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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014

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In addition to a great latte, the Cedarburg Coffee Roastery sells a very friendly Monster.
In addition to a great latte, the Cedarburg Coffee Roastery sells a very friendly Monster.

A Monster I'd like to be friends with

I have long been on a search for the ideal cookie. Sacrificing to test many along the way, my sweet tooth and preoccupation with dessert has led me to try the baked circles of bakeries, diners and cafes across the city.

My criteria are debatable with likes and dislikes swaying with each individual cookie. In short, my main hope is that the cookie with be a soft dough packed with texture and oozing a junket ingredients. 

Therefore, Alterra's Cowboy, City Market's Oatmeal Raisin and Beans and Barley's Cocomo Joe rank at the head of my class.

But just when I thought all great combinations had been discovered, I found a cookie today that may just top them all.

The Cedarburg Coffee Roastery in the Public Market offers just one cookie; and after just a few bites, I've come to see that it's really the only one they need. The "Monster Cookie" is a six inch wide cookie stuffed with oats, coconut, M&M's, chocolate chips and peanut butter. Taking top marks in texture, flavor and consistency, I recommend wholeheartedly to anyone with a flair for something sweet.

 

Madison hosts a farmers market every Saturday on the Capitol Square.
Madison hosts a farmers market every Saturday on the Capitol Square.

Where's our "Madison" farmers market?

In Milwaukee, there's a farmers market pretty much every day of the summer. Between the market in West Allis, Downtown, East Side, East Town, Riverwest and Bay View, not to mention markets running independently in almost every surrounding suburb, you can nearly always find farm fresh produce somewhere.

But while each of these supports the local economy and provides a good selection of vegetables, bakery and indie-made goods, where's our "Madison"-style farmers market?

For those who have experienced it, you can attest that the Saturday morning farmers market on Madison's Capitol Square is on another level.

Four blocks of vendors from across the state vie for a spot each and every year at Madison's farmers market. In addition to produce, you can find meats, cheeses, baked goods, honey, flowers, succulents and fresh pasta. In addition to groceries, there are musicians, artisans, food vendors and street performers.

You can spend the entire morning wandering in the crowds, overwhelmed with the spectacle of Wisconsin pride and sampling the best of local produce.

So, why are our farmer's markets so much tamer? Do we have too many spread throughout the city that no single market draws the crowds Madison can? Do we prefer the quick in and out?

Northpoint Custard serves more than just the basic burger.
Northpoint Custard serves more than just the basic burger.

Lunch at the Lake

I had lunch yesterday at NorthPoint Custard and although it's a simple burger and custard stand, it was one of the best sandwiches I've had this summer. And I didn't even have a burger.

Northpoint Custard, which opened earlier this year just south of Bradford Beach, reveals Bartolotta's ability to shift culinary expertise into a simple, precise menu of burgers, sandwiches, custard and fried sides.

In what turned out to be a beautiful afternoon, the patio was packed with area employees out for a lunch-hour bite. Ordering at the counter, service is quick and efficient. Drinks and food are served out of a separate window with a ticket number system.

I had the portabella sandwich; a full portabella mushroom head grilled and topped with Boursin cheese and sprouts on a toasted, buttered bun. Stealing bites from my fellow diners, I tried tastes of fried cheese curds, onion rings and a tall stacked beef burger.

Perfect for the last sunny days of summer, I'd highly grabbing a snack, lunch or sundae at this new lakefront custard shop.

Door County cherries are tart but perfect for cooking and baking.
Door County cherries are tart but perfect for cooking and baking.

Plucking something sweet off the farm

Yes, truth be told, berry picking has suddenly become my new precursor to cooking, baking and eating this summer.

In the past, I may have partaken in the occasional blackberry picking up at my cottage but I never really intentionally set out to hunt, find and pick pints of berries.

But this summer, starting with cherry picking in Door County, I've found myself mentally driven for berry picking more than once.

In Door County, it was of course classic cherries. Near Milwaukee, it's been raspberries.

On the way to Washington Island, we stopped to pick a measly gallon or two of Door County cherries. Shocked at the deal ($5 a bucket) and the sheer number of cherry trees lining the back farm, we filled two buckets.

Thirty minutes of picking proved to be enough, giving us more than enough cherries for two makes of cherry salsa, a cherry pie and cherry pecan muffins.

Closer to Milwaukee, a friend found Jelli's Market, N5648 S. Farmington Rd., in Farmington, and graciously (and with slight hesitation) shared the location of this new found stash of fresh raspberry bushes. Family owned and operated, Jellies Market is your basic pick-and-purchase small farm.

Teaming with six or seven rows of raspberry bushes, we've gone almost weekly to find hordes of sweet raspberries ripe for the picking. Willing to withstand dozens of mosquito bites, the occasional bee sting and the prickly stems of the raspberry plant, I can vouch that these berries are seriously that good.

So, this is your warning now. The season has almost passed us by; get out and go a step further than the farmer's market by picking your own produce.