Monday, October 11, 2010

Pumpkin patches in Madison and New Glarus Belgian Red beers

This past weekend we went again to our favorite weekend escapade location: Wisconsin. This time we went to Madison, a nice University town a 2.5 hours drive from Chicago. Madison sits in between two lakes, and makes for a very beautiful landscape. I was expecting the trees to be in a much more advanced stage of red. But I guess that the warm weather is delaying the whole process. (By the way, on this website you can check the progress of the red front county by county in Wisconsin).

Autumn in Madison - The Capitol in the background

In the midst of change. 
This was homecoming weekend for Madison, i.e. a weekend where alumni of the University go back to watch college football and get drunk. So almost everybody was wearing red, the color of the local football team, and almost everyone was pretty drunk by the end of the day. Fun to watch.
People dressed in red, getting drunk watching football in the University building. 
There were three highlights in this trip:, the farmers market in Madison, the largest in the Country; my first pumpkin patch and the visit to New Glarus, a brewery in the little town of New Glarus (very original).

I have an issue with farmers market in the States: they are small. Everybody in Chicago seems to be very excited about the Green City Market, which is the largest Chicago outdoor farmers markets. But, truth be told, it is tiny compared to any market in Europe. And when I say tiny I mean tiny, maybe 30 stands. Even extremely small towns in Europe have much larger markets (and a lot more variety) than the ones here. Madison's farmer markets being the largest in the Nation was a regular size by European standards: smaller - much smaller - than the marche' du midi in Brussels, but a decent size. And the location was actually beautiful, because it surrounds the Capitol Building, siege of the State Government.

Being this pumpkin season, there were a lot of pumpkins waiting to be picked up. But we didn't buy any there, because we were headed to a real pumpkin patch the day after.

The pumpkin patch was just plain fun: hundreds and hundreds of pumpkins sitting in a very large field, most of them still attached to the ground through their vines. I had never see one, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I mean, I knew that pumpkins must grow somewhere, but I had always seen them either in supermarkets, or at farm markets. And I wasn't prepared for the sheer dimension of this pumpkin patch.

A lot of pumpkins.

I couldn't stop thinking about Charlie Brown and its story of the Big Pumpkin. In the end we took two pumpkins (one very large, 30 pounds/15 kilos) and a smaller one.

Never too young, never too old for pumpkins.

And then we headed to New Glarus, which is basically - no joke - Switzerland in the US (and in fact, guess where "old" Glarus is? Yes, in Switzerland).

Swiss flags everywhere, houses built like if there were on the Swiss Alps, a carillon, this little town of 2000 people is mostly famous for the New Glarus Brewery, which attracts quite a number of tourists. The concentration of bikers per/inhabitants must be of 1 to 1: I have never seen so many motorcycles in such a tiny village.

Since we were in Switzerland, we felt that going to a Swiss restaurant and have some Swiss/German food was the appropriate thing to do. So we headed to the Glarner Stube, where we had some Wiener Schintzel, some bratz and a beer. You can see from the photo here that I am not joking when I say that we were in Switzerland.
New Glarus: Switzerland in Wisconsin
New Glarus brewery is mainly famous for its spotted cow beer, which is extremely good. But the reason why I love this brewery is because they also make a local version of the Belgian Kriek. The Kriek is a cherry beer. Not a beer to which you add cherry juice, mind you: but a beer which is fermented together with a specific variety of cherries. And it is my favorite beer. New Glarus does a version that they call Wisconsin Belgian Red. They use local cherries, and the taste is slightly different than Kriek's: it is a little more sour. But it is a darn good fruit beer. 

They also do a local version of another famous Belgian fruit ale, the Framboise, made with raspberries. This is my second favorite beer...The Wisconsin's version is called Raspberry tart. But if the Wisconsin Belgian Red is as good - albeit different - as the original Kriek, the Raspberry tart doesn't stand a chance compared to the Framboise. Sorry guys.  

Since you CANNOT find this beer in Illinois, and the brewery cannot ship, you can only find New Glarus beers in Wisconsin. It is an excellent reason to visit, I am telling you...also because with $3.50 you get a 3 beers to taste, while enjoying a beautiful Swiss - ahem, I mean Wisconsin - landscape...
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10 comments:

Cristie said...

Thanks for visiting Madison! Glad you enjoyed our great food and micro-brews. It's wonderful to be surrounded by excellent beers and beautiful fall colors. So glad you could share it with us!

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Christie, welcome and thank you for comment! My wife and I LOVE Wisconsin: we have been there 4 times over the past 3 months...and every time it is a feast for the senses!

Vicki said...

I can't believe I spent over 20 years in Chicago, and never went to New Glarus. It looks like I'll need to plan an extended vacation...

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Worth the trip!

orangeek said...

Madison is so nice! Next time you go there, try the terrace by the lake!

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Orange, we did have lunh there...and then we went for a boat tour. It was VERY nice.

orangeek said...

good. I hope that in a near future we all 4 can have lunch at the Med Cafe (State st. if I'm not wrong) and then lots of spotted cow at the terrace! :)

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Fingers crossed...

via said...

I'm always complaining that there's nowhere cool to go for the weekend, so thanks for this.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

And if you go to new glarus and it is warm enough they will have tables outside for the tasting. And it is really nice

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