Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Merrill grocery shopping treasures

As I'm going to be a resident of Merrill for some time, I am continuing on a never-ending quest to find places in Merrill and the surrounding areas that are a little more... um, a little less... well, just not so bloody MERRILL. I've had some small triumphs already; see my previous post about the Back When Cafe in Wausau. Also, at Dave's County Market I've found they sell locally grown organic shallots and garlic, by D&D's Sweet Earth Organically Grown Produce, of Merrill, WI. The fact that I found shallots at all around here made me ultra happy, and the fact that they are organically grown and local makes me ecstatic. The label is handwritten, and either copied on a copy machine or printed with a home inkjet. Either way its great. Not a bar code to be seen on this sucker. They don't have a website, but you can find their contact information at D & D's Sweet Earth Organic Produce (and let them know I sent you... and that I can design 'em a website, lol)

Now, when it comes to organic in Merrill, there's really one place that comes to mind: The Mustard Seed. This little corner store on First street has been around.. well, as long as I can remember, and is THE place in Merrill to get all your alternative health foods, medicines, and groceries. They've got excellent bulk spices (many that the supermarkets around here don't stock; their Garam Masala is great), lots of other bulk staples (grains, legumes, etc), raw sugar and sugar alternatives, a gluten-free section, an assortment of herbal supplements, and assorted green cleaning products, including my personal favorite, good ol' Dr. Bronner's soap.

How a store this... well, frankly HIPPIE has managed to make it (and apparently do well!) in Merrill is beyond me, but I'm really glad they have. And it doesn't hurt that I'm about a one minute walk away from them!

Now if we can only get places to be open on Saturdays.. especially after 5...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Back When Cafe - Best food I've had in the area

I had a great day Saturday, running around and shopping for my upcomin' camping trip, and then there was dinner. Now, going out to eat in northcentral WI usually consists of "what diner do you want to go to?" They're all sort of like Denny's, only independent, family owned, and a little bit less likely to give you food poisoning (sometimes).

BUT, it had been recommended a bunch of times that I visit the Back When Cafe. I wasn't that hopeful, but when I walked past the door and saw the decor (simple, understated yet elegant, not diner furniture) I became hopeful. When the menu came I became even more hopeful, as all of their entrees (minus the pasta entrees) were specials - good indicator that the food is made with fresh ingredients available that day.

The wine came out first, and I was thrilled. It was in a huge glass, only poured about 1/3 full. Most restaurants in the area will serve you wine that has been open for weeks if not days, in tiny dessert wine glasses, filled to the brim, and I've even had a Zinfandel come with fruit on the rim. A place that knows how to respect its wine (and the wine was excellent) is a great start.

Then the appetizer came, and it was AMAZING... I say without any doubt that it was the best appetizer I've ever had. It consisted of crostini with strawberry preserves, slices of brie toasted then with slices of fresh strawberry on top. The sweetness of the strawberries mixed with the saltiness of the Brie and bread and... forget peanut butter and jelly. This is IT. It was completely astounding and an absolute credit to the chef.

The salad course was also spectacular; fresh greens with not an iceberg leaf in sight (or a wilted leaf for that matter), complete with crasins and sunflower seeds (nice Wisconsin touch). The entree was also excellent; I had a wild Alaskan halibut steak in a Dijon caper sauce. Quite wonderful, with the djon complementing the sour capers nicely. The dessert, tiramisu, was good, if not totally perfect - bit dry and with something that looked suspiciously like Hershey's drizzled over it (not entirely sure that's what its was, but...) Still, this is in the top echelons of meals I have ever eaten anywhere, much less in northcentral WI. Absolutely fabulous.

Having just looked up their website, I now see at least part of why the food was so fab; their chef Jolene Lucci is a member of the Slow Food movement, something that I've been a proponent of ever since I've heard of it (let slow invade the rest of your life too - read In Praise of Slowness ) It is THRILLING to me that this idea has gained a foothold around here. I know that I'm going to be going to the Back When Cafe again... and again and again and again. If you live in n/c WI, or even if you're just visiting, go there, go there again, and again, and again. Take your time over your meal, and I promise it'll be one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have.