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The exotic cuisine of...Wisconsin

OK, exotic to me, I guess. I'm from the West Coast with little to no Midwestern heritage. I'm facing a Wisconsin themed potluck in a couple of weeks and am trying to figure out what to make.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuisine_... suggests that the Wisconsin standard-bearers are fish fry, brandy, cheese curds, frozen custard and bratwurst - none of which are especially practical for a potluck setting.

I could deviate to a general Midwestern standard like a hotdish (which, tbh, does not sound that appealing), but are there any other Wisconsin specialties I should take a look at, or any Midwestern foods that might be a bit lighter than what I'm reading about?

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  1. actually, brats would be good for a potluck if you do a beer braise with onions. German potato salad is a classic accompaniment and also potluck-friendly.

    there's also beer cheese soup...or you could just default to mac & cheese with Wisconsin cheeses.

    for dessert, you could do cream puffs.

    as for the question about lighter dishes, the Midwest culinary scene isn't exactly a hotbed of spa cuisine ;)

    3 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      I second the German potato salad idea! A cherry pie would please too.

      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Beer cheese soup is a good one. I never realized how exotic people outside the Midwest find it.

        1. re: JungMann

          But did it originate in the Midwest or New England? I've never been clear as to whether it started in Wisconsin or Vermont. They both know their cheese and beer, to say the least.

      2. When I think "Wisconsin", I think "cheese". Brats and sauerkraut makes it in the Midwestern category but I'd probably look at something like cheese curd potato salad, beer cheese soup, Norwegian meat balls, or a spinach salad with bacon dressing (dressed just prior to serving of course).

        2 Replies
        1. re: todao

          Brats and beer is famous in Wisconsin.

          Lots of Germans in Wisconsin especially in Milwaukee. They were imported to work in the beer industry... or maybe because there were a lot of Germans, they started the beer industry... well one of those.

          1. re: Hank Hanover

            I don't think Germans were really imported to work in beer industry. It just happened that Wisconsin was "opening up" just at the time when there was pressure to emigrate from the German states for a number of reasons. And then as some Germans came, they sent back for more of their family and neighbors. (And they did like their beer!)

            Since Wisconsin is "the dairy state", how about a custard or other dairy dessert.

            There's a story there too. Wheat farming took off in Wisconsin and then that started to crash in the 1800s as wheat prices crashed for a number of reasons. So farmers had to do something else. Someone at the University developed the idea of raising dairy cows in larger numbers. Before that, farms would just have 1 or 2 cows, what they needed for their own use. Farmers were sold on the idea of going into dairying in a big way. And cheesemaking was the way the milk was preserved. Since it wasn't feasible to store and ship milk refrigerated then. So little cheese factories sprang up all over the state. Every little hamlet had one.

            When I was a kid visiting Wisconsin where my parents are from, I never thought the cheese there was that good. It seemed just utilitarian. Now there are wonderful craft cheesemaking places.

            But anything with milk or cheese would be a nod to all this history.

        2. hotdish = casseroles. These are ideally suited for potlucks. Even the British shepherds (or cottage) pie qualifies at a hotdish.

          In terms of ethnic backgrounds, Wisconsin has a lot of Germans and Scandinavians. The bratwursts are German. In the south central part of the state there's a community called New Glarus, reflecting a Swiss heritage. In NE there's a peninsula (Door County) with a Swedish restaurant (Al Johnsons in Sister Bay) and an island (now state park) formerly owned by an Icelandic businessman (Rock Island). The area (and some towns along Lake Superior) are known for fish boils - locally caught white fish boiled with corn and potatoes (and finished with spectacular boil over). The curds and custard reflect the strong dairy industry of the state.


          1. you could go with a dish of delicate freshwater fishes or baked coho salmon, or if it's too hard for a potluck you could always do a smoked trout spread and cheese platter.

            traditional beer brats, or contemporary grilled grassfed lamb jagerwurst with cranberry chutneys

            wild rice soup, corn chowder (either can be made vegetarian or non), WI cheddar soup

            porketta, spareribs&saurkraut, swedish meatballs

            bison, turkey, or ham prepared traditionally or however you like

            or, any number of scandinavian-influenced baked goods, "coffee cakes," donuts, german tortes, pie

            key ingredients: high quality dairy and cheese (duh), grassfed meats, pork, great lakes/freshwater fish, cranberries, apples, cherries (door country), midwestern garden vegetables, game (venison, pheasant), beer.

