If you’ve never been to Door County, Wisconsin, raise your left hand. Okay, squeeze your four fingers together, and that’s roughly the shape of the state. Door County is your thumb, a peninsula bordered by Lake Michigan on the right and the bay of Green Bay on the left.
Now that your geography lesson is complete, let’s move on to things culinary.
Door County caters to tourists including many from Milwaukee and Chicago who wind their way up not only to enjoy boating, hiking and shopping, but also great food.
One hidden gem is Waseda Farms near Bailey’s Harbor. It specializes in growing and selling food that’s sustainably and responsibly raised, and certified organic. I stopped in recently at Waseda Farms’ small, well-stocked retail store on 7281 Logerquist Road.
All meat sold here is 100% grass fed and hand-trimmed. I thought I’d try some beef burgers. So I bought a package and later grilled them over a charcoal fire. Grass fed beef has a “beefier” flavor compared to grain-fed animals, and this was no exception. Some might say it’s even “gamey.” But it’s quite tasty and with less fat, you feel less guilty eating meat from “happy cows.”
I also bought brats. As a Wisconsin native, I’ve been eating bratwurst about as long as I’ve been a Packers fan. In other words, forever. And I thought I’d tried every variation. But Waseda Farms offers a surprise: cherry brats.
Door County is known for its cherry harvest so I shouldn’t have been too surprised. Montmorency, Cavalier, Queen Anne, Danube, Balaton and Richmond—they all grow here. At any number of roadside shops and stands you’ll find cherry pies, cakes, cookies, jams and much more.
As for the cherry brat? I found it to be leaner than a typical sausage. The cherries impart a mild sweetness that nicely complements the sage, coriander, paprika and other spices. And as if to say, "Yes, we at Waseda Farms use real cherries," when I bit into my grilled brat, I hit a real, honest-to-goodness cherry pit. Had I bit harder, I would have put my dentist in a higher tax bracket—if that’s possible.
On the opposite side of the peninsula, in the tiny village of Ephraim, you’ll find Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor. In fact, it’s so close to the highway that follows the bay, you may actually run into Wilson’s quite literally.
People have been coming to this little landmark for more than 110 years. I doubt many come specifically for the food, however.
The flame-broiled burgers and fries are just fine. But it’s the ice cream that beckons the sweet tooth of travelers and townies alike.
Flavors with colorful names like Caramel Collision and Mackinac Island Fudge are worth a taste. But if you want to knock on decadence’s door, order the Ephraim Special. Three large scoops of French vanilla ice cream on a thick layer of Door County cherries topped with hot fudge, whipped cream and pecans.
Eat, enjoy, then look for a place to nap.