In Ephraim (pop. 7,072), shedding its dry, alcohol-free status in 2016 was a game changer in this tiny village, located halfway up the Door County peninsula and along the shores of Green Bay.
Now, Sarah Holmes could open Trixie’s, a companion eatery to her posh Wickman House in Ellison Bay, and showcase natural wines (as organic as possible, she says). The darling vintage white building with crisp white walls and blonde-wood tables fits right in with the rest of this 1920s-era village. And, fun fact: The restaurant is named for Holmes’ great-grandmother.
At both restaurants, the culinary teams strive to source ingredients from within the region, whether that’s whitefish or cherries, and prepare menu items with a modern twist. Instead of a fish boil, there’s whitefish ceviche. “The coolest thing that happens in Door County is that our chefs are really skilled foragers—so just about every one of them will go hiking in the morning and then work with this beautiful spread of foraged things— mostly mushrooms,” explains Holmes.
And if they don’t find something while foraging? It’s probably growing in the restaurants’ garden, where a full-time gardener tends to the bounty that’s distributed between the two places.
Erin Murphy, Holmes’ prep chef at Wickman House, was born in Milwaukee and raised in Waukesha and knows Door County like the back of her hand. “My parents have a cabin on Clark Lake in Jacksonport,” she says. I would always spend summers up here. Then, a few years ago, I never left.
“My first job was the Town Hall Bakery in Jacksonport,” she says. “I was 15 when I started working there, and left at 18 or 20 years old. I started at the Wickman House five or six years ago, filling in for a dish washing position.”
Expect to see Murphy’s crowd-favorite burrata on Trixie’s menu this season, as well as homemade pasta, a daily crudo or raw seafood selection, and noodle dishes. Holmes says their “Staggering Chicken” dish will return to the Wickman House, made with local organic chicken, mushrooms, gravy and fingerling potatoes.
As for the wine list, Holmes looks to showcase female winemakers, as well as organic varietals at both locations.
Where does Erin Murphy like to eat when she’s not working at the Wickman House?
The Waterfront Restaurant in Sister Bay:
“A friend of mine is part owner there,” admits Murphy, although after one visit she quickly fell in love with the seasonally-focused dinner menus and indulgent sides (such as truffle tater tots).
Roots Inn & Kitchen, Sister Bay:
“They have brats [from Waseda Farms in Bailey’s Harbor] and I love brats,” she says about this farm-to-table eatery with pub fare. “They’re the nicest people who own it and they’ve got good beers on tap.” Above the restaurant is an historic inn with six rooms. During summer the outdoor deck is open.
Kinara Urban Eatery, Sturgeon Bay:
“They have gyros and Indian food. It’s actually located in a gas station,” says Murphy about this restaurant, open since 2013, with an India-born female chef-owner. It is open for lunch only and closed on Sundays.
The Women Behind the Wines
Sarah Holmes believes in supporting female winemakers who employ natural, organic, biodynamic or sustainable winemaking methods. From a sparkling Vouvray Brut in France to a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from California’s storied Napa Valley, here are her favorite five.
Breton “La Dilettante” Vouvray Brut:
This is a husband-and-wife team, but it’s solely Catherine Breton who makes the wine she calls “La Dillettante,” which means “the dabbler.” This wine has big, vivacious bubbles and tastes like honey.
Chanrion Côte de Brouilly Gamay:
Nicole Chanrion has been making wine since the 1970s. Her wines are produced using traditional biodynamic methods and the result is funky, fruit-forward wine.
Honig Cabernet Sauvignon:
Kristin Belair is the winemaker of these big, beautiful wines. Honig takes sustainability very seriously, and was one of the first California wineries to earn the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing certification.
Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc:
Merry Edwards has been making wine in California for five decades—she is a pioneer of the industry.
Onward + Farmstrong:
Holmes says she always features at least one of Faith Armstrong Foster’s wines: “Last year it was her Pétillant Naturel of Malvasia Bianca (a beautiful sparkler) and a very pretty rosé of Carignan and Zinfandel. Her wines are honest, bright and unfiltered,” she says.
This article originally appeared in the 2018 spring/summer issue of Experience Wisconsin magazine. The contents of this article were checked for accuracy when it was published; however, it’s possible some of the information has changed. We recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the destinations, attractions or restaurants mentioned in this article.
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