March 1st, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck
Wisconsin State Capitol Building
Folks who live in Madison, WI or who visited before know what a great city it is. It seems like there is always something to do. But visitors coming for the first time may not know what to do first so here is the list compiled by our staff at The Speckled Hen Inn. There are the Top Ten Madison Experiences inside the city. We will get to that long list of things to do, using Madison as a hub when you explore South Central Wisconsin, later.
- Take a tour of the Capitol. Madison is the capital of Wisconsin and the building is truly a treasure. Do take the tour because the wonderful guides know all those fun stories that bring life to the building and they also have the keys to all the locked doors that you will want to see behind. Tours leave from the info desk in the rotunda every hour on the hour. You will miss the school kiddies if you go late in the day. Take the elevator to the 6th floor balcony for a bird’s eye view of Madison. It is free, of course.
- Wander down State Street. This is the pedestrian mall that connects the Capitol Square to the campus of the University of Wisconsin. It’s a fantastic place for people watching and doing a bit of shopping. Our favorite shops are the gift shop at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Little Luxuries, Tellus Mater, the Art Poster Shop and University Bookstore. The little ethnic restaurants are wonderful too.
- Stroll through Olbrich gardens. Our public gardens are nothing short of amazing for a city our size or for a city of any size. There is a rose garden, a rock garden, herb garden and butterflies in the summer. In the winter the structure of the gardens shine and provide a serene spot for a bit of exercise. The indoor tropical dome will warm you to the core in the winter months. Don’t miss the beautiful Thai Pavillion. Everything but admission to the dome is free.
- You must have cheese. Wisconsin is The dairy state so it would be unthinkable to not try our finest cheeses. They are easy to find. Fromagination on the Capitol Square is a great artisan cheese shop featuring many different Wisconsin cheeses. Carr Valley cheese store in Middleton is goat, sheep, and cow’s milk cheese heaven. Why, even most of our local grocery stores have a cheese counter devoted to just the WIsconsin cheeses. Try, buy, and take some home with you. You will be back for more.
- Visit the Memorial Union on the campus of the University of Wisconsin and have an ice cream cone for lunch. The ice cream from the dairy at Babcock hall has a really high butter fat content that results in ice cream that is the smoothest and creamiest you will ever taste. I think it is a meal all by itself. Enjoy it on the Terrace overlooking the lake while listening to the musicians there and you have a memorable experience.
- Shop the Dane County Farmer’s Market. It’s reported to be the largest true farmer’s market in the nation. What is sold there has to be produced in Wisconsin and sold by the person who produced it (let’s not quibble about tropical plants). Every Saturday morning, rain or shine, year-round (check for location in the cold months) and again on Wednesday’s during the summer. If fact, during the summer months there is a farmer’s market somewhere near Madison every single day of the week. So, don’t despair if you can’t make it here on Saturday.
- Explore the Villas Zoo. It is free, too. Isn’t that amazing? It is a great little zoo with much more than you would expect to find here. Nice exhibits in great surroundings. You can spend an hour or two here or the whole day.
- OK, this one will take a bit of advance planning. Come go to a Concerts on the Square. The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra plays on the steps of the Capitol building on Wednesday evenings for 6 weeks beginning the last week in June. The music begins at 7:00 but guests start spreading their blankets on the capitol lawn around 3:00 for the largest picnic of summer. This is the essence of summer in Madison. Bring your own picnic or purchase a box supper from one of the vendors.
- Experience the UW Arboretum. An Arboretum is a collection of plants rather than a garden and you will find a wide range of plant materials at the Arboretum. The lilac collection in the Spring is amazing, a really fragrant experience. The nature walks on a moonlit night in the winter are inspiring. The natural diversity of grassy meadows, swamp, pine plantations, and the plant collections that the University has established combine to provide a great venue for biking , hiking, and exploration.
- Pedal your way around the city. Madison is a very bike-friendly city. A bike trail network connects all parts of the city. Several local vendors provide bicycle rentals and not just some old clunkers either. You can try out some of Trek’s latest developments at some rental places. Just ask us for information. City busses and Green Cabs have bike racks to help you out when the old legs are too tired to go another mile. Many of the Wisconsin State Bicycle trails come very close to Madison too.
