What DO you do all winter?

"What do you do all winter in Door County?", is often a frequently asked question from visitors that are accustomed to the small, buzzing villages of summer. I assure you that although you may be stunned at times by the lack of people or business hours, we do indeed have plenty to do. This is the time of year when many chefs and managers have the availability to explore new ideas, experiment with new recipes, and simply enjoy a little time off. Roaming cocktail carts are entertaining company at Distill America with professional mixologists creating trendy cocktails from whatever unique spirit is on display. This wine list actually states their trend of serving 'draft' wine, something we may see more of in Door County. Winter is the time when many food, beverage or trade shows are being held. One of significant note is the Fancy Food Show, known as a venue where experts highlight upcoming trends.
For 2014, sriracha is back and in the forefront, along with other condiments. Now that we are familiar with this pepper, look for things like gochujang, a Korean condiment made from hot chili paste and fermented soy beans. Sound a bit far fetched for good ol' Door County? Topping the Food Channels list of top food trends is the Midwestern food movement, which is all about the simple and hearty cooking of root vegetables, steak and other locally sourced ingredients. If you haven't already, you'll notice many Door County restaurants listing the farms where their ingredients are coming from as part of this trend. In addition, Sterling-Rice Group analysts say the farm-to-table concept will continue to be popular, but expect more exotic meats (goat, rabbit, pigeon etc.) from small scale producers. Innova Market Insights also predicts a revival of interest in heirloom varieties of vegetables like parsnip, artichoke, kale, and salsify.

And what shall we drink with all this? Craft cocktails, including adult milkshakes, and bourbon. (Bourbon surpassed vodka in sales in 2013 for the first time this century!) I was able to take in my own trend spotting a the recent Distill America event, showcasing over 50 craft distillers. Our own Door County Distillery made a proud showing, pouring their vodka, apple brandy, whisky, cherry bluff bitters and gin. The Door County Distillery whisky is a well balanced, small batch, single malt aged in America oak. It's noticeably softer than others, lacking the pronounced bite you might experience from a high proof liquor, and one of the more talked about pours among the shows VIP hour. Gin was also well received and seems to be in a new and flavorful revival of its own. Watch for barrel aged gin to be on the rail of your favorite beach bar this season. The distiller starts with a pure run of vodka and infuses it with botanicals (juniper, coriander, citrus etc.) to create a gin, then places it into barrels to pull in another level of smoky, caramel notes and an light amber color. It's an extremely interesting taste that, like you might expect, starts with the flavor profile of gin and finishes like whisky.... a ginsky.