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
We recently had the pleasure of attending the Black Truffle Dinner at the Lake Park Bistro in Milwaukee. The dinner is an annual tradition of theirs, made all the more special this year because the week after the dinner in Milwaukee, they were recreating the meal for the James Beard House. Even more special (for us, anyway), was that we went with our friends Andy and Caitlin. Food can only make a meal good, it is the company that makes it memorable. Andy had been invited to the dinner because he is the man behind Rush Creek Reserve, which was the centerpiece of the cheese course.
Now, a seven course meal (plus hors d’oeuvres) is a fairly decadent to begin with. Add to that black truffles with every course and you’ve got a meal that would make Beau Brummell blush. Plus, being sensible people of moderation, we took a trip to the Milwaukee Public Market for a couple dozen oysters before dinner.
Despite the pig pictured on the menu, we have it on good authority the truffles were found by dogs.
Continue reading Decadence of the (Mid)West
Hello all, it’s New Year’s Eve! Have you got your signature cocktail picked out? Ours is the “French Martini”, not really a true martini but rather a raspberry-pineapple cocktail. Along with the Lemon Drop and Cosmopolitans, it was part of the flavored “martini” craze during the 90′s here in the states. It is typically made with Chambord, a raspberry liqueur named after the castle in France where Louis XIV was introduced to the concoction. Of course I have to connect it back to our Driftless Region. Last summer, I was lucky enough to get my pick of luscious red and black raspberries from some generous friends. I made some syrup from some of the berries I gathered and have been using it to top various desserts like panna cotta and pancakes.
Picking Locations: Point View & Windy Ridge
Continue reading Cheers to 2013!
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”.
I recently received my copy of Super Snacks for Super Kids written and photograph by Dr. Sarah Fox and Julie Stephenson. To combat kid crankiness, I like to offer healthful snacks (with their parents’ permission of course) before or after their music lessons. The book is a wonderful guide for easy to prepare and easy to modify snacks. So far, I’ve made the Pumpkin Muffins on page 46 and a version of the Carrot Lemonade on page 55. Isn’t it just gorgeous? The beautiful carrots were purchased from Shooting Star Farm on the last day of the Mineral Point Market.
Continue reading A Super Event
The other night, we were invited to a campfire dinner by our friends JM & Nichole at Gov. Dodge State Park. That was just perfect because for me, there are only three good things about camping: the fire, some good company, and the s’mores! Nichole suggested that we start off dinner with some s’mores, my kinda girl. Why wait until the end of dinner for dessert anyway? The meal included chicken breast with blueberry sauce cooked on a wood plank, buttery roasted fingerling potatoes, tomato tarts with mustard, buttered sweet corn with grains of paradise and parmigiano. To drink we had orange soda, Capri Sun, and rootbeer. JM and Nichole brought 4 top mustards they loved from judging at the World-Wide Mustard Competition. I couldn’t get enough of the Earth & Vine Chipotle Honey Lime Mustard (pictured at the bottom of the collage). It was just perfect mixed with the sweet corn.
There was rain and thunderstorm a couple of hours before our dinner but thankfully it stopped. The sun came out just in time for sunset, the trees were dewy and you could smell the wet earth, we laughed a lot, my pants were sticky with marshmallow, and Kiko the dog “sang her fine soprano”. We drove home, happy to spend a sweet summer evening with friends.
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.
April is National Grilled Cheese Month. What better way to celebrate than to attend the first ever Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Championship in Mineral Point on Saturday April 21st. I’m especially excited about the event because my friend Caitlin and I will be competing in the amateur classic category. I think we’ve got a pretty good shot at winning Pictured below is something I concocted for lunch (nothing at all like what we will be making at the event). That is a closely guarded secret!
Sourdough Bread, Brunkow Cheddar, & Abate Fetel Pear
Continue reading Two Words, Grilled Cheese
On December 10th Arcadia (the new book store in Spring Green) hosted a special dinner with Isaac Spicer, the chef of Milkweed. Everything for the 5 course (+ an amuse-bouche) dinner was sourced locally, from within 30 miles of Spring Green (and local is not always an easy task in Wisconsin in December). After the starters (homemade breads with lots of whipped butter) there was a squash soup with micro-greens and pickled radish, followed by a roasted beet and Pleasant Ridge Reserve salad. The main course was Guinea Hog cooked with apple cider, served with wilted spinach and mashed potatoes+celeriac. Finally, for dessert, there was a a choux-style pastry filled with (lightly) carmelized apples and custard and served with more custard as well as raspberry and mint sauces. Given our previous experiences with Milkweed, we expected excellence and we were not disappointed. For me the highlight of the meal was the roasted beet salad, but the whole meal was top drawer.
Continue reading Milkweed @ Arcadia Dinner
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