Rhinelander: Here’s why the Hodag city’s hip

The odometer of my new car all too quickly hit 10,000 miles this month, and only 2 percent was out-of-state driving. I rack up mileage while in search of the odd and interesting, but nobody knows the inside scoop about your hometown better than you. I mention this routinely during talks about my travel books,(…)

Wellspring: farm hostel, retreat center, CSA

When I met Jeff Schreiber, he was taking a break from the vegetable harvest to prepare lunch for his work crew. That meant roasting Brussels sprouts and simmering a pot of carrot-ginger soup. For dessert: sweet potato pie. To drink: tap water. Simple, nourishing and down-home. This is the vibe that permeates Wellspring, an organic(…)

Lutefisk brats catch Travel Channel attention

When I tracked down our TV star, he was squirting lime juice onto a raw kingfish heart, then popping it into his mouth. Just another day at work, in the Caribbean, and this snack was kids’ stuff. The namesake of “Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre World,” which airs on the Travel Channel, has drunk raw pig’s blood(…)

Canoe Bay Resort, Chetek: remote luxury

When you love something, you take care of it. This is what Dan and Lisa Dobrowolski have done with 280 acres in Rusk County. They share it, too, but not in a haphazard, flamboyant or casual manner. Three miles of hiking trails meander into the woods, toward little Lost Lake. Kayaks and canoes skim 50-foot-deep(…)

Milwaukee’s Iron Horse: ruggedly elegant

The first time I met Milwaukee developer Tim Dixon, in early 2008, he was dreaming big and thinking impulsively. Or so I thought. We wore hard hats and tiptoed around a gutted, musty, century-old warehouse that is near the Sixth Street viaduct in downtown Milwaukee. Tim talked energetically and was leading by instinct. Where I(…)

Boutique hotels: Wausau to Waukesha

No one monitors how the term “boutique hotel” is used, but the definition comes down to this: feeling at home when away. Or, in some respects, feeling more welcome and pampered than when at home. Expect less of a cookie-cutter approach to décor than the average hotel chain, plus more privacy than the average bed(…)

Family-owned eateries shine with personality

Personality. Sometimes that’s what it takes for little restaurants to stand out. Consider this trio of family-owned businesses that have quietly defined what they are: It’s about more than meat and potatoes. — All eyes – hundreds of eyes – seem to be on me while waiting for lunch in Tigerton, population 700 and in(…)

Wisconsin wine festivals, fall winery tours

Fruit of the vine, makes me feel fine … so take a tour and sip chardonnay to dandelion wine. California, home to about 2,700 of the nation’s 5,900 wineries, easily dominates U.S. wine production, but Wisconsin quietly is widening its own product lines, tours and events for wine lovers. Autumn is a prime time to(…)

In praise of harvest: Indian Summer Festival

Farmers’ markets and backyard gardens are plump with fresh produce during this time of year, so many of us enjoy easy and direct connections with the land. We eat what we reap, until frost arrives, but how many feel grateful instead of simply full? For Native Americans, harvests are about gratitude, sustenance and preserving a(…)

New Glarus, Eagle River events for foodies

Ready to meet your maker? If the answer is “yes” on Sept. 12, it might mean that you’re heading to New Glarus. We have begun to harvest the bounty of another growing season, which fuels the momentum to “eat local” and spawns new events that showcase locally grown, baked or batched products. In New Glarus,(…)

Chocolate-covered bacon makes fair debut

Food on a stick means kabobs on the grill, ice cream bars on the run, caramel apples for Halloween. You know where we’re going with this, right?. Fair-weather fans crave oddball food during this time of year, and that can mean collecting sticks during all meal courses. The lines don’t begin and end at the(…)

‘Wizard of Oz’ made history in Oconomowoc

“Going so soon? I wouldn’t hear of it. Why my little party’s just beginning.” A party indeed is about to begin in Oconomowoc. Soon the downtown will seem like an odd and emerald city, with a walkway of yellow bricks and “Over the Rainbow” broadcast loud and often from a sound system at City Hall.(…)

