April 21, 2014

Wandering Around Wisconsin

Over the past two weeks I have spent time in Green Bay, Sheboygan, Madison, Mineral Point, Mt Horeb, Platteville and Oshkosh.  It's been so fun catching up with friends and family, while visiting my favorite places and also checking out some new places such Il Ritrovo in Sheboygan.

It's one of Stefano Viglietti's restaurants and I've wanted to dine there for quite some time, after seeing a Wisconsin Foodies episode focused on three of his restaurants in Sheboygan.  My dad and I ordered a campagnola pizza topped with roasted peppers, rapini, roasted eggplant and zucchini.  It was wonderful and I'll definitely dine there again on a future Wisconsin visit.

As my dad and I drove from Milwaukee to Platteville last week, we found ourselves cruising through Madison around lunchtime.  This is where my list of favorite Madison-area restaurants came in handy.  We chose Crema Cafe from the list and both loved the salads we ordered.

Eating out can be great but it's not always easy to make healthy choices when traveling so I was very happy with Crema Cafe as a lunch choice.  I can only eat so many fried cheese curds before my body begs for a salad.

Platteville may seem like an odd vacation destination but my dad grew up there and I spent a lot of time visiting my grandma, so we both have fond memories of the area.  As you near Platteville, you're greeted by the sight of a giant M in a hill.  It's 241 ft high by 214 ft wide and made of whitewashed stones.

I've climbed the M countless times but it was still fun to do on this visit.  By the way those stairs on the right didn't exist when my dad was a kid climbing the M.

Platteville doesn't have great dining options with the exception of Steve's Pizza.  I was surprised to find they had Strongbow on tap which I first tried in the UK and have only found in Irish bars in this country.  Although, hard cider has become a lot more popular recently.

After dinner at Steve's, we walked back to our hotel (perk of staying in a small town) making our way through "Historic 2nd Street" which is an area with a fancy sign and a lot of bars frequented by college kids.

Instead of 2nd Street, I recommend checking out "That Tree" just 10 miles south of Platteville.  Have you heard of Mark Hirsch's project?  I first saw it on Facebook and was anxious to see the famous tree myself.  Never guessing that the location would be on Google Maps.  It was cool to see and I recommend checking it out if you find yourself in the area.

My favorite place that I've dined so far on this trip is Schubert's Diner on Main Street in Mount Horeb.  We stopped on both the way to and from Platteville.  The first time just to pick up lefse and the second time for brunch.

I love the atmosphere at Schubert's, it has a proper soda fountain feel.  This place is totally worth a stop if find yourself traveling on Highway 151 past Mount Horeb.  Heck, it's worth a side trip if you find yourself in Madison too.

For brunch, I wanted to order something unique to Schubert's so I opted for a lefse burrito.  I love lefse with butter and brown sugar but it's not so great as a burrito wrap.  The egg, pepper and onion filling however was very tasty.

Schubert's is not the kind of place you skip dessert at.  I ordered rhubarb pie with ice cream, and my dad got coconut cream pie which was amazing.  Rhubarb pie is one of my favorites but I found myself wishing I had ordered coconut cream after trying a bite of his.

Sadly, our road trip came to an end but next I was headed to my favorite city - Madison, where I lived from 1985-2006 (kindergarten through grad school).  I've experienced quite a range of weather during this visit but thankfully it was sunny and fairly warm when I met my best friend downtown a week ago.

If you look closely in the photo below you'll notice there wasn't too much open water yet on Lake Mendota last Friday.  I love Wisconsin but I'm so thankful I didn't live here during the recent brutal winter.

The Union Terrace was packed despite the iconic chairs not being out yet.  I ordered a cider on tap and chatted with Tracy by the water which was a perfect end to the day.

After leaving the Terrace we headed up State Street toward the capitol, which is an area I haven't seen much of since my undergrad days when I lived nearby.  Downtown Madison is a fun area and I'm looking forward to celebrating Chris' 40th birthday in just one month when we'll be traveling to Madison together.

Staying in Madison for a week, I couldn't resist talking my mom and step-dad into a trip to Crema Cafe since my mom wanted to visit Olbrich Gardens nearby.  I've now confirmed they have great breakfast options in addition to salads.  I ordered blueberry oat cakes which were heavenly.

I'm no longer accustomed to checking a weather forecast because the temperature is pretty much the same year-round in South Florida but this past week I realized why I should get back in the habit while I'm in Wisconsin.  I was shocked to see snow when I woke up Monday morning which is something I hadn't seen since November.

Thankfully the snow had melted by yesterday which was opening day for the Dane County farmers' market.  I try to go each year on opening day but last year started a tradition where I meet a former co-worker and his family, which I'm happy to say they were able to do again this year.

My mom joined me in our trip around the capitol square and our first stop was at Bleu Mont Dairy for cheese curds.  I lived 2 blocks off the square during my undergrad days at UW Madison and I bought cheese curds from Bleu Mont nearly every Saturday that I lived there.

This was my second year having brunch at Merchant after opening day and I enjoyed getting the chance to introduce my mom to Merchant's delicious menu.  We shared scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes with aioli, sourdough toast with homemade jam and yogurt served with homemade cherry walnut granola.

