February 27, 2017
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Hinterland's Bourbon Barrel Doppelbock, a limited release, rolls off the line. ( HINTERLAND BREWERY PHOTO )

Take Ten: Fox Valley breweries


Midwest Features Syndicate is partnering with the Department of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to help students gain work experience and build a writing portfolio. This week’s author is Jessica Zemlicka of Ripon, a senior majoring in journalism with a public relations emphasis.

She chose to spotlight breweries “to celebrate the experiences they each offer to their visitors. Beer is a big part of Wisconsin’s history and it’s nice to see how Wisconsinites are marking their own path in that history.”

Zombies in the Dells: Resort offers virtual reality games at The Arena


I am gingerly following a narrow, stone walkway, but then the path ends abruptly. Ahead and above is nothing but sky. Below is nothing but ocean. I am nearly petrified but not alone, part of a three-person team that starts chattering about what to do next.

Across from us, another threesome waves from their own little floating island. They are standing upside down.

Body art: Field Museum exhibition explores tattoos through the ages


More people are adding an indelible mark on their life, based on a process that is thousands of years old.

When asked to write about tattoos during my first newspaper job around 1980, it was hard to find anybody besides military vets and bikers to interview. Now nearly one-half of Americans who are 18 to 29 years old have at least one tattoo, and the business of tattooing is a $1.65 billion industry in the U.S.

To each his own chili


If you seriously doubt our nation’s ability to seriously but pleasantly debate anything, I have one word for you: Chili.

After asking Facebook friends what makes a bowl of chili distinctive, passionate preferences bubbled up pretty quickly. Geographic loyalty mattered a little, but certainly not politics. Hallelujah!

Where are we going this year?


Visionaries bring out their crystal balls in January and share what they know, think or hope for the new year. That is especially true during years when a new U.S. president begins work, but the whirl of predictions thankfully doesn’t begin and end with politics.

As you burrow in for the winter and await vacation, consider the hunches of these travel prognosticators who cast a keen eye on consumer preferences, emerging trends and their own sense of what’s new or exciting.

An ocean Vista: Some tips for navigating a Carnival cruise


Name a village of 4,500 with a brewery, waterpark, casino, IMAX theater and dozen dining outlets specializing in steak to sushi.

Thirty years have passed since my first Carnival sailing, and the cruise line no longer is simply a nonstop floating frat party. Sun decks, slushy drinks, silly games and gyrating dancers remain, but this world sure has widened.

Take Ten: Northwoods wedding venues


Midwest Features Syndicate and this newspaper are partnering with the Department of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to help students gain work experience and build a writing portfolio. This week’s author is Jessica Johnson of Roberts, a senior majoring in journalism with an emphasis in writing and editing. She was editor-in-chief of the Advance-Titan, the college newspaper, when we connected.

Johnson chose to spotlight wedding venues because “family friends are the owners of Coyland Creek, and after attending a wedding there this past summer, I knew I someday wanted to get married at an out-of-the-box wedding venue. Their venue inspired me to see what other unique wedding locations northern Wisconsin has to offer.”

Dells ice castle taking shape


A farmer’s progress comes at the mercy of Mother Nature, and that’s true for Dan Beck’s crew in Wisconsin Dells, too. He jokes that they have an icicle farm, and above-freezing temps are about as bad for growing them as lack of rain to a corn farmer. Another challenge is wind that races in from more than one direction.

Beck is Wisconsin site manager for Ice Castles, a Utah-based company that turns frozen water into a wintry wonderland of tunnels for crawling, thrones for perching and a maze of sometimes-narrow, twisting trails on 1.5 acres. What began as an empty Mount Olympus Resort lot is slowly growing into a massive fortress with 10-foot-thick walls, two 50-foot slides, a domed room with waterfall, water fountain, light show and more.

Remarkable getaways


A memorable overnight getaway doesn’t have to break the budget, or maybe it’s high time that you splurged. Where? I count these properties as remarkable, based on my travels and experience in 2016.