            7 Replies
            1. re: soupkitten

              I'm a neighbor of Wisconsin (from MN). Let me know if you need a recipe for kringle (a wonderful pastry) or for a cranberry dessert.

              Too bad it's too early for garden lettuce---there are killer -good recipes for wilted lettuce (lettuce with a bacon dressing, best made with early spring lettuce).

              p.s. Soupkitchen--good list of ideas. Are you a Wisconsinite?

              1. re: soccermom13

                I'd like kringle recipe. I used to be married to someone from racine and the kringle was the best part of trips home!

                1. re: magiesmom

                  Best recipe for kringle is to have the experts do it -- Racine Danish Kringle ships!

                  1. re: MikeB3542

                    it is always stale when it arrives

                    1. re: magiesmom

                      Actually, if you order from O&H it is really very fresh. They ship overnight. I send it to people all the time. Racine Danish Kringle pales in comparison!! If you happen to get it during Cranberry season it is WONDERFUL! Enjoy!

                  2. re: magiesmom

                    Soupkitten---Hello, fellow Minnesotan :0)

                    Magiesmom--Lookie here---I found a thread here on kringle:

                    I have eaten---but not made myself--Procastibaker's recipe from that thread. A coworker, who is a fine baker, made this recipe for a work event and it is delicious.

                    Here is Procastibaker's recipe:

                    A short pastry version my Danish MIL makes:

                    1 c. flour
                    1 stick butter, softened
                    2 T cold water
                    combine and spread into a 3"x12" oblong on an ungreased baking sheet
                    1 c. hot h2o
                    1 stick butter
                    1 c. flour
                    3 eggs
                    1 T almond extract
                    melt butter in boiling water; add flour and mix well. add eggs one at a time beating well after each. add almond extract. spread over oblong. bake at 425 for 40-50 min. or until golden then ice with the following while hot
                    1 c. 10x sugar
                    2 T soft butter
                    1/2 t. vanilla
                    add milk until spreading consistency. spread on hot pastry.

                    By Procrastibaker on Dec 21, 2007 01:25PM

                    My coworker's instructions vary just slightly:

                    Cut the butter into the first cup of flour. Sprinkle water on top, mix with fork. Divide dough in half and form into two strips, each 12 by 3 inches. Place 3 inches apart on ungreased bkg sheet.

                    Mix 2nd amt butter and water. Bring to boil. Remove from heat, add flavoring. Beat in flour, stirring quickly to prevent lumping. When smooth, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until smooth. It will seem like it won't mix, but just keep stirring. Divide in half and spread half evenly over each piece of pastry. Bake about 60 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown. Frost with icing and sprinkle with chopped nuts.

                  3. re: soccermom13

                    nope, just a MN neighbor like yourself-- but we get to reap the benefits of the WI foodshed over here too! kringle is a great idea :)

                2. Butter burgers, if it's doable in a pot luck.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: David11238

                    Ronni Lundy's wonderful cookbook, The Festive Table, describes many
                    celebrations that she found across the country. Some are official
                    holidays, others are just fun traditions. Lundy interviews the host
                    of an annual Winter Doldrums Hotdish Party. The party sounded like a
                    hoot -- prizes for various hotdish categories like hotdish that
                    travelled the furthest and worst

                  2. The Sterns Road Food books and website should have examples of distinctive local restaurants in the state, with descriptions of their specialties.

                    You could bring any item popular in Eugene, and claim it is a Madison specialty. :)

                    30 Replies
                    1. re: paulj

                      I clicked because the title of the thread was delightfully improbable.

                      I admit to disappointment tinged with horror. Wisconsin cuisine seems to mean that you melt a lot of cheese in it, cook German dishes, or boil potatoes corn and fish. Ugh. Even worse, the German food idea seems to be the top option. There are many things to admire about German culture, but... German food? is this the best Wisconsin has to offer?

                      That said, I am curious on one point. What is hotdish?

