Next exit of fun: Mineral Point

If I seem a little distracted it’s because I can hear Dan standing outside the front door right now talking on his phone and he happens to have all of the fixins’ for tonight’s pizza. Today I have consumed very little (a banana and a piece of toast with peanut butter) and I just ran 3.77 miles at the gym (too cold to run outside today- boo), so needless to say, I’m slightly famished.

All is forgiven…. he just entered the house bearing two Sierra Nevada Celebration Ales, olives and news of Packers tickets for the last game of the regular season at Lambeau Field. Go Pack! On to the field trip….

This past Saturday Dan and I took a day trip to charming Mineral Point in southwest Wisconsin.

I like motel signs...

As a sign boasts upon your arrival into the town (not the one above!), Mineral Point is “twinned” with a village in Cornwall, England; Mineral Point, one of Wisconsin’s oldest cities, is very much like an English village. After the first European settlers came to Mineral Point in 1827, the discovery of lead in the area in the 1830s brought about a “mineral rush;” news of the lead reached Cornwall, England and many Cornish miners and their families began to arrive in Mineral Point. Today Mineral Point boasts a strong art community. Many of these artists and galleries are housed in the sandstone and limestone buildings built by the European settlers. (Do I sound too much like a tour guide now? I did half-fake my way through a job as a kayaking tour guide in Yellowstone for a couple of summers.) On to the awesome-ness that is Mineral Point.

Snowman outside of the General Store where we purchased spicy beer brittle

We were invited to visit Mineral Point by our new friends whom we met over the Thanksgiving weekend. Relatives of Dan’s bandmate, this family welcomed us warmly with open arms and we feel very lucky to have gotten to know them. Tim told us that a perfect time to come would be on Saturday so that we could experience the Gallery Night/ Candlelight shopping extravaganza. With the snow that we received overnight on Friday, the town definitely looked extra holiday-y! Our first stop was at the General Store on High Street where we purchased some locally-made spicy beer brittle (officially called “Fire in the Hole”). We devoured the whole package standing outside of the store on the sidewalk.

Window of La Bella Vita

Next we stopped at La Bella Vita on Fountain Street. This store had beautiful yarns and knit hats and also vintage clothing and household items. Dan came this close to purchasing a kimono-style robe for lounging in during the Packers games (but, alas, it was not green and gold.)

After La Bella Vita we met up with our friends for a stroll about town…

 

And then we stopped at Cruise Inn for a beverage and tutorial from our friendly bartender on how to play an endearing (and somewhat addicting) dice game entitled, “6, 5, 4.”

Cruise Inn, where we learned how to play 6,5,4

By this time the town was aglow with luminaries and decorated lampposts as we made our way to our dinner destination, the Brewery Creek Inn.
 

Dan and I actually discovered this place on our own a couple of months back when we decided to go for a little joy ride. The food is delicious and it has a very lively- yet cozy-atmosphere. There is a walnut burger on the menu that will completely alter your universe if you have been looking for an alternative to the traditional cheeseburger.

Try the walnut burger at the Brewery Creek Inn: YUM
There are some incredible-sounding desserts on the menu at this place, too. I actually got to try a bite of a rich chocolate cake on my second visit to the Brewery Creek Inn (Saturday was my third) with my sister and her friends before the remainder of the cake was devoured by our friend’s hilarious and adorable two-year-old son (after eating the cake he entertained us for minutes by repeating, “Dog, dog, dog, dog…” before crashing from the sugar rush.) On my next visit I fully intend to devour a dessert myself.
After dinner we said our goodbyes, purchased one more package of spicy brittle (for breakfast), and hit the road. It was a lovely day.


On the road again

I love this man. And I truly love being on the road. What sparked this love of the open road may have been a road trip that my family took to Maine and back in a lime green Ford Pinto when I was five-years-old. On that trip we experienced many adventures, including one night at a hotel in Buffalo Port Jervis, New York where, at least as I recall, the swimming pool was the color and consistency of pea soup and, according to my dad, contained barracudas- we all swam despite these conditions. Or it could have started much earlier with countless car trips to Iowa to visit my grandparents (often with my sister and I fighting over the ubiquitous line in the backseat). I have memories of spilling my chocolate milk all over my grilled cheese at a chain-type restaurant in Canada or Michigan and an image in my mind of a drawing (done while driving through Pennsylvania?) where a family of octupi are eating Pizza Hut (I believe this was a subtle hint). I remember being woken up by my parents at 5 a.m. in a motel in Indiana where they declared, “Let’s flee,” because some loud truck had been parked outside of our room all night and another time fleeing our reservation at a place on Cape Cod because it was found to be less than desirable. At the age of 10 or 11, I once cried upon arriving at our hotel in St. Augustine, Florida (after 16 hours in the car with my mom, 16-year-old sister, and our two friends) when I discovered that the doors weren’t as blue as the Atlantic Ocean as our guidebook had promised. I’ve been driven through Washington D.C. and Boston (without stopping), counted my mosquito bites under a tree in Ithica, New York  Burlington, Vermont while my sister was on a whirlwind college campus tour, and gotten car sick along the windy highways of California. I suppose it could have gone the other way, but a wanderlust for traveling the country via the highway began and I have had it ever since.

