Experience the best of fall’s flavors and festivities during our So Delicious So Door County season promotion. Plan your trip to see the vivid colors that fill our county and enjoy exclusive room rates and vacation packages during your stay.
From the first white settlers to today’s locals and visitors, fishermen have always been an integral part of the Door County story. While the area’s fishing industry has encountered dramatic highs and lows over the last century, there are still many fighting to keep the tradition alive. Take a journey into the history of Door County’s fishing past and future in this video, and meet the locals who cherish this place.
5 Best Spots to View Fall Colors in Door County
Garrett Bay Road
In Ellison Bay you’ll find a spur off Highway 42 called Garrett Bay Road that is a great foray any time of year, but never more-so than in color season. The road winds through a canopy of foliage, making for an awe-inspiring drive or bike ride from Ellison Bay to Gills Rock, where you’ll find a picturesque old fishing village.
It may be only a few miles long, but Skyline Drive off Hwy 42 is home to several breathtaking overlooks. Eagle Terrace, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, gives you a colorful view of Ephraim. Eagle Panorama looks out over the shore of the park. And don’t miss the island views from the famous Sven’s Bluff.
Mountain Park Tower
This spot will take some work to get to. First, hop the ferry to cross Death’s Door, then once you make it to the tower in the center of the island, you’ll find a long stairway just to get to the tower. However, it will be worth it as you climb and see the colors of Washington Island unveiled in 360 degree panorama.
From the Water
Rent a paddleboard, kayak, or boat, or take a tour to see the colors from the water. See the beautiful homes of Cottage Row or take a morning paddle through Ephraim or the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal for views of lighthouses. For the adventurous, a kayak tour around the shore of Rock Island State Park will provide photos and an adventure worth remembering.
Matt Chambas, Trixie’s Q&A
Matt Chambas has been working in the kitchen at Wickman House since the hip Ellison Bay cocktail and dining spot opened its doors six years ago. As if the restaurant that has earned mention in the New York Times and Chicago Magazine weren’t enough, this spring he helped open Trixie’s, Ephraim’s newest hot spot, and serves as executive chef of the two restaurants.
We caught up with Chambas, who earned his chops at L’etoille, Madison’s acclaimed James Beard award-winning restaurant, to talk about Trixie’s and the ever-expanding Door County foodie scene.
Q: How did you find your way to becoming a chef?
A: I spent some time in France, where I learned French cooking, working for half a year for Kate Hill. That was in Agen, in the southwest of France. I fell in love with it. She connected me with three brothers who taught me charcuterie. It was an amazing experience.
Q: Eventually you found your way to L’etoille, one of, if not the best, restaurants in Wisconsin. What was that like?
A: I had line cooked in a couple other places, but I knew right away that that was a different place. From intensity, to quality of food, to presentation. That changed everything for me. It was really hard at first. Wasn’t cut throat, but I took a pay decrease to work there. You’re in there to learn.
Q: How do you keep your mind fresh and find new ideas?
A: The owners, Mike and Sarah Holmes, keep pushing. They’re always in our faces. “What are we going to do with this, how are we going to change that? This is old news. We need something new.” For me personally, I was in Europe for three weeks last winter, a week in Spain, France and Italy. To be there and see all these different things and find inspiration, I definitely came back with a lot of ideas.
A lot of the menu for Trixie’s came from that, while incorporating the food we have locally here. Where there you might have a white anchovy puttanesca. We can do a twist on that. We don’t have anchovies, but we do have whitefish. We can give that a little local flare.
Q: Trixie’s just opened this year. Can you describe the Trixie’s vibe and menu?
A: Trixie’s is feminine-driven, a lot of female staff, with bright colors and a clean space. It’s a really nice spot to drink awesome wines, share quality food, and experience something a little different than the norm around here.
The menu is a mix of smaller, sharable plates, using as much local product as much as we can.
Q: Where did the vision for this place come from?
A: Well, the restaurant idea is really Sarah’s vision, but the menu comes from this mix of taking French, Italian, and Spanish influence with what we have here. I got my inspiration from those regions and what I was seeing over there.
I had of a lot of dishes I knew would taste good, and then we combined that with ideas from Erin Murphy and Sarah, and try to make really solid food with nothing too complicated.
Q: How hard is it to create a farm-to-table menu in a place with a short growing season?
A: It’s a challenge for sure when you have a climate like ours, but the farmers are figuring out ways to grow earlier or stretch it later whether it’s a greenhouse or agribond fabric or something else. We’re fortunate to have our own garden and gardener, and we work with a lot of great local growers as well.
In the city you can go to the market and find people growing something unique all the time. Now, we’re getting there up here. When we go to farmers and ask them if they can grow it, they’re going out and doing it.
Q: A lot of great places have opened up the last three to five years. Is Door County now a destination for foodies?
A: Anything that’s good that opens up, it’s better for the county. It drives you to up your game. Every year it’s gotten more and more progressive up here, which brings competition, but that’s good. We’re definitely going in the right direction for foodies.