                      1. re: AdinaA

                        The definition in Wiki is:
                        "Hotdish is a variety of baked casserole that typically contains a starch, a meat or other protein, and a canned and/ or frozen vegetable, mixed together with canned soup"

                        It's just a regional name for casseroles that are brought to church potlucks across the country.

                        1. re: paulj

                          Oh no! canned vegetables mixed with canned soup in a casserole. This thread has now confirmed all of my most negative stereotypes about midwestern food.

                          1. re: AdinaA

                            Just think of it as a regional interpretation of hashis parmentier. :)

                        2. re: AdinaA

                          Don't hate, AdinaA!

                          Wisconsin is a tremendous food state. Of course people here are recommending classic dishes that are---like most classic American dishes, from Sheboygan to Manhattan---a little heavy, but any self-respecting foodie should get a little weak in the knees at the thought of cheese curds, butter burgers, frozen custards, and beer-soaked grilled brats served with caramelized onions and dark mustard. And of course the Friday night Third Coast fish fry that runs in a continuous line from Lake Superior in Minnesota to Lake Ontario in New York is one of the greatest American food traditions---all-you-can-eat spanking-fresh and delicate local fish in the lightest imaginable batter? It's the gift of our Great Lakes. If the tradition came from Tuscany or Catalonia it would be a soccer mom obsession in big cities on those other two coasts.

                          But getting away from the stereotypical fare, Wisconsin's cheese, eggs, milk, cream, and other dairy are basically a national treasure, and its farmers markets are a sight to behold. And Milwaukee is probably the most underrated city in the country, a stellar food, beer, and coffee town, brimming with bright young things rocking mad style. I still have dreams about a coq au vin I ate in a Milwaukee bistro like 10 years ago.

                          Yes, there's a lot of cheese and fish and German food. That's because they make great cheese, live on one of the world's largest bodies of water, and are lousy with the Germans. It's a wonderful and unique combination. Visit, and fall in love with the narrow roads and rolling hills.

                          To keep this on-topic for the OP: If you do brats, I highly recommend Spotted Cow from New Glarus (WI) brewery, both for soaking brats and for drinking with said brats.

                          1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                            Wisconsin and Milwaukee especially are very underrated in food quality and variety. I wish I could hit Milwaukee as often as I go to Philly. Is corned beef a Wisconsin item? I went to a place called McBob's in Milwaukee and their corned beef, as well as their in-house liverwurst was positively delicious.

                            1. re: David11238

                              Mmmmm McBobs. I live in Milwaukee, but haven't been there in AGES. Me thinks a trip there is needed soon!

                              Also, Pestle, while Spotted Cow is like my crack and I love it dearly, I'm a firm believer that the cheaper and crappier the beer, the better the brats turn out. My mother used to keep a steady supply of Old Milwaukee and PBR in our fridge during the summer specifically for cooking brats in. Living in the city, one of the things I miss the most is those summer cookouts with brats grilled on the charcoal grill and a big ear of sweet corn fresh from the farm and drpping with melted butter.

                              1. re: mse924

                                Great point about PBR.

                                Whenever we visited your town we used to enjoy spotted cow drafts at some bar downtown with a back or side patio down on the river. Man, did we lose some afternoons that way.

                          2. re: AdinaA

                            "disappointment tinged with horror" ???

                            It is always disappointing to see posters with such narrow, stereotypical, better than thou viewpoints. If one doesn't have anything positive to add, why would one post, just click and move on.

                            There is a wealth of possiblities for this OP from German cuisine including sausages w/kraut and mustard, sauerbraten or German potato salad.

                            1. re: NE_Elaine

                              Mummmm, German Potato Salad---forgot that option. I LOVE that stuff. Good idea.

                            2. re: AdinaA

                              An enormous percentage of Wisconsin folk have German, Norwegian, and Swedish ancestry, so those recipes have been passed down across generations.

                              German food is bad because....???

                              Careful you don't hurt yourself when you fall off your high horse.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Well, we all treasure those recipes, they were wonderful. Yorkshire pudding with roast beef. Gloss brown gravy over potatoes mashed with chicken fat and enough gravy to also pour some over the stuffing emerging fror the bird. I could dream on but if we try to consume the volumes of high-fat meat and dressings they did, especially if we fry our burger then serve it on a bunspread with a thick layer of butter and set out with a side dish of German potato salad we will have a problem. Problem is, great-grandpa raked hay all day by hand, great-grandma did the laundry with a washboard and lugged heavy pails of whey to feed the pigs after she churned the butter. We spend our days at the keyboard, well, I stand up once or twice a day to get a fresh cup of coffee. but I just don't Burn calories like grandma did. If I ate like she did, I'd look like one of sows she fed.

