Moto-Foodie on the Vermont Cheese Trail

Vermont’s billboard laws apply only to stationary signs. This is at the entrance to the Taylor Farm.

Vermont’s billboard laws apply only to stationary signs. This is at the entrance to the Taylor Farm.

It’s a dangerous road for a motorcycle, filled with dips and turns that haven’t changed since the days of horse-drawn wagons. I haven’t ridden it in decades, yet am downshifting and braking like it is part of my DNA. There are many like this in the Green Mountains, known by locals, ignored by visitors, and yet they are the true essence of motorcycling in Vermont. One only needs a reason to seek them out.

European settlers brought cheese making to North America where it remained a farmstead process until the early 1800’s when the first commercial operations appeared. The resurgence of farmstead and artisan cheese in America is barely three decades old and Vermont is at the forefront of this renaissance.

Grafton cheese samples: Samples of different types of cheese makes it easier to make a decision which to buy.

Grafton cheese samples: Samples of different types of cheese makes it easier to make a decision which to buy.

Grafton salting cheddar: Large windows allow visitors to watch cheese production. Here the curds are being salted.

Grafton salting cheddar: Large windows allow visitors to watch cheese production. Here the curds are being salted.

My first stop was just outside of Brattleboro at Grafton Village Cheese Company’s new facility on Route 30. Known for award-winning cheddars, they also make leyden, alpine, and shepsog cheeses. Small cubes of various cheeses arranged in trays on the cash counter entice visitors into taking advantage of these free tidbits.

Route 30 follows the West River and I’ve crossed the West Dummerston Bridge—a 280-foot long covered bridge built in 1872—to tackle the tricky East West Rd. to US Rt. 5. Never conceived for anything as fast as a motorcycle in 3rd gear, this is a dangerous stretch of pavement running through woods thick with moisture and past fields heavy with the smell of fresh hay.

Once the main north/south highway for eastern Vermont, US Rt. 5 has been supplanted by I-91. It offers great views of the Connecticut River as I cruise north to Putney. After stopping for coffee at the food coop, a left in the center of the village takes me up the hill to Westminster West.

Patch Farm Rd. is the driveway to VT Shepard.

Patch Farm Rd. is the driveway to VT Shepard.

The Vt Shepard Farm store is the converted milkhouse.

The Vt Shepard Farm store is the converted milkhouse.

     Vermont Shepherd is located on Patch Rd. Like most farmers, the Majors don’t have time to entertain visitors and have converted the old milkhouse into a self-serve farm store. Frozen lamb is in the top freezer, a selection of international-award winning cheeses in their frig, and maple syrup is on the table: leave your money on the table. No, it’s not strange: this is normal.

     Parish Hill Creamery is just up the road from Vermont Shepherd. Sourcing milk from the Lea Farm at the Putney School they transform raw cow’s milk into delectable cheeses with my favorite being their gorgonzola.

Those who come to this state and fail to explore the paved town-maintained roads are missing the true essence of Vermont. These local routes follow the contours of the land as they cut through forest, fields, and small villages creating a montage in a rider’s eye that no tourism brochure is capable of representing.

In operation since 1801, the Grafton Inn is a genuine stage-coach inn.

In operation since 1801, the Grafton Inn is a genuine stage-coach inn.

Continuing on Westminster Road to Saxtons River, I follow Routes 112 and 35 upstream to Grafton. This road was built in 1814 and hasn’t changed much since. The original Grafton Village Cheese factory and “caves” are located here; their retail store is next to the Grafton Inn. This is an original stagecoach inn established in 1801 along the Boston-to-Montreal route where notables Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Daniel Webster, Rudyard Kipling, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson often stayed. Things change, yet remain the same: Route 35 from Grafton to Chester is an authentic stage-road lined with stonewalls and centuries-old maple trees.

Rt. 11 twists along the Williams Middle Branch River most of the way to Londonderry. After crossing Rt. 100 and riding a mile up the hill I pull into the Taylor Farm. This has become a tourist attraction, however, it remains a working, multi-generational, family farm where the Wrights produce about 1,000-pounds of their famous handmade, European-style gouda a week using raw milk from their own herd of Holstein and Jersey cows.

Back down the hill and north on Rt. 100 takes me through Weston, a popular tourist destination. Usually I’d stop at the Vermont Country Store for some old-fashion candy, but today simply continue on Rt. 155 following the border of the Green Mt. National Forest. In Tarbellville—one of those small hamlets that no longer exist, yet still are named on maps—I turn right onto Tarbellville/Healdville Rd. and ride across a bucolic agricultural landscape until reaching the Crowley Cheese factory.

Crowley Cheese Factory: One of the few surviving heritage cheeses is still made in the factory barn that was built in 1882.

Crowley Cheese Factory: One of the few surviving heritage cheeses is still made in the factory barn that was built in 1882.

Prior to the arrival of the railroads and the invention of refrigerated railcars in the 1860’s, milk couldn’t be shipped to distant markets. The solution was to convert milk into butter and cheese. Different community dairies developed unique local cheeses, but only a handful of these “heritage cheeses” have survived to our modern era. Made of raw cows’ milk from the neighboring Carabeau Farm, Crowley is a curd/granular cheese that is neither cheddar nor colby. The recipe has remained unchanged since 1824 and the cheeses are still made by hand in the rustic factory barn that Winfred Crowley constructed in 1882. As with most Vermont artisanal cheeses, there are no chemical additives, no preservatives, and the cows are certified BST and BGH free. The ultra-sharp Crowley is my favorite.

Cheese factory in the background, the general store in Plymouth was where the U.S. Government operated during President Coolidge’s summer vacations.

Cheese factory in the background, the general store in Plymouth was where the U.S. Government operated during President Coolidge’s summer vacations.

My next stop is just eight miles away, “as the crow flies,” but since my motorcycle doesn’t have wings, I must first go to Ludlow before turning north on Route 100. This portion of Route 103 was once the Crown Point Military Road built by Roger’s Rangers in 1759 to enable the British army to move through the frontier wilderness on their way to capturing Fort Ticonderoga and then Montreal. After passing a series of beautiful mountain lakes—Rescue, Echo, and Amherst—strung along Route 100, I turn onto Route 100A and immediately climb through Plymouth Notch.

Cheese maker Jesse Werner uses the original Coolidge recipes to make this cheddar.

Cheese maker Jesse Werner uses the original Coolidge recipes to make this cheddar.

Plymouth is a tiny village of about two-dozen structures. It was the home of the 30th President of the United States—John Calvin Coolidge, Jr.—where he was sworn into office by his father, and where the government of the United States was run during the summer months he vacationed here. One of these structures is a large barn where the President’s father founded the Plymouth Cheese Company in 1890. There’s no record of our 30th President actually making cheese, but it’s easy to imagine. Calvin Coolidge is buried in the Notch Cemetery alongside his father and his son, but the business founded by the Coolidge family lives on as Plymouth Artisan Cheese. Here in the hills of southern Vermont things do change, yet somehow stay the same.

Twisting down through Pinney Hollow to Bridgewater Corners, I follow the banks of the Ottuaquechee River to the up-scale village of Woodstock. I could have stopped for lunch at the Long Trail Brewery or the White Cottage Snack Bar, but continue into downtown to Mountain Creamery. This farm-family owned restaurant is famous for homemade ice cream and the apples for the pies come from their own orchard.

Plymouth had a gold rush-- some people got rich—and the precious metal can still be panned from the streams in this area.

Plymouth had a gold rush– some people got rich—and the precious metal can still be panned from the streams in this area.

Route 12/Elm St. takes me over the iron bridge and through the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park. Bearing right at the Y, and also at the Teago General Store, I climb the mountain on an enticing road. Over terrain shaped by glaciers and raging floods, my ancestors simply followed the path of least resistance when establishing routes from one town to the other. From an eagle’s viewpoint I’m following valleys, even as they climb in elevation, and then descending along the same.

Panoramic views while riding past the paint-flaking Georgian-columned town clerk’s office almost makes me forget to slow down. I lean into a right corner and immediate cut a 90-degree left turn at Hewitt’s Corner. Make sure to slow down on the final descent of Howe Hill Road: the narrow railway underpass is quickly followed by a stop on pavement that is normally strewn with sand.

The afternoon sun throws tree shadows across the pavement and my view of the rocky White River flickers like pioneer cinematography while heading north on Rt. 14 to South Royalton.

Rt. 110 has one of the highest concentrations of covered bridges in New England. This is Mill Bridge in Tunbridge.

Rt. 110 has one of the highest concentrations of covered bridges in New England. This is Mill Bridge in Tunbridge.

Route 110 twists north through the Piedmont along the First Branch White River and has one of the highest concentrations of covered bridges found in Vermont. One of my favorite sport-touring roads, it goes through Tunbridge and Chelsea to climb to Washington Heights before dropping to the plateau that is the Barre pluton. The granite quarries that made it famous can be seen in the distance.

Will’s Store in Chelsea is a classic and the building a rare double Georgian-style.

Will’s Store in Chelsea is a classic and the building a rare double Georgian-style.

 

Instead of turning left in East Barre to visit the Vermont Creamery in Websterville, a right onto Rt. 302 is chosen. Now I pick up the pace along the William Scott (the “Sleeping Sentinel”)—Highway until entering the gorge on the South Branch Wells River. This downhill approach to Groton is deceptive and must be treated with caution.

At the bottom of the hill, a left puts me onto another favorite: Rt. 232 through Groton State Forest. This is road is a sport rider’s dream where blind corners, bolder-strewn shoulders, turning traffic, moose, bear, deer, extremely tight corners, and narrow pavement can quickly turn it into the worst of nightmares. It spits me out at US Rt. 2 above the village of Marshfield. Down the hill and right across from the village store puts me on Rt. 215.

This ecologically responsible dairy processes a million pounds of milk a day, 24/7.

This ecologically responsible dairy processes a million pounds of milk a day, 24/7.

The village of Cabot has a population of only 233, yet the Cabot Creamery has 40,000 paying visitors taking their creamery tour every year. To paraphrase a line in the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”

Cabot sets the standard for cheddar and the very best, like this Artisan Reserve, is available only at their retail outlets.

Cabot sets the standard for cheddar and the very best, like this Artisan Reserve, is available only at their retail outlets.

     Cabot Cooperative Creamery started in 1919 when 94 dairy farms kicked in $5 per cow and a cord of wood. The creamery now processes a million pounds of milk and produces 84,000 pounds of cheese a day, 24/7. Cabot sets the standard for sharp cheddars and their specialty aged cheddars have won all the top awards in the world.

I return to Marshfield and continue on US Rt. 2, following the lazy brown Winooski River towards Montpelier. After passing through Plainfield the first right turn takes me up the driveway to Willow Moon Farm. This is a mother-daughter team that has been milking goats since 2006. Their feta, blue, tomme, gouda, and ash-ripened goat cheese are all made by hand– the herb and garlic chèvre is impressive.

This ecologically responsible dairy processes a million pounds of milk a day, 24/7.

This ecologically responsible dairy processes a million pounds of milk a day, 24/7.

Goat cheese has become an economically viable farmstead product in Vermont.

Goat cheese has become an economically viable farmstead product in Vermont.

It is getting late, but it’s only 45 minutes to Hotel Vermont in Burlington. Tomorrow I’ll be visiting the ultimate farmstead cheese operation: Shelburne Farms. However, tonight will be spent in downtown savoring the state’s most vibrant food scene.

 

Located in downtown Burlington, Hotel VT is the premier boutique hotel in the state.

Located in downtown Burlington, Hotel VT is the premier boutique hotel in the state.

[Note: cheese names have not capitalized because they are not from the geographic region for which they are named.]

Shelburne Farms: Formerly the Vanderbilt-Webb estate, the castle-like Great Barn is where the cheese making is done.

Shelburne Farms: Formerly the Vanderbilt-Webb estate, the castle-like Great Barn is where the cheese making is done.

Ultimate Cheeseboard: 2015 VT Cheesemakers Festival

Shelburne clothwrapped cheddar-72Today is the annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, which is being held at Shelburne Farms just south of Burlington. The 3,800-acre property was created in 1886 as a Gilded-Era summer estate and progressive farm by Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt—granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt—and William Seward Webb, a railroad magnate and financier. In 1972 the Webb family donated 1,400 core acres and three significant historical buildings to created a non-profit educational center for sustainability. It is now listed as a National Historic Landmark District and operates as a working farm.

The Great Barn

The Great Barn

After passing through the manned gate, and cruising down the dirt road, a grand Bavarian-styled castle comes into view. This, however, is not the main house, but the Great Barn with a walled courtyard that is two acres in extent. Built to house early 20th century agricultural machinery, farm workshops, and offices it now is the McClure Center for school programs, and independent elementary school, the farmstead cheese factory, an independent organic bakery, a furniture shop, and the farm’s administrative offices.

The Inn at Shelburne Farms

The Inn at Shelburne Farms

Winding across a landscape of fields and woodlands designed by Frederick Law Olmstead—the same person who designed Central Park in New York and Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina—the main house (now the Inn at Shelburne Farms) finally comes into view. Set on the rise of Saxtons Point, the vista of Lake Champlain against the backdrop of the Adirondack Mountains is absolutely stunning.

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Moto-Foodie In Milwaukee: Day 3

Early morning view of downtown from my bedroom window at the Iron Horse Hotel.

Early morning view of downtown from my bedroom window at the Iron Horse Hotel.

Dawn arrived. Sipping my first coffee of the day, I watched commuters as they headed into downtown via the Second Street Bridge and especially noted the motorcycle traffic. This is a biker-friendly city—Harley-Davidson has seen to that—but is also very laidback, even with its pervasive undercurrent of creative energy.

Carrie Woods from Visit Milwaukee picked me up at the Iron Horse Hotel and we headed along the lakeshore on N. Lincoln Memorial Drive to the old Milwaukee River Flushing Station. Built in 1880, the flushing station was designed to pump 500-million gallons of water per day from the lake into the Milwaukee River to “flush” stagnant pollutants and sewage down the river. The electric motor, installed in 1912, continues to push water through the 12-foot diameter, 2,534-foot-long tunnel to increase the flow of the river during summer month. However, we were here for breakfast.

Milwaukee Flushing Station pump.

Milwaukee Flushing Station pump.

Alterra-at-the-Lake [1701 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive, www.alterracoffee.com, 414-223-4551] is a café in the old pump house. It might seem to be an unusual place to open a coffee shop, but the inside is quirky while the outside setting is idyllic and, sitting on the sunny terrace sipping a double cappuccino, Carrie related this local foodie success story. Alterra Coffee Roasters was founded in 1993 by two brothers and a friend simply because they wanted a good cup of coffee. They established themselves as an early promoter of the Fair Trade Movement and became noted for their green building initiatives—their local stand-alone shops are 100% alternative energy powered. They’ve since grown to become a global brand (Mars Inc./Flavia).

Alterra-on-the-Lake is 100% energy self-sufficient.

Alterra-on-the-Lake is 100% energy self-sufficient.

Wisconsin is a long way from the ocean, but with a long stretch of gorgeous sand beach and waves large enough to surf the only thing missing is the tang of salt air. N. Lincoln Memorial Drive follows the lakeshore; when it ended we headed back along the edge of the bluff, stopping at the landmark North Point Light House and then the Victorian Gothic-style water tower.

Lake Michigan beach.

Lake Michigan beach.

We cruised down Brady Street, another unique neighborhood noted for its restaurants, bars, and the Oriental Theater—it features the longest continuous run of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” We continued south through East Town before crossing the Milwaukee River into Westown. The various names of different districts gives the impression that Wisconsin’s largest city is spread over vast distances, but this simply isn’t so; everything is surprisingly close together. Furthermore, its population has actually decreased from a peak of 750,000 in the 1960’s to 600,000 today and at times its wide city streets seemed almost devoid of traffic. Milwaukee feels more like a large town than a city.

Old World 3rd Street

Old World 3rd Street

Old World 3rd Street runs between W. Juneau- and W. Wisconsin Avenue. These five blocks are a historic district where one can discover the Wisconsin Cheese Mart –world’s largest selection of Wisconsin cheese; Usinger’s Famous Sausage—fourth generation of this German family in their original store; Mader’s Restaurant – perhaps the most famous German restaurant in the United States; and Buck Bradley’s— featuring the longest bar in Wisconsin at 75-feet. Wandering down the street to Pere Marquette Park, I spied an interesting building and, after peering through the window, couldn’t resist going inside to inspect the 22-ton circular vault doors. The Milwaukee County Historical Society resides in what once was the Second Ward Savings Bank, one of the first 12 Federal Reserve banks established in 1913. Beautifully restored, it was used for one of the settings in “Public Enemies” starring Johnny Depp. However, the vaults are now empty: I checked.bank vault_9471-72

From Old World 3rd St. in Westown we headed to a special treat in East Town—a journey of four blocks—we should have walked.

The Grohmann Museum (c. 2007) [1001 N. Broadway St., www.msoe.edu/museum, 414-277-7139] is part of the Milwaukee School of Engineering and houses one of the most notable art collection in the world. The theme is Man At Work with over 900 European and American paintings from the early 17th to late 20th century forming the core of the exhibit. Yes, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Brueghel, Monet, Remington, Sargent, and other famous artists are represented, but it is the content, the documentation of the transition from agrarian society to the modern industrial world that was so captivating. I had the rare opportunity to view the sculpture and stained glass in Dr. Eckhart Grohmann’s private office and museum director James Kieselburg explained their relationship to the exhibited artworks. I would have been content spending the entire afternoon in this museum.

James Kieselburg, Director of the Grohmann Museum.

James Kieselburg, Director of the Grohmann Museum.

A quick stroll was taken through the Pfister Hotel (424 E. Wisconsin Ave.), a four-diamond property that contains the largest collection of Victorian paintings of any hotel in the world, and around the block past Dick’s Pizza & Pleasure. There were a number of tantalizing places where we could have had lunch, but the best burgers in the city were to be found on the north side of the Memomonee River.

Sobelman’s Pub & Grill [1900 W. St. Paul Ave., www.milwaukeebestburgers.com, 414-931-1919] is located in one of the city’s original Schlitz taverns. Despite being sandwiched between Interstate 794 and the industries along the Memomonee River, the joint was doing a brisk lunch-hour business. It was difficult making a choice from the burger selection, but I finally ordered The Bomb: Black Angus patty—fresh, not frozen—with bacon, fried onions, mushrooms and blue cheese in a bun that is baked locally exclusively for Sobelman’s. I’m usually not a fan of burgers, but if lived in Milwaukee I’d come here at least once a week.

Sobelman's Pub: the best burgers in town.

Sobelman’s Pub: the best burgers in town.

Lakefront Brewery [1872 N. Commerce St., www.lakefrontbrewery.com, 414-372-8800] offers one of the best beer tours you’ll find in a city that’s renown for them, so we headed back up the Milwaukee River. It was a home brewing competition between two brothers that resulted in the founding of the company in 1987. Success required more space and in 1998 they purchased the former power plant of the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company for a dollar. They produced the first certified organic beer in the nation and the first gluten-free beer to receive USDA labeling. Their list of top awards in competitions around the world, even head-to-head against European and Australian brews, is impressive. Eight bucks buys five 6-oz cups of brew to savor in the beer hall and during the entertaining tour. They must have run out of small cups because what I ended up with seemed more like a half-pint.

Lakefront Brewing Co.

Lakefront Brewing Co.

 

cream-city brick and the medallion of an original Pabst ale house.

cream-city brick and the medallion of an original Pabst ale house.

The remainder of my last afternoon in the Cream City was spent doing a random walkabout with camera in hand. Milwaukee is nicknamed “Cream City,” but this has nothing to do with dairy. The distinctive clay found on the western shore of Lake Michigan produces a creamy yellow brick when fired. First used around 1830, these bricks became the primary building material used from the 1850s to 1880s and thus a cream-colored cityscape, rather than a ubiquitous brick red, arose.

 

The best foodie experience was saved for last. Chef David Swanson creates some of the best dishes in the city at Braise [1101 S. Second St., www.braiselocalfood.com, 414-212-8843]. Located on Walker’s Point in the shadow of the Allen-Bradley clock tower this restaurant is part of Braise Culinary School that evolved from Braise RSA (restaurant supported agriculture). David Swanson has been at the forefront of farm-to-table initiatives and his restaurant and culinary school exemplifies the “locavore” movement. The menu depends upon the season and changes almost weekly. My goal was to sample as many small plates as possible while watching the activity in the open kitchen.

Braise

Braise

Braise_9625-72

Walking back to the Iron Horse Hotel with a full belly, the Polish Moon shone brightly behind me. This is the nickname for the second-largest four-faced clock in the world. Placed in the 283-foot high tower of the Allen-Bradley (Rockwell Automation) headquarters, each dial measures over 40 feet in diameter and the clock requires 34.6 kilowatts to operate. It’s a prominent Milwaukee landmark that I frequently used during the past three days when exploring Walker’s Point.

An Internet search shows there are1400 restaurants listed for Milwaukee, but I experienced merely 15, plus checked out another five, during my stay. There are famous restaurants and neighborhood spots only locals know of. Some are in historic properties, others lie behind non-descript storefronts, and local bars often have amazing menus. Ethnic German, Polish, and Mexican cuisine flourishes along with traditional American and fusion, yet the most striking aspect is the widespread commitment to high quality, locally sourced food. [Moto-Foodie in Milwaukee: Day 3 map on Google for more detail go to http://goo.gl/maps/33Hma ]

Motorcycles, beer, and great food: three good reasons to visit Milwaukee.

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Moto-Foodie in Milwaukee: Day 2

skyline in morning_9184-72

My driver picked me in front of the Iron Horse Hotel at 8:15 the next morning and 15 minutes later we arrived at The Plaza.  The Café At The Plaza is a farm-to-table establishment presided over by executive chef Christopher Stoye.  Think open kitchen, diner service, and original Art Deco décor to get an inkling of both the ambiance and attitude of this place.  I managed to put away an astonishing breakfast that featured baked sherried and black-truffled eggs with Gruyere cheese.  The bacon was lean and crisp, the orange juice freshly squeezed, and the potatoes grilled to perfection—the coffee is the only aspect that wasn’t top-notch.

cafe at the plaza_9202-72

Milwaukee is one of the famous American industrial cities that fell into a rapid economic decline, but which is now enjoying a renaissance of art and culture.  Since I couldn’t spend the entire day eating, arrangements were made to see some of the city’s famous sites.

Milwaukee Art Museum_9223-72            My next stop was to witness the morning opening of the city’s most notable piece of modern architecture, the Milwaukee Art Museum designed by Santiago Calatrava.  On the south end of Veteran’s Park, the museum’s huge reception hall looks over Lake Michigan and is covered by the Burke Rise Soleil, a giant sunscreen that opens like a pair of wings with a span equal to that of a Boeing 747.  It was pretty spectacular with the white wings rising against the backdrop of blue water as if the building was a seabird about to take flight.

Located in the Walker’s Point district, Clock Shadow Creamery (538 S. 2nd St.) is one of the few urban creameries in the nation.  Wisconsin is famous for its cheese and Bob Wills produces ethnic cheeses like quark (a German soft cheese) mozzarella, and cheese curds.  All of his products are produced from hormone-free milk from farms just outside the city.  After sampling some interesting cheeses, walking almost diagonally across the street brought me to the Milwaukee Brewing Company (613 S. 2nd St.). This micro-brewery produces Polish Moon (a milk stout), Pull Chain (pale ale), Booyah (ale), Admiral Stache (Baltic Porter), and seasonal specials.  Although it resembles almost every other microbrewery I’ve seen, the hip atmosphere of the place can almost be tasted in their brews. MKE Brewing_9276-72Clock Shadow Creamery_9242-72

The Coquette Café (316 N. Milwaukee St.) in East Town is a French bistro, so naturally I ordering Escargot de Bourgogne (burgundy snails baked in garlic-parsley butter) as an appetizer—and they absolutely nailed it.  An extremely delightful salad of leaf spinach with pears, pecans, and blue D’Auvergne cheese with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing and a sampling of the house smoked salmon carpaccio didn’t leave much room for the delicious main course: caramelized onion goat cheese ravioli with oyster mushrooms, walnuts, fried sage, and Grana Padano chees). Coquette Cafe_9295-72Coquette Cafe_9286-72

A digestive break in order, it was off to tours some more architecture. This time it was a tour of the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion (2000 W. Wisconsin Ave.).  Built in 1892 by the nouveau-rich sea captain who became a beer baron, this mansion is the jewel of the Gilded Age in Milwaukee.  The conservatory, converted into a chapel during the ownership of the Roman Catholic dioceses, was originally constructed for the Columbia Exposition (a.k.a. Chicago World’s Fair) in 1893.  Made of terra cotta, it was disassembled, moved, and attached to the mansion.  It’s the only surviving structure from this famous exposition.

bust of Pabst_9318-72Pabst mansion_9307-72Pabst mansion_9319-72Pabst grave_9332-72Pabst Ale House_KJA9069            Riding from the mansion to Forest Home Cemetery I get to see that Frederick Pabst ended up among his peers: August Krug and his successor, Joesph Schlitz; Valentin Blatz; and Jacob Best.  This beautiful setting in South Side holds the remains of other notable historical figures, including Arthur, William, and Walter Davidson.

Best Place_9371-72          To learn a bit more about the good captain, I headed over to the Best Place Tavern at the Historic Pabst Brewery (901 W. Juneau Ave) to meet beer historian Jim Haertel.  This piece of nearly derelict property contains the original Blue Ribbon Hall, styled after a 17th-century German gasthaus, and the Pabst corporate offices that are slowly being restored by Jim and his wife Karen.  I’m graciously given a tour—a glass of local beer in hand—while Jim expounds on the history of this iconic company. I learn how Empire Brewing evolved into Best Brewing and how it became Pabst in 1889. Pabst stopped making beer in 1996 and now contracts production of their InBev brands— Pabst, Schlitz, Colt 45, St. Ides, Lone Star, Olympia, Pearl, Piels, Stroh’s, Heilmans—to Miller.  Looking out the windows I see the old brewery that has been transformed into the exquisite boutique Brewhouse Inn & Suites (1215 N. 10th St.).         Brewhouse Inn_9369-72

It was time for supper and Rumpus Room (1030 N. Water St.) has a style I can only describe as a synthesis of nouveau-Victorian yuppie and steampunk.  With 24 beers—including some hard-to-find craft brews—on tap, rare bourbons, and aged whiskeys it’s no surprise that this establishment draws crowds.  The menu offered enough delectable dishes to make ordering a painful choice. Finally I settled on a beer cheese soup of Carr Valley cheddar and Weiss beer followed by carpaccio with ruby red grapefruit segments, arugula, citrus vinaigrette, and Montamore cheese. Realizing that I was being repetitive, but not caring, the entrée chosen was a penne pasta tossed with a mushroom ragout and rosemary in parmesan cream sauce.  I vainly attempted to finish the goat cheese cheesecake—a walnut crust and covered with saba— but failed.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You can’t fool me easily.  I know that snails, truffles, and blue D’Auvergne cheese come from France and that grapefruit and pecans don’t grow in Wisconsin.  However, each restaurant on my moto-foodie tour was/is committed to supporting local and regional food producers and takes their gastronomy very seriously.  I can’t wait to see what’s on tomorrow’s menus.

MKE Brewing_9271-72

Best Place_9381-72

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Café At The Plaza, 1007 N. Cass St., www.cafeattheplaza.com, (414) 276-2101

Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 N. Art Museum Dr., www.mam.org, (414) 224-3200

Clock Shadow Creamery, 138 W. Bruce St.

Milwaukee Brewing Co., 613 S. 2nd St., www.mkebrewing.com/tours/

Coquette Café, 316 N. Milwaukee St., www.coquettecafe.com, (414) 291-2655

Capt. Frederick Pabst Mansion, 2000 W. Wisconsin Ave., www.pabstmansion.com, (414) 931-0808

Best Place Tavern, 901 W. Juneau Ave., www.bestplacemilwaukee.com, (414) 223-4709

Rumpus Room, 1030 N. Water St., www.rumpusroommke.com, (414) 292-0100

 

Moto-Foodie in Milwaukee: Day 1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA          It’s no secret that Milwaukee is a biker-friendly town or that it was once known as the “beer capital of the world.”  Most of us have, at one time or another, been on a first-name basis with Miller, Schlitz, Pabst, and Blatz, but the renaissance of craft beer and the amazing foodie scene in Wisconsin’s largest city are excuse were enough for me to linger a couple of extra days before heading home.

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The Safe House: Milwaukee’s Well-Known, Best-Kept Secret

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arriving at the safe house

We could barely see through the blacked-out windows of the van as our driver rolled slowly down the narrow alley past a line of overflowing trash bins, but were able to smell the river when we stopped at a non-descript doorway. This late in the evening the dim glow of a single lamp mounted on the yellow brick wall barely illuminated the small bronze plaque that read, International Exports, Ltd. / 779 Front St. / Estab. 1968. Clad in a London Fog trench coat, our driver merely indicated the heavy door and we quickly stepped through into a small room. Two women barred our way and demanded the password. We had arrived at the Safe House.

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credentials & password

 

 

 

This wasn’t London, nor was it a James Bond film, but it might as well have been. This was our first night in Milwaukee and while we could find people who admitted knowing about this long-established watering hole, not a soul would tell more or divulge the password. Even our driver claimed that he wasn’t privy to it.

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Stuffed Like A Duck

By anyone’s standards we were late for supper.  Belt Drive Betty’s plane landed in Quebec City behind schedule and after getting her situated in a sidecar taxi from Éco-Mobilité we rode east to Point-au-Pic as dusk became night. Quickly changing from motorcycle leathers to more formal attire we met our hosts in the Fairmont Manoir Richelieu’s elegant Charlevoix restaurant.  This wasn’t to be a normal dining experience. Under the guidance of executive chef Patrick Turcot we were there to learn how to prepare one of the hotel’s signature recipes: smoked foie gras with honey glazed apples and cider mistelle.

Manoir Richelieu-KJA

Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu

frying foie gras-KJA

frying foie gras

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