozen different wines that include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rosé, Frontenac, Syrah, Zinfandel and Merlot. There are even Port and ice wines, and offbeat, signature varieties like Helga’s Red, Thoroughbred Red and CheeseHead White.

Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery, Kewaunee
Located 15 miles from Green Bay and not far from Lake Michigan’s shoreline, owners Steve Johnson and Maria Milano learned to make wine from other family members well before planting their first grapes in 2005. Parallel 44’s tasting room — a large, elegant light-yellow building — opened in 2007, offering perks like “wine school” courses and guided tours of the vineyard on Saturday afternoons from June through September. Wines produced range from quirky (“frozen tundra”) to familiar varietals (such as Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon) using grapes not grown in this region. The cool-climate grapes grown in their 6.5-acre vineyard are lesser-known varieties like Marechal Foch, St. Pepin, St. Croix, Frontenac, Seyval (tastes like Sauvignon Blanc) and Louise Swenson.

Stone’s throw Winery, Egg Harbor
Russell Turco founded Stone’s Throw Winery in 1997. He crafted a modern-style tasting room inside a former stone barn surrounded by prairie, where sunlight pours in through lots of windows. Even before a wine buzz takes over, you’ll forget you are 2,500 miles from Napa.

That the wines channel California is no accident. Stone’s Throw Winery is different than other Wisconsin wineries in that all grapes are sourced from throughout California, from Napa Valley to the Central Coast. around 30 wines are produced, including unique bottles (“angelique,” an almond sparkling wine) as well as familiar reds (Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon). Wine and food enthusiasts can sign up for classes through the winery’s Wine Camp.

Wollersheim Winery, Prairie du Sac
Founded by a Hungarian Count during the 1840s, the winery’s vineyards were later purchased by Robert and Joann Wollersheim. Winemaker Philippe Coquard has good winemaking stock: he arrived from the Beaujolais region of France to take the Wollersheim job in 1984, armed with not only a viticulture degree but also knowledge from working at french wineries owned by his uncles. Three years ago, a 15,000-square-foot expansion to the visitor center added tasting and shopping areas, bringing even more definition to this pastoral, hilly setting along the Wisconsin river. A tour includes a peek inside the original wine cellar inside a cave. Seven of the grape varietals used to make Wollersheim’s wines — including its flagship grape, Marechal Foch — are grown in its 27-acre vineyard, but others are brought in from New York and Washington, such as Chardonnay, Sangiovese and Pinot Noir.

This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

Best of the Bloodys

By Nicole Rupersburg | Photography By Holly Leitner

This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

In Wisconsin, a Bloody Mary is more of a meal than a cocktail. If you think a Bloody Mary is just tomato juice, vodka and a pickle, these Bloody Mary professionals have a surprise for you … a surprise so big you might even have to take home leftovers!

Sobelman’s Pub & Grille, Milwaukee
Sobelman’s is not just the most famous bloody Mary purveyor in the state of Wisconsin, its Bloody Frankensteins are nationally known! Its “Masterpiece” put them on the national Bloody Mary map a few years back with coverage on Good Morning America, the Daily Meal and the Huffington Post. This monstrosity includes shrimp, Polish sausage, cheese, pickled asparagus, a scallion stalk, pickle, pickled mushroom, an onion, brussels sprout, celery stalk, cherry tomato, lemon wedge and a cheeseburger (a really good cheeseburger!). It’s also served with a beer chaser, as are all proper bloodies. On a mission to best themselves, Sobelman’s also serves the Baconado, the Crown Mary (with a Corona tipped over inside the glass) and the Beast, which is basically a bacon, sausage and burger buffet all inside a gallon-sized glass. And if all of that still isn’t enough, Sobelman’s most recent headline-making concoction is the Chicken-fried Bloody Beast, which includes everything inside the beast plus a whole fried chicken. A whole fried chicken.

