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Dig into a New England-style feast in Wisconsin
By Mike Michaelson | Midwest Travel

The Republican Party was founded in a schoolhouse in Ripon, Wis., in 1854.

 

Lobster, shrimp and clams are all on the menu during New England Lobster Bakes at Heidel House.

 

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Published: 6/21/2008 11:20 AM

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Although Wisconsin's Green Lake is notably deep and cold, it doesn't provide a habitat for lobsters.

Not so with Heidel House Resort, folded into the lake's shoreline. It suggests that visiting foodies put on hold those squeaky cheese curds and grilled brats, enticing guests with New England Lobster Bakes. Held on July 11 and Aug. 1 and 29 (6 to 8 p.m.), they offer alfresco dining on a lawn that slopes down to the lake.

In addition to succulent lobsters (steamed or grilled), the menu features grilled marinated shrimp, steamer clams with lemon butter, New England clam chowder, Boston baked beans, red potatoes and corn on the cob. Carnivores may enjoy char-grilled steaks, while dessert fanciers are offered brandy-and-cherry bread pudding and strawberry shortcake. Cost is $59 per person, reservations required.

Chef's wine pairing is another long-anticipated event. Scheduled for July 24 and Aug. 19, it provides an opportunity to learn -- quite deliciously -- to match food with wine. Foods include shrimp ceviche, classic lime soup (with achiote chicken and cilantro corn dumplings), an exotic salad with ingredients ranging from tropical fruits to grilled ramps (wild leeks), chipotle mojo eye rib-steak and pineapple flan with tequila flamed mangos. This event also is available on July 24 and Aug. 19 starting at 5.30 p.m. with a cocktail reception with hors d'oeuvres. Live entertainment ranges from jazz to classical music. Cost is $45 per person.

Heidel House Resort has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of Wisconsin's finest full-service family resorts -- one that also caters to corporate conference needs and offers a top-of-the-line facility for dedicated spa-goers.

Evensong Spa features a labyrinth -- an ancient path to self-discovery -- and offers a full range of services and enrichments for both men and women. These therapies include facials, massages, body, water, nail and hair treatments as well as makeup application.

The resort offers 199 guest rooms and three restaurants, all overlooking Green Lake, and including the critically acclaimed Grey Rock, which recently received its fourth consecutive Wine Spectator Award for its wine list.

Green Lake, which styles itself as the oldest resort town west of Niagara Falls, sits snugly along the shores of the deepest interior lake in Wisconsin. It remains agreeably sleepy and free from tourist hoopla and screaming neon. Instead, it offers visitors friendly coffee shops and family-run restaurants.

Somehow, the quiet community is a reminder of gentler times. It is not too great a stretch of the imagination to picture elegant carriages and sporty horse-and-buggies traveling the country lanes around the shoreline as they did at the turn of the last century.

The lake's topography, with high surrounding bluffs and steep drop-offs, creates wind and current conditions that challenge yachts that scud across its surface. Its clear depths make Green Lake popular with divers, who explore its underwater limestone formations and frequently bring up such souvenirs as knives and fishing equipment and even an occasional outboard motor. Fishing is popular year-round.

Heidel House opened its doors to guests on New Year's Eve 1946 and now encompasses 20 picturesque acres. It offers indoor and outdoor swimming pools and cruises on its luxury yacht.

In this season of heated presidential campaigning, you might be interested to stop at the nearby community of Ripon and tour the Little White Schoolhouse, birthplace of the GOP. On the cold and windy night of March 20, 1854, a small group of local citizens met in the one-room schoolhouse to organize against the spread of slavery. They voted to form and become members of a new political party called "Republican." With the support of Horace Greeley, an influential editor of the New York Times, the party flourished nationwide.

Take a tour of this historic building (completely restored in 2006/2007) and follow in the footsteps of such prominent visitors as John Phillip Sousa (in 1928) and the notorious Sen. Joseph McCarthy (in 1954, on the 100th anniversary). Artifacts chronicle early GOP history and include campaign posters, buttons, ribbons, yellowed newspaper clips, photographs of GOP luminaries and a generous sprinkling of elephants in various shapes and sizes. Readers, slates, chalk and a blackboard help portray a school of the 1850s.

If you head to Ripon on Aug. 4, you'll catch its annual Cookie Days, full of events celebrating its eponymous confectionery, including Cooking Bake & Taste. Everyone who attends between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. is invited to taste all of the cookie entries and vote for their favorites. Of course, the ideal accompaniment is milk, with hundreds of free bottles handed out throughout the day.

The most exciting and noisiest activities each year on this day are Cookie Drops. A total of 8,000 individually wrapped Rippin' Good Cookies, donated by Bremer Inc., fall from the sky throughout the day. Children squeal and scramble to pick up as many cookies as they can, looking to find the one that will win the grand prize: a bicycle.

It is RiponFest, though, that is the community's largest annual community festival. This year, celebrating Ripon's 150th anniversary on July 11 and 12, it includes a carnival, live music, comedy magic show, Friday-night fish fry, volleyball tournament and 3-on-3 basketball.

If you go

Information: Heidel House, (800) 444-2812, www.heidelhouse.com; Wisconsin Travel Information, (800) 432-8747, www.travelwisconsin.com

Mileage: Green Lake is about 180 miles north of Chicago.

MikeMichaelson is a travel writer based in Chicago and the author of the guidebook "Chicago's Best-Kept Secrets."