Monday, August 29, 2011

Bon Appetite! (Or dining out in Southwest Wisconsin)

A few blogs back I ran on about my adopted hometown, Fennimore Wisconsin. In it I tried to not compare it to my original hometown, Chicago. In general Jo and I are fairly content in our comfy little rural community but, things came to a head this past weekend. Originally a good friend, and former high school classmate, and his wife from the Chicago area were coming up to visit. It was kind of a reciprocal deal as we had gone down to visit and have dinner with them a couple of months ago. We had dinner at a restaurant that Jo and I both like very much and had many a fine dinners at in the past. As in the past the service was great, the food was outstanding and the atmosphere was perfect for a get together with old friends. As the weekend for our Wisconsin get together approached, the question arose, "where to have dinner with Ken and Linda?". We started down the list of potential eating places in the area. Nothing really stood out or even came close to the place we went to in Illinois. Now in Fennimore itself, after Hardys and Subway, fine dining doesn't exist. So this means that after a three and a half, or more, hour drive we need to ask our guests to get back in the car and travel a little farther. Our first choice was a restaurant (twenty miles away) that is part of an old restored brewery which also houses the "National Brewing Museum". I called there only to find out that the on night we chose they were hosting a giant "Brewfest" and dinner wasn't being served. Next choice, a good steak house in Prairie du Chien (twenty five miles away) was closed for the owner's daughter's wedding. The list continued to get shorter and the distances longer when good old Ken came to the rescue. He came down with a case of the flu and they had to cancel the trip up north. What Ken didn't know is that his sickness really saved four folks a lot of grief and growling stomachs because, when Saturday night rolled around, Jo and I decided that we may as well go out to dinner ourselves. We hopped into the car (Jo's new one that she lets me drive on weekends) and with the top down we drove off into a beautiful Wisconsin evening. We headed to Mineral Point to the restaurant we had decided to take Ken and Linda to. Only thirty miles away and although the service was usually pretty poor the food was good and the menu has more interesting choices than your run-of-the-mill supper clubs. I had called earlier to make reservations only to be told that they didn't take reservations. But we took a chance and as we arrived we were greeted by hungry, impatient looking people milling around outside the place. Given the number of people and knowing how slow the service was, it didn't look like we would eat anytime before Thanksgiving. Let's move on. There's a little lake outside of town (Mineral Point) that has a golf course and a restaurant. Folks say the food is pretty good. After driving a couple of miles down a barely paved one and a half lane road we started noticing more and more cars parked on the shoulder. As the "club house" came into view it was apparent that there was a rather large wedding party going on. It was so crowed that half the guests were celebrating in the parking lot. Oh well there's another golf course on the other side of town. The food there is good and with so many people at the wedding it shouldn't be too crowed. Wrongo!!! This place was hosting, not only a large private party but a just as large golf outing. We were told that we could be seated in the nearly empty dining room but probably couldn't get served for at least an hour or so. (The "or so" was the deal closer) Hey, there's a place in Dodgeville, less than ten miles away, where an old friend and very good cook is chef. Our attitudes and the crisp Wisconsin evening are starting to cool off making the top down excursion even more uncomfortable. We arrive at still another jam packed parking lot but I do find a "Close up" spot where I park as Jo runs in to check on the possibility of getting some kind of meal. She was gone a long time,. Maybe she found a table for one and ate on without me or, maybe she got a job as a cook or waitress or maybe she just got trampled by the crowd of "well fed" celebraters. It turned out that after waiting for a long time just to speak to someone, she finally figured out that there was a (a very riotous) private party, a wedding dinner, and a full dining room and bar. After she managed to fight her way back to the car we sat looking at each in awe. We had driven in excess of fifty miles in just under two hours and still hadn't had a bite to eat. It was getting late a, without driving at least forty or fifty miles more, our choices were Culvers, Hardys, A & W, Pizza Hut or Country Kitchen. Country Kitchen got the nod. So off we went. We were greeted by a friendly young waitress who seated us in a clean and cozy little booth. Five or six other groups of diners (all about my age or older), who probably had the good sense to come here in the first place, were enjoying pleasant conversation and plain old good food. We ordered straight off the "Seniors" menu and in no time at all we had devoured sensible portions of vittles that were just this side of home cookin'. Back in the car (with the top up now) we headed home deciding that the next time we want to go out for a "nice dinner" we're going to drive straight to the airport and fly to Chicago, St Louis or San Francisco and save a lot of time and frustration. And when Ken and Linda do come up to have dinner with us in Wisconsin it will probably be a home cooked meal in our dining room in Fennimore.
Adding insult to injury, I opened my email only to find an ad for my favoritest food in the world ...

Considering the amount of time we spent trying to find a place to eat I could have dam near gone to Chicago and truly enjoyed myself.
One more little aside about the weekend. It started with us going to Milwaukee's Miller Park to be humiliated by the Cubs great showing against the Brewers but ended with us celebrating little Saffron's third birthday. (By the way, at Saffron's party I treated my self to a homemade version of a Chicago style hot dog. All is not bad!)