                                So i came to this board hoping for something a little more contemporary that butterburgers. Or beer soup, which sounds amazing but must have been designed to fill the appetites of a harvest crew.

                                So, while some of those old German recipes tasted great, I suspect taht someone in Wisconsin is saving them for special occasions, and finding fabulous things to do with local ingredients.

                                There must have been some old German spring greens with old German or Norwegian recipes for them. Scallions, dendelions, ramps, sorrell - what's the old Norwegian way with these harbingers of spring? Do You get fidddleheads? I would think so. It's almost the season, but if someone suggests pouring bacon drippings over them athe way someone upboard suggested as a way of dressing spinach, I may run away screaming.

                                1. re: AdinaA

                                  Beer cheese soup, at least my family's version, is actually fairly light -it's mostly broth and beer based.

                                  1. re: brieonwheat

                                    It does sound good, but I had never heard of hit before and I was pretty spooked by the recipe I googled up.


                                    It does sound delicious. But we're talking whole milk, a small mountain of shredded chedder, butter, beer...

                                    Thee are all good things, wonderful things, but...

                                    1. re: AdinaA

                                      You are right that that is a fairly rich version. Our recipe uses about half the amount of butter, 2% or whole milk, and about half the cheese for at least a quart of broth and a bottle of beer.

                                      1. re: brieonwheat

                                        It does sound good. I'm soure the quality of the chedder matters, does the variety of beer?

                                        1. re: AdinaA

                                          Yes. Any of the lagers or pilsners would be good. We always used cheapo Miller growing up and it tasted good - but if I were still living in WI, I would be tempted to use New Glarus's spotted cow - I think someone else mentioned that. Just nothing too floral or dark. In the end, the soup does not taste overwhelmingly of beer, IMO. We also never did that melted butter/flour thing in a separate sauce pan. Just saute the veg in a few Tbsp of butter, add some flour, cook a little, then add broth/beer.

                                        2. re: brieonwheat

                                          Could we have the recipe for your family's version?

                                          1. re: ChrisKC

                                            Here is my mom's recipe. Maybe a little more indulgent than I remember, but less than the one linked to above.

                                            Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup

                                            3/4 cup each chopped carrot, chopped onion and chopped celery
                                            1/2 cup butter
                                            2/3 cup flour
                                            2 1/2 cups chicken broth
                                            12 oz beer ( use a lager - nothing fancy here just your basic american lager, not lite)
                                            2 cups warm milk
                                            3 cups freshly shredded medium cheddar cheese.
                                            S & P to taste
                                            Chopped parsley or chives for garish

                                            In large saucepan saute carrots, onion and celery in butter until tender, but not brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour.Cook until bubbly. Add broth and beer stirring constantly until smooth and thick. Add warm milk. Cook and stir constantly until smooth and thickened. Lower heat, add cheese and stir constantly until melted. Add S & P to taste. Serve in warm bowls with parsley or chives on top.

                                            1. re: brieonwheat

                                              Is this fairly representative, brieonwheat? The version I make uses stock instead of milk, includes ham, and is thickened with potatoes.

                                              1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                                I think so, pestle -- I've never seen it with ham or potatoes (unless it's Baked Potato Soup -- which has potatoes and bacon.)

                                    2. re: AdinaA

                                      What's wrong with bacon drippings? It's just dumb to throw a delicious and free cooking fat in the trash.

                                      Fat is not evil. You can regularly enjoy everything listed in this thread and still sport a nice six-pack and a stellar cholesterol score. All things in moderation and whatnot.

