Tag Archives: wisconsin

Wisconsin’s Own Danish Pastry, The Kringle

I am a Wisconsinite. Go ahead, laugh. As much as I understand why the cheddar and beer stereotype (and Favre’s latest exploits) have turned us into a national joke, you should all be secretly jealous. We have something you don’t: Kringle.

A circular pastry that originated in Denmark, the kringle is only common in its home country and in Racine, Wisconsin, thanks to waves of Danish immigrants in the 1880s who had enough sense to move to Wisconsin. Some of my favorite Saturday mornings were had over a cup of coffee and a cream cheese kringle.

Even grocery store Kringle will blow your mind, by Tara for TKGO

Even grocery store kringle will blow your mind. The secret is in the Danish Weinerbrod dough, which layers like puff pastry sheets but remains soft instead of crisping in heat. Inside is usually fruit filling, and a light, sugary glaze similar to that of a donut coats the top. Strawberry and cherry fillings are most common, but you can also find almond, apricot, pecan, apple and cream cheese, in most places kringle is sold.

While you can often find smaller portions as pictured above, kringle is traditionally made in a loop shape. Cutting and serving it isn’t quite the art some make it out to be, unless you made it from scratch, in which case you have every reason to demand it be cut correctly. I recommend the version on the left-hand side for easier coffee-dunking.

The art of slicing and dicing a kringle

I’ve never been ambitious enough to make my own kringle, but if you currently have an oven in your apartment (you’re one-upping me), give this pecan and walnut kringle recipe a try. For the cheaters: No matter what shape your store-bought kringle takes, pop it in the oven at 300 F for 15 minutes and toss the packaging. The pastry still has all the complicated layers only a Danish-style bakery can replicate, and all the heat and aroma of being fresh from the oven.

And you thought we were fat because of the cheddar.

Tara for TKGO

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Save a Roadside Attraction!

The Midwest has a long upstanding tradition of zany roadside attractions. My personal favorite, the corn maze, is unfortunately often poorly tended, making what was once a clear path into a jumble of cut stalks buried under a foot of mud.

 

Corn mazes may be great in theory, but Sarah and I agree — you definitely want to be walking on gravel if it rained the night before.

 

Like a ray of hope in an era of degrading farm mazes, two yellow flags flew high over a white sign with black lettering, in all caps, declaring: “MAZE.” To the rescue came the A-Mazement Park in Marion, Wisconsin, to solve the region’s pressing corn maze mud problem. Every April until September since 2001, the park opened to thousands of highway nomads searching for cheap thrills. For $7, you could spend hours diving through the wooden walls and gravel paths to get to each of four checkpoints, where you stamp your card before trying to return to home base in record time. In mid-October through Halloween, the park became Transyl-Maze-ia, where for a slightly steeper admission price of $12, you could enter the park as late as 10 p.m. and not only dodge walls, but also park employees cloaked in demonic attire and white face paint.

 

The A-Mazement Park is in an ideal spot, just four hours from Chicago and Minneapolis and two and a half hours from Milwaukee! Courtesy of Google Maps.

 

Sadly, you notice I write in the past tense. The A-Mazement Park’s survival is at risk. Because of the owner’s heavy time commitment to a construction company, the A-Mazement Park is not open this year and is for sale. To purchase this Wisconsin landmark and progressive maze for $399,000, call VR Business Mergers at (715) 966-6647. (Or, to buy the Transyl-Maze-ia props, call Todd at (715) 754-4566.)

 

The A-Mazement Park, courtesy of the official site

 

It’s really in great condition. Plus, since the walls are made of wood and stand off the ground by two feet or so, the owner can move them every few weeks so customers enter a new maze whenever they come. (You also have the added security of being able to army-crawl your way to the open air at any point if this gets old. Then, there’s always mini-golf.)

Act quickly! You may even be able to open in time for Halloween!

The A-Mazement Park is located at 111 Industrial Drive, Marion, WI 54950.

Tara for TKGO

The Friday Night Fish Fry (or, “Look, there’s a five-year-old at this bar!”)

In the immortal words of my born-and-raised Wisconsin grandfather, “What are you doing? Put that chicken back in the freezer! It’s Friday, I’m goin’ for fish.”

Friday fish frys are one of Wisconsin’s most beloved traditions, and everyone has his own opinion of which dive does it right. Although my first choice is my grandparents’ cottage in northern Wisconsin, Club Tavern in Menasha, Wisconsin, takes the cake when it comes to the restaurant crowd.

 

 

Strollers and tots in tutus are all welcome at Club Tavern, by Tara for TKGO

 

Smoky taverns and bars have always been the best place to take the whole family to a fish fry, but since the Wisconsin state ban on smoking in bars and restaurants went into effect on July 5 this year, these pubs clog only your arteries, not your lungs. General rule of thumb: The more dilapidated the building, the better the fish. (Club Tavern hasn’t changed a bit in 20 years, with the exception of the flat screen over the bar.)

