guest blog: the ole Wisconsin favorite

The Taster here again.

If it hasn’t been evident in my past posts, you should know that I’m VERY proud of my Wisconsin roots and heritage.  I won’t get into sports rivalries and border battles because there is a time and place for that.  It’s Friday and Happy Hour is right around the corner so what I wanted to write about today (on the advice of my sister) was something that holds a place in my – nay, most every Wisconsinite’s – heart…the Brandy Old Fashioned.

There are countless rumors and stories of how much brandy Wisconsinite’s consume compared to other states and regions, so I’m not going to get into it too much.  Let me just point out a couple of quick stats to give you an idea why I titled this post as I did.  Korbel has said that it ships out 385,000 cases of brandy per year and that 139,000 go straight to Wisconsin – I did the math, that’s 36%.  According to the Distilled Spirits Council, Wisconsin drank 49% of the brandy sold in the US in 1965.  Now, that being said…I’ve lived ‘outside of my wheelhouse’ for a couple of years in Minnesota, all the while taking abuse from so-called friends and outsiders alike as they hurl drunk/drinking jokes and insults my way because I’m from Wisconsin and Wisconsinites are known across the country – and perhaps the world – for cheese, Packers, and drinking (it doesn’t help that I’m a red-head of Irish descent).  FYI: there IS more to Wisco than that.  Keep in mind Minnesotan friends that some stats out there say that Minnesota outdrinks Wisconsin per capita – you messy drunks…first, you steal our quarterback, then – I said I wasn’t going to go there…  In the booze industry they refer to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Northern Michigan as the Brandy Belt so the Wisco nation isn’t alone.

But…on to the main point here – how to make a WISCONSIN OLD FASHIONED.  There’s a difference.  It isn’t easy to find a good old fashioned (as I know it) outside of Wisconsin when you go for a good cocktail.  This was classically demonstrated when my parents came to visit one weekend and we were out for dinner.  Jimmy, my dad, asked our waitress if the bartender knew how to make an old fashioned…our waitress took my father’s order while telling him, “oh yes, the boys behind the bar are from Wisconsin – I’m sure they know what they’re doing.”  They didn’t.  Apparently, they’ve spent too much time in The Cities and it has warped their cocktail skills (tongue-in-cheek people).  Needless to say, Jimmy turned his nose up at the drink and then went on his normal diatribe of how no one knows how to make a good drink anymore…”TOO MUCH BOOZE!”  “…THIS ISN’T AN OLD FASHIONED!”

The Old Fashioned cocktail can be made with whiskey, and I’ve even seen it attempted with gin and tequila as well –  I wouldn’t suggest it, but Sconnies like to make it with brandy.  Our brandy of choice?  KORBEL.  You will also see this quintessential Wisconsin drink made with club soda or water, but in Wisconsin it is mixed with 7up, Squirt, or a sour mix.

Needed ingredients:

  • Orange slices
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Aromatic bitters
  • Sugar
  • 7up/Sprite – or Squirt for a more sour taste…this has been my go-to lately
  • Brandy (Korbel, of course)

First, you start with a tub or lowball glass – usually 10-12 fl. ounces.  Drop an orange slice, cherry, and 3-5 squirts of bitters into the glass.  Blogger’s note: I like to put a little cherry juice/grenadine and just a splash of soda in as well.

Next, you muddle all ingredients in the glass.  This is when you should begin to see some froth develop.

Once thoroughly muddled, fill the glass with ice, then a couple of ounces of Korbel brandy.

Finally, top it off with your soda preference, stir, and garnish with another cherry and orange.

For more visual stimuli, check out the video of a bartender at one of my favorite restaurants, The Old Fashioned, make one.  The Old Fashioned is a bar/restaurant in Madison, WI that serves classic Wisconsin fare, and…yes, they specialize in old fashioneds.


greek pasta salad

Every week I rack my brain for what to take for lunch the following week. And sometimes it feels as though looking for new lunch ideas is a part-time job. Which I know, and the taster reminds me, is so very ridiculous.  I love salads, but they sometimes leave me hungry at 2:30. I love soups, but get sick of them if I eat it a few times. Basically, I’m downright picky about my lunches.

Looking for: light, healthy, easily packed, quickly made, filling and bonus points if it can be made on Sunday afternoon

Found: A greek pasta salad that fits all of the above criteria and was even tastier than I expected!

Greek Pasta Salad Recipe: 2-3 lunch portions

  • 2 cups cooked 100% whole grain pasta
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
  • about 6 kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • spices: pepper, red pepper flakes, herbamare

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and portion out for lunches!

I served my pasta salad alongside some Pacific Organic Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup with spinach stirred in.

organic shopping at a conventional store

Living in the Twin Cities, I have access to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and too many co-ops to count. At the Wedge, where I am a member, it is harder to find non-organic items than organic. I often forget that not everyone has access to stores and food like I do, and it is something I need to remember from time-to-time.

So I took the opportunity to do my weekly grocery shopping and a little research in Baraboo, WI ( in the heart of cow country) while I was there the other weekend. Maybe I don’t give that little town enough credit – they do have a health food store, The Grainery which has some of the hippest health foods around: Coconut Ice Cream, Chobani and a Gluten-Free section that can rival a Whole Foods. I bought a few fun, new items but saved the bulk of my shopping for the local Pierce’s Market. I have to say that I was very impressed. I was able to buy almost all organic veggies, with the exception of peppers and cucumbers. Organic english cucumbers, which I buy on a weekly basis are hard to find at even the best co-ops and Whole Foods, so I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t find them.  The organic cauliflower didn’t look like it came off the truck yesterday (it was towards the end of its life) but not bad enough to not buy it. And it turned out delicious!

I also realized that it has its advantages. My stores have everything so when tapenade is on the list, I get some fresh tapenade in the deli section. This was not an option at the Pierce’s but I soon realized that I have green and kalamata olives at home, so why not just make my own?

Overall, if anyone is still reading at this point, ;)  I came away with everything that I had on my list, albiet was a basic one, and most of it was the same exact thing I would have picked up at the Whole Foods or co-op.  Now if they only had a few more restaurants…

Where do you shop? Is it out of choice or preference?


Baking. It was on my weekend to-do list and for the first weekend in a few, it wasn’t ignored and it actually happened. I was debating between pumpkin scones and english muffins but I decided on biscuits because that little packet of yeast required for the english muffins makes me so nervous! (Next weekend I’ll have to include yeast on the to-do list!)

The recipe sounded easy enough and I appreciated the flour substitution suggestions – I ended up using 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour. This ratio worked well, I couldn’t even tell there was any whole-grain flour. (Which may be important for some)

They were fabulous with some butter, jam and coffee and also made a fabulous egg sandwich for brunch.

Can I call myself a baker yet?