                                      But if I were looking for the best of healthy modern Wisconsin eating---or even an accurate representation of how Wisconsites currently eat, a message board thread about a Wisconsin-themed potluck party on the West Coast is probably not where I would start my research. And I certainly wouldn't be disappointed or horrified if I didn't find it there. What I *might* do, however, is check the food sections in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other local newspapers:



                                      1. re: AdinaA

                                        Fiddleheads with bacon drippings....that sound good actually

                                        1. re: AdinaA

                                          Fiddleheads? Almost the season? Have you ever BEEN to Wisconsin? I used to live in Green Bay so I feel I'm qualified to speak up. There's two feet of snow on the ground. There is nothing that is 'almost' in season except for the sugarbush. (Maple sap season).

                                          1. re: John E.

                                            For lowland Oregon (where the OP is, I think), fiddleheads may be appearing soon (soon after the skunk cabbage if recall correctly).

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              That was basically my point. I know that fiddleheads are a delicacy in the northwest. But to come on this thread and disrespect an entire state and a couple of ethnicities is uncalled for.

                                      2. re: AdinaA

                                        Never been to Wisconsin, have you?

                                        Being PACKER fans, we celebrated the Super Bowl this year with a choucroute garnie that featured a selection of sausages from Usinger's, one of the state's premier sausage makers. Dessert was bars (a Midwestern institution), specifically of the chocolate-caramel-pecan variety, recipe from Penzey's, another great Wisconsin-based institution.

                                        1. re: Splendid Spatula

                                          You'll be happy to know that at midnight here in Paris (kickoff time), there was a spread of beer-boiled Johnsonville brats with onions and grainy mustard. The nutjob Cheesehead I'm married to watched every last minute of the game (with color commentary in French).

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            I'd call that devotion. It's a great time to be a Packer backer!

                                            1. re: Splendid Spatula

                                              can you believe that Johnsonville actually has a good market presence here? I about fell over when I saw them on the shelf the first time. (and they're true to the original)

                                      1. Please please please, if you do make brats DO NOT boil them....especially in pickle juice! I grew up in Milwaukee and ended up going to Pasadena when the Badgers played UCLA in the Rose Bowl in the late 90s. We were at a UW-sponsored tailgate in the days leading up to the game. I bought a brought and just about spit it out immediately. The lady serving them noticed my reaction and asked what was wrong. I said that it tasted terrible and asked how it was cooked. She told me that the brats were boiled in pickle juice.

                                        Now I won't say that you can't pre-boil brats prior to sticking them on the grill, but I found the California "twist" on brats to be offensive. If you boil them, at least boil them in beer. Preferably make sure that they get onto the grill.

                                        If you do the fish fry, which is hard for a potluck, make sure that you're using cod or perch. Those are two of the more traditional whitefish used for Friday night fish fries.

                                        11 Replies
                                        1. re: GutGrease

                                          What other dishes are uniquely Wisconsin? Think family style. Think frugal. Wisconsin is definitely about home-cooked meals during the week; corner tavern on Friday night for fish fry and fish boils; supper club (restaurant) for Saturday night; feed-the-masses soups and stews with casseroles for after-church/before-Packers potluck. The specifics vary. Obviously, Wisconsin has a large German and Scandinavian population, but other ethnic groups have had significant contributions: Jewish, Mexican, Italian, African-American, Irish, Greek, Serbian, and Swiss. There is also a strong under-current of Native American culture, too.

                                          Yes, Wisconsin has lots of wonderful cheeses. And beer (New Glarus Spotted Cow is a fave, but hard to get out of state, sorry). Don't forget fish -- fresh yellow perch and walleye, if you can get them, are native to the state, and there is no better tasting fish. Salmon and chubs from the Great Lakes are wonderful smoked. Herring is popular pickled, either in a sour cream and chive sauce or in white wine and onions. Wild game, particularly venison, is also big (hunters with extra meat will start bringing venison sausage and chops after Thanksgiving).

                                          And then there are pasties, which are pocket meat pies that were brought by the early Cornish settlers who mined lead (they were referred to as "badgers" from the holes they dug in the river bluffs of western Wisconsin -- thus Wisconsin is the "Badger State"). Served with brown gravy or ketchup, delish!

                                          There's booyah, which is a sort of chicken stew that is popular in the Green Bay area. I think what makes it especially tasty is cooking in a big batch outdoors, especially on a crisp fall day.

                                          A classic from the state fair are monster sized cream puffs. And New Years is celebrated by natives with steak tartare, with a slice of onion on rye bread.

