Bayless, Frontera Foundation grants help family farms

Rick Bayless knew what he wanted after doing book research in Mexico around 30 years ago: Start a restaurant that served authentic Mexican food. So the Chicago chef opened Frontera Grill, which earned a James Beard Foundation award as Outstanding Restaurant in 2007. His biggest challenge wasn’t finding the perfect music, art or menu ideas.(…)

Titletown, Bucks, Eau Claire: Major projects boost reasons to travel

At least four Wisconsin cities are pursuing huge projects that will give travelers new reasons to visit. The Wisconsin Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus described it as “an infrastructure boom” during the group’s annual conference this month. Here are quick updates. Titletown District, Green Bay: Pro football is why we make our way to(…)

Madison museum is all-year tribute to military veterans

This presidential election sure felt like a nationwide battle, regardless of whether you think we won or lost, and that is what compelled me to visit the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison on the morning after votes were tallied. Here live the stories and artifacts of wars beyond words and ballot boxes. I needed to(…)

Breakfast: an all-day meal whose variety grows

Remember what Mom used to say about breakfast? Most important meal of the day. Less predictable, as time goes on, is when and what is breakfast. It’s no longer just about eggs, bacon, pancakes … or mornings. Academic researchers recently suggested dessert for breakfast may spur weight loss and dark chocolate at breakfast may enhance(…)

About clowns in Wisconsin, where coulrophobia rules at a Manty B&B

What’s the difference between a clown and a mime? Not much these days because neither is talking, at least to me. Widespread chatter – make that panic – about criminals dressed as clowns has brought a yanking of clown costumes and masks from Target stores, clown costume bans in school districts from California to Connecticut(…)

How and where to find ghosts of Bob Dylan in Minnesota

As I write this, the Swedish Academy is waiting for a call from Bob Dylan about his Nobel Prize for Literature. The award was announced days ago, comparing Dylan’s lyrics to the work of long-ago Greek poets. The singer-songwriter is known for his reclusiveness. Much more accessible are Joe and Mary Keyes, whom the London-based(…)

Anxious about this election? Philly sites reassure us about unity

Many coins from passersby top the tombstone for Benjamin Franklin at Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia. We still respect this country’s founding father and inventor of electricity to bifocals, daylight savings time to catheters. Fewer hunt for Francis Hopkinson, Dr. Benjamin Rush, George Ross or Joseph Hewes, whose burial plots are in the same(…)

Autumn’s bounty of food fests, hearty recipes, cooking contests

Hard to believe it’s October as I write this because forecast temps remain about 10 degrees higher than average for the month, but that hasn’t stopped me from shifting my menus to soups, stews and anything else that seems traditional for this time of year. For some people, this is a month of pilgrimage. The(…)

“Roughneck Grace” book excerpt from Michael Perry

It is rare for me to track down an author to his home, but that happened 14 years ago, to interview a guy in New Auburn about his first book with a major publishing house. Although dozens of unsolicited books made their way to my newsroom desk in Madison, this one seemed extraordinary because of(…)

Reader mail: national parks, Germany, Twin Cities, Ephraim

Readers, thanks for filling the mailbag. Here are excerpts. We have two winners in the challenge to write about your favorite national park experience in 50 words or less. Both will receive National Geographic books about the National Park Service during this NPS centennial year celebration. “While in Yellowstone, a bear reared next to our(…)

Take Ten: Best of Marshfield

Near the geographic center of Wisconsin is Marshfield, population 19,000 and unusual because the city sits in both Wood and Marathon counties. The long-ago railroad town’s ancestors include a former governor, William Upham, whose 1880 Victorian mansion is the local history museum. Here you will find the world’s largest round barn, whose construction was completed(…)

Chicago overnight: a frugal mix of spontaneity, research

Where to next? My reply to that frequent question inevitably prompts this follow-up: For business or pleasure? “Both” is almost always my answer. Almost all trips fit in time for discoveries, and some roads have dead ends. Here’s how a quick overnight in Chicago unfolded this month. 12:30 p.m. Thursday – My Van Galder bus(…)

U.S. Bank Stadium: Athletics meets art meets Vikings

A 17-inch December blizzard tore the puffy roof of the Minneapolis Metrodome in 2010, and three years later the Teflon-coated dome would collapse for the fifth and last time. It was hard to feel much sorrow for the loss in Packerland. The bubble of a sports stadium, open since 1982, smelled like sweaty gym socks(…)

Take Ten: Biking rails-to-trails, events

Fifty years have passed since abandoned railroad tracks were converted into the 32.5-mile Elroy-Sparta State Trail, the first U.S. rail-to-trail project, and now at least 1,900 of these recreational paths crisscross the nation. A new guidebook, “Rail-Trail Hall of Fame: a Selection of America’s Premier Rail-Trails” (Wilderness Press, $17), recognizes Elroy-Sparta and 28 other trails(…)

Holy Hill, Trek Travel, Dorf Haus, historic hotel news

Running out of ideas about how to spend precious leisure time during these waning days of summer or beyond? My “in” box contains no shortage of ideas. Take a peek. — The 70-acre Holy Hill Art Farm, a 160-year-old homestead near Hubertus, is hosting one more dinner in the farm’s barn this summer. A ticket(…)

Meet State Fair’s competitive bakers, recipe makers

In the world of competitive cooking, baking and recipe making, Patti Flaker of Wausau is a bit atypical. She had never attended the Wisconsin State Fair until this year, when she made the drive to enter the fair’s first-time Old Fashioned cocktail recipe contest. Then she didn’t simply make the recipe. She added accessories –(…)

Summer camp for adults a rugged nirvana

Before morning yoga begins, the teacher asks for introductions. On the sand and facing Little Hills Lake are a chemist, investment counselor, engineers, lab workers. Elsewhere are at least one gynecologist, agronomist, hospice nurse, baker, computer programmer, accountant and many other walks of life. We are in our 20s to 60s, and no one answer(…)

Take Ten: supper club nibbles

Ask who is responsible for the revival of interest in Wisconsin supper clubs, and I’ll point a finger toward Ron Faiola, a multimedia entrepreneur in Greendale whose “Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old Fashioned Experience” film (in 2011) and book (in 2013) started the snowball of momentum. The book is in its seventh printing, and now(…)

Wolfenbuttel, Kenosha: sister cities since 1970

The GPS has us driving in circles, so we park and approach the first person we see. Yes, she speaks English. Yes, she knows where we are trying to go. Yes, it is within a walk but, no, she won’t simply provide directions. This friendly stranger insists on accompanying us on a brisk, 10-minute trek(…)

Germany’s natural world: Spreewald, Hainich

Our captain maneuvers us like a gondolier, standing as a pole propels his flatboat through a maze of canals that gingerly pass tree canopies, tiny towns, flower beds, thatched roofs, haystacks and orchards. Between each row of blanket-covered seats is a table with fresh flowers. We have much of the waterway to ourselves, if you(…)