Superior’s Slice of Local Color

Thirsty Pagan Brewing, Superior, WI

Name aside (since I’m a believer:-), Thirsty Pagan Brewery is my kind of place. Located in Superior, Wis., it’s laid-back, unpretentious, warm and full of local color. So far, it’s my favorite venue on the tour.

Thirsty Pagan Brewing, Superior, WI

Nothing says welcome more than a hand-printed sandwich board. We stopped for a bite, thankfully just before the noon hour rush. And rush there certainly was!

Thirsty Pagan Brewing, Superior, WI

When I say local color, I mean color. Located in an old creamery, TPB, as they like to call themselves, is a uniquely divided space. The tiled dining room in front reflects the purity of the building’s former life. The bar in back is hipster-vibed with multi-colored walls, beer art and, once again, hand-printed signage. Blackboards will do it every time!

Thirsty Pagan Brewing, Superior, WI

This sign made me laugh. It was posted over the small stage where live music plays daily.

What? How can you outlaw Freebird?!

Thirsty Pagan Brewing, Superior, WI

As you can tell, ambiance is huge for me. But food and beverage must also make the mark and TPB hit it spot on. We had a delicious deep dish pizza, complimented with a North Coast Amber and Lawn Chair Ale. Heavenly!

A very fun place and I’d love to come back for the live music.

Our previous stop: Fitgers in Duluth.  Our next stop: Leinenkugel’s in Chippewa Falls.

Dreaming of Fresh Food in Freezing Wisconsin?

seed catalogs and starter trays

Just so you know, that’s not a studio backdrop in this photo. It’s snow outside my window. Actually, this is a rather oxymoronic image in that it doesn’t fully convey the blistering-blue cold we’re braving these days, with temps far below zero and wind chills 20 degrees even further still. But the earthiness of seed catalogs and starter trays makes winter hibernation a warm and tolerable thing. Yep, I’m planning my garden and dreaming of fresh food.

I was motivated into a gardening mood yesterday after talking with new client Jane Hansen, who is coordinator for the Wisconsin Local Food Network (WLFN). WLFN is a collection of people and organizations that work to build sustainable, equitable and resilient food systems throughout the state. To put it simply, in their words, “We help local food businesses (whether a farm, a processor, a distributor, a restaurant, a farmers market, or a grocery store) thrive!”

As Jane and I discussed local food here in Wisconsin, we targeted some of the challenges both producers and consumers face. On days like today, it’s obvious that Wisconsin’s short growing season puts a freezing halt to the availability of fresh and local food. Yet, as Jane says, in the summer we have a wealth of produce—sometimes too much, which results in waste in the fields, in distribution and in the kitchen. These are just a few of the issues WLFN deals with as it helps local food producers connect with consumers.

On January 30-31, the WLFN is hosting its 9th Annual Wisconsin Local Food Summit in Wisconsin Rapids. The event is in conjunction with the Wisconsin Farm to School Summit on January 29. So if you’re interested in a 3-day weekend of food networking, education and a much-needed break from winter, this is the place to go.

In the meantime, I’ll be busy writing a promo piece for the WLFN. For such a worthy and purpose-driven organization; this will be an honor.

Day #6: Trempealeau Food, Fountain City Brew and Good Company

GlenDi_CartoonI don’t know if you’ve noticed but cartoon Glen and Di are getting more and more robust with each post I write. That’s what happens when you spend a week feasting on Wisconsin’s savory fare and specialty brew.

No calories there whatsoever.

As we navigate our way up the Great River Road, each Mississippi town has been as quaint as the next and we’ve met some super nice people. Trempealeau and Fountain City are especially distinct.


Sunset over Mississippi River in Trempealeau, WI

Trempealeau Hotel and Restaurant, Tremealeau, WI

Hands down, our best meal has been dinner at the historic Trempealeau Hotel and Restaurant, overlooking the river and this beautiful sunset. Besides serving Spaten, my husband’s favorite Oktoberfest beer (which we won’t discuss because it’s a German import), the restaurant has an obvious appreciation of its vintage atmosphere and local farmers. My husband had the walleye with a heavenly kale-bacon-whatever sauté. I had a shrimp skewer drenched in butter and lightly crusted with a blend of herbs.

