Midway between Milwaukee and Door counties and hugging Lake Michigan for a 30-mile stretch is Manitowoc County, home to a growing number of artisan food producers. And, the area was eager to define itself as a culinary pocket of Wisconsin.
“We want it to stand on its own,” says Jason Ring, executive director of the Manitowoc Area Visitor & Convention Bureau, about creating the new Wisconsin Coastal Food Trail, which debuted last year. “We have really top-notch museums and outdoor adventure. [And] when you look at all the food producers in the community, we really had quite an outstanding list of places.”
The trail folds in the nearby communities of Two Rivers (pop. around 11,000) and Kewaunee (pop. around 3,000), and businesses on the trail include wineries, creameries (butter, cheese and ice cream), breweries, smoked fish producers, chocolatiers, bakers, maple syrup and olive oil makers, and meat producers.
A visit could include a stop at Cold Country Vines and Wines’ Kewaunee tasting room, which bottled its first vintage in 2014, and farms grapes in the nearby Wisconsin Ledge American Viticultural Area AVA. Inthewoods Sugar Bush’s newly renovated sugar shack in Manitowoc offers tours and demonstrations of how maple syrup is made.
Area restaurants are also champions of using these products and are listed on the website, too. “The Lighthouse Inn gets perch from Susie-Q Fish Company,” says Ring, also pointing to Holla’s reliance upon Pine River Dairy butter, Miesfelds bacon, Sundown Farms’ grass-fed beef, and cheese from LaClare Family Creamery, Sartori, Roth Cheese and Henning’s.
Another inclusion—Farm Wisconsin Café—documents farm life at its companion museum (the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center, open since 2018) but also serves up locally-sourced eats like grass-fed Angus burgers, Caprine Supreme goat’s-milk feta cheese, blueberry cheese bombs crafted with Henning’s cheese and Wisconsin walnuts woven into a walnut burger.
This local-foods philosophy isn’t just limited to savory selections at area eateries either. “Cedar Crest Ice Cream finds its way to a lot of dessert menus,” says Ring. Cedar Crest also has its own ice cream parlor in Manitowoc.
Photos courtesy of Mike Roemer (Wilfert Farms, The Hearty Olive)