                                          And, since you probably will have bratwurst, the "proper Wisconsin" way to prepare bratwursts is to to start with the right bratwursts. Wisconsin or Sheboygan brats are coarse ground pork and sold fresh. (I like the finely ground veal brats that Usinger's sells pre-cooked, but that's a whole 'nother thing.) They are cooked by slowly grilling over charcoal (don't heat them so fast that they are exploding! do not prick the skin and let the juices run out! criminy!), and then allowed to simmer in beer (here's where the cheap stuff is handy) with sliced onion, green pepper and butter. Serve on a toasted and buttered crusty roll, and garnish with the onions and a really good brown or horseradish mustard. (Koops).

                                          Frozen custard? You can probably get Gilles (which is pretty fair, as custard goes) but the best is Kopp's. They ship out of state, but it'll cost you. Or make your own -- basically a very rich French-style ice cream (egg yolks and all) that is served minimally ripened, somewhere between regular ice cream and soft serve.

                                          1. re: MikeB3542

                                            I knew pasties were common in the UP, but didn't know how much that influence extended into northern Wisconsin.

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              Not so much northern wisconsin but in the southwest, near towns like Mineral Point.

                                              1. re: karykat

                                                I was aware of a history of lead mining in NW Illinois (e.g. Galena is named after a lead ore), but didn't realize how much it extended into Wisconsin. That SW corner (the drift-less area) is a relatively unknown part of the state, quite different from rest in terms of topography. I only ventured into that area when seeking some variation in the drive between Chicago and Minneapolis.

                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  Yes, it is so beautiful in that driftless area, and really diverse ethnically too (and therefore culinarily, if that's a word.)

                                            2. re: MikeB3542

                                              @GutGrease, on behalf of all sane Californians I apologize for the twit who insisted on the pickle juice boil. My Wisconsin born father would have chewed them out Real Good.

                                              @MikeB3542, do you have a good / reputable booyah recipe? All I've found are pretty imprecise and not particularly appetizing.

                                              Too bad my visits to MN / WI relatives predated Chowhound, much European culture has really died out and it was very hard to find German food especially.

                                              1. re: DiveFan

                                                you can't really make a small batch of booya, it's properly made in industrial quantities, huge cauldrons of it in the parking lot of a fire department or vfw, stirred with a long handled canoe paddle by strong men. it is made with many kinds of meat, not just chicken, and venison should really be in it. you bring your bucket and pay the fundraising fee and get your booya.

                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                  Ditto. No real "recipe", sort of like gumbo (Louisiana) or burgoo (Kentucky). Ask three folks from Green Bay how to make booyah and you'll get four answers before they degenerate into talkin' Packers.

                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                    I grew up in rural Minnesota and had not heard of booyah until I took a job in Green Bay right out of college. I showed my curiosity and my co-workers were surprised to learn I was a booyah (that's the Green Bay spelling) neophyte. I never reallyvdid acquire a taste for it. There is nothing wrong with it but I think it is mostly about tradition and nostolgia, like it is in much of St. Paul where it is also a tradition. Do they have booya in Minneapolis?

                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                      here are a couple of somewhat recent msp area booya threads (i think booyah is the more common spelling, and booya is an acceptable spelling variant, to distinguish us heathens in MN from the hardcore booyaH aficionados in WI, as the stew seems to lose the H at the state line ;-P ). i tell folks it's the northern heartland version of brunswick stew-- with venison amongst the other common ingredients, rather than squirrel etc. that explanation seems to make sense to folks.


                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                        An interesting thing is that as far as I can tell, the booya in Minnesota is an autumn thing whereas in Green Bay I remember it as being served in the spring. They may have had it in the fall too, I just don't recall it.

                                            3. For all the haters of Wisconsin specialties, no need to respond. Being from the state, myself, I can say that brats, boiled in lager and onions, then grilled and served on rye buns, are a tradition in the summer. For winter, beer cheese soup is a must - and would be good for a potluck. If you would like a recipe, let me know.

                                              For those crazy specialties that some despise, but are fun once in a while, there is always the jello mold. My favorite is rasperry jello, with sliced bananas suspended in it, served with whipped cream.