Getting hungry? I am, just reminiscing.

To work this off, the next day we hiked through Perrot State Park, another beautiful area with killer-bluffs overlooking the river. Actually, hiking the bluffs isn’t that hard, but be mindful that this week real Glen and Di are not a tight stretch from cartoon Glen and Di. At the top of one bluff, we met a lovely family with young boys whose infectious enthusiasm for nature reminded us of how blessed we all really are.

Fountain City

Monarch Public House, Fountain City, WI

Further up the Mississippi we lunched at the Monarch Public House, a food and drink destination since 1894. We had fish because it was Friday and in Wisconsin you have fish on Fridays, even if the Monarch calls it fish ‘n chips, which it does because it’s Irish. It’s just what we do (along with run-on sentences).

Our server explained their heritage style of baking the fish at 600+ degrees instead of deep frying. It was delicious!

vintage bar in Monarch Public House, Fountain City, WI

Isn’t this bar stunning? Our server said it’s original to the building. The pressed tin ceiling is also original and easily 16-feet high, if not more. The Monarch’s website shares an interesting history of the building—be sure to scroll all the way down.

Fountain Brew, Fountain City, WI

In addition to being the longest running tavern in Wisconsin, the Monarch has also resurrected Fountain City Brewing Company. Long part of the community’s heritage, this brewery originated in 1862. When it closed in 1965 and the building later demolished, it seemed the local flavor would be lost forever.

That is, until 1997.

By then John Harrington owned the Monarch tavern and was guiding it through a loving restoration. One day a nearly 90-year-old, retired assistant brewmaster named Wilbert Schmitt came forward with the original recipes he had saved all these years. Harrington and Schmitty, as he’s known, collaborated and reintroduced Fountain City’s beloved brew.

Fascinating story, eh? The Monarch tells it in greater detail here. Again, be sure to scroll completely down the page.

Next year, according to our server, the Monarch will break ground for a brewery building right next to the tavern. Bucket list: Go back to Fountain City in two years and check it out!

Gasoline Alley, Fountain City, WI

Octoberfest_2014_FC_CarWhile wandering Main Street, we met John Campbell of Gasoline Alley. One compliment on his car parked outside and he proudly brought us inside to see his latest work.

I like his business logo!

Seven Hawks Vineyard, Fountain City, WI

John shared fun stories of Fountain City. He also pointed out how the buildings on the town’s main streets are all veered to match the angle of the river. None of them were built square to the street. Intriguing!

RatingsAdunate rates Fountain City Brewery, Fountain City, WI

Fountain City doesn’t brew an Oktoberfest but we enjoyed their signature styles nonetheless. My husband had an Irish Valley Spring Bock and I went all historical with the original recipe Fountain Brew. Both were great!

Need I say more? I loved this building and its meticulous restoration.

My husband had fish ‘n chips. I had a Caesar salad. We shared and were extremely happy travelers!

An endearing little river town, where life seems slow and peaceful. With this list of things to do, we could have stayed longer than the one afternoon we did. Next time!

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The Monarch has a great story to tell and does so very well on it’s website. It’s Facebook page shares the same enthusiasm and friendliness our server did. I’m looking forward to the promotions it puts out when they build the brewery.

Our next, and final, stop: Reads Landing Brewing Company, Reads Landing, Minnesota


Day #2: No Grumps Here!

Autumn leaves 2014

When your husband is owner of the greatest team in the NFL, you don’t spend Sunday afternoons driving around looking at scenery.

Well, he’s part owner.

Okay, well, he’s a shareholder, one of an intimate 363,491 fellow shareholders.

Still, it’s very important that my husband watch the games. So Sunday, after attending the friendly and welcoming Faith Lutheran Church in Reedsburg and checking out the Shoe Box in Black Earth, we headed on down to Mount Horeb to watch the Green Bay Packers.

