Welcome To My Blog

Weekends are for wandering Wisconsin. That's what Rick, my guy, and I do. Occasionally we wander during the week, too. Sometimes we just drop in on other people's lives.

This blog is my way of sharing where we've been, neat places and things to do that we've found.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Eating Locally

When Rick and I are wandering around Wisconsin we like to stop at local restaurants when we're hungry. These places are a lot more interesting than the chain restaurants near the major highways. But how does one know if a meal will be good? We don't concern ourselves with that since Rick recently found this publication:

Wisconsin's Best is in our car/truck/van (whatever we're traveling in) and we check it out when we're ready to stop for a meal. There's a map in the middle showing where all the restaurants are located. Beware - it's not very accurate and some towns are in the wrong county. But that's not as important as the recommendations for the restaurants. So far, so good. We've had good luck with all the places we've been to that are in the directory. And many of the spots we've dined at have a $5.00 coupon in the directory that we've used. 

Where have we been lately?

Brooke's Nook is in Fox Lake. We stopped in for lunch a few weeks ago
when we were camping at Ledge Park. Rick had a burger and I had a chicken
Caesar wrap. We both were pleased with our meals.
This restaurant used to be a gas station. Patrons can see the cooler - something left over from the restaurant's former days - that the new owners decided to keep. They offer a breakfast deal for the community - a $2.00 special (or maybe it was $3.00) for eggs and toast. Nonetheless, a bargain that keeps regulars coming back.

Last weekend we traveled to northern Wisconsin to hear Willie Nelson in concert at the Big Top Chautauqua. We stopped in Tomah for lunch.

The Greenwood Cafe was our destination. We had a nice chat with the owner
who, just that day, received his copy of Wisconsin's Best. This was definitely
a place where the locals hung out. Our waitress knew every one of them (mostly
senior citizens, like us) by name. 
I had a salad with grilled chicken. I appreciated that it was Romaine rather than boring Iceberg lettuce in the salad. The blue cheese dressing had the biggest chunks of blue cheese I've ever seen. Tasty indeed. 

Our next stop was Sheldon, my hometown,  where we spent Friday night with my sister, Nancy, and her husband, Jim. They took is to a neighboring town, Conrath, for a traditional Wisconsin fish fry.
Chick's was in the directory but under a different name.  This place
has been a bar ever since I was a kid but I don't recall that we ever ate there.
The restaurant offers a complimentary steak dinner if you dine during the month of your birthday.
Unfortunately, Jim just missed having his July birthday steak.

Rather than the fish, Rick and Jim each had a delicious steak that we learned came from Iowa. Not quite local, but at least from a neighboring state. According to Rick, it's a better value to go out for steak rather than grill your own these days.

There's no lack of great restaurants in the Chequamegon Bay area, our final destination, where the Big Top is located. We stayed in Ashland in a motel that overlooked Lake Superior and partook of the local cuisine.

But eating locally is not just about the restaurants, it's also about the food that's grown locally.

Our friend, Linda, has a son, Rob, who has a farm outside of Bayfield - Twisting Twig Gardens & Orchard. Rob has owned this 40-acre farm for nearly 10 years. He grows organic produce that can be purchased at the Chequamegon Food Co-op. My brother-in-law jokingly called it the "hippy grocery store" and when Rick asked at a local bookstore where the "hippy grocery store" was located, a young woman instantly knew what he was talking about and gave us directions.

This store reminded me of our Willy Street Co-op here in
Madison with its focus on organic produce and other
natural products.
We were delighted to take a tour of Rob's farm and snag some carrots. Very flavorful - not like what comes from a mainline grocery store. 

Swiss chard ready for market. Rob waters his gardens
with a system of hoses using water from a deep pond on
the farm.
Tomatoes will be ripe soon.

Along with apple trees, Rob has blueberry bushes on the farm. The largest
blueberry farm in Wisconsin is close by Rob's farm.
Rob also supplies area restaurants with produce. One is Maggie's in Bayfield where we dined prior to the concert on Sunday night.

Along with good, local food, Maggie's is all about flamingos.
We vintage camping trailer folks love that mascot!
Earlier on Sunday we went to the Delta Diner, a place listed in Wisconsin's Best, for breakfast. Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (on the Food Network) visited this summer. The production crew was at the diner for two days, Guy was there for 2 hours. However, he had visited the Delta Diner last year and Todd, the owner, was able to get to know him first as a customer. The Triple D episode with the Delta Diner will be airing soon.
It was an hour wait at the Delta Diner but we were prepared that would be the
case. We passed the time sipping our iced coffee purchased at the coffee shop
on the grounds and visiting with our friends. It was a lovely day to wait outside.
Rick decided that from now on we would obtain autographs of the owners at restaurants we visit while wandering Wisconsin. Todd at the Delta Diner was behind the counter cooking on the grill and gladly signed our guide.

What better to host at a classic diner than a classic
car show! (A picture in the diner)
Yes, we were in the middle of nowhere at the Delta Diner, but
a destination not to be missed.
We learned that the wonderful applewood smoked bacon we had for breakfast could be purchased at the Sixth Street Market in Ashland so we picked some up later. Quite the meat market at this place.

One more local stop before we reached home on Monday - Schieneback's Shanty in Butternut for breakfast. This restaurant wasn't listed in Wisconsin's Best but it should have been.
Again, another place where the locals hang out.
I need to take more pictures of food we eat so I can remember what it was that we tried when we stop at local establishments!

Let me close this post with some advice when you are traveling anywhere . . .

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