Dining

  • Bacon bashes

    Have you ever had enough bacon? If not, you can get your chance at a rasher of pork parties around the region. At Des Moines' Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival one year, a Nebraska woman put away 2½ pounds in less than five minutes. Business Week can give you the official answer. It has to do with pork-belly futures (seriously).

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  • Where to eat in Duluth

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  • Wisconsin's cheese country

    In the land of Velveeta, Wonder bread and Miller Lite, a chunk of southern Wisconsin is an Old World holdout. It’s still famous for the pungent Limburger and Swiss on which it made its reputation. It’s weathered the advent of processed cheese food and gummy white bread. It’s survived the tide of bland beer and low-fat diets.

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  • Into the belly of Chicago

    Once, Chicago was a meat-and-potatoes town, the City of Broad Shoulders. Chicagoans still brawl over who has the best deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs, which come with no ketchup but so many condiments they're "dragged through the garden." But these days locals are just as likely to seek out the best macarons and gelato, and on special occasions, they dine at Michelin-starred restaurants with avant-garde chefs who are more Jeff Koons than Betty Crocker.

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  • Sweet spots

    Some of us drool over gorgeous images of destinations in travel brochures or on Instagram. And some of us drool over the sweet spots we can stop at on our way to those destinations. Heading for the Porkies in Michigan's Upper Peninsula? Good, because that means a stop at Gabriele's in Ashland. Going to Sibley State Park or Spicer in central Minnesota? That merits a detour to Mr. B's in Willmar.

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  • The chocolate cure

    In February and March, most of us are getting tired of winter . . . time to eat some chocolate.

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  • Dining on Minnesota's North Shore

    Thirty years ago, dining on the North Shore was pleasant, if a little utilitarian. A meal often came with a view, but most of the menus had the same fish, steak, chops and burgers you could get anywhere.

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  • Capitals of treats

    It’s a good thing that, when you’re on vacation, calories don’t count. Who goes to Milwaukee without eating frozen custard? Or Mackinac Island without having fudge? You’ve just gotta do it.

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  • Tours for foodies

    On a trip to Chicago, my husband and I took one of the Chicago Food Planet tours. We started on the Gold Coast, assembling our own reuben with pastrami from the local Vienna Beef, and walked to Lincoln Park, sampling tea, fudge, artisan oils, kolaches, pierogies and, of course, deep-dish pizza.

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  • Grazing in southwest Wisconsin

    In a state where people flaunt foam cheese wedges on their heads, you don't expect the cuisine to be timid. The cheese, brats and beer for which Wisconsin is known are as robust as the Cheeseheads themselves, who invented the hamburger and the sundae but are best known for Old World flavors.

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  • Madison for foodies

    Everyone knows what people in Wisconsin like: beer, cheese and bratwurst. But they also like foie gras, frisée salad and seared pork belly. Southern Wisconsin is a fertile quilt of artisan farms, and their lovingly grown produce goes straight to the Dane County Farmers' Market and the restaurants of Madison. I've made a lot of delicious memories in Madison: the celeriac soup at L'Etoile, the raspberry truffles of Candinas, the Hopalicious pale ale from Ale Asylum.

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  • 10 perfect places for a picnic

    On a beautiful summer day, there are few places that aren't good for a picnic. A patch of grass, a plump sandwich, the warmth of sun on skin — this is what we look forward to all winter.

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  • Seeking the best soft-serve

    On road trips, some people look for the best pie or burger. But I look for the perfect twist cone. Braking for soft-serve ice cream is how I stick up for the mom-and-pop drive-ins that used to be in every little town until the arrival of a certain franchise.

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  • Toasting Oktoberfest

    In October 1810, they had so much fun at the wedding of Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen and Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, held in a meadow near Munich, that they decided to do it every year.

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  • Feasting in Dubuque

    Walnut carpenter's lace. Fireplaces made of Italian mosaic tile. Yards of leaded glass and richly printed, century-old wallpaper. Oooooohh. That's what the two dozen people on a house tour and progressive dinner in Dubuque, Iowa, kept saying as the tour progressed from one Victorian mansion to another.

