Gratitude and Three Dishes

If you aren’t already in the know, spring is possibly the most glorious event here in the Driftless region.  Nothing compares to the jewel green of the hills just before sunset.  I’ve seen cows jogging in the pastures and no longer needing to be side by side to keep warm.  The sheep are out naked, freshly sheared from their winter coat.  The flowers have been like a display of fireworks starting with the crocus, then the daffodils, tulips, violets, lilacs, and the lilies of the valley.  Mineral Point is heady with the scent of daffodils, lilacs, and lilies of the valley.  Even more spectacular was being at the Tippy Top Orchard with over three hundred fifty pear and apple trees in peak bloom.  Bazile proudly showed me their latest addition, a hive of bees and Mike planted comfrey around the garden to fertilize the soil.  He exclaimed, “I think this just might be the best year yet at the orchard!”

Tippy Top Orchard


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You Can Never Hold Back Spring

Hello there.  I don’t know about you but Keith and I have been busy with various projects, work and travel.  In February, we got a little break from the brutal temperatures by spending a little time in San Francisco with good friends.  While there, I almost cried at the sight of a dandelion flower!  I’m sure you are as happy as I am with this nicer spring weather.  It has just been gorgeous out with that intense green.  This evening, I made a beautiful rhubarb gin and tonic cocktail decorated with some wild violets that have been taking over the yard.

Spring Things


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Live From Lincoln Center at Wyoming Valley School

Last October, Keith and I were invited by our friends Sara and Erik for a night of jazz (Roots of Ragtime) and Brazilian dinner at the Wyoming Valley School in Spring Green.  It was the first of the monthly winter series of Live from Lincoln Center.  On our drive home, I exclaimed ”What is New York doing in the countryside?  I love it!”.  Keith and I have been to three of the five events so far and we have definitely enjoyed ourselves.  A couple of weeks ago, we viewed the New Orleans Songbook concert.  We had jambalaya, red beans and rice with andouille sausage, corn maque choux, greens, and king cake prepared and served by Jacki Singleton.  I’m not ashamed to admit that we had a second helping of the delicious king cake while tapping our feet to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.  There are two events left in the season.  Go check it out!

Here’s a little Q & A with the host, Erik Flesch.

How did you come up with the idea of livestreaming jazz plus dinner series?

Wyoming Valley School Cultural Arts Center was contacted in autumn 2014 by Jazz at Lincoln Center, a nonprofit with a mission to entertain, enrich and expand a global community for jazz through performance, education and advocacy.  We on the WVS board of directors immediately recognized a synergy between the outreach mission of the two organizations — and we saw that the dynamic organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright’s design would be perfectly suited to host a series of exciting evening concert events during the winter season, when the local entertainment scene usually mellows out.

We installed a satellite dish and high-speed internet service to handle the digital streaming. The first couple of months, we used a great screen and sound system rented from the Spring Green Film Club, but we rapidly upgraded the sound and optical equipment.  Seth Alt and Dylan Oliver of Sweeping Design generously offered to donate for the season the amps and speakers that power the Sh*tty Barn in the summer months.  Then a prominent area resident and media aficionado donated a new 10′-4″ screen and seasonal use of a high-quality digital projector.  Guests now experience a concert that is truly intense: Virtuoso performances with a sound clarity and visual power that transports the audience to deep concert experience space.

How did you end up being the host?

To me, the idea of getting out into the country for cultural enrichment is totally romantic — so I knew the concept of pairing locally sourced cuisine with world-class international jazz once a month in an architectural jewel box like Wyoming Valley School would be something I would personally enjoy being part of with my wife, Sara. Several other members of the board, particularly Mary Ann and John McKenna, worked hard to bring the event to fruition. The rest has evolved naturally.


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Dewey’s Cafe, Lancaster


Going out for breakfast is my favorite thing to do on the weekend.  And we have a lot of good options: the Red Rooster, the Pleasant Ridge Store, the General Store, and so on.  But this year has seen a new place shoot right to the top of the list and quickly become our go-to spot.  It’s called Dewey’s and it is in Lancaster (that wasn’t a very dramatic reveal unless you skipped over the title).

Dewey’s is run by a nice couple named Halee and John.  John grew up in Lancaster, but they’ve just moved back to town from New York where both worked in restaurants–including New York brunch staple Prune.  Their experience in NYC kitchens definitely shows through; there is a precision and finesse to the food that can be hard to find out here (particularly at breakfast spots).

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English Pork Pies

Keith:  One of the hardest English foods to get in America, I’ve found, is the pork pie.  If you haven’t had one, think of the pork pie as the northern cousin of the pasty (and you can’t walk through Mineral Point without tripping over a pasty).  Even as my beloved Scotch egg becomes more and more common in restaurants, pork pies are still few and far between.

