Bolleke en Pintje

We booked our tickets to Belgium on December 11. A little over a month later, I found out I was pregnant. Let’s all observe a moment of silence for all of the amazing beers I didn’t get to drink while in the home of the best beers in the world – and of the best beer bar in the world!

There is absolutely nothing uncontroversial about alcohol and pregnancy, but after a lot of reading and discussion, we agreed that we both felt safe with me having ::a:: drink here and there on our trip. I tried whatever sips of whatever N was drinking, but limited myself to a few local specialties enjoyed after a solid meal over the weeks of our visit. I also developed a taste for good tonic water, and discovered a few places with wonderful mocktails.

De Muze

Sampling a bolleke of De Koninck at De Muze, one of N’s favorite jazz bars. We left before the jazz started, but made a second visit for drinks and music during our second week.

De Muze

De Muze

De Vagant

Trying genever at De Vagant. Not pictured: the GIANT MOUNTAIN of cheese cubes that we ordered thinking we’d have a little snack.

Nine Cocktailbar

Nine Cocktailbar

Nine Cocktailbar

A virgin shrub for me, and an amazing ginger something for N

Nine Cocktailbar

Kulminator

Kulminator

Kulminator

Kulminator Beer List

Now THIS is a beer list – a giant binder organized by style and by brewery, hand annotated in places. Some of the beers on the list weren’t available anywhere else, period.

La Trappe Quercus 2011 Batch 7

La Trappe Quercus 2011 Batch 7

La Trappe Quercus 2011 Batch 7, literally only available at Kulminator

Kulminator

Oh this? Just several cases of Westy empties.

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Day 8-10: New Glarus, Chicago

It is September 5 and I’m still working through posts about our vacation that took place in July.  This needs to stop.  New Glarus is as good a place as any.

New Glarus Brewing Company

We’ve been meaning to go to New Glarus for years – specifically to the New Glarus Brewing Co brewery, home of my very favoritest beer, Spotted Cow.  New Glarus offers a behind the scenes “hard hat” tour of their facilities every Friday, but as it sells out literally months in advance – currently the next available tour is November 11 – we had to be satisfied with the self guided tour through their new, sparkling clean facility.

Mash Tun

Giant copper mash tuns shining in the sun

Wish List

30 liter pilot brewing setup where they make the R&D series each year.

The self-guided tour begins and ends at the gift shop, where for $3, you can purchase 3 3 oz samples and a sampling glass to take home. We enjoyed ours on the patio in the sunshine – a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Sunshine samples

Smiley

Happy E

As for New Glarus itself? There’s just not that much there there – it’s more of a daytrip than a destination. We enjoyed our stay at the Helvetica Inn, but very quickly ran out of things to see and do. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we both wished we’d stayed another day in Madison and made a side trip out for the brewery.  Lessons learned!

From here, it was on to Chicago by way of the kitschy Baumgartner’s Cheese Shop, where we ran into the same Food Network crew previously encountered at Fromagination!  I’m really not sure how they picked Baumgartner’s, as it is a very different kind of cheese shop than Fromagination.  We’re now doubly interested in the show – and hopeful that we’ll turn up as extras!

And then Chicago – I spent two days at WordCamp while Shane slept in, shopped, and generally wandered around.  We connected with friends and fantasized about life in Chicago.  We were harassed by fluffy cats.  It was a great end to a great trip.

Fluffeh

Madison Eats, part 3

Honestly, I’m surprised I had room for breakfast after eating all the toast at Merchant on our last full day in Madison.  As we walked to breakfast, rubbing the sleep and mild hangovers out of our eyes, Shane teased me about the stack of toast which somehow grew from 3-4 slices of crusty farmhouse bread to a stack of toasts all the way up to the ceiling that I consumed Cookie Monster style.  I don’t deny that I ate all the toasts.  Just not that many.

Breakfast, day 3: Bradbury’s

Bradbury's

Cappuccino

We’ve traveled a lot this year, and as a result, have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to interpret Yelp reviews in order to find good coffee. The problem is that definitions of ‘good coffee’ are highly subjective: for some, it’s a 32 oz sugar spectacle from Starbucks; for others, it’s Blue Bottle. The best strategies I’ve found so far involve searching for words like crema, siphon, flat white, ristretto or gibraltar – one of which led us to Bradbury’s.

And Bradbury’s was exactly what we were hoping to find: seriously good coffee made by people who care. Shane had a traditional cappuccino – no more than 8oz, perfect microfoam – and a crepe with Nutella and bananas. I had a piccolo – indistinguishable from a gibraltar or a cortado, but then what do I know – and a scone. We left caffeinated and happy, wishing we’d found Bradbury’s earlier in our stay.

