Melton Midwest Mosey

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Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/23 13:38:48
Right down to the "I Ain't Afraid Of George III" smirk.  Uncanny!  Had any revolutionary thoughts lately, Ralph?
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/23 16:06:51
It is true: I have no fear of George III.
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/23 16:20:05
Ralph Melton
It is true: I have no fear of George III.

Glad you took it in the spirit of fun as it was intended! 
Is it true that you and Buffetbuster will be dumping Iron City Beer in the Monongahela in protest to the Beer Tax??? " />
mr chips
Filet Mignon
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/23 20:52:16
Once again, a delight to read.
carolina bob
Filet Mignon
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/23 23:01:41
I really enjoyed this trip report and I'm looking forward to your next one.   
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/08/25 02:10:05
Is it true that you and Buffetbuster will be dumping Iron City Beer in the Monongahela in protest to the Beer Tax??? " />

Ummm, Pittsburgh has laws against polluting the rivers with such toxic chemicals as the stuff in a can of IC.  
Oh, I loved LC's!!! I am not the barbecue connoisseur Ralph is, but those burnt ends were amazing!
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/17 23:18:38

(Sorry for the long delay. I've had some kidney stones at the beginning of September, and it's really interfered with my writing mojo.)

Saturday, July 21

Lori: I'd been waiting for July 21 since we moved this trip up from August to July. Today I would see the Walnut Grove Little House Pageant!!!

I should explain. I am a lifelong avid reader, and growing up, the "Little House on the Prairie" books were some of my very favorites. I was a huge fan -- I read all the books multiple times, I watched the TV show, and I was even Laura for Halloween one year. I apologize in advance -- this part of the trip report is heavy on the experiences, and light on the food. Sorry, it just wasn't the focus that day.

We started our day at Lange's Cafe.

The Langes are very proud of their Roadfood listings -- the lobby is decorated with three Roadfood posters, and they mention the listing on their pie menu also. 

Sadly, they were already out of caramel rolls around 9:00 am on Saturday. No real surprise, but we were sorry to have missed them. Ralph had the stuffed hash browns, which were quite good. The potatoes were soft on the top and crispy on the bottom, They were stuffed with ham and cheese, and made a great breakfast. I had the strawberry waffle, which was a little crisp for my tastes, but the fresh strawberries and cream topping were delicious, as was the excellent bacon on the side.
Ralph: The stuffed hash browns started off very greasy, but then improved a bit.

Lori: Of course, we couldn't leave without sampling one of Lange's legendary pies. We tried their take on sour cream raisin. It was superb, with a darker cream and a winy tang that came from plenty of raisins. The crust wasn't as good as those at the Farmer's Kitchen, but it was a great piece of pie.

We next visited Pipestone National Monument, a sacred place to Native Americans because a soft red stone called "pipestone" is mined there. Pipestone is carved into pipes used for prayer -- many believe that when you pray with the pipe, the smoke carries the prayer to the Great Spirit. I definitely felt much like I do when visiting a beautiful church as we walked the trail though the national park. Even if you are not at all a spiritual person, Pipestone is a place of quiet natural beauty. The prairie tallgrass that once covered the Midwest is preserved here, and there is a short walking trail that winds through prairie, rock formations and waterfalls. It was a peaceful, beautiful place, and we were glad to have visited it.


We next went on to Walnut Grove, the town closest to the setting of Laura Ingalls Wilder's third book, On the Banks of Plum Creek. We started out in the very crowded Laura Ingalls Wilder museum and gift shop. The museum has one room with period artifacts and replicas that relate to the books, and gives a timeline of the family's time living in the area. The other room is filled with memorabilia related to the television show, which was set in Walnut Grove, MN. The museum also has a complex of replica and actual period buildings filled with antiques not necessarily related to pioneer life, but certainly life as it was in Walnut Grove in times past. Some of the rooms in "Grandma's House" (a Victorian-looking house) were a real hodgepodge of antiques. Most interestingly, they had a sod house replica. The Ingalls family lived in a sod house when they first came to Plum Creek, and they are tiny. It is really hard to imagine two adults sharing this space, let alone two adults and three children. 

Our lunch was some unmemorable fair food at the small festival set up in a park near the museum. The festival was small but nice -- there were some good crafters and several food vendors. We were surprised to find two bubble tea booths -- it turns out that Walnut Grove has 250 Hmong immigrants. These immigrants came to Walnut Grove in need of a place to call home, and the town seems to have welcomed them with open arms. There is even a mural on one building that pictures idyllic scenes of prairie life but has added a large figure of a prairie girl arm in arm with a Hmong girl. Here is a link to a photo of it posted by Adrienne Lobl, who assisted the mural's creator, Greg Wimmer.

Ralph: I had the advantage of Lori for food, because we had a slice of pie left from the Farmer's Kitchen and she was hesitant to eat it.

It was fascinating to realize that small-town America really can be a place where you can get bubble tea with your funnel cake. Lori later found this article which implies that the original reason the Hmong moved to Walnut Grove was the way it was portrayed on the TV show.

Lori: Next, we took the bus tour. We boarded a school bus and one of the pageant's actresses gave us a tour of spots mentioned in the book, including hearing the church bell that Pa Ingalls went without new boots to help purchase, approximate locations of landmarks in the book, and a visit to Plum Creek and the site of the dugout house the family first lived in. It was an interesting way to spend an hour, although it included a lot of "well, we think it was about here."

Next, we attended a "pageant supper" at St. Olaf Lutheran Church. Several community groups and churches each take a turn providing a pageant supper which is likely a wonderful fundraiser for them. Certainly, the dining room was packed, and the food was excellent. We had hot turkey and gravy sandwiches, fruit cups, cole slaw and sour cream and raisin pie. Ralph was sorry that there was no hot dish on the menu, but otherwise it was great. Everything tasted home-cooked and while nothing was a standout, all the food was very good, and cheerfully served by the parishioners.

Ralph: I'm really glad we went to the Lutheran church supper; it was so much like the mental image I'd formed from years of listening to A Prairie Home Companion that it gave me that odd sensation of finding something to be more stereotypical than I expect. 

Lori: Finally it was time for the pageant. It takes place in an outdoor "natural amphitheater," which is to say that they've built an outdoor stage at the bottom of a hill. It's a good set-uo for the purpose, with sections of reserved chairs and space behind these seats for blankets and lawn chairs. Every reserved seat was taken, it was a sold-out crowd, which is apparently the norm. Ralph figured out that there were more people in the reserved seats than the population of Walnut Grove, MN -- a fact also referred to by the emcee for the evening. The hillside seating was filled also -- this pageant attracts an amazing number of visitors! As the crowd filtered in, we were entertained by the "Pageant Singers," a group of locals who aren't in the production, they just entertain while folks are taking their seats. 

Next, we got a real treat. Alison Arngrim, the actress who portrayed Nellie Oleson was making appearances that day, and she gave a short presentation about her life on the "Little House" show. Alison has gone on to become a successful stand-up comedian and author, and she was really hysterical to listen to. 

