Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Famous Fish Boil!

Having someone to converse with makes it more difficult to update blogs, but I'll try to recap things best I can.

Our shoots continue to go well and the people in Door County have been very nice, for the most part. The days have have been idyllic, with temperature highs reaching the mid-70's. The peninsula is quite pretty. The western edge is known to be more touristy, with shops and harbors and plenty of resorts. The eastern side is more natural, quiet and spread-out.

There are nice parks which highlight the sand dunes and limestone cliff faces. Eagle Tower is a fire tower which rises about 75 feet and from which you can see the expansive Lake Michigan and harbor towns such as Ephraim, in the distance. It was from Cana Lighthouse that I saw the best view. The day was both sunny and windy, so the light reflected from the blue water that was chopped up in the wind. Another fun thing was doing in on camera with my camera man below, doing a slow zoom to me in the tower, looking down, doing an intro bit. We'll see how that looks on the editing floor. Once again, something you can't do with only one dude.

At the White Gull Inn we took in our first authentic fish boil. Our host was more than pumped for a little on-camera time as he was once a cameraman himself! The early evening was beautiful. I had time to interview him on camera and he couldn't be better for the part. He kept his eye contact on me and not the the cameraman throughout the interview, was thorough and engaging with his answers and kept the same volume of voice through the whole process.

The fish boil originated with the Scandinavian immigrants who cooked the whitefish by boiling them in water and salt. This was the perfect way to feed large groups of people quickly.

His process was simple but clearly required wisdom. The big pot was boiling upon a hardwood-fed flame. At the right time, he placed a net (a big straining pot) into the pot and then dumped in the red potatoes. One special thing to Tom's process is that he takes a hot potato from the boil and places it directly into his hand and tests it. (People afterwards come up to him and ask him "did I just see you place a hot potato in your hand?!") After a bit of time and a 'dash' of salt he dumps the chopped up fish into a net. For closers, he ends the boil up splashing a bunch of kerosene on the flame. This ignites in a big fire ball forcing the fish oils over the side and into the flame, thereby ridding the water of 'fishy-tasting' properties. As an aside to me, he remarked how that process was actually getting rid of all those healthy fish oils society currently clamors for!

That was it: potatoes, fish and salt. He said some throw in onions and carrots, but not him. This way the taste of the fish remains.

Inside we stood in line and were able to scoop up the fish and potatoes and add butter and lemon, if we so desired. We were shown how to debone our fish. I added lemon to my fish and found it possible to have seconds! The lemon was the way to go! For dessert, was a beautiful piece of cherry pie, that special Door County tradition.

I don't quite understand anyone's aversion to a fish boil and have questioned a few locals about it. Some say that they think some tourists aren't used to fish prepared that way or that the fact that they have to dig out the bones makes them uncomfortable. As far as taste, there really isn't a better way to preserve it. No thick greasy batters or fried coatings, just fish and salt. That flame up was pretty dang cool too!

Here's to Boil Master Tom, his fabulous work and accommodation of our coverage!

One of our last ventures was a small sail out into Bailey's Harbor to watch the sun set. We were in a twin masted feather merchant. A small vessel, piloted by a carpenter. It was relaxing and a beautiful way close our visit to Door County.

Well, it sounds like our adventure was mostly about food. To some extent, it was. But Door County is a nice getaway. Whether you like to peek into shops such as the one which sells only British-related items or quality hand-crafted art made by artists of the area, hike near the wave-crashed sea shore, catch a sail out in the harbor, peak from the lighthouses or rest on the beach, Door County has that kind of feel. It's touristy and a bit upscale, but also relaxing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

An Introduction to Door County

When it comes to Door County, I've heard comparisons made to Cape Cod. I've also heard one regular call it the Caribbean of the Great Lakes. From what I have seen, I would have to agree with both of these. Being a collection of small harbor towns, running up the peninsula, the county has the airs of the upscale. While the entry point at Sturgeon Bay does have some industrial feel with shipyards and cranes, most of the locations are well groomed for the tastes of the yachtsman and fine boutique shopper.

Along the roads you will see a mix of rich forests and farmland. Many orchards, with outlet markets, offer cherry-related products of all sorts. Cherry wines, jams and candies can be sampled and purchased at the outlets or in many of the shops in town. The towns themselves usually have a cafe or two, a confectionery, yard art shops and an historic structure or two. You should also search for a custard shop and inquire into their favorite restaurants.

