Archive for January, 2012

Warm Up with Soup (and Grilled Cheese)

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Some might call it a classic combination – tomato soup and grilled cheese.  Of course, with it being Wisconsin, we always suggest making the sandwich using an artisan cheese.  Download the brochure of artisan cheese varieties and think about pairing two or three cheeses.  Then whip up this recipe for Italian Basil Tomato Soup from Green Fountain Inn in Waupaca and you will feel warm and cozy no matter what the mercury reading is outside.  Here’s one more idea: Search for B&Bs that offer rooms with fireplaces (wood-burning) and enjoy a warm-you-up breakfast made for you.

Italian Basil Tomato Soup – makes 4 servings

1 pound Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 (14.5ounce) cans diced Italian tomatoes
1(8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 c basil, chopped
1/2 c lemon juice
2 TBL sugar
1TBL Worchestershire sauce
1 t salt
3/4 teaspoon hot sauce

Heat a bit of oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over med-high heat.  Remove sausage from casings & crumble into the pot.  Add onion & celery and cook until meat is browned and vegetables are tender.  Add in the tomatoes and puree together using a blender (regular or immersion). Add remaining ingredients and reduce heat to low.  Cook just until heated.  Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and/or croutons.

Cooking Classes - a great inside activity for the winter - are held at the Green Fountain Inn, in Waupaca.


Opera Season in Wisconsin

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Are you a fan of “Saturday Afternoon at the Met” on NPR, the live broadcasts of the New York Metropolitan Opera?  It’s so easy to be swept away by the tales of romance, intrigue, betrayal, life and death, and that’s just Act 1.  This is opera season, so let’s take stock of what we have in the world of opera right here in Wisconsin.

The Madison Opera resides at the Overture Center for the Arts located right on bustling State Street.  We can’t wait for the April performance of Rossini’s CinderellaNaeset-Roe Inn in nearby Stoughton has a grand architectural quality to it – it’s a renovated 1878 Italianate National Registry property – making it the perfect spot to spend the night after an evening at the opera. Dating to 1873 is the Hotel Ruby Marie in Madison overlooking Lake Monona, another grand choice for overnight accommodations.

The Skylight Opera Theatre of Milwaukee is performing Gershwin & Friends, which takes place at a ritzy party in the New York City home of George Gershwin in the midst of the Jazz Age.  Over at the Florentine Opera, also in Milwaukee, they’re staging a musical revue of love songs February 10-12 called Isn’t It Romantic?    Their season wraps up in May with a performance of Mozart’s first major opera, Idomeneo. The Brumder Mansion B&B has its own 70-seat theatre on the upper floor that it uses for staging real weddings.

If opera isn’t your thing, then maybe you’d like ballet or a symphony performance.   We recommend staying at a historic B&B to set the mood for performances of historic proportions. We have 25 inns around the state listed on the National Historic Register.

Relax before and after the opera at historic Hotel Ruby Marie in downtown Madison


On with the Snow

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Now that Wisconsin has snow, we’d like to point out a few events in February that we’re keen on because they’re so Wisconsin-esque, starting with the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race in Bayfield the weekend of February 4-5, with mushers completing half the race distance each day.  Friday night there’s a “Meet the Mushers” Dinner too.  On February 10 there’s the Sturgeon Stampede Ice Extravaganza in Fond du Lac, with kiting and windsurfing on the ice of Lake Winnebago.  Saturday, February 18 is the Madison Winter Festival on the Capitol Square – it’s a veritable winter wonderland with all the ice and snow sculptures.  And last but not least, the American Birkebeiner Cross-Country Ski Event, North America’s largest cross-country ski marathon, will welcome 8,000 skiers and spectators to Hayward on February 25.  It’s so easy to book a B&B for these events – just search by city on our web site.

If you prefer the solitude of a cross country ski or winter hike, then consider booking a room at Courthouse Square B&B in Crandon, Inn at Lonesome Hollow in Soldiers Grove, or Speckled Hen Inn in Madison.  Each has ample acreage for you to glide or stomp through the snow.

For the downhill skiers among you, here’s the directory of ski hills in Wisconsin as compiled by the Department of Tourism.   Cross reference with our list of B&Bs by city and you’ll be on the slopes in no time.