 

 

Outside of Club Tavern, by Tara for TKGO

 

The typical order is perch or pike, both of which are caught (usually that day) in Wisconsin’s freshwater lakes and rivers. Perch is a smaller, meatier white fish while pike is larger, flakier and tastes slightly “fishier” if you’re used to eating halibut. You can order the plate, which comes with sides of cole slaw and rye bread, and your choice of fries, onion rings or potato salad at Club Tavern. Other places usually also offer a baked potato with sour cream and butter as a side. The fried and breaded fish can be dunked in tartar sauce with your hands like chicken fingers, or cut with a knife and fork.

 

 

 

An order of pike ($9.99) at Club Tavern, by Tara for TKGO

 

 

 

An order of perch ($11.50) at Club Tavern, by Tara for TKGO

 

If you’re nowhere near Wisconsin and hope to try your own fish fry at home, any fresh-caught freshwater fish can be fried at home. My grandmother used to soak the skinned perch in buttermilk for a few minutes to get rid of the “fishy” taste before dunking it in Italian breadcrumbs and dropping it into a frying pan full of vegetable oil or olive oil. When both sides are browned and a little crispy, blot the fish with a paper towel to remove excess grease. It’s ready to eat!

Club Tavern, 56 Racine St., Menasha, Wisconsin. (920) 722-2452. No reservations or credit cards accepted, so bring cash or your checkbook!

Tara for TKGO

Looking to the Sky in Wisconsin

Never seen an air show? You’re missing out. And you never would have guessed where you could fill this void: Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

AirVenture began in 1953 as a fly-in convention, and still is. As a customer service rep at a private airport (otherwise known as an FBO) in nearby Appleton, I typically spend this last week of July swamped in invoicing, filing, fueling, getting ice, recommending hotels and restaurants and finding 15W-50 for the hundreds of pilots who land at Maxair for AirVenture. But this year, Cinderella got Friday off and headed to the ball.

To cut to the chase, the highlights are the afternoon air shows, which happen every day. On Friday, I saw Chuck Aaron pilot the Red Bull Helicopter and the four-plane AeroShell Aerobatic Team (in the video), among others.

But after the shows, it’s easy to get caught up in lectures about concept jets that have been years in the works, like Cessna’s $1.7 million Citation Mustang, as well as new designs like Cobalt’s five-seater Co50, reminiscent of a fighter jet. Rare aircraft include the last SB2C “Helldiver” WWII dive bomber flying in the world, a Charles Lindbergh-era DC-2 and a restored Eastern Airlines DC-7 that American hero “Sully” Sullenberger flew on Wednesday beside FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

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Military aircraft arrive every year, too, and this year two favorites — the WWII-era B-17 bomber and the DC-3 — celebrated their 75th birthdays during the week of AirVenture. (A B-17 can be booked for rides both at Oshkosh and at Maxair.) You can also see modern military aircraft on the ramp, like the drones Predator and Global Hawk, as well as the Bell-Boeing V-22, an airplane with a helicopter rotor attached to each fixed wing.

If you happen to own your own Cessna 172, plan to spend your nights next July dozing behind the wheel at a “Fly In Movie” and pay Maxair a visit!

Tara for TKGO

The Lost Art of Canning

Homemade jam is a rural secret, but may be the easiest and most inexpensive way to impress all your neighbors, co-workers and friends, no matter whether you live in the middle of a city or the middle of nowhere. (My sister even made it in her tiny apartment in Boston!) With blueberries, raspberries and strawberries all in season, now is the time to strike! In two hours, you can make enough jam to last you and your neighbors through the winter.

 

Blueberries and raspberries make for a great mixed berry jam, by Tara for TKGO

 

Step 1: Visit your local farmers market and ask which berries are ripe and were picked that morning. The fresher the berries, the more brightly colored the jam. (In other words, don’t shop in the bargain bins.) You’ll also need jars and lids from any grocery store. This recipe makes about nine half-pint mason jars, but you can safely double it instead of making two separate batches.

 

Blueberries are the one exception to the

 

Step 2: Boil the lids and rings and keep them hot on the stove while you boil five cups of crushed, clean berries. Add one 6 oz box of Sure-Jell, or any other fruit pectin. Stir constantly for 5 minutes on high heat.

 

 

Sugar substitutes will not work with this recipe — you need the real thing! by Tara for TKGO

 

Step 3: When the berries come to a boil, add 7 cups of sugar and a teaspoon of butter. Continue to boil for 1 minute.

 

Keeping the jam and lids hot is key, so an assembly line works best for quick canning, by Tara for TKGO

 

Step 4: Turn off the burner and skim off any heavy foam with a spoon. (Raspberry and blueberry jams don’t tend to foam as much as strawberry jams, making them easier to can.) Ladle the jam into the mason jars. We use a funnel with a large opening made for canning, but it’s not necessary. Put the hot lids on the jars quickly, leaving 1/4 inch of air between the jam and the lid.

Expert’s note: Be sure to wipe the jars clean before putting the lids on. Any seeds stuck between the jar and the lid can keep it from sealing. Unsealed jars (or leftover jam you pour into a tupperware container when you’ve run out of jars) must be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within a month. Jars that are sealed properly can be stored in cupboards unopened for a year. For more information on storing homemade jam, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.