So far, we've eaten at some pretty cool places. Al Johnson's is the Swedish restaurant with the grass roof and the goats on top of it. The menu offers Swedish specialities, pancake being one of them. We shared the herring appetizer and I went for the Swedish meatball sandwich. The opening bread plate was served with red lingon berry preserves. Oh man was that tremendous! Speaking of lingon berries, you hear them often referenced in Scandinavian cooking shows and served up in Swedish and Noreweigan communities. Having had them, I will be looking for them even harder from now on. The lingon berry juice has become a new favorite. Similar to cranberry juice but without the overpowering tartness, it is sweet and refreshing!

At Custard's Last Stand I went for a small bowl of vanilla custard, degrees better than the best ice cream, I think. In Ephraim, the 'capital' of Door County, Wilson's restaurant presents burgers and a wide range of specialty ice cream desserts. The burger was great, the home made root beer better and the Wilson's Special sundae the best! With the turning of many a patron head came the tall glass, floating in all its gorgeousness and gorgeousity. A glowing amber butterscotch, beneath layers of vanilla ice cream, marshmallow, fudge, vanilla ice cream and marshmallow, with a cherry on top! Oh so yummy and one of their cheapest ice cream offerings.

At the Chef's Hat I went for a penne pasta with andouille sausage. Mushrooms, green and red peppers, pine nuts, gorgonzolla and more, bathed in olive oil.

Other than food, we've shot some footage around the county. There are many lighthouses in the area, but the Cana Lighthouse had to be the best. Tall, white and appearing to be bolted together in many ribbed segments, this tower is what you think of when you hear the word 'lighthouse.' In Bailey's Harbor we spoke with some girls kite boarding and got some on-camera time. At Peninsula State Park, we climbed the 75 foot wood fire tower to take a panoramic view of Door County. The sun had burned off most of the mist of that day, but their still remained a brief haze, mixing fairly good visibility with an ethereal atmosphere. Some boats zoomed in the vast waters of Lake Michigan below and in the distance, but most was open and blue. You could see many of the towns, such as Ephraim, in the distance and points and islands as well. At the horizon there was nothing but water.

Training is going pretty well. It's odd to be giving some pointers but having no shooting responsibilities. I've almost as much anxiousness to get this over as I did when I was being trained in. I have to get used to tolerating the quirks and messiness of another individual and have encouraged myself to let much flow as it goes. We've been able to do on camera stuff that is impossible with only one person. This set-up is really what should be done when you have a host in front of the camera. The Canadian Les Stroud (Survivorman) is about the only talent that shoots himself.

On to more shoots in Door County. We'll make our way to a fish boil and I'll let you know how the next days go! I'll also get some of the pictures up when I've a good connection to the internet. Ta!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Minocqua to Door County

After stopping back in the cities to pick up the new trainee videographer, it was off to Minocqua, WI. The northeast region brought us closer to habitation and creature comforts that were often missing in my Hayward jaunt. Worth mentioning is a place called Paul Bunyan's Cook Shack. Standing in front of the restaurant is a great big cut-out of Bunyan, thumb up and casting his flat face skywards. The closer you get to the sign the more you are aware of how huge it is. Impressive and makes you want to go in and feast.

We did some quick video (it's great to have a camera man instead of shooting yourself) and then head in. It was family style: ribs, mashed potatoes, chicken and gravy, corn on the cob and alfredo. It's all you can eat and I had to order some more chicken and gravy. Salty, gravy, chicken, yum!

On our way to Door County, that sliver that juts up like a horn on northeastern Wisconsin, we stopped in Green Bay. We made our way right to Lambeau field. As you enter Green Bay it becomes evident pretty quickly that you are in the Holy Land of Wisconsin. The field complex is enormous and as we parked in the lot, we spotted the Packers practicing in the field across the way. It's quite a community-feel going on in Packerland. Fans are everywhere and the athletes make themselves quite accessible. At the exit gate from the practice field you can watch a Packer tradition as kids offer up their bikes to the football stars and they bike to the stadium with the kids running behind them, carrying their big buddy's helmet.