After breakfast, we wandered around the Capitol Square to Fromagination, a cheeseshop on par with Cowgirl Creamery in my book. The store was in a state of minor disarray as a Food Network crew was in the process of filming a spot for a new show focused on cheese, but that didn’t deter us from sampling a number of fancy and delicious Wisconsin cheeses. I especially enjoyed the display of local beers and recommended cheese pairings, and wish we’d had the opportunity to try more of them! Regardless, we left with our dinner in hand – three different cheeses to be paired with co-op takeout – and a recommendation to check out the National Mustard Museum on our way out of town.

Fromagination

Photo by Susie Foodie

Lunch, day 3: Brasserie V

100 World Class Beers

Photo by beautifulcataya

We split a delicious lunch at Brasserie V, located near Camp Randall Stadium amongst a bunch of boutiques on Monroe St. Shane was excited about the Belgian beer list, but I was more into the cool and creamy pea soup that we shared for lunch, along with a half Croque Monsieur and a towering cone of frites. We tried to avert our eyes as a couple at the bar gratuitously made out between sips of their Kwak, served in authentic Kwak glasses. We wished we had more appetite so that we could eat and drink more delicious things.

Off to New Glarus! But first, a stop at the Mustard Museum, which was everything we hoped it would be: weird, esoteric, and full of ridiculous mustard things. What possesses one to make mustard – collecting, not making – one’s life’s work? A question for the ages.

King of Condiments!

Madison Eats, part 1

Madison has a lot going for it, that’s for sure. In addition to the zoo, you have the State Capitol, site of massive protests earlier in the year and ongoing protests by what appears to be a group of homeless men who have nothing to do other than yell RE-CALL-WALK-ER as loudly as possible at passers-by. There’s the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin system, complete with 42,000+ students who had not quite returned to campus when we were there.

Sandwiched between these two institutions is State Street, a pedestrian mall, hippie haven, and pretty much the coolest place I could possibly imagine when I was 18. Two Himalayan/Nepali restaurants on one block – and Afghani, South African, and Turkish restaurants a few blocks away. Half a dozen bookstores, including one that formerly had a Canterbury Tales-themed bed and breakfast. A fabulous farmers’ market surrounding the Capitol on Saturday mornings. The fantastically crunchy Community Pharmacy. At least half a dozen little boutiques selling anything a hippie or hipster girl might want.

We were lucky enough to find an airbnb spot right on State Street – inconvenient for parking, but pretty much perfect for everything else – especially eating. I’m realizing as I write this that I have more food memories and photos than I really should put in just one post. Stay tuned for the rest – I promise you won’t have to wait long.

Dinner, day 1: Coopers Tavern

The Coopers Tavern

Photo by Josh Puetz

Excellent beer list, decent food. Our server was new and overly enthusiastic about taking our drink order before we’d even picked up our menus. I really enjoyed the Irish Cobb salad – house-cured corned beef, oven-dried tomatoes, asparagus, hard-boiled egg, Dubliner, and scallion-mustard dressing – but we were disappointed in the beer cheese pretzels, as the “dip” was more like soup. If we lived in Madison, we’d definitely give this place another shot.

Drinks, day 1: Great Dane Pub

Chocolate and Beer

Pretty underwhelming, though I did have a delicious beer and chocolate pairing.

After dinner and drinks, we walked down to Monona Terrace and looked at the water for a while. Good views make for good digestion, I think.

Monona Terrace

Photo by Aine D

Day 4: An Evening of Leisure

I’ll just come right out and say it: we’re not good at relaxing. We’re good at doing nothing. We’re good at procrastinating. But we’re not good at relaxing. We went to the beach a couple of years ago and managed 15 minutes of sitting by the ocean before we got bored and reverted to walking around and eating boardwalk food.

All of this is to say that I wasn’t expecting to spend an afternoon on the beach after our morning of hiking. We had lunch. We splashed around in the lake. We laid on the beach and read. We went back in the lake. We laid on the beach until our suits dried out. I finished an entire issue of Vanity Fair. Shane finished The Corrections, which he’s been working on since the fall. We laid on the beach for the entire afternoon.

Before heading back to the campsite, we walked the Tumbled Rocks trail. While we walked, a woman swam across the lake.

Purple Quartzite

Not so much hiking as walking

Devil's Lake

Dinner at the campsite: New Glarus Belgian Red, picked up at the Ice Age Campground store, and local kielbasa with Brussels sprouts – a good German dinner.

Belgian Red

Honest Wisconsin Dinner

Not content to turn in, we left the park for a round of miniature golf at an only marginally maintained course nearby. Seriously, it was basically the worst course ever. I’m certain that’s the reason I spent so much time in the rough.

Teeing up

Day 3: On to Devil’s Lake!

Given our failure to make drinkable coffee, our first stop after packing up camp was Kavarna Coffeehouse in Green Bay – yet another example of the sort of place I wish existed in Ann Arbor.