Finally, twilight came and the pageant, "The Fragments of a Dream," began. I first saw the covered wagon start making its way through the field behind the stage while Alison Arngrim was finishing speaking. I know it's just a horse-drawn wagon with a canvas top, but to me it was a magical sight! The pageant is good, and uses music, cute children, live animals and a few neat effects, like building a church onstage and a prairie fire. It is based on the books, but is not word-for-word faithful to them -- they drew on local history also, making it an unusual piece. All of the performers are locals, and while it's pretty off-Broadway, the heart and spirit everyone involved puts into the pageant just glows. 

As the first act wound down (there are two acts), we started to see ominous flashes of lightning from far off. They came closer and closer during intermission, and the intermission was prolonged by these weather worries. While we were sorry to wait, everyone was extremely kind and friendly, and we enjoyed chatting with the semi-locals. Finally, at 10:40 pm they announced that weather was on its way, and they'd decide whether or not they could do the second act around 11 pm. This was a problem for us, because our B&B for the night was about an hour away, and they were already staying up late to check us in. We ended up deciding to leave because we felt fairly certain the pageant wasn't going to go on, and we could make the drive dry or wet! I deeply regret missing the second act, but it was the right decision given the weather. And, given that we'd been driving through so many drought-stricken areas on this trip, we really just hoped that places that needed rain got some.

We then drove through some pretty spectacular prairie storms and dramatic lightning to New Ulm, MN, where we would be staying at the Deutsch Strasse Bed and Breakfast. Our host, Gary, let us in, and we pretty much fell into bed after a long and fun day.

Ralph: The open prairie made the lightning storm really spectacular. We could see dazzling chains stretching across half the sky. We didn't actually get much rain, but we hope that others did.

Fire Safety Admin
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/18 08:53:58
It is amazing how we continue to have opposite experiences at restaurants.  My sour cream raisin pie at Lange's Cafe was a major disappointment.  Obviously, a return trip is now necessary.
Lori, so glad that you got to see the Walnut Grove Little House Pageant!
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/18 11:54:30
Well, Cliff, there's a place we now love as much as you do -- the Stockholm Pie Company was a real highlight! 
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/18 12:29:42
Yay!!!!  Can't wait to read about your visit to Stockholm!
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/18 14:13:36
You've got a lot more experience with sour cream raisin pie than we do; this was the third sour cream raisin pie I've had, and the second one that I didn't make myself.
(I was surprised at how much the sour cream raisin pie at the Farmer's Kitchen tasted like what I had made. It makes sense, because I was using the Farmer's Kitchen's recipe - but I didn't assume that I had made something close to the real deal. Charlene's crust was significantly better than mine, though.)
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/18 14:17:11
The SCR pie I was served at Lange's Cafe was old and hard.  Served fresh, no doubt that it was excellent.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/18 17:14:55
Hard sour cream raisin pie? That sounds completely dismal. I am sure I would have noticed if ours had been that bad.
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/18 20:42:58
A very nice write Ralph.
paul E. Smith
Knoxvile , TN
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/18 21:11:10
Thanks, but most of the credit for this one should go to Lori.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/18 21:12:09
Sunday, July 22:
Despite arriving so late, we were able to wake up in time for breakfast without much trouble.

We've stayed several bed and breakfasts, and we've found that breakfasts at B&Bs can be a real crapshoot. Some breakfasts have been splendid; some have been meager meals of cold cereal and indifferent eggs. And we had chosen the Deutsch Strasse based on location and availability, not based on the food, so we knew we were taking a risk. We even considered going elsewhere for breakfast, but decided that we should try the Deutsch Strasse on our first morning there, so that we could make an informed decision based on whether to eat there on the next day. I'm glad we did, because breakfast at the Deutsch Strasse was very nice.

It started with a dish of strawberry puree and homemade banana custard that looked beautiful and tasted great.

The next course was house made granola:

The entree was an Austrian apple pancake (Austrian on clarification; Gary had first announced it as Australian) and some excellent ham, served a spoonful of cinnamon-flecked cream and garnished with a rosette of apple peel.

The last course of dessert was a tasty slice of pumpkin roll.

It turned out that the church Lori chose was conveniently next to the route for the Bavarian Blast parade. So while Lori attended Mass, I found a quiet spot on the curb of a residential street and whiled away the time with my iPad. It was actually a very pleasant day - the day was only warm instead of the miserable heat we'd had in the previous week, and there was a cool breeze and pleasant shade. I wouldn't have planned this stop, but I quite enjoyed it.

The parade was actually really pleasant, with a charming small-town feel. Despite the small-town feel, it was fairly large; we took more than 150 photos from the parade. I decided later that the best way to present all these photos is a montage video below. (If I had planned this ahead of time, I might have chosen to take all the photos in landscape orientation). But there are a few photos that deserve extra comment:

These figures with the wooden masks are the Narren, a group of foolish characters that add color to a lot of New Ulm's festivals. Frankly, I didn't feel I completely understood what the Narren are and are not; the best answer I've gotten is from , but I don't yet feel I have all the answers.

For example, I'm not quite sure whether these animal characters are of the Narren, or related to the Narren, or just anonymous furries getting into the German festival spirit.

I can't claim to really understand this float with the woman completely encased in gold lamé.

Hermann the German is featured on a monument on a hill looking over New Ulm, and has been adopted as the patron barbarian of New Ulm. I'm not sure how much historical evidence there is for his portrayal riding in the back of a pickup.

This is the proud champion of the sauerkraut eating contest the previous day (which we had been unable to attend). The local newspaper pointed out that he is actually a German exchange student, which may have given him an unfair advantage. The champion of the weiner dog race, although duly accoladed in the paper, did not get a triumphant spot in the parade.

There were some recurring categories:
German heritage groups:

Food and farm promotions:

Floats advertising other festivals:

And lots of mobile bands and local politicians and a heaping helping of beauty pageant winners. (Though those categories aren't quite a definitive taxonomy. For example, there were a lot of dairy princesses that could qualify either as beauty pageant winners or as food promotion floats.)

The whole parade time-lapse:

The parade lasted for over two hours, and that changed our plans to attend Bavarian Blast. We would only have a couple of hours to spend if we went to Bavarian Blast, and we'd seen bands like the Schell's Hobo Band passing us in the parade. So instead of paying the admission fee and to Bavarian Blast, we sought out a German lunch at Veigel's Kaiserhoff in downtown New Ulm.

Veigel's had lots of old-world wood paneling and pictures of classic movie stars.

I ordered a Schell's Firebrick beer because Schell's is in New Ulm. We had hoped to tour the Schell Brewery, because it was touted as a local tourist attraction, and it includes a mansion with lovely gardens and strolling peacocks. But that was already looking like a challenge to include - so I made sure to include a Schell's beer as a nod to this bit of local cuisine. This was a really nice beer in a way that I have trouble describing, because it wasn't very assertive in any particular way - just a mellow, flavorful amber.

We shared the German sampler, which was plenty of food for the two of us. From left to right, the sampler platter included ribs, German potato salad, sweet and sour cabbage, sauerkraut, Landjäger sausage, and bratwurst.
The ribs have won a blue ribbon at the state fair, but they would hardly be recognized in Memphis. They were extremely tender (probably boiled), with no smoke flavor, and coated with a creamy coral-colored sweet and sour mustard sauce. The sauce and the ribs were tasty, but this is far out of the usual range of barbecue.
The sauerkraut was also unusual to me: it was milder and sweeter than most sauerkraut, and it contains shreds of pork in it.

