Last Saturday we got to attend one of my favorite things in the spring. Joe and Christy Cole’s first kiln firing party at Windy Ridge Pottery. We were like moths drawn to flames toward the giant 3 chambered kiln dubbed “the camel” by my friend Claire. Thank goodness there is always lot of scrumptious food and beer before you get too close! Joe Cole has singed his eyebrows a couple of times but it is understandable because he is the master of the kiln (meaning, we let him do most of the work). It is quite a difficult job because the fire has to be fed for 2 whole nights. Christy, the mistress of the kiln, had to stay up the second night (after most of us have gone home to bed). The kiln was finally opened yesterday. After a bit of inspection and cleaning, they will be ready for Clay in May this weekend.
Continue reading Feast, Fire, & Friendship at Windy Ridge Pottery
The other night, Keith and I attended the opening of the 3rd annual Driftless Film Festival. We saw Beasts of the Southern Wild, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The movie centered on a single father and his young daughter and the trials of raising her amidst the uncontrollable turmoil that surrounded them. It was so good that after it was over I just wanted to go home, drink some hot cocoa, and cry some more. I did.
About twelve years ago, Nicholas Langhoff (one of the founders of the DFF) came to the town of Mineral Point. Let me first explain that Mineral Point is no ordinary town. Most of the people I’ve met who have moved here were simply overcome with the feeling that this place was something special and that it would be a nice place to live. Keith and I were going to buy a house in Madison five years ago. On a whim, in the middle of winter, we drove around and ended up in Mineral Point on High Street. The historic buildings made me feel as if I were in a story book. I remember being taken by the display window at the Bohlin Gallery. There were large hand blown glass ornaments hanging and twirling, showing off their various swirly colors. Next to it, the crumbling brick walls of what used to be an old gas station, now it is the Set in Stone Wine Bar. Then there was the pig on Bruce Howdle’s roof. For Nick, what sealed the deal was watching a very unique movie at the Mineral Point Opera House in the middle of the afternoon. There he met Phil Mrozinski, now the executive and artistic director of the festival, and an instrumental part of the house’s restoration efforts. That experience for Nick and later living in Mineral Point ignited the idea of the film festival, in an unknown town, in this place called the Driftless Region. His good friend Darren Burrows (founder) came on board as well as area resident Jeremy Patnaude (founder), the general manager of State Theaters, a movie cinema chain in Southwest Wisconsin.
Fast forward to the fall of 2010, it finally happened. Now in its third year, participating movies are being shown in six theaters and in six different towns in the area. People are excited and are inspired to create. Young film-makers Will Crotz and Eve Studnicka (festival coordinator) are hard at work on a documentary capturing the essence of Mineral Point. New restaurants have opened up, buildings are being restored, and more and more people are starting to call this place home. I believe that the Driftless Film Festival is one of the reasons for the recent revitalization along with the many intelligent and creative citizens who care about this area. We’re happy that the Driftless Film Festival has made its roots and is now part of the cultural identity of this place called the “Driftless Region”.
It’s that time of the year again. On Saturday June 28th, La Farge, WI will host the Kickapoo Country Fair, which is Organic Valley‘s organic food festival. We went to the fair last year and had a blast. And, just like the last few years, Organic Valley has given us some free tickets and goodies to give away.
So we’re giving away four free tickets to the fair, along with $50 in coupons for Organic Valley products. Now, what should I make you do…how about: to enter the drawing, comment on this article with your favorite fair memory (county fair, state fair, World’s Fair, etc). Winner will be drawn at random Sunday night at 9:00 PM.
A special treat this week: our first book review. A friend recently lent me a copy of the book Employee of the Month and Other Big Deals by Mary Jo Pehl. You might recognize that name–we’ll come back to that. The book is a collection of essays drawn from some of the more embarassing moments from her life growing up and living in Minnesota, and then moving to New York City and beyond. Dating, jobs, political dynasties, USDA nutrition guidelines…it’s all there.
In some ways, the book reminded me of Michael Perry. Not so much in content or tone, but they both have a certain Midwestern eccentricity, a “Prairie Home Companion“-ness about them. The essays have a plainly evident truthfulness to them (working in both directions– just as she did not spare herself the embarassing details, she did not inflate the stories beyond reality into farce). What struck me about her writing style was the conciseness of it. Stories are trimmed right to the bone. It’s rather like if David Sedaris was the surrogate mother to Strunk & White‘s baby.