Photo by paul goyette

Good coffee, a delicious-looking menu, and ample seating on two levels for those wanting to put in a couple of hours of work, catch up with a friend, or catch the occasional local band. We just needed a quick caffeine and internet fix, and Kavarna did just the trick.

From there, we made a quick stop by Lambeau Field, literally jumping out to snap a picture, then jumping back in the car. I’d show you the pictures, but they’re basically what you’d expect given the circumstances. Neither of us have any particular love for the Packers anyway.

Vince Lombardi Statue

Photo by jimmywayne

Let’s not talk about our side-trip to Oshkosh. A consistent theme of our days in Wisconsin was driving on ripped up, formerly paved roads, and Oshkosh had many of them. It also has a totally nondescript, exceptionally boring Brooklyn/gangster-themed restaurant, and a coffee shop with almost adequate sandwiches. We couldn’t get out of town fast enough.

Fortunately, our next stop was our destination: Devil’s Lake State Park. I’d been to Devil’s Lake a handful of times in high school and college, and had very idyllic memories of hiking, the lake, and failed attempts at rock climbing. I was concerned that it wouldn’t live up to my memories, but we loved it right away – that is, once we stopped to imagine ice age glaciers.

Shane Imagines Ice Age Glaciers

Oh, and once we popped open a few Wisconsin beers:

Campsite Beer

Unfortunately the beers didn’t help with the tasks ahead of us. In addition to all the other things we forgot, we didn’t have a mallet with which to drive in the stakes for our tent – or any sort of fire-starting device beyond our trusty, running low on fuel aim-n-flame. No matter: a helpful campground neighbor took pity and loaned us his axe; he also came back with the axe and some very dry wood to help us get a fire started. In the meantime, I made dinner: mushrooms, onions, and ham in a cream sauce – yes, a cream sauce in a cast iron skillet – served with a salad and English muffins. I would’ve made pasta but, well, you’ve seen what I was working with.

First Camping Dinner

We happily sat by the fire until it burned down – and even more happily turned in early.

Day 1: Novice Roadtrippers

I might have mentioned before that we’re not good at road tripping. Which is to say: we don’t enjoy driving. Long drives almost always mean traffic, construction, excessive junk food, and, if we’re visiting my family, terrible weather. Seriously, it storms almost every time we drive west. So when I suggested that instead of going to Portland – our proposed vacation destination – that we take a road trip somewhere, you need to realize that we were going out on a serious limb.

After some discussion, we settled on a plan: camping in Wisconsin, followed by a few days in Madison or Chicago or both. And instead of taking awful 94 through awful Chicago traffic, we’d go the long way ’round Lake Michigan – north to the tip of the Mitten, over into the UP, and then south along the Wisconsin side of the lake. We resolved to avoid the interstate whenever possible, and to stop wherever suited our fancy: historical markers, dive-y restaurants, intriguing attractions. I was in charge of researching accommodations, while Shane looked into places to eat, helpfully plotting them out by number of hours along that day’s drive.

And so we set off, heading due north on 75 on a beautiful day. First stop? The Cheesehouse – or, more properly, Pinconning Cheese Co.

The Cheesehouse

The Cheesehouse

We both love cheese, as you well know, but weren’t expecting much from this roadside attraction. Which is to say that we found lots of uninspiring cheese, a few tasty cheese spreads, and an impressive array of meat sticks that Shane snacked on for the next few days. Our total came in below the $5 credit card limit, so we also got a giant pickle that literally had to be held with two hands and made the car smell like dill and garlic.

Our first true road meal came at Spike’s Keg O Nails in Grayling, MI:

Spike's Keg O Nails

Spike’s has been operating in this location since the day after Prohibition was repealed. The menu explained the history of the bar, which has had five owners in its 78 year history. It’s exactly the sort of place you’d expect to find in a smallish town, and exactly the sort of ambiance you’d hope for on a Friday night: lots of townies eating fried fish and drinking cheap beer around small tables.

First Vacation Beers

Who were we to question a good thing? The fried fish was fantastic: crisp batter and flaky tender white fish accompanied by the typical Midwest sides: cole slaw, choice of potato (fries), and a dinner roll. We skipped the roll and split a salad, and were totally pleased with our $15 dinner.

Not wanting to jump right back into the car, we took a walk around downtown Grayling, where we tamed a ferocious beast, sat by the river, and generally started to ease into vacation mode.

Au Sable River

Post-Prandial

We still had a few hours left in our drive, however, so it was back in the car and due north for us, stopping only for a Whippy Dip detour:

Whippy Dip

First Vacation Ice Cream

and a scenic overlook:

If You Seek A Pleasant Peninsula

A Pleasant Peninsula indeed.