But it turns out that Veigel's is not the only place in town that provides German specialties. (We did not get a chance to sample the sauerkraut margaritas.)

3 o'clock gave us a chance to see another of New Ulm's proud attractions: the glockenspiel. This is not a metal xylophone; this is a clock tower with bells and carouseling figures.

I recorded video of the performance:

After the glockenspiel, we did a little shopping in downtown New Ulm. (Lori's notes include "Ralph behaves badly at the Fontanini display." I'll leave it to her to elaborate.)

We did get to enjoy one more food product from New Ulm: at a little gift shop and ice cream stand (I don't recall the name, but it doesn't matter because they were going out of business), I had a root beer float made with 1919 Root Beer, a very nice deep, full-flavored root beer made at the Schell breweries.

We then drove out to Minneapolis for dinner with my uncle Bill and my cousin Sasha and his wife Kathy. We put the choice of restaurant in their hands, and they chose McCormick & Schmick's, a chain seafood restaurant. I looked for something that was local, and the closest thing was Canadian walleye. I ordered that, and that led Uncle Bill to talk about how the best walleye of all was to be found at Tavern on Grand. I know about Tavern on Grand, actually - it's Roadfood-listed. So Bill's praises of Tavern on the Grand just made me think of how much I would have preferred to go there. However, I'm not going to say that it was a wrong choice: Uncle Bill is fairly deaf, and McCormick and Schmick's gave us a very private enclosed booth with very little noise from the rest of the diners. If Tavern on the Grand is noisy, it would have been much harder for Bill to hear, and that would make the quiet place the better choice.

Despite my habits of scoffing at chain restaurants, the food at McCormick & Schmick's was really delicious. I'd cheerfully return, though I'd still prefer a Roadfood place. But I am very far behind where I want to be on writing up this trip report, so I won't bother writing it up in detail.

mr chips
Filet Mignon
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/20 01:36:04
The report on Walnut Grove was great. Thanks for including the links about the Hmong. it is also interesting to see the actress playing mrs. Olsen because as i remember bon the tv show the character was quite a villain. Though i remember the nasty daughter ended up marrying a nice jewish boy./ 30 years ago i visited Pipestone National Monument and remember it well. Beautiful country and a realization i was visiting an important native american historical site that was quite unique.
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/20 09:44:43
I suspect that since Stockholm Pie Company has already been referenced, a future addition to this thread will be a visit to Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthplace near Pepin, WI.  What do I win?
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/20 13:27:05
You win one of Lori's tears of disappointment. We wanted to visit Pepin, but we were worried about having enough time.
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/20 14:32:30
Nice work ChickenMan; you made Lori cry.
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/21 08:34:57
Eh, just a sulky pout. I did get a pretty high dose of all things Ingalls-Wilder in Walnut Grove 
mr chips
Filet Mignon
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/21 13:19:46
Loved the new ulm pictures and report. Have really enjoyed your reports. please get better, ralph.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/24 00:24:47
Monday started with another nice breakfast at the Deutsch Strasse: yogurt and fruit "sundaes", house made granola, and a "Crazy German" Quiche. Unfortunately, I didn't take notes on the story behind the name, but somehow it involved a German who had visited Italy and was fascinated by the cuisine there; the recipe involved cheese, ground beef, Italian spices, and possibly mayonnaise.

Dessert was mini chocolate pound cakes, served with strawberry sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.

Deutsch Strasse was a very nice B&B indeed, and we would be glad to return.

We ambled our way out of town with a stop at a German gift shop (unimpressive and inconvenient due to road construction). A wrong turn took us by the memorial featuring Hermann the German, but we didn't go up to enjoy the view.

When we stopped for gas, Lori found one more New Ulm specialty beverage: Buddy's Strawberry Soda. It was pleasant enough, but probably took third place to the 1919 root beer and the Schell's Firebrick beer.

We entered Wisconsin at the little town of Prescott, at the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers. In Prescott, we stopped at the Great River Road Learning and Visitor Center. I was concerned about time, so we spent less time there than I would have liked, but it was a fascinating place, and I would have liked to have taken more time there.

It included another preserve of prairie wildflowers:

And balconies with great views of the river:

I really enjoyed our drive along the Great River Road; the road was along bluffs high enough that you could see the river fairly often, but it was a fairly leisurely drive. The scenery was not nearly as dramatic as 2011's drive along Highway 1 through Big Sur, but the drive wasn't nearly as worrisome. It makes me want to take a much longer drive along the Great River Road some time - this would be both scenic and gastronomically pleasant, because it could lead from the Midwest down through the South to end in New Orleans.

Some more pictures from a pulloff down the road:


And some evidence that we were actually here:

Our destination on the Great River Road was Stockholm, Wisconsin. Stockholm is a tiny town - 75 people in 2010 according to Wikipedia. And so it practices one of the strategies little towns use to stay alive: it is trying to maintain a distinctive cultural identity. Stockholm, in fact, is trying to maintain two brands: Swedish community and art haven.

We had arrived in Stockholm with enough time for lunch, so we wanted to check off another Roadfood-listed place with a stop at the Bogus Creek Cafe and Bakery.

We were seated in a shady nook between the bakery and the cafe, but I'm not sure that was a good thing. The shade wasn't enough to overcome the summer heat, the service was extremely slow, and we were vexed by flies buzzing about.

Our judgment of the food is no doubt colored by the experience of dining there, but both of us found our food rather ordinary in a slightly-fancy way that is fairly common to find. My BLAT sandwich (bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato) was good, but not as good as what I can make at home when tomatoes are in season. Lori's chicken salad in puff pastry was pretty, but the puff pastry was tough, and the chicken salad was undistinguished; Lori left a lot of it uneaten.

But before we left Stockholm, we had a very important stop to make: the Stockholm Pie Company. buffetbuster has praised Stockholm as his favorite pie maker of all - and he has tried a great many pies, so we trust his judgment in such matters. We mentioned to the proprietor that we were here on his recommendation, and she remembered him passing through a few weeks previously.

After we ordered, Jan told us that we had chosen the same pies that buffetbuster had. This isn't entirely coincidence. We chose the lemon pie because I had read the trip report in which he and cousin Johnny called it one of the best pies ever, and we chose the sour cream raisin pie because buffetbuster has called it his favorite pie, and so we were eating it at every opportunity.

The lemon pie was worth recommending. Lori's notes say "Oooooooooooooooohhh. Soooo good". The filling was a layer of lemon chess pie topped with a layer of lemon chiffon, with a clear bright lemon taste that was rounded and softened with custard. But I care as much or more about the crust, and this crust was excellent, tender and flaky and just right.

The sour cream raisin pie was different from the three sour cream raisin pies we'd had in the previous two days; it was much more solid - solid enough that you could see half-bubbles in the edge of the filling - and topped with whipped cream instead of meringue. It was still very good, but it required a bit of adjustment of expectations. This makes me curious whether there are other places that serve this variation of sour cream raisin pie - I do not know, because this was the last sour cream raisin pie of our trip.

