Category Archives: Wisconsin

Wisconsin for future reference: Wandawega Adult Summer Camp, Sheboygan “Art Preserve”

I loved summer camp as a kid (I know, I know, not everyone went to summer camp and of those who did, not everyone enjoyed it – my own childhood household was divided, two kids liked; two kids disliked) so the idea of a nostalgic old-school summer camp for adults sounds fun (my husband may not agree).

I wonder if they have horseback riding, canoeing, Native American dancing (once called “Indian dancing”), macramé, Petoskey stone polishing and Birch bark decoupage? Not to mention s’mores, pancakes cooked on a Dutch oven and old cabins in the woods. Or jumping off the dock to skinny dip. Anyway, here’s two clips from Midwest Living that caught my eye for future reference!

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Door County covid-era travel tips!

Our six glorious days in Door County during the last week of July 2020 (the wretched pandemic year) were all the better thanks to great tips from our airbnb host on where to eat, bike, swim, hike – and stay reasonably staff during a pandemic. Here they are: (I’ve bolded the ones we visited. all good!)

SWIM/Beach:
Sand Bay Town Park and Beach
A wonderful bbq/picnic spot, secluded with cedars and great for swimming, shallow but sandy.
11154 N Sand Bay Ln, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Garret Bay
Going NORTH out of Ellison Bay, take LEFT off of HWY 42 onto Garret Bay Rd.  Follow on Garret Bay Rd till it curves to the right a bit and you see on your left the boat ramp and historical marker for the Fleetwing Shipwreck.  Pebble/rock swimming beach with a beautiful view.

Europe Lake
Europe Lake Boat/Kayak Ramp area also has a small spot for picnic/bbq.  We like to swim here when the Lake is too cold!  This is a great little lake to kayak on.
460 Europe Lake Road

Pebble Beach (Our favorite)
going SOUTH out of Sister Bay, (when you see Open Hearth Lodge on your left), take RIGHT off of HWY 42 onto South Bayshore Drive and merge to the RIGHT onto Pebble Beach Rd.  You will then follow this down to the small but lovely swimming beach.  Great for sunsets but probably less frequented during the morning.

Hotz Memorial Town Park The Europe Bay area of Newport State Park is another wonderful place for bbq/picnics and swimming.
Take HWY 42 NORTH of Ellison Bay, taking a RIGHT off the HWY onto Europe Bay Rd, follow the road until you reach the kayak launch and park.
349 Europe Bay Road

Washington Island
Worth the visit!  You can take your bicycles on the ferry. (There are two different ferry services)
https://www.islandclipper.com
https://wisferry.com/washington-island
Schoolhouse Beach is a wonderful pebble swimming beach with a deeper drop off.  We love to pick up lunch at the Island Cafe and Bread Company and head to this spot.  Sievers School of Fiber Arts is also worth a visit if you are interested in weaving, knitting or basketry arts.  They have a shop that sells supplies as well as a gallery with items for sale.

Additionally…
We also really love the Ellison Bay Potters! (our favorite too)
There are several wonderful pottery studios in Ellison Bay.  Start with Clay Bay on the highway and tour the others in the village area.  (Gills Rock Stoneware, Ellison Bay Pottery etc)

Bicycling:
Sand Bay
(4.2 miles (one way) from the unit) Waters End Rd to Sand Bay Town Park & Beach.  Take a right out of our lane onto Hillcrest Rd, follow Hillcrest until Waters End Rd.  Take a right onto Waters End and stay on it until you reach Lake Michigan!  Just before you reach the lake, take a left onto Sand Bay Ln.  At the end of the lane on your right is Sand Bay Town Park and Beach–great for swimming and picnics/bbqs!