February 21st, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck
A foodie visits Madison, WI and wants to know our Top Ten Foodie places. It’s hard to pare the list down to just 10 places and I’ll not even attempt to include places where you could eat. Here are my picks for the top 10 places for foodies to shop for things to eat, drink, and bless their home kitchens.
- Dane County Farmer’s Market. Yes, it is a year-round love affair with all that is fresh and local. The market is held every Saturday morning. In the summer months a Wednesday market is added. In fact, in the summer months there is a farmers market somewhere near Madison every single day of the week.
- Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier. Madison’s finest dark chocolate truffles can be found here. We love to feature them in the Romance Packages available at The Speckled Hen Inn.
- Fromagination. A cheese shop where you can taste before you buy. Lot’s of local cheeses and a cheese merchant who really knows the stuff. It’s right on the Capitol Square too.
- Penzeys. Two shops in the Madison area will overload your senses with spices and herbs and inspiration. Their Hot Chocolate mix is a favorite at the Inn. If you leave the store with just one item, let it be the double strength vanilla.
- Ale Asylum. Proof that beer is crazy good food. The distribution of their beers is getting to be pretty good and you will find it in several local restaurants and markets. But, it is a lot more fun to go to the source and maybe even meet the guys who make it.
- Orange Tree Imports. Cookware and all manner of gadgets for the foodie’s kitchen. There are also plenty of beautiful serving pieces. It is great place to shop for a wedding gift for foodies too.
- RP’s Pasta. Beautiful, delicious handmade pasta to pair with your cheese and veggies. They make great gluten-free pasta too.
- La Brioche. Fine Bakery items that you will never be able to create at home. The morning buns have long been a Madison favorite and they produce wedding cakes that taste every bit as good as they look.
- Yahara Bay Distillers. Go and be amazed. They make some of the finest Lemoncello I’ve ever tasted. It is almost worth taking Friday off from work so that you can be in Madison on Thursday night for their tastings.
- The Kitchen Gallery. The love of their buyer for fine kitchenware is so obvious. I can go in their shop and find things that I would swear they ordered just for me.
December 28th, 2011 by Pat Fischbeck
The crew from Good Oak Woodland restorations recently cleared a lot of brush and invasive buckthorn trees from the hillside behind the Inn. We thought that you would enjoy reading what they had to say about it on their blog and seeing the before and after pictures. We have already noticed how much easier it is to see the wildlife activitity in the woods. The wild turkey have been scratching around in the carpet of leaves for whatever it is that wild turkey look for. It is fun to sit at the breakfast table and actually see what is happening in the woods. The folks from Good Oak will be working with us next spring to identify our wildflowers and make recommendations for planting that will restore this woodland area to it’s original and native form.
November 11th, 2011 by Pat Fischbeck
Earlier this week the members of The Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association met at The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for their annual meeting and conference. The conference began with a special day of presentations for Aspiring Innkeepers. Sixteen future innkeepers learned about the profession from experts in business, financing, and insurance and received lots of advice from practicing innkeepers about marketing, policies, record keeping and websites. Tours of local B&B’s were enjoyed by many of the conference attendees. The keynote presentation was delived on Monday morning by Jay Karen of PAII. His message encouraged innkeepers to reach out to the next generation of guests by listening to their needs and desires. The rest of Monday and Tuesday were filled with interesting workshops, a trade show, and probably most importantly, time for the members of WBBA to share time with old friends and welcome some new ones into this family of innkeepers.
What does happen when innkeepers get together? Do they tell horror stories about bad guests? No, well maybe a little bit but innkeepers are really a positive group sharing the feeling that B&B guests are a very special group of people who make a conscious choice to be a guest at a B&B. So innkeepers time together is a time to share best practices, tidbits of vendor information, and recipes and breakfast menu plans. It really is a time to recharge and then go back to their B&B’s with a long, long list of ideas, projects, and concepts to explore during the slightly quieter months ahead.
So, a new year begins now before January even rolls around. There is blogging to do, facebook to do better, pictures to take (especially food pictures), rooms to refurbish or redecorate, a cookbook to create, new marketing techniques to master, and time management issues to resolve. You can share my journey on facebook, if you care to. It promises to be interesting.