One delightful thing about pie: you can get pie to go, if you choose a reasonably stable filling. Jan talked us into a slice of triple berry pie for the road without much difficulty. I confess: I really we enjoy being upsold on pie. We were coaxed to take an extra piece at the Farmer's Kitchen and the Stockholm Pie Company, and it just made me grin every time.

I would have liked to stop at the Swedish heritage museum, and Lori would have loved to stop at all the artsy shops (and the Little House in the Big Woods site was just down the road in Pepin), but we pressed on because I was concerned about time. Normally, we're willing to drive until late, but this night we had special plans: we were planning to stay at Stout's Island Lodge, and the ferry to the island runs hourly and stops at 8pm.

It was a good thing that we made time to Stout's Island Lodge, because we ran into some complications. When I double-checked the time estimate that Google had given us, I discovered that Google had been locating Stout's Island in a different lake half an hour away. Our GPS app didn't find Stout's Island Lodge when we searched by that name. When we copied the street address of the ferry from the website and pasted it into Google Maps, Google did figure out the correct lake, but it showed us a location on the wrong side of the lake. Finally we got success by giving our GPS app the specific address.

We finally arrived at the ferry wharf at about 6:30, only to discover that this was not the end of our complications. We discovered that I had been wrong about the schedule for the ferry - the ferry from the island to the mainland departs on the hour, but the ferry from the mainland to the island departs at quarter to the hour.

The more serious complication was that the staff had no record of our reservation. And there were signs that were very emphatic that reservations were required. Fortunately, they could and did accommodate us, but for a few moments, we entertained horrible visions of our anticipated night of luxury getting wrecked.

Stout's Island Lodge was built as the summer home of a wealthy Chicago lumber baron (and then built again a few years later after insects ate the wood because the bark was left on. I didn't know about that, but I'm surprised that a lumber baron would make that mistake.)

The view of the lake from the ferry dock:

Arriving at the island:

From the boathouse on the island:

So the up side of going to Stout's Island on Monday is that we were able to visit when we might otherwise have missed out. But the down side is that Monday appears to be the night off for the staff. We received an abbreviated menu, and even then several items on the menu were unavailable. And although the menu talked about how their ingredients were fresh and locally sourced, the items on the menu weren't very local.

We were on an island and the last ferry had departed, so I definitely wasn't going to be driving anywhere. So I had a beer: a Shine On ale from Central Waters brewery in Amherst, Wisconsin. (The name is a testament to their efforts with solar energy.) I liked that it was local and eco-friendly, but the beer itself was just fairly good.

Lori ordered the one thing that seemed local: the Stout's Island Melt.

The muffuletta I ordered may have been the second most local thing on the menu, but it was rife with errors. It arrived at the table missing one half of the upper bun. The server offered to get another one, but then took a long time to fetch it. And when she did, it was cut the wrong way. Let me explain: if you look at the picture of the uncovered half-sandwich, the long direction of the rectangular sandwich is pointing upward, and the top point of the triangle is at the left. The waitress brought me a whole bun, diagonally sliced - but sliced in such a way that if one of the triangles were put in the same position, the top point of the triangle would be on the right.
Now, this gastronomic tale has already shifted away from being a story about food and toward being a story about what it's like to be me. So I have no idea if others would care, but for me, this mismatch bugged me no end. But I didn't want to complain, because service had already been slow and error-prone, and even though the geometric mismatch made me grit my teeth in vexation, I'd feel like an overly picky customer if I tried to ask for another roll, sliced along the other diagonal. So I used one of the bottom halves of the roll, which had the right shape but provided less bread than the top half of the bun, and I ate in silence. (I feel confident that some of my readers can easily imagine how this annoyed me like an unreachable itch, and some of my readers will have no why I'm making any fuss at all. To that latter group, let me just acknowledge that this is one of the ways I am peculiar.)
The muffuletta itself was not that great; the olive tapenade it used is not the same as the olive salad that goes on a muffuletta. I am not a stickler for authenticity, and in fact my favorite muffuletta is not the authentic Central Grocery muffuletta, but this was not anywhere in the same league.

For dessert, we shared the "homemade s'mores": a layer of shortbread, topped with a house made chocolate marshmallow, topped with ice cream. This dessert was unpleasant and possibly ill-conceived. The big problem was the marshmallow; it was extremely tough, even leathery. It may be that this was a day-old marshmallow, but I believe that even a fresh marshmallow will toughen up if subjected to the chill of, say, a scoop of ice cream. And this provided a perfect example of layersquish: it was absolutely impossible to cut through this more-tenacious-than-taffy marshmallow without pulverizing the shortbread underneath and mashing the ice cream into goop.

The one consolation: we realized that we had a piece of triple-berry pie from the Stockholm Pie Company back in our room. This was great, with intense berry flavors, and it was made even sweeter by the sense of triumph that we had gotten a great dessert despite our the dismal s'mores.

Lori: The dinner at Stout's Island may have been uninspiring, but the place was grand. Our evening ride over the water was lovely…the water reflected the blues of the sky and the greens of the leaves. The lodge is a sprawling one and two story collection of wings connected by screened walkways and each room has either a private or a shared porch. These screened walkways and porches have a "treehouse" feel, especially on the second floor. The island also has a collection of cabins one can rent, which would be really nice for a family. 

I can best explain the vibe and feel of the place as a lovely resort that somehow also ends up feeling like the setting for a Scooby Doo episode, or perhaps one of Murder She Wrote. Our room was gorgeous. It was done in shades of blue and green, and we slept in an antique four poster bed. I believe every room has a view of the lake, I really enjoyed the view from our room.

After dinner, we walked around the island as the sun set. Sunset on the water is always a magical time, and we walked around, just drinking it in.

There is supposedly a bonfire each night, but I think the combination of light rain and Monday convinced the staff not to try it that night. This was ok. Once the sun set, we enjoyed our pie and some good books in our room, and I wandered around the halls of the main lodge a bit. I'm sure the "Scooby Doo" episode feeling was enhanced by the fact that while we weren't the only guests, there weren't too many staying the night. Despite this feeling, no bookcases revolved, no ghostly hand grabbed at mine, and my wandering was pretty uneventful. I could imagine a murder mystery weekend there being a lot of fun. I have no idea if they do these, but what a great setting for one!

I should also say that the lodge has a lot of beautiful details, like the carved beams in the main entrance room. We really enjoyed our stay at Stout's Island, and hope to visit again someday.

Time-lapse of the drive from New Ulm to Stout's Island:
post edited by Ralph Melton - 2012/09/24 00:29:29
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/24 00:25:49
mr chips

Loved the new ulm pictures and report. Have really enjoyed your reports. please get better, ralph.

The stent got removed on Thursday, and I've been getting better rapidly since then. Thank you for the kind words.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/24 09:32:13


Okay, so I went to the Machine Shed in Davenport this past May (yes, it did remind me of a Cracker Barrel but with a farm theme!) and got the pork tenderloin sandwich, and it wasn't quite what I was expecting. It was battered and fried up really crunchy like fish and chips, rather than breaded and fried. Apparently both forms are classic in Iowa?  

love2, here's 35 pages of breaded pork tenderloin for you!