Mount Horeb, population 7000, is a quaint little town. Hey, it’s the troll capital of the world! It’s also home to the Fisher King Winery, a delicious Main Street presence, and the Duluth Trading Company, a flagship in a wonderful, creaky-floored mercantile building.

But most important to my husband on Sunday at noon, Mount Horeb is home to the Grumpy Troll Brew Pub.

Grumpy Troll Brew Pub

Grumpy Troll Brew Pub, Mount Horeb, Wisconsin

What a fun place! Located in the 1916 Mount Horeb Creamery building, it’s been a restaurant and brewery since 1996. There’s a family restaurant on the first floor and a pizzeria on the second, along with the very important large screen TVs in every which direction.

Mural in Grumpy Troll's Pizzeria

Is this a young and thin Martin Luther? Just wondering, you know, with Reformation coming up and all. This mural is on the wall of Grumpy Troll’s upstairs pizzeria.

Anyway, our daughter and son-in-law joined us and we enjoyed sharing good food and beer. Best of all, the Packers won 27-24 in a last minute drive. Based on the loud whoops, there were no grumpy trolls watching this game!


Adunate rates the Grumpy Troll Brewpub in Mount Horeb, WIBeer
I feel bad awarding brewmaster Mark Knoebl only one stein, especially since he’s won so many awards elsewhere. He features up to twelve beers on tap, of all tastes and styles. Refreshingly, his beer menu changes regularly and as it happened Sunday an Oktoberfest wasn’t on the list. Oh well, there were many others to try. Our son-in-law, a hobbyist brewer himself, and daughter both appreciate a hoppier flavor and their eyes lit up when they tasted the Hoppa Loppa.

Of course I loved the old building. It’s wonderfully preserved and furnished with appropriate decor. The staff was super friendly and it was a fun place to watch the game.

Food: Great!

With lots of interesting shops, one could spend a fun day in downtown Mount Horeb. The area also boasts a bike trail, parks and many other attractions. Sadly, one of its greatest historical sites, Little Norway, is closing after 86 years.

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I love it! The Grumpy Troll has a super website with fun information about its history, the building, its food and beer. Be sure to keep scrolling down while on the home page so you don’t miss any of this good stuff. And who wouldn’t like a logo with a cute grumpy troll guy?!

Next stop: New Glarus Brewing Company

It’s Back to School Time!

Back-to-School Special at Donny's Girl Restaurant

Last week my Facebook feed was brimming with everyone’s first-day-of-school pictures. What fun! This week I’m sharing a couple of my own. No, they’re not of my kiddos (although embarrassing them with old pics could certainly be fun:-), instead they’re of school-related projects I recently added to my portfolio.

Donny’s Girl Supper Club offers southeastern Wisconsin a most welcoming and delightful place to dine. This summer owners Lorn and Jaci had a minor setback when their building caught on fire. Thankfully, the damage was minimal and within weeks they were back to serving delicious meals to their beloved guests. This month Jaci is running a back-to-school special—that’s her daughter in the coupon (I like to call it the Brielle Special because she’s just so doggone cute). Check out the website I did for Donny’s Girl and then meander your way to Watertown for their back-to-school special.

Don’t forget your coupon!

teachers conference program

Education these days often gets a bum rap, but really, here in America we are truly blessed. We’ve got public schools, charter schools, parochial schools, home schools, Eschools…you name it, we’ve got it. If you really want to learn, here in America you can learn.

This same diverse opportunity came through in the registration program I recently did for the Wisconsin Lutheran State Teachers’ Conference (WLSTC). With over 1500 teachers from five states attending, you can bet this conference represents a variety of WELS Lutheran schools. This year we used photography submitted by WLSTC-members and featured everything from an inner-city school participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, to a rural school of only 53 students. If you want a quality, Christ-centered education, schools in the WLSTC will do just that.

So, folks, enjoy the back-to-school season! Just keep right on learning!