February 3rd, 2011 by Pat Fischbeck
Up here in Frozen Tundra land most Packer Fans will be serving chili on Super Bowl Sunday. Do you need a special, perfect something to go with the chili? How about grilled cheddar sandwiches made with Wisconsin Beer Bread? Here’s the Bread recipe:
Wisconsin Beer Bread
3 cups of self-rising flour
3 Tablespoons of sugar
12 ounces of your favorite Wisconsin Beer (We will be using Spotted Cow from New Glarus Brewery)
3 Tablespoons of melted butter.
Mix the flour, sugar and beer. Scrape into a well greased loaf pan. Pour the melted butter over the top and bake for 60 minutes at 350 degrees.
Cool the loaf and slice into hearty slices. Make sandwiches with your favorite Wisconsin Cheddar cheese. Brush the outer sides of the sandwich with more melted butter and grill until golden brown. Cut into triangles (Think cheeseheads!) and enjoy with your chili.
The innkeepers at The Speckled Hen Inn will be serving the sandwiches with their Super Bowl Sunday Breakfast. Go Pack!
January 31st, 2011 by Pat Fischbeck
Guest at Speckled Hen Inn
Need to burn off a few calories before you settle down for the Super Bowl parties? Mother nature has supplied us with plenty of snow and the folks out at Blue Mound State Park have scheduled a candle-light ski party on Saturday night, February 5, 2011.
Blue Mound State Park, Blue Mounds, (608) 437-5711 – Candlelight Ski, Hike, and Snowshoe. Ski one and two mile lighted loops. Separate lighted trail for hikers, snowshoers, and leashed pets. Bonfire, straw bale warming shelter, free hot drinks and marshmallows for roasting. Hot food, baked goods, and commemorative shirts for sale. Sponsored by the Friends of Blue Mound State Park. 6-9 p.m.
Blue Mound State park is about 25 miles west of Madison and is on the tallest hill in Southern Wisconsin. The event is free but you will need a Wisconsin State Park admission sticker for your vehicle to get in. That costs $25 for Wisconsin residents and $35 for non residents and it will be good for all of 2011.
The park is a popular destination for those who wish to play in the snow during the daylight hours also.
After a day on the trails a nice soak in a jetted tub and a comfortable bed could be waiting for you at The Speckled Hen Inn. The following morning we will be featuring a Packer Fan breakfast to start Super Bowl Sunday off just right. Stick around for another night and watch the big game on the projection TV in the lounge. Monday will surely be a Wisconsin holiday
January 24th, 2011 by Pat Fischbeck
If you need a bit of inspiration for your Super Bowl Party, the innkeepers at the Speckled Hen Inn in Madison Wisconsin have a couple of suggestions for you. Since Packer fans have a weekend off from watching football this weekend why not head to Madison to check out the Isthmus Beer and Cheese Fest.
Sample some of Wisconsin’s finest craft beers and specialty cheeses and decide which ones you will want to serve at your Packer’s party on Super Bowl Sunday. There are even a couple of special sessions at the event that you won’t want to miss but need to sign up for early. At 1:30 the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board will pair wonderful Wisconsin cheeses with the brews from Potosi Brewery. That’s the great western Winconsin brewery that is also home to the Beer Museum. At 3:00 there is a session on pairing beer with chocolate. It even gets better. The pairing is between Gail Ambrosius Chocolates (our local favorite) and the crazy craft brews from Furthermore Brewery. (I’ve done this before and you have to try it to even imagine how good it is!)
If your entertainment plan is a bit more upscale head out to Wollersheim Winery in Prairie Du Sac for the party to celebrate the release of their 2009 vintage ports. This year they will be adding a 2009 vintage White Port to their offerings and you can sample and celebrate any time between 10 and 4 on Saturday. Enjoy a bit of live jazz and pair your port sample with a Combinacas Plate featuring Wisconsin-made Asiago cheese, a chocolate truffle, fresh bread, and dried apricots and almonds. You will want to take home a bottle of Wisconsin Port or wine to toast the success of the Packers anyway. Sampling is one sure way to find the wine that pleases you.
We still have rooms available on Friday night so that you can have a romantic getaway at The Speckled Hen Inn. Enjoy our great breakfast and then head out to sample some of Wisconsin’s finest.