Look for Vernon County’s rare round barns

Think of threatened or endangered species, and a creature that breathes – the bald eagle, a gray wolf or Karner blue butterfly – likely comes to mind before anything made of wood and shingles. But that’s not necessarily so in Vernon County, where historians still contend that nobody else in the world has more round(…)

Gourmet cooking classes, set in Northwoods

I am sitting at Amy Donaldson’s kitchen counter, watching her season, shred, steam and sauté my dinner. Fourteen others are doing the same. “This is my once-a-month treat,” says Julie Palmer of Townsend. “I don’t cook,” confesses Ann Maletzke, a neighbor. “She’s not kidding,” adds her husband, Skip. The audience howls. A little later, we’re(…)

How to set up a trip about Wisconsin cheese

When the good people of Illinois began calling us Cheeseheads in the 1980s, we embraced the pejorative and began wearing yellow wedges of foam on our heads, particularly during football games. So it seemed quite appropriate to host this year’s U.S. Cheese Championships, the nation’s biggest cheese competition, at Lambeau Field. Final score: 41 gold(…)

Oshkosh exhibit defines ‘Public Enemies’ era

Soon we’ll swoon over Johnny Depp’s portrayal of gangster John Dillinger in the movie “Public Enemies,” while over-analyzing film sets and scenery. Much of the R-rated Universal Pictures production was filmed in Wisconsin. That includes Oshkosh, where footage includes the airport grounds and vault of a former bank, but a local museum’s staffers are stretching(…)

Reader mail: funeral wieners, vacation ideas

I need to dip into the reader mailbag more often. Here is a sample of what you’ve written; a couple of diner/café recommendations will turn into a column before summer ends. — “Thank you for advice about the Speckled Hen Bed and Breakfast” in Madison, writes Mark Tryon of Fond du Lac. “My wife and(…)

Woodstock, Steel Bridge tunes rewind clocks

Save a bridge, build a bridge. This is what has happened in Sturgeon Bay. What began as a fight to rescue the aging Michigan Street Bridge, above the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal, has turned into an annual and growing partnership between musicians who are diverse in age, level of celebrity and song style. Songwriters, singers(…)

New books: Wisconsin food, culinary tourism

This week, we’re all about good taste. Two new books contain many morsels of insight about what you eat, at home or while traveling. — Before Terese Allen was my friend, she was a solid news source for just about anything concerning food. I remain one of her fans. Terese concocts wonderful recipes, some for(…)

Updates: outdoor theater, music venues

Shakespeare saw all the world as a stage and, come summer in Wisconsin, class acts sprout from unusual places: inside a patch of hilly woodland, at the base of a ski hill and within view of a lovely lakeshore. Three of the state’s best-known outdoor performance venues are primping and prepping for new seasons that(…)

European recipes sublime at Alpha Delights

“We have some very fussy people working here, at every level of production,” Mary Pappas patiently explains, but I needed minimal convincing. Especially after diving into the little box of bakery that she made me take home. The contents – bite-sized almond tea cakes, raspberry-flavored macaroons, a fan-shaped Palm Leaf dipped in dark chocolate –(…)

Faith, hope energize Our Lady of Guadalupe

The pavement zigzags gently but assuredly uphill, past spindly trees, rustling branches and the occasional chirping bird. The din of car traffic fades with each twist of trail, although the distance walked is only one-half mile. The first thing I do, after opening a tall and polished brass door, is look up. The ceiling is(…)

New B&B, park, distillery, driving tours

The annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism is a fine reminder that Wisconsin tourism is an ongoing project. Consider these discoveries, gleaned from conversations and observations. — Hard-working innkeeper Susanne Soltvedt, who operates Sunnyfield Farm Bed and Breakfast near Camp Douglas, is getting ready to open another inn, which will include a restaurant. Fountain Chateau, in(…)

Souvenir shopping: What says ‘Wisconsin’?

I have just finished writing a story about Wisconsin for a newspaper in Ireland, and it ends with formulaic lists under this heading: “where to go and stay and what to buy.” The latter part threw me. What souvenir is distinctly Wisconsin, the state that markets itself as “where originality rules” and – as Gov.(…)