So where does the name Door County come from? You can trace it to the area’s most dangerous, mythical feature - Porte des Morts, or as it’s now called, Death’s Door.
The strait linking Lake Michigan and Green Bay, between the tip of the peninsula and Washington Island, was once one of the most notorious, treacherous stretches of water on the Great Lakes. […]
Death’s Door’s reputation for rough waters, unpredictable weather and hidden shoals have made it something of a legend with shipwrecks and accounts of lost lives to back it up.
Another noteworthy occasion -- This was the first time the Foodies have taken our act on the road, and hopefully not the last. Dan and Greg graciously hosted the crew at their beautiful new vacation home in Fish Creek, Wisconsin. (Soon to be available for rentals – this updated Mid-Century Modern classic with unobstructed bay views is a real charmer!)
We enjoyed beautiful summer weather and phenomenal views of the sunset over Green Bay from the deck where we wined, dined, talked and lounged.
So here’s the theme: On the Map. Here’s the twist: we’re supplying a list of places you’ll find on the map of Door County, Wis., grouped by name type. Pick your place for inspiration (either because the ingredient is in the name, or because the place triggers a related food idea) and your course. Bonus points if you do a bit of research about your chosen place and share it with the group!
Egg Harbor; Whitefish Dunes; Sturgeon Bay; Gills Rock; Fish Creek; Strawberry Island; Plum Island; Baileys Harbor
Critters That Not Everyone Eats
Eagle Bluff; Kangaroo Lake; Mink River; Horseshoe Bay
Don’t Take It Literally
Death’s Door; Cave Point; Rock Island; Sister Bay; Moonlight Bay; Ephraim
Foreign Or Domestic?
Gilbraltar; Sevastapol; Institute; Liberty Grove; Washington Island
The Guys certainly gave us a rich well of ideas to draw from, and I’d say the group lived up to the challenge quite well. On Wisconsin*, indeed!
* This is the fight song for the University of Wisconsin’s sportsball teams. It also kicks off our playlist for this post, featuring musicians born in Wisconsin. Hit the Play arrow and please enjoy.
Here are the tasty treats served up by the Foodies along with their inspirational destination:
- Drinks – Karen & Kathleen: Inspiration – Horseshoe Bay. Cocktail – Horseshoe Margarita with Butterfly Pea Flower Tea Cubes
- Appetizers – Ann & Ilise: Inspiration – Egg Harbor. Dish – Pickled Egg Canapés with Fish Roe
- Main Course – Greg & Dan: Inspiration – Liberty Grove. Dish – Wisconsin Fish Boil with Red Fish, Whitefish, and Blue Fish
- Dessert – Ellyn & Mary: Inspiration – Plum Island. Dish – Plum-Raspberry Crumble with Lemon-Goat Milk Gelato and Blueberry-Plum Compote
Karen and I had drinks and cast about for a considerable time, wondering how to link them to a Door County location on Dan and Greg’s list. Finally we decided to randomly select “Horseshoe Bay” and see if we could find a drink with “horseshoe” its name. Boy, were we lucky!
Not only did we find a Horseshoe Margarita, but it is made with Herradura (Spanish: Horseshoe) brand tequila. And we found the bottle in a gift package with a silicone ice cube maker—cubes in the shape of...drumroll, please…horseshoes! From the website, the recipe for one Horseshoe Margarita is 2 parts Herradura Silver, 1 part lime juice, and 1/2 tsp agave nectar.
To the company formula we added 2 healthy shakes of Angostura (per drink) to lend a little depth.
Because this seemed simple enough and we like to complicate things, we decided to use a little chemistry, too. Having recently read about the magic of butterfly pea flowers (it’s a good idea to spell out P-E-A and F-L-O-W-E-R for your dinner companions, as their homophones are not what most people like to associate with cocktails), which react with acids such as lime.
So we made a butterfly pea flower tea (deep blue), and after the water cooled, we made our horseshoe ice cubes with it. As the cubes meet the lime juice and melt, the drink turns from pale green to a pale magenta. Fun, no?
We also associated our wines with Door County locations, including a few Washington [Island] state wines—Charles Smith Wines of Substance Cab was one—Sisters Forever Unoaked Chardonnay (Sister Bay), The Federalist Zinfandel and Cabernet (Liberty Grove?), and like that.
Horseshoe Bay does have a fairly interesting history. It went from resort dream to dairy farm to cherry orchard. Find more information here.