Bluephies Restaurant, Madison
Any place that calls itself a “Vodkatorium” — as Bluephies does — is, by law, required to bring a strong bloody Mary game to its brunch offerings. Bluephies delivers, and hard. With a “Vodka A to Z” list of more than 40 vodkas from all over the world, including many made in Wisconsin, Bluephies’ bloody Mary menu is ambitious. There are a lot of excellent varieties to choose from, but we’re partial to the “Wakey Wakey Eggs and Bakey” featuring a scotch egg (boiled, wrapped in sausage, breaded and deep fried), bacon, lemon, lime, olives and string cheese topping a house-infused bacon vodka Bloody Mary made with Zing Zang and a bit of Wisconsin’s own Fuel Café stout beer. If you’re looking for more variety, consider a bloody flight: three 8-ounce samples each made of tequila, bacon-infused vodka and jalapeno-infused vodka.

Rusty’s Backwater Saloon, Stevens Point
While the above contenders for the title of “Wisconsin’s Best Bloody” adopt the belief that bigger is better, Rusty’s Backwater Saloon prefers to keep things simple. However, its Bloody Mary is anything but basic and is widely hailed as the best in the state. Rusty’s version includes banana pepper juice (instead of pickle juice), more peppers, a pickle and a beer chaser on the side. For extra kick, ask for fresh-squeezed garlic, or for an extra buck you can get a foot-long beef stick.

The Green Dragon Brewpub, Fond du Lac
It makes sense that this one would have Bloody Marys on the brain since owner Dave Koepke was previously the owner of O’Davey’s Irish Pub, also in Fond du Lac, which once made national headlines for the most insane Bloody Mary creations in American history. The Green Dragon opened last summer and offers a different specialty Bloody Mary creation each Sunday. Incarnations have included: a chimichanga and plantains, a Moroccan kabob, a smoked turkey leg and deep fried jalapeno mozzarella stick, a fried pork tender and tostones and one with honey-battered mako shark and portabella fries — making their cheeseburger slider bloody seem passé by comparison. (It’s still delicious.) This place is still under the radar so get on that bloody bandwagon before national media gets wind of it and you can’t get a seat!

Revere’s Wells Street Tavern, Delafield
With curlicues of string cheese crowning the top of one of their specialty Bloody Marys like an abstract art project, a slice of sausage unassumingly draped on the side of the glass alongside slices of lemon and lime, and a beer chaser to boot, Revere’s Bloody Mary deserves its spot in Wisconsin’s Bloody Hall of Fame.

Choo Choo Bar & Grill, Superior
If you’re a fan of those super-sized bloodies that Wisconsin does best, then be sure to hit up the Choo Choo Bar in Superior, where the Bloody Marys are served in carafes and garnished with a jumbo shrimp, a giant beef stick, celery with cheese, olives, mushrooms, pearl onions and a pickle spear.

4th Base Seafood Restaurant, Milwaukee
This place takes the art of the Bloody Mary very seriously and will customize its spicy house-made mix any way you want. And if what you want is a full salad of fresh vegetables, a pile of haystack onions and a jumbo shrimp that’s almost too big to fit in the pint glass, then by Mary you shall have it!

The Loaded Slate, Milwaukee
Like the full moon and paying rent, the Loaded Slate’s ultimate Bloody Mary only happens once a month. It is a giant bloody adorned with a full-sized cheeseburger, a soft pretzel, a giant mozzarella stick, a fried pickle, cheese curds, tater tots and string cheese. You won’t need to order a meal, and will probably still want to split this. But if you should happen to visit on a day that they aren’t serving the ultimate, the Loaded Bloody Mary is no slouch – loaded up with a cheeseburger slider, doughnut-sized onion rings, bacon, a fried pickle, string cheese and veggies, and served in a normal, human-sized glass.

This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

Bay View Dining Delights

By Kristine Hansen | Photography By Holly Leitner

This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

An easy 10-minute car drive south of downtown is the gateway to Milwaukee’s dining and imbibing neighborhood of the moment. In the last three years alone, an artisan chocolatier, small-batch brewery and a martini lounge are among the new settlers, bumping up against a bustling tapas spot with a farm-to-table bent and a romantic french bistro serving delicacies like frog legs.