Beach Road
(5.1 miles (one way) from the unit) Bicycling down Beach Road is a wonderful mostly-shady ride.  Take a right out of our lane onto Hillcrest Rd.  At Waters End, take a left and go down a fairly steep hill till you reach HWY 42.  Cross the highway toward your right, onto Beach Rd.  Beach Road eventually connects to Porcupine Bay Rd and then HWY 42 again.  You could make a nice day trip out of this route by adding Ellison Bluff State Natural Area as a picnic spot towards the end and your turnaround (take a left onto Ellison Bluff Rd).  Ellison Bluff has a great lookout and nice wooded trails to stretch out on.  (We recommend returning on the same route to avoid having to cross and travel on the highway)

Eats and Drinks:

 

BAKERIES/breakfast:

Although Heirloom is in Baileys Harbor, it is our other favorite place for breakfast. And we really love Skipstone, Analog and Kick Ash for nearby coffee alternatives…
Sunflour bakery in Sturgeon Bay has great bread but I think they’ll be closed by the time you get up here. Macready Bread Company in Egg Harbor is also wonderful (open till 4). And Seaquist Orchards just north of Sister Bay on HWY 42 has great apple cider donuts and lots of other goodies. (It’s kind of a large farmstand with preserves etc)

Dinner/lunch:

Fish Boils:(please call to check on their takeout/outside-seating options)

White Gull Inn in Fish Creek 920-868-3517
4225 Main St, Fish Creek, WI 54212

Viking Grill in Ellison Bay 920-854-2998
12029 WI-42, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

Rowleys Bay Resort in Ellison Bay 920-854-2385
1041 Co Rd Zz, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

Old Post Office Restaurant in Ephraim 920-854-4034 (our pick — it was great!)
10040 N Water St, Ephraim, WI 54211

Here is a list of some of our favorites on the peninsula.  (Although-if you find a special spot that’s not on our list, please let us know so we can try it too!)

STURGEON BAY

Bluefront Cafe
Tuesday – Sunday 11-3 Take out and Curbside Only
a few outside tables first come first serve
order by phone or online
(920) 743-9218
http://www.thebluefrontcafe.com/About_WOZT.html
86 W Maple St, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235

Lawlss Coffee
Everyday 7:00am-3:00pm,
limited seating inside and outside
(920) 257-3782
Online ordering available for pickup as well
https://www.lawlsscoffee.com
108 S Madison Ave, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235

Kick Coffee
Everyday 7:30am – 3:00pm
limited back patio, street and indoor seating
(920) 746-1122
https://www.kickcoffeeshop.com
148 N 3rd Ave, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235

‘Get Real’ Cafe
Wednesday – Saturday, 10am-2pm
limited indoor and outdoor seating
Curbside pickup available
920-818-1455
https://www.getrealcafedoorcounty.com
116 S Madison Ave, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235

BAILEYS HARBOR

Heirloom Cafe
Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday 8:30am-2pm
Friday and Saturday 8:30-4
pickup only
inside ordering or call
no dine in
920-839-9334
https://www.heirloomcafeandprovisions.com
2434 County F, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202

Bearded Heart Coffee (yum)
order online only, no phone calls or order in person at counter
Friday-Sunday 7-5
Monday-Thursday 8-2
carry out only
limited outside seating
920-839-9111
http://www.beardedheartcoffee.com
8093 WI-57, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202

Chives
Wednesday – Sunday 4pm – 10pm
inside dining available, reservations accepted
——————————————————————
—Chives Food Trucks (located next to Chives)
Wednesday-Saturday 11am – 8pm
Sunday 11am – 3pm
920-839-2000
http://chivesdoorcounty.com
8041 HWY 57, Bailey’s Harbor, WI 54202

Door County Brewing Co. Taproom & Music Hall
Check website for latest hours
(920) 412-7226
doorcountybrewingco.com
8099 WI-57, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202

Waseda Farms (brats! you pick-em raspberries, beautiful grounds!)
Farmstand/Grocery Store on Farm with trails open to the public, call to ask for updates!
Order ahead or order at curbside Everyday 10-5 (call or email them at sayard@wasedafarms.com)
They update their lists of produce/meat/specialty/local items here:
https://wasedafarms.com/shopping-lists-prices/
920-839-2222
https://wasedafarms.com
7281 Logerquist Rd, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202

