Food/Drink

Bitters in, bottoms up at boot camp

A class with cocktails: That’s how Taylore Ransom and Erik Rozolis of Janesville spent a recent Saturday afternoon in Madison. For them and about 30 others, at least one hour of lessons in history, science, folklore and mixology ended with hands-on lab work and a kit to continue it at home. Ransom added cherry bark(…)

Three for tea: urban to rural

On the dreariest of winter days, fog obscures otherwise gorgeous views from the 23rd floor of The Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. Three of us linger nearly two hours anyway. High tea at the Victorian-era hotel is a matter of refined, silver-service elegance. We begin with a flute of champagne. Then tea butler Juan Rodriguez(…)

Take eight: Hot for chocolate

A little luxury during winter is hot chocolate, made all the sweeter when served in a setting that goes beyond the disappearing act of powdered cocoa in steamed milk or boiling water. Hot cocoa is an especially decadent treat at these destinations, so consider a road trip to stretch out your time with a special(…)

Take Twelve: All in good taste for 2018

Lots of us have an appetite for the memorable when away from home, and sometimes we quell it with food. We remember – long after a meal ends – unique settings, unusual menus and who shares the experience. What you see and experience matter as much as what you taste. I have numerous new-to-me spots(…)

‘150 Bars’ book: unique places to take a swig

Prohibition ended nationwide 85 years ago, as of this month, so now is a particularly appropriate time to hoist that hot toddy. Comfort and familiarity matter when deciding where to drink alcohol close to home. We seek the “Cheers” effect, the tribal reassurance of being among friends or friendly faces. If everybody knows our name,(…)

Ultimate Eats: Savoring food as culture

Food is an easy, on-target introduction to a location’s cultural roots, and a new book latches onto must-try dishes when traveling the world. “Ultimate Eats: The World’s Top 500 Food Experiences … Ranked” (Lonely Planet Food, $30) explains pintxos in San Sebastian (Basque-style tapas in Spain) to stinky tofu in Taipei (follow your nose at(…)

German-born master chef takes over Black Forest, Three Lakes

As most U.S. teens were just learning to drive, 15-year-old Marcel Biro was a world away, navigating culinary school. The year: 1988. The place: East Germany. Within five years, the student was certified to teach others to cook and moonlighted at Michelin-starred restaurants. By age 24, he earned the title of master chef and already(…)

Archie’s Waeside in Iowa: citadel of American beef cookery

In a modest residential area – near farmland, railroad tracks and tall grain storage silos – is an almost-full parking lot at 5:30 p.m. on an average Thursday. When doors open at 5, sometimes the lineup of customers is as long as the driveway. Especially on weekends. To say that Archie’s Waeside has loyal patrons(…)

Now is the season for open-air dining in rural Wisconsin

About 65 scenic miles separate two Wisconsin restaurants that serve pasta, brick-oven pizza and wine from around the world. The classy Italian menu at both is pretty much the same. So is the setting: open-air dining, in the middle of nowhere, with fabulous views of rural America. “A place where you come for the experience,(…)

Taliesin ‘learn-by-doing’ philosophy extends to restaurant

The panorama is rarely less than stunning at Riverview Terrace Café, inside the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center near Spring Green. Diners gain wide and head-on views of the Wisconsin River, curvaceous Wyoming Valley, occasionally eagles and other wildlife. Now the restaurant’s menu and philosophy realign to match the architect’s legacy of honoring the close-to-home(…)

Take Twelve: Cool custard stops in Wisconsin

Culver’s, kingpin in the frozen custard world, introduces six new flavors this year. That hasn’t happened since 2012, and all of the Prairie du Sac company’s 650 restaurants in 24 states are simultaneously introducing one newcomer per month as a Flavor of the Day. Cappuccino Cookie Crumble, which mixes chocolate and sugar cookie chunks into(…)

Cheese, please: Regional traditions turn into others’ trends

Count our squeaky and deep-fried curds, plus the South’s pimento spreads, among the beloved cheese traditions that are gaining attention far away from home. Classic pimento cheese spread – known as the “caviar of the South” – is a chunky blend of shredded cheddar, mayo, cream cheese, chopped pimentos, salt, pepper and maybe a kick(…)

Pagel legacy challenges farm-to-table assumptions

The plump bacon cheeseburger, weighing in at one-third pound, was a blend of ground chuck, brisket and short ribs. The cheese: a medium cheddar. The bacon: pecan-smoked. You could trace the source of those key ingredients to farms within 60 miles of my plate. And that beef? You could track it back to the specific(…)

Native American cuisine: potential exists for sophisticated offerings

In my “in” box is no shortage of annual predictions that involve food trends. Native American ingredients, recipes and culinary traditions never seem to make the cut. Very perplexing. Do you know of a restaurant that specializes in Native American cuisine? What is that kind of food, beyond fry bread, wild rice and maybe venison?(…)

Take Ten: delectable diversions in dining

A meal is worth remembering because of the good company, exquisite taste, price, quantity, artistic flair or unexpected offerings. Splendid settings turn the ordinary into something special. So do smart people who use food to catch and keep our attention in surprising ways. At year’s end, I recollect the source of some of my most(…)

Downtown Dough: thousands of cookie cutters

Smart cookies. Patrick and Patricia Niles, owners of Downtown Dough in Cedarburg, have a good recipe for separating what they do from other kitchen boutiques, especially during this time of year. The retailers began business in West Bend almost 20 years ago, selling cookie dough for school fundraisers and other purposes. Now they get international(…)

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(…)