Lining South Kinnickinnic Avenue and South Howell Avenue, from East Oklahoma Avenue on the south to East Lincoln Avenue North, are no less than a dozen restaurants. Their common thread is intimacy. These are not boisterous, spacious eateries. Instead, one cozies up to a small table inside the living-room-style space of Lazy Susan – open since April of 2014 – where white lacy curtains hang in the windows and the chef dishes up interpretative plates like Swiss-chard pancakes and rabbit mole tacos. Or one slips into the long, narrow space that became the Vanguard in late October for a mid-day Bellomo Italian (pork sausage topped with fennel, pesto and Wisconsin’s own Sartori Sarvecchio Parmesan).

It’s an air of unpretentiousness that drives these spots, and nowhere is that more true than at Goodkind, tucked into a residential neighborhood on South Wentworth Avenue, inside a former pizzeria. Several seasoned restaurant employees teamed together to open the farm-to-table restaurant last summer. Sourcing from 20-some regional farms, the end results are shareable dishes like seaweed chips with pepper jelly, or a hearty leg of lamb crusted with lavender and anchovy or bacon-and-cheddar risotto or pork-cheek donut (with smoked sugar and chocolate-raspberry sauce) for weekend brunch. Cocktails are just as heralded as the food, including “Wunderkind,” crafted with two local spirits (death’s door Wondermint and great lakes distillery Absinthe).DSC_6095

There’s a strong farm-to-table mantra pulsing through many more dining rooms in the neighborhood, including Odd Duck. The day’s dinner menu is written based on what purveyors drop off that morning. Open since 2012, the globally inspired tapas menu dances between selections like pickled raw and roasted carrot salad with burrata and arugula puree, or smoked duck breast donburi with orange miso broth and togarashi (chili peppers from Japan). It is thoughtfully divided into Animal and Vegetable categories so carnivores and non-meat eaters can easily navigate. Charcuterie and cheese platters — featuring many local products — are a popular starter for groups. Locals complain that it’s tough to get a reservation here but that only makes snagging a table a more coveted experience.

DSC_6518pieSweet treats are in abundance in Bay View. Honeypie – open since 2010 – is a comfort-foods- driven eatery where the cream pies, frosted cupcakes, cookies and fruit pies are locally famous. (Even vegans can eat the treats here.) For weekend brunch, the line snakes outside the door, but it’s worth the wait. At Chocobella, open since 2012, the art of hand-painted chocolates is on display. Truffles, caramels and even miniature chocolate purses are decadent delights.

But the neighborhood’s shining star is the Avalon theater, fresh off a $2 million renovation and open since December. The Mediterranean revival historic theater was last open nearly 15 years ago, and designed by Russell Barr Williamson, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. It first opened in 1929. Plop into a theater seat and a tray slides out, perfect for ordering upgrades to typical movie fare. Instead, one can order a spiked root beer float from the cocktail menu or one of six specialty pizzas, for example. There is also a lounge in the lobby serving food and retro-inspired signature cocktails like the Fonzie Old Fashioned.

Proof of Milwaukee’s storied suds history is at District 14 Brewery & Pub, which quietly opened in late 2014 near the triangle intersection of Bay View, where South Kinnickinnic and South Howell Avenues meet East Lincoln Avenue. Patrons can sample a beer flight — there are always between eight and 10 on tap, with three brewed in-house and others a strong focus on Wisconsin craft beers. On select nights there are trivia competitions and the menu is limited to pizzas, but what better pairing with a cold beer?

This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

Wisconsin Cheese Stands Alone

By Betty W. Stark

This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

A few years ago, California’s dairy farmers taunted Wisconsin with predictions that not only would their (allegedly) happy cows produce more milk, but they would also produce more cheese than the dairy state within a matter of months.

With that warning, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and state dairy farmers rallied and responded in chorus, “no way!”

The race was on, but only briefly. Wisconsin cheese production pulled ahead and has stayed there, a happy conclusion to the brief skirmish. The confrontation focused a golden spotlight on the abundance of award-winning small-batch cheeses crafted at many of the 129 plants throughout the state.

Wandering through Wisconsin’s bucolic green hills and valleys, it’s easy to imagine that the cows love it here. But according to Myron Olson, Certified Master Cheesemaker and manager at the Chalet Cheese Cooperative just outside Monroe, it’s the purity of water, naturally filtered through glacial limestone layers, that contributes to the nuances of Wisconsin’s many cheese types.