EPHRAIM

Ephraim Coffee Lab
Curbside PIckup Thurs-Sun 8am-2pm
order online
https://www.iselycoffee.com
3055 Church St, Ephraim, WI, 54211

Trixies
Thursday – Monday 5pm – 9pm
day-of orders for pickup or outside dining
No Reservations for outside dining, first-come first-served
order online or call day-of
920-854-8008
http://www.trixiesfoodandwine.com
9996 Pioneer Lane, Ephraim, WI, 54211

Good Eggs
Open daily, 7am – 1pm
Pickup orders placed online only
http://www.goodeggsdoorcounty.com
920-854-6621
9820 Brookside Ln, Ephraim, WI 54211

EGG HARBOR

Parador
Thursday-Sunday
Open for patio pickup, 5pm – 9pm
order online
920-868-2255
https://www.paradorwisconsin.com
7829 WI-42, Egg Harbor, WI 54209

The Fireside Restaurant
Thursday – Monday  Lunch 11am – 3pm or Dinner 4pm – 8pm
Offering pickup
or patio seating only.
920-868-4800
https://www.thefiresiderestaurant.com/dinner-menu
7755 WI-42, Egg Harbor, WI 54209

SISTER BAY

Skip Stone Coffee Roasters
Every day 7:30am-2:00pm
or for pickup order online http://skipstonecoffee.com/order
or call in (920) 421-4388
10678 South, N Bay Shore Dr Building 2, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Analog Coffee
Daily 6:30-8
Pickup Orders available
(920) 854-1155
10649 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Grasse’s Grill
Open Thursday-Monday 11am – 7pm
Walk up or Curbside TO GO
920-854-1125 or 920-854-3302
https://www.grassesgrill.com

Door County Creamery
Open 11am-7pm Wednesday-Monday (closed Tuesday)
Pickup Only call or order online
Online Store also open
(920) 854-3388
https://www.creameryeats.com
10653 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Husbys
Open Every Day 11am-2am
Inside/Outside dining/bar and takeout
https://www.husbysdoorcounty.com/menu
920-854-2624
10641 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Wild Tomato
www.wildtomatopizza.com
Sister Bay location open for Dine-In, Patio or Take Out
Open Daily 11am-9pm
920-854-4685
10677 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Lure
Thursday-Monday 4pm-8pm
Take Out
or Patio Dining (which is Take Out but they will bring a cocktail to your table!)
Limited Indoor Seating call for reservations
920-854-8111
http://www.luredoorcounty.com
10627 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Door County Ice Cream Factory
Call ahead for hours
http://doorcountyicecream.com
Curbside or Pickup Window
(920) 854-9693
11051 WI-42, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Ellison Bay

Kick Ash Coffee
Online Ordering or call for Pickup 8am-4pm
or inside 8am-4pm
(920) 854-9400
https://kickashgo.square.site
https://www.kickashproducts.com
12001 Mink River Rd, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

Wickman House
Friday – Monday 4pm – 8pm
Limited Outdoor Dining 5pm – 9pm, no reservations, first come-first served
(or order a drink and walk the grounds while you wait)
Takeout Available
Order Online (day-of)
http://www.wickmanhouse.com
11976 Mink River Rd, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

Gills Rock

The Shoreline
Curbside Pickup: Wednesday& Thursday 4-9 Friday-Sunday 12-9pm
….their hours are changing frequently, please check for updates
920-854-2950
http://www.theshorelinerestaurant.com
12747 WI-42, Gills Rock, Wisconsin 54210

Charlie’s Smokehouse
(A retail smoked fish shop)
https://charliessmokehouse.com
Daily 9-4
920-854-2972
12731 WI-42, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

HIKES:

There is a map of LandTrust trails on the coffee table. Those are great spots as well as Peninsula Park (between Ephraim & Fish Creek) and Newport Park (between Ellison Bay & Gills Rock).
There is an easy to moderate trail on Cty NP (off of HWY 42 between Ellison Bay and Gills Rock) called Schoenbrunn Trail that winds out to the Mink River. It’s a sweet trail that may give some canopy coverage from the rain today.
BAKERIES:

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Door County Day 7: The long (scenic) way to Chicago from Sister Bay (Kopps in Milwaukee)

(Written July 2020)

Sad to say goodbye to Door County but we enjoyed the pretty backroads-drive to Chicago, starting with County Road B from Egg Harbor to Sturgeon Bay (a tip from Torch, the name of the fish boil master in Ephraim.) As promised we passed by pretty dairy farms and big waterside mansions that we caught a fleeting glimpse of through the woods.

Kopp’s Custard, pandemic-style

Onto Algoma on Highway 42, another scenic alternative to the highway (43) that took us along the water and through small rural towns (Alaska, wi.). We also drove into Kohler, to see the famous American Inn Spa and the Kohler Design Center. Shortly after we took 43 to Milwaukee stopping at the famous Kopps Custard in Glendale, just off the highway, for excellent burgers, with grilled onions, and super rich butter pecan custard. We drove through the elegant suburbs north of downtown (Shorewood, Whitefish Bay) with streets lined with old gated brick mansions that reminded us of Evanston and a drive-by the distinctive Art museum designed by Santiago Calatrava.

In Chicago, we laid low, visiting family. We did ride our bikes along the lakeshore trail from Edgewater to Astor, which wasn’t as fun as it should be, thanks to too many bikes and walkers. I felt like the bike proctor, scolding various cyclists doing stupid things (reading their cellphones, riding two abreast, peddling furiously in tour de France mode.) We saw a bad accident — a crowd around a young kid laying on the pavement, someone else cradling his head. Sadly, I wasn’t surprising to see.

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Door County Day 6: Biking and water tractor to Cana Bay, eating at Harbor in Baileys Harbor, whitefish dunes/caves county park, back to Pebble beach in Little Sister Bay

(written in July 2020)

D. has a family call right now so I am sitting solo at a picnic table in the park overlooking the water in Sister Bay at 8 p.m. I wasn’t going to miss our last sunset, which turns out to be the major evening activity in Door County (and I don’t think it’s just a Covid-19 thing).

We had another spectacular day of weather, low 70s, sunshine, blue sky so we set off again on our bikes, this time driving them over to Bailey’s Harbor where we set off on County Road D from the parking lot of the Ridges Sanctuary. We had an easy flat ride on a largely un-trafficked road lined with trees and a smattering of cabins. We ended up taking an even prettier, narrower “rustic road” (a Door County designation that infers “beauty”) through the woods and along a bay to a clearing where we were met by a John Deere tractor rumbling through three feet of Lake Michigan water between the shore and Cana Island. The tractor was our unusual ride to the island, sitting in a wooden carriage pulled by the farm vehicle. That was a first. The island is tiny and home to an old lighthouse and former living quarters for the lighthouse keeper. Lovely spot even if we couldn’t climb the tower due to the coronavirus.

Next stop, fish and chips and fish chowder, while sitting on the back patio of The Harbor restaurant in Baileys Harbor. Delightful. We also bought some fantastic blueberries at a stand set up near the local brew pub.

We drove south to whitefish dunes state park but left when we discovered it cost $38 to park our car and enter. The adjacent caves county park is free but it located high on bluffs, with daredevil kids jumping from them. Fun to watch (reminded us of similar scenes along Lake Superior north of Duluth) but not my thing, now or ever ,so we happily returned to our now-favorite beach, Pebble Beach in Little Sister Bay. Hated to leave that perfect blue green water and even fell asleep atop the beach’s hot flat stones.

Little Sister bay and Baileys Harbor, maybe Ephraim, are my picks for places to stay next summer with our kids. (The Inn at Little Sister Bay looks promising.) Here’s hoping. Loved this much-needed get away. Hoping next time we won’t all be wearing masks and social distancing. Or worrying about sickness and death and the economic gloom and racial justice and a crazy disaster of a president.