Continue reading Employee of the Month and Other Big Deals
Two years ago at the Spring Green Art Fair, I remember being drawn to some really striking and imaginative paintings by local artist, Nick Ringelstetter. I just knew I had to have one of his pieces someday. Two years later while visiting with my friend Claire at the Johnston Gallery in Mineral Point, she informed me that they had just started carrying some new pieces she thought I might like. They turned out to be Nick’s. I saw the one I just had to have, a quick photo text to Keith to see if he agreed, and we purchased our first painting. Quintessential Wisconsin isn’t it?
Cows & Moon
Continue reading Cocoa Coffee with Nick Ringelstetter
With the Driftless Film Festival going on this weekend and a recent trip to the Rural Route 1 popcorn store, I couldn’t help but think about why movies and popcorn are so intertwined in American culture. My research brought me to a man named Charles Cretor. Born in Ohio, he was a hard-working man who took whatever job he could get to earn a living. In the late 1800′s he built up enough money to purchase and manage a candy store. Prominently displayed in the store was a peanut roaster, a popular draw at the time. The roaster he had and other current models were not up to his standards so the bold businessman sold his shop to concentrate on building a better machine.
C. Cretors & Company was formed. To survive in the business he had to come up with other ways to use utilize his machines like roasting coffee and parching corn (gently cooking the kernels gently until it has expanded and softened a bit). The natural progression was making a better popcorn. Popcorn vendors at the time used a wire basket to pop corn over flame then melted butter was poured over it. The result was a soggy and unpopular snack food. In 1893, Charles patented the process and the machine for popping corn in a lard and seasoning mixture. The product was excellent. Its major debut was at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. No one wanted to buy it, the public didn’t want to pay for experimental food so Charles gave it away. Who doesn’t like free food? People couldn’t get enough of it ever since. Soon, popcorn vendors started setting up their carts outside of movie theaters. Noting its popularity, theater owners bought their own popcorn machine to set up inside the theaters so that they could generate more profit. So there you go, popcorn plus movies equals happy people and a happy house (except for the outside vendor I suppose).
Continue reading Popcorn & Movies
Two weekends ago, we attended the Kickapoo Country Fair up in LaFarge, WI. It’s an event put on by Organic Valley to highlight local and organic food. We’d actually wanted to attend last year but had been busy. This year they invited us up to cover the event as jounalists–and I love it when people confuse us with the real media, so we just had to go. First impressions of LaFarge were…amazing. It’s a beautiful location. Definitely driftless, but quite different than our part of the state. I want to buy a little vintage British convertible to drive around those country roads on the weekend. The closest we’d been to LaFarge before was Viroqua. It just goes to show how much exploring we have left to do before we really know this area.
Continue reading Driftless Appetite at the Fair
We’ve been doing a lot of grilling recently (in fact, at this very moment I’m sitting on our deck grilling a Filipino pork yakitori-type thing we’ve been eating a lot of recently). And when we grill, we usually eat outside too. All this outdoor dining has reminded me of a fantastic outdoor meal that we had last fall. I’m not sure while it’s taken so long to write this, since it was one of the most memorable meals we’ve had since we’ve been writing the blog. Maybe I didn’t want to let the secret out…
Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you about Milkweed.
Gorgeous Evening at Milkweed
Continue reading Milkweed
We just wanted to say congratulations to Mike Gebert for winning a James Beard Award for his multimedia series Key Ingredient with Julia Thiel. We met Mike last year on our Wisconsin Cheese tour and have been following his work ever since.
Keith, Leslie & Mike. Meeting us and winning a James Beard Award all within one year– what a lucky guy!
You can find Mike’s work (both video and written word) over at Sky Full of Bacon. He’s a great guy and a great writer. Way to go Mike!
Meet Aaron Weaver and Krista Loomans. They are potters who will be participating in Mineral Point’s Second Annual Clay in May Pottery Tour this weekend. We met this wonderful couple about three years ago at the Mineral Point Farmer’s Market. The picture below was taken last fall during the Fall Art Tour. I was especially happy that day because I finally found some locally made egg cups (held by Aaron). We have used them a lot for eating eggy soldiers. They are strips of toasted bread dipped into a soft boiled egg.
Aaron & Krista
Continue reading Clay in May