Feb 26, 2020

Things overheard in a New Orleans bar

Another wild and crazy Mardi Gras season has come and gone, and for the first time in many years I was able to partake in some of the craziness in New Orleans.  In the Big Easy, Mardi Gras is more than a season, it’s a part of life, and there’s no better time to visit and embed yourself among the people who live there.   

Whether it’s carnival time or not, there’s no place like New Orleans, and that’s reflected in the bar conversations you overhear or take part in while you’re there.   And as you can imagine, Punky and I spent a fair amount of our wild weekend in New Orleans drinking establishments – some famous, some infamous and some tourists rarely find.  With that in mind, here are just a few memorable quotes you’ll (probably) only hear in a New Orleans bar:

Feb 23, 2020

In search of the sacred Spotted Cow at the New Glarus Brewing Co.

If you’re from the Midwest and you love craft beer, chances are you’re at least a little familiar with the New Glarus Brewing Co. and its benchmark brew, Spotted Cow.  From my own personal experience, whenever I travel to Wisconsin, I inevitably wind up taking requests to purchase some Spotted Cow or another highly sought New Glarus product.  And for my personal tastes, most of them happen to be quite tasty. 

But what makes Spotted Cow so … ahem … sacred among area beer aficionados?  First, New Glarus and its line of beers are somewhat notorious for their scarcity outside of the state of Wisconsin.  In fact, if you see any of them in any bar or store outside of the state, call the authorities because they’re breaking the law.  So, there’s that whole “Smokey and the Bandit” feeling of bringing a few cases across the state line for your friends.

Then there’s the quality and craft of the beer.  New Glarus is not new to the scene.  The company was founded almost 30 years ago by a master brewer and its signature Spotted Cow, a truly tasty farmhouse ale I happen to love for its maltiness and fresh flavor, has been around since 1997.  With a handful of year-round offerings and an ever-changing line-up of seasonal and specialty brews, New Glarus could be a large-scale … ahem … cash cow … but it seems content to focus on quality over growth.     

Feb 4, 2020

A tale of biscuits, 'shine and watermelon ribs at the Loveless Café, Nashville, Tenn.

It seems fewer and fewer classic roadside cafes survive, yet alone thrive, with each passing year.  You know the kind I mean – legendary locally owned and operated diners on the edge of town that are themselves a destination for travelers who have heard how amazing the food is, each with a distinctive down-home vibe the Cracker Barrels and Bob Evans restaurants wish they could replicate. 

So, when more than one friend tipped me off about the Loveless Café, a Nashville institution since 1951 on the southern outskirts of the city, I longed for the opportunity to go there.  Fortunately, my most recent business trip to Nashville put me close to the Loveless Café.  Even more fortunately, my co-worker who rarely ventures out was as intrigued by the story of the Loveless Café as I was.  I think it’s safe to say neither of us was disappointed with the trip.

Located on Highway 100 near the north terminus of the Natchez Trace, the Loveless Café continues to thrive on it legacy of quality southern cooking – in particular its ham and biscuits.  That legacy includes national recognition from sources as varied as “The Today Show,” “Southern Living” magazine, the “Thrillist” website and Martha Stewart.        

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...