* Lismore Hotel, Eau Claire: Swanky new accommodations downtown are a quick walk to the riverfront, artsy venues and other casual to classy diversions. Technically, you don’t need to leave the former Ramada Inn for some of this: The Informalist is the hotel restaurant and cocktail lounge, serving burgers to black garlic pasta, roasted cauliflower steak to steak tartare. Also at ground level is ECDC (Eau Claire Downtown Coffee), brewing espressos and blending PB&J smoothies. On a rooftop is The Dive, a former swimming pool that is now a rooftop bar, one part enclosed, one part open-air seating: It turns lively at night, especially during summer. Why call it Lismore? That is Eau Claire’s sister city in Australia. Rates start at $97. doubletree3.hilton.com, 715-835-8888

Making the journey from Wisconsin to Salem, Va.


More thrilling than a Wisconsin Badgers victory at the Cotton Bowl, I’ll dare to argue, is a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh trip to the Stagg Bowl in Salem, Va. (set for Dec. 16).

If all goes well for the Oshkosh Titans during semifinal play Saturday, the squad heads to the NCAA Division III championship for the first time in school history.

Thankful for the harvest: Chef’s foundation helps farmers keep growing


Rick Bayless knew what he wanted after doing book research in Mexico around 30 years ago: Start a restaurant that served authentic Mexican food. So the Chicago chef opened Frontera Grill, which earned a James Beard Foundation award as Outstanding Restaurant in 2007.

His biggest challenge wasn’t finding the perfect music, art or menu ideas. It was finding excellent ingredients. “Wherever there is great food, there is great local agriculture,” he noticed, while in Mexico. Not so in Chicago.

Remembering the cost of war


This presidential election sure felt like a nationwide battle, regardless of whether you think we won or lost, and that is what compelled me to visit the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison on the morning after votes were tallied.

Here live the stories and artifacts of wars beyond words and ballot boxes.

The most important meal: Any time is time for breakfast


Remember what Mom used to say about breakfast? Most important meal of the day.

Less predictable, as time goes on, is when and what is breakfast. It’s no longer just about eggs, bacon, pancakes … or mornings.

Knockin’ on Dylan’s door: Fans find their way to Minnesota to learn musician’s life story


As I write this, the Swedish Academy is waiting for a call from Bob Dylan about his Nobel Prize for Literature. The award was announced days ago, comparing Dylan’s lyrics to the work of long-ago Greek poets.

The singer-songwriter is known for his reclusiveness. Much more accessible are Joe and Mary Keyes, whom the London-based Reuters news service tracked down within a couple of hours of the big news.

‘It is complicated and messy’: Learning some history lessons in Philadelphia


Many coins from passers-by top the tombstone for Benjamin Franklin at Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia. We still respect this country’s founding father and inventor of electricity to bifocals, daylight saving time to catheters.

Fewer hunt for Francis Hopkinson, Dr. Benjamin Rush, George Ross or Joseph Hewes, whose burial plots are in the same compact cemetery. Like Franklin, they formed and signed the Declaration of Independence, but only small flags mark their final resting spots.

Food and Wine Experiencing: Annual Kohler event keeps on growing


Hard to believe it’s October as I write this because forecasted temps remain about 10 degrees higher than average for the month, but that hasn’t stopped me from shifting my menus to soups, stews and anything else that seems traditional for this time of year.

For some people, this is a month of pilgrimage. The Kohler Food and Wine Experience, Oct. 20-23, attracts fans of celebrity chefs, lovers of gourmet fare and home cooks in search of inspiration. Headliners include chefs Spike Mendelsohn, Aaron Sanchez and Amanda Freitag of the Food Network and Jack Bishop, Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison of America’s Test Kitchen.

Catching up with author Michael Perry


It is rare for me to track down an author to his home, but that happened 14 years ago, to interview a guy in New Auburn about his first book with a major publishing house.

Although dozens of unsolicited books made their way to my newsroom desk in Madison, this one seemed extraordinary because of the way it explored rural life. “Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time” was author Michael Perry’s observations about human nature, told through his work as a volunteer firefighter, nurse and farmer.

Readers, thanks for filling the mailbag!


We have two winners in the challenge to write about your favorite national park experience in 50 words or less. Both will receive National Geographic books about the National Park Service during this NPS centennial year celebration.

“While in Yellowstone, a bear reared next to our car window,” writes Connie Cramer of Green Bay. “Our dog was so scared he opened his mouth, but no bark would come out. We still laugh thinking about it!”

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