Love food. Will
travel. Thatís sort of been my motto, and Iíve traveled far and
wide to indulge my passion.
enjoyed sipping sake with a Buddhist monk and his family in Japan and
delighted in tasting bilberry and cardamom ice cream in Finland with
the ice cream maker, some of the best foodie trips Iíve discovered
are much closer to home. Here are four Wisconsin destinations youíll
want to visit and indulge.
of food trips ó or even day trips ó from Milwaukee has to include
Kohler. Itís a foodie town, and not just when it plays host to the
likes of Jacques Pepin during the Kohler Food & Wine Experience.
From the American Club Resortís famed Immigrant Room to the
chocolate mecca called Craverie, the experience is five star every
step of the way.
We stayed at the
Inn on Woodlake, the modern-style boutique hotel with lake views and a
putting green out back thatís steps away from shopping and the
aforementioned chocolate haven. We enjoyed a delightful chocolate
breakfast at Craverie Chocolatier Cafe. Youíll want stop by the
candy counter and pick up some terrapins (as we did) or other
delectable treats for home.
The Winery Bar
Kyle, and our son, QJ, also enjoyed símores, made tableside, after
our fireside dinner at Black Wolf Run restaurant.
I enjoyed a
culinary-themed pedicure and manicure at the Kohler Waters Spa. While
my feet were being massaged with an apple scrub, I enjoyed a glass of
sparkling cider, after which my hands were massaged with a
melon-scented lotion. During Februaryís chocolate extravaganza
weekend donít miss the special chocolate mint treatment.
Saturday night dinner, we enjoyed Wisconsin cheeses paired with some
fascinating wines in The Winery Bar at the American Club. I tasted a
new-to-me cheese called Bohemian blue, made by Tony and Julie Hook
with Driftless sheepís milk. (After writing three cheese books,
finding such cheeses are gems.) I also enjoyed a conversation with
sommelier and mixologist Jason Van Auken, who is barrel-aging a
cocktail with Wisconsinís Deathís Door gin. He plans to stop the
aging process at three months, six months and nine months.
Kohler Water Spa
highlights of my weekend getaway included the Wisconsin Roomís local
tasting menu for Saturday night dinner and its Sunday brunch. All of
the smoked seafoods, including local trout, whitefish and salmon, are
smoked and cured in-house, and they are melt-in-your-mouth amazing. I
particularly enjoyed chef Alexander Glassí smoked mussels.
At dinner, I
enjoyed the wedge salad. Wedge salads arenít fancy ó iceberg
lettuce, blue cheese and maybe a few tomatoes. But Glass uses tomatoes
that are grown in a patio garden, just outside the restaurantís
windows, and he makes a ranch-style dressing using herbs grown in that
same garden. He also makes the bacon in-house, and he smokes the
artisan blue cheese in the smoker. Come winter, he will still be using
those same heirloom tomatoes, but theyíll be preserved so the salad
will have a different taste to it.
A winter return
visit is already in order to the luxurious resort where food, wine and
atmosphere bring pampering to new levels.
From roaming the
shops on State Street to checking out new restaurants or catching a
concert or show, our state capitol is always hopping.
On past visits Iíve
supped at LíEtoile, enjoyed a red velvet shake and truffle fries at
DLUX, and gobbled dark chocolate truffles at Gail Ambrosius
Chocolatier. Iíve munched on Brie at Fromagination, spent hours
strolling through the Dane County Farmersí Market, and tasted my way
through Jeanne Carpenterís Wisconsin Cheese Originals festival every
On our most
recent trip we visited Gates & Brovi and Sardine, both owned by
James Beard Foundation Best Chef Midwest semifinalists John Gadau and
Brovi is aptly described as an "Italian-style fish house meets
Wisconsin tavern." I enjoyed a barrel-aged Manhattan with the
nightís special, a fork-tender beef brisket. Kyle enjoyed his trout
ó and QJís pepperoni and mushroom pizza. Kyleís sea salt and
caramel drizzled apple pie won first place at the Wisconsin State
Fair. I would have been envious if I hadnít so thoroughly enjoyed my
cherry soda ice cream float.
We stayed at the
boutique hotel, the Campus Inn, located in the midst of the University
of Wisconsin campus, the state capitol and downtown Madison.
At Sardine we
enjoyed Sunday brunch of baked creamed eggs with Gruyere and
prosciutto and crab, and bacon and rock shrimp cakes with eggs. This
classic bistro offers an enchanting setting on the shore of Lake
A nearby food
collective called The Underground Butcher is a supplier for Sardine,
which we visited ó twice. I liked the cured sausages at The
Underground Butcher so much that I picked up some steaks and fresh
sausages to take home. The boar pepperoni and Tuscan salami are new
Leave it to
Madison to have what is likely the countryís first community
supported brewery, The House of Brews, where people can partake in
beers on a weekly or monthly basis. Kyleís favorite was the
whiskey-barreled-aged Rickhouse Stout.
Iíll have to
wait until next time to check off a visit Deathís Door Distillery or
gourmet retailer Orange Tree Imports from my Madison bucket list,
which canít be too soon.
