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I’m still brand new to Sister Bay, and one thing my fiancé Tim and I have resolved to do is to keep appreciating the beauty of our new home. Part of that beauty, for me, is not just in the panorama, but on my palate. When it comes to edible resources, Door County is definitely best known for its cherry production. Though I do enjoy picking cherries in the late July sunshine, they’re not my preferred local fare. The items I appreciate are decidedly savory, and they’re available year round.
Earlier this month we planned a day to shop for our wedding rings, a decision we had been hemming and hawing over for months. This definitely qualified as a date-worthy event, so we set out to spend the whole sunny April afternoon enjoying one another and the beautiful Door peninsula. We had a gorgeous lunch of cheese souflé, which we made at home. The recipe was Jacques Pepin’s and the eggs were courtesy of one of Tim’s colleagues, who raises hens at her home.
Eggs My first local fare favorite is so obvious it’s easy to overlook. Buying and eating local eggs supports local farmers with sustainable practices. They also taste 100% better poached, fried, or soufléd. A Google search will bring up several Door County farms that sell their eggs directly. Eggs don’t grow on trees, so you can have them any time of the year.
When Tim and I pulled out of our driveway that afternoon and made our way toward Fish Creek, we passed several quaint farms, many of which have goats. They live so near that, to my delight and Tim’s chagrin, we sometimes catch a whiff of their farmy aroma. The goats are the key to my next Door County fare favorite.
Goat Cheese Sister Bay has a thing for goats. They’re on signs and rooftops. They live here on farms. That is a great thing for me, because I cannot get enough goat cheese. Log-shaped and locally produced, the mild cheese is easy to find in grocery stores and even convenience stores all over Door County. I eat goat cheese on crackers, in salads, on sandwiches, with eggs and by itself. Unlike fresh cherries, fresh goat cheese is available year round.
Tim and I visited a couple of jewelry stores in downtown Fish Creek before coming to our final decisions on rings. Feeling triumphant in our mission, we climbed back in the car and followed County Road F toward Baileys Harbor. We parked and strolled out onto the Baileys Harbor pier to drink in the view. About ten minutes of a brisk April breeze off the lake was about all we could handle though, so we strolled back to the car.
We passed the Brown Trout Tournament tent in the marina, which was in full swing that day. The tent was sparsely populated; presumably all the fishermen were out on the water. The tent was a reminder of another reason to appreciate the peninsula: its abundance of freshwater fish. Which brings me to my third fare favorite.
Smoked Fish The salty, juicy, roasty, meaty goodness of smoked fish is something I’ve always had a taste for. There are several local purveyors in Door County, but Charlie’s Smokehouse in Ellison Bay has me hooked for the moment. If you’re lucky to arrive at the right time, your smoked salmon, lake trout, or Lake Michigan whitefish will still be warm from the smoker on-site. The best part is that this delicacy is available throughout the year.
We didn’t stick around to see the day’s biggest catch at the trout tournament. Instead, we drove north on Highway 57 about a quarter mile beyond the marina. We turned onto Ridges Road and followed Point Drive to Toft Point. We parked at the first pull-out on the southwest side of the point and squelched over the flattened beach grasses toward the lake. Our view included the “birdcage” lighthouse to the west and the horizon the east. We stepped from rock to large rock along the lakeshore.
Hunger arrived again, so we made the short drive south on Highway 57 to Chives Door County. The sandwich board outside boasted “Great Lakes Perch.” It was still early evening, so we were lucky enough to be seated at a window with a lake view over the street. Our server brought the drink menu, and we scanned the list of cocktails, wines, and beers. Familiar names popped up, prompting my third fare favorite: restaurants that serve local food.
Dining Out Locally Restaurants on the Door reflect the habits and values of people who live here, and many of them use locally-grown ingredients in their menu items. Locally raised and organic beef, poultry, eggs, and cheeses are common year-round. In-season, restaurants also source their produce from local growers. Even the drink menus are generously peppered with locally-distilled spirits and locally-brewed beers.
In fact, I ordered a martini with vodka from a nearby distillery. Tim had one of his favorite beers which is brewed right in Baileys Harbor. The server brought us some bread to start, noting that it was baked fresh at Chives’ sister restaurant near Green Bay. We considered dinner options including locally-raised beef and Wisconsin pork. In the end, I had a taste for seafood and chose the Prince Edward Island mussels. They were outstanding.
While my fiancé Tim and I don’t need a special reason to go on a date, it’s nice to have something to toast when we’re out for dinner. Here’s to our future in Door County and many meals of great local food!
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