Last spring Dan and I took a two-week road trip with stops in Oklahoma, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. This trip was full of family, good friends, and many magical moments including this dessert (inhaled at the Lincoln Cafe in Mt. Vernon, Iowa);

Dessert at the Lincoln Cafe, Mt. Vernon, Iowa

finding my new favorite dress at this store in Norman, Oklahoma;

Birdie in Norman, Oklahoma

finding a road sign in New Mexico for the town named in one of my all-time favorite songs (Willin’ by Little Feat) ;

So that’s where they were talking about…

getting snowed on in Arizona on April Fool’s Day;

April Fool’s!

and realizing that my dear relatives from Montana were ordering mochas in the same cafe in Moab, Utah where Dan and I had decided to eat breakfast. What a serendipitous meeting that was that morning.

Eklectica, Moab, Utah: The cafe (with delicious vegetarian breakfasts) where I randomly ran into my relatives from Montana
Running into my mom’s cousin in Moab led to our first trip to Arches- she told us that we had to visit the park and even gave us the money for admission!

On that trip we played Scrabble with my mom while listening to a cd of bird calls; met multiple different groups of people with connections to Wisconsin; attended a 3-day wedding in Scottsdale bringing together people from Green Bay and Germany (a perfect match) where we taught our German friends how to play bags and our Arizonian bartender how to make old fashioneds; got our tent blown away by torrential winds outside of Moab; and listened to our first Brewers game of the season because they were playing the Rockies as we drove through the mountains of Colorado on our way to Denver. I didn’t want the trip to end- it’s one of the only times that I can remember that I wasn’t ready to walk in the door of my house, drop my bags and sleep in my own bed. I wanted to keep going. In fact, I cried as I drove my car down the empty streets of Madison at 5 a.m. on the last morning of our trip.

Along the way Dan played six shows- we called it his “Lake Effect” tour.

Tour poster in Moab

Traveling the country with a musician can be one of the most fun ways to travel. You figure out where and when the shows are and then you get to connect the dots in between, which allows you plenty of freedom and adventure along the way. We lucked out and were able to book Dan shows pretty easily. For an entertaining review of Dan’s show in Flagstaff, click here and scroll down. I like the title at the top about “Midwestern weirdness…” I’m not sure how they knew about the accent….

The open road

But, being on the road with a musician can also mean late, late nights, unpredictable schedules, unpredictable bar patrons, and unpredictable meals. It can mean eating potato chips for dinner, no dinner, or tacos at 4 a.m. (albeit they were my favorite black bean tacos from Burrito Drive on Willy Street in Madison- the pickled red onions are a MUST). This is what happened on our latest road adventure this past weekend as we drove between Madison, Manitowoc, Two Rivers, Manitowoc, Concord (the suburbs of Sullivan/ Ixonia), Madison, Manitowoc, and Madison in a five-day stretch. And all of this leads me to lentil soup. On Friday I received a text message from my mom saying that she was making bean soup for dinner (my mom has taught me an enduring appreciation for the deliciousness and comfort that is soup) and it was practically all I could think about for the rest of the weekend. So last night I finally got my soup. And it made it all worthwhile.

This is a recipe that I have made a bunch of times, but I have to say that this was my best batch. The only thing that I really did differently was that instead of using 6 cups of water, I used one cup of old red wine and 5 cups of water. I also used all brown lentils and I really liked their texture. I served it at 9:30 p.m. with steamed broccoli with lemon and a sourdough baguette and it was oh so good to be home again (this time).

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This recipe is from the cookbook, “The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Soup.” (I received this cookbook from my mom for Christmas several years ago with the inscription, “For obvious reasons.”)

Lentil Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, thinly sliced

1 carrot, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic; minced

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons curry powder*

1 cup canned diced plum tomatoes, with juice

1 1/2 cups dried brown or pink lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained

6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock or prepared broth**

1 lemon, sliced

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh spinach

salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and bay leaf and saute until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes and their juice, lentils, stock*, and lemon slices. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Discard the lemon slices and bay leaf.

Just before serving, stir in the spinach, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the spinach is wilted but still bright green. Season to taste with salt and pepper.**

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls*** and serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings****

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*I think I add more than two teaspoons of curry powder and I also add chili pepper flakes.

**Since going veg I don’t use chicken or beef broth but I also don’t like the flavor of store-bought vegetable stock. I have used water every time (and now I will use a little wine too).

***Warming the bowls does sound like a nice touch- I have yet to do this.

****For once Dan and I did not eat all of the “4-6” servings and I am looking forward to the leftovers.

Enjoy this soup at home any time and revel in being in your own kitchen with a warming and wholesome meal. But when you are ready to be on the road again, fish out your atlas, grab the tent, pack up the car (don’t forget the healthy snacks), and blast this song as soon as you hit the highway. I get goose bumps just thinking about it.