November 15th, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck
Crab Trees at The Speckled Hen Inn
The Speckled Hen Inn is delighted and proud to be named one of Wisconsin’s Top Ten Eco-Elegant Inns by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. We take our participation in Wisconsin’s Travel Green certification program very seriously and want travelers to know that “traveling green” doesn’t mean having to forgo some of the very nice things in life. It often means making the best choice available and that choice is often delicious, delightful, and downright fun.
Here is what they had to say about us:
Speckled Hen Inn, Madison, www.speckledheninn.com
Their Green Story: Here’s a B&B that pampers guests with easy-going elegance while supporting principles of sustainable living. This 50-acre property of Patricia and Robert Fischbeck features pastures with sheep and llamas, orchards, gardens and walking trails. According to Pat Fischbeck, “We’re committed to green but also sustaining the culture and sense of place travelers enjoy in Wisconsin.”
Of Special Note: Pat was the grand prize winner of the 2008 Wisconsin B&B Association recipe cook-off for her recipe for Wisconsin Breakfast Panini featuring cranberries and lots of other Wisconsin goodies.
Innkeepers’ Recommendations for Other Green Businesses Around Town: Guests come to the inn specifically to visit the Farmer’s Market on the Capitol square, the largest true farmers’ market in the nation. As an aside, Pat used to have a booth there selling homegrown herbs. For a taste of Wisconsin art, the Absolutely Art gallery features all Madison artists and the Bindley Collection gallery features all Wisconsin artists. Harvest restaurant is a top choice, thanks to their all local, in-season menu.
June 23rd, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck
We proudly announce the opening of the newest room at The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast. The “Madison Lakes Room” is complete and ready to accept guests. Bookings are being accepted as of June 26, 2010.
This room will allow The Speckled Hen Inn to now accept children under the age of 12 and the room is also pet-friendly. The Madison Lakes Room is on the lower level of the Inn and has its own private entrance.
This has been a fun project to design and construct. We did the majority of the work ourselves over the winter.
The room has a more contemporary feel than the other four guest rooms in the Inn. Upon walking in through double French doors off the lower deck, the bedroom is sunken 12” below the tiled entry foyer/breakfast area. The King-sized bed is recessed slightly into one wall. There is a separate seating area with two swivel chairs. The room also has a gas fireplace with a 37” HDTV/DirecTV above the mantle, viewable from the bed and the seating area. The fireplace is nestled between a built-in bookcase and seating/luggage bench. The room is decorated with textured fabrics in shades of chocolate brown, bronze and pear green with a few sunset colors as accents.
There is also a wet bar and freezer/refrigerator in the room. For business travelers, there is a desk area built into the wall next to the fireplace. Free wireless internet access is provided. Breakfast will be served in the dining room of the Inn, or if you prefer, in the room at your private dining table.
The room also features an attached private spa-like bathroom. The Spa Room is elevated 6” above the main room. The shower is 4×6 feet in size with an all glass front. There is a two person bench built into the shower where you can enjoy a normal wall shower, an overhead rain shower and last but not least, a steam shower! The room also features a 2-person champagne-bubble air-jet tub. The Spa Room is fully tiled giving it a warm, luxurious feeling. There is an all glass vessel sink next to the tub bench, matching the glass tile insert in the wall tile pattern. There is a separate enclosed toilet room.
The art work in the room depicts scenes of Madison from the Lakes, and hence, the “Madison Lakes” room-name.
Soon there will be a small outdoor courtyard for guests of the Madison Lakes Room to enjoy and we hope to have pictures available very soon.
April 22nd, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck
Celebrate Earth Day this year by planning to add some green to your own little patch of Earth. The Madison area greenhouses are filled with wonderful plant material just waiting to turn your home into your own private oasis this summer.
At the Speckled Hen Inn, we prefer to buy our plants from local greenhouses rather than the big box discounters because we are assured that the plants are suitable for our growing conditions and the knowledge that the folks working in the greenhouses are willing to share, makes sure that we have selected to right plant for our needs.
Here is a link to a map with some of our favorite local garden centers and plant nurseries on it.
View Madison Area Garden Centers and Nurseries in a larger map.