"Food Lovers' Guide to Wisconsin" plates up state's best food
Milwaukee's got an amazing food scene – and so does Madison. Even the likes of Chefs Rick Tramonto and Michael White know that. And anyone who's traveled the highways and byways of the Badger State knows that there are sumptuous meals to be had all over Wisconsin.
So, it's fair to say that Globe Pequot Press' "Food Lovers' Guide to Wisconsin: The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings," written by veteran Milwaukee scribes Pam Percy and Martin Hintz, is overdue.
The book, out now in paperback, has more than 300 pages chock full of tidbits about the best places to dine in Wisconsin.
The authors have written numerous books about food and farming in the state and are members of Slow Food USA and the Food Council of Milwaukee – they also raise chickens and have a small farm – so they know their subject matter well.
We asked Hintz about the book and the research that went into it.
OnMilwaukee.com: Tell us about how you came to write this book.
Martin Hintz: One of our publishers, Globe Pequot, asked if we'd take on the assignment. The book is part of its Food Lovers Guide series, with titles covering cities and states around the country. Globe Pequot also did our "Wisconsin Cheese: A Cookbook and Guide to the Cheeses of Wisconsin" in 2008.
OMC: Did it seem like a daunting task at the start?
MH: Daunting only in the necessity to eat our way across the state in order to meet the publisher's deadline. All those platters of goodies were only for research purposes, of course. I've also written a number of other Wisconsin guides, such as 10 editions of "Off the Beaten Path: Wisconsin," for this publisher.
Subsequently, we knew of numerous great eateries from over the years of roaming Wisconsin. We also received many tips, leads and suggestions from friends in the state's travel and tourism world, city/town officials, pals in the Farm Bureau of Wisconsin – of which I'm a Milwaukee County board member – and many others who offered ideas. We also write for a number of food-related publications and are members of Slow Food USA and the Food Council of Milwaukee.
OMC: How much time did you spend on the road visiting other parts of the state?
MH: Hard to say, since we've been covering the state for so many years. It was a combination of roaming hither and yon, plus updating and confirming details via phone on places we already knew about and had visited previously. The process provided an opportunity to catch up with chefs, restaurant owners and purveyors we have met over the years and to meet new folks who also love food and do a grand job preparing it.
OMC: Were you surprised by what you found?
MH: Nope. Wisconsin has a plethora of great places to eat. We could probably do several more volumes on this, we just scratched the surface. Just about every town and hamlet in the state has one, two or more marvelous place to chow down. Wisconsinites are serious about their food, with restaurants and chefs standing up to the world's best. Folks here generally value good, healthy stuff, not just the deep fried pickles at the Wisconsin State Fair.
OMC: It's no surprise, perhaps, though, that Milwaukee and its 'burbs take up a big chunk of the book, is it?
MH: Since many of the state's top eateries are in Milwaukee and Madison, it made sense to devote more space to these cities and their contiguous suburbs.There are so many marvelous dining opportunities around here, that it's hard to keep up. But it's fun trying. Oh, oh, that reminds me: it's back to the treadmill.
OMC: If you could pick only one place to eat in the book, where would it be?
MH: Where I'm eating at that particular time.
OMC: And, one dish?
MH: If it doesn't move, it's usually worthy of eating if prepared by a serious Wisconsin chef. At least for me.
OMC: And for the win, who's got the best fish fry in the state, according to you and Pam?
MH: Will not get into foodie politics on this because we want to revisit fish fries around Wisconsin on further culinary adventures. But a nod around Milwaukee goes to O'Lydia's. We've never been disappointed there. And, oh, the fish sandwiches with tomato and lettuce tucked between those gloriously huge buns one discovers at Kopp's. Don't forget the fudge malt! Why not be decadent once in a while?
Since we also wrote about purveyors, you can make marvels with the trout from the Rushing Waters Fisheries in Palmyra. The company can usually be found at the winter farmer's market in the Mitchell Park Conservatory Domes. In addition, the Outpost Exchange has Lake Superior whitefish to die for when they are in season. For a twist, Door County's fish boils are also fun. As for fish, it's all brain food, aina?
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