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  • Chow-down in Chicago

    Chicago has come a long way since it was hog butcher to the world. There was nothing very appetizing about early Chicago. The factories and slaughterhouses that made it grow also made it stink. Rotting carcasses made the Chicago River bubble; a glass of water came with a side of cholera. But the city grew up. The immigrants who packed its meat, dug its waterways and built its railroads moved on and were replaced by new immigrants, who settled in places that became known as Little Italy, Andersonville, Polish Village, Ukrainian Village, Chinatown, Greek Town and Pilsen.

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  • Feasting on Fat Tuesday

    With six weeks of sacrifice looming, Poles go on a paczki binge, eating as many of the fried, fruit-filled bismarcks as they can in the days up to Fat Tuesday, also known as Paczki Day. A round Polish version of a jelly doughnut, paczki (pronounced POANCH-kee) have fillings of raspberry, strawberry, lemon, custard, blueberry, apple, poppyseed and, most traditionally, prune, apricot and rose petal.

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  • A chocolate tour of Madison

    No one knows why Madison is the fine-chocolate capital of the Upper Midwest. We do know that Europe played a big role. Gail Ambrosius, who grew up in Wisconsin's hamburger capital, tasted her first artisanal chocolate on a high-school field trip to Paris. “And I understood — eating this is the best thing you can do,'' she writes. Markus Candinas studied chocolate-making in his parents' hometown of Thun, at the foot of the Swiss Alps. Ton Stam came from the Netherlands to join the Madison Scouts drum and bugle corps, then started Chocolaterie Stam.

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  • Time to feast

    There's only one good way to respond to cold: Take a cue from bears and pile on some fat. Oh, you could buy long underwear. But doesn't it really make more sense to gobble some blueberry cobbler with freshly whipped cream? The Restaurant Week season is starting, giving you another good —no, irresistible — excuse to eat: It's a deal!

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  • Pizza on the farm

    You can't get more local and sustainable than a wood-fired pizza served just yards from where its ingredients were raised and grown. Farms that moonlight as pizzerias one or two nights a week are multiplying, but not just because the pizzas are so good. The visitors who eat them also get to spend an evening soaking up the bucolic country atmosphere, savoring a lifestyle that's now far removed from most lives.

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  • Dining up north: Pequot to Crosslake

    North of moneyed Gull Lake, the Brainerd Lakes area starts to look more like traditional Minnesota resort country. Pequot Lakes, July 8-9 in 2014).

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  • Dining up north: Brainerd to Nisswa

    In summer, the crowds pour into the Brainerd Lakes, the Minnesota vacation land that's been stomping grounds for millionaires and middle managers alike since the loggers finished up and headed west. What's it known for? Lakes, of course. And golf. It's not so known for its restaurants, but that may be because only locals know the best places.

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  • Table-hopping in bluff country

    Sometimes, we like to travel like kings . . . and paupers, too. I suspect a lot of other people do the same thing. To get what we want, we save on something else. Our favorite splurge is eating out, but a meal for two in a really good restaurant costs $80-$100, same as a hotel room. Our solution? We pitch a tent.

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  • Dining up north: Longville to Walker

    In the middle of Minnesota's vacation land, the lakes go from big to bigger. There's Girl Lake and Woman Lake, with the biggest woman of all, Paul Bunyan's 17-foot "wife'' Lucette Kensack, standing on the shores of Birch Lake in Hackensack.

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  • The dish on Dorset

    By rights, the northern Minnesota hamlet of Dorset shouldn’t even exist. It’s on the road to nowhere, a mile and a half off the highway that links Park Rapids to Walker. It’s not on a lake. It has virtually no houses. It does, however, have a knack for hyperbole. In the 1920s, it tried "land of clover, the big white potato and the dairy cow.’’

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  • Eating in the Amana Colonies

    Before 1932, the pious, hard-working people of the Amana Colonies were the only people in Iowa who got to eat out every night. Butchers, brewers and winemakers turned out goods for everyone, and meals were served in 50 communal kitchens.

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