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:(…)

Best new books: Wisconsin farming, Lake Superior loop, Madison food, beer

Confucius says: You cannot open a book without learning something. Remember that while holiday shopping or treating yourself. Many books cross my desk; count these among my favorites for the year. “Wisconsin Agriculture: A History” ($35) and “Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist’s Memoir” ($23), both published by Wisconsin History Society Press and written by Jerry(…)

Biggest holiday cookie sale? Try St. Peter’s in little Lebanon

I saw a Lutheran school cafeteria with dozens of church mice a few days ago, but all will disappear by the time many of you read this. It’s that way every year. The too-cute treats – chocolate-drenched, with a maraschino body attached to an Oreo base, peanut halves for ears and dots of icing for(…)

More light at Milwaukee Art Museum after $34 million remodeling

The Milwaukee Art Museum quickly turned into an architectural icon for Wisconsin’s largest city in 2001. That is when an addition with a 90-foot-high glass ceiling and 217-foot wingspan was completed. The wing-like design by Santiago Calatrava stole the show from the museum’s older structures, but now is the time for them to resume co-starring(…)

Vietnam: hard-working culture not homogeneous

Last in a series. The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi, shows how wrong it is to presume the country’s culture is homogeneous. Although Viet people make up nearly 86 percent of the population, 53 other ethnic groups call this home. That includes the Hmong, who tend to farm in steep, northern highlands. Nuances in dialect,(…)

Vietnam: Reminders of war turn into tourist attractions

Part two of a series. — Several of Vietnam’s top tourist attractions are often-graphic and filtered reminders of armed conflict. Military aircraft, tanks and torture devices tell decades-old stories of strife at the War Remnants Museum, earlier known as the American War Crimes Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. The repository, both thoughtful and grim,(…)

Vietnam: developing history, heritage, cultural tourism

Part one of a series. Humidity nearly matches temperature on a sweltering autumn afternoon, so five of us head to a 20-mile-long beach with persistent breezes and few weekday sunbathers. The two-mile taxi ride costs $4, total. Another buck buys a bottle of beer and cushy chaise lounge seating. Shore-walking vendors hawk handheld fans, hand-painted(…)

Reader mail: hiking, golf, Germany, supper clubs

Readers, it’s time to lighten the mailbag. Here is a selection of your most recent notes and questions. — Jim and Monica O’Brien of Madison asked for ideas about what to do in Two Rivers. Three unexpected pleasures in this area are: Bernard Schwartz House, a Frank Lloyd Wright design that is based on his(…)

Essay winner’s good deed helps another, not herself

In “The Happiness Hypothesis” (Basic Books, $17), social psychologist Jonathan Haidt notes that the goal of positive psychology is “helping people find happiness and meaning.” My friend Bob Sessions in Iowa made me aware of this 2006 book, and the author acknowledges there is no clear road to happiness in this complicated world of unexpected(…)

Canoe Bay owner shows how to live grand in tiny houses

Dan Dobrowolski understands the growing curiosity to live large in a small space, and others are noticing his efforts from coast to coast. The owner of remote Canoe Bay Resort near Chetek, the Midwest’s only Relais and Chateaux property, is investing in the tiny house movement and gaining national attention for his new venture: ESCAPE(…)

Chicago’s interactive ‘We Gotta Bingo’ dinner theater big on fun

All-in-good-fun games of bingo keep the church lights on, subsidize school field trips, buy equipment for volunteer fire departments and make countless other charitable efforts possible. Add the fact that 43 percent of people in Wisconsin say they are of German heritage, and at least 25 percent consider themselves Catholic. We know “polka” and “mass”(…)

Janesville agritourism farmer designs, cuts corn mazes

What started monumental change at the Tom and Cheryl Skelly farm in 1989? Four rows of sweet corn. The crop was more than enough for the family to eat, so they sold the excess for $1 per dozen. Then came 9-year-old son Scott’s plea to carve a path within the rustling stalks, an odd idea(…)

