Northern Hospitality Thrives in the Frozen Tundra
Winter in Wisconsin is breathtakingly beautiful -- and formidable. Shawano is the Reinhart Division that serves Northeastern Wisconsin, including Green Bay and the Door County Peninsula – an area often referred to as “the Frozen Tundra.” This time of year, baby, it’s cold outside! Let’s just say that Santa Claus has nothing on the intrepid Reinhart sales consultants and truck drivers who deliver the goodies to this area’s foodservice operators -- through sleet, snowstorms and arctic temperatures.
The Big Chill and the Big Deal with Dairying
Since prehistoric times, this northern paradise just west of Lake Michigan has provided its inhabitants with a wealth of natural resources – even through the bone-chilling winter. Northeastern Wisconsin has vast sources of fresh water from lakes, rivers and streams; clean, crisp air; an abundance of fish, fowl and game; rich, fertile land sculpted by glaciers; forests thick with conifer and deciduous trees that in autumn showcase an awesome panoply of reds, oranges and yellows. After the leaves fall, they wave their bare-naked limbs until spring.
The first industry in this neighborhood was the fur trade, begun in the early 17th century. You already heard about the trees, so it’s no surprise that lumbering became an economic powerhouse, followed by agriculture, meat packing, papermaking and other industries. Wheat was a huge economic boom until the land no longer cooperated. Many farmers discovered that dairy cows thrived in the cool climate and loved to nosh on the clover and grasses of the bucolic pasturelands. And soon the infrastructure of the incomparable Wisconsin dairy industry emerged. The abundance of a quality milk supply attracted Old World cheesemakers here, and they brought their time-honored secrets with them. Today, the state produces over 600 varieties, types and styles – from day-old cheese curds to 15-year aged cheddar. Many of the world’s most renowned artisanal cheeses are produced here.
Big Game Hunting
There are two types of big game hunting going on in the area. One involves stealth through the woods, clad in orange. The other involves green and gold clothing. It’s the quest for tickets to the next Green Bay Packers game. While the city of Green Bay has been on the map for centuries, a group of young, tough visionaries really lifted the city to national prominence by bringing pro football here. Led by Curly Lambeau, and later the legendary Vince Lombardi, the team was so successful that the city became known as “Title Town.” As the Packers popularity grew, so did opportunities for the area’s foodservice and hospitality operators -- as thousands of hungry and thirsty fans came to town, not only during football season, but all year long, to worship at the shrine that is Lambeau Field.
There’s another powerhouse draw in this neighborhood – the 75-mile long peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan -- Door County. Often referred to as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” this tourist mecca boasts quaint villages with names such as Egg Harbor and Fish Creek (named by Forbes as one of the “Prettiest Towns in America.”), Cafes, supper clubs, ice cream parlors, art and craft galleries and clothing boutiques are nestled in towns where sailboats anchor in the bays. Cape Cod cottages and log cabins are covered with snow in winter and red geraniums in summer. White clapboard country inns beckon from wide front porches outfitted with rocking chairs. The peninsula has 11 original lighthouses, plus miles of pristine beaches, and five wooded state parks -- a dream-come-true for campers, cross country skiers, hikers and picnickers.
What's the Difference Between a Fish Fry & a Fish Boil?
Fish Fry: The fish fry, ubiquitous across Wisconsin, likely originated with the many Catholics in the state, who observed the Lenten custom of forgoing meat consumption on Friday. Church groups sponsored fish fries on Friday nights as fundraisers, and it wasn’t long before enterprising restaurateurs adopted the idea. There has always been a plentiful supply of fresh fish from the lakes here. Lake Perch, Walleye and Blue Gill are sometimes joined by ocean cousins such as Cod and Haddock in this beer-battered, deep- fried bill-of-fare, which traditionally also includes choice of potato, coleslaw and bread.
Fish Boil: The fish boil was devised by Scandinavian immigrants as a way to easily feed crowds of hungry lumberjacks and fishermen. White fish, a fresh-water species that flourishes in all five of the Great Lakes, is the delicately flavored anchor of the fish boil, which is a major culinary attraction in Door County. The cooking of the fish is an outdoor spectator sport, as diners gather around in anticipation. Salted water is brought to a boil in a giant kettle over an open fire. White fish and red potatoes are added, and when the kettle boils over, the meal is ready. Coleslaw and bread usually accompany the fish and potatoes, and Door County Cherry Pie is often the payoff at the end.