Fish Boils and Cherry Pies
Dateline: Door County, Wisconsin
By Tracy L. Ziemer
Monday, July 17, 2006
region of the United States has its summer vacation hot spots,
from North Carolina's Outer Banks to Oregon's Cannon Beach.
For Midwesterners, that place is Door County, the "thumb"
in Wisconsin's mitten-shape geography. While not as posh as
California's O.C., Wisconsin's "D.C." is a lovely
Midwestern New England surrounded by 250 miles of shoreline
and dotted with lighthouses, art galleries, and B&Bs.
Nestled among all that quaintness are unique food finds,
like the Door County fish boil. Begun by Scandinavian settlers
more than 100 years ago as a way to feed large groups of hungry
lumberjacks and fishermen, a fish boil is a regionally renowned
outdoor cooking event, much like chicken
Door County restaurants fill huge kettles with water, potatoes,
and steaks from freshly caught local Lake Michigan whitefish.
The concoction is cooked outside over a wood fire until the
chef douses the flames with kerosene, causing the kettle to
boil over, thereby skimming the fish oils off the top and
extinguishing the flames below. The fish is perfectly flaky,
but salt and butter definitely are a diner's best friends
with this dish.
Another tradition is to cap off a fish boil with a wedge
of cherry pie. Door County is the fourth-largest cherry-growing
producer in the nation, making it a pie lover's paradise,
with the delightfully sour Montmorency cherry the dessert
star. The best bakers on the peninsula understand that good
cherry pie shouldn't be too gelatinous; all that's needed
are cherries and lots of them, plus sugar and perhaps a touch
of lemon juice or cornstarch or flour.
The Inn at Cedar Crossing produces a spectacular
version that packs 4 pounds of the tart darlings in every
single pie, enveloping them in a thick pâte sablée
crust that will remind you of the best sugar cookie. This
pie is all cherry — not a hint of syrupy filler. (336
Louisiana St., Sturgeon Bay; 920-743-4249; www.innatcedarcrossing.com)
Up Highway 42 is Sweetie Pies, a white clapboard
pie shop in Fish Creek, where the father-daughter owners use
only natural ingredients and roll their crusts by hand. The
duo sells about 85 pies daily in the summer and offer pie-making
classes in winter. The standout among the 25 kinds of pie
is, of course, cherry, which uses two pounds of the good stuff.
Whole pies are available online. (9106 Highway 42, Fish
Creek; 920-868-2743; www.doorcountypies.com)
Cherry lovers also are wise to go straight to the source,
like Hyline Orchard (8240 Highway 42,
Fish Creek; 920-868-3067; www.hylineorchardfarmmarket.com)
or Seaquist Orchards (11482 Highway 42,
Sister Bay; 920-854-4199; www.seaquistorchards.com),
to get a pie baked fresh on the premises, or to pick up cherries
to make their own desserts.
Of course, why make more than one stop? To enjoy these two
great Door County tastes together, look no farther than the
White Gull Inn. The inn's fish boil is the
peninsula's hottest draw, served with coleslaw, homemade breads,
and a slice of homemade pie, which is made with cherries from
Rocky Ridge Orchard in nearby Egg Harbor.
(4225 Main St., Fish Creek; 920-868-3517; www.whitegullinn.com).
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