 

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Door County Day 5 : Washington Island, Egg Harbor

(This was written during a trip in July 2020.)

So glad we ditched our car and brought our bikes to Washington Island. There’s not much to see as far as attractions (a lavender farm, a fiber craft center, Schoolhouse Beach, a large white-pebbled beach) but the appeal is the isolated island feel, perfectly captured on a bike whizzing along largely flat empty well-paved roads with sun streaming through the forest and occasional glimpses of the shimmering blue lake. We took the Island Crossing ferry driven by a weather-worn guy named Charlie who also makes some mean smoked whitefish, which I bought at his smokehouse next to the ferry. This ferry is passenger only, bikes travel free, so preferable to the other ferry which takes cars and charges for bikes. It was an easy and pleasant 30-minute ride, during which we learned about far more terrifying ship passages that ended as shipwrecks. (This once-hazardous passageway was dubbed Devil’s Door — hence the name Door County.) Unfortunately several places to eat were closed on the Island because it was a Wednesday (so no Jackson Harbor Soup) and there’s a pandemic (so limited offerings at Island Cafe and Bakery.) We found decent sandwiches at the lavender farm and lavender flavored chocolate-covered caramels.

Couldn’t resist taking a photo of the restaurant sign below on Washington Island to share with the two young lawyers in our family…apparently lawyers is also a type of fish.

At night we explored Egg Harbor and didn’t find much there beyond the pretty Harbor Park so we returned to livelier (but still quiet) Fish Creek, where we enjoyed the vivid remnants of the sunset there at a park near the famous and lovely White Gull Inn.

Apparently lawyers is a type of fish

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Door County Day 4: Peninsula State Park, Pebble Beach, Wilson’s sundae, Door County Wildwood Market, Old Post Office fish boil, night stroll in pretty Fish Creek

(July 2020) We did a triathlon of sorts at Peninsula State Park, a huge chunk of gorgeous land jutting out into the blue waters of Green Bay. First we hiked the two-mile Eagle Trail, which was difficult as advertised in terms of having a lot of tree roots, rocks and mud to navigate but also stunning, with bits through the forest hugging the bay with giant rugged stone bluffs.

Then we rode bikes on the Sunset Trail about 9 miles which also took us through forest and along the coast. We skipped the beach since it was too crowded for a visit during a pandemic but we did have a picnic from a social distance and then found hidden Pebble Beach which may be our favorite place to swim yet here. It’s hidden in Little Sister Bay at the bottom of a curving road down from Highway 42 through the woods. It seemed a local hangout for very attractive young people. We sat on the area’s signature large white flat stones and swam in water that was shockingly green near the shore and then deep blue. So maybe this is why Green Bay is named Green Bay?

Wildwood Market

We finally got around to having ice cream at the famous Wilson’s in Ephraim, a cheerful red and white building from the early 1900’s. The mini tin roof sundae was excellent, eaten while sitting on a park bench across the street overlooking the harbor.

On the way back to our airbnb, we stopped at what looked like and was indeed a former migrant workers housing north of Sister Bay, a worn wooden very long version of a shotgun shack, tastefully transformed into an earthy farmers market called Door County Wildwood Market, which had good fruit and veg and beautifully dried flowers and pickled vegetables.

At night we went to a traditional Door County fish boil which turned out to be a lot of fun.  Who knew that boiled whitefish, red-skinned potatoes and ordinary onions could taste so good but they did. Very fresh and simple, served with melted butter and a shaker of mixed spice. We had a primo seat on the front porch of the Old Post Office Cafe in Ephraim so we watched yet another spectacular sunset. Last stop was Fish Creek which turned out to be a lovely town. We have been visiting these places at night because we don’t have anything else to do and we don’t want to go during the day when there are more people. It’s a coronavirus thing.

