Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tobacco Barns in the Corn Fields

Tobacco barns still populate the countryside in Southern Wisconsin but the leaf itself is less evident. Corn seems to have taken its place. I suspect something more complicated than crop rotation is responsible for the changing landscape. Perhaps the end of tobacco subsidies in 2005 and misbegotten ethanol policies bear some responsibility. I would feel a lot better about ethanol if the U.S. government eliminated subsidies for corn and the plants which convert the crop from food to fuel.

The Shell station in Cambridge used to have a sign in front advertising NO ETHANOL. Not anymore. (This struck me as a bold statement, considering its proximity to the corn fields.) Apparently, the station is now required by Wisconsin law to supply gasoline with ethanol. So now only the Shell V Power 93 octane fuel is unadulterated. It costs $0.30 (about 7%)per gallon more, but yields about 9% better mileage (29.2 mpg versus 26.7 mpg as tested this morning on Interstate 39 in my 2003 Passat V6 4 Motion Wagon--I filled up with gas without ethanol for my trip and drew the tank down to empty before refueling with 89 octane 10% ethanol at a Kwiktrip in Stevens Point).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Briq's Root Beer Float

Visits to the A&W Drive In were always a treat. Those heavy chilled mugs with frothy root beer more than compensated for the mediocre burgers. A scoop of vanilla ice cream added to the suds was transcendent. Both were changed in delightful ways: the root beer lost some of its heavy sweetness and the ice cream grew a crunchy crust.

I don't know if A&W still uses glass mugs. I was about to find out when I ran across Briq's Soft Serve on the north side of Wausau, Wisconsin. Classic walk up joint with picnic tables under shade trees. Since I was already primed for a root beer float, I ordered one at Briq's. Apparently the creator of the Briq's version had a passing familiarity with icebergs: the vast majority of the Briq's soft serve ice cream lurked below the surface. No surprise coming from a place which is the "home of the one pound ice cream cone." I ordered a small and it was enough for a small family.

At some point, I will investigate the use of glass mugs at A&W, but only if I don't pass an independent drive in on the way.

Briq's is located just off US 51 on Merrill Road in the general direction of the A&W.

Cajun Chowder in Coloma

There are no gators in Coloma, Wisconsin and nothing remotely like a bayou. But somehow the magicians in the kitchen at the Coloma Coffeehouse figured out the cajun thing anyway. Maybe it has something to do with the humitidity this summer. The chowder was packed with seafood; the broth was thick; the pepper was spot on; I had to hunt for the rice. I wish I had ordered the bowl.

Coloma Coffeehouse, 157 N Front St,, Coloma WI 54930 715/228 JAVA (5282)