Archive for the 'from the lake' Category


If I ever have a midlife crisis, I’m pretty sure it is going to involve a ship. A big ship. Like an ocean bound salty. I used to think I might give up life as I know it to ride the rails, but lately I’m convinced that I’m really meant for the seas. I can read the Duluth Shipping News like a novel.

My  fantasy was rekindled last week when I got a voice message from a client. It was no big deal, really. He only needed to reschedule our morning meeting regarding the local community education foundation. This particular client also happens to be a Madeline Island Ferry Captain. And here’s where the trouble was. He was going to be tied up all morning. The USCG Alder, a 225 foot multi-mission buoy, would be arriving to cut a channel between Madeline Island and the mainland. This stop would nearly complete the Alder’s month long Great Lakes ice-breaking expedition.

USCG Alder

No problem on my end. I always revel in that liberating sensation of gaining “extra-time” when something gets cancelled – no matter how fleeting or false it may be. So I pour another cup of coffee and take a peek at, a site that shows real time position of Great Lakes vessels. I see The Alder just entering the south channel.

I will myself back to work, but fifteen minute later, I’m clicking refresh to find the Alder rounding Grant’s Point. I’m still on extra-time, right? I close the laptop, grab my camera and head for the city dock.

Parking is at a premium. Evidentially I’m not alone in wanting to witness this passage into spring. I gather with what feels like about half of Bayfield’s male population to watch the show. The growl of the engines makes my heart leap. I squint to study the little figures on board, making up duties for them, imagining their ship-bound lives.

The majority of spectators depart after the Alder’s first pass, but I find  a seat on the sunny breakwall to wait for another round. Sure enough, as the Alder makes a second approach the ice resumes shifting and I can hear the fresh water sloshing beneath. I can’t see it, but it’s under there somewhere. That’s all the proof I need.

The dock has emptied out, but it’s still bustling. The currently icebound fishing tugs are on their way to being set free. I watch with envy as a handful of commercial fishermen ready their boats for 2013’s inaugural voyage.


My mouth waters at the thought of Lake Trout and fresh Herring. I think of long summer days when we run into town for an afternoon ice cream, a jump in the lake, and a stop at the fish house for a fresh catch to throw on the grill.

Spring and Winter have been duking it out this April. It’s safe to say that Winter currently has the upper hand. Bayfield’s fishing boats only made it out of the Bay a couple of days before a new winter storm system blew in. But this snowy, windy, whiteout only serves to deepen my love of hot summer days. They’ll come, and when they do, you can bet I’ll be ready.

spring dinner

Grilled Lemony Lake Trout

1 whole trout, cleaned (or 2 fillets)
1 lemon, sliced

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons celery salt (or Penzy’s English Prime Rub)

Combine the butter, lemon pepper, shallots, parsley, and celery salt.

Lay 3-4 lemon slices on a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil that is 3-4 times the width of the fish. Place the fish on top of the lemons. Generously dot the cavity with herb butter and add 3-4 slices of lemon to the cavity and press the fish back together. Dot the top skin with butter. Make a tight foil packet. If working with fillets, make 2 separate packets. Place on a hot grill (about 400ºF) and grill for 20-25 minutes, turning once. Individual fillets will cook slightly quicker. (serves 2)


dark days

My friend Julie and I recently decided to participate in the fourth annual Dark Days Challenge – which calls for us to prepare one fully locally derived meal per week from now until mid-April. We are indeed facing some dark days ahead. And thinking about food, where it comes from, how it is raised, and fun ways to cook what’s available locally is a sure way to distract me from the grey and darkness. Plus, Julie is a pro at this. A few years back, she engaged her family of four in six months of eating EVERY meal local. So I know I can turn to her anytime for inspiration and advice.

Here’s my set of self-determined rules. “Local” for me means anything grown or raised within a 50-mile radius. I gave a bit of thought to my radius and settled on a distance that I could self-propel myself. I have to admit that biking 50 miles to retrieve a fresh chicken is not exactly on my list of things to do, but if push came to shove, I could. Although I might have to spend the night at my destination before biking back – or at the very least stay for lunch!

My exceptions are olive oil, coconut oil, some spices, vinegar (although this has inspired me to make my own, but it won’t be ready in time), and butter (again, I have plans to churn my own using cream from our local dairy, but it will be Christmas time before I can borrow my grandmother’s old butter churn from my mom. In the meantime, I’ll continue using a fantastic hand rolled butter produced in Richland Center, WI – some 200 miles straight south of me.) And even though I know I could forego fresh lemon juice one night a week, there are times when I might give in. For me, a squeeze of fresh lemon is often the crowning touch that turns a good dish great. Were I to go completely local in my eating, I would go to great lengths to maintain an indoor lemon tree in my northern Wisconsin home. I am an occasional home brewer, so there will certainly be a batch of porter fermenting soon to help see us through the winter. I buy my grains from Northern Brewer in St. Paul (230 miles) but I suspect the grains’ actual origin is even a little further west than that (I’ll check). If other exceptions come up along the way, I’ll be sure to note them.
I’ve participated in a handful of local eating initiatives and for me the key is to focus on the things I CAN find locally and not dwell on the things that I can’t. Having to really think about where the food I am cooking has come from raises an awareness that I appreciate, and one that I too often take for granted. I feel incredibly fortunate to live in a midwestern, rural area and still have access to an amazing array of beautifully and happily produced food. In addition to the pounds of berries and vegetables (frozen and canned) and root crops from our garden, I know I’ll be able to find: fish, pork, chicken, beef, lamb, cheese, milk, cream, sprouts, kimchi, sauerkraut, maple syrup, honey (sort of a given), pop corn, wild rice (although it was a poor year for ricing and supplies are meager), wheat berries, and whole wheat flour. And I’m looking forward to a winter of discovering even more. Here’s a recap of our first two Dark Days, local meal. I’m happy to share recipes if anyone’s palate is piqued – just drop me a note.
Dark Days m.1
Broiled Lamb Chops
Lamb chops from Morning View Farm (37 miles), garlic (our garden), olive oil, lavender pepper, salt, and butter (Richland Center, WI)Sauteed Potatoes
Potatoes (our garden), butter (Richland Center, WI), oil, salt, pepper, spicy micro greens from Paradise Meadows (12 miles)

Warm Beet Salad
Beets (our garden), feta cheese from South Shore Chev (30 miles), spicy micro greens from Paradise Meadows (12 miles), vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper

Dark Days m.2
Trout sautéed in Brown Butter
Lake Superior lake trout (caught around the Apostle Islands, probably within a 20 mile range), butter (Richland Center, WI), garlic and shallots (our garden), topped with spicy micro greens from Paradise Meadows (12 miles)

Wild Rice Stuffed Squash
Sweet Dumpling squash (our garden), wild rice (50 miles give or take a few – hand harvested by friends near the Bayfield County line), feta cheese from South Shore Chev (30 miles), dried apples (our land), turkey broth (homemade with garden vegetables and a local turkey), scallions and garlic, (our land)


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