Cool off on the Great River Road, then chow down
This week's punishingly hot weather has us scrambling for places to cool off (or hide out) until the oppressive humidity relents. Naturally, large bodies of water are especially enticing.
About 60 miles south of the Twin Cities along Wisconsin's Great River Road lies Lake Pepin (actually the widest part of Mississippi River), a spot that is familiar to anyone who's ever read Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods. If you're going to tote your canoe - or rent a paddleboat - for a day of sun and swimming, you're going to want to bring a big appetite as well.
Breakfast: The Great Alma Fishing Float For $15 you can join the Great Alma Fishing Float, a series of floating docks situated below the dam in Alma, Wisc., that offers excellent fishing and a large meal known simply as "the mess." This heap o' breakfast was made famous by the Food Network's Alton Brown, who featured the Fishing Float's signature dish in his book Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run.
Lunch: The Stockholm Pie Company The Stockholm Pie Company serves almost as many varieties of pie as it has residents in this small town (just 97 folks reside in wee Stockholm). There are plenty of savory pies and quiches to choose from, along with a healthy list of dessert pies that starts at standard (key lime, cherry) and moves towards intriguing (limoncello cream, apple pie in a bag). If you're not a pie person (who are you and what's your problem?), pop across to the Crazy Cat Candy Shoppe for homemade saltwater taffy.
Snack: Fire and Ice Sure, the ice cream and desserts here are delicious -- blackberry pear pie? Hells yes -- but the real gems here are: a) The owner claims the espresso machine, which he bought on eBay, used to belong to Pamela Anderson when she worked on Baywatch, and b) the shop's elaborate outdoor gardens. Take your treat outside and marvel at the giant stone wall, the topiaries (we spotted a rabbit and a swan) and the various large statues. The perfect spot to rest between activities (and meals).
Dinner: The Stone Barn Tucked into the hills of Nelson, Wisc. is a restored stone barn that offers some of the best wood-fired pizzas around -- thin crust, herbs grown on location and meats from the farm's own animals. Originally built in 1896, the barn was restored and turned into a restaurant -- which is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- that also boasts gardens and a pond that customers can enjoy.
And hey, since you're in Wisconsin, why not indulge in a few things you can't when you're in Minnesota? Take your underage child to a bar. Buy some Spotted Cow beer (doing so on a Sunday would be especially rogue). Or get yourself a free Wisconsin cheese map and check out the many small dairies -- Nelson Cheese Factory comes to mind -- that line the Great River Road.
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