Mar 15, 2018

Maple Leaf Cottage Inn fit for a fairy tale in Elsah, Ill.

If there ever was a village in the United States that could serve as the perfect location for a fairy tale romance, Elsah, Ill., would certainly qualify in my book.

Wedged between two bluffs along the Mississippi River, roughly halfway between Alton and Grafton alongside Illinois Highway 100, Elsah appears very much like a small community frozen in time.  Many of the town’s original stone buildings from the 1860s remain, and as such the entire community is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Mother Nature didn’t leave much room for growth anyway, as the town’s 600+ residents and Principia College (alma mater of Robert Duval!) seems carefully placed within a tiny valley between the bluffs.  Trees blanket the town, and a small creek, naturally, runs alongside the main road.  Norman Rockwell couldn’t have imagined anything better.  

As charming as Elsah is year-round, it seems even more magical in the wintertime, especially when you have a fresh snow on the ground and fog moving through the valley.  So, when we were looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year (and the anniversary of our engagement which took place in nearby Grafton), the backdrop of Elsah seemed perfect for the occasion. 

Fortunately, Elsah has two highly rated bed and breakfasts.  Even more fortunately, I quite literally managed to book the last available room in town at the Maple Leaf Cottage Inn.

Mar 5, 2018

A commoner visits The Elegant Farmer, Mukwonago, Wis.

I must confess that before I went to The Elegant Farmer for the first time, I wasn’t quite sure what The Elegant Farmer really was.  I just heard about this place located somewhere on a highway that follows Interstate 43 in southern Wisconsin between the towns of Mukwonago and East Troy and its reputation for incredibly delicious locally grown and produced food. 

Some called it a bakery.  I heard their apple pies were famous to the point of being legendary.  Others described a deli.  Their sandwiches and soups got consistently excellent reviews on the foodie sites I frequent. Eventually, I decided to stop for a late lunch on my way home from working on the road to find out who was right.

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...