 

You (finally!) get 15 minutes to rest while the jars sit on their lids, by Tara for TKGO

 

Step 5: Once the jar is sealed, turn it upside down on a dishtowel. After 15 minutes, turn upright, careful not to touch the lids. Within 6 hours, the seal on each of the jars should have “popped” or sucked down into the jar (like any unopened jar at the grocery store). If the jar hasn’t popped, it hasn’t sealed properly and must be placed in the refrigerator.

 

The final product: blueberry-raspberry jam from the Kalmansons, by Tara for TKGO

 

Although jars can be reused, lids must be thrown out after a single use. Save your empty jam jars for the next year, and start your own annual canning tradition!

Tara for TKGO

Door County Getaway

Generally, I would leave the Wisconsin-related blogging to the Badger State native of our duo, Tara, however, my freshman-year roommate hails from Door County: a summer getaway destination in the thumb of Wisconsin. Recently, I took a jaunt up to her hometown with two other friends to experience a couple of days of Midwest vacation bliss.

With my former roommate as our tour guide, we filled our time in Door County with hiking, boating, delicious food and a drive-in. Below are some of my favorite eats and activities from the weekend.

Eat

White Gull Inn

Good Morning America recently crowned the White Gull Inn’s cherry stuffed French toast “Best Breakfast in America.” The sweet, fluffy cream cheese, fresh cherries and cinnamon sandwiched between French toast slices is irresistible, and the homespun ambience of the inn’s dining area is thoroughly pleasant. Next time I’m hoping to make it to one of the White Gull Inn fish boils.

 

Breakfast at White Gull Inn, by Karina for TKGO

 

Al Johnson’s

If you know anything about Door County, I bet you’ve heard of this place. It’s, as many refer to it, “the restaurant with the goats on the roof.” The Swedish restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the waitresses are outfitted in traditional Swedish dirndls. (Fun fact: My roommate used to work at Al Johnson’s and would wear her getup as a costume in college.) I recommend the Swedish pancakes — which resemble crepes more than fluffy diner flapjacks — with fresh fruit and of course, lingonberries.

 

Swedish pancakes at Al Johnson

 

Not Licked Yet

Like any good vacation town, ice cream options abound. My roommate has had time to try them all, and Not Licked Yet’s custard is her undisputed favorite. Chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch custard are the standard flavors, accompanied by a rotating flavor of the day. (When we stopped by it was Strawberry and Granola.) Enjoy your custard at lounge chairs or tables along the water, or finish it quickly to cavort on the massive swingset play area. You’re never too old, right?

 

Entrance to Not Licked Yet, by Karina for TKGO

 

Do

Boating

We were lucky enough to take a ride on one of my roommate’s smaller boats, (owning a boat, from what I understand, is almost a requirement for any Door County resident) but you also can pay to ride one out in the harbor, as well. Boat between towns or just head out in the water to observe the lush beauty of the area.

 

On the boat, Elena (L) and me

 

Hiking in Peninsula State Park

Climb to the top of the park’s observatory tower to take in the surroundings, and then choose your trail and spend some time in the woods, which will take you along the water and past geometric-looking, natural caves.

 

Inside one of the caves along a hiking trail at Peninsula State Park, by Karina for TKGO

 

Sunset at Fred & Fuzzy’s

Most of the tables at this bar/restaurant are outdoors, and I’m convinced there are fewer places in the world where it’s prettier to watch a sunset. Order a cherry margarita, a local favorite, and wait for the sun to go down.

 

Sunset at Fred & Fuzzy

 

Skyway Drive-In

I felt as though I was entering the set of Grease when we pulled up to the drive-in movies. Seven dollars a person gains you entrance to the two movies playing that night. The movies are current (Shrek Forever After and Iron Man 2 were on for us), but the advertisements are retro-cutesy.

 

Shrek Forever After at Skyway Drive-In, by Karina for TKGO

 

Karina for TKGO

Weekend Recap: Mifflin 2010

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“Mifflin” is both the name of a street in Madison, Wisconsin, and of one of the biggest block parties in the nation. The event, which even has its own Wikipedia page, typically draws thousands of college kids (…and parents and grads) annually on the first Saturday in May.

The whole thing started as a dance-filled protest against the Vietnam War in 1969, where Madison, and specifically the University of Wisconsin at Madison, was a hotbed of political activity. Today, it’s more like a daytime party centered on drinking alcohol, hanging out on porches and balconies and running around in the streets. Student bands and slightly more well-known artists put on concerts in the streets and in backyards, and the party typically rages from 9 a.m. until 6 or 7 p.m., when the crowds empty for dinner and a nap before venturing to the bars that evening.

Thinking of going to Mifflin? Pack light: you’ll need a state-issued ID (to make talking to police a lot easier), some cash for food and beer, your cell phone (you will get lost) and some sturdy shoes (your feet will be stomped on). And even though all the sorority girls wear matching tank tops and more than a few guys will take off their shirts, it’s best to stick to a basic t-shirt.

Sorry for the low-res cell phone pictures, but I think you can understand why bringing a camera with heavy zoom to Mifflin is the worst idea of the century.

Tara for TKGO