You can't miss this bright guy as you snowshoe the grounds of Speckled Hen Inn.


Courthouse Square B&B in Crandon - no traffic lights in Crandon to halt your hiking or snowshoeing.


Step right out the door at Inn at Lonesome Hollow in Soldiers Grove into a winter wonderland.



Are You Ruled by Your Heart or the Calendar?

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Sweetest Day is always the third Saturday of October.  Easy, right, especially when it comes to planning a romantic weekend getaway.  Not so for Valentine’s Day.  This year it falls on a Tuesday.  We asked our innkeepers if couples travel for Valentine’s Day even when it falls midweek.  The answer: Not so much.  Seems the weekend before and the weekend after are big with couples celebrating their love for each other.  Which is actually good news a) if you’re a traditionalist and think romance should be duly observed on February 14, no matter the day of the week; or b) if you’re able to sneak away midweek with the one you love.  Perhaps decide which region of the state you’d like to escort your sweetheart to, and then start researching inns for one that you’ll both love.

Here’s another option for those who like to hand a present to their partner – gift a Wisconsin Bed & Breakfast Association gift certificate as a token of how much you love traveling as a twosome.  Together you can choose a Romance Package that fits your mood and your schedule.  You must take a look at the romance offerings from Lazy Cloud B&B in Lake Geneva.  We’re intrigued by the “Enchanted Evening” romantic board game!  At the Door County Lighthouse Inn, the winery tour and cozy sleigh ride sound pretty wonderful.  The in-room massages included in the “Enhance the Romance Package” package from Westport B&B in Manitowoc would be especially relaxing for couples looking to slow down and reconnect.

Wisconsin B&Bs Are Not Just for Coffee, They’re for Tea Too

Friday, January 13th, 2012

January is National Hot Tea Month, which had us doing a little research of our own on the benefits of hot tea.  One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that substances in tea, especially green tea, may promote weight loss by increasing the amount of energy spent by the body.  Then there’s the research reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that found that people who drank three cups of black tea per day produced five times the amount of germ-fighting cells than those who drank coffee, an especially handy stat during flu season.  Which finally led us to catalog B&Bs in Wisconsin that serve tea as part of their beverage service. Feel like the Queen Mother herself when you sip tea at Ye Olde Manor B&B House B&B in Elkhorn, where innkeeper Karen Fulbright-Anderson said they have a ‘”ridiculous selection of teas, some in fancy bags, some loose, all delicious.” The Ludlow Mansion in Monroe serves teas that the innkeeper brought back from Africa.  Guests at the Westphal Mansion Inn B&B in Hartford can watch a tiny ball of Flowering Jasmine Tea become a beautiful flower. Wisconsin tea companies like Cha Cha Tea in Madison, Fava Tea in Appleton, Rishi Tea in Milwaukee, Door County Coffee & Tea Company, and Baltica Tea Room in Port Washington are among the state’s most sip- worthy contenders.

At Westphal Mansion Inn B&B in Hartford, Jasmine Flower tea blossoms right before you eyes.

Wisconsin’s American Players Theater is #1 with Wall Street Journal Critic

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

If your travels in the coming year take you to the Spring Green area of Wisconsin, then you must take in a performance of the American Players Theatre.  Wall Street Journal theater critic Terry Teachout named APT the Best Company and “The Cure at Troy” the Best Play of 2011.  Here’s an excerpt from the story:  Wisconsin’s American Players Theatre, located in Spring Green, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home town, has been putting on first-class productions in its 1,148-seat amphitheatre since 1979. When it opened a second indoor stage, the handsome 200-seat Touchstone Theatre, in 2009, APT decisively established itself as one of America’s most ambitious and consistently impressive classical summer festivals. This year’s offerings included an overwhelmingly moving small-stage version of “The Cure at Troy,” Seamus Heaney’s English-language adaptation of Sophocles’ “Philoctetes,” directed by David Frank, APT’s artistic director. A perfect embodiment of the company’s serious yet unpretentious style, “The Cure at Troy” was the best show of any kind that I saw in 2011.  The 2012 APT schedule has just been posted and includes Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and “The Royal Family” written by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, among others.  Spend the night at Silver Star B&B Inn or Hill Street Bed and Breakfast, both with Spring Green addresses.