Fish boil

 

 

 

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Door County Day 3: Beach Road Biking, Ellison Bay pottery, Europe Bay beach/town park, Charlie’s smokehouse, bea’s ho- made cherry pie.

(From July 2020…a special hello to one of my favorite readers: Hi Aunt Shelby! x0x)

Spectacular weather. We took a 10 mile round trip bike ride west and north of our Airbnb along lovely shaded Beach Road, lined with trees and driveways cut into the woods that lead down to huge homes with water views. Easy peddling onto Porcupine Road and then Ellison Bay Bluff, where we watched the sunset last night. This time the water looked completely different. dark blue water with crashing waves. We chanced upon a lovely old farm on Beach Road near highway 42 that turned out to be a gathering place for the local folks, with communal gardens, (pick your own free) and old dark wood barns and buildings and a contemporary gathering spot with a big demonstration kitchen.

In Ellison Bay, we stopped at Ellison Bay Pottery where I bought a rustic covered baking dish in Door County colors (blue, green, tan) and we peeked in at the folk arts school, The Clearing, across the street, which was intriguing. We also stopped at  Turtle Ridge, an upmarket gallery/clothing shop with lots of cool handmade tooled leather goods. (I got a smock of sorts for $45, marked down from $179.)We also got some excellent cherry apple cider at Island orchard cider …no tastings, due to Covid. I like Ellison Bay a lot, more arty, laidback, rustic with good crafts and the amazing Wickman House restaurant.

Onto Europe Bay, a nice sandy beach, with more rocks than our nearby Sandy Bay beach and more people, plus biting flies. But beautiful. Europe Lake (not the same as Europe Bay) didn’t have a beach so we moved on, stopping in Gills Rock at Charlie’s Smokehouse for whitefish. We cooked in tonight…excellent brats from Waseda Farms, cherry pie from the famous Bea’s Ho-made. (Yes, that’s the name!)

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Door County Day 2: Baileys Harbor, Waseda Farms, Cherries, biking to sand bay Beach, wickham house bbq, Garrett Bay Boat landing, Ellison bluff sunset, Door County Creamery

(July 2020) I can’t believe this was one day. We did so much. It was raining so we took lovely county road F to Baileys Harbor for a very small farmers market at the town hall and excellent coffee and chèvre with honey and toasted nuts on a thick slice of sour dough at Bearded Heart. Almost everyone is wearing masks now (which is a relief) after a County mask order.

The rain was in and out most of the morning, adding drama to the bucolic waterfront and farm scenery. We stopped at my dream organic farm, Waseda Farms, to pick raspberries in the drizzle, taking refuge on the porch of a late 1800s school house during a downpour that made the gardens, full of flowers, fruit and vegetables, even lusher.

On to cherry land along Highway 42 from Egg harbor to Fish creek to Ephraim. We stopped at several varieties of cherry store from strange old-fashioned with grandma behind an old cash register (hyline) to sleekly commercial (laughenbach). We came home with raspberries, blueberries (from Michigan!) sweet cherries, brats, goat chèvre, and leftover bbq brisket and ribs from the lovely Wickham house in Ellison Bay. The main house is closed due to Covid but diners and takeout customers enjoyed the lovely gardens-side dining. Every one is improvising due to the pandemic with good results. Wickham house was serving only bbq and it was excellent.

After splurging on a caphrina in the garden we found an amazing empty spot overlooking a surreally calm bay to eat out takeout on a bench, driving deep in the woods until a clearing by the water, at Garrett Bay boat landing. On the way back to Sister Bay we hit a scenic overlook at the end of another clearing in the woods just in time for a spectacular sunset at Ellison bay bluff. We got to Sister Bay just before Door County Creamery closed for some goat milk gelato and then wandered the almost free of tourists main drag. I almost forgot to mention our 5 mile bike ride down Waters end road to Sand Bay, a small beach with soft sand, where we swam in Lake Michigan which was gentler and warmer than I remembered from childhood trips up north in Michigan. Glorious.