Even though not really a football fan, it was pretty inspiring, seeing not only how committed the fans were, but how welcoming the establishment was. I was even able to let go of the natural allergy to Packers, coming from the land of the Vikings. We did a few spots on the stairs leading up to the entry way. Beforehand, I had put my small digital camera down on a ledge. Four minutes later I turn around to see it gone. Certain that it was stolen, I almost didn't bother checking in to lost and found. But, to my surprise, someone had turned it in to a security guard. In a manner of minutes! Thanking my luck, and the very polite guard and customer service, I had my small camera back in my hands.

We then checked out the Packer Hall of Fame. All in all it was very much worth the time on this sunny day!

Now we are in Door County!

Friday, August 15, 2008

On The Road Again

Friends, I apologize for the lapse in writing. My shoots in northern Wisconsin have offered minimal opportunities for accessing internet or phone coverage. Luckily, there is a free WiFi cafe in Hayward.

Chetek, Spooner, Hayward, Drummond, and similar surrounding towns are where I find myself as of late. The shoots have gone well, the weather has been a mix of rain and beautiful sun and I've taken in sites that are a mix of local and tourist flavor. Where to begin...?

After shooting in Chetek I had a chance to swing into the town of Spooner. Like the surrounding communities, it is a haven for resorters. The many lakes are famous to fishermen. The result is a shotgun-spread of resorts nestled throughout the shorelines of Wisconsin. The most iconic of all fish in this region appears to be the Muskie. As Hayward boasts the largest Muskie ever caught, weighing in at 67 some pounds (and which I just took a gander at in the Mocassin bar), you can find the grand-daddy of all fish statues at the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame.

But I have a small connection to Spooner, as its where my Italian side settled after immigrating through Canada. Like many immigrants, the Italians found employment in the railroads and the Railroad Memories Museum is a testament to this bygone era. I've heard stories of my father's childhood. From the floor heating vent he'd listen to his grandparents Italian voices floating up from below. Each morning the relatives would stop in for coffee on their way to work in the rail yards. He remembers his grandma regularly giving food to the homeless wanderers and heard tell of his grandpa shooting the kitchen table when he had had a bit too much to drink.

I decided to eat at Nick's instead of Tony's and to come back to explore in more depth on Friday.

The Hayward shoots have brought me all around! Each resort seems to be about half an hour from Hayward and from each other. Like one owner put it, "five minutes by water, 20 minutes by road." The resorts run the full gamut, from simple, ramshackle structures, to bed and breakfasts in the sturdiest of log construction. Many families are proud of the tradition which they carry on. Some boast that their families have owned the properties since the 20's and uphold certain values, forgotten by the newer owners. Regardless, I have learned a bit from all of them and find the perspectives fascinating.

As I was adrift with one owner on the lake before his property he told me his perspective on the muskie 'craze.' He said he didn't care for it at all. He mentioned that the muskie were a weaker fish and you do them no service by catching them. When you pull them from the water, he said, their insides rip and gravity pulls them down. Besides, why not catch a fish you eat? To the Indians, he said, this sport fishing is like playing with your food. I met another woman, proud of her leadership in the Quiet Lakes Association. They try to promote a speed limit no greater than 10 miles per hour, shun the use of jet-skis and take special pride at the non-existence of invasive species in their waters.

Many encounters I have from a duty to civility and politeness. Though I'd often rather be tucked away in the woods or roaming by myself after a day of social interaction, sometimes its just thrust upon you like anything else. After one longer shoot, being driven through hemlock groves supposedly 500 years old, on a property with a golf course in addition to its lodging ammenities, I found myself invited to dinner. They were expecting their other lodge guests as well. As it ended up, it was just the owners and I! I got to hear about their boarding school experiences, British background (told in a British accent), and the politics of the area. What did I have for dinner? As I couldn't decide between beef strouganof and quail, they gave me both!

Now for some Hayward details. I've had dinner at Coopers, a very good local diner across from the more famous pizza joint called Coops. The Muskie Capital brewery and restaurant is something worth checking out. I got a Belgium Trippel with my chicken parmagiana. Wow, that's the equivalent of about 3 beers, isn't it? I've been able to sample some local diary in the form of an ice cream cone or two. I've also eaten at the very first Famous Daves! Dave Anderson, who came from the Lac Court Oreilles reservation, established the restaurant in mid-nineties. Since then, he became the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and has had great success with his restaurant chain. A true local success story!