Whoaaaa--thank you, kland01s!!  Sorry to be so late replying--I missed the post.  Better late then never. :)
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/09/25 01:13:16
Breakfast at Stout's Island was an ordinary continental breakfast. We had been looking forward to the banana bread at breakfast, but it was not to be found.

We did take more pictures, because this was probably the most scenic spot we'd visited on the trip:

I really admired how the trees were arranged to give shade to the deck chairs morning and afternoon without obstructing the view.

Because Lori had been denied so many shopping opportunities the day before, we sought out a yarn store for her. I suggested "Elly's Sheared Sheep" knowing only the name. We figured that it would be a little yarn store added on to a farm, where the wool came from sheep sheared on site. We were wrong: Elly's was in downtown Chetek, a town of about 2,000 people.

While Lori pored through Elly's, I looked through the Chetek Bakery. It seemed to have interesting possibilities for things not found elsewhere. For example, it had lefse, a Norwegian flatbread - but the young woman behind the counter said it really ought to be eaten warm with plenty of butter, and that was beyond what the bakery could do.

They had one item that piqued my curiosity: a donut/pastry called a "Persian". My memory and notes don't give me all the details, but I recall that I was told that its icing included maple and perhaps also cinnamon. No one in the bakery could tell me why it was called a Persian, and I couldn't get a clear answer of how much of a regional food it was. My later web-searching has indicated that the Persian is a specialty of Thunder Bay, Ontario, and the name is a corruption of General John Pershing. I now wish I had tried one.

Instead, I got a kolache to compare Wisconsin kolaches with Texas kolaches, and a cake pop for Lori. Both were fairly undistinguished.

Our next stop was once more following in buffetbuster's footsteps: Sand Creek Cafe, in the little town of Sand Creek, Wisconsin. We had a lot of trouble finding the place. Tomtom took down a dirt road that turned into a dead end, and when we went back to paved roads, it suggested that we should turn headfirst into a cornfield. Google Maps claimed that we had arrived when there was nothing nearby but a horse ranch. We decided that Plan C would be our last attempt: we called the restaurant and asked for directions. Unfortunately, we didn't know quite how to describe our own location, and we didn't know the geography around, so it was hard to get good directions - and in fact, the lady who talked with us claimed the cafe was at a different intersection than it actually was. But I played a hunch and found the place a few blocks away.

The trophy in the upper left corner shows a different end of the deer than is usually mounted.

We noticed that the menu showed the password for the cafe's WiFi network. It's not something I was expecting, but it makes sense: in a small town, a cafe may be the social center of the community, and for folks who are isolated by occupation but not by choice, Internet access may matter a whole lot - a WiFi network in a cafe may be the 2012 equivalent of a stack of shared newspapers.

We took the opportunity to eat fried cheese curds. I'm glad we did, because they were tasty and this turned out to be our only opportunity to get fried cheese curds in Wisconsin.

Lori got spaghetti because it was the special of the day.

I got the fried chicken wings; they were really delicious, very tasty and savory.

Unfortunately, the service we received was somewhere between "indifferent" and "frosty". Our waitress was slow to visit us and utterly unmoved by our attempts to make friendly conversation. When we had finished our meals, she was sitting with other staff eating her own lunch. We asked about the pie that was mentioned on one of the signboards, and she snapped, "no pie today". We would have gotten one of the milkshakes praised in the Roadfood review, but her surly disinterest made us unwilling to try to get her attention again. Bleah. I still snarl a bit when I think of how frozen out we felt. Perhaps our navigational difficulties caused us to arrive at the worst possible time.

We drove down to Milwaukee to meet up with Roadfooders. One particular conclusion of this drive: Wisconsin farms look like my mental image of farmland. When I think of farms, I imagine a red barn, green pastures, a few trees on the edge, and so forth - and Wisconsin farms come far closer to that pastoral image than farms in Illinois or Iowa or Minnesota.

We managed to make up some time on the drive, and I was anticipating being right on time - but there was construction on the street, and we didn't realize that we needed to turn through the construction barrels to get into the parking lot until we circled around and followed someone else doing the same thing. But at least we were more on time than we had been in Chicago.

The meal at Polonez was definitely one of the best meals of our trip, both for the food and for the company. We felt really touched that so many people came out to eat with us, and the conversation was great. (And the restaurant was quiet enough that I could hear folks all the way to the other end of the table, which is harder to achieve than I would like.) We thank our hosts very much for choosing Polonez. (clockwise from left: Lori, X1, Susan, BuddyRoadhouse, cjucoder, abe_froeman, Mr Maki.)

The deviled eggs had a zingy horseradish taste.

Lori's chicken noodle soup with tiny noodles reminded me of instant chicken soup from a packet - but this was the real thing of which of which instant chicken soup is only a pale imitation.

As we were perusing the menu, X1 asked whether any of us dared try the czernina (duck's blood soup). I was in better fettle than I had been the past few days, and perhaps I was still regretting passing up the pig ear sandwich. But I had had czernina within the previous month, so I took the her dare in spirit if not in letter by ordering the tripe soup. I admit that I was suspicious of tripe soup; I don't eat much offal, and I've only previously encountered tripe in a bad menudo experience in Kingsville. But I was ordering plenty of other food; the only risk was that it would be nasty and I would waste all but a bite.
The tripe soup was incredibly delicious. I was amazed beyond all expectations. It was like a hearty thick-noodle chicken soup - the way I like chicken soup - except that the "noodles" were a bit spongy and the broth was far more rich and flavorful than the best chicken soup I've had. This was definitely one of the best dishes I had on the whole trip, and if we were in Milwaukee again, I would make it a point to return to Polonez for more of the tripe soup.
All the glowing praises I have said about the tripe soup are true, and I hesitate to say anything that might taint my reputation for probity and plain dealing. But I must admit that I take a certain mischievous pleasure in the thought that I could be lying now, and none could gainsay me; despite my praises and my offers to share a soup I would rather have kept to myself, no one else at the table chose to sample the tripe soup.

I ordered the Polish plate with a selection of mixed pierogi, potato pancake, kielbasa, and sauerkraut. I was surprised again, because the item on the plate that impressed me the most was the stuffed cabbage. I've had stuffed cabbage often around Pittsburgh, and they are usually a perfect example of layersquish; cutting through the cabbage wrapping squishes out the filling so that by the time I've taken one bite, the plate is just a forlorn and empty leaf amid a wasteland of scattered filling. But the stuffed cabbage from Polonez completely avoided layersquish; my knife glided through the cabbage and the meat held firm, so every bite easily combined cabbage and filling in a delicious combination.

I also got an order of Bigos, because I've had it only occasionally in Pittsburgh. Bigos is a stew of meat and sauerkraut. It was very tasty, but it left me feeling that I had too much sauerkraut in front of me.

Lori got some delicious potato dumplings filled with ground beef and onion.

For a dessert, Lori ordered a slice of the Polish torte to share. This was a walnut spice cake layered with buttercream frosting and walnuts.

From there, the Roadhouse clan accompanied us to Kopp's for frozen custard. There's something special about the row of white cow statues at night.

