Tamar Fleishman is a freelance travel journalist contributing to Washington Times (DC; 31, 838), The Herald-Dispatch (WV; 28,917), Examiner.com (7 million unique visitors per month) and others.
When traveling, it's fun to eat local flavors, but it's also good to stretch our flavor boundaries. If you're headed to the upper Midwest this summer for the sunny days and cool breezes, check out Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin's Paddock Club. I'm glad I had the opportunity to! The restaurant is named after an infamous club/speakeasy/underground casino that was in the area at the turn of the last century. The location was a hardware store in the 1890's.
Dress is casual and the whole little town loves to come out on Tuesdays for small plates night. They specialize in seasonal, local food, but with a European flair. They have a garden at the restaurant and at the owner's home that supplies herbs for the dishes.
I started out the summer evening with a crisp Wisconsin pear cider. The little touches are evident right away: there's an exquisite sea salt on the butter that comes out with bread service. Salads are lightly dressed, so that the flavor and texture of farm fresh lettuce shines through.
There was a soup special that you should cross your fingers and hope is on the menu: cream of mushroom with truffle oil. It's earthy and not overly creamy -- real grown-up food.
When you're in Wisconsin, you've gotta have cheese curds. Like Donnie Baker says, "It's state law!" Well, not really. But it's a ubiquitous treat. The Paddock Club serves theirs beer battered with horseradish remoulade instead of the traditional ranch dressing for a change of pace.
Even though they're in the North, they have a wonderful take on the low-country specialty of shrimp and grits. It has a slow-poached egg and tasso sauce. It has smoky ham flavor, with the perfectly cooked egg adding richness. The dish has a bit of spice.
Tuna carpacchio is a small plate garnished with raw, shredded beet, cilantro, scallions, almonds, lemon, along with yuzu vinaigrette. The tuna had a clean, fresh, mild flavor. The soy-cilantro sauce adds a pleasant hit of saltiness.
Pan-seared Alaskan halibut with truffled sweet corn succotash, potato puree and fried leeks will go over well with fish lovers or chicken lovers: it has a thick, meaty taste enhanced by the rich Southern take on veggie garnish.
Their signature dessert is a vanilla bean panna cotta with passionfruit-caramel and berries. It's rich and light at the same time, a good closer to a sumptuous meal.