Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lake Michigan Circle Food tour - Intro & Day 1 (1 of 3)

When I left for my motorcycle tour of Lake Michigan, I had four objectives as far as food was concerned:
  1. I wanted to try frozen custard, a specialty from Wisconsin that so many people had told me about.
  2. I wanted to eat a fish fry, the battered and fried fish plate that you eat in Wisconsin on a Friday;
  3. I wanted to eat pasties, the specialty that Cornish immigrants brought to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; and
  4. I wanted to have pizza again at Salt of the Earth, the restaurant in Fennville, MI. There, I had already eaten what I thought was the best pizza outside of Italy. I needed to double-check if the quality was consistent.
By the end of my 1152 miles tour (1852 km) I was able to strike three items off my list. A 75% success rate is pretty good, but that one item – notably fish fry – is proving so elusive that it is starting to annoy me.

So, here is how it went. I will not bore you with a “motorcycle” report, because this is not what this blog is about, although some reference to the roads I was riding on will have to be made. And because this is a long report, I will divide it in different posts. This is the first one.

Day 1 – Chicago-Green Bay, WI (205 miles)
I leave Chicago on Friday afternoon with a clear plan: stop at Kopp’s restaurant in Glendale, just past Milwaukee, to try Kopp’s frozen custard; get to Green Bay in time to have a fish fry. I should have understood that the Gods were against me when, after one hour of leaving Chicago, I had covered only 23 miles (40km). After two hours I had covered a total of 60 miles. A vast improvement, but still not enough...

I realized that I would never make it on time to have my fish fry. Again. This is in fact the second time in less than one month that my attempts at eating this dish are crashed. So I entered into Plan B mode again, and decided to stop at Kopp’s for frozen custard AND a burger. I got there 2.5 hours after leaving Chicago. Yes, you saw that right: it took me 2.5 hours to cover 120 miles (200Km). And it had started to rain.

Kopp’s is a fast food chain from Wisconsin, mostly famous for their custard and their “jumbo burgers”. I had never heard of Kopp’s outside of the US, for a reason: they are only in Wisconsin (incidentally, this is yet another prove of the fact that Wisconsin must be the most underrated State in the US: so beautiful and rich, yet so unknown outside the US).

Inside Kopp's: to me it really was 100% Americana

So, what is frozen custard? It is something in between a creamy gelato and frozen yoghurt. I like it more than the yoghurt but less than the real gelato, although I do prefer custard to the American ice cream that you can find in most other establishments.

Frozen Custard at Kopp's

I need to explain my last sentence to my non-American, non native English speaking friends. At school, our English teacher taught us all that ice cream was the translation of the Italian word gelato. Well, the teacher was a liar (LIAR!) I discovered after moving here that gelato and ice cream are words that are both used in the English language, and indicate two very different things: gelato is the Italian gelato (DOH!). Ice cream is something different, with a higher percentage of fat (10% vs 5%) and a lot less dense than Italian gelato. This is because it is made at a higher speed, hence there is more air inside (25% of air inside a gelato and 50% of air inside an ice cream). They are also different in the temperatures at which they are served.

I got the vanilla flavored custard because it is the traditional taste. But before the custard, I had one of their cheeseburgers, with fried onions, lettuce and tomato. It was VERY good. Actually, it was possibly the best cheeseburgers I have ever had in a fast food chain.

Cheeseburger at Kopp's: the best fast food cheeseburger ever?

As you can see from the photo, the lettuce and the tomatoes were very fresh, they were not soggy. Also, I loved the cheese that was really melting in my mouth. Visually speaking, I was disappointed by the patty, which I thought was too thin. But the taste was there.

After a rewarding meal, I climbed on my bike again and headed north, to Green Bay. I got there after an additional 4 hours, while riding mostly in a subtle rain. This wasn’t a rewarding ride. I was on the Interstate, because I needed to make time and be ready for Saturday. I knew Saturday I would have been riding on beautiful roads and eating pasties. No rain would stop me short of that.

Alas, I hadn’t factored in that Saturday a rehearsal of the next biblical deluge was scheduled on the roads I was to travel on.

Read Lake Michigan Food circle tour, skies and landscapes (2 of 3)


grover_arms47 said...

so glad you got to kopps! next time, get the flavor of the day. last time i had it, it was raspberry made with big, delicious, real berries (as opposed to raspberry flavor and food coloring). and try the buffalo chicken sandwich. it's topped with celery and blue cheese dressing...sounds crazy but it really works.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hello there - this time the flavor of the day was strawberry. I was tempted, but I felt I needed to try the real thing before going for a specific variation!

Mmm, that sandwich may work indeed.

Sarah said...

second the reccomendation re the buffalo chicken sandwich. Just told Valerie about it! Kopps chocolate custard is also really, really good.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Sara, welcome and thank you for your comment. I guess another trip to Kopp's is in order then...

Anonymous said...

If you ate fish & chips in the UK you ate Wisconsin's fish fry. Only, better. So you are not missing much.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi anonymous: you are not the first one that tells me that. But I am curious: the fish fry is supposed to be lake fish, so it should be different at least in texture, right?


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