I passed on the frozen custard, because I was very full from Polonez and I'm not a big fan of frozen custard. But the chocolate truffle custard was so very good that it made me regret my choice. And it was extraordinarily pleasant to sit outside chatting with the Roadhouse folks and enjoying frozen custard as a hot day was just beginning to cool.

But I had one more place I wanted to visit in Milwaukee that night: The Safe House. I had previously visited the Safe House on a trip to GenCon in 1997, and I remembered it as a dazzling spy-themed bar filled with marvelous gadgets. But this visit was a big disappointment. 

The best part of the Safe House might have been the process of getting in. Abe_froeman and Mr. Maki passed in without incident. Lori half-remembered the passphrase and was allowed past with a correction. I got a stern warning for whispering too loudly. BuddyRoadhouse and Susan, though, couldn't remember the passphrase and had to prove their dedication to the cause by acting like monkeys on closed-circuit TV. (The fierce demeanor of the woman guarding the entry led to this conversation on the inside: BuddyRoadhouse: "I bet that woman at the door has another profession that involves wearing a lot of black, if you know what I mean." Ralph, feigning innocence: "You mean she's a nun?")

Inside, though, it was far too noisy and crowded for any conversation. And the selection of gadgets and gimmicks seemed paltry and unimpressive compared to, say, the two-way radio with a miniaturized camera that I was carrying in my pocket. I felt very glad that I had paid the cover charge for everyone. I'm sure the Roadhouse clan would have been good sports about the cover charge, just as they were good sports about everything else - but I'd rather not give people too much to be good sports about.

Time-lapse video of our drive through Wisconsin (look for the pause as we get lost on the way to Sand Creek):
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/11/30 01:19:35
I dropped the ball on chronicling our summer vacation at the beginning of October, and I haven't picked it up again until now.

Milwaukee is quickly becoming a complicated town for us to visit, because of the number of must-visit places we've found there. Polonez got added to that list on Tuesday for the tripe soup, and Kopp's was already on our list. But before we left town on Wednesday, we had to check off another favorite with an early stop at McBob's.
(The number of must-visit places thwarted my plans of sampling schaumtorte in Milwaukee. We tried to breakfast at the German restaurant across the street from our hotel because their menu mentioned schaumtorte, but they were closed.)

McBob's is an Irish bar that we first encountered on the 2011 Roadfood tour. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but it serves some really outstanding corned beef. 

Lori ordered the corned beef, and it was just as good as we remembered it: luscious and succulent and outstanding. If I could make corned beef half as good, I would be a happy man at St. Patrick's Day. The accompanying bacon bread was also superb.

I ordered the walleye sandwich, because buffetbuster had tried the walleye on the Roadfood tour and called it just as good as the corned beef - and because Lori had promised to share her corned beef with me. It may be that I don't love fish as much as corned beef, or it may be that the preparation of the walleye was different from what buffetbuster sampled, but to my palate it was just a piece of fried fish on a bun… it was a perfectly fine sandwich, but I was still left gazing longingly at Lori's corned beef and hoping that she would share. (She did share generously, but I would have gobbled even more.)

The stop at McBob's was early because we had an early-closing stop in mind: Holy Hill in Hubertus, Wisconsin had been recommended by multiple Roadfooders.

Lori: We joked about it, but it's true -- Holy Hill was a nice melding of tourism for both of us -- a Catholic Shrine with homemade pie! Holy Hill was a lovely stop, and we hope to visit again someday.

The kitchen would be closing soon, so we hurried up and got to the Old Monastery Cafe for a slice of pie apiece. We sampled a delightfully tart lemon crunch pie, and a pie called "Father's Fruit," which was really a renamed fruits of the forest pie. Both were very good. 

After this, we toured the Shrine, which consists of a main Basilica and several smaller chapels and shrines. For the curious, simply put, a Basilica is a Cathedral that is the home of the Pope when he's in that area of the world. The shrines are gorgeous, particularly one dedicated to Mary on the right side of the main Basilica. There is a beautiful statue of Mary with a young Jesus, and the stained glass windows were also remarkably lovely. It was just a very serene place to spend some time.

The Mary Shrine has also been a place where miracles have been reported to happen. No matter what you believe about this, the wall of discarded crutches and braces was pretty awe-inspiring. 

One feature of Holy Hill that is really different is that you can climb a staircase in one of the steeples of the Basilica and enjoy a scenic overlook of Holy Hill and the country surrounding it. There are many warnings at the start that pretty much say "This will be a lot of stairs. Don't do it if you have breathing problems or otherwise shouldn't climb a lot of stairs. Also, don't do it if you have a fear of heights or enclosed spaces."

I don't much like heights or enclosed spaces, but I thought I would be okay. And at first, in the part that are relatively normal narrow staircases and landings, I was. Then we got into the area that is "really" the steeple. It is pretty much an open area with a few landings and narrow staircases circle up along the walls with a whole lot of empty space in the center. Empty space you can look into, and contemplate the benefits of dying in such a holy and serene place. Needless to say, I didn't make it to the top. I got to a certain point, my hands locked on to the rails, and I turned myself around very slowly and crept back down. We talked with a nice gentleman who offered to help if he could and said that he'd only made it to the top once on a feast day when the tower was crowded. The view from the tower was breathtaking (in more ways than one), and Ralph made it higher than I did and took some nice pictures. We were both glad to have visited Holy Hill. 

Ralph: By the time we left Holy Hill, it was mid-afternoon, and it was becoming even more clear that we could not check off a fraction our list of things to do in Wisconsin. But I had a small list left of things I really wanted to try: I wanted to eat bratwurst in Sheboygan. I wanted to sample chicken booyah, ideally at a booyah. And I wanted to visit a cheese factory. So we had studied the map at to pick a cheese tour. We couldn't quite find anything that provided all the qualities I wanted: a factory tour, a convenient location, and exotic cheeses. So we settled on Beechwood Cheese Company, because it had an observation window if not a tour, a "chicken soup cheese", and a location on the way to Sheboygan.

Here's the summary: We got super lucky with our visit to Beechwood Cheese, and we had a great time. But if you want to visit, we strongly suggest you call ahead.

When we arrived at Beechwood Cheese, we could tell that it wasn't nearly as touristy as, say, the place with the sixty-foot mouse. In fact, Kris, the woman in the shop area seemed a bit surprised to have tourists. 

But she was very friendly and accommodating, and invited us to peek through the windows as the guys drained the whey off the cheese. She said that it was about half an hour before the curds would be ready, which was just about the right amount of time for us; it gave us some time to watch as they salted the curds and started to shape them into blocks, and time enough to ask a lot of questions.

I regret that I don't remember all the things that she explained to us. For example, I remember that cheddar curds used a slightly different process from the Monterey Jack curds that they were making, but I can't remember what the difference is.

I do remember that she had an answer to one of the questions I had been pondering on our way through Wisconsin: why is it that Wisconsin channeled its dairy talents into great cheese where places like New England have used their dairy to to make great ice cream? Her answer: it's all about distance to market. Wisconsin is spread out enough that making milk into cheese is a good idea because it lets you transport it farther before it spoils. It makes a lot of sense to me.
(She also might have mentioned that Wisconsin does have a role as an ice cream state. For example, this lists Wisconsin as third in per-capita ice cream consumption. And there is certainly marvelous frozen custard.)

