What luck when your amazing friend Keri also happens to have an amazing family lake house in Hayward, Wisconsin! Andrew and I got to spend last week there, and all three of us did lots of relaxing in nature, reading, cooking, fishing, “swimming” a.k.a. taking a quick dip in the cold water, and checking out some local food and drinks. I lived in Chicago for almost seven years, so I’m familiar with many Midwest food traditions, but Wisconsin has its own state-specific delicacies. Some that made an impression on me were cranberries, wild rice, lake fish, and cheese curds! Here are some fried cheese curds we ate at a local restaurant (we dipped them in ranch, of course):
We flew into Chicago and drove up to Hayward with Keri—on our way we had to stop for Culver’s custard! This fast-food chain, famous for their Butterburgers, has now spread to many states in the U.S., but it originated in Wisconsin.
We were checking out downtown Hayward, when it started pouring rain, so we took shelter at the Moccasin Bar, at dive bar that doubles as a taxidermied wildlife museum. These critters were gambling up their own storm in a diorama of inspired kitsch:
Luckily the weather for the rest of the trip was sunny and clear, so we were able to go fishing one day. I love fishing, and even more so when I catch fish, which we all did, and how! We caught some of each of the following types: bluegill, crappie, Northern pike, smallmouth bass, and largemouth bass. Wow! I really wanted to snag a walleye too, but no such luck. Here I am with a bass!
We panfried the fillets for lunch just after the fishing trip (the salad recipe is coming to the blog soon!):
Coming back we stopped at House on the Rock, which Andrew described as “the most avant garde thing I’ve ever experienced.” It’s hard for me to even describe the experience—I think it’s the kind of thing you really need to experience in person. But I will list just a few of the things we saw there: mechanical bands of all varieties and instrumentations, a giant sea creature, the creepiest doll collection I’ve ever seen, a LOT of Tiffany lamps, an enormous carousel juxtaposed with a flock of weird human-sized carved angels, and more, much more.
After that, we were really ready for a drink, so we visited the legendary “Only in Wisconsin” New Glarus Brewery to taste some very local brews and do a self-guided tour. Look at these beautiful copper brew kettle things!
The New Glarus area has a strong Swiss heritage, and I that’s why these guys showed up at the brewery to play their alphorns:
It’s a little sad to be back to work and back to NYC subway mayhem, but it was exciting to start teaching my jazz vocal workshop at the senior center on Sunday, and I’m glad to be back cooking in my own kitchen. As promised, though, I’ll share the recipe for the grilled veggie salad I made in Hayward soon!