While one is in Door County, there's all types of temptations that tourists can fall into, food wise. We ran into three different places that we found to be just unbelievable and also very fattening to the waistline.
The first place we found was the Door County Bakery (see map). Actually, Curt Campbell from the Oilerie told us about this place. He said, "It's the best bakery in Door County, by far." The owners, Don and Jean Thompson, make breads, pastries and a locally famous chocolate cake called "Ports des Morts" (door of death), named after the small strait between the Door County peninsula and Washington Island.
The Door County Bakery is also famous for their Corsica loaf, a large French loaf made with olive oil and sesame seeds. They make it in about six to seven pound loafs and then will cut off how much bread you want. The girl offered us a taste and it was outstanding. We ended up taking a couple pounds of the loaf. Since we were traveling, she wrapped it up in foil and plastic wrap. We kept it in the refrigerator back at the hotel and in the cooler when we were traveling. But by the time we'd gotten back home to try some, it was pretty much done. The girl said that it freezes well and if we get back there, we'll have to get it the day we're leaving to go home. Unfortunately, we moved around for about a week with it unfrozen. Oh, well. Live and learn.
The Door County Bakery also has a large selection of pastries to choose from. We'd had breakfast earlier in the morning and weren't hungry for anything like that, but the stuff they had in the counter definitely got me drooling.
The Door County Bakery also has a deli and a small gourmet store on the other side of the building. Cindy and I said we were going to come back and get a sandwich made with the Corsica bread at some point, but we never did. Next time.
Behind the Door County Bakery was a building that housed a museum/art studio run by WGN Radio personality Spike O'Dell known as The Back Door Studio. O'Dell, who grew up in the Quad Cities, collected coffee cups of famous celebrities or politicians he's had on his show over the years and had each person sign the cup. He put them on display in this building.
Here's a shot of some of the coffee cups - both porcelain and Styrofoam - that O'Dell has collected from his guests over the years. It was kind of neat and sort of hokey at the same time. But there was sure of lot of 'em to see.
One thing that I didn't know about Spike O'Dell is that he's a pretty accomplished artist. Cindy sort of knew that he was an artist, but I was just incredulous. "Spike O'Dell did THIS?!" I exclaimed more than once looking at the artwork he had for sale in the building. I was amazed at how good he was with a paint brush. I've listened to O'Dell on WGN for quite some time and I never knew that he was an artist.
The second place we found that became an instant guilty pleasure for us was Jorns' Sugar Bush outside of Egg Harbor (see map). Jorns' is a family operation that collects and processes it's own pure maple syrup. We'd seen a billboard while we were out driving around regarding Jorns' and Cindy wanted to go see the place. We went down a county road and literally drove right by the place. It was nestled back in behind a farm house surround by a lot of maple trees. We doubled back and drove into the driveway.
Roland and Donna Jorns are well into their 80's and Roland continues to process maple syrup like his grandfather and father used since the mid-1800's. Jorns has over 1200 trees that he can tap each spring for maple flow. During the height of the flow, he can process about 600 gallons of maple syrup a day.
We made it into the shop and and the Jorns' daughter came out of the processing area and said, "My mother will be out here in a minute. Feel free to look around." We found a number of different sizes of maple syrup in bottles and containers, as well as homemade jellies and jams from Door County.
Donna Jorns gingerly made it out to the small shop and greeted us as she walked in. She was actually a pretty interesting woman to talk with. She said her husband has been gathering and processing maple each year for 80 years, since he was a small child in grade school. She said, "This was his grandfather's land, then it was passed along to his father, who passed it along to us when he passed away." It's been in the family for about 150 years, she said.
Donna Jorns told us that they have a lot of seasonal workers in the spring that come out and gather the sap buckets for processing. She said, however, that finding help has been sort of tough lately. "Kids are different now a days, " she told us. "We used to have kids lining up to come out here to work years ago. Today, it's so bad that we can only tap about a third to half the trees we have because we don't have enough seasonal help to gather the sap."
We ended up getting some of their syrup (a quart), as well as some jam. Mrs. Jorns told us that she sends maple syrup all over the country. She said, "When you run out of this, just call us and we'll send you some more!"
Cindy makes the greatest pancakes in the world and I have to tell you, with the Jorns' maple syrup on top, it makes them even better. Jorns' maple syrup may be the best pure maple syrup I've ever had. We will be calling them for more at some point.
And last, but certainly not least, of the holy trinity of guilty pleasures of Door County, was Wilson's Ice Cream Parlor in Ephraim (see map). This old fashioned restaurant and soda fountain has been serving tourists and residents in Door County since 1906. We were told by our friends, Scott and Marcia Schroeder, that we had to stop at Wilson's during our trip to Door County.
Wilson's is open seasonally from late May thru late October. They're famous for their ice cream which they serve large amounts of each summer. And when they dish it up, they dish up large amounts for each customer. Here's a picture of Cindy eating her ice cream cone - a one scoop cone - that was so large, she had them put it in a small bowl so she wouldn't lose any of it.
Wilson's has a long and rich history, which began when Oscar Wilson moved his family from Milwaukee to Door County in the early 20th century. The Wilson family ran the place for 55 years before selling out in 1961. The ice cream parlor/restaurant has gone through a series of owners and changes over the past 40+ years with current owners Roy and Diane Elquist updating the inside by adding air conditioning and screening off part of the outside seating areas. Wilson's is a plum job for a number of high school and college students each summer.
I actually didn't order any because I was still full from lunch a couple three hours earlier. But Cindy had eaten light in anticipation of ice cream later in the afternoon at Wilson's. I had some of Cindy's and their ice cream was good. Not the best I've had, but good. We went back one other time after dinner at a nearby restaurant, but the line was so long and there were so many people hanging out that we decided to pass on stopping for ice cream at Wilson's.
In addition to ice cream, sundaes and specialty drinks, Wilson's also has a food menu consisting of burgers, sandwiches, appetizers and salads. I heard while we were in Door County their char-grilled hamburgers were pretty damn good, as well. We may have to go back sometime to try those out.
We were pleasantly surprised with the variety of food - and how good it is - in Door County. But the three temptations - Door County Bakery, Jorns' Sugar Bush and Wilson's Ice Cream Parlor - all contributed to the guilty pleasures we found on our trip to Door County.