Watching the colors change while sipping the flavorful cocktail helped us slip into the right frame of mind for enjoying our wonderful Door County dinner. Thank you, Karen and Kathleen!
So we began the decision-making process by working backwards. What appetizers could be essentially made at home, transported easily, and then assembled onsite? Hmm. The wheels are turning.
What do we know about Wisconsin’s food and beverage traditions that might fit the bill? Aha! Tavern culture. All throughout Wisconsin one can find small, homey (dare we say dive-y) watering holes frequented by locals, featuring The Basics. 27-ingredient craft cocktails? No sir, a beer and a shot will do just fine, thanks all the same.
And what kind of snacks are offered in these salt of the earth establishments? Often you will see large jars of pickled eggs sitting on the bar, waiting for a brave soul to scoop one out of the cloudy brine.
This is where our appetizer concept began to take shape and the moment that Egg Harbor became our designated destination. We started by brining some eggs. The recipes say you can keep ‘em going in the same liquid for months, but we found the eggs to taste mighty strong and tart after just three days. (In the name of science, we kept a couple eggs soaking in the brine another few weeks for any brave souls to sample at the dinner. They did!)
Taking inspiration from a recipe in Pickles Pigs & Whiskey cookbook, we dolled up the eggs with spicy mayo and fish roe (does that make it eggs squared?) layered on top of sliced roast beef or turkey with a foundation of party-sized pumpernickel bread. Some were garnished with chopped herbs and red onion instead. So there you have it, Pickled Egg Canapés with Fish Roe.
It took us a while to get there, but I have to say, this turned out to be very satisfying indeed. The tart, briny eggs were balanced out by the bread and other zesty flavors. Very nice with the drinks.
Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say:
A fish boil is a culinary tradition in areas of Wisconsin and along the coastal Upper Great Lakes, with large Scandinavian populations. Fish boils enjoy a particularly strong presence in Door County, Port Wing and Port Washington, Wisconsin. The meal most often consists of Lake Michigan or Lake Superior whitefish (though lake trout or locally caught salmon can be used), with other ingredients.
The fish is typically caught by local fishermen, cut into small chunks and cooked in boiling water with red potatoes. Some boilers add onions as well. Salt is the only seasoning used, and used only to raise the specific gravity of the water. Up to one pound of salt per two gallons of water is used.
The cooking of the fish is an elaborate presentation. Restaurants typically ask that patrons arrive a half-hour early to witness the boiling. The fish and potatoes are prepared in a cast-iron kettle. When the water comes to a boil, the potatoes, kept in a wire basket, are lowered in.
The fish are then placed in another wire basket and lowered in. After 9–10 minutes, when the fish are cooked, the oils rise to the top of the pot. The boiler then tosses a small amount of kerosene on the fire and the increase in flames causes a boilover. The fish oils spill over the side of the pot and the fish is done. The fish chunks remain whole and firm. Chefs usually drip melted butter over the fish before serving. Although not part of the traditional recipe, tartar sauce and lemon slices are often served with the fish.
Dan and Greg served the tasty fish with boiled corn, potatoes and onions. Good, hearty, simple food. As it should be. Thanks, guys!
Their inspiration came from Plum Island, part of the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge which offers unspoiled natural beauty on land and shipwrecks offshore for snorkelers to investigate.
Yes, plums played the starring role in the evening’s dessert, why do you ask? We savored our plums two different ways – first paired with raspberries in a crisp baked with sliced almonds on top, and again in a compote with blueberries. Wait, let me stop and get my layers in order:
1st on the plate: A generous helping of warm Plum-Raspberry Crisp
2nd: A big scoop of Lemon Cookie Goat Milk Gelato from one of the local creameries
3rd: A ladle of Blueberry-Plum Compote
And last but certainly not least, a drizzle of 25-year aged balsamic vinegar.
Um, wow. This was a truly epic dessert, especially when sourced with local fruits. Perfect for serving to a large crowd too! Here’s the recipe for the Plum-Raspberry Crumble. For the Blueberry-Plum Compote, Ellyn says to mix sugar, water, lemon juice, plums and blueberries and simmer until thick and flavorful.
Would you like to learn more about Door County and the charming destinations mentioned in this post?
Follow these links: Door County Visitor Bureau; Egg Harbor; Horseshoe Bay; Plum Island; Liberty Grove
Would you like to read about past Foodies Group dinners? Here you go.