I couldn't resist ordering a Merchant mimosa to have with brunch which is made with fresh orange juice, champagne, Death's Door gin, and Bittercube Jamaican Bitters #2.  Merchant sells a selection of Bittercube Bitters which is really handy.  I purchased Jamaican #2 so I can make Merchant mimosas at home.

Easter Sunday was my last day in Madison.  My parents and I celebrated with my aunt and uncle, along with my cousin and his wife.  It's a great group that I've celebrated Easter with in the past but until today I had never reciprocated on the giving of Easter baskets.

I had a lot of fun finding gifts over the past week for my relatives.  My favorite idea was little bottles of Patron tequila which I put in large plastic eggs that I found at Michael's.  With Easter being late this year, I figured the timing was good since Cinco de Mayo is coming up :)

I like the photo of my aunt below because she was loving the pink bunny I gave her until she dug deeper in the bag and found chocolate...you can see what happened to the bunny :)  My mom introduced me to Candinas which is the poshest chocolate shop I've ever been to (their capitol square location).  I also included chocolate-covered caramels from Gail Ambrosius, another local chocolatier based in Madison.

I'm now back in Milwaukee and will be heading to Door County this weekend for the final leg of my journey.  I am so excited to spend time with four of my favorite Milwaukee bloggers in one of favorite Wisconsin places.

April 05, 2014

Week One in Wisconsin

My first week in Wisconsin has flown by.  So far I've spent time in Green Bay and Milwaukee, visiting my dad's family and attending a work conference.  I am loving being back in Wisconsin, despite the chilly temps.  After months of seeing nothing but high-rise condos in the skyline, wide open spaces and family farms are a welcome sight.

Not surprisingly, I've been dining out a lot on this trip.  First up was Rustique in Green Bay, a great little pizza restaurant located in a 112 year-old chapel that I found by searching Trip Advisor recommendations.

The space is quite small so we had to wait awhile for a table but it was so worth it.  They have pews for seating at some of the tables which I thought was pretty cool.

Now that all my siblings are of legal drinking age, it's fun to start the evening with a drink.  My sister and I ordered blackberry crushers (made with Grey Goose, Chambord and fresh blackberries) and my brother ordered a Spotted Cow.  I love New Glarus Brewery's glasses with the Wisconsin fingerprint saying "Drink Indigenous."

Mac and cheese pizza is one of my favorites and Rustique's version is just as delicious as Ian's version, or from what I remember.  I'll need to have at least once slice when I'm in Madison later this month to be certain :)

The next day we headed to Renard's Cheese in Door County, stopping by Wequiock Falls on the way.  It was a wet, muddy mess there but so cool to see both the frozen and flowing waterfalls.  That's my dad below, wearing his Badgers shirt for the Sweet Sixteen game that evening.

After a fun weekend in Green Bay, I headed to Milwaukee.  As part of the work conference we dined at both Firefly and the Safe House.  Both the food and service at the Safe House were terrible and I would never recommend that anyone eat there.  I do think it's worth stopping in for drinks though just to see what it's all about.

Firefly on the other hand was a great experience!  Everyone I talked to loved their food and we had great service.  I ordered a pear and chevre salad containing lettuce, white wine poached pears, goat cheese souffle, candied walnuts and white honey balsamic vinegar which I'm anxious to recreate at home.

Their cocktail menu had some great choices.  First, I tried a lemon twist made with muddled lemon and sugar, citrus vodka, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and seltzer.  Next up was a cranberry basil made with muddled fresh basil, Wisconsin cranberries, vodka and seltzer.  Did I mention that it was an open bar? :)

I dined out with friends on Wednesday and was thankful they suggested Cafe Manna.  It felt great to take a break from cocktails and sip a limonade instead (made with fresh limes, kale, swiss chard, pear, agave and water).  I ordered their peace bowl which I first tried at Feasting for Fido.

Last night I headed to Cafe Bavaria with my friend Jacquie.  It's a restaurant I hadn't heard of until Lisa's blog post which just opened in February and is already very popular!  There was a long wait for a table, so we started with drinks at the bar.  I chose a Schofferhofer grapefruit beer made with hefeweizen because it was recommended by Lisa.

I couldn't help but order Wisconsin cheese curds as an appetizer, which is definitely not something I can get in Miami.  They were good but not the best I've had.  The best ones can only be purchased every other year at Cheese Days in Monroe, Wisconsin.  The line is insanely long but it's so worth it.    

As to be expected in a German restaurant, the menu is quite meat heavy however they do have some great vegetarian choices.  I ordered a spinach salad that came with pears, walnuts and dried cranberries.

For our next round of drinks, we asked for grapefruit beers and were brought Stiegl Radler tap beers, which surprised us but we both liked it even more than the Schofferhofer.  The Stiegl version is a mixture of grapefruit, orange, and lemon juice combined with beer.

It wasn't until the waitress mentioned the name radler that I realized it was Amstel Radler I was drinking at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival back in February which Rachel Ray compared to Fresca.  Upon further research it turns out that radler is a beer-based mixed drink popular in German speaking regions, similar to a shandy.

I'm back in Green Bay this weekend, heading to Madison soon.  While I miss my boys back in Miami, I am thoroughly enjoying seeing friends and family.  It was also nice spending time with co-workers who don't meow and lick me.