Food/Drink

Two cookbooks that tantalize beyond their recipes

Someone occasionally approaches me about writing an endorsement for a new book, and it’s an invitation that I don’t take lightly. I politely decline unless the project truly catches my attention. That is how I was introduced to “Life in a Northern Town: Cooking. Eating. And Other Adventures Along Lake Superior.” The newly published book(…)

Meat this: Most stops rural on Iowa Pork Tenderloin Trail

It’s not yet noon when we pull into Wellsburg, Iowa, curious and hungry for lunch. We wonder why the village, population 700, needs a one-way street downtown. We wonder why Town House Supper Club, our destination, opens at 6 a.m. And we wonder what one of us, a vegetarian, will find to eat. The pork(…)

Bay City Chef Shack: fine dining in down-home location

Follow the Mississippi along the Great River Road (Highway 35, in Wisconsin) for no shortage of woods, bluffs, curvy waterfronts and pastoral landscapes. Common are riverfront hamlets with historic charm. Rare are restaurants with a discerning menu that changes often. One big exception is Chef Shack in Bay City, population 500, where the co-owners are(…)

Mackinac Island: land of fudge, lots of it

Mackinac isn’t the birthplace of fudge, but the 3.8-square-mile Michigan island in Lake Huron may well be the nation’s epicenter for it. The island kinda smells like fudge, thanks to exhaust fans strategically positioned near the ferry dock. About 10,000 pounds of fudge are carted away daily, usually in half-pound slabs. An annual fudge festival(…)

Food trends: more ethnic flavors, less artificial ingredients

The largest buffet that I try to sample every spring is at the National Restaurant Association’s trade show, which shows off what’s new in every aspect of the industry. That means food concepts with “Shark Tank” exposure and lesser-known, chocolate-flavored hummus. Strawberry ricotta ice cream and multi-grain naan bread. Hemp seeds for salad and hemp(…)

Door Artisan Cheese: from milk vat to restaurant plate

Fans of fine dining know that an amuse-bouche is a chef’s little gift to diners – a nibble or slurp that usually is an elegant extra at the start of an evening meal. Think fancy canape, shot of gazpacho, tiny culinary work of art. Whatever you are given is not on a menu, so you(…)

Grilled cheese: worthy of complex treatment, sandwich contests

If dressing up a grilled cheese means sneaking in a slice of tomato or bacon, or switching from wheat to sourdough, please take a moment to sit down. The world is changing this most common of sandwiches two slices at a time, especially this month. It doesn’t matter that we just missed National Grilled Cheese(…)

Two chefs who excel in urban, small-town settings

Order a cocktail at Spiaggia on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and the drink may well arrive with a napkin that contains an oh-so-obscure band portrait and one word: Cork. The retro photo is evidence of how dramatically a young man’s dreams can shift and accelerate. That’s because one of seven smiling mopheads with flowery shirts(…)

Take Ten: Fox Valley breweries

Midwest Features Syndicate is partnering with the Department of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh to help students gain work experience and build a writing portfolio. This week’s author is Jessica Zemlicka of Ripon, a senior majoring in journalism with a public relations emphasis. She chose to spotlight breweries “to celebrate the experiences they(…)

Great chili debates: sauce to seasoning, mac to meat

If you seriously doubt our nation’s ability to seriously but pleasantly debate anything, I have one word for you: Chili. After asking Facebook friends what makes a bowl of chili distinctive, passionate preferences bubbled up pretty quickly. Geographic loyalty mattered a little, but certainly not politics. Hallejulah! What must chili contain to be worthy of(…)

Old Fashioned products, recipes, nostalgia, roots

To you, an Old Fashioned is the unofficial cocktail of Wisconsin and a popular prelude to special meals, especially during end-of-year entertaining. To Bob Meyer, the mixed drink is a matter of heritage and livelihood, intensely personal and a part of his family’s legacy. He bottles and markets Meyer Brothers Old Fashioned Mix, which provides(…)

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(…)

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(…)

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 –(…)

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(…)

German brewers still abide by 500-year-old beer purity law

First in a series. About 44 percent of Wisconsin residents, the highest percentage of all states, reported German ancestry on the 2000 U.S. Census. (The 2010 census omitted ancestry questions). — If you love beer, this is the year to visit Germany and immerse yourself in its sudsy history, regional specialties. The Reinheitsgebot – German(…)

Take Ten: Women-owned farms to visit

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Lisa Kivirist and husband John Ivanko of Browntown have earned national recognition for their farm and renewal energy work. By Lisa Kivirist This Mother’s Day, celebrate the women championing Wisconsin family farms when traveling. We women in agriculture are increasing in number: In Wisconsin, the number of women-owned farms increased over(…)

Best cheese in the world? Wisconsin’s Grand Cru Surchoix

Best in the world. An award out of U.S. reach since 1988. Almost 3,000 entries, the most ever, from 23 countries. The big cheese in the 2016 World Championship Cheese Contest, judged this month in Madison, is the Grand Cru Surchoix made in Monroe by Emmi Roth USA, whose parent company is a specialty cheese(…)

Pizza lovers know where to find the perfect slice

Pizza lovers, you have spoken. Dozens of you have made your allegiances clear, often using more exclamation points that pepperoni on the average slice. Who makes the best pizza in Wisconsin? We sought your opinion in 50 convincing words or less. Ann Schnuck of Pleasant Prairie wins for this entry: “Wells Brothers restaurant in Racine(…)

Take Ten: Where to go overnight for dinner and show

When in doubt about how to structure your next big date night, start with dinner and a show. Sometimes you can even park just once and not worry about driving again until the next morning, which is especially convenient when wintry weather turns wily. For example: Northern Lights Theater, 1721 W. Canal St., Milwaukee: Inside(…)

Perfect pies: Who makes the best pizza in Wisconsin?

Fennel-spiked sausage. Whole-milk mozzarella. A dozen spices in the sauce. A kiss of barley in the crust. One recipe, perfected over 10 years. The carefully customized nature of pizza at Georgio’s in downtown Milton, population 5,500 in Rock County, wowed me. The cozy setting, with seating for just 44, charmed me. The site’s racy history,(…)

Fulfilling pie-in-the-sky dreams at National Pie Championships

In the resort ballroom sit retired guys, moms and daughters, home economists, restaurant managers, girlfriends on getaways and many others – all waiting for their just desserts. People who know each other aren’t at the same table, and the mix of pros and amateurs is deliberate, just like the mix of bakers whose masterpieces are(…)

Great meals of 2015: grilled cheese to Sea Salt, spiked shakes to Fish on Fire

Time to review life as you know it, and I’ll do the same as 2015 ends. These restaurants, close to home and many miles away, caught my attention this year. Café Hollander, Madison: The Milwaukee-based restaurateur opened this third location in autumn, but “café” is an understatement because of the array of options is fat.(…)

Supper club food: new at Kohl Center, former Shorecrest Hotel

Wisconsin supper club food is the star in new settings that are casual, stylish and distinctive as winter nears. Factor in an expansion of projects that call attention to supper clubs, and what we have is a food movement or renaissance that shows no sign of fading. Ron Faiola of Milwaukee, whose “Wisconsin Supper Clubs:(…)