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 I enjoyed the hospitality we found there. Now we are looking for a cabin on a lake to take our four children (ages 8-19). Do you have any suggestions for nice swimming and fishing type cabins within two hours away?”

Try the Waupaca area, Mark. It is beautiful, peaceful and rightfully known as the Chain O’ Lakes area. For more:, 888-417-4040.

“I have a friend from Chicago who’s turning 50 this year,” writes Lisa McGovern of Eagle. “She’s a foodie and quite a wine aficionado. Friends and I want to take her somewhere lovely overnight to celebrate – a place where she could maybe see or be involved in the process of creating fine food and then enjoy it as well. 

“This is more than just a restaurant experience – we’d like to go to the heart of where the food originates. But she’s not the down-home, hearty, farm-meals type – more upscale, high-end food for her. I guess I’d like to show off Wisconsin as well, especially to someone from Illinois!”

Consider a stay at Little Sugar River Farm, an organic farm and inn near New Glarus. For more:, 608-862-2212.

Superb, locally crafted products define the area. Examples: New Glarus Brewing Co. (and its new tasting facility), Chalet Cheese Cooperative’s limburger (eat it on rye, with onion, at Baumgartner’s in Monroe).

Also worth noting: The Dining Room at 209 Main, gourmet dining in small-town Monticello. The husband-wife team worked in Madison’s finest restaurants, then decided to simplify life and abbreviate work. Fine fining doesn’t mean fancy attire; bicyclists from nearby trails are welcome. Open Wednesday to Saturday nights.

“Each year, 10 to 12 of us have a three-day family get-together,” says Kathleen McCarthy of Gleason. “We take turns finding a place and area of interest to both ladies (such as shopping) and men (history, hunting, fishing).

“My husband and I take our turn at planning this year. Is there a listing of homes to rent, or bed and breakfasts in Wisconsin? I do not have access to a computer, so my resources are limited.”

The Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association directory is available through the state Department of Tourism at 800-432-TRIP and Or view contents at

I’ve also had good luck with Vacation Rentals by Owner, Kathleen, but you need computer access. Head to, where property listings can be viewed by geographic location, then rental size and cost.

Where to go? The beautiful Lac du Flambeau area is an understated treasure. Consider Dillman’s Bay Resort (, 715-588-3143), a private and pretty setting with motel rooms to 10-person condos. Owners provide as little or much structure (pontoon boat rides, art classes, meal preparation) to the day as you want.

Learn about native American culture at the George W. Brown Jr. Ojibwe Museum, gamble at Lake of the Torches Casino, shop in touristy Minocqua.

Time it right, and autumn color could be gorgeous. A big event on Sept. 26: Minocqua’s annual Beef-A-Rama cook-off of roasts.

For more: and 800-44-NORTH;, 877-588-3346. Since you don’t have computer access, head to the public library and ask for help getting online. Staff, especially reference librarians, should be eager to assist.

“I loved the Frugal Traveler series,” writes Deb Tuszkiewicz of Kenosha. “We were planning to visit several of the places, but I misplaced the articles. How do I get another copy?”

Head to, where I am the Wisconsin Culinary Travel Examiner. My payment is based on your page clicks, so please click away! My intent is to streamline column archiving at by the end of this year.

“After my husband and I retired, we purchased a small but cozy motor home for the purpose of traveling throughout Wisconsin,” write Bob and Ruth Cline of Vesper. “Our first interest is Wisconsin Rustic Roads (which take us to) beautiful wildflowers, small streams along the roadsides, old abandoned farms, quaint little towns and villages.

“We have found covered bridges, old stone bridges, single-lane roads cut through a bluff and more. We camp in small, out-of-the-way areas. We walk trails and roads, bicycle, take photos, visit with farmers working the fields. We visit artisans in their home art galleries, and we read in the quiet of the woods. Get the word out: Wisconsin has so many hidden treasures.”

For a Rustic Roads list, consult the state Department of Transportation at (search for “rustic roads”). The program was established in 1973 to identify the state’s most scenic country roads.

“You missed listing Alley Stage at Shake Rag Alley” in a recent look at seasonal, outdoor theaters, notes Gary Knowles of Madison. “Very nice venue and top-quality theater.” For more:, 608-987-3292.

“You left out a summer theater that has been in the Northwoods for over 30 years,” writes Jim Driscoll of Fond du Lac. “Northern Lights Playhouse, Hazelhurst, has at least six different plays from now until Sept. 1.” For more:, 715-356-7173.

“You wrote about my small, salvage grocery store just outside of Wautoma, Country Discount Grocery,” writes Patricia Quillen. “We have stories of single moms, retired people, low-income people and large families all thanking us daily for being here. Some have tears in their eyes, which gives us tears in our eyes. Many say they could not make it through the month without us.” 
For more:, 920-787-5000.

“I enjoyed the article on the Executive Residence tours in Madison, but what I found quite troubling was your decision to not describe the decorated trees as Christmas trees,” writes Dennis Hemauer of Fond du Lac. “My dictionary has no entry for ‘holiday tree’ but it does have a description for ‘Christmas tree.’ Please don’t let the loud minority stop you from proper verbiage.”

“Being rather new to Wisconsin, I especially enjoy reading your columns for ideas of interesting places to visit,” writes Dorothy Shields of Marshfield. “I’ve clipped the columns often, but is there is a searchable file online, to provide me with long-term and easy access to your material?”

Not at this time, but I’m thinking about it. The catch is that I need to make a living from what I write. Any potential online advertisers out there?

For more about barn quilt projects outside of Wisconsin, go to, then click on “quilt” (under “other interesting barns”). The advice comes from Cindy Northup of Sheboygan.

“I had never heard of ‘funeral wieners,’ until your book,” writes Kendra Meinert of Green Bay. “Funny, though, because we have ‘funeral pickles’ where I’m from in Minnesota.”

“Funeral wieners became somewhat of a tradition in the Lakeshore Area when Kohlbecks operated the Whitelaw Sausage Co.” in Whitelaw, says Dennis Hernet of Manitowoc, who contends the present owners “changed the recipe.”

The butcher shop “still has great meats and sausages that are made from the Kohlbeck cookbook,” Dennis says. It “is still our destination for some products, but not the funeral wieners.”

Hmmm. I ate one of those wieners raw and loved it, but judge for yourselves at the annual WienerFest, June 19-21 in Whitelaw Community Park.

Watch “WienerFest: The Movie,” polka to Happy Schnapps Combo music, enter the Wiener Dog Races, show up for the parade and take a whiff of the WienerFest Cook-off.

For more:, 920-732-3222. And the book? It’s “Hungry for Wisconsin,” available through any bookstore, (or me, if you want a signed copy).

Mary Schwandt of Eagan, Minn., noticed the Alpha Delights column and questions the Wisconsin Bakers Association’s optimistic assessment of the industry. “We just had two family bakeries close here in the last two months,” she reports.

“You said Florence County has the second smallest population in Wisconsin,” writes Irmgard Meinhardt of Greenwood. “Which county is smallest?”

By population: Menominee County, which the U.S. Census Bureau estimates has 4,571 residents (Florence County has 4,652). By area: Ozaukee County, which is 232 square miles.