Chalet Cheese has the notable distinction of being the only remaining producer of Limburger cheese in the country. They’ve been showcased on the travel Channel, History Channel and CNN, to name a few. The pungent surface-ripened cheese, affectionately known as “stinky cheese,” is about 20 percent of Chalet’s production, the balance represented by their award-winning Brick and Baby Swiss cheeses. Myron hints that topping their Limburger with strawberry or apricot jams elevates it to gourmet status.

At Carr Valley Cheese in south central Wisconsin, fourth generation owner and Master Cheesemaker Sid Cook is probably the most decorated in the entire state, earning hundreds of awards for his innovative and new-style cheeses made the old-fashioned way — by hand.

Cook readily admits he even dreams about cheese, contemplating the vast possibilities of bold flavors and cutting-edge combinations showcasing the qualities of cow, sheep and goat milks that he purchases from nearby farms. His sumptuously smooth Cocoa Cardona goat cheese, rind rubbed with velvety cocoa powder, is a fine example, especially when paired with a port wine.

The Carr Valley website ( is a gold mine of information about their 80-plus cheeses, including suggested beverage pairings, as well as details about the Carr Valley Cooking School in Sauk City, a series of tantalizing offerings led by well-known chefs like Kristine Subido of the popular WAVE restaurant on Chicago’s North Lake Shore Drive.

In Mineral Point’s historic Shake Rag district, Tony and Julie Hook have been producing cheese for 41 years, winning numerous awards, including World Champion Colby honoring Julie Hook, the only woman cheesemaker to take the world prize. Their cheeses are widely distributed nationally and are favored by noted chefs, including Stephanie Izard, high-profile chef/owner at the girl and the goat restaurant in Chicago’s West Loop.

Hook’s Cheese Company’s most recent accomplishment is a limited-production 15-year-old cheddar that is so sought-after it sold for $80 a pound at the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. California could not help but notice.

This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.


Cream of the Crop

By Jennifer Garrett

This article originally appeared in the 2012 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Come one, come all, but come hungry.

You’ll see families with strollers, local chefs pulling wagons stuffed with produce, earthy tree-huggers in tie dyes, and just about everyone else. They all convene on the Capitol square every Saturday — rain or shine — from April 21 through November 10, for the Dane County Farmers’ Market. Expect a crowd and expect an experience.

CreeksideFarmBooth_JMOf course, there is food. What you’ll find typically is what’s in season, with just as many organic options as conventional choices. Asparagus abounds in early spring, hanging planters come in time for Mother’s Day, and strawberries and lettuce appear in June. July brings tomatoes. In August it’s corn and just about anything that can grow in Wisconsin.

Otherwise there are local meats of every variety, including bison and ostrich, fresh and jerky. Beekeepers come with honey and the bees. You can watch the kids swarm in search of the queen. Bakery items include giant cookies, tiny doughnuts, whole-wheat croissants, Stella’s famous hot-and-spicy cheese bread, and Amish-made pies. You’ll fi nd jugs of maple syrup, jars of jams and jellies, bags of nuts, bottles of infused oils and other pantry staples.

This is Wisconsin so, of course, there is cheese, cheese and more cheese — everything from squeaky curds to 20-year cheddars to the fried Brun-uusto straight from the griddle at Brunkow Cheese’s tent (where Martin Luther King Boulevard dead-ends at the Capitol).

It’s a place to taste and explore as much as it is a place to shop. But sample at your own risk: the more you sample, the more you’ll buy. But don’t shy away simply because you don’t have a fridge to fill. Many pints of berries never make it around all four corners of the square.

While the market itself technically includes just the producers, the event is bigger than that. Inside the square amateur performance artists stage protest skits. Church groups sing. Activists collect petition signatures. With this much democracy on display, Madison lives up to its reputation as a passionately political city. Sure, it leans to the left, but proponents of conservative causes make regular appearances, too.

Outside the square, arts and crafts vendors sell everything from fairy wands to kettle corn. Since the market itself is limited to agricultural-related items, the potters, candle makers and other merchants set up shop across the street with the food carts, smoothie stands and coffee stops. Musicians fill in the gaps with buskers performing toe-tapping folksy favorites around the corner from school-aged string quartets playing Bach concertos. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself humming their tunes all day long. And at the entrance to State Street you’ll even find ragtag balloon artists twisting out crowns, swords, poodles, flowers and other creations for kids.