She told us that as cheese ages, it gets sharper and then mellower again, in a two-year cycle, so a cheese that's aged one, three, or five years would be sharper than a cheese that has aged two, four, or six years.

Another revelation: they really do use cheesecloth and cheese hoops. Once more, I had this pleasant surprise of things turning out to be as my personal folklore describes them, like the excitement of an anthropologist who's now able to confirm stories of cannibalism as he's lifted into the cook pot.

Kris brought us out samples of half-salted cheese curds. The half-salted curds don't squeak against your teeth, though the fully salted ones do. My guess is that osmosis changes the amount of trapped water and yields the squeak.

Mark brought out salted cheese curds for us and said, "It doesn't get any fresher than this." It's true - we got the curds as soon as they were ready, and that morning, the milk of this cheese had been inside of cows. The salted curds were delicious. We bought a bag full and nibbled them eagerly as we drove down the road.

How often do you get a label like this?

We had a great time at Beechwood Cheese. But we were very lucky. As I've already mentioned, we showed up half an hour before the curds were ready, which was just the right time. We also discovered that Beechwood Cheese only makes cheese two days a week. (The cheese makers have jobs at other cheese factories.) But I'm not sure what days those are, so call ahead!

Our next stop: bratwurst in Sheboygan. This was another recommendation from Buffetbuster, for Gosse's.

I ordered the bratwurst. I was really surprised at how tender the sausage was; the casing offered no resistance, unlike the sausages I get in the supermarket. It was delicious, with a rich mellow flavor that would go well with a beer.

Lori's fried chicken and broasted potatoes were very good.

We noticed a selection of "tortes" on the whiteboard, and we wondered if the torte here was the same as the schaumtorte we'd read about. So we ordered the cherry torte. I'm still not quite sure that this is representative of Wisconsin schaumtorte, but it was not a torte in the layered cake sense. So perhaps it is a schaumtorte, or perhaps it is a sham schaumtorte. So the question at hand, of course, is "should I shun or sample the sham schaumtorte?" (Lori: "You said that without the excuse of alcohol." Ralph: "Of course. Even sober, it took me two tries to say.") Ontology and alliteration aside, this torte was most like Jell-O No-Bake Cheesecake, with the same texture of gelatin holding it all together. It wasn't bad, but not worth seeking out.

The last thing I wanted to eat in Wisconsin was chicken booyah. I have no realistic hope of sampling all the Roadfood-listed restaurants, but I still entertain fancies of sampling all the foods mentioned in 500 Things To Eat Before It's Too Late and The Lexicon of Real American Food. And chicken booyah is a big chicken stew that is mentioned in both of those books. MilwFoodLovers had recommended a local magazine (whose name he couldn't remember) as a locator for chicken booyah, but we were unable to locate it in Sheboygan. (That magazine may have been the Entertainer, which we later found online – but it had no mention of local booyahs.) So we were trying to follow up a lead given us by ScreamingChicken, who had been told by a coworker of two restaurants in Green Bay that served booyah.

The first of those restaurants was the Bay Family Motel and Restaurant. We arrived there at 8:05 just as it stopped raining – only to be told that they stopped serving at 8pm. They did have refrigerated booyah for sale, but we didn't feel confident that we would have any way to heat it up. (As it turned out, we had a very nice hotel room with a kitchenette; we could have heated up some booyah. But we didn't know it at the time.)

So we went down the street to ScreamingChicken's other suggestion, the Golden Basket restaurant. We were denied yet again – they serve chicken booyah only on Mondays. We stayed for dessert because we were tired from driving and heavy rain had resumed; our strawberry shortcake and banana cream pie were so-so at best.

Time-lapse video of our drive through Wisconsin:
mr chips
Filet Mignon
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/11/30 02:34:04
Some amazing photos and some great looking pie. That's the second monastery that I've seen featured on road food. Sounds like a great place to visit.
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/11/30 04:25:18
Very, very nice report and pictures.  I've been to many of the same places, living on the Mississippi River now and over in Fond du Lac, north of Milwaukee, some years ago.
The Beechwood place is quite a coincidence.  I visited it after seeing them featured on the Food Network's "Road Tasted", which was a short-lived show some years ago starring the two sons of Paula Deen.
The brothers were more TV stars than actual food people, though.  They didn't research well, or really know what they were about.  They also visited a kringle shop in Racine and later on the show talked about how they got kringle in Milwaukee, nope, it was Racine.  And these southern boys were impressed with how far north they were -- one exclaimed how they were almost to Canada!  (We think Canada is still a ways off yet.)
They said they chose the Beechwood place because it was close to Milwaukee, and they had started looking alphabetically, and found this in the B's.  They also featured the chicken soup cheese.
Actually, we didn't think their cheese was that good, and the chicken soup thing was kind of weird.   Wish I could have told you about Widmers in tiny Theresa WI, pretty famous for their six and eight year old cheddar.  Here their store is right in the plant, you can watch the cheesemaking process.
Down the road from Widmers is a meat market called Held's in Slinger WI, where they have some some very good landjaeger, which is a"hunter's sausage" (because you carry it in your pocket for lunch while you hunt).  You can find good landjaeger in several places around Milwaukee, but it doesn't go that far out.  I can't even find the "real" stuff (two sticks on a string) around here, and I'm still in Wisconsin.
But it was great to accompany you on your trip, Ralph and Lori.  You are welcome back in Wisconsin any time!  You will have to come for the landjaeger.
Did I mention we have beer?
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/11/30 04:37:23
Here is a picture of what I mean by "real" landjaeger -- two short sticks on a string:
When I do (rarely) find it on this side of the state, it usually is more like a hot dog, and often doesn't have the right "chew."  I only buy it now when I'm over there.
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/11/30 04:49:30
Holy Mackeral, I just randomly brought up the above website, looking for landjaeger, and just noticed they are in Mauston WI, only 80 miles away.  Looks like a little trip is in order.
Speaking of cheese, little Mauston also has a store for this multi award winner:
Speaking of strange cheese, Carr Valley has a chocolate fudge cheese that is different and very good.  They go up to four years on the chedar.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/11/30 12:06:55
We actually had landjaeger in New Ulm, Minnesota. I don't know whether it would have qualified as "real" to you; it wasn't two short sticks on a string. But we enjoyed it.
Since this was our first visit to a cheese factory, I can't say whether another site might have made better cheese, but the Beechwood folks were very pleasant to us. And I'm glad to have seen an operation that small; it was a nice contrast to the Cabot Cheese Factory we visited in Vermont in October.
Filet Mignon
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2012/11/30 16:10:25
Carr Valley Cheese comes to the Aurora, Illinois farmers market every summer. I look forward to it!
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2013/01/18 12:02:20
Because we had no breakfast recommendations for Green Bay from Roadfood, we turned to Yelp, which recommended a diner called The Pancake Place.

It seemed like a pleasant restaurant with a friendly family atmosphere, but we ended up disappointed.

Lori ordered the cherry-filled pancakes, because she likes pancakes and because we felt that the name Pancake Place implied that pancakes were a specialty of the house. But these were not good pancakes; these were thick, undercooked dismalities that were not appealing enough to finish.