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Day 1: Madison and Door County

(written last week of July, 2020)

 

Feels great to have a change of scenery – this is our first trip since the pandemic began in earnest in March. Our behavior hasn’t changed much though. Still social distancing, wearing masks outside in public when it looks like we are nearing a clump of people. We did go to our first restaurant since March. Waited over an hour for an outside table at the sweet Trixie’s in the lovely tiny village of Ephraim. There were inside tables but we aren’t doing that yet. No hardship waiting. We sat on a comfy bench far from others in the grassy park across the street overlooking the bay and the setting sun.

The meal was good, especially the tempura fried white fish with tzatziki and cucumbers. Felt so good to be a little less isolated. I do wish more people were wearing masks here outside. Very hit or miss even though Door county just issued an edict to wear masks and people must wear them indoors.

Our Airbnb is lovely and as promised secluded and spotless. It’s in the woods and meadow just north of Sister Bay in a cool contemporary house, blue shingles with white trim. We have a high ceilinged loft above the garage with bed, couch, small table and kitchen (no stove). All white walls, white comforter, tan wood, very Scandinavian pristine which feels right in this perilous moment. (This is also our first time staying outside our home during the pandemic, which feels a little verboten, if not risky. I’m less paranoid about surfaces than being around other people. No other people here.)

We stopped en route in Madison for a cheese exchange with our friend Jane who lives in Madison and knows I love Bleu Mont, the local bandaged cheddar. She ended up joining us (from six feet) in a park to eat said bandaged cheddar for lunch. The drive was uneventful up to Sister Bay. This area so far reminds me a bit of Up North (Michigan) which is just across Lake Michigan from here and Martha’s Vineyard with the tiny white clapboard buildings in Ephraim. 

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New restaurants to try in Madison, Wisconsin

We found some great dining options a year ago in Madison, including Forequarter, which is included in this story in this weekend’s  Minneapolis STribune, which suggests even more good places to eat!

 

Wisconsin’s capital and university town gets an A for its culinary delights.

The market wasn’t her only success. Piper also established L’Etoile in 1976 as one of the country’s great early farm-to-table restaurants. That it carries on today, even without her, proves that she wasn’t acting alone. Madison, a university town populated by global food-smart students and scholars, was ready to do some serious eating.

It has been eating well ever since, as one of the Midwest’s most adventurous culinary cities.

Madison is worth visiting for more than just food. It stretches between two lakes and makes for a fun weekend. Downtown’s anchoring State Street, running from the Capitol Square to the campus, is lined with art museums, coffee shops, bookstores and galleries. At dusk, people collect on the Memorial Union terrace, where bands play to the setting sun, brats get grilled and people paddle on Lake Mendota in rentable canoes and kayaks, past splashing swimmers.

A lot of the crowd is building up an appetite for dinner, and the best place for a taste of Madison’s most ambitious dining is Forequarter. Run by the Underground Food Collective, and headed by four-time James Beard nominee Jonny Hunter, the restaurant is zealous about local foraging and sourcing. That makes dinner, in the low-key dining room, a very model of purist locavore cooking (forequartermadison.com; 1-608-609-4717).

Start with the charcuterie plate and forget those luncheon meat platters that too many kitchens try to pass off now as serious carnivorous dining. The Forequarter plate is butchered at the Food Collective’s own Underground Butcher. A recent platter included Tuscan and Calabrian salamis, sobrassada, Prussian ham and coppa. Then dive into the veg-friendly menu, which changes daily, depending on what just sprouted. A shaved parsnip salad may come brightened by pink peppercorn vinaigrette and studded with cerignola olives; a plate of rainbow carrots may play off daikon tzatziki and hazelnut dukkah. Pan-seared lake trout might pair with roasted sweet potato and ginger broth. Hold out for dessert if it’s some version of the carrot layer cake ribboned with orange marmalade and pistachio.