Three last orders of business: First, foot traffic at the Dane County Farmers’ Market runs counter clockwise. Fall in step. Second, no dogs allowed. Fido could get hurt — or hurt someone — if he’s underfoot. And last but not least, bring your appetite. If you make it out of the market without tasting something, you definitely moved too fast and missed much of the fun.

The Dane County Farmers’ Market runs 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. Crowds thicken by 8 and don’t taper off until after noon, if at all, on the nicest of days. Metered street parking as well as municipal surface lots and parking ramps are all within walking distance. Expect to pay no more than $5 for a full morning (another beautiful thing about Madison).

This article originally appeared in the 2012 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.



Danish Delight

By Nancy A. Herrick

This article originally appeared in the 2012 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

It takes three days to fold and roll out the dozens of layers of butter and dough that help create each flaky Kringle. But only about three seconds to fall in love with its taste.Mike Haney and Don Hutchinson at Larsen's

Kringle is a rich, oval-shaped pastry filled with fruits or nuts, then frosted or glazed. it originated in Denmark, but these days Racine, Wis., is hailed as the Kringle Capital. People come from all over the country — and even the world — to buy this sweet treat at Racine’s many family-owned bakeries.

“At one time Racine was the largest Danish settlement in the united states, and immigrants brought the Kringle tradition with them,” explains Dave Blank, president of Real Racine, the tourism organization for Racine County. “Bakeries here have put their own imprint on the tradition, but Kringles remain one of the unique things Racine is known for.”

Washington avenue, one of Racine’s main arteries that leads from i-94 into downtown, has two of the best family-owned Danish bakeries right across the street from one another – Bendtsen’s and Larsen’s.

“The word ’kringle’ means pretzel, because Kringles in Denmark were pretzel-shaped,” explains Cindy Bendtsen, who married into the family whose bakery dates to 1934 at the same location. “But now Kringles are made in ovals or sticks. it’s easier to distribute the filling evenly in those shapes.”

Don Hutchinson, whose parents bought Larsen’s Bakery from Einer Larsen in 1969, says not only was the original Danish Kringle pretzel shaped, but it also had just one flavor – almond – with raisins, cardamom and Bavarian cream topped with sugar.

“The Danish bakeries in Racine were very competitive and started experimenting with different fillings to appeal to a wider audience,” Hutchinson says.

The Danish bakeries in town have their own specialties and methods, but they all agree pecan is the favorite flavor: “it’s the vanilla ice cream of the Kringle world,” says Hutchinson, who says almond, cherry, apple and raspberry round out the top five sellers at Larsen’s.

Eric Olesen is the third-generation owner of o&H Danish Bakery, which was started by christian Olesen, who came to the u.s. from Denmark in the early 1900s. in 1949 he and Harvey Holtz started O&H, which now has three retail locations in Racine county and one in Oak Creek.

“Pecan is our top seller, but we are always innovating,” he says. “We have 15 year-round flavors, but offer seasonal and specialty flavors throughout the year.”

Some of them include chocolate peppermint, red velvet, key lime and butter rum. a new flavor, sweet and salty nut kringle, was a hit during the summer.

For those who can’t come in to buy a Kringle, the bakeries ship their products all around the country. Whereas a Kringle purchased at the bakery costs $8.50 to $10.50, a shipped Kringle costs at least twice that amount because of the cost of packing and mailing.

Any of the nut varieties ship well, as do any fruit flavors without a lot of juice, such as raspberry, blueberry, cranberry or apricot.

And in a novel twist, Olesen says, “some of our Danish customers will pick up our Kringle and take it back to Denmark.”

This article originally appeared in the 2012 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

Eating “Out”

By Chuck Pecoraro

This article originally appeared in the 2013 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

With the arrival of warmer weather, “out” becomes “in” to welcome a new outdoor dining season. Regardless of what you call them — patios, decks, cafes, terraces, beer gardens — these amenities embrace a restaurant like a breath of fresh air.

