Food on the farm: Restaurant ingredients truly local

trout2Lots of chefs develop farm-to-table menus to showcase local ingredients, but these restaurants go one step further. Each is on a Wisconsin farm and open all year.

North Star Homestead Farms, 11077N Fullington Rd., Hayward: A trio of women – Ann Berlage with daughters Laura and Kara – operate a café, market and creamery on a 1919 farm in Sawyer County and Chequamegon National Forest.

Key ingredients for meals come from the family’s aquaponics greenhouse, where kohlrabi to tilapia grow. From the farm’s sheep come meat for gyros, a breakfast lamb sausage and gelato made with sheep milk.

Other small-scale farms provide blueberries to beef for the menu and market, which also sells artwork, jewelry, music and items made with recycled materials.

From late spring to early autumn, pizzas are baked in a stone oven outdoors. Soon monthly Harvest Dinners begin: Storytelling and music accompany these three-course meals. Halloween is the theme Oct. 31.

“Around the Farm Table” on Wisconsin Public Television introduces North Star’s gelato at 8 p.m. Oct. 20.

northstarhomestead.com, 715-462-3453

The Trout House, N301 Hwy. H, Palmyra: The freshest catch of the day is whatever rainbow takes the bait. A “hook and cook” option at Rushing Waters Fisheries, inside Kettle Moraine State Forest, lets kids and adults fish for dinner without a fishing license.

There is no catch-and-release option, so expect to keep (and pay) for whatever is hooked. Do this early enough in the day, and the fisheries’ restaurant cooks can clean and pan-sear the filets, then add potato pancakes, applesauce, veggies and rye bread to round out the meal.

Rainbow trout live in cold, spring-fed water on this 80-acre Jefferson County farm, but the restaurant menu is not limited to fish. Pots of cod, lobster or shrimp are boiled outdoors on Saturday nights. Friday night is the busiest time because, as co-owner Peter Fritsch observes, “No one else is raising fish for its fish fry.”

rushingwaters.net/the-trout-house, 262-495-2089

LaClare Farm Café, W2994 Hwy. HH, Malone: Larry and Clara Hedrich began hobby farming with two milking goats in 1978. When their five kids got involved with 4-H clubs, the herd grew.

Now milk from 375 dairy goats turns into award-winning LaClare Farm cheeses: The Evalon ranked Best in Show at the 2011 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest. For sale at the Fond du Lac County farm store are 10 cheeses made at an onsite creamery from goat, sheep, cow or blends of milk, plus an array of artisan products (including other Wisconsin cheeses).

The farmstead café soon celebrates its first anniversary. Observation windows offer a peek at dairy processing, goat milking and cheese aging rooms. Outdoors, some animals are close enough to pet.

Cheese rules on the menu, but that’s not all. Add a lake perch fish fry on Fridays and Sunday brunch of granola to corned beef hash.

laclarefarm.com, 920-670-0051

Whispering Orchards Café, W1650 Hwy. MM, Cleveland: The Sheboygan County farm is a popular destination for families and class field trips during this time of year. Apples and pumpkins blanket the grounds. Hot cider and crisp air are a winning combination. Add up-close visits with farm cats, donkeys, a llama and more.

Besides selling fruit by the bag, bushel or caramel-coated apple, George and Susan Holzwart’s downhome café – especially now – is apple-centric. That means apple coffee cake, apple bread, apple dumplings, caramel apple pancakes, apple-bacon-spinach omelets and apple-filled French toast.

Eat upstairs at gingham-covered tables, as most customers do, and notice the unusual assortment of taxidermy: A black bear holds a sack of apples, and a fox wears green britches. Eggs come from the farm’s coop, and meats come from local butchers. The potato kugel? It’s one of many family recipes.

whisperingorchards.com, 920-693-8584

These year-round restaurants are not operated by full-time farmers, but their locations or history is uniquely rural.

Pine Brook Farm, W4221 Hwy. A, Spooner: Jason Martell and Michele Law are turning an 85-acre Washburn County farm into a family-friendly dining destination. It opened almost one year ago.

The farmhouse seats 28 downstairs for dinner. Upstairs is a gift shop for selling locally made art, crafts and other products.
Outside is a huge grill for summertime cooking and outdoor dining while the radio is tuned to old-time country and bluegrass.

Slow-roasted ribs are a Thursday specialty, and perch on Friday are fried in a 20-inch cast iron skillet. The Pig Pen is pulled pork. Cowgirl Beans are baked with brown sugar and hot sauce.

In a converted shed is the funky Woodtick Lounge, serving craft beers and cocktails. A friendly tomcat named Snowball, 10 chickens and (unseen) horses call this farm their home.

facebook.com/pinebrookfarmspoonerwi.com, 715-635-4511

Vino in the Valley, W3826 450th Ave., Maiden Rock: A twisty road in remote Pierce County leads to a former cornfield where hearty visitors eat pasta or pizza and sip wine at an open-air bistro with strategically placed, patio-style heaters.

Larry Brenner’s Rush River Valley setting has a European feel because, although cozy, customers keep on coats while dining and lingering. Wines from around the world are poured, plus three choices that carry the restaurant’s name but are made elsewhere.

A gazebo is big enough for a duo of musicians to perform. Play cornhole (bean bags) or sit at an outdoor, circular bar. The Fall Festival is Oct. 18; vendors include Dick Rybicki, who sells his cheeses, wears a cheesehead hat and drives a bright green-gold Packer truck.

vinointhevalley.com, 715-639-6677

The Blind Horse Restaurant and Winery, 6018 Superior Ave., Kohler: The environment is suburban today but long ago was a farm with workhorses that included Birdy, who was blind. Since spring, dining and imbibing in a stylishly casual setting occurs on seven acres of this Sheboygan County farmland.

The Moeller family produces wine with grapes from California and Washington, but wines from elsewhere in the world are also sold. Nightly food specials often involve wine.

The dinner-only restaurant is a 130-year-old farmhouse, and winemaking happens in another farm-like building. Firepits lengthen the season for lounging outdoors, and music is booked for the patio during warmer weather. Also on the premises is Restoration Gardens, which sells gifts, plants and yard décor.

theblindhorse.com, 920-467-8599