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Cherries and Sunsets on a Wisconsin Peninsula

It’s been a long time since I’ve taken a spontaneous trip, one that’s planned the day before heading out for a long weekend to a place I’ve never visited.

Art gallery on a pier and a gorgeous wooden sailboat rocks gently in the wind next to it in Ephraim, WI.

Recently we had a long weekend and wanted to go towards the fresh air and open spaces, new adventures and new places. I always feel more alive after something like that. Nature has that sort of no-need for caffeine effect on me–and for those who know me, coffee is more a part of my life than I’d like to admit.

Adirondacks send the message that relaxing in this place is totally acceptable

About five-hours drive northeast of Chicago is an area of our neighboring state called Door County, WI. It’s a unique peninsula that juts out into the waters of the famous Green Bay to the west and Lake Michigan to the east. Filled with orchards, farmstands, art galleries, cottages and cabins, sailboats and piers, plus every outdoor activity imaginable, it’s hard to believe such a small piece of land supports all of these pleasurable things to do and see for a family-friendly getaway.

Sailboats decorate the harbor at Sister Bay, WI, which is a lively and bustling are of restaurants, shops and aquatic events.

Tennison Bay is inside Peninsula State Park and is quite a popular place to watch a sunset

I just never thought a peninsula in Wisconsin would steal a piece of my heart as I ran north to find all of that.

Old-fashioned it is!  Door County Cherry Pie at the Door County Ice Cream Factory and Sandwich Shoppe

 

Did I mention that Door County is kind of a hot spot for foodies? It’s true–and we made sure to try whatever was halal, and the rest we made ourselves.

One thing I always like to find out before going somewhere new is what the place is famous or well-known for in culinary and historical terms, often times both things go hand in hand.

In the case of Door County, since it was settled by a variety of immigrants spanning from Iceland, Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway) and France, there is some really interesting architectural and culinary remnants left behind from the eras in which these folks settled the place.

Smoked fish is one of those.

Smoked fish from Charlie’s Smokehouse in Gills Rock, WI. I love the eco-friendly use of newspaper to wrap up the fish.

Just for two of us, this was a great price and plenty of food to have a taste of something local.

We stopped by a nearby product stand and picked up some super-fresh locally grown tomatoes. I mean really local.

This produce stand known today as Wildwood Market, used to be migrant housing for the pickers of produce .

Today it’s a large produce stand run by Mary Pat Carlson and her family. Customers can find not only what’s seasonal, but absolutely local- they have a garden and orchards on the premises. I even saw Mary Pat go into the garden next to the stand to pick more produce for a customer who requested something specific. It doesn’t get more local or fresh than that.

I brought my tomato picks back to our cabin and made a beautiful, tasty salad with them plus a few ingredients I brought from home: olive oil, pink sea salt, dried parsley and freshly ground black pepper.

I can’t forget this fragrant garlic I also found at Mary Pat’s Wildwood Market. It was so fresh the dirt was still on it. When cut, the smell was pungent, but not repulsive like some garlic can be. It made all the difference in my salad.

The olive oil made gave a glistening effect to the salad and it was still warm enough outside to feel like eating something as cool as a salad.

At Charlie’s a woman working there instructed me to process the fish by removing the skin and the somewhat small bones. Other than that, it was ready to go as purchased. If we wouldn’t be eating it for a couple of hours, it would need to be refrigerated.

What might look more like a lunch, actually ended up being a light breakfast with views of the serene bay.

The salad was so delicious and went perfectly with the fish and some black beans that were quick and easy to prepare for breakfast.

Exploring

One of the places we explored was Peninsula State Park. By visiting our nation’s great parks, we can really see the natural surroundings and the indigenous species of plants and animals that are so protected by these places. Even architecture is carefully restored and preserved, like this lighthouse below.

 Eagle Bluff Lighthouse in Peninsula State Park

More Local Goodness

Known for its cherry and apple orchards, Door County is the spot to find things made out of these fruits. You can pick fresh fruits when they are in season, but when they’re not, you’ll be sure to find (insha’allah) these fruits in many other forms: jams, jellies, pies, dried and even drinks.

Chopped Cherry Jam and Sweetened & Dried Cherries from Bea’s Ho-Mad Products

 When it comes to pie, there’s no shortage of it here. The only issue for halal consumers is the ingredients- are the bakers using lard to make the crust or any other pork products in the filling?

Mary Pat’s homemade cherry pie- proved to us that if a pie is good enough, two people can knock out an entire pie by themselves

Thankfully for us and our stomachs, Mary Pat from the Wildwood Market was the only one who did not use lard locally in her products. We asked a couple of other places and they were nice enough to tell us that they did, in fact, use lard. I was happy to support Mary Pat in the purchase of this pie, not only because it wasn’t made with lard, but also because it was super-fresh (made the night before), and she was really friendly and talkative to us during our time at her store.

After hunting down some local sources of cherry products, we headed out to find the cheese–natural, raw and as local as possible. Unfortunately, it was all gone before I could snap any photos of it, but I do have a few suggestions:

When in Door County, visit the Savory Spoon Cooking School & Marketplace where you can try the cheeses before purchasing. We bought small amounts of a variety of cheeses so we could sample as many as we like and also have some with fresh bread as a snack and/or with breakfast the next morning.  Some of our favorites were the Dumbarton Blue, Buttermilk Blue and Snow White Goat cheeses. All were raw milk cheeses and all were from Wisconsin cheesemakers.

