My mother, it appears, is on a mission to get Joel – and me as well, really – thoroughly acquainted with the many wonderful places, resources, and activities available in our new stomping grounds. We are accepting this mission with enthusiasm. Two thumbs up for exploring the area! Especially when it means, as it did this last weekend, going on a tour of some local farmer’s markets, farms, and the charming little town of Bayfield, Wisconsin.
My mom picked us up early Saturday morning in her zippy silver Honda. It wasn’t exactly still dark, but it was early for most people’s version of a Saturday morning, and there was a frigid nip in the air. We donned hats, and mittens, and puffy coats and piled into the car with Squid in tow. We met up with a couple of friends at the bottom of the hill (have I mentioned Duluth is built on a hill? – like San Francisco in extra-miniature), and off we went!
Our first stop was the farmer’s market in Port Wing (pop. 406), a tiny affair in the backyard of a church, just across the road from a rustic gas station that also had a fresh and smoked fish counter. Because, why wouldn’t you buy your fish while you’re getting gas?
The arrival of freezing temperatures over night has shooed away most of the remaining summer produce and ushered in potatoes and winter squash aplenty. Standing in front of a bench piled with at least a dozen different varieties of gorgeous winter squash, shaped like turbans and onions and gourds, we chatted mostly with one particular farmer whose place we were going to stop by later in the afternoon to pick up lamb, pork, chicken, and pullet eggs, tiny eggs that are mostly yolk.
My mother also bought us sheepskin to put on our office chairs to keep our hindquarters warm in the winter. It’s something they do in Norway, and it’s a pretty brilliant and practical idea. (They also bring little sheepskin seats with them on ski trips for setting down on the ground when they stop for a snack or cup of coffee.) I’m quite excited. Our chairs are already frigid on the rear.
We made a detour into the harbor to briefly watch the waves crash up along the stone pier, and then we took off for Bayfield. Bayfield is a sweet specimen of a town, sleepy and quaint-feeling almost in the manner of a New England sea side town. And flooded with visitors in the summer in the same way as well. There are cozy bed & breakfasts for staying in and good restaurants for eating at. From the marina you can take a ferry to Madeleine Island and spend the day biking around and swimming. Or you can rent kayaks and tour the sea caves (which, technically, I suppose, are lake caves).
In the fall things settle down and clear out considerably, so we had plenty of sidewalk space to ourselves as we wandered about, poking our noses into bookstores and galleries. We ate fried Lake Superior whitefish livers with local beer for lunch. And, we stopped to warm up with some excellent lattes.
Duluth, for all its awesomeness, doesn’t have the best independent coffee shops. In some of them, I’m afraid, asking for a dry cappuccino may get you little but a blank stare. So, we treasured the roasty, carefully pulled espresso we got in Bayfield. My mother and both of our friends ordered a drink the cafe called a “honey bee latte.” I was skeptical, but stole a sip, and was instantly overcome with drink envy. It was a revelation.
It’s hard to think of a simpler innovation than sweetening a latte with honey. After all, it’s a mere step away from stirring in a spoonful of sugar (though I guess I don’t really do that either if I’m having a latte). But, honey, in my mind, has been reserved for tea, and the combination of honey and coffee didn’t sound good at all.
It may not sound good, but I’m here to tell you it tastes wonderful! The rich, floral sweetness of honey enveloped in steamed milk conjures Mary Poppins and comforting bedtime stories, but then the bitter rush of espresso demands attention and a bit of sophistication. Besides spiced apple cider, I don’t know that I’ve ever had a drink that felt more perfectly suited to a cold, but brilliant fall day.
The afternoon we spent on farms. We picked up rosy honeycrisp apples from one with the most lovely view of the orange tinted hillsides. We visited our friend Bruce and wandered through the fields where he is working with the University of Wisconsin to grow the northernmost wine producing grape. While Squid played chase with a poodle named Vouvray (and found stinky things to roll in), we tasted grapes from the vines and watched Bruce measure the sugar levels in the fruit.
Our final stop was to fill up our coolers with meat at Morning View farm. Talk about free range, when we pulled into the driveway, we kept having to stop to avoid running over chickens that were squabbling and scratching all over the place. They ran about, blithely ignoring us. A gang of pigs squealed excitedly (a little maniacally, actually) as they rooted about in a large mud patch.
The farmers invited us to walk to a back field, carefully picking our way around cow pies, where we got to meet the calves that had been born in the last few days. Some were only a day old. They were a hardy northern breed with long, curly black hair that made the calves look as much like bear cubs as they did like cows. They eyed us curiously, then ran back to get milk from their moms who were standing around munching grass and looking pretty content with the state of affairs.
We drove back home in the steep-angled golden sunlight of early afternoon, carrying enough food to last us a good several months. The next morning, though, I woke up thinking not about my fresh pullet eggs, but about a honeybee latte. So, I decided to make one for myself. Might I gently suggest that you give one a try as well?
Honey Bee Latte (serves 1)
This isn’t really a recipe so much as a concept, so feel free to adjust proportions to your taste. I have found, though, that the latte turns out better using just a bit more honey than I first expected. This allows the honey flavor to come through, not just the sweetness.
- about 1 Tbs. dark amber raw honey (preferably local)
- a double shot of espresso
- 6-8 oz. steamed, foamed milk
- grated nutmeg
- Put the honey in the bottom of a mug, and pull or pour the hot espresso over it. Stir gently to dissolve the honey.
- Pour in the steamed milk and milk foam. I always try to make fancy feather and flower designs when I do this, but it always turns out looking like big plops of foam. Oh well. It still tastes good. Top with a little sprinkling of grated nutmeg.