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Posts Tagged ‘cheese’

Spring Break Getaway Road Trip

March 26th, 2013 by Pat Fischbeck

Spring Break time has finally arrived and the innkeepers at The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast in Madison WI know you are just dying to get out of the house and enjoy some sunshine and fresh air.  What better way to do this than to take a little road trip.

Less than an hour’s drive out highway 12 from Madison you will find Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac, WI.  Their winery is open daily from 10-5 and the historic winery offers tours, tastings and fun shopping and sight-seeing on any early spring day.  Select a few bottles to take home with you or become a member of their case club.

Carr Valley Cheese

Carr Valley Cheese

What pairs better with wine than cheese?  And right across the river in Sauk City you will find a Carr Valley Cheese store.  They are producers of some of Wisconsin’s finest Artisan Cheeses made from cow, goat, or sheep’s milk or combinations thereof.  Try a sample and ask about pairing a cheese or two with the wines you just purchased.  Your innkeepers will happily provide you a board, cheese knife and some wine glasses when you return to relax at the Inn.

 

 

 

But first, while you are in the area head back in to Prairie du Sac and make a stop at the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council Overlook to see the American Bald Eagles.  The overlook is just 2 blocks south of the Highway 60 and Highway 78 intersection in Prairie du Sac, right along the Wisconsin River.

What a great way to shake off the winter blahs and get out to enjoy some of the Best of Wisconsin.

Things To Do In Madison

March 1st, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

Capitol Square in Madison Wisconsin

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. UW-Madison Arboretum 11-03-2011 207Experience 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.
  10. 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.

A Foodie Visits Madison

February 21st, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

A foodie visits Madison, WI and wants to know our Top Ten Foodie places.  Fine Cheese in Madison WI  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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.Spirits From Yahara Bay Distillers in Madison WI
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. RP’s Pasta.  Beautiful, delicious handmade pasta to pair with your cheese and veggies.  They make great gluten-free pasta too.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Innspiration for your Super Bowl Party

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.

January in Madison — events to enjoy

January 5th, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck

Yes, it is cold and there is lots of snow piled around but there is a lot to do this month.  Here’s a quick summary of weekend events in the month of January:

January 8-10 is Madison Home Expo 2010 time.  Do you need a little inspiration for an upcoming facelift for your home?  You will find it here.

January 9 or 16  Michael Feldman is in town for his WPR radio show, Whad’Ya Know.  If you have never been part of a live audience for a radio program, you have to go.  It’s a hoot! 

January 15 and 16, 22 and 23 get out the saddle shoes and head on down to Fort Atkinson to the Fireside Dinner Theatre for Those Fabulous 50′s and 60′s .  It is just a pretty drive through the rolling countyside.  You will still be smiling and humming the tunes when you return.

January 30  WOW a busy day.  You will have to make some choices.  The Broadway tour of Rent will be onstage at the Overture CenterWollersheim Winery will be celebrating the  release of their 2008 Port with live jazz, light food, and port and wine tastings.  Check out the eagles on the Wisconsin River while you are in the area.  If Port is not your thing you might enjoy the Isthmus Beer and Cheese Feast at the Alliant Energy Center.  Taste Wisconsin’s finest and choose your favorite pairing.  Then get all dressed up and head to the heart of the city for Madison’s Frostiball.  Dance the night away in the magnificent capitol rotunda.

See, there is plenty for guests at the Speckled Hen Inn to do in January.  Or for those who don’t want to “do”, there is always watching the wild turkeys and the squirrels and birds at the feeders, trying out the snowshoes, watching the fire in the woodburner, or catching a game or a movie on the bigscreen.

Last Minute Holiday Shopping in Madison

December 11th, 2008 by Pat Fischbeck

Everyone has to eat.  So, it just makes sense that gifts of food are always welcome.  There are lots of places in Madison where you can pick up fabulous local foods to suit everyone on your shopping list.
Wisconsin is all about cheese and there is a lot to choose from.  Stop in Fromagination on the capitol square to get your imagination going.  Or visit and sample your way through the artisan cheeses at Carr Valley Cheese in Middleton.  The tiny, tiny cheese store in Paoli is tons of fun too.  Not too far from the Speckled Hen Inn you will find Mouse House and Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet.  Have someone take your picture with the huge cow to prove that you were really there.

 

Carr Valley Cheese at a Speckled Hen Inn Wine Tasting

  

 

If you have someone who loves to cook on your list, stop in Penzy’s spice store on University Avenue.  Their double vanilla is divine and the variety of pepper and the mills to grind it is excellent.  It is a Holiday treat for your nose just to walk into the shop.  Next door, there is a cookware store that will actually sharpen your knives while you wait and next to that there is a shop that sells all kinds of wonderful vinegars and oils.  If you need something to finish off a food gift basket, Whole Foods is right across the street.
Chocolate lovers will long remember any gift of truffles from Gail Ambrosious Chocolatier.  Coffee lovers might appreciate the freshly roasted beans from Victor Allen, Steep and Brew, or Ankora Coffee Roasters.  Everyone loves pasta.  The fresh pasta from RP’s is excellent.
We will be happy to help guests at The Speckled Hen Inn find the perfect gifts for all those question marks on their shopping list.  One final suggestion: How about a Speckled Hen Inn Gift Certificate tucked into a copy of a Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast cookbook?  We can make it happen.