The downtown area of Hayward is full of the typical tourist shops. The Celtic shop is somewhat unique. The lumberjack village has a good pancake joint and is set in a little log village of other shops. I remember taking fly-fishing lessons with my aunt there, a few years back. The National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame is worth a visit if only to stand in the mouth of that great big fish. You really will chuckle and get excited when you first see it. Unlike many a fish statue, it is kept up quite well and even shines in the sun. There are many display cases of fishing-related items throughout.

If you want to see that world-record muskie, then you head to the main downtown drag and enter the bar called Mocassins. In addition to the taxidermied fish you'll also see stuffed racoons, foxes and beavers having a grand ol' time playing cards and boxing. Heck, if they would of known they would be having that much fun being dead and stuffed...

I also stopped at the Al Capone Hideout in Couderay. (What's up with naming the town that? Isn't it supposed to be Court Oreilles?) Al Capone once retreated to this house. Today it is well-maintained and the grounds are beautiful, overlooking the lake below. The trees were no so well grown way back in the 20's, but you can imagine what it was like during the high-tide of his reign. A tour guide brings you around and hokey narration is played through speakers at different parts of the tour, but its cool to look around and think of this as Al Capone's home away from home. Some things I found unique were the pump-house down by the lake and an odd mystery structure. Apparently, Al Capone feared fires and wanted to be sure they would have sufficent response should such a think occur. The mystery structure, was this small brick cell, set within a larger brick structure. The cell had a roof, but the larger building did not. To this day, they don't know its purpose but they call it the 'jail.' It's worth a tour, but you'll see what I mean by the hokeyness and its a bummer you can't take any pics inside! I also found the old International truck they used to bring booze down from Canada in. I would imagine this is the same that my great grandfather would use when running for Yarusso?

On a more bizarre note, I made another visit to the ER. As you may remember, last time I was hit with the nasty symptoms of Lymes disease. The antibiotic seemed to wipe out my symptoms and all was well again. The very day I left for this journey by thumb felt as though it had been hit with a hammer. It was enough to keep me up at night and make we wonder just what was going on. I decided I would just monitor it and hope it went away. As days progressed, the pain remained and numbness began to overtake my hands. My thoughts contemplated the advanced neurological symptoms of Lymes and I began to worry more. I decided, if on the next day symptoms did not improve, I would go to urgent care to save me the cost of the ER and the like.

That late afternoon, I had myself a little nap. When I awoke, I discovered that my arms and legs were numb, my muscles in pain and numbness was spreading to my face. That made me more concerned. As I had no phone coverage, was in a cabin remote to the main lodge and worried about my ability to drive myself somewhere, I thought it best to do something. I cursed the amount of money the ER would cost, but after encouragement from a friend, I went in.

To make a long, frustrating, experience short. They didn't find anything and did not know what could be causing it. The blood test did show that I had Lymes but that all indications were that I was healthy. They wanted to perscribe a muscle relaxant but I thought that unnecessary.

How are things now? Things appear to be much better. The pain is gone though some weakness remains. The hand does that shaky think when you lift your coffee cup to your mouth, but most odd symptoms appear to fade by the day. What was it? Well, either a pinched nerve or a brain tumor I would gather. Unless there is something inside the ol' brainbox amiss, I really think it must be some pinched nerve.

No need to worry, this just appears to be a hassle. I'm in a great frame of mind and my thoughts dwell upon working for myself, as me own boss! Any projects you'd like done? Independent contractor sounds good to me!

I'll be swinging into town briefly to pick up a new videographer. I'll be training him in next week. It will be nice to see my garden albeit briefly.

I hope your days find you well. For our northern hemisphere peoples comes the turn of the leaf and the clear nights. For our southern hemisphere cousins, the promise of warm winds and brightening skies.

P.S. I've been able to stay my first night and (will be spending) the upcoming night at my aunt's cabin. It offers a great amount of peace from the social and musty-tinged evenings of late. Here's a shot of the prayer flags...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Another FMR Note...

As there were certain rewards for pledges raised, I received notice that I was eligible for a gift. From the list, I grabbed some Minnesota Twins tickets. Since y'all pledged I believe the tickets are yours! I apologize to friends out of state, but those in-state, I'll let you know specifics as soon as I get them.