Alfresco aficionados can savor the sensibilities of open-air sipping, snacking and socializing at what morphs into a mecca this time of year. The Lake Geneva area has you covered — and uncovered — with dozens of destinations ranging from posh patios overlooking beautiful scenery to sidewalk seats alongside pedestrian and motorized traffic.

Check out this partial list of places to try when you get a taste for a burger, pizza, steak, seafood, Italian or whatever, served under an umbrella or canopy with a refreshing breeze. As long as the weather cooperates, this is what eating out is all about!

The Baker House
327 Wrigley, Lake Geneva. (262) 248-4700.
Voted southern Wisconsin’s no. 1 hotel and restaurant, this 1885 vintage venue’s outdoor garden is the acclaimed crown jewel of the shoreline. The lakefront yard appeals with cabanas, chic furnishings and a picture postcard view of the lakefront. french touches influence a menu of crab cakes, Cajun shrimp and other tapas-style treats.

The Grandview Restaurant and Lounge
The Geneva Inn, N2009 S. Lake Shore Drive, Lake Geneva. (262) 248-5690.
Elegantly ensconced in a gracious lakeside hotel, this fine dining favorite lives up to its name with outdoor seating and a panoramic view of the picturesque water. diners gaze while they graze on contemporary American cuisine with Asian, Latin and french nuances.

Geneva Chophouse
The Grand Geneva Resort, 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva. (262) 249-4788.
The adjoining embers Terrace resembles a luxurious lounge without a roof. Guests relax on plush couches around a fireplace overlooking acres of lush countryside. The menu lightens up with small plate versions of crab cakes, lobster rolls and cheeseburger sliders.

811 Wrigley, Lake Geneva. (262) 248-4381.
Since 1972, this family-owned, operated and oriented landmark named after the colorful cartoon character has bulked up from a 60-seat pub to a cavernous hot spot accommodating 600. Outdoor seating provides an up-close look at the lake and action along the busy street. Casual dining is emphasized with rotisserie cooked meat, chicken and fish.

Bistro 220
220 Cook St., Lake Geneva. (262) 248-4220.
Perched on the second floor of a converted four-flat, this is what folks who appreciate bistro-inspired Continental-Italian fare can look up to. A balcony offers a sky box perspective of the downtown hustle and bustle. Menu mainstays include seafood lasagna and chicken Cordon Bleu.

Tempura House
306 Center St., Lake Geneva. 262-249-8822.
If you’re looking for culinary adventure, look no further than this taste of Tokyo. Exotic Japanese meals of sushi, sukiyaki, tempura, hibachi and Mongolian persuasion come with a pleasant view on the cozy outdoor patio. You can give the chopsticks a workout daily except Monday for lunch, plus nightly for dinner.

The Waterfront Restaurant & Bar
The Abbey resort, 269 Fontana Blvd., Fontana. (800) 709-1323.
The boats come and go, but the harbor and marina that identify this outside eatery remain consistently idyllic. Barbeque defines the dining with lusty ribs, chicken and burgers. A celebration of blues, brews and barbeque transforms the scene into a hip hootenanny on Sundays during the summer.

The Red Geranium Restaurant
393 N. Edwards Blvd., Lake Geneva. (262) 248- 3637.
With a swath of red geraniums decorating the grounds, this so-named spot combines visual with palatable pleasure. A gazebo is the centerpiece in an outdoor section dressed in lovely landscaping. Black Angus beef shares the program with hickory Texas shrimp, while lake perch and cod are friday fish fry headliners.

Tuscan Tavern & Grill
430 Broad St., Lake Geneva. (262) 248-0888.
The food is reliable, hospitality is warm and the screened patio is cool at this family friendly tavern and grill. As the name implies, the specialty is classic Italian cooking supplemented with steaks and seafood. High on the best-seller list are tortellini Alfredo Pancetta and chicken Marsala.

The Village Supper Club
1725 South Shore Drive, Delavan. (262) 728-6360.
This is a preferred port for boaters who dock at the pier and come ashore to dine on the outside deck or in the log cabin-style interior. either way, they can dig into hefty helpings of steak, roast duck, seafood and one of the area’s most prolific salad bars.

This article originally appeared in the 2013 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.