Because I’m not much of a baker (dough and I historically have not played well together), I never really thought of making my own.  Luckily, Leslie loves kitchen experiments and she decided to take on this delicious project.  While she did all the hard work I got to keep trying samples and giving advice to recreate the proper pie.  Here’s hoping it becomes a yearly tradition.


Leslie:  I first made these pork pies two years ago.  It was really fun to place my pork-centric order with Lois at Marr Valley View Farms.  I asked for pork shoulder, lard, pork bones, trotters, pork belly, and bacon!   Even better was the actual process.  There are several steps to to make these delicious meaty treats which we will divide into 3 segments.  It is quite time consuming but I guarantee that your taste buds will be pleased.  I followed Nigel Slater‘s recipe except for replacing the regular bacon with smoked bacon and adding a bit of salt into the meat (right before filling the pastry).

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Top 10 Things to do this Fall in Southwest Wisconsin


I can’t believe that fall is upon us once again.  I hope you had a wonderful summer!  There are so many things that I love about this season.  My ultimate favorite is that first bite of apple, just seconds after picking it from a tree.  Second, a good bonfire while sipping extra dark hot chocolate.  Third, knowing that the mosquitoes are finally gone!  Keith and I enjoyed the fall colors last Sunday while kayaking on Twin Valley Lake at Governor Dodge State Park.  We might go for an apple drive this weekend to Gays Mills then cross the Mississippi and end up at some quaint little town.  Who knows?  Anyway, we thought it would be fun to put together a few things that we like to do in the fall plus events happening in the next couple of months that caught our attention.  Have fun filling up your bellies and your calendar!

1.  Tour de Cheese

2.  Driftless Film Festival

3.  Fall Art Tour

4.  Fermentation Fest

5.  Vennelag 513 Høst Frokost Fall

6.  Driftless Folk School

7.  Vesperman Farm Corn Maze

8.  Visit your favorite apple orchard.  Pick some apples to make pie and enjoy an apple cider doughnut or two!  Check this list to find the orchard nearest you.

9.  Go on a fall color drive then catch a ferry ride in Cassville.  Last day of operation, October 26, 2014.

10.  Enjoy every last bit of fall sunshine!  Go hiking, kayaking, picknicking, or camping.  Shop the markets while they last!





Tequila Point at the Old Royal Inn

When Keith and I moved to Mineral Point seven years ago, one of the best spots to hang out was the Old Royal Inn.  There was a restaurant and bar on the main floor.  We spent many Saturday mornings there munching on Mark & Jennifer’s famous egg sandwiches and sticky buns with multiple cups of coffee.  Keith even had a favorite spot to sit.  A brown leather chair in a corner (which we bought after they closed).  It was a fun spot where they hosted open mics.  A couple of times, my students even had their recitals in there.  When the restaurant closed, the space became a temporary gallery space and it also housed the winter farmer’s market.  Now, it is home to a new restaurant called Tequila Point.


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Driftless Iowa: Breitbach’s


Probably the longest standing “to do” place on our list has been Breitbach’s Country Dining in Balltown, Iowa.  We first hear about the place back in 2007, before we even lived in the Driftless Area.  Breitbach’s was featured on Alton Brown’s awesome, but directionally challenged, Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run.  (I say directionally challenged because it would make so much more sense to travel down the Mississippi and end in Louisiana eating etouffee, then up the Mississippi and end with Lutefisk in Minnesota.)  Complicating our longstanding plans to visit Breitbach’s was the fact that since we heard about it, it burned to the groundTwice.  Both times it was rebuilt, however, and it is going stronger than ever.  More recently, it was featured in the documentary Spinning Plates:

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Summer Salads

Hello, how are you?  I hope that your summer has been spectacular.  In a little less than one month from today, summer will officially be over.  Keith & I have been celebrating the fine weather by travelling, kayaking, drinking mojitos, making s’mores, gardening, taking Ollie dog on extra walks (or carrying him back home because he’s too hot), hanging out with friends, and basically doing what the Italians call dolce far niente.  The sweetness of doing nothing.  Since it has been pretty hot lately, I’d like to share the three salads that have been on rotation at the Button Hill:  cantaloupe-cucumber-feta, watermelon-lime-feta, and tomato salad.



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Quiche aux fleurs de courgettes

Hello everyone.  Sorry for the silence.  We have been a bit busy with life lately.  Fortunately, we were able to sneak away a bit to one of our favorite destinations, Italy.  I’m sure I will eventually get to telling you all about it.  Meanwhile, I’m so happy to be back home and to have some kitchen time.  Here’s an easy dish that I made for a wonderful young lady who took care of our Ollie dog while we were away.  I found some baby zucchinis in the garden with the flowers still attached and made a sort of variation of a stuffed zucchini flower dish I helped to make at Plum Lyon last summer.  Since I only had a bit of zucchini, I decided to make a quiche with caramelized onions, goat cheese, fresh herbs, parmigiano, butter and a bit of olive oil.


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