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Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.
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Just as classes at the University of Wisconsin - Madison wind down next month, organizers of the Madison Craft Brew Week will give students at the party school (and perhaps their parents who are in town to retrieve them) a smashing way to ring in summer. A beer and bacon breakfast, a bike pub crawl and a Leinenkugel's Honeyweiss Fish Fry are all on tap for the 10-day festival, which takes place May 3-12. According to a press release, the third annual event will host more than 100 events that celebrate craft beer and are designed to highlight Dane County, Wisconsin's vibrant beer culture. "There is truly something for everyone, from novice to connoisseur."
LAKE DELTON, WIS. -- People were starting to complain that this artificial lake was looking more and more like pea soup. Not anymore.
The Lake Delton village board voted to "inject" 500 gallons of dye in the famous lake that hosts the Tommy Bartlett Water Ski show, a 60-year-old institution in the Wisconsin Dells. The move is said to be harmless, unless you're a local taxpayer. They're on the hook for more than $29,000.
The 267-acre lake last made headlines when a 2008 flood left it drained and empty when it overflowed and broke through a earthen barrier, damaging several homes.
Tom Diehl, general manager of the water ski show and village board member, told the Wisconsn State Journal that resort owners and visitors were complaining about the pea-green color of the water this summer. Enter the liquid dye "AquaBlue" -- which should keep it a pleasing blue through August, according to a spokesman for the LaCrosse company that did the dying.
The dye job has some people seeing red, not blue. The River Alliance of Wisconsin called it an "expensive, temporary and downright foolish 'fix' that won't clean up Lake Delton in the long run."
MILWAUKEE -- It's a little off the road, but the perfect way to break up a drive to Chicago. The Three Brothers Bar and Restaurant is tucked on a corner of a Milwaukee residental neighborhood, not far from Lake MIchigan. It's one of those old brick taverns where the barkeep lived upstairs. There's a big onion on the turret on the corner.
For three generations now, a Serbian family has been cooking up delicious home-cooked food. I had some stuffed grape leaves and my wife went for the mousaka, which came in a huge wedge of amazingly fluffy eggplant and cheese. Washed it down with a Slovak beer and we were on our way.
The charming dining room is a mish mash of old tables under a classic Schlitz Beer lamp. A lake landscape graces the wall behind the bar. Adding the the charm: no credit cards allowed. It's all cash with hand-written checks. The little lamps on the tables add a sweet ambiance. Here's a link to the menu: http://www.singlepage.com/three-brothers-bar--restaurant/menu?ref=google
WARRENS, WIS. -- Greetings from the Interstate 94 corridor in Wisconsin. If you're driving to Chicago and have a hankering for anything cranberry, consider the Cenex gas station in Warrens, Wis. It's 150 from from St. Paul on the road to Chicago. With a view of cranberry bog out the window, and a Cranberry Bog restaurant across the road, they sell cranberry salsa, massage oil, lotion, candles, soap and cranberries covered with chocolate on a stick.
My favorite product? The cranbarnet wine. Really. And very reasonable
We're almost even. This has been such a nice, extended autumn that it very nearly makes up for last winter. And last so-called spring. And that beyond-ridiculous dewpoint-palooza in mid-summer.
Not only have the temperatures been above average, but the milder conditions have extended the fall color season mightily. For many of us, that means extra jaunts to Lake Pepin's west side, where they don't call Hwy. 35 the "Great River Road" for nothin'.
Along this Wisconsin byway, every "scenic overlook" and historical marker between Bay City and Alma is worth a stop. For those who like to linger at such vistas, stocking what Yogi Bear would call a pic-a-nic basket with the fabulous provisions at the Nelson Cheese Shop is a swell idea.
Antique shops and Pepin's Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Harbor View Cafe are seriously popular spots for many, although four of us had a very disappointing meal at the latter over Labor Day Weekend.
Amidst all these culinary, cultural and consumer destinations, the one not-to-be-missed stop is the Smiling Pelican bakery in Maiden Rock, Wis. Every morsel of every piece of pastry or pie, cookie or cake that emerges from Sandra Thielman's ovens is a heavenly, sensuous jolt of all that is good in life.
It's almost a blessing that the bakery has no website, lest my keyboard sustain drool damage. But there is a Facebook page (if you dare). Even if there weren't so many other wonders in that region, the Smiling Pelican would be worth the drive -- but only until Dec. 23, when it closes for winter.
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