Our Nightlife

For dinner, we had plenty of options at restaurants, but since grilling is something we don’t get to do so often at home, we decided to take the opportunity to grill at the cottage with the {halal} meat we brought from home, schlepping it all the way from Chicago by suffocating it with ice to make sure it would be safe to eat by the time we got it to a refrigerator.

I brought a 12-pack of Crescent chicken drumsticks, a whole rump of boneless beef and decided I’d figure out what to do with them once I got there. I had a box of my best and most favored spices with me, so I thought it would all come together somehow in skewered, grilled goodness later on.

 What do you think happened?

My husband and I tag-teamed it.

I took care of seasoning all the meat and arranging it–basically instructing how it should be grilled. He set up the grill, got a good fire going and cooked it to perfection.

Masha’allah.

We did this all early on day 2, so that we could have food for the rest of the trip.

It worked. We ate at the cottage and we also took some food with us on a picnic the next day, instead of eating out or spending a lot of precious vacation time in the kitchen.

{I’ll post recipes for my specially-seasoned BBQ chicken drumsticks and Skewered Beef Kebobs as well as the Heriloom Tomato & Chickpea Salad in forthcoming posts since there’s so much information in this one}

Sometimes being on vacation compels you to check things off lists– things you have to say you did just because you were in a place where certain things are common.

In our case it was:

  1. build a fire
  2. eat {halal} s’mores
  3. make popcorn the old-fashioned way
  4. see the stars

So, on our last night there, we decided it was perfect weather to have a small bonfire where we could make s’mores with the halal marshmallows we brought from home, plus make some good-old fashioned popcorn over the stove and enjoy those by the fire, too.

I think we could see every constellation possible out there that night. I’ve never so many stars in my life–and I doubt there are too many places left untouched, uncongested and unpolluted for these kinds of views anymore. Let’s hope- let’s work towards keeping this place as beautiful and natural as it is and make more places in our world as clean and serene as this.

A rocky pier in Ephraim, WI was one of our last stops on our way out. It was such a clear day- look at the blue sky above!

Insha’allah, we’ll be back to visit,  for a longer stay…

 

DOOR COUNTY RESOURCES

Door County, Wisconsin is made up of a variety of small, quaint towns to visit. Among them are Sturgeon Bay, Sister Bay, Ephraim, and Fish Creek. Here’s a short list of some of my favorite spots and those I recommend to see if you’re making a trip to the area.

Garden Fresh, Super Local Produce Stand:

Door County Wildwood Market

2208 Wildwood Road

Sister Bay, WI 54234

tel. 920-421-0995

 

For authentic, local cherry pie filling, try:

Julie’s Park Cafe & Motel

4020 Hwy. 42

Fish Creek, WI 54212

tel. 920.868.2999

 

For great hiking, camping, scenic views, gorgeous sunsets and more:

Peninsula State Park

9462 Shore Road

Fish Creek, WI 54212

tel. 920.868.3258

 

Perfectly smoked freshwater whitefish or Pacific waters salmon:

Charlie’s Smokehouse

12731 State Hwy. 42, Ellison Bay, WI 54210
tel. 920.854.2972 

 

Ice cream is a must during the summer in Door County. I recommend this place because it’s all homemade. I loved the cherry ice cream made from local cherries, of course, so I had to try it.

Door County Ice Cream and Sandwich Shoppe

11051 State Hwy 42

Sister Bay, WI 54234

tel. 920.854.9693

 

For interesting vintage and re-purposed clothes and accessories for a cool shopping experience:

Brilliant Stranger

4192 Main Street

Fish Creek, WI 54212

tel. 920.868.3420

 

To take a cooking class and/or try some fabulous local artisan Wisconsin cheese:

The Savory Spoon Cooking School & Marketplace

12042 Highway 42

Ellison Bay, WI 54210

tel. 920.854.6600

 

Fish Boils are a culinary tradition in Door County. We didn’t have enoguht itme to explore this on our short stay, but if you’re interested, they’re everywhere. Here’s one place that’s been doing it for a very long time:

Old Post Office Restaurant

10040 Water Street, Hwy 42 (overlooking Eagle Harbor)

Ephraim, WI 54211

tel. 920.854.4034

Fish boils require reservations and are served Monday thru Saturday evenings and Sundays on holiday weekends.

 

To find vintage items and artwork by a local  painter,  visit this stone house art gallery:

Alaniz Stone House Gallery Art and Antiques

11537 Hwy 42

Ellison Bay, WI 54210

tel. 920. 854.5106

 

For cherry products such as dried cherries, jams and jellies (their pies are made with lard, so they are not halal):

Bea’s Ho-Made Products

763 State Hwy 42

Ellison Bay, WI 54210

tel. 920-854.2268

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3 comments

  1. salaam alaikum……….sounds lovely, the only thing missing would be some sweet children to share your blessings!
    or maybe not? : )

  2. Were there actual halal options or were you “stuck” with vegetarian/fish options? Either way, it looks like a great vacation!

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