Showing posts with label Door County. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Door County. Show all posts

25 February 2014

Salmon and Asparagus Salad

I'll be turning to this salad more than once in the weeks ahead.

It's Lent and seafood beckons. Looking for something light, I found inspiration in Kalyn's Warm Salmon and Asparagus Salad from the archives at Kalyn's Kitchen in 2006 and have made in a Lenten tradition ever since.  My addition to the recipe consisted of roasted red pepper and sautéed almonds.

I've been a fan of both salmon and asparagus for a long time, and have made asparagus as a side dish for salmon many times. This trumps anything I have done in the past.

14 June 2013

Ephraim, Wis., in Shoulder Season

Just 17 miles across the bay from my kitchen, the village of Ephraim in Wisconsin's Door County is a charming enclave of white clapboard houses and churches, galleries, eateries, fudge shops and harborside parks.

Door County is a peninsula - an island, really - that juts northeastward, separating the bay of Green Bay from the waters of much larger Lake Michigan. It is known for its cherry orchards and farm markets and for its lovely harbors and resorts - and its villages.

When I first discovered Door County as a teenager - in those days, many teens from my town found summer jobs as waitresses and busboys - I was intrigued by the colorful place names north of bustling Sturgeon Bay: Egg Harbor, Fish Creek, Sister Bay, Gills Rock, Northport, Baileys Harbor, Jacksonport and Institute.

Perhaps the most picturesque of Door County's villages is Ephraim, sandwiched between bluff and shore, just north Fish Creek and south of Sister Bay. With its harbor on the bay and its pristine white cottages and shops spilling down the hillside, Ephraim - the name means "doubly fruitful" - feels like a touch of New England in Northeast Wisconsin.

Settle by Moravians in 1853, Ephraim's population of 300 celebrates Fyr Bal, the Swedish welcome to summer, every June with bonfires along the shore and a celebratory spirit throughout the village. Ephraim is a dry community, and my observation is that it is the most family-oriented of Door County's villages.

Because of its long-time popularity as a vacation spot for urban midwesterners, Door County is crowded in summer. Finding a lunch spot in mid-July can be next to impossible. We prefer to visit in shoulder season - spring or fall - when traffic is light and resort rates are low. The photo above was shot mid-week in mid-May, a relatively sleepy time on the Door peninsula.

Door County offers opportunities for boating, golf, shopping, eating and gallery hopping. Especially in summer, cultural opportunities abound. You can see a play, attend a concert, watch a potter at work, or take a course in watercolor or weaving - and much more.

We like to visit galleries and play mini golf. Trying new restaurants - everything from outdoor bistros to traditional supper clubs - is essential, but we also pack a hamper of picnic foods. Visiting Door County farm markets, which offer a plethora of cherry products, is a must. In the past dozen years, a number of wineries have opened on the peninsula, and their tasting rooms are worth a visit.

In spring there is a palpable sense of excitement as the peninsula gears up for the busy summer season. In fall, the wind down begins as the marinas empty of boats, summer staff goes off to school and shops begin to clear their shelves of summer merchandise. It's a bittersweet season but still lovely, especially when the leaves are at peak color in early October.

03 October 2012

Buying Pumpkins in Door County

Shortly after we arrived I set out at sunset with my camera, capturing a fish boil and quaint white buildings at the magic hour, and enjoying a walk in brisk almost-evening air.

Every building, every hotel and resort, every shop and nearly every home is decked in orange ribbon here, and more often than not, cornstalks, hay bales, scarecrows and pumpkins and mums in every color make Door County both picturesque and welcome in the autumn.

Contrived? Maybe. But it's not unlike the window boxes and planters that make every window and odd corner so inviting in France.

When I saw the pumpkin-decorated doorstep of The Whistling Swan, an inn and restaurant near our motel, I was enchanted. You can see for yourself in the previous post. It was dusk, and a couple were leaving the building as I approached. Interior lights glowed a warm welcome. This, I thought, is what this marvelous season should be.

I went hunting for pumpkins. I found one patch to the south, but many more in the more pristine northern end of the peninsula, where quiet country inns and unpretentious farm markets and artist studios prevail over miniature golf and condominiums.

I pulled into one manned by a swarthy, heavy-set man with a ponytail, an old car and a cellphone. He said he grew his pumpkins up the road, but preferred to sell them in an empty lot across from another pumpkin seller.

"I sell them here to tick him off," he said, jerking his head in the direction of the other patch.

I asked him about the pale salmon pumpkins and the ones with warty growths.

"Those are peanut pumpkins," he told me, pointing to the warty ones. "French. And those are heirloom pumpkins."

I bought a flat red pumpkin for five dollars. His phone rang and I left.

Later I saw a green pumpkin atop a deli counter as I was waiting to by cole slaw.

I did some pumpkin research online, and found that both my red pumpkin, which looks more like a wheel of cheese, and the blue one I have at home, are good for pies and other desserts.

My carver this year is a white pumpkin, much like the ones below. I love carving a jack-o-lantern, and this year I will finally have time.

Meanwhile, here is one of my favorite pumpkin desserts from a few years back.

02 October 2012

The Hip Heart of a Healing Peninsula

Surrounded by water, Door County, Wisconsin, has the power to heal a wounded soul. I'm convinced of it.

Miles of shoreline, craggy cliffs, sandy beaches, cherry and apple orchards, gentle farmland, weathered barns and hundreds of white clapboard buildings: That's the foundation of the Door County peninsula. The mini golf courses, condo resorts, motels and chi chi shops and restaurants tell only half the story.

I remember when Door County was quaint, in a good way. It was just about this time of year, when the leaves were flashing brilliant against the blue sky that Vivi, my first college roommate, and I took a day trip to Door County, two naive coeds looking for country and authenticity.

We set out in jeans and lace-up boots, in peasant top and work shirt, in her little tan car, stopping at a farm stand for apples. We cruised into Sturgeon Bay and kept going, looking for the real Door County. We stopped at a church in tiny Egg Harbor, then somnolent in the autumn sun, now bustling with traffic. Stella Maris, Star of the Sea, was the name of the church and it still is today. What drew us was the sound of an organ. The organist talked to us when we entered the church; she was practicing for Sunday, she told us.

We continued north, stopping to browse through red barns filled with antiques, and finding a sunny spot on the beach at Fish Creek to eat our apples.

Fish Creek! For me it has always been the hip heart of the Peninsula, where people from my home town moored their boats on weekends, and where some of my high-school friends found work as waiters and waitresses and dishwashers in the summertime. I'd always wanted to stay there, but when my husband and I began vacationing here two decades ago, we looked for resorts off the beaten track, with whirlpools and spas and water views.

Now, marking a passage in our lives, we have come home to Fish Creek, to a cozy, sunny room in the heart of the quaint old Founder's Square neighborhood. Enjoy the photos!

01 July 2012

A Simple Chèvre, Chive and Green Onion Dip

In the early years of our marriage, my husband and I braved the high-summer crowds to spend the Fourth of July holiday on Wisconsin's Door County Peninsula. With its harbor towns and fishing villages, farmlands and cherry orchards, Door County was and still is the perfect place for that uniquely American holiday.

We browsed the antique stores and quilt shops, buying fudge for dessert and carved shorebirds for our collection. In the evenings we'd drive up into the hills behind the quaint village of Ephraim, where the air was filled with woodsmoke and birdsong.

One night we saw a group of people on a picnic, with tables set up in the sunken foundations of an old farmhouse. I was certain these were the descendants of the original homesteaders, returning to the daily seat to mark Independence Day.

My ancestors were not among the Scandinavians and Belgians who settled Door County; they were among the Irish and French Canadians who settled 17 miles across the Bay of Green Bay. But they too marked the Fourth of July with gatherings at the home of my grandmother in Frenchtown, which with its old barn, garden and ample yard, felt rural, even though it was a block from the neighborhood's commercial center.

Fourth of July at Grandma Annie's will always conjure memories of berry pies, fresh vegetables, grilled chicken and potato chips (all washed down with Coca Cola).

Potato chips are a family weakness. We love them. We love them plain and we love them with dip. So as you must know by now, I love experimenting with dip.

For this holiday's dip, I took a look in my refrigerator and another look in my garden. This is what I came up with:

Chèvre, Chive and Green Onion Dip

  • 1 four-ounce log of chevre, softened
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chives, chopped
  • dash honey-dijon or grainy mustard (optional)
  • dash sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Blend the first three ingredients in a small bowl and allow to soften at room temperature. I used multiple blade herb scissors to chop the chives and the green portion of the onions. Have a bowl of chips at the ready so you can taste test as you go along. The mustard is purely a matter of taste. So are the seasonings. Allow the flavors to marry before serving.

The dip should be rustic - that is, coarse, not smooth. Serve it with fresh green pepper strips, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, bagel chips and of course, potato chips.

07 November 2010

Comfort Food, Comforting Places

Along with concerns over the health of family members during the past 12 months, came some disturbing personal challenges.

No, I did not overcome an addiction (Do they even have 12-step program for Internet surfers?). Nor did I get myself arrested, lose something of value (a job or a friend or a loved one). No, nothing like that. Let's just say I ran across more than my share of people with issues who challenged me and created obstacles and unpleasant situations.

In other words, life was normal.

I found myself craving the little things that comfort me: Scented candles, naps on our cloud-soft sofa, mashed potatoes, rice, walks, books set in quiet villages and soft music. I've been spending a good deal of time on islands, at resorts, and at health-food stores.

Late Friday morning, I drove to Door County, Wisconsin's answer to Cape Cod and the coast of Maine. This time of year, the leaves are mostly on the ground - save for some stubborn oaks - and the lovely bones of this island-cum-peninsula are obvious. On a sunny way, this glorious spit of land jutting into Lake Michigan and Green Bay, these orchards, farms, fields, beaches and villages are awash with an amber glow. On such days, the sky is azure and the berry-yielding trees and bushes are crimson. Driving up hills and down lanes, one sees charms not evident in high summer or peak color season.

I spent no time in the kitchen this weekend, but instead took a few photos of the land and water I wanted to share with you.