My Benedict Stuffed Hash Browns were much better. In fact, I liked them much more than the stuffed hash browns from the Roadfood-listed Lange's, because they were much more evenly cooked. But this is only my second experience with stuffed hash browns, and I'm still curious about what role these may play in the breakfast menus of the Midwest.

We left Green Bay and drove on to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I'm not quite sure why I had been so insistent upon making the UP part of our Midwest itinerary - my best idea is that although I'd visited all of the continental United States, the Upper Peninsula seems like such a different place from the Lower Peninsula that it merited a separate box on my mental checklist. But it was a beautiful drive, and I wish we could have lingered there longer.

I chose our lunch destination for three reasons:
- it served pasties, which I have had occasionally but not in any authentic setting
- it served cudighi, a type of Italian sausage native to the Upper Peninsula that I was curious to try
- the point that broke the tie in its favor over other local places: the name was particularly relevant to me.

Lori's cudighi was not an outstanding success for us. It may have had subtle flavors of cinnamon and clove (the Wikipedia entry implies it might), but when served with mustard, ketchup, and onions, all it tasted like was mustard, ketchup, and onions. Lori did not eat the whole thing.

But my pasty was great, in multiple senses of the word "great". It was great in the sense of "very good": nice pie crust was filled with a delicious comfort-food filling of beef, potatoes and onions that straddled the line between stew and hash. It was very tasty, and cohesive enough that with a little care, one could eat it without any spillage. But it was also great in the sense of "massive"; the pasty was the size of a big can of soup, so it probably held more than a pound of filling. And the filling was dense and energy-packed, designed for sustaining miners swinging heavy picks all day in underground coal seams, not for sedentary tourists enjoying a road trip. I ate the whole thing because it was delicious, and it left me feeling completely stuffed, gorged to a degree I rarely reach on Thanksgiving day.

We stopped for a picture of the lake on our way out of Ishpeming, because I thought that it was Lake Superior. (I now think that I was wrong; I think this was Teal Lake.)

After our picture, Lori noticed that we were next to an ice cream shop and asked to go in for ice cream. I then realized that we had unintentionally parked right next to the Roadfood-listed Iron Town Pasties. So of course we went inside. (This was one of two times this year when we ended up at a Roadfood-listed place by accident.)

Iron Town Pasties offered mini pasties, which made us think that we should have come there instead of Ralph's so we could sample several flavors.

But I was too full to think of eating pasties. So Lori got a caramel ice cream, which she quite enjoyed.

I got a cherry turnover, even though I wasn't hungry. Unfortunately, this was not good at all; the dough tasted really unpleasant. It might have been undercooked, or it might have been some other flaw, but I discarded it after only a bite or two.

We were also intrigued by the shelf of products made with Michigan blueberries. We bought blueberry lemonade and blueberry jerky, because those would stay good to be eaten later. But "stay good" is only valid if the products are good to begin with, and these were not. The blueberry lemonade did not taste of blueberries, and its lemon was the artificial lemon of Country Time Lemonade, and the blueberry jerky tasted of nothing but grease. Yuck. Both the cherry turnover and the blueberry jerky are solid contenders for the dubious honor of worst food of the trip.

We did manage to stop on the banks of Lake Superior and give Lori a chance to wade in the water. I'm particularly pleased with this picture; I feel that the abandoned sandal on the fencepost hints at an unknown story.

As we drove through Hiawatha National Forest, we had a bald eagle fly across the road just in front of us. I desperately hoped that the time-lapse camera would take a picture, but unfortunately it did not.

I had forgotten about the time zone change from Wisconsin to Michigan, so we were an hour behind my intended schedule and trying to drive hard to catch up. But we still took a moment for some pictures of Lake Huron:

I had been dithering about whether it was worth a detour to Brevort, MI for another Roadfood stop. But we got a pleasant surprise: Gustafson's Beef Jerky was right on the highway, with no detour at all.

And the stop was perfectly timed to give us an opportunity for pictures of a lovely sunset:

Gustafson's looked like just a convenience store, but it had a wide variety of smoked fish:

The imbalance of lunch made it hard to decide how much to get. Lori was starting to get hungry, but even at 8pm, I was only starting to get to the point of being able to think about food without discomfort. The pasty is the whole reason for that imbalance; it kept me very full through the whole day.

We bought smoked whitefish dip, crackers, and turkey jerky. The smoked whitefish dip was a disappointment; it tasted more of black pepper than of smoke. The turkey jerky was very good, though; it came in thick slabs that reminded me of turkey sliced thick on a Thanksgiving platter.

I had been particularly trying to get to St. Ignace, at the point of the Upper Peninsula nearest the lower peninsula. I thought we could have a nice dinner looking out over the water, perhaps stroll along the boardwalk. My ideas about St. Ignace were wrong, and I don't know what possible reason I had for thinking that way. St. Ignace is much smaller than I had thought, and by the time we arrived at 9:30-10:00, they had rolled up the sidewalks and turned off the lights for the night. Even the bars were no longer open. We did not find a nice dinner; we did not even find a nice place for a picnic of whitefish dip on crackers. We parked briefly, gave up quickly, and drove on across the long bridge to the Lower Peninsula.

We really enjoyed our drive through the Upper Peninsula, and I wish we had had more time to spend there.

Time-lapse video of our travels:

carolina bob
Filet Mignon
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2013/01/18 14:24:34
Nice pictures, Ralph. It's really a pity that you and Lori experienced so many disappointing meals on this leg of the trip ( been there, done that. )
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2013/01/18 14:39:02
Ralph, could it be possible that you were so full from the pasty that you were unable to enjoy the foods that came after?  I know that when I'm quite full even things that I really like just don't taste as good.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2013/01/18 17:42:50
It is certainly true that when I'm quite full, I don't appreciate things as much. And if I'd been unenthusiastic about the cherry turnover, I would have blamed that effect. But the cherry turnover was pretty nasty to me; I may have judged it a notch or two worse than I otherwise would have, but I judged it about five notches below "good, but not special", and I don't think that being full from the pasty explains all of that.
I don't think that being full from the pasty explains the blueberry jerky, either. I glossed over this in my report, but we didn't eat the blueberry jerky until the next day after we bought it; I had digested the pasty by then.
ann peeples
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2013/01/18 19:27:48
Gotta be honest, Ralph-I have never found upper Michigan to be a Roadfood place. Have been there, as my family is from there.I know there are probably great places, but dont know where they are! Same with Green Bay.....
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2013/01/19 02:25:36
Ralph, the UP holds special appeal to me also, for reasons I'm not completely sure of. But, one of my week long vacations in the next few years will include this area.

How can a restaurant called Pancake Place serve bad pancakes and stay in business?

Roadfood place by accident? It seems you are underestimating your Roadfood radar!
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2013/01/19 03:41:05
I thought it was a beautiful drive on a beautiful day.
Also, if I don't finish pancakes, they must be pretty bad. I love pancakes for breakfast in a restaurant, because someone else makes them and cleans up the mess :-)
ann peeples
Re:Melton Midwest Mosey 2013/01/19 06:08:17
Dont get me wrong, the UP is gorgeous. And I am sure there are fantastic places to eat.
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