                                              1. This summer, we had the ultimate Wisconsin weekend.

                                                Friday night we went to a supper club and drank Manhattans (with a cherry, doncha know) and ate fried perch. Fried cheese curds for appetizers, of course.

                                                Saturday we drove up to the lake, where we had brats for lunch, went out on the pontoon, then grilled steaks and had frozen custard for dessert, then had a mean Euchre tournament.

                                                Sunday night we drove back to the city and stopped and Culver's for a butterburger and more custard.

                                                Now THAT is Wisconsin eating.

                                                1. Wisconsin themed dinner party can be a plethora of foods. Milwaukee has an abundance of great restaurants that are specializing in local fare. Wisconsin has great duck producers as well as veal. Fish not just fried is wonderful as well. Cranberries and cherries are wonderful Wisconsin standards.
                                                  I'm not sure how to use duck for a pot luck. I'd have to look into recipes that incorporate maybe duck and cranberries. I know I would include a smoked whitefish as an appetizer. Brats would work well with a potluck , just as the posters have described. Pickled Herring(Ma Baensch's) seems to be at parties as well as the mandatory relish tray. Cannibal sandwiches used to be a staple. Mexican cuisine has always been popular. Milwaukee has a wonderful and large amount of Mexican restaurants. But I guess that wouldn't be considered Wisconsin fare. You could pay homage to the Wisconsin Supper Club....Friday fish, Saturday Prime Rib, Sunday all you can eat chicken. Potato pancakes, strawberry schaum torte. just to name a few. Ice cream drinks are served at Supper clubs too, Grasshoppers and Brandy Alexanders. Wisconsin is the number one consumer of Brandy so don't forget the Brandy Old Fashion. There is a restaurant in Madison called The Old Fashioned. You could look at their menu and get ideas for Wisconsin food. http://www.theoldfashioned.com

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Living4fun

                                                    Not just any chicken...BROASTED chicken.

                                                  2. How about bring along a turkey fryer and making a batch of fried cheese curds... Mmmmmm! haha

                                                    11 Replies
                                                    1. re: VeggieHead

                                                      to be honest i would doubt the op could get good quality cheese curds, or even sausages/brats, that would be up to the average WI standards :) if they have access to a local, small traditional german butcher who makes at least a dozen varieties of sausage and wurst, a place that cures their own speck, and also processes folks' fresh venison for a fee, or a local creamery where they can pick up squeaky curds made that same day for consumption that same day, as is common in WI. . . that would be acceptable and not a cop-out. but i think a lot of folks think you can just get johnsonville brats or cheese curds from costco and that's a fair representation (it's not), and then we can all reflexively bash & mock the "midwestern backwater" states-- same with the folks that want to do a stereotypical 1950's midwestern "hotdish" recipe and pretend that's where the current local food tastes of the region lie. only problem is that in reality none of this food would cut it in the place and time we're talking about. i also don't think frozen custard is a valuable suggestion outside of the WI area milk belt-- you're just not going to be able to make some of these dishes without access to the small producer dairy farms and creameries that are all over the place in WI.

                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                        Oregon has a well known cheese producer like Tillamook (which does sell its own curds), and I've sausage references to some good sausage makers in the state as well.

                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                          You have a powerful point...local ingredients and traditional recipes...and those are things that just don't travel well. (and that goes for pretty much anywhere on the planet)

                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                            thanks for understanding that point-- not that oregon, or anywhere else, is totally devoid of sausage makers or cheesemakers (i think there are currently 5 cheese producers in the state of oregon), just that you don't trip over 3 or 4 of the above on a walk round the block, as you do in wisconsin. teeny little rural towns of <500 souls are apt to have a tavern or 2, a century+ old butcher/sausage shop. . . then maybe a church, a creamery, a couple more taverns, and a gas station. i was trying to say that the food culture of an agricultural state such as WI should not be glossed over-- the thousands of small farms (more than 1/2 of them producing dairy products) feed into the localized specialty cheese, meats, produce and brewery scene in the state, and average joe wisconsonites will drink the local beers and shop at the local markets and get their 1/2 hog from the local farm & butcher, like their grandparents did, and not really get that there are areas on the coasts where these concepts are considered new or revolutionary-- or elitist, or PC or whatever. the folks on the coasts for their part might erroneously assume that mr. joe wisconsonite probably shops mostly at walmart and wouldn't know limburger from landjager-- and they'd be dead wrong.