Rustic Roads crisscross Wisconsin for scenic autumn drives

When asked to recommend a scenic Wisconsin drive for USA Today a few years ago, I deliberately veered away from the Mississippi River’s Great River Road and other grand but obvious choices. I favored a five-mile stretch of dirt and gravel that sashays around little lakes and post-glacier forestation, north of Rib Lake in Taylor(…)

Take Ten: pretty places to hike in Wisconsin

Editor’s note: Wisconsin-native Kevin Revolinski is the author of 60 Hikes Madison, Best Hikes Near Milwaukee, Paddling Wisconsin, Best Tent Camping Wisconsin and Wisconsin’s Best Beer Guide. His blog is Revtravel.com. By KEVIN REVOLINSKI You don’t have to go as far as the Appalachian Trail for a fine walk in the woods. Wisconsin’s state park(…)

Expanded Packers Hall of Fame treats fans as stars, too

Yellow roses in a wedding bouquet are not unusual, but dressing ushers in referee uniforms? That’s logical when the backdrop is Lambeau Field, as it was almost one year ago for Jeff and Julie Manning of Wausau. The bride, a diehard Green Bay Packers fan, calls it a dream come true, despite wind and rain(…)

New cookbook, film show off Wisconsin supper club diversity

Supper club fever has persisted ever since Ron Faiola of Milwaukee introduced “Wisconsin Supper Clubs: an Old Fashioned Experience” as a film in 2011 and book in 2013. Filmmaker Holly De Ruyter, an Oneida native, released her “Old Fashioned: The Story of the Wisconsin Supper Club” to raves at this year’s Wisconsin Film Festival. For(…)

And our photo contest winner is: Only in Wisconsin

Beautiful natural settings, culturally unique attractions and comical snapshots all were in the mix of “Only in Wisconsin” photo entries that you shared with me recently. Yes, we have winners, but these were not easy decisions. Good photography is a mix of skill, awareness, planning and luck. The instructions for this exercise: Submit an image(…)

Take Ten: beautiful, challenging places to canoe in Wisconsin

Guest columnist Lynne Diebel of Stoughton is the author of numerous books about the outdoors, and the most recent is Crossing the Driftless (University of Wisconsin Press, $20). The book is both a traveler’s tale and an exploration of the land the glaciers missed, an ancient landscape of bluffs, ridgetops and steep valleys that long(…)

UW Terrace closes soon for major makeover

I’m not a University of Wisconsin alum but love to linger at Memorial Union Terrace on a sunny day or evening, facing pretty Lake Mendota. The Terrace is one of the most-loved outdoor destinations in Madison, but on Sept. 1 most of the area closes until next summer. A $52 million renovation aims to enhance(…)

Molly O: ‘Justified,’ and beyond the Heymakers

“Justified” is a prevailing theme in Molly Otis Stoddard’s life lately, especially since that’s the title of her first music release in nearly two decades, and first solo album. The Northwoods ode to free speech and expression comes 24 years after the single “Chasing Something Called Love” hit the Top 50 for Molly and the(…)

Take Ten: good, affordable Wisconsin golf courses

Editor’s note: The PGA Championship is Aug. 10-16 at Whistling Straits, a course near Kohler that is a pricey ticket for the average golfer. Guest columnist and longtime journalist Joe Hart of Madison shares challenging and affordable alternatives. By JOE HART Midwest Features Trust me, golf can be an addictive and maddening endeavor. And an(…)

Hayward food diversity: Jimmie’s BBQ, farm-to-table cafe, excellent pie

When Dave Anderson opened a little barbecue shack in 1994 on Sawyer County’s Round Lake, the waterfront business gained a quick and strong following. In two decades, those efforts grew into a web of almost 200 down-home restaurants in 34 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. Now Famous Dave’s and the founding father are going through(…)

New visitor center hikes visibility of The Ridges

A longtime but quiet force on the quiet side of Door County gains wider visibility this month. The opening of a unique visitor center at The Ridges Sanctuary moves the work of researchers and naturalists from obscure quarters to busy Highway 57 in Baileys Harbor. The Ridges is the oldest nature preserve in Wisconsin and(…)