The Baker House
summers boating on the lake, devouring chocolate chip pancakes at
Millieís and chewing taffy candy, which I begged my parents for from
the candy store in the Riviera. I can still taste that sweet, tangy
candy clinging to my teeth.
As an adult, my
tastes have expanded beyond sticky taffy. On previous trips weíve
enjoyed the seafood buffet at the Grand Geneva. For this visit we
stayed on the lake at The Abbey Resort, where I enjoyed a massage at
the Avani Spa.
culinary explorations started with grilled chicken kebobs and a Friday
fish fry at Popeyeís on Lake Geneva. While Millieís pancake house
was my childhood favorite, Popeyeís was Kyleís, and it brims with
life and liveliness. (Millieís closed this year after 48 years in
We enjoyed a
Saturday brunch at the Simple Cafe. Warm, yet modern, this
farm-to-table restaurant has a sister restaurant on Farwell Avenue in
Kyle dined on a
perfect squash bisque, and we split a roasted vegetable salad. I
savored an interesting version of eggs Benedict crafted with Creole
hollandaise, chicken sausage and polenta cakes.
After lunch we
stopped by Wisconsinís only "urban" winery, the Studio
Winery. The owners import grapes from both the West Coast and
Michigan. For $10, I enjoyed a tasting of five wines. The best? The
Mode du Rhone, a French-styled Syrah that was bold and just a bit
The Baker House
For dinner we
visited The Abbeyís Waterfront Restaurant. Located right on the
marina, this casual restaurant specializes in barbecue. During warmer
weather the restaurant smokes all of its meats in a smoker, right next
to the patio. The menu was designed by Matthew Whiteford, an
award-winning pit master from the Chicago area. Kyle and QJ enjoyed
the smoky, meaty ribs, while I cleaned my plate of the barbecue pork
quesadillas. We couldnít finish our bananas foster cheesecake so we
had to take it home. Next time, Iíll remember to save room for it.
We had Sunday
brunch at The Baker House at the suggestion of my massage therapist at
the spa. The Baker House is a Victorian mansion thatís now a bed and
breakfast and restaurant. You feel like youíre dining in someoneís
living room, sitting at side tables or at the non-spinning end of a
craps table. If you like, you can borrow one of the restaurantís
antique hats while you dine. Made to order eggs Benedict, crab cakes
and a plethora of desserts are some of the specialties.
The next time we
return to The Abbey, weíll try the fine dining restaurant. By next
spring, that restaurant, the Fontana Grill, will be completely
transformed. The new (not yet named) restaurant will feature both an
updated decor and a more locally focused menu.
races at Road America, unwound with massages at the Aspira Spa at The
Osthoff Resort, and simply enjoyed the lake views when weíve visited
this western Sheboygan County community.
But our favorite
thing to do in Elkhart Lake is eat and drink. The crown jewel at The
Osthoff Resort is Lolaís on the Lake. I enjoyed the succulent, sweet
scallops that were perfectly caramelized. If you arenít careful, youíll
fill up on the classically prepared breads ó the whole grain slices,
cheddar-laced puffy rolls and garlic-studded focaccia. Pace yourself
ó the chocolate trio is a dessert worth waiting for.
For a casual
option, Ottoís Restaurant is the restaurant of choice. While the
ambiance was casual, the food was more bistro than family diner.
The next time I
stay at The Osthoff, Iím going to make sure I visit on a weekend
that the resortís culinary school has classes. I got a peak at the
classroom ó a gorgeous French-styled kitchen with several cooking
stations. Líecole de la Maison offers instruction on French bistro
cooking, Italian trattoria, as well as on artisan breads, Thanksgiving
dinners and more. The classes alone seem worth a trip.
Lake Street Cafe
If you stay at
The Osthoff Resort, the dining options are so good you might not want
to venture into town. That would be a shame, because for such a tiny
town ó less than 1,000 people ó Elkhart Lake has some amazing
friendly Lake Street Cafe seems like a pizzeria/tavern combo from the
exterior, but the menu is upscale, featuring dishes from pork rillette
to duck confit to beef cheeks. The lobster bisque is memorable, and
the wine list is pretty extensive.
Also worth a
stop is Vintage Elkhart Lake wine shop and tasting bar. Run by
certified sommelier Jaclyn Stuart, this shop sells more than 200
bottles of vino, with more than 40 under $14. Stuart regularly offers
fun and approachable wine classes, from wine and painting to wine and
chocolate pairing. Stuart knows quite a bit about pairing (sheís my
co-author of "The Complete Idiotís Guide to Wine and Food
Pairing"), and every time Iíve visited her shop, Iíve learned
something new about wine and come away with a new bottle to try.
Champagne and kettle potato chips ó who knew?
Our visit to
Elkhart Lake was much too short. We didnít have time to dine at the
Back Porch Bistro and the Paddock Club, two restaurants foodie friends
have recommended. And thereís a summer tiki bar at the Victorian
Villa that has a mai tai with my name on it, Iím sure of it.