                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                              Does that apply to the third of the population living in the Greater Milwaukee area?

                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                Absolutely it does. Milwaukee is a pretty compact city compared to other urban areas, so you only have to drive 30 minutes outside of downtown to be in the middle of prime farm country. There are a ton of specialized mom and pop local stores in the city that are stocked with local produced products. Within a one mile radius of my apartment in downtown MKE, I have my choice of at least 4 local bakeries, a cheese market, 2 meat markets and (in the summer) two massive farmer's markets. I get my staples from the grocery store, but my produce/bread/ meat/dairy comes from all these local places.

                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                  not sure what your point is-- does the fact that milwaukee is populous render wisconsin somehow *not* a major agricultural state, or not a major cheese producing state?

                                                                  but yes, denizens of milwaukee have great access to the agricultural products of their own state, many of which are shipped out of milwaukee, and then thru chicago, on their way to destinations in the rest of the nation and world. they definitely eat WI-produced cheese, sausage, duck, cranberries and cherries and beans in milwaukee, and drink locally brewed beer there--with zest, and in impressive quantity, i might add ;-P

                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                    Yes it does apply to the Greater Milwaukee Area. There are sections of the city that are known for particular ethnic cuisines. Restaurants, wonderful bakeries and delis, butcher shops all represent Italian, Polish , German , Serbian, Mexican ( the list goes on)in various neighborhoods in the city.
                                                                    No there aren't any big farms in the city but you can find small farmers(Grow Power)http://www.growingpower.org/about_us.htm supplying restaurants and the community.
                                                                    The Public Market(The Public Market was just voted one of the top ten in the country. There is even a fish hatchery /farm in the city. http://sweetwater-organic.com/

                                                                    1. re: Living4fun

                                                                      I had my best falafel and stuffed grape leaves served to me from a stall in the Public Market.

                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                      Or wander over to Madison on a summer Saturday and take a wander around the farmer's market on Capital Square -- a *mindblowing* array of amazing *everything*. And it's a producer's market, so everyone you're buying from MADE or GREW whatever's on their table.

                                                              2. Jeeze in my 10 visits to Wis, all my client would rave about is frozen custard. No talk of cheese or brats, just custard. Took me his local place in verona every time. Am I wrong in thinking that this is a Wis thing?

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: AdamD

                                                                  that custard place in Verona is pretty widely known, and pretty worth a rave.

                                                                2. 'The National Mustard Museum' (Poupon U) is in a 'burb of Madison; just aboot any link from Usinger's simmered in beer w/onions, then browned on the grill, and a variety of mustards would be awesome. Hotdish, squeaky curds, landjaegers, jerky, back bacon, kraut, German potato salad, corn on the cob swimming in melted garlic butter = 911 and a blissful death.

                                                                  Also, Miller, Leiney's, and of course, Spotted Cow!

                                                                  1. Wisconsin is the #1 consumer of Brandy, the #1 grower of cranberries and the #1 consumer of duck. I was thinking that you could use a duck sausage grill them and keep the warm, serve with a cranberry chutney or a cranberry mustard on a pretzel roll. Miller Bakery makes the best pretzel rolls...hamburger and brat style.
                                                                    http://www.jsonline.com/business/9156..., an article that highlights Miller Bakery.

                                                                    1. Pretzel bread, hotdog style, served with spicy mustard for the brats!
                                                                      I had pretzel bread for the first time in Wisconsin and couldn't believe how delicious it is.

                                                                      1. I saw wild rice mentioned only once, but you don't have to serve it in a soup. You can make a cold wild rice salad with a dijon vinegarette and small tomatoes, artichoke hearts and sweet red pepper.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: runwestierun



                                                                          In addition to all the suggestions above, I would suggest:

                                                                          Natural Casing Wieners - Coarse Ground & the Fine Ground : $6.5/lb, superb, with WI mustard, grill on coals, serve on lightly buttered then lightly toasted hot dog buns

                                                                          They also have brats.

                                                                          Beef Frankfurters Item #: 2115e
                                                                          natural casing

                                                                          Other excellent products here too.