If that feels too Noma-esque, book a table at Sardine. Sitting on Lake Monona, the airy converted warehouse of a dining room, fronted by a snaking bar, is one of Madison’s most handsome, and the menu follows glossy suit. Co-owner and chefs John Gadau and Phillip Hurley, Chicago transplants, know how to plate contemporary comfort food that skips a lot of borders, from French to Mediterranean. Their standout signature dishes range from a warm duck confit and frisee salad, roused by green beans, bacon lardon and a poached egg, to pan-roasted skate wing dressed with caper-almond brown butter. The kitchen’s namesake sardine burger — grass-fed angus beef dressed with a fig and caramelized onion jam — is a wonder itself (sardinemadison.com; 1-608-441-1600).

For straight-up comfort food, the pair’s homier Gates and Brovi serves a perfect chicken piccata (­gatesandbrovi.com; 1-608-819-8988). For pure tradition, though, Tornado, just off the Capitol Square, is everything a classic steakhouse should be (­tornadosteakhouse.com; 1-608-256-3570). The beamed dining room looks like Paul Bunyan’s North Woods cabin and the tenderloin comes with buttery hash-brown potatoes, fresh-baked breadsticks and a crisp iceberg lettuce wedge doused in French blue cheese dressing.

Just across the square, L’Etoile, now headed by James Beard winner Tory Miller, sits next to its more casual sister kitchen Graze (­letoile-restaurant.com, 1-608-251-0500; grazemadison.com; 1-608-251-2700). The most unexpected restaurant in Miller’s portfolio is his Spanish-themed Estrellon, where the tortilla espanola is worthy of any Latin mama and the paella Valenciana comes served in the traditional black pan and crowned with rich dabs of aioli (estrellonrestaurant.com; 1-608-251-2111).

Among Madison’s crowded run of other global restaurants is Italian restaurant Lombardino’s, its dining room packed with a winking collection of “La Dolce Vita” kitsch. The kitchen does right by a pan-Italian menu, from seasonal bruschettas to knockout pastas (lombardinos.com; 1-608-238-1922). The kitchen’s pizzas are fine, as well, but for a bona fide, beautifully blistered, straight-from-Naples version pulled out of a wood-fired brick oven, head to Pizza Brutta, on restaurant-jammed Monroe Street (pizzabrutta.com; 1-608-257-2120).

In a city dense with Asian students, there is an odd dearth of decent Asian restaurants. The exception is a growing constellation of Japanese eateries. Best among them is Muramoto at Hilldale mall, where the standard-issue sushi is augmented by a fantastic Asian slaw, calamari paired with ponzu mayonnaise, and a miso-marinated black cod (hilldale.muramoto.biz; 1-608-441-1090). The other strong option is Red, where the seasonal maki sometimes goes too baroque (consider the red paradise roll, a mélange of spicy salmon, asparagus, arugula, seared tuna, pineapple avocado salsa, fried garlic and pea shoots that reads more like a casserole than maki) but where the sushi itself is always first-rate (red-madison.com; 1-608-294-1234).

For a return to regional flavors, Quivey’s Grove, on the far west edge of Madison, is one of the town’s best surprises (­quiveysgrove.com; 1-608-273-4900). Its Stone House dining room, in a 19th-century farmhouse, features a menu rooted in largely Scandinavian and German culinary traditions, making for big meaty plates that get cooked with finesse. The Friday fish fry is an ode to a Midwestern classic. So are the fresh-baked pastries.

But for the best sweet stop in town, head back to Monroe Street, where Bloom Bake Shop features cupcakes, biscuits, doughnuts and cinnamon rolls (­bloombakeshop.com; 1-608-509-7669). The antidote to the oversized cupcakes churned out by the chains, Bloom’s delicate cupcakes are made with locally sourced ingredients, so a lemon and blueberry version comes baked with real fruit, folded in like a smoothie, and topped by the lightest lemon buttercream. It makes for a bright last taste of Madison.

Food and travel journalist Raphael Kadushin regularly writes for Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler and other publications.

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