501 Front Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601
My lovely parents just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Small feat, huh? Knowing that I wouldn't be able to get them much out of a 40-mile radius from their home in a small southeastern Minnesota city, I decided to take them to the one sure bet that I know in that neck of the woods, Piggy's in La Crosse, WI. They are famous for...wait for it..their pork. They even have a hardwood smoker on site. Now, I am not a big pork fan. But they, like Bin Wine Bar, if you recall, serve a specialty in a flowerpot. The Pork Flower Pot. Pork tips with mushrooms in a Merlot cream sauce with Rotini and Gouda cheese. Who could have come up with a more delectable combination? And who would have known it would be even better as a leftover the next day when all the flavors were left to marinate together? I take back everything I've said about pork. Live jazz on the weekends, too. Perfect for a date, birthday, anniversary, or as my parents like to reminisce, a great place to wait for your teenager attending a concert at the nearby LaCrosse Center. like Huey Lewis and the News or Ratt, when Bon Jovi opened up for them. (If you need more proof my parents have really been married that long.)
501 Front Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601
I used to be a cookbook/cooking magazine addict. Of course I worked in a bookstore in Chicago, so I was privy to seeing every glossy new cover of every Gourmet, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, Southern Living, Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart publication that came out. It was definitely the visual that inspired me to cook. Nowadays, I discovered that there are apps for this. My first one was the Gourmet magazine app. While I was quite taken with the Red, White & Blue Cake in their July "issue" and even baptized my new stove by attempting to replicate it, I also went so far as to scour the bookstores to see if there was an actual paper version. I wanted to hold the picture of the cake in my hands. And have it bigger than the one on my iPhone or Kindle screen. I wanted to have it in my bookshelf when I'm that old lady on the corner with seventeen cats after new technology replaces my current gadgets. Alas, it was a fruitless search. But my new stove, courtesy of the awesome Sears Outlet performed like a charm. You can try this at home yourself. http://www.gourmet.com/recipes/gourmetlive/2012/062712/red-white-and-blue-ice-cream-cake.
Of course, buying a new appliance means you need new gadgets. I was off to Bed, Bath & Beyond and Williams Sonoma to help stimulate the economy. To recap:
One 9-inch Springform pan- $21.99
One Glass Cake Plate - $19.99
One Small Metal Offset Spatula (No, I'd never heard of one either) $14.95
One Flour Sifter - $22.00
$125 worth of other "stuff" from those two stores that I had no intention of buying
= One badass looking cake.
You have to hand it to Wisconsin. They know a way to a consumer's heart is through their stomach. Furniture store in Arcadia? Put a English style pub in it. The local dairy? Put a wine bar in it. Located in Nelson, Wisconsin, just across the Mississippi River, from Wabasha, the Nelson Cheese Factory attracts everyone from the local biker crowd, (judging form all their machines out front) to the families looking for a scoop of ice cream. Sunny summer days find patrons lunching on the shaded patio, indulging a variety of sandwiches, cheese plates and wine. Ironically, they no longer make their own cheese but rather they import from around the world. I'd make a stink about that but they do have an outdoor cheese curd wagon, so I feel as if I can forgive them. Certain weekends they even have live music. Really, I can see the appeal to the masses. You can find almost anything in their deli. They have steel-cut oatmeal from Ireland. Imported chocolates. Pasta, sauces, local meat products. Pretty much anything you need should you host a summer garden party. I've also heard you can adopt a cat from the barn there, but that's just speculation until I can confirm it.
Nelson Cheese Factory
S237 State Road 35 South, Nelson, WI 54756